Storytime: Balloons 2

Continuing with my theme of revisiting previous storytimes, in March the focus was on balloons (what I did before). I was hoping to find some fun books that dealt with air, but I must not have been creative enough because I wasn’t able to find any that were suitable for a storytime setting. They would have been perfect for one-on-one reading, but not in a larger group setting with children who have varying attention spans.

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


Balloons, Balloons, Balloons by Dee Lillegard
Too Many Balloons by Catherine Matthias

Songs (Parachute Play)

“Let’s Go Riding on an Elevator” (Jbrary)

“The Parachute Goes Up” (Storytime All-Stars)
(Tune: “The Farmer in the Dell”)
The parachute goes up
The parachute goes down
The parachute goes up and up
And then it goes back down

1. Balloon Rockets – This is a simple, if somewhat logistically tricky experiment if you forget the clothes pins. Supplies needed are: balloons, straws, tape, clothes pins, and a long piece of string. Blow up the balloon and clamp closed with the pin. Use 2-3 pieces of tape to attach a straw to the balloon. Thread the straw onto the string (the other end being either held or tied to a chair), unclamp the pin, and watch the balloon rocket off. The experiment can be repeated several times with the same balloon/straw, though you will need to use fresh pieces of tape.

2. Dancing Balloons (from Babble Dabble Do) – This is a very simple activity requiring only a circular fan and balloons. Poster board tube optional (very useful if using water balloons). Our experience:

Audible TBR

It is time for another update to my Audible TBR! In three months, I’ve managed to add 35 books, and even though there are books listed below that I desperately want to read right now, I have been showing tremendous willpower in not reading any of them until I have (mostly) read the books from my previous Audible TBR post. As it stands, I have only five books left to listen to. As much as I would like to have those remaining five books finished by the end of April, it will most likely not happen, especially since after this post goes live, I will allow myself to start listening to my new books.


March Books

My reading totals increased in March, up to 32 books. However, 11 of those books were either graphic or early chapter read alouds, both of which tend to be quick reads. I also continued to read non-challenge books in an attempt to stave off burnout and to knock down my ever growing  Amazon and Audible (new list forthcoming) TBR lists.

April Reading Goals
Audible TBR – 8 books (5 books in March)
PopSugar – 4 books (5 books in March)
Hub – 12 books (11 completed / 1 DNF in March)

Audiobooks Fiction (13) / Nonfiction (2)


The Bobiverse trilogy by Dennis E. Taylor is great. I love the creativity and originality for the basis of the Bobs, and how they grow into their own. All These Worlds is the weakest book, mainly because it felt rushed. I would love to see Taylor revisit this series at some point in the future because there is still so much potential. Forging Hephaestus took about three hours to get going, but once it did, it was fantastic! It was a hot mess (in a good way) of the supers vs. villains trope – supers with a perverted sense of justice, and villains with morals. I cannot wait for the sequel to come out. No Good Deed was entertaining, but not near as good as the author’s other book, Kill the Boy Band. I liked the satirical take on turning humanitarian work into a knock-down, drag-out competition. A Beautiful Work in Progress was alright. Most of the information in it can be found in various interviews online. Valerio spent a lot of time on her personal history as compared to her journey to running ultras. I was expecting a stronger focus on her running story.


Novels (5) / Nonfiction (1)


Graphic (5)


Read Alouds (6)


After a long drought of read alouds, we made it through six books in January. Eerie Elementary is a hit with both Bug and Max, and since they are not painful to read, it’s a win-win situation. Both also loved Travels of Thelonious (I read this to Bean years ago, and she loved it). This is the first book in a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic/post-human world focusing on the adventures of a chipmunk who ends up a long way from home. The chapters alternate between prose and comics, and is a happy medium for Max who does not like books without lots of pictures. The Battle of the Boss-Monster was the final book in The Notebook of Doom series, and was honestly the weakest book in the series. It somewhat anti-climactic.

The Hub – March

The first month of Hub reading is over! My goal is to read 12 books per month (at least until I’m finished with my semester). In February, I completed 11 books and DNF’d one book. Most of the books were either audio or graphic because I don’t have the mental time to sit down and focus on a book. Most of the books were in my reading comfort zone for this reason.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
This was an interesting imagining of how a 18th century boy became Santa Claus. There were definitely dark moments, but at its core, the story was about the importance of hope, goodness, and not giving up. The magic and the humor made it a fun read, enjoyable to both children and adults. And of course, Stephen Fry was the narrator for the audio version.


The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
I loved that David Tennant was the narrator (he was the reason I listened to this book). He was wonderful with the various voices – though I could have done without the random sound effect explosions, especially when I was driving. The story was great – I loved Cowell’s idea of witches and what they meant to the rest of the characters. However, Xar was selfish, self-absorbed, and utterly convinced of his own greatness, to the detriment of those around him. I’m assuming he will grow as a character and realize his errors, but I have no interest in being there to see that happen.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
I can see why YALSA thought it would be a good YA crossover. The story moved quickly, and Murderbot, for all that he was a ‘droid, was incredibly relateable. He was fairly apathetic about his existence, his job, and humans in general. His main desire was to have uninterrupted tv-watching time. While Murderbot didn’t completely lack emotions, he did try to quash them. Towards the end of the novella, he did start developing some level of attachment to the crew. I am looking forward to reading the remaining three novellas in this series as they are published.

My Brother’s Husband, Omnibus Vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
As an introvert, I had trouble with the beginning of this manga. The thought of having a large, loud stranger show up unannounced at my house would give me a huge amount of anxiety. Until the story got rolling, there were times I had to put the manga down because I found that situation stressful. My personal issues aside, the story itself was very good. Thought at times the story veered into educating territory – meaning the narrative felt it was attempting to teach instead of allowing natural interactions between the characters – it was an enlightening look at a man’s attempt to understand and accept his brother’s choices and his own personal prejudices. I liked how Kana’s social innocence was used to create the bridge of understanding and acceptance.

The Backstagers, Vol 1 by Jamie Tynion IV and Rian Singh
Generally I don’t have an interest in theater, front- or backstage, but the added magical element put The Backstagers in my reading realm. It was a good balance of adorable and creepy, both elements working well with each other. I loved the cast of characters and their (somewhat dysfunctional) dynamics. The McQueen brothers especially were entertainingly over the top. I want to learn more about the magic tunnels, and what happened to the 1987 backstagers.

Black Hammer, Vol 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston
I love the story idea of a group of superheros transported to an alternate universe, and how they would cope with being stuck there. This volume was mostly set up and character backstories. I plan to keep reading this series because the set up at the end makes me want to learn more. What I didn’t like (and this is one of the main reasons I don’t read traditional superhero comics) was the illustration style. I have a really hard time getting past how faces are sketched out. There are too many random lines and it can be hard to determine what emotion the character’s facial expression is supposed to convey.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
This is the second time I’ve read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and it is still an amazing read. McGuire has a wonderful cadence to her writing that lends to the fairy tale feel of the narrative. The subject matter is dark, but it is balanced with the flaws and dreams of Jack and Jill. They are broken and far from perfect, and I love that the story showcases that there is no one right way to be a girl.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I read Scythe last year for the Hub Challenge, and I listened to it this year for the challenge again. The story is suited to both formats. After reviewing what I wrote last year, I still agree with my thoughts on the enjoyment of watching Citra and Rowan learn about the rot that pervades scythedom, and how they decide to tackle it. Citra grew me this time, and I enjoy how both her and Rowan compliment each other in their approaches. She is definitely closer to the white hat side of the spectrum, but she is good at manipulating the system. I am looking forward to seeing how things progress in Thunderhead.

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
This was a fairly fast read – it helped that the chapters were fairly short. I liked that the chapters alternated between the present (June and her initiation into the world of avtomats, and her quest to find a way to save them) and the past (Peter and Elena’s story from the 1700s forward). The story was enjoyable, though it felt like there were plot explanation holes.


Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
Lighter Than My Shadow is definitely an uncomfortable read. Watching the adults in Green’s life fail her as she suffered from various eating disorders and sexual assault was hard. From the teenage perspective, I could relate because I had issues with food and regulation when I was in high school. It was so easy to go down that path because it was one of the few things I could control. From the perspective of a parent, I truly hope I never minimize and invalidate my children’s feelings and reactions the way her parents did. They were oblivious to how harmful their platitudes were. Both Green’s parents and doctors interacted with her only on a superficial level and didn’t really look at “Katie”.

Jonesy, Vol 1 by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle
I’m going to start with the fact that this is not a comic for me, and that I have zero interest in reading future volumes. I can see why it would appeal to readers, especially teenagers who feel like they are on the fringe of things, but I found Jonesy to be selfish, obnoxious, and fairly shallow. I couldn’t handle how annoying and spiteful she was.


**DNF** The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I listened to about one hour before I had to DNF it. While the writing may have been lyrical on paper, it did not necessarily translate well to audio. The story was boring and felt monotone. I don’t know if this was due to the narrator or the writing, but I had a hard time listening.

2017 Audiobooks (Second Half)

My audio listens doubled in the second half of 2017. I wasn’t mentally able to sit down and read a book. I felt like I didn’t have enough time between regular life and graduate school. While listening to audiobooks, I can drive to work or do chores or exercise. I also regularly listen to audiobooks at 1.5x or 1.75x, which allows me to get through them much faster. I can’t listen to them at 1x because the narrators sound sluggish.

2017 Audiobooks (First Half)

2017 Books (Second Half)
2017 Manga/Graphic Novels (Second Half)


Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
Midnight Riot and all of the subsequent books are now one of my favorite series. I have no interest in crime novels, but the fact that it was recommended on two different sites I peruse for books to read, and the fact that it was urban fantasy, had me wanting to give it a try – and I’m glad I did. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith was a fantastic narrator and brought life to personality to the characters. The sarcastic, sardonic humor, and geek references made me swoon.

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
I’ve been a sucker for time travel romances since reading Outlander four years ago. While The Scribe of Siena was similar, it was its own story and felt more like a slice-of-life than an adventure. There was no sense of urgency as the events unfolded. That being said, I loved the story, loved the descriptions of life in 14th century Italy, and loved how it ended. It was not a fast-paced book by any means, and should be enjoyed for what it was.

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Like Midnight Riot, The Immortals was an urban fantasy crime novel. It also was similar to American Gods in that the ancient gods are still among us, though they have been much reduced. I loved how Brodsky wove elements of fantasy, mythology, mystery cults, and history in to the narrative. Her interpretations were interesting to say the least, and were my favorite aspects of the book. I blew through The Immortals and the sequel, Winter of the Gods, in quick succession because both Selene and the stories were so engrossing.

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Sleeping Giants introduced readers to the giant robot, Themis, and humans’ attempts to understand and manipulate her. Waking Gods drops readers in after 10 years have passed. Themis is normal sight, so when other, similar giant robots start to randomly appear across the globe, they aren’t taken seriously until said robots provide a display of their power and intent. The ending, oh the ending…a complete WTF cliffhanger. I need the third book now.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
While this book was nonfiction, it read like a fast-paced and interesting novel. It was definitely hard to listen to at times because the mix of human error, hubris, and an astonishingly negligent lack of communication caused an otherwise preventable disaster. I liked that Larson switched between the perspectives of the various players – British intelligence, the US government, the German U-boat captain, and the Lusitania’s crew and passengers.

Honorable Mentions: The Gospel of Loki, The Magician’s Land, Dark Matter, Arabella of Mars, The Girl With All the Gifts, Immortal Beloved, The Last Neanderthal, Island of the Lost, The New Odyssey, Dad is Fat

Adult Fiction (65)
A Second Chance
Roman Holiday
A Trial Through Time
Christmas Present
No Time Like the Past
Pears and Perils
The Magician’s Land
The Elusive Elixir
Dark Matter
Rogue with a Brogue
The Devil Wears Kilts
Arabella of Mars
Magic Bites
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes
Magic Bleeds
Magic Slays
Every Anxious Wave
All Our Wrong Todays
The Night Circus
Midnight Riot
Moon Over Soho
Whispers Underground
Broken Homes
Foxglove Summer
The Hanging Tree
Version Control
The Girl With All the Gifts
Beauty and the Clockwork Beast
Burn for Me
The Last One
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid
Halfway to the Grave
One Foot in the Grave
At Grave’s End
Destined for an Early Grave
Seven Minutes in Heaven
Some Like it Scot
This Side of the Grave
The Gospel of Loki
A Discovery of Witches
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings
Till We Have Faces
A Separation
Dark Orbit
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
First Drop of Crimson
Eternal Kiss of Darkness
A Useful Woman
Hero in the Highlands
Six Wakes
Some Danger Involved
The Scribe of Sienna
Rebel Queen
On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service
The Immortals
Winter of the Gods

YA/MG Fiction (35)
Court of Fives
The Inventor’s Secret
Under a Painted Sky
Bloody Jack
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
The Bear and the Nightingale
A Study in Charlotte
The Girl from Everywhere
Wolf by Wolf
The Fourteenth Goldfish
Stars Above
Artemis Fowl
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
How to Hang a Witch
Tiger Lily
The Iron Trial
The Copper Gauntlet
The Bronze Key
Defy the Stars
Stalking Jack the Ripper
Dove Arising
The Thousandth Floor
White Cat
Red Glove
Black Heart
Seven Black Diamonds
Immortal Beloved
Darkness Falls
Roses and Rot
The Bone Witch
The Silver Mask
Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them
Wicked Lovely

Dramatization/Multi-Cast (6)
Sleeping Giants
Waking Gods
Dirty English
Royally Matched
Eleanor & Park
The Last Neandethal

Nonfiction (24)
Suggestible You
Island of the Lost
Scrappy Little Nobody
People I Want to Punch in the Throat
Gateway to Freedom
King John
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
Battling the Gods
Dead Wake
I’m Judging You
The Glass Universe
Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
The New Odyssey
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Over the Edge of the World
Dad is Fat
In a Sunburned Country
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
Jungle of Stone
Ultra Marathon Man
God is Disappointed in You

Sophia’s PopSugar 2018 – Halfway!

January was a power-reading month for sure.  I don’t think I’ve read that many books (38) in that short of a time span since I was young enough to have summers off.  That drive did wane quite a bit in February though – I only made it through 11 books, but at least I didn’t end up in a reading rut!  The first half of this year’s PopSugar got me reading some excellent books.  Here are three that stood out:

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You by Caroline Kepnes – This book was, for lack of a better term, an absolute mindfuck.  The pacing was excellent, and the first person present tense propelled you through the story at breakneck speed.  I was never bored or distracted.  And it was so well-written – even though you know going in that the narrator is an actual stalker, you can’t help but find yourself connecting with him in some ways, even empathizing with him.  The manipulation is so subtle at points, and at others, just when you’re thinking of him as smart or funny or charming, he says something truly disturbing and you have to wonder at yourself in horror.  Talk about an emotional roller coaster.

The Power by Naomi Alderman – When I first read an online review of this book, I thought it sounded interesting, but what really pushed me to read it was the comment section.  A surprising (not) number of people (men) were complaining about why it was suddenly okay for powerful women to abuse men (or, namely, for women to treat men the same way women have been treated by men since the advent of civilization).  This book certainly didn’t advocate for such a reversal, but Alderman did a fantastic job of imagining what it could look like.  On some levels, it was admittedly satisfying to see men in situations in which women are typically the victim, because it demonstrated how demoralizing it can be and that no human should have to experience that.  This is a book to read more than once, one to be pondered and discussed.  If only we could get everyone to read it, especially the people who need help recognizing the humanity in those who are different from them.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – After loving Rolling in the Deep, I was totally psyched to find out Grant was writing a full-length sequel – and it did not disappoint.  Seven years after the original doomed voyage, a larger, better-equipped ship is sent out containing scientists and professionals from various fields to find out exactly what happened.  The point of view moves seamlessly through a varied cast of characters and its brimming with tension, even during moments of lengthy exposition.  It was just as much fun as the first book, which packed quite the punch in less than 200 pages.  I loved being able to spend so much more time in the story, and I would absolutely read any subsequent books.  Hopefully she writes more.

Completed Tasks

1) A book made into a movie you’ve already seen – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
3) The next book in a series you started – Eternally Yours, Cate Tiernan
4) A book involving a heist – Invictus, Ryan Graudin
6) A novel based on a real person – Margaret the First, Danielle Dutton
9) A book about a villain or antihero – Genuine Fraud, E. Lockhart
11) A book with female author using a make pseudonym – The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
13) A book that is also a play or musical – The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
14) A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – Such Small Hands, Andres Barba
15) A book about feminism – We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
25) A book set at sea – Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant
27) A book set on a different planet – Saga, Vol. 8, Brian K. Vaughan
28) A book with song lyrics in the title – Comfort & Joy, Kristin Hannah
29) A book about or set on Halloween – Hallowe’en Party, Agatha Christie
30) A book with twins – Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
31) A book mentioned in another book – The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
32) A book from a celebrity book club – The Power, Naomi Alderman
33) A childhood classic you never read – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
34) A book that’s published in 2018 – The Cruel Prince, Holly Black
36) A book set the decade you were born – 1984, George Orwell
38) A book with an ugly cover – Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff
39) A book that involves a bookstore/library – You, Caroline Kepnes
42) A cyberpunk book – Catharsis, Travis Bagwell
45) A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth
46) An allegory – The Crucible, Arthur Miller
50) A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar challenge – Dear Fahrenheit 451, Annie Spence

Monet Storytime 2

As with the Van Gogh Storytime I did last November, my Monet Storytime is a revisit of the one I did at my previous library (with some changes). Only four children attended (one of them an older sister), but the flow was much better than last month. Both Katie and the Waterlily Pond and Where is the Frog? are longer books, but the children had the attention for them and I ended up not needing to read Monet’s Impressions as my “quick read back up”.

I have three more storytimes scheduled before I break for the summer: Air/Balloons (March), Matisse (April), and Birds/Nests (May). All of these themes are revisits from previous storytimes.

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

*”Mary Wore a Red Dress” was an inherited song from the person who did storytimes before me at my previous library. After two sessions, it doesn’t feel like it is right for this library. I decided to try replacing it with “Zoom Zoom Zoom”, and this song was better received.


Katie and the Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew
Where is the Frog?: A Children’s Book Inspired by Claude Monet by Geraldine Elschner
Monet’s Impressions by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Egg Shaker Songs

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

Construction Paper Waterlilies – This project was mostly the same as I had done before, however I changed a few aspects. The white background paper was 9″x6″, slightly larger than than last time. I also had the children use tissue paper for the lily flowers instead of construction paper. I prepped by cutting out the “water” from nine of the ten colors from a Tru-Ray cool colors pack (I skipped the darkest green), and the “lilies” from two shades of pink tissue paper. Because I forgot to grab pencils to form the lily flowers, I had the children use their pinkies.