Book Riot June 2018 Riotgrams

June brought with it another round of the Riotgrams photo challenge!  It’s always fun to come up with ideas to fulfill the prompts, and this month was no exception.  I did miss out on three of them towards the end of the month due to an awesome family vacation to Disney World 🙂

Book Riot Instagram Challenge #Riotgrams June 2018

1. Reading selfie – Not thrilled that it’s 80 degrees in my apartment, but Jon Krakauer’s chilling and chilly experiences on Everest are a good distraction. 

2. Library love – When the director lets you borrow his T. Rex suit but you still have to work the circ desk.

3. Favorite title – I saw these titles and knew I had to read them.

4. Travels & adventures – Nothing too exciting comes out of my kitchen compared to what Anthony Bourdain eats when he travels the world. Bonus author signature!

5. Rainbow book stack

6. Duologies, trilogies, & more – I stumbled across this trilogy of mysteries set in Bath, England, right after actually visiting Bath, which made reading them especially fun.

7. Ice cream/sweet treats – For me salty > sweet, but I do like it when they’re combined – like peanut butter and chocolate.

8. Best book friendship – The Lumberjanes are awesome – smart, funny, inclusive, and supportive of each other.

9. Spine poetry

10. Book deserving more readers – Everyone should read Octavia Butler. I hadn’t read any of her books until this year, and I can’t believe I let myself miss out for so long. She is amazing.

11. Naked hardcovers – Naked hardcovers in technicolor.

12. Queer reads 

13. Freebie – a shelfie!

14. Audiobooks or podcasts – My sister was able to get me a copy of the British version of the first Harry Potter audiobook – Jim Dale is great but Stephen Fry has my heart.

15. Maps, legends, or other bonus art – Finally diving into the books of Westeros.

16. Spell “June” in book titles – J U N E

17. Take your book on a date – Reading a few pages while I eat my not very photogenic lunch at work is as close as I’m getting to a book date this weekend.

18. Book you never finished – I made it about a third of the way through Vanity Fair before I set it down and just never picked it back up. I plan on conquering it eventually.

19. Favorite comic animal(s) – Let’s be honest, Lying Cat is the best.

20. Book you’ve reread – The Southern Vampire Mysteries are easy and comforting. I don’t even know how many times I’ve reread them.

21. Sunny reads – Robin McKinley’s vampire book is a fun one, led by a sun-loving heroine named Rae (nickname: Sunshine).

22. Paperback stack – Fat (paperback) stacks.

23. Pink – Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is the sweetest, and it’s wonderfully illustrated.

24. Read in one sitting – I inhaled the first awesome Binti book during a single train ride, and I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy (which I finished in one sitting a few weeks ago) .

25. Disability reads – Challenger Deep is an impressive book – it addresses mental illness without judgment or glorification, and it fully immerses you in Caden’s struggle. It’s tense, disorienting, and gorgeous.

26. Set in your city, state, or country

27. Sequel, please!

28. Floral covers

29. Chills and thrills – This novel is packed with chills and thrills.

30. Current read – Last day of June riotgrams!  My current read is an easy recovery read after some heavy nonfiction.

1st Amazon TBR 2018

My first round of Amazon TBR reads (not read for a challenge)! I will pick up the pace once I complete PopSugar, but I know any dent I make will be negligible given I have already added over 500 new books to the list so far this year.

The standout book from this batch is Red Sister.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
This was one of the better romances I’ve listened to recently. Jessica was one of my favorite heroines. She was intelligent, didn’t take crap from anyone, and stood up for herself and others. I could give or take Sebastian. He fell into the stereotype of a whoring asshole who was really a broken little boy abandoned by his parents. In his favor, he wasn’t completely emo, and he actually listened to Jessica as opposed to putting her down.

A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin by Sophie Jordan
At the surface level, this book was a fun romp until close to the end when the heroine decided to make a horrible decision for the sake of the plot. There was also no real chemistry between Rosalie and Declan. They worked together as far as lust was concerned, but I didn’t buy into their romantic love. There was no real basis or growth for their relationship.

Mooncop by Tom Gauld
This book took me only about 15 minutes to read. The main character is the lone police officer on the moon, and the moon is a rapidly dying colony. There was very little dialog, with the illustrations carrying most of the story. It was well-done, but very depressing. The illustrations and situations are stark. The ending was also bittersweet.

 

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
I wasn’t too sure of this book at first, specifically regarding the audio format, which didn’t initially feel like the right choice. I had a hard time keeping track of the various threads. However, once the story got going (and after I found some helpful information on the Kindle preview), it became less of an issue. The story itself is amazing! Ninja nuns is a succinct surface description, but religion, politics, and the end of the world all come into play. The world building and rules of magic were on point. It was a brutal world, and neither the children in the book nor the readers are cossetted.

Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk
For a single volume story, Henchgirl had a lot going on, including something of a plot twist. Mary was a double dose black sheep, both of her family and her villain gang. She manages to muddle through it mostly unscathed. I liked that most of the characters were gray, neither completely good or bad. Some aspects of the plot towards the end of the book got a bit wonky and confusing, but it was a fun read overall.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
While I liked the concept and execution of this story, and appreciate the mash up of dragons and the Napoleonic Wars, His Majesty’s Dragon is not a book (or series) for me. I am all about Regency romance, but have never been interested in Regency war fiction. My meh-ness about this book stems solely from that. It is still a book I would recommend. That being said, my mental image of Laurence was Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean. They have similar personalities and senses of honor.

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Enough time has passed that I have only a vague idea of why I enjoyed this book. I liked it enough that I want to read the sequel, but thinking back on it, the plot didn’t really ratchet up until the end when it should have ratcheted up earlier on.

 

The Black Tides of Heaven by Y.J. Yang
I had a hard time following the story because there were significant jumps in time between chapters/parts. I wasn’t able to connect with either main character or the plot. I was also confused because the system of time, magic, and gender were not clearly explained and felt inconsistent. In regard to gender, I loved the idea of a child choosing (or not choosing at all) a gender they felt best suited them when they reached adulthood. However, there were young children who had labeled genders – was gender fluidity only for the upper class? The story also ended abruptly with no conclusion.

DNF

Lady Bridget’s Diary by Maya Rodale
I didn’t get very far into this one before I couldn’t handle the poorly contrived mash-up of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Pride & Prejudice. I am all for reimaginings and retellings (especially P&P), but I had a hard time getting into the story. It was weirdly modern-fluffy, which doesn’t work with the Regency Era.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
I made it about halfway through this book before giving up. It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t hold my attention either. This was disappointing because Hugh Laurie was the author. Based upon the description, I assumed it would be a laugh-out-loud, tongue-in-cheek spy spoof. It wasn’t. It was a well-written story; there are definitely some great deadpan one-liners, and the story does poke fun, but without an obvious comedic angle. Spies/espionage is not a genre I enjoy reading. My criticism stems from my reading preferences and not from the quality of writing.

Smut by Karina Halle
So for a book that is supposed to be about the chemistry brewing between Amanda and Blake while writing erotica, the entire first half of the book was all set up. The. Entire. First. Half. It should have taken only several chapters to get there. In addition, I did not like Amanda at all. She was judgy and condescending towards many other characters. Blake was equally obnoxious, but in the way of many of the male leads in contemporary romances. He was a cocky asshole who thought he was god’s gift to women in bed, and he spent way too much time reminding us of that.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
The narrative felt jumbled, the characters were boring, and there were too many little plots without an overarching one. It was fluffy and superficial, with no real conflict. I also had a hard time buying into a utopian British empire (an oxymoron, really) where all social/political/racial evils are a thing of the past. Perfection is never interesting, unless the story is about subverting it or the dangers of achieving it, and this story wasn’t. In addition, the empire’s obsession with genetics was heavily into eugenics.

June Books

For the sake of getting a post, any post, out in a timely fashion, here are my June reads. June was full of potentially-not-going-to-graduate drama, prepping my portfolio, and packing for (and starting) a let’s-drive-19-hours-to-Disney-with-3-kids!

Audiobooks (13)

   

Books (6)

PopSugar – April & May

I have not been actively reading PopSugar for the past several months. Between school and the YALSA Hub Challenge, my attention has been focused elsewhere. It also doesn’t help that I have now maxed out the number of audiobooks I’ve allowed myself to use (20 out of 40). I have seven books left in the basic challenge, and hope to finish them in either July or August. Once I’m finished with those, I will move onto the advanced challenge prompts.

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
#5 – Nordic noir
The Bird Tribunal wasn’t a slow burning story so much as it was dead in the water. I get that it was supposed to be an atmospheric build up to an explosive conclusion, but was frustrated for most of the book waiting for something to happen, or at least an increase in tension. There were glimpses of possibilities, but the only two things that kept me reading was that this book knocked out one of the tasks for PopSugar, and it was short.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
#28 – Two authors
Illluminae was amazing (Hal 9000 and reavers, oh my!), and Gemina was almost as amazing, but…Obsidio was not. It was good, but it was too ambitious with too many POVs.  It was hard to keep track of what was happening in Obsidio, and there were times I tuned out what was going on because I couldn’t figure out how a scene related to the story as a whole. It really should have been split into two books. One for Asha and Rhys, and one to tie everything together bringing BeiTech down in the process.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
#32 – Celebrity book club (Reese Witherspoon)
I didn’t know what to expect going into Erotic Stories. I assumed I would have to force myself to finish it because it was a celebrity selection, and I have a hard time reading/enjoying the majority of books chosen by celebrity book clubs. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely LOVED this book. Different subplots complimented or intertwined with each other, each one looking at community and/or a woman’s sense of self. There was also character growth all around! I enjoyed how Niki went in with a set perception, then had it drastically altered as her relationship with the widows grew. The widows were by far my favorite characters.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
#40 – Favorite prompt from past PopSugar Reading Challenge
(2017 – #46 – Subgenre you’ve never heard of – afrofuturism)
This book was so very, very different, and weirdly wonderful. It’s speculative, magical realism, and science fiction rolled into one, though at the same time it felt like something more. Alien contact was the catalyst, and the impact of that event was seen from various perspectives – human, metahuman, animal, and mythological. Political, religious, and climatic implications of first contact were explored as well. It’s a character-driven story, with plot taking a backseat. Because of this, the story was a bit confusing at times, but I think it would have been more so had I read instead of listened to it.

Storytime: Matisse 2

While March’s storytime had large number of children (for my storytimes, at least), April’s was back to 5 children.

Opening Songs
“Hello, Hello, How Are You?”
“Zoom Zoom Zoom”

Books

The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan
Oooh! Matisse by Mil Niepold and Jeanyves Verdu

Egg Shaker Songs

“Shake Your Shakers” (Jbrary)
“Shake it to the East” (Jbrary)

Activity
Matisse-Inspired Collage – I reused paper from my Monet and Van Gogh storytimes, and prepped additional colors/shapes. I cut some in squiggles and triangles, but left other pieces of paper in varying sizes of rectangles so the children could cut their own shapes. For inspiration, I also opened several Matisse picture books and placed them in the middle of the table.

May Books

May saw the wrap up of my final two classes for graduate school, so the long awaited Master’s Degree is on the horizon. I also buckled down on my Hub Challenge books (15 read in May), and kept picking away at my Amazon TBR. PopSugar is pretty much on hold until Hub is over at the end of June.

Audiobooks (12)

         

I felt the urge to revisit Sookie Stackhouse, though this time I listened to them instead of reading them. I really do enjoy this series – the first 6-7 books, at least. After that, the quality went down (coinciding with the release of True Blood).  Book Sookie and TB Sookie are completely different people, and I did not like how the show portrayed her or how it twisted the various plots. Plus, as the series progressed Harris seemed to take sadistic pleasure in torturing/killing her characters and ruining their lives.

Novels (6) / Novellas (7) / Nonfiction (3) / Poetry (1)

       

Still on my alien/dragon romance kick, I enjoyed the two Celestial Mates novellas. The others were not very good. Ruby Dixon worlds are interesting as are the overall plots that connect the individual books in her series together, but she tends to get bogged down in the sex and hero/heroine’s self-reflection. As an example, a good 30% of Fire in His Kiss could have been axed because it didn’t forward the plot or the characters’ relationship. The first book, Fire in His Blood was decent, but I couldn’t make it even a quarter of the way through the third book.

Graphic (8)

    

Read Aloud (1)

I read Phantom to my girls in preparation to see the Broadway musical. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for years, but have never actually seen it. The book provided a decent overview, and the musical was freaking amazing. In both, however, Raoul and the Phantom didn’t see Christine as her own person, only an object they wanted to possess. I wanted to throttle both of them.

Family Slime Time

Given the popularity of slime, I decided to do a family program to show people how easy slime is to make. My plan was to have several demonstration tables to show how to make some of the more complicated recipes, have a DIY slime bar, have a take-home recipe sheet, and provide take-home samples of glow-in-the-dark slime, thermochromic slime, and magnetic slime.

Both the director and I were anticipating around 20 people to attend. The library hasn’t really  offered children’s/family programming other than a regular storytime on Tuesday mornings, and we assumed that there would be a smaller turn out because of this. How wrong we were. 86 people attended the program. It was very chaotic, though full of happy children. If I had figured for that many people, I would have modified my set up.

Three things I want to mention:
1.) Slime is an artistic science. You can visit five websites and find five different ways to make the same recipe. If one version of the recipe doesn’t work, try another; experiment with ratios. I tend to stick with the basic Elmer’s school glue/liquid starch recipe because I have always gotten consistent results.
2.) Brands do make a difference, especially with glue. Elmer’s school glue or Elmer’s clear glue are the best choices. I have used other brands of glue, and found that the slime doesn’t “gel” properly.
3.) White vinegar will get slime out of ANYTHING. The vinegar breaks apart the molecular bonds holding the slime together, even if you discover 3-week old dried slime on the bathmat your children hid.

Recipe Handout & Take-Home Samples

Table 1 was set up for families to get a slime recipe handout, and to take home a sample of slime. I chose glow-in-the-dark, magnetic, and thermochromic so families could take home a “specialty” slime in addition to the basic slime they made at the DIY bar. These slimes are more expensive to make and wouldn’t have been practical to include in the DIY bar. (These are the containers I used to put the slime in.)

Glow-in-the-Dark Slime: I used paint, and it seemed like the the glow was somewhat weak. I did not “charge” the slime, so that might have been a factor.  I would like to use a glow-in-the-dark powder for comparison purposes.

Magnetic Slime: Iron oxide powder is a must for this. I attempted to use magnetic paint, but the smell and the fact that the black leeched onto my hands made it human-unfriendly. It’s important to note that the slime itself isn’t necessarily magnetic – meaning it won’t stick to something metal. It reacts to rare earth/neodymium magnets, not so much regular magnets.

Thermochromic Slime: Make sure when making this, that you use powders that react at a lower temperature, such as 72-74*F. Using a powder that reacts at a higher temperature will render the slime pretty much useless in a color-changing sense unless it is very hot outside. I bought my powder from SolarColorDust. You can also find multiple options on Amazon by searching “thermochromic pigment powder.”

Slime Demonstrations

I set up three tables for demonstrations on how to make saline slime, fluffy slime, and gak/borax slime. I had planned on rotating through them periodically to show families how to make slime variations different from the recipe used at the DIY bar. However, because of sheer number of participants, I ended up only haphazardly being able to man the demonstration tables. Most of my time was spent helping families troubleshoot their slime.

Saline Slime: I still haven’t worked out the best amount of saline solution when I make this. Even with using a 1/4 cup, I had to squirt more solution into the mixture to make sure it gelled properly. As a whole though, I do like this version of slime.

Fluffy Slime: My kids love this version of slime, and it is fun to make. My only complaint is that the “fluff” doesn’t last very long. The slime is still usable, it just doesn’t have the volume of a freshly made batch.

Gak/Borax Slime: This is my least  favorite slime recipe. It’s less “slime” and more “Jello-O”, especially when you store it and try to play with it several days later. Plus, when I made this with my Girl Scout troop, several of the girls complained about their hands stinging. I still included it because it is a recipe that you find on multiple websites, and because many people have good results with it. Be careful with the amount of borax you use – too much and you’ll end up with a bouncy ball.

DIY Slime Bar

I am very glad that Bean volunteered to help because it would have been even more crazy without her. She ended up manning a section of the DIY slime bar in order to refill cups and help with slime-making. The director also ended up having to help as well. If I had known how many families were going to attend, I would have used more tables, spreading out each step to give everyone more space. I would also have shifted the tables a bit to make sure there was space behind them to store supplies to make it easier to refill as needed.

“Toppings”: Several colors and shapes of glitter, mini gems, sequins, and polystyrene/foam beads.

Note: I also included some cut up drinking straws to facilitate blowing slime bubbles.

0.) Get the slime-making supplies. 1.) Choose your glue – white or clear. 2.) Add in some water.

3.) Choose a color. 4.) Make it sparkle.

5.) Mix in liquid starch. 6.) Rinse your hands and/or slime. 7.) Wipe your hands. 8.) Plastic baggie for your slime.