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,


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,


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,


Saturday, June 22, 2013


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,


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Well. I have a ton of newness going on right now. First of all, I got a new job-- a librarian job. I moved to a new place-- Massachusetts. I got a new apartment. I have a new bed, new couch, and other new furniture. I received new business cards today. I got trained on new computer software today. I got a new haircut a few weeks ago. I am, in short, NEW.
The job is a youth services position in a public library. So far, so good-- great patrons, nice staff, all around good job. I have a lot going on right now getting ready for the summer, ordering and finishing out the fiscal year, planning a sleepover. It can be a lot all at once, but in a good way for the most part.
I'm an apartment-dweller now. My building is quiet except when the CSX train goes by in the early early morning (grrrr.) Soon, Ruby will join me and we will go on glorious walks in the sunshine. I had her for about a week already and soon she will come live with me full-time. Since I am back near where I went to college, I'm reconnecting with old friends (and hopefully I will make some new ones.)
So everything is really, really new. I am trying to keep up with reading galleys when I can. I had to recuse myself from the Nutmeg Committee since I am no longer in Connecticut. I feel like I'm playing perpetual catch-up, but I expect the newness wears off eventually and I will be settled.

What's new with you?

Ex libris,


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Literally the best thing ever!

A few months ago, the teen librarian where I work sent me a link to a TEDx Teen Talk featuring Tavi Gevinson. Right now, you might be like, "Who?" but watch the TEDx video. She is, in a word, rad. She started a fashion blog at age 12 and word spread. Now at 16 she runs an online magazine called Rookie which I wish was around when I was a teenager. I want to say it's the anti-teengirl magazine, but it's just much smarter and more well-rounded than the average magazine you pick up that's all "What flavor lip gloss represents your style?"

To celebrate a year of Rookie, Tavi edited and released Rookie Yearbook One via publisher Drawn & Quarterly. This circles back to my original point, the TEDx talk. After watching, Susan (my library's teen librarian) ordered Tavi's book. I checked it out and just finished it yesterday. In a word, LOVE. Just fresh and funny and informative and made me feel awesome-- and I'm not even the target audience! Some highlights: How to Be a Happy Homebody, An Actually Useful Article About Dressing for a Party, Midnight Snacks: A Taxonomy, How Not to Care What Other People Think About You, Confessions of a Fangirl (which happens to be about Hanson, a favorite band of mine), Thrifting: The Master Class, and all sorts of interviews with amazing people.

All these articles-- and more every day-- can be found on the Rookie website. I highly recommend the book, too! Tavi has been on Jimmy Fallon and some other shows. She's a rising star.


Ex libris,


Thursday, January 31, 2013

January update

Last time, I wrote about New Year's resolutions. How have I done so far? Nothing added to LibraryThing, but still putting titles in my ratty notebook which I haven't rebound yet. First two, nada. Organizing my room? I got a new clothes hamper, so the floor is tidier. 1 point for #3. Finishing my quilt...I bought some more fabric for said quilt, and I pulled out the squares from their hiding place. I've also taken apart some old clothes to repurpose into squares or bits for the quilt. 1.5 points for #4. I have made more art in that I finished spinning all the merino wool I got for Christmas, plus started spinning alpaca, and the quilt is out of the dark. 2 points for #5. Finally, traveling...I did drive to Williamstown, MA on MLK Day weekend and visited Sweet Brook Farm where I bought the aforementioned alpaca fiber and met the alpacas. I drove to Norfolk, MA last week, which is tucked off the beaten path and is quite lovely. There is no exit for it on 495-- you have to drive through Franklin, MA to get there, so it's a sneaky little gem. :) No visiting people I know per se, so 1 point for #6. I'm satisfied with that. It's only been a month. February brings my first Nutmeg meeting. I am also hoping for a snow day somewhere so I can bust out all my crafts. Craft extravaganza.

In library-world news, ALA announced the Youth Media Awards, which are like the Oscars of the children's/YA book scene. I've read the Caldecott and Newbery winners already, but the Printz and Morris are now on my to-read list. If that sentence made no sense to you, go here for ALA's press release.

Ex libris,


Monday, January 7, 2013


Another year! Man, they just fly by. A new year means resolutions. I think I have only ever really kept one resolution, and that was 2001 when I resolved to write down all the books I read like my grandmother did. I still do that with pen and paper. My LibraryThing is a small slice of the list. I read 83 books in 2012 (although I missed some because when I read a picture book on the fly or read to my Lego Club, I don't count those.) I will continue to keep that resolution, but here are a few things that I will try to do in 2013:

1. I will add all my books to LibraryThing.
2. I will take my old notebook I write my books in and rebind it.
3. I will organize my room to the point that I can get a new bed.
4. I will finish the quilt I started randomly some years ago.
5. I will make more art! Bookbinding, spinning (my new love), whatever. It has been awhile.
6. I will visit people and/or travel just for kicks. (Lookin' at you, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.)

I'm going to stop there because I like even numbers. So, in short, be more creative, be more social, and clean up. I don't want to make any reading-related resolutions because of the Nutmeg Committee. I have 2 left of the 8 books I have to read by February 13. The Nutmeg Committee is a resolution in and of itself, reading-wise and being more social. I did that on purpose.

A few recommendations while I have you:
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (before she wrote Gone Girl)
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ex libris,