Monday, April 30, 2018

Bookish Boyfriends by Tiffany Schmidt

Merrilee Campbell, 16, thinks boys are better in books, chivalry is dead, and there’d be nothing more romantic than having just one guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. She’s about to get the chance to test these daydreams when she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer into Reginald R. Hero High, where all their fantasies come true—often with surprising consequences. 

Normally if I'm reading a YA novel it falls into the fantasy/dystopian category.  Lately I've been requesting YA novels of all sorts so I can do my due diligence selecting them for my library and make sure I am not ordering absolute rubbish to add to the collection.  With great power comes great responsibility after all....  I saw this one pop up on NetGalley and was intrigued.

When I first started reading this I was like "Our main character is some boy obsessed creature who is more obsessed with scoping out the campus hotties at her exclusive new school than actually doing anything else".  First day of school and she is immediately pining after mysterious broody boy under the shade tree.  I actually identified more with her more reserved best friend Eliza.  I actually had to stop myself and throw aside my middle aged reader prejudices and once I did I really started to enjoy this book.

Merilee rushes headlong into first love/first boyfriend and as the book progresses she becomes infinitely more likable when she acknowledges her self worth and decides to make the right decisions for her and stop worrying about everyone else.  Her first assignment for her English class is to read Romeo and Juliet.  At first she thinks Romeo is the perfect book boyfriend with his love of Juliet.  As her real life romance plays out, it parallels the famous Shakespeare play and her perceptions about her book boyfriend and her real one starts to change.  Meanwhile she meets Fielding, the son of the school headmaster, and he seems to have it out for her from day one.  Basically he's a jerk because of his preconceived notions of her and she is too proud to realize he might have some redeeming qualities after all.  Hmmm, sounds like another book I've read before....  Anyway, even though the book seemed a bit silly when it started, I thought it was a cute read.  Middle -aged me might have struggled a bit here and there with this book but 15 year old me would have given this a 5 paw rating no problem. I loved how it Merri's story echoed the classic books she was reading.  For some reason I had it in my head that somehow these book heroes were going to materialize in her life somehow but it is really just the boys in her life bearing an uncanny resemblance to those in the books.  The friendships in this book were great and there was a bit of a feminist streak in here that I appreciated as well.  Therefore, I'm going to go with 3 kitties-a good tail.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books--but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.  They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya. They killed them all. I am Number Four. I am next.

It has taken me an eternity to read this for three main reasons 1) I usually never watch movies based on books until I've read the books first.  This time I did and thought the movie was just eh.  2) I got burned out from reading Sci-Fi YA books for awhile (Maze Runner, Fifth Wave etc.) and 3) for those that don't know Pittacus Lore is a pseudonym for the three people that write/wrote this series, one of which is James Frey (he who lied to Oprah and formed a YA book writing company designed to churn out novels making lots of money while paying those who write them very little).  So, due to those factors I put off reading this for awhile.

John Smith is the 15 year old protagonist in this one.  He seems like your average kid except he isn't.  He is really an alien from the planet Lorien, a race that was nearly rendered extinct by the Mogadorians who attacked Lorien when they had destroyed all the resources on their own planet.  John is one of 9 "Gardes" who escaped during the final battle along with 9 "Cepans" or guardians who were sent with each Garde to keep them safe until they grew up and came into their powers.  Henri is John's guardian.  The Mogadorians have hunted the Gardes to Earth which is where the last of the Loriens fled and now are hunting John and his fellow guards one by one.  Due to a special protective charm put in place, Gardes can only be killed in numerical order.  The "Mogs" have already found and killed the first three.  John is Number Four.  

Usually when the baddies start getting close, John and Henri pack up and skip town creating new identities for themselves.  This time though, John has formed attachments in his latest home of Paradise, OH-namely best friend Sam and pretty Sarah.  He doesn't want to leave even when the Mogs get closer and the danger increases.   

Personally I think the book was much better than the movie.  There is a lot more character development going on here and the movie left out a bunch of parts (as they normally do).  Although certain plot points left me underwhelmed (the underdeveloped romance-why does Sarah like John so much?  They know nothing about each other!) and the fact that it didn't take too much to get John to reveal his super hush hush secret to those around him when it became more convenient to do so-the book wasn't bad at all.  Also Henri's mantra throughout the whole book is "You're not ready! You're not ready!"  Then the bad guys show up and he's like "I think it's time".  I liked the introduction to #6 and think I will continue on with the next book to see where this series goes.  This book was better than I thought it would be and it was a pretty quick read.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol

Firstborns rule society. Secondborns are the property of the government. Thirdborns are not tolerated. Long live the Fates Republic.

On Transition Day, the second child in every family is taken by the government and forced into servitude. Roselle St. Sismode’s eighteenth birthday arrives with harsh realizations: she’s to become a soldier for the Fate of Swords military arm of the Republic during the bloodiest rebellion in history, and her elite firstborn mother is happy to see her go.

Televised since her early childhood, Roselle’s privileged upbringing has earned her the resentment of her secondborn peers. Now her decision to spare an enemy on the battlefield marks her as a traitor to the state. But Roselle finds an ally—and more—in fellow secondborn conscript Hawthorne Trugrave. As the consequences of her actions ripple throughout the Fates Republic, can Roselle create a destiny of her own? Or will her Fate override everything she fights for—even love?

I grabbed this one because I was doing my monthly book order and saw the second one was coming out shortly.  The second book sounded so good I wanted to read the first.  Of course, it was only available through the Michigan E-Library because only 3 libraries in the state had the first one.  This is your typical dystopian novel.  Something has seriously gone wrong with the society where there is a need for population control.  Families are only allowed two children.  The first child born is automatically elevated into the top 1% and becomes a member of the ruling class.  The 2nd born serves the government in some capacity. Our heroine is Roselle and her family is in charge of the military wing of the government.  Since the St. Sismodes are such a huge deal, Roselle's entire existence from birth to adulthood is televised for the whole world to watch.  It's kind of like "See even the most important people in the world make the same sacrifices the rest of you do."  We find out that Roselle's fate is to placed into the lowest level of the military where it is almost certain she will make the noble sacrifice of her life in the fight against the rebels who wish to do away with the social hierarchy.  Things don't go as expected though as Roselle discovers she has people on her side-including handsome fellow military recruit Hawthorne.  She continues to defy expectations at every turn, much to the disappointment of her mother who would rather see Roselle out of the picture once and for all.

Overall I really enjoyed this book.  There were some things about Roselle's character I didn't enjoy as much.  She is supermodel beautiful, is extremely smart, and can fight better than anyone else.  I always find it hard to like characters that have the perfection deck stacked in their favor.  There are several things about her I did like though-fiery spirit and an intense desire to do what is right for people.   The story was really good as Roselle keeps getting obstacle after obstacle thrown in her way.  She also crosses paths with one of the most sadistic people on the planet who definitely has it out for her.  I've read  a lot of dystopians  and I would say this about middle of the pack.  I will be continuing on with the second book as this one left several unanswered questions and scenarios.  I stayed up pretty late to finish this one because I didn't want to wait til the next evening to see how it ended.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Thoughts on a Few Recently Read Books

So, I have finally conquered the 5th Song of Ice and Fire book.  With my extremely hectic schedule it took me 7 WEEKS.  It has never taken me that long to read a book!  Here are my very brief thoughts on  few I have read recently:

Annihilation originally peaked my interest because of the Natalie Portman movie. Of course, I had no idea the movie was based on a book or that this was just the first book in Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy.  I did not know what to expect when I dove into this but the premise was interesting.  There is a mysterious area known as Area X which is equal parts intriguing and dangerous.  Several expeditions have been sent to explore this area but many have not returned and those that have are definitely not the same.  After her husband dies from cancer after returning from this area, our narrator goes in as part of an observation team to record this strange area and what effect it has on others in the team.  Her personal mission is to find out what could have possibly happened to her husband to make him return to her as so much less than he was when he left.  I don't want to give too much more plot away but I will say this book is a solid read-a little bit weird and suspenseful with more than a few "what the hell?" moments in it.  In tone it almost reminded me of how I feel when I read a Stephen King novel. Not scary, but definitely walks that eerie/peculiar line.  I thought it was worth the read although I have a sneaking suspicion that the movie will be nothing like the book. I plan to continue on with the other two books at some point, although I've heard book two drags quite a bit compared to this one.


The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan was our book club pick for March.   At first I was not too anxious to read this one since it seems I've read a ton of books set in WWII lately.  However, the mother of one of our book club ladies read it and loved it so I thought I'd give it a go.  All the menfolk go off to fight the war and you just can't have a choir without men in it so the local vicar decides they should disband.  The ladies in town are not having it and decide to reform as the Childbury Ladies' Choir-led by the tenacious new choir director Miss Prim.  So, going in I thought this book was going to be your run of the mill "how will the women ever survive without the men-oh hey-they somehow find the courage" type book. While it did contain those elements it also surpassed my expectations by a mile because the characters were wonderful and well developed.  I really enjoy a book that takes me on a journey with a character and completely makes me change my mind about them by the time I reach the end of the book.  This happened several times here.  We have a young woman who develops her social conscience, another vain young woman who comes to see there is more to life than pretty dresses, a sassy schemer that may just be redeemable after all, a timid older woman who finds strength she didn't know she had.  This book had funny moments, sadness, a bit of a love story-an all around good read.  Would definitely recommend this one.  I liked this one a lot and so did everyone in my book club.  It generated a lot of good discussion about women's role during this time and the moral dilemmas presented in the book.


The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower is the first in a middle grade series I stumbled upon while looking for books to order for the library.  It sounded fun so I ordered the first two. Then, our library partnered up with the local school during March is Reading Month and several classes were scheduled to come visit the library for book talks which prompted me to read this one so I could share my thoughts on it with the kiddos.  This book is about a little boy named Waldo Baron who longs for a normal existence.  WB lives with his eccentric inventor parents and his fussy Aunt Dorcas so nothing is ever quite normal in his house.  Speaking of his house, his parents find out there is a contest for inventors to go about the country in a flying machine collecting random odd items with the winner receiving $500.  WB's mom and dad decide to turn their house a flying machine.  Everyone sees the Baron's flying house as the best chance of winning-including a villain who wants the prize money for herself and decides WB and his parents will help her whether they want to or not.  I think this book is great for 5th or 6th graders looking for a fun adventure book.  It has just the right balance of fun, absurdity, mystery, and humor.  I am 36 and found it quite entertaining.  I imagine it would be even more so for its intended audience.  This is the first in a series and I plan on ordering the latest for my library.  


As I stated earlier, this behemoth took me 7 stinking weeks to read.  Part of the reason for that was I was really really busy in March.  The other reason is because compared to the other books in the series the pacing of this one was much slower and I thought it rambled a lot more.  This book is also the one where I noticed the biggest difference between the books and the TV series.  There are several story arcs that diverge quite a bit from what we've seen on TV (characters on TV that are dead in the books, characters in the books that died in the TV series, characters in the books that were never part of the TV show at all).  I know that is to be expected and I love both the show and the book series.  Book four in the series followed all the southern characters and this one follows the northern and eastern storyline (Winterfell, the Wall, and all the action going on with Daenerys across the Narrow Sea and Arya in Braavos).  

George R. R. Martin excels at world building and making memorable characters.  What dragged this book down in my estimation is that this was the book containing all of my favorite characters yet their stories took so long to play out.  STOP HERE IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT HAS OCCURRED SO FAR! Tyrion is forever trying to make his way to Dany, Dany is hemming and hawing over leaving Mereen for Westeros,  Bran is off into uncharted territory, Arya is still in training at the house of black and white and Jon Snow is trying to unite the men on the wall with the Wildlings before the real bad guys show up.  SAFE TO READ AGAIN: I really think this book could have cut out a lot where nothing of importance was happening and still have been a good read.  I thought the best parts were when the story was taking place at Winterfell with Theon and on the wall with Jon Snow and even those storylines were really drawn out.  My honest opinion is that if you have come this far, read this one so you can keep going with the next once it gets released and hope that one will pick up the pace but prepare to struggle while you are reading this one.  Every series has a book that is not quite up to the level of the rest of the books and I think A Dance of Dragons is that book for the A Song of Ice and Fire Series.  I also hope that the next book follows all of the characters again instead of being divided between two books.  I understand why this installment was split into two books (because who wants to read a 2,500 page book?) but I think both stories suffered because of it.  I feel immense relief at having finally finished this.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple was our book club pick for April.  I chose this one because it came highly recommended by a friend.  Here is the publisher's description which explains the book much better than I could:

"Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle - and people in general - has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. "

This book was billed as laugh out loud funny and while I wouldn't say that was the case, it excels at giving a satirical look at Seattle's rich crowd and was definitely amusing with a few unexpected more tender moments.  Bernadette is one of those oddball characters who seems to cause chaos wherever she goes-intentionally or not.  The local moms hate her, her husband is a workaholic, and she prefers living life from the safety bubble of her own (which causes her to make huge and costly mistakes).  The center of her world is her extremely bright daughter Bea whom she would do anything for-even literally travelling to the ends of the earth.  The book is told partly in letters and emails.  Bernadette's view on life is interesting to say the least and I liked her the more her story unfolded.   Although the title makes it sound like there will be some big mystery about Bernadette's disappearance, the book focuses more on the events that continue to snowball until she reaches a breaking point and disappears off the radar.  This was a super fast read for me and I have a feeling this is one of those books where people will either really really like it or think it was a total dumpster fire waste of time.  I am in the former category on this one.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Librarian Life-March So Far.....

This month has been extremely busy for me at work which has meant not so much on the reading front.  I am still slowly progressing through A Dance With Dragons and hope to finish it soon.  What has kept me so busy?  Well, yesterday we launched a seed library at the library branch I manage.  It is the culmination of almost 5 months worth of work and we are the first location in the county to launch one.  I am so excited to offer this to our library patrons and also really proud of the staff at my branch who banded together and worked their butts off
to make this happen.

Also since March is reading month, we've been partnering with the local schools in a variety of ways.  We've hosted multiple classrooms at the library for book talks which means I have read/skimmed over more middle grade books in the past month than I've probably touched since I was that age.  This coming week we have one more class visiting and then we will be at parent teacher conferences issuing library cards.  We are fortunate to have an awesome Friends of the Library group who has agreed to sponsor a pizza party for the class that achieves the largest percentage of library card sign ups this month.  I am continually amazed that our staff of 3 people (of which I am the only full time person), can make all this happen in addition to all of our regularly scheduled programming. 

Books on the TBR I hope to finish this month:

A Dance with Dragons (Have mercy George R.R. Martin with these massive books!)

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol (discovered this one while doing book ordering for the month)

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer (2nd book in Southern Reach Trilogy. The first was Annihilation which is the movie that just came out starring Natalie Portman-thoughts on the book coming soon...).

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (next book club selection)

And a few nerdy librarian books I am reading to see if I want to buy them for us to use at my branch:

  • Adults Just Wanna Have Fun: Programs for Emerging Adults by Audrey Barbakoff
  • The Handbook of Storytime Programs by Judy Freeman
  • 1,000 Fingerplays and Action Rhymes: A Sourcebook by Barbara A. Scott
And now I'm off to tackle some of that pile in addition to the books pictured above which I am reading for the 4th grade class we're doing book talks with this week.  I'll leave you with a few pics of our repurposed card catalog which houses our seed library. :)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

The Song of Ice and Fire series is the only time I have ever watched a TV series based on the books without reading the books first.  I love Game of Thrones and couldn't see myself slogging through five 1,000+ page books before I allowed myself to give in and see what the fuss was about.  Surprisingly, none of the books have felt like I was laboring through them-until this one.  Originally George R. R. Martin had intended books 4 and 5 to be one book but when he realized how massive that story had become he decided to split them into two different novels whose story lines ran parallel to each other.  Feast for Crows follows the characters in the South (King's Landing and the war in Westeros and Dorne mainly).  The 5th book follows the northern story line (the wall, beyond-the-wall, and Daenerys across the narrow sea).  Sadly that means that book four is almost completely lacking in some favorite characters (Tyrion, Dany, Jon Snow).

As this book is geographically divided it focuses a lot on the war in Westeros, Brienne's search for Sansa, and Cersei's scheming. While this is not a bad thing, it is not nearly the level of excitement of the previous three novels.  I think it is inevitable that every series has an installment that suffers from middle book syndrome and I think that this book is it for A Song of Ice and Fire.  I repeat, this is not a bad book.  It just gets bogged down a bit because it has to include all the necessary details to move the story along.  Interestingly enough, this book deviated a bit more from what the tv series has shown which is fine.  I'm curious to see how much further they diverge as the series goes on.  Normally I do not read two huge books back to back because it is just mentally draining to read several big books in a row, but since I missed the other half of the characters missing from this installment so much I am going to soldier on with A Dance With Dragons.


X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

I finished two novels this week and I'll post my thoughts on the second one later this week but first my thoughts on X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.  This book was chosen as this year's Great Michigan Read.  Every year a book is chosen by the Michigan Humanities Council and the whole state reads this as their book club selection.  All books chosen generally have something to do with Michigan.  This one is a fictional young adult adult novel written by Malcolm X's daughter which focuses on his younger years.  I have to admit, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book as much as I did and I think it is mainly because it changed my perspective of who this man was by learning where he came from. 

As I was born almost 20 years after Malcolm X was assassinated, I remained pretty ignorant of much of his life story (outside the Denzel Washington movie which I vaguely remember watching a long time ago).  For instance I had no idea that he had such strong ties to Michigan (grew up in Lansing), how he became involved with the Nation of Islam, what the turning point in his life was which turned him from petty criminal to prominent civil rights warrior, and really what the differences were between his championing of civil rights and that of his contemporaries.  Another surprise?  This book was well written and really easy to read.  I finished it in just over a day.  I led the discussion for this book at our morning book club last Wednesday and even though we had a small group, it was a very good discussion.  This is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own but it has definitely piqued my interest in learning more about the civil rights movement.  My only disclaimer here is this book was written for a YA adult audience and since it does contain references to drugs and sex on a regular basis, this might be better for older teens.  Not sure I'm ready for my 13 year old to read it quite yet, but definitely a worthy read.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ready Player One and other book to movies this year

I actually had no intention of reading this book until I saw the previews for the upcoming movie when we went to see The Last Jedi.  Afterwards I went home and looked up the synopsis which was:

"In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape."

So yeah, I'm a child of the 80's who loves science fiction/fantasy and dystopian.   This seemed to land squarely in that spectrum so sure, why not?  First, this book is clearly written by a walking video game and pop culture encyclopedia.  If you love vintage video games, and TV shows there are an abundance of references to them here.  The story itself was engaging but also left me feeling a bit conflicted.  There were times when things seemed to line up a little too well for Wade.  I found the descriptions of the worlds in the Oasis intriguing.  The book honestly had me wondering if we will reach this type of scenario at one point-the world steadily goes to hell while the human population distracts itself with technology to escape.  I also kept getting the feeling that some of this is going to translate much better on screen than it does in print.  I did enjoy this much more than I expected.  Of course this may be because I grew up in the era this book focuses on and managed to catch 95% of the references.  I'm really looking forward to the movie when it comes out next month and as I'm one of those weirdos who will not see the movie unless I've read the book, now I can actually see it when it comes out!


A few more recently released or will be released book to movie adaptations I'm hoping to see:

It has been a LOOONG wait for the 3rd installment due to Dylan O'Brien's injuries while filming it.  I might even have to go back and watch the first two since so much time has passed between this one and the last.  I really liked the books, although was not happy with the changes they made in the first movie which deviated from the book version.  This one just came out January 26th.

Also saw the preview for this in the theater.  The preview looked good, but then I saw somewhere it was actually a book first, read the blurb and thought "Wow the book sounds like it is going to be better than the movie!"  Read book blurb here

Ordered it from the library and am now patiently waiting for it to arrive. While putting it on hold I discovered this is actually book one in a trilogy so I'm hoping it's good and I can read the whole thing. The movie comes out the 23rd of this month.

I don't think I have picked this up since grade school but have fond memories of it.  The casting looks interesting so I think it's time to read it again and then go see the movie when it comes out March 9th.  We are starting middle school book club back up at the local school and this is the first one they are reading.  I'm not leading this book club (my coworker has bravely volunteered to take on leading teen book club since I lead morning book club and my other coworker leads evening book club).  Think I may read it anyway though.

I have not read this book but my good friend read it and raved about it.  I will be speeding through this one before the May 11th release date.  I also adore Cate Blanchett who is starring in this one.

Confession: I am hopelessly addicted to historical dramas no matter how hokey or fast and loose with history they are.  The CW's series Reign was my guilty pleasure while it was on and I was so so disappointed when they decided not to renew it and had to cram the entire end of Mary's story into that last season.  

Mary, Queen of Scots which is based on the book by John Guy doesn't come out til November but I am curious to see how they spin the story.  Mary is being played by Saoirse Ronan and Queen Elizabeth will be played by Margot Robbie.  Hopefully it ends up being good (fingers crossed).

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for 5+ years.  I'm thinking about blowing the dust off it and giving it a go in case I decide to see the movie which is based on it coming out some time this year.  The movie has Star Wars Daisy Ridley in it and Harry Potter's Tom Felton so that is a plus in my book.

Also looking forward to the next Fantastic Beasts movie and the new Mary Poppins movie with Emily Blunt. It's weird because I actually enjoyed the movie Mary Poppins much more than I liked the first book but maybe it is time to pick up Mary Poppins comes back and see if I like that one more.