Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Top Ten Authors

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From.

Well, I must admit - if I were to pick out my absolute favorite Top Ten authors, there are a few of these who wouldn't have made the cut. But, they made the list by being prolific, and eminently readable (for the most part) so here is my list of authors that take up the most real estate on my bookshelves.

1 Robert Jordan

I didn't even need to dip into his Conan books for Robert Jordan to come up top on my list. His Wheel of Time series was more than enough to nab him a number one spot on my list.
I was a fan of Daniel Handler from the very start. I read an ARC of his first two books in The Series of Unfortunate Events way back when and was immediately hooked.

An old childhood favorite! Your bookshelves aren't complete without a complete set of Oz books.
Eh... maybe not the highest quality literature, but his Xanth novels (of which there are dozens) and other series are quick fun reads.

I'm the biggest Margaret Peterson Haddix fan. I loved her Shadow Children series.

Well, good ol' Sookie Stackhouse ended with a whimper, not a bang, I thought. But, it was a fun ride while it lasted, and there were plenty of novels along the way.
My collection of Babymouse books puts Jennifer L. Holm way over the top, but I love her serious, sensitive middle-grade fiction like Penny From Heaven, too.

Well, J.K. Rowling is an auto-purchase for me, obviously.

Here's another author I didn't think would end up on my top ten list. I guess all those paperback fantasy novels really start to add up!

10  Brandon Sanderson

One of my new favorite authors. He's on my top ten list right now, but I expect if we checked back in a year, he will probably rise in the rankings, as he's got a lot of books out that I still want to get caught up on!

So, who were your top ten authors? Were you surprised by any of them, the way that I was? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Wintergirls review

by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Juvenile
March 2009

First line: "So she tells me the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee."

Eighteen year old Lia is struggling to complete high school in the wake of her best friend Cassie's death of complications from bulimia. Lia has been released from a treatment program for anorexia, but is still in the strong grip of disordered thinking and inaccurate body image. She continues to struggle with her weight, relying on cheap tricks such as gulping down a gallon of water and weighting her bathrobe with hidden coins during weigh-ins, to hide her continued weight loss from her stepmother, Jennifer.

To say that Lia is obsessed with calorie counting and food would be an understatement. Her every waking thought revolves around the pursuit of thin perfection. She even refers to her classmates by what they had for lunch, blonde tacosalad, pizzafish guy, or cheesefingers girl. Lia is wracked with guilt over her falling out with Cassie and blames herself for Cassie's dying alone in a hotel room.

I loved the strikethrough font which represented Lia's forbidden thoughts which she doesn't allow herself to say out loud. Lia is literally haunted by images of her dead friend Cassie, who silently urges her on in her mad pursuit of getting thinner.

The language is lyrical and adds a passionate intensity to Lia's inner world. Lia sees how much her little sister looks up to her as she weighs her options and decides if she wants to join Cassie in the world of the dead, or truly make a commitment to getting healthy and staying in the land of the living.

Compare to:
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden - Joanne Greenberg
The Best Little Girl in the World - Steven Levonkron
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Letting Ana Go - Anonymous

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Reading Maker's Lab report

This summer we have been transforming the children’s study area at my library into a “Maker’s Lab” every Thursday afternoon. We have been working on craft projects appropriate for school-age children and tweens. Here's a sampling of a few of my favorites.

Everyone’s creativity was on display using rainbow scratchy paper.

Make-a-Minion craft, featuring the popular inventors from the movie Despicable Me.

One of my favorites was this lightning bug craft, that really glows-in-the-dark. 

I hosted a "Sidewalk Chalk Expo" Plenty of kids and parents showed up to take advantage of the shade during a hot sunny day. 

Just moments after our sidewalk masterpieces were complete, we felt the first raindrops… ah, so long, sidewalk chalk art! The art may not have lasted long, but the children made new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Noggin review

by John Corey Whaley
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
April 2014

First line: "Listen - I was alive once and then I wasn't."

This sci-fi novel takes place in the very near future, and the ability to revive cryogenically frozen patients is brand new. Travis had suffered from leukemia as a 16 year old, and in part because he wanted to spare his family from their continuing grief over his imminent death and partly because he was tired of being sick and wanted to give up - he agrees to the experimental procedure.

Much to his surprise, he wakes up 5 years later, with his head attached to a new healthy body. He experiences this as being "in the future" and is only the second patient to have been revived.

His decision to return to high school and finish out his sophomore year stretched my suspension of disbelief - wouldn't he have just tested for his GED or something? That is really saying something, that I found this more unbelievable than the fact that Travis had been brought back from the dead.

Happily, there's very little attention given to the adjustment that Travis has to his new body. He's taller and healthier than he was before. He's got a nasty scar on his neck. And that's it really. Other than that, he's really ready to pick up and start living life again. I liked that he gets occasional advice from the first body transplant survivor, Lawrence Ramsey. Travis is also very conscious of the fact that Jeremy Pratt is the real reason he was able to come back. Jeremy's family donated his body after he suffered a brain tumor.

The main conflict of the story is that while Travis is still mentally and emotionally 16 - his best friend Kyle and his girlfriend Cate are now in their twenties. Kyle is trying to live in the closet and Travis is shocked that Kyle is trying to date a woman, even after privately confessing that he's gay. Travis is  devastated that his first love Cate has moved on. She's engaged to someone else, and so, Travis starts a mad campaign to win her back. This was absolutely cringe-worthy! Travis engages in one awkward situation after another, hoping to worm his way back into Cate's heart. With the help of his new friend Hatton, Travis is able to find ways to cope with his new situation.

Plenty of twist and turns in the plot will surprise readers. I really enjoyed the way the final sentence of each chapter becomes the title of the next chapter. I read this book for my book club, and we all found a lot to discuss. The book ends rather abruptly - I would have loved a epilogue telling us how Travis is doing in a few years time.

Compare to: 
Unwind - Neal Shusterman
A Long, Long Sleep - Anna Sheehan
Airhead - Meg Cabot

I purchased this book.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Favorite TV shows or Movies

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Favorite TV shows or movies.

Who Needs Paradise When You Can Watch It On TV?
photo by Michael Shaheen

As I'm very fond of telling my patrons, when they ask if I've seen a particular movie, "I'm more of a book person!" I grew up mostly without a television, and a lot of times I think the world would be better if we all threw our TVs away. Lately, though, I've found that keeping up with pop-culture can be a really good conversation starter, so I do make time to catch up on the occasional movie or TV show. Here's a top ten list of my current favorites.

10. Boys Over Flowers
9. Coffee Prince
8. Faith (The Great Doctor)

I started watching Korean dramas about a year ago. I kind of stumbled on them by accident! Years ago, I had written a review for the Boys Over Flowers manga, and my blog was overwhelmed with visitors. For a long time, that was my most trafficked blog post! I finally decided to check out the show to see what all the fuss was about, and now I'm hooked.

7. House of Cards
6. Orange is the New Black

I had started reading Piper Kerman's memoir about her time in prison, but had to return it to the library before I finished it, since the book was due, and I couldn't renew it due to lots of other patrons being on hold. I put another hold on it, but I'm still 100-something on the list. The show is good! Of course, they take a lot of liberties with the original material, but a lot of it is based on her real-life experience.
A co-worker of mine recommended I watch House of Cards. Frank and Claire are so deliciously ruthless!

5. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (UK version)

A friend of mine who works in the restaurant industry recommended this one to me. Gordon Ramsay is mesmerizing! He's the Simon Cowell of the kitchen and his convoluted British swearing is like nothing else. The episodes do become a bit formulaic as the show goes on, but those moments when Ramsay decides to soften up and helpfully advise struggling cooks make it worthwhile.

4. Once

I'm a slow TV watcher, so, I'm way behind on this show, but still love the fairy tale/modern day premise, plus all of Queen Regina's amazing outfits!

3. Adventure Time

Surreal and funny, this cartoon is perfect to have on in the background.

2. Downton Abbey

Here's another show that I'm pretty sure I'm quite behind on. I did my undergraduate degree in theatre with a concentration in costuming, so, the clothes are to die for. The Dowager Countess is the best!

1. Doctor Who

Returns in August! Need I say more???

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ink Exchange review

Ink Exchange
by Melissa Marr
Harper Collins
January 2008

First line: "Irial watched the girl stroll up the street: she was a bundle of terror and fury."

The second book in the Wicked Lovely series departs from the story of Aislinn, cursed with faerie sight. Ink Exchange focuses on Leslie, one of Aislinn's classmates, who is struggling with a difficult home life. Leslie is consumed with depression and self-destructive tendencies after her alcoholic father and missing mother fail to protect her from a rape arranged by her drug-abusing pimp older brother. Grim stuff indeed.

A lot of the story here revolves around a tattoo that Leslie decides to get. The description of the gritty tattoo parlor and the tattooing process all sounded believable to me. Leslie unknowingly picks a particular piece of art which links her to Irial, the Faery King of the Dark Court. Her friend Niall, an advisor to the Summer Court, and a former member of the Dark Court, tries to protect Leslie, but she gets pulled in to their intrigues anyhow. The Dark Court feeds off of negative emotions, and soon, bloodthirsty Irial is using his connection to Leslie to subject her to terrifyingly violent, chaotic scenes, as he drains her dry of feelings. It's scary stuff, but cathartic too, as Leslie uses the horrors she undergoes to purge herself of her fears, and ultimately, to move forward without Irial.

Even more ominous in tone than the first in the series, the serious subject matter with scenes that range from eerie and mystical to disturbingly violent makes this horror/fantasy suitable for older teens.

Compare to:
City of Bone - Cassandra Clare
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Read in June 2014

Last month I read the following the books:

1. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker

2. Noggin - John Corey Whaley
3. Blackbird - Anna Carey

Picture credit: Portrait of a Woman - Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ALA Annual Conference 2014 report

I had a great time at the American Library Association Annual meeting in Las Vegas. As always, I'm refreshed and invigorated with new ideas! There were a number of poster sessions and panels that gave me a lot to think about. For me, at least, I felt that a lot of my currently held beliefs were confirmed. It's good to hear that my thoughts and leanings are very much in line with what the best professionals in my field are currently practicing.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Two of my storytime heroes, Betsy Diamont-Cohen (the inventor of Mother Goose on the Loose) and Saroj Ghoting talked about how repetition and music work well in storytimes. It's true! I know babies and toddlers love the familiar routine of some of my repeating songs and felt boards. I may start adding more conversational asides, as needed, for parents and caregivers in my storytimes.

There seemed to be a general feeling that Summer Reading programs should not be about prizes, prizes, prizes. I couldn't agree more. I've said it before, "Reading is the prize!" (at least it should be) In large part, the trend away from giving away useless plastic tchotchkes is being driven because of shrinking budgets, but another thing to consider is that limited funds should be spent on programs, so that Summer Reading is an experience that you'll remember for a lifetime, not a cheap toy that breaks at the end of the summer.

I think I showed some pretty incredible restraint on the Exhibit floor. I picked up a nice pile of ARCs, but not so many that I had to resort to shipping them back home. Everything fit in my carry-on! If I'd gone hog-wild, I could have gotten four times as much... but I didn't want to be plagued with guilt for picking up advance copies and then not really reading them.

I loved meeting Laini Taylor! Her supernaturally pink hair is even more striking in person. When she signed Gods and Monsters, she commented, "Madigan McGillicuddy! That sounds like a character in a book!" I laughed and said "Authors always tell me that!" Yikes! I hope I didn't sound conceited! It's true, though.

I'm really glad I made it to the YALSA mixer - I met some really cool ladies who all turned out to be fellow nerds, Whovians and Walking Dead fans like myself. I felt inspired by all the program ideas they mentioned!

Most of all, I really appreciated everyone who tweeted during the convention, as it's the next best thing to being able to attend 2 or 3 different events at once.


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