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High school graduation should be an exciting, happy time, but, for Glory O’Brien, it just opens up more questions and frustrations.  She feels directionless and has lots of questions surrounding the suicide of her mother Darla and the commune that camps out across the street.  After she and her friend Ellie drink the remains of petrified bat, Glory gains the ability to see the pasts and futures of people she encounters.  The future she sees is a grim one, and Glory begins recording the main outline in her journal.

This compelling book pulled me right in!  Even as Glory’s prophetic powers portray an unhappy future (one that I certainly would not want to be a part of),the situation does not overwhelm the story but rather helps the character to shine. Glory is a well-portrayed character, and her character arc was an extremely satisfying one to read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one and suggest that you don’t miss it!

City of Stairs (Bennett)

The Continent was once home to the Divinities, beings of great power.  The capital city Bulikov was a place of great wonder, and the Continent controlled the world.  However, Saypuri’s Kaj slew the Divinities, and Saypuri became the great nation.  Now Bulikov is broken, and the Continent’s people now scrabble to survive.  When a noted Saypuri scholar is murdered,  intelligence operative Shara Thivani and her “secretary” Sigrud step in and quickly find themselves plunged into a divine mystery that whispers of old secrets long buried.

This thrilling fantastical spy novel was a treat to read. Bennett’s world-building is vivid-the history and world cultures are  rich, and Bennett expertly weaves the resulting clashes into the story to great effect.   I particularly enjoyed the character of Shara–a smart heroine who nevertheless is facing down some significant international and personal problems–yet Bennett portrays even minor characters very well.   The balance of character abilities and circumstances–not to mention the fantastic secrets–make this a compelling read.  Recommended.

All Men of Genius (Rosen)

Violet Adams is a mechanical genius; she spends hours in her lab tinkering with useful inventions.  She has dreams of attending Illyria–the elite school for scientific geniuses–but there is just one problem: the school does not accept female students.  Undeterred, Violet disguises herself as her twin brother Ashton and enters the school to study there for a year.  Her days become a whirlwind of studies and adventures with her new friends.   Violet also has to deal with her growing attraction to the Duke of Illyria and the Duke’s ward’s attraction to her alter ego.  However the secrets of the college are stirring, and Violet and her friends are caught up in the mystery.  Now, getting through the year with her secret intact is the least of Violet’s worries.

This delightful read kept me engaged.    Violet is an engaging heroine, whose determination and growth really drive the narrative.  The story is a grand adventure that manages to balance levity with painful challenges and potential consequences.   If you’re looking for a fun read, be sure to check out Lev A.C. Rosen’s All Men of Genius.

 

Awesome July Reads

So, I read books in July, yet, between work and a job presentation, July was a very busy month for me, and I did not write posts as I should have.  However, I wanted to take the time to share a few books that I especially enjoyed.

The Goblin Emperor (Katherine Addison): In this fantasy tale, half-goblin Maia takes the throne.  Last in line and hopelessly unprepared, Maia must navigate the dangers of court and come into his own as a ruler.  I loved Maia as a character, and the setting was impressive.  Atkinson paints a vivid picture of the court and culture, and I was deeply drawn into the world.  My one complaint was the names-I kept mixing people up.   Overall though,it is  a wonderful read for fans of fantasy.
The Girl With All the Gifts (M.R. Carey)--Every day, Melanie is strapped into a wheelchair at gunpoint before being wheeled out of her cell into a classroom with the other children.  There, she eagerly learns from Ms. Justineau before returning to her cell.   This is every-day for her, but when this routine is shattered, Melanie must draw upon her incredible reserves to save this new world  This story of an extraordinary girl is an awesome take on the apocalypse; I liked that Carey chose to emphasize the new directions for the world, rather than exclusively focusing on the harsher aspects.
 I Kill Giants (Joe Kelly and JM  Ken Nimura)–Fifth grader Beatrice kills giants.   As  she prepares for the coming battle, she has to confront problems in her life before they overwhelm her.  I loved this amazing graphic novel; Numura’s black and white drawings are dynamic  (I love Beatrice’s character design! And the fight scenes!), and the story rushes to its epic twist and conclusion.   The tie-in of mythological figures and personal struggles appeals as well.  If you’re a reader of graphic novels, do not miss this one!
That’s all, folks!  I’m looking forward to awesome reads in August.

So, apparently there is a meme going around, called top 10 Tuesdays.  It asks participants to list their top ten books.  Well, it’s no longer Tuesday (oops), but I figured I’d provide a list of the books I’ve especially enjoyed so far this year.

The Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson: Andersen’s book about a high school student and her veteran father is touching, with beautifully crafted characters.  I recently re-read part of this book in a bookstore, and it sucked me in just as it did the first time I read it.

Red Rising, Pierce Brown: This gritty science-fiction Hunger Games was a treat.  I enjoyed the nod to Graeco-Roman mythology and epics.  I am looking forward to the sequel coming out next year.

The Crimson Campaign, by Brian McLellan: The second book in McLellan’s Powder Mage trilogy was a great follow-up to the first book, Promise of Blood.  I like that McCellan brings you into the characters’ minds, but also makes them pay the price.  If you like gritty fantasy, I’d recommend the Powder Mage books.

Deliah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, Tony Cliff:  The artwork in this is gorgeous, and I loved Deliah’s antics.  This was a high-paced, fun read.

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien: An oldie, but goodie.  I picked this up from a library giveaway, and I was taken in by the writing, which reminded me of Milan Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting.  

Saga, v. 1 and 2, Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples: The artwork for this star-crossed sci-fi story is marvelous, and the plot is engaging.  I am eagerly waiting to get my hands on the third book.

The Last Dragonslayer and The Song of the Quarkbeast, Jasper Fforde: I read the first two books and loved them.  Fforde’s setting is tongue and cheek, and the story’s heroine Jennifer is wonderful.  I also find the Quarkbeast delightful (isn’t the name perfect?!).

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the New England ACRL conference.  As an individual with a (relatively) shiny new MLIS, it was an exciting experience.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people–and see familiar faces– in the New England area.  I even participated in my first Twitter live chat!  Normally, I find Twitter overwhelming, but being able to focus on a specific topic and contribute to the conversation was a great experience.  It was especially interesting to see the messages different individuals took out of the same presentations I was in and see what new ideas people contributed to the original messages.   The theme of this conference was professional development, and I’d like to take some time to reflect.

One key point was how it essential it is to be focused in your professional development.  This may be common sense, but I think there is a lot of pressure to try to do everything and learn everything, and it’s not just possible.   As a new librarian, there are so many things to learn, I’m not sure where to focus my energies.  I think the advice  to develop goals that are relevant to you and, if applicable, your position or institution is sound.   If you are experiencing some difficulty in developing a plan, I recommend checking out Jaime Hammond’s handout from her session “Using Themes  to Design Your Professional Development Strategy”.  It is a great brainstorming tool and provides a scaffold for completing the development of a full plan.

Even within a focused plan, creativity and passion is also a big part of growing as an individual and professional.  I think it is important to care about your goals, and it was encouraging  to see that message promoted at the conference.   Engaging–in collaboration, writing, presentations, etc.–is essential, and I saw strong examples of this lesson in the conference.   Between the posters, presentations, and conversations, I saw a lot of energy and creativity as people responded and discussed ideas within their presentations, discussions, and posters.

Overall, I had a great time at the conference.   The panels–in particular Ms. Hammond’s–gave me the structure to start thinking about professional development as well as some ideas for seeking out those options.   It reaffirmed my love for the field, and I look forward to seeing the people I met again in the future.  I am still sorting out my ideas, but I’m looking forward to continuing my professional journey.

Silver (Wooding)

A silver beetle on the grounds of a British boarding school leads to a great amount of curiosity.   However, curiosity quickly turns to terror as more silver creatures appear and attack students and faculty.   A group of students and the science teacher barricade themselves in the science building.   They survive the night, but find the world changed for the worse.

I enjoyed reading about the beginnings of a rather unique apocalypse.  Chris Wooding’s settings–which frequently have a mix of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi– always are interesting to me, and Silver was no different.   The five teenage protagonists were also fun to read; their motivations and insecurities are well-explained, and I enjoyed reading their conflicts and interactions.   I thought the plot stalled at times, but those times are rare.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read, and I have hopes for further exploration in this setting.

 

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