Author Archives: books&biblio

About books&biblio

Librarian-in-training, Girl Scout Leader, (former) homeschooling mom.

April Books

April was a middle-of-the-road kind of month for books. I had two major projects due on the 23rd, which meant I didn’t had the wherewithal to focus on challenge books. I did, however, have the wherewithal to read alien/dragon romances, but that was more of a coping mechanism than anything.

Audiobooks Fiction (13) / Nonfiction (2)

            

Furious Flames is the third book in a series, and the narrator completely changed how he voiced the main character. He went from a radio-play-hardboiled-detective to a normal guy. It was very jarring. I was ambivalent about Son of the Black Sword for most of the book, but I wanted to finish it because I’d DNF’d several books right before listening to it. I was glad I did because about 2/3 of the way through, things finally started to happen – and they were interesting. I’m looking forward to the sequel to see how it plays out. I love the Awaken Online series. It takes the RPG subgenre and plays with it on the gray-scale continuum of good and evil. So many of the characters are gray, and what makes something good or evil is jumbled up.  Retribution, a side quest focusing on Riley, was equally good. I loved watching her grow as a character, and start to come into her own within the game.

Books / Novellas (13)

     

The bulk of my book books in April revolved around dragon and/or alien romances. Crunch time at school equals my brain checking out because I just can’t. I’ve read Enemy of Mine several times (a time travel romance – no aliens or dragons). I enjoy Erva and Will, both as individuals and as a couple. The storyline is fun, though towards the end it gets a bit schmoopy. For alien romances, Eve Langlais writes entertaining stories. They are campy, funny, and don’t take themselves too seriously. The Dragons of Valdier are alright as long as you don’t try to binge read them. The heroines are fine for the most part (with only minimal stupidity for the sake of the plot), but there is only so much “me caveman dragon, you mate, me protect” and the over use of tiny/little as descriptors for the heroines that I can take before my eyeballs start hurting. I also don’t think the author has a strong grasp of the US military and how it works.

Graphic (5)

   

Read Alouds (2)

 

I finished up the Fog Mound trilogy, much to the disappointment of Bug and Max. I wish there were more books in this series, or that there were other graphic/novel combos similar to this. I will most likely pick up some Brian Selznick books to read to them.

The Hub – April

I fell well short of my goal of 12 books in April by only reading 5 books. It was crunch time with projects for my two classes, and when I’m stressed, I end up reading brain candy. Now that the the worst has passed, I plan on focusing on Hub books again.

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
I didn’t like Brave as much as I liked Awkward, but that is a personal thing and not a reflection on the quality of the story. Chmakova does a wonderful job of capturing the awkwardness and nuances that encompass middle school. Jensen is frequently bullied by both his “friends” and other students. He is oblivious to their bullying, though at the same time has created a self-defense mechanism. It takes someone outside of his normal social circle to open Jensen’s eyes to the bullying. And then Jensen has to find the courage to stand up for himself.

Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 1 by Keith Giffin and Howard Porter
My initial thoughts after I finished was the storyline had a lot of potential – I really wanted to see the actual cause of the apocalypse. I liked that while the characters were still essentially their classic selves, the author had made some interesting changes. However, my wonderful sister read it as well, and pointed out the various flaws with the characters that escaped my less than critical notice. Daphne was a complete jerk – she could have been a strong badass without treating others with contempt. And Velma was turned into something of a coward.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
I find short story collections in general to be hit or miss. This is more of a personal preference since I like concrete endings as opposed to a suggestion of the future or an allusion to what it’s all about. That being said, three stories stood out to me as favorites, “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” “The Difficult Path,” and “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn.” These stories felt complete at their conclusion, with the characters either learning something about themselves or their potential place in the world around them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander/J.K. Rowling
The only flaw to this book is that it wasn’t also a visual component (meaning, a cartoon I could watch). Between Eddie Redmayne’s narration and the sound effects, it would be wonderful to see the images and actions the sound effects represent. Regardless, my imagination had a field day.

 

Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
I wasn’t sure about Roughneck at first. I’m not a fan of Lemire’s drawing style, finding it too choppy and angular, but he is an amazing storyteller. The illustrations fit with the tone of the story, and the use of color (or lack thereof) to differentiate the present from the past made the reality of Derek’s and Beth’s lives that much more poignant. It is a story of coming to terms with the bad events and decisions of your life, and finding peace and redemption in that acceptance.

Emma’s Read Harder 2018

While I managed to complete the entirety of Read Harder in less than one month, I felt like I missed out on some of the fun of it. Much like when you eat an entire cake in one day instead making it last longer, while initially satisfying, you’re left with a huge cake-shaped (or book-shaped) hole that can’t be filled by anticipation of the next slice/book. Once I’m done with graduate school, and done with Girl Scouts, and done with the PopSugar Reading Challenge, I plan on doing a second round of Read Harder.

Emma’s Read Harder 2017
Emma’s Read Harder 2016
Emma’s Read Harder 2015

Favorites

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
#2 – True crime
I really enjoyed this book. It was both interesting and a fairly fast read (always a plus with nonfiction). I liked how she presented Robert and Nattie, laying out the facts as she could find them. She did offer some conjectures, but those were grounded more in child psychology than personal opinion. My opinion is that the home life of Robert and Nattie was somewhat volatile, and that the unpredictability and volatility of their mother while their father was at sea was the underpinning for why Robert killed her. His life after his verdict doesn’t lead one to believe he was psychotic. I am also glad that Summerscale included an epilogue. It gave Robert’s story closure, and the gave readers the suggestion that some of his later decisions were made with the potential to atone for killing his mother when he was a child.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
#6 – About nature
This was an interesting look at how humans test other animals for their capacity of intelligence and social behaviors. In general, humans tend to see themselves as superior to all other animals, and see animals’ intrinsic intelligence as less than ours because it is different. When conducting experiments, we tend to take a human-centric methodology and claim animals are less intelligent instead of looking at how animals behave in their natural habitats, then building experiments based upon those observations. Are We Smart Enough… was definitely eye-opening, creating good starting points for thinking about what constitutes intelligence.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
#14 – Social science
Many Americans live under the illusion that we have never had class distinctions in the US, and that our country was founded with the idea of equality. However, that is not the case, and the idea of such distinctions were shoved under the rug in order to fit with an edited narrative of our history. There have been class distinctions since Plymouth and Jamestown, and those distinctions – especially with regard to how the poor were perceived and treated – have continually played a part in historical events and how America was shaped. This is not the history you learned in school, but it is definitely a history you should know and is highly relevant to our current political climate.

Tasks

  1. Published posthumously Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  2. True crime The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
  3. Genre fiction classic Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. Comic written and illustrated by the same person Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune by Sean O’Neill
  5. Set in a BRICS country (India) Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies
  6. About nature Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
  7. Western River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
  8. Comic written or illustrated by person of color Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
  9. (Post)colonial literature Everfair by Nisi Shawl
  10. Romance novel written by/about person of color Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins
  11. Children’s classic published before 1980 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
  12. Celebrity memoir The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  13. Oprah book club selection Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
  14. Social science White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
  15. One-sitting book Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  16. First book in new to you MG/YA series Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  17. Female sci-fi author with female main character Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
  18. Comic not published by DC/Marvel/Image Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens (Oni Press)
  19. Genre fiction in translation Super Extra Grande by Yoss
  20. Book with a cover you hate (British cover) Such Small Hands by Andres Barba
  21. Mystery by person of color/LGBTQ author Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
  22. Essay anthology Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite TV Show edited by Glenn Yeffeth
  23. Female main character over age 60 Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
  24. Assigned book you hated/never finished Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

PopSugar – March

I was hoping to read six books for PopSugar in March, but I only managed five. Not huge discrepancy, but because I’m now even closer to my self-imposed audiobook limit (17 out of 20), I have to focus more on my book-books, which is not always easy for reasons oft complained about.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
#2 – True crime
I liked Summerscale’s book, The Wicked Boy, and decided to read another title by her (given that both Book Riot and PopSugar chose “true crime” to be a task). While Suspicions was not as enthralling as The Wicked Boy, it was still a fascinating look at the birth of both modern detective work and the modern detective novel (along with amateur armchair detectives). The case was sensational at the time because the detective, the titular Mr. Whicher, was a working class man who went against social norms and accused a young woman of the gentry of murder.

A Dragonlings’ Haunted Halloween by S.E. Smith
#19 – About / set on Halloween
This book has been on my TBR for a while because I enjoyed most of the other books in this series. This one was only meh. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read the other books in a while, or if I’m not in the right mental place for shape-shifting-alien-dragon-romance. It felt like the men were portrayed as doofuses (and not in a good way), and too much time was spent on their freakout on coming across what amounted to a Halloween theme park. The story would have been better served focusing on the children/dragonlings and the goddesses.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
#35 – Past Good Choice Awards winner (paranormal fantasy, 2012)
I enjoyed this book much more than A Discovery of Witches. While the story itself only minimally moved forward, the lushness of Harkness’ description of Elizabethan London and all of the historical tidbits more than made up for it. It is a book to get lost in, just don’t have high expectations for plot progression.

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage by Brian Castner
#30 – Local author
This is the second book by Castner I have read. He definitely has a conversation-while-drinking-beer style of narrative, i.e. it meanders, but is interesting to listen to (my husband’s interjection is that this style of  “speaking” is how both he and the other military guys he knows talks). The book is split between following Alexander Mackenzie’s exploration of Canada in search of the Northwest Passage, and Castner’s retracing of Mackenzie’s voyage on the Den Cho / Mackenzie River. I enjoyed both narratives – Mackenzie’s story because I love learning about lesser known aspects/persons in history; Castner’s story because I love reading the traveler’s perspective on situations they encounter and people they meet.

Mad Hatters and March Hares edited by Ellen Datlow
#38 – Ugly Cover
I have been a fan of Alice in Wonderland for as long as I can remember. The nonsense and weirdness was utterly fascinating to my young self, and it still is today. The stories/poems in this collection are varied and run the gamut of genres, some with more magic than others. That being said, I enjoyed only a few of them. “Sentence Like a Saturday” and “The Flame After the Candle” were my favorites. “A Comfort, One Way” was interesting in how it presented the concept of Alices and Mary Anns, and what made a girl become one or the other during her adventures in Wonderland. “Mercury” and “The Queen of Hats” were also enjoyable.

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”

Books

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

Activities
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).

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.