January 13, 2019

I'm still glad I was an only child

Dear Sister by Alison McGhee (with illustrations by Joe Bluhm) was a happy accident. It happened to be returned while I was working at circulation and when I flipped through it I was intrigued enough to check it out for myself. The book is written in a series of letters and drawings from a boy who has just been saddled  blessed with a baby sister. His parents want him to write to her so they can put it in her baby book but he has his own ideas of what to write. From the start, his letters and drawings are quite hostile and he makes a point of saying that the 'wardens' have forced him into contributing. Their relationship is typical of an older sibling who has no interest in catering to an annoying, screaming infant/toddler/preschooler. Their age difference is about 8 years which explains a lot of the animosity. He always refers to her as 'sister' because the name he had picked out for her (and which wasn't used) was so good that he'd hate to slip up and call her that because then she'd be sad that it wasn't her name. This is one of those perfect little books that shock you when you realize they're not more in demand. It felt totally authentic and the illustrations were absolutely fantastic. They were a mix of childlike drawings which aged up with the character and a few realistic looking pencil drawings from a third person standpoint. The whole story is heartwarming and the ending was so sweet that I actually cried. What a great little book! 10/10

A/N: I discovered that Joe Bluhm illustrated one of my favorite William Joyce books The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and now I'm on a mission to find more of his work. No wonder I liked the drawings in this so much! XD

Source: Amazon.com 
Source: Amazon.com


Source: Amazon.com

What's Up Next: I'm waiting on another volume of the Elfquest Archives so that I can hopefully do my reviews in one post. We shall see...

What I'm Currently Reading: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (reread)

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 9, 2019

DNF Update 2018

The last time I made a post like this it was April 2017 so I think we're about due an update. I thought I'd take a minute to talk about the books that I started in 2018 (and in the last week which is what inspired this post) but didn't actually finish. Not to be overly melodramatic, but I think it's important to give myself (and you dear reader) the permission to put down a book if you're not enjoying it. School is for pushing through books that may not knock your socks off. Once you're on your own time and reading for pleasure there is absolutely no reason you should continue a book if you don't 100% want to continue reading it.

So let's start with Matt Haig's How to Stop Time. This book was recommended to my by my bestie who probably knows better than most what my taste in literature is and she wasn't wrong with this one. However, I'm a fickle mood reader and when I picked up this book I just wasn't particularly interested in reading about the lives of these characters. The story follows a man named Tom who has a rare ability: he ages at an incredibly slow rate. The reader follows him from his birth up to the present where he is struggling with his centuries old existence and having to keep his secret (while trying to locate his estranged daughter). There's a secret society of those like him that are ruled over by a man who will do everything in his seemingly unlimited powers to keep their secret from being leaked. The issue I had wasn't that I didn't enjoy the narrative or its delivery but that once I put it down I didn't actively seek to pick it back up. (It was also on hold at the library so I didn't have long to languish over it.) I took that as a sign that this was one I'd have to revisit some time in the future. (haha time reference) Progress: I made it to page 127 out of 325.

And then there was Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies which you might recall kept showing up at the end of my posts as my 'currently reading' book of choice. This is a weighty book, ya'll. Jared Diamond's book had been on my list for ages because once upon a time it had been on one of my recommended reading lists for an undergraduate Anthropology class (I majored in that field). I didn't have the time to read it then (it is 425 pages after all) but the topic still intrigued me. Much like the book above I was interested in the subject matter and found no fault with the writing style (other than it being more like a textbook than casual, recreational reading) but it was so dense that I didn't always feel compelled to pick it up in a spare moment. (I also kept falling asleep for some reason.) Progress: I made it to page 290 before I had to concede defeat (and ship it to the next person waiting to read it).

The Sellout by Paul Beatty was an entirely different kettle of fish. Besides being on the bestseller list, it came highly recommended to me by a patron at my branch who felt so strongly about it that she went to the shelf, brought it to me at circulation, and insisted I check it out immediately. I hadn't heard anything about this book before she placed it in my hands despite the praise it had received from the literati of the world. This book is a conundrum to me. It has been touted as an uproariously hilarious satirical take on race and culture in America. I'll agree with the latter part of that statement but I didn't find it funny in the least. In fact, I found that the 'jokes' were not at all to my taste. This is probably due to the amount of books on race and culture I've read over the last year but I just couldn't read this book without feeling thoroughly depressed at what felt almost hyper realistic. Now I made it halfway through this book so I feel like I got the overall gist and flavor of the thing. The narrator (name not revealed beyond the nickname BonBon) lives on a farm in the middle of a Californian ghetto called Dickens where you're more likely to see cows on the side of the road than a white person walking their dog. The book starts with him being called before the Supreme Court on an issue of dragging black people's progress back to the time of slavery...because he has a slave of his own. I don't know what this book was but I do know that I didn't like it and I have no intention of finishing it in the future. Progress: 145 out of 289 pages.

The next two I'm going to pair together because I made the same mistake with both of them. Computers of Star Trek by Lois H. Gresh & Robert E. Weinberg is exactly what it states to be in its title. It examines the various pieces of technology used in the different iterations of Star Trek through the years and compares it to the reality (and future of) technology. The Future Factor: The Five Forces Transforming our Lives and Shaping Human Destiny by Michael G. Zey talks about the advent of social, economic, and technological innovations which have shaped us as a species and how these and others will continue to help us evolve. The problem with both of these books is that they are so outdated that there was little point in me reading beyond page 20 of either of them. Computers of Star Trek was written in 1999 and re-published in 2001 which predates the beginning of Star Trek: Enterprise not to mention the reboot movies or Discovery. It was also written before the first iPod (end of 2001) or the first smartphone that didn't rely on a stylus (2007). Then there's The Future Factor which was written in 2000 but from the first page made reference to events and situations which considering how fast technology changes made this book (and its many references) obsolete. That's the problem with books about the future...once you reach a certain point they hold no relevance or accuracy beyond a certain window of time. Progress: I barely cracked the spine on either of them before I was checking their publication dates.

For those curious about the book covers (which I think tell a story of their own):

Source: Barnes & Noble

Source: Barnes & Noble

Source: Amazon

Source: Book Depository

Source: Amazon


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 4, 2019

More people should be reading Shaun Tan

Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan reminds me why I'm always telling everyone that Shaun Tan is my favorite illustrator. His illustrations are beautiful and his prose is wonderfully written. Organized by different animals, the chapters explore various aspects of humanity with short essays (and in some cases poems) accompanied by full page color illustrations. I broke down a few of the stories to my mom who thought they were rather dark and bleak but I explained this is how Tan gets his meaning across. This book looks at life in the inner city through the eyes of animals as a way to explore humanity both its cruel, despairing underbelly and its hopeful, optimistic fur (this analogy got away from me). For example, one story features a secretary who walks into the boardroom of the company she works for only to find that all the members of the board have inexplicably turned into frogs. She goes panics (including going back to her desk to play a few hands of computer solitaire) and worries she will be blamed and possibly fired before deciding the best course is to take these frogs home and care for them as if they were her pets. It turns out that this suits both herself and the frogs equally well because they were tired of being burdened with the troubles of being human. And here we thought all frogs wanted to be turned into handsome princes!

Tan shines a light on the darker aspects of humanity like cruelty, thoughtlessness, divisiveness, and greed because he wants to show that this isn't all that we are and we can strive for so much more. His work is considered sci-fi/fantasy because the scenarios themselves are 'unrealistic' like men turning into frogs or pigs that can survive even if you're hacking into them piece by piece over several weeks. But haven't you thought about what it would be like to walk away from all of your responsibilities and have someone else take care of you without any design or nefarious intention? What if you lived in a place where almost everything was industrialized and you were simply a cog in a giant machine slogging away in a factory hating your day to day? And what if the only bright point in your life happened at the end of your shift when you and your fellow employees climbed onto the back of the last surviving (ginormous) yak?  That seemed pretty believable up until that very last line didn't it? That's because there's a touch of reality mixed in with the absurd making this one of the loveliest things I've read in quite a while. If you've never read Tan before pick up Tales from the Inner City and then pick up everything else he's ever written because you'll be hooked. 10/10

Source: Amazon

The corporate frogs. [Source 3x3 Magazine]

Source: 3x3 Magazine

Source: BookTrust


What's Up Next: Dear Sister by Alison McGhee & illustrated by Joe Bluhm

What I'm Currently Reading: ???

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 1, 2019

2018 Book Roundup

Another year has gone by and it's now time to compile the list of books that I read in 2018. Like last year, some of these books haven't been reviewed yet so you'll need to keep an eye on the blog to see what I thought of them. I'm including rereads in my count once again because I want to be able to keep a running record (digitally) of everything I've read in a given year. Here we go!
  1. Einstein's Dreams
  2. The Killings at Badger's Drift
  3. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
  4. The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers (longest read of the year)
  5. Quackery
  6. HiLo 4: Waking the Monsters
  7. Norse Mythology
  8. Rest in Pieces (one of my faves of 2018)
  9. I've Got This Round
  10. The Last Black Unicorn
  11. Gorillas in the Mist
  12. Citizen: An American Lyric
  13. From Here to Eternity
  14. Ghostland
  15. Fly on the Wall
  16. How to Love the Empty Air (one of my faves of 2018)
  17. The Murderer's Ape
  18. Golda Meir: A Strong, Determined Leader
  19. Yes Please (one of my faves of 2018 and best audiobook I've ever read)
  20. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (one of my faves of 2018)
  21. Grace & Style 
  22. Death of a Hollow Man
  23. Ghostbusters (movie tie-in)
  24. The World According to Mister Rogers
  25. Tiny Beautiful Things
  26. The American Way of Death Revisited (loved it so much I bought my own copy)
  27. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (one of my faves of 2018)
  28. Short
  29. The Royal Rabbits of London
  30. Nnewts
  31. Graveyeard Shakes
  32. The Intuitionist (one of my faves of 2018 - Great American Read list)
  33. The Bad Guys
  34. The Read-Aloud Handbook (necessity for Children's Librarians)
  35. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
  36. The Outsider 
  37. The Figure in the Shadows
  38. The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring
  39. One Step at a Time (picture book)
  40. Invisible Man
  41. Comics Squad: Recess
  42. CatStronauts: Space Station Situation
  43. Dear Madam President
  44. Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary Ordinary Family
  45. Recovery: Freedom from Addictions (one of my faves of 2018)
  46. The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath
  47. Unruly Places
  48. When Breath Becomes Air
  49. Being Mortal
  50. The Science of Superheroes
  51. Only Human
  52. Founding Mothers
  53. Mary B. (one of my faves of 2018)
  54. The Ghost in the Mirror
  55. So Close to Being the Sh*t, Ya'll Don't Even Know
  56. CatStronauts: Robot Rescue (for some reason I didn't review this?!)
  57. El Deafo
  58. Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-In-Training
  59. Sunny Side Up
  60. 5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior
  61. Tucker Grizzwell's Worst Week Ever
  62. Peanuts: Volume Nine
  63. Star Trek Destiny #1: Gods of Night
  64. Robot Dreams
  65. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1
  66. Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals
  67. The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity
  68. 5 Worlds Book 2: The Cobalt Prince
  69. Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1 
  70. Star Trek Destiny #3: Lost Souls
  71. Calypso
  72. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing 
  73. The Bear and the Nightingale
  74. ElfQuest Archives: Volume One (review for this coming in 2019)
  75. The Compleet Molesworth 
  76. Space Dumplins
  77. Sanity & Tallulah
  78. The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying
  79. The Science of Supervillains
  80. ElfQuest Archives: Volume Two (review for this coming in 2019)
  81. Tales from the Inner City 
  82. Dear Sister
And the reread books:
  1. The Neverending Story (every year)
  2. Pride & Prejudice (every year)
That brings our total count to: 84 books.

I decided to include the review links again (not sure why I keep torturing myself) for each of the titles but you can always use the search feature to look up any genre, subject, etc. to find your next book to kick off 2019. :-) Happy New Year!!

**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 31, 2018

I'm watching Justice League for the 10th time

The Science of Supervillains by Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg was just as much fun as The Science of Superheroes which I read earlier this year. This volume discusses the possibility (or impossibility) of the various powers and abilities that supervillains from comic lore possess. They cover such classic villains as Poison Ivy, Lex Luthor, Doc Ock, and Magneto to name just a few. One of the more fascinating sections examined a comic titled "Crisis on Infinite Earths" where infinite realities, galaxies, and universes were destroyed. Gresh determined that within these infinite galaxies and universes would be still more infinite galaxies which would take infinite power and infinite time to destroy...which is impossible. (If you're a huge science nerd then this is the kind of stuff that makes your brain hum with happiness.) Included at the back of the book was an excellent notes section as well as a Q&A with various comic writers and reviewers. The only con I could see was that it was quite a bit shorter than its predecessor which bummed me out as I enjoyed it so much. (In fact, I'm ordering another book by Gresh about the computers of Star Trek which I'm super pumped to read.) Well researched, well written, and well executed...can't ask for more than that! 10/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

What I'm Currently Reading: The Sellout by Paul Beatty

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 29, 2018

The light in the darkness

Well, here I am talking about cancer and dying again. I swear it's the last of these for a good long while, guys. (I hope I don't end up eating my words.) The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs was recommended to me after reading When Breath Becomes Air because Nina's widowed husband is now dating the widow of Paul Kalinithi who wrote the aforementioned. O_O  At the start of her story, Nina was 38 years old and her biggest problems centered around publishing her newest bit of writing and mothering her two young sons with her husband...and then Cancer rapidly derailed her life. When Nina was initially diagnosed with breast cancer her mother was fighting her own battle with an aggressive myeloma. At first, Nina's diagnosis seemed quite straightforward in comparison. Her doctor felt it was quite treatable with a mastectomy and chemo but right as her life seemed to stabilize a stabbing back pain (reminiscent of Paul Kalinithi) made itself known. This turned out to be the harbinger of Stage 4 cancer which unfortunately was not curable. To add insult to injury, her mother's cancer stopped responding to treatment and she opted to stop her treatment. Overwhelming and almost unbelievably melodramatic as this all sounds Nina chose to view each day through a positive lens. It is obvious to me that she was a special person with a whole lot of spirit. Sadly, she passed away before final publication of her book but her legacy still lives and breathes on each page of her memoir. I'm sorry we can't enjoy more writing from her in the future.  9/10


Source: Simon & Schuster

What's Up Next: The Science of Supervillains by Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg

What I'm Currently Reading: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 28, 2018

End of year burnout

I'm going to be honest, guys. I'm really starting to get blog fatigue. I've been trying to write this particular review for ages and getting absolutely nowhere. :'-( I've also done the arithmetic and I'm fairly certain I'm still going to be reviewing books I read in 2018 into the start of 2019 which is something I was actively trying to avoid. Ugh, I sure hope this ends up making sense.

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks is a middle grade graphic novel about two little girls living on a space station on the fringes of populated space. These two best friends are polar opposites. Sanity is a gifted scientist who is more often than not working diligently at her homework or brainstorming her newest lab project. Tallulah, on the other hand, is a mediocre student (at best) and a champion mischief maker (the best). After Sanity's latest science project (a three-headed creature) gets loose, the two girls are desperate to clear the animal's name as technical failures and disasters of all kinds begin happening at an alarming rate. There's a race against the clock to find the creature and save all life as they know it on the space station. This story is all about the bonds of friendship...and what happens if you don't properly follow safety protocols when docking your ship at a space station. My opinion: I don't know if it's because I read this one right after Space Dumplins but I found it very similar in tone and content and therefore not altogether that interesting. Additionally, the illustrations were good but weren't nearly as stunning as the aforementioned Space Dumplins. I couldn't give it more than a 4/10.

Source: Amazon

Lots of strong female characters. *applause* [Source: Mom Read It]

What's Up Next: The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

What I'm Currently Reading: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **