Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mini-Review: The Hellfire Conspiracy

Another fascinating entry in the Barker & Llwelyn series from Will Thomas!


I do wish that poor Thomas Llwelyn would catch a break from his creator and not have to fall in love with someone in every book.  He's like a Victorian Male Taylor Swift.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Lie Tree



I can't tell you how many times I've rewritten the introduction to this post.  My feelings tell me: "GARHBHLEKJHSHFL READ THIS LGHKLAHFSDKGH!!!" with a hefty side of incoherent wailing and arm-flailing.

Alas, that does not a review make.  Zut.

The other thing hampering my ability to express myself in a coherent manner, besides my deep and abiding love for this book (as much as Cuckoo Song, also by Hardinge, also brilliant and flail-inducing), is the fact that anything I write will look like sad mushy peas next to The Lie Tree.  I cannot do it justice.  But, I suppose, I can attempt to convey its brilliance, if not with a bang, then with a whimper.  Perhaps with interpretive dance?

But I jest.  No more jesting.  No more dithering.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Leaving

Writing a synopsis of this sounds a bit like summarizing the plot of an episode of every TV crime show ever: SIX TEENS WENT MISSING, BUT ONLY FIVE CAME BACK.  Cue the ominous music, the investigators with Serious Thinking Faces, and a wild interrogation or two.


But that's not what The Leaving is--or rather, that's not all it is.  I felt a bit breathless as I raced toward the end, and then a bit confused by what I encountered.  And then I realized that the lack of complete closure is the closest thing to the truth--to real life--that we'll get.  Life doesn't tie itself up in a pretty bow; top-notch investigators don't solve all the cases with DNA from a carelessly discarded cigarette [actual plot of an old C.S.I. episode].

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Pocket Full of Murder

Authors.  I am going to tell you a secret.  If you want me to love your book, make it about food--preferably baking.  First Diane Zahler's delicious Baker's Magic had my stomach growling, and now I'd like to gnaw on a magic tablet from R.J. Anderson's delightful A Pocket Full of Murder.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Caleb Williams

You have a suspicion that your master, the man you previously thought to be the pinnacle of excellence, intelligence, and nobility, is, in fact, a murderer. 


You are a poor working-man's son who has been accepted into service in this great man's household. This great man has 6,000£ a year and is widely acknowledged to be, shall we say, a Righteous Dude. 


 So, instead of quitting or quietly going about your business, what do you do? Did you answer, "Ferret around, arouse suspicion, let the guy know you're on to him and then earn his undying hatred and suspicion?" Congratulations! Your name is Caleb Williams, and you are the protagonist of this book!
How do they choose the artwork for these classics, anyway? 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Things to read when you are sick

So here I am, yet again, struck down by some mysterious stomach ailment.  I'm thinking I either unknowingly ingested a ton of gluten (I have dermatitis herpetiformis, AKA celiac of the skin, which sounds glam but certainly is not), got food poisoning (eep), or contracted a lovely virus from one of the wee germ factories who frequent my place of work.  No matter which one it is, I feel miserable.

It took me fifteen minutes to change my bed today because I had to keep taking breaks.  I get dehydrated very easily.  At least this time I didn't faint!  Hooray!  Give the girl a cigar!

No thanks, I don't smoke.

Anyway, in between lots of naps, I like to read to take my mind off of the fact that my body hates me.  Personally, I find that the best things to read when I am sick deal with issues that are far worse than having a stomach bug or experiencing your immune system freak out because of exposure to a little protein called gluten.  I get out the big guns: pandemic thrillers and murder mysteries.

The last time I was ill, the only thing I devoured was Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, because reading about people dying of the Black Plague was a) fascinating and b) comforting in that I did not have the Black Plague.  I thought to myself, "Oh, well, I may be unable to ever think about eating again, but at least I'm not covered in pus-filled buboes that may explode at any moment!"

This go-round, I've gone a bit less icky and started reading The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas.  I absolutely love the Barker & Llwelyn books, and this one is about London's first serial murderer.  It has loads of dead, putrefying bodies, and I am very thankful that I live now, in 2016, in an apartment with actual plumbing and refrigeration.

However, I'm feeling a bit restless.  I may pick up the last book in Scott Sigler's Pandemic series later today after yet another nap.  I need a good alien invasion/medical freak-out story.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Demon, Book 1 by Jason Shiga

I've never been able to read Meanwhile by Jason Shiga because my mind just doesn't work that way--thousands of endings and plot options make my brain hurt.  It's extremely popular with the kids at the library, though.  We replace it at least once a year due to extreme use.


As he explains in the forward, although Demon features the same character as Meanwhile, Jimmy, it is most emphatically NOT FOR KIDS.  And this isn't like a tee-hee-don't-read-it-kiddos-but-really-go-ahead thing: the main character commits suicide five times in the first few pages.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wrecked

Ambivalence is the death knell of any book review.  So many readers have loved Wrecked, and I feel ... cordial? politely pleasant? tolerant?  Does Wrecked discuss rape in an important way?  Yes.  Does it do so with the backing of solid writing and characterization?  No.


And there's the rub, I believe.  Forthright discussions about sexual violence need to be had in our society; however, when presented in novel format, I expect some literary component as well.  This is an example of concept over execution.  Plus, for a book about sexual violence, respecting women, and believing the victim instead of shaming her, there sure was a lot of girl-on-girl hate.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I cannot even think straight tonight because YA Twitter has been debating beets and it's taken a lot out of me.  Without further ado (about nothing) ...






The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.  I know everyone else loved this book but I am now wishing we just had Three Times Lucky as a standalone.  Perhaps my opinion will change.


SNAFU: Hunters ed. by James A. Moore.  Silly military horror fun as usual.  I'm taking a break from my Mega binge of sharks.


The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid.  I admit to stretching this one out because I don't want it to end.


Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey.  Finally getting around to the book that made everyone sit up and really look at self-pubbed books.  I'm really enjoying it.

Mini-Review: Mega 2: Baja Blood

During my last trip, in lieu of my usual Greig Beck and/or Jeremy Robinson ebook of explosions, lost species, and special teams adventures, I decided to dive into the very silly sequel to Mega by Jake Bible.  I definitely took the first one too seriously, so as the author explains, take this with a giant, megalodon-sized bite of suspension of disbelief.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

This was not a good idea: The Merciless II

Psycho II
Jaws IV
The Star Wars Christmas Special

The list goes on and on of sequels that never should have been made.  Not only were they, generally speaking, all completely horrific, but viewers wondered, "Why did [First Movie] need a sequel in the first place?"  My skeptical nature would answer "money," and my philosophical side would respond "But that doesn't make it good."

It's the film equivalent of the bookish tragedy known as SBS--Second Book Syndrome.  But the upshot of SBS--generally--is that the third book redeems the sloggy second book to a certain degree.  That is to say, there is a light at the end of the second book.  With this sequel to The Merciless, which I already didn't like a lot BUT which definitely has a teen audience, I don't know if even the most die-hard horror fans will really care a hoot and a holler about its existence.


The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores feels like one of those reboots of a reboot of an old 70s slasher movie only now with more gore! more blood! more torture! because the ability to create those things in CGI exists.  I mean, even the title is too much.  I hereby issue a moratorium on any films or books being titled "The Exorcism of [insert name here]."

Monday, May 16, 2016

BEA 2016 Rant

This year was the first time I attended BEA (Book Expo America), and it might also be my last.

Please keep in mind that this post is not intended to shame or call out all book bloggers/vloggers or any specific attendees of BEA.  After all, I'm also a book blogger.  I don't expect it to have any particular impact on the unethical behavior of attendees, but I have to say my piece.

So if you're one of the turds who grabbed multiple ARCs or even snagged them out of the hands of kids in line just to post them on eBay for hundreds of dollars ... yeah, this is for you.

My library sent a van-load of librarians down to McCormick Place in Chicago this year to attend BEA.  We all had different objectives.  This year, as part of the teen summer reading program, teens will be able to choose a book to keep.  I wanted to grab ARCs to supplement the titles we're buying from Book Outlet.  I also just love giving teens ARCs and watching them try to wrap their brains around the idea that I am giving them a book to keep, for free, that is all theirs and theirs alone.

Look, you guys.  I'm exhausted.  I've been going non-stop since last Monday.  I've traveled through six different states and I can't think straight.  So here's the raw deal:

I never felt welcomed at BEA.  I felt like the publishers and staffers were always watching me, monitoring how many books I took.  It's not like at ALA, where they're practically flinging books at you and you end up mailing things home because it is physically impossible (unless you are Andre the Giant, which is temporally impossible) to carry them all.  I rarely saw publishing staff smile at me at BEA.  I felt like a criminal.

But you know what?  I can't entirely blame them.  When I see that people went to BEA and are selling ARCs for $150 on eBay?  Yeah, they're criminals.  They're taking books that bloggers need for review or that librarians need for purchasing information or that we give to our teens for free because--get this--a lot of kids cannot afford to purchase their own books.  And you're asking $150 bucks for an uncorrected proof on evilBay.  That, my friends, is the definition of scum.

Because of that behavior, I understand why publishers and their employees were wary.  I can see why ARCs were doled out in tiny batches and at random times.  But as a librarian, it was irritating as all get out and professionally offensive.

Don't get me started on "haul videos."  Somehow, these free items have gained a sort of community currency--whoever has the most free crap wins.  But wins what?  Notoriety?  A few extra followers?  If that is the substance of your life, have fun with the knowledge that you are gaming a system that is supposed to allow bloggers, librarians, and teachers early access to books to make purchasing decisions.  Artistically disheveled piles of unread ARCs may look pretty cool on Instagram, but they're not serving a purpose.

At BEA, I saw a lot of people who thought they were hot stuff.  I cannot, in polite words, fully express my loathing for the terms "Booktuber" and "vlogger."  I get that it's a thing.  You can be mad at me for not liking Booktubing (stop making everything into a portmanteau!!!).  I honestly don't care.  But I was watching YouTubers and other bloggers interact and it was fake-hug here and shrill squealing there and prolonged conversations with authors about their channel or blog when everyone else just wanted an autograph, dangit.

I didn't start blogging with the expectation of Being Famous.  I don't want to be famous.  I don't want people to know who I am.  For me, blogging is a great way for my introverted personality to express strongly held feelings.  The most important and influential things that I do have nothing to do with my blog and everything to do with my job.  When I send a teen off with new books, or I find them wandering the library already reading the book I gave them, that's what I want from my professional life.  And those are the kids who are getting the ARCs I picked up (except for Gemina, which is mine for review and then I'm giving it to my mom).

This is a fascinating conversation to follow on social media, since everyone is on the defensive.  I don't deny that I've seen librarians behaving badly--one lady grabbed like six cookies from the Disney/Hyperion booth when it clearly said "ONE COOKIE PER PERSON."  There will always be bad apples to spoil the reputation of the entire bushel of bloggers, librarians, teachers, or what-have-you.  I don't know if there's a way to fix this because fundamentally, the issue is greed and a desire for some sort of social notoriety, and those aren't tangible things that a conference can outlaw.  They're supremely nasty parts of human nature.


Mini-Review: Magician (The Riftwar Saga, #1-2)

When my coworker saw me scurrying off to lunch, our doorstop-sized copy of Magician tucked under my arm, she gasped, "Is this your first time?"

Ah, yes, the unintended reading innuendo.  Why yes, it was my first time.  And I liked it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side

I briefly met Tom Angleberger at ALA Midwinter in Chicago, two years(ish) ago.  It was the weekend of one of the Great Chicago Blizzards.  I had to make it from Wicker Park, land of the hipsters, to McCormick Place.  It took me two hours.  I was wet and cold and so excited to be there.

Even though most people believe that librarians--especially children's librarians--have read all the books in their section of the library, this is impossible, unless your library is a burro or a camel.  Then ... yes, I can see managing that.  I'm not even sure how many books are in our children's collection alone, but it is, as Luke Skywalker once told Han, "Far more than you can imagine!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I read four books over my one-and-a-half day trip, so naturally I had to start reading even more books.  Here's what's on tap this week:


The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.  Mo LoBeau is back!  Actually, was back a few years ago but anyhoodles, finally getting around to this sequel!

New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies.  I don't have the best track record with Jonathan Hickman so we'll see about this.


The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid.  Ooooh, sci-fi political thriller with monsters?  Yum.


SNAFU: Hunters by James A. Moore et al.  Sometimes a girl just needs her military horror anthologies with totally bizarre cover art, you know?





Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Monday

This is going to be A Week for me.  I'm running a professional gauntlet with a plane trip and two road trips thrown in for extra fun.

I've got five drafts of reviews started, and if my mind slows down enough for me to focus, hopefully some of those will pop up.  Otherwise, I'm not dead.  As my parents once assured my grandparents, "If we're dead, we'll call you."  This was surprisingly a-ok with my grandparents.  It was just that side of crazy for it to be normal to them.

If you are going to be at BEA in Chicago on Thursday, I'd love to meet!  Catch me on Twitter @pamelibrariland for my location!


Friday, May 6, 2016

Belinda

Coming pretty much straight off of The Female Quixote, which was nigh on unreadable due to antiquated dialogue and constant references to romance novels of the 17th century, I was surprised and delighted to find Belinda such an entertaining, engrossing, and fun read.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

300

"Into the valley of death rode the six hundred ..." No, wait. Wrong battle. Wrong countries. Wrong millennium. But, you get the idea. Small band of Spartans makes a last stand at Thermopylae, a narrow passage which they had held against the massive invading Persian army. Spartans win glory for their heroic and patriotic actions. Trumpets blare! Poets sing! Movies featuring Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender in very little clothing are made!*


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blackhearts

This post is a tie-in to a Reader vs. Reader post that Drea and I did over at Teen Services Underground.

After reading several less-than-sterling reviews, the idea of having to not only read, but finish this book was daunting.  But this wasn't an optional, snagged-it-off-the-shelf read.  I had a duty to my co-blogger and our readers to do the deed.  Thus, I approached Blackhearts as I assume big-game hunters approach a safari: a mix of bloodlust and anticipation and other primal, one-note emotions.  I was gonna do this.   I was gonna rip this to shreds.

But, guess what?  It wasn't that bad.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pop culture and other non-alliterative stuff to write about on a Tuesday

Librarians are well-known for their addiction to alliteration.  Look, I just did it, and I didn't even have to think twice!  It just happens!  It's like when you enroll in grad school for your MLIS, they take you to a secret location and inject you with a serum that subtly shifts your writing to a more alliterative style.

Maybe I've been watching too much Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which, by the way, is an absolute bear to type out).

I wanted to chat a bit about my pop culture emotions today but it's Tuesday and I couldn't think of a good alliterative word that meant "the Avengers and other stuff too."  I mean, I could do Thorsday, but to be quite frank, I could live without Thor.  Loki, though ... no.  I need Loki in my life.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Girl in the Blue Coat

"After the war, people will sit around and recall the brave ways they rebelled against the Nazis, and nobody will want to remember that their biggest 'rebellion' was wearing a carnation in honor of our exiled royal family."

Hannke mustn't be late for her deliveries today.  Her customers are depending on her punctuality.  A bit of candy for this one, a slice of meat for the other.  Small deliveries, really.  It sounds like a normal, if somewhat boring, job.  But in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, being the runner for part of the Dutch black market is anything but boring or safe.  Weaving between jackboots on a bicycle has become Hanneke's new normal, and flirting with soldiers to ensure they don't search her basket is second nature.  But when one of her clients makes a desperate request, Hanneke's anger at the Nazis boils up into a resolve true and strong: to find Mirjam Roodvelt.