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?'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?

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