Author Archives: books&biblio

About books&biblio

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

February Books

My reading volume dropped dramatically in February, from 41 books down to 20. Graduate school is back in session, and my attention has been on getting into the school groove after winter break. Honestly, I’m still spending too much time reading and not enough on schoolwork. My husband and I also spent a week’s worth of evenings watching American Gods. It is one of my least favorite Neil Gaiman books, but the show is fantastic.

March Reading Goals
Audible TBR – 9 books
PopSugar – 6 books
Hub – 10 books (at least half will be graphic novels/audiobooks)

Audiobooks Fiction (13) / Nonfiction (3)

Only five of the audiobooks I listened to were for Popsugar. Because school is back in session, the challenge has been put on the back burner. Instead, I decided to 1) reread The Others series, and 2) start chipping away at my Audible TBR. I loved The Others when I listened to them last year, and I am still enamored of them with my second listen. Bishop does an amazing job with her world building, character identities/development, and politics. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t as much development as there should be across five books, but then I have to remind myself that the series spans only around 6-7 months of the characters’ lives. Bishop also doesn’t pull any punches, and each book seems to ratchet up the tension. Then you get to Marked in Flesh (book 4) and realize that shit just got real. Etched in Bone feels like a let down only because it follows one hell of an intense climax from Marked in Flesh, and it’s hard to top something like that. Etched in Bone is a good book in its own right because it starts the process for what life will be like from there on out. I really hope Bishop revisits this universe and writes stories about some of the supporting characters.

From my Audible TBR, What Doesn’t Kill Us was an interesting look at how complacent our bodies have become because of our cozy, sedentary lives, and how shocking it into action can be healthy for us in the long run. I Am Legend was short, but very good. I liked how the dynamic of human versus vampire was tilted on its head, as well as Neville’s ending realization. Cosmos was also fascinating, though it threw me off at times because of how many discoveries and advancements have happened since it was originally published in 1980. This doesn’t make the book obsolete, but it felt like a window back in time. I wish my dad was still around to talk to about Cosmos, as Sagan was a (philosopher) scientist he greatly admired.

Novels (3)

Read Alouds (1)

My read aloud rate to my children has been dismal recently. Max isn’t a fan of chapter books that aren’t accompanied by a large amount of pictures, and it’s caused arguments between him and Bug. Bed time would drag on forever if I had to read separate books for each child. We ended up either reading nothing or reading picture books. Bean has also been moving away from read alouds (something I want to rectify once I’ve graduated) and has been listening to audiobooks before bed (she’s moved from graphic novels to audiobooks as her format of choice – she still does not like reading book books).

The Hub Challenge is Finally Here!

We’re just going to start with this:

Because holy cow…I have been waiting since January 1st for YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge to go live. I have been checking their blog multiple times per day for the past few weeks looking to see if anything, anything at all was posted about it. They trickled out award and top 10 lists, so I have been able to start building my TBR list (first round of books shown below).  I read 37 and 34 books respectively in the previous two years, but I am fairly sure I will surpass both of those numbers. This year’s list is most definitely going to take me out of my YA reading comfort zone, and I am looking forward to it.

Nine of the twelve books on my Round 1 TBR are pictured above. The remaining three are A Boy Called Christmas (they had me at Stephen Fry), The Wizards of Once (they had me at David Tennant), and The First Rule of Punk (a book of Bean’s that is currently buried somewhere in her room). Three of books are rereads – Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Spill Zone, and Kindred (though in a different format). All three were great books, and I am excited to read them again.

Husband’s Books: 2017 4th Quarter

My husband’s reading selection continues to be both eclectic and broad. The books that stood out to him (as per how much he talked about them to me) were 12 Years a Slave, The Road Ahead, and Tribe. The last book, he read twice – once as audio, once as ebook – because he wanted to make sure it stuck in his head. There is one book not included, and that is a history about Cuba. I wasn’t able to find the specific book/author he read on either Goodreads or Amazon.

First Quarter
Second Quarter
Third Quarter

 
 
  

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup
Letter 44 Volume 4: Saviors by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque
Letter 44 Volume 5: Blueshift by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque
The Constitution of the United States of America
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War edited by Adrian Bonenberger and Brian Castner
Secret Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy by Sanjiv Bhattacharya
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
We by Yevgeny  Zamyatin
Letters by Kurt Vonnegut
How Everything became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon by Rosa Brooks

Sticky Storytime

Making slime was the basis for this storytime, however I haven’t really found a lot of books that work with a slime theme. Sticky or gum, yes, but not slime.  I wanted to read, Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre, but I was unable to find my children’s copy of it in time. It worked out for the best because the several of the children had trouble focusing on the stories I did read. Stuck was a hit, but as a whole the group was too wiggly. The songs didn’t really help because the children were unsure of participating and many of them took the opportunity to up the silliness. Once we got to the activity things calmed down, but that had more to do with the fact that they wanted to play with slime and not listen to stories.

Opening Songs
“Hello, Hello, How Are You?”
“Mary Wore a Red Dress” (I sing the first verse, then make up additional ones using the children’s names and an article of clothing they are wearing)

Books

 

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler

Songs
“Hokey Pokey”

“Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum” (from Jbrary)

Activity
I used a basic slime recipe that I consistently have good results with: Elmer’s glue and liquid starch. I’ve tried it with other brands of glue, but the slime doesn’t gel as well. The glue needs to be Elmer’s. The recipe is equal parts glue and liquid starch (make sure to shake the starch up first) with a little bit of water added. For this slime, I used clear glue, liquid watercolors, and fine glitter. The children had the choice of green, blue, or red.

I prepped everything beforehand. Filling up 5 oz cups to the top line, which still left about 1/2 inch to the rim of the cup. I placed the cups in a bowl, and then on a plate.

With the help of their parent, the children poured the glue into a bowl to mix the color and glitter. Then they poured the starch in and stirred until it started to look like lumpy snot. Not the best mental image, but an accurate one. At that point, slime needs to be played with by hand to help it gel (this can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes). Give it a rest for a few minutes, and you have slime.

Note: White vinegar will get slime out of anything. Even a bathmat your children hid from you for three weeks.

2017 Manga / Graphic Novels (Second Half)

My manga/graphic reading for the second half of 2017 was pretty much non-existent. Most of my reading time was dedicated to audiobooks because I didn’t have the focus to really sit down and read something. Of the GN that I read, Such a Lovely Little War and The Best We Could Do are the two that stood out. Both are about families directly impacted by the Vietnam War, but they come from different perspectives. The former is written by the child of a Vietnamese diplomat, and the latter is written by the child of teachers. Both are worth picking up for a read.

Graphic Novels (1)
All’s Faire in Middle School

Graphic Nonfiction (2)
Such a Lovely Little War
The Best We Could Do

Manga (8)
Happy Marriage ?!, Vol 1-4
That Wolf-Boy is Mine, Vol 1-4

PopSugar – January

Even though my focus in January was Read Harder, I still managed a decent showing for PopSugar. Both the books themselves and my thoughts on them crossed the spectrum, though I did lean towards sci-fi and fantasy.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
#1 – Made into a movie you’ve already seen
I saw Coraline the movie years ago, and remember it being incredibly weird and like a scary fun house. The eye buttons were the creepiest part of it, and are the first things that come to mind when I think of Coraline. It is a fairy tale with all the dark bits left in. I like that Gaiman doesn’t condescend to children when he writes, and acknowledges that children accept the macabre (and often live in it as well).

Trouble with Twelfth Grave by Darynda Jones
#3 – Next book in a series you’ve already started
Charlie is in full Charlie mode throughout this book. I found myself snorting multiple times because of her snarky humor. And STUFF HAPPENED! Unlike some of the previous books in this series, Twelfth Grave, moved the overarching plot forward instead of getting bogged down with weak novel-length plot lines. I like those smaller plots, but not when they feel half-assed. The ending didn’t happen quite the way I was expecting it to, but it was still a good foundation for the final book.

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
#4 – Involving a heist
Even though this is a fictionalized account of the first train robbery in Great Britain, there is a lot of infodumped history included, with the narrative weaving between the two. It works in this case, helped along by the fact that is reads (or listens) like a deadpan British nature documentary. I enjoyed the story much more than one would expect given the various elements of fiction, infodumps, and deadpan delivery. I would listen to it again.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
#9 – About a villain/anti-hero
I absolutely loved The Cruel Prince. Black’s writing was on point and her world-/magical rule-building was amazing. The story was a good mix of adventure, tension, and nastiness. Black’s darker, and quite frankly more realistic (as such) characterizations of fairies was a joy to read – there is always a consequence or loophole or interesting interpretation when humans make deals with immortals.  The story gets you from the opening scene and steadily ramps up from there, kicking into high gear during the coronation scene. The characters are also well-written – not a single good or bad guy; all of them are vaguely unlikable shades of gray. I cannot wait until the next book comes out. I recommend reading this as opposed to listening to it. The narrator wasn’t bad by any means, but given the tone of this book, I’d rather read the words and hear them in my head.

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
#10 – About death
I attempted to read this book several years ago, but failed to finish because it didn’t hold my attention. As it works for a PS category, I decided to give it another go, this time on audio. I liked the idea of a world where everyone knows the date of their death, though not the reason or cause. It had potential to be interesting, especially given the ending. However, the characters and plot were bland and uninteresting. The only two things that kept me listening were the fact that it would fulfill a challenge requirement and that I wanted to know why Denton and company were turning purple. Things I did like: Paolo (my favorite character), and that Denton made an effort to tell his classmates at least one positive thing about themselves.

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks
#11 – Favorite color in title
Lotus Blue got off to a bit of a rocky start, mainly because Sparks kept switching between eight-ish points of view. The only good thing was that even as POVs switched, the plot kept moving forward and each POV brought something to the table. The story would be tighter if some of the bit player POVs were done away with. The dynamics of characters and their world were fascinating, and I loved the idea of semi-sentient technology. I hope Sparks writes a sequel because I want to learn more about this world and its history, and the other Lotus generals.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
#12 – Alliteration in the title
This was quick read. I liked the story, and there were no major character flaws in either the hero or heroine (this can be hit or miss in with romances). As a whole, the story was fairly breezy with no real conflict or drama, only minor blips on the road to the main characters’ acknowledging their love for each other.

Sandstorm by James Rollins
#14 – Weather element in the title
I ended up enjoying Sandstorm more than I thought I would. It is not a genre I read at all – I think the closest thing was The Da Vinci Code when it came out in 2003. Sandstorm was a fairly straight forward adventure/espionage story with enough magic to make the plot work. I was somewhat surprised by the inclusion of magic because it didn’t seem to fit with the basic elements of adventure/espionage stories that use (slightly beyond) cutting edge technology. But I guess if the characters are tracking ancient relics and secrets, some suspension of reality is required to make it work.

The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks
#15 – Set at sea
The best reaction I can come up with is “eh”. The Lifeboat Clique was marginal at best. The tone of the writing felt judgemental and not tongue in cheek. Consequently, I did not particularly care for Denver, the main character, as it was written from her perspective. All of the characters felt stereotyped/clichéd, and I didn’t like any of them. Abigail’s accent was overly affected and annoying, and I don’t think I have ever heard any of the Texans I know use the slang she employed. Plot-wise, I would have liked more of it to have been spent on the teens’ survival and less on the drama-filled backstory between Denver and Abigail. I could have also done without the moralizing at the end. The closing pages of the book started pushing it into hackneyed territory.

Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean by Morton Strøksnes
#16 – An animal in the title
Shark Drunk is not a cohesive narrative, but rather multiple threads of related anecdotes, social and physical history, and science centered around the author’s attempt to catch a Greenland shark. I’ve read many books where this style of writing fails miserably, but in this case, it works well. The threads play off of each other and make sense within the context. All of this is done with a toned down Bill Bryson-eseque sense of humor.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
#20 – Characters who are twins
This book was a chore to get through. It was not a fandom book as the title suggests. It would have been better if it had been billed a coming of age story/grappling with mental illness, using fandom as a tool to help Cath overcome and/or accept. I didn’t mind the Simon Snow interludes, but they didn’t necessarily mesh with the main narrative of Cath trying to overcome her social anxiety. If the interludes had mirrored or shed some insight into Cath and her situation, they would have been more relevant and less of a distraction. I also didn’t like that Cath’s social anxiety and ineptitude was blamed on her fangirlness, when it really stemmed from issues with her mother’s abandonment and her father’s mental illness. Rowell gave only superficial lip service to this, and in doing so did both the story and the characters a huge disservice.

The Time Traders by Andre Norton
#21 – Female author / male pseudonym
Espionage, time travel, and aliens. I didn’t have high expectations because of some of the reviews, but was pleasantly surprised to find the story was interesting. It’s not without its flaws for sure – the plot was a bit messy, acting as a set up for the sequels. I don’t have any interest in reading the sequels because they are about the aliens and less about the time travel. It’s almost like the history and time travel in The Time Traders was a one-off. Norton isn’t an author I would seek out again unless one of her books fit into a reading challenge requirement.

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
#22 – LGBTQ+ protagonist
I was somewhat confused at the beginning of this book because it felt like too much world building and character introduction was going on with not enough context. This went on periodically throughout the novel where something would happen, and I had absolutely no clue how we got there. There was a lot of good stuff in Amberlough, but it didn’t come together as well as it could have. I didn’t really care about the characters because we never really learn anything about them. I know I’ve yet to say anything really positive, but even with the hot mess this novel kind of was, once I figured out what was going on, I found it interesting and enjoyed the use of language.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
#31 – Mentioned in another book (A Brave New World)
The Tempest is not one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. The story was too short, weak and somewhat muddled, and at times a bit confusing. I’m sure part of this was because I audiobooked it, and there wasn’t an easy way to determine when a scene/characters had shifted.

 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
#33 – Childhood classic you’ve never read
I grew up watching the Megan Follows television version of Anne of Green Gables, and absolutely loved it; watching whenever it aired on PBS.  However, I never had an interest in reading the books, especially when I read descriptions of later books and found they didn’t focus on Anne and seemed to have extraneous characters (bear in mind I was a child). As with the show, I loved the audiobook, and Rachel McAdams did a good job as narrator. There were definitely some differences between show and book, and as a parent, there were times that Anne drove me bonkers, but I still love the magic of it.

Beneath a Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
#34 – Published in 2018
Of the three Wayward Children books, Beneath a Sugar Sky is the weakest. I still enjoyed McGuire’s writing style, her world building, and her descriptions, but the plot suffered from the question of who was the main character? Cora or Rini? The story opened with Cora, but she felt like she was only a vehicle for Rini’s appearance and Rini’s quest. It would have been better if either Cora didn’t exist and the focus was solely on Rini and her quest, or if Rini didn’t exist, and the story focused on Cora, her self-acceptance, and her desire to return to her portal world.

Bean’s 4th Quarter Books 2017

Bean discovered or revisited several book series, and spent a decent amount of her winter break listening to books on her new Kindle. Her favorites (which account for most of what she read) are:

*Curse Workers trilogy: They were well-written, I liked the rules of magic the author created, and I liked that the main characters were not perfect.

*Magisterium series: series I liked Call because he is supposed to be the bad guy, but is trying to do the right thing and be a hero. I also liked the rules of magic the author created.

*Willow Falls series: Each book had multiple points-of-view with different plots that all came together in the end. Each plot revolved around a central character, and nothing would have happened without that character.

1st Quarter
2nd Quarter
3rd Quarter

Audiobooks (14)


Books (2)

Read Alouds (1)