Friday, November 30, 2012

Competing for My Attention

How do you decide what to read next?  Right now, I have a lot of books competing for my attention:  my Goodreads list, Caudills, Monarchs and Bluestems that will be announced in under 4 months, review books which are piling up, big kid books for book club, and on and on.  Not to mention the fact that I have a full time job, dirty house, piles of laundry, a hubby and a puppy.  Kinda busy.

Fun fact:  I'm Employee of the Month!  Crazy--so I guess my reading is not cutting into my work.  It's really bad when your addictions start effecting other parts of your life, but I guess I'm good.

Anyway, I'm trying to stick to my Goodreads list, knock out some books that I've wanted to read for a while.  And I'm trying to sneak in more Middle Grade fiction, because those books fly and I get a great sense of accomplishment for finishing a book.  And to quote Scarlet O'Hara-as God as my witness, I will finish my reviews this weekend!  What, that's not how the saying goes?  Crud, do I have to read Gone with the Wind too?

Fun fact:  My parents saw Gone with the Wind on their very first date.  Isn't that adorable?  I think so.  Doug and I saw Die Hard 4 on our first date.  That just doesn't have the same kind of romantic feeling behind it.

Moving on.  You know what I look forward to most about travel?  Having several uninterrupted hours to read on a plane or train (sadly, I cannot read in the car, and I don't think Doug would like it if I made him listen to The Fault in Our Stars on CD).  Going up to Chicago on the train was wonderful, because it gave me nearly four hours each way to read.  And I love reading on the planes, and in airports.  All that wait time is perfect for reading!

Unfortunately, I do not have any big trips coming up, other than down to the Ozarks for Christmas-the fancy Ozarks, not the scary-banjo Ozarks-but that's a driving trip.  But, holidays are a perfect time to read while everyone else is in a food coma.  My Kindle is loaded down with galleys and other books, and right now I'm blowing through Road Trip by Gary Paulsen.  See, Middle Grade Fiction-that's where it's at!

Another unfortunate, I asked for books for Christmas.  That was half of my list, and Super Sticky Post-it Notes.  I can't get enough of those things!  My mom bought me shaped Super Sticky Post-it Notes for Thanks-Christ-Giving-Mas.  I'll have to let you know how that all went down later.  Great times.

The reading plan for the weekend:

1.  Reviews-I'm so close!!
2.  Road Trip by Gary Paulsen-easy peasy
3.  Scaredy Squirrel-my new BFF
4.  Skippyjon Jones-my nephew loves him, so I've gotta get on board
5.  Rebel Angels-if my lovely librarian let's me renew

Oh, and I have to help out with some church stuff, plan my Sunday School lesson, clean my house (it's scary), do laundry, decorate for Christmas, and test out my chili recipe on some unsuspecting friends.  Ready--BREAK!

Here's hoping I'm still together on Monday.

Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cozy Classics

Twelve words, twelve pictures, best Cliff Notes ever!  

Literary board books are nothing new.  Whether English-lit loving parents want to expose their children early or Baby Einstein pushers think this will raise their babies IQ, literary board books have really taken off.  But at the core, they are really more for the parents than children.

Pride and Prejudice is actually pretty funny.  The summarization turns it into a very simple story, but a sweet one none-the-less.  Mr. Darcy's initial rejection, a hopeful Yes? met with a cold No, is spot on.  The illustrations are also lovely little felted characters with more personality than you'd imagine.  (Some blogs might make a Kristen Stewart reference here, but I'm not going to do that.)

Moby Dick in twelve words is totally worth it!  Actually I wouldn't know having never read the real thing, but I'm going to claim that I did now.  The pictures here are very expressive, and that captain looks very mean.  What the text does not give you, the pictures do, and that's the beauty of illustrations, or felted characters.

There are two other Cozy Classic offerings according to Goodreads, War and Peace and Les Miserables.  I really wish that War and Peace had been around for my high school lit class, it would have made that book go much faster!  Plus, with the movie release of Les Mis, this could be a great Christmas present-two tickets to the movie, plus the board book if you get lost in the plot.

I'd recommend these as a gift to any new bibliophile parents.  They love seeing high literature for their baby and think it's funny that baby can read the classics.  Although they are going to be sorely disappointed when they see the real Moby Dick.  

Now for older kids, this could be a great jumping off point for a project.  Have them take a book, Newbery Medal book perhaps, and condense it down to 12 words and 12 pictures.  It's much harder than it looks, but it would be a great way to teach kids plot and summarization.  Boil down the book to the bare minimum and what do you have?  

I honestly love board books with a high-falutent flare.  Famous paintings, famous books, famous places all make for a board book that I will read.  As for little ones, their biggest concern is, will it fit in my mouth?  So, fancy or not, board books are just fun!

Happy Reading!

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas

I wan't ready for Christmas until now.

Does Christmas make you anxious?  Does the thought of gift-giving and socializing render you catatonic?  Are you terrified of tinsel?  You are not alone, friend!  Scaredy Squirrel will teach you how to get through this dangerous holiday unscathed.  He will teach you how to safely wrap gifts, set a holiday table, properly place mistletoe and much more.  Plus, you'll learn how to build a gingerbread house to code (don't forget that building permit!).  Children and adults alike will love this snarky take on Christmas preparations.  It's the perfect remedy for overly sentimental Christmas books with plenty of humor and wit.

I must admit, I was not well acquainted with Scaredy Squirrel before this.  We had a mutual friend, Chester, also by Melanie Watt.  My problem with the Scaredy Squirrel books is that they are difficult for storytime.  They have so many little asides and notes that it makes it very difficult to read to a group.  But I am seeing major programing possibilities for a grade school program.  Something along the lines of Doomsday Preppers (a show which I honestly do not watch, but I have seen the commercials).  I think it would be a lot of fun to have a Scaredy Squirrel Christmas Program.  You could wrap presents with oven mitts, make a structurally sound gingerbread house, practice playing dead and safely decorate a Christmas tree.

As someone who is quite anxious, and loves a good snarky children's book, this was excellent.  I honestly want to buy it.  I'll settle for going to my local library and checking out all the available Scaredy Squirrel books instead.  I think that Scaredy Squirrel and I would be really good friends, as long as we each stay in our respective homes and talk on tin cans connected with string and never go outside, or at least have copious amounts of safety equipment when we do!

It's good to know that I'm not alone in my craziness.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Great and Terrible Beauty

Gemma is miserable in India, but no matter how loud her protests, her mother will not let her move to London like her brother.  Finally, Gemma runs off in a rage in the marketplace, just as a violent storm is brewing, and she has a vision of her mother's death.  Then, Gemma gets her wish, she is sent to Spence Academy, a finishing school for proper young ladies.  Visions similar to those that showed her mother's death still haunt her and a mysterious boy is now following her, warning her not to delve deeper into the visions.  But once Gemma makes friends with enigmatic Felicity, beautiful Pippa and shy Ann, they form a club bent on learning this magic and making it theirs.  All the while, Gemma is learning about two former students, Sarah and Mary, who also seemed to learn magic, with disastrous consequences.  But Gemma and her friends are too smart and too good to let that happen to them, at least that's what they think.

Libba Bray does a wonderful job with this historical fiction, and after reading The Diviners, I really expected no less.  Spence Academy is such a strange place, but it's very believable that the girls would act as they do.  At one point, they are children, complete with jokes and giggles and immaturity, but at another point, they are women, with Gemma having such a vivid dream, yearning for husbands, or terrified of being married in Pippa's case.  It's completely reasonable that at 16 the girls would be so childish, yet think or act like they are so mature.

Bray's writing style is not dense, but it is still lovely.  I was not tempted to skip ahead, rather, I wanted to read the descriptions, read the background information for clues.  It cannot be easy to write a book that is so rich in description without slowing down the plot, but Bray has proven that this is not an issue for her.

While I greatly enjoyed this book, it does share several themes with other works.  Young girls dabbling in magic is not a new thing, and actually, it is much like the old movie, The Craft toward some points.  For instance, the magic that they create in the garden fails Ann and she sees herself as ugly and mean.  Also, they play jokes on that girls that have wronged them.  It also reminded me of another series that I have yet to finish, The Sisters of Prophecy by Michelle Zink.  A Great and Terrible Beauty seems much deeper than The Sisters of Prophecy however.  There's something flat about the later that the former gets right.  Have you ever had that feeling?  It's difficult to describe how one book is better than the other, but you just feel differently about the two.  I guess I need to hone my reviewing skills.

Thankfully, this series is all wrapped up and the companion book, Rebel Angels, is sitting in my kitchen.  Unfortunately, it's over 500 pages long and due back to the library in four days.  I'll make it, but Doug might be making his own dinner this week and Lucy might have to walk herself.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Raven Boys

Psychics, ley lines, long-forgotten kings, murder, betrayal, trust, and friendship all come tumbling together in The Raven Boys.  The first time that Blue saw Gansey, he was dead.  Probably because she killed him with a kiss, her birth curse.  But that was only a foreshadow of what was to come.  In reality, when he first meets Gansey, she is struck by his pompous air as an Aglionby boy, or Raven Boy, due to the school's insignia.  She actually becomes far more interested in his friend, Adam, the quiet, brooding, smart boy with a terrible home life and dream for more.  Then, Gansey, Adam, and their troubled friend Ronan come to Blue's home for a psychic reading by her mother and a warning is issued:  Blue is not to associate with these boys.  But her energy makes everything stronger, and she ends up discovering that she is linked to the boys regardless of her mother's wishes.  She begins to help them look for Glendower, a long lost king, and what they find along the way sets off a series of events that bring about an even greater adventure.

The strongest part of this book is the characterization.  All of the characters, even minor ones like Persephone and Cala, are very interesting and flawed.  The boys are especially intriguing with the brotherly relationship that they have created around Gansey and the search.  Gansey is the glue to this group, but you can tell that Adam and Ronan sometimes resent his leadership.  Adam most definitely so as he does not want to become indebted to Gansey and Ronan because I'm not sure if he really wants to be alive.  Noah is always in the shadows.  He's smudgy and sullen, and loves Blue, but for quite unusual reasons, which are quite heartbreaking.

The women of 300 Fox Way are charming.  It does seem like the kind of house that is delightfully filled with tchotchkes and incense.  Blue's Aunt Neeve is interesting and  it is not clear what her intentions are at the house, and she is so often gone, it is easy to forget about her, while the others are doing readings and working.  The relationship that Blue has with all of these women is pretty well drawn and any action that takes place in 300 Fox Way is certain to be filled with predictions and bets and mystery.

Now it is time to pose some questions.

1.  Is The Raven Boys geared toward male or female readers?  Geared toward female readers, but I think there is a male readership too.  The boys lives are so complicated and they command so much of the action that I think this could be a hand sell.  It's a questing book, and that certainly appeals to some young men.

2.  Is there an expiration date?  I would say no.  Mostly because of how complicated the relationships and characters are written.  This isn't a petty teen drama.  There are real issues under the surface, dark secrets lying in wait, and a quest taking place that could change the world.  Fans of YA fiction, of Arthurian legend, or complex characters, could read this at virtually any age and be satisfied.

3.  Will the sequel slump?  This is a trilogy, which according to my completely unscientific theory of trilogies, the second book is always the weakest.  That could still hold true for The Raven Boys, but given the last sentence, I honestly think that the next book has the potential to delve even deeper into the boys lives and abilities.  I doubt that they are all in Henrietta by accident, so there might be some aspects of fate going on, and it will also be interesting to see how Adam's choice plays out.

Also, I completely agree with Joella at Cinjoella.  That last sentence is just crazy.  After you've absorbed everything that has just happened and taken a breathe and are ready to go back to your normal, quiet life, the book throws one more comment over its shoulder as it leaves you (metaphorically, you know) and you are just thrown.  I had to read it twice, maybe three times before I got it.  It's not earth shattering, but it's so odd and ill-timed that you just say, excuse me, what?

So on that note, I leave you for this week.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you need reading suggestions, or Christmas gift suggestions, just dig through the archives for ideas, or email me at misstiffreads at gmail dot com.  I'd love to help someone with their holiday shopping, but I refuse to go to Walmart at 11 pm on Thanksgiving night again.  Things got real that night.

By the way, I just grew a pet hippopotamus  in my backyard using a Chia Pet kit and car batteries to shock it to life.

Happy Reading!

--That's on par with the kind of comment that was made at the end of The Raven Boys.  See how random and out of place it is?  And how it just leads to strange and unusual questions?  Also, no Chia Pets were harmed in the writing of this post.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Binky Takes Charge

The newest adventure of Binky, the Space Cat, finds Binky in the role of teacher as he prepares to train a new recruit.  He has it all mapped out, until he finds out his new recruit is a dog!  Not only a dog, but a dog with no skills and a complete disregard for nap time!  Then, Binky begins to suspect that this dog might be an enemy spy.  Told through text and delightfully comic pictures, this volume shows some of the fundamental differences between cats in dogs in a way that will leave children laughing.  Note, there is some potty humor, a lot of potty humor, but it is the kind of grossness that will lead to bursts of giggles.  Of course, Binky learns that maybe this dog isn't so bad, but that might be clarified in future volumes.  Let's hope anyway!

The Binky series is a great graphic novel series for younger readers, I would say second to fourth grade.  The text is rather simple and the text and pictures are well contained, making this an easy to read graphic novel.  Children will love the relationship between Binky and the dog, Gordon.  Like so many cat and dog teams before them (Garfield and Oddie, Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy, etc.) there comes to be a grudging respect between the two.

Now, I'm a dog person.  Obviously.  My husband is crazy allergic to cats, and I don't want a pet that is plotting to kill me on a regular basis, but I like this type of book, where the cat is the intelligent one and the dog is the lovable loser.  It makes sense based on my experience with my dog.  But it would be interesting to challenge young readers to turn the tables and make the Gordon train Binky in their own graphic novel.  What would that story look like?

I personally don't think that Binky would have any trouble training my Lucy, because, as you can see, she loves a good nap!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

You are Killing Reading (and Dr. Seuss)

My Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf newsletter alerted me to an article in Education Week entitled "Common Standards Drive New Approaches to Reading".  Basically, the new common core standards have begun trickling down to the classroom, and students are reading much more non-fiction, showing how they understand and can use the information they have read,  and practicing their writing and language skills in more than just English classes.

That's all fine, until you get to this startling statement:

"First graders in Vermont are listening to a Dr. Seuss tale, over and over, searching for clues that back up the central thesis of the story."

Excuse me?  You just killed Dr. Seuss.  I'm a 30-year-old professional librarian and I can't tell you the central thesis of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  Is there a central thesis to Hop on Pop?  I'm seriously asking here.  

I am not the only one concerned about this.  The article goes on to say that in order to find the right balance between historical primary sources, fine literature, and (gasp) pleasure reading the answer is more reading.  More reading, and with what time?  Admittedly, says the article, that's a problem.  But so is money.  Districts simply cannot afford to educate their staff on how to best strike this balance, so we're not only asking our students to read more, but we also want our teachers to figure out how to get them to read more, yet stay interested in reading.  This doesn't add up.

Would you like to know why I never pursued school librarianship?  Because I didn't want to kill reading.  I knew that being in a school setting would fill me with dread about standards and projects and bibliographies and give me little joy of reading that I really love to see.  In a public library, you can pretend that reading is more pure.  You can snicker at the parents when they brag about Lexile levels.  You can walk away when parents ask for the Your Baby Can Read system.  You can pretend that you're better than all of those core standards and that we are all here for the love of reading.  But you cannot pretend in a school.  In a school, as a librarian, it is your job to not only encourage a love of reading, but also to follow those core standards, and that felt too limiting for me.  I just don't have the stones to be a school librarian.  A big BLESS YOU to the school librarians that do it right.

In reality, it boils down to this, and always has:

1.  Read to your child
2.  Let your child see you reading for fun
3.  Read to your child
4.  Surround your child with books-it doesn't matter what kind!  Cheap paperbacks from Walmart will do!
5.  Read to your child
6.  Support a love of reading in your home
7.  Read to your child
8.  Take your child to the library

A love of reading should be born in the home.  You don't have to read to your child 30 minutes a night.  There's no magic formula for creating a love of reading, but it helps if the parents love reading.  Although that doesn't always work either.  One of my professors is an authority on children's literature, and her daughter did not take to reading right away.  But don't fight it.  Making a child read, making a child listen to Dr. Seuss over and over will not create a love of reading.  Asking children to tell you the central thesis of a picture book is not the best idea.  Just read for the pure joy of it, and hope that they pick it up.

I'm sorry Dr. Seuss.  We've used your word in vain.  It's criminal.

Again, I've rambled, so let's bring this thing home.

In just a few days, I get to see my favorite little reader.

It's only been a year that he's been in my family's life.  He made me the cool aunt, and the kissy aunt, but he's going to grow out of that soon.  I'm not the cool, irresponsible aunt in the after school specials.  I'll never give him alcohol or cover for him if he breaks curfew.  But I will buy him graphic novels and skateboarder magazines if that will get him to read.  I'll be a book pusher.  I will not, however, give him a subscription to Sports Illustrated though.  That swimsuit issue is just creepy and he's not ever getting his hands on that-no sir!  But ESPN magazine-sure.  Of course by then he'll be reading everything on a tablet, so maybe I'll buy him his first tablet and link him to my Amazon account.  Then I can track what he's reading and downloading.  I've got you back sister!

Whatever the case, I want Anthony to grow up to be a reader.  He can be a firefighter/rescue worker.  He can be a plumber.  He can be a congressman (I'd prefer if he weren't a congressman, but I'll support him anyway).  He can be anything as long as he reads.

But let's be real, with a cute little face like that, I'll love him no matter what!

Happy Reading!


I never thought it would happen to me.  I never thought I would fall victim to Fan-Girl Syndrome.  I've held it off for so long!  I didn't go crazy over N*Sync (ha! you-know-who-you-are), I wasn't obsessed with Elijah Wood, and the closest I ever came to being a fan girl was with Leonardo DiCaprio before Titanic.  It was too cliche to like him after Titanic.

I even resisted becoming too overly involved with other big series.  I didn't get too crazy over Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Hunger Games.  I was strangely involved in 39 Clues for someone my age, but it was for the library.  I had to do all of that extensive research and game playing to be ready for my library programs.

But this is totally different.  I'm a Daughter of Smoke and Bone Fan-Girl.  It's weird.  I don't think that I'm your typical DSB Fan-Girl.  This is a series that was kinda rolled out to the Comic Con crowd, and I don't fit that.  I'm more so your normal, young, children's librarian.  I dress pretty conservatively, because there's nothing more embarrassing than flashing a group of 3 year olds during story time.  I'll wear a costume when I have to, but I don't dress up just because.  I'm wary of tattoos and piercings, because, again, try explaining that to a child.  So, I'm fun, just this side of cool, but not outlandish.  Not like those Young Adult Librarians.  Those chicks are awesome!  Like roller derby girls without so much aggression.

Note:  I really do like YA Librarians.  Some of my closest friends are YA librarians, but you have to admit that there are some key differences between the Children's and YA girls.  It's like Ten Things I Hate About You.  Julia Stiles would be the cool teen librarian, sort of tough and alternative, and her little sister would be the children's librarian, all mainstream with just a little bit of toughness deep down.  I nailed that metaphor!

Anyway, how did a mild-mannered children's librarian come to love such an outlandish series?  I don't know.  It's just that good.  Maybe I just needed a little more adventure in my life.  Not that my life doesn't have adventure-just not that type of adventure.  If your life has adventure on level with resurrecting monsters and fighting seraphim, I'm honestly a little worried for you.  I just think it's rare to find a book that so perfectly combines action and lightness.  And yes, I'm obsessed with the characters. I told you Monday that if I were a tattoo girl, I'd be all inked up for Karou, Akiva, Issa and Brimstone.  Thank goodness I am not a tattoo person.  Maybe there should be a waiting period for getting a tattoo, like buying a gun.  You should really think these kind of decision through.

But I'll have plenty of time to stew in my Fan-Girl-ness.  The final book in the trilogy won't be out until April 2014.  APRIL 2014!  That's a year and a half away.  I have lots to read before then, but my goodness that's a long time!  Maybe my Fan-Girl-ness will go away by then, maybe I'll be cured.  I doubt it though.  I was crazy style excited for Days of Blood and Starlight, and I know that I'll be hunting for clues about the next book.  It's so frustrating.  I don't know how these One Direction girls do it!

I really need to bring this home.  It's been a ramble.  If you have books that I should read during my long, year-and-a-half wait, let me know.  Until then, you read these books and tell me I'm crazy in my Fan-Girl-ness.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sequel Slump

I told you on Monday, it's a thing.  The Sequel Slump is real.  It's very similar to the Sophomore Slump in the music industry.  You know, the first album was amazing, number one hits all around, but the second album-complete junk.  Who knows why?  It could be many things.  The band got too big too fast, or the world just got over the punk rock stylings of New Found Glory.  Whatever it is, it's a thing.

Let's take a look at the evidence.

Exhibit A:  Heist Society

In the first installment, this band of misfits steals to clear her father's name.  But the second installment seems to lose some of it's flair.  All the characters are back, but the action seems too similar to the original and it just didn't draw me in.  I think I might be the only one though, because GoodReads numbers are actually higher for Uncommon Criminals versus Heist Society-4.18 vs. 4.03.  

Moving on to Exhibit B:  The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (maybe this one will make my point)

I talked, at length, about this series a while ago, and how it just needs to wrap it up, a'la How I Met Your Mother.  But apparently GoodReads readers do not feel the same way.  Again, the rankings are virtually the same, with a slight edge going to volume 2.  I felt that after the extreme ending in book one (in which it seems we discover some of the nature of the children's parentage) to run off to London is a step backwards.  And why do we have to talk about ferns so much?!  See, more questions than answers, and I get mad.  And seriously-how does the HMYM chick still have that one same yellow umbrella?  I can't ever keep a hold of an umbrella for that long!  Does she only buy yellow umbrellas?  It's maddening!

But I digress.  Let's move on.

Exhibit C:  Harry Potter

You've got to give me this one!  The first book was full of new experiences, wonder, and danger.  The second book still had all of that, but it didn't seem to build on it.  The rest of the books certainly built up the action, but the series kinda hit a plateau here, and GoodReads readers agree-slightly.  The ratings are 4.33 vs. 4.23, but still. And really, if you were going to go back and reread your favorite Harry Potter, you'd read book 1, because it's all about the discovery of this new world, book 4 because the Triwizard Tournament was amazing, and probably book 7, because that's where it all comes together.  I'd reread book 2 last.  It's the weakest of the series.

Exhibit D:  Twilight

Don't be like that.  You read it and you liked it until you found out that liking Twilight wasn't cool.  And don't say it's poorly written-it just makes you sound like a jealous snob.  That said, why take Edward out of the second book?  It lost some momentum there.  Got a little boring.  And Jacob was only shirtless for the second half of the book.  Throw us a bone here.  

Exhibit E:  The Hunger Games

I kept this example for last because it is the most controversial, I would say, and it most clearly proves my point.  In a trilogy, the second book is always the weakest.  The first volume was all danger and action.  The second volume was more subversive danger, but you have to admit that all of that touring stalled the book a bit.  Then volume three just came up and sucker punched you and you couldn't put it down.  I personally read it in 6 hours.  The bad thing about a trilogy is that, in the first book, the main character is in danger, and could feasibly die.  Most of time readers aren't 100% sure if there will be a book two.  By book two, you know there will be a book 3, so you know the big characters are fine, then in book 3, all bets are off, anything can happen.

And that's why the second book is usually a slump.  It's a placeholder.  It's safe.  You know the big characters will come out fine.  There's no real danger, yet.  It's a slow build to the danger that lies ahead in book 3.  Good writers pull it out.  Good writers make that last chapter so crazy you are begging for the third book.  Great writers make book two better than book one (Hello Laini Taylor!).

What do you think?  Any series, or trilogies, that started out strong then slumped?  Or would you like to disagree?  I'm open to you arguments, and I am willing to be swayed.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I have a serious problem

I'm addicted to Amazon.  I told myself that I wouldn't buy as many Kindle books anymore.  I told myself that I would use the library instead of falling prey to the instant gratification of buying the book. I obviously failed.

Do you ever open your credit card bill and hope that someone has racked up fraudulent charges, because there's no way that you spent that much?  I'm not the only one out there like this, but I am betting that I am the only one whose impulse purchases are books and not shoes.  Yep, opened the credit card bill and went "What? Seriously, but I've been so good this month."

Yeah, except for those 8 Kindle books I bought.  Oops.

And let me just say something right here.  My balance is not ridiculous.  I'll pay it off in full this month, just like every other month.  I'm not living week to week and not buying groceries to feed my reading addiction.  I still save money, I still give to charity, and I still feel marginally okay about my financial situation.

But, it's about to get worse.

Why?  Because Doug is buying a Kindle Fire HD soon.  That's why.  So now, both of us will be using MY AMAZON ACCOUNT!  Crud.  I'm gonna open that bill and cry.  Every other charge will be Amazon.  They've got me in a bad place.  It's like I'm a junkie and they know it, and now they are going after the ones I love!

I'm going to make this resolution again.  I will limit my Kindle books to 2 per month.  That's totally reasonable.  Because, really, reading is my profession.  (Okay, not my profession exactly, but you know what I mean).  I will read all of those galleys that I have saved up on my Kindle.  I will use interlibrary loan to read new releases.  I will cultivate the patience of a saint!  And, perhaps most importantly, I will unsubscribe from the Daily Deal.  Yes, I have to.  It's like when you're in the sale section at Old Navy and you buy a weird yellow top because it's only $2, but you know that you'll wear it once, because it's kinda gross looking, but it's $2!  That's what Daily Deals are like.  Cheap books that are cheap for a reason.  (But sometimes, rarely, you get that really good deal, like the blue toggle front coat I scored at the Gap for $10 last year.  No, getting off topic-must unsubscribe!)

Let's see how this goes.  I'll check in next month and let you know.  Until then, let's celebrate the fact that I have not spent any money on Amazon today.  You gotta take this one day at a time!

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Days of Blood and Starlight

I am not sure that I can review this book.  I cannot objectively review or summarize the plot.  I will not be able to tell you how vivid the descriptions are, or how strongly the characters are written.  I cannot convey to you how the chapters ebb and flow in such a way that lets you breathe after you've been still and quiet for so long.  I do not know how to describe this book in a meaningful way, but I'll try.

Karou is the new resurrectionist and she is struggling to build a new army for Thiago, the White Wolf.  She has set up chimera camp in Marrakech and has abandoned the hope of peace, with Akiva or without.  Zuzana worries constantly and uses an email riddle that isn't even a riddle at all to find Karou, deep in the desert, living with monsters.  Akiva must return to his Misbegotten brethren and kill the few remaining chimera, but instead he tries to free them.  While Karou struggles to forget Akiva, he only tries to redeem himself and helps her in many small ways.  The battles rages as the chimera and seraphim fight, but hope continues to win, even as strange plans are afoot.

How's that?  Not any where close to good enough.

I spent a lot of time on the train this weekend.  Four hours to Chicago on Thursday, three hours round trip from the city to Crystal Lake and four hours back yesterday.  Not to mention the random reading bursts I had after sight-seeing, or while hanging out in the city.  I read in the Apple store while Doug browsed (on my Droid phone because I'm a rebel).  I read in the Art Institute while Doug was transfixed by the architecture exhibit.  I even read at Second City, in the very first row, right before the actors took the stage.  

Everyone knows that I have been looking forward to this book like none other, and I was really hoping that it wouldn't suffer from the sequel slump (it's a thing-I'll write more about that later!).  And it lived up to every one of my expectations.

I will now try to break down this book that had me so thoroughly absorbed.  

Zuzana and Mik were wonderfully delightful, although I'm sure that feisty Zuzana would hate me for saying that.  They were the break you needed in the storm.  I would find myself laughing at these two after having been nervously playing with my jewelry, or flat out crying, just minutes before.  Their interaction with the chimera was priceless.  My aunt can make friends with anyone, regardless of nationality or language barriers, but I doubt that even she could make friends with monsters the way these two did.  Thank you, Laini Taylor, for the time to breathe.

Karou was incredible in this book.  Not only is she trying to resolve very strange memories and feelings from her former life has Madrigal with her recent life, but she is also trying to keep it together now that her family has been killed.  She is strong, but weak and vulnerable all at once, but she knows that she is the only hope.  And she does still love Akiva, although you start to think that maybe she could love Ziri too, but after what happens at the end, poor Ziri will have to live broken hearted.

But Ziri does love Karou, too much.  And his sacrifice was incredible.

Akiva, as always, is stunning in his strength and love for Karou, but also for Liraz and Hazael.  He again proves to be a fierce warrior, but his plans falter and play into the enemies hand too easily.  Hazael and Liraz are such a welcome team, with Hazael's wit and ease and Liraz's fierceness.  They are the perfect companion to Akiva.  

While reading this book, I would regularly gasp, laugh, tense up, and cover my mouth.  I spent most of the train ride in nervous anticipation.  I spent part of it in tears.  Uncontrollable tears.  But, a few pages later, I was laughing.  I read this on my Kindle, but I was still so thoroughly engaged in this book that I had to come up for air.  I had to put the book down and look at the flat fields passing me by and be reminded that my world is not in complete and utter turmoil.  It only felt that way.  Doug had to keep reminding me that everything was okay.  That these were characters, that this was a book.  But despite the fact that we're talking about angels and monsters (and angels that are monsters), it felt real.  The easiest way that I can describe it to someone else is this:  you know how in Avatar you really came to care about the blue people, even though it was all so strange and foreign?  That's how you'll feel about the chimera and the seraphim.  They are good and bad and human and emotional and feeling.  

I'm scared for this to become a movie.  The film rights have been sold to Universal, but I just worry that the filmmakers will be so consumed with the special effects that they will forget the complexity and humanity.  

I finished the book yesterday with an hour and a half of train ride left, but I could not bring myself to start another book.  Honestly, I had to decompress.  I had to come out of Eretz.  I had to leave Karou, Akiva, Ziri, Zuzana, and all the other major and minor characters behind.  

And so begins another year long wait for the next book.  I've also entirely decided that I need this book in a physical format.  It's just that good.  If I were the type to get tattoos, I'd already have my hamsas and stars in honor of Karou, I'd have wings in honor of Akiva, I'd have a wishbone for them both.  But since I hate needles, and pain, I'll have to settle for some jewelry instead.  I'll post pics later.

In case you haven't picked up on this yet, I loved this book.  I highly, highly recommend it.  It's a high school book.  It's mature, it's violent, it's moving.  I'm sure there is an age limit on this, but I still fit right into it so it doesn't matter.  I would honestly say that if you are a fantasy reader, there is no age limit, but if you're not, you would look elsewhere.  I can't imagine someone not liking this book or this series, but I suppose I would not be able to relate to them at all, and would thus, not know them.  

Read the book.  Today.  Yesterday would have been better.  Then I could have talked to you and we could have mourned the end together.  But you can read it today, and call me later.  We'll mourn then.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Big Day!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, election aftermath.  Again, everyone's talking about that, so let's talk about something different.

Today is Dougie's Birthday!!

When I met my husband 12 years ago (what!) he was a skinny, silly little guy.  Not much has changed honestly, but I fell in love with him after college and after grad school and after I realized how much he cared about me and that he was always there for me.

So, today, I celebrate you, Doug!  And all of the crazy things that you do!

(It's important to note here that I do not have Doug's permission to do this post.  I suppose that this could greatly effect the status of our marriage.)

Doug is a simple man.  Give him good friends, good drinks, and good music and he is happy.

Here he is feeling some slow jams at a friendly BBQ.  It's a wonder that we get invited back.

He is a man that only knows one dance, but with moves like that, you don't need to do anything else.

It's worth noting here, that yes, Doug did do this dance at our wedding, but I just don't have a picture of it.  But I do have a video.  Hmm, that might find it's way to the internet someday.

Doug is a passionate sports fan, hardworking engineer, and great husband.  So despite all of the crazy things that I say about him, he's the best, and most of the people that meet him think so too.  And if you don't like him, it's just because he's too cool for you to handle!  (He can be a little overwhelming at times, but you get used to it!)

Happy Birthday Dougie!  You are the cheese to my nachos, my rainbow on a rainy day, and the bubbles in my Coke.  You make everyday an adventure.  XOXO.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Today is the Day!!

Today is the day that the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone is released!  Say hello to Days of Blood and Starlight!

Isn't it beautiful!

Oh, you mean to tell me today's important for a different reason.  That's right, it's Laura's birthday!

And there's some election going on, yeah, yeah, yeah.  But everyone is talking about that today, so let's be different!  (Aside:  When I wrote this post months ago, I honestly had no idea that November 6 was election day.  I'm betting that that post title confused a lot of people.)

I have to admit, I turned on my Kindle this morning, watched my book download and then did a happy dance.  I haven't cracked it open yet.  I'm kinda nervous to start reading it because I know that I'll have to wait for another year for the next book, and that just seems cruel.  Plus, I'm starting to think that this is a series that I should own as a physical book, not just the Kindle.  Maybe I'll ask for the box set once it's all out for Christmas.

Anyway, you know what else is exciting?  There's Daughter of Smoke and Bone jewelry!

These are my two favorite pieces.  I love the tooth necklace because it reminds me of Brimstone, and the broken wishbone is just too cool.  The website says it represents the ruined love between Karou and  Akiva.  Plus, all of the money that Laini Taylor receives from the jewelry sales will go to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy Relief.  The catch to all of this is that it's expensive stuff!  The tooth necklace is $98 and the broken wishbone (cool as it is) is $140.  Ouch.  So, in the interest of my credit card balance, I have found some other Karou-esque jewelry for you from

Here are three pieces from Sarah Aghill that I think convey the Karou spirit.  First up, the Sideways Hamsa bracelet for $8.50.  Next, the Sideways Wishbone necklace, while not near as tragic as the Broken Wishbone, it's still different enough that I think it works and it's only $12.80.  And finally, the Three Tooth necklace, $8.50, for Brimstone, wherever you are.

If you choose to purchase some Sarah Aghill Karou-esque jewelry, be a dear and donate some cash to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy.  Then you've got the best of both worlds.  Wow, I feel so chic, like The Look 4 Less, recommending great pieces as a fraction of the cost.

I'm just so excited for this new book!  And there's another big book release today, on a completely different topic:  Young House Love!  I'm an avid reader of their blog, and actually their blog kinda inspired me to start my little blog (about something completely different) so I was very excited to get it in the mail Saturday.  Thank you, Amazon pre-order!  If you like fun decorating tips, you should check it out.  And little of what is in the book has been featured on the website, so you get a lot of fun projects.  Plus, I get to go meet them this weekend!  Yay for happy accidents!  I had a trip planned anyway that just happened to coincide with a book signing.  Whoot!

Today is just such a big exciting day, with all of these great books coming out!  And yeah, yeah, yeah, the election and stuff, but the books, people, the books!

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A note on procrastination

I consider myself a very efficient person.  But there are some tasks that I just have a really hard time tackling, and one of them came back to bite me this week.

Nope, it's not housework.  That gets done no problem.  I still have major trouble with yard work.  It just gives me no pleasure what so ever.  For some people gardening is a relaxing experience with fresh produce and pretty flowers as the reward.  For me, it's an annoying chore full of weeds and thorns.  (We have several rose bushes lovingly left for us by the previous owner that I want to die).

The task that I am talking about is writing my book reviews.  Not the reviews for you, but for Children's Literature Comprehensive Database, or CLCD to be brief.  I get a batch of five books and I'm supposed to turn them around in a month.  Ooops.

Since the CLCD strives to review EVERY book published for children in a given year, I typically get quickly published series non-fiction books about sports teams, crafts, science (yikes!) and I do get my fair share of book and CD kits, which is pretty cool.  Every now and then I get rewarded for my hard work with a chapter book, and I was "rewarded" in my last batch, but things didn't turn out that great.

See, I HATED this book.  Did not like it at all, and since I'm doing this review for a company, I can't in good faith tell you which book it is, but I can't stop you from guessing.  Let's just say that this book was published by a HUGE children's publishing house, and it pretty well a direct rip-off of a wildly successful series with a number in the title.  That's all I can give you.

Anyway, since I was a fan of the previously mentioned wildly-successful-series-with-a-number-in-the-title, I thought this book would be cool.  Wrong.  Not cool, not cool at all.  So, instead of writing my review right away, I procrastinated.  And I waited so long to write the review that I completely forgot everything about the book except that I didn't like it.  At all.

So, I read it again last night.  I found several other things in it the second time through that made me like it even less.  But I had learned my lesson.  I sat right down and wrote that review.  Then I rewarded myself with milk and cookies.  I also wrote two other reviews last night, and I'm ready to write a fourth tonight, so I know that I will get this batch out this week, albeit quite late.  Boring series non-fiction here I come!  They'll never trust me with a chapter book again.

And another thing-do you know how hard it is to write a 150 word review of a Rookie Reader that doesn't have 150 words total?  It's really hard!  Then try writing five reviews about five books all from the same early reader series about baseball teams.  That will drive you crazy because you have to find five ways to say the exact same thing.  Ugh.

But I'm really lucky to review for CLCD.  I actually love it, although it doesn't show very well.  Getting that box in the mail is like Christmas morning.  Is it going to be great-like a pair of Kate Spade earrings, or awful, like Cucumber Melon body spray (thanks, cause I don't have like nine other bottles of this, and I just end up regifting it to some unsuspecting friend-BTW, if you're my friend and I've ever given you Cucumber Melon body spray, I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about that other friend we have.  And my aversion is really just to body spray in general.  I'm down with the body wash and lotion-those are fine.)

Anyway, I'm making this resolution, if the CLCD ever trusts me with books again (please!) I will read and review the shortest book first to get my momentum going.  Help me out by keeping me accountable.  I'll let you know when I get a shipment, and you cheer me on.  Is it a deal?  I'll help you keep your resolutions, like working out, cleaning more, or just not letting your reading get away from  you.

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's All About Perspective

Did you know that this election is making young children cry?  It's about to make me cry too.  The only commercials on are all political adds, unless you watch Duck Dynasty.  Funny how no one wants ad space on that show-it's hilarious!

If this election, or the general state of our government entirely, has got you down, then you need a lesson in perspective from some of the best YA and children's authors out there.  Let's start my round up of it-could-be-a-whole-lot-worse dystopian novels.

 1.  The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Let's just start with the most obvious first, shall we?  I think that we can all agree that higher taxes are more preferable to sacrificing children to fight to the death.  All of the Hunger Games books are out, so you can read straight through-no waiting for the next one!  Ages 13-adult

2.  Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.  Tally lives in a society where everyone is made pretty on their 16 birthday, but they are also made stupid, and become pawns of their government.  How dare the government dictate how you look?  We would have no Lady Gaga or Ke$ha that way.  Um, maybe there is some wisdom in this plan.  Again, all of the books of this series have been released.  After Tally, other dystopian heroines will pale in comparison.  Ages 13-adult

3.  Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I  have very recently talked about this one and my huge crush on Four.  But again, couldn't we all deal with less than perfect health care to not jump out of a speeding train and plummet to our death over Chicago?  Two of three of this series are out, the movie is being cast (please don't cast Four as jailbait!), and another book is on the way.  Ages 13-adult

4.  Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  I also recently talked about Delirium.  And to sum up the Beatles-all you need is love.  Let's all be glad that we live in a society where love is not against the law.  This is the first in a series, but number 2 is already out, so no waiting! Ages 13-20.

5.  Beta by Rachel Cohn.  Who wants their dead body to be turned into the host for a cyborg and then sent to be an unthinking servant?  Not cool.  At least I know my government won't turn me into a robot when I die!  First in a series, you'll have a tough wait for this one-the ending is just too much!  Ages 15-20.

6.  Matched by Ally Conde.  Not only are marriages arranged, but sometimes they get it all wrong.  Plus, on grandpa's 80th birthday, he's poisoned by the caretakers, and this is normal behavior.  I know that senior healthcare is not great, but at least seniors aren't being poisoned in the nursing home.  All three books are out!  Ages 13-25

7.  Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  Earth has become uninhabitable, so earthlings have taken to living on a giant spaceship and traveling to another planet to set up camp.  But that's not the worst part.  Two ships were sent out, but only one has been able to reproduce, so all of the girls are kidnapped and taken to the other ship.  The environment might not be great, but at least we haven't abandoned earth-yet-I suppose that could happen, but let's stay optimistic.  First in a series, so you're in for a wait.  Ages 14-adult.

8.  Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  Oldie but a goodie.  Each family is allowed only two children, but some families break that rule and these become the hidden children, but the government often raids houses looking for them.  At least in America you can still have as many children as you want.  This is a whole long series, but it's a quick read and you can go straight to the next one.  Ages 9 to 14

9.  Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  Even in this society, you are typically only allowed two, but Ender is an exception.  This is like a video game where the outcome is real.  Ender is a great character, and while this book works just fine alone, if you can't get enough, there are plenty of others.  Ages 12-adult

10.  The Giver by Lois Lowry.  This is probably the first dystopian novel most children encounter.  Newbery-award winning and so moving, Jonas is assigned the role of giver in his society.  He is the only one that will feel pleasure and pain.  Let's be thankful that in our society, we can choose our profession that we can also choose our feelings.  Lois Lowry has come out with plenty of companion books to The Giver, most recently Son earlier this year.  Ages 10-adult

So, let's all take a minute and be thankful for our government.  It's not perfect-no no-but we're still on earth, we still have free will, and most importantly, no one is turning me into a cyborg when I die.  Although I'm sure there are plenty of people that would welcome that option.

On election night, I recommend picking up one of these books, because after that, whoever wins the presidency will seem downright wonderful in comparison!  Let's all remember that our options are far better than President Snow.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trunk or Treat

Last night instead of sitting at home passing out candy, I took things to the streets!  Well, the parking lot.  My church hosted its first Trunk or Treat.  The idea behind this is kinda weird to me.  You are supposed to lure young children to your car by promising candy.  Any other day of the year people would be yelling STRANGER DANGER, or posting Code Crimsons online, but not at Halloween!

In true librarian fashion, my trunk was all about reading.  At first I wanted to do Haunted Library, but that was vetoed because it would have been too scary, so I regrouped and did Reading is a HOOT!  I checked out over 30 owl (and other assorted bird) books from the public library and arranged them in my car, complete with these cute scrapbook paper owls that I made.  I also cut out the letters on the Cricut.  I'm becoming quite the Cricut addict.  I really hope that there is one under the Christmas tree.

In addition to candy, I gave out bookmarks and stickers.  I ran out of bookmarks pretty early, but several kids said things like, I love to read, when they picked them up, so that was pretty heartwarming.    Little revelers received stickers instead, and one little ladybug even told me what the owl said - whoooot!  It was adorable.

Most people took me for a teacher, but I was quick to correct them.  I am a librarian people!  Yes, that's a full time job (for some lucky people).  Yes, you do need a master's degree.  Yes, I do wear glasses and cardigans and pearls, and I shush people - so you better watch it mister!

Several people commented on all of the books that I had, and I did point out that I borrowed them from the library, and from what I heard back, there are a lot of library lovers out there.  And there you see Doug in the background on Lucy duty.  They both hung out and entertained the crowd.

Lucy was a star!  Several children asked to pet her and she just sat and loved on all of them.  I love hearing little kids squeal when Lucy licks their fingers. It's just the sweetest sound.  Doug did remind me that maybe it wasn't the best idea to have Lucy out there because she took the focus off the books, but that was okay with me.  It's just nice to see her interacting so well with little people.

I really wanted to decorate more, but I was running out of time and Doug made me quit, but I am already thinking about next year - Batty for Books!  Or maybe Get Caught in a Good Book, with a giant spider web all over the back of my car.  Oooh, the possibilities!  Either way it will be a lot of fun. And my car was the best literacy-based vehicle out there, so yea me!

I hope that your Halloween was filled with lots of treats!

Happy Reading!