Monday, December 30, 2013

Reading Club Updates

High School Reading Club - The January book is Beautiful Ruins  by Jess Walter (also available in the ebook collection).  The meeting will be after school on Thursday, January 9 (the first Thursday of short term).

Junior High Reading Club - January book is Every Day  by David Levithan.   We usually meet on the 3rd Monday of each month, but since the 20th is MLK, Jr day, we'll meet on Monday, January13 instead (the 2nd Monday of January).

The December JH club book was Legend, a dystopian thriller by Marie Lu.  We discussed the book, watched a couple of video interviews with the author, and played a trivia game on people, places and events in the book.  Two winners went home with the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy, Prodigy and Champion.
The trilogy is available in a single volume in the ebook collection.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Year End Reading (and Giving) Recommendations

The fall Long Term is almost ended, and on tomorrow afternoon (at precisely 3:10 pm) we begin December break, oh blessed break!  Some folks will have a giving and getting holiday, some folks will have birthdays, and some folks will simply rejoice in the extra time to hit the library, home bookshelf or bookstore for some winter reading.  So, for your consideration, I offer this second annual list of "Books You Might Like to Give or Read," with teen and teen parent readers in mind.

All titles are in print and available at your local independent bookstore (Little Shop of Stories is ours) or online.  Title links go to more info in our Surpass Safari library catalog. If you'd like to borrow one or more for December break reading, come on in!


If your reader likes
contemporary fiction, the Internet, books, or ancient and mysterious societies:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Shop  by Robin Sloan
(also in audiobook on CD and downloadable audiobook)

A favorite of the high school reading club (and New York Times readers), Mr. Penumbra is just plain old fun reading that also raises some big questions.  When an unemployed 20-something graphic designer (of the Google generation) takes a job in a old-fashioned bookstore with some decidedly odd customers and a whole off-limits section, curiosity trumps the rules and the power of the microchip solves centuries-old puzzles.  Will men or machines decipher the key to everything?

Mystery for book lovers: The Shadow of the Wind  by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  A boy becomes the protector and patron of The Shadow of the Wind, a book from the Cemetery of Lost Books. As an adult he searches for the truth about the book's author and the mysterious man who is destroying all existing copies.  Zafon has written more novels about the Cemetery of Lost Books, but I haven't read any of them (yet).

For obsessive book lovers: Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell.  Cath's entire world revolves around loving the Simon Snow series, but now that they are in college, twin sister Wren has moved on.  Can Cath grow up and move on too, if it means leaving safety and Simon Snow behind? 

Fun for book lovers: The Eyre Affair  by Jasper Fforde.  In the first Thursday Next novel, an evildoer has kidnapped Jane Eyre from her novel, and without a narrator, there's not much of a story.   Thursday's division of Literary Crimes is on the case, and about to change literary history.

~ ~

If your reader likes
romance, historical-ish fiction, or magical realism, religious mythology:

The Golem and the Jinni  by Helene Wecker
(also available in the ebook collection)

Two mythological beings, a masterless golem, made of European earth and an enchained jinni, a creature of desert and fire, become unlikely friends in exile. Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, Chava and Ahmad try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves.

More romance: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  A sweet, painful and funny exploration of two "star-crossed misfits" finding first love. 

Magical realism: Snow in August by Pete Hamill.  A golem protects an Irish Catholic boy and a solitary rabbi from anti-Semitic toughs in 1947 Brooklyn; ebook also available.


If your reader likes
police/detective novels, stories of redemption, or stories about dogs (who don't die at the end!)

Suspect  by Robert Crais.

Maggie is an traumatized ex-Marine on the verge of washing out of her K9 training. Scott James is a wounded cop for whom the K9 unit is a last chance to stay with the force.  Both struggle with PTSD and physical damage, the German Shepherd from a sniper attack in Afghanistan, the cop from an unexpected midnight shootout that left his partner dead.  Scott chooses Maggie to be his partner, and everything, including their futures, hinges on their ability to heal while digging into the mystery of that fatal shootout.  Also available in the ebook collection

Historical mystery: Leaving Everything Most Loved  by Jacqueline Winspear.  In 1933 London, WWI nurse, psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs looks into the murder of a beautiful Indian immigrant.  Rich in the history of Europe between the Wars, this is the 10th in the compassionate and well-crafted Maisie Dobbs series.  Also available in the ebook collection

Murder mystery/thriller: I Hunt Killers  by Barry Lyga.  Small-town Jazz helps the police solve a series of murders that echo the style of his imprisoned father, the country's most notorious serial killer.  Also in the ebook collection.


If your reader likes
medieval-ish fantasy & romance, no-nonsense heroines, or assassin nuns (!)

A Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

The convent of Saint Mortain isn't your ordinary medieval Breton nunnery. After teenaged Ismae, a child of the God of Death, becomes a novice as escape from a brutal arranged marriage, the nuns train her in the arts of lethal poison and feminine wiles.  As a skilled assassin, Ismae is sent as a spy to the high court of Brittany, to protect and kill anyone who threatens the young Duchess, even if it's the gallant Duval, who has stolen Ismae's heart.  Dark Triumph is next. Both also available in the ebook collection.

More romantic fantasy: Days of Blood and Starlight  by Laini Taylor.  The battle between chimera and seraphim continues. Monster-apprentice Kairu, who loved and was betrayed by the angel Akiva, creates an army of revenants to combat Jael, the cruel emperor of the angels, before he succeeds in invading the human world.

Absurdly funny alternate history fantasy: The Woman Who Died A Lot  by Jasper Fforde.  In the continuing adventures of literary detective Thursday Next, an angry god threatens to smite all of downtown Swindon before young Tuesday perfects the Anti-Smite Shield, and the evil Jack Schitt has something up his sleeve besides a series of worthless stolen medieval manuscripts.


If your reader likes
psychology, neurology, marketing, the mysteries of human behaviour :

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business  by Charles Duhigg

Why are habits so hard to break?  How do marketers create and exploit habits to sell products?  NY Times business reporter Duhigg's book explores the neurological pathways created by repetitions of a cue--> routine--> reward loop that creates a craving for the reward, and how keeping same cue & reward, but changing the routine in between, can transform bad habits into good ones.  Using examples from Febreeze to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and gold medalist Michael Phelps, The Power of Habit makes ingrained behaviours really easy to understand, and a bit easier to change.

Natural history/meditation:  The Forest Unseen  by David George Haskell (also in the ebook collection).  Each journal entry in this year-long observation of a small patch of mountain forest (to be specific, Shakerag Hollow in my hometown of Sewanee, Tennessee) is part observation, part natural history lesson, and part meditation on the meaning of life.   The Forest Unseen has won numerous accolades, including nonfiction finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies of Science. Haskell is biology and environment professor at the University of the South in Sewanee.


If your reader likes
graphic novels, bizarre superpowers, continuing series, or oddball mysteries:

Chew  by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Special detective Tony Chu's superpower is cibopathy -- he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats, which makes him stick to vegetables most of the time.  In the Special Crimes division of the FDA, the job requires a nibble of a murder victim every now and then, which is pretty gross but also solves the crime. The individual comics have been collected and published in 7 paperback volumes (to date). Volume 1 is  Taster's Choice.

Graphic novel with a paranormal twist: Mind the Gap by Jim McCann.  Young, rich, beautiful, and lying in a coma after being attacked in a Tube station, Elle Peterssen's spirit detaches from her body. Trapped between life and death, Elle tries to find out who was behind her attack, and why.  The first story arc is collected in paperback Volumes 1-3, and the series continues.

Humor:  Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary  by Keshni Kashyap.  Sophomore Tina Malhotra captures the cliques and ironies of her tony private school, and the foibles of her upper class intellectual Indian American family, through a year-long "existential diary" addressed to one J.P. Sartre.

Historical Fiction:  Boxers and Saints  by Gene Luen Yang.  In separate volumes, Yang shows the intersecting lives of Little Bao, who joins the violent uprising against interfering Christian missionaries, and of Vibiana, an unwanted fourth child, who has found a home with the Christians and inspiration in Saint Joan.

What books would you like to give or receive this winter?  Enjoy your December break to the fullest, and leave your recommendations in the comments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gifts of the Season

Being of the Christian cultural persuasion, my family celebrates Christmas as our winter holiday, and at some point in December we do a special Christmas-related event together.  One year it was the Nutcracker at the Fox, another ice skating and hot cocoa, another year we saw the Alliance Theatre's A Christmas Carol.  Last weekend we went to see Theatrical Outfit's Gifts of the Magi, at the Balzer Theatre at Herren's.  The play is based on two stories by O. Henry, the obvious "The Gift of the
Magi" and another woven in for comic relief, "The Cop and the Anthem." Ever clueless, I didn't even realize it was a musical until long after tickets were purchased, and wow -- 'twas a truly magical performance.  Go see it (it's showing through December 22)!  I am partial to baritones, and a handsome baritone with charisma (Kevin Harry as narrator Willy) is even better.

Last year during Advent, I read a picture book version of "The Gift of the Magi" to the teens after dinner, unknowingly (but fortunately) setting the stage for a better appreciation of the Theatrical Outfit production.  There are many adaptations of O. Henry's story, and we have several in our libraries.  The one we read (first in the list) was borrowed from the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, and is set in fairly contemporary Appalachia.
and of course the original story in the un-illustrated collection The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories and downloadable as a free ebook or audiobook at Project Gutenberg (the original free ebook organization).

Other Christmas-y offerings in the library range from literary to Latino.
  • Christmas Books  by Charles Dickens (includes "A Christmas Carol" and others) or download the Gutenberg ebook
  • Breakfast at Tiffanys  by Truman Capote.  Includes "A Christmas Memory," Capote's recollection of making Christmas fruitcakes, "for President Roosevelt,"  with a favorite older cousin. The elementary library has it as a picture book.
  • Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances  by YA favorites John Green, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson.  Intertwining short stories about high school couples at Christmas. Also in our ebook collection.
  • The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nussbaum. Did you know the Puritans outlawed the holiday??  In 1659, Christmas was a boisterous drunken celebrations.  Nussbaum's book explores the history of Christmas from Saturnalian excesses to today's festivity of domesticity and consumerian.

Listen to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' story A Child's Christmas in Wales on CD, read by Thomas himself (oh, that musical Welsh accent), plus a video adaptation and an illustrated children's book.

and a very very special offering:

Peace, Love and Wonder: Songs of Christmas  a gorgeous professional release by Kate Murray, Paideia's very own, fabulously talented chorus teacher.  You can buy it on iTunes or listen on Spotify!

Come to the library and check out a gift soon.  What are your favorite Christmas/Solstice traditions or memories?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Library R&R

 Of course, in this realm it's Reading & Research, not rest & relaxation (though the reading part can do both for some folks).


Yesterday I met with Rachel's 7th graders for a class on using ProQuest, SIRS and other subscription databases for research on their Race, Class & Gender (RCG) project.  They are looking for information that sheds light on how RCG issues intersect with and affect food security & insecurity, HeadStart/early childhood education, and immigration.

The students are very interested in their topics and we covered a lot of ground.  We looked at the similarities in ProQuest and SIRS, and at the major differences (ProQuest is a collection of newspaper & magazine articles, while SIRS is a curated collection of similar articles, but only ones that relate to one or more of  300-ish social issues identified by the editors).  These kids are all using iPads, so they're pretty savvy with the mechanics of the apps and navigation -- it's cool that they will be able to save PDFs of the articles they find in one of the pdf notetaking apps we use (GoodReader and Noteabilty) and build their research collections right on their iPads.  We may have another session to go deeper into using NoodleBib for pulling notes together from various sources and then creating outlines and written documents from the information.

An idea that Rachel and I emphasized is that research is a process, not a single activity, toward becoming knowledgeable about a topic.  A couple of analogies to personal research seemed to click with the students: 
  •  for those who participate in Fantasy Sports leagues: "Did you know everything you needed to know about your team and your players when you first started? How did you learn?  Was it quick?  Or did you read and talk about them, then try it out, then read and talk some more?  That's research!"
  • or, "if you're into, say, Justin Bieber.  Did you know his favorite color, or his mom's name, right away? Did you find out everything from one place?  Did it take some time? That's research!"
 This class of 7th graders is very fortunate to have Rachel involving them in research that is both meaningful and requires learning skills that will be incredibly useful for the rest of their lives. 


Earlier in the week I got to do my favorite kind of  "travelling road show," going over to the junior high to booktalk great reading to Jennifer and Tony's 7th graders.  Tony's also a great colleague, with regular invitations to go visit for a YA reading "show & tell" extravaganza!  What a great class.

The books I took and talked were grouped into themes.  The links go to the book descriptions in our Surpass Safari catalog.  Books checked out by students at the end of class are marked with an asterisk.

* Chew, Vol. 1  by John Layman
* My Own Worst Frenemy  by Kimberly Reid
* Mind the Gap, Vol. 1  by Jim McCann
* Time Stops for No Mouse  by Michael Hoyeye
Suspect  by Robert Crais

 * The Forest of Hands and Teeth  by Carrie Ryan
* The Monstrumologist  by Rick Yancey
Bonechiller  by Graham McNamee
Lord Loss  by Darren Shan

Between Here and Whatever Comes Next
(is there a limbo? and what happens when you're there?)
* The Afterlife  by Gary Soto
* Elsewhere  by Gabrielle Zevin
Everlost  by Neal Shusterman
Once Dead, Twice Shy  by Kim Harrison

* Amy & Roger's Epic Detour  by Morgan Matson
Eleanor & Park  by Rainbow Rowell
Indigo Summer  by Monica McKayhan
M or F?  by Lisa Papademitrou and Chris Tebbits
Ash  by Malinda Lo

(National Book Award nominees that didn't win)
* Boxers & Saints (2 vols.)  by Gene Luen Yang
* Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon  by Steve Sheinkin
The Summer Prince  by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire & Its Legacy  by Albert Marrin
Picture Me Gone  by Meg Rosoff
Far Far Away  by Tom McNeal

What books would you include in these themes? Are you a holiday book giver?  Please share your suggestions in the comments.