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All right, another month has come and gone.  Let’s get down to business!  I read some great books this month!

First off, I had the pleasure of reading Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, his latest collection of short stories.  I usually enjoy Gaiman’s work, and this case was no different.  The stories are engaging and frequently made me feel a sense of wonder; many of the stories had fairy tale elements, which I felt contributed.  To my delight, the collection featured a story about Shadow, the protagonist from American Gods (one of my favorite books!).  Overall, Trigger Warning is a fantastic collection–I was sad to have to return it to the library.

Another interesting read was Jo Walton’s The Just City.  This book follows a group of individuals gathered by the goddess Athena to build a city based on Plato’s Republic.  I found myself drawn into the world and the questions that sprung from it.   Once Socrates comes on the scene, the questions fly!  My somewhat limited humanities background was definitely put to the test, but I found the book enjoyable.  If you love philosophical works or utopia tales, pick this one up.

I also finally finished The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders .   This book discusses the role of the press in the murder frenzy that captured Victorian England.  The book is dense, yet fascinating reading; Flanders does a great job of highlighting the interplay of the press and society in the portrayal of murders.  I sometimes felt at a bit lost in the anecdotes, but ultimately found the argument compelling.  If I was taking my Representing the Metropolis history seminar (where we talked a lot about the role of the press) now, I wouldn’t be surprised to find this book on the syllabus.

I also enjoyed The Autumn Republic,the conclusion to Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy .  I have discussed this series on this blog before, and I suppose it doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m talking about it again.  In this final book, Tamas must defend his country from new invaders while still fighting to crush the Kez assault.  I enjoyed McClellan’s exploration of the consequences of Tamas’ anger; I also dig Nila and Ka-poel–they’re both awesome female characters who I really think get more done than the male heroes.   The action is top notch, and the story concluded the series in a properly bittersweet fashion.  I look forward to seeing more from this author.

I also had the pleasure of reading Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming.  This book of poetry describes Woodson’s experiences growing up.  I really loved Woodson’s language and self-reflection; this one was a treat to read.

I can’t skip over my graphic novels!  I got my hands  on the latest in George O’Connor’s Olympians series, in the latest, Ares: Bringer of War, he tells the reader about Ares through the lens of the Trojan War; I was really impressed how accessible he made the complex story of The Iliad (where there’s a lot of detail that can obscure the story).  The art is top-notch as well.

I also enjoyed Hana Ros and Matteo Farinella’s Neurocomic.  A man finds himself trapped in a brain and learns all kinds of things about the research and historical figures of neuroscience as he tries to find the way out.  The situation sounds a bit odd, but the visuals make a tricky concept accessible.  I could see this being a good introduction for middle school students.

That’s it for March!  See you next time!

It’s been over a week since I attended my alma mater’s Graduate School Alumni Day.   The theme for the event was “Community and Collaboration” and brought in students from all the graduate programs–including library and information science, social work, and management.   The talks focused on how collaboration in the community can help to develop meaningful positive change.

While the idea of going beyond my familiar area of expertise can sometimes  be uncomfortable, I also recognize that reaching out also holds the great potential for something incredible to occur.  Trying something different can both demonstrate and help to foster change in a community.  I saw a presentation about the D.C Public Library’s hiring of a social worker to work with the homeless population and library staff.   Alums for multiple programs (library science and social work were both strongly represented) attended, and we were invited to discuss these complicated issues in mixed groups.

While it was challenging at first to reach out across experiences and disciplines, it was exciting to be involved in the discussion.  I think it can be hard to find situations like the one described, but I believe it’s important to develop those relationships because they help to highlight challenges and begin the process of finding ways to address them. While the D.C. library’s still seeing where this initiative will take them, I think the decision to try this helps place the library in the community.  By being involved in the community, the library both demonstrates its worth and helps to strengthen the community.

This talk made me wonder about community collaboration from an academic library perspective.   As a new librarian, I have always been impressed with the outreach academic librarians do; I have read and heard about librarians seeking partnerships with academic departments as well  as the writing centers or sports departments ( the example here was help sessions for athletes).  It made me ask what else we could try to integrate the library into the community fabric.   How do we create forums for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary conversations?  How could we utilize our spaces and knowledge to form new partnerships?

What I’m trying to say that I’m impressed with what has come out of community connections, and I would like to see further explorations.  Information is such an essential part of the world, and libraries have a great potential to be right in the center of so many questions.   I can’t wait to see how libraries will continue to connect in their communities!

 

All right, I’m back with the February book round-up!  This month was full of enjoyable reads, and I can’t wait to tell you about them!

Up first is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, a story that focuses on the interconnected stories of a blind French girl and a German radio operator during World War II as they struggle on opposite sides of the war front in France.  This book won spots on several top book lists, and it definitely deserves its reputation!  The writing is tight and vivid, and the characters’ undertakings were fascinating to read about.  I loved this book, and, if you haven’t read it, you definitely should!

I also greatly enjoyed Soman Chainani’s School of Good and Evil.  Every year, two children are taken from their village to attend the School of Good and Evil, where students are groomed to be heroes and villains.  Beautiful Sophie is certain she will be picked for the School of Good, and dour Agatha has no interest in the schools but people think she’s a shoo-in for Evil.  Both girls are taken away, but neither end up where they are expected.  I loved this mix of coming of age and manipulation of familiar fairy tale elements.  Despite its middle-grade/ya status, The School of Good and Evil was a rousing good tale that will appeal to several age groups!

In light of the recent snowacolypse, I read Christopher Gordon’s Snowblind.  A New England town is shaken to the core when an unusual snowstorm takes away several of the inhabitants and changes the lives of the survivors forever.  Now a new storm has returned, and the town will be forced to confront old ghosts.  I enjoyed the concept of the storm and Gordon’s experimentation with the theme of loss and memory, but found the characters dull.  I would recommend it though if you want something quick with a dash of creepy.

For graphic novels, I focused on completing the two series I started last month.  However, I did take the time to read Ms. Marvel.  This graphic novel lives up to the hype; the story focuses on Kamala, who has recently acquired super powers!  The story focuses on Kamala’s exploration of her new abilities and brings up interesting questions of identity, and Kamala is a great character.  I can’t wait to read the next collection!

Last time, I mentioned I was reading CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura; I finished it this month and loved it!   Sakura is an elementary school girl who must capture the escaped Clow Cards (magical cards designed by Clow Reed, a great magician); I loved Sakura’s spirit, and the supporting cast is great.   This is another series that will be sure to appeal to multiple age groups.

That’s it for this month!  See you next time!

January Book Round-up

The first month of a new year has passed, and I’ve already sunk my teeth into some tasty books!  Here’s a quick recap of  some of the books I’ve read.

I must start out this post by discussing Marie Lu’s The Young Elites.  A blood fever ripped through the world–this fever permanently marks its victims and, in some cases, grants special powers.  These gifted individuals are called Young Elites.  Adelina Amoretu survived the blood fever, but endured harsh cruelty at the hands of her father.  After escaping, Adelina meets an organization of fellow Elites, who offer to show her how to control her abilities in exchange for her help in overthrowing the king.  But can Adelina overcome her own darkness?  I was sucked into Lu’s world, and she delivered a gut-wrenching tale.  Don’t miss this one!

I also checked out Pierce Brown’s Golden Son, the sequel to Red Rising (a favorite of mine last year).  Darrow has left the Institute for a position in the family of Arch-Governor Augustus.  He hasn’t forgotten his promise to his wife Eo and is struggling to support the rebellion while staying afloat in a cutthroat political arena.  However, he finds achieving this goal more challenging then he ever would have believed.  This follow-up did not suck me in as much as Red Rising did–I think it fell a bit into “second book” slump and I personally do not always find political maneuverings interesting.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and look forward to reading the trilogy’s conclusion.

I also have been reading a lot of manga lately.   I just finished Naoko Takeuchi’s rewritten and redrawn Sailor Moon!  Sailor Moon was my gateway anime, so reading this manga was pure nostalgia.  While I sometimes felt like I was getting a “cliff notes” version of some of the story arcs and characters,the series has plenty of action and a real go-getter message!   I am currently working on CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura and Toshiaki Iwashiro’s Psyren.  CLAMP’s Sakura is charming and precious, and the story is action-packed and heartwarming; I can’t believe it took me so long to read this!   Psyren follows the adventure of three high school students who acquire cards that read “Psyren”.  They are transported to a futuristic apocalyptic Japan; there they must use their psychic powers to fight off monsters and solve the mystery of Japan’s disastrous future. I have been enjoying the action and mystery in this series and can’t wait to read what happens!

Okay, that’s it for this month.  I hope to be back next month with another report!

Best Books of 2014

Well, another year has come and gone, and, according to my Goodreads account, I read 130 books in the year 2014.  As in years gone by, it was a great year for reading.  As we prepare to ring in 2015, I want to take this time to share the books that I especially enjoyed this year.   I have linked reviews when I wrote them.  Enjoy!

Literary Fiction: Newcomer Lauren Owen’s The Quick occupies this space.  Her vampires and use of historical detail made for an engaging read.

Science Fiction:  Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy (self-contained ecosystem in space is the setting for a power struggle as the ship sails to colonize) and M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts (an interesting take on the apocalypse story) take this category.

Fantasy: This was a tough category because I read a lot of fantasy, but I am going to go with Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs.  The setting–a city ruined by the death of their gods–plus a compelling murder mystery made this a fantastic read.

Mystery:  Elizabeth Elo’s North of Boston takes this category.  Elo’s protagonist Pirio is a delightful spitfire, and I found the mystery and day-to-day challenges presented equally intriguing.

Nonfiction: I genuinely enjoyed Karen Abbotts’ Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy–a history of women who participated undercover in the Civil War.  You can read a review here.  I also found Julie Sondra Decker’s The Invisible Orientation to be an accessible and compassionate look at asexuality.

Manga/Graphic Novels: Again, this is a really tough category!   However, the one that stuck with me was Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (high-flying adventure centered around an awesome protagonist)

Young Adult: Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory (tells the story of a teenager with a father who has PTSD) takes this category.  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S King also gets a nod (not going to explain this one–the amount of space I have will not do this fantastically weird plot justice.  Click on the link if you’re curious).

Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy: Pierce Brown’s gritty sci-fi story Red Rising and Jasper Fforde’s irreverent Chronicles of Kazaam take this category.  I loved Pierce’s incorporation of Graeco-Roman mythology, and Fforde’s protagonist Jennifer Strange tells a witty and thoughtful yarn.

Well, that’s that!  I hope reading this gave you an opportunity to relive your own favorites or pick something out to read in the future!  Happy 2015, all!

Widow Rose O’Neail Greenhow used her social connections in Washington D.C. to spy for the Confederacy.   Emma Edmonds–a young woman with secrets– disguised herself as a male Union soldier to spy and tend the wounded.   After shooting a Union soldier, Belle Boyd rode through the countryside, spying and carrying messages for the Confederacy.  Richmond abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew planted her African American servant in the house of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and organized a spy network to send key intelligence to the Union Army.   In Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Katherine Abbott compellingly narrates the stories of these four women who played significant roles during one of the most tumultuous times in United States history.

This book was an engaging read.  Abbott skillfully develops each woman as her own character and skillfully writes compelling narratives for each woman as she plays her role in the greater events of the war.  I found myself admiring their brave actions, even if I did not necessairly agree with their politics.  The fact that Abbott was able to bring them to life in a non-judgemental way is what I found most enjoyable about the book–although the excellent action didn’t hurt either!
 If you’re interested in women’s history, the Civil War, and/or spy stories, don’t miss this one!

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!

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