Tuesday, February 28, 2017

10 Books I Recommend the Most

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

Teen/Adult:  "I don't know what I want to read next."

Emily:  "What was that?  You want some recommendations? Why, yes, I do believe I could help you find something to read."

Emily's Inner Dialogue:  Be cool. Deep Breath.  Don't freak them out.  This is very important.  Yes, someone ACTUALLY asked you what to read next, and that is your favorite question, but that doesn't mean you an go crazy.  Just a couple, Emily.  A couple.  And, no, a couple does not mean ALL the books.

My name is Emily, and I am a librarian.  And while that sounds like it should mean that I'm talking books all day with excited, avid readers, that would be one of the great library myths - very similar to the one that I actually sit around all day reading.  (I highly suggest you visit your local library to discover all of the opportunities available to your community...and maybe ask your librarian for a reading recommendations to make them smile!)  That's why it's super important to be ready with suggestions whenever someone asks (while attempting to not freak them out with a list that will keep them busy for over a year.)  While my recommendations rely on a person's reading tastes and expectations, I still have some go-tos that I recommend a lot.  And if you also are a fan of Book Plots & Polka Dots, you'll find a few other titles that I've suggested a time or two (or fifty) :) 

1) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

2) Out of the Easy by Rita Sepetys

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)
3) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
4) Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

5) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Croak (Croak, #1)
6) Croak by Gina Damico

7) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

8) Cinder by Marissa Meyer

9) Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

10) Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Great American Whatever

The Great American WhateverAuthor: Tim Federle
Info: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, copyright 2016, 288 pages

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

~Goodreads Description

Back to being pessimistic.

Super quick blurb - Quinn has a sister.  Sister dies.  Quinn is grieving.  Quinn is gay.  Quinn is looking for his identity.  Quinn moves on.  Was that glib?  That sounded glib.  Okay, it was a little glib.

What is it with siblings dying?  Is that the only obstacle authors think that teens face?  The loss of a brother or sister?  Or perhaps I've just read way too many of this particular kind of book lately.  I don't know, but this one left me underwhelmed.

The thing is, I didn't particularly like Quinn.  He had potential.  Lots of potential.  But things that it felt like Federle wanted us to focus on - Quinn as an aspiring screenwriter, Quinn as a caring sibling, Quinn as a friend - got glossed over or forgotten.  If they were meant to define who Quinn was both before the loss of his sister and after, shouldn't they have played more of a prominent role?

Even Quinn's sexual identity and coming out was given the time or understanding that it could have or should have.  He just came off as selfish and ungrateful, and the glimpse of Quinn you get at the end doesn't really work with that image.  Despite Annabeth being dead, getting to know her would have allowed the reader to get to know Quinn better, to sympathize and empathize with what he was going through.  He wasn't a bad guy.  But a character driven book should allow you to get to know the characters, and I don't feel like that really happened...and what I did learn about him didn't leave me wanting more.

So this wasn't my favorite of the year so far.  It also wasn't the worst.  It was.  Maybe I need to sit with it a little longer.  Toss it around in my head for awhile.  Hmmm.  I don't know.  What did you think?


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

10 Books I Loved More / Less Than I Thought I Would

10 Books I Loved More / Less Than I Thought I Would

There are times when I immediately fall in love with a book (I'm looking at you My Lady Jane, Illuminae, and all things Sarah Dessen).  It's as if the books were written just for me.  I grab hold tight and don't let go.

There are also times when I have to sit with a book for awhile.  Let the words, characters, and feelings percolate until I realize that I did, in fact, actually enjoy the book.  I couldn't tell at first, but spending time alone with my thoughts convinces me.

On the flip side, I can usually tell right away if dislike a book.  It usually festers while I'm reading, bubbles underneath the surface, until the ick explodes and the ranting begins.  It's nothing against the authors.  Usually the writing itself is admirable and interesting.  It's just that sometimes I really don't like the characters...or the setting...or the plot.  And sometimes it's just unfair because I have favorite authors who I feel do it better.

All that to say, here are some books that surprised a bit - for the good and the bad.

Didn't expect to like these, but it turns out I did... 

I'll Give You the Sun
1) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The Serpent King
2) The Serpent King by Jeff Zantner

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1)
3) Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)
4) Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Vengeance Road
5) Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

As for these...not so much

The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, #1)
6) The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

P.S. I Like You
7) P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies
8) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

Wink Poppy Midnight
9) Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Kill the Boy Band
10) Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Monday, February 20, 2017


Caraval (Caraval, #1)Author: Stephanie Garber
Info: Flatiron Books, copyright 2017, 407 pages

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

~Goodreads Description

Shamefully, this remained on my Goodreads "currently reading" shelf far longer than it should have.  It actually haunted me every time I logged on, making me feel guilty and shameful that I hadn't finished yet.  Oh the woes of a book nerd.

But I did finish!  And I enjoyed it! (Look at me being positive!  No Debbie Downer to be found in this here review!  Go me!)

Scarlett started writing to Legend, the master of ceremonies of the mysterious and magical Caraval, when she was a young girl.  She pleaded with him to bring the performance to her small island, but letter after letter remained unanswered.  But then, many years later, she received an invitation which was quickly followed by a whirlwind of activity in which Scarlet is kidnapped by one guy, her sister is kidnapped by another guy, and the game begins.

Things I like 1) mysterious carnival like dream places 2) mysterious loner dudes and 3) mysterious masterminds who could be good but in all likelihood could also be bad.  Done. Done. And done.  Garber jumps immediately into the action and stars building a world that is both interesting and dangerous.  It reminded me a lot of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus with the setting coming alive as a another, equal parts dark and magical.

It was a little disappointing that both Scarlet's life on the island with her horrible father, and time spent in this fantastic game setting, was focused on the need and convenient want for a gentleman.  I wanted her to be a little stronger and more independent than she was, but given her background her actions were easily explained.

There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters to keep track of, and a lot of plot to be sorted out.  I was confused on occasion, but Garber always found a way to bring me back into the fold.  The action starts right away and doesn't stop until the very end.  And I was sad when it was done.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Starcrossed Lovers

Top 10 Favorite Star Crossed Lovers

A romantical topic for a romantical day - but with a small caveat.  These are some of my favorite "star crossed" lovers as it stands where I'm currently at in a series.  Please no spoilers.  Wait.  I don't mind spoilers.  Just be kind.

Do you have a favorite romantical pairing that really had to work to be together?

The Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1)
1) Meghan and Ash
The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)
2) Blue Sargent and Richard Gansey III
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Saga, Vol. 1
3) Alana and Marko
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

The Princess Bride
4) Buttercup and Westley
The Princess Bride by William Golding

The Night Circus
5) Celia and Marco
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)
6) Laia and Elias
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
7) Kady and Ezra
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1)
8) Shahrzad and Khalid
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)
9) Aria and Perry
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

For Darkness Shows the Stars (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #1)
10) Elliot and Kai
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diane Peterfreund

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Naturalist

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt and His Adventures in the WildernessAuthor: Darrin Lunde
Info: crown, copyright 2016, 320 pages

The surprising story of intrepid naturalist Theodore Roosevelt and how his lifelong passion for the natural world set the stage for America's wildlife conservation movement.

Perhaps no American president is more associated with nature and wildlife than Theodore Roosevelt, a prodigious hunter and adventurer and an ardent conservationist. We think of Roosevelt as an original, yet in The Naturalist, Darrin Lunde shows how from his earliest days Roosevelt actively modeled himself in the proud tradition of museum naturalists—the men who pioneered a key branch of American biology through their desire to collect animal specimens and develop a taxonomy of the natural world. The influence these men would have on Roosevelt would shape not just his personality but his career, informing his work as a politician and statesman and ultimately affecting generations of Americans' relationship to this country's wilderness. Pulling from  Roosevelt's diaries and expedition journals, Lunde constructs a brilliantly researched, singularly insightful history that reveals the roots of Roosevelt’s enduring naturalist legacy through the group little-known men whose work and lives defined his own.

~Goodreads Description

Another book chosen for a strange reason.  I've recently become obsessed with reruns of Blue Bloods despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Tom Selleck.   Police Commissioner, Frank Reagan, likes to quote famous people a lot, and one of his favorites is Teddy Roosevelt.  I know the interesting tidbit here and there about our 26th President but nothing substantial, so I went looking for an interesting book and stumbled upon Darrin Lundy's The Naturalist.

Like David McCullough, Lunde is a storyteller, presenting information in a relatable, entertaining way.  This particular books focuses specifically on Teddy Roosevelt, the naturalist - hunter, scientist, and conservationist.  From his childhood gathering small mammals and birds to the big game hunter in the bush of Africa, Roosevelt believed in the importance of gathering biological specimens for study.  He also believed in preserving nature for generations to come.

Through interesting anecdotes of Roosevelt's own life, along with the work of professionals that inspired and mentored him, Lunde provides a snapshot of not only the man but of a time period.  I was most interested in the struggle to establish the different museums of natural history, including Roosevelt's own personal museum that was curated during his childhood when he was of a sickly disposition.

Because the book focuses on only one aspect of Roosevelt's life, it felt almost dismissive of his other pursuits.  His presidency is only briefly mentioned and often sounded as if the politician would have rather been anywhere other than in office, spending most of his time dreaming of and planning hunting expeditions.

But now I'm eager to learn more.  He is such a vibrant historical character, and I still need to hunt down the moments that have given Frank Reagan so many thoughtful moments.  Any suggestions on what I should read next?


Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

The Last Time We Say GoodbyeAuthor: Cynthia Hand
Info: Harper Teen, 2015, 386 pages

There's death all around us.
We just don't pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

~Goodreads Description

I feel like I've been picking out books for peculiar reasons this year.  This one was another attempt to figure out whose voice I hear the most in My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton.  No.  I do not have a problem.  How dare you judge me.

Lex is a math genius, a high school senior who has worked very hard to get into MIT.  She's a sister, a daughter, and a girlfriend.  She has friends she loves and a bright future in front of her.  And her brother is dead.  The future that was so bright seems lonely and unsure.  Everything changed in one moment, with one text.  Everything.  And it haunts Lex.  He haunts Lex.

I had absolutely no expectations with this book.  To be honest, it's one I would normally shy away from - the loss of a sibling plot line overwhelms our shelves at the library, and it's not really one of my favorite types of stories.  But without anything waiting in my audiobook queue, and my little experiment still on my mind, I thought I'd give it a chance.

And I loved this book.  It was thoughtful, sincere, and genuine in its depiction of loss and regret.  There was no aptly timed romance to pull Lex out of her depression, no overly preachy therapist bashing ideas into her head.  There is a girl who is sad  And there wasn't someone telling her she shouldn't be.  Lex was a fully developed character, and through her you get a full picture of Tyler.  Her healing takes time and patience, but it pays off with a gradual understanding and appreciation for a life, both her own and her brother's.

In case you're wondering, Hand's voice was very familiar.  References to pop culture (including The Princess Bride) and a dry wit reminded me a lot of My Lady Jane.  I'll definitely be checking out her other series.  But first I need to give Jodi Meadows a shot.

I didn't dissolve in a pool of tears with this one, but I did appreciate Lex's journey and her tenacity.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Library GrabBag: April Teen Programming Inspiration

Today was supposed to be a "Top Ten Tuesday".  It was supposed to be the "top ten books I wish had more ? in them."  It was going to be books that I felt needed more people to die.  I'm fully aware that this makes me sound extremely morbid.  It's not that I necessarily want characters to die, but one of my biggest reading pet peeves is too clean of an ending.  I love "happily ever after", but not at the expense of the story.  Battles are tragic.  Death happens.  When it doesn't, sometimes it just feels wrong.  Really.  I promise I'm a happy person!

But I didn't plan ahead, and I'm just plain tired after celebrating the library's 100th birthday yesterday, so instead, I thought I'd share the newest DEMCO teen programming calendar.  That's still a good time!  I've had SO much fun working on these, and it's hard to believe that very soon I will have made a year's worth (currently working on July).  Anything you would like to see more of?

Click here for a downloadable version on DEMCO's Ideas & Inspiration blog.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Happy Birthday, GPL!

Not everyone gets to be present when the institution they work at turns 100 - it's even more special when that institution is a landmark in the community, a place open and inviting to individuals from literally every walk of life.  Libraries are one of this nation's great equalizers, offering opportunity and access for all, and today the place that has not only been my employer but my home for the last ten years will see the dawning of a new century.  The future is bright for GPL with a staff motivated and excited about changing the way the community views reading and literacy.  But first we celebrate.

Months after I started at the Greenwood Public Library we held a party for our 90th birthday.  It was a small affair cheered on by very enthusiastic staff.  Ten years later (Ten years!  It's so hard to believe it has been that long) we're planning an actual shindig, a celebration, a community event at which the entire city of Greenwood can participate in sharing memories and making new ones .

You should join us.  There will be cookies (just in case you needed a little incentive).

You should also listen to our latest podcast with our Director, Cheryl Dobbs, and a fun conversation about how we all became librarians  and our favorite GPL memories.  Just click the play button.  Go on...click it.  It's a good time.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Princess Diarist

The Princess DiaristAuthor: Carrie Fisher
Info: Blue Rider Press, copyright 2016, 257 pages

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

~Goodreads Description

All I can really say is that I regret not appreciating the unique voice of Carrie Fisher until she was gone.  Outside of Princess Leia, I really didn't know a whole lot about her until articles started popping up on the internet after her unexpected death.  That's when I allowed myself to get sucked in to her HBO special and started binge watching movies I hadn't seen in ages like When Harry Met Sally and The Burbs.

The one take away from The Princess Diarist, besides the fact that her kissing of Han Solo went beyond the silver screen, is that she was always a writer, almost a poet.  The blurbs from her diary are heartbreaking and beautiful.  She really does have a way with words, and despite the pain she felt, she never lost of her sense of humor.

This should only really be listened to so that you can appreciate her unique voice in her unique voice.  And when you're done listening, if you're not a little more in love with her than you were before, there might be something wrong with you.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Places No One Knows

Places No One KnowsAuthor: Brenna Yovanoff
Info: Delacorte Press, copyright 2016, 384 pages

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

~Goodreads Description

I've read so many contemporary teen fiction books lately that they've started to merge together in my head a bit.  This particular title wasn't even on my radar.  Thank goodness for book clubs :)

Waverly is a popular girl with popular friends.  But she doesn't really like her life.  Marshall is a loner boy with loner friends.  And he's not really a fan of his life either.  They move in different circles around school until their lives collide in Waverly's dreams (because of a candle and some intense counting apparently).  And of course, their lives are never the same.

I can't help but notice my reviews seem a little cynical this year :)  Wonder what that's all about.  Perhaps we'll explore that another day.

But for today, Places No One Knows was another book I didn't expect to like.  I actually didn't like it a whole lot on the outset.  I was a little afraid that Yovanoff was going to make a story out of a whole lot of stereotypes - mean girl meets mysterious loner boy and they find love.  Awww, how sweet and totally overdone is that?  But it quickly became apparent that Waverly and Marshall were much more than their familiar personality traits, and what seemed stereotypical in the beginning began to felt familiar and genuine.

Waverly isn't a mean girl, she's just a girl who's surviving her current situation the only way she knows how - and there's really something to that.  Some act out.  Some shut down.  Some learn how to manipulate the system to their advantage, and that's the game that Waverly learned to play.  And it was a game, but in the end she learned that sometimes playing the game distracts you from becoming the person you're meant to be.

So it was in the character development that the story blossomed.  Waverly finding herself magically in Marshall's bedroom was the "gimmick", the means to an end, which put these two characters in each other's path.  I was invested, and found myself wanting to learn more about each - which we kind of get to do.  We get a peek into Marshall's life, but Waverly seemed a little more mysterious to be in the end.  Her parents were only briefly mentioned which I found extremely confusing.  It reminded me of the manga I'm "encouraged" to read where the young teenage girl is living all alone in a house without an adult supervision.

Despite the confusion, I enjoy Yovanoff's voice and should really attempt to read some more of what she has to offer.

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