Monday, August 31, 2015

Extremely Tedious Home Makeover

This is not a DIY blog.  I will never post ways to creatively decorate your home or handy uses for 2x4s.  But I wanted to give a quick shout out to the amazing, talented, and patient individuals who post videos on YouTube and write up tutorials that can be easily found on Google.  I don't know where I'd be without you.  Yes I do.  I would be buried in debt because I'd have to call in a handyman just about every day.

This is why I don't have a review ready to go for today.  The "oh this will be quick" project took me four days.  And I am exhausted.  I do, however, still have all my fingers and toes attached after using a number of different saws, and my father is still talking to me after getting several phone calls.  Thank you Dude!  There is some success in that.

What did you do this weekend?

  


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Armada

Author: Ernest Cline
Info: Crown Publishing, copyright 2015, 355 pages

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

~Goodreads Description

I started reading the book, and I was enjoying it, and then I was overcome with serious pangs of guilt because I still have a few titles remaining on my assigned reading list.  So I stopped and moped for awhile.  Then I had this genius idea to listen instead of read because none of my assigned titles are on audiobook!  That's not cheating, right?

I'm pretty sure that was the better choice anyway, because Ernest Cline's Armada is read by Wil Wheaton, and boy do I love me some Wil Wheaton.

This isn't a new story.  In fact, it's an almost overdone story.  Boy loves video games.  Boy sees aliens.  Boy realizes all of his video game playing has really been in preparation for the very day the aliens attack.  Nope. Not a new story.   But the cool thing about Cline is that he knows this too.  He acknowledges it, embraces it, and totally geeks out over all the stories with similar plots that he grew up loving.  I mean, come on!  The number of The Last Straighter references is staggering, but I have no problem hearing a guy gush over Alex Rogan.

While not as awesome as Ready Player One...actually, they're on two completely different levels...I still thoroughly enjoyed Cline's follow up novel.  With each reference I understood, I did a little happy dance.  And that's really what I wanted.  I wanted to remember, and I wanted to get lost in a story written by someone who loves to remember as well.  There are plot holes and predictabilities, it was cheesy at times and lacking in character development, but overall it was a satisfying story.

Cline is the uberfan's author, and and this uberfan is waiting anxiously for his next novel.

Sidenote:  At times Wil Wheaton sounds just like Tim Allen...and that is awesome.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top 10 Books That Would Be On My Contemporary YA Fiction Syllabus

Top Ten Books That Would Be On My 
Contemporary YA Fiction Syllabus
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I pity the students that would end up in my class.  There would inevitably be singing and dancing, several awkward moments, and tangent discussions on Doctor Who and Harry Potter.  Because, if I'm being honest with you, those two topics come up a LOT in my conversations.  Usually it's my fault.  Sometimes it's not (GPL staff members... :) This list is kind of tricky, to be honest.  At least from the perspective of a librarian.  There are books that I book talk every single day, but I wouldn't include them on the list.  It becomes a conversation of quality over popularity, and just for good measure, I'd have to bring up the always entertaining dialogue about why we read and what makes a book important.

But I'll give this a whirl anyway.  Why not?  It could be fun!

Here are the my top ten contemporary YA fiction reads for my imaginary class that everyone would pass  as longs as they showed up having read the materials.  They were selected (in no particular order) because of the interesting conversation that would ensue about portrayal of teens, romance, friendship, sexuality, cultural identity, loss, mental health, and feminism.

What's on your list?

1)  How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Stanford 

2) The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

3) I Hunt Killer by Barry Lyga

4) The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

5) Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

6) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

7) Looking for Alaska by John Green

8) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

9) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

10) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson
Info: Dial Books, copyright 2014, 371 pages

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

~Goodreads Description

This book was hard for me.  I started it, tried really hard to read it, and gave up.  Then I searched and searched for the audiobook, thinking that might be a better fit for me.  Nothing.  So I read a few other books, including one's I'd been drooling over forever.  And then I picked it back up, and with some mad determination, powered through.

It was okay.  I hated it at the beginning, but I ended it resigned.  It was okay.  Jude is crazy.  The poor girl talks to her dead grandmother and has created a bible of wacky superstitions to make it through her day.  She's overwhelmed with guilt after the loss of her mother and wants desperately to reconcile with her twin brother.

Noah is...well...I didn't like Noah.  And there lies my difficulty with the book.  Nelson not only alternates between characters, she also moves back and forth through time.  Pre-dead mom and post-dead mom (that sounded harsh, but hopefully you get my drift.)  He's terribly selfish, and in his own way, just as crazy as his sister.  He's also mad talented, so I wanted to root for him, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Like the blurb above says, they are both given half the story, and part of me wishes the halves were swapped.  The Noah after the loss of his mother was much different then before.  He, too, is racked with guilt.  It was kind of like one of those movies that you want to yell at the screen for everyone just to talk already!  All of the problems could be avoided, you idiots, if you just talk!

But I understand that grief (and pride) doesn't always allow for that.  So, yeah, it was okay.  It's a story about loss, and confusion, and anger, and pride, and finding your way back from the edge.  And it's a story about art.  The beauty of art.  The release of art.  The importance of art.  Thank goodness, for Noah and Jude, that the administration hadn't done away with the art program (or school, in this particular instance).

Jandy Nelson is a skilled writer.  Like Patrick Ness and David Levithan, I just don't think her books are for me.  Maybe I'm not the right audience.  But I appreciate their talents and will book talk the spine off of them in my teen room.

You should read this.  You might like it.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Church of Marvels

Author: Leslie Parry
Info: Ecco, copyright 2015, 320 pages

New York, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs.

Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of The Church of Marvels, their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family’s star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her.

A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum—sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both.

As these strangers’ lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York—a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments-a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless.


~Goodreads Description

I'm not quite sure why this one caught my fancy...I think, if I'm remembering correctly, that it was compared to The Night Circus, and as we all know, that's about all you have to say to me to get me excited about reading a book.  Alas, I would not compare this book to the magical adventure that was the circus that arrived without warning, but it was a spectacular read (or listen is this particular case) nonetheless.

I destroyed this audiobook.  Nine discs in two days.  NINE DISCS IN TWO DAYS!  This is unheard of for me, especially when there's not a road trip involved.  But I suppose a good story allows for a little obsession.

Odile and Belle have grown up in a Coney Island sideshow, and after a terrible fire rocks their world, the sisters find themselves at a crossroads.  Odile longs for the familiar while Belle is desperate to escape toward something new.  And that's exactly what she does...except she doesn't go far.  She just makes it to Manhattan, but the author makes this feel forever away.

Then there's Sylvan, who really opens the story.  While working the night shift cleaning privies, Sylvan discovers a baby.  Being a legit stand-up gentleman, he knows he must protect the baby and sets out on an adventure to discover where the young girl belongs.

And finally, you're introduced to Alphie.  Poor Alphie who only wants to have a happy marriage and a young baby to complete her family.  But Alphie's mother-in-law is out to get her from the beginning other relationship and without any warning, the evil woman sends Alphie to the one place she never expected to be.

None of these stories seemed to go together, and then they did.  Parry does an amazing job weaving the stories here and there, switching between voices, to make a beautiful story about family, home, and the desire for love.  While I think the marketing of this book is a bit off (especially focusing on the sideshow itself which is more of just a footnote), Parry got the storytelling part just right.  I'll definitely be waiting to see what else she has to offer.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Top Ten Auto-buy Authors

Top Ten Auto-buy Authors
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

This list should NOT come as a surprise to anyone that has stopped by The Gnoming Librarian on a Top Ten Tuesday before.   I talk about them A LOT.  I dream of becoming their best friend because I'm convinced they would be just the kind of people I would love to hang out with, have adventures with, have long conversations about whatever with.  This is, of course, ridiculous...alas, it's just the kind of thing I daydream about when I finish a book by one of these amazing authors.

So who's on your nerdy "I will read everything they right" kind of list?  What authors do you support sight unseen?

Happy reading!

1) Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys

2) Libba Bray
Going Bovine, Beauty Queens

3) Gayle Forman
If I Stay, Just One Day

4) Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever, Along for the Ride

5) Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass, The Court of Thorns and Roses

6) Alethea Kontis
Enchanted, Hero

7) John Green
An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska

8) Brian K. Vaughan
Saga, Y: The Last Man

9) Jeff Lemire
Sweet Tooth, Essex County

10) Gail Carriger
Soulless, Etiquette & Espionage


Monday, August 17, 2015

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Author: Mindy Kaling
Info: Crown Archetype, copyright 2011, 222 pages

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!


~Goodreads Description

Another great car read on my short commute to work everyday.  Just four discs!  Mindy Kaling's collection of essays and musings, as opposed to Amy Poehler's in Yes, Please seemed more cohesive and put together...and to be honest, it was nice not having to hear the author complain about the writing process.

Despite her successes, Mindy seems like the girl next door, the kind of person you might have grown up with. She's sincere yet witty has she dives into the sometimes awkward conversations about growing up the chubby girl, life in New York while starting her career, and the inner workings of show-business.

I adore her on The Mindy Project, and this book really illuminated her sense of humor that shines through on the show.  Dude.  I'd kind of like to be her best friend.  She's fierce yet ridiculous.  She smart yet humble.  And she's just the kind of girl I'd like to get into some shenanigans with.

A must-read if you like comedian memoirs.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program...

Nasa.org
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to talk about the stars.  I know next to nothing about stars.  I've always enjoyed staring up at them, and with my trusty smart phone, I have a star chart at my fingertips, but the science is well beyond me.

And then I saw a Facebook post from a local news station about a meteor shower.  I'd never taken the time to step out into the night air and patiently wait for streaks of light.  I'm not sure why.  It's probably because I'm a bit lazy or easily distracted.  But for some reason last night I took up the challenge.  It was dark outside, so I figured dark enough if I was going to see anything, and I gave it a whirl.

And I saw fire shoot across the sky.  FIRE people.  It was beautiful.  Majestic.  Awe-inspiring.  And I'm not afraid to say that it brought a tear to my eye.  Life is so very cool.  So, so cool.  There I was, sitting outside in my little backyard in the suburbs of Indianapolis where you can only see a handful of stars in the night sky.  And four times over the course of an hour, a bright light streaked across the sky and dissolved into nothingness.  Four times I shared a moment with other people across the country who might have been looking up instead of at a screen.

I thought it would be a "I blink and it's gone."  But it wasn't.  The meteors didn't linger, but were still dazzling.  And at thirty-three years old I experienced my very first meteor.  Something new on a random Wednesday in August.

Then I started thinking.  I was out there for over an hour and only saw four (this was definitely an exercise in patience).  There was plenty of time to think.  I started thinking about the shill in my toes as I stood on the dewy grass.  I started thinking about how I needed a jacket and how I wished it was fall.

I started thinking about Andy Weir's The Martian and how truly terrifying it would be to be the only human on a planet looking up at the night sky at Earth that is only a speck on the horizon.

I started thinking about the movie Interstellar and how I really wished the resolution had been aliens, because I could have understood aliens.  I did not understand the science.

I started thinking about A.S. King's Ask the Passengers as a low-flying airplane passed above me.  I sent them my love, because maybe, just maybe, somebody on the aircraft needed a nice little dose of affection.

I started thinking about how precise our world is and how intricately it was created.  If one thing got out of line, if the rate our spin, tilt of our axis, or position to the sun were just a tiny bit different we might not exist.

I started thinking about how I pitied everyone tucked away in their houses not taking the time to stare up at the wonders.  I started thinking about how I was most assuredly going to add the hunt for the perfect stargazing location to my bucket list.  And I thought about how much I enjoyed the quiet, the peacefulness, and the moment just to be staring up at the stars.

I hope that feeling stays with me for awhile.  I hope I take more opportunities to just breath and enjoy stillness.  And I hope there are many more meteor showers in my future.

I hope they are in your future as well.  We've got another chance to night, and you better believe I'll be out there in my little backyard looking for fire.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Manners & Mutiny

Author: Gail Carriger
Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 pages
Release Date: November 3, 2015

When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London...but at what cost?  Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series.

~Goodreads Series

Conclusion?!  Say it ain't so, Gail Carriger!  Say it ain't so!  I adore this series.  Sophronia is wickedly talented, fierce, and yet vulnerable as she grows into a confident young woman.  Come on!  It's about female lady-spies who can rock beautiful dresses that are hiding deadly weapons.  SO much fun.  And Waistcoats and Weaponry left us with quite the cliffhangers.  Can't wait until November!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top 10 Authors I've Read The Most Books From

Top 10 Authors I've Read the Most Books From
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Most of these authors are also on my lists for "want desperately to meet one day" and "wish they would write faster".  And if you've ever stopped by on a Top Ten Tuesday before, many of these will come at no surprise.  Of course I've read all their books.  Because I love them.

Quickly gaining ground are Morgan Matson, Gail Carrier, and Sarah Addison Allen.

Who is on your list?  Happy reading!

1) Dean Koontz
My favorites: Odd Thomas & Life Expectancy

2) John Green
My favorite:  An Abundance of Katherines

3) Brian K. Vaughan
My favorite: Saga

4) Sarah Dessen
My favorites: The Truth About Forever & Saint Anything

5) Jasper Fforde
My favorite:  The Eyre Affair

6) E. Lockhart
My favorite: We Were Liars

7) Maureen Johnson
My favorite: Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

8) Maggie Steifvater
My favorite: The Raven Boys

9) Libba Bray
My favorites: Diviners & Going Bovine

10) Jane Austin
My favorite: Persuasion

Monday, August 10, 2015

Library GrabBag: Blanket Forts and Fun

Last post about our Summer Reading fun!  What's better than blanket forts, pizza, and a movie in the library?  Not much, I tell you.  Not much.  As part of our DIY fun, and coming off the time-intensive three-week Movie Magic Camp, we wanted something carefree and fun to do with our teens.  And thus, blanket forts in the library was born.  It really doesn't get much easier than this.  Bring in a few blankets, take over a designated space, and let the kids get creative.  After the set up the fort, we delivered the pizza and put on Big Hero 6.  They laughed, they worked together, they made some new friends, and the gorged on cheap food.  It was a fun afternoon!  The program wasn't anything fancy, but it was a great opportunity for the teens to have fun in the library, with the staff, remembering how cool it is to still be a kid. 








Friday, August 7, 2015

Library GrabBag: August #TeenTalk

Another video!  As promised, we brought a teen along for the fun.  Introducing Jaren, a capybara enthusiast andover of llamas named Sigwald.  He's kind of calm here...maybe we should always follow him around with a camera!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Screwtape Letters

Author: C.S. Lewis
Info: Harpercollins, copyright 1942, 224 pages

The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior "tempter" named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as "the Patient".

Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter.  In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine.  Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.

~Goodreads Description

Why hadn't I finished this before?  Maybe I wasn't in the right mood.  Maybe I wasn't ready to pay attention.  Maybe I hadn't found an audiobook reader I could stand.  Well, it doesn't really matter because I have finally read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

It's a look at human nature and a Christian worldview from a new perspective.  Most Christian fiction, and Christian allegory, show the struggling believer who has an epiphany of faith that leads to a place of understanding and acceptance of their circumstances and the importance of their beliefs. As a Christian, I appreciate the message and the happy endings, but it never fully satisfies.  Lewis tacked the topic from the opposite viewpoint, in many aspects taking the believer out of the story completely.  He is there, of course, but we only get to know him through the eyes of the very creatures working furiously to turn his heart away from God.

The simple letters, that sound like any letter between a mentor and his apprentice, detail moral struggles of humanity and the fight for the soul.  I'm not sure I fully agree with the Goodreads description when it states that "neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue."  An article I read on HarperCollins Publishers stated that the format of the book, a letter between demons seeking the soul of the "patient", "allows Lewis to reveal, at the patient moves precariously through one temptation after another, both what is required to maintain one's virtue and the precise nature of the forces of darkness deployed to destroy it."  That feels more correct.  The demons knew what they were up agains.  They understood human nature, the good (in their perspective) and the bad, and thus understood precisely when and how a soul was lost.

For a believer, C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters is a great way to start a conversation about morality, virtue, faith, and the forces of darkness, the fallen and depraved, battling for our souls.

And the audiobook reader is English.  So if you're like me, and like a lovely English accent, this is an excellent choice.  And it's short...if that matters at all :)


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

10 Fairytale Retellings I've Read

Top Ten Fairytale Retellings I've Read
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I love fairytales.  And I love fairytale retellings.  So this particular list was right up my alley.  Fairytales are whimsical, magical, and endearing.  They can be twisted and molded into something new while maintaining the heart of the story.  And despite some critics that harp against the anti-feminist messages in most classical fairytales (which is an argument that makes no sense to me considering the time period when most of them were written - context, people...context), I love them for the hope and happy endings (unless you're reading the original Grimm.)

Here are a few of my recent favorites:

What's on your list? 

1) Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
The Frog Prince

2) Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Twelve Dancing Princesses

3) Splintered by A.G. Howard
Alice in Wonderland

4) Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Cinderella

5) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Red Riding Hood

6) East by Edith Pattou
East of the Sun, West of the Moon

7) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Alice in Wonderland

8) A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Grimm's Fairytales

9) Entwined by Heater Dixon
Twelve Dancing Princesses

10) The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker
The Frog Prince

Monday, August 3, 2015

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk for July

A bit late posting here, but right on time for work :)  Enjoy!  And don't forget to share your favorite summer reads!  #TeenTalk later this week (and we have a teen with us!)

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