Friday, January 3, 2014

New year!

Happy 2014! Once again, I disappeared for awhile. Nothing bad happening, just very busy at work. I'm running programs, reading for book groups, and rearranging collections. I am a busy bee.
I try not to make resolutions because I usually don't fulfill them and then feel bad. That being said, I would like to read more books and watch less TV this year. There are so many good reads and I feel like I could do better with reader's advisory if I read more (obviously).
Every year I write down in a notebook the books I read. I don't count books I leaf through when they arrive in shipments, and I don't count books I read at story time. If I did, my total would be more robust, but there you are. In 2013, I read fifty books. That is thirty-three fewer than 2012. My commute is much shorter now, so I don't get through as many audiobooks as I did before. I was briefly on a Nutmeg Award Committee, so I plowed through the first selection of books, but I had to resign when I moved to Massachusetts. Not making excuses, just reflecting on my year of reading.
So what were my favorite books I read in 2013? Here is a list to add to your personal reading list:

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
2. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
3. Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith
4. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
5. Homeland by Cory Doctorow
6. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
7. The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
8. That's Not A Feeling by Dan Josefson
9. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
10. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
11. The Fire Witness by Lars Kepler
12. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (in progress)

Have a fabulous new year! Happy reading!

Ex libris,

Marissa

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Suspension of disbelief

I hadn't read any of D.J. MacHale's books until his latest, Sylo. MacHale is probably best known for the Pendragon series, of which there are about ten, plus a set of prequels. He takes up a lot of library real estate. Sylo is first in a series too, and having purchased it for the library, I decided to give it a try.

Sylo, published by an imprint of Penguin Books, is a sci-fi thriller set on an island in Maine. Tucker Pierce is an average kid, having moved to the island from Connecticut with his parents. After witnessing the death of a classmate and seeing a strange explosion in the sky, Tucker and his friend Quinn are disconcerted that their safe haven of Pemberwick Island is no longer so safe. When a strange military outfit named SYLO invades the island and quarantines the place, effectively cutting off Pemberwick from the outside world, Tucker must accept that nothing is as it seems.

Running parallel to the military occupation plot line is that of a mysterious substance called the Ruby, which gives anyone who uses it superhuman speed and strength. It is unclear if this is why the island is quarantined, but a shady character named Mr. Feit gives it to residents prior to the military occupation.

Tucker, Quinn, and another classmate Tori are quickly in the crosshairs of SYLO's commander, Granger. They must try to escape the island and expose SYLO since they believe the quarantine is bogus and there is something fishy going on.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I liked it a lot-- I spent most of last night turning pages to see what would happen. It has gripping moments. On the other hand, it was farfetched and just ok. The drug pusher, Mr. Feit, is a poorly created character and is clearly a warning "Don't do drugs, kids!" The escape scenes are decent, as is the boating terminology, but it still seems contrived. Tucker's sort-of-infatuation with Tori is a convenient plot device, but there is no meat. Most of the characters are stock-- the brainy friend, the pretty tourist girl, the wealthy jock, the cold soldier. I came across two usage errors (taught instead of taut and mantle instead of mantel) which pulled me out of the story.

All that being said, I would skim the next two series installments to see what happens. Despite its flaws, I am curious as to what happens next. I classify this book as middle grade, so grades 5 and up. Not fabulous, certainly not flawless, but definitely intriguing.

Ex libris,

Marissa

Sunday, August 18, 2013

So realistic, I cried while stuck in traffic.

So here is some old news: If I Stay by Gayle Forman is a stunner. This book was originally released in 2009 by Dutton Children's, an imprint of Penguin. I listened to the audio version and finished it while stuck in bridge traffic headed to Cape Cod. I was such a soupy face afterwards, tears dribbling all over. I glanced around and everyone was in their cars, probably half irritated by the traffic and half "YAY CAPE COD!" And I looked like I had just had a very sad experience. Well, I did.

SPOILER ALERT. You find out the gist of the story very early on, but if you want to be surprised, don't read further. Although I imagine this book has already been widely read, I just didn't get around to it until now.

Mia is a promising cello player, on the cusp of getting into Julliard. Her punk-rock-turned-teacher-dad, tough-but-sweet mom, and ebullient little brother are all excited at the idea of a rare snow day and after breakfast, they go for a drive.

They get in a horrific accident. Mia has an out-of-body experience and sees her parents, dead and broken, on the pavement. (There is a reference to Mia seeing "what looked like cauliflower" on the pavement and realizing it is parts of her father's brain. Really.) It is not immediately clear what happened to Mia's brother. Mia realizes she's out of her body and goes with herself to the hospital.

Interspersed in the story are bits of Mia looking back on her life. For example, her friend Kim comes to visit her in the hospital and we get to learn how they became friends. However, a huge focus of Mia's remembrances are that of her musician boyfriend, Adam. Their whole story is beautiful but not saccharine.

The point of the story is that Mia must decide if she will stay and live out a very different life, or if she will die. It is poignant and sad and she has to weigh some tough choices...Adam and her friends and extended family versus going gently into that good night.

I like this story because it is realistic and mostly plausible, and it shows a family that is together, a strong network of family members and friends, and characters you can root for. I am looking forward to listening to the sequel and reading more of Forman's work. If I Stay is also going to be made into a movie.

Highly recommended, but have some tissues nearby, even in the car.

Ex libris,

Marissa

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to the bindery.





Before I left my job in Connecticut, I promised a colleague I'd make a guestbook for her daughter's wedding. Behold said book. It's been quite awhile since I pulled out my bookbinding stuff, but it felt really good to get back to the bindery. Huzzah! You like? I'm pretty pleased with how it came out, although it was a bit tricky with the humidity we were enduring. Anyway, now that I have all my tools out, I might as well keep going, right?

Ex libris,

Marissa

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Infiltrated.

I received a galley for Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave from my library's book supplier. I was skeptical because I'm kind of tired of the "other" in YA books-- vampires, werewolves, and in this case, aliens. I just want to read about some actual humans, you know? However, I was pretty gripped by this book from the start because of the plausibility of the writing. If we were to be set upon by aliens, I think this is how it would go down. Also, Yancey assumes a very high level of alien intelligence, which I think is unique. I will try not to reveal any spoilers, so read on...
There have been four "waves" since the Others arrived-- loss of electricity, destruction of the coastal areas, plague, and the few remaining humans being hunted. Still alive in the fifth wave, Cassie Sullivan, a sixteen-year-old girl, carries an M-16 and shoots at anything. After being wounded by a "Silencer"-- basically an alien sniper-- she's discovered by dreamboat Evan and wakes up in his family's farmhouse. He says he'll help her find her young brother at the military base she assumes he's been taken to.
In a dual narrative, we learn what is going on at the military base through Ben, a former classmate of Cassie's. He's ended up at the base, being trained to take out the rest of the alien force. Descriptions of training and warfare are grim in this book since the "recruits" are about age 5 and up. It isn't clear how these kids will take out the aliens, but they're the last best hope for humanity.
Since I said I didn't want to spoil the ending, I will just say this-- I don't consider myself a sci-fi fan, but this was a gripping read. There are a lot of grey areas about who is good or bad, right or wrong. There are surprises. I bought this for the library but it immediately went out and is now on the New York Times bestseller list. It does require a sufficient suspension of disbelief, and I do have some qualms about some characterizations (specifically Evan, who is just too pretty), but I recommend it. Get it at your library if it's available.

Ex libris,

Marissa