Friday, January 31, 2014

Library GrabBag: Capture the Flag

Today is our 5th annual Life Size Lock In...a night of GIANT board games, organized chaos, and a lot of laughs.  Fingers cross that weather will not destroy all of the hard planning and prepping, and that the teens will arrive in good spirits.

We made some much needed changes for this year's event.  I built all of our GIANT board games out of poster board and colored paper.  This is a pill to tape down on the floor and carefully peel back up at the end of the evening.  We had a little extra cash at the end of the 2013 budget cycle, so I decided to transfer all of the games to canvas that could be folded up into a nice small square and stored away in a plastic bin.

This process included sewing two pieces of canvas together, choice words when the sewing machine continuously broke, a few tears when I sewed incorrectly, and a solid 15+ hours to paint the new board onto the fabric.  We've used the board a few times already, and the extra time and effort has been more than worth it.  These games are portable if other libraries want to use them, easy to pull out without a lot of setup, and great for all ages.

Along with our brand new game boards, we're also adding Capture the Flag to this year's itinerary.  I felt we needed a game where the kids had to work together to solve a problem while enjoying the ability to run around the library yelling without getting into trouble.

Here's our plan for Capture the Flag in case you're interested:

  • 45 minute time limit
  • Chaperones/volunteers will hide a flag at each of the building before the players arrive to play.  The flags should be easily found but not completely obvious
  • The chaperone/volunteer will be a monitor, assuring game play is fair, and the jailer
  • Teens will be divided into two equal teams and each participant will be given a flag football flag to wear around their waste
    • Once the game has begun, teams should be split into a few groups: ideally you will have enough for (2) border guards, (2) reconnaissance (best in partners), (2) "sneakers" (best in partners), and a few rangers
    • Reconnaissance players are in charge of getting the flag
    • Sneakers are the ones who find it
    • Rangers do several leftover jobs: they get people out of jail, chase anyone who gets past boarder guards, and can replace any reconnaissance or sneakers that get captured
  • In order to win the game, you must capture the other team's flag and bring it back to your own territory.  But if an enemy team member grabs you while you're standing on their part of the field, they are allowed to take you straight to jail.
    • You can be freed from jail if one of your team members touches you, and there's no limit to how many times you can be thrown back into the slammer.
    • When a player on the opposite team takes your (football) flag, you must immediately report to jail.  The member of the opposite team must bring the flag and give it to the jailer.
    • When a player is released from jail, the jailer will give them back their flag.
  • The first team to capture the opposing team's flag and return safely to their territory wins.
    • If a player is tagged while transporting the flag to their territory, the flag must be left at the location of the tagging.
    • Neither team may move the flag

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cabin Fever : The Librarian Way

It's a little late this week, but Julia and I sat down to talk about teen services issues in this week's Q & A. We've got cabin fever.  The teens have cabin fever.  And putting both of those things together can me chaos, frayed nerves, and maybe a few tears.  But no fear!  There are ways to combat the winter months with smiles and a little organization.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Curiosities: A review

Authors: Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Grafton, Brenna Yovanoff
Info: Lerner Publishing Group, copyright 2012, 304 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Three lovely authors show how terrifying they can be...and I desperately want to be Maggie Stiefvater's best friend :)

From acclaimed YA authors Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff comes The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories.

- A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck.
- Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing.
- A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream).

These are but a few of the curiosities collected in this volume of short stories by three acclaimed practitioners of paranormal fiction.

But The Curiosities is more than the stories. Since 2008, Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna have posted more than 250 works of short fiction to their website Their goal was simple: create a space for experimentation and improvisation in their writing—all in public and without a backspace key. In that spirit, The Curiosities includes the stories and each author's comments, critiques, and kudos in the margins. Think of it as a guided tour of the creative processes of three acclaimed authors.

So, are you curious now?

~Goodreads Description~

I'm not a fan of short stories.  I don't like the feeling of getting dumped into the middle of a plot with the nagging feeling that I'm supposed to know what is going on.  I don't like the quick world building that feels unfinished or getting to know a character and then forced to leave them so quickly.

But I am a fan of Maggie Stiefvater, so I thought I'd give The Curiosities a chance.  And I LOVED it!  Oh my goodness did I love it.  The three authors are absolutely amazing, creative, and terrifying.  Each story includes an introduction that puts you into their head a bit, and notes in the margins provide insights and inspirations that flush out all of the issues I typically have with short stories.

The Awesome

Besides all of my previous the end of the book, you really come to know and adore the different voices of each of the authors.  You can pick out a Brenna story.  You fall in love with the Tessa tales.  You adore the Maggie creations.  They are each different and unique.  The authors work within their comfort zones and stretch into new territories, but in each you get their voice.  Awesome.  And these ladies are terrifying.  Truly terrifying which is brilliant and delicious.

My favorites, just in case you're curious...

Tessa Grafton's Date With a Dragon Slayer, Ash-Tree Spell to Break Your Heart, Berserk
Brenna Yovanoff's Scheherazade
Maggie Stiefvater's The Wind Takes Our Cries & The Deadlier of the Species

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Worst Case Scenarios

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In OR/AND 
Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
So this week we have some options...worlds vs. characters.  Because I couldn't choose which top ten I wanted to do, I decided to split the difference and list five of each :)  Goodness knows there have been a few worlds that terrify me and a few characters that I pity beyond belief.

Top 5 Worlds I'd Never Want to Live In

1) Panem (The Hunger Games)  Does this really need explanation?  I would last all of 5 seconds in the arena, and even if I wasn't selected for the games, I'd probably antagonize someone from the Capital and be sentenced to death.

2) Camazotz (A Wrinkle in Time) A world in which all of the inhabitants are of a single mind and led by a creepy IT that doesn't know love.  Scary!

3) The Future (Feed) I'm already too "plugged in."  I don't think I could abide a world where the Internet was physically implanted into my brain.

4) The Arena (Girl in the Arena) I'm really not a fan of reality television, and the thought of a modern world that enjoys new-gladiator sports, watching men fight to the death for the pleasure of viewers, turns my stomach.

5) The Future (Pure) A doll head for a hand.  Your brother attached to your back.  Complete desolation and fear.

Top 5 Characters I Would NEVER Change Places With

1) Ender Wiggin (Ender's Game) Wicked battle, unreasonable expectations, unimaginable pressure, and people yelling at you all the time.  No thank you.

2)  Portia Remini (Wonder Show) While the family of "freaks" that Portia meets on her journey would be wonderful, Mister McGreavy scares the living daylights out of me.

3) Cameron Smith (Going Bovine) Because dying of Mad Cow Disease would be a terrible way to go.

4) Ma (Room) Ma's tragic life really speaks for itself.

5) Coraline Jones (Coraline) Would you really want to be chased by Other Mother who wants to sew buttons into your eyes?

Whats on your lists?  Happy Reading!!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Need a challenge?

Meeting reading goals can be frustrating.  There are so many reading options at your local library and bookstore, so many types of books, and genres, and age levels.  It can be a little daunting.  If you're looking for a fun way to meet your reading goal, consider one of these reading challenges from popular review and professional blogs.

2014 Debut Author Challenge
Hosted by The Story Siren
This challenge has two objectives: 1) Introduce readers to new authors, and 2) Challenge readers to read at least 12 titles from debut authors.

Twelve isn't so much!  And if you head over to The Story Siren, she has a list of titles to make things super easy!

2014 Standalone Reading Challenge
Hosted by Iceybooks and Dizneeee's World of Books
According to the host blog websites, the challenge encourages readers to tackle 15 YA and Middle Grade standalone novels released in 2014.

Now this is my kind of challenge!  I like teen series, but the shelves are inundated with started but not finished collections that I will inevitably fail at finishing.  This I can not fail :)  And they too have a list of titles to make things super easy!

YALSA Youth Media Reading Challenge
Hosted by The Hub

The Youth Media Awards were announced this morning...yay!  Each year YALSA challenges readers to explore the best in youth literature by reading at least 25 of the winning titles (Newbery, Caldecott, Prinz, Morris, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards).  If you want a little encouragement to read some truly spectacular childrens, tween, and teen titles, take the Youth Media Reading Challenge!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Alice 19th: A manga review

Author: Yuu Watase
Info: VIZ Media, LLC, copyright 2003

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Words matter.  And when you love a boy, let him know before your sister dates him then goes postal.

Alice Seno seems like a normal girl in high school. She's a bit shy, she has a crush on a boy name Kyo, and she has a pretty older sister, Mayura, who is more popular than she is - especially with Kyou. Pretty normal stuff, until one day when, walking down the street, Alice hears strange voices instructing her to save a rabbit from being run over by a car. Alice's brave act almost costs her life, but the handsome Kyo saves her. Meanwhile, it seems the rabbit is no ordinary bunny, but a magical entity with great powers. Before she can figure out what's going on, the rabbit vanishes, only to reappear as a beam of light with a strange message just for Alice.

~Goodreads Description~

So I'm going to attempt to read one whole manga or graphic novel series a month this year.  This will more than likely fall apart by the end of February...but a girl can dream :)  This month I tackled Alice 19th, a seven volume series about a young girl who discovers she has an ancient mythical power.  While I didn't not like the series, I had the overwhelming sense that I had read it before...or several times before for that matter.  It's stocked full of some staple manga moments including: 1) a young girl who discovers she has a power, 2) young girl falls in love with a boy but 3) young girl is loved by another boy who is a little crazy, and 4) said love triangle does something to attract the ire of classmates.  It all felt very typical.

This isn't to say you shouldn't dive in.  It is only seven volumes long which is nice, and the overall story arc is intriguing and well-paced.  It's a story about how words matter.  Good words.  Bad words.  They can all affect the human spirit in many ways, so it is wise to choose your words carefully.  It's also a story about courage and personal strength, overcoming obstacles, and battling adversity with steadfast determination.

It's worth the read.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock: A review

Author: Matthew Quick
Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, copyright 2013, 273 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Today is the day for Leonard Peacock.  A beginning and an end.

Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school's class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

~Goodreads Description~

I've been sitting at this computer screen for about a half hour trying to figure out how I feel about Leonard Peacock.  I keep hoping that a review will come to me, that words would flow from my head into my fingers and onto the screen, but I'm stuck.

On one hand, this was an excellent book, a potentially important book.  A resource for teens who might have lost their way and who are planning for the worst.  Leonard has been failed by his parents and friends. Except for an elderly neighbor lost in the world of cinema and a rather brilliant teacher at school, he is all alone and attempting to deal with an ugly past that has brought him to this moment...this day.  

On the other hand there's the ending, which I won't give away here, but it left me terribly unsatisfied.  And angry.  The thing is, I liked Leonard Peacock.  Aside from his suicidal, murderous plans, Leonard's a smart kid, a kid with heart who questions the world and looks for intelligent answers.  And he reminds me way too much of the teens who walk through my door every day at work.  My life experiences cloud my judgement of contemporary fiction.  Leonard Peacock could be any teen I talk to on a daily basis.  He could be any teen who comes to the library straight after school and stays for hours just so he doesn't have to go home.

So much like Eleanor & Park, I can't like this well-written, heart-wrenching, at the edge of your seat book, but I can hope that teens who need the promise of possibility find it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Teen Book Club for Adults (Indy Style)

Calling all fans of teen lit who might not quite be teens anymore!  If you've been looking for a fun book club where adults can rejoice in the awesomeness that is YA books, join the Indianapolis chapter of the book club.

The hilariously funny ladies at FYA select the titles, and we get to sit back and enjoy a fabulous read before meeting for great discussion and lunch at any number of tasty Indy restaurants!

We're meeting this Sunday, January 26th, at 1pm at Bru Burger on Mass Ave in downtown Indy to discuss Plain Kate by Erin Bow.  If you're interested in joining our small but enthusiastic group of readers, let me know!  You can also look us up on Goodreads for more information.  Just request an invite and I'll add you to the group!

If joining a book club is on your 2014 to-do list, maybe, just maybe, we're the group for you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top 10 Things On My Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist 
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

If you could make authors write about these things you would (could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.).

At first I thought this was going to be tricky.  I'll read just about anything.  And then I started to think about all of my favorite books and what made them my favorite and my list came together pretty quickly.  So this is what I've got:

1) I could use a little more Narnia.  Water nymphs, talking animals that don't make me crazy, a stone table of sacrifice and forgiveness.  Yeah.  I could use a little more Narnia.

2) Multiple perspectives.  Code Name Verity blew my mind.  I loved hearing one story, than another, but they come together in amazing and unexpected ways.

3) Intelligent, compassionate, witty male characters.  I'm looking at you Richard Campbell Gansey III.

4) Narrators.  I love it when the narrator talks to the reader, like they're both watching the story unfold, breaking the fourth wall.  Maybe a little more of the intimacy of A Series of Unfortunate Events or The Tale of Despereaux.

5) Did you say fairy?  I hope you said fairy.

6) Is this a dream?  I love stories that start in "contemporary" wherever and then whisk the character away to some strange, imaginary land.  Alice gets lost in Wonderland, Dorothy in Oz, Valente in Fairyland, Milo in the Kingdom of Wisdom.

7) Not quality literature, but I'm a sucker for a good ancient scavenger hunt like The Da Vinci Code, solving riddles and hunting for clues, racing through historical cities while being chased by scary secret societies.

8) Strong, independent, kick-butt female heroines who can stand on their own two feet, but are comfortable in relationships at the same time.  Caelena Sardothian, Josie Moraine, Elvie Nara, Blue Sargent, Elizabeth Bennet, Hazel Grace, Verity...

9) Fast paced, intelligent, hilarious dialogue that makes you fall in love with the most despicable villains, pushes you outside of your comfort zone, makes you dream of being just as quick-witted as the characters in the story.

10) Roadtrip!  Let's get out onto the open road, wind in our hair, good music blaring out of the speakers, and something tells me we'll learn a little bit about ourselves while we're out there.

And 11) (Because it just came to me and it should have really been #1) Fun chapter titles.  Be it song lyrics or "In which..." foreshadowing.  I love me some awesome chapter titles.

What's on your list?  Happy reading!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reading Goals....The Librarian Way style

The Librarian Way is back!  It feels like it has been forever.  Between the holidays and snow days...and more snow days (I hate Indiana weather!), we're finally returning to our blogging routine and kicking off the year with our personal and professional reading goals.

What are your reading goals for 2014?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup: A Review

Author: Ron Koertge
Info: Candlewick Press, copyright 2006, 116 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Kevin discovers a whole world outside of baseball and finds out that he might just be an athlete and a poet.

When MVP Kevin Boland gets the news that he has mono and won't be seeing a baseball field for a while, he suddenly finds himself scrawling a poem down the middle of a page in his journal. To get some help, he cops a poetry book from his dad's den - and before Kevin knows it, he's writing in verse about stuff like, Will his jock friends give up on him? What's the deal with girlfriends? Surprisingly enough, after his health improves, he keeps on writing, about the smart-talking Latina girl who thinks poets are cool, and even about his mother, whose death is a still-tender loss. Written in free verse with examples of several poetic forms slipped into the mix, including a sonnet, haiku, pastoral, and even a pantoum, this funny, poignant story by a master of dialogue is an English teacher's dream - sure to hook poetry lovers, baseball fanatics, mono recoverers, and everyone in between.

~Goodreads Description~

I think I've been working with non-reading teens for too long.  As I perused the shelves at my library, I was on the lookout for the shortest book I could find :)  When I saw the skinny spine of Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and then opened it to find a novel in verse, I knew this was the book for me.

The Awesome

Poetry can be intimidating and unfamiliar, but discovered and explored through the eyes of a young teenage boy, poetry all the sudden becomes accessible and interesting.  Mr. Boland, in a pretty fantastic move, gives his sick son a journal...just in case he wants to write something down.  Through each poem you get a glimpse of Kevin's life.  You find out how he's mourning his mother, what it feels like to not be playing baseball, and the intricate game of courting in school.

Poetry still isn't my thing.  But Koertge makes it kind of not, not my thing.  That makes absolutely no sense, but that's okay.  Hopefully you get my drift :)

If you're looking for something short, but quality, check out Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Siege and Storm: A review

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Info: Henry Holt and Co., copyright 2013, 432 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): The battle between Sun and Shadow is building, and the stakes have never been so high.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or  risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

~Goodreads Description~

The Awesome

World development has already been done.  The characters have already been set on their path.  Now, in book two, we get pure awesome.  The action starts off right out of the gate and keeps going to the very last page.  The most amazing part is that good is not all good.  And evil is not all evil.  These two forces are in the fight of their lives, but you find yourself rooting a bit for both. (Because let's face it...the Darkling might be kind of scary, but he's also kind of hot).  Now add in some pretty wicked dialogue, a charming pirate prince, a kingdom on the brink of destruction, and a flying hover ship thing and you've got the makings of just an awesome-sauce fantasy.

Leigh Bardugo hits all the marks.  Her characters are well-developed.  Her pacing is consistent.  She doesn't regurgitate everything from book one.  And she leaves you with one heck of a cliffhanger.  That's the thing. With the vast majority of fantasy and science fiction books I devour, I can usually predict how they're going to end.  After Siege and Storm, I have absolutely no idea.  And it's driving me crazy.  I'm also more excited to get my hands on book three than I have been for just about any book in the last two years.  It's SO good.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten 2014 Debuts I'm Excited For

Top Ten Debuts I'm Excited For in 2014
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Confession time.  Before prepping for this list, I hadn't even thought about searching out debut authors for 2014.  Thank you ladies at The Broke and the Bookish for keeping me on task!  I've chosen some fun romances, thrillers, fantasies, and few that I fell head over heels for their covers.  What's on your list?

1) The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare
By M.G. Buehrlen
Release Date: March 4, 2014

2) Sekret
By Lindsay Smith
Release Date: April 1, 2014

3) Open Road Summer
By Emery Lord
Release Date: April 15, 2014

4) Wish You Were Italian
By Kristin Rae
Release Date: May 6, 2014

5) A Mad, Wicked Folly
By Sharon Biggs Waller
Release Date: January 23, 2014

6) Red Rising
By Pierce Brown
Release Date: January 16, 2014

7) Midnight Thief
By Livia Blackburne
Release Date: July 8, 2014

8) Between
By Megan Whitmer
Release Date: July 29, 2014

9) My Faire Lady
By Laura Wettersten
Release Date: June 3, 2014

10) Nearly Gone
By Elle Cosimano
Release Date: March 25, 2014

Happy reading!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Snowman Is Dead

Indiana weather is a fickle thing.  In the morning, you might leave your house wearing a sweater and a smile. By evening, you're cranking the heater up in your car full blast squinting to see through the snow storm that's raging around you.  I hate Indiana weather.

This past week the polar vortex attacked, and I was ill-prepared.  This shouldn't have happened.  The local meteorologists had been excitedly forecasting this weather event for the better part of a week.'s going to be bad!  "Winter apocalypse 2014!"  Part of me assumed that a snow would be in my future.  I grabbed a few extra books at work, stopped by the grocery storm for some snacks (and got a rather amusing glimpse of what stores will look like when the zombie's invade our town), and bought my not so little dog a winter coat to keep the chill away when she went outside.

What I didn't do is have a plan of attack to actually get things done.  Did I do some much need cleaning? No.  Did I get ahead on my blogging, scheduling out posts and organizing my thoughts?  No.  Did I plan a reading order for the books I checked out from the library in the hopes of actually getting them read?  No. What did I do?  I sat in front of the television watching movies (for three days!), gaining five pounds in the process.

My snow days were ill-used to say the least.  Next time I will be prepared.  I will schedule Just Dance time to get my heart pounding.  I will limit myself to one movie a day.  I will buy cans and cans of green beans, and I will put my dog in time out for a little break, settle in a comfy chair, and get lost in a good book.

As for the snowman...the family next door braved the bitter, bitter cold and made a rather impressive snowman in the front yard.  It had cardboard arms, a reflective vest, and mitten hands.  It was awesome. Now, what remains, is maybe one of the saddest things I've ever seen.  This wonderful snow creature has no head.  This afternoon it lost an arm, and I fear that by tonight, it will be nothing but a puddle on a very muddy lawn.  Just a few days ago, Indianapolis, Indiana was colder that cities in Alaska.  Today, there is a very depressing snowman lurking outside of my garage.

I hate you Indiana weather.  Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 10 Goals/Resolutions for 2014

 Top Ten Bookish Goals / Resolutions for 2014
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I might have half-way failed and epically failed on a few of my goals in 2013, but they kept me focused.  Grounded.  So...why not try it again.  Maybe 2014 is the year that I complete all of my reading goals.  I'm going to knock this list out of the park.  Here's to a reading home run!

1) Read a total of (at least) 125 books - If I match 2013's total, it won't feel like a fluke!

2) Read (1) adult book each month - So maybe I'll have something to contribute at the adult reference desk at my library.

3) Read (4) nonfiction books

4) Complete one graphic novel/manga series each month

5) Listen to (5) audiobooks - books?  Two birds, one stone?

6) Finally visit and explore my local comic book store - Let my nerd banner wave proudly

7) Participate in World Book Night - Take my love of reading to the streets

8) Update my blog and Goodreads account for every book I read

9) Attempt, once again, to not feel guilt for not reading every new books that comes into the library

10) FINISH Graceling...really.  This is going to happen.  I will take you down Graceling!!

Happy reading!!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Just One Year: A review

Author: Gayle Forman
Info: Dutton's Children, copyright 2013, 336 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Sometimes you have to travel the world to finally find home.

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . .

~Goodreads Description~

The Awesome
Willem travels the world without fear, never meeting a stranger, and always keeping an eye on the horizon for the next adventure, but Willem is alone.  He's running.  He's running from a past.  He's running from a concrete present.  And he's running form the loneliness that consumes him.  And then he meets this girl.  Sign. This interesting, humble, thoughtful girl.  She's supposed to be a diversion, but instead she becomes the exact escape he needs.  Forman has created a vulnerable young man that you can't help but root for, even when you don't really agree with his choices.  She captures that moment when you have the opportunity to decide if you will allow your circumstances determine who you are, or if you will decide who you will become.  And she does it with ease.  And heart.

The Not So Awesome
There were a few instances of conveniences that drove me a little crazy, took me out of the realism of the book.  Oh's a family member who is going to change your life, even though I haven't really mentioned them before, but I feel like this will move your story forward.  It works because Forman is a talented, genuine writer, but I found myself holding off a few eye rolls along the way.

Just One Year picks up immediately after "the day" that we come to know so well in Just One Day, the companion novel told by Allyson (a.k.a LuLu).  We get to follow Willem over the course of the next year, ending exactly where the first story ends which is kind of awesome.  I didn't even have to cheat since I already knew the ending!  

Forman is really a genius storyteller.  Just like in her If I Stay / Where She Went series, we get to see a story from two perspectives.  We get to meet and fall completely in love with two different characters.  See two sides to the story, and experience two amazing journeys of self-realization and forgiveness.  Plus...he's so cute :)  Now if only I could find the courage to travel the world with just a backpack and the spirit of adventure.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Between Shades of Gray: A review

Author: Ruta Sepetys
Info: Philomel Books, copyright 2011, 344 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): A heartbreaking tale of courage, love, and the resilience of the human spirit at the hands of unthinkable evil.

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

~Goodreads Description~

When you think of WWII, on any front, you think of military operations and vicious dictators seeking supremacy and cultural cleansing.  It's a human story.  Sepetys excels at shining a light on the horrors of this historical moment while telling a real, intense, personal tale of a young girl filled with anger and unbelievable talent who is trying to find a away to survive.  Despite the death and destruction that the Soviets leave in their wake, Between Shades of Gray is a story of hope and love.  Flashback snippets intertwined keep the story moving and grounded, and short chapters makes this a fast paced easy read, even for reluctant readers.

I finished this book too late in the evening.  This was a terrible idea.  When I turned out the light to sleep, I felt haunted.  Lina's fear had seeped into my very being.  I laid in bed for a good hour trying to turn off my head and stop the images of the arctic from flashing behind my eyes.

The first book I remember picking out for myself in middle school to read for fun was set during the Holocaust.  I clearly remember my mother reading the blurb on the inside of the front cover and telling me that this wasn't going to be a happy book.  I might get upset.  I assured her I would be fine and dove right in. The next day I sat in the stands at one of my brother's baseball games reading voraciously.  And then I was crying uncontrollably.  My mother put her arm around me while I sobbed, "Why did you let me read this?" Between Shades of Gray affected me in pretty much the same manor.  Sobbing.  Anger.  Then fury.  But in the end, there is an unbelievable feeling of resilience and calm.  Thank goodness I wasn't born in a different time or place where men could knock on my door, force me out of my home, and change my world forever.

Ruta Sepetys, you are a writing force.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How'd I do?

Before I reveal my bookish related goals for 2014, I thought I'd take a look back at how I did over the past twelve months.  Did I meet my goals?  Mostly!  And, hey, mostly is pretty dar:ned awesome if I do say so myself.  I read 130 books this year which isn't too shabby  Sure...there were quite a few graphic novels and manga mixed in, but a book is a book and I feel no shame.

Last year (2013) I wanted to:

1) Finish at least (5) series I've already started - As named in my video last week on New Year's resolutions. [Epic fact, I probably started twice as many.]

2) Read at least (3) nonfiction books [Nearly made two.]

3) Read at least (3) adult fiction books [Success!]

 4) Read at least (3) classics [Another 2 of 3...but that's two more than 2012]

5) Listen to at least (3) audiobooks [Success!]

6) Review every book I read (and add it to my Goodreads profile) 

7) Don't feel guilty for re-reading a book I love while others sit on the shelf  [Success!]

8) Don't feel guilty for not completing an audiobook if I don't care for the reader  [Success! Started a lot, but only finished a few, and I'm completely guilt free:)]

9) Don't feel guilty for starting new series and then not finishing them  [Semi-success!  There's always guilt.  I'm a librarian.  So it goes.]

10) Finally read Graceling by Kristin Cashore, a book that I have checked out (not kidding) eleven times and have yet to actually read it.   [Does 3/4 the way done count?  This book is my kryptonite!  I will finishing you Graceling!  By golly I will finish you!

Did you meet your reading goals?  Here's to a year of getting lost in good books!

Happy reading!!
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