Dec 24, 2013

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

Remember when Harry asks Dumbledore what he sees when he looks at the Mirror of Erised? Dumbledore lies (we assume) and says that he sees himself holding thick socks, because another Christmas has come and gone with him only receiving books.  Putting aside the fact that Dumbledore should be grateful that people are purchasing him gifts with love rather than complaining, I understand how he feels.  People obviously know that I love books, but have a hard time figuring out which books I would actually want and not already own.  Regardless, I LOVE getting books (and socks too, to be fair) so here are my

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

1.  Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

Every time she posts on her blog, my news feeds explode.  I can't wait to read this. 

2. The Long Way Home, by George Jeanty and Joss Whedon

I own every volume of Buffy Season 8 except for the first one which I can never find anywhere! I don't want to buy it from Amazon (even though I know I could), because I like supporting comic book stores.  My addiction to The Big Bang Theory contributed heavily to my feelings on the matter.

3. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, by Mo Willems

Without question, my favorite picture book of all time is Don't Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus, and this sequel is a close second.

4. Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

This graphic novel that is completely up to the reader's interpretation is so beautiful and one of my all-time favorites. 

5. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

I'm a bad librarian when it comes to my personal collection.  In my efforts to push my favorite books onto friends and family, I lent this copy to a friend, who then lent it to a friend, who then lent it to a friend (or possibly a frenemy) and now it's gone for good.  I really should charge late fees.

6. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

See above.

7. A boxed set of the Molly: American Girl series

I have the complete Samantha collection (who is my favorite) but I don't have the entire Molly set (my second favorite).  Also, earlier this year I learned that both dolls were retired and it really broke my heart.

8. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

I collect picture books and for some inexplicable reason, I don't have this book.

9. Broadway Musicals, Revised and Updated: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time, by
Frank Vlastnik and Ken Bloom

I love musicals and I would get lost in this coffee table book in a heartbeat.

10. Finishing the Hat, by Stephen Sondheim

Again, I love musicals, I love Sondheim musicals, and his interview on The Colbert Report really sealed the deal on me wanting this book.

Check out more over at The Broke and the Bookish!

And Merry Christmas! (if that's your thing)

Dec 22, 2013

#TheList, No. 431: The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame's 1908 classic, The Wind in the Willows, tells the tale of four animal friends - Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad.  Toad is the reckless animal of the bunch - always coveting the latest trend whether it be horse drawn carriages or motor cars (note: this was written towards the end of the second industrial revolution).  His three friends worry that he will get himself into trouble with his impulsive behavior and, lo and behold, Toad is caught stealing a car and thrown into jail for 20 years. He escapes and after indulging himself once again with irrational behavior, teams up with his friends to reclaim his old home from the animals who have overtaken it.

If a middle or high school student asked me for a nostalgia-based book they could incorporate into a history/literature project, I would say "you got it dude" and hand them The Wind in the Willows

Looking for a riveting read? I would tell them to look elsewhere.

In terms of its historical significance and reflection of people resistant to change, it's a great read. Toad stands for the new and exciting industrial age, while his friends represent the fondness for a simpler time.  While I may find it boring to read through (and some agree and many disagree), I really do appreciate the symbolic aspects of the story.  For me, the analysis of the characters and action is more entertaining than the actual story. Plus, who doesn't love anthropomorpized animals?

Dec 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2013

When I was surrounded by fellow bibliophiles in grad school, I realized that there were so many children's/YA/fiction books I had yet to explore.  Thus began my adventure to read everything on #TheList, every title mentioned in the classroom, every amazing book I passed in a bookstore (I take pictures of every book that looks interesting so I don't forget), etc.  So there are always "new to me" authors I encounter that already have established fandoms.  Here are some of my favorites from this past year:

Top Ten "New to Me" Authors in 2013
(Titles I read in 2013 in parentheses)

1. John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines)
Okay, my first on the list and I'm cheating.  I read Looking for Alaska a few years ago.  BUT, The Fault in Our Stars really got me hooked on Green's writing and also led me to his vlogs which are both insightful and hysterical.  I've added the rest of his works to my "To Be Read" short list.

2. Marie Lu (Legend, Prodigy, Champion)
I read all three of the Legend series books this year, which I'm sure most people will do now that they're all available. I felt I had to take this crash course in them because my students were utterly obsessed with this series.  I hope she writes a non-dystopian in the future; I'm curious about where she'll go as an author.

3. Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane)
I've always known that Neil Gaiman is practically worshipped as a literary god by most of the internet world, but had never really gotten into his works.  I picked up Ocean on a whim and ended up reading it in one sitting.

4. Megan McCafferty (Sloppy Firsts)
After hearing so much about Jessica Darling throughout grad school, I finally experienced the character for myself.  Needless to say, I will be reading the rest of the series ASAP, as well as McCaffertys Bumped series.

5. Sherlock
Okay, this doesn't count as an author, but alongside Buffy, this show is all library school students (and professors) talk about.  I crossed it off my list this year and eagerly anticipate Season 3.

6. Frances Hodsgon Burnett (The Secret Garden)
I'm positive that I tried reading The Secret Garden and A Little Princess as a child, but couldn't finish them because I was am a brat that stays away from classics. But I enjoyed and appreciated this novel this time around, so perhaps there's hope for me yet!

7. Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt & Other Big Round Things)
I'll admit I believed that Earth would be a bit of a fluffy read, but Mackler took a frequently used trope (teen upset with body image) and added a twist.  I'll definitely be reading more of her works in the future.

8. Emily M. Danforth (The Miseducation of Cameron Post)
Cameron Post is one of my top 5 books of this year.  It's also Danforth's debut novel and I can't wait for her next.

9. Sarah Dessen (Someone Like You)
For years, I've passed the shelves filled with her (very pretty) books and I finally got a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

10. Robert Galbraith (The Cuckoo's Calling)
Wow this author was really terrific.  I hope he's written other books...

Check out more over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Dec 13, 2013

Friday Five: "Little Girl Books"

I haven't posted a good rant in what seems like ages, so it seems almost fitting that I write one on a Friday the 13th.

Earlier this week, a coworker mentioned that she was reading an Oprah book selection and asked if I had read it yet (I believe it was The Two Hotel Francforts).  I said that I had not and when I reached for the book to read the description, she responded with "Oh that's right. You only read 'little girl books.'"

I've had a fair share of people making fun of my preference for reading children's and young adult literature (as well as my preference for working with children and young adults), so I smiled and laughed it off, but on the inside I felt like:

Why? Because it was a fellow library coworker who voiced this insult.  I can semi-understand when people who aren't well versed in the land of YA and children's lit think that it's a little strange.  But a fellow librarian?  Hurtful!

She probably thought it was harmless and maybe it is; maybe I'm overreacting.  But to me it's a sexist, insulting remark to casually toss around.  It suggests to an entire gender and age group that their book selections are meaningless. What exactly makes a book a "little girl book?"  Are they restricted to featuring only "little girl" activities? Are boys even allowed? Do they require less mental capacity to understand? Do they have stickers? Are they height based? Did she mean Thumbelina?

What would have been unoffensive:
  • "Oh that's right, you prefer to read young adult books."
  • "Oh that's right, you prefer reading different types of books."
  • "Oh that's right, this book might not have crossed your radar."
  • "Oh you should give it a try, I think you'll like it."
But no, she went with "Oh that's right. You only read 'little girl books.'"

So, under the assumption she meant that "little girl books" are dainty, easy to digest, and not intellectually or emotionally stimulating*, here are my

Top 5 "little girl books" that I read this year:

1. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
The story of two young women during WWII - one a pilot and the other a spy captured by the Gestapo and held as a prisoner of war.

History, spies, torture: Definitely a "little girl book".

2. I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

Jasper Dent investigates a series of murders taking place in his hometown. Why? Because they're copycat versions of the murders his serial killer father committed years ago.

Murder, psychological manipulation: Definitely a "little girl book".

3.Does My Head Look Big in This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal, a Muslim Australian attending a rather non-diverse school, decides that she wants to wear a hijab (head scarf) full-time.  She is met with criticism from her family, friends, classmates, and strangers.

Religious prejudice, sexism, cultural identity: Definitely a "little girl book".

4. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth

A young teen coming to terms with her sexuality believes that she is the reason her parents were killed in an airplane crash.  She is forced to attend a gay conversion camp by her aunt.

LGBT, guilt, suicide: Definitely a "little girl book".

5. The Earth, My Butt & Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

A teen battling body issues and constantly hoping for acceptance from her family, must now cope with the shattered images of those closest to her.

Rape, eating disorders, coming of age: Definitely a "little girl book". 

*Is there anything wrong with those types of books? NOPE.  Have I read books that may fit that description? Absolutely.  But to merely classify all of children's lit and YA as "little girl books" and act as if that is somehow beneath you is what's wrong.

Dec 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR List

It's so hard for me to pick out what books to read next.  But here are 10 that I know I'll be reading this winter:

Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR List:

1. The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

A student made me promise I would read this ASAP because it's her favorite book of all time.

2. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Another recommendation from a student.  She was so excited about this book, so I had to add it to my list.

3. The Strange Case of Origama Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Every time I see a book from this series, I'm curious.

4. A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Alright, this one is a lofty feat for me because I love books that I can read in one day, or at least over the span of a few days.  But everyone keeps telling me to give it a try, so I think I will.

5. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead

I loved When You Reach Me and have been meaning to try Stead's other novel.  

6. Bumped, by Megan McCafferty

I'm a dystopia addict, what can I say?

7. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

This book has been on my list for far to long.  It's time to add this to my "already read" pile.  

8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Graphic Novel, by Ransom Riggs

I was unbelievably excited when I saw this book in a store earlier this month.

9. Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt

I read a review of this graphic novel, and it looks incredible. I can't wait to read it.

10. Always Alice aka Now I'll Tell You Everything, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The last book in the Alice series came out earlier this year.  I will have to do some refreshing reading of earlier books, but I look forward to reading the ending of a series I grew up with. 

Check out more books over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Dec 9, 2013

#TheList, Nos. 696 and 708: A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Series of Unfortunate Events is a 13 part series that follows the miserable adventures of the three Baudelaire children. The children, orphans after losing their parents to a tragic fire, must protect themselves and their family fortune from Count Olaf, a distant relative, and his henchmen. Often caught in terrifying death traps, the children must escape using Violet's inventing skills, Klaus' thirst for knowledge, and Sunny's surprisingly sharp teeth. Despite the dangers the characters find themselves in, the books are packed with dark humor and word play, making them exciting and suspenseful reads. 

I read the first book in The Series of Unfortunate Events as a child after receiving it as a gift. My uncle told me I needed to read something other than Harry Potter (he also gave me The Golden Compass). I thought it was incredibly funny and unlike anything I had read before.  But for some strange reason, I never kept up with the series (I was probably too caught up with Harry Potter, let's be honest). Recently, I read a discussion of the series as a whole. It confirmed what I had imagined, that the series, while humorous and innovative, was formulaic in it's approach. However, it mentioned how the books took darker turns and added a great conspiracy midway through the series.  That was enough to make me pick them back up.

The Bad Beginning (No. 696), the first in the series, introduces the Baudelaires with their back story and their first major misadventure. The narrator immediately tells the reader that this is not a happy story. If you want a happy story, close the book and find something else.  Actually, this sentiment is expressed time and time again throughout the series. The narrator goes to great lengths - for example, attempting to bore the reader with the process of water evaporation - to prevent the reader from reading about the many tragedies the Baudelaires face.  Repeatedly shattering that fourth wall with warnings only entices the readers to continue turning pages. Everyone knows that if you tell someone not to do something, it only increases that person's interest.

The author also makes a great effort to define new vocabulary, one of my favorite aspects of the series.  There's absolutely no shying away from challenging words or phrases that readers may not have encountered in previous reading selections. Instead, the words or phrases are defined, examples are supplied, and then it is constantly brought back into the context of the story at hand.

The Vile Village (No. 708), the seventh book, is where the series begins to take darker turns.  Up until now, the Baudelaires have been fairly innocent in their escapes from horrible henchmen.  But this book leaves the Baudelaires falsely accused of murder and on the run from the police.  They must follow a conspiracy-based quest established in an earlier book, leaving running from the law as their only option.  Now that they are on the run, they continue to break the law in order to protect themselves and bring their adventures to an end.

Time after time, the three children escape death and/or capture without the assistance of an adult. When they try to seek adult help, they're often ignored or dismissed as having childish notions. But the Baudelaires frequently catch on to plots and Count Olaf's disguises before adults. Why? Because children often don't get the credit they deserve.  Many adults are depicted in a buffoonish manner to further highlight the children's potential. The series serves as an affirmation of the power of children. Even if the books become repetitive as the series progresses, that message is always prevalent.

Dec 5, 2013

Reading Moods

I've always been terrible at deciding what to read next.  I've gone through various systems: random number generators for #TheList, closing my eyes and pointing at my bookshelf, reading in age group patterns (children's, YA, adult), or just letting the library gods control my fate by reading whatever holds come in first.  But regardless of the system, I always try to read something I'm in the mood for.  If I'm craving a history lesson, I reach for historical fiction or, you know, actual nonfiction.  If I want to laugh, I'm more likely to read The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things than I am The Book Thief.  And so on, and so forth.

Recently, a student has been placing holds left and right (using my system, apparently) and reading whatever came in first.  Recently, three came in at once (Divergent, The Outsiders, and The Maze Runner) and she looked like she was about to have a panic attack. 

Me: What's wrong?!
Student: (in literally the saddest voice possible) I don't know which one to read first.
M: Well, which one were you looking forward to the most?
S: I don't know.
M: Okay, let's try this. What kind of book are you in the mood to read?
S: Something happy.
M: Yikes. None of those are particularly happy books.
S: They aren't?
M: Wait, tell me what you know about these books.
S: I don't know anything. Someone told me they were good.

Our conversation continued with me giving a quick book talk for the three books and she realized that they were not the books she was looking for.

She still thought they sounded interesting but having just read back to back sad/depressing books, she wanted the polar opposite.  We talked some more and I found out that she liked Lois Lowry as an author, but had only ever read her serious books.  So I pulled out Anastasia Krupnik, and told her to give it a try.  She came back after the weekend and told me she LOVED it.  Now she's ready to work on Divergent because her palate has been cleansed.  You just have to go with what you're in the mood for to really enjoy a book.