Sunday, July 13, 2014

Yay for YA: Promise Bound, by Anne Greenwood Brown

I am never quite comfortable with reviewing sequels.  If you've been reading my reviews for a while, you likely know I don't give spoilers, and do not appreciate spoilers.  Thus, to review something in a series after the first book is a bit difficult.  You either have to paint broad strokes about it and drop hints, or just say what happened in previous installments.

On the other hand, when I take the time to actually read through an entire series, I would like to give props to the author, because I don't typically indulge in reading to completion.  In this line of work, one needs to have a vast knowledge of what can be recommended to patrons, which does not bode well to moving beyond the first book of anything.

So, let me tell you about Promise Bound, the third in the Lies Beneath trilogy by Anne Greenwood Brown.  I'll also briefly touch on the second book, Deep Betrayal, as I read it while on hiatus.

Checkouts (series): 4 at the school library
Typical reader: Fans of the series
Source: Snowbound Books

Synopsis, Deep Betrayal: Told from Lily's perspective.  After graduating from high school, Lily returns to the lake to find Calder and her father spending too much time together, thanks to the events of the first book.  And someone - or something - is killing tourists and locals alike on the lake.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

Synopsis, Promise Bound: The chapters alternate between Lily and Calder's perspectives, plus additional voices near the end.  There are a lot of things going on in this one, with Lily dreaming of being Nadia, her grandmother (and Calder's adoptive mother), Calder's sisters vying for control, a mermaid's baby, and old promises that must be kept.  Will all the turmoil tear Lily and Calder apart?

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

Deep Betrayal pleased me.  Lily's voice was perfect in this book.  It was just as I would have imagined it.  The lore in this rendering of the world was explored more.  The thriller elements of the book stayed fresh and gripping.

Promise Bound had a lot going on, yet it also felt like a finisher for the trilogy.  It didn't really add to the experience, but wrapped things up - including elements added in this book.  There were a couple of points I want to address in it, though.

1. The plot twist halfway through the book.  Initially, I was shocked by what seemed like an odd, out of left field, crazy plot twist.  Lily makes Calder promise to do something that he doesn't want to or feel the need to do - but promising compels merfolk in this world, so then he has to.  It flummoxed me.  But I came to terms with it.  It did fit, somewhat.  While it was rash and impulsive, Lily is a teenager, and teens (perhaps especially Lily) can certainly be rash and impulsive.

2. I have a much harder time with the character of Chelsea.  Calder meets her at the reference desk of (a branch of) the Thunder Bay Public Library.  She should not exist.  Harsh, yes.  But what library lets high school students work the reference desk?!  You don't find that at a small town's reference desk, much less in a city of more than 150,000 residents.  She could have been a college student and I would have bought it.  But not a high school student.
And then what the heck is up with her not only giving Calder the addresses, let alone driving him to the addresses, of patrons?  It wasn't even as though he had used his powers on her.  She just up and violated patron confidentiality to an extreme.  I had a little conniption fit over that.

But, overall, I enjoyed this series.  It was a fresh, different take on merfolk, and offered elements of other genres beyond paranormal romance.  The protagonists were interesting, as was the world-building and lore.  And I appreciated the setting - not quite Michigan, sure, but Lake Superior is visible from my apartment.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy books. Same difference, right?

As promised in the last post, I will now share what I bought for just under $200 at the local bookstore.

If you are a librarian with a small budget, it is very important to have a good relationship with your local bookseller, especially if he or she carries used books and gives discounts to libraries.  I am especially blessed by Snowbound Books, particularly because I worked there while pursuing my MLIS.  The people there don't cut my any extra-special deals - I get 20% off books I'm buying for either of my libraries, but do have to pay tax if the library isn't directly paying the store for it.  However, they know that if I say the book is going in my library, it will end up in my library.

And so it is with this lot.  Many are used, but some are new.  Some are ones I've read and know are good; others are award-winners or are popular; and still others are gambles.  Let's take a look at what I have to add to the public library's collection.

 For adults
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
It's a used copy!
Before I bought this, and my partner donated A Feast for Crows, the library somehow did not have any of the series.  Gasp.

For children
Dork Diaries 6 and 7, by Rachel Renee Russell

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 1, 2, 6, and 8, by Jeff Kinney
These fill gaps in the collection.  All are hardcover, which was a must because they get used so heavily.  I did review the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid back in July 2011.

Battle of the Labyrinth by Percy Jackson
Flush by Carl Hiaasen
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Calumet Copper Creatures by Johnathan Rand (reviewed Oct. 2012)
More gap-filling goodness.  Maniac Magee was my favorite book as a kid.  I must have read it around 50 times.

For teens/young adults
Rot & Ruin (Reviewed July 2011)
Dust & Decay (Reviewed Nov. 2011)
Flesh & Bone (Reviewed Sept. 2012)
all by Jonathan Maberry
These are paperback, and when the fourth comes out in that format, I'll also get that.  Hopefully in time to go in my suitcase to Dragon Con so I can Mr. Maberry sign these!  Squee!!

Maximum Ride
Books 1 and 2, by James Patterson
$4 apiece, used, before my discount.  And it's James Patterson, that prolific and popular author I've never read anything by.

A little Scott Westerfeld
My middle school boys love this author, especially this series.

Movie books
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Review coming soon)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
People love reading books and seeing the movies.  Granted, they'll never read the books again once the hype dies down (save for Harry Potter), but we must strike while the iron is hot, and actually not rely on interlibrary loans for every hit title.

The Big Empty and Paradise City by J.B. Stephens
These are the first two books in a post-apocalyptic YA series that I haven't heard of.  But, they're used, someone might like them; why not give them a chance?

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Reviewed Dec. 2011)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Reviewed Sept. 2013)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (Audiobook reviewed Sept. 2012)
These are great books.

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Burned by Ellen Hopkins (Audiobook reviewed Oct. 2013 with its sequel)
Kiss Me, Kill Me by Lauren Henderson
Here we have a hodge-podge to round out the purchase.  The first is historical, the second post-apocalyptic.  The last two are contemporary.  I think it's a nice mix.

I have read and plan to review The Fault in Our Stars, and as you saw, there are several that I already reviewed.  Are there others in this group you think I should also read and review?

Update: Before I had a chance to catalog these, a donation of Divergent came in.  So, I brought the newly purchased copy back to the store, and Dana let me exchange it for a book of equal value.  I bought Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride.  Dana has been having about that book to me for years, so now I'll finally read it and add it to the library collection.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How to create a YA section out of thin air

As I previously mentioned, I have quickly moved to create a YA/teen section at the library where I am now the director.  How did I do this?

I asked the system administrator of the library cooperative to generate a report for me that would show me what books of my juvenile fiction collection were held in the YA sections of other libraries within the cooperative.  She is a very magical woman, and was able to do this for me.  From this list, I gathered up all the books, weeded them for age and condition, and put together a section of nearly three hundred books.
Here are the stacks of YA books, waiting to be labeled and reshelved.

Next, I had to create a space for this section.  In an ideal world, I would have come up with a whole new shelving area, where teens could hang out and enjoy their own space.  However, that cannot happen.  So, I needed to move the juvenile section around.

And since I was moving that section around, I figured I should weed that section, to make more room both for new books and for the YA section.  So I emailed the system admin again, and she made a dusty shelf list.  Before she sent it to me, though, she called me up and explained a little problem.  See, if she went only based on when books were last checked out, I would be clearing out a major chunk of the section.  By limiting the list to only books that had never circulated since automating in 1997, and limiting further to only books published in 1985 or earlier, I'd only be deselecting about 700 books from the section.  Ouch.

Put another way, I was weeding anything that hadn't been checked out in nearly 20 years, and was about my age or older.  Of this old material, I kept anything by major authors, or were prize winners, or just struck my fancy ...

And what is more fanciful than this?

This weeding of the juvenile section was going well, until the picture books I was finding in the section began piling up.  And of course there was no room in that section for more books.  Once again, I asked for a dusty shelf list, this time writing a story that was along the "if/then" statements of a book by children's author Laura Numeroff.  It got a laugh, and perhaps one of the fastest dusty shelf list generations ever.

So now I have my evening clerk working on the project of pulling the books on the picture book list.  I rearranged the juvenile fiction section, weeded the juvenile paperback section for condition, and put everything in its places.  I feel very accomplished!

Then comes the problem of maintaining the section.  I am serving a population of 7,600+ people with a library that has a materials budget of $5,000.  The library has a McNaughton lease-to-buy subscription of five books per month, and a few Junior Library Guild packages.  The previous director would also buy five books and a couple audiobooks on CD each month from baker & Taylor.  Beyond that ... donations, and whatever can be bought with what's left of state aid at the end of the year.

If you're interested in library science, let me just disenchant you a moment and make it very clear that if you don't have a millage supporting the general services of the library, and you're at the mercy of a municipal government, you're not going to have much of a budget.  And that's even if you have a good city manager, as I currently do.

So what do you do?  Look to your own pockets and go shopping.  Next time, I'll show you what I managed to get for under $200 at the local bookstore.  You might be impressed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Yay for YA: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman

I think that getting back into reviewing books with one of the best contemporary preteen books I've read in a while is a good way to do this.

Checkouts: Not owned by either library ... yet
Typical reader: Preteens or teens interested in contemporary coming-of-age books, have ties to either ethnicity/religion portrayed in this book, or are attracted by the quirky, catchy title
Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of Snowbound Books (It came out last October.  I'm behind in my reading.)

Synopsis: Tara Feinstein, an Indian-Jewish-American preteen girl living in New York City, is preparing for her bat mitzvah.  Being multicultural, she's not sure in how she fits in to either her mom's Indian culture or her dad's Jewish one, or what exactly she even believes.  Adding to her worries are the fact that her best friend Rebecca is spending more time with a snobbish girl from both their middle school and Hebrew school, and her other best friend Ben-O may or may not like her as more than a friend.  Oy vey!

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this book.  Ever have a book that you're reading, that's so good that you slow down and try to drag out the last few chapters so it will last longer?  This book was like that for me.

It's well-written.  The dialogue and internal monologue are realistic and believable.  There was a decent balance of description - not so little that it would turn me off, and not too much for a preteen reader.  Characters are well-rounded.  The plot and subplots are interesting, yet resolvable by the end of the book.

And best of all, it has a glossary.

Don't worry, I am kidding when I say that a glossary is the best thing about a book.  But it helps!  Hardly anyone is going to be familiar with all the Yiddish, Hebrew, and Hindi words, much less the blended ones.  The glossary is also seasoned with the humor of the protagonist, making it part of the enjoyable read.

I'd be hard-pressed to nitpick and find little flaws with this book.  Sure, it's not perfect - nothing is - but this is really darned good.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Finding peace

Greetings, dear readers, if there are any of you still following this blog.

I did not mean to step so far away and not write anything for so long.  But, as they say, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

I also spent a month on books 3-5 of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, and did not get much reading done for this blog.  Those were great, and I wait with baited breath for the sixth.

This past month, I have made what will hopefully be my last shift in jobs.  I am now the director of the public library I began my post-MLIS career at.  I am thrilled to be back there.  Many patrons remember me - or, they knew my grandparents or know my dad, since he grew up in that town.  And I'm able to keep my gig at the charter public school, which is excellent.

Already, I have made incredible changes to the public library.  It's on Facebook, and the web site has been updated.  I created a YA section, and weeded the juvenile fiction section.  And I've only been there three weeks!

Look, a young adult section!

I have found my happy place.  Now let's get back to reviewing books!