Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Invisible Library ... Enough Said

I finally read The Invisible Library. I fell in love ... hard. With elements reminiscent of some of my favorite stories (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Jackaby, and Seraphina, just to name a few), I couldn't help but fall in love with Librarian Irene and the alternative London filled with dirigibles, mythical creatures, and intrigue. I almost couldn't contain my joy when I figured out Kai's secret and I loved Vale's progressive nature as well. I'm not really going into the plot because I didn't know much about it before I went in and was constantly nervous (in a good way) and surprised (in the best way). I do need to reread the last chapter though because it was a bit hard to follow at 4:00 in the morning when I finished my binge read. I think I know what Coppelia was getting at but I need to recheck and make sure.

Once I'm done with that, I have the second book, The Masked City, here already and the third book is on hold. There's a fourth book coming out in December and I will definitely be ready to read it! This is a series I know I will go back to for rereads whenever I need a dose of kickass librarians and mind-controlled alligators.

In love (times ten),

Monday, April 17, 2017

Boys in the 80s

I forget where I saw a review or comment that made me think I needed to put The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak on my library hold list sooner rather than later but I saw it and I did it. It's the story of three boys that want to pull off the perfect heist of a Playboy issue. One of them is super into early computer gaming and so is the daughter of the store owner where they want to steal the magazine. This leads to an unexpected friendship and a lot of big decisions.

First, the good stuff. This story really felt true to the 80s. It made me remember early computers, crappy love songs, and old mall stores. Now the bad stuff. This story really felt true to the 80s. It reminded me of the horrible words that us 80s kids used to throw around, the casual sexism and racism, the shitty way single mothers were treated. I liked this story but I strongly disliked one of the boys and hated another one of them. The end is also a bit farfetched, although I did feel that the boy I disliked redeemed himself somewhat. All of the blurbs on the cover that use the words "sweet", "funny", "hilarious"? I'm not sure I read the same book that they did. I thought this was a dark but honest story. We may get nostalgic for the past but the day-to-day reality might not be as rosy as we remember.

My 80s itch wasn't fully scratched after that first novel so I picked up Jason Diamond's Searching for John Hughes. This book reminded me why I used to be (and need to be again) very, very picky about which memoirs I was willing to read. I did not like this guy much at all. I felt bad for him when he was a kid because both of his parents were HORRID but, ugh, how many times can someone claim to have recognized his privilege and then still go ahead acting the same way as he did before? How self-centered do you have to be to keep treating people like crap who are trying to help you and be friendly? He ultimately only gets his shit together because he is handed the job that becomes his career. This was not the love letter to the 80s that I was expecting. This guy wasn't even born until like 1980/81. Again, blurbs that use words like "hilarious" and "charm" don't make any sense to me after reading this book. It is dark and depressing and not a fun read.

So, now that I've read two books that weren't satisfying 80s reads, recommend me something about the 80s that I *will* like. (I am one of the ones that totally loved both of Ernie Cline's books, Ready Player One and Armada.) Please.

Looking back with distaste,

Friday, April 14, 2017

Women In Science

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky is one of the books that is showing up everywhere right now. I see it recommended for kids and adults alike and the brief summaries and bright colors make that possible. It both highlights women's contributions to science AND the obstacles that they faced as they did so, giving readers knowledge and food for thought.

I did have two complaints about this book -- one is that there were too many spelling and "autocorrect"-type mistakes in the text and artwork. As a scientist, this lack of precision was off-putting. The second thing is that two or three of the scientists' bios mentioned worked on the atomic bomb and their work was described in ways that basically praised the end product. I have a problem with this kind of talk no matter what the gender of the scientist is. To have it right next to the bio of someone like Rachel Carson, whose hard work and dedication led to things like the formation of the EPA, is not cool. All science is not equal.

Still, this is a great book for showing the variety of professions that make up the sciences and the struggles that women have had over time in being allowed to work in them and to also have their work recognized. Hopefully more in-depth biographies of many of these women will be written by young people who read this book and other youngsters will be inspired to pursue studies in the sciences.

Never pipetting by mouth,

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Release: Norse Mythology

It is becoming a new tradition for me to sneak a Neil Gaiman read into March Magics/DWJ March each year. Neil was such great friends with Diana and Terry that it just feels right to add him into the mix. Anyway, he obliged me this year by having a new book out-- Norse Mythology --and I was able to fit it in right at the end of the month.

The book title is pretty self-explanatory. Neil read original sources (Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, not in their original language) and, simply, retold the stories in a way to capture modern readers. The time flies by as you read about how the world was formed, how Thor got his hammer, and how Loki is seriously the worst. I'm not a huge mythology person but even I was caught up by each of these tales and transported to another world of giants and serpents and gods. I don't know how Gaiman does what he does but he did it again in this book.

With rapt attention,

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lies, Spies, Duels, Deception ... and Love

As I might have mentioned already, my review pile is a little backed up. By working so hard last year to read my own damn books, I let review copies and ARCs pile up. I'm making an effort this spring to get through some of these and luckily had these two gems by Cindy Anstey on hand (which are not in a series).

Love, Lies and Spies came out last April and was Anstey's first novel. It's a Regency romance in the vein of Georgette Heyer but with a strong, independent female protagonist. Juliana Telford is a naturalist who has been studying ladybugs with her widowed father and running his estate. Now that she is old enough for a season in London, she sees a perfect chance to approach publishers and get their manuscript published. She doesn't anticipate a few select distractions though, including the extremely handsome and somewhat mysterious Spencer Northam.

And out tomorrow is Anstey's second book, Duels & Deception. This is the story of Lydia Whitfield, who has inherited her family estate and will run it on her own in a few short years when she comes of age. For now, she is subject to the whims of her frequently-drunk uncle and his subpar land agent. However, when the two start showing their incompetence, a representative from the family law firm arrives, young Robert Newton. Though Newton is immediately smitten, Lydia's mind is filled only with the plans her father left for her life. If she is to break free and find love and safety, she is going to have to learn to trust and allow Robert to help her.

Both of these books were incredibly fun to read. Though there were some over-the-top events, I loved every minute I spent with these characters. The romances are sweet and rather chaste, due to the period setting. There are outstanding friendships--both male and female--and lovely, smart, capable female protagonists. Nobody is unrealistically perfect and the horrid family members and neighbors would have made Heyer proud. I hope that Anstey keeps writing these sorts of books because they are perfect comfort reads.

Grabbing my reticule,

Friday, April 7, 2017

Promos: Stellar Kidlit and Summer Listens

Penguin Random House runs a great website called Brightly. Its purpose is to help parents get the right books into the hands of their kids, hopefully ones that will foster their love of reading. Their newest curated list is 50 Best Books for 11- and 12-Year Olds, created with the help of Rene Kirkpatrick, Children's Book Buyer at one of my lovely local indies, University Book Store. From the site --
Eleven and twelve is a time of big change for kids, both emotionally and physically. Keeping this in mind, our panel of experts selected a wide range of books that will both resonate with the complex lives of preteens as well as educate and entertain them.
The books fall into five categories, including non-fiction, and a brief paragraph explains why each category can inspire and comfort kids at this age. Since Z is 12, I was really interested to take a look at the list and see how we were doing at choosing great reads. He's already read and enjoyed three of the books and I've read some of the others and would love to get them into his hands. This really is a great collection.

You have a chance to win all 50 books from this list (or those for another age range -- The 50 Best Books for 5-and 6-Year-Olds, The 50 Best Books for 7-and 8-Year-Olds, and The 50 Best Books for 9-and 10-Year-Olds) because, in celebration, Brightly is giving away a customized collection of 50 of the best books for the kids in your life. So head over, check out the lists, and enter to win SO many good books!
If free audiobooks for teens sounds like a better fit for your kid, you'll want to check out the SYNC Audiobooks for Teens Program, sponsored by AudioFile Magazine and powered by Overdrive. This program is in its eighth year and it aims to engage teens with "new literature for their earbuds".
SYNC makes available two FREE audiobook downloads every week, to each and every registered listener, all summer. In 2017, 32 titles will be given away through the 16 week-long season. Teens, librarians, club leaders, and educators may sign up for email or text alerts and can learn more at
SYNC creates weekly thematic pairings of teen-focused titles to encourage both critical listening and opportunities to make choices and develop personal tastes. During the summer of 2016, the SYNC program gave nearly 172,000 downloads to more than 31,000 participants.
Any individual may participate by downloading the OverDrive App to their device of choice and returning to the SYNC website each Thursday after 7am Eastern Time to download the new audiobook pair for the week. Each title is available for one week only, but once downloaded they can be kept forever, so the opportunity to listen can extend well beyond the term of the summer program.
There are lots of great authors and titles on this summer's list, including some of my favorites--Oscar Wilde, Douglas Adams, and Terry Pratchett.

As you and your kiddos make your summer reading plans, I hope these sources come in handy.

Prepping and planning,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dipping My Toes Into Rising Cli-Fi

Now that I'm done hosting my favorite event of the year, it's back to regular reading for me and that includes my "issue" readings on climate change. As we all know, non-fiction isn't the only way to explore an issue. I was therefore very happy to see a post from Unbound Worlds with five "cli-fi" books listed. Per their post, "Climate Fiction, or Cli-Fi, is a growing branch of science-fiction literature that deals with the effects of climate change on human society." Of course, just because there's a new focus on these books, it doesn't mean that they haven't existed all along. Goodreads lists 134 books in this genre.

So, my question for all of you is
Have you read any cli-fi and, if so, do you have recommendations?

I think I will be starting with Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins for three reasons: I'm a fifth-generation Californian (even though I don't live there now), my great-great grandfather was instrumental in bringing water to Los Angeles, and my mom's cousin still runs a working citrus farm in the San Fernando Valley. This will make the read more heartbreaking but also give it more weight and relevance to my life.

Contemplating worst-case scenarios,

Monday, April 3, 2017

#Resist : What We Do Now

When I heard about What We Do Now: Standing Up For Your Values In Trump's America, I knew I needed to read it. After the election, I not only had to figure out how to clearly define my values but I wanted to be an active resister agains the things that were sure to come out of this presidency. This is a short, 200 page volume with many high-profile contributors. The essays are short but powerful (as you can see by my plethora of sticky notes). Here are some of the highlights, starting with the definition of our values--
And that marks Democrats' first job in this new era: We will stand up to bigotry. No compromises ever on this one. Bigotry in all its forms: we will fight back against attacks on Latinos, on African Americans, on women, on Muslims, on immigrants, on disabled Americans--on anyone.
--Senator Elizabeth Warren
But know this: whether you actively engage in the violent culture of hate or merely step out of the way to give it permission to persist and room to grow, you are complicit. And white people, you give permission to this culture every day you do nothing more than have "conversations on race". You don't get to just have conversations anymore. You don't get to just wear a safety pin and call yourself an ally. You don't get to just talk while the rest of us fear for our lives ... Let's be clear: White supremacy harms all of us. It strips humanity from both its victims and its beneficiaries.
--Brittany Packnett
I want you to keep telling yourself: "THIS IS NOT NORMAL. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Repeat until it sinks to the deepest of your core. The minute you decide this is normal, this is just how it is, the minute you decide that appointing a white supremacist to one of the highest, most influential positions in the White House...--that is the minute that you give up. Stay vigilant. Stay focused. Stay OUTRAGED. Perpetual outrage is what's going to fuel our movements right now. In the face of this crisis, the time is now to follow your heart. You know what feels right. Think. Contemplate. Don't just follow blindly. Stay informed, read articles, verify sources, diversify your news intake. Knowledge is power. Ignoring what's happening is not going to help you or anyone else.
--Linda Sarsour

As for concrete actions:
Brittany Packnett suggests that those of us who are not in marginalized groups become not allies but accomplices, the difference being actions and not just ideals.
Ilhan Omar wants us to strengthen our communities and build a coalition and Cristina Jiménez wants us to make sure that the coalition crosses social, religious, and racial lines. We must work together to be successful.
Linda Sarsour suggests using our own skills and knowledge "for the greater good". If we all focus on what we are best at, we will be most effective.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum thinks it's essential that we "continue building a full and meaningful and joyous life."
And we, of course, need to fight for a new, strong Voting Rights Act to combat voter suppression and gerrymandering. We need to demand action to mitigate climate change and to promote a clean energy economy. We need to tell/remind our representatives that we will not tolerate the targeting of an entire group based on their race or religion. We need to fight every unlawful and discriminatory action that comes out of this administration.

David Cole gives us hope from our recent history--the eventual victory over George W. Bush's horrible policies after 9/11. Bush took all sorts of liberties in the name of protecting Americans, regardless of whether those things were humane or legal. But "they protested, filed lawsuits, wrote human rights reports, lobbied foreign audiences and governments to bring pressure to bear on the United States, leaked classified documents, and broadly condemned the administration's actions as violations of fundamental constitutional and human rights. ... As a result, the course of history changed." He also says "It won't happen overnight. There will be many protracted struggles. The important thing to bear in mind is that if we fight, we can prevail."

Finally, Linda Sarsour says it best:
I hope this election is our ultimate wake-up call--a wake-up call for the silent majority who have been silent in the face of so much injustice in recent years. Silence is violence. We cannot and will not be the generation that allows our country to live again the darkest moments of our history. We must remember that our work over the next four years is not just for us, but also for the generations to come who are counting on us.
Sending out strength to all fighters,