Monday, July 17, 2017

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Han, Jenny. Always and Forever, Lara Jean. 8 CDs. unabridged. Recorded Books. 2017. ISBN 9781501942143. 

Lara Jean romances her way through her senior year of high school in the final installment of the To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy. Everything seems to be going Lara Jean's way; she has the cutest and most adoring boyfriend, she's on the verge of perfecting her perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, her father is engaged to their next door neighbor, and she has college to look forward to in the fall. There is only one problem, she's on pins and needles waiting for her college acceptance letter to come. When it finally arrives her picture perfect world seems to fray at the edges. What's a girl to do, listen to the head or the heart? Beautifully narrated by Laura Knight Keating who manages to capture the ups, downs and naive beauty of teenage angst and romance. Teens will eat up the satisfying conclusion to this laugh out loud romance trilogy. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Olive Kitteridge

I enjoyed this book but it wasn't remotely what I thought it would be. Olive Kitteridge is the common thread between all the stories in this novel. Set in a small town in Maine, Olive is a retired school teacher who loves her son (too fiercely perhaps), enjoys in the goings on of others, and tries to make sense of her life as she ages. Some of the stories are from her perspective and many others are from other townsfolk as they view her, sometimes from a far distance. She is a bit prickly and stoic but she is also very relatable and sympathetic. An interesting and complex  look at an aging woman and then lens through which she sees the world around her and the way that others perceive her as well.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Reason You're Alive

Matthew Quick never lets me down. He is wonderful at getting in the mind of his characters and letting his reader understand mental illness and emotional distress. The Reason You're Alive is the story of Vietnam vet, Daniel Granger. After a car accident makes him have brain surgery he is sent to live with his son and granddaughter. Told in a crass, un-politically, unapologetic voice, this book is sure to win over readers. Daniel tells it like it is, from his marriage, experiences in the war, troubles with his son, guns, and race. It's funny, shocking, distressing, and hopeful. I wasn't sure where the story was headed for the first half of the book but it wrapped up nicely at the end and brought everything back together. Another slam dunk for Matthew Quick.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Veil of Roses

Halfway though I realized that I had, without a doubt, read this book some years before. Not that I minded. It was a good re-read. I do have some concerns with the author's research on Persians and modern day Iran and I don't think all her assumptions are fair or accurate, but other that that I thought it was a good story and premise. A young Iranian woman comes to the United States in order to find a husband (her visa is only good for three months). She wants to escape the radical religious government and have freedom (unlike her parents who are trapped in Tehran). She stays with her sister and her husband and together they look for a suitable Persian American while she takes English classes at the local library. During the midst of this she meets a charming barista at Starbucks but she doesn't give him the time of day because he would never understand her predicament. Or would he?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Into the Water

Suspenseful, riveting, and unique. The ending was a little anti-climactic, with a twist the reader could easily sniff out, but it was still a fun, morbid read. Told from multiple narrators, a manuscript, and some flashbacks, Into the Water, tells the story of Nell Abbot's fall? suicide? into the drowning pool where many other women before her have entered the water depths never to re-emerge. The narrator includes her estranged sister, her 15 year old daughter, the mother of a girl who also died in the drowning pool, some cops, a psychic and some other characters. Full of twists and turns this reads fast all the way up to the lackluster conclusion. Still a good read despite that though.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rebel of the Sands

Arabian Nights meets Aladdin meets teen romance. A wonderfully executed teen fantasy novel set in the harsh desert where guns are the currency of the land. As a woman, Amani knows that she has no rights and might soon be forced to marry her uncle and become one of his many wives. Trying to escape she goes to the pistol pit disguised as a boy trying to win a shooting contest to get money to escape the hell hole she's grown up in. While their things get out of hand and she finds herself befriending a foreigner who is almost as a good shot as she. Little does she know that her chance encounter with him will forever change her future. Full of daring escapes, magic, folklore, and all around badassery, this young adult novel is a slam dunk. I'll have to check out the second in the series.

P.S. I Still Love You

I thought this was a pretty solid follow up to the first book. It wasn't amazing, but I thought it stayed true to all the characters and the overall feel. Lara Jean and Peter are going to try out a real relationship rather than the charade they've put up for everyone, but their fledgling relationship gets off to a rocky start when a video of the two of them making out in a hot tub on their ski trip becomes a viral sensation. Suddenly everyone thinks Lara Jean is a slut and Peter is a hero. Lara Jean knows that Genevieve, Peter's malicious ex-girlfriend and her former best friend has to be behind it. Can their relationship survive all the drama?

Monday, July 3, 2017

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

I found myself really enjoying this book, I think it's about as honest and believable as you can get in teen fiction. Lara Jean is the middle girl in the song sisters trio. Raised by their father after their mother's sudden death, they are as close as sisters can get. That is until Margot, the oldest, goes to Scotland for college leaving Lara Jean to look after her younger sister Kitty and their father. As if things couldn't get any more trying Lara Jean's hat box containing love notes written to all the boy's she's had crushes on over the years goes missing and all the letters get mailed out! She's mortified and finds herself bumbling in and out of awkward situations. Truly adorable and awkward and relate-able. I can't wait to read the next in the series.

The Historian

The amount of research put into this book is astounding. It's richly detailed, innovative, spellbinding, and truly chilling. It's like "The Davinci Code" meets "Dracula" full of historical twists, research, and bone chilling intrigue. It's denseness can be a little intimidating but once you get passed that it's impossible not to be hooked. The story goes back and forth between a young girl's journey to find her father and learn about his past and the father's actual account of what happened. It weaves together beautifully as they search for the real life Dracula through libraries, museums, foreign cities, and old research. Wonderfully written and imagined.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Goldie Vance Volume Two

There was a lot going on in this teen detective graphic novel and at times it seemed to be a bit too much. But, the characters are great, the story-line wacky, and the premise too cool. Even if I didn't love the plot of this one I plan on sticking with this series because it holds a lot of promise. Volume two was just all over the place with astronauts, mermaids, beauty pageants, and FBI agents. A few too many pieces in the puzzle for my taste, but not horrible. I'm already looking forward to volume three.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The End of Men

The epitome of chick lit/ beach reads. I'll admit I was not a huge fan. It was well written but I didn't particularly care about the four women and I will even go as far to say that I even despised one (I'm looking at you Isabel!). Four women wrapped up in careers, marriages, affairs, and motherhood explore and try to make sense of the confusing female experience. Even when they have everything they want their not happy, Why is it so hard to be a working mother in the twenty first century, if only they could have men to share the burden with. Maggie had an affair with a married man, had a child with him, married him and took in his two older children as well, and now regrets everything (except her child). Isabel is married to the perfect man, is in the middle of a glowing pregnancy and embarks on an affair with her long time friend and former love interest. Beth works on being a good single mother to her daughter while her ex-husband is dying of AIDs. Anna tries to balance being a mom of two and a breadwinner when she thinks she really wants to be a stay at home mom. All four women are going through different trials and tribulations but it all goes back to womanhood and the end of men.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Allegedly

It took me a second to get into this book but once I did, I was all in. Mary has been in "baby jail" since she "allegedly" killed a six month old baby while babysitting when she nine. While she never admitted she did, she also never denied she did it either. She just didn't talk. For seven years she just passed the time but when she finds herself pregnant she is finally ready to talk about what happened. It's gripping and full of twists and turns and has an insane twist at the end. If teens can get through the first few chapters they will find themselves addicted. A fun and unique read!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Life with Bob

As a lifelong bibliophile I devoured this book. Pamela Paul's essays about the transformative power books have on our lives rang true with me, from meticulously keeping track of all the books read to finding the right book when you need to judging people by books they do or don't love, I knew exactly what she meant. I do the same things and feel the same way. At times the author could almost come off as a bit pretentious with her literary classics and disdain for mass market popular paperbacks, but it's clearly not her intention. While I do not have such high brow reading tastes (I read all over the spectrum; from self published smut to feminist essays to pulp fiction, I'm an equal opportunity reader and once I start a book I never put it down), I could see where she was coming from. I too was in awe of the library as a kid, I took a book everywhere I went (still do) and I still feel a righteous zeal when I'm endorsing a book I absolutely love to everyone. A great book for bibliophiles, librarians, and writers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lumberjanes: Band Together

What can I say about this series that I haven't said already. It's quirky, cute, and adorable. I will continue to read it. This volume features mermaids, bands, and fights with friends. It's honestly my favorite one that I've read in a while. Who wouldn't want to see a punk rock mermaid band?!?! Also, you get a little backstory on the five campers as it shows them arriving to camp.

Anne of Green Gables

I hadn't read this classic since I was a little girl and it was soo nice to revisit it. I forgot how charming Anne is and how happy her antics made me. As an adult I realize there isn't much of a plot, each chapter is a short story on some mischief or excitement that Anne gets up to, but honestly that makes it all the more charming. I am definitely inspired to read more of the series (I've only ever read the first one!) and to rewatch the show, although from what I hear I may need to avoid the new Netflix original. All in all a great re-read. It definitely holds up :)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Burntown

McMahon, Jennifer. Burntown. 9 CDs. unabridged. 11 hrs. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524781620. 

McMahon (The Winter People) writes a spellbinding tale of murder, lies, deceit, in a seemingly charming New England college town. Necco (know to many as The Fire Eater) has lived on the street for years, ever since the flood washed away their home and killed her father and brother. Her mother insisted that they hide in Burntown (the seedy underworld of the city) in order to evade the grasp of the snake eyes man. Until her mother and boyfriend are found dead, Necco had been convinced that her mother had partaken in too much of the devil's snuff. But as she retreats further into the shadows of Burntown she becomes convinced that someone is truly trying to murder everyone in her family and as the last survivor, she amd her unborn child have never been more unsafe. Narrated beautifully by the Earphones Award winning, Abby Craden, who does a brilliant job bringing Necco to life and capturing the suspense and intrigue of the story. Fast paced and captivating, this thrill ride has just a touch of the supernatural to give it an extra edge. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Plank's Law

An insanely fast teen read, I had this bad boy knocked out in no time flat. I feel though for what it was trying to achieve, the book should have been a little longer. Trevor has Huntington's Disease and he knows it's only a matter of time before he kicks the bucket. Unsure of what to do about life he passes time watching sci-fi movies and not doing much of anything. Then one day as he contemplates jumping off a huge cliff he sees an old man telling him to just go on ahead and do it already. This launches their friendship and the old man introduces, Planks Law,  which is essentially "just live." Nothing fancy but Trevor takes it to heart and decides he wants to do something about all the items on his bucket list, most importantly, find a girlfriend. He eventually works up the courage to talk to the pretty smiling girl they see at the hospital and eventually they try to check different items on Trevor's list. I felt that the book was a little rushed, things happened too fast and it's hard to care about some of the characters who don't get a lot of time on the page. This is a good book for teens who like "The Fault in our Stars" and other " sick lit."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lumberjanes: Sink or Swim

Zany as ever, this collection introduces a new counselor (who happens to be a werewolf named Seafarin' Karen) and a a new group of supernatural nuisances, the selkies. The girls are determined to get a new badge and in order to do that the five of them need to work together on the sea. Once they find out more about the mysterious whirpools and and figure out what the selkies are up to, they just might be able to make a go of their badge. My only beef is that it looks like there is a new illustrator and things look a little off.

Bitch Planet: You Can't Jail the Revolution

This adult graphic novel series more than intrigues me. It's dark, unique, and relevant. I was even impressed that the book opened up with a trigger warning about an upcoming sexual assault scene, color me impressed. This book picks up right where volume one left off with Meiko's death and goes into her backstory and the important role that her father will soon have in the rebellion. Everything goes to hell and things are about to get even more violent then usual!

Goldie Vance vol. 1

This graphic novel series is going to be a delight. Goldie Vance is a mixed teenage girl who works at a hotel with her father. She parks cars and her father manages it (her parents are divorced). In her spare time she works for a detective agency in the building tracking down missing toddlers, lost bathing suits, and more. Things start to get interesting when a man reports a missing necklace and Goldie and her colleagues (fellow co-workers and the cute girl from the record store she has a crush on) realize that there is a lot more to the necklace then meets the eye. The missing necklace escalates to kidnapping, grand theft auto, and men in helicopters. It's a lot of fun and teens will eat up this Nancy Drew-esque spin off.

The Hate U Give

A powerful young adult book that has never been more relevant. Starr Carter too black for her white school and too white for her black neighborhood. She's constantly in the middle, afraid to let be too this or too that in front of certain people. That all begins to change one day when she and her friend are leaving a party and get pulled over. What happens next will haunt Starr forever, the white cop shoots her friend dead AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. Obviously this kind of injustice is in the media a lot which makes this book more timely then ever. Words can't describe how much I love this book and it's empowering message. Starr starts to find her voice not only to the media, but to her friends, family, white boyfriend, and classmates. This should be required reading. It's timely, impossible to put down (I read the book from cover to cover yesterday morning), and gives the disenfranchised youth a voice. Beautiful, haunting, and riveting.

Lumberjanes: Out of Time

Probably the weakest edition in the Lumberjane series to date, but overall not horrible. As usual they fight weird supernatural creatures in the forest, stumble across shady figures, and work together to put what little survival skills they have to the test. They may not all be book smart but they all love each other and can put their heads together in a time of crisis which is what they have to do when their camp counselor goes missing. Little do they know that she has been taken by an old scout and that things are not what they appear to be. A fun and light read.

The Passage

Holy cow. This might be my favorite book that I've read in 2017. What a knockout! Initially intimidating with it's sheer size (it's 700+ pages), I immediately felt myself drawn into the story. If Stephen King's "The Stand" and Richard Matheson's "I am Legend" had an affair this book would be their dark love child. It's the end of the world with a supernatural twist. There are twelve virals and they escape their research facility and cause mass chaos killing humans or else turning them into monsters like themselves. Survivors call them smokes, jumps, or flyers. There is also a little girl that can seemingly control them and is like them, but not. The story is told in multiple parts, through multiple perspectives and gets progressively more fascinating. It starts before the virals, during, and then decades after so we can get a glimpse of how humankind is adapting to these new deadly circumstances. I cannot wait to read the other two books in this trilogy!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From Here to There

An enjoyable, challenging, and beautiful book of mazes to relax (and sometimes anger) you. They range in difficulties, some taking up two pages (getting across the seam could sometimes be a challenge) others only one page. They are all beautifully drawn roads through a variety of landscapes, country paths, cities, islands, castles, and more. And for those who are easily frustrated, fear not! There is a cheat sheet in the back of the book that has every maze solved. Overall, it's a gorgeous little book and is perfect for those who love brain games and beautiful art.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Friend Dahmer

Supremely creepy, wonderfully draw, and hauntingly written. This memoir about going to high school with Jeffery Dahmer the notorious serial killer, will give you the heebie jeebies. Even in high school he was a loner, a weirdo, a spaz, but no one knew what he would eventually become. Author and illustrator Derf draws not only from his personal experiences but from his classmates, his school, case files, and later interviews. Using all that he pieces together the complex teenage-hood of Dahmer and the messed up home life and environment that helped turn him into a monster. This graphic novel doesn't go into detail about Dahmer's killings, it stops after Dahmer's first and only kill in Ohio. but it definitely motivates you to do some further research. Definitely a chilling read!

Original Gangstas

Words cannot express the badassery of this book. It's complex, a little overwhelming with the depth of rap history and all those who helped contribute to the gangsta rap movement, but holy hell this was an enlightening book. I've never been a huge hardcore rap fan (although I have my party staples), but this book made me take a better listen and actually appreciate everything that's going on. Author Ben Westhoff does an amazing job talking about west coast rap and the birth of gangsta rap by telling the stories, of NWA, Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and the respective record companies: Death Row, Ruthless, and Aftermath. The research taken into this book is exhaustive and the author does an amazing job of piecing together these rapper's stories, their environment, and the culture that helped birth rap and give a voice to the disenfranchised. A wonderful, gritty, well written and engrossing read that even non-rap listeners will appreciate. West coast rap lovers, and those who loved the movie, Straight Out of Compton will EAT THIS UP!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Looking for Group

I'm generally not a massive fan of teen road trip books (I loathed Paper Towns by John Green), but despite my initial misgivings I found myself liking this book. There's a little romance, a lot of self-discovery, resilience, and oodles geek love (tons of World of Warcraft  terminology and asides, but everything is explained for non-gamers). While trying to register for school (after a lengthy absence from battling cancer), Dylan snaps. They're not letting him register without his mom and his mom can't be bothered to come help him so he decides to take the car and just keep driving. Unsure of where he's going he finally settles for meeting his online gaming friend, Arden, a few hours away. He has no other friends to speak of, so meeting Arden sounds better than nothing. Plus maybe they can go on a quest together. Together they decide to go on a crazy road-trip to California to find a lost ship of pearls. It's not really the destination that matters though, it's the journey. Arden and Dylan are getting used to seeing each other IRL (in real life) and they have some issues to work out. Dylan is a gay boy and Arden is a trans girl. Will all the flirting they do in World of Warcraft surface on their road trip? What do they make of it? Also what impact will their living situations and money situations have on their situation? A great book for gamers and LGBTQ teens. It's nice to see some diversity in YA books for a change.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Coach Wooden and Me

A heartfelt and moving tribute to the legendary Coach Wooden. Kareem Abdul-Jabar minces no words and puts his heart and soul in these pages. He talks of their ups and downs; Coach Wooden's encouragement, advice, and friendship. Not just for basketball fans, this book highlights how to not only take good advice, but to truly live it. Inspiring and heartfelt this book moved me to wipe my eyes more than a few times. Not only do you learn about Kareem's life, but you learn about Coach Wooden's, most importantly though the reader learns hows their lives intersected repeatedly until a solid friendship had been formed between a 7 hoot tall New York black man and a white hick Midwesterner. A Beautiful read.

Flying Lessons & Other Stories

A collection of young adult short stories by diverse authors. Edited by Ellen Oh, the co-founder of the we need diverse books movement, this collection contains short stories from diverse young adult authors such as: Walter Dean Myers, Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Pena, Tim Tingle and more. Touching on a variety of topics from Bigfoot, basketball, racism, girl pirates, and difficult family situations, this collection is sure to have something for everyone. An essential addition for diverse young adult literature and easy enough reading to attract even middle grade readers.

Oh Joy Sex Toy vol. 2

A great follow up to the first volume filled with more toy reviews, tips, interviews, and humor. Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan do a great job banishing any stigmas, uneasiness, or doubts about sexual toys, acts, or lifestyles. It's down to earth, funny, and unapologetic. There's nothing to be ashamed of and they want you to have a great time in the process. I would recommend reading the volumes in order because there are a few times when they flashback to something that's already been covered. Another fun installment. I can't wait for volume three.

Undefeated

This book was amazing from start to finish. I admired author, Steve Sheinkin, for his wonderful book, "The Port Chicago 50",  but "Undefeated" has turned me into an unabashed mega-fan. Sheinkin's writing style is amazing. I don't give a crap that his non-fiction is intended for young adults, they're easily accessible, filled with pictures, great writing, and eloquence, perfect for adults too. I learned SOO MUCH from this book. I had heard of Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner but I didn't really know diddly squat about them, let alone anything about the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. I'm not huge into sports, but that didn't matter, everything in this book was fascinating, from the beginnings of football, the ill treatment of Native Americas to the awful boarding schools forced on many of their children that wiped out language, dress, and cultural ties to their heritage; this book was a sports and history lesson rolled into one. WONDERFUL!

Monday, June 5, 2017

A New Model

A nice memoir/ self help type book that will appeal to bigger girls or those lacking in self-confidence. Ashley Graham broke down barriers by being one of the first truly famous plus size models. Not only does she do amazing catalog work, but she also graced the cover of Sport's Illustrated swimsuit edition, Vogue and Elle; a feat unheard of for plus size models. Ashley opens up about her childhood, her start in modeling, tips for self confidence, and things she's learned along the way. This book will also appeal to girls trying to get into modeling. At times it seemed a little heavy handed with all the name dropping but overall the message was good. Also included are pictures.

Middlesex

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! It's a sprawling family saga that chronicles, incest, hermaphrodites, love, confusion, immigration, identity, and the human condition. I was hooked from the beginning. The audiobook also does an amazing job bringing the Greek-American accents to life and is wildly entertaining. The story follows Calliope Stephanides and the three generations leading up to her. From a small village on Mount Olympus to industrial Detroit, this family saga is a masterpiece. Every character is wildly unique, wonderfully developed, and worth cheering for. All the stories weave together to help explain the curious case of Calliope's hermaphroditic existence. Engrossing, wonderful and all around amazing. Definitely worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it was awarded!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

This is Really Happening

Not a bad little memoir filled with a collection of humorous essays by Buzzfeed editor, Erin Chack. Easily relatable, amusing, and wry this collection will appeal to teens and young millennials. Discussing a variety of mishaps, scares, friendships, and romance; Erin manages to find the positive in every situation. Whether it be cancer, peeing your pants, diva cups, almost getting eaten by a bear, or comparing your lover to a carrot, Erin Chack has got you covered. A quick light hearted beach read.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hands on the Wheel

This wasn't really written poorly or lacking of a plot, the only reason I gave it 2 stars is that it's essentially fan fiction for 50 Shades of Grey. Instead of a hot millionaire dom, we have an attractive older truck driver. Instead of a naive young college student, we have a 42 year old hot divorced naive waitress with an ex who stalks her. Hank may not have a pleasure room but he has a pleasure cab with a bag full of toys that he used to use on his wife. Since his wife died, he's been alone and horny, but when he stops in Chugwater to eat he lays his eyes on the sexiest waitress and he knows he has to have her. Lucky for him she's looking to escape her ex-husband so she agrees to do whatever he wants in order to go on the road with him for a week (whatever he wants!! at this point they haven't even boned yet! she has no idea what's in store!). She wants to learn to drive a rig, plus she's super attracted to Hank, so she figures what the hell. Once they get on the road they start having lots of kinky sex (lots of butt play, high heels, and spanking) and they find that they might actually be falling for each other. For fans of truckers and erotica.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Footsteps

A wonderful literary tour book that can guide not only your imagination but perhaps inspire some literary travels as well. Essays cover hometown cities, travel destinations, and inspirations from poets, playwrights, and novelists in the past two centuries. At least a third (if not more) of the literary pilgrimages are in the US, but these are all taken directly from The New York Times so it's not a huge shock. Quite a few of the authors I had never heard of but became entranced with after reading what environments inspired them. I really enjoyed the Pablo Neruda and Dracula essays. Honestly there wasn't a bad one in the bunch and I feel like there was a bit of everything. Children's authors, poets, playwrights, Nobel prize winners, expats, and more are included. A great book to travel with, even if you get no further than your porch.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Feel Me Fall

If Lord of the Flies and Hatchet had a literary love child, this would be their baby. Gripping from page one, this book is impossible to put down and I easily had it finished in two sittings. A plane full of students and teachers on their way to a field trip in South America goes down over the Amazon and there is only one survivor. Emily Duran is wrecked with guilt and haunted by what went on in the jungle. In between nightmares and exhaustion she slowly starts to recount her harrowing trek to recovery, how the group of six survivors slowly narrows down until she's all that's left. Teamwork didn't come naturally to the ragtag team of survivors, especially since they are all from different social high school "orders." There is the jock, the stoner, the mean fat girl, the two best friends (Emily and her best mate Viv), and the weirdo who just so happens to be a survivalist. Instead of working with each other to survive, they start to turn on each other with disastrous results. Not only are the animals, rivers, and food potentially deadly, but now they practically need to sleep with one eye open. A heart pounding thriller that doesn't ease up until the astonishing conclusion. A wonderful read with a great twist!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gwendy's Button Box

A short creative read by the "King" of horror. It's not what I was expecting, it's not scary but it's a little chilling and a little haunting. The novella opens with Gwendy running up the "suicide stairs." She's going to be entering the seventh grade soon and she's determined to lose her baby fat. At the top of the stairs a gentleman all in black sits on a bench. He introduces himself and beckons Gwendy to come over. Against all her instincts she does and he presents her with a beautiful little button box. One button when pressed will produce a small chocolate animal that satisfies the eater, another produces silver coins. The ones in the middle represent every continent and there is a black and red one as well. To press those is to cause calamity. Of what sort, Gwendy does not know. The man gives Gwendy the box as a gift, for it will change her life in wonderful ways, but it is also a huge burden, and over time it's all she can think about. What would happen if she pushed those other buttons. Can she keep her curiosity in check?

On the Road with Janis Joplin

Before reading this all I knew about Janis was: her nickname was pearl, she died young from an overdose, and I've heard like 4 or 5 of her songs. Basically I didn't know diddly squat. Some of the reviews have been unfavorable towards this book because readers feel as if the author talks too much about himself. Personally, I liked that. He validated how he knew Janis and he had an interesting life as well! He was her road manager through all three of her bands and he knew her as well as you could know her during the musical part of her life. They weren't always best buds but he was there for her through thick or thin and I think this book was an excellent chronicle of her musical life. I learned so much about her talent, her prowess, and her loving freespirited nature. I won't lie I even got choked up at then end even though I knew it was coming. A life cut short. What a shame. A great read that inspired to sit on the porch, drink, and jam out to her music.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

This is What a Librarian Looks Like

I will admit that I am a little partial to this book because I'm one of the librarians featured in it, BUT that is not the only reason by a long shot! Kyle Cassidy has done an insanely impressive job compiling the essence and passion of librarianship into one beautiful coffee table book. Over 300 librarians from all over the world are featured and all have a gorgeous photo accompanied by a quote or statement on what being a librarian means to the. Some are wordy and eloquent, some are moving, and others are passionate pleas. Also included are mini essays from Kyle about different libraries and librarians, as well as essays from bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman John Scalzi, George R. R. Martin touting how libraries and librarians have helped their lives. A wonderful book that deserves a spot in very personal and public library. What an honor to have even been involved in this.

Oh Joy Sex Toy

A wonderful outside of the box read that had me hooked. Oh Joy Sex Toy is a comic collection of reviews on sexuality, sex toys, birth control, the sex industry, and virtually anything pertaining to sexuality. It breaks down sexual orientations, reviews the pros and cons of sex toys and how to use them, gives practical advice for dating and relationships, discusses the sex industry with porn stars, pole dancers, and more. This collection is wonderfully illustrated, masterfully written, and has never been needed more. It is open, honest, frank, down to earth, and instructive, there is no shaming or judging about lifestyle choices or preferences. I wish I would have had this book back in the day (not that I didn't find this useful now, i'm a grown ass adult and I learned PLENTY from this!) and I hope it finds a wide audience. I don't think the second volume is out yet, but I will absolutely be reading it when it's published. This was wonderful!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mercies in Disguise

Kolata, Gina. Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, A Family's Genetic Destiny, and the Science that Rescued Them. 7 CDs. unabridged. 8.5hrs. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501945366. 

Narrative nonfiction doesn't get much better than this. Gina Kolata, a New York Times science reporter, brilliantly brings a family's harrowing medical crisis to life and tells the story of how a brave young daughter decides to reshape her future and put an end to the genetic disease that had been killing off her family for generations. Kolata researches the history of the mysterious disease while concurrently telling the story of a loving family in a small town that appears to be harangued by bad luck. When the patriarch of the family dies under mysterious circumstances, his sons take matters into their own hands, trying to track down the mysterious disease and piece together their family tree to see what the future may hold in store for them. Compellingly narrated by Andrea Gallo who doesn't shy away from hard medical pronunciations and foreign names. Her soft, yet endearing voice provides a wonderful reassuring and authoritative voice. A wonderful read, even for those not interested in medical or scientific nonfiction. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Of Cats and Men

Gorgeously illustrated, this neat little hardback would be a great gift for the cat man in your lives. Filled with short biographies (1/2 a page) of cat men throughout history, quotes, and amazing illustrations this is an informative, beautiful, and heartfelt little book. I wouldn't mind owning some prints pulled from this book. Included are bios from Andy Warhol, Jean Cocteau, Nikola Tesla, Ernest Hemingway, and other impressive men from history, an interesting mix of authors, artists, and scientists. A cute, informative read that would make a good stocking stuffer. I absolutely loved it and would love to see more from this author/illustrator!

Marlena

Wonderfully haunting, and engaging; Marlena will appeal to both readers of young adult and literary fiction. Alternating between Cat's year in a new town, befriending the neighbor girl Marlena, and present day in New York City where she's struggling to maintain her married, working life without spiraling back into alcoholism, this book is exquisitely and beautifully rendered. Even though Cat finds herself being reckless and hero worshiping everything Marlena does from trying drugs to smoking to drinking and cutting class. Pulled from her fancy prep school and stuck in a small town with her older brother and newly divorced mother, Cat decides that it doesn't matter what she does so she wholly commits herself to Marlena and her scheming. Full of drugs, boys, school woes, teen angst, and true friendship, this book was appealing and haunting as you root for Cat and Marlena to grow up and leave that life behind. A wonderful book.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Small Favor

Man this series doesn't stop getting good!Jim Butcher knows how to keep it engaging by mixing in new and old characters to keep readers on their toes. There is so much character development, plot, imagery, and all around badassery. I have nothing but positive things to say about the tenth installment in the Dresden Files. Mab calls in a favor that Dresden is bound to assist with and he's none to happy about it. He has to find and bail out his nemesis, the crime lord Marcone. If that weren't bad enough there are some majorly bad demons in town. Last time he barely managed against a handful, now there are more than a dozen in town. Good thing Harry Dresden is used to going up against horrible odds. I can't wait for the next one!

The Gunslinger

This epic fantasy classic has been on my to read list for ages and I'm finally motivated to read it after seeing the movie preview. I know this is only the first book in the dark tower series but based off the movie preview there must combine quite a few of the books to get the first movie. Basically The Gunslinger introduces the two main characters to the series: The Gunslinger (Roland) and The Man in Black. The gunslinger is following the man in black across a long wasteland of a desert and trying to avoid the traps left behind by the man in black (quite unsuccessfully). The gunslinger is determined to track down and kill the man in black, but not before he gets answers. The two are from another world in another time, and besides the dark tower they are the only remnants of where they are from. As the gunslinger follows the man in blacks trail readers get a little back story on his past as he tells it to the people he encounters. He eventually finds a kid in the desert and together they set off to cross the mountains, right on the man in black's trail. It's kinda heavy, very literary, and leaves you with lots of questions. I guess I'll have to read the next one in the series.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Brave is the New Beautiful

Generally I avoid Christian self-help books, especially if they're written for and by women. Because I'm judgmental and sometimes I can't take much of the sexist, hippie dippy fake empowerment. But... every once in a while a great book comes along that makes me forget about all the self righteous mumbo jumbo I've read and makes me believe that books in this "genre" aren't all bad. This is one of those books. It was an incredibly quick and empowering read and it was never over the top. Blum did a wonderful job relating to readers that bravery comes in all forms and it's not just the public heroics that matter. Sometimes getting out of bed is brave. She shares her stories and stories from countless other women, some of which are truly heartbreaking. I teared up more than once reading this, especially the last few chapters. At the end of each chapter there are some reflection chapters which could be done as a self reflection or in a group. Honestly, it wouldn't make a horrible book club selection. I was pretty impressed with this, I'll actually keep it and re-read it. It makes you think of the world a little bit differently and reflect on yourself in a more positive light.

I received this book for free from Litfuse in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Milan Miracle

This book wasn't what I thought it would be and I think I loved it even more for that. Based off the title I naively assumed that this would be about the 1954 Milan team that inspired the movie Hoosiers, but instead it focuses on Milan High School's current basketball team (2010-2011) and the struggles they face. Since the introduction of the class system in 1998 and even before that Milan, ceased to be the basketball powerhouse that it once was. Bill Riley follows the coach, the team, and the town for one whole season and tells of the ups and downs they face. It's a gripping high school basketball story, one markedly different then the legendary team that most people associate with Milan, but it doesn't make it any less important. Basketball is king in Indiana and books like this are just another reason why it will always remain that way. A wonderful read and I'm not even a sports junkie or basketball enthusiast.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Goodbye Days

One of the most beautifully written and heart wrenching teen novels I've read since John Green. With one little text, Carver accidentally kills his three best friends. Trying to cope and process the guilt and the sorrow is near impossible since his best friends are gone. He relies on his older sister but soon she's going back to college and soon he'll have to face everyone at school. He slowly becomes friends with the girlfriend of one of his deceased friends and together the two of them try to make sense of what has happened. Jesmyn makes music and Carver tries to return to his writing but his heart's not in it. Trying to do the mundane, every day tasks can be excruciating. While working on college applications, Carver write "One day I wrote a text message that killed my three best friends... Sure I've written a few stories here and there, but my masterwork was a two-sentence-long text message that ended three stories. I'm the only writer in the world who makes stories disappear by writing." To top it all off Carver might be facing accidental manslaughter charges because of the text. Beautiful, heart-wrenching, an absolute must read!

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dead Little Mean Girl

I was such a huge fan of The Awesome (Eva Darrow's first book) that I had to get this one as soon as it came out. While it wasn't as good as her first novel (the bar was set too high), it was still pretty damn good. This teen novel opens with a nerdy girl finding her quasi step-sister laying face first dead on the garage floor wearing a skimpy hula girl costume. From there we get the complete back story leading up to the death from Emma's perspective. Emma was a shy, nerdy girl who liked blending into the background. After her parent's divorce her mother starts dating a woman who has a daughter the same age as her, when things get serious they all move in together. Quinn is a holy terror. Pretty, popular, and vindictive she is the typical mean girl. Emma tries to play nice but soon the two become mortal enemies. Quinn keeps upping the ante and trying to screw everyone over. After a blow out fight Quinn is left dead and Emma finds herself feeling.... remorse? An interesting take on regret, bullying, and mean girls. A laugh out loud funny, heartfelt young adult book that should be required reading for teens. I loved it.