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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. Library Wars: Love and War



Library Wars: Love & War Kiiro Yumi, original concept Hiro Arikawa, translated from the Japanese by John Werry

This is a mega-review of vol. 1-13 (aka, the ones that are currently available in English)


The Library Freedom Act

Libraries have the freedom to acquire their collections.

Libraries have the freedom to circulate materials in their collections.

Libraries guarantee the privacy of their patrons.

Libraries oppose any type of censorship.

When libraries are imperiled, librarians will join together to secure their freedom.

In the not-to-distant future, Japan passes the "Media Betterment Act" which censors objectionable material. Librarians are against censorship and will fight to keep their collections free and available. Literally fight. Like, they made an army. To fight against the federal censors(and their army).

AND YOU WONDER WHY I LOVE THIS?!

I devoured this series. Like, read all of them in a week, often staying up way past bedtime because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I love the overall concept. Plus, not only is about people fighting to protect access to materials (with their literal lives!), but it's a shoju manga, so SO MUCH SEXUAL TENSION.

Our main character, Iku Kasahara wants to join the Library Defense Force to be like her "prince"-- a member who saved a book she wanted to buy from censorship. She has passion, but not a lot of skill and is driven hard by her Sargent Dojo (who, um, OBVIOUSLY is her "prince.") She eventually becomes the first woman on a super elite squad that has to both be an army fighter, but also an actual librarian. But, over the run of the series, this is far from the only relationship we see (I won't say my favorite, because it develops pretty late and is a bit of a spoiler.)

I love the politics and maneuvering the library forces do. I like the plotline where Kasahara's parents don't know what she does because she knows they won't approve. I love love love Kasahara's roommate, Asako Shibazaki. She's very beautiful and a bit aloof and a lot of people read her as shallow, but she has a lot going on beneath the surface. She's a librarian with some serious hidden talents. I love the way her character develops. (In fact, she might be my favorite character.)

I like that there are cultural end notes to explain things, and several bonus mangas at the end of most volumes to fill in some quiet moments.

The over-the-top melodrama of some of the relationship stuff gets old, but I'm starting to recognize that it's standard for a lot of shoju manga.

Overall though, I LOVE THIS SERIES and am trying to force all my coworkers to read it. (LIBRARIES BUILT AN ARMY TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF ACCESS FROM GOVERNMENT CENSORS. DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE.)

If I understand Wikipedia correctly, there are 15 total volumes in this series. 13 are out in English now, and the 14th comes out in October. Based on past publication schedules, I'm guessing the 15th will be out next April. My one regret? This is based on a novel series and the source material doesn't seem to be available in English.

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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2. Meg Cabot's Royalty



Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Wahoo! Princess Mia is back! It's a few years post-college and she's trying to juggle the antics of her grandmother and father, her charity work, and her royal commitments. Sadness though! Mr. Gianni (the math teacher her mom started dating in the first book) died a little bit before this book takes place. :(

The big press speculation is why hasn't Michael proposed yet, but hey! as you can probably guess by the title, he does! And then they have to deal with the headache of letting Grandmere anywhere near the wedding plans.

More complicating factors:

1. Her dad was arrested for driving his new race car (at race car speeds) down the highway
2. Her dad is going to lose the election for Prime Minister
3. Her dad has another child, who's been living out in Jersey that no one knew about.

Plus, Mia's usual insanity.

Honestly, if you like the Cabot, especially The Princess Diaries this is a good one to pick up. I love seeing Mia as an adult--she has really grown and matured while still being Mia and I'm excited that the new middle grade series will let us see where her life goes!

Speaking of the Middle Grade series, even if you don't read the rest of the series, I recommend reading From the Notebooks along with this book. There is MAJOR plot overlap, but it's from two different sides. I love the scenes where Mia is thinking "OMG, I've ruined this girl's life" and Olivia is thinking "OMG! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!"

Olivia's track is also going to be very different than Mia's (how/why is a major spoiler so just trust me on this one) so I'm excited for the series in general.

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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3. What I've Read Lately: Harlequin Presents




This week, I'm super excited to be on The Worst Bestsellers talking about The Greek Tycoon's Blackmailed Mistress by Lynne Graham. (Spoiler Alert: I didn't like it.) In preparation for the episode, I read a lot of Harlequin Presents titles, and a I really did like most of them (heightening my dismay with a certain Greek Tycoon.) I will definitely be reading more and also highly recommend this Pictorial Jezebel article on the history of Harlequin.

Ruthless Billionaire, Forbidden Baby Emma Darcy

This was great. Tamalyn is a midwife and meets Fletcher at a college friend's wedding (he's her brother). They're both in the wedding party and have to walk together. They then meet up again at another wedding and hook up. Fletcher is a young hot tech billionaire and when he's in town, he and Tamalyn get together. And then she gets pregnant. He insists they marry, because if their kid is a child prodigy like him, he wants what he never had--someone around who understands how alienating it can be. She rolls with it and they get along but they aren't in love. Until they are.

I liked this one because the conflict wasn't avoidable--it was more just learning how to mesh personalities and be a team. The marriage of convenience didn't come with any stipulations and Fletcher was an alpha, but not an asshat.

Pretender to the Throne Maisey Yates

Loved this one. (And I realized it was in a series, and bought the rest of the series so I could read it because I wanted mooooooooooooooooooore.) It's time for Xander, the playboy prince, to return home and lead his country. He really doesn't want to for REASONS. (I'm not sure if they're spoilery reasons, of if it was a bit of a mystery because I was coming in at book 3 of a series. Anyway, they're legit reasons.) But he does, and the first thing he does is find Layna, his ex-fiance. He needs her help if he's going to make this work. However, she's been living at a convent, because after he left, she was horribly disfigured in an acid attack and has hidden away ever since, and other REASONS.

So, I loved this one because they treated their engagement and relationship very much like a partnership for the good of the country, with the hopes of maybe turning into something real. They both knew what they were getting into and there weren't illusions. I also really liked them as characters--they both have a lot of heavy stuff in their past that's weighing them down (there are a lot of repercussions to the acid attack, and the event that made Xander leave in the first place had a lot of lasting impact on the kingdom in general). I really like that they both need each other in order to work through they're issues--it's a very equal relationship in that they're both healing each other, which was nice. I also love the fact that Xander's self-aware enough to know when he's being an ass. Sometimes he doesn't care, but he still realizes he's doing it. Really excited to read the others in the series.

Secrets of a Bollywood Marriage Susanna Carr.

Tina and Dev's marriage was a big deal in Bollywood, but Tina's been away for several months and now she's back, asking for divorce. Dev needs to present a stable home life, so if she acts like they're still an item for 2 months (which, because the servants will talk, involves sharing a bed, but nothing has to happen in the bed) he'll give her the divorce and minimize the scandal.

Overall, I loved this one. I loved that it looks at the pain of miscarriage and how it really hurt their relationship. I love how Tina wasn't ashamed of seeking the mental health help she needed. I liked the look at the workings of Bollywood film industry and how Tina wasn't afraid to demand what she wanted and needed. Dev makes a few missteps (including a big lie I'm not keen on, even if the plot hinges on it) but overall, yes, I really liked this one a lot.

A Prize Beyond Jewels Carole Mortimer.

This one I didn't like as much. Rafe is a gallery owner playboy who never has any problems with the ladies, so why is Nina always resisting him? Nina's father is super over-protective so what little she does give Rafe is a major rebellion.

Part of the reason I didn't like this as much is writing quality-- it's really repetitive, so I kept thinking I was reading the same page over and over, even though I wasn't. Rafe often crosses into asshat territory and while Nina had some real meat to her character, Rafe just didn't. Also, so much of Nina's reluctance stems on THE GREAT FAMILY MYSTERY (instead of Rafe's asshattyness) and then it's all revealed in this big rush and eh. It just didn't work for me.



All 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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4. So many books to read...

Alas and alack, my time on the collection development committee is done. So here's the last round-up of books I'm looking forward to. It's this month's and last, so it's HUGE, but makes for a most awesome summer reading list!!!



Dietland by Sarai Walker. Plum wants weight loss surgery, but while waiting, she ends up joining "an underground community of women and agrees to a series of challenges including work with a group that stages anti-misogyny terrorist acts." Pubs May 26

Girl at War by Sara Novic. A college student in Manhattan has to make sense of her childhood, when she lived through the horrors of the Croatian civil war. Pubs on May 16.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. Inspired by Scottish folklore, an exiled shoreside burial coordinator and a floating circus performer deal with an offshore storm. INSPIRED BY SCOTTISH FOLKLORE. Pubs May 19



The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. Imogen must battle her 20-something tech saavy assistant, who's trying to take over Imogen's fashion magazine. It's supposedly wickedly funny. Pubs on May 19

Re Jane by Patricia Park. In this retelling of Jane Eyre (really, do you need to know more than that?) Jane Re is a half-Korean, half-white orphan who travels to Seoul in search of her roots. Can't wait to see how they handle Bertha. Pubs on May 5.

Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham. A love story told in email and other online communication, complete with commentary from friends. I love digital epistolary. Out now.



War of the Encyclopaedists by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite. Speaking of digital epistolary! Two friends, on deployed in Iraq, keep in touch through wikipedia edits. Pubs May 19

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader. In 13th century England, a woman decides to become an anchoress, only to find it's not the escape she thought. I'm very intrigued by anchoresses, so yes please. Pubs May 12.

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard. Aron and his friends find ways to smuggle things and out of the Warsaw ghetto to help their friends and families survive. Pubs May 12.



The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison. Harrison hosts The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Everything I know about this book makes it a beautiful trainwreck that I can't wait for. Pubs May 19.

Queen of Flowers and Pearls by Gabriella Ghermandi. In the 80s, a young girl hears family stories of Italy's occupation of Ethiopia and and Ethiopian resistance. She is then drawn to other people's stories of that time, especially as she moves to Italy and has to come to terms with what it means to be Ethiopian in Ethiopia, and what it means to be a foreigner when abroad. Soooooo much catnip in this one. Out now.

The Figaro Murders by Laura Lebow. A historical fiction mystery about opera?! Say no more. Out now.



The Cherokee Rose by Tiya Miles. A story about a Cherokee plantation and missionaries and how three women today discover that the family past they thought they knew doesn't even begin to tell the full story. Out now.

Barefoot Dogs by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho. A novel told in linked short stories about a large Mexican that scatters when its patriarch is kidnapped. Out now.

Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. A novella and short stories that take place in a mythical China? Oh yes. Shortlisted for the BSFA. Out now.



Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. Because here's what Kirkus said "A powerful novel of hard men in hard country reminiscent of Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall." Comparing it to my teen self's favorite movie is a sure way to perk my interest. Plus, it's written by a Native author. Pubs May 12.

The Four Books by Lianke Yan. I loved Yan's Serve the People and will of course be picking up his latest, about life in a Mao re-education camp. Out now.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. A book-seller runs a floating bookshop on the Seine, healing his customers through books, but can he heal himself? Pubs June 23.



My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. First of all, that's an awesome title. A young girl is left a series of letters by her grandmother that show her the reality behind her grandmother's bedtime stories. Pubs June 16.

The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna. German POWs in WWII are put to work in a Wisconsin farm community. I like books in my home state! Pubs June 2.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. IT'S BY JUDY BLUME! JUDY BLUME! JUDY BLUME! THIS IS NOT A DRILL, ALL HANDS ON DECK, JUDY BLUME!!!! Pubs June 2.



Wars of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou by Conn Iggulden. Historical fiction about the War of the Roses! Second in a series, I'll have to start with Wars of the Roses: Stormbird. Pubs June 16.

The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Deborah Bertherat-Levy. Helene's great-uncle writes a very popular series of YA mysteries, but it's his story, adopted by Helene's family to escape the Holocaust, that holds the real mysteries. Pubs May 26.

The Queen's Caprice: Stories by Jean Echenoz. Mostly because the prose is supposed to be gorgeous and the translation phenomenal. Out now.



The Hanged Man by P. N. Elrod. Paranormal Victorian mystery that explore gender and class issues? GIMME. Pubs May 19.

Backlands by Victoria Shorr. A novel based on the lives of real-life Brazilian folk heroes Lampiao and Maria Bonita. Compared to Bonnie-and-Clyde, with a band of fellow outlaws they try to gain control of the Brazilian outback. Out now.


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. What's Next?

I'm a bit behind on blogging about all the books I put stars next to when I'm doing collection development work. They're the books I want to read myself.



Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway. It's a novel that explores the relationships between adult sisters and aging parents while weaving in the (true!) story of a female samurai. It pubbed last week.


She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha. 3 stories (that I assume bump and touch against each other) in today's New Delhi in a style that Booklist compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism. Out now.

Black Diamond by Zakes Mda. A biting social commentary that examines race, gender, and class in contemporary South Africa, in a package with an enjoyable plot? Yes please! Out now.




God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. Um, it's by TONI MORRISON. Pubs on April 21.

Prudence by Gail Carriger. A new series about Alexia and Conall's daughter? That takes place in India? It's out now, and my hold just came in on it. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, start with Soulless.

All Involved by Ryan Gattis. Gangs use the 92 LA Riots as chaotic cover to settle old scores. Intriguing. It pubbed last week.



Diamond Head by Cecily Wong. Family secrets. Multi-generational saga. Wealthy shipping family in China and Hawaii. 3 catnips, 1 book. Out on the 14th.

Madam President by Nicolle Wallace. Awful cover aside, it's about what happens when major terrorist attacks happen while a crew is filming a day-in-the-life thing on the President. I'm hoping it's like the Access episode of West Wing, but cooler. Plus, it's by a former White House communications director. Pubs on April 28.

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick. It's a romance that involves solving a murder among the wealthy elite. Nice. Pubs on the 21st.




Perfect Match by Fern Michaels. A former NFL player takes over a matchmaking business? I assume hijinks and smooching ensue. Out on April 28th.

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane. In 1937, Andorra stars in a biopic about Anna, who lived 100 years before. Both are giants, but led very different lives. Pubs on the 14th.

Meadowlands: A World War I family saga by Elizabeth Jeffrey. Aristocracy in WWI. Pubbed at the beginning of the month.



The Jazz Palace by Mary Morris. Jews and mobsters in Jazz Age Chicago. And all the catnip! Out now.

Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian. A PEN finalist and debut about the Armenian genocide and family secrets. Out now.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. A Viet Cong agent in LA int he 70s spies on refugees. I love stories that explore how wars never really end. Out now.



What's new or coming out this month that you can't wait for?

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. Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Palisade is a prosperous commerce town with several marauding gangs that keep the bad things away. Only, when the gangs get drunk, they have a habit of trashing the town. After a town meeting of angry merchants, the gangs are each given a minor quest to keep them out of jail--only the tasks are all set-ups and not all them survive.

The Rat Queens are one of the gangs--4 women--Betty's a Smidgen who likes candy and drugs, Hannah grew up in a squid worshiping cult and might be a goddess, Hannah's a bitter necromancer, and Violet just wants some blood on her sword. They fight, they drink, they party and hook up, and lovingly send up or subvert a lot of fantasy tropes. And they try to figure out who set them up and why.

Lots of wise-cracks, magic spells, and sword play, and a hell of a lot of fun. So much fun. I love these women and want to party with them and watch them kick a lot more ass.

The saddest thing about this is that a lot of the press and reviews are like “YAY! GIRLS!” (including several of the blurbs on the back of the omnibus, and bonus points for how they’re drawn) and given the state of the comic industry, yes, YAY! GIRLS! It’s an exciting breakthrough, but this isn’t a token volume and I fear it will become “oh, that girl comic” and it’s more than that. Read this book because it’s girls being awesome, but really, read this book because it’s just fucking awesome.

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. Rockin' the Boat

Rockin' the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries - From Joan of Arc to Malcom X Jeff Fleischer

Woo-hoo! I'm back on Zest's Rockin' Blog Tour.

Much like Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed! this new offering by Zest is a little more text-y than previous similar titles, and is a more YA-friendly trim size.

In this one, Fleischer looks at 50 iconic revolutionaries (in case you couldn't figure that out from the subtitle) with a brief introduction to their life, any context you need to know about what they were rebelling against, and what their revolution was. Most also have a pull-out box or two about the lasting legacy of their rebellion or how history and/or pop culture has changed their story (such as the real story of William Wallace vs. Braveheart)

Arranged in chronological order, the first part is pretty heavy on the anti-Romans (Hannibal! Boudica! Cleopatra!) Sam Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson are here, as are Metacom, Tecumseh, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, and Liliukalani. Other Americans include Daniel Shays, John Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emma Goldman, Cesar Chavez, Malcom X and Marting Luter King, Jr. (If I counted correctly, 19 are Americans or were rebelling against something in the US, or doing it in what would become the US.)

It's not all white guys, and it's not all winners, which is a serious win. I also like while they are all certainly political revolutionaries, it's a nice blend between reformers and those who went to war. I would have liked to see more outside of the Americas and Europe, especially some less-known names. I mean some of these Americans are a bit obscure (Mary Harris Jones), and some of the early European ones definitely are (Vercingetroix, Arminus, Owain Glyndwr) but most of the ones south of the US aren't (Che, Castro, Simon Bolivar, Pancho Villa) And the ones that are further afield are pretty well known (Mao Zedong, Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Ataturk, Nelson Mandela). The one exception is New Zealand, where we get Hone Heke and Kate Sheppard.

It's a great introduction to some serious empire building and tearing down (as much as there is a lot of focus on the anti-Romans--8 out of 50, it also really shows the sweep of the Roman Empire, as well as its definite limits.) As well as major political movements, which still very much shape our world today.

While it's an easy one to dip in and out of, I recommend reading it in order, as many of the revolutions build on each other, or reference each other, so the context from a previous chapter is often useful, which is why the chronological order works so well here. Everything's only 3-5 pages, but it covers enough so people know what went down and why. IT's also short enough you think "oh, I can read just one more" and then you end up finishing the book in one session. (NOT THAT DID THAT. *whistles while looking innocent*) This is a great one for a wide range of readers and I really really really wish it had been around in 2012 when the National History Day theme was "Revolution, Reaction, and Reform". So many teens didn't know where to even start picking one-- I would have loved to be able to have them leaf through this book for inspiration!

Another fun and engaging, but still wildly informative, one from Zest.



Book Provided by... Zest, for blog tour inclusion

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. Cybils Scarf Knitting

As you know, I was a second-round Cybils judge this year in YA Nonfiction. To help me prepare, and to have fun arm-chairing the first-round panelists, I read several of the nominations when the first-round was reading them, too.

And, while I was reading, I knit a scarf.




It is warm and cozy and can also be worn as a loose hood to keep my ears warm while not messing up my hair.

It also can cover large portions of my face when the weather requires!





The pattern isn't 100% exact, but if you want to knit one too, here's the general recipe. The actual knitting is pretty easy, but you have to be able to do it while reading. (Knitting while reading is my superpower. It got me through college--the knitting kept me awake while reading boring articles, and if that wasn't enough, I could randomly stab myself with a needle to help me perk up.)

Gather a few colors of yarn in a similar weight.
For this scarf, I used a KnitPicks lace sampler that had been sitting in my stash forever. It's a mix of their various lace-weight yarns, a total of 5 colors.

Find a gauge that gives a nice drape, but is tight enough to still be warm
For me, that was 5 stitches/inch on a size 3 needle.

Cast on 60 inches worth of stitches
So... 300 for me. BUT I did not take into account that, when worn, the weight would stretch it, so it's a lot longer than I intended, so I can loop it 3 times instead of 2.

Join round, being careful not to twist stitches, mark beginning of round
I totally twisted my stitches. :(

Knit in the round while reading your first book
Yes, you have to read and knit at the same time.

When you finish your book, break yarn, join next color
Don't worry about finishing the round. I used a split splice so I wouldn't have to weave in any ends. As you're striping, you can't really tell where the yarns overlap in the finished project.

Purl in the round (reverse stockinette stitch) in the round while reading your next book

Repeat in this way until you've read all your books or are running out of yarn.
I ran out of yarn. Some books were read more than once (especially on the short list) so they have multiple stripes.

Finish final round, bind off in pattern

Lightly steam block
One of the things that makes it so cozy is that the changing between stockinette and reverse stockinette make it bunch up, so it's even more extra warm!


Here's a close up of my striping pattern:



One stripe is not a full round long. Nonfiction lends itself to this, as the books tend to be a size where they stay open nicely on their own. A stapler across the top of the pages also works well to hold it open. If you're working with longer books, you can also switch every chapter or reading/knitting session. I kinda want to do one that is smaller (so it'll just be a cowl, no looping) in shades of dark gray/black with the stories in one of the City Noir books.

Also, just to brag, here's the vintage WWI poster you can see in the edge of the frame:




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. What I've Been Reading: City Noir

Istanbul Noir edited by Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler

Ok, do you all know about Akashic Books City Noir series? So far there are sixty-nine titles (I think I counted that correctly)-- each is an anthology of noir short stories, taking place in a specific location, with the stories written by authors who are from there or live there, or write about the city a lot. Many of the volumes are international--if I counted correctly, 24 of the currently-out titles are international, with locations ranging from Paris to Manila, Kingston to St. Petersburg, Tehran to Copenhagen. (There are also 3 titles coming out this summer-- Providence, Beirut, and Marseille-- and another 21 that have been announced. Of the 24 that aren't out yet, 16 are international.)

I love this series so hard. It's the best of armchair travel, because you're going into neighborhoods and situations you don't usually get (because, well, noir). As the authors are mostly local, or write like a local, the city is the setting, and it's a character that links the stories, but there's no expositional tour guide voice that can run through books that take place in a location the readership might not know very well. There's just the city and culture in the background and part of the story, which in a way is more enlightening. Between all the stories, you usually get a wide range of neighborhoods, people, and economic status--and not a lot of the touristy stuff we usually see. While the concept itself is diverse, there's also tremendous diversity within each volume. Also, with the international ones, you get to read a lot of authors that haven't published in English before, or that you might not otherwise have come across.

So, as much as I read and love this series, I haven't reviewed it yet because, well, Istanbul Noir is the only one I've actually finished. Not because the others aren't good, but they're short stories! So I tend to dip in and out of the collections, and then they're due back at the library, and so I'll return it and pick up a new city. I've found short stories are the best bus reading, because that's usually how long I have. I haven't really gotten into short stories before, but I think my friend and co-worker Megan put a finger on it when she explained why she doesn't like them--they're too short for her to really connect to and like a character. That's the best part about noir--you're not really supposed to like most of these people.

So! If you're looking for some great short stories by authors you may not know, or want a new look at a city you love, or a very different introduction to one you've never been to, this series is for you.

Also, what cities do you wish they covered? Personally, I'm crossing my fingers for Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong (and maybe a separate Kowloon volume, like they split up the boroughs of New York City?), Cape Town, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Karachi.


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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10. Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults--Exposed

I'm super excited that Zest asked me to be part of their Rockin' Blog Tour and let me have 2 dates and 2 books to talk about! As frequent readers, and anyone who's heard me present about nonfiction knows, I love Zest's work.

Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed! Julie Tibbott

So, I was expecting this to be along the lines of previous Zest titles such as Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends), Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes-From Cleopatra to Camus, and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late, but about secret societies and shady groups.

In essence, it is, but it's a little more text-y and has a different trim size-- 9 by 6 inches instead of 6 inches square. I'm a big fan of YA nonfiction having a more standard trim size, so YAY for trim size.

Tibbott introduces us to 22 different secret or exclusive groups, giving their history, what they do, and what's secret about them (if anything). (And here's where I mean it's a bit more texty--it's slightly longer, but covers fewer things than the previous books, with bigger pages. Also, the design has fewer pull-out boxes.) It's a great introduction to groups--some of which teens will have heard of, some of which they'll probably hear of at some point, and some of which they may never come across again.

The format is a great one for browsing, or just dipping in and out of. They're arranged in alphabetical order, which makes for a few jarring transitions-- Branch Davidians go to Club 33 (a super exclusive dining room club at Disneyland) or the Society for Creative Anachronism leading into the Symbionese Liberation Army (which also just gives a good sense of the wide range of groups covered.) After each group, there's also a few pages of further information--usually a brief introduction to several other similar groups, or an interview with someone involved in the group (including a young Freemason.) I also appreciate that, when appropriate, she offers hotlines and other places for help if you or someone you know is effected by a similar group or related issues (such as hazing or cult membership.)

Now, I'm an educated adult, so I knew about several of the groups (Skull and Bones, Freemasons, Know-Nothings, SCA, SLA) and there were more that I had heard of, but didn't know a lot about (La Santa Muerte--Shapeshifted now makes more sense--Thuggees, The Hellfire Club) and some I had never heard of before (The Bilderberg Group, Club 33, The Machine). So, something for everyone.

Like Zest's other titles, it's a great introduction to some really big movements or ideas, done in a way that will appeal to a wide range of readers. It's a perfect book for extremely reluctant readers, and your more hardcore readers will also love it--and then come back wanting to know more about certain groups.

Also, bonus for Arrested Development fans-- The Magic Castle is covered, which gives some great background to Gob and the Gothic Castle and Magician's Alliance. So we all have "Final Countdown" in our heads now, right? Good.

Come back on Friday for my review of Rockin' the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries - From Joan of Arc to Malcom X and in the meantime, check out the rest of the tour.


Book Provided by... the publisher, for Blog Tour inclusion.

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11. We Need Diverse Books

Every year, the Cooperative Children's Book Center tracks how many books are by, or about, people of color. They just released the numbers for 2014.

It's not pretty.

For some context--they estimate 5000 books for kids and teens were pubbed. They looked at 3500 of them. I took the number of books about an ethnic group and divided it by 3500 to get the percentage. I then did the number of books by an ethnic group and did the same thing. (CCBC breaks it out into two numbers--how many are about that ethnic group, and how many do not contain significant cultural content of that group. I added those two numbers together to get a total.)

I then graphed those percentages against the percentage of the US population of the same ethnic group. (Source: 2013 Census Bureau info) (I added the numbers for Asian and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander to get a number to compare to CCBC's Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American)

Ideally, all of these percentages should be equal.

They're not:



We can certainly do better than this.



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12. Coming Soon (and I can't wait)

Looking through the upcoming hardcover adult fiction lists for work, here are some books that caught my eye:



Paris Red: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon. A novel exploring Olympia--the model the posed for it, the painter who painted it, and how it changed everything in their lives. Pubs April 20

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel by CW Gortner. A fictionalized biography of Coco Chanel. I've recently made my peace with fictionalized biographies (they're literary biopics!) and they're a fun way to read more about someone I wouldn't necessarily read an actual biography of. Pubs March 17

The Scapegoat: A Novel by Sophia Nikolaidou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich. Based on a true story, a school student is assigned the task of finding the truth in the murder of an American journalist in Greece in 1948. The killer was found, but after serving his time, claims his innocence. Out now



Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley: Novellas and Stories by Ann Pancake. I've been getting into short stories lately and these take place in rural Appalachia--a place that is so geographically close to me, but is a whole different world. Out now.

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab. Library Journal gave it a star and this part of a sentence is what sold me "the three Londons we see (and rumors of the one we do not)..." Pubs February 24

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A Novel by Judd Trichter. Eliot fell in love with an android, and she's been kidnapped and sold off for spare parts. Now he has to buy up the parts, reassemble her, and then hunt down the people who did this to her. Out now.




Bones & All: A Novel by Camille DeAngelis. Kirkus said this coming-of-age story about a ghoul who keeps eating people read like a cheesy episode of Buffy. Like that was a BAD thing. Pubs March 10.

The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel by Daniel Torday. Eli idolizes his uncle Poxl--debonair fighter pilot and WWII hero, but as Eli learns more, he realizes that there is a darker side to Poxl's life and the legend he's built up for himself. Pubs March 17.

A Love Like Blood: A Novel by Marcus Sedgwick. Um, Marcus Sedgwick wrote an adult book. The only other thing you need to know is that is it's out now.



The Prince: A Novel by Vito Bruschini, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. The most promising of a handful of mob books on this month's lists. This one covers the true story of how mafia began in Italy, Irish and Italian gang turf wars in New York, and WWII. Pubs March 10

A Dangerous Place: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear. New! Maisie! Dobbs! Pubs March 17.

The Devil's Detective: A Novel by Simon Kurt Unsworth. A detective novel about a serial killer--but it takes place in Hell. Intriguing. Pubs March 12.



The Mouth of the Crocodile: A Mamur Zapt mystery set in pre-World War I Egypt by Michael Pearce. It's the subtitle that got me--pre-WWI Egypt. This is the 18th in a series I'm unfamiliar with, so I'll have to start at the beginning with The Mamur Zapt & the Return of the Carpet). This new one pubs on March 1.

Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller by Kathy Lynn Emerson. Ladies in waiting that double as spies? Elizabethan England and the Russians are involved? Please download this into my brain ASAP. Pubs March 1.

Duet in Beirut: A Thriller by Mishkla Ben-David, translated from the Hebrew by Evan Fallenberg. A spy thriller written by a former Mossad agent. Ben-David's a best seller in Israel and this is his first novel translated into English. Pubs on April 14.



Leaving Berlin: A Novel by Joseph Kanon. Alex fled the Nazis for America, but in the McCarthy era, his pre-war activities mark him for deportation. He strikes a deal with the CIA--he'll return to Berlin, as their agent, and earn his way back to the US. But the CIA wants him to spy on those it was hardest to leave the first time. Pubs on March 3.


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13. Diversity Wins at the Youth Media Awards

ALA's Youth Media Awards are always an exciting day for those who love youth literature. This is when the big prizes (Newbery! Caldecott! Printz! more!) are announced.

There are several specialized awards, such as the Coretta Scott King awards for books by African-Americans about the African-American Experience, and there has been some worry that these awards "ghetto-ize" books by diverse authors. While committees can't explicitly take it into consideration, are books by diverse authors unintentionally overlooked for the bog awards because oh, they'll just win the other one, that's "for them"?

Not today. Not today. Not today. It was SO EXCITING to see overlap between the awards and see so much diversity recognized and celebrated. Let's hope this isn't a one-year change, but long-term one.

Here are some of the diverse titles awarded today Caveats: I'm only listing books where diversity wasn't a criteria, so I'm not listing winners of the Schneider Family Award, Coretta Scott King awards, Pura Bel Pre, Stonewall, or Batchelder because listing all of them inflates the numbers. Many of the books listed also won these awards though, because they're awesome books. I may have also missed a few titles.



The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson



Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by Tim O'Meara

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson



Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Howell, illustrated by Christian Robinson

H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers, narrated by Dion Graham and Christopher Myers (yes, I know this links to the book. It won for audio, but Amazon doesn't seem to carry it)

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! written and narrated by Tim Federle



Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen




Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Bingo's Run: A Novel by James A Levine



Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng

The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles

AND! In addition to the books, the 3 authors honored were... Donald Crews, Sharon M. Draper, and Pat Mora.

It's an awesome list, no?


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14. 2014 in Review

Well, it's a new year, so of course it's time to look back on the year that was. I hate doing my "best of" lists or my stats before the clock strikes midnight because I CAN STILL TOTALLY READ MOAR BOOKS!

But first, a look back and the highlights of this year (I'll save the lowlights for when we're sharing a bottle of wine face-to-face).

At the beginning of the year I finished up my work on Outstanding Books for the College Bound. Almost a full year later and I'm still really damn proud of that list.

Shortly after, I was able to drop the "Acting" from my job title of Acting Branch Manager. I also joined the adult collection development committee, which has been really great.

In May, I did my last storytime. I'm sure I'll do it again, maybe if it's just filling in, but it is no longer part of my regular job duties, and probably won't be again for quite some time. It's been bittersweet. (BUT! This fall, with the new storytime schedule, and me working a slightly different work schedule, there is now a storytime that I can take L to! So now I get to go to storytime, which is great.)

In June, I transferred to a much larger branch in my system, which was a big change, but one I'm really enjoying. After about a week there, I went off to Las Vegas for ALA. Angela and I got to present on tips and tricks for reader's advisory with nonfiction and I got to hang out with old friends and make new ones. We took the most epic group selfie to make Rachel jealous. But I got her twitter handle wrong when mocking her with it. And then, in the airport on the way home, I won $40 in the Dolly Parton slot machine.

In August, I started a tumblr documenting my attempts to explain pop songs to L. L now has more tumblr followers than I have on all my other social media accounts combined. And then multiplied.

This fall, I was asked to give my ALA presentation again at a staff day in a nearby library system, which was really nice. And now I'm working on updating it (highlighting new books) because I'm giving it again this May at the Maryland and Delaware Library Association Annual Conference, which is very exciting.

I also started a new project on the website, suggesting read-alikes for the books with the longest holds lists. That's been a really fun challenge that I (hope) is something our users are finding useful.

And, of course, I read a lot. After 2 years on YALSA committees, this was a bit of a recovery year. I read a lot less. I've also found I'm much more willing to drop a book part-way through if it's just not working for me at that moment. And, now that I'm no longer officially a youth services librarian and am doing more with adult collections, I read a lot more adult titles, which is a really big shift.

So... I read 147 books. 58 were YA, 7 were middle grade (?!) and a whopping 79 were adult. (yes, I know that math doesn't quite work.)

77 were by women, 67 were by men. 37 were titles I would consider diverse. 20 were translated works. 57 were comics and 11 were adult romances. 37 were nonfiction, which is a low percentage for me especially as many were 'required' but it makes sense after 2 years of nonfiction-heavy years because of my committee work. And only 43 books were required reading (so, for committee work [last minute OBCB reading and my pre-Cybils reading] and assigned reviews).

So... that's my year. Next year, I want to read more diverse titles and more works in translation and more romance.

How was your year? Oh, and here are some of my favorite books of the year:









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15. Cybils books about Trans* people

Leelah Alcorn was a trans* teen who commited suicide this weekend. Her parents wouldn't accept her, her friends, either. She was alone with no support, and she killed herself. Her mother then posted on Facebook about how her son had been hit by a truck, implying it was a horrific accident. There is a beautiful hashtag right now, #RealLiveTransAdult to let trans* teens know that there is hope.

Four books about trans* people were nominated in the Cybils YA Nonfiction category this year. 4. That's tied with perennial favorite subjects of the Civil Rights Movement and WWII. I've read them and had reviews written on each of them, picking apart their merits and weaknesses, judging how they may or may not be award worthy. Some obviously compare against others, pitting themselves against each other in my judge-y reader's brain.

You know what? In light of this? Fuck that. I just can't pick them apart when the importance that they even exist is so painfully obvious today. None of them have fundamental flaws, they are all worthy of recommendation, and here they are:


Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition Katie Rain Hill. A college student when she wrote this, Katie tells her story of growing up in a body that didn't feel right--the body of a boy. She tells of her depression and pain and the sheer relief of discovering that transgender was a thing--there was a word for what she was and she wasn't alone. She details the process of coming out and transitioning, the support of her mother and the bullying at school, her advocacy work in Oklahoma, and starting college. A wonderful memoir.





Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen Arin Andrews. A high school senior, this is also a memoir of a trans* teen, detailing his life growing up, his depression and his problems at his very conservative Christian school, as well as coming out and transitioning. There is also the real heartbreak of falling in love and a painful breakup after his girlfriend goes to college. This one has a little more medical information than Rethinking Normal

I would read these two as a set, as Arin and Katie are both from the Tulsa area and had some very similar, and some very different experiences. They also used to date and their relationship (and messy breakup) is well-documented in both books so they can be a sort of he said/she said set. Having two (sometimes drastically different) takes on the relationship (including different versions of events and conversations) might be a very successful way to hand sell the set to teens who might not be otherwise interested in reading a trans* memoir.





Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Susan Kuklin. Kuklin interviewed several trans* teens for her book, editing their conversations down to a narrative in the teen's own voice. In the range of interviews and photographs, Kuklin captures a wide-range of trans* experiences and showcases the diversity within the trans* community. (Also, it's just a plain gorgeous book. I'm usually all about a smaller trim size for YA nonfiction, but yes, this is a book that can justify being larger.)





Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Much like Beyond Magenta, this book focuses on several trans* narratives (although not exclusively young people) and the personal stories of trans* people. Interspersed are chapters to offer background and context--challenges faced by trans* people (covering topics such as legal, health, and social), trans* people in history, introduction to trans* issues, how trans* people and issues are viewed in different cultures, and more. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the cover is a shiny silver, making it a fuzzy mirror.









Books Provided by... my local library, with the exception of Transgender Lives, which was given to me at a publisher dinner with the author at ALA.

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. Eyes Wide Open

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines Paul Fleischman

Fleischman (who’s probably most known for his Newberry Prize winning Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices) offers a book about the real issues facing us environmentally while, at the same time, teaches teens how to evaluate their sources and be an informed consumer of news. It’s a really great call to action, pointing out how we need to change things, and maybe should have changed them yesterday.

I really liked the design of the book, but I think it would have worked even better in color.

The margins contain a lot of extra reading or watching for more information. It was a great way to recommend some great titles. I also really like what he chose--a good mix of books, articles, movies, and videos. Additionally, a lot of the things he chose are for adults, but are things teens could totally read and understand. It shows a respect for his audience that I really appreciate.

It also has excellent back matter and extensive endnotes--not only are all the sources documented, but many also give further information.

That said, there is a “how-to-think how-to manual” vibe to the book that grates a bit--it seemed condescending. I’m also wondering at who it’s aimed at--are teens no longer cynical about what they’re being told by THE MAN?

Fleischman’s writing often uses many of the same logical fallacies he warns readers against falling for. And, some of his points were interesting, but he didn’t have anything to back them up (like lack of food is what led to the Rwandan genocide and the crisis in Darfur. I think that’s an interesting argument to make, but the argument has to actually be made.)

Two things really irked me though--one is that he really hates think tanks (wonder if he feels the same way about the left wing environmental ones?) and paints them with such a brush that what he describes just doesn’t resemble what they are (and yes, this is personal, and yes, I know a lot about think tanks from the inside.) He tends to equate them with lobbyists (they’re not the same thing) and also all lobbyists are bad (what about the ones who lobby for the environment? According to Fleischman it doesn’t matter, because they’re not as well funded. Um, no. If you have a problem with the tactics, you have a problem with the tactics, if you have a problem with funding imbalance, that’s something else.) He also says that all talking heads on the news are PR flacks. Nope.

The other is the overblown hyperbole he resorts to. According to him, Foundations are a way for think tanks to hide where their money comes from and is the same thing as how drug cartels launder their money. Also, when talking about the psychological phenomenon of regression (trying to make the point that people would rather watch TV, play video games, care about a sports fandom or hang out on social media than face reality and learn about the world around them, which is problematic enough, but wait) he talks about how it regression causes childish reactions--his examples? Credit cards [note: not credit card debt, but credit cards in general] and tax revolts are childish reactions to wanting it now and not being able to save for the future or long term. And shootings are a crazy-people childish reaction to annoying people.*

And then my head exploded.

He makes some great points, but so much of it is undermined by his tone and writing, that it undoes everything that's right about this book.


Exact quotation: “With the daunting issues facing us, it’s easy to see the appeal of retreating to a childlike stage without responsibility. This is the defense mechanism regression. Where can you see it? Credit cards. You haven’t saved enough money but you really want something now? Go ahead and buy it anyway! Tax Revolts. Maturity demands looking beyond our narrow interests. Contributing to the public good from our private pockets causes some adults to throw tantrums. Shootings. Don’t like your boss/ex-wife/gum-chewing coworker? Blowing them away is a childish fantasy with such appeal that some mentally unstable people act it out.” p. 69


Book Provided by... my local library

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17. How I Discovered Poetry

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

How I Discovered Poetry Marilyn Nelson

Traveling Light (Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas, 1956)

In memory, Pudgy is just a tail
brushing my thighs as we surveyed the shelves
in the icebox. “Pudgy,” Daddy explained,
“went to live with a different family;
she’s fed and happy.” Lady welcomed us
to one Officer’s Housing, where she lived
under our unit. She was a good dog.
She seemed almost sad when we drove away
behind the moving van. And General
did have a knack for causing us trouble:
He dug up gardens, dragged whole clotheslines home.
“He’ll be happier with his new family,”
Daddy explains. We’ve been transferred again.
We stand numb as he gives away our toys.

This is a beautiful collection of unrhymed sonnets exploring life growing up on a series of military bases--a child of one of the few black officers. It explores so well the pain of growing up coupled with the pain of moving every few years, always saying goodbye, always trying to fit in with a new group of kids--sometimes made even harder by racial differences.

It’s a sparse book--only 50 sonnets--but packs a punch. Inevitably it will be compared to the other memoir-in-verse that came out this year, Brown Girl Dreaming, and I fear it will be overshadowed by it, which is sad, because this one is so good and so lovely.

It’s also wonderfully illustrated by Hadley Hooper in black-and-white drawings (maybe prints?) occasionally accented with muted goldenrod or blue.

Now, how do I feel about it as Cybils book? This one’s interesting… it’s a nomination in both YA nonfiction and in Poetry. I think it’s an outstanding choice, and strong contender for poetry, I do not think it’s a strong choice for YA Nonfiction. If nothing else, her author’s note states: “I prefer to call the girl in the poems ‘the Speaker,’ not ‘me.’ Although the poems describe a girl whose life is very much like mine, the incidents the poems describe are not entirely or exactly ‘memories.’ They are sometimes much enhanced by research and imagination.” So, a wonderful book that everyone should read, but not the right book for this award.

Book Provided by... my local library

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18. Strike

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Strike!: The Farm Workers' Fight for Their Rights Larry Brimmer

When I was growing up, my parents had a Boycott Grapes sign in our basement. I knew Cesar Chavez was a labor leader, but when I hear his name, my mind always goes to this:



Strike changed all that, really bringing to life the issues of migrant workers and how and why they unionized.

What Brimmer does really well is bring a lot of meat to the story--the divides between Filipino and Chicano workers, the politics involved in *which* union you joined (not all unions are created equal, which is a side of labor history we don’t see a lot, especially in children’s books.) I also like that Brimmer takes a hard warts-and-all look at Chavez and where he mis-stepped and where he succeeded and everything he accomplished.

To top it off, the design is just breathtakingly gorgeous. I would have gone for a smaller trim size, to make it more appealing to an older audience, but if you’re going to make it large, this is the way to do it. (Except a few of the pictures are too large, making them pixelated) There are several pull quotes which is great, and they’re presented in Spanish and English. On one hand, I like that they’re in both languages when this makes sense. But, why are non-Hispanic whites and Filipinos translated into Spanish instead of left in English or translated into Tagalog, respectively? This is especially troubling with quotations from the Filipino workers, because one of tensions was that many meetings were held in Spanish instead of English, leaving Filipino attendees in the dark and out of the loop.

Overall though, a fascinating and great book--one I’m really glad I read. I learned a ton about something I knew a little bit about. A great example of what nonfiction for teens can look like.


Book Provided by... my local library

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19. Hanukkah Books that are Actually for Jewish kids

Hanukkah's coming! And here begins my annual hunt for a Hanukkah book that's written for Jewish children. See, many, many Hanukkah books are actually written for non-Jews, to explain this crazy holiday. Jewish children don't need to be told what a menorah or latke is. They know. They want stories about crazy Hanukkah hijinks and there just aren't that many. (Also, you really don't need *that* many books about the miracle of the oil.) Here are a few of my favorites:

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote

As the Hanukkah party guest list keeps growing, Rachel's mom keeps sending her next door to borrow more latke ingredients, chairs, and other necessary items. Rachel keeps inviting Mrs. Greenberg to come to the party, but she just won't come! How can Rachel help spread the Hanukkah joy?

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Giora Carmi

I love this hilarious tale about a Bubba who thinks she's inviting the rabbi in to eat her latkes, only to discover she's fed them all to a hungry bear! (Sadly out-of-print)

The Ugly Menorah written and illustrated by Marissa Moss

Rachel doesn't understand why her grandmother insists on using her ugly, old menorah. But then grandma tells her how, when she and Rachels recently-passed grandpa were first married, they didn't have money to buy a menorah and so grandpa made the old, ugly, one. (Also sadly out-of-print)

Biscuit's Hanukkah by Alissa Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories

Mostly because I get excited to find a series character who's obligatory holiday book is about Hanukkah, not Christmas.



Which ones would you add?





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20. Happy 10th Birthday, Biblio File!




Picture by Sam Howzit, used under Creative Commons license.


Biblio File is turning 10 years old today. Yes, 10. I know, it’s insane.

A lot has happened in the past decade--I moved to DC. I stopped being a database cataloger and started being a children’s librarian at the public library. I started grad school. I bought a house. I adopted a dog. I graduated from grad school. I became a parent. I went from children’s services to youth services to adult services to management. I served on the Cybils 4 times (and am currently doing so for the 5th time) and the Maryland Blue Crab and YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction and YALSA’S Outstanding Books for the College Bound. I started reviewing for School Library Journal and RT Book Reviews website. I’ve presented at conferences at the local, state, and national level. I blogged about storytime. I made a themed book list for every day in 2013.

And Biblio File has always been here, sometimes more active than others, but always here. It’s changed over the years. The first month or so, it was just me generally talking about what I was reading. Then it was very informal reviews and then more formal ones. And then I tried to review everything I read. I've reviewed over 1600 books here. As of this morning, my backlog is over 200 and I just don't want to deal with it. It’s time to change again.

I’m burned out on reviewing here. I’m reviewing for other sources and want to take on new projects and the thought of reviewing everything I’m reading and catching up on all my backlog... It’s not fun anymore. And I don't know why, because I'm not burned out on reviewing for other sources. Maybe it's because the books are assigned? That it's only a small percentage of the books I actually read?

I thought of a few directions--maybe only review the stuff I wanted to review or felt like it? Eh. In reality, right now, I don’t feel like reviewing anything for the blog, even stuff I love.

I could drop the blog, but I don’t want to. So much of my growth as a reader and my professional growth has been because of Biblio File. (I can actually connect the dots from the blog to some opportunities that turned into other opportunities, that turned into... etc) It taught me how to review. It's made me a better reader. It gave me exposure. It gave me a way to talk with other book people. I love this blog.

So, instead, I’m shifting focus a bit. I’ll still talk about what I read, but in a much more general, less review-y way. It's actually going to go back to the way I used to review 8-9 years ago. I’m also going to start posting more about general trends/issues I’m seeing in what I’m reading. Some bigger picture stuff. So, expect regular round-up posts of "what I read this week/month/lately" and some thoughts I've been having on deciding age range (sometimes the hardest part of an SLJ review!) or how authors show respect for their teen audience. And maybe there will still be some more formal reviews on here. Who knows. That's the great part about a blog--it can change and grow and can change and grow back.

(I find it's interesting that as I'm putting the finishing touches on this post I've been writing for a week, Kelly's tweeting about some of these same issues. If I could figure out how to link to a series of tweets, I would because you should read all of them.)

I am personally committed to reviewing the Cybils books I’m reading and I have a handful of reviews that I’ve already written, so I’ll go ahead and post those. But after that, we’ll see what happens and where it goes and how it develops.

Thank you so much for being with me these past 10 years. I hope you’ll stick around for the next 10.




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. Sarah MacLean, Buffy, Assassin Nuns, and more




So I took a bit of a break from Cybils reading this week* because OMG GUESS WHAT WORDS OF LOVE SENT ME?

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean. And oh, it is just as delicious as I hoped. It's probably my favorite of her Rules of Scoundrels series. I love love love love that Chase was Georgiana from Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord. I'm also very excited about the glimpse we got of MacLean's new heroine for her new series (the first will release sometimes in 2015)

Some other non-Cybils things I've read this month?

Buffy: Season Ten Volume 1 : New Rules Woo-Hoo! Season 10 has started. Once again, consequences and repercussions are big themes. At the end someone shows up that proves I really should have been reading the Faith and Angel spin-off, because woah, what was that?! BUT! Dracula's around and the Dracula Xander bro-mance is in full swing, which is always fun and awesome. Now, I just need to wait for-EVER for the next one.

My hold on Mortal Heart finally came in, and, oh, another most wonderful end to a favorite series. Ever since I finished it, I've been trying to figure out which one is my favorite in this trilogy, and I just can't decide. They are all so great--there's no weak link or one particular standout, just straight-up excellence across the board. I was reading this one at a training and the person (NOT a librarian) across asked what it was and as soon as I described it as "historical fiction about assassin nuns in 15th century Brittany" she was on her library's website to see if they owned it. Because, I mean, of course she was! It's HISTORICAL FICTION ABOUT ASSASSIN NUNS. Although now I really want to read more about historical Brittany. Why isn't there an awesome YA nonfiction about the the 15th century Brittany? Someone should get on that for me.

I also read Mistletoe and Mr. Right: A Christmas Romance which I reviewed over here. If you don't feel like clicking over, I liked it.

In non-book reading, did you all see Kelly's poignant and powerful post about fatness in YA? Definitely click over to that one.


*Ok, I don't actually have any Cybils reading until January 1st, because I'm a second round judge. BUT, I'm reading my way through the long list anyway, partly for fun, partly for armchair quarterbacking, and partly so that when I do look at the short list, I'm that much more familiar with the titles and can then do deeper rereading instead of reading for the first time.

Book Provided by... my wallet, my local library, my local library, and RT Book Reviews (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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22. Because They Marched

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America Russell Freedman

This title looks at the Selma voting rights Marches, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery march. It talks about Jim Crow, and the importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I greatly appreciated the epilogue that looks at how key provisions have recently been struck down, and what the means.
I am a huge Freedman fan and he consistently creates books that are beautiful and informative.

This one, however, falls short of expectations. For one, I’m not sure what Holiday House was thinking, but I’m used to Freedman’s books being printed on a heavy gloss paper and this one’s not. I’m surprised by how big of a difference this makes, but it does.

It does retain that classic Freedman style of lots of large photographs, but all the text is black-on-white and some of the more beautiful design that we’ve come to expect is missing.

Now that would be ok if the text was amazing, but it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s perfectly serviceable, but I’m used to finding his writing engrossing even when he’s covering topics I know well.

There is nothing wrong with this book per se, but there’s also not a lot right with it when you compare it to his other works, or even better treatments on the same subject (it’s going to be really hard to find a book on Selma that’s better than Marching for Freedom)

Overall, a resounding “meh” which is disappointing for someone like Freedman.



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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23. Looking Ahead

So, I thought I'd start a new feature here where I talk about upcoming adult fiction I'm interested in. I'm not a collection development librarian, but I am on the adult fiction selection committee at work, and here are some of the titles that I marked because I want to check them out when they publish:



Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale by David Duchovny. Remember this summer when news broke that Duchovny wrote a children's book about a cow, pig, and turkey who somehow bring peace to the Middle East and even then it was a hot mess? Turns out, it's a 224 illustrated book FOR ADULTS. Obviously, this is going to be so terrible it will be amazing. Pubs. February 3.

The Price of Blood: A Novel by Patricia Bracewell. This is a sequel to Shadow on the Crown: A Novel, which I haven't read (yet) but historical fiction about Emma of Normandy and English royalty in the half-century before the Norman Conquest? Yes, please! Pubs February 5

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty: A Novel by Amanda Filipacchi. A group of friends struggles with the role beauty plays in their quest for love (one struggles with being too beautiful, the other with no being beautiful at all) and then it turns out one of them is a murderer. Sounds intriguing. Pubs February 16




Prudence: A Novel by David Treuer. Here's what I know about this book (the description's rather vague) WWII, Northern Minnesota, an escaped POW, an act of violence with long-range repercussions, a Native writer. Pubs on February 5.

The Swimmer: A Novel by Joakim Zander. Already an international best-seller, this is about a deep-undercover CIA agent who had to give up his infant daughter to maintain his cover. Now she's grown and an EU aide who's seen something she shouldn't have. She's in grave danger and the only person who can save her is the father she never knew. Pubs on February 10

A Price to Pay by Alex Capus looks at 3 historical figures (Felix Bloch who worked on the Manhattan project, Laura D'Oriano who was a spy, and Emile Gillieron who was an art forger) starting in Zurich in 1924 through WWII. Out now.





The Firebird's Feather by Marjorie Eccles. Debutantes! Murder! Suffragettes! Russians! Family Secrets! What more do you need to know? Pubs tomorrow.

The Orphan Sky by Ella Leya. I'm a fan of her songwriting, and now she's written a book about growing up in the 70s in Soviet Azerbaijan and becoming disillusioned with the Party? Can't wait! Pubs on February 3.

Our Lady of Infidelity: A Novel of Miracles by Jackie Parker Magical Realism in the southwest when a window installation turns into religious vision--everyone sees a vision in the window, but they all see something different. Meanwhile, 7-year-old Luz needs a real miracle--her mother, her only surviving family member is dying of kidney disease. Out now.

 


Fatal Feast (A Merlin Mystery) by Jay Rudd. Camelot in the Middle Ages. A knight is poisoned at dinner and Guenivere is blamed. Will Merlin come out of seclusion to prove her innocence? Pubs on January 21.

Above Us Only Sky: A Novel by Michele Young-Stone. A young girl was born with wings that were then removed. As a teen she tries to find herself and discovers her Lithuanian routes, and a long line of bird women. And it also some how covers over a century of Lithuanian history. Pubs on March 3.


And a bonus nonfiction title! (This one just caught my eye as I was flipping past)

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China by Michael Meyers. I *loved* his The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, which covered the destruction of Beijing's hutongs, of which Meyers was a resident. Turns out, he then moved to a small village in Manchuria and this new one covers the changes (and his life) there. Very exciting! Pubs on February 17






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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24. Alice + Freda Forever

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.



Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis Alexis Coe

Man, I love Zest in general and when I heard they were doing a New Adult line, my thoughts were “huh? really?” because I wasn’t sure how it would fit. Then I saw that their first New Adult book was a historical true crime about 19th century lesbian murder in Memphis. Because, of course, it’s Zest and that’s how they roll and that’s why I love them.

Sadly, I did not love this book, as much as I wanted to. It’s exciting and compelling, but has some fatal flaws.

Alice and Freda were school friends. In the late 1800s, it was common for young women to form very intense friendships, hold hands, declare their love for each other. For Alice and Freda though, it went much deeper than mere “chumming.” They were actually in love, and Alice was going to pretend to be a man so they could get married and Alice would work to support the family. But when Freda’s sister discovered the plot, she forbade Freda to contact Alice again. She then told Alice’s family who agreed to keep the girls apart. Freda moved on, but Alice could not, would not. So Alice slit Freda’s throat in the middle of a street in broad daylight. A sensational murder trial followed, with Alice’s family pleading insanity, because what other explanation was there for same-sex love?

Coe tells this story very well. It’s gripping and readable, opening with the murder and then jumping back to detail their relationship. Their relationship had many issues, Freda was a flirt, Alice was jealous and possessive, and Freda had moved upriver from Memphis. She also does a great job explaining the trial and differences in the legal system between then and now and I love the way she subtly emphasizes that Alice’s family was rich (not mega rich, not high society, but definitely not poor) and white and how that changed things. How Alice’s Memphis was not the same Memphis many other people lived in. Overall the story is a great one to know about and I couldn't put it down--I read it one sitting.

But, it still had some problems.

For one, it kept referring to Eastern Tennessee like that’s where Memphis is. (Such as when Alice’s father hires two of the most prominent, expensive attorneys in Eastern Tennessee.) At one point it talks about “nearby Knoxville.” Um, look at a map. Memphis is as far West as you can get in Tennessee and Knoxville is 400 miles away. If something as basic as the location of Memphis is incorrect, what else is, too?

But, my major problem is that it’s illustrated. As I’ve said before I don’t agree with using drawings of historical photographs instead of the actual photographs. And this book even illustrates historical DOCUMENTS, like newspaper headline and articles, and the Register of Deaths. Worst of all, all of the letters between Alice and Freda are illustrated in handwriting. Not their handwriting, or even time-period authentic handwriting, and some of it is VERY hard to read. Yeesh, just type it out.

Some of the pictures are great and there’s no way there’s a photograph (my favorite is this stark on of Alice lying in her jail cell where she’s lightly sketched in white, surrounded by this heavy, dark grey) and that’s fine. BUT. Don’t illustrate a newspaper headline. Just use the original. And, if you’re going to use letters as part of your narrative and evidence, make sure they’re readable.

So, on the whole, this is not one I’ll be looking for on the award lists this year (sadly) and I’ll be very disappointed if it is on the lists, BUT, it is one I’ll recommend to readers and share widely.


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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25. Port Chicago 50

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights Steve Sheinkin

During WWII, the armed forces were still segregated. Black men who signed up were subjected to segregated mess halls (sometimes eating the cold leftovers of their white counterparts) and barracks, and given the most menial jobs. They were often treated even worse when they were off base.

In the Navy, black sailors were only allowed to be mess attendants when on a ship. They weren’t eligible for promotion. At California’s Port Chicago, they had to load ammunition onto ships. Only black sailors had to do this and they were not given any training on how to properly handle explosives. Their white commanding officers took bets on which Divisions could load the most, creating a hurried and unsafe atmosphere.

On July 17th, 1944, there was an explosion. A small one, then a big one. 320 men died (202 were black men loading ammunition.) Another 390 were injured (mostly due to flying glass when the shock wave blew out windows.) The 1200 foot pier was gone, as were the 2 battle ships being loaded. No one’s entirely sure what happened or why, because anyone who saw it was killed immediately.

On August 9th, the black sailors, some still recovering from their injuries, were told to go back to work loading ammunition. 258 (out of 328) refused, saying they would obey any order but that one. On August 11th, facing mutiny charges, 208 returned to work. The remaining 50 were charged.

The trail was a racist farce and all were found guilty, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, followed by dishonorable discharge. In 1946 their sentences were commuted and eventually all were discharged with honorable conditions (which is better than dishonorable, but not honorable. You can get VA benefits, but not the GI Bill). In 1999, President Clinton pardoned one of the mutineers, but many did not want a pardon--they wanted their convictions overturned.

Today, all of them have passed on. All of them are still convicted of mutiny.

No one will be surprised to hear that once again Steve Sheinkin has written a riveting account of history. It is a great one for WWII or Black History projects, or anyone interested in injustice, legal dramas, or the armed forces. In true Sheinkin fashion, he pulls in many threads--American racism, the Navy and War Department’s unwillingness to challenge that status quo, the personal stories of many of the sailors involved, the story of what was actually happening, and the impact it had in larger society then and today.

One thing I found interesting--Thurgood Marshall is introduced as an NAACP lawyer, working throughout the war to help defend black armed service personnel from racist persecution and injustice. He watched the trial and foughtfor years to appeal. But, it never mentions what Marshall goes on to eventually do. (I mean, it’s not like we all grow up to be Supreme Court Justices.)

There are many photographs throughout the text (unfortunately, a few have been blown up too largely and are pixelated) and I love the trim size--even though it’s written a bit younger than younger than Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weaponor The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery, but the trim size should entice older readers to pick it up.

It’s a story that many have sadly forgotten, but Sheinkin’s powerful storytelling will hopefully tell this story to many more readers.


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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