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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. You

You Charles Benoit

You're a largely misunderstood kid that everyone thinks is a troublemaker. You know better but they don't, so sometimes you just go with it. It's what they expect of you anyway. It starts with the blood, something gone horribly wrong. It ends there, too. The in-between is the girl you like. The in-between is the new kid who likes you for some reason. You like him too, until it's all gone wrong. So very wrong.

Overall, it's an enjoyable read. The quick pace of the plot and the second-person narration help drive the reader to turn the pages quickly and draw you in. I liked it but didn't think it was anything special. And then someone pointed out that's a retelling of Othello and my mind exploded. Because it totally is. It's a Shakespeare retelling that will appeal to struggling and reluctant readers-- a fun read with some source material that's really subtly woven in (and then once it's pointed out to you, all you can do is shout OMG DUH and feel stupid for missing it.)

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. State of the Onion

State of the Onion Julie Hyzy

Last month, the library had an edible books contest. For prizes, I gave away books about food and asked Twitter what were the best food-based cozies out there. A lot of people voted by Hyzy's "White House Chef Mystery" series, so I picked up the first one as a prize. I was intrigued enough by the title that I couldn't resist reading it, too.

Olivia Paras is an assistant White House chef. The Executive Chef is about to retire, and Olivia is one of the final candidates for his job. Her main competition is a TV celebrity chef that Olivia's worked with before-- and does not want to work with again. If she gets the job, Olivia knows she'll be leaving the White House. But the drama and pressure is soon pushed to the side when Olivia is walking back to work and sees a guy fleeing from the Secret Service and clocks him with her frying pan. Suddenly, she's trying to figure out a massive conspiracy that may end up in someone assassinating the President. Before she can solve it, she gets a glimpse of the world's most feared assassin and then she's no longer trying to save the President's life, but her own.

This was a fun one. I liked the behind-the-scenes look at the White House staff and the kitchen-- the differences in preparing a simple lunch for the first family versus a major state dinner and all the planning that happens. I liked the tension between Olivia and the new head of Culture-and-Faith-based Etiquette Affairs (he's such a jerk!!!)

I also liked her secret Secret Service boyfriend and the tension between them as Olivia got herself more involved with the case that he kept trying to push her off of. Overall it was very enjoyable and I didn't guess the ending. The bad guy was on my list of possible bad guys, but there was enough in there that I kept guessing on my choices. It was also often funny-- I especially liked when we finally meet the celebrity chef that Olivia is competing with. I think this is a series I'll continue reading.

Also-- do you have any good cozy recs? Mysteries, especially cozies are HUGE with the adults at my library, and now that I'm the adult librarian, I need to up my reader's advisory game. Leave 'em in the comments if you've got 'em.

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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3. Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing David Levithan

After Tariq is beaten for being gay, Craig comes up with an idea, and his ex-boyfriend Harry is the only one who can help. Craig wants them to break the world record for kissing.

Tariq is filming and live-streaming it from multiple angles, so no one can question it. They’re doing it in public-- on the lawn of the high school.

We also have other stories woven through-- Peter and Neil, who live a few towns over and have been dating for over a year, Avery and Ryan, who meet at a gay prom the night before the kiss begins, and Cooper, who is closeted and struggling when his parents find out.

The kiss itself is the central plot-point, but what I found most powerful about the book is the narrator-- a generalized “we” of the gay men who died of AIDS in the 70s/80s. It was devastating and made me unexpectedly sob. I wonder if teens will find it as moving as I did, as they leave a lot unexplained. They mention how no one cared until a movie star and teenage hemophiliac died. When talking about the hate and violence, they mention the 19-year-old strung up along the highway. These are small, passing references to things I know and remember. Ok, I don’t remember Rock Hudson dying and he never meant much to me, but I do remember Ryan White. I remember his advocacy and his death. I most definitely remember Matthew Shepard's murder. I know what a huge effing dealPhiladelphia was when it came out. Do teens? And this isn’t to say they won’t “get” the book, or enjoy it, but just that the emotional impact readers of a certain age are getting won’t transfer over.

I love love love love that there’s a trans character. I love that while it creates fear and uncertainty in his life (well, I don’t love that bit, but it’s realistic) it’s not a big deal for the narrators. They never question that Avery is a boy, that he’s a gay boy. They just feel for him that much more because he’s carrying around that much more. Handled so well.

And, let’s just talk about the cover, shall we?

Two boys kissing. You know what this means.

For us, it was a secret gesture. Secret because we were afraid. Secret because we were ashamed. Secret because it was story that nobody was telling.

But what power it had. Whether we cloaked it in the guise of You be the boy and I’ll be the girl, or whether we defiantly called it by its name, when we kissed, we know how powerful it was. Our kisses were seismic. When seen by the wrong person, they could destroy us. When shared with the right person, they had the power of confirmation, the force of destiny.

If you put enough closets together, you have enough space for a room. If you put enough rooms together, you have space for a house. If you put enough houses together, you have space for a town, then a city, then a nation, then a world.

We knew the private power of our kisses. Then came the first time we were witnesses, the first time we saw it happen out in the open. For some of us, it was before we ourselves had ever been kissed. We fled our towns, came to the city, and there on the streets we saw two boys kissing for the first time. And the power now what the power of possibility. Over time, it wasn’t just on the street or in the clubs or at the parties we threw. It was in the newspaper. On television. In movies. Every time we saw two boys kissing like that, the power grew…

Every time two boys kiss, it opens up the world a little more. Your world. The world we left. The world we left you.

And now there are two boys kissing on the cover of a major release book aimed at teens.


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. Spell it Out

Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling David Crystal

Much like he does in The Story of English in 100 Words, Crystal has made language history exceedingly accessible. This is a basic history of English spelling and how it developed over time, and why it’s so darn wacky. (Short story-- trying to use the latin alphabet for a non-Latin language, scribes changing spelling to make things easier/prettier on the page, French influence after the Norman conquest, and the Great Vowel shift.)

But, for a book that could easily be boring, short chapters and a conversational style make this one an easy read. I also love love love love that Crystal doesn’t decry texting and the internet as ruining spelling. He also makes wonderful arguments as to why spelling is more important than ever. There's also an entire section for early education teachers with his ideas about how to teach spelling to make it more relevant, easier, and fun.

Very fun, and an Outstanding Book for the College Bound that I think teens will really enjoy.

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. Graphic Novel Week: Pluto




Pluto by Naoki Urasawa, based on work by Osama Tezuka.


I'm going to review the entire 8-volume series as one, because that's how I think about it, because that's how we looked at it for inclusion on the Outstanding Books and College Bound list for Science and Technology.

Urasawa takes a story arc from Osama Tezuka's classic Astro Boy series and retells it for an older audience. The first volumes really focus on Gesicht, a top European detective who's looking into the horrible murders of some of the world's leading robots. It's soon evident that the serial killer is targeting the seven most powerful robots in the world. This troubles Gesicht for many professional reasons, but many personal ones as well--most of the seven are his friends, because he is one of them. This killer is unlike anything they've ever seen before--he's too fast to be captured on film, so he can't be human, but he doesn't show up on any robot sensors, so he can't be a robot.

As the mystery deepens, we meet the other robots, get backstories-- many are haunted by what they saw and did in the last great war and many live their lives today as a way to atone for their actions then. There are flickers of something at the edges of Gesicht's memory that he can't quite place, but he thinks it's important.

And through it all it raises questions of what it means to be human and where the line is between Artificial Intelligence and humanity--if we get too good at designing AI, will there be a line any more? Can there be one? What about an injured human with robotic parts? How much robot is too much robot? And through it all, it's just a damn good, engaging story that has many heartbreaking moments. An early one that stands out is the story of North, a robot who is known for the death and destruction he brought during the war. He's now a butler to a composer who loathes him because everyone knows robots can't feel. All North wants to do is make music, to play piano and bring beauty to the world, but the composer won't let him, because robots are emotionless and can't understand or play true music because of it. It perfectly sets up the prejudices many have against robots, while showing that many of these AI systems are so advanced that robots may not be that emotionless after all. It's a tender story that sets up a lot of the larger issues and dynamics in the series.

I love the world Tezuka and Urasawa have built, and it's eerie to realize that the geopolitics read as super-current, but were in the original text from the 60s. As someone whose never read Astro Boy, I'm not familiar with the source material, but that's ok. The story is amazing on its own, but I do like the touch that each volume has a bit of back matter--an essay, an interview, another comic-- from a variety of people--Tezuka's son, manga scholars, other artists-- that help give both works a context to each other and to the larger manga world. It was very interesting and helpful. (Plus, I just love that Japan takes drawn books so seriously that there are a lot of manga scholars out there.)

I highly recommend it.

Books 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. Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms Fumiyo Kouno, translated from the Japanese by Naoko Amemiya and Andy Nakatani

This isn't currently in print, but many libraries still have it and it's seriously worth tracking down a copy. It's two stories, in one book. "Town of Evening Calm" deals with Minami, a young woman who, 10 years prior, survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She's still haunted by that day, and has intense guilt about the fact she survived when so many didn't. (Including many members of her immediate family.) "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is in two parts and takes place in 1987, the second part in 2004, and on one hand is a story of changing friendships and aging parents, but on the other is a look at how the bombing still lingers in Japanese society and thought. They're connected, but I won't tell you how.

This is an Outstanding Book for the College Bound, on the History and Cultures list. I didn't read it when we were working on the list, because I was on different subcommittees, but hearing the History and Cultures people talk about it, it was on my list of ones to pick up immediately.

The author's note at the end explains why Kouno wrote the story. She's from Hiroshima, where they avoid the subject. When she moved to Tokyo she discovered that the rest of Japan (excepting Nagasaki) don't talk about it because they don't understand it. They don't the scars those cities still bear, and how they're different than the ones the rest of Japan has.

The result is beautifully drawn book. "Town of Evening Calm" is rather heartbreaking, but "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is often very funny. It's a fascinating look into a time and place and effects events still have decades down to the line.


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.

0 Comments on Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms as of 3/27/2014 11:55:00 AM
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7. Bloggiesta!

It's Bloggiesta time! That wonderful time when we set aside a few days to do the nitty-gritty work on our blogs. I almost missed it.

I'll be honest. Last week, after 8 years, I almost pulled the plug on Biblio File. You'll notice posting's been... sporadic. I just haven't been feeling the review bug lately. I haven't felt connected with the blogging community in a while. All my work last year on YA Reading List, plus Outstanding Books, plus a pretty major career shift might have broken me. Not to mention the Kung Fu Princess will be 3 in June and needs/wants a lot of attention that I need/want to give her.

And then I realize I don't think I ever officially announced my career shift here on the blog. At the beginning of September, I went from being the half-time youth services librarian to being the full-time Acting Branch Manager of my branch, which also includes being the adult services librarian. In February, I got to drop the "Acting" from my job title. It's super-exciting, but a major shift, not only in time spent working, but in my focus and what I'm doing. It's really fun and I'm loving it, but there's definitely a learning curve.

Blogging just seemed... like a chore. I don't want it to be a chore. But then, I read Snow White and wanted to talk about it. That's why I started blogging in the first place--to find my book nerd people. And I miss the blogging community. SO! Let's throw myself back in headfirst and see if it sticks. Let's try again and Bloggiesta just perfectly coincides with that. Join me by signing up here.

Here are some bloggy things I want to accomplish between now and Sunday:

1. Write a #$@#-ton of reviews. I'm so far behind on reviewing. I'm so far behind, I don't even know how behind I am. Obviously, in a perfect world, I'd write ALL the reviews and catch up. That's not going to happen. Let's aim for 30 (doable, but insane) and be happy if I write 10. Which leads to...
2. Record-keeping. On of the reasons I don't know how far behind I am is because my back-end planning spreadsheets haven't been updated in 6 months. Let's fix that.
3. Work on my new interview project--reach out to potential interviewees, come up with a set list of questions.
4. Write a "state of the blog" post for YA Reading List.
5. Before #4, I should probably figure out what the "state of the blog" IS for YA Reading List.
6. Sort the bookshelves.
7. Read some blogs. I'm really behind on this.
8. Update the professional blog lists. I've officially moved from children's/teen to adult services/management, so I need to find some new ones and weed out some others.
9. Research my spam comment problem.
10. Do some mini-challenges and have fun.


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. Graphic Novel Week: The Unwritten--Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Mike Carey and Peter Gross

This is one that’s been on my radar forever. Like since Leila reviewed back in, oh 2012.

I *finally* got around to reading it, and it’s so good! Tom’s father wrote a series of highly popular fantasy novels (think Harry Potter), but made Tommy the lead character (think Christopher Robin.) People have a really hard time realizing that Tom the man and Tommy the fictional character aren’t the same person.

Coupled with this is the fact that when he was younger, his father disappeared without a trace, leaving the series unfinished and his estate was very complicated, making it so Tom can’t get any of the money. Tom makes a living by signing his father’s books and making public appearances-- this doesn’t help people separate the two identities, and it means constant questions about his father’s abandonment.

Only, at this con, a fan points out that Tom Taylor, the real person, doesn’t actually exist--which is how Tom learns that most of his identity is fabricated. Then, as he tries to trace his past he discovers that the line between fiction and reality might be thinner than he ever imagined… maybe there Tom the man and Tommy the character aren’t that different…

This one is obviously a lot of set up for the greater story, which I can’t wait to delve into. I like how the book incorporates a lot of the Tommy Taylor novels, interweaving them with the main story, as well as lots of flashbacks from Tom’s past.

Tom’s father was also very into literary geography-- knowing where people wrote things, the real places that inspired fiction settings, and the trivia behind it all. It’s a slightly annoying party trick of Tom’s-- reciting all of it as he travels, but it’s fun to read and it looks like it’s going to be important to the larger plot, which I find very intriguing.

The next volume is on its way to me-- I can’t wait to read it and see what happens next.

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.

0 Comments on Graphic Novel Week: The Unwritten--Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity as of 3/26/2014 12:07:00 PM
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9. Graphic Novel Week: Fables

So, I think the last two volumes of Fables really work together, as they have overlapping timelines for the main story, so I'm going to review them together.

Fables, Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland Bill Willingham

Fables Vol. 19: Snow White Bill Willingham

Cubs in Toyland starts in the with main story right away. Therese has a toy boat that takes her to be the Queen of Toyland, but Toyland is a dark, twisted place. It's the island of Misfit toys-- toys that were all involved in the death of a child. They have hopes for a Queen that will restore them, but there is no food to sustain Therese. Meanwhile, Snow, Bigby, and Therese's brothers and sisters are frantically searching for her. One will find her, with devastating consequences.

It then moves onto some back story on Bigby Wolf, and destiny.

The first third of Snow White takes place in Oz, wrapping up the storyline of Bufkin. It's a good end to the story, and it was dragging a bit there and needed to be wrapped up, but I will miss him greatly in the lost business office of the Fabletown.

The last part of the book is where the "Snow White" title of the Omnibus comes from and covers the same amount of time, showing what's happening in New York when Therese goes missing. Now, here's a very cool thing-- the magical car that we got out the end of Fairest: Wide Awake has appeared-- so Bigby and Stinky are off through worlds, tracking the missing cubs. Meanwhile, the fencing instructor from Castle Dark? The one that Mrs. Spratt/Leigh was into? Turns out, he's Snow White's fiance, pre-Prince Charming days and he's come to claim her. Snow's having none of it, but he has some powerful magic working there. This, too, has devastating consequences.


So, I wanted to look at these together, partly because I'm super-behind on reviewing, but this time it works out, because these volumes play out so well. The main storyline in each volumes actually ends with more-or-less the same panel. (The "camera angle" is a bit different, but the scene, and dialogue, are the same.) Both storylines are heartbreaking and they both bring back some of the magic that's been lacking a bit. I wasn't a huge fan of the whole Mr. Dark storyline (I just don't think it every really got going or had the same gravitas as the Empire in terms of the Big Bad.) I think this hits at a much deeper, more emotional level in a way I think is a first for the series.

I read Cubs in Toyland a full year ago, and Toyland is so creepy, it still gives me the heebie-jeebies. I love the way the storylines play on each other-- ending Snow White with that same panel is the ultimate gut punch in a gut punch of a book. I don't know if this series has every really made me cry, but both of these did.

Also, let's give a shout-out for Ambrose Wolf. He's obviously the "loser" or the pack, but adult Ambrose plays a large narrator role in these stories, and it's great to see a glimpse of who he's going to grow into. Maybe not a hero, but a pretty great stand-up scholarly guy (with a wife I have suspicions about. Check out the color of her skin--is it because it's nighttime and it's shadow? Or is she actually green, and quite probably the Lady of the Lake?)

And, I love that the Fairest series is weaving in a bit right now. In general, I like that Fairest is about stuff outside of Fabletown, but it's weaving in in small, interesting ways. I'm intrigued.

Anyway, this whole set is super powerful and moving and I need to TALK ABOUT IT. Hit me up if you want to discuss.

Question-- the cover artwork for Snow White looks a lot like it was probably an alternate possibility for the cover artwork for the new edition of Legends in Exile (aka, Fables #1). What is the symbolism there?

Also, I had forgotten about the end story in Cubs of Toyland until I started working on this review. I have some hope about things now. If you haven't read them yet, it's very relevant to what happens in Snow White. I think. I hope.



Books Provided by... my wallet

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. Graphic Novel Week: Buffy Season 8: The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home Joss Whedon.

I know I’m totally late to this party, but Buffy didn’t end when the show did! Buffy lives! In comic book form!

So, now that all the potentials are slayers, they’re all divided up into different teams, working different parts of the world, killing baddies. But Willow’s missing, Amy’s back, and so is a gross skinless Jonathan. Plus, Dawn is a giant. And the Army thinks Buffy’s the enemy. All in a day’s work for a slayer!

But, this is a comic book with many over-reaching plot threads, and it jumps around a lot, which is a bit different from the show and took some getting used to. Also, while the characters look like the actors who played them, they’re still drawings and it’s a bit hard to get into. Luckily, the voice is still there, so I can "hear" it properly in my head. I’m really excited to see where this is going. I should have gotten a few volumes at ones, because I have to waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait for the second one. It’s checked out. And I’m not the first person on the holds list for it! (Which is awesome, given these books came out in 2007 and they’re still popular!)

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. Eye of Minds

The Eye of Minds James Dashner

Michael’s parents are often traveling and like most serious gamers, he spends most of his time in his coffin-- the next step in virtual reality equipment that affects all the senses very realistically. All of Michael’s friends and hang-outs are in the VirtNet. He can usually afford what he wants, but he’s good enough he can also just look at the code that makes up his world and hack his way in.

But something weird’s going on -- a gamer named Kaine has driven gamers to suicide-- cutting out the device that acts as the shield between reality and virtual reality-- so when they die in the VirtNet, they die in the real world, too.

The police are after him, but they need the help of Michael and his friends. They go on a terrifying adventure to stop someone who is always a step or two ahead--someone who knows the code better than they do, better than anyone.

And, what they find is beyond what anyone expects.

It’s a fun action sci/fi thriller where the VirtNet setting allows for some very fun settings and landscapes that Michael and his friends have to work or hack their way through. Of course, it all leads up to a big twist reveal ending, setting up the second book perfectly. Now you just have to wait for the second book.

I probably won’t pick it up-- I enjoyed the book, but it’s not really my thing, so I’m not the right reader for it. (Although I liked it enough that I will probably make one of the teens at work tell me what happens, like I did with the Lockdown series.)

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. Fallen Beauty Blog Tour

Fallen Beauty Erika Robuck

In the late 1920's/ early 1930's, two women live in upstate New York. Laura has an unsuitable love affair, one that leaves her with a child, the scandal of her small town. The other is Edna St. Vincent Millay, the renowned poet. Told in both voices, their lives start to intersect.

While it was the Millay angle that intrigued me, it was Laura's story that drew me in and made the novel for me. It has shades of The Scarlet Letter, as Laura refuses to name Grace's father, and is shunned my most of the town. Her sister is married to an up-and-coming politician, and while they remain very close (Marie being her only friend) there is tension between Everett's career ambitions and Laura's scandal. Laura's a hard character--she loves her daughter, but cannot forgive herself for what happened to bring her daughter into this world, and cannot forgive the town for shunning her even though she judges herself just as harshly, if not more so, than they do.

Millay's a harder character to judge. Robuck is constrained by the realities of who she was. She did her research and did a good job of capturing her voice, but has a harder time explaining her actions. Laura isn't always a likeable character, but she's an understandable one. Millay flies into rages and orders all those around her to do her bidding. She orders ex-lovers to return to her side, and plays their affections off one another. Her free-love and open lifestyle had a definite mean and vindictive streak. But because Millay is not Robuck's character, there is little explanation for her actions that can be given beside "temperamental poet." The language is definitely more beautiful in Millay's sections (it is, afterall, in the voice of a poet) but it was Laura's story and Laura's journey that really drew me into the story and kept me turning the pages.

This is not Robuck's first novel based on authors--she also has Call Me Zelda and Hemingway's Girl.


Book Provided by... the publisher, as part of the Fallen Beauty blog tour.

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. Packing for Mars

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void Mary Roach

So, this is the first Roach I’ve read. She’s been on my radar forever, but I finally picked some up, and I’m very glad I did. Hilarious and smart writing about science-- sign me up. Packing for Mars is part astronaut history, part space travel technology, and part looking at what we’ll have to figure out what we need if we’re ever going to get to Mars (beyond Congress approving NASA’s budget.)

Along the way she explores the challenges of pooping in zero-gravity (apparently Gemini had a lot of, uh, fecal matter, floating around in the capsule with them) and how to design a really safe seat for take-offs and landings. Not to mention how to find appetizing food (turns out most early space food was designed by veterinarians) and how disorienting bobbing around in zero-gravity is (or how disorienting it is to have OTHER people bobbing by you). And she looks at the differences between a short 2-week max mission (like Gemini and Apollo) to months-long (like ISS stints) to the years it would take to get to Mars.

Very readable and enjoyable (I laughed out loud A LOT, even though I was often in public and got some looks) it’s also a great look at where we’ve been, where we could go, and why we should go there.

I highly recommend, and it is 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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14. Interview with Holly Schindler

As part of her blog tour for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, Holly Schindler is stopping by to talk to us about her book, writing, and other things!

Your previous novels have been YA-- what's the difference between writing YA and MG and why did you make the switch?

Actually, I started writing YA and MG at the same time. A bit of backstory: I got my master’s in the spring of ’01, and was encouraged to devote full-time attention to getting my writing career off the ground. I still wanted to do my part to pay my own bills, though, so I started teaching music lessons in the afternoons. And I was shocked at how familiar those kids seemed—as familiar as the kids I’d known when I was in school! They actually inspired me to try my hand at writing in the juvenile market; I dove in headfirst, trying both MG and YA at the same time. (The first books I published were YA, but I’d been writing MG all along as well.)

The main difference is that your characters have different abilities, which changes your plot to some extent. Something as simple as the ability to drive can change your book dramatically; a teen has access to a car, so they can go literally anywhere. An MG character has a bike—their “backyard” is much smaller than a teen’s. It changes the shape of the book.

Librarians are always on the look out for books with diversity--especially stories that feature characters of color that aren't about race, so it's worth mentioning that your main character Auggie and the mean girl, Victoria, are both African-American. However, this fact is very subtly coded in the text (and one reference to Auggie feeling like her skin looked like mud while Victoria's was fine imported chocolate) so readers might miss it. Can you talk a bit about diversity in middle grade lit, why you made your characters African-American, and why you wrote it the way you did?

My YAs began with concepts: in A Blue So Dark, I played with the idea of mental illness and creativity being linked; in Playing Hurt, I explored learning the difference between loving someone and being IN love. But THE JUNCTION began with a figure—Grampa Gus. I saw him as clearly as I’ve seen anyone in my life. When I first envisioned him, he was African American. But as I drafted the book, I knew I wanted a neighborhood to look every bit as diverse as the figures in Auggie’s yard. I wanted to show the different faces who were all in the same boat.

Your book deals with a lot of heavier topics--class, beauty, eminent domain, changing friendships, and missing parents, and deals with them well, but it's not a heavy book. Why were these issues important for you to discuss and what was your process for dealing with them without making the story a total bummer?

It’s funny—early critique of the book when I was attempting to shop it was that the original beginning chapters were a bummer. (I certainly didn’t think so, but I did go back and rework those opening chapters several times—even after the book was acquired—in order to make them feel lighter.) The trick is pulling the reader in early on so that they know it’ll be a delight to come to your book—not something they dread! You want to draw a reader back, make sure they will finish your book, be hungry for another read.

If you had Auggie's artistic talent what changes would you make to your house? (Personally, I'm all about colored glass in my windows!)

I’m with you on the colored glass! And the sidewalk—I’d love that, too.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were Auggie's age, what would your advice be?

Never, never, never be afraid to say what you think. Even when it goes against what everyone else is saying or doing.

What are you working on now?


My next MG—and my next YA, Feral, which releases on August 26! FERAL is my first thriller:

It’s too late for you. You’re dead.

Those words float through Claire Cain’s head as she lies broken and barely alive after a brutal beating. And the words continue to haunt her months later, in the relentless, terrifying nightmares that plague her sleep. So when her father is offered a teaching sabbatical in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out of Chicago, away from the things that remind her of what she went through, will offer a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire quickly realizes something is wrong—the town is brimming with hidden dangers and overrun by feral cats. And her fears are confirmed when a popular high school girl, Serena Sims, is suddenly found dead in the icy woods behind the school. While everyone is quick to say Serena died in an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it—for she was the one who found Serena, battered and most certainly dead, surrounded by the town’s feral cats.

Now Claire vows to learn the truth about what happened, but the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to discovering a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley. . . .

With an eerie setting and heart-stopping twists and turns, Holly Schindler weaves a gripping story that will make you question everything you think you know.

What are you currently reading?

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

What are you currently watching?

RAKE. THE AMERICANS. (Not really kid-friendly, eh?)

What are you currently listening to?

The SteelDrivers. Will Hoge (he’s my favorite, actually).

Thanks for stopping by Holly!


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. Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky Holly Schindler

Auggie likes her neighborhood and going to the dump with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler. But her school has closed down, and she and her friends have to go to a different one, in a neighborhood with a lot more money. Suddenly, the fact that Auggie and her friends don't have new things is a big deal. Suddenly Auggie's best friend would rather spend time with Victoria, who sneers at Auggie and Grandpa every chance she can. Victoria's father is on the town council and he's started the House Beautification Committee and everyone has to comply. Auggie has some grand ideas to make her house beautiful, but not everyone agrees with her idea of beauty.

I haven't read any middle grade in a while--my time on Outstanding Books for the College Bound really focused my reading on teen and adult, mostly adult, titles. This was a great re-introduction to the age range. Schindler really captures a lot of Auggie's confusion and the delicate politics of a 5th-grade classroom and changing friendships. I loved Auggie's voice and the brave face she put on. There is A LOT going on under the surface of this story, and some very BIG ISSUES are touched on--class divide between Auggie's neighborhood and the rest of town, eminent domain (the House Beautification Committee will never be happy with Auggie's neighborhood for spoiler-y reasons), the fact that Auggie lives with her Grandpa while her mom is out in California becoming a star. But despite these big issues, it's not a downer book. The story is told through Auggie's voice, and a lot is about her artistic vision for making her house beautiful, making it into its own work of art.

Also, I should note, Auggie's town is very diverse and Schindler writes race with a very sublte hand. Auggie and the mean girl, Victoria, are both African-American. But race doesn't play a role in the story.


Book Provided by... the author, for inclusion in her blog tour.

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. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary doesn’t talk much. She creeps people out. Her mother is a shadow of who she used to be, she doesn’t deal directly with her father. Her brother is wanted by the FBI. Her sister is gone.

Starting her 5th year in college, she tells us her story, slightly out of order.

Eventually, we get to the crux-- her sister Fern, the missing one, was a chimpanzee. They were raised together as sisters, part of a grand experiment, and then when Rosemary was 5, Fern was sent away to a farm and they never saw her or really spoke of her again.

Rosemary had a hard time in school, being a monkey girl, because being raised with a chimp made her have many chimp-like behaviors. She’s falls into the uncanny valley. She’s human, but something about her is… off.

The plot question is, why did Fern have to leave? But the main question of the book is, what are the ramifications of Fern being part of the family in the first place, and how the family (and the public) reacts to her leaving. And how Fern reacts to being taken away.

One thing they struggle with is that no one understood or acknowledged the family’s grief. They didn’t lose a pet, they lost a child. Rosemary lost her twin. The ethics of the study, of what happened, and why are explored through Rosemary’s lens. She was 5 when Fern left, her picture is incomplete.

It’s fascinating and moving as Rosemary tries to parse what happened and why and how that affected everything after, if it affected anything after.

I loved this book. I think Fowler really captured Rosemary as a college student and the whys and hows of how she looked at her own story.

But really, just, so much love. (Also it’s not a huge downer. It could have easily been a major sobfest. But it wasn’t. So glad Fowler didn’t go there.)

There's a reason this is an Outstanding Book for the College Bound!

Book Provided by... my local library

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17. Disenchantments

The Disenchantments Nina LaCour

After graduation, Colby’s going on tour with Bev’s band, and then Colby and Bev are going to bum around Europe for a year. They’ve been planning this trip for years. But half-way through the tour, Bev drops the bomb that she’s going to college, not Europe, and Colby’s realizing that he doesn’t know his best friend at all.

Man, did I love this book. I loved Colby and his voice. I loved that Bev’s band was really, really bad. I loved their complicated and changing relationship, and that they’ve known each other forever and how that colors everything. I loved the other girls in Bev’s band (and man, I wished Colby would have woken up and realized that Meg was clearly awesome.) I loved the relationship between Meg and her sister Alexa (both in the band). I loved how it was about art and friendship and family.

AND JASPER. I loved Colby for thinking of Jasper-- this random character from early in the book. How Colby treats Jasper makes him my favorite. I loved Jasper.

So, yeah, I loved this book.

Book Provided by... my local library

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18. Verily, A New Hope

William Shakespeare's Star Wars Ian Doescher, George Lucas, and William Shakespeare.

So, this is pretty much what you’d expect, but a bit better. It’s A New Hope (aka, Star Wars #1) retold in the style of Shakespeare. I say “in the style of” because it does more that retell the story in iambic pentameter-- there’s a chorus that explains some of the action and sets the scene, as well as long soliloquies, really translating the story into how it would be told as an Elizabethan drama. Even the illustrations show how the staging would work in Elizabethan times.

There are several in-jokes for those who know their Shakespeare and their Star Wars. The text is full of such allusions as ”Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears…” and while the chorus refuses to say if Han shoots first, Jabba the Hutt *does* show up, as does Biggs Darklighter and Luke making plans to hang out after the battle-- so Doescher is working from the rerelease instead of the original. (Sorry, is my nerd showing?)

Overall, it was very fun, and well done. I'm looking forward to looking at William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back, which comes out next month. The Jedi Doth Return will be out this summer.

Book Provided by... my local library

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19. Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York Deborah Blum.

You guys are so lucky you haven’t been within earshot of me when I was reading this book. SO GOOD.

Medicine, murder, politics, and detective work combine to make for fascinating reading. Anyone familiar with crime drama knows you have to talk to the Medical Examiner to find out what happened. But in the beginning of the 20th century, that wasn’t the case. In New York, a few intrepid men developed the field of forensic medicine to help detect cause of death in the morgue. The growing field made it so poison was no longer an easy murder to get away with, as police could then say for sure that someone had been poisoned, and with what, which made tracking down the murderer that much easier.

But this is also Prohibition. We think of bathtub gin and homemade stills, but most of the alcohol on the streets was denatured industrial alcohol, stolen and then resold. In an effort to curb illegal drinking, the government kept demanding that more and more poisons be added to the alcohol. The result didn’t stop people from drinking, but it killed a lot of them. You can read more about it here. They also made an episode of American Experience on PBS about it.

(As that article is also written by Blum, it also gives a good taste of the book.)

And oh! The politics. Tamany Hall was NOT happy about the new medical examiner system and the office was often battling for basic funding and resources.

Blum weaves all these tales together to tell a gruesome and fascinating story about the development of a scientific field that now seems commonplace, a time in history we largely romanticize despite the body count, and well, poisoner and murder! Blum has a gift for story-telling and detail that draws you in (she also has an eye for the gruesome-- the wet chemistry involved wasn't always pretty.)

Excellent reading and a book that made the Outstanding Books for the College bound list!

Book Provided by... my local library

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20. Nonfiction Monday: Historical Hearthrobs

Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes-From Cleopatra to Camus Kelly Murphy and Hallie Fryd

I am falling more and more in love with Zest books for their fun and quirky looks at history and pop culture. Their latest offering looks at 50 historical figures and explains why they're heartthrobs-- whether it's their looks, their daring, their dedication or something else. For each, we get 4 pages, including pictures, quotations about them, a brief biography, a briefer detailing of their love life, and a section on why they matter today. Much like Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) (also by Fryd) it's conversational and fun and will hopefully lead teens to want to learn more about a particular person. Very, very fun.

Even better, I love the range of people Murphy and Fryd include-- great diversity for what people are known for and where they're from (both time and place). We've got obvious ones like Byron and Josephine Baker and Mati Hari and not-so-obvious ones like Ceaser Chavez and Jane Goodall. There's Gloria Steinam and Nikola Tesla, Teddy Roosevelt and Nellie Bly, Duke Kahanamoku and Huey P. Newton, Bessie Coleman and Benazir Bhutto. It's an interesting collection and a fun lens to look at some fascinating people.

I'm participating in the official blog tour and said that as part of my tour stop, I'd look at my own favorite Historical Heartthrob. I nominate Sun Yat-Sen. Not only was he a looker, but he helped over throw Chinese imperial rule, even if he happened to be out of the country (drumming up support and funds) when the actual revolution happened. (D'oh.) He's an odd character in Chinese history, as he's one of the few, if not the only, modern hero that Mainland China, Taiwan, and the overseas Chinese communities can all agree on as being awesome. He's buried in Nanjing on the top of a mountain.

But, an even better part of being on blog tour? GIVEAWAY TIME!

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Book Provided by... the publisher, for blog tour partcipation

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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21. Bride Wore Size 12

The Bride Wore Size 12 Meg Cabot

For once, everyone WANTS to live in Death Dorm! Heather’s a little unsure what to make of Fisher Hall’s new popularity, but she knows what’s caused it-- the Crown Prince of Qalif, Rashid, has moved in.

Everyone wants to get close to the playboy prince! (Except, of course, Sarah, who’s livid that the college accepted his father’s huge donation to get him in, given Qalif’s human rights record…)

But when an RA turns up dead, things seem par for the course. Heather’s trying to keep peace in the dorm and solve a murder but her personal life is just as crazy-- the wedding is fast approaching and then… her mother shows up.

I LOVE HEATHER WELLS. I like how this one doesn’t focus on her weight as much. I love the university politics and Cooper’s sisters. I liked the wedding craziness and Heather's family drama. Mostly, I love the antics of Fischer Hall and how much Heather cares for the residents and her eye on their drama--not just the murders, but the day-to-day college drama of roommate fights, love, school, and living apart from your parents.

I’m so glad that Cabot started writing this series again. So much love for Heather.

Book Provided by... my local library

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22. Size 12 and Ready to Rock

I waited too long between reading and reviewing, so here's a mini-review!

Size 12 and Ready to Rock Meg Cabot

Woo-hoo! Heather Wells is back!

It’s summer at Fischer Hall, but just because school’s out doesn’t mean that Heather’s in for an easy summer. Heather’s ex-fiance and his new wife-- Jordan and Tracy, are hosting a summer camp for pop diva tweens (and, of course, filming a reality show about it.) Then the producer ends up dead with Tania as the obvious target. Cooper’s (Jordan’s brother and Heathers current fiance) is then hired to be Tania’s new bodyguard…

So, what summer vacation?

I mean, I love Heather Wells and this one doesn’t disappoint. I also like how much more depth and backstory we get to Tania in this one. It was also fun to see Heather with the tweens, as they’re… not college students.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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23. Virtuosity

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Only a teenager, Carmen is the world’s best violinist. She’s a grammy winner and has toured all over the world. Now is the pinnacle of her career the prestigious Guarani competition. Only the only other person who could give her a run for her money is her age, British, and very, very cute.

I loved Carmen and the dark side of her success--her lack of friends, the performance anxiety, and over-bearing mother. I also really liked the relationship between her and Jeremy and the angst of the competition.

But, I never fully understood/believed the importance of the competition to Carmen’s career. The winner gets to play the Guarani violin for 4 years, but Carmen already plays a Stradivarius. She gets money that she doesn’t need and a world tour. Carmen claims she wants to win because of the concert and tour opportunities but… Carmen’s already been on world tour multiple times. I didn’t buy that she needed them that badly. And without believing in the need to win, Carmen’s laser focus and determination and fear don’t make as much sense.

I was also a little disappointed in the action that led to the big dramatic showdown-- I don’t think it was necessary. I think it could have been a stronger title if it was a little more subtle and didn’t go for a big over-the-top ending.

Finally, please, can we stop with the prologues that give away major sections of the climax? Sure, how it was set up was slightly misleading but… but… but… I’m over it. It also lessened the impact of what happened when it happened-- maybe I would have been more into the final conflict if I hadn’t already been told what was going to happen to resolve it?

BUT, despite these issues, I did enjoy it. Like I said, I loved Carmen. I loved the focus on the music and how Carmen wasn’t enjoying playing any more. I loved Martinez’s descriptions of Chicago. They were subtle, but enough that I knew that she really knows the city. Overall, it’s an interesting, slightly darker YA read-alike to one of my all time favorites, The Mozart Season (also about a violin competition.)


Book Provided by... my local library

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24. Interview with Cindy Callaghan

Earlier today, I reviewed Lost in London by Cindy Callaghan, as part of her blog tour.

Now that we've had time to have our tea, she's stopped by for an interview!

Jordan visits a lot of London's famous sites, as well as some places where students just like to hang out. What's your favorite place in London?

I love love love the Tower of London. It is historic and spooky and beautiful all at the same time.

Jordan is on a mission to de-borify her life. What's the craziest thing you've ever done to de-borify yours?

Let's see... there was leaving NJ to go to college in LA. A streak of wild concerts. Then nothing de-bored-i-fying for a lot of years. More recently, there was Cindy's Adventures in ZipLining.

Jordan's first night in London, she gets locked inside the worlds biggest and best department store, one that is, sadly, fictional. Where would you like to be accidentally locked in overnight?

Haunted mansion! The bigger and scarier the better!! I love spooky.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were Jordan's age, what would you say?

It's all going to be fine. Tween and teen years can be long and tough, but you'll come out the other end one strong and fab chick!


You're the author of 3 books, all for tweens. Why do you write for this age group?

Maybe because I am surrounded by inspiration. Maybe because my voice lends itself to that age group.

Tweens are often misunderstood by adults--what's something you wish that adults understood about them?

The things that they think are a big deal are A REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL to them. We have to accept that.

What's one place in the world that you haven't visited, but really want to?

Italy! And Hogwarts.

What are you currently reading?

Hidden Order, Brad Thor

What are you currently watching?

Nashville

What are you currently listening to?

Seriously Sinatra!

Thanks for stopping by Cindy!

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. Lost in London

Lost in London Cindy Callaghan

Jordan Jacoby has a boring life in a boring town. She lives next door to her school--and her father works there. She wants to try something new, so her parents let her go on a school trip* to London, where she’ll be staying with her mother’s old sorority sister, who has a step-daughter Jordan’s age.

Only once she gets there she finds that Caroline and her friends are much richer and cooler and mature than Jordan. And Caroline really doesn’t want much to do with Jordan, especially if it means hanging out at tourist sites instead of shopping.

But then Caroline and Jordan get locked into Daphne’s overnight (think Harrods, but bigger. And cooler, as if that were possible!) The same night there’s a major break in. Now they’re being blackmailed, unless Jordan can stop it-- and win over Caroline in the process.

There are some Brit-picky things about this, but once I got over myself, this was an enjoyable middle-grade/tween caper. I appreciated that although Caroline was snotty and spoiled, she wasn’t vicious or overly poorly behaved. Her friends are nice, and each have their own personalities. I really liked Jordan. Even though she was pretty out of her depth, she kept her head for the most part, and stood up for what was right. This is one I really would have loved when I was 10.

Check back later today for an interview with Ms. Callaghan!

*It’s a school trip in that she has to do a project, but she seems to the only one going and she and her parents organize everything.


Book Provided by... the publicist, for a blog tour post

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