Monday, June 26, 2017

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk Episodes 16 & 18

We've been having a lot of fun discussing very unique books on the #GPLtalk podcast.  Overall, the consensus has been relatively positive on the selections, but one or two of us might have developed strong feelings about a few of the titles.  If you're looking for something "different" to read, check out our conversations on Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood and The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick.

Our July selection is The Valiant by Leslie Livingston.  Any suggestions on wha we should read this fall?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer of Dessen Pt. 2

Keeping the Moon
Speak, copyright 1999, 228 pages

Colie expects the worst when she's sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast -- first for being fat and then for being "easy" -- Colie has no friends at home and doesn't expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina.

But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along. 

~Goodreads Description

Colby, NC!  Now this is exactly what I was looking to read this summer - set in a beach-side community with a fun eating establishment and quirky characters.  That's the Sarah Dessen I love!  While not as fully developed as her later titles (there are definitely elements I felt were left unresolved or could have been expounded on), Keeping the Moon has the sincere, heartwarming look at self, perspective, and the past that Dessen does so well.

Speak, copyright 2000, 250 pages

Love can be a very dangerous thing.

After her sister left, Caitlin felt lost.

Then she met Rogerson.

When she's with him, nothing seems real.

But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

~Goodreads Description

One of the more dark and frustrating of Dessen's library of titles.  Caitlin quickly becomes the center of her mother's world when her sister Cass abandons future plans and runs off to New York City to live with a boy she met on the beach the summer before her freshmen year at Yale.  Overwhelmed with the pressure, and looking to find a life that is the opposite of what Cass would have done, Caitlin falls for the mysterious loner boy, Rogerson, and quickly dissolves in a world of drug use and abuse.

The descriptions of justification for abuse are ones I've heard before, and I find them both heartbreaking and terrifying.  Her parents were rather obtuse which was extremely frustrating, and I'll admit I yelled at the book a time or two.  Dessen does an excellent job of portraying paranoia and fear as Caitlin becomes so fully dependent on Rogerson that she doesn't know how to save herself.  This was a much harder read the other titles we've read so far, but it could offer an excellent opportunity to discuss abusive relationships with teens.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top 10 Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

The number of series I need to finish is far bigger than the list of series I'm eager to start.  Several of my reading buddies refuse to start a series until it's complete, but not me.  No.  I like to start a series - forget about it completely - and then re-read it because I can't for the life of me remember what happened.  And then I like to complain about the not remembering and having to re-read.  In other words, I have a problem.  #Booknerdproblems.

All that being said, there are a few series out there that teens have recommended a time or two that I've meant to read.  Chances are slim for this year, but who knows...maybe I'll keep myself from getting distracted by the new, shiny titles and check one of these out.

What's on your list?

Pulse (Pulse, #1) Tremor (Pulse, #2) Quake (Pulse, #3)
1) Pulse by Patrick Carmen

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick, #1) Invincible (Chronicles of Nick, #2) Infamous (Chronicles of Nick, #3)
2) Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1) The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2) The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #3)
3) Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1) Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, #2)
4) Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)
5) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1) Like a River Glorious (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #2) Into the Bright Unknown (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #3)
6) The Gold Seer Trilogy by Rae Carson

Lock & Mori (Lock & Mori, #1) Mind Games (Lock & Mori, #2) Final Fall (Lock & Mori, #3)
7) Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1) Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, #2) In The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds, #3)
8) Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

Talon (Talon, #1) Rogue (Talon, #2) Soldier (Talon, #3)
9) Talon by Julie Kagawa

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1) Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird, #2) A Million Worlds with You (Firebird, #3)
10) Firebird by Claudia Gray

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hearst & Other Body Parts

Author: Ira Bloom
Info: Scholastic Press, copyright 2017, 352 pages

A novel of love and monsters.

Sisters Esme, Katy, and Ronnie are smart, talented, and gorgeous, and better yet . . . all three are witches. They have high school wired until the arrival of two new students. The first is Norman, who is almost eight feet tall and appears to be constructed of bolts and mismatched body parts. Despite his intimidating looks, Esme finds herself strangely -- almost romantically -- drawn to both his oversized brain and oversized heart.

The second new arrival is Zack, an impossibly handsome late transfer from the UK who has the girls at school instantly mesmerized. Soon even sensible Esme has forgotten Norman, and all three sisters are in a flat-out hex war to win Zack. But while the magic is flying, only Norman seems to notice that students who wander off alone with Zack end up with crushed bones and memory loss. Or worse, missing entirely.

~Goodreads Description

After being thoroughly overwhelmed (yet impressed) with all of the contemporary fiction I've read this year, it was really nice diving into a fun fantasy novel that wasn't too heavy or too fluffy.

I'll leave you to read the summary above for this one (it explains things pretty well - I like it when that happens :).  Bloom re-imagines a few of our pop culture lexicon of famous monsters and sticks them in high school which is both hilarious and brilliant.  Esme, Kat, and Ronnie are witches who are also hormonal and catty, a combination that can't get very competitive and dangerous.  Norman, the gentle giant, chooses hope over despair despite the tragedies in his life, and Zack, the mysterious loner dude who is basically allergic to sunlight and all food, is seductive yet compassionate.  This character-driven story places real emotions (sometimes realistically exaggerated) in the hands of teens who are still trying to figure life out.  The fact that they also have supernatural powers just ups the ante.

Despite the "3 gnome" rating (3.5 stars is not an option on Goodreads), I really enjoyed Bloom's voice, and can't wait to see what she comes up with next.  There were moments when the story dragged a bit and felt redundant but was eventually saved by the fun, adventurous plot and entertaining characters.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Murder On the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10)Author: Agatha Christie
Info: HarperCollins Publishers, copyright 2007 (first published 1934), 274 pages

"The murderer is with us - on the train now..."

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift.  By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.  One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again...

~Goodreads Description

Full disclosure - I had no idea there was an upcoming movie when I decided to download the audiobook.  I checked this out for one reason, and one reason only...Dan Stevens.  I've decided that I will listen to just about anything this man decides to narrate, especially if he has to do the voice of an elderly woman.

The story is pretty straight forward.  A train car full of seemingly unconnected world travelers find themselves stranded in a snow drift the morning after a rich American is found dead in his cabin, the door locked from inside.  With nothing really nothing else to do until the train starts moving, renowned detective, Hercule Poirot, agrees to investigate the crime and hunt down the likely culprit.

The story itself was okay.  I like the concept of the glamorous Orient Express and a group of travelers stranded, a murderer among them.  The weak spot, for me, was Poirot.  He seemed dry, lacking personality, and only around as a means to divulge information.  I do realize that this is not his mystery debut, with nine novels preceding this particular story.  Perhaps a bit more character development occurs in earlier books, but coming into this one cold, I found him unimpressive.

I think I was also expecting a little more tension and suspense.  There didn't really seem to be a whole lot of urgency.  I never felt the dread that their might be another victim like I did in And Then There Were None.

Overall, I highly recommend diving into the mysteries created by Christie.  They're fun, even if you're horrible (like I am) at guessing the suspect. I'm tempted to pick up the first Hercule Poirot mystery to see if I get a better feel for the character.  That might have to wait though, because I'm still determined to complete my summer reading list.

Any other Agatha Christie suggestions?

If you want to hear a fun discussion about the mystery genre, be sure to check out our latest #GPLtalk podcast!

And in case you haven't seen the trailer for the new movie yet, here you go!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Library GrabBag: August Programming Inspiration

Looking for some programming inspiration for this fall?  The August calendar is now available on DEMCO's Ideas & Inspiration blog.  Check out the STEM, book club, and after hours ideas that you can use as a jumping off point to plan awesome events specifically for your community of teens.

Have questions?  I'm happy to help you brainstorm the final touches.  Contact me at or!

I've also been creating the adult programming calendars for the last few months!  So if that's your wheelhouse, check out some adult and family friendly programming ideas to kick off your fall brainstorming.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Library GrabBag: Teen Room Crime Scene Investigation

This summer we decided to mix things up a bit in the Teen Room - choosing to create experiences for teens instead of planning crafts and games.  We don't get to do that very often during the school year.  Our after school crowd, while fun and entertaining, usually just need distraction, and attempting to create educational, process-driven programs seems overwhelming with the crowd we get on a daily basis.

But for this summer, each week the whole library is exploring a different genre.  Our first official programming week of summer reading was all about mysteries.  After much consideration , we decided to kill someone.

First, we talked one of our teen pages, and Teen Advisory Board members, into laying on the ground for a chalk outline.  Then we grabbed the caution tape that we always have lying around just in case and created our crime scene.

The rest was the brilliance and hard work of our Teen Librarian, Jessica (Book Plots & Polka Dots).

Each teen was given a file of information that started with instructions:

"The victim, Brian Body, was found murdered on Monday night in his Biology Lab at Reading High School where he was a beloved science teacher.  The police have identified six possible suspects who were around at the time of the murder.

Your job as the crime scene investigator is to narrow down the list of suspects and come up with one suspect the police can arrest.  You should examine information and evidence to eliminate five of the suspects as well as offer convincing proof for the arrest of the guilty person.

Using the data you obtain, fill out the charts with your observations and experiment results.  When complete, you should be able to make a substantial case against one of the suspects and declare him or her the murderer."

Along with the introduction they were given a chart to create profiles for each suspect, a sheet to take notes on evidence and submit their findings, an autopsy report on the victims, interview reports for each suspect, and fingerprint samples for all involved.

We never really know how many to expect at teen programs during the summer.  Jessica printed off 12 files (with extra copies of sheets that participants would write on), and we had over 20 show up to take part in the event.  Our crime scene was a little small to have that many crowded around, so we kept half the group busy with a mystery book scavenger hunt and then switched activities.

Overall, we were very pleased with the outcome.  Some of the teens needed a little extra help to identify the correct suspect, but we had others that took their time and correctly solved the mystery.  It's a program that teaches patience, problem solving, and paying attention to details.  And there was relatively little clean up which I always love!


Friday, June 2, 2017

And We're Off

And We're OffAuthor: Dana Schwartz
Info: Razorbill, copyright 2017, 288 pages

Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush.  She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who's always nurtured Nora's talent and encouraged her to follow her passion.  Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history's most famous artists.  The only catch?  Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather.  It's a no-brainer: Nora is in!

Unfortunately, Nora's mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip.  She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter and her opinions haven't gone unnoticed.  Nora couldn't feel more unsupported by her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, the women are as disconnected as they've ever been.  But seconds after saying goodbye to Alice  at the airport terminal, Nora hears a voice call out: "Wait! Stop! I'm coming with you!"

~Goodreads Description

I picked this one up because it was compared to Maureen Johnson's Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and Gilmore Girls.  Seemed like a no-brainer.  But I feel like I should stop picking up books that are compared to something I love - they never really live up to the hype.

Nora is an artist known for her cartoon drawings on Tumblr.  She wants to seriously develop her art and live up to the expectations of her grandfather who is a renowned painter.  After she is accepted into an exclusive art workshop in Ireland, he offers to send her on a once-in-a-lifetime trip around Europe, planning secret tasks that she must complete at certain locations.  Nora is excited about the trip, but when her mother decides to tag along, the summer is far from what Nora imagined.

The story was okay - there is always the frustration when two people refuse to communicate with each other causing a lot of strife.  Nora's mother, Alice, is secretive and elusive every time she is asked about her job back home, and Nora is an angsty teenage girl who can be a little selfish and stubborn.  There relationship evolves at the end, as was expected, with a relatively genuine moment when they actually start talking to one another.

It was everything else that seemed a good idea but wasn't fully developed.  Nora's secret tasks played a sadly minimal role in the story.  I would have liked them to play a more prominent role in the story, along with the art workshop in Ireland.  Friendships between the other artists and Nora were quickly made, but seemed thin, and Nora's frustration with her art came a bit out of the blue.

As for the connection to Gilmore Girls - no.  I get it - mother / daughter relationship - but ALL Lorelei and Rory Gilmore do is talk.  The show was founded on their quick, witty banter that showed how close they were.  Not the case at all between Alice and Nora.

The book did make me long to hop on a plane and do some traveling.  It will happen soon enough when I take flight in July, but it wasn't quite the rummer European trip story that I was hoping for - not bad, just not as good as it could have been.

It is, however, one book completed on my summer to-be-read list!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer of Sarah Dessen Pt. 1

Someone Like You

That Summer
Viking Books for Young Readers, copyright 2006, 208 pages

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly.  She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister - the always perfect Ashley - is planning a wedding of her own.  Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were.  Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future

~Goodreads Description

It's definitely obvious that this was published early in Dessen's career.  The atmosphere and relatable characters that I love in all of her works is present, but there is a simplicity to the story along with the lack of a love interest.  Not that that is the only reason I read her books but having my heartstrings tugged at the adorable love interests is definitely one the reasons I've gotten so invested in her titles.  I also missed the strong sense of setting.  All that being said, it was a good kickoff to the summer.

Someone Like You
Penguin, copyright 2004, 281 pages

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett.  But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she was devastated.  For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley.  Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break -- because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

~Goodreads Description

I'm pretty sure I read this once upon a time, but it felt new.  Someone Like You plays out like a love story between best friends and the mother/daughter relationship.  While neither relationship is perfect, there is something sincere and comforting knowing that there are two people a girl can always depend on - her best friend and her mother.  You really start to see the types of relationships that Dessen excels at creating - imperfect family dynamics.  I got a little teary eyed when Halley's mother shows up (along with half the student body) when Scarlett is rushed to the hospital after going into labor at prom - strong, determined women who know their mind and face challenges head-on.

Can't wait to keep reading!

Up next:

Keeping the Moon & Dreamland  - June 13th

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