Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk Episode 14 - Vassa in the Night

What the what??  I've never been more bewildered by a book, and yet, I genuinely liked it.  It's weird.  It's gross.  It's terrifying.  It's crazy pants.  But it's thoughtful and surprisingly heartfelt.  And we had a LOT of fun talking about it.  So you should listen, because, you know, we took the time to record the podcast and all :)

You can head on over to the GPL Blog to take a listen or stick around here for a few more minutes and hear all about this gem of a book.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 10 Reading Turn-Offs

Top Ten Reading Turn-Offs

To be honest, I'll read just about anything.  Sure, I'm about to list some of my reading turn-offs, but they have rarely stopped me from reading a book.  I'm very proud of my ability to stop reading a book if I just can't take it anymore, but that is a learned skill that doesn't come naturally.  9 times out of 10, if I stop a book, one of these things is happening.  But it would have to of really gotten under my skin to make me walk away.

What are your reading turn-offs?

1) Talking Animals
There are exceptions, but when the whole premise is talking animals, I usually pass.  Perhaps I fear what my cat would say about me if she could actually talk that plays a part in my distaste.  But on the other hand, I'd give just about anything to know what my dog would say when she's smiling up at me.

2) It was all just a dream
If you want me to hate a book, toss that in there at the end.  It's mean.  And rude.  You had me on a ride for a couple hundred pages and then you just stomp on my emotions.  Nope.

3) Whiney characters
They are the worst.  I can't even...

4) Characters who need to find themselves
It usually comes from a  selfish place, and I really can't stand selfish characters.  Or whiney ones.  See #3.

5) Horrible parents
It's just that the horrible parents far out number the good parents in teen fiction.  While it makes me appreciate the good ones more when I come across them, there have been some almost evil parents that leave me super, super angry.

6) Dead siblings
Dead siblings are sad.  I get that.  But I think they're overdone.  There are so many other obstacles a teen could face other than losing a sibling.

7) Characters who are struggling with their sexuality ONLY because someone else is
I don't care who you love, but when other characters determine how you feel I get a little testy while reading

8) When they change the covers half way through the series so they don't match anymore
No.  This should not keep me from reading the book.  But I'll confess that it has happened.

9) Bad dialogue
Especially when it doesn't work at all for the character the author has been building over the course of several chapters.

10) Predictable stereotypes
(I really don't like the "mean girl" trope.  Perhaps I just can't relate because I didn't really come across anyone like that in high school, or maybe it's my naive hope that individuals have layers and hearts, but it's hard for me to read.  No sir.  I don't like it).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Heist Society series


Author: Ally Carter
Info: Hyperion Book CH, copyright 2010, 287 pages

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

~Goodreads

One of my goals this year was to finish at least five series that I started a long time ago.  This one was at the top of my list.  The only reason I hadn't finished was the weirdness of the audiobook for book three being unavailable.  I would check periodically, but nope, they didn't seem to want release it.  And then, magically, it came out.  Sure, I could have just read the book, but when you've listened to the other volumes, you really want to finish the way you started.

The wait was worth it.  It had been so long since I listened to Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals that I had to tackle them again.  At double speed, I got done in no time, and then on to Perfect Scoundrels.

The gist - Katarina Bishop grew up in a family of thieves and con-men.  She has learned the art of deception, scopes out every room she enters, and has a network of professionals at her fingertips with very specific skills.  But she wants a normal life, and she thinks she's found it until she receives word that her father is being accused of a theft he didn't commit.  Kat gets sucked back into that world, but she comes to realize that being the thief doesn't have to make you a criminal.

This is really Ocean's Eleven for teens.  Each crew member brings something different to the group, and the scheming is just as exciting as the actual plan.  I'm especially fond of all of the names of the cons, wishing they could have each been described in detail.  For a good part of the series, Kat reminded me of Harry Potter - the stubborn chosen one who can't accept help.  But just as Harry came to understand, Kat eventually realized she was stronger with her friends.

And then there's Hale, rich boy Hale who finally finds a family in a group of thieves.  He's kind of dashing, a wee bit mysterious, and a little swoon.  The relationship wasn't overdone, which I appreciated, and it never got super angsty, which was also very, very nice.

Overall a great series that I hope we get more of one day.  Light, fun, and exciting.  The perfect escapist read.



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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor
Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, copyright 2017, 533 pages

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around— and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

~Goodreads Description

Is it possible to think a book is absolutely beautifully written, but still not be overly crazy about it?  (I think what's happening here is my need for confirmation that my feelings are normal :)

Lazlo Strange is a librarian (which enters "be still my heart" territory), an orphan, and, a dreamer.  Obsessed with the lost city of Weep, he has been scouring the library and archives for years hoping to find any and all information on the city of legend, knowing that he will never have the opportunity to find it.  That is, until the Godslayer comes to town and enlists a group of skilled individuals to travel to Weep to take back the city.  What he discovers is far more interesting, and daring, and romantic than his dreams would have ever allowed.

I really liked Lazlo.  There was, of course, the whole adorableness of his profession, but I also appreciated his compassion and kindness despite a difficult upbringing.  People cared about him because he cared about people.  Sad to say that you don't often see that in characters.  His ego never got in the way of assisting the warriors and alchemists who had self-serving agendas.

On the magical side, the "blue-skinned goddess" Serai also shared many of those same qualities.  (Trying for no spoilers!!) She had every reason to hate the human race, especially the Godslayer, but her powers offered her the opportunity to seek out compassion and understanding instead of hate and bitterness.

And as previously mentioned, Taylor is a talent.  Like, really...she's good.  She finds ways to weave words together in a way that is almost musical.  Some authors explain and describe everything - telling you what you should be seeing and feeling, but Laini Taylor gives you just enough tot get your imagination going, and then she supports it without overdoing it.

My only problem with the book was the back and forth between Lazlo and Serai.  I liked both of their storylines, especially when the storylines started to come together, but as often happens with multiple perspectives, I found myself getting frustrated because I wanted more from each.  Things would just be getting good and then I would get pulled out of one character's head only to be dropped in the other's.  And sadly, by the end, it left me wondering if I cared enough to go on.  (The audiobook was also a little tricky - trying to remember names and places when they felt extremely unfamiliar...BUT Steve West is the reader, and his voice is super dreamer :)


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon
Info: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, copyright 2015, 310 pages

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. 

~Goodreads Description

After seeing the delight on Book Plot's and Polka Dots face when she was done reading this little gem, I thought I'd give it a whirl (I had also really enjoyed Yoon's award winning The Sun is Also a Star and caught a glimpse of the upcoming movie trailer...seems there were a lot of things pushing me toward reading this particular title.)

Maddy watches the world pass by from the safety of her bedroom window.  She dreams of the ocean and fresh air, but those things she yearns for could be the very things that kill her.  Maddy is allergic to everything, but int he controlled environment, the fortress that is her house, she is safe and alive.  She reads.  She studies.  And she spends time with her mother.  Things could be worse.  And then Olly moves in across the street.  Olly with his sense of humor and wry smile.  Olly who surprises her and gives her a glimpse of what live could be like on the outside.  And everything, everything changes.  (See what I did there :)

This is a character driven book that seems to drag the plot along with it.  Luckily, Yoon has created a duo that you kind of fall in love with.  Maddy is a bookish type and on occasion even talks about those books (which I loved), and Olly is a bit mysterious, but also beautiful and heartwarming.  (There is a particular scene with a bundt cake that might be one of my favorite ever.)

I've seen mixed reviews about the ending of the book.  The twist itself didn't upset me, just how rushed and incomplete everything felt afterwards.  I could definitely see improvements in writing style from Everything, Everything to The Sun is Also a Star.  And I also REALLY want to know why Yoon included ABBA's "Take a Chance On Me" in both stories.

I listened to this one in a day.  It was fast paced and adorable, and if you're a fan of contemporary romances, this should be right up your alley. 


Monday, April 10, 2017

June Teen Programming Inspiration


Teen programming calendar time!  I tried my best to include events and activities that will work for public libraries participating in the Collaborative Summer Library Program.  If there is something you would like a little more of, let me know!  I'm starting work on the September calendar soon and appreciate feedback.

If you haven't checked out the DEMCO Ideas & Inspiration blog in awhile, head on over.  They've got a lot of handy tips and tricks if you're looking to switch things up a bit.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

City of Saints & Thieves

City of Saints & ThievesAuthor: Natalie C. Anderson
Info: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, copyright 2017, 401 pages

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

~Goodreads Description

Wowza.  (I don't think I've ever started a review with wowza.  I feel like maybe I should make one word comments a thing.  They might not all have the same kind of flair and oomph as "wowza," but it could be fun trying to choose just the right word for each book.  Sorry.  Easily distracted. Anyhoo...)

Quick summary of the above summary.  Tina is looking to avenge her mother by going after the man she blames for her death, but the truth is far more dangerous and devastating than she could have ever imagined.

Back to that "wowza" thing - 1) I do believe this might have been the first book I've read set in Kenya.  Not sure why I haven't read any others, but I found the culture, and the people, and the Goondas fascinating.  2) Tina is a fighter, and you've got to love a fighter.  She's smart, quick, and determined.  Sure she's also filled with rage and vengeance, but she's also filled with heart and compassion.  Loved her.  3) The writing was spectacular.  Clues were shared at just the right moment, the tension built at a steady pace, and the beauty of the language matched the strength and uniqueness of the characters.  And 4) This book legit played out like a movie - and the right kind of movie, not some big-budget hack that caters too much to what the crowd wants and sacrifices story.

I've read some books I've really liked this year, but I haven't read a whole lot that have impressed me.  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.  So good.  So very good.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Top 10 Fandoms I Geek Out Over

Ten Fandoms I Geek Out Over

I have to admit that I don't fully subscribe to any one fandom.  There are plenty of things that I "geek out" over, but I don't really spend any portion of my day communicating in online forums, researching minute details, or pouring over possible theories for any of those geeky things.  Not that that's all people in fandoms do.  In general, I watch/listen/read something, I explore a little more about it, and then I move on to something different until the next episode is available.

That being said, here are a few of the pop culture juggernauts that I absolutely adore...and a few that maybe aren't juggernauts or maybe aren't even real fandoms but totally should be.

What's on your list?

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1) Sherlockians - Sherlock

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2) Oncers - Once Upon a Time

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3) Whovians - Doctor Who

4) Potterheads - Harry Potter

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5) Janeites - Jane Austen

6) Browncoats - Firefly

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7) All things classic animated Disney

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8) All things Jim Henson

 9) Books...in general...mostly YA titles...especially if they're space fiction

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10) 80s movies and monster ballads
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