Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: "Easy" by Tammara Webber

Jacqueline isn't sure how she got to this point.  She has just started her sophomore year at college - it wasn't her choice of school, but rather her boyfriend's.  The boyfriend, Kennedy, who just suddenly dumped her two weeks ago.  It looks like she might fail one of her classes - something she has never been close to doing before.  Now, after a Halloween party at Kennedy's frat, she is assaulted an nearly raped.  Luckily, a stranger stepped in and rescued her.  Now that stranger, Lucas seems to be everywhere and Jacqueline can't stop thinking about him.

This came highly recommended by a friend, and I was interested as I haven't really read many New Adult books.  This I liked and read it in one day!  There was a lot going on in here, and I really liked how it went together.  Yes, one of the intended "twists" was painfully obvious from the start, but it all went further than that.

I didn't intend to read another book dealing with rape quite so soon.  (See:  All The Rage)  I really didn't know that was part of this story.  Here we are in a college setting, and the Greek system is heavily referenced (Jacqueline is not a member, but her roommate/best friend and her ex boyfriend are).  There comes a point where Greek politics tries to make a situation theirs, and it plays out in the way I had hoped.  This is as much a love story as it is about surviving and self-empowerment and being a truly supportive friend.  AND it has resources and an author's note at the end which I think is so so important in a book like this.

The bottom line is that I enjoyed this and thought it was a fun, light, entertaining read with just enough sexytimes for me.  I think I'd like to read more of this, or at least have it on hand when I just need a little something in between heavier books.  If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

by Tammara Webber
Berkley, 2012
310 pages
Series:  Contours of the Heart #1
Source:  Purchased New


Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: "Out Stealing Horses" by Per Petterson

Trond is in his late 60s, widowed for three years, and has just moved to a tiny house in the very rural Norwegian forest.  He wanted to get back there, to the forest and the rivers and lakes.  He is fixing up a house that barely has indoor plumbing and has but one nearby neighbor.  He relishes the solitude he shares with his dog Lyra.  Being in the forest reminds him of the summer he spent with his father in the forest near the Swedish border.  That was the summer he was fifteen, and Trond got to know his father in a new way...  and was the last time he saw his father.

This is another book club pick, and I've been such a procrastinator with those books, that I actually read this a week before our meeting!  Yay!  It helps that this was a fairly quick read, and very well written too.  It has been awhile since I've read anything by a Scandinavian  author and I'd forgotten how much I like the writing style.  It tends to be more sparse and deliberate.  The scenery is something amazing too.

This story is a coming of age story, yes.  But not just a coming into adulthood story, but also a coming into a next stage of adulthood - not quite end of life, but a peaceful reflection period.  The way the narration moves between the present and the past is practically seamless and makes total sense.  But there are two story lines here that, given that this is one character's life, are interconnected.  Or at least one has a profound affect upon the other.  The summer of his childhood has a few remarkable and surprising events.  Including the one we all have at one point or another - where we realize that our parents are actual humans too, and in that humanity are entitled to their own secrets and past and whatnot.  Trond feels the twist of this discovery (and his father does have an unusual story of his own) and the reader does too.  The trick is to see how these past events have shaped the person he is at 67.

There is a recurring thought that works its way throughout the book that really got me.  It is "we decide for ourselves when it will hurt".   So true.

Out Stealing Horses
by Per Petterson
Graywolf Press, 2005.  First published 2003.
258 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, February 4, 2016

BookReview: "All the Rage" by Courtney Summers

Romy Grey knows what happened.  She know that she told him to stop.  But when she told people, they thought she was lying.  And now they are making her life hell (as if it wasn't already).  Why?  Because he is Kellan Turner - son of the Sheriff & the leading business woman in their small town.  So, basically, as far as anyone else is concerned - he can do no wrong.  Romy, on the other hand, is the daughter of an alcoholic who had publicly disrespected Mrs. Turner.  But now the one person that connects Romy and Kellan has disappeared, and Romy is being blamed for that as well.  And this is after Romy is told about another girl that Kellan may have assaulted and has asked for help coming forward.  Is Romy strong enough?  Would anyone believe her if she did come forward?

This title is so appropriate.  I was definitely feeling all the rage on Romy's behalf.  The bullying and humiliation she endures at the hands of her classmates and the adults in town is ridiculous.  Romy wasn't my favorite person all the time... she makes some pretty poor decisions throughout the story... but I would never wish all that to happen to anyone.  Yes, I recognize that she is fictional.  But you know what I mean.

This is very difficult to read, emotionally speaking.  The author doesn't hold back at all.  You are put right in Romy's mind during the rape, and you are with her as she struggles to keep herself together and moving forward.  This does make the very beginning of the book a little hard to follow, and it is unsettling - which is pretty much the point.  Unfortunately, the actions of the Sheriff were a little harder to accept as being authentic.

I think the biggest thing this book is missing would be a list of resources for readers to get more information or help.  Or maybe even an author's note about the research done.  Something along those lines.  I mean, this is fictional, but it could be a trigger for victims of date rape, bullying, or other kinds of assault.  And while I wouldn't expect a victim to turn to this book necessarily, I would think friends and family might as part of the general public reading this book.

All the Rage
by Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Griffin, 2015.
317 pages
Source:  Purchased new


Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review: "More Happy than Not" by Adam Silvera

Its summer in Aaron Soto's complex in the Bronx, and things are going on as well as they can.  Aaron's family is still grieving after his dad committed suicide a few months ago - and Aaron tried to follow not long after.  But things are going with the same group of kids that Aaron's grown up with, his beautiful girlfriend, and his job at the Good Food Store.  Aaron meets this kid Thomas from a nearby complex, and they become good friends fast.  In fact, their friendship becomes such a big deal for Aaron, that things with his girlfriend starts to take a turn.  It becomes this big, messy, love and unrequited love thing.  Aaron starts to think that undergoing that Leteo procedure which removes and manipulates your memories doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

I really wasn't sure about this one, although I had heard positive things about it.  The opening couple of chapters were a little rough for me to get into, probably because I wasn't ready for it.  Aaron's neighborhood is very different from what I know, but the author was able to put me there.  It didn't take long for me to get into this at all.  And then it happened.  This thing happened right where I planned to stop reading for the night - and instead I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish.  It has been a long time since that happened, and wow.  I was just floored by the direction the story took!  I mean, honestly, this book really is something special.

The major themes in this book are identity and sexuality while also exploring social class and philosophically - how much are we defined by the memories we carry?  Again, I just have to say that this book is something special.  You'll be glad you picked it up.  I know I am.

More Happy than Not
by Adam Silvera
Soho Teen, 2015
293 pages
Source:  ALAMW16


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: "Selected Stories of O. Henry"

I remember reading a couple of O. Henry short stories back when I was in middle school.  They are perfect for teaching irony, short verse, etc - English teachers must love them.  I thought the stories we read were fantastic, and I had always wanted to read more.  So fast forward to 4 years ago, when I added O. Henry to my Classics Club list...  and now I've finally finished a collection of his short stories.

There are 45 stories collected here, along with a timeline, a short introduction to his life, and end notes.  I wasn't paying very close attention, but I *think* they are in sort of chronological order as well.  They first bunch of stories are set in New York and are shorter...  a few pages each.  Toward the middle of the book, the stories are longer and are set in the West.  At the very end, we come back to New York and shorter stories again.  I have to admit, that I enjoyed the NY stories more, but there were a few westerns I liked too.  "Madame Bo-Peep, of the Ranches" is actually quite sweet.

Other favorites were "Mammon and the Archer", "After Twenty Years", "The Memento", "The Princess and the Puma", "Brickdust Row", "The Renaissance at Charleroi", and "Tobin's Palm".  Oh, and "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Last Leaf" as well of course.  I'd love to get into each of these stories, but the problem with short stories is that - they are short and usually have a twist ending and I don't want to give anything  away!  I was disappointed to realize that this collection does not include "The Ransom of Red Chief", so I'll have to find that elsewhere.  The story "The Social Triangle" includes one of the best character names ever - Ikey Snigglefritz.  Isn't that great?

I did find this a little difficult to read all at once.  I did take a break for a bit for another book, and then came back.  It just gets to be a little much after awhile, you know?  They really are quite clever and entertaining.  It is easy to see how they were published in magazines originally - it is kind of the perfect medium.

Selected Stories of O. Henry
by O. Henry
Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003.  Stories originally published 1906-1917.
433 pages
Source:  Purchased New


Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir

A series of freak occurrences, and perhaps a bit of bad luck, changed everything for Mark Watney.  He and the crew he was with got caught up in a major storm while on the Mars surface.  Watney was injured and separated from the rest of the team.  Believing that Watney had died from the injury (they had seen it happen and it not only looked bad but that it had also compromised his protective suit, and that the monitors in the suit said he was dead) they took off with only seconds to save their own lives.  It was a terribly difficult decision, but the right one.  Watney, however, was not dead.  He was now stranded, alone, on Mars.

Clearly, there has been a lot of buzz about this book.  Then there was the movie starring Matt Damon....  which went on to be nominated for all sorts of impressive awards.  I wanted to see what the buzz was all about (before I saw the movie of course) but I was nervous - science fiction is not typically my thing.  This book, however, was totally my thing.

I was hooked right from the start.  The hopelessness of the Watney's situation, and the fact he kept his wits and sense of humor about him.  The pacing is perfect.  There are nice dramatic buildups to the major scenes with some calming, but important lows in between.  I really enjoyed the character of Mark Watney.  The way he is written makes me completely buy in to this totally outrageous situation.  There is a lot of science discussed as well, but it is explained in such a way that even though I don't fully understand it, I didn't feel like it was making my head spin at all.  The ending was incredibly intense, as I'm sure you can imagine.  I loved every bit of the ride.

I can see this being an excellent movie, and I look forward to seeing it soon!  This is great for adults and teens who enjoy science fiction, adventure and survival stories - especially peppered with humor.

The Martian
by Andy Weir
Broadway Books, 2014.  First published 2011.
369 pages
Source:  gift


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: "Someone" by Alice McDermott

Marie is ....  Marie is....  Who is Marie?  Marie is the ordinary looking Irish girl with big glasses growing up in Brooklyn.  She is the sister of Gabe, who was a priest for a bit.  She is the girl who had her heart cruelly broken by the first boy she fell for.  She is the daughter of the father she adored and the cold mother she was scared to lose.  She is a mother and a wife, a caretaker and caregiver.  She is a nobody, she is every woman, and she has had a life worth telling about.

The story is told through a series of memories that generally (but not always) follow the timeline of Marie's life.  She is recounting the memories for the reader as an old woman looking back.  Therefore, there is not an abundance of plot per se, but rather a lush expansion of character and place.  I became completely invested in Marie's life, as the losses and joys common to most were beautifully rendered in this gorgeous writing.

Would I have picked this book up on my own?  I really don't know.  It did garner some attention and award nominations when it was published a couple years ago, which always makes me curious but I probably would not have picked this up.  The book club at the library chose this one though, so there you have it.  I was about half way through when a meeting I had to attend was changed to make it impossible for me to attend the book club discussion on this though - but I was too far gone in Marie's life to just put the book away.  I was compelled to finish, and I'm glad I did.

by Alice McDermott
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013.
232 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: "I Work at a Public Library" by Gina Sheridan

This book contains some of the crazy stories of things that actually happen in public libraries - sometimes daily.  I try to tell stories about my library, and I'm not sure that people believe me...  but these things happen.  Real patrons say these things to us.  We really do find those things in the stacks or in your returned books.  And one of my personal mottoes has always been, "if you can't laugh, why bother?".  Sure sometimes it's gross, many times it is rude - but you have to laugh.  It is what it is.

I love the way this book is organized as well:  it uses Dewey of course!  For example, chapter 6 is "302.2 Communication, Failures and Disruptions of".  A favorite chapter is chapter 8 "598.2 Rare Birds' which is dedicated to stories pertaining to one particular patron - Cuckoo Carol.  Because lets face it, every public library has a Cuckoo Carol (though you may use a different nickname).

The short little scenes are written in such a way that anyone can see the humor, though librarians and library workers/volunteers might laugh the loudest.  I am so thankful to have received this as a Christmas gift and plan on sharing it with my staff!

I Work at a Public Library
by Gina Sheridan
Adams Media, 2014.
157 pages
Source:  gift


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thoughts from ALA Midwinter 2016

The Exhibit Floor - totally overwhelming at first
 I went to ALA's Midwinter Meetings this past weekend, as it was fortunately held in Boston - so close I had to go!

I am still a very new librarian.  The whole time I was in school, I decided that I would NOT go to any conferences while school was in session.  I couldn't afford to be distracted.  Also, my kids are still pretty young and it is difficult for me to do anything that would require staying overnight.  That said, I have been to a couple Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conferences (which are fantastic, by the way), New England Library Association Conference and workshops as well as smaller conferences.  These in no way prepared me for the magnitude of ALA Midwinter - which is only a fraction the size of the full Annual Conference in June.

That said, the hugeness of the Boston Convention Center and of the Exhibit Floor started to shrink as I got my bearings and felt more comfortable there.  As my director mentioned, Midwinter is nice because you actually see people you know.  And I did!  I saw former classmates, current co-workers and colleagues, and my blogger friends (and met new blogger friends).  I went to a couple meetings (which didn't quite seem to be what was advertised, but still interesting), lots of BookBuzz events about new titles coming this spring and summer and walked the exhibit floor.  I talked with vendors  and saw demos that will help me on some committees I am on for work, I made contacts with publishers for help in developing our science fiction and Spanish language collections, and I left with a ton of galleys for forthcoming books.

About those galleys....  I was a book blogger for years before working in libraries and I had heard about the librarian vs. blogger battle for the coveted ARCs.  I didn't really know how I was going to fit in there, as I am technically both I guess...  so I kind of watched it play out.  And I didn't really see or hear anything about it specifically until I was in one panel/BookBuzz that you needed a full conference pass to enter (ie: probably no bloggers as they most likely only purchased the cheaper "Exhibits Only" pass).  Here I heard one group of librarians complain about the people grabbing too many ARCs, or stalking the tables, or what have you.  They were not happy.  The room we were in featured an author speaking, and had a table of galleys at the back - we were asked to take one as we left.  Ideally, you would listen to the presentation on the books and choose one you were most interested it.  However, once the author finished her talk, people in the back of the room started to quietly swarm the table, taking all the books.  At the end, the publishing reps had to say that they were sorry, all the books were gone - and the rule following people at the front of the room audibly gasped.  It was true - they were all gone.  So I saw it folks - it isn't just non-librarians scooping up ARCs and it shouldn't be an us vs. them sort of discussion.  I think there are just different kinds of people with different goals who attend these events - some may be more professional than others, sure but sweeping generalizations do not apply here.  (do they ever?)  But it is kind of ironic that ALA recommends that you don't take more than you can use, etc...  and then provides a post office location on the floor to help you ship all your loot back home.

I really enjoyed seeing my blogger friends though!  One I had been speaking with for a couple of years now but hadn't actually met yet - so that was great!  Others I just met this weekend, and I look forward to getting to know them through twitter, etc.  I was also introduced to someone who served on an award selection committee this year.  Not only was she just a super nice person and someone else I'm looking forward to get to know, but she gave me a little insight on what it's like to be on a selection committee which is something I'd really like to do at some point.

And if you've read this far - let me share with you my very nearly mortifying/embarrassing moment of the weekend.  I was in a booth with a blogger friend and saw that Kwame Alexander has a followup to his fantastic The Crossover coming out.  I was gushing about the fabulousness of The Crossover to my friend...  when the publicity person (handing me the ARC of Booked) said, "Um, you know he's standing right behind you, right?"  NO I DID NOT.  Sure enough, Kwame Alexander himself was standing directly behind me - luckily engrossed in a conversation an not listening to me fangirl all over his books.  Whew.
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