Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back to School Top 10

Back to School Top Ten Tuesday
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I'm strangely fond of teen fiction set in boarding schools.  There's just something about the camaraderie.  The adventure.  The east coast fall setting  (wait...maybe that's just how I imagine all of those books).  I'd like to think that I would have not only survived but thrived in an exotic school locale, but if we're being honest with one another (and dear reader, I'm nothing if not honest), I would have been a hot, miserable mess.  At least I get to leave out my dream through books.  Sigh.

In the spirit of the back to school season, here are 10 of my favorite books set at boarding school (not including Harry Potter which speaks for itself):

1) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Looking for Alaska
2) Looking for Alaska by John Green

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)
3) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

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

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)
5) Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)
6) I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

7) Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)
8) The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

9) A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School, #1)
10) Flunked by Jen Calonita

Happy reading!!
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Monday, August 29, 2016

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Just checking in today!  I've been in a little bit of a reading rut, so I'm trying to buy myself some blogging time to prep a review.  Thus, a short discussion about some of the things that are (or have recently) made me happy.

1) NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast - They discuss TVs, movies, books, and other pop culture wonderfulness in both hour(ish) long shows or "Small Batches" that are about 10 minutes in length.  Speaking of what makes me happy, each long show ends with the hosts going around and sharing what they're enjoying at the moment.  And it is lovely.

2) The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe - I kind of have a crush on Mike Rowe.  He's funny.  He seems sincere.  And he's a very good storyteller.  This super short podcast is Mike telling stories, keeping the hook hidden until the end.  The fun is trying to guess what the story is really about before that hook comes.  I totally figured it out yesterday, and, I'll admit it, I did a little happy dance in my kitchen.

3) Longmire - I kind of totally failed on my summer binge watching plans (see list here).  I was easily distracted by other fabulous shows including the OH MY GOODNESS IT WAS SOOOOO GOOD Stranger Things.  I'm pretty sure I drove everyone crazy at work with that one.  And they have totally disappointed me by not having watched it yet.  Anyhoo...on to Longmire.  I didn't want to like it.  Walt Longmire drove me crazy.  He was grouchy.  He was sullen.  He made some weird life choices.  But two and a half seasons in (of four available on Netflix), I was obsessed.  I was obsessed to the extent that I called my mother every night to talk about the episodes I had watched and to complain about the things in the show that drove me crazy.

4) My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - This was a binge while I was home sick for a few days.  There are spontaneous musical numbers.  And a curvy, realistic, neurotic, likable lead.  Please watch it and fall in love with it like I did.  And we can talk.  And become friends.  And plan our own spontaneous musical numbers to make life awesome.

5) And finally...this makes me happy.  I mean, like, really happy.

What's making you happy?  Did Stranger Things make you happy? Do you wish life had spontaneous musical numbers?

Happy Monday :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)
Author: Jack Throrne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany


Info: Little, Brown UK, copyright 2016, 343 pages

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.  As part and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

~Goodreads Description

So.  Yeah.

I've started reviews out like that before, I know, but this one.  Well.  Yeah.

I didn't love it.  Not even sure I even liked it.  But I didn't hate it.

When it comes to Harry Potter, I've always had the ability to separate the books from, well, the rest of it.  I loved the movies.  I loved the books.  But I loved the movies differently than I loved the books.  I never got worked up when something was left out, and I was able to accept changes made for the purpose of filmmaking.  It's about storytelling, and different mediums demand different types of stories.  I think I loved the movies as much as I loved the books because I could see the book characters in the movies.  They were connected.  Maybe not perfect representations, but the heart of each character was the same.

And then there is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  A new medium.  A new type of storytelling.  And a new story, which complicates things.  It takes into consideration (sort of) the context of our favorite character's lives, but it forgets the characters themselves.  And that was my biggest problem with the story.  I didn't "see" the characters that I had come to love in this story.  They were identified by name, but that was really it.  They were paper characters that lost their verve, their wit and their heart.  Hermione was reduced to either a spineless administrator or spinster.  Ron became a ridiculous parody of himself.  And Snape and Dumbledore were forced into confessions that I don't really believe they would have ever really offered.  And that's just naming a few.

On the plus side, you get a Draco Malfoy who has been changed by his experiences and a Scorpius who redeems him in a sense.  (I kind of really liked the Malfoys.  A lot.  And definitely a lot more than I liked any of the "good" characters).

There's so much more that could be said about this story, and so much more that has already been said about this story.  And maybe it comes across differently on a stage, with an audience.  But in this format, it's definitely missing what I loved most about Harry Potter and his friends.

What did you think?  Did you love it?  Did you hate it?  Do you accept it as is?  I'd love to hear!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top 10 Long Overdue TBR Books

Top Ten Long Overdue TBR Books
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Feels sssooo good to be blogging again :)  I was a little under the weather last week, and focusing on anything was kind of out of the question.  But I'm back, and totally ready to talk about ten books way overdue on my to-be-read list.  That list is about 600 books long, so picking ten was no big deal.  There just never seems to be enough time.  Or there always seems to be something different to read.  But perhaps I'll make that a priority next year.  Knock a few of the books off the list.  Or I suppose there might be time this year to tackle these particular ten.

What's on your list?  Any of these you highly recommend?

Happy reading!!


The Luxe (Luxe, #1)
1) The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Little Brother
2) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Mister Pip
3) Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

The Road
4) The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1)
5) Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Pulse (Pulse, #1)
6) Pulse by Patrick Carman

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)
7) Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

The River of No Return
8) The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist, #1)
9) The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Unbound (The Archived, #2)
10) The Archived by Victoria Schwab
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Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18Author: Joseph Loconte
Info: Thomas Nelson, copyright 2015, 256 pages

The First World War laid waste to a continent and permanently altered the political and religious landscape of the West. For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the Great War deepened their spiritual quest. Both men served as soldiers on the Western Front, survived the trenches, and used the experience of that conflict to ignite their Christian imagination. Had there been no Great War, there would have been noHobbit, no Lord of the Rings, no Narnia, and perhaps no conversion to Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

Unlike a generation of young writers who lost faith in the God of the Bible, Tolkien and Lewis produced epic stories infused with the themes of guilt and grace, sorrow and consolation. Giving an unabashedly Christian vision of hope in a world tortured by doubt and disillusionment, the two writers created works that changed the course of literature and shaped the faith of millions. This is the first book to explore their work in light of the spiritual crisis sparked by the conflict.

~Goodreads Description

This came highly recommended by my father who took forever to read it because he needed to "contemplate" for awhile after each chapter :)  I get it.  The book is filled with ideas, philosophies, and explanations that get to the heart of two authors and their incredible work, and it was a read I might not have picked up on my own.

Joseph Loconte doesn't present a history of Tolkien and Lewis, and it's not a lesson on World War I.  The book felt a lot like the assignments I connected with the most in college - using historical context to better understand the life of an individual, or in this case, their literary works.  How did the war experiences influence the narrative?  What were the prevailing philosophies during early-20th century Britain?  And how did those philosophies find their way into Middle Earth and Narnia?  (Sidenote that is only interesting to myself...but this here is my blog so I'm sharing anyway...I wrote a paper in college connecting the historical context of yeoman in the 15th century with the ballads of Robin Hood that appeared around that time and vice versa.  It was kind of fun with a similar intent :) )

The discussion that I found most intriguing was toward the beginning of the book.  Loconte explains the impact the Industrial Revolution had not only on Britain, but the war, and as a result, soldiers fighting in the war.  The warfare in WWI was a new brutality.  Men could be killed quicker and in larger numbers in unbelievably horrific ways.  A result of new technologies and mass production.

While the conversation eventually goes on to discuss the impact on Tolkien and Lewis's views of fear, courage, and death and how those views are displayed throughout their works, it was statement Locate made about progress that struck me (and reminded me of Jurassic Park - cause it wouldn't be an Emily review if a book didn't remind me of a movie).  During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people were so enamored with the fact that they could, that they seemingly didn't stop to think about the ultimate consequence.  Bigger weapons, tanks, airplanes, bombs, biological warfare - it was all possible and brought power (the "myth of progress" discussed throughout the book), but the death toll and terror was beyond imagine.

John Hammond: I don't think you're giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody's ever done before... 
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.

That line in Jurassic Park always stuck with me.  And while I've taken it out of context a bit, I feel like the intent is the same and can be considered about new technologies, scientific advances, and "ease of use" that see today.  Yes it's possible, but should we, should it...is it worth it?

While I've read The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, I've never really read much about the men who created them.  I knew Lewis was an atheist, but I didn't really know the part that Tolkien played in guiding him toward Christianity.  I knew they would get together to philosophize and share their work, but I didn't understand how close these two men became.  And it makes me wonder if people ever get together now, in the 21st century, to talk about philosophy and religion.  To debate and discuss civily.  To stretch their understanding of the human condition, to find their own truth.  I hope so, because the genius that can come out of those conversations can change the literary world forever.

They were two men shaped by war.  And in the end, those experiences have left a legacy in the stories they wrote.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Middle Earth again to do my best to see the world, and Samwise Gamgee, through the eyes of Tolkien.


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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND

Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Read
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

What I enjoy most about the wonderful bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish is that they pick out the topic for me.  I don't have to think.  I don't have to ponder.  I don't have to struggle with decision making.  Then we get the REWIND weeks, and I get totally stressed out.  Thank goodness they provided a list of the topics from the last few years.  And with my Goodreads list growing, it wasn't too difficult to pull together a list of some of the sequels I'm super excited about.

Starfall (Starflight #2)
1) Starfall by Melissa Landers
February 7, 2017

Silver Stars (Soldier Girl #2)
2) Silver Stars by Michael Grant
January 31, 2017

Gemina
3) Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof
October 18, 2016

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2)
4) The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
February 14, 2017

Lifeblood (Everlife, #2)
5) Lifeblood by Gena Showalter
February 28, 2017

Duels and Deception
6) Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
April 11, 2017
(Not technically a sequel, but...)

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2)
7) A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
August 30, 2016

Archie, Vol. 2
8) Archie Vol. 2 by Mark Waid
December 20, 2016

Descender, Vol 3: Singularities
9) Descender Vol. 3 by Jeff Lemire
December 20, 2016

Giant Days Vol. 3
10) Giant Days Vol. 3 by John Allison
October 11, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Imprudence

Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, #2)Author: Gail Carriger
Info: Orbit, copyright 2016, 352 pages

London is in chaos.

Rue and the crew of The Spotted Custard returned from India with revelations that shook the foundations of the scientific community. There is mass political upheaval, the vampires are tetchy, and something is seriously wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most inappropriate military types.

Rue has got personal problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy, and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue’s beginning to suspect what they all really are… is frightened.

When the Custard is ordered to Egypt, transporting some highly unusual passengers, Rue’s problems go from personal to impossible. Can she get Percy to stop sulking? Will she find the true cause of Primrose’s lovesickness? And what is Quesnel hiding in the boiler room?

~Goodreads Description

You had to figure this review was coming :)  It's, unapologetically, my sixth Gail Carriger review of the year.  To say I'm a fan would be an understatement.  I had to wait for the audiobook because that's how I've been devouring the series, and Moira Quirk is a spectacular narrator.  I'd listen to her read just about anything.

There's a lot (and yet not a lot) going on in this latest installment.  Rue has turned twenty-one and is officially considered an adult - losing the protection of all of her parents.  Lord Conall Maccon, Alpha of the Woolsey Pack, is starting to lose his mind.  And Quesnel is hiding a weird tank thing in the boiler room of The Spotted Custard.  There's a trip to Egypt.  There's a meeting of some old friends and foes.  And there's more werecats.  I would explain more, but I don't want to give anything away (which is a gentle hint that you should be reading this series if you are not already).

Rue seems to be a little more self-aware than her mother.  She is cognizant of her faults, dependent upon her friends far more than her Alexia ever seemed to be, and aware of her imperfections.  She's also brazen, confident, and full of spunk.  While I enjoy watching her relationship (or education...)with Quesnel blossom, I thought it took up too much time in the plot.  The action picked up toward the end, and in pure Carriger fashion, it was a bit chaotic, extremely witty, and intensely entertaining.

I love how Rue has explored exotic locations, befriended exotic people, and has found herself in exotic situations.  She doesn't get along with everyone, but has a personality that is endearing and warm.  I'd join the crew of The Spotted Custard any day.




Friday, August 5, 2016

Library GrabBag: #TeenTalk 2016

It's #TeenTalk time!  Jessica and I got together to talk about some awesome reads.  What are you reading?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Library GrabBag: Family Tinker Day & Pokemon Go!

We recently hosted a Family Tinker Day event at my library, offering hands-on activities that encouraged our community to explore and build.  For a list of stations and more information on the event, check out my post on DEMCO's Ideas & Inspiration blog. http://ideas.demco.com/blog/8-inexpensive-stem-ideas-pokemon-go-library/

http://ideas.demco.com/blog/8-inexpensive-stem-ideas-pokemon-go-library/

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Front Lines

Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1)Author: Michael Grant
Info: Katherine Tegen Books, copyright 2016, 576 pages

1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.

The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

~Goodreads Description

What if?  What if women had been eligible for the draft in WWII?  What if they had been sent to the front lines?  What if they had been trained and served alongside the brave young men who chose to put on a uniform and fight for their country?  What if?

Michael Grant explores the "what if" in his newest series starter, Front Lines.  This was my first Grant novel, and it won't be my last.  As always...I wish I would have waited for the series to be complete before I started.  Now I have to wait for book two while our three female protagonists are fighting for their lives and country in a war.  So hard.

The story bounces between three young women, as the description states, who found themselves joining the ranks for their own reasons.  One young woman eager to avenge her sister's death and the desire to see if she has the courage to risk her life for her country.  One young woman with the uncanny ability to learn multiple languages and an eye for details.  And one young woman with an impossible dream eager to learn and heal.  Grant leaves the narrator a mystery, starting the story in a hospital, surrounded by the wounded scarred by the images of war.

I enjoyed hearing about all three women, but the story was definitely swayed toward Rio, leaving me wondering if that was by design...will the other women play a more prominent role in installments to come?  They each represent a different aspect of the war.  One the soldier.  One the spy.  One the medic.  At the end of the story, their lives begin to intertwine in a natural way.

Front Lines felt real.  I had to remind myself on occasion that women weren't, in fact, eligible for the draft during WWII.  I had to remind myself that they never saw combat in tanks or foxholes, gun on their shoulders, taking aim at the enemy.  While set during the backdrop of WWII, it's not really a war story.  It's a character driven novel.  Grant is telling the story of three lives that just happen to be going to war.  And in the end, it's a love story.  Not a romantic story.  But a way to praise the ingenuity, courage, and emotional capacity of women.  So in that sense, I suppose this is a very feminist story.  One without a soap box.  Without an agenda.

And that's why I enjoyed it so much.  Strong female characters can also be imperfect and vulnerable.  They can be capable yet accepting of help.  They can be scared and intentional.  They can be quick witted and empathetic.  They can be beautiful in those moments of imperfection.

Whether on the battlefield or serving as pilots, mechanics, radio operators, or nurses, the truth is that women played an integral role in the allied victory.  Grant's story might be fiction, but it has heart, and it's a story I want to see through to the end.





You might also like:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

10 Books I'd Buy Right Now (If I had a fully loaded gift card)

Ten Books I'd Buy Right Now
(If I had a fully loaded gift card)
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I really only purchase books that I've already read and really enjoyed.  And when time allows, I am absolutely a re-reader.  My library gave away an Uppercase Box 3-month subscription as a summer reading prize, so I thought it best I purchase a month for myself to check out the quality.  I've enjoyed getting "book mail" so much that I haven't cancelled!  So new titles have been finding their way onto my bookshelves lately, but there are definitely some fillers that have been sitting on a well-curated list for quite some time just waiting for a fully loaded gift card!

What's on your list?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter, #8)
1) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne


Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, #2)
2) Imprudence by Gail Carriger

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)
3) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Polaris (Avalon, #2)
4) Polaris by Mindee Arnett

The Martian
5) The Martian by Andy Weir

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson, #9)
6) Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)
7) Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde

Saga, Volume 1
8) Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan

And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1)
9) And I Darken by Kiersten White

Mothership (Ever-Expanding Universe, #1)
10)  Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
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