Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Books on Mary and Ariel's Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Secrets in Death – JD Robb
Just out September 5, is Robb’s 45th In Death book… and I have read each and every one of this futuristic police romance series. The series revolves around Eve Dallas, a NYC police lieutenant. In Secrets in Death, Eve is having dinner with a colleague when Larinda Mars, gossip columnist and blackmailer, is murdered in the restaurant. Even though Eve disliked Larinda, she is intent on finding the murderer and seeing justice done. (FYI: JD Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts.) 

Empty Grave – Jonathan Stroud 
On September 12th, the fifth book in the middle-grade Lockwood & Co. series was released. Lockwood and Company, the preteen ghost hunting agency, wants to know if Marissa Fittes’ body is in the family mausoleum or if there is something nefarious going on. So, the group is going to break in and see if the body is still there or whether is it an "Empty Grave." The Lockwood and Co. books are a fun romp following a group of preteen ghost hunters (because only the young can see ghosts) and it is entertaining watching them try to handle the duplicitous world of ghosts and adults. 

Archangel’s Viper – Nalini Singh 
September 26th heralds the release of the 10th book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. These paranormal romances follow the relationships between New York City’s humans, vampires, and the archangel who rules them all. Archangel’s Viper takes a look at Sorrow, a human who was bitten by a deranged angel and who now is developing strange unknown powers, and Venom the vampire charged with watching and protecting her. While these books should probably be read in order, I anticipate the 10th book in the series to be a wonderful, fun, well-written, slide into romance.   

This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnis 
Oooooh. I love Mindy McGinnis. She has an amazing way of writing dark fiction and I am breathlessly anticipating her new teen contemporary novel coming out on October 10th.  In This Darkness Mine, Sasha Stone loves her perfectly normal life. The only abnormal thing that has happened to her occurred before she was born, when Sasha absorbed her twin sister in the womb. But, soon Sasha starts having blackouts, losing time, and having memories of things she would never do. What is happening?  How did Sasha’s life become not quite so perfect? 

Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo 
Leigh Bardugo is known for writing image rich fiction, which tell fantastic tales that stir the soul. Language of Thorns is Bardugo’s collection of 6 short fairy tale retellings. I am very excited to see what tales she is going to twist up into well-written and engaging pretzels. 

Into the Bright Unknown – Rae Carson 
October 10, the 3rd (and final) book in the Gold Seer Trilogy (Teen) is going to make an appearance. This fantastic historical fiction series is set during the Gold Rush, where Leah Westfall’s ability to sense gold has helped her and her friends find rich land in California Territory. But, people want to use Leah’s ability and keeping the land they have staked will be a dangerous adventure. I really enjoyed the first two books in this series. I don’t normally like historic fiction, but the characters and adventure keep you reading. I am really looking forward to seeing how this series concludes. 

John Green is one of my favorite people in existence, so I’m pretty excited to read his newest novel when it comes out in October. Like his mega-hit The Fault in Our Stars, this books centers around a teenage girl who is struggling with illness. In this case, the protagonist, Aza Holmes, is investigating the disappearance of a billionaire with her best friend Daisy, while also coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. It should be a fascinating read, as Green revealed in 2015 that he has struggled with these exact illnesses since childhood. I anticipate that Turtles will be his best novel yet.

This one has been on my TBR since it came out in May. Touted as Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club, the book starts with five students entering detention, each representative of a different high school stereotype. However, instead of bonding and giving each other makeovers to the tune of cheesy '80s music, one of the students winds up dead by the time detention is over. Each of the other four students has a plausible motive, so they become the prime suspects. As the title suggests, one of them is not being entirely truthful. Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

When I was in middle school, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with space. This obsession was dashed one day when, looking up at the night sky, I felt an overwhelming claustrophobia and had a mini existential crisis. Then, I took a physics class in high school and discovered it’s not exactly my strong suit. Nowadays I just love learning, and I think I’m ready to tackle the topic of space again. Like Carl Sagan and Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson is devoted to explaining the wonders of science in layman terms, so I trust him to guide me on this journey!

Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert
This humorous book is based on the popular recurring segment from The Late Show, where host Stephen Colbert pokes a bit of fun at his real-life Catholic faith by “confessing” his “sins” to his audience, under the pretext that his busy celebrity status prevents him from going to real confession on a regular basis. Of course, these confessions are really jokes for a comedic late night television show. For example, one of my favorites is: “If I'm really honest with myself, I'm never quite ready for some football.” It’s one of my favorite segments on any show, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn there will be a book that collects and illustrates some of Colbert’s favorite confessions as well as confessions submitted by his audience members.  

Rhett & Link’s Book ofMythicality by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal
I am super excited about this one, you guys. Every morning, I am among the hundreds of thousands of people who tune in on YouTube to watch Good Mythical Morning—a daily talk show made by the “Internetainers” Rhett and Link. Now, these award-winning best friends and comedians are putting out their first book! With the subtitle “A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery,” you know you’re in for a good time. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Top Ten Books of my Childhood/Adolescence

Throwback Freebie- Top Ten Books of my Childhood/Adolescence

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

We all have those books from our childhood that influenced us or even shaped us into the adults we are today. When I started putting this list together, I was surprised at how easy they all came back to me. Starting with the picture books I remember my mom reading to me up to the books that I would sneak and read during class in middle school, these are the top ten books that influenced me in my childhood and young adulthood.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
This book is the earliest memory I have of my mother reading to me. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare compete to see who loves who the most. It is such a sweet story to share with a little one you love. When I had my son it was the first book I bought for him.

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister 
I am not sure where I first encountered this book, but the story of the little fish who gives away all of his beautiful, glittery scales in order to make new friends has stuck with me. It has a great message about giving to others.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
It actually surprised me that this book came to mind when I was contemplating this list, but I remember really enjoying it as a kid. The Ingalls family’s everyday life on the prairie was somehow captivating to me at that age. I still tend to recommend this series to children looking for historical fiction.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
I distinctly remember this story as my first experience with an audiobook. I was in the fourth grade and we listened to the book on tape as we followed along in physical copies. I remember the fantasy aspects of this well-known novel really having an impact on me at the time; along with the audiobook narration, this story came to life for me.

Are you there God, it’s me Margaret? by Judy Blume 
I discovered the amazing work of Judy Blume at the age when life starts rapidly changing. Are you there God, it’s me Margaret? has controversial themes like religion, puberty, and sex. Because of this, it has been frequently challenged as inappropriate for young readers. But as someone who read this during my preteen years, I think this book provides an important resource for girls with questions about the changes that take place at that age.

Blubber by Judy Blume
Another influential book by Judy Blume, Blubber, may be the book that impacted me the most as a child. Bullying has become more talked about in recent years but it is not a new concept. This book tackles this tough issue when a heavy set girl named Linda is nicknamed “blubber.” This book hit home for me as a child who struggled with weight gain.

Holes by Louis Sachar  
I actually read Holes after seeing the movie adaptation in middle school. I don’t know how I missed out on the book up until then but it is so much better than the movie. I wish I had been able to experience the story in book form first, but the impact was still there.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
There isn’t much to be said here. I was a child in the era of Harry Potter and these books, especially the first in the series, made me love reading even more then I already did. My experience with these books is similar to so many others my age, and kids are still being entranced by them today.

The Body by Stephen King
In stark contrast to the rest of this list, the next two books are of the horror variety and are both written by Stephen King. Stand by Me was my favorite movie from around the age of 10 and to feed my obsession my mom introduced me to The Body, the short story that the movie is based on. This story is not as scary as most of Stephen King’s work, it is much more about a group of best friends coming of age together. I still love the movie and the story and will revisit them periodically.

IT by Stephen King
Once my mom introduced me to Stephen King I was hooked. He is her favorite author and quickly became mine. I read IT around the age of 12, too young probably, but the kids in the story are around that age and I identified with them. That said, the book terrified me and kept me up at night on several occasions. The 1990 TV movie with Tim Curry was also a favorite of mine. I just recently saw the remake that came out this month and it was scary, fun, and the kid actors are amazing.

So there you have it, my childhood in books. What books defined your childhood?

~Ragan S.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Librarians' Line-Up: Favorite Recent Non-Fiction Read

For this round of the librarians' line-up, we're talking non-fiction. We mostly talk about fiction books on here, but I promise, we do read non-fiction too. Check out our favorite recent non-fiction reads below!

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson. Two famous treasure hunters search for pirate Joseph Bannister's sunken ship. With only one other pirate ship ever positively identified, finding and diving a shipwreck takes courage, perseverance, intelligence, and a love of history. With two years and a million dollars on the line, this highly engaging, adventurous, and character driven story will make you root for the pirates and the men looking for what remains of them. Pirate Hunters is a wonderful, historical detective true story which I highly recommend to any reader.  
~Mary P.

The third volume of William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 is long, so long in fact that Manchester himself didn’t live to complete it. That task fell to Paul Reid, but the transition is seamless. It is a compelling read, especially Manchester’s narration of the years 1940 and 1941, when Britain stood alone, breasting the storm of Nazi aggression. Churchill was a peculiar fellow, but also arguably the greatest statesman in living memory. If you’re thinking about seeing the films Churchill or Dunkirk, read this first.

~John F.

The best nonfiction I’ve read recently is the award-winning March trilogy by Congressman John Lewis. I get goosebumps when I think about these books, that’s how good they are! In this set of graphic novels, Lewis gives an accessible, personal account of his experiences during the civil rights movement. Eye-opening and inspiring, to say the least.
~Ariel J.

When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Alexandra Bioger
My pick for best non-fiction of the year is When Jackie Saved Grand Central. First Lady Jackie Kennedy was born and raised in New York. She loved everything about her city, including Grand Central Station. But one day the owners of Grand Central Station wanted to tear it down to build a skyscraper. Jackie knew that she had to stop them and save the iconic landmark, and she took her fight all the way to the Supreme Court. 

I personally was not familiar with this story, and it’s always wonderful to learn something new. I would say the best part of the book is the artwork. I’m a sucker for watercolor and gouache illustrations, and the blue, red, and gold themes are both reminiscent of Grand Central Station and tie in with the patriotic themes of the story. 
~Marilyn W.

Earlier this summer I visited some of the historic sites in the Hudson River Valley. One location in particular I found fascinating was Val-Kill, the home of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. I wanted to learn more about her, so I picked up Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1884-1933​ by Blanche Wisen Cook. Full disclosure, I haven't yet finished this 600-plus page biography, but this first book covers Eleanor's privileged upbringing through the beginning of FDR's first term as president. In particular interest to me was her rocky marriage to FDR, which ended up leading her to an independent life of political activism. 
~Meredith T.

The New York Times calls Edward McLelland's How to Speak Midwestern "a dictionary wrapped in some serious dialectology inside a gift book trailing a serious whiff of Relevance." That's a pretty apt description. The first half of the book contains several short essays that are organized regionally--McLelland divides the Midwest into The Inland North (upstate New York, lower Michigan, and southeastern Wisconsin), Midland (western Pennsylvania, Ohio, most of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma),  and North Central (central and northern Wisconsin, the U.P., Minnesota, and the Dakotas)--while the second half is glossary of Midwestern terms. It makes for a relatable, rollicking experience. This was on full display during McLelland's recent visit to MPL as part of our author series, which kept the audience laughing and eagerly sharing their own lingual anecdotes all night.
~Travis F.

I've been trying to read more non-fiction the last few years, and I've read some stand-outs in the last year. My most recent favorite is Theft By Finding by the ever-entertaining David Sedaris. It is a collection of his diary entries from 1977 to 2002. Spanning from his twenties to mid-forties, as a reader I was able to watch Sedaris grow into the affluent writer he's become. His popular works have focused primarily on his upbringing, and this collection felt like much of the same. It was interesting to see the beginnings of the writer in his diary entries, before that even became his pursued path. The way he sees the world is intelligent as well as humorous, and I already can't wait for the next installment of these diary entries. 
~Cailey W.

My favorite recent non-fiction is Body Love by Kelly LeVeque. This is not a diet book! The author says so right up front and after quickly flipping through it, I believe her. Like many others, I have dealt with the constant struggle to eat healthy. It can all seem expensive, time-consuming, and just overwhelming in general. This book breaks down the science behind how our bodies process the food we eat in a way that is easy to understand. There is advice on how to eat in a balanced way that maximizes energy and minimizes cravings, all without obsessing over food. And if you like smoothies, there are several pages of recipes that look amazing!
~Ragan S.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Christmas in July!

We’re halfway through the year and that means there are 153 days until Christmas! You never can get started too early when it comes to celebrating the holidays, so here are my picks for entertainment to get you in the Christmas spirit.

1) Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas and Silver & Gold – For me, the Christmas season doesn’t start until I break out my holiday playlist. I’ll probably end up listening to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” about 100 times between November and January. But always in my rotation are Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas and Silver & Gold. Between the two albums, Stevens recorded 100 tracks, some original, some traditional. He approaches the carols in a variety of way, covering classic Christmas songs that make them fresh and fun to listen to.

2) Kelly Clarkson Wrapped in Red – Normally when choosing a Christmas album to listen to, I prefer musicians perform covers of Christmas songs I already know. But Wrapped in Red is in a totally different league. Clarkson sings a bunch of really great, original Christmas songs that have the potential to become holiday staples for years to come.

3) Debbie Macomber Dashing Through the Snow – This book is bonkers. I don’t really know what more to say about that other than it involves a young woman trying to get home for the holidays, but also she’s being pursued by FBI agents who think she’s a terrorist. In 2015, the Hallmark Channel made this into a movie. Still kind of bonkers, but in a good way.

4) Truman Capote A Christmas Memory – A nostalgic short story about a man reminiscing about the last Christmas he spent with his cousin. Buddy bonds with his older cousin baking and delivering fruitcakes and they have a wonderful time – a short reprieve from his days spent with indifferent adults. Their story is continued in the sequel, The Thanksgiving Visitor.  

5) Christmas in Boston – Honestly, is there anything better during the holidays than settling in for the night to watch a made-for-television Christmas movie? I’ve already covered my top ten Hallmark Christmas movies, so try this one. Aired in 2005 on formerly ABC Family (currently Freeform), Christmas in Boston stars Marla Sokoloff who is finally ready to meet her long time pen pal. Of course, everything goes awry, but things have a way of working out during the holidays.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Eisner Awards 2017

Comic Con is in full swing and that means the Eisner Awards are coming. These are the awards given out for creative achievement in American comic books, named for the pioneering writer and artist, Will Eisner. Here are my picks from this year’s nominees. (I've listed all the categories they are nominated for, and I hope they all win something!)

Mockingbird (Best New Series, Best Writer) – Written by novelist Chelsea Cain with art by Kate Niemczyk, this eight issue series about scientist/special agent, Bobbi Morse was on the top of my best-of list last year. It was a funny, feminist, and sharply written series. I cannot recommend this comic highly enough. John and I discuss Mockingbird on our most recent podcast – check it out

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Best Publication for Teens) - Doreen Green AKA Squirrel Girl is about to make a big splash. The character is slated to appear in Marvel’s New Warriors a show premiering next year on Freeform, but for the past two years, Squirrel Girl has starred in her own solo series written by Ryan North and drawn by Erica Henderson. It’s a colorful, clever series that is easily enjoyed by any reader.

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon (Best Graphic Album, Best Painter/Multimedia Artist) – With the release of the blockbuster adaptation of Wonder Woman, DC has published a few new standalone graphic novels to try and introduce Wonder Woman to a new group of readers. Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is a retelling of her origin with both art and story by Jill Thompson. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to get into Wonder Woman comics and it also boasts some of the most beautiful interiors of any graphic novel I’ve read.

Paper Girls (Best Continuing Series, Best Writer, Best Coloring) – Written by one of our favorite comic authors, Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang, this series takes place in a 1980s Cleveland suburb. It’s a mystery/science fiction story starring four paper girls who face some sort of alien invasion from the future. If you liked Netflix’s series, Stranger Things you will definitely want to check this comic out.

Mooncop (Best Graphic Album, Best Writer/Artist, Best Lettering) – A lonely police officer on the moon is stuck patrolling a near abandoned colony. Mooncop captures the exhaustion and melancholy of our culture. Though Author and artist Tom Gauld takes a minimalist approach to his story, he manages to pack quite an emotional punch.

These are my picks; we'll see tomorrow if they win!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

A New Addition to The Laundry Files: The Delirium Brief

Bob Howard (not his real name) has overcome a lot of things in the course of his work for the British government’s secret occult services agency, the Laundry. From a magic-wielding sect of modern SS revivalists, to fiendish mind-controlling cosmetics makers, to a demon-driven televangelist with designs on world power, Howard has faced down threats to human civilization. He’s also faced your garden variety zombies, vampires, and even the occasional unicorn (trust me, they’re a lot nastier than you think). He’s managed to do it while keeping his paperwork in order, navigating the complexities of a modern bureaucracy, and only sort of losing his soul.

In the Laundry Files novels, the British author Charles Stross has created world that is an entertaining mix of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books and the George Smiley novels by John LeCarré. To stay interesting over the course of a number of volumes, a series needs a good hook. Stross’s is his knowledge of life in the world of offices. You might think this would be dull, but his mastery of the lingo of the corporate world, from deliverables to leaning in to the muppet shuffle, gives his books a combination of bite and comic flavor. Stross adds to this an ability to riff on other writers in ways that give his books depth and variety. From Lovecraft to Tolkien, from Flemming to Deighton to Anthony Price, Stross has digested a wide range of writers and genres. The result is a narrative in which each new story is fresh and compelling.

At the center of it all is Bob Howard, the model of the sort of resigned yet determined British civil servant that has kept the island running since the end of the Second World War. Like many of the lower level operatives of the Laundry, Howard stumbled into the job. In the world of the Laundry Files, magic is a form of mathematics and doing the wrong formula, algorithm, or computer program can open the world up to the sort of eldritch horrors from beyond space and time that Lovecraft was fond of describing. In graduate school, Howard wrote a program that nearly summoned a malevolent major deity. After that, the Laundry made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

The last two novels in the Laundry Files have gone a little off model. In The Annihilation Score (2015), the main character is Howard’s wife, Dr. Dominique “Mo” O’Brien, another forcible inductee to the Laundry. It was not one of my favorites in the series, although it had some interesting plot points related to the ability of middle-aged women to become invisible (or to be rendered invisible by the male gaze). The Nightmare Stacks (2016) centered on another character entirely, and while it had a pretty entertaining take on Tolkien and elves, it didn't quite work for me in the way that some of the earlier ones did. I must admit to having been a bit worried about where this was all going.

The Delirium Brief, which was released just this week, brings it all together in a way that makes the previous books more interesting but also tells a compelling story in its own right. Stross brings back one of my most/least favorite villains, the demonically possessed televangelist Raymond Schiller. When last we left Schiller, he was trapped on a dead alien world after his failed attempt to raise a demonic entity known only as The Sleeper in the Temple. Now he’s back, and attempting a hostile takeover of the British government. Meanwhile, the Laundry is in crisis. The events of The Nightmare Stacks (only three months previous) left a significant body count and a swathe of destruction in the center of Leeds (neither one of which is good news for a secret government agency). Bob Howard and his fellow civil servants are faced with one of those “lesser of two evils” choices as their agency is privatized out of existence and the end of the world looms.

I originally thought of writing that this book was a return to good form for this series. But after thinking about it, I decided that it’s better than that. The Delirium Brief is an excellent book on its own merits. But, over and above that, it has the quality of making other books in the series better. If you’ve ever dreamed of saving this world, or if you’ve ever sat in a meeting that you thought was being run by a brain eating alien, Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series has a lot to offer.

~John F.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Five Books Worth Reading: Best Books I've Read in 2017 (so far)

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Lazlo Strange has dreamed of the lost city for his entire life. When the name of the city is ripped from the world (and Lazlo’s mind), he becomes obsessed. Then, travelers from the forgotten city come looking for help… and Lazlo is chosen. This story starts off slow, but, wow, what an amazing story it becomes. This was a five-star read for me and my favorite of the year, so far.

A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis – Grace Mae is unjustly sent to a mental asylum in 1890. When a visiting doctor sees something special in Grace, he recruits her into helping him investigate criminals and the psychology behind them. This book starts off unbelievably dark, but finds a small ray of hope to shine a light on the power of friendship and illuminate the mind of a killer. This is a great read… once you plow past the horror and sadness of the beginning chapters.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis –Three years after Alex Craft’s sister was murdered, someone tortured and killed her accused attacker. Who did it? Can vengeance and vigilantism be justified? How does the horror of a close family member being murdered change the psyches of surviving relatives? Can love forgive past horrible acts? McGinnis writes a great dark tale and The Female of the Species is another amazing example. This book will keep you thinking well after you have finished reading it. Highly recommended read. (see John and Meredith's crosstalk on this book here)

When by Victoria Laurie - Maddie knows when people are going to die because she sees death dates on the forehead of everyone she meets... and she will tell you When… for a price. Would you want to know? When is a very entertaining, suspenseful, and well written story about growing up, bullying, high school, a serial killer, and Maddie’s strange ability. Very enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

Missing by Kelley Armstrong - Winter Crane is looking forward to graduating and leaving her podunk little hometown… and not coming back. When she finds Lennon, battered and half-dead, in the forest, Winter begins to wonder about all the other kids who have left and have never been heard from again. Did they really leave or is there something more sinister going on? Then Lennon disappears again… Missing is an engaging, character driven, exciting thriller. Author Kelly Armstrong is moving from writing paranormal romance to thrillers and Missing is a good example of how a good writer is just a plain good writer no matter the genre.

~Mary P.