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Blog joyfully

July 25, 2016

Yeah, okay.

So that was one of my goals for the past year. As you can see, it’s not working. I mean, in my entire life, there isn’t much I’m doing 100% joyfully. My last two posts were done months before they were posted and sat in work limbo until I was like “Forget that.”

I’m in Summer Reading, so it makes sense that I’m hella busy, but also I keep getting more and more ARCs and galleys, and I’m overwhelmed. I weeded a ton of my stuff and donated it to the library/friends/sold it at the Book Barn, but I still have one full bookcase of books I received at BEA and–omg–ALA. Hey, I went to ALA!

Yes, there were bags. Yes, I’m going to talk about them. I’m just dealing with some “I’m not ready to be on camera” issues, like I cut my hair three times last week.

I’m down to three book clubs, which is still like two too many, but one is for work. I’ve tried to coordinate the work one with my Facebook one, by shifting it to a theme rather than trying to get one book in by ILL over and over, but it’s barely making a dent.

I’m also trying to donate more of my time to my community.

I’m still not doing great on this “stop spreading myself thin” thing. But, on the plus side, I’m off on Saturdays through the summer.

I took seven comics out from the library this weekend and read them all. That was joyful, at least. I’m not feeling pressured to write this, much. That’s something.


Patron Question #2: Why Was This Book Misfiled? (Or, The Comic Book Dilemma )

April 15, 2016

When I first said I would take patron questions, this was the first question I got. It’s from a friend who doesn’t live in my town. He said he went to his local library and found a copy of Alan Moore’s Watchmen in the children’s section. It’s well-known among comic book readers for its graphic content, and it’s one of the few comic book adaptations to receive an R rating. So what went wrong that it ended up in the children’s section?

This is a classic example of misfiling, and it happens all the time, especially with comic books. Here are a few reasons why misfiling occurs, and why some books aren’t where you expect:

1) Some books could be legitimately filed in multiple places.

Short story collections, plays, poems, capital-L literature–these all have numbers in the Dewey Decimal System under non-fiction even if they’re fiction. Shakespeare could be “F(iction) Shakespeare” or “822.33” in non-fiction.

Other times, a book has teen protagonists but some people don’t see it as a teen book. The Night Circus is a book I’ve seen filed as a teen or adult book. Given that the book has two adults as major characters along with the teens, I’d go for adult, but not everyone agrees with me. I’d also argue that the new Ernest Cline book, Armada, is definitely a Young Adult book, but I’ve only ever seen it filed in the adult section so far. Sometimes, it comes down to a simple judgment call: Where will this book circulate the best?

For example, Michael Chabon’s Summerland is a book I’ve seen filed at different libraries in the children’s section, the teen section, and the adult section. Crazy, right? But each library has a valid reason for doing so. Chabon primarily writes adult novels and not all novels with children as characters are for children. (See also: To Kill a Mockingbird.) But some are. However, if the language is more mature than your usual children’s book, it may end up in the teen section due to readability. I haven’t read it, so I can’t tell you what my opinion on this particular book is.

2) The people who do the ordering and the people who label the books are not always the same people. This sometimes results in misfiles for myriad reasons, all of which boil down to “human error.”

But really, I think what my friend is asking is, “Why do people assume comic books are kids’ books?”

3) Even library staff sometimes judge books by their covers.

There’s a long-standing belief that everything comic book-related must be for children, which I find strange. Comics started out for everyone. Everyone read them. There were family-friendly radio plays, television shows, and movies. But at some point, “family-friendly” became another phrase for “kids’ stuff,” and those not interested in the medium believed they’d grown up but comics hadn’t.

This is, of course, not true. Art Spiegelman’s Maus won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for its original depiction of the Holocaust. Despite this, reviews on the work were annoyingly self-conscious, including comments like “Art Spiegelman doesn’t draw comics” and “Maus is not exactly a comic book, either; comics are for kids,” to which Dr. Joseph Witek, a professor of Humanities, responded, “[I]f Maus is not a comic book and if Art Spiegelman doesn’t draw comics, nothing is and no one ever has.”

The book in my friend’s question, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, was on Time magazine’s list of “the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.” It is a violent deconstruction of the genre, for adults only. And yet this book is the one that ended up in the children’s section. Why? Because it’s a comic book.

Not every person who works at a library reads every book that comes in. I’d go so far as to say not any one person who works at any library reads every book that comes in, although I could be wrong. Like anyone with a full work week, library staff has to decide what fits in their schedules. For some, it’s a favorite genre or two. For others, books don’t make the cut at all. (It’s true–not everyone who works at a library reads all the time!) When large orders come in, quick calls are made. And things gets misfiled. It happens a lot with comics because catalogers may look at comics and say, “Okay, a comic. Put it in the kids’ pile.” They’re not familiar with the medium. They stereotype. If a book has a half-naked man holding an overdressed woman in his arms, it’s probably a romance. If it’s a comic book, it’s probably for kids.

I’m not saying this is the right decision, but it’s one that gets made all the time. One of the things I’ll be doing soon is ordering more comics for the library, and I’ll have to make some decisions myself as to where a book should be put. It’s not always going to be easy. For example, when Ultimate Spider-Man began, many libraries put it in the Juvenile section. But as the series continued, the books proved themselves to be firmly in Young Adult territory. Should the earlier books be left in J or should the series be put in YA in its entirety? You could also call this The Harry Potter Problem. By the time the last book came out, Harry was YA and so were many of his readers. But patrons wanted the collection in one place. Harry mostly stayed in the J’s despite the increasingly dark subject matter. But not everywhere. Again, it was a judgment call on the part of the staff.

So that’s the “why,” but let’s not forget what comes next. The best thing a patron can do if they see a book has been misfiled is to let the staff know. I do it all the time. Sometimes the staff agrees with me, sometimes they don’t. In a case like Watchmen, it’s thankfully cut and dried, and in the best interests of the patrons to help get that misfile remedied.

Patron Question #1: How Does the Library Choose Which Books to Buy?

April 13, 2016

In library terms, the purchasing of materials for the library is called collection development.  Depending on the size of the library, you may have many people involved in the process, or very few. One librarian may be in charge of all the purchasing, or only one aspect of it. For example, Miss Allie takes care of almost all our children’s and teen collection development. You’ll see why it’s “almost” and not “always” below.

When it comes to what to choose, there are three major avenues for collection development:

Publications – When you’re trying to keep ahead of the game, you need to know what’s about to come out. For that, there are publications like Library Journal and School Library Journal, which review advance copies of books to help choose what to buy. Librarians rely heavily on these publications for collection development.

Popularity – Is this a popular author, title, or series? Then it will probably be bought by a library as soon as possible. Often, libraries keep lists of popular authors, publishers, and series, and set up what’s called a standing order with the company they buy materials from. When something from the standing order is released, the library gets it immediately without having to go through the usual ordering process. Standing orders free up the staff to spend their time looking for other materials to round out their collection and keep it from looking like an airport bookstore.

Recommendations – Patron and staff member recommendations make up a small but significant portion of materials purchased. Many libraries will allow you to suggest items for purchase. If the item fills a need in the collection–for example, the library once had the book but it was damaged or never returned, or a few people have requested it–it may be purchased, depending on the library’s budget. Journal reviews are sometimes not an indicator of popularity, so listening to patrons’ needs is important. And don’t forget, staff members are patrons too–staff members often request things for purchase based on their own interests and the interests of the patrons they interact with every day.

Different communities have different needs, so what’s available at one library may not be available at the next. A good library staff pays attention to what’s being checked out and tailors its collection to suit its population, but not so much it’s purchasing for only the majority.

The last of 2014’s 4-star reads

January 10, 2016

I have twenty-four more books left on my 2014 review list. (I’m not even going to look at 2015 yet. Baby steps. Eighteen of these books (really 21, because one was a comp of a series) were four-star reads.

The two-volume graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book changes art too often for me to really love it, but it’s a good adaptation, especially for kids who are more visual. The book itself is an old-fashioned ghost story, with murder and monsters, so sensitive kids might want to save this until they’re a little older, even if it is in the juvenile section.

Remember that time that I said that Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run peaked with the second volume? Maybe the third? Well, I gave the second volume four stars. Have I mentioned how gorgeous the art is? Have I discussed how sometimes they’re all talking about stuff and you’re like “You know you’re missing a chunk of the conversation, right? The part that would let the audience know what you’re talking about?” This volume is a bit more verbose, which helps, and if I remember correctly has a very heartwarming section that made me love it.

Three Jennifer Crusie books got four stars, and they were all written with other people: Dogs and Goddesses, The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, and her first collaboration with Bob Mayer: Don’t Look Down. Fortunately, she and Mayer get into a great writing groove with their second book. You know, as if four star is bad. Heh.

Avengers: Road to Marvel’s The Avengers is a collection of stories set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I really can’t remember much about it, but I know I liked it. Peter David, man. It’s practically a given.

As much as it kills me to read out of order, I’m still reading random Discworld books occasionally. 2014’s was Guards! Guards!, which is the first story of the City Watch. Vimes, yay! The good thing about Discworld for someone like me is that you can jump in here and there with different series of characters, at least. Unfortunately, the next City Watch book I have is like fifth in that sub-series. (We ended up with a bunch of the books when someone my husband knows moved? Or something?) So…that’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon. I like Discworld, but not enough to seek it out. Which is supposed to make me a bad nerd or something, but I don’t care.

I couldn’t remember ever having read any Shirley Jackson, but my husband had a book so I borrowed it. Come Along with Me is probably not the best start, since it begins with an unfinished work, but it also had all those short stories I’d heard of, which are very very good. I wish I’d had a best of instead, but I’m glad I got a chance to read her work.

So it looks like I read Eloisa James’s Three Weeks with Lady X, which is the seventh in the Desperate Duchesses series. I have no memory of the story at all, which is not surprising because I’ve had a fever this past week. As with most James books, I really enjoyed it. James is on my very short list of romance authors I don’t mind reading, because she doesn’t mind being anachronistic so that I don’t want to bleed from my ears reading about institutionalized sexism and “titillating” rape.

Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series–also knows as Lilith’s Brood–is super trippy. It begins with our dying world, and aliens coming to save our race but only on their terms; and then it ends with a completely alien perspective. The middle book bridges this with a half-alien, half-human main character, but even then it started getting away from me. Butler is freakin’ amazing (I’m in a book club this year that only reads her books; you should totally join), and she makes alien things easy to read but difficult to deal with, if that makes sense. The plain language she uses makes the questions her works bring up weighty but answerable. I’m so excited for this book club, y’all. I’m also really excited to reread Xenogenesis.

Once upon a time, I took a class in literature set in the time of Cicero and Caesar. Robert Harris’s Imperium would’ve fit in there perfectly. But the syllabus was so huge we already had to cut it, and while Imperium was good, I enjoyed other books that are also mysteries set in the same time period more, like Steven Saylor’s Gordianus the Finder series. Still, this was a solid mystery that I read for a book club, and I liked it.

The Oatmeal’s Matthew Inman wrote a book called My Dog: The Paradox: A Lovable Discourse about Man’s Best Friend, which was as hilarious as Inman’s usual work. I think I borrowed it from my daughter.

Raina Telgemeier continues her sweet, middle-school level graphic novels with Sisters, a sequel of sorts to Smile. In this, Raina gets a little sister named Amara. I guess they are memoirs? Sort of? I’ve seen them in fiction and non-fiction, but not biography, so I have no idea. They are cute and you should buy them for kids.

Brad Meltzer’s I am Rosa Parks is part of a series and it’s a great series for kids. A picture book that tells Rosa Parks’s story, it also has a lot going on in the background, if I remember correctly. You can read just the main story, but the word balloons add to it. Which is to say, I never knew exactly what to read to the kids, so it wasn’t the best read-aloud, but I wanted something the little ones could follow. Also: Meltzer. Love Meltzer.

In that same book club where I read Imperium, I also read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. The former was a good look at introversion, but Cain paints them with the same brush in such a way that sometimes I–an introvert who likes to be social, but does not gain any energy from it–felt a bit excluded and even offended. Cain seems to think she’s part of the special people, and that was a bit off-putting. Kimball, on the other hand, lost a star for being…I wish I could remember exactly, but I want to say kind of lark-y, like “Isn’t my life so PRECIOUS?” Or maybe it was the fact that her husband sounds like a “my way or the highway” jerk a lot of the time. But she left her city life for his dream, and it was a fascinating look at farming, something I don’t really think a lot about because all the farms I know grow exactly 1-2 things: cranberries or blueberries. I mean, that’s not true–there are a TON of farms in South Jersey–but since my mom worked for the cranberry farm, it’s the one I know best. I was fascinated by Kimball’s life, growing all sorts of things, killing all sorts of animals for food, and especially running a CSA. I was blown away by how easily she tossed aside her vegetarianism because a dude was hot, but um, okay. As someone who mostly deals with large-chain grocery stores, I found the whole book engrossing; as a vegan, some parts were more difficult than others. Recommended.

Finally (whew), I listened to the audiobook of Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking. She’s so great, and I’m always coming down on the side of audiobook when it comes to memoirs. This is one of the reasons. Loved it.

That’s it for the last of the four-star books. Only six five-star books to go. Guess how many are by Jennifer Crusie!

Best of 2015

January 2, 2016

Like I’d know. The ones I liked best, anyway.

I’m sick, which sucks. I can’t speak, which I’m sure everyone is very happy about. But I can TYPE. Neener.

So here are my favorite new reads of 2015, in no particular order, but grouped together by whether they came out in 2015 or before.

The 2015 Books

Spider-Man: Spider-Verse: Yeah, I realize I’m in a minority with this one. It’s a crossover and it’s not the best one and there’s a lot of repetition in it (chase, hide, run, hide, run, hide), but there’s a joy to it that Dan Slott always brings to his work. There’s Spider-Gwen, who surprised me with how invested I got in her so quickly. There’s Silk, whom people have called a Mary Sue, which is sexist for “a female character who does things well.” There’s Noir Spidey and Spider-Ham and movie Spideys and my old friend Miguel O’Hara, Spidey 2099. So many Spideys! A special nod to the head to its lead-in title Superior Spider-Man, where Doc Ock takes over Spidey’s body. Also super-fun.

The end of Fables: Bill Willingham proved himself a dick over and over again, but he mostly kept it to con attendances and the intro pages of the book. (Seriously: look at them. They’re just flooded with hatred for the female characters.) It’s sad to see Fables go, but it was time, and while there was a bit of a pacing issue with the last few books, the series wrapped up really well.

Sex Criminals is a book that writes about sex the way sexually active adults actually talk about and have it. Also, there is some sort of plot going on that I’m a little fuzzy on, but I have faith we’ll get to it at some point. The premise: two people who have the ability to literally stop time when they orgasm meet and fall in love, but not everyone is happy when they decide to rob a bank to save a library. The second book delves deeply into depression and still managed to make me laugh aloud almost more than any other book this year.

All-New X-Men crossed over with Miles Morales this year, so I’m all about that as well. I think the whole series has been very well done. In case you haven’t heard: the original X-Men are pulled into the present in a very stupid ploy to make sure that the current X-Men get a giant kick in the pants about all their recent actions. And then they’re stuck there, being innocent, wide-eyed optimistic X-Men in a post-grimdark world. Yeah. It’s great. Also, it means we get all the Jean Grey we want, which is all of it. Jean can be such a jerk, and yet she is still incredibly lovable and awesome. Aww yeah, Jean Grey.

Saga keeps being awesome too.

David Levithan had two great books this year: the companion to Will Grayson, Will Grayson, called Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story. It’s written as a script, which you’d think I’d hate, and yet here we are. He also wrote a companion to Every Day, called Another Day, which gives us Rhiannon’s perspective.  It gives us a look into why people don’t leave bad relationships (answer: they’re not bad ENOUGH), and that’s an important thing to have in YA.

Ms. Marvel keeps being awesome, and I’m about to read all the rest of the series and I am so excited. And by “about to,” I mean, “uh…in the next few weeks?” Beginning of the year is tough. I’m happy that everyone I’ve recommended Ms. Marvel to has fallen in love with her. Because she’s awesome.

This Side of Home by Renee Watson deals in part with gentrification, and that’s another topic I’m glad to have read about in YA this year. A strong debut for teen readers who want to deal with important questions written in simple, fast-paced prose.

Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season is, I believe, another debut, but lyrical and haunting. I’m not usually a magical realism person (or big on reading about teens who smoke) but this book grabbed me and would not let go. For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart.

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. Definitely the weirdest book I’ve had to explain to people this year: It’s a metanarrative about a book series within a book that’s a lot like Harry Potter but um, then the author decided to write her own version of the fake series from the book she wrote where a character writes fan fiction about it. Yeah. I’m told that Harry Potter fan fic readers will get even more out of the book than I did, and I already thought it was amazing. Not perfect, but amazing.

Mo Willems put out I Really Like Slop, a great book about trying new things. Elephant & Piggie 4ever.

Oh, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories. Great for about four-year-olds and up, you get stories like “One day I ran away from home. Then I came back. The end.” Meanwhile the art directs you to what really happened between those words, which you can make up for your child or your child can make up for you.

Books I read in 2015 but weren’t published in 2015, also they are not rereads otherwise we’d be here all day

Rat Queens! Something I love, something my daughter loves. The me part is the weird part, though. I handed her the book and said, “This is about lesbians in a D&D world” and she was all over it. (It was a very limited description, but that’s how I hook her.) I, however, don’t care about fantasy, so this raunchy little tale surprised me with its ability to immediately win me over. I read the first issue last year and I’m super-excited for the next volume to finally get to me.

Neal Shusterman’s Undivided. The “dystology” ends as strongly as it began, or close enough that it makes no never-mind.

An Elephant & Piggie book I missed when I was out the librarian game: My New Friend is So Fun! Not every Elephant & Piggie books gets five stars from me, but almost all of them do.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl really impressed the heck out of me. I laughed so much. I liked Greg despite his flaws. I was impressed by how it shows illness as something that can be tangential to one’s life, because most books put it front and center. Good bookend for The Fault in Our Stars but I don’t feel like they should be compared so much as contrasted.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead is maybe a misleading title for a very smart, very emotional book. Told in alternate perspectives–including one in second person–it’s primarily about a bunch of middle schoolers who are trying to figure themselves out. One girl was in an almost-fatal accident as a child and can’t stop wondering if there’s something about her life that’s meant to do. Another has a boy she likes who wants to trade pictures with her that grow increasingly daring (and increasingly hurt my stomach, so real). A boy is dealing with the loss of a family member. A teen is running away. It’s a wonderful book, and I need to see if my predecessor ordered it because if not, it’s going to be my first middle-school order of the year.

The Martian! Was as great as I was told, and as good as the movie but with more techie stuff in it.

Octavia Butler’s Unexpected Stories were very unexpected to me: I didn’t realize one was a prequel of sorts to Survivor. The other is more like the middle of the Patternist series, although it isn’t set there as far as I can tell.

Caroline Kepnes’s You is the book that should’ve gotten huge after Gone Girl, not the inferior The Girl on the Train. It’s dark, it’s smart, it has the best (and most terrifying) usage of social media I’ve seen in a book. You should totally read this book.

Joe Hill’s Locke & Key was a super-great comic series I should’ve read when it came out. (I think I got it confused with something else so kept passing it by.) It was my introduction to Stephen King’s son and will not be the last I’ve seen of him.

The Day the Crayons Quit is a super-cute picture book that also came out during that period I wasn’t a children’s librarian. A group of us read it aloud during story, and everyone from age 7 to age 38 enjoyed it very much.

Near Death is a comic about a hitman who has a near-death experience and decides he’s going to try to atone for his previous sins. Not everyone thinks this is a great idea. Strong first volume, slightly weaker conclusion, but I really liked it and its conflicted, flawed antihero.

Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book is a slow-burn of a time travel novel that takes place in near-future England and way-long-ago England. Time travel is used to study historical events, and university politics has caused one administrator to push what might be a dangerous trip just before the holidays. As historian Kivrin deals with a malfunction in the past, the present deals with trying to get her home and a big problem of their own. In part almost a mystery, the twists can be subtle and expectations are alternately fulfilled and subverted. So good.

Oh, and I think I got past where I’d originally read to in Peter David’s second X-Factor run and since my husband got me Marvel Unlimited, as soon as I knock out a few library books that were lingering from last year, that’s what I’m heading right back into. Aw yeah.

Remember that time I said I’d finish the reviews? I was reading instead.

December 31, 2015

Down to the wire this year on getting my 50 shelf books done–I finished the last one at about 3pm today. Hey, I would’ve been done sooner, but the two before that were absolute stinkers.

Then I read a graphic novel, because why not?

Next year’s goals don’t include the “new book” thing. That was a goal I set for myself when I was working at the other library, where there were lots of hold lists and I didn’t get to older adult books I was interested in. They don’t really include a number, but I’ll set it at “100” on Goodreads because Goodreads wants something set.

I’m still doing 50 off the shelf–or, in this case, what’s left of the book tree, which is a shrub. So, 50 off the shrub.

I’m going to try to keep up with all the book clubs–the ones I run and the one I help with and the one I go to for fun–but I won’t beat myself up if I miss a book here or there.

It’s a pretty light year for me, all in all.

Goodreads says I read 340 books this year, but they don’t recognize when I don’t finish a book, and they really have no way of setting a book unfinished. (Probably bad for the authors and publishers they work with?) Anyway, so it was probably around 330, including children’s books I read to the kids at work.

Good year.

Tomorrow, if I’m awake, I’ll post a little about which ones I loved the most.

Merry Christmas! Here are some half-butted book reviews

December 25, 2015

Where were we? Four stars of 2014, right.

Rainbow Rowell is great. Her book Attachments is also great. What is not great is that the characters are generally crap people in the beginning and that made it difficult for me to fall in love with it. I wanted to punch these twenty-somethings all the time. It was like Everything You Dislike About Millennials, but Actually True Stuff Not the BS on the Internet. But eventually they grew on me, or I liked it despite them. It’s probably my least favorite of her books, but that’s not saying much.

Richelle Mead put out her second book in the awkwardly-named Age of X series, The Immortal Crown. It was good! I’m not sure I liked it as much as the first book, but isn’t that often the way when you’re looking at a series? Age of X is sort of like futuristic American Gods, and is not a teen series like her Vampire Academy books, if it wasn’t otherwise clear. These are adults doing adult-y things.

E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars is a dark, broody tale of privilege, love, and loss. It’s definitely for that type of person who enjoys Lauren Oliver, which I sort of do but not as much as I want to. It’s a good back-to-back read with Oliver’s four-star book of the year, Rooms, although I don’t think Rooms is a YA book. Still, there are some interesting similarities, including tone. What kept Rooms from being a five-star book is Oliver’s tendency toward flowery language in the beginning of her work, which always drives me batcrazy. Once it settles down, it’s a great book.

Scott Westerfeld’s book Afterworlds is amazing. It tells the story of a young author getting her first book published, and alternates with the book she’s writing. The problem is that the first scene of the book-within-a-book is so intensely, heart-stoppingly good that nothing else could ever compare to it, so the book-within-a-book quickly becomes the least interesting part of the story. Both parts are interesting on their own; together, they may not be naturally stronger, but it’s a cool, unusual take on storywriting and the publishing business.

Sara Farizan’s second novel Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel highlights how far she’s come since her debut. Her writing flows better, although that could be because this book is set in America and she doesn’t have to walk the thin line between describing Iranian culture and telling a good story.  It’s about an Iranian-American girl who knows she’s attracted to other girls, but has kept it under the radar, until a new student dazzles her. Great book to rec to LGBTQA(etc) teens.

Jojo Moyes seems to be one of those writers from somewhere else that’s been big over there but has only now crossed over here. I could be wrong about that, but suddenly, I am seeing her everywhere. I decided to try out her book One Plus One, and I’m glad I did. It has a sort of Nick Hornby feel to it. A single mom has a kid who’s really good in math and…you know what? Whatever. It’s one of the most honestly subtle books about poverty that I’ve read. The simple desperation of single parenthood. And also it’s a great story. So there’s that as well. I’d like to read another book of hers, but finding the time has been tough. (Because of all the other books I have much closer to my fingertips.)

I read two four-star Christopher Pike books last year: Master of Murder and Tales of Terror, the latter of which includes a story with the main character from the former. M of M is a book I didn’t own as a kid, so it was fun to pick it up. I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, but I didn’t practically memorize it like I have with so many Pike books, which made it a treat. Same with Tales, although it’s basically got three stars worth of content. As I said on Goodreads, “The 4th star is for the insight of his introductions. He calls himself a genius and says he never dated in high school.” Never change, Kevin.

Speaking of horror, Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes is a good book to use to explain why Stephen King is not as huge as he was when I was growing. The world has changed, Mr. King, and I often wonder if you are changing with it. The constant stream of racism from the villain’s inner monologues are tiresome and, frankly, come off like they were written by a teenager who gets off on the idea of shocking people. But racism isn’t shocking to a post-Obama world, Mr. King. Also, his jive-talking black sidekick and the women in the book are written incredibly awkwardly. Despite that, the book is entertaining, but not enough to immediately pick up the second book when it came out.

Sarah Waters’s book Tipping the Velvet is basically insane. Like, good insane. Great insane. It’s about a girl who spends her life shucking clams or something (oops, oysters) and then sees a stage act and immediately falls in love with either the actress, acting, or both. It’s raunchy Dickens; it’s Victorian soap opera. It’s amazing. I’m not quite sure why I gave it four stars. It also has a watered-down, means-well television that I would suggest you skip but hey, you can do what you want.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is about a kid who’s on the spectrum who’s annoying and trying to solve what he believes is a mystery. It’s a fascinating look into the way a neuroatypical mind works. Haddon, who also wrote the great A Spot of Bother (which I listened to on audiobook; love the reader), has this way of keeping you reading even if you want to throttle the characters.

Robot Uprisings is a compilation of short stories, many of them ranging from good to very good, edited by Daniel H. Wilson of Robopocalypse fame. I didn’t note which stories I liked best, but it’s rare for me to give a four-star rating to an anthology, so they must’ve mostly been good across the board.

Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss trilogy ends with Isla and the Happily Ever After. Except for the part where I couldn’t get the pronunciation of Isla right, it was a cute wrap-up with interesting characters and closure for the other ones. I really liked this series. I wish more series took place in other cultures. When did we stop being Francophiles? Or was that just me as a kid?

Four-star first issues from Image Comics: Tim Seeley’s Revival, Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, Ed Brubaker’s Velvet, and Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queens (which ended up being a five-star series, I believe).

Speaking of comics, I read Mark Millar’s Superior, and it’s an odd little story about a kid with MS and how he gets the ability to turn himself into a superhero. It gets trippy at the end, but it’s a solid read (especially if you like trippy).

Whew, okay, I’m almost tapped out here. No, never mind, I really am tapped out. And I have a family event to get to. Except more tomorrow or Sunday, since I want to get 2014 done by New Year’s Day.


End of the year thinky-think

December 13, 2015

I’m pretty sure if I go back, I’ll find a post like this every December: I’m X number of books behind my yearly goal, I feel like I haven’t Y, I’ve failed at Z.

I depress myself. I set slightly more reasonable goals this year, but only in the sense I lowballed my straight-up “how many books?” number. (Down from like 400 to 100. I will probably finish the year with a little over 300 books read, including graphic novels and all the children’s books I read for storytime.) I set a goal for 50 from the in-house TBR pile (which I called “shelf reads,” because they’re on my shelves when they’re not packed into boxes because there are so many of them I’ve run out of shelves. I’m at 42 now. I can probably finish 50 by the new year, but these last couple weeks will feel like a chore.

I blew far past by new-book reads because I work at a library where I can call dibs on stuff, by 30 or so books, the books I “should” have read off the shelf, which are also new. I mean, I was even at the point where I took out a book once or twice and then went, “Oh, right, I have this at home from BEA.”

Scheduling books isn’t working. Not scheduling books isn’t working.

The end of the year always makes me feel crummy about everything I haven’t done. I know I’m progressing in a lot of my goals, and I’m even meeting my book goals, but I still, after all these years, haven’t thrown off that feeling that I am wasting all my time ever. The new tablet/hybrid/whatever is not helping, because it SUCKS and is now underlining everything I type in red for no reason that I can figure out.

Oh, so going to another paragraph helps. Whatever THAT means. Buuuut I’m past the time I can return it, and I don’t know what I could return it FOR that would cost the same and get me as much that wouldn’t exacerbate my dizziness. That’s been the problem with laptops the last three or four years. There’s something about the refresh rate or something, and you can’t mess with it. Only the Retina screen from Apple didn’t make me nauseated. Fortunately, most tablet screens are on that level now, but I also need the laptop-like OS to run things like Scrivener. So here I am, with a half-working computer that doesn’t have any of my documents on it because I don’t trust it since it lost those 5k words during NaNoWriMo. (I got to 25K with NaNo, which is another reason I finish every year feeling like I’m a failure.)

Oh, now the audio menu won’t disappear and every time I type it’s lowering the volume (not that I’m listening to anything) and it won’t let me minimize any windows. Surface, y’all!

So, anywhoodle, I should probably be reading instead of writing this, but what’s my year without being miserable about my year? Usually around this time I’d be cementing my reading goals for the next year, but I think I’m going to put “100 books and shut up.” For one thing, I’m running four book clubs and helping out with a fifth. AND I’m in a sixth book club, sort of. At least, I’m trying to be but I get so busy and tired. In any case, trying to use only my own books isn’t likely to work. I still think it’s important to read the new books coming into the library because the kids appreciate and sometimes even rely on my suggestions. So do many of the adults who read in YA, and the sf ones too.

But I do like reducing the amount of books in my house. I was thinking about maybe moving many of them to the library but really, that’s just changing whose shelves they’re on, you know? It wouldn’t actually change whether I would feel like they were hanging over my head. Which I do. So I could get rid of ALL of them but I wouldn’t like that either. I can’t win. I’ve created a no-win situation here. I could read all the time, I guess, but then I’d just think of another place in my life where I’m lacking. As always, the answer to all this is the toughest: break the internet addiction I created twenty-plus years ago.

Hm. Now THAT is a goal…and it’s barely reasonable in this day and age. But what would that even look like? Would I feel even more lonely? I do all my scheduling online. How would that affect my ability to keep up with what I’m doing? Also, one of my besties lives a few miles down the road, but the other certainly does not, and she is getting married later this year. While I’m not in the wedding (she loves me so much), I still want to be there for her, and I can barely hear a thing on my phone, so chat is still the best way to talk to her. How can all these things mesh?

Okay, so I’m forming a goal here, I think. I have to think some more, though, and get back to you on how it’s going to end up.

(And then I’ll probably just fail at it, too. But trying is good, right?)


More three-star reads from 2014

December 11, 2015

Maybe I will finish reviewing 2014 books before 2016…sigh.

Marge Piercy’s collected short fiction is nothing to write home about in The Price of Lunch, Etc. Some good stories, some not-so-good. I’ve been reading more short fiction on purpose since my time in college made me appreciate the form, and I think we don’t give the short story the kind of respect it deserves. It’s tough! And Piercy, sadly, proves that.

Judith Michael’s Acts of Love is…well, I’ve mostly forgotten it. I want to say it’s about two people and their relationship or whatever, and the dude is insanely arrogant and completely put me off, but I feel that way most of the time about any romantic fiction from before the mid-1990s. Judith Michael is a husband and wife team, which I think makes it even worse, because the dude was written with dude input.

Another author who has been one-and-done for me (see above: Piercy) is Emma Donoghue. Room is a masterpiece. Her other works, not so much. Frog Music is Sarah Waters without all that talent. It’s good enough to keep you going, but that’s not really what I want from a book.

Speaking of disappointments (oh, three-stars), Patrick Ness’s The Crane Wife. I am such a fan of his Chaos Walking series. We had a patron in the other day and I recommended it to him (adult, not a teen) and he sat in the library, devouring the first book, then immediately took out the other two. The Crane Wife has that vaguely icky feel to it that happens when you read a retold fairy tale where someone extraordinary becomes someone ordinary’s wife. I wanted the book to be more subtle, but it’s not, and more…something. I can’t even tell you, it’s been so long. But I won’t reread it. I’ve read it once and I’m done. *shrug*

Thor: Season One by Matthew Sturges et al is one of those perfect three-star books: it adds nothing to the myth of Thor, but gives us a pleasing but, again, not memorable story with the character in it.

R.L. Stine’s Dangerous Girls probably got the rating of three stars in comparison to his awful Red Rain. It’s a good kid horror book, but it’s nothing special, not even for R.L. Stine. Goodreads says it’s the first book in a series or at least has a sequel, but I’m uninterested in what happens next.

My husband, for some reason, got me the fifth volume of the Dennis O’Neil Question run. I guess because it was there. I hate reading things out of order, and Riddles was no exception. When the book is focused on the ongoing story, it’s interesting. The rest of the time, it was not.

I read some first issues of comics that were interesting enough, but not enough to get me to buy the first trade: Alex + Ada by the Luna Brothers, Thief of Thieves by Robert Kirkman, and Bedlam by Nick Spencer. I actually do expect to pick up Alex  + Ada at some point, but I think it’s because the source material has been done and done, so I’m wondering how the Lunas will deal with it. Can they even give it a unique spin? The art will be worth it no matter the story, I think. The other two, I’ve completely forgotten what they are.

Yeah, even the Kirkman.

I have a very unpopular opinion: I don’t love Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run as much as everyone else. I think it peaked in the second trade. The first, My Life as a Weapon, is firmly three-star, although David Aja’s art is fantastic. The “bro” thing wears itself out, but “Hawkguy” never will.

Oh hey, I already reviewed E. Paul Zehr’s Project Superhero on Goodreads, good for me: This is a book written on about a fifth grade level about an eighth grader who apparently reads comics meant for late teens and adults. Some of the superhero knowledge is wonky (Storm got her powers how?) or sanitized (Cassandra Cain’s back story), and/or full of spoilers. The scientific information and non-fiction aspects of the book work when they’re tied into Jessie’s research, but otherwise feel like digression. This book is, no pun intended, about five issue books at once, like someone decided to splice bits of After School Special-esque levels of information into one decent story. Kids will probably like this book, either if they’re already into the topic or young enough to be able to relate to 8th graders (Grade 8-ers?) who haven’t yet seemed to hit puberty, but my suggestion to teachers and librarians is to put in the research to find age-appropriate comics for the kids to read afterward.

Mary Downing Hahn’s Where I Belong is a boring name for a book that could be so much more than it is. It’s a by-the-numbers bullying/friendship/whatever kids’ book. Good for collections, bad for adults to read, because it doesn’t have that universality that good children’s books have.

Finally, I did a reread of Jennifer Crusie’s short story “Santa Baby.” You know I love Jenny Crusie like whoa, but this is probably her weakest later work. The short story thing is not her forte. I heard she’s been asked to polish it before but hasn’t had the time or energy, which is too bad. It needs…something…although it is enjoyable.

And there you go, that’s the last of the three-stars. Four stars are next!

I’m putting Armada in YA and you can’t stop me

November 19, 2015

Fans are saying Ernest Cline’s Armada is a failure because it sticks too close to the source material. My argument is that it’s been marketed wrong. This is a young adult book that’s been marketed to adults. Why doesn’t anyone seem to get that?

Even School Library Journal put it under “Adult books for YA collections.” But why? Why is it not a YA book? It’s the story of a teen–who is about to graduate, but hasn’t yet–and his adventure fighting aliens. Readers have complained that it’s too much like The Last Starfighter, which it references, but the meta-narrative only works if you’re an adult and grew up watching The Last Starfighter. I mean, I did and all, but not over and over again like a lot of other movies from that time (I guess it wasn’t on cable for me to record), so I didn’t mind. Also, I thought when I was reading it that it was a teen book, so what did it matter? It stands as a teen book. If it’s too close to the source material, so what? That doesn’t matter for the audience it would do best with. Even if they’ve seen it, we’re talking about the generation that made Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Carry On bestsellers. This isn’t a generation that thinks that meta-narratives don’t have their own worth.

So I’m ordering Armada today for my teen collection, and no one here will stop me. Nor should they. Armada is a teen book, and I’m going to put it where my teens can read it. Then we’ll see what they think. Dollars to donuts, they will enjoy it for what it is, not what they want it to be.