Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Picture Books for Mother’s Day

Okay, Mother's Day may have occurred this past weekend, but it is always a good time to appreciate moms. This list highlights some of my favorite picture book moms. Enjoy!

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

Mama Seeton’s Whistle by Jerry Spinelli
So one of our co-workers said that I needed to put this at the top of my list, and I was happy to oblige. When Mama Seeton whistles, her children know that it’s time to come home for hugs, kisses, and sweets. And even years later, when the children’s have grown up and moved away, they will still run back home when they hear their mom’s whistle.

When Mama Goes to Work by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Being a mom is one of the best jobs in the world, but lots of moms have other jobs that they go to every day. Mom and kids may miss each other all day, but they have lots of work to do that keeps them happy. And at the end of the day they get to spend lots of fun time together.

Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse
This was one of my favorite books growing up, and my parents still have it on their shelf at home and they now read it to my niece. I remember being fixated on the illustrations because the style was so different from the stories that I was used to. In the story a young girl tries to find the limits of her mother’s love and is always met with the answer, “still I would love you.”

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo
Moms come in many different shapes and sizes, and sometime they may look a little different than their kids. In this story a little dog is adopted by a loving cat. The dog is nervous because he doesn’t look like his new mom and even tries painting himself to fit in. But his new mom loves him just the way he is.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
This one is a classic and I’m sure that plenty of you are already familiar with it. For those of you who aren’t, The Runaway Bunny is about a young bunny who decides to run away. He questions his mother as to what lengths she would go to in order to find him. But a mother’s love knows no bounds.

Zombie in Love, 2 +1 by Kelly DiPucchio
In the first Zombie in Love, the lonely zombie Mortimer found his true love, another zombie named Mildred. Well now the two have discovered a human baby on their doorstep, and he is not what they expected. He sleeps during the night and doesn’t cry or moan. The two new parents struggle to connect to their new son, but they may have more in common with him then they think.

Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick
Poor little Louis has a bad cold and needs his mom’s help to get better. There’s just one problem, every time he calls for his mom to help it comes out wrong, causing his dog Bob to come running instead. This book is a lot of fun and is best read while plugging your nose to make it sound like you have the worst cold ever.

Toads on Toast by Linda Bailey
What is Mamma Toad to do? All of her little ones have been snatched up by the hungry Fox for lunch. In an attempt to save her kids, Mamma Toad teaches Fox a new recipe for Toad-in-a-Hole, which doesn’t require any toads. There is a recipe in the back for Toad-in-a-Hole which is simple enough to make at home with your little ones. Happy snacking!

My Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister
Moms have so many talents that sometimes it seems like they might have super powers! They always know where you are hiding, and when you are about to cause trouble. It seems like they might have X-Ray vision. It’s time to put them to the test and see if they are the superheroes we think they are!

When I Carried You in My Belly by Thrity Umrigar
Moms start to bond with their little ones before the baby is even born. In this story a mom explains to her daughter how her laughter, love of music, and kind nature can all be traced back to the time she was in her mom’s tummy.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ill Will: A Review

Ill Will by Dan Chaon is one of the darker books I've read in recent memory, but if you tend to equate “darkness” in a book or film with over-the-top gore and violence—for example the always reliable Chuck Palahniuk, or George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire—you might be surprised by what you find here. The horror in Ill Will is the psychological kind that burrows under your skin and festers—it makes for a sometimes uncomfortable and always unputdownable read.

The novel is concerned with Dustin Tillman, who found his parents and aunt and uncle murdered as a young boy, and is still dealing with the repercussions of that incident as a middle-aged psychologist and father of two boys whose wife is dying of cancer.

Meanwhile, Rusty, Dustin's stepbrother whom Dustin testified against during the trial after the killings, is cleared and released from jail thanks to the aid of the Innocence Project. After his wife dies, Dustin lets a patient draw him into his obsessive investigation of a series of drownings. So those dual mysteries propel the plot: Who killed Dustin's family? Are these drownings even murders and if so who is the killer?

As we read, we're let into Dustin's psyche little by little. Chaon makes really good use of devices like leaving sentences unfinished and splitting pages into columns to signify Dustin's distracted, detached worldview. We become suspicious of Dustin just before other characters in the book do, and our suspicion morphs into some mix of pity/dread/anxiety/fear (i.e. "ill will") early enough that what unfolds at the end of the book feels true, inevitable and sad. There's barely a shred of redemption here, buts it feels brave and almost refreshing for an author to withhold the resolution we expect in a story like this.

One book I’d compare Ill Will to is the more obscure but no less disturbing Mira Corpora by Jeff Jackson, which also makes effective use of devices that most writers would shy away from, and employs a childhood trauma backstory that on its face seems conventional to unexpected and devastating effect.


Dan Chaon will be visiting the Main Branch of Mentor Public Library at 6:300pm on Wednesday, May 17. He will give a reading from his book and have a Q&A session to follow. Please register to attend: online or by phone (440) 255-8811, ext. 247.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: YA Book Covers 2017

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
People often say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but we all do it. YA novels in particular often have very beautiful and enticing covers; I assume this is to attract reluctant teen readers. But as an adult librarian who is well aware of how little the cover has to do with the content, I am still a sucker for a well done book cover. This is a list of my top ten YA novels published/to be published in 2017 that have amazing covers. Some I have read, some I plan to read, and some I have little interest in and only plan to admire the cover.

Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray
I finished this book recently and I admittedly picked it up solely based on its beautiful cover. Luckily, this story lived up to the artwork. Noemi is a warrior, sworn to protect her home planet of Genesis against the forces of planet Earth. Abel is a mech (robot) from Earth that has been stranded in space for 30 years; during this time his programming has evolved into something he doesn’t quite understand. When these two meet, a journey across space ensues. This is a fun sci-fi adventure with a lot of heart.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner
This Beauty and the Beast retelling is another that I have read recently. The “Beauty” in this story is a fierce hunter and her prey is the beast. The cover of this book sets the tone for the story that takes place in a medieval Russia-type setting – there is a lot of snow and just the right amount of magic. For some reason I am not usually a fan of book covers with people featured on them, but I think this one was done well.

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Lazlo Strange is an orphan and junior librarian obsessed with the lost city of Weep. When an opportunity to venture to this forbidden and unseen city presents itself, Lazlo must take it. I am currently reading Strange the Dreamer and so far, it is just as magical and mysterious as the cover would have you believe.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Tea is a bone witch with the gift of necromancy who is given an opportunity to train under an older, more powerful bone witch who will teach her to control her powers. I was intrigued by the description of this book and the beautiful cover. Unfortunately I only made it about one-fourth of the way in before abandoning it. The story itself was just very slow and just not interesting. The cover is still beautiful though!

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano
Wil is the daughter of a king who uses her as a spy to further the expansion of his empire. When she finds out she can turn people to gemstone with one touch, Wil must leave her home to find the truth about her curse. I read Lauren DeStefano’s book Perfect Ruin a few years ago and really enjoyed it so The Glass Spare is on my “to be read” list. The cover has a medieval kingdom feel; I am excited to see how the story lives up to the artwork.

The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Mariko is the daughter of a samurai and although she is an accomplished alchemist, she is also a girl arranged to be married for political gain. But on the way to her wedding, she barely escapes an attack by members of the Black Clan. Determined to find her attackers, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan disguised as a boy. With purple throwing stars adorning the cover of this book, I am expecting an exciting story from this one.

Wicked Like A Wildfire by Lana Popovic
This book is about two sisters with very strange magical abilities. After their mother is attacked the sisters set out to find the truth about the magic surrounding their family and they unearth a wicked curse. I’m not sure if this story is my style but I love the whimsical cover art so I think I may try it.

Roar by Cora Carmack
Aurora Paven is being groomed to be queen of kingdom ruled by violent magical storms that are control by people called Stormlings. But Aurora has a secret; she has no magical ability and will not be able to protect her people as queen. When she learns there may be a way to gain the magic from the storms themselves, she sets out to do just that. Once again, I am not usually a fan of people on book covers but I think this one is beautiful and it makes me want to read about that world.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett has always dreamed of seeing Caraval, the once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show. When she finally gets her chance, she discovers that her sister Tella is at the center of the show this year. As she races to find Tella before the 5 days are up, she is whisked away by the magic of Caraval. This is one that I don’t think I will read, it is just not for me, but I still love the cover.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Kiko Himura has a difficult home life and when she doesn’t get into her dream art school, she jumps at the chance to tour schools with her childhood friend on the west coast. Now that Kiko is finally free, she must confront hard truths about herself and her past. This is a contemporary YA fiction novel, and while I don’t usually gravitate towards this particular subgenre, I can appreciate this beautiful cover. Plus purple is my favorite color.

So there you have it! Those are my picks for the best YA book covers of this year, so far. Obviously, don’t always avoid books with poorly designed covers and certainly don’t force yourself to read a poorly written book with an attractive cover, but it is definitely OK to occasionally judge a book by its cover!

~Ragan S.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reading Gamification

I read 36 books in 2016. I’m not bragging or anything; as a librarian, I’m actually pretty ashamed of that number. I have plenty of excuses for the low number (buying a house doesn’t exactly leave a lot of free time or energy), but the truth is that I knew I could do better. That’s why, when it came time to make a New Year’s resolution this year, I made reading priority numero uno.

The thing is, I’m a creature of habit. I need some major motivation in order to adjust my routine even a tiny bit, and I need incentives to keep going when I do implement a change. In order to accomplish this new goal, I had to do more than just tell myself to read more. I needed a battle plan.

First, I had to do a bit of introspection. What habits do I currently employ, and how did they become so… habitual? Most people know that I am a pretty big video game fan, but I realized during my self-reflection that I just enjoy games in general. I enjoy strategizing, plotting my next course of action, getting closer and closer to an objective, step by step. I don't even care that much about winning (although my husband would contest that statement), but there is something very satisfying about attempting and (hopefully) accomplishing a goal. That’s when it hit me. I needed to gameify my reading.

Now, I’m no game designer, so I didn’t actually develop a game from scratch. What I did was to join a group on Goodreads that hosts a number of reading challenges. Members of the group can join in any or all of the different games, whatever suits them best. I joined in on a few, but my favorite is called ScatterShelves.

ScatterShelves is a reading challenge adapted from the board game Scattergories. Every month, a moderator announces 5 randomly chosen letters from the alphabet. The Objective is to fill out your "Game Card" by reading books that use one of the montly letters to satisfy certain conditions. (More detailed information can be found here.) But filling out your Game Card is only half the battle. Only once you have read all of the books on your card can you announce to the group that you’ve completed your Game Card.

It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. The challenging part is finding books that will complete the whole card!  As an example, here is my completed card for January:

Letters:  S G P R I
1. S – Supernatural – The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater  
2. G – Genetic – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card 
3. P - Paranormal Fantasy – The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman
4. R – Read for School – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5. I – Insta-Love – The Sun is Also a Star  by Nicola Yoon

1. First Word in Title      S – The Scorpio Races
2. Any Other Word in Title    G – Ender’s Game
3. Author’s First Name     G - Genevieve Cogman
4. Author’s Last Name   S - Maggie Stiefvater
5. Item on Cover    S – String Art (The Sun is Also a Star)
6. Any Word in Series Name or Subtile   I – Invisible Library series (The Burning Page is #3 in this series)
7. Name of Character   P – Puck Connolly (from The Scorpio Races)

It's not a competition, and there are no prizes for completing your card; but I’ve found receiving congratulations from other readers to be rewarding enough! Another bonus is that I've branched out of my reading comfort zones by reading books from genres I wouldn't normally be drawn towards.

As a result of this game, I have read 22 books so far this year. That’s 61% of the number I read last year, and it’s not even May yet! Come December, I’ll have a yearly total that’s really worth bragging about.

Clearly, gamifying my reading has helped me accomplish my goal to read more this year. This method may not work for everyone, but I think it shows that a little introspection can help you take advantage of what makes you tick. Find a strategy that works for you, and happy reading!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Tribute to Amy Krouse Rosenthal

A few weeks ago, on March 13, 2017, author and filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away at age 51 after her battle with ovarian cancer. Before her passing, she had written a letter titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband” that was published by The New York Times and quickly went viral online. The letter is incredibly open and moved me to tears. Rosenthal is known for being an incredibly positive person, and after reading her letter about her husband it’s easy to see why.

I’m sure that many of you parents out there are already familiar with some of her work. Rosenthal has written 28 children’s books. Her books focused on looking for the good in the world and challenging readers to look at the world in a different way. But her positivity wasn’t just limited to her books. One of her favorite projects was her YouTube video “17 Things I Made” in which she showed off 17 things she had made, ranging from her books, to a song, to her kids. She invited her fans to join her at Chicago’s Millennium Park to make an 18th cool thing.

So in her memory, here are a couple of my favorite books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

“I wish you more” is a simple wish, and the premise of this book. More hugs, more stories, more good than bad. And more has a special meaning for Rosenthal. It was her first word and eventually became her first tattoo, which she got to match a librarian who had given her the idea.

Little Miss, Big Sis
Becoming an older sibling can be both incredibly exciting and frustrating. It’s a big responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. Not to worry, Little Miss is up to the task! She welcomes her new little sister with open arms and understanding. Should my own niece ever become a big sister this will be the first book she gets after the good news.

One of the most interesting things to watch is kids figuring out words and speech. This silly book of wordplay is sure to make any little one giggle, and Serge Bloch’s illustrations are perfect. It’s a good way to challenge your kids to discover different homonyms.

Exclamation Mark
I actually ran into this book while I was student teaching at a book fair and the kids were jumping over each other to get it. It tells the story of Exclamation Mark, who just can’t seem to fit in with the other punctuation. He stands out too much and is way too loud for the periods. But once he stops trying to fit in he is able to discover exactly what makes him so special.

Friends help to shape who we are. They make us happy and hold us up. And even though friends may fight, at the end of the day they fill our lives with joy and love. Friendshape is a great book for practicing shapes with your kids, plus, who doesn’t love a good visual pun?

So in her memory, go out and make something! Read a story! Sit under a tree! Visit someone you love! And to all of Amy’s friends and family, I wish you more.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TTT: Authors I'd Like to Meet/Authors I've Met

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today I'm sharing my favorite authors that I've met, and the authors I'd love to meet.

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

1. Chelsea Cain has written more than half a dozen novels of which I’ve read none, but I am familiar with her work on the short-lived Marvel comic series, Mockingbird. I would love to chat with Cain about how excellent that series was and apologize for the online harassment she faced for having the audacity to write a feminist superhero book.

2. I’ve read a few of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, but none have moved me quite like her Pulitzer Prize winning debut, Interpreter of Maladies. I mostly think that a conversation with Lahiri would be incredibly chill. We would just hang out in some chic restaurant, sipping red wine while discussing great novels and world affairs.

3. Sarah Addison Allen once wrote a nice book called The Sugar Queen. I read it and identified with the main character, Josey Cirrini, so much I thought for sure that Allen somehow new secrets about my life. I would love to meet her and tell her how much I loved that book and also try to urge her to write a book with a librarian as a main character. I think her style would fit a book set in a library so well.

4. I want to meet Leslye Walton if only to ask if she’s going to write a second book! Her first and only book so far was The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and I found it immensely tragic and lyrical. I follow her on Twitter and it seems like she is working on a new project, but I’d like to get some confirmation.

5. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis was an impressive book. I would love to tell her that it must have taken ovaries of steel to write such a scathing takedown of rape culture in a YA market that tends to idealize troubling and problematic relationships. Oh, wait, what’s that? McGinnis will be coming to the Mentor Library this June? Cool! We’ll all get to meet her then.

6. And one wishful thinking – I wish I could’ve met Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve spent so much time thinking and reading (and recreating!) about her life and journey across this country that it would’ve been nice to just see the woman who has become such a legend in my mind.

And a few I have met:

1. Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books had such a profound impact on me while I was growing up, so when I had the chance to go to one of her readings for her new book at the time (the first Beka Cooper book, Terrier). She signed my copy of Squire, “Girls Rule” and it’s true! We do.

2. The first book I remember loving, the book that made me realize that books could be amazing and take you on the most incredible journeys was Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Running Out of Time. I sought her out at the Buckeye Book Fair and told her how her book changed my life. I had just started working as librarian and she generously wished me luck in my new job. (I also had a cool moment when I found out her daughter is also named Meredith!)

3. You’d think we eventually get tired of talking about how much we all love Faith Erin Hicks, but today is not that day. Marilyn and I trekked out to Ann Arbor, MI to see Hicks at the Kids Read Comics event at the public library and I cannot stress to you enough how incredibly nice this woman is. She chatted with us, doodled in all of our books, and complimented my shirt from The Last of Us (the video game one of her comics is based on).

4. If you’ve ever glanced at our Staff Picks display, there a 75% chance you’ve seen my name tucked in a copy of The Infinite Wait by Julia Wertz. I met her at SPX while she was there for the publication of her comic anthology, Museum of Mistakes. I was mostly too nervous to say anything to her, but it was cool to see the person behind the manic, bug eyed drawings of her book.

Which author would you like to meet? Who was the best author you've met?
~Meredith T. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Girl You Left Behind: a Review

I run two book clubs here at the library, but I also have a group of friends who hold a book club. Sadly, I don't get there too often (mostly not enough time to read), but this month I was determined, so I picked up The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. Moyes is best known for the multiple-tissues needed Me Before You, made into a film last year (I needed multiple tissues for that too!). So knowing this, I was prepared for The Girl You Left Behind to break my heart. And it did; it really really did.

Sophie Lefevre lives in northern France in the midst of the First World War. She and her sister, Helene, are just managing to scrape by running their cafe, having just enough food for themselves, their brother, and Helene's children. Their town is occupied by the Germans, so nothing in their lives is actually easy.

Both Sophie and Helene's husbands are off on the front, and the women are missing their husbands terribly. Sophie, in particular is having a very hard time without her Edouard, a painter. Her comfort is the painting he made of her quite early in their relationship, which she keeps as a reminder of their love.

Flash forward to 2006 and that painting now hangs in the home of a London widow. The young woman, Liv, was given the painting by her husband, who died suddenly in his thirties. She has had the painting for many years, but suddenly, it has become the center of a restitution claim. Liv has to fight for what's right, but who decides that?

The book is invested in finding the truth of what the real history of the painting is, what happened to Sophie and Edouard Lefevre, and how to determine what is really right and wrong.

This book took me on a crazy journey and I became very invested in its outcomes. I didn't know what I was getting into with the book, since I'd only picked up due to the book club. At first I thought that the book was going to focus only on Sophie, which was a hard story to read for me. War-time tales can be rough to read. So when the focus abruptly shifted to Liv, it was almost like starting a new book.

The book is really about both women, and it could easily be two separate books about the different characters. The parallels between the two women were very interesting, considering the near-century between their lives. I found the whole case of restitution from the First World War to be a fascinating concept. I knew little about restitution cases, and the book really taught me a lot.

Ultimately, there was the examination of what is black and white, and where things fall on the spectrum between. Is grey really acceptable? Can some things be swept under the rug without consequences?

I definitely recommend picking this book up, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction. Even if you are not, this story was worth telling. It had mystery elements underlying the whole book, and the forward momentum never stopped. I'm the type of person who likes when I get so invested in a book that it is able to break my heart, so I do recommend keeping tissues handy if you, like me, are tenderhearted.