Category Archives: Books

Coming out a reading slump

Ever had a reading slump? One where you either can’t seem to focus on a book or don’t like anything that you’ve been reading? I think I’ve been in one for the last few months. I’ve been having some anxiety about the world, our garbage-fire racist sexist President, and work and health stuff. That’s been making it hard to focus on reading. It’s been a lot easier to zone out to TV and play Hearthstone or Avengers Academy.

But after some new anxiety meds I feel like I’m getting back to being better. Plus I’ve been able to read more and actually feel like I’m absorbing what I’m reading! This is pretty important for my job and for someone who generally really likes to read.

It feels good to be getting back on track.

that's better

Briefly here’s a few books I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed:

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry – I didn’t think that I would love a story about 13th century French so-called heretics so much, but I did. So amazing.

Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda – Incredible art and fascinating world-building. Plus talking cats with two tails!

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – I cried some ugly tears in this one. I really identified with snobby Lydia AND fantasy-obsessed Travis.

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham – A lovely inter-generational story about a grandmother, mother, and daughter.

The Reader by Tracy Chee – A fantasy that’s all about the magic of reading and books? Sign me up! I loved the meta-storytelling elements, too.

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If nothing else, I read some good books this year

best-books-of-2016

2016 was . . . certainly an exceptional year wasn’t it?

Stay tuned for my annual year-end roundup. I’ll recap what’s been happening with me, take a look back at the goals I set for 2016, and set some for 2017. Before I get to the books, though, here’s a preview of the two modes of 2016:

2016

I mean, it wasn’t all bad. Here’s one of the good parts:

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But anyway, here are the best books that I read this year. There are 22 books. I know that number doesn’t make sense, but 2016 doesn’t make sense. Here’s to some more great literature in 2017!

Middle Grade/YA

Giant Days – John Allison and Lissa Treiman – My new favorite comic of this year – don’t worry, Squirrel Girl and Saga and Lumberjanes, I still love you –  about a group of friends’ hijinks in college. Great art, too.

Labyrinth Lost – Zoraida Cordova – Innovative urban fantasy set in NYC and magical realms between worlds. A great system of magic featuring Latinx heroines and family love. Great for fans of diverse fantasy like Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog – Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly – Amazing illuminations about a Joan of Arc-esque girl, her dog, a Jewish boy looking for his family, and a too tall African-European monk. Sweet and engaging.

Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow – Will probably break your heart. Charlie has had a rough life: drugs, cutting, homelessness, and abuse. Her journey from feeling broken to feeling hopeful again is really lovely without being schmoopy.

Outrun the Moon – Stacey Lee – The new best historical fiction author in YA. A story about the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake and unlikely friendship between entitled white girls and a plucky Chinese-American heroine. Mercy is the BEST.

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis – A tale of teen vigilante justice with some piercing explanations of rape culture.  A hard read but worth it.

When the Moon Was Ours – Anna-Marie McLemore – Two teens fall in love amidst gender issues and magical realism. A lovely story. I knew as soon as I started that it would destroy me in the best possible way. It did. Read it.

Goldenhand – Garth Nix – I was disappointed in his Old Kingdom prequel Clariel that came out last year, but Goldenhand continues the story of Lirael, the most badass Second Assistant Librarian ever. All of your favorite characters from the original three books make an appearance. Yes, ALL of them. You’ll cry too. 🙂

Ghost – Jason Reynolds – A boy trying to out run his problems – “altercations” at school, his dad in jail for threatening him and his mother with a gun, living in a “bad” neighborhood – finds that he can really run. He joins a local track team to find friends, bravery, and forgiveness. A sweet read that I hope gets on many summer reading lists next  year. (I mean, if you have to have a prescribed SR list, this book might as well be on it for 5th/6th graders.)

All American Boys – Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – Anything Reynolds is involved with turns to gold! This is an important book about a Black teen who gets beaten by a cop, and the white kid who witnesses it. For people who are still wondering about the Black Lives Matter movement read this. (All of you get out of here with your All Lives Matter nonsense. If you’re still saying that, you’re not getting it.)

Echo – Pam Munoz Ryan – A sweet story of three different young people connecting over the same harmonica: one fleeing Nazi Germany, one adopted out of an orphanage in Philadelphia, and one trying to keep her family together in the face of segregation in California. I highly recommend the audio version as music is an important part of the story and the audio does it very, very well.

Saving Montgomery Sole – Mariko Tamaki –  A sensitive coming of age tale mixed in with a reminder that people all contain multitudes and have the potential for compassion. A great quiet, contemporary YA novel.

Adult Fiction

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood – I read the whole MaddAddam series this year but Year of the Flood is the best. Atwood excels when she’s telling women’s stories and The Year of the Flood is about Toby and other women in her circle. I cried more at the end of the third book, MaddAddam, than I have over a book in a long time. Just thinking about it makes me weep. A timely – yes, sadly just as timely as Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale – and more emotional.

Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett – A story of a whaling family in Australia and their struggles and triumphs. Sad and sweet and ultimately fulfilling.

The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee – A huge book encompassing the Franco-Prussian War, opera, and betrayal. Great for those who like epic character studies and music.

The Fifth Season/The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin – These books are so good it’s bonkers. A science fiction dystopia with strange geological powers and consequences. You will not forget these characters or their situations. You’ll also be reminded of how important the moon is, in case you forgot.

Adult Nonfiction

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates – Required reading for everyone. A heart breaking and honest letter from Coates to his son about how the world isn’t made for him and how American culture and life at large is built on the bodies of Black people.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America – Ibram X. Kendi – I’m only halfway through this book and had to take a break because it’s a slow read and someone else had a hold on it. But it’s incredible. It will, however, show you how little has changed in the U.S. when it comes to race relations. It’s pretty disheartening.

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present – Alison Mathews-David – An amazing book about not just silly fashion trends that are dangerous – hobble skirts that “hobble” you so you can barely walk – but also the techniques that used to make clothes that will also kill you. May dissuade you from wearing the color emerald-green ever again.

Shrill: Women Are Funny, It’s Okay to Be Fat, and Feminists Don’t Have to Be Nice – Lindy West – A hilarious book with spot on ruminations about feminism and more. Great if you like essays and personal narratives.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson – This book is a tour-de-force about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North and West from the 1910s to the 1970s. Wilkerson follows three people who made the migration in different years. A fascinating look at history that I didn’t know very much about.

 

 

So that was the best of what I read this year. You can see the rest of what I read over on Goodreads. Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

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2015 Year in Review!

So it’s time again for the year in review! It’s still January so that means it’s not too late. Right? I’ve done this the last few years and it’s been interesting to look back through the year and remember it all.
2015 was great! I discovered that I unabashedly love sewing, the Great British Baking Show, Dungeons & Dragons, comics, tabletop board games, Rey, Finn, and Poe, and Hamilton (I’m a little late to the bandwagon but I am ON IT). So basically I am now the uber-nerdy version of myself. That’s ok!
Last Year’s goals are below. Let’s see how I did:

  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • Regain title of favorite aunt to my nieces and nephews. I think I’ve been slacking.
  • Keep reading but focus on reading widely and not feeling so guilty about reading adult books! I like Book Riot’s suggestions for reading goals.
  • Get my hip 100% healthy.
  • Continue to grow in my job and become more confident as an advocate for teen services in libraries.
  • Make full use of my vacation time.
  • Be better about posting here once a week.

I got to spend lots of time with friends and even made some new ones this year. It’s fun to get to know all the friends and acquaintances of a S.O! You get to have twice as many friends and that’s really lovely. My sister and her family visited me over the summer, I went home in September, and am going home in two days. While I never see my family as much as I would like due to almost 1,000 miles, I got to have some good quality time with them.

I’m totally the favorite aunt. I’m fun and I buy them lightsabers and Star Trek gear for Christmas. Best aunt? Probably.

I read more adult books this year than I have in a while and I didn’t feel too guilty about it. I pushed myself to read some YA books that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up on my own so that helped to alleviate the guilt some. I kept track of some of the demographics of the books that I read and last year 53% of the authors were women and 28% were people of color. I’m happy about the women but know I could better about reading more writers of different backgrounds and experiences.

My hip is not quite 100% but I did run more this year. I’m back in PT and more hopeful than I was before going back.

The job is going well; I feel like I’m doing okay. Training a new colleague has been an interesting experience. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it but it’s been a great challenge for me.

I am wringing every last day out of my vacation time. Next year I finally get my full four weeks so I’m excited to be a bit more frivolous with it! Plus I have plans to have a big 30th birthday vacation with girlfriends, and some shorter trips around New England.

Ok, so I was kind of crap at posting every week. November I didn’t post at all! Oops! But, I am writing at WWAC and I love it. It’s so fun to have a group of awesome women to chat and write with.

So 2015 was ok, let’s make 2016 better.

Here’s some goals:

Read more, sew more, bake more, write more, run more (and get better!), game more, librarian more, and well . . . more. Just more of all of it, really!

Anyone here have some other suggestions for 2016? Doing anything awesome?

 

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My Best Books of 2015

Best Books
Hello! Yes, yes, I’m a terrible poster. I know that I’ve truly failed because my friend Jenny had a BABY and has posted way more than me. I don’t even have a baby to show for it. I have . . . been working on my winter weight? I don’t know. (I am posting at WWAC if you’re desperate for my brilliant thoughts.)

But today I’m going to present to you the best 25 books I read this year. I’m hoping to get to 100 books before the end of the year and if any of the ones I’m reading are amazing then I will update you. Ok, well I’m currently listening to the Fellowship of the Ring on audio because I’ve never listened to it before and it is delightful. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year  . . . and every year that I read it. I had a bit trouble with an “unabridged” copy of the radio play from Hoopla. The record doesn’t make it clear that it’s a radio play and while yes the play is unabridged, it’s not the full text of the book. You tricked me Hoopla; I may write you a strongly worded letter!

Ok, so here’s my top 25 books that I read this year in alphabetical order.

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Everyone should read this book about the immigrant experience and  a “Non American Black” perspective on race. If you like audiobooks, the narrator is really great, too!
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli – A cute and funny coming out story that’s about more than just coming out.
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad – M.T. Anderson – This book is incredible for anyone interested in music, the Russian front of WWII, or the complicated situation of artists during Stalin’s regime.
The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black – A dark fairy tale about a prince in a glass coffin, a lady knight, and the violence of childhood.
Through the Woods – Emily Carroll – Graphic (like with pictures but also with blood) short horror tales. Do NOT read at night if you are a ‘fraidy cat like me.
Make your Home Among Strangers – Jeninne Cap Crucet – The story of a Cuban American and her first year at an ivy league school, set against the backdrop of an Elian Gonzalez like story in Miami.
Hausfrau – Jill Alexander Essbaum – Is the main character unlikeable and make bad decisions? Yes, but that’s ok. A disaffected housewife and American expat struggles to find herself.
An Untamed State – Roxane Gay – A difficult story to read; there are graphic descriptions of rape and sexual violence so be forewarned. But the writing is beautiful and the story will stick with you.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future – A.S. King – Visions of a feminist’s nightmare where women are not allowed to work and more? The gendered horror of A Handmaid’s Tale for the YA set.
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison – I had never read any Toni Morrison and this was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.
Everything I never told you – Celeste Ng – Betty Crocker’s Cookbook – and even the part where “Betty” tells you to make sure you know how to make your husband eggs a part I remember reading and cringing over as a child – plays a big role in this coming of age story.
Girl at War – Sara Novic – Escaping from Croatia in the 1990s and then returning to reckon with it. This is the author’s first book and it’s really spectacular.
Uprooted – Naomi Novik – A perfect, grownup fairy tale complete with evil trees, magic, and the influence of Eastern European folklore.
The Scared Lies of Minnow Bly – Stephanie Oaks – Apparently a retelling of the Grimm fairytale The Handless Maiden with a cult setting. 2015 was the year of the cult for YA books!
Shadowshaper – Daniel Jose Older – Urban fantasy set in Brooklyn with an interesting premise and cultural commentary on everything from street harassment to gentrification.
Re Jane – Patricia Park – A Jane Eyre retelling set in Queens with a Korean American Jane and a literature professor Rochester.
The Bees – Laline Paull – A special bee – Flora 717 – defies all the rules of the hive to save it. At the beginning of the book, you think you won’t care so much about a little bee but you really will. Flora 717 might be one of my favorite characters from this year’s books.
Gabi, a girl in pieces – Isabel Quintero – A sweet coming of age stuck in between a parent’s expectations and the realities of life.
Carry On – Rainbow Rowell – The fantasy Harry Potter-esque book from Rowell’s Fangirl come to life! I unashamedly squealed and fist pumped in my car while listening to this book. When you get there you’ll know. Also, I love Rowell’s magic system and the way that she subverts HP plots and tropes.
Bone Gap – Laura Ruby – It took me two tries to read this. I couldn’t get into the print version but the audio was great. A tale of magic realism reminiscent of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Bees are also important, so if you read Paull’s The Bees and need more bee stories, get this one next.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights – Steve Sheinkin – An important and infuriating case of racial discrimination from WWII that I had no idea about.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette – Hampton Sides – Polar exploration before the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration. If you know me, you know I love polar exploration and sailing stories. This book was basically written just for me.
Nimona – Noelle Stevenson – A shape shifting teen joins a supervillain for fun and serious thoughts violence, morality, and roles people are expected to play.
This One Summer – Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – Beautiful art and story about a girl’s summer between childhood and teendom and all the growing pains therein.
The Martian – Andy Weir – Pure potato porn. Poor Mark Watney! But seriously an exciting, and surprisingly funny book.
Some recurring themes I’m noticing from my list: bees, retellings of fairy tales or myths, immigrant stories, feminism, debut authors, an effort to read more diversely (aka not white authors).
Here’s some other books in best categories that I’m making up right now:
Best book that I didn’t want to like because it’s basically the output of a Teen Dystopia Generator, but ended up liking anyway dang it: Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard
Best book that’s like the show Supernatural with a teen girl protagonist: The Awesome – Eva Darrows
Best Comics series you should be reading  – Squirrel Girl, Lumberjanes, Rat Queens, Saga, Ms. Marvel, The Wicked + the Divine, Alex & Ada, Princeless, Paper Girls, Gotham Academy
Best books for vacation reading and making you hungryCrazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
Best bestseller that I thought I would hate so waited two years to read and actually kind of liked: Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
What about you? Do you have a favorite book or books from this year? Anything that I missed that I should definitely read in 2016? Let me know!
I should also tell you that one of my resolutions for 2016 other than to do the dishes in a more timely manner and learn to install a zipper, is to update more often. I will try!

 

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Training is hard

Training a coworker is really hard. I feel like I don’t have a lot of the answers and it’s hard to find a mix between informative and overwhelming. Plus, it’s a whole new person and personality to learn. Rebecca is lovely and great with the teens. I love how many good ideas she has and how willing she is to just try out new ideas. I think she’s going to make the teen department great!

It’s been two weeks so hopefully the real “training” part is going to end soon!

I don’t have much to say other than that so instead enjoy this delightful MC Lars video about children’s books:

Also go read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. It’s delightful!

 

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