Friday, July 8, 2016

Read in June

Last month I read the following:

1. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble - Dan Lyons
2. Life Before Death - Abby Frucht
3. Lily and the Octopus - Steven Rowley
4. This Body - Laurel Dowd

picture credit:  Portrait of Lucie Reading by Jacques Emile Blanche, 1890

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Anna and the French Kiss review

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
December 2010

First line: "Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge."

I put off reading this book for so long because I was a little bit afraid that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype. But it does! It really does! This is a completely swoonworthy book. I knew the main character, Anna, a senior in high school is from Atlanta, and I had imagined that more of the book would take place in the South. That's not the case - her parents ship her off right away to a boarding school in Paris. I was prepared to immediately hate Anna for being a whiny brat about having such an awesome opportunity. That was the problem that I saw with Falling in Love with English Boys, by Melissa Jensen about a girl who has to spend a summer in London. Gee, wouldn't you love to have these girls "problems?" Happily, Anna did not seem too bratty to me. Her father is basically clueless - a less functional version of the real-life Nicholas Sparks, the famous author of badly-written, bestselling melodramatic romances.

When Anna gets to Paris, she's not on vacation - so she doesn't spend a lot of time jetting around, seeing the sights. Mostly, she's trying to get settled in her new dorm, meet friends, and figure out enough French to handle the basics, like ordering food in the cafeteria. She meets Etienne St. Clair, a total dreamboat, but of course, he has a girlfriend, and half the school is crushing on him anyway, so she knows she doesn't stand a chance. They do end up becoming good friends though, and spend the year getting to know each other, developing various in-jokes and so on. I was about 
¾ of the way through the book, and Anna hasn't even kissed anyone yet. I was beginning to get worried - maybe the titular kiss would be on the last page? Fortunately, St. Clair soon realizes that his relationship with his former girlfriend just isn't working out, and Anna 'fesses up and admits her sort-of boyfriend back home isn't in the picture either. After they become a couple, Anna helps St. Clair confront his father who has been cruelly keeping him away from his cancer-ridden mother. It sounds more melodramatic than it plays out, and while I don't think high school romances often work out, I could totally picture Anna and St. Clair moving to Berkeley together, getting married and living happily ever after. I hate to say that this is a "When Harry Met Sally" story, since I think that reference will be lost on a lot of younger people, but it is a really good comparison. They're really sweet together, completely right for each other and have a really solid foundation because they were platonic friends for so long before the rest of their relationship developed.

Compare to:
The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
Meant to Be - Lauren Morrill
Audrey Wait! - Robin Benway
Just One Day - Gayle Foreman

I purchased this book.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Do you still do summer reading?

I was at a dinner party recently, and one of the guests, upon hearing that I am a librarian, innocently asked, "Oh! Yes! The library! Do you still do summer reading?"

I am still so gobsmacked by this question. I just don't even know where to begin. Yes! We are totally doing summer reading. My life is dominated by summer reading! We do summer reading for kids, and for teens, and now for adults, too. We do programs, and displays, and we offer so many prizes, and we do so much outreach to promote it. This is a monumental effort. Summer reading feels like the raison d'etre of our library lives. We literally start planning next summer's reading program as the current summer is ending. Yeah. We still do summer reading.

It really got me thinking... on one hand, this is exactly the same kind of question that falls in the category of, "Do you still use the Dewey Decimal system?" (Answer: yes) or, "Do you still use those card catalogs with the drawers?" (Answer: no) Probably people mean it as a harmless, light conversation starter. But, my number one takeaway when I hear something like this is that, this is a person who has not been to a library since they were a child. And this is the kind of person who imagines that if they are not at the library... then probably nobody is in the library. And they just don't know. They don't know how busy we are. They are nonplussed when they get to the library and they have to wait in line... not to check out a book, or get a computer, or ask a staff member a question or for anything. Because how could that dusty, quiet place be so bustling? It doesn't make sense to them. The same way that, "Do you still do summer reading?" doesn't make sense to me.

I know there's a segment of the population that we don't always reach - working adults in their 30's and 40's don't come to the library as often. They are too busy. Even when we offer evening or weekend hours they may not make it in. Our core users are retirees, stay at home moms, and economically disadvantaged. Still, it's worrying when I hear reactions like these - there's a whole universe that they are missing out on!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Read in May

Last month I read the following:

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail - Cheryl Strayed
2. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life - Henry Cloud
3. Moloka'i - Alan Brennart
4. Becoming Grandma - Lesley Stahl
5. Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

picture credit:  Mihrap by Osman Hamdi Bey, 1901

Friday, May 20, 2016

Juliet Immortal review

Juliet Immortal
by Stacey Jay
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
August 2011

First line: "Tonight he could have come through the door - the castello is quiet, even the servants asleep in their beds, and Nurse would have let him in - but he chooses the window, climbing through the tangle of night flowers, carrying petals in his clothes."

I was pleasantly surprised by the reinterpretation of this Romeo and Juliet story. In this version, Romeo and Juliet are traveling through time, inhabiting the bodies of star-crossed lovers who've had near-death experiences. In each incarnation, Juliet, who is working for the Ambassadors (presumably the good guys) has a limited amount of time to get the couple back together again. Romeo, who sacrificed Juliet (and in some ways, himself) to the Mercenaries in exchange for eternal life, catches up with her, possessing a newly dead body each time, and tries to foil her plans.

This go around, Juliet finds herself in the body of Ariel Dragland, a shy blonde teenager in the small California town of Solvang. After a reckless driving accident, Romeo is in possession of the body of Dylan, the school bully and sometime crush of Ariel's. There are a few hints that are dropped that all is not right - Juliet/Ariel has never seen Romeo track her down so quickly before. She's noticed that the gaps between each mission are growing shorter and shorter. Nurse, her Ambassador handler, has gone missing. She's beginning to wonder if the Ambassadors have her well-being at heart after all.

As Ariel, she's landed in the middle of a tricky situation. Ariel's been recovering from severe burns she received as a child. Years of surgery have restored her looks, but not her confidence, as she copes with a strained relationship with her single mom, and an overbearing best friend, Gemma. I had trouble visualizing Ariel's ugly/pretty look - she's supposed to be a former burn victim, but she's also supposed to have an elfin, delicate beauty, with scars that only add to her unique look. Juliet explains that once she's inhabiting someone's body, she picks up their language, memory and abilities, and she's pleased that she and Ariel share a "soul gift" - both are talented artists. I liked the kind of maturity and distance that Juliet brings to the situation. When Ariel is in a fight with her mom, Juliet decides to let some matters drop, instead of escalating the situation. They end up having a heart-to-heart talk that is very healing for them both. Juliet is very conscious of wanting to leave her host's relationships better than when she found them, which made me wonder how and what her former hosts remember after she leaves them and returns to the void she inhibits while waiting to be pulled to Earth again. The last thing Juliet expects is to be slammed with "love at first sight" feelings for sensitive and kind Latino transfer student Ben. Unfortunately, she feels duty-bound to stick to her mission and try to fix him up with Gemma, who is glowing with the aura of true love. Juliet also has to avoid Romeo/Dylan's attempts to kill her - he truly comes across as a psychopath, coming up with whatever threats and lies that cross his mind just to try to distress her. Ben, on the other hand, is a total fantasy - no high school boy in the world has ever been so kind and virtuous and good. He instantly falls head-over-heels for Ariel/Juliet and within a few days is already talking marriage.

I was curious if readers not familiar with Solvang, CA would get the references to Danish windmills, tourists, and of course, easy access to wine country, with most high school students finding it easy to host bootleg wine parties.

The ending has a number of surprising twists. I had a few of my own favorite pet theories brewing, and I sure didn't see that ending coming. I had been hoping that Juliet would realize that she'd been a dolt - that every time she'd been deposited into someone else's life mid-stream, it was actually a chance for her to grab a chance at happiness and realize there is no such thing as a "one true love" pre-destined by fate. I was shocked by the revelation of Gemma's relationship with a teacher, and more shocked by the Ambassadors cold admission that they were going to somehow use the psychic power of the relationship, which suits them just fine. The actual ending felt like a bit of a muddle to me, with time traveling, alternate realities, awful fates for most of our modern day characters (if we find out what happens to them at all!) and Romeo getting the last word. Normally, I'm not one to recommend a book with such a let-down of an ending, but it was still such an enjoyable read - brace yourself for the oddness at the end and you will enjoy it. I really liked the characters of Juliet/Ariel and Ben, they made the book worthwhile for me.

Compare to:
Hexed - Michelle Krys
Everneath - Brodi Ashton
Dead Beautiful - Yvonne Woon
Wondrous Strange - Lesley Livingston

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Real Life Quidditch Skydive

Nobody will ever convince me that skydiving is a good idea, but these fellows seem to be having fun.


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