Thursday, April 30, 2015

Miss Mayhem

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Info: Putnam Juvenile, copyright 2015, 288 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts):  Don't walk into a fun house alone.  Nothing good can happen.

Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price.  The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance.  Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-bofie, and even competing int he Miss Pine Grove pageant.

Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done.  The Ephors have decided they'd rather train David than kill him.  The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can't stay David's Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her...or connect her to David for life.

~Goodreads Description

The fun continues the second book of the Rebel Belle series by Rachel Hawkins.  I was on the lookout for another audiobook, and this came across my feed.  Amy Rubinate reads it with her fantastic southern accent, and I love accents, even southern ones.  Or maybe especially southern ones.  That's not true.  I'm mostly partial to Irish.  I'm getting distracted.

Okay, so Harper Price is still a paladin, charged with the ancient responsibility of protecting the Oracle, David, her boyfriend.  It's a little complicated.  But now she's found out that she has to complete a test in order to officially become a paladin.  So the ephors still want David, David is still having premonitions about the future, and now her ex, Ryan, is the mage who must work with them to protect the world.

It's a silly story, but fun.  And sometimes that's all a book needs to be.  Fun.  Harper is a strong, independent woman who is willing to risk big to save the people she loves the most.  David is a confused young man who is trying to understand this huge reality he faces.  And Ryan likes to kiss a lot of girls.  Yep.  Just fun.

Maybe not a "must read", but definitely a let your mind go and just be entertained read.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Author: John Corey Whaley
Info: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, copyright 2014, 352 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Sometimes it's not so bad to lose your head.

Listen - Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn't.

Now he's alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado.  Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy's body, and well, here he is.  Despite all logic, he's still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed.  That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend.  Or maybe she's not his girlfriend anymore?  That's a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.  Oh well, you only live twice.

~Goodreads Description

I was a bit apprehensive about this particular book.  Not that many years ago I checked out Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.  It was getting rave reviews.  It had won the Michael L. Printz Award for exceptional literature written for teens.  It was relatively short.  So I checked it out and almost immediately felt like an idiot.  This author was trying to tell me something.  It was something important, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was.  Have you every experienced that?  Knowing there's something deep waiting just under the surface, something profound, but you have no idea what it is?  You feel a bit ridiculous, but unless someone else is willing to read it and discuss it with you, there's not a lot you can do.  That type of thing has always eluded me.  I wasn't one to see the symbolism in Shakespearean sonnets.  I could never really decipher the true meaning of poetry.  I, Emily, am a literal reader.

So, yes, I was a bit hesitant to pick up another John Corey Whaley story.  But Noggin is different.  Still profound.  Still well written and interesting, but far from intimidating and much more relatable.  Travis Coates is going to die.  His hail mary, a decision to have his head cut off in the hopes that one day science will be able to successfully reattach it to a healthy body.  Science, in Whaley's world, works pretty quickly, and only five short years later (or long...depending on who you are), Travis is living a second life, still sixteen, still in high school, but very much alive.  Except that he can't seem to move on.  Five years for Travis was the length of a nap, but the world kept moving without him.

I liked Travis.  He was a pretty good guy before and after.  He loved his friends, was grateful for his family, and faced death with grace and courage.  Travis after was still strong and determined afterwards, and though he faced some obstacles, he met this second chance with a respectable amount of enthusiasm and appreciation.

But here's what I don't have a boy who, for all intents and purposes, has died.  This same boy has returned from the dead, is attached to a strangers body, and after only a couple of weeks, has returned to his life.  Um...shouldn't someone like that be talking to someone?  Shouldn't the family be seeking counseling?  Should the kid have some time to adjust?  Talk about life after death?  Life five years later, when, for him, it has only be a couple of days?  I know that would make for a terribly book because all of the conflict comes from this choice to throw him into the deep end, but this seems like a horrible plan.  Much like the way a family, who's son has been missing for years, sends him to school after a weekend in Dead to You.

Overall a pretty good book filled with caring, compassionate, flawed characters who are facing the unique opportunity of second chances...chances to grow, and love, and become the people they want to be.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Ten Books Books With Characters Who Have Faced Loss

Top Ten Books With Characters Who Have Faced Loss
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what to write for today's list.  So I went with one suggested, and I'm still not overly happy with my list.  Not that I didn't really enjoy each and every book I'm suggesting, just that there are so many to choose from that it just doesn't feel complete.  That's okay though...we'll just consider this a gateway list :)  Read one and another will be waiting just around the corner.

What's on your list?  Any you would like to add?

Happy reading!

1) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
When Mia loses everything she loves, she must find the strength and courage to live.  The audiobook was fantastic, if you're so inclined. (And the movie was pretty surprising as well :)

2) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Hannah Baker chose to end her life, and Clay Jensen is about to find out why.  Kind of a mystery, as you listen to Hannah's story with Clay, with the ultimate understanding that even the smallest actions can impact a life.

3) Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Welcome to Elsewhere, the beyond, a place to live life, if only for a short time.  Not Liz just needs to figure out how.  A quick and easy read that makes you think, makes you laugh, and makes you want to hug a loved one.

4) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Grieving takes time and sometimes help comes in unexpected packages.  Love this one so much.

5) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Well this says it perfectly..."Twenty Boy Summer explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer." A sad yet fulfilling summer read.

6) 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Ginny had to lose someone to find out what living really meant.  Plus she gets to travel the world like it's nobodies business.

7) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Taylor's life is crumbling around her.  Can she find the courage not to run away?  This one broke me into a million little pieces, but solidified my enduring affection for Morgan Matson.

8) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Lou isn't known for changing the world, but she just might change Will's.  The worst possible book to read immediately after Second Chance Summer.  Puffy eyes for a week.  But Moyes's voice is fun, fresh, and heartbreakingly good.

9) The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire children know a thing or two about loss...luckily they also know how important family is to survive.

10) Girl in the Arena by Lisa Haines
After losing her father to the Gladiator Sports Association, Lyn must do what she can protect her family and her honor.  Exciting, unique, and led by a strong female character.  A must-read.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Waistcoats & Weaponry

Author: Gail Carriger
Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, copyright 2014, 298 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts):  Never take Sophronia to a doesn't end well.

Sophronia continues second year finishing school in style -- with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown.  She, best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and charming Lord Felix Mersey stow away on a train to return classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland.  No one suspects what or who would be aboard the suspiciously empty train.

~Goodreads Description

The adventure continues!  First, the cover is just as beautiful as the first two, but now our sophisticated special agent is wielding a pretty awesome, and deadly, fan.  That's kind of why I love this series just to jump right into it :)  Carriger might be writing about a time that limited a woman, but she has created a cast of characters that defy social dynamics, strong, independent women who who save themselves instead of waiting around for someone else to do the dirty work.  And this doesn't mean that you lose your femininity.  You can be a woman and kick butt at the same time.

The story starts off with Sophronia dangling from the side of the floating school, Sidheag beside herself with grief, Soap revealing a whopper of a secret, and Dimity still fainting at the sight of blood.  So, yeah, Carriger doesn't waste any time getting the action going.  Nor does she shy away from a pretty great cliffhanger...which I won't tell you because that would be mean.

There's more supernatural creatures, more agent-y intrigue, cool gadgets, girls thinking on their toes, dashing boys that sometimes get in the way, and a new conspiracy afoot.  More fun that you should definitely read.  The audiobook, by the way, is as wonderful as ever.  Even though I got the hardback for Christmas, I still decided to wait until I could get my hands on the audiobook since that's how I had tackled the first two.  Moira Quirk excels at voices and has one of the best accents I've listened to in the format.

If you love the Steampunk feel, a dash of the paranormal, and strong, confident female characters, this doesn't disappoint.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I thought this was going to be a little harder than it was in the end.  The list definitely goes beyond ten, but these are the ten that have multiple books, multiple series, and wrote multiple moments that made me laugh, cry, and feel a whole lot of feels.  

So who is on your list?

My favs: Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys series

My favs: Beauty Queens, Going Bovine, The Diviners

My favs: The Eyre Affair, The Last Dragonslayer, The Big Over Easy

My favs: We Were Liars, The Boyfriend List

My Favs: Throne of Glass series, The Court of Thorns and Roses

My favs: The Truth About Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride

My favs: An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns

My favs: Y the Last Man, Saga

My Favs: If I Stay, Where She Went, Just One Day

My favs: Garden Spells, The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sew Awesome : Nerd-chic

Thought I'd better tackle another skirt this weekend as a part of my Sew Awesome project with Kendrabookgirl.  May is sneaking up on me, and I only have one skirt I'm willing to wear in public.  So I trekked down to Joann's, coupon in hand, and decided to find some more fabric.  I should not be allowed to shop for fabric alone.  After wandering aimlessly through the aisles, I came upon the "pop culture" section and instantly fell in love with a Star Wars print.

"No, no I should not buy this fabric.  I am an adult woman who plans to wear the skirt to work," I muttered to myself, out loud, like a loon.  "But...Star Wars day is in May, so I have an excuse," the conversation continued (this time in my head after catching a strange look from a gentleman in the silk section), "and you do work in the Teen Room, so it's not totally crazy."

I had a feeling this inner-dialogue could continue for quite a while, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and make myself a totally sophisticated Star Wars skirt.

So here's my outfit for Monday, May 4th, 2015.  "The force is strong with this one."  (And in case you're wondering, because I know you are, I did indeed watch Empire and Return while sewing :)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Library GrabBag: April #TeenTalk

Another video!  Every month Jessica, my wonderful Teen Librarian, and I make a video on something teen related, be it books, programs, or general what-not.  I'm not sure why I haven't ever posted them before, but by golly I'm going to start :)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Library GrabBag: Team Noodle-Purse

I've shared many things about library life on here from time to time.  I've shared the frustrations of working with youth, programs that I've implemented that have found successes and failures, and hopefully I've shared a little bit about how much I love what I do.  But it's hard to really put that into words, because what I do is, well, kind of weird.

There's managing the collection, budgets, reference interactions, management, planning for the future, making hard decisions, making easy decisions...and there's play.  Yes.  I play at my library.  I'm loud.  I'm energetic.  And I'm usually getting myself into appropriate trouble.  Because, as Head of Reference and Teen Services it's okay to challenge a teen to an impromptu game of Just Dance.  It's okay to dress as a zombie and make a fool of myself in front of a video camera.  It's okay to make friends and build relationships with a group of teenagers that are both challenging and mind-blowingly awesome.

These teens.  I wish you could meet them all.  I wish you could get into a very detailed discussion about cheese Abraham Lincoln in a battle with Batman.  I wish you could know the joys of having a shadow that refers to himself as Emily 2.0.  I wish you could have secret handshakes and heartfelt conversations about life, and faith, and books, and Transformers.  I wish you could experience the joy that I feel on a daily basis.  Sure, there are rough days...I work with teens.  But for every rough day is five smiles.  For every moment of defeat is a moment where a teen lets you know, in their own unique way, that you are important in their life.

So what does "Team Noodle-Purse" have to do with this?  Or what in the world is a "Team Noodle-Purse? Well, please let me tell you.  We're coming up on our 6th annual Teen Film Festival, and for the first time we have a homeschool submission, and it just so happens that the creators are some of my favorite teens on the planet.  And I do not say that lightly, because over the last eight years I have met A LOT of teens.

They're weird.  They're strange.  They're funny.  They're passionate.  And they make me oh so proud.  As chair of the Teen Film Festival, I don't get to judge the entries, so I feel no shame in sharing my kids with you.  So sit back, relax, and come face to face with my joy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Guy In Real Life

Author: Steve Brezenoff
Info: Balzar + Bray, copyright 2014, 400 pages Book Club Selection

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): A little bit nerdy, a little bit rock n' roll.

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Bjork and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG.  They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never take to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives.  A story of those moments when we act like people we aren't in order to figure out who we are.  A story of the roles all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friend - and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.

~Goodreads Description

This one has been on my radar for awhile.  When it was first released it was getting rave reviews and peaked my interest.  Now it has 3.48 stars on Goodreads which isn't bad, but not quite what I expected.  As I finished the book this morning, and started writing this here blog post, I accidentally fell into the void of Goodreads comments, and thirty minutes later I'm trying to climb and put my thoughts into a coherent whole (or as coherent as I can get...let's be honest, sometimes I'm a little more chaos a little less intelligible.)

I feel like I should start with the gaming, because there is gaming in spades in this here book.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  There were acronyms.  There were PCs (personal characters).  There were special sided dice.  There were some game cards???  Still don't understand that one.  Needless to say, there was a bit of a learning curve.  Brezenoff does a decent job of including even the newbies like myself in the action, but a lot of it I just pretended to understand in the hopes that I would still find a connection with the characters.

This is an opposites attract kind of story.  Lesh is metal, Lana is hippie, and they find them streets colliding on the streets of Saint Paul.  The multi-perspective format allows you to really get to know them individually, but the switching of "I" was a little jarring at times, and I had to go back to the chapter title to remind myself of who was talking.  I liked Lesh.  He's a kid who has created a bit of a caricature of himself, the boy in black, and throughout the story he slowly realizes that he wants to be more than that, he wants to be more than what he has allowed himself to become.  I can appreciate that, especially for a teen.

Lana I'm not as crazy about.  She seems extremely angsty, but not in a loner way.  A nerdy angst just didn't sit right some of the time.  She's kind of mean to her parents, which luckily gets smoothed over by her adorable sister Henny, doesn't really seem to have a great relationship with her friends, and is overly obsessed with her task wheel that lets her family know what she's doing up in her room.  I don't know.  I just never got attached to her despite her awesomely embroidered skirts and Dungeon Master skills.

All that being said, it was refreshing to get a contemporary teen romance from a male author's perspective.  The dialogue never felt rushed or trendy, and despite their flaws, the characters came off real and genuinely teens learning to be human.

Not a great read, but a good read, and definitely one you should check out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top 10 Inspiring Quotes from Books

Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I like post-it notes.  The skinny tab kind, preferably in bright colors.  I don't dog ear my pages.  I don't write in books.  But I do use my brightly colored skinny tab post-it notes to mark passages and quotes that tug at my heartstrings, make me cry, make me laugh, and get me thinking in a book.  In a lot of ways that's the indicator of a book I love.  The more post-it notes, the more invested I was in the story. And those little post-it notes are why I love reading.  From the comfort of my own chair I get to experience empathy, stretch my imagination, travel the world, and maybe learn a little bit about myself, and life, along the way.

Not everyone can pull this off, but some of the best make poetry out of words.  Here are just a few of my favorite quotes.

What's on your list?

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
1) "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
There are so many J.K Rowling quotes that I love, especially scenes between Dumbledore and Harry, and this one stayed with me.  Now if I can only get the teens that come into the Teen Room to understand this idea...

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
2) "I wish it need not have happened in time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
So Gandalf and Dumbledore are kind of cut from the same cloth.  Both very wise old me.  Both understand that any creature, no matter how old or young, big or small, can make a big impact, they just have to choose to do so.

Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
3) "...the truth about forever is that it is happening right now."
I was tempted to put down "all of Sarah Dessen's words"...but of all of them, this is my favorite.  While I hate "live like you were dying," I do like realizing that life is finite, and you can either wait for things to happen or live the life you want.

Madeleine L'Engle,  A Wrinkle in Time
4) But you see, Meg, just because you don't understand doesn't mean that the
explanation doesn't exist."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, A Wrinkle in Time is my book, and Meg is my girl.  Faith is hard.  Love is hard.  Courage is hard.  But it's there, even if you can't see it.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
5) "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It's when you know you're licked before you begin, 
but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."
And this perfect line is why I'm not sure if I'm going to read the new Harper Lee release.  Harper Lee is just so good.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
6) "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Every time I read this small children's book, I find something new to tug at my heartstrings.  So short, yet so profound and dear.

Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity
7) "KISS ME, HARDY!  Kiss me, QUICK!"
The feels!  Oh the feels!  Just six small words and you understand real courage, friendship, and love.  I'm tearing up just thinking about it...okay, got to move on...too much...

Ruta Sepetys, Out of the Easy
8) "Sometimes we set off down a road thinking' we're going' one place and we end up another.  But that's okay.  The important thing is to start."
Truth!  And probably the hardest obstacle for me to over come.  Just start.

John Green, Paper Towns
9) "What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person."
This one I fell in love with more and more the further I got from it.  I read it.  I liked it.  But only now, several years (and experiences) later, do I truly 
appreciate what it's saying.

Libba Bray, Going Bovine
10) "You've been assigned an identity since birth.  Then you spend the rest of your life walking around in it to see if it really fits.  You try on all these different selves and abandon just as many.  But really it's about dismantling all that false armor, 
getting down to what's real."
You didn't really think I'd have a list without Libba Bray, did you?  She's my girl.  My imaginary best friend.  Who you are has always been there, you just have to have the courage to admit it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Graphic Novel Round-Up

It was a graphic novel kind of weekend...there was also an audiobook and eBook int here as well, but I'm finding there's nothing quite like a graphic novel to get me back into the reading mood.

Saga, Volume 4
Author: Brian K. Vaughn, Artist: Fiona Staples
Info: Image Comics, copyright 2014, 144 pages

Visit new plants, meet new adversaries and explore a very new direction as Hazel becomes a toddler while her family struggles to stay on their feet.

~Goodreads Description

I think it's safe to say at this point that Brian K. Vaughn is my favorite graphic novel author.  He's a great storyteller, finding the perfect balance of fantastical and "human"...real.  There's a lot of plots and subplots, but he keeps them in order and gives each their due.

Rat Queens: Sass & Sorcery, Volume 1
Author: Kurtis J. Wiebe, Illustrator: Roc Upchurch
Info: Image Comics, copyright 2014, 128 pages

Who are the Rat Queens?  A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit.

~Goodreads Description

Sass & Sorcery really sums this one up.  You've got Hannah, the leader of sorts and an Elven Mage, Violet, the Dwarven Fighter, Dee, the Human Cleric, and Betty the Smidgen Thief.  They're loud, they're vulgar, and they're the last crew you want to double cross.  When someone starts killing all the mercenaries, the Rat Queens are on the job...sort of...well, right after they finish partying.

Lots of choice language and conversation, but a lot of fun.  I can't wait to find out what other shenanigans these ladies get themselves into.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe
Author: Cullen Bunn, Illustrator: Dalibor Talajic
Info: Marvel, copyright 2012, 96 pages

What if everything you thought was funny about Deadpool was actually just disturbing?  What if he decided to kill everyone and everything that makes up the Marvel Universe?  What if he actually pulled it off?  Would that be FUN for you?

~Goodreads Description

The voices in Deadpool's head have been kicked up a notch, and he has decided to rid the world of heroes and villains.  No one is spared, especially from a clean, quiet death.  This anti-hero breaks the ultimate fourth wall with his usual sarcastic flair.  I usually don't gravitate toward superhero comic books, but with the Deadpool movie coming next year, I thought I'd give it a whirl.  I'll probably find another :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

As You Wish

Author: Cary Elwes, Joe Layden
Info: Touchstone, copyright 2014, 259 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts):  "Inconceivable." 

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Wesley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-aches look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

~Goodreads Description

I can't tell you when I first saw The Princess Bride.  I know I was blessed with parents who appreciate fun 80s movies, so as a child of the 80s I know I was probably fairly young.  But I do know that it only took one viewing to put it at the top of my favorite movies list where it has stayed into my adult years.

There's something whimsical, timeless about the movie that begs for repeat viewings, and the movie is so funny that it can be appreciated over and over again.  And quoted.  Oh how it is quoted.

By golly we even presented our own adapted version as a homeschool play!  Instead of kissing there were high fives...Fezzik the giant was played by the shortest kid in the room...but every single kid who participate loved it just as much as we did, and still identify themselves with the fun program to this day.

So I was terribly excited when Westley himself released this memoir about his time working on the film.  There are stories that will make you laugh.  Stories that will make you cringe.  And there are stories that will make you fall in love with the movie all over again.  I watched it three times last week with a whole new appreciation.

And that's the thing.  For some reason, it was really nice to hear that the experiences of the cast and crew match the love that the movie knows in pop culture.  Sure, it was a job, but those who were a part of the film appreciated what they were doing and appreciate still today how families are sharing the movie through generations.

Else writes about the movie with love, and the snippets from other cast and crew mirror his affection. For any fan, this is a great read.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Author: Ally Condie
Info: Dutton Children's, copyright 2014, 368 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): "When's it my turn?  Wouldn't I love, love to explore that shore up above?  Out of the sea.  Wish I could be, part of that world." :)

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above - of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia.  But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below.  Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio's true self - and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden - she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother's death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea.  Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

~Goodreads Description

Do you remember when books were one and done?  When there were no sequels...or prequels...or novellas and companions.  On occasion it still happens, and Condie does an amazing job introducing a new world, a new hero, and seeing her through to the end in only 368 pages.

The Little Mermaid meets City of Embers in the latest novel by Ally Condie.  Rio dreams of going above, from escaping the city of Atlantia below the sea and walking on land under real trees and stars.  But only one member of a family may make the sacrifice to travel above, and when Rio's twin sister Bay unexpectedly makes the decision to leave, Rio is devastated.  She will stop at nothing to find a way to the land above, and as her world continues to crumble she discovers that the utopian life of Atlantia isn't quite as utopian as she was led to believe.

Condie does a pretty impressive job of creating an entire world, a heroic protagonist, tons of intrigue, and a sweet love story (between sisters and a friend), in one short novel.  Rio is a siren.  With one word she can bend anyone to her will, but her mother has taught her to be silent, and through integrity and love, she has learned that everyone deserves the right to choose.

But the story did remind me of other stories.  Rio could be Lina in Ember, a dying city with a corrupt government.  Or she could be Ariel, a princess under the sea who dreams of a life above.

It was still an excellent story.  There was a sweet love story that seemed genuine and not full of teenage lust.  There was the struggle to be kind and moral instead of the easy way out.  There's mystery and sadness, and fun.  This was fun.  And the audiobook was fantastic.  So if you have the time, give it a listen!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Was Here

Author: Gayle Forman
Info: Viking Juvenile, copyright 2015, 288 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Everyone has their secrets.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated.  She and Meg shared everything - so how was there no warning?  But when Cody travels to Meg's college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there's a lot that Meg never told her.  About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end town in Washington.  About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg's heart.  And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can't open - until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend's death gets thrown into question.

~Goodreads Description

I was hoping this book would get me out of my reading funk and it did.  I knew I could count on you Gayle Forman.  Unfortunately it wasn't a happy book.  Not at all.  Absolutely the opposite, but like most books that aren't happy books, at least most teen books, it's a hopeful story.

Cody is the one left behind.  She was left behind, in a sense, when Meg went off to college, and now she's been left behind when Meg decides to take her own life.  What happens to those left behind?  What happens to those who want to understand?  Who seek solace where there is none?  Who feel guilt and loss that burrows into their very being?

That's what I Was Here is about.  It's about the seeking and heartache of the after.  And it's about finding forgiveness for yourself when the world comes crashing down.  Meg's story is also a bit of a public service announcement about suicide and mental health.  Forman is never preachy.  Instead, the story serves as a reminder that depression is real, it's personal, and it knows no age.

Here's what I like most about Gayle Forman's characters...her characters are broken.  I know that sounds disturbing, but she's consistent in that all of her characters are broken in some way.  There's no one that has everything together and makes everyone else look bad.  Her characters are real.  They're dynamic.  Many come from broken homes, have known struggle.  Cody was a bit broken way before Meg took her life just as Ben was broken before she stepped into the club in Seattle.  But all of her characters are fighters.  They've learned to stand on their own two feet so that their brokenness doesn't define them.

So there's hope in the end.  Forman is good at hope.

Just a heads up, there's quite a bit of choice language in this one.  It's not necessarily gratuitous, but sometimes it feels harsh and...much.  It was definitely enough that I noticed.

Sidenote:  Has anyone else noticed a trend in poor proofreading before publication?  Words left out of sentences...missing punctuation?  It always takes me out of the story when I come across one.  Kind of annoying.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Frustrations of a Book Lover
I'm going to share.  Is it okay if I share?  You are a wonderful community that I hope can related to my woes.

I'm on Spring Break...sort of.  One of those weeks where I'm off but have to do a couple of work things.  I know.  I have a problem.  So it goes.  But as I was getting excited about some time off, I started thinking about what I wanted to read, because that is always the all-important question on vacation.

Nothing.  That is the answer.  Nothing sounds appealing right now.  I have a stack of books at home, a Goodreads list with almost five hundred books that have, at one time, sounded exciting, and a list of titles that I actually need to read for any number of work-related responsibilities.  But I don't want to read any of them.  I'm in a slump.  I sit down, book in hand, and within five minutes I will find anything, ANYTHING, else to do.  And it makes me sad.  By golly I painted my kitchen just to get out of reading.  (That's not entirely true.  I was going to paint my kitchen eventually...but you understand where I'm going, right?)

I've been trying to analyze this feeling, this dread, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm putting too much pressure on my self when it comes to reading.  I"m not having fun with it right now.  There are too many books stacked at home, too many books on my Goodreads shelf, too many books that I have assigned to read for work.  I'm not reading for me.

Have you ever felt that way?  Please tell me yes so that I don't feel like a loon.  Is reading anxiety super weird?

Here's my game plan.  I'm going to stop reading the book that I'm currently in the middle of.  It's okay if I don't finish.  I'll probably go back to it, but I think I need to let it go.  And then I'm going to pick out a book for me.  Just for me.  Not to mark something off a list.  To read for enjoyment.  It seems so easy, but for this lover of books, it's really, really not.

Any other advice would be greatly appreciated :)
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