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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.

 

When middle-aged George Duncan saves the crane he finds behind his house, Kumiko comes into his life.  A beautiful and gifted artist, Kumiko touches and changes George’s life–and that of his friends and family– in wonderful ways.   Even as she helps others to grow and understand themselves, Kumiko keeps much of herself hidden.    Relations and secrets strain a journey of growth and love in The Crane Wife.

Patrick Ness is a hit or miss for me–I loved A Monster Calls, but  did not care for The Knife of Never Letting Go.  Much like A Monster Calls,  Ness weaves fantastical elements and very real situations to create a touching and engaging story.  Suffice to say, I was completely engrossed.  I definitely recommend this one, particularly to those who like lighter fantasy or stories with fairy tale or mythological elements.

North of Boston (Elo)

When Pirio Kasporav and her friend Ned go sailing, they are struck by an unknown ship.   Pirio survives the accident, but Ned does not and leaves behind Pirio’s wild friend Thomsina and son Noah.   Over time, Pirio comes to believe that the accident was no accident.   As she begins to investigate, she is approached by a former flame and a stranger who both try to become involved in her detective work.  Pirio must determine friend from foe and struggle through personal issues in order to uncover the truth in Elizabeth Elo’s North of Boston.

I found this book to be an engaging read.   Elo gave me enough clues to make me think I understood the direction of the book, but left enough hidden that I was always in for a surprise.  I also liked Pirio as a character; she has a lot of brains and moxie, and I enjoyed that her interactions with the other characters were nuanced, revealing both her strengths and weaknesses.  These interactions were just as enjoyable as the mystery itself, and, in a way, were their own mystery as I worked to understand Pirio and her world.   If you are a fan of mysteries and Boston, I recommend this book.

The Unwinding (Packer)

George Packer’s The Unwinding mixes the national with the local in this personal history of the economic situation of the United States.  Using a mixture of secondary sources and interviews, he develops America’s economic history with a special focus on showing how certain decisions and situations have affected the livelihoods of ordinary Americans.  In each chapter, he covers an experience or event from a particular time period in recent United States history.

Although it is a challenge to read, The Unwinding was quite interesting.  I personally found the personal interviews the most engaging, as they show the challenges and hope that the individuals carry throughout their experiences.   I was touched by those parts because they conveyed their experiences so vividly, and I thought Packer demonstrated his message most strongly.    While  Packer did a great job of conveying the individual struggles of the ones he interviewed but I did not find Packer’s descriptions of historical events and figures fully satisfactory.  I occasionally wondered if I was missing something, and, for me, this hurt the cohesiveness of the book.

Overall, I found the book interesting and a good view into a challenging and relevant topic.  Because the book  discusses a weighty topic, The Unwinding  would probably make a great discussion book or supplementary reading for an appropriate course.

Red Rising (Brown)

Darrow is a Red, one of the many people who mine the planet Mars in order to prepare the planet for others.  Despite some frustrations, he values his wife Eo, his family, his culture, and his skills as a Helldiver (a miner who does the most dangerous mining).  After tragedy strikes, Darrow discovers that the planet has been colonized for years, and the upper classes–the top-tier being “Golds”–have been living off the toil of the Reds.   Angry and grieving, Darrow goes undercover at the Institute, the elite academy for the pinnacle members of the society.

This book is a gory fusion of classical mythology and literature and the Hunger Games concept.  The action-packed plot grabbed me and did not let go.  Red Rising takes the brutal side of society and shoves your face into it while at the same time presenting the shades of grey.  I loved it.  Every time I had to put the book down, my brain was mulling over the story, wondering what would happen next and trying to pick apart the situation and characters.  The setting–grim as it is– is well-constructed and compelling, and I became immersed.  The ending left me with an eagerness to see how the series progresses.

This would be a great cross-over book as I think it would to older teens and adults in the 20-30 year age bracket.   Check it out especially if you like rebels, science fiction, or stories of epic proportion.

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