Friday, June 30, 2017

Who is ALAAC for, anyway? A Storify

I like Storify, so I popped my recent 11:40PM thread about ARC theft and one librarian's frustration with the cost of professional development.

Some people liked it, I guess.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DNF: Mask of Shadows

I had a great-aunt by marriage named Opal. She was the quintessential German Wisconsin lady. Snow white hair permed into a cottonball cloud, she was a bundle of energy swathed in at least one animal print. Her bright pink lipstick--at least five coats--formed a halo around her lips and somehow always smudged on the faces of any child who crossed her path. In short, she was pretty fabulous. And because of the associative nature of memory, I kept picturing my loud, brassy Aunt Opal whenever characters discussed the fearsome assassin of Our Queen's Left Hand in Mask of Shadows.

That is not the book's failing; it is my own. However, I believe that is the one problem I had with this book that I cannot pin down to murky prose, a generic plot, or weak worldbuilding.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I've Read in 2017 (so far)

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's theme is, well, it's the title of the post.

Well, if this isn't a daunting post, I'll eat my hat. I already feel anxious about the books I have to leave out. Oh nooooo. The ones I feature on this list will be 2017 releases only, but can include future releases.

Okay. Breathe.

This is in no particular order:

1. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. If you love snarky narrators, kick butt ladies, Chinese mythology, superpowers, and complicated relationships with parents: you will adore Genie Lo. So, basically, if you are a human who reads, you will love Genie Lo.

2. Want by Cindy Pon. Take notes, because a near-future commercial dystopia revolving around the collapse of the environment and the war between the haves and the have-nots is definitely a possibility. Also, Jason Zhou is a red-hot protagonist. Also also: that cover!

3. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. This is another one that I'm working on a review for, but I did discuss it with Andrea over on Teen Services Underground. Be warned: that review is chock full o'spoilers! But seriously: a book that has literary homages up the wazoo and the multiverse??? Yes, please!

4. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. This is a fluffy, fun, and smile-inducing romance with a lot of fabulous diversity rep.

5. Lady Killers by Tori Telfer. Nothing distracts from impending doom in the world like reading about mass murderesses of times past. You feel a little better about your life when you realize, "Hey, at least I don't work for someone who literally beats people until they explode!"

6. The Valiant by Lesley Livingston. Yet another hit from this year's selection of Reader Vs. Reader books. Kick-butt girl gladiators in ancient Rome? Oh yeah.

7.Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. I want to describe this as epic, because a story spanning centuries naturally is. Anderson has managed to write a magical, slightly weird, utterly beautiful epic in under 300 pages. Wow.

8. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. This is a fabulous examination of the intersection of fandom, anxiety, family, and friends. BONUS: you can now read The Children of Hypnos, the popular YA series featured in Eliza on Wattpad!!!

9. Heartstone by Elle Katharine White. This book was so unbelievably good that my reviews for it consisted of walls of text generated by me slamming my hands on the keyboard in simultaneous frustration and utter delight. If I reread this, which I probably will, I will make a second attempt at a review. Basically, this is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice BUT WITH DRAGONS. YOU ARE WELCOME. READ IT.

10. A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White. Andrea and I read this for Reader Vs. Reader on TSU, and it's a total sleeper that deserves far more recognition than it's getting. If you are sad that Pitch didn't get renewed, check out this book! I'm hoping against hope that White turns this into a series!

What have been your favorite reads of 2017 so far? Have I missed anything that's absolutely brilliant?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Skitter (The Hatching #2)

The one thing I do miss about the frigid weather up north is that it is an effective pesticide. Sure, we get those awful hairy centipedes in the winter, and mosquitoes in the summer (it's more humid there than a lot of people think) and the usual bees, ants, and other insectidae et arachnidae. However, the general state of frigidity from October through May kills off all but the hardiest bugs.

Alas, this is not the case here in the Carolinas. There are bugs everywhere.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I am not at ALA and I'm trying to be okay with that

I've been waiting for ALA to come back to Chicago for so long ... and then I moved out of the Midwest and to the East Coast. What with a new job and very little time off and not a lot of money, I skipped ALA this year.

I'd be lying if I said that I feel sad looking at everyone's tweets and FB updates from the conference. So, I decided to do a pros and cons list of the ALA conference in relation to my circumstances right now. This is mostly for me to work out my anxiety, but if it helps you, then that's awesome too! 

Pros of being at ALA:

  • I see my friends and meet people I regularly engage with on Twitter. Oddly (or perhaps not?) my relationships with these people are more transparent and easy than friends I know in real life. This is probably because on Twitter, I say what I feel pretty much all the time. This is me. And if you do the same thing, that is you, and that is why I follow you. 

  • I meet new people. I am definitely introverted, but I like big crowds because I can lose myself in them. However, at ALA, I make a point to go up to someone if I recognize them and introduce myself. I put on my No-Shame hat (the one I wear during storytimes as I wiggle and shake around the room) and go for it.

  • I pick up ARCs, not just for myself, but for my coworkers and the teens at the library. Yup, it's awesome to get an ARC of a book you've been on tenterhooks for, but it's even better when you give it to a teen who didn't even know ARCs were a thing and their face lights up and you feel all warm and fluffy inside. Try it--you'll like it!

  • It's in Chicago this year, which is one of my favorite cities. I would totally live there if I a) could find a decent-paying job in the area and b) didn't have to go back to the Winters of Doom. However, if any well-read, Chicago-based millionaires who appreciate my wit and don't mind that I look kinda weird want to marry me, I'll consider applications. Ha! Just kidding. Marriage sounds awfully difficult and I am probably too selfish to make that work.
Cons of being at ALA:

  • It's exhausting and over-stimulating. There is just SO MUCH STUFF. I always worry about missing the really good sessions or the author appearances.

  • I hype myself up for a session and it turns out to be Not That Great.

  • Pursuant to the last point, sometimes sessions are flat-out insulting and not good, like the one I was at last year which basically involved a person presenting about how much they disliked a specific coworker. This had nothing to do with the theme, and since we knew where the presenter worked, it's highly likely someone at the conference knew the coworker in question. Or like this year, where I saw someone was already trying to make #infobesity into a thing. How is that a thing? How could you ever think that's okay???

  • It's pricey. If you don't have library financial support, it's really expensive, especially if you stay in an ALA hotel. And shocker! Not all of us work at libraries that have the money to pay for you to go to ALA. Or even if you do, they make you feel like a greedy person for asking. Or they punish you for going by making you write an essay. (Note: this is NOT my current job. I love my new library! They could have sent me but I wanted someone else to go, especially because I'm new and I am still learning my own job)

  • Somehow everyone else gets the invitations to all the parties with the swag and free food and champagne, and you're sitting on the outside wondering how to be with the Cool Kids. Because yes, Virginia, there are library world Cool Kids. For them, it's effortless (or directly tied to being a dude, but that's another blog post). They simply exist and publishers are like "Hey, want to come to the Newbery Gala?" And then I feel awful about myself for not being a Cool Librarian and for not getting invited to anything.

Huh. That did make me feel a little better about not being there this year. For the librarians who are there: enjoy it! Have fun in Chicago (you can hit me up for restaurant recommendations and/or directions to most places on the CTA because I'm pretty good at public transportation in Chicago)! See the Bean! Go to the Art Institute! Live Ferris Bueller's Day Off!

And with that, I might go to the beach. It's my only true rebuttal.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesdays: Series I've Been Meaning to Start

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Hello procrastination, my old friend.

Clearly, Simon and Garfunkel had better rhythm, but I don't so much have an issue with darkness of the soul as I do lassitude of the mind. I can talk myself out of almost anything, which is probably why I'll never make any Really Big Decisions like getting married or buying a house. I will always find a way to not do something because I've brainstormed all of the ways it could go horrifically wrong.

Or I'm just feeling tired and not that into it at the moment. Either one, really, is a normal scenario.

Take blogging, for example. I love writing while I am writing, but staring at a blank screen trying to come up with Words so I can talk about my Feelings is extremely difficult. Therefore, I tend to go off and do other things, and by "other things," I mean "play Star Wars games on my tablet."

Generally, if I am interested in a series but haven't started it yet, it's for two reasons:

  1. I want to know I can at least jump into book two right after book one if the series is good.
  2. I am afraid of the Feels that I will experience and so avoid the book so as to cut out awkward and messy Feels.

Uh, that's about it. Without further ado, I present you with ten series I've been meaning to start but haven't:

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert. I suppose one could argue that Dune is Dune and need not be taken as a series opener, but it is, and I do, and this one is still looking at me balefully from the shelf. I have one of those pretty leather editions, too.

  2. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. If GRRM isn't going to finish it any time soon, I'm not sure I want to put my time into starting the series. I am also freaked out by what seems to be a lot of, er, interfamilial relationships.

  3. Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet:Beyond the Frontier) by Jack Campbell. I read The Lost Fleet by Campbell, and I really enjoy the character of Black Jack Geary, the man revived to lead a war that he finds himself an accidental hero in. Of? Dangling prepositions? Crap. Anyway, I am worried that the neat little arc in The Lost Fleet will bleed out with Black Jack taking on new adventures and fighting new battles.

  4. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. I adored Three Dark Crowns, and all of my friends equally adored Anna, so I'm not sure why I'm hesitating.

  5. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. Honestly, I just like the cover of this one and it sounds pretty good. I think.

  6. On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington) by David Weber. As a young person in the library, I remember marveling that people read books as long as the Honor Harrington ones. After working my way through a decent amount of military sci-fi, I think she's next on my list.

  7. Can You Forgive Her (Palliser) by Anthony Trollope. I've been meaning to read Trollope for at least a decade and I keep putting it off. I like so many of his quotations out of context that hopefully, I'll like them in context even more!

  8. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. I love a good time-travel story. I only pray that this is a good time-travel story.

  9. Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising) by Susan Cooper. I KNOW, OKAY? I HAVEN'T READ THIS. YET.

  10. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. This first blipped my radar when I saw it was a twist on the good/evil fairy trope, but after hearing Soman speak at ALA Midwinter and tell the story of his fabulous Auntie Mame-esque grandmother, it really shot up in the rankings. If you want to read more about Soman's grandma, check out his story in Flying Lessons.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Repost: Top Ten Tuesday: Fraught Relationships with Dad

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I wanted to do a feature on the top ten dads in fiction, but I found that all of the most compelling father-child relationships in books that I read have been more complicated than "he's a good dad." Usually, it's something like, "he's a messed-up guy, but loves his kids in a weird sort of way anyway" or "he's a turd." So here are some dads with complex, and often turbulent, relationships with their families:

1. Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King. I am often at a loss for words when it comes to the brilliance of King's books, but this one explores domestic violence in an utterly unique way. Sarah's relationship with her dad is almost non-existent--or at least, she pretends that it is. Short vignettes from the point of view of Sarah's mom are simultaneously funny and heartbreaking. This is a fantastic rumination on art, trauma, and memory.

2. The Shining by Stephen King. This book is so many things: horror novel, exploration of writing as catharsis, psychological study, and portrait of a flawed father. When it comes right down to it, Jack Torrance's actions are influenced by his love of his son, but whether that love is pure or twisted--ah, the Outlook decides that.

3. The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge. So you've been exiled to a tiny, rocky island in the North Sea because your dad lied about his fossil findings? Cool--the reason why he did it will blow your mind. Will Faith's desire to be loved and appreciated by her father blind her to his true nature?

4. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. When your dad is addicted to meth, and you hate what that does to your family, but he's still family.

5. Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston. Generally anything that involves intensive brainwashing by dear ol' Dad is going to be an issue. In this case, it's that the government killed Val's mother. After Dad perishes in a fire, Val becomes the avenging angel sent with a bomb strapped to her chest in order to make things right.

6. Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr. Gem and Dixie's dad is a washed-up Cool Guy who disappears for years at a time but then reappears all hunky-dory with a very suspicious backpack full of small bills. Hmmm.

7. Rotters by Daniel Kraus. This book is so terrifying that I couldn't even finish it. Honest, hand to the sky could not stomach it, which is saying a lot. Joey Crouch's dad, Harnett, is the Garbage Man of his isolated Iowa town--but what he really gets up to at night is so much worse.

8. Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts. The entire premise of the book is that a group of, ahem, royal bastards see their dads (and one mom) murdering another ruler and planning to blame the illegitimate kids for the crime! Cold, man. That's cold.

9. Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson. When your dad kills your little brother and locks you into a torture closet ... yeah, that's messed up.

10. William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare, and George Lucas (sort of). Come on, I had to find a way to include Darth Vader.
Any of these dads make your list too? Do you have favorite dads in literature?

Pandemic (Infected #3)

This book is a conundrum. It was a page-turner--I can't remember the last time I whipped through a 600+ page book in such a short period of time--but it also basically had lost all momentum and the characters were two-dimensional. I suppose I kept reading because of the aliens, and also because of the brilliance of the first book in the series--but this book lacked what made Infected so special: one "Scary" Perry Dawsey, ex-linebacker and anti-hero.