Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Funday

Having been on vacation for two days this week, my mojo is off.  I finished a bunch of books and now I'm backlogged in reviews.  Most of them are cranky reviews, which take longer to write than happy reviews.

I feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears right now and I can't think and I have to do two storytimes.  Hold me.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Shock Wave by Clive Cussler with BONUS commentary!

I've been having such a fun conversation on Goodreads with some people who stumbled onto my old review of this book.  I was on a minor quest to read the Dirk Pitt™ books because ... I really liked the Sahara movie because it was fun and funny and I knew that Cussler hated it, so I wanted to see if his writing was oh-so-much better than the banter Dirk and Al in the movie ("Maybe ya gotta small head."  "I dunno.  Somebody woulda told me.").

NO.  I mean, sweet Moses who supposes his toeses are roses, what is this dreck?  I mean, it was mildly entertaining dreck, but I wasn't being entertained by the story; rather the bizarre characters, Dirk's ability to have any woman melt at his feet, and his seeming immunity to STIs made me laugh and cringe simultaneously.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I am halfway through The Name of the Wind!  Huzzah!  It's so good.

In other books ...

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken.  I keep this by my bed and read a story before I go to sleep.  The one I read last night was about librarians, and had so many stereotypes that it will probably be discussed at length in my full review.

Alive by Scott Sigler.  I love, love, love the Infected books by Sigler, and I was so excited to hear he had a book coming out that was a bit more geared toward teens.  I've only just started it, but it's really good.  I hope it gets gory soon.  Is that a creepy thing to say?

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly.  The cover doesn't suit the book at all, but I am intrigued.  I love it when Gilded Age women rebel.  And dig up corpses.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 1: At the Edge of Empire

How on earth am I supposed to review this?  I had an eARC, but this book is like nine thousand pages (just kidding!  Goodreads gives the page count as 656) of what I can only categorize as an epic.    And this is just part one.  (Note to Daniel Kraus: I really, really, really need part two or I might keel over from Acute Feels Disorder, which is endemic to book bloggers and librarians).  And a word of warning: I've admitted previously that I find enthusiastic, swooning reviews (in which category this review fits) extremely difficult to write.  By nature, I am a pessimist, and a tra-la-la-la-la sort of perkiness doesn't particularly become me.  Yet, here I am, giving it a go.

First of all, I admit that in the middle I lost faith.  Forgive me, o author, for I have sinned.  I felt like things weren't really happening and I was cranky and I had a cold.  Being ill makes me petulant, at best.  And then we slammed into the trenches of WWI and I was totally there.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Quick hello

Hi to ... all the random people who clicked on my blog today!  If it was because of the Teen Services Underground post, thank you!  If it was some strange convergence of everyone deciding they needed to look at a cheese-loving Celiac librarian's snarky blog, also welcome!

So, this whole introduction thing.  I am an introvert.  I'm running away now.  Read my reviews.  Subscribe.  Follow me with Bloglovin.  That stuff.

Murder is Bad Manners

Ahh, a boarding school book.  I love books set at boarding schools--especially British ones!  I love the whole mini-cosmos created by some crenellated walls and a sensibly-shod headmistress.  Also, this whole field hockey thing, which seems like rugby with sticks for Proper Young Ladies of Quality.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Zero World

Caution: this book will give you whiplash.  Hough pulls you along so quickly, and then throws a plot twist at you so unexpectedly, that you might need to book a massage afterwards.  Or maybe get some Advil.

I admit that, going into this, I was chomping at the bit to be harsh.  For this, I sincerely repent and grovel on my knees.  As much as I try to be open-minded, I'm human.  The premise of an alternate Earth reminded me a lot of Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds, who is one of my favorite authors, so I was prepared to say, "Well, Reynolds, did it better, so pfft."

I am so glad I didn't!  Sometimes I'm such a book snob; it's excessively embarrassing.  Apart from a few (very few) proofing errors and a bit of a slow start, Zero World is exactly the kind of action sci-fi I've been craving.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I spilled coffee on my copy of Last Call.  Librarians, too, have coffee issues with library books.  Librarians pay for library books.  We are not immune to gravity or the pull of caffeine and the disastrous results of said marriage.  Thankfully, I dried it fast enough to inhibit mold growth, so now I have a lovely book-shaped potpourri of Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Donut coffee scent.  It is an extremely good book; although for a detailed look at the actual liquor of Prohibition, I highly recommend Deborah Blum's The Poisoner's Handbook.

National Book Award Finalist Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken found its way into my hands. Generally, I enjoy my modern fiction in snippets rather than tomes, so a book of short stories by a modern author assuages my anxiety about weird prose or general Franzen-ness.  I really enjoyed the first few stories I read, although I'm struggling to figure out McCracken's German pronunciation of Pamela (my name, obviously), as rhyming with "Camilla."

Also still working on Saturn Run and The Name of the Wind.

Thinking back on childhood reads

The issue of how Native Americans are portrayed in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books--specifically in Little House on the Prairie, has been rolling around in my head.

To be completely honest, the first time I read critiques of these works and their racist content, my knee-jerk reaction was to say, "No!  It wasn't that bad!"  Hi, privilege.  Nice of you to rear your ugly head.  But I needed to stop and think.  Were Native Americans portrayed inaccurately in these books?  Yes.  Is that content offensive and hurtful to Native children?  Yes.  Would I assign these books in a classroom setting?  No.  (Qualified with if I had to, we would have lots and lots of discussions about privilege, forced resettlement, and Native rights).

It's a crappy feeling to think that some of your favorite books growing up had really hurtful things in them.  However, I also feel a bit let down by my teachers, because when we read Little House on the Prairie in school, no one pointed out that what the Ingalls family was doing was wrong--they were taking land that wasn't theirs.  No one said that the phrase, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" is horrible.

I wish that children were taught an awareness of America's history with Native peoples much earlier than high school or college.  As a child I knew, on a basic level, that moving people out of their homes was wrong, but I didn't fully understand the extent to which that happened or the violence that was used against Native peoples.  I'm not excusing my ignorance, but I acknowledge it and try to learn as much as I can so that I can help other kids, in my role as a librarian, to be aware and to speak up when problematic stereotypes crop up.

Little House on the Prairie was actually my least favorite book in the series.  I wish I could say it was because of its treatment of Native Americans, but I just thought it was pretty boring.  The family moved a lot and there wasn't as much food description in this book.  I fully admit that I think that Ingalls Wilder should have been a cookbook writer, because her descriptions of food will make you drool in puddles.  I do remember feeling uneasy when Laura begged Ma for a papoose to keep, as if that woman's baby were a pet.  Even as a kid, that creeped me out.  However, I think I excused that discomfort as Laura being young and silly, and not the prevailing view that Native Americans were lesser-thans.

The other big Nope moment I remember from these books was in the beginning of The Long Winter, which, along with Farmer Boy, was one of my favorites (I live in Wisconsin, which is a synonym for "long winter," so I totally related as a kid).  A Native man (unknown tribe) comes into the general store and warns the men about the "heap big snow" that's coming.  Oh goody, the mystical Indian arrives.

I'm okay with being uncomfortable, because it means that I'm learning and I'm changing.  I don't regret having read these books.  Besides, I can't take it back.  However, having those stories as part of my reading history makes it more interesting to challenge the stereotypes presented in them.

Out of curiosity, did the television show reference any of this?  I never watched it because Michael Landon didn't have a beard, and if Pa had two defining characteristics, they were his fiddle and his beard.

Why I feel compelled to write about this now, I don't know.  Maybe to acknowledge to those criticizing the books: I hear you.  I am listening and learning and trying.  Maybe because I feel somehow party to what was expressed, even though the author died before I was born.  Maybe because it just feels like the right thing to do right now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

From the rooftops


I have finished The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 1: The Edge of Empire.

Forgive me, Daniel Kraus, for I have sinned: I lost faith in your book midway through.  DANGNABBIT if you didn't lift me up and then toss me to my knees, to wait penitently for volume two.

Fuller review to come, but people: get this one.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Evidently, I have difficulty spelling the word "cloak."  I just typed it in about six different iterations before I achieved the proper spelling.  I mean, Serafina and the Black Cloaca would probably be an interesting book--most certainly a foul one--but that's not what Robert Beatty wrote.  But I would totally read it.  Imagine: a spunky Roman girl finds hints of a mysterious plot at the Forum and gets around the city by swimming the Cloaca Maxima.  No?  No book deal?

Well, actually, that's kind of the plot of Serafina and the Black Cloak.  (Right.  I'm copy-pasting "cloak" so I don't have to type it anymore).  Serafina and her father live in the boiler room of the great Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  Her father is an engineer, and a very good one at that, but he strictly informs Serafina that she must never be seen by anyone in the house, nor must she reveal that they sleep in the boiler room.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Today, along with many other bloggers, authors, librarians, and booklovers, I'm celebrating the #QuietYA.  None of those flashy marketing campaigns or fangirls.  The books that might slip under the radar.  Well, I'm turning the spotlight on these books full blast so that teens can find them.  After all, what's the fun in reading what everyone else is reading?  Find a hidden gem in these quiet books.

Quick Review: YOLO Juliet

Although Romeo and Juliet is probably the play that most teens would recognize and know the plot of over any other Shakespeare, it's probably his least compelling play.  You can really only do so much with a story that's already pretty well-known (at least back then), and star-crossed lovers generally have one outcome.  Shakespeare excelled in fleshing out the rest of the story--Juliet's nurse is hilarious, and even Friar Laurence is pretty interesting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Holy bagumba, it's Wednesday already?  I haven't had a chance to rectify my non-reading-reading of The Name of the Wind yet!  Eep.

So, I'm still moving along with that one.  Honestly, I think what makes it so easy to pick up again and again is the episodic nature of Kvothe's stories.  I can read about one period in his life and then binge-read four other books.  However, I'm feeling a bit nervous that if I don't finish this soon, Pat Rothfuss' beard (which is so magnificent I'm sure it's sentient) is going to feel quite put out.

Last Call by Daniel Okrent, a nonfiction tome about Prohibition, is zipping by quite nicely.  Okrent doesn't have the narrative skill of Erik Larson (but then again, in NF, who does?), but the topic matter boosts the book up when it gets a bit saggy and laggy.

I've hurled myself full-force back into Zebulon Finch by Dan Kraus.  After a brief period of melancholia brought on by the sheer size of the thing, I've gotten over the hump and, oddly enough, into Prohibition with Mr. Finch.

Finally, I just started Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein.  I've never read anything by Sandford, but this is already immensely enjoyable.  I don't think this is going to be hard sci-fi, but definitely movie-esque.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Children of Green Knowe

The Children of Green Knowe kept popping up on "Must-Read Children's Books!" or "Forgotten Classics!" lists, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Disappear Completely (something I wish this book had done)

I have spurts of enthusiasm for non-fiction.  They only happen a few times a year, but when I get the urge (to herbal!  Na-tu-ral bo-tan-i-cals!  Five million points to whomever gets that), I end up checking out a bunch of nonfiction, burying myself in one, and skimming the rest.

Currently, I'm happily sloshing my way through Last Call, a book about Prohibition, but I also picked up some books on body image and self-acceptance.  I made it halfway through How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia by Kelsey Osgood before the intense bitterness of the author became too much.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Death Is for Suckers

This was marginally better than volume two, but only because it wasn't blatantly insulting to my intelligence.  It was more of a constant, low-level buzz of boring.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

When Mystical Creatures Attack!

This book won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize in 2014.  It is also made me extremely angry.

There were actually some funny parts (the opening, and titular essay/chapter is notable, as is the faux-horror story about the killer Bible manikins), but I do not see the "provocative" or "dark" humor running through this book as so many others have.  A dark cloud of rage overwhelms this book, because I am very offended at the way the author portrays mental illness.

Books end up on my to-read list any number of ways; I don't recall how When Mystical Creatures Attack! landed there, but when I saw the library had a copy, I figured I'd try it.  Besides, it was pretty short, and it was supposed to be funny, right?  Even if I didn't like it, it was probably harmless, right?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Basically, all the stuff from last week, because in the interim, I finished a bunch of other things instead.

I did add one new book, and I am unsure what I think of it:

The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston

There's a lot of "I see dead people" in this, but no one is particularly concerned.  Hmmm.  People describe it as "charming," but unless we take a 90 degree turn, I'm mostly staying with "confusing."

srsly Hamlet

OMG Shakespeare in txts!

A good half of the writerly/readerly/teacherly population is heading en masse to leap off a cliff in despair because of this book.   Maybe three-quarters.  I'm not sure.  But I like quirky books, and I love books that make titles that seem stodgy and old and boring into something that's interesting and fun and would appeal to teens who might not normally read books. This is the ultimate reluctant reader book.

It is also hysterically funny.  If you're a fan of Book Riot's emoji summaries, then this is your jam.  Can I say that?  I'm totally dating myself as having grown up in the 90s.  Which, according to current fashion trends, makes me cool again.  I think.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising

For as picky as I am about books, it's never exactly fun when I have to write a really negative review. Contrary to all appearances, I am not dancing on top of the book, howling with wicked delight and wishing all manner of evil upon it.  In my experience, a not-good book occurs when one or more of three things happens:

Should I stay or should I go? (guitar chords 8x)

Actually, I'm not going anywhere (physically).  I'm talking about this book.

I'm not sure how big it's going to be in physical format, but The Death and Live of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 1 has been kicking my butt.  I am not a marathon runner.  Actually, I'm not a runner at all.  When the raptors/zombies/choose your own apocalyptic creatures take over the world, I'll be the first to fall because OW CRAMP!

Plus, I think running is pretty boring.  Unless you live somewhere exceedingly scenic, you're just moving yourself along for miles and miles.  I guess people get into a zone or something.  For me, that's the twilight zone.  I like dancing and biking and hiking.  I like doing my weightlifting and knowing that if I had to, I could probably pick someone up who weighs as much as I do.  I know that doesn't seem especially stunning but for someone with scoliosis and sciatica, I think my DLs are pretty good.

Reading Zebulon Finch is like doing an Ironman on top of Mount Everest.  I see no end in sight.  Perhaps it's because I have an e-ARC and I've been creeping along the progress bar for over a month. Then again, maybe the book is just really, really long.  Long books are great (see: Anna Karenina, The Baroque Cycle, Bleak House) but they have to have some sort of scenic variation, if you will.  Zebulon Finch is like, "Hi, I'm a dead jerk.  Hi, still dead.  Would you like a sample of my non-necrotizing-but-still-totally-not-alive tissue?"  all the time.  All the time.

What I've read is extremely well-written--Dan Kraus excels at the macabre and clearly has a thing for dead people (no, you filthy-minded wretch!  Not like that!)--but also monotonous.

However, I feel like I've invested an insane amount of time in this and to quit now would be a waste, somehow.  What do you think?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Cheese Stands Alone

Nothing in the book I'm about to discuss really has anything to do with cheese.  But you know the rhyme about the Farmer in the Dell, right?  He takes a wife, and everyone picks something/someone until the cheese stands alone.  Often, when I'm reading an ARC, particularly of a YA book, I feel like the cheese.  Everyone's in love and I'm there on the sidelines, standing alone with my Scrooge-esque complaints.  Bah, humbug! indeed.

This syndrome is exacerbated when the book I end up not finishing or not enjoying is one that I'd been waiting to read for months.  I mentally poke myself and mutter, "Hello?  Are you sure this is how you feel?  You're not overreacting?  Okay, yeesh, fine.  Your opinion is valid."

The latest book to fall, unfinished, from my hands was Miss Mabel's School for Girls by Katie Cross.  I thought, "Ooh, fun boarding school fantasy!" and I got a confused muddle of a story that wanted to be Harry Potter but didn't even make it to the starting line.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Did you like World War Z?  You'll love this book.
Did you like The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell?  You will also love this book.
Do you enjoy novels composed of ephemera?  You might as well just marry this book already, because ho-lee macaroni.

Wait, wait, I'm not even asking the essential question here: do you read?  THEN YOU MUST READ ILLUMINAE.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Carrion Comfort

Yep, another review from the land before time ... edited for clarity.  Ugh, I really tiptoed around a lot back then, didn't I?  This is one of Simmons' earlier novels, before things got really weird and political.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

It's now July!  I can end my moratorium on just reading what's at home!  However, I really enjoyed doing that challenge and it really helped clear off my bookshelves (virtual and physical).  Unfortunately, I have a backlog of reviews!

But has that stopped me from reading even more books in the past?  NO!  Here's today's titles: