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Category Archives: Fiction

… and scene

How perfect that this week is the final week of the #edublogsclub blogging challenge (a few weeks shy of a full year) and this past weekend I completed the Rae Carson Gold Seer trilogy. Into the Bright Unknown’s book birthday was Thursday, so I dutifully went to the bookstore to pick it up and read as quickly and slowly as possible because I knew it was the end. Likewise, when Edublogs announced several weeks back that they would be finishing out the challenge on week 40, I couldn’t help but be sad too. So I savored prompt 39 and now write slowly for my last one, knowing it will be the last.

IntotheBrightUnknownCarson’s book was a riveting ending that didn’t quite have the explosions and bang bang shoot ’em up that book number two did nor was it the magic of being introduced to a strong female character, Leah Westfall, in the first (you can never get back that first-read feeling). This book felt mature. It was about each of the ragtag group that trudged through the American west to set up Glory together, all while the pains of prejudice and lawlessness reigned. Carson was so vivid in her descriptions of the west and then California where most of the third book takes place that I actually dreamed of the west.  It was a fitting ending and I won’t spoil it for you here, but there is hopefulness for the future of the fictional characters and a completeness to their story.

There is also hopefulness for the future of my blogging. I flexed the muscle of talking more about education rather than just books and it felt good. While I won’t always post about education and libraries in the future, I will incorporate those thoughts when necessary and in the context of my own professional interests around being a dutiful librarian. And for me, that means reading way more than I could possibly recommend so that I always have something to recommend to every reader. It means coming up with unique programs that keep students engaged and thinking. It means listening to and connecting with the students, our future. Edublogs did rev that engine and I thank them for that. I also connected with another school librarian named Alicia who works at a high school library whose initials are also AHS. You know, same thing: Edublogs inspiring me to be a better educator through blogging and also setting educators up on blind dates. Totally equal.

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So, thank you Rae Carson for writing yet another fierce trilogy that made me sad to have to walk away. Luckily, I’ll have the books on my bookshelf as a memory of the good times we had. And thank you Edublogs for inspiring thoughtful dialogue among its practitioners and giving me tons of posts to look back on including these which are my favorites from our time together: 1) Folders, folders everywhere, 2) Creative expression, 3) “So, professional development should…”, 4) The swinging pendulum, and 5) Worth a thousand words.

 

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Insta-reviews

I’ve written before about completing Riotgrams Instagram challenges– a photo each day for a month around the prompt set forth that usually aligns in part with holidays, seasons, and suggestions from Book Riot‘s followers. I thought I’d share some book recommendations based on the prompts and my pictures so far this month. Keep in mind it’s only October 15th, which means there’s still a half of a month to go!

2017-10-14 08.43.42Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs is an addition to the Miss Peregrine’s series. This book is a collection of short stories written under the guise of a historian for peculiars and tells the tall tales that only another peculiar can tell. Some are light-hearted but some are downright depressing. But it brings out the best in Riggs’ creativity and is a perfectly natural (see what I did there?) addition to the family of books.

This post’s inspiration was “books in nature”.

 

 

 


2017-10-09 11.40.35The Round House by Louise Erdrich is an adult novel written in 2012 that is a multi-layered and emotionally-draining portrayal of a family torn apart on the North Dakota reservation of the Ojibwe tribe. This is the kind of book you dive into with every fiber of your being and continue to think about after you’re finished. It’s likely a book I will re-read when I don’t often do that.

This post’s inspiration was “Native and indigenous reads.” 

 

 


2017-10-10 19.19.47-1Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson is the final book in her Gold Seer trilogy that I finished about fifteen minutes ago. I bought it on it’s book birthday because I had to have it and finished it within a few days, though if I could ignore adulthood, I could have been done the following day. Carson demonstrates the facets of immigration and race relations in the 1850s during the Gold Rush though it began years before that in the south after Leah’s parents were murdered and she needed to run, hiding herself in plain sight as a boy and meeting up with a band of interesting people all pushing their way west. If I can provide more encouragement to read the series, know that I had at least one night of dreams set in the wild West myself that demonstrates Carson’s command of setting.

This post’s inspiration was “books & candy”.


2017-10-04 08.01.19Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence is a must-read for librarians (duh) and avid book lovers. Her uniquely humorous style provides glimpses into her reading habits and her life. Her and I are kindred spirits because we share an all-time book favorite The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Her approach had me laughing and smirking making for awkward public interactions. But readers certainly can find ways to incorporate this style– a love letter to your books– into some epic internal conversations or as part of your next book group meeting. Love, Alicia.

This post’s inspiration was “current read.”


2017-10-03 16.03.30-1And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard has one of my favorite covers. So while it’s not winter and I wasn’t going to dress in all-black, you get the point. This young adult novel features poetry and inspiration from Emily Dickinson in one of the ways I appreciate contemporary YA authors– bringing back the old by incorporating it into the new. The main character has experienced something tragic and is now at a boarding school and channeling Emily Dickinson to heal. The mystery unfolds over the course of the book and readers get to go back in time and revisit some of Emily Dickinson’s best poetry while Hubbard flexes her own poetry muscles and has Emily writing her own which is just as beautiful.

This post’s inspiration was “three word titles.”


2017-10-11 15.34.27Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is an adult biography that I have recommended widely since reading. While I will never know what it’s like to be a scientist, I felt like I understood the life of one, with the added benefits of chronicling Jahren’s personal life alongside her academic one. Without a doubt, it is eloquently written and organized in a studious manner, with three sections being named for plant life weaving these plants into the story of her own life and her lab partner. It’s as serious as it is cerebral with commentary on mental health, family, friendship, and science itself.

This post’s inspiration was “underrated read”. 

 

Bad, difficult, and nowhere

Over the last several weeks, I’ve read titles that deal with girls in bad places, girls taking a stand as “nowhere girls”, and an adult essay collection by Roxane Gay called Difficult Women. To say that #shepersisted would be an understatement.

GirlinaBadPlaceThe first, Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward is a copy I’m reviewing for VOYA, so you can read the full review there, but suffice it to say that when a girl is in trouble, sometimes she finds the path of least resistance and when that path leads to dangerous individuals, it’s important to have a girl friend to keep it real.

TheNowhereGirlsAnd keepin’ it real is what a group of girls in The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed does when a new girl moves in to the house formerly housing another student who moved after a traumatic rape. The school and community’s lack of justice for her and subsequent girls who have tolerated this behavior are ready to stand and fight led by three very unique girls who empower others’ voice. Erin’s autism is useful as she continually discusses how she is underestimated by others. Rosina’s pressures include the conservative Mexican-American expectations of her family as she explores her sexuality and sense of duty. Then there’s Grace, the new girl, who provides fresh perspective couched in a liberal church community that her mother heads. What is admirable and respected in the story are the richness of the voices, but the very real conversations Reed has with her readers.

DifficultWomenAnd while the third book is an adult essay collection with a great deal of sexual content, the rawness of the approach is what won me over. I hadn’t read any of Gay’s other works that include Bad Feminist and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body so I cannot speak to those but each story while sometimes with similar character profiles or development allows for reflection. I’m the first one to admit I love dark books and this one fits the bill as Cornelius Nepos says “after darkness comes the light.”

So, explore womanhood in its many forms in these three newer books.

 

Four before you go any further

As the school year peaks around the corner (staff go back tomorrow), I want to round up a few of my favorite reads in the past few weeks. Of course this excludes graphic novels since I sit on a selection committee and must keep my lips zipped on those. So, without further delay…

  • Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
    • I’m obsessed with fairy tales that are atmospheric and Martin is seamless in her storytelling about two sisters, Snow and Rose whose father has gone missing in the woods which forces their mother and them to move into a tiny cabin in the woods. As they wander the forest and meet the people of the woods who are hellbent on finding out what beast is making their loved ones disappear, they soon discover that the mystery wasn’t so far away the entire time. It’s a mesmerizing tale.
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds
    • The second in his middle grade Track series, I couldn’t help but write the word yes over and over in my Goodreads review. It is every reason Reynolds is seated at the helm of YA and middle grade powerhouse writers. I look forward to my retirement many decades from now and still reading and sharing his books. He has become timely and timeless.
  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
    • I had my husband bring home flowers specifically to photograph alongside the cover for a bookstagram shot. While only a small amount of the book takes place in the flower shop, I couldn’t help myself. But I did also pose it with a compendium of Shakespeare in acknowledgement of our bookish co- main character, Lionel aka Lion. This book is full of heart, featuring a wide array of primary and secondary characters including some fabulous adults. I want more fabulous adults featured in YA books! But topics including sexuality, attraction, mental health, religion, and self-discovery are prevalent in an honest and heartwarming combination.
  • If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer Armentrout
    • This was my first Armentrout and it was a recommendation from a local bookstore especially when she found out I was a high school librarian. Ever make a decision you wholeheartedly regret? Lena was upset and got into a car (sober) with friends who were drunk. The car crashed and she was the lone survivor. As much as the book focuses on the darkness of these deaths and the months of recuperation, there’s also a more positive message about how waiting until tomorrow whether it be about finding a way to move on, saying yes to a love interest, or staying positive even if you’re going through hell. Certainly food for thought and a unique blend of a lighter romance coupled with a serious disaster.

If these weren’t on your radar or you were putting them off, put them at the top of the pile. And once you’ve read and adored them, give them a hug from me.

 
 

Stepping back in time

After a short long weekend away from home where we were able to travel back in time and breath in the history of a long ago time while enjoying what it is in 2017, it got me thinking about the books that make me want to travel to a specific time or place.

  1. Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck uses the Fitzgerald’s specifically Zelda and her private nurse, Anna to bring readers to the 1930s using a main character whose husband is MIA from the war, a young daughter who died, and her new charge, the unstable Zelda Fitzgerald to bring the Jazz Age to life.
  2. Mary Coin by Silver is a haunting, heartbreaking, and lyrically romantic interpretation of the subject of Migrant Mother, the photographer, and a possible relative focusing on the Great Depressions far-reaching effects.
  3. Garden of Stones by Littlefield uses the same concept as Silver with the comparison of different generations in one story and how they all persevered. In this story it focuses on a woman’s survival at all costs during the Japanese internment.
  4. Into the Wild by Krakauer takes us to the wilds of Alaska and leaves us to wonder, what was Chris really thinking?
  5. Mudbound by Jordan shows us the dead-end life that Laura is feeling she’s living after relocating to the Mississippi Delta in 1946. The intricacy of relationships romantic and otherwise bring this story to life.

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All of these are adult titles whose authors have a particular penchant for historical fiction or in Krakauer’s case, writing nonfiction with a bevy of research and purpose, that provide readers with an experience. The kind of experience I had sitting for brunch with a pomegranate mimosa and eggs benedict  in the oldest tavern in the United States that opened its doors in 1697 and where the Colonial Legislature would meet. All you need to do is close your eyes and listen to the creaking of the wood floors and feel the bustle of life that long ago. I’m guessing it would be far noisier and smokier and sans white linens.

 

Cover Love

Covers are integral for selling a book without having to say a word (as well as titles, but that is a blog post for another day). If put on the spot, the kind of covers I drool over are Sarah Cross’ Beau Rivage series, Ellen Hopkins hardcovers, George O’Connor’s Olympains graphic novels, and standalones that capture the mood of the book like Out of Darkness and And We Stay.

So I took the opportunity to capture the beauty of a new book to be released in October that I had an advanced copy for, E.K. Johnston’s (Exit, Pursued by a Bear) That Inevitable Victorian Thing. Not only is the cover art gorgeous, when you really look at it, the artist understood the book as well. Plus, the content is an intriguing alternate history with GLBTQ characters, picturesque settings, and lovable secondary characters.

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Teens will keep interested in the content, but likely what will draw them in if a librarian isn’t there to recommend it is the cover. What other covers do you adore? I can say for certainty that I would poster-print Cross’ covers and hang as wall art if I had the wall space. Well… we are remodeling our house, so maybe this is a real possibility.

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Then, what’s really underneath it all, too? Anne Blankman shared her love for the hardcover where publishers put thought into what’s underneath. Understandably I now strip all my hardcovers to see what’s underneath. Ever done it? You should, you might be a winner! Pun intended– because the last book that I fell in love with was You May Already Be a Winner for it’s navy hardcover with a complimenting golden ribbon along the spine.

Your mission next time you’re holding a book in your hands is to take a few minutes to appreciate the design of the cover. And if it’s a hardcover, see what’s underneath it all *wink wink*.

 
 

Hop, skip, and jump

I love when books give me a taste of something I didn’t know before and leads me to other things; one thing should always lead to another, just like thinking about chocolate almost always leads to peanut butter or reading one book by a gifted author (hi, Ruta!) always leads to reading everything she publishes.

In fact, I blogged about my discovery of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne after reading A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry. I adore authors like Sarah Cross who revitalize fairy tales. I picked up Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast after delighting in Ericka Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl. Even though I disliked the new The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle, I read Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem “Goblin Market” (adored it!) And though I still haven’t read Shakespeare’s play “A Winter’s Tale” which inspired E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear, I look forward to it soon.

Switching gears from books that lead to other books, what about books that lead to field trips? I anticipate an on-site tour of the Albany Shaker site after reading Ann Sayers’ book “Their Name Is Wicks…”: One Family’s Journey through Shaker History.

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Living in a state like New York, and upstate no less, provides rich history lessons everywhere we turn, so I took the opportunity to dive into the world of the Shakers. And it didn’t hurt that I know the author and went to the book launch at the Shaker Heritage Site. You can see my post published yesterday after finishing the book that day. But it brought life to these people and this location.

I remember joining a book group that read the beautiful All The Light We Cannot See by Doerr and having the very real conversation about going on a field trip to France as I’m sure most book groups who read it thought about doing too.

So, what books have you read that ultimately led you to another book or embarking on an adventure? Likewise, have there been books that completely transported you to another time and place providing the cheapest vacation money can buy?