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A working librarian and library student who spends too much time reading shares all she has read. She is not genre specific, but her job makes her heavy on children's and YA.
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1. Tommy Taylor and the War of Words

The Unwritten Vol. 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Tommy’s coming for the Cabal, but they’re not sure how to prepare for him. Pullman has some ideas, but no one wants to listen to him. We get A LOT of Pullman backstory here. He’s been the Cabal’s thug for millennia. Lots of exploits to cover. There’s even an entire issue of Pullman in Gilgamesh. Plus, we find out who/what Pullman is, exactly (although it’s already been heavily hinted at.) Also, some important backstory with Wilson and Mme. Rauch.

This is a much larger omnibus, and we also have the final showdown between Pullman and Tommy, and the results are… not good. (Setting up the next chapter in the overall story.)

We end with the story of one of the Cabal’s readers--how he got involved and his role in everything, even as a completely insignificant player.

This is where the series really drives home the point about story and how we use story in our lives, and the power story holds in our world.

I loved seeing Pullman through the ages--especially with Gilgamesh and how the art style changed depending on the time period. I think that’s another thing this series does really well--changing the art as things shift. Different time periods, different book, all have art that fits with that story, which is different art than the main story we’re telling. Very cool.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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2. Duchessina

Here's a post that originally ran in the now-defunct Edge of the Forest

Duchessina: A Novel of Catherine de' Medici Carolyn Meyer

Catherine de’Medici is mostly known as the power behind the throne during the reigns of her ineffective sons, the kings of France. History has also placed her with the blame of the St. Bartholomew’s massacre in which over two thousand Huguenots were killed. Not much is known about the early life of Catherine de’Medici, beyond her use as a pawn in various Florentine power struggles.

In this latest installment in her Young Royals series, Carolyn Meyer’s imagination fills in the gaps in her story. Orphaned as an infant, she is known as Duchessina, the little Duchess after her duchy in Urbino. She grows up in Florence, in the Plaza de Medici under the watchful eye of her cardinal uncle, the future Pope Clement VII. After her guardian uncle assumes the pontificate, Italy is plunged into several wars against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Catherine is eight at the time and does not completely understand the political machinations at play as the citizens of Florence take the excuse to reassert their independence from Medici rule. Catherine is taken as a war hostage and sent to an anti-Medici convent. She then changes convents from time to time as the turmoil mounts and recedes. Eventually, Catherine is taken to Rome to be with the Pope as he arranges her marriage to the French dauphin.

Once in France, Catherine’s life does not become easier. It is obvious her new husband’s affections lie elsewhere. But, with the skills she has learned, she makes a place for herself.

This is an exciting tale with historic splendor, adventure, love, and true friendship. Unfortunately, the historical notes at the end act mainly as an epilogue to her life, not as illuminating background information to the events of the book. During the Italian Wars, the young Catherine does not fully understand the political maneuverings at play, and as she is the narrator, neither does the reader. Also, there is nothing to let the reader know which details of the story are fact, and which sprung from Meyer’s mind. It is also interesting to note that Catherine’s speaking voice is the same at the age of three as it is as an adult.

(note-- I did go an read an adult biography of her, Leonie Frieda's Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, which I reviewed here in 2007)


Book Provided by... The Edge of the Forest, for review

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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3. All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel Anthony Doerr

This book guys, oh this book.

It starts in Saint Malo, with the Allied bombing. Hiding in her house is Marie-Laure, 16 and blind. Hiding in a basement with the rest of his unit is Werner, 18 and a German soldier. It then jumps back to Marie-Laure growing up with her father in Paris, losing her eyesight, spending her days in the Museum of Natural History where her father works. It jumps back to Werner, growing up with his sister Jutta in a children’s home, destined at 15 to go work in the same mines that killed his father, until his skills with radios and mechanics mark him for something greater.

It occasionally flashes forward to the “now” of the bombing and for the most part alternates between their two stories. Occasionally other stories interrupt. There is a storied diamond, spirited away from the museum before the invasion that the Nazis are looking for and Marie-Laure may or may not have. There is Jutta in the children’s home. There is the after. There is Marie-Laure reading 10000 Leagues Under the Sea in Braille, her uncle who hasn’t left the house since returning from WWI. There is Werner trying to survive the Nazi Youth academy. Huddled with his sister and his short-wave radio, listening to a French professor broadcasting science lessons to children. There is the resistance--Marie-Laure helping it, Werner tracking it and ending it.

The chapters are short--usually only a few pages, but the writing is so magical. I love Doerr’s rhythm. Each sentence is perfect. Most of them are short, like the chapters, but contain so much. I like that, despite the dual stories and occasional jump in time, it’s a fairly straight forward story, but perfectly executed. This is one of the best, if not THE best book I’ve read this year, maybe longer. It’s not the story is mind-blowing (although the story is very good) but just the language and rhythm and overall, such perfect writing. I wanted to show you some, but individual sentences don't stand out, it's how it all adds up.

Such, such perfect writing.

This book guys, oh this book.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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4. Orange is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison Piper Kerman

Piper used to run drug money for her then-girlfriend. 4 years after she got out of the game (when the girlfriend asked her to start running drugs, too) she was arrested. They also charged her with conspiracy and was subject to harsh mandatory minimum laws, so she plead guilty to hope for leniency at sentencing. She then waited. The US wanted to try the head of the operation, but needed to extradite him and wanted Kerman to testify against him as a civilian, not a prisoner. 6 years after pleading guilty, Kerman was sentenced to 15 months in minimum security.

This memoir focuses a bit on her life before Danbury, but mostly looks at her year in prison and what she learned about herself, the institution, and the societal and political structures we have in place to keep landing people there. Kerman does not have a lot of sympathy for our drug sentencing laws--especially the prosecutorial catch-all of the conspiracy charge. She knows how lucky she was in having the resources to have good legal counsel and saw many, many, many women who did a lot less than she did go down for a lot more time.

It is pretty eye-opening to the realities of the prison system--how it sets people up to fail, how it doesn’t actually fix our issues, but also the camaraderie underneath as people turn to each other to build family and support mechanisms in order to survive (mostly emotionally, though a bit physically).

One thing I appreciate about Kerman is she never denies that she did wrong. She never says she didn’t deserve to go to prison. In fact, it was in prison that she finally came face-to-face with the realities of the drug trade--not the people who go down for being in it, but the addicts and the what addiction does to people, families, and communities. And she doesn’t turn away from facing it and dealing with her shame and guilt (both moral and legal) head-on.

It’s an easy read, written in short sections and vignettes, part personal story, part character sketches of the people and scenes around her. The pacing works really well to move it ahead quickly. That said, it would benefit from tighter editing. I think many were originally written as a series of essays, and so some characters are introduced with the exact same language multiple times while others show up out of left field with no context given.

But, let’s be honest--I picked this up because I’m a fan of the show and wanted to check out the source material. So, how does the book compare? Well, book-Piper has a much better head on her shoulders than TV-Piper. She’s much more aware of her privilege and also knows how to keep her head down to avoid trouble and extra time. I often want to smack TV-Piper up against the head with a clue-stick when it comes to socioeconomic issues, but not so much with book-Piper (but, book-Piper also has the benefit of hindsight). Book-Larry is also much more together than TV-Larry.

Also, not surprisingly, there is a lot less drama in the book than the show. While Piper does eventually come face-to-face with her ex-girlfriend, it’s not until the end, and there are no lingering attraction issues. We also don’t get a good look at many of the other women in Danbury with Piper. Some of the nicknames are the same (Pennsatucky, Big Boo, and Delicious instead of Tastee) but they don’t have backstories and often the personalities we see on screen are nothing like the glimpses we see in the book. Other characters don’t have names, but you see some character traits to make them recognizable (such as the Russian kitchen boss, or the strict, older bunkmate, the aging hippie who teaches yoga and the activist nun) but the stories aren’t quite the same. On the reasons is in prison, you don’t ask, so Kerman just didn’t know the backstory of a lot of her fellow inmates.

I do recommend it to most people, but especially fans of the show. It’s fascinating and a fun read that doesn’t bog down, despite the repetition issues I mention above. Also, if you do watch the show, it’s really interesting to see which parts are TV and which parts are actually true.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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5. Unwritten: On To Genesis

The Unwritten Vol. 5: On to Genesis Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Back story time! Through some fairly fun hijinks (involving explosions, the Cabal, and Madame Rauch), we see more of what Wilson Taylor was up to, both in the time before Tommy Taylor, but also in how he raised Tom and Lizzie. And the Cabal kicks its game up a notch.

So it doesn’t do much to develop overall plot, but it continues to answer some questions, and the back story is awesomely f-ed up. I like it involves comics-as-literature, and I like the introduction of The Tinker--an old-timey over-the-top superhero. It answers A LOT of questions and raises even more as the world and plot really start to make sense.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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6. Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative Austin Kleon

Who ever had this one checked out before me left a some sticky arrows in the front cover, which was good, because I ended up using them.

This book is a short read--lots of graphics, fun typography, and white space, with some good advice about how to be creative and make your art.

Kleon’s basic point is that nothing is new anymore, so steal inspiration from things you enjoy. As he reminds us, even the Beatles started as a cover band. Also, if you steal from 1 person, that’s plagiarism. Stealing from many is research.

He tells the reader to think about the flaws you see in your favorite artists work--what could have been done differently? If they were still alive, what would they make today? If your 5 favorite artists got together and made something, what would it be? And then he tells us to go make those things.

I also like that he tells us to give our secrets away. Part of it is building a name for yourself, but he also reminds us that Martha Stewart built an empire on telling the world how she does stuff.

It was a great read and well-designed, with a lot of advice and inspiration on how to go out and make art. I really loved it and now I need my own copy to mark up and reread on a regular basis.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Last Gleaming

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 8: Last Gleaming Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Scott Allie

So, Twilight would have been a logical conclusion to the season, but no, this one’s all about consequences, so it takes a bit of a left turn here in a way that actually works.

So, Buffy and Angel can never just be happy--no when they had superpower sex they created an entire universe, and Buffy then abandoned it to return to Earth. But nature, even on other planes, abhors a vacuum and, well, there are consequences to creating a universe, and there are consequences to abandoning it. It all ties back to the seed of wonder--the root of magic on Earth that turns out is physical object… and it’s in Sunnydale.

The question is what to do with it--protect it? Destroy it? Give it away? The gang goes back to the beginning--back to Sunnydale and back to the Protector, who is an awesome bit of “casting” on the part of Whedon et. al. Some very nice parallels with the beginning of the series (and by that, I mean the first season that was on TV beginning of the series).

And of course, at the end of Twilight, we had Spike show up in a goddamned spaceship piloted by giant cockroaches because OF COURSE SPIKE NOW HAS A GODDAMNED SPACESHIP PILOTED BY GIANT COCKROACHES. (This makes me joyously happy, both for the WTF?! factor, but also because I just love Spike. Who doesn’t love Blondey-Bear?)

Things never go right in Sunnydale, and what happens there is devastating on so many levels, making it surprisingly satisfying end to the season, and perfectly setting up the Angel & Faith spinoff.

And oh man, I thought this season dealt well with the consequences of creating a slayer army? There are MAJOR consequences to what goes down in Sunnydale--ones that are going to haunt Buffy & Co. for a long, long time.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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8. Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape

Here's another reprinted review from the much-missed Edge of the Forest

The Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape Mary Wilcox

Life in Hollywood can be crazy, but for Jessica Ortiz, it’s not tabloid party-girl crazy. In this third installment of The Hollywood Sisters, Jess’s romantic complications continue, an overzealous tour company is eluding the police, plus there’s always drama on the set, and not just the scripted kind.

Jess’s TV star sister, Eva, has decided that, in order to speed things up on the Jeremy front, it’s time for fake-boyfriend Heathcliff to appear in person. Only she cast the brother of Jess’s creepy ex-boyfriend.

Not only has the Golden Tours bus company figured out where the Ortiz’s live, they’ve been pulling into the driveway! And it’s not just the Ortiz’s house—somehow this tour group even knows when gated houses are open, and always when the police are on the other side of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, on the set, Lavender’s ex-boyfriend is pulling some very nasty, and very public, practical jokes on her. Jess knows it’s Murphy, but how is he getting onto the set? And how will she find out when she’s spending all of her time avoiding this week’s Very Special Guest Star?

A light, quick read, Caught on Tape shows the craziness of life in Hollywood, while featuring well-grounded characters that non-starlets can identify with. Jessica solves mysteries through observation and quick thinking. I also appreciate that her frequent poems read like they were written by the teenager she is. Overall, Hollywood Sisters is a very entertaining and fun series for tweens and teens.


Book Provided by... The Edge of the Forest, for review

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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9. Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit

This review originally appeared in the sadly long defunct Edge of the Forest. I'm reprinting my last few reviews there so they're still available

Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit! Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Joseph Kelly

The latest volume in the adventures of Martin Bridge gives the reader another two tales about Martin, a sort of elementary-aged every-boy. In the first, Martin’s classmate Harper, is always telling outlandish lies that Martin’s friends actually believe—things like Harper is getting a jet pack bike or that his father is really a spy. Although it is not explored in the context of the story, Martin’s main annoyance with this is that Harper’s stories often steal attention away from Martin. However, we do explore why Harper tells the tales he does. In the end, Harper’s story-telling is as very useful skill to have.

In the second story, Martin gets hurt while trying to emulate his favorite superhero, Zip Rideout. This prompts much soul-searching as to why comic book heroes and TV characters never get hurt, although they are often involved in situations where injury is bound to happen. Luckily, the creator of Zip Rideout is coming to school, so Martin can ask him some very pointed questions.

Kelly’s black-and-white graphite and charcoal illustrations break up the text nicely and add to the story—especially when illustrating how Martin pogo-sticks out of his tree house.

Martin’s problems and achievements are ones that kids will easily be able to relate too. Although he learns some good life lessons, the stories do not read as didactic—they are fun and enjoyable. Sure to be a hit with boys and girls alike.

Book Provided by... Edge of the Forest, for review

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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10. Lover's Dictionary

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel David Levithan

Levithan makes the jump from YA to adult with something breathtaking in its simplicity and originality.

The story is basic enough, a couple, you and me, how we met, how we fell in love, how we moved in together, how we met each other’s friends and families, how we spend our time. You drink too much. You cheated on me. I don’t know if I can get past it, how we get past it.

But it’s not told in a basic manner, rather it’s a dictionary, in alphabetical order, with parts of the story coming out for each definition. Some definitions are a sentence or two. Some last for a page. What I really love is when the same part of the story is used for different words, with the story continuing, or emphasizing details that changes the meaning, and our understanding of it.

deciduous, adj. I couldn’t believe one person could own so many pairs of shoes and still buy new ones every year.

fluke, n. The date before the one with you had gone so badly --egoist, smoker, bad breath--that I’d vowed to delete my profile the next morning. Except when I went to do it, I realized I only had eight days left in the billing cycle. So I gave it eight days. You emailed me on the sixth.

It’s a short book-- only 211 pages, with most pages only have a paragraph on them, but it takes awhile to read. There are lines you have to read between and fill in, the story is out of order, and part of you just wants to savor the way it unfolds before you.

Ever since Boy Meets Boy, I’ve loved Levithan’s love stories, and this one is no different, even if it is between adults and is a bit more cynical (but just a bit--there’s still the wide-eyed exuberance, even if it’s a little quieter--it’s just hiding under the surface a bit.)

I love the craft of this one, but it’s Levithan’s writing and story that make it go beyond gimmick into something worth taking the time to savor. (Seriously--there’s a reason it’s an Outstanding Book for the College Bound)

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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11. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Twilight

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 7: Twilight Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Joss Whedon

So… Dawn + Xander sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. hee hee.

Ok, back to the main plot-- Buffy and Willow have to clean up the mess they unleashed in Tibet, but Buffy’s suddenly developed some startling powers--like being able to fly. Meanwhile, Willow’s figured out that the Scoobies are missing some key characters and is trying to find them--only to discover that slayer cells around the world have been attacked and decimated. Meanwhile, it’s time for the big Buffy/Twilight showdown only… the results aren’t what anyone was expecting (Well, maybe Twilight was.)

And hoo-boy, the reveal of Twilight is something else. (Not only in identity, but the dialogue in that moment is pretty awesome and classic.)

There are some old slayer legends that need to be brought to light, because when Buffy made all the potentials slayers, there was some MAJOR blowback, and that’s why Buffy has powers, that’s why Twilight’s been doing what he’s doing, and that’s why, when they finally meet, something REALLY big happens.

(Also, I’m still laughing at Dawn’s well-placed “Ben is Glory?” line. Perfect.)

Consequences, consequences, consequences. I think that’s what this season does better than most of the TV seasons did. (With the exception of Season 6.) Buffy changed the world-- there’s a reaction to that. And what Buffy and Twilight do, well, there’s major blowback to that as well.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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12. Fool

Fool: A Novel Christopher Moore

What Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal did for the gospels, Fool does for King Lear.

I originally picked this up because when I saw Moore had a new one out, The Serpent of Venice*, I put a hold on it, only to discover it was a sequel. So, of course I went back and read Fool.

Now, I’ve never read Lear, but that’s ok. Moore’s book might have been smarter and funnier if I were more familiar with the source material, but it’s plenty smart and plenty hilarious without it.

Basically, Fool is a hilarious retelling of King Lear form the Fool’s perspective. The Fool sees everything around him, and in Moore’s version, ends up driving most of the plot (with some help from the Weird Sisters, on loan from MacBeth.)

Much like Lamb, while the commentary and the book are very smart and well done, it’s also super-raunchy and full of swearing, sex, and anachronism. This is Moore at his best. Slightly offensive, very “earthy” and extremely smart. This reminds me that Moore is one of my favorite authors for a reason.

*If Fool = Lear, I assume Serpent of Venice = Merchant of Venice

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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13. Unwritten: Leviathan

The Unwritten Vol. 4: Leviathan Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Tommy’s been told to go to the source, which is Moby Dick. Yes--they’re off hunting the elusive white whale. Meanwhile, Pullman (and his creepy wooden hand) meet a super-creepy puppet maker. But the real meat of the story is when Tom gets sucked into Moby Dick, which has his dad playing Ahab and Frankenstein’s Monster lurking in the shadows. By the end, Tom has figured out some really big clues to WTF is going on here. And it’s totally awesome (in every sense of the world.)

It ends with some random animals climbing an endless staircase, featuring our favorite surly rabbit from the issue at the end of Inside Man.

I really like the direction this series is going in, and what it says about the importance of story. I'm also impressed how long it took for Carey and Gross to explain this world, and what they were doing. It says a lot about their level of craft that readers have held on for so long without understanding the basic premise of the story. The payoff is definitely worth the wait.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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14. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Retreat

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 6: Retreat Jane Espenson, Andy Owens, Joss Whedon

Harmony’s PR campaign and Twilight’s army have forced the slayers into hiding. They’re losing members left and right and go to Tibet, to find Oz, to have him teach them how to suppress their magic. It doesn’t go well. Twilight’s still onto them. But hey! There is redemption for one character! Plus, OZ!

Oz is married and has a kid and Willow has some issues. She’s jealous he gets a “normal” life. She wants that, but also feels it’s fake, because who is she without magic? What is she without magic? Can she suppress hers like the others? Does she even want to?

There are also some major consequences for their actions that are worth considering.

I feel like this volume is a turning point for the series, because it’s where Buffy really has to start facing the consequences of what she’s done--creating an entire army of slayers upsets the balance and there’s a price to be paid for that. The full ramifications still have to be explored, but this is where you see that turning all potentials into Slayers might not have been the happy ending it appeared at the end of the TV-run.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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15. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel Robin Sloan

When Clay is downsized out of his web design job, he gets a job as the night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore that has a weird backlist--books written entirely in code. The only main customers are ones who come in with a secret code, return one of the backlist titles and ask for another. Only those with the code can access the backlist and Clay has to write an extensive journal entry about it. In order to impress a cute girl from Google (and to stay entertained) Clay decides to do a 3D data map of the journals and he discovers that there’s a pattern to what books are being asked for, and the pattern makes a face. He and his tech friends then try to get computers to decode the books, which sets off an adventure and a discovery of a secret ancient society that they’re about to seriously disrupt.

On one level it’s a good exploration of old v new, print v tech, in the book world, with no real answers. On the other, it’s a fun read with romance, adventure, and a side-kick. I like how Clay actively recruits a side-kick and a wizard from his friends as they go on their quest (he reserves the role of rogue for himself.) And a good dose of poking fun of the early Millenials/late Gen-Xers of San Fransisco. There’s a lot of food for thought, but in a way that’s not heavy.

I loved it.

Oh, also, an Outstanding Book for the College Bound. And the cover glows in the dark.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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16. Dead Man's Knock

The Unwritten Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly

So, there’s a new Tommy Taylor book coming, and it’s terrible. But will Wilson Taylor show, or is this just a cabal ploy to get to Tom? Either way, this is one book release party with a body count.

Also, who is Lizzie? Is she really escaped from Dickens?

And here’s where I started to get a better sense of what, exactly is happening in this world, and it wasn’t really what I thought it would be, which is awesome. I like how it explores Lizzie’s backstory with a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type issue (although it was really hard to read by booklight!)

Oh, and Richie becomes a vampire.

It's hard to talk about this one without giving it all away. But mostly, this is the one where it starts to make sense and where I really started getting into the series.

Book Provided by... my local library

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17. Strobe Edge

Strobe Edge Io Sakisaka

I’m just going to review this entire (finished) series because I devoured them all together and it’s too hard for me to separate out each volume, especially as the review part (as opposed to the plot summary part) would basically be a copy/paste job from one volume to the next.

All the girls at Ninako’s school are in love with the quiet and elusive (and totally hot) Ren, but he’s turned them all down. Ninako doesn’t get it, until she ends up next to him on the train home one day. They end up together on the train a lot and become friends, until Ninako’s feelings turn to something more.

Ren rejects Ninanko romantically, because he already has a girlfriend, but the two stay friends as she tries to quash her feelings. Meanwhile, Ren’s former best friend has come to their school and falls for Ninanko. She likes Ando as a friend, but can’t return his love.

I loved Ninanko. She was a little hyper and a lot of fun. She's a bit taken aback when guys like her, but not because of a "but I'm so plain and boring" thing we usually see, but more that she's been too busy being awesome and having fun that she hasn't really noticed guys in that way before, so she's a bit bemused that guys have been noticing her. but she's a great friend and has a good outlook on life--it's not hard for the reader (and her friends) to see why guys like her.

I also like that she actually liked Ren in a way we don’t often see. So halfway through the series, Ren and his girlfriend break up (for reasons I won’t spoil). Everyone tells Ninanko to go for it because now’s her chance, but she doesn’t, because she see Ren’s hurting and he needs her as a friend right then. She really did understand Ren (because they were actual friends) and her love for him isn’t selfishly focused on her--it’s genuine love for him.

I also liked the depth that Sakisaka was able to give to some of the side characters (something you can do over 10 volumes). There are a few bonus stories at the end of volumes that often deal with side characters or something that happened before the series began.

In her many intro letters, Sakisaka says she wanted to capture that heady feeling of falling in love and that moment everything could change (she called the series strobe edge because she compares the feeling to being on the edge of a strobe light, which I really like.) Overall, I think she really succeeds. The series does drag a bit in the middle, which is something I may not have noticed if I hadn’t been binge-reading.

One thing I noticed with this series that I haven’t seen with others* is that we get a lot of letters from the author--both at the start of each volume, but also some random sidebars. I thought it was a fun touch and a behind-the-scenes look at her process and life.

Overall, a fun series that I enjoyed. (Also, shout-out to Drea, who when I asked her which of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens I should read first, pointed me in this direction. THANK YOU DREA!)

*Not that I’ve read a lot of other manga, especially shojo, this just might be a new thing for me

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18. Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue Tom Angleberger

When we last saw our origami alliance, fighting against the FunTime(™) menace, Rabbski had promised to “look into it” but it’s been weeks and nothing has changed. But this time, someone has taken the case file and given it to Principal Rabbski. With her own origami finger puppet.

Yes, Principal Rabbski IS Princess Leia (what?!). Whoever gave the case file to Rabbski knows that she did not force FunTime(™) on the school--she’s another victim, but whoever did it also knows that the case file is the only way for Rabbski to see that the Rebel Alliance isn’t fighting this just to fighting this, but to show they they have very real concerns and they’re trying to address in the most responsible way they can.

As we saw with Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, this is a series that continues to grow really well and is just getting consistently stronger, which I didn’t think possible, but bam! there it is. I also like how it explored the deeper issue. The kids (and I think most of target-audience readers) would see this thing as imposed by Rabbski, because she's the highest authority they see, but she answers to someone else, and it's a good lesson/reminder that when it comes to educational policy, not a lot of it is set at the school level. (Also, I LOVE the tweets from the actors in FunTime(™).)

Oh... coming out in a few weeks is Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, the LAST book in the series.

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19. Inside Man

The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man Mike Carey and Peter Gross

We open with a scene from “Song of Roland” and then switch to Tom’s legal issues as he’s being tried for the murders at his father’s villa. There he meets a fellow inmate/embedded journalist. Meanwhile, Lizzie is asking books questions and they’re answering back. Frankenstein’s monster shows up, and when the Cabal attacks the prison that’s holding Tom, the results are disastrous for everyone. At the end, we get a comic about someone (from the cabal?) trapped as a bunny in a fairly insipid children’s story, desperate to escape.

I love how they incorporate Song of Roland into this. I still have no idea what, exactly, is going on, but I’m really enjoying trying to figure it out and I assume it’ll make sense at some point.

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20. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy Elizabeth Kiem

Marina may be a teen in the Soviet Union, but her mother is the country’s premier prima ballerina, so her family lives in privilege. Marina herself trains for the Bolshoi. Like her mother, she sometimes sees visions. These visions cause problems when, on the eve of Breshnev’s death, her mother sees something she shouldn’t--one of the USSR’s dark secrets about testing biological weapons* that gets her taken away.

Suddenly, it’s not safe anymore. Marina and her father must leave quickly, and end in Brighton Beach where her scientist father struggles to find a job and a way to rescue his wife. All Marina wants to do is dance, and her father is convinced this will help him make contact with the KGB so they can negotiate. Meanwhile, he gets tangled in with the Russian Mob as Marina tries to lead a normal life in a new country while fearing for her father’s safety and sanity.

I really liked this one and Marina’s father’s mental descent. You could see why he thought the things he thought, while still seeing how wrong they were. I liked how the romance was handled. Marina likes Ben, whose parents also escaped the USSR, but he has a girlfriend, Lindsay. Marina and Lindsay are also friends, and while it’s complicated, and slightly heartbreaking, it’s not overly dramatic and the way the characters handled it made me really like and respect them. Lindsay often didn’t know what she was talking about, especially when it came to the KGB and the Mob, but she was a really good friend and a great character.

I do think it needs an end note. Teens today don’t understand Soviet communism and the Cold War. (And trying to explain the terror of the Cold War to kids who’ve grown up in a world of terrorism and suicide bombers is really heart-breakingly hard.) Heck, when this came out a librarian only a few years younger than me was confused about what was so scary about that time. I also wanted to know if the testing episode that Marina’s mother knew about was real. It’s real in the book and seems more than plausible to me. A quick google doesn’t turn anything up, but was it based on other incidents?

I’m also not sure the paranormal psychic-vision thing was necessary. It was the lynch-pin as to why Marina’s mother was taken, and Marina’s visions added some moody foreshadowing, but there might have been another way for Marina’s mother to find out about the testing and made the book straight historical fiction, which would have made it stronger. 99% of the book is realistic historical fiction, and it’s tricky, because it’s a time period that many adults (read: parents and other gatekeepers) remember living through, but many readers (read: teens) don’t know much about, and the 1% that is paranormal makes the rest of the story easier to dismiss as “pure fiction.”

Overall though, I did really like it. It’s hard to go wrong with something that involves the KGB, the FBI, the Russian mob, and ballet. And, as someone who has very vivid memories of the end of the Cold War, I am loving all the YA fiction we’re seeing now about it. (Plus, not a book, and not for teens, but let’s just think for a minute how awesome The Americans is.)


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21. Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick

Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Suzie works at a library that’s about to be foreclosed on. While at a fundraising party to try to save it, she meets a guy she likes and they sleep together. It’s only in the afterglow that Suzie discovers that Jon shares her secret--after orgasms, time stops until she’s ready to go again. When she sleeps with Jon, they’re in trapped time together (she calls it The Quiet. He calls it Cumworld.) Jon works at the bank that’s foreclosing on Suzie’s library and hates it. So… why not make the best of their talents in order to rob the bank so they can give the money back in the form of the library’s mortgage payment?

My brother-in-law has a comic book store and last time I was visiting them, my sister was SO EXCITED about this series, so I was excited when the omnibus showed up.

I love the premise and it’s executed so well. Suzie narrates and it goes between the present and the past, and how she figured out about The Quiet. It’s really funny and a great introduction to a world that I want to know more about (Jon and Suzie aren’t the only ones with this talent, and they will get caught breaking the rules, even if time is standing still.) I also love the artwork when time’s standing still, so you know what’s going on. But most of all, I love Suzie. I love that she robs banks to save her library. I love her voice. I love the idea of her as a librarian. She isn't mousey and quiet, isn't too in-your-face cool. She is very cool, and very committed to books and research and helping people who came in to find their information--reminds me of a lot of the librarians I know and love. It was nice to see in pop culture.

I also like the back matter for this one. In addition to the regular offerings of page/cover sketches and rejects that we usually get in omnibus back matter, this had some great stuff on process, and the complete brain-storm list of made up positions.

Obviously, with this premise, it’s an adult title. But while the gimmick is lewd, the execution is beautiful and the actual story is worth digging into--there’s definitely some there there.

Cannot wait to read more.


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22. The Taming of the Tights

The Taming of the Tights Louise Rennison

Tallulah is back at school, ready to put Cain and the kissing behind her. Even if Charlie has a girlfriend. She also has bigger issues--Dother Hall is still very financially unstable and while it’s not in danger of closing, it is very much in danger of falling down. And while Sidonie recognizes Tallulah’s talent, not everyone else does and the more she tries to prove herself, the more hilariously she fails in the eyes of her teachers (but never to us, dear reader.) And there is still the Cain thing. Tallulah may be willing to ignore the kissing, but Cain has no problem telling others about it.

I love Tallulah and her craziness. I like that only some of her drama is self-invented. I love the insanity that is Dother Hall and the Dobbinses and the Tree Sisters and her fun size pal and the crazy dog Ruby. Overall, very hilariously funny. I don’t think it gets near as much love as Georgia, which is too bad.

Book Provided by... my local library

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23. Keeping Organized

I am a complete and utter scatter brain, but I have a lot of responsibility and stuff to do in my professional and personal life. Organization is the only way I stay on top of things and am at all functional.

A few weeks ago, the #readadv chat was on how we stay organized. People were pretty interested in each other's systems and wanted more in-depth info than Twitter really allows. Kelly kicked off some posts here for people to share their systems.

People seemed especially interested in Bullet Journaling, which is my personal system. Here's how I do it. (Followed by why it works for me, and how I organize my reading and blogging, too.)

When I was working and in grad school, I swore by the BusyBodyBook planner, but they no longer make them. I loved the columns for different aspects of my life (work/school/blog/LIFE) and I tried a few other things since then, but nothing that I loved as much. I started doing Bullet Journaling this spring and LOVE IT.

So, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of Bullet Journaling, read all about it here or watch this video.

One of the things I love about this system is that it's very flexible. It's incredibly easy to modify it to fit your needs. I don't like how he does calendars, because I need the visual of a typical calendar, so I printed some out and taped them in:


Also, I need to do a certain amount of pre-planning, so I do a few months at a time, and then have another list for events further out. The calendar print-outs are a free download from the Organised Housewife. I like that they have the to-do list on the side of monthly things. I also have a "master to-do" list for things I'm thinking about (like winter holiday presents I want to make, or very long-range projects that are still percolating, or little things that don't have a definite timeline like scheduling a fall dentist appointment.)

I also use a modified version of this key:


(I found it on Pinterest and it doesn't link to anywhere. Does anyone know who created this key? It's GENIUS and I'd love to give full credit.) The big thing I modify is, much like a c and e in the box for "call"/"email" I have a t for "text" and an r for "review" I especially love the half-filled box for things I worked on, but didn't finish. I do break projects into smaller steps, and do that in my journal, but it some steps just take a really long time. I also use the half-shaded box for things I need feedback on, like I needed to talk to someone, but they weren't in, so I just left them a voice mail. The half box lets me know that I may need to follow-up and try again later, but I don't need to worry about it for awhile.

Here's my page from yesterday:


You'll see some other things I modify on my daily pages. I the bottom I have section called "5 things" where I try to write down 5 good things about the day, every day. This is really helpful in combating some of my own personal negativity. I also track my water intake.

For all of this, I use extra-large Moleskine Cahier with gridded paper The extra-large gives me enough room each day, and the gridded paper just lends it self really well to all my to-do squares. I like the cahier because it has a soft cover, which makes it easier to decorate. I embroidered my current one:


To mark important pages, such as the master list, and the current daily page, I use large colored paperclips, as they're easy to move around and won't rip off in my purse:


I change pen colors every day, so I know if notes were made on the same day, or later. My currently into the Le Pen, because it's a slim line felt-tip that won't leak through a thin Moleskine page and comes in good colors. I also like the Sharpie Fine Point Pen for similar reasons (but it's harder to wash off when you accidentally draw on yourself. Not that I ever do that. Nope. Not me.)

So, this system works for me because it combines everything into one place that I can easily move around with me. My meeting notes are next to my schedule and easy to find again to follow up on. I can easily write down hilarious things my daughter said and other things that happened in a day. I can add in pages for projects or brainstorming that are easily accessible. I like that one days I'm not doing anything, I don't have to make a page--I don't have random blank pages or "wasted" space.I like that I can change it whenever I need or want to. The table of contents at the beginning is so basic, but it works SO WELL. I know some people don't like having to number the pages, but I just do it every time I make a new page--no big deal. I really like the key system because it's neater than crossing something off while still having the same level of satisfaction. It also works really well with the GTD system of time-management (I don't do full GTD, but I do parts of it, including just doing tasks that are under 2 minutes, and breaking down projects into steps and only worrying about the one in front of you.)

I also do Inbox 0 at work. It keeps me from missing important messages and quickly shows me what needs to be done. I don't do this at home.

I also have an entire Pinterest board for this subject, full of ideas and things for planners and organizing (including awesome sticky notes and notebooks).

Now, how do I track my reading and reviewing? Like I mentioned above, I modified the key so there's a symbol for call, email, text, and review. I try to review library books before they're due back and am pretty good about it. I try to review books I own shortly after reading, with less success. I tend not to schedule my reviews or review to a date unless I'm reviewing for someone else (RT Book Reviews and School Library Journal have deadlines, for instance) or a blog tour. Deadlines go on the calendar and get exclamation points on the daily list.

I keep track of my reading in a notebook. I have them dating back to spring of 2006 and printed lists going back to 2003, but wish I had kept track of stuff previous to that! Here's what my notebook looks like:


It's pretty simple. Month, title, author. A check mark once it's been reviewed on the blog, or the review has been linked to on the blog.

To do more in-depth review tracking, I use a Google spreadsheet that I update every few months.


Month and year help me cross-reference with the paper book. You'll see I'm full of typos and shorthand for titles--as long as I know what book I'm referring to, I'm good. Then there's the column I can mark if a review has been written. I have a giant Google doc for reviews. I then edit/update/polish when I paste them into Blogger to preschedule/post. Then I have a notes field, where I can write when things are prescheduled for (if it's further out than the next week or two--I use this a lot with ARCs as I tend to post reviews on pub date or only a day or two before), if it's a review that's posting elsewhere, if it's a committee book so reviews need to be held, or modified, or just not done (depends on the committee regulations/policies), if I have notes on it but no review, etc etc etc. It's pretty basic, but it does what I need it to do. Once a review is posted, I delete that line, so the sheet ONLY tracks outstanding reviews.


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24. Hypothetical Box Curator: Summer Reading

If I had a subscription box service, this month's theme would be Summer Reading, and here's what you would get:



Personal Library Kit so you can lend your favorites to your friends in style (and know who to bug to get them back!)



This Superfudge shirt from Out of Print Clothing to wear your reading pride, even when you aren't actually reading.



This "Feeling Austentatious" tote bag from the awesome people at Forever Young Adult so you can tote your books to your favorite summer reading spot.



Moleskine Book Journal to help keep track of everything you read.



Two Moons in August by Martha Brooks-- a perfect summer book that I reread every summer.

Check out the Pinterest board for more Summer Reading Goodness!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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25. Time of Your Life

Time of Your Life (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 4) Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, Jeff Loeb

Ok, so somehow I skipped reviewing this one.

Buffy and Willow are trying to figure out the scythe and Buffy somehow* ends up propelled into the future, where once again, there is only 1 slayer a generation. Buffy’s trying to figure out where everything went wrong to get back to that point (plus, how to get home) but she’s walking into a trap of a Big Bad that we’ve seen before. This time though, the ending is devastating. (This is also apparently a crossover with Fray, which is a Whedon comic I’ve never read, so I can’t speak to how to works on that side, but if you didn’t know it was a crossover, you’d never be able to tell.)

Meanwhile, back in the present, Twilight attacks the Scottish fortress that Buffy and Co. have the hanging out in.

It was a weird diversion of a comic because even though Twilight attacks, it still seems a little more “Monster of the Week” rather than over-reaching story arc. But, as I write this, I have read the rest of this season (heck, I even have the reviews written for the rest) and I can see its place a little more. Something I’ll start pointing out more is that overall, this season deals really well with the consequences of Buffy’s actions. And this gives Buffy a glimpse of the long-term consequences and she has to try to figure out how her future actions may mitigate going back to a “chosen one” Slayer lifestyle. That said, this is probably the weakest volume in Season 8.

*mystical magical convergence oddities

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