Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Book Covers

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers

So I discovered one of life's not-so-important questions...do I like the cover because I like the cover?  Or do I like the cover because I like the book?  I couldn't figure that out, so I decided to just stay away from favorites titles if at all possible.  This led to a realization that I have been tricked by many a pretty cover into thinking I was going to like the book.  Shame on you shiny cover.

I'm not sure if these are my FAVORITE covers, but they are definitely a few I like a whole lot.  Sometimes it's the artwork.  Sometimes it's a feeling it exudes.  Sometimes it the use of quotes and text.  Sometimes it's quirkiness.  It takes a little something to attract my attention and there was just something about these particular titles that led to me checking them out and reading them.

What are some of your favorite book covers?

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)
1) The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Dust of 100 Dogs
2) The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

Mothership (Ever-Expanding Universe, #1)
3) Mothership by Martin Leicht

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

4) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
5) Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carrier

Avalon (Avalon, #1)
6) Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars
7) Descender Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)
8) The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heeling

Moon Over Manifest
9) Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies, #1)
10) My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ramona Blue

Author: Julie Murphy
Info: Balzer & Bray, copyright 2017, 432 pages

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

~Goodreads Description

Hmm...apparently this book is controversial.  I somehow failed to hear any of the initial problems with the book or the fallout after its release which makes me realize that I need to make time to follow book press more often.

The thing is - I don't have strong feelings for this book either way.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.  In fact, it was a book I kind of forgot about as soon as I was done with it.  I ADORED Dumplin' and was hoping that Murphy's newest would have the same witty dialogue and flawed yet lovable characters, but I never really connected with Ramona and her life.

Ramona lives in a trailer park in Eulogy, Mississippi.  It was supposed to be a short term living situation after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the family home, but years later she's still there with her father and sister making the best of things.  That part of the story I enjoyed (well, enjoyed is a strong word.  I appreciated that particular storyline) - Ramona's interactions with her friends and family, especially her sister, despite the dysfunction.  Besides the absentee mother, it seemed like a group of people who genuinely liked and cared about each other even if they struggled with showing it or made horrible choices on occasion.

But this was an "issues" book, and I've discovered that "issues" books are just not my cup of tea (and was apparently the violently contentious plotline that led to hurt feelings and fallout).  I hate soap boxes and lectures, especially when it's obvious what point an author is trying to make.  Tell your story and trust that your characters, with their own actions, will get across the point.  Please don't beat me over the head with it.  Murphy doesn't get into quite that territory like some other young adult authors have, but any direct conversation about sexuality seems to walk that very fine line.  I don't care who your characters love, just write them as genuine individuals and the story will do its work.

I've also discovered that I have never ever gotten so worked up about something that I have come even close to wanting to send someone death threats.  Perhaps I'm just not an overly passionate person.  I think it's more likely that I'm just an optimistic individual who believes, for the most part, that other individuals are not intentionally trying to offend me so I don't take it personally.

I don't know - either way, this book wasn't great but it also wasn't awful, and that's all I really have to say about that.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Top 10 Titles that Made Me Hungry

Ask, and you shall receive.  While Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish is still on hiatus, I was craving a book list.  So Jessica at Book Plots and Polka Dots kindly came up with a topic for this week.  Titles that made me hungry...which was harder than I thought it would be.

What books have made you hungry?

1) Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Gelato.  ALL the gelato.

2) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Feasts.  ALL the feasts.

3) Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Magic food.  ALL the magic food.

4) Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Waffles and catering.  ALL the waffles and catering.

5) Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Peaches.  ALL the peaches.

6) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Carnival food.  ALL the carnival food.

7) Soulless by Gail Carriger
Tea and biscuits.  ALL the tea and biscuits.

8) Tantalize by Cynthia Leicht Smith
Italian food.  ALL the Italian food.

9) Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Tarts.  ALL the tarts.

10) Bang by Barry Lyga
Pizza.  ALL the pizza.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Gem & Dixie

Author: Sara Zarr
Info: Balzer & Bray, copyright 2017, 288 pages

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

~Goodreads Description

Another extremely sad, realistic fiction read for Emily this year.  What a doozy.  Seriously.

Zarr does so many things heartrendingly well in this story that I resented her a little when I was finished.  This book stuck with me.  I both hated it and loved it which is exactly the reason why I would recommend it to teens who enjoy gritty, real stories that tug at your heart.  Gem's life is dirty and ugly.  Her mother finds solace in the drugs that Dixie buys for her at school, and her absentee father promises change and relief but only brings more chaos and destruction into their lives.

Over the course of just a few short days, Gem realizes that to save herself she has to walk away from the sister that she loves - the one person in her life who has never really let her down.  Thankfully she has the support and ear of a guidance counselor at school - one of the only school counselor's I've come across in young adult fiction that seems to genuinely care about a student and takes important steps to make a positive impact in a life.  Usually they are written as incompetent or without compassion, so this was definitely a breath of fresh air.

There were several moments where Gem's words and actions broke my heart.  This is also a story about poverty, and for Gem that often led to hunger and fear.  There was no direct or specific physical or emotional abuse.  The parents weren't intentionally neglectful or hateful, but so many actions and choices built up over the years that left Gem scarred.  In one particular moving scene with the school counselor, Gem calls attention to this and asks how bad things have to get in order for someone to step in and help.

This is a short, quick read which makes it more impressive.  Zarr does an excellent job with character development is such a short time.  And while there is no clear resolution to the problems Gem faces, the ending is hopeful.

A must read.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Valiant

Author: Lesley Livingstone
Info: Razorbill, copyright 2017, 372 pages

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

~Goodreads Description

I'm TOTALLY cheating because that is my blogging prerogative.  This month on #GPLtalk we reviewed The Valiant and discussed our likes and dislikes about historical fiction.  We also had a fun conversation about what we're geeking out over.  SO, for my review, take a listen :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Library GrabBag: Teen & Adult Programming Inspiration

A little tired after summer reading?  In the need of an energy boost?  Looking for a spark of inspiration?  Well...it's calendar time!  Here's hoping that there is something that will get you excited about programming this fall.  There's STEM ideas, game ideas, craft ideas, strange ideas, and of course, lots and lots of food ideas :)

Is there something in particular you're looking for?  Let me know!  I'm always looking for inspiration too.

Teen Programming Calendar

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mike the Gnome: Explorer and Whiskey Drinker

It's been awhile, dear readers!  I hope your summer is treating you well.  Mine has been a doozy with a crazy work schedule and a long-awaited journey.  As I'm sure you can deduct from the title of this here post, Mike, my ever adventurous traveling companion, joined me me on the journey.  We got several curious looks but even more smiles which makes lugging him around worth it.

The wonderful Becky Tilson at Tilson Travels put together a literary tour of Scotland and Ireland as a fundraiser for my library.  A portion of the travel fee goes back to the library, and the travelers get an experience of a lifetime.  Scotland and Ireland have been on my traveling bucket list forever, and I can't recommend visiting enough - especially Scotland.  I left my heart in the Highlands and have officially added hiking the West Highland Way to that very same bucket list.

I won't bore you with all of my 300+ pictures, but I thought I'd share a few of my favorites with Mike (several of which sent me into a fit of giggles because the little guy is just so darn cute.)

 Mike in Edinburgh, Scotland and Edinburgh Castle.

Mike visiting Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

 Mike hanging out at the Queen's home - Balmoral Castle

Mike taste-testing Scottish whiskey...and over-indulging.

 Mike visits the Clava Cairn - prehistoric tombs blanketed in myth and lore.  (He might or might not be trying to go through the stone to find Jamie Fraser).

Mike takes a ride on the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig.

 Mike explores Kilekenny Castle...and photo bombs some familiar selfie takers.

 Mike falls in love with Desmond Castle in Adare, Ireland.

Mike finds his courage on the edge of the world at the Cliffs of Moher.

We're already planning our next adventure together.  Mike has his sights on the Mediterranean and a trip to Greece and Italy, but I suppose we'll just have to see where the winds take us.  Where do you think Mike should travel next?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top 10 Books I've Read In 2017 So Far

This has been a strange reading year for me so far.  I think it's fair to say that even books I liked, I didn't really like.  So many of them were hard, and heartbreaking, and frustrating.  I honestly don't think I've ever read so much back-to-back realistic, contemporary fiction as I have this year.  It has made me kind of moody :)  My escape activity hasn't felt like an escape, yet I'm drawn to these stories and the lives of these characters.  But I'm totally going to try to read more fantasy/science fiction  the second half of the year.

What have been your 2017 favorites so far?

The Last Time We Say Goodbye
1) The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
"And I loved this book.  It was thoughtful, sincere, and genuine in its depiction of loss and regret."

 Goodbye Days
2 & 3) The Serpent King and Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
"This one surprise me.  It was dark, and ugly, and gritty, but at the same time there was a beauty to it."

The Hate U Give

4) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

"Thomas gets it right with a diverse cast of characters that you come to care about and a story that is difficult to read while remaining genuine."

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)
5) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
"There are a lot of plot elements happening at once, and yet [Ahdieh] manages to weave them together seamlessly."

 I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, #1)
6 & 7) Bang and the I Hunt Killers Trilogy by Barry Lyga
"Lyga's characters are complicated, multi-faceted, and genuine, pulling you into the story and their lives."

8) Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
"Crouch explores concepts of destiny, fate, and regret.  If he had it to do over gain, would Jason choose the life with his family over the life where he discovered a scientific breakthrough, a breakthrough that could change the course of history?"

9) Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

City of Saints & Thieves
10) City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
"Anderson impressed me.  She wrote a sophisticated thriller led by teenagers in a country plagued by instability and violence.  And within all of that she has created characters that you come to care and worry about."

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