Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 : A Year in Reading

There are some people in my life that think I read too much.  I would beg to differ.  In the end I think I spend way more time watching television than I do reading, but so it goes.  It was a tough reading year for me.  I was plagued with the awful restlessness that I felt the year after I finished undergrad.  I was so use to doing something all the time that I didn't know what to do with myself at all.  Sitting still just wasn't an option.  This leads me to believe that I was a little too busy this year.  I would look for ANYTHING to do at home so long as I didn't have to sit down and read.  And then I felt sad.  And guilty.  And like a horrible librarian.  Because, really, what kind of librarian doesn't want to read a book.

Enter audiobooks.  They really became my lifeline to books in a time when I just didn't feel interested.  I could paint my kitchen, mow my grass, take Luna for a walk, craft, AND read at the same time.  And I loved it.  I loved deciding not to read a book if I didn't like the narrator.  I loved exploring comedy memoirs and adult fiction.  I loved rereading teen series that I adore and exploring new worlds and characters in my car and at the store.  For a girl that once swore off audiobooks, they saved me a bit because being a reader is a big part of who I am.  And my life without books made me a bit grouchy.

I didn't reach all of my goals, but that's okay.  I read some books this year that rocked my world.  They have stayed with me after months and months.  And that's enough.

Recap of my 2015 reading goals:

1) Read 20 adult books. WIN [24 adult books completed - a 1100% increase from 2014 when I only finished 2 adult titles :) ]

2) Read a work of Russian literature.  FAIL [I did purchase Crime and Punishment.  That feels like at least a little bit of effort was made. Baby steps.]

3) Listen to 15 audiobooks.  WIN [My "strategery" worked.  Most of those 20 adult titles were audiobooks!  26 audiobooks completed.]

4) Read all of the books on my TBR winter/spring/summer/fall lists.  FAIL [There's also my plan to track these titles on my nifty spreadsheet for 2016!)

5) Read 5 nonfiction books.  WIN [6 completed!]

6) Read at least 1 hour a day.  FAIL.  [So it goes.]

7) Read at least 125 books. FAIL.  [I'm rounding up for the final total.  I have two in the works that I'm going to finish by January 1st :) 107 titles completed - 128, 372 pages read]

8) Visit 5 new libraries. WIN [This feels like a cheat since I'm a librarian, and we went on strategic planning field trips to other organizations...but you take it where you can get it.]

9) Read at least 10 picture books.  FAIL. [Forgot about this one...]

10) Update my blog Goodreads account, and awesome spreadsheet for every book I read.  WIN.

By the numbers:

26 audiobooks, 9 eBooks, 36 graphic novel series (w/multiple volumes), 20 print novels, 24 adult titles, 41 teen titles, and quite a few that I didn't know how to categorize.

My 2016 reading goals are case you're interested.  I hope that you set some reading goals for yourself in the new year.  Maybe to join a book club, or renew your library card, or read that title your co-worker suggested months ago.  They don't have to be big or flashy.  They just have to encourage you to read.  To sit down and let a story sweep you away.  You'll be glad you did!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half of 2016

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Here's the thing by these kinds of lists.  I research.  I get excited.  And then I forget about the books and get distracted by other new, shiny titles that come into my library.  Fail.  It happened on multiple occasions this year, and I know I missed out on SO many great titles.  So I have decided, being the spreadsheet junkie that I am, to add a list to my 2016 Reads spreadsheet where I track what I've read, page numbers, and formats.  There are lovely, lovely tabs at the bottom that allow for endless lists and tracking.  Sigh.  I can just imagine the structure and organization and it fills me with joy (almost as much as July when the rows and rows of school supplies emerge at retail stores.  "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."  Anyone?  You've Got Mail?  Another sigh.

I feel like I've gotten off track a bit (that never happens!).  Anyways, here are ten books that I'm very excited to read the first half of 2016.  What's on your list?

1) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (April 26th)
2) The Siren by Kiera Cass (January 26th)

3) The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine (February 16th)

4) The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (February 16th)

5) The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (January 26th)

6) Starflight by Melissa Landers (February 2nd)

7) The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry (January 26th)

8) Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell (February 2nd)

9) Everland by Wendy Spinale (April 26th)

10) The Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (May 3rd)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Wishing you a relaxing holiday filled with laughter and love!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My True Love Gave to Me

Edited by: Stephanie Perkins
Info: St. Martin's Press, copyright 2014, 336 pages

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

~Goodreads Description

I'm not a huge fan of holiday stories.  And for the most part, I'm not a huge fan of short stories.  Both of those together didn't seem overly exciting to me.  But then I saw Stephanie Perkin's name attached. And that Rainbow Rowell was involved.  So I decided to keep an open mind and give it a whirl (which is not entirely was also a book club selection, so assigned reading of sorts.  It was going to have to be read whether or not I stayed open minded :)

I was pleasantly surprised.  I didn't like ALL of the stories, but I enjoyed most.  And I decided that reading this right after National Novel Writing Month, was an AMAZING decision.  Forget novels.  I'm going to try my hand at short stories from now on.  You get in.  You get out.  Stories off.  Move on with your life.

Most of the stories are Christmas-y in nature, but there's on EXCELLENT New Year's Eve tale (Rainbow Rowell's "Midnights" of course) and a shout out to Hanukkah in Gayle Forman's "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?"  But my favorite was "It's a Yuletide Christmas, Charlie Brown" by known other than the books editor, Stephanie Perkins.  It's the story about a tree lot and boxes and two stubborn teens who both looking for a way out of town.  I loved it.  And that comes at no surprise :)

If you're in the mood for something festive and whimsical, pick up My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of short stories by some extremely gifted authors.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This Year

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving
Under My Tree This Year
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

1) The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater

2) Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
Why do I not own this yet?

3) The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo
(See #2)

4) The Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Because every true Potter fan should have multiple copies of the books.

5) The Martian by Andy Weir
My favorite book of 2015.

6) Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My set needs to be complete (even though the covers won't match and that drives me crazy)

7) Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan
The man is a genius and this is my favorite.

8) The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
I'm finishing up Winter, and I NEED to own these.

9) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Because I can't wait until May.

10) The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
I heart Morgan Matson so much - come on May!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli
Info: Balzer & Bray, copright 2015, 303 pages

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

~Goodreads Description

I picked this one up because of the love it was shown by some readers I trust on Goodreads.  It was well-written, thoughtful, and entertaining.  But it wasn't my favorite book of the year.

Simon Spier has a pen pal.  A mysterious pen pal who refers to himself as "Blue".  A pen pal that understands Simon in a way that no one else ever has, a person that Simon can talk to without judgement.  Because sometimes the hardest thing in life is wanting to change but finding it impossible because everyone around you "knows" you too well.

This is a story about a high school student, a boy, just trying to grow up.  This boy just happens to be gay.  This isn't an "issues" book.  There is no soap box (like some authors I will not name directly but return readers of this here blog probably know who I am referring to).  There is struggle, and misunderstanding, and confusion, but it's all in the context of this boy's life.  It's real.  And most refreshing is the fact that the parents aren't evil.  Simon has a support system, and while that support system fails him sometimes, it's never angsty or intentionally hurtful.  It's humans being humans.

I would definitely pair this one with A.S. King's Ask the Passengers.  I liked that one a little better, but this is a worth-while read and one that I will go to often for reader's advisory at my library.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Manners & Mutiny

Author: Gail Carriger
Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, copyright 2015, 326 pages

If One must flirt...flirt with danger.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine's floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia's sweet sootie Soap nearby.  She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she's not sure whom to trust.  What does the brusque werewolf dewan know?  On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama?  Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster - in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test?

~ Goodreads Description

Did you know I LOVE Gail Carriger's world?  I'm pretty sure I've said that a time or two.  It's steampunk.  It's history.  It's paranormal.  It's filled with fierce, strong, intelligent women.  And it's an adventure from start to finish.  I'm sad that this adventure is ending.

Book the last.  All of the tension between the school, the Picklemen, and the supernatural forces residing in London have come to a head, and Sophronia is the only thing standing in the way of complete chaos.

Recap - Sophronia is attending Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.  It's a spy school in Victorian London hosted in a flying dirigible with vampire and werewolf professors.  Yes.  It's that kind of awesome.  Sophronia uncovers a conspiracy against the school by the Picklemen (interested in gaining wealth and power) who have hired flywaymen to steal a prototype that will allow them to control mechanicals (which are basically robot assistants).

In this final volume, the fight comes directly to the school and Sophronia must use her intellect and skills to stop the Picklemen from obtaining the prototype and stealing the school.  Luckily she has the help of her friends.

Carriger offers witty dialogued excellent described action scenes all focused on a central female character.  All of the girls, even the most unlikely of students, have talents and strengths that keep them alive.  There are no damsels in distress in this book, and that's why I love it.  And most importantly, the love stories don't take away from that.  It actually makes the girls stronger and more independent.

This is an excellent selection for teens and adults looking for good, clean, fun storytelling.  And now I need to go back and read The Parasol Protectorate series set years after Sophronia's escapades.  And the audiobooks are spectacular if you like that option.  I listened to ALL of them...and yet I own all of the hardbacks.  The covers are beautiful and look fantastic on my bookshelf.

Oh...and then there's this - 

It's too much, my readers.  Too much.  Gail Carriger is following me on twitter :)!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand-Dollar Tan LineAuthor: Rob Thomas
Info: Vintage Books, copyright 2014, 336 pages

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption.  She's traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can sore her first big case.

Now it's spring break, and colleges students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave.  When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate.  But this is not a simple missing person's case.  The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime.  And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica's past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

~Goodreads Description

A co-worker read this and thought it was pretty good.  You had me at Veronica Mars.  Then I found out Kristen Bell narrates the audiobook.  And you had me at Kristen Bell.  And then I read the description, with the story leaving off right after the Veronica Mars movie, and I was all like, "Heck, yeah, I'm going to read this book!"

That last sentence got a little weird.  Please excuse my inner (and apparently outer fangirl :)  So, yes, I'm a HUGE fan of Veronica Mars, and while I didn't really jump at the chance to read a spinoff novel (which, let's face, are very rarely worth reading), I decided to give this audiobook a listen because Kristen Bell is totally amazing.

Thank goodness I gave it a chance!  It was like there were more episodes.  Or another movie.  Or that Veronica Mars was not gone.  She was still in Neptune, being awesome and snarky and fierce, solving crimes.

Spring break in Neptune is not for the faint of heart.  Keith Mars is still in the hospital after being nearly killed by a hit and run.  Veronica has taken up her post at Mars Investigations, and with the help of her bestie Mac, is trying to keep the business open while her father convalesce.  Then a girl goes missing, and a bigwig hotel owner hires Veronica to solve the crime (against the wishes of the totally inept Sheriff Lamb).  Same old, same old in Neptune.

I don't want to give it away too much, so I'll stop there.  What's the fun of spoiling the mystery?  Just do yourself a favor if your a "marshmallow", and pick up the audiobook today.  Bell knocks it out of the park (Of course she does!  She's Kristen Bell!)  And the writing isn't half bad.

And if you like Veronica Mars (What?  You have watched it?  That is your assignment this holiday season.  Got to your local library and check out the first season and watch to completion.  I dare you not to run back for the other two!)  you should SO be watching iZombie.  It's Veronica Mars with zombies.  Oh my goodness.

**I would like to apologize for the excessive use of parenthetical commentary.  It happens from time to time.  I would say I'm working on it, but I'm not :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015

Top Ten (+1) Best Books I Read in 2015
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I feel like this list is a bit premature.  I'm working on a few books, and they might very well make the list.  Or not.  It's a bit early to tell, but so far they're pretty excellent.  That being said, here are ten of my favorites.  At least one of them has made my top ten ever favorites.  If you're interested, my reviews are linked with the titles.

What's on your list?

1) The Martian by Andy Weir

2) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

3) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

5) Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Image result for the family romanov
6) The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

7) Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger (Review coming soon!)

Image result for ten thousand dollar tan line
8) The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas (Review coming soon!)

9) Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

11) Shutter by Courtney Alameda

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