Saturday, September 16, 2017


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Blade Morrison, newly graduated son of a rock star who wants to know where he fits both in his family and in life, told in poetic verse.

First thoughts: I both read the print version of Solo along with listening to the audiobook - and I highly recommended listening. This is a musical story - the playful language deserves to be heard. It's always a treat to hear the author read their own works, and Kwame Alexander doesn't disappoint. Novels told in poetic verse are always going to be some of my favorites.

Favorite quotes:

"It is a good feeling
not to be recognized
and still noticed."

"It's as awkward
as things can get.
But I hear grace
can feel
that way
at first."

Bonus!: The audiobook version comes with recordings of the original songs Blade writes, performed by Randy Preston. I loved the originality of this detail, and how it really cracks open what a "book" can be. Why wouldn't a story about a young musician growing up in Hollywood include his songs as well?

Recommended for: high school seniors (or juniors or sophomores or even freshmen) and their parents, people who feel like outsiders in their own families, music lovers, world travelers, readers of celebrity gossip, and rockers young and old.

Final thoughts: Solo is sweet, yet it hits hard when it needs to. The audiobook is both powerful and fun.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Librarian Blueprints: Two Book Reviews

This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to InformationThis Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information by Kyle Cassidy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Photos of librarians past, present, and future, paired with their thoughts on what it means to be a librarian.

First thoughts: This was a very inspiring read for the beginning of a new semester of library school! The longer essays by librarians and the people who love librarians (Hello, Neil Gaiman!) were interesting as well.

Recommended for: library lovers, library students, and library skeptics.

Final thoughts: A fun, informative, and timely look at all the ways there are to be a librarian. This would make a great coffee table or lobby book - easy to dip in and out of, with wonderful photo spreads.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A practical guide for librarians looking to step up their game in various areas.

First thoughts: This read like an insider's guide, or a playbook for more established librarians who need to freshen up their skills. It had practical advice and info, but as a library student it wasn't anything new that's not already being taught in my current classes.

Recommended for: Any librarian looking to shake things up a bit, or re-motivate themselves after getting stuck in a routine, library directors and managers hoping to keep their staff in top librarian shape.

Final thoughts: Less learning about becoming a library than improving current librarianship - it's possible I revisit this (or an updated edition) in the future, but not a whole lot I could take action on in my current position.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


S.S. by J.J. Abrams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story in the margins of a story about another story...S. is beautiful, intricate, and, sometimes confusing, but a joy to read as a librarian-in-training.

First thoughts: It's so hard to just read the book, without reading all the margin notes left by previous readers Jen and Eric or getting lost in the lore surrounding the whole thing. With J.J. Abrams involved, of course there are layers upon layers of story.

How do I read this book?!: I don't think there is any right or wrong way to read S. Read it all, all at once, or try to go layer by layer - either way you'll still have to piece things together. Don't forget about all the inserts! (My copy didn't have them included, since it was from the library, but I found a website that described them all.) Personally, I started reading EVERYTHING on each page, but felt like certain events were being spoiled before I had context for them, so then I split the book up into about 4 different readings. First, the actual typed pages of The Ship of Theseus, the story of a man searching for his identity. Then I went back to read each set of notes left by "Eric" and "Jen," focusing on the different sets of pen/pencil colors they used to read semi-chronologically.

Wait, what?: Yes, I was confused pretty much the whole way through...this blog helped me a lot! I had little to zero idea what the "real" story of The Ship of Theseus was until I read Eric and Jen's notes, and their notes I needed outside context to fully grasp. Whew!

Favorite quotes:

"We create stories to help us shape a chaotic world ,to navigate inequities of power, to accept our lack of control over nature, over others, over ourselves."

"Really: we imagine ourselves to be so well-contained, so clearly defined, so individually integrious yet it takes so little to open us up, to send us spilling outward or to introduce something foreign and toxic."

Character thoughts: Eric's first (penciled) notes remind me of me taking notes - some personal, lots of similar themes pointed out, mildly embarrassing to read back after several years... A lot of Jen's notes were relatable too, in her conversations with Eric, along with her library science leanings and her romantic side.

Writing thoughts: This book must have been so much fun to write. Fun and frustrating - adding in notes to a story you've written, being able to make sure your reader takes note of what you want them to, but also having to keep all the narratives straight!

Recommended for: Durst and Abrams write for people who love a puzzle, anyone who analyzes all parts of their life, and those who need a deep dive escape into reading. Librarians and librarian types will appreciate the game of reading and figuring out the book, as will anyone involved in other ARG-type experiences.

Final thoughts: S. is a book that sticks with you. The concept is better than the actual story, I think, and really truly works because of the margin notes, but I always welcome novelty in my reading. It's refreshing to know there are always different ways to write and consume books!

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Saturday, August 26, 2017


Legend (Legend, #1)Legend by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a post-USA world, two teenagers find that what makes them enemies also makes them natural allies.

First thoughts: An interesting concept, one that is worth exploring and developing more - hence why Legend is part of a trilogy. Including more of the central conflict earlier in the story would have helped convince me to keep reading, though. I'm not sure I care enough yet to want to continue the story, even though I think the "good stuff" is still coming.

YA thoughts: I love me a good YA read. Exploring current conflicts in a future/dystopian/alternate reality makes for fun reading. I'll suspend my disbelief for a lot of things - a country's history that no one remembers (oh wait... #2017problems), technology that gives minors all the advantages of a mastermind criminal, military-style trials forced on populations...but you lose me at underdeveloped characters and rushed romances. Teenagers/young adults reading: call me out if you're into the premature feelings and I'm being a Scrooge, but I was 13 once and I don't remember needing my protagonists to fall in love. On the other hand, the action scenes are well written - those shone for me while the love scenes fell flat. With more action and a quicker arrival at the crux of the conflict, I'd already be done with the second book.

Recommended for: Legend has become a pretty well known dystopian YA novel, so it's appropriate for a person hoping to become a youth librarian to become familiar with it. Unless you fit that description, or you've exhausted all other YA resources, I'm sure there are others books you could get lost in.

Final thoughts: This was probably a bigger hit in 2011. In 2017, it needs more.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Librarian Memoirs

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison LibrarianRunning the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An obituary writer needing a life change shares the story of his professional and personal development during his time as a prison librarian.

First thoughts: I got Orange is the New Black vibes from this. And lots of reminders of my time as both a social worker and teacher - the coded language, use of names (first name vs ms last name), being friends vs acquaintances. There's a similarity in boundary setting, even if the environments are (hopefully) different. I also thought a lot about how Steinberg reacted to certain things versus how a woman in his situation might (or if a woman would even be put in similar situations).

Favorite quotes:

"But the library was different: it was a place, a dynamic social setting where groups gathered, where people were put into relation with others. A space an individual could physically explore on his own." (There is freedom in libraries.)

"True librarians are unsentimental. They're pragmatic, concerned with the newest, cleanest, most popular books. Archivists, on the other hand, are only peripherally interested in what other people like, and much prefer the rare to the useful." (Uh oh, am I an archivist?)

Recommended for: I think a lot of people could benefit from reading this, but people who are already interested in libraries, librarians, and the prison industry will enjoy Steinberg's stories.

Final thoughts: Made me think. About what I could and could not do in Steinberg's position. About the point of prisons. About the point of libraries. About the absurd beauty of prison libraries. About programs like Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of FamilyThe World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hanagarne discusses his childhood and how he came to be a librarian, with entertaining bits from the library world.

First thoughts: This book was gripping, yet light. I found myself enjoying the present day story more than childhood flashbacks. I appreciated the Library of Congress subject headings as themes for each chapter.

Favorite quotes:

"As a breed, we're the ultimate generalists. I'll never know everything about anything, but I'll know something about almost everything and that's how I like to live." (Me too.)

"Test everything that can be tested. As soon as you think you know something, that's when you stop questioning it. Understanding kills curiosity." -Adam Glass

Recommended for: book people, Jacks & Jills of all trades, anyone with a passing interest in Mormonism, Tourette's, or librarianship.

Final thoughts: I was a little annoyed at him asking for an application and getting a job.! But overall, good thoughts on what it means to be faithful or brave or strong or a librarian.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Double Bind

Double Bind: Women on AmbitionDouble Bind: Women on Ambition by Robin Romm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Essays on ambition from women in all walks of life - if you have emotions about ambition, there's an essay for you here.

First thoughts: This book gave me some feelings, or at least it brought out feelings I'd already had. Am I ambitious? Do I care about ambition?

Favorite quotes:

"There are infinite facets." -Robin Romm (There are so many ways to be a woman, to view ambition...and we're still surprised that we're not all the same.)

"I and mine are not lean-in women. Mine is a long and illustrious heritage of elegant survivalists and creative realists." -Ayana Mathis

"That's enough being scared, they'd say. We didn't do all of this struggling so you could just give up. Get up now. Take a step. Then another. Then another, like we did." -Ayana Mathis

"What I want - interesting problems, inspiring people, chances to steer old conversations in new directions - is happening all around me, all the time." -Evany Thomas

"I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so...careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don't want to fight their battles, because I don't want to claw my way anywhere." -Elisa Albert

"Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don't care if I'm socialized to feel this way, because in fact I do feel this way." -Elisa Albert

"I write to make sense of things, to make order from chaos, to make something from nothing." -Elisa Albert

Recommended for: women, men, ambitious types, passionate folks, cautious and creative individuals, anyone interested in humans.

Final thoughts: Why do women in particular have such strange relationships with ambition? What does that elusive word even mean? This book asks more questions than it answers, and asks them specifically to the reader, showing how personal ambition really is.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Letter to a Future Lover

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in LibrariesLetter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Collected essays inspired by the things left in library books - this is the type of book I'm always drawn to, the type that I could see myself writing, and yet Monson's take was worlds different from what I expected.

First thoughts: There are moments of genius in these essays. Other times, I'm confused. I know they weren't originally bound and ordered this way, so I wonder if there's an order to the essays that would reveal a different narrative. I found some of the topics extremely interesting with my 1.5 class library school background.

Favorite quotes:
"Each book in which you lose yourself equals ten thousand you will not have time to read." (bittersweet!)

"Own the ways we break, it seems to say: understand that the fault lines of a mind or body are individual, and honor them."

"We often move through books more quickly than is wise." (guilty)

"Everything we've written, what we've read, what we've collected, what we've bookmarked on what pages, what notes we left pressed herein, what we have included, discarded, defaced, lost and then replaced, how it's filed and organized: it's all a carrier, a vector, an edifice of us."

Recommended for: librarian wannabes, love letter leavers, organizers, memory keepers, collectors, and romantics.

Final thoughts: Hmm. An interesting book to dip into, and a solid short-but-slow read, if that's what you're feeling.

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