WWW Wednesday, April 27 2016

WWW Wednesday, April 27 2016

HEY! Bet you’d thought I had forgotten about this poor blog? I haven’t posted in awhile, even though I have still been reading, watching, and blogging in my spare time.

And there’s nothing like a weekly meme to encourage you to update, yeah? Just stumbled upon this one while browsing my GoodReads. I’ve seen other weekly reading memes, but they seemed to be for people who read must faster than I do and who think about what they will read next in a much more organized fashion. As a librarian, I tend to have a giant stack of books next to me at all times, ranging from children’s literature to teen comic books to adult non-fiction. And just when I think I know what I’m going to read next, that other book I have been waiting for shows up on my desk and I have to drop everything because I must read it right now.

This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words if you wish to join in the fun!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: I have a bookmark about halfway through The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller which, while technically a children’s non-fiction book, I am really enjoying and is just as long as any of the adult books about the Bordens. I really like how Miller is presenting the case, I don’t know which side she is on but I don’t feel like she is 100% convinced that Lizzie is behind it.

I also just started To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because I somehow never read it in high school and I feel like I should. I’m only one chapter in though.

What did you recently finish reading?: Firelight (Amulet #7) by Kazu Kibuishi and oh my gosh, this series just keeps getting better! I did not see that twist coming. This is one of the best fantasy/sci-fi graphic series out there for kids, I’m always recommending it. I just wish it didn’t take so long for the books to come out! UGH!

What do you think you’ll read next?:
Just had a copy of To Be or Not To Be: A chooseable path adventures by Ryan North, William Shakespeare and YOU! and started flipping through it and I am laughing out loud so this might end up jumping to the top of my To-Be-Read pile.

So, what are you reading?

Books read in February

I could go on and on about these Star Wars books for kids that are just SO well done. I might go on about them later in their own post but for now, they will just be mixed in with all these reviews. I did well this month!

Saga, Volume 5Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Saga, you are so messed up, I just can’t even. But as you have been so wrong/right since the first issue, it is almost comforting in twisted way. As usual, I couldn’t put down this volume until I finished it and then I was sad it was over again. Lots of twists and turns I did not see coming!

I can’t wait for this series to be over so I can sit and read it all the way through as I am sure I miss so much when it comes to the story/foreshadowing etc but only picking these up every few months.

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Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun middle-grade read that fills in the story between ESB and RotJ for Princess Leia. The “tie-in” to Force Awakens is pretty slim (the prologue/epilogue, only a few pages, make the connection). I thought Castelluccci and Fry captured the voice of characters we already know and did a good job adventuring around the galaxy far far away.

Definitely recommended for Star Wars fans. I hope there are more Princess Leia adventures some day! I would love to see some stories that take place prior to A New Hope (though I know the ‘Rebels’ TV series is using a lot of that time period and Leia makes at least one cameo)

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The Bazaar of Bad DreamsThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

FINALLY finished this today. I had it as an audiobook and my commute is fairly short now, plus with the week of snow I didn’t get to listen. I’m happy I listened to it rather than continued to read, I think the voices really brought some of the stories to life. The collection gathered stories that had been previously published elsewhere. They weren’t perfect, but it was a great variety and showed King’s range and that he’s still got it.

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Descender, Vol. 1: Tin StarsDescender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of Jeff Lemire, but it was Dustin Nguyen’s artwork that really made this book perfect. In a story about a strange attack by gigantic robots, Nguyen’s gorgeous style (reminiscent of watercolor paintings) keeps the story grounded. I loved this first book and cannot wait to see where the story goes! I already adore Tim-21 and I want to see him save the galaxy!

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Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last DaysMs. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may be my favorite volume since the first one, lots of forward momentum with the story and the characters, especially Kamala. I can’t wait to see what happens in Volume 5! Honestly, the weakest thing was the “bonus” comic which was a team up with Spider-Man. It was cute but after the awesome that was the rest of the book, it felt a little out of place.

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Star Wars: Princess LeiaStar Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this comic, far more than I expected. Mark Waid does a wonderful job keeping the action and adventure of the films in this comic, along with creating a good side mission for Princess Leia. I liked that it didn’t depend too much on inside jokes and winks to the rest of the Star Wars universe, which I find can sometimes derail this kinds of collections.

A pleasant surprise! I hope we get more stories of Leia’s solo missions (NOT Solo missions…that’s the realm of fanfic!)

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A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (Star Wars: Episode IV)A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While not as strong as Angleberger’s RotJ novelization (and that may have more to do with the source material than anything else) Bracken’s take on ANH was a really fun read. This would also be a great book for kids to read and then discuss the different ways to tell a story, especially when it comes to film versus writing.

Bracken’s approach was to break down the story of Star Wars to each of the main trio’s point of view. The first part is all told from Princess Leia’s side, with her getting the quest to take the Death Star plans to General Kenobi and being captured by the Empire. Bracken pulls from not just the film, but the previous novelzations and the radio drama to imagine scenes of what happened to Leia before Luke and Han arrived.

The second part is from Han’s point of view, picking up where we meet him in the movie, in the cantina on Tatooine. The third is Luke’s story, starting right after the escape from the Death Star.

Well written and unique, definitely a must-read for Star Wars fans.

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Lafayette in the Somewhat United StatesLafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m really glad I listened to this book rather than reading it. Even though it is only 268 pages, it isn’t a quick read, with so many names and dates being thrown at you. It has been a long time since I revisited American history and even longer since I thought about the Revolutionary War. This book taught me more than I ever knew about MY OWN COUNTRY’S HISTORY! It was a little depressing to realize how little I knew.

But I loved the audiobook because Sarah Vowell reads it, with her own unique voice, and has a cast of famous actors that lend their voices and help you keep some of the “characters” straight. (Nick Offerman as George Washington is now my official voice for Washington.)

So if you feel like being reminded of how much history you have forgotten (or maybe you were never taught) this is a great listen for your commute (especially if you are like me and live on the east coast and regularly drive past some of the Revolutionary war battle fields)

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So You Want to Be a Jedi? (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot say enough about these Star Wars books written by some of my favorite children’s authors. Adam Gidwitz’s take on ‘Empire Strikes Back’ not only puts YOU in the role of Luke Skywalker, telling his story from first person, it also provides lessons on how to be a Jedi, teaching the reader ways to calm their mind, meditate, think before acting, and focus.

If you know a kid/were a kid who loves Star Wars, this series is a great way to explore the many ways a story can be told.

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Books read in January 2016

This was an off month for me because I *started* a lot of books and either didn’t read them fast enough and had to return them (so they will show up on the list later on) or they were huge disappointments so I didn’t technically *finish* them. And then there was another book that I enjoyed but it’s not really a “sit and read” kind of book so it might get returned and picked up later.

Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (Star Wars: Episode VI)Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side! by Tom Angleberger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The bar has been set VERY high for all future Star Wars novelizations. This isn’t just a straight retelling of what you saw on the screen, this is clearly a labor of love. Angleberger is a fan and it shows. This reminded me of the radio dramas, with lots of extra bits of story and ideas that you can only include because of the format. The inclusion of the storyboard sketches and McQuarrie artwork makes this a must have for Star Wars fans of all ages. It is a book a child could read on their own, but it would be even more fun to snuggle up and read together with a friend, a sibling, or parent.

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Cock-a-Doodle-Doo-Bop!Cock-a-Doodle-Doo-Bop! by Michael Ian Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This would be a really fun book for a storytime if you feel comfortable scatting in front of a group and could get all the instruments or sound effects to play. It would actually make a fun little play. It wasn’t as good as some of Black’s other picture books, but definitely cute. I could see this being a hit as a family read aloud.

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Bream Gives Me HiccupsBream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Stopped on page 125, just not feeling it. I really enjoyed listening to Jesse Eisenberg on NPR a few months ago reading selections from the book, but sitting down to read it, even knowing how Eisenberg sounds, I just wasn’t thrilled or amused enough to keep reading. I might like listening to it if Eisenberg reads it, but I’ve got too many other books right now to keep trying to get through this one.

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The Complete Chi's Sweet Home, Part 1The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, Part 1 by Kanata Konami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So cute !! We had watched some of the anime so it was fun to read the whole story. Chi is definitely every kitten ever. Must read for anyone with a cat!

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The NestThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, if it says anything about this book – I had to stop reading last night because it was getting late and I was starting to fall asleep but as soon as I woke up this morning, I felt compelled to finish it.

I don’t want to give too much away, other reviews have said it better. This is a children’s story, but in the classic vein of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the “be careful what you wish for” dark fable that stays with you. Give it to a kid who likes those kinds of darker stories…

If you liked the movie Labyrinth or the book A Monster Calls or The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I think you will enjoy this book as it tackles similar themes.

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The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I was really enjoying this book until the stupid “going to be a love triangle later” moment. It’s the end of the world, she is fighting to survive in a Earth that has been taken over by aliens, ALIENS THAT HAVE KIDNAPPED HER BROTHER…but oh this boy has puppy dog eyes and I want to make out with him and now I’m so embarrassed that he might have seen my body when he was patching up my gunshot wounds. BLAH! I kinda rage!quit this one. Might come back after the request list goes away so I can try to finish it because it was really good until then.

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Fox Tossing, Firework Boxing, and Other Curious Pastimes from the Far Corners of HistoryFox Tossing, Firework Boxing, and Other Curious Pastimes from the Far Corners of History by Edward Brooke-Hitching

Fun book to pick up and flip through, though I want to read some other books now and let this one sit for a bit. You can only read so much about how awful humans were to animals before you need a break (while bear baiting bothered me a lot, the “baby boxing” at the Naval Academy amused me to no end…I’m a bad person)

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Books read in December

As I doubt I will finish reading anything tonight, I think it’s safe to post this.:)

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really cool spin on the YA dystopian fantasy genre. It has a few of the cliches (though thank goodness what could have been a love triangle was a red herring!) It ends on an epic cliffhanger too, so be warned!

I listened to the audiobook and Julian Elfer did a fantastic job with all of the voices and accents. Impressive.

Hope the rest of the series can live up to this one.

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Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven ThreadBlack Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great collection of ‘Black Widow’ stories. I only really know Natasha from the movies and her cameos in other Avengers comics so it was great to read her adventures on her own.

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The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is so much to say about this wonderful book. When I read the premise, I was expecting something very goofy. The basic story is that these are the people, the teens, who are going about their lives while our Heroes run around fighting the monsters. So, instead of reading Buffy’s story, we’re reading about the rest of the students at Sunnydale High, the ones who wander the halls in the background of shots while the Scooby Gang discusses the Big Bad they are fighting.

Ness could have just written a screwball comedy, but instead he takes patience and care in crafting a story about real teens who are dealing with real issues, like fears about going off to college, crushes on friends, alcoholism, anorexia and anxiety that leads to OCD behavior.

And Ness does it right, because the story is still a joy to read, even with all of these serious topics. I really missed all the characters by the time I closed the book. I was sad I wouldn’t see them again but very satisfied with the ending.

One of the best YA books I’ve read this year.

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I Really Like Slop! (Elephant & Piggie #24)I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another fantastic edition, letting kids know they should TRY things and it is okay not to like the same things as your friends, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try. Valuable lesson.

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The Story of Diva and FleaThe Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adorable story about a small dog and a large cat that become friends. I love the bits of French tossed in, that bit of Paris flavor. This is the kind of book that you give a child who is just starting chapter books with the hopes that when they are older, they will want to go explore Paris with you!

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Star Wars is about standing in line: The Force Awakens at The Senator Theatre

The internet is full of reviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens right now, so I don’t feel the need to type up anything in-depth about that.  Instead, I wanted to talk about the experience, quite possibly the last time I am this excited about a movie ever again.

There is a movie theater in Baltimore, Maryland called The Senator Theatre.  It has been there since 1939.  I was not.  I was born in 1981, not in a galaxy far far away, but also not in Maryland. I didn’t see Star Wars in theaters (technically I saw Return of the Jedi but I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate it).  For me, the Star Wars Trilogy, my favorite movies of all time, had only existed on BETA cassettes, watched on my parents TV while playing with my action figures. I have no memory of the first time I saw Star Wars, the revelations about Luke and Vader and Leia were always known to me.

In 1997, Lucasfilm released the “Star Wars Special Edition” and I finally had a chance to see it on the big screen!  I’m really not sure why my parents chose The Senator – maybe it was the only movie theater in town showing Star Wars (the mind boggles) or maybe it was because they had a THX Certified Sound System.  Doesn’t really matter, because all I know was this experience was the start of a tradition.

In 1997, there was no online ticket ordering or advanced ticket sales. To see Star Wars at The Senator, we had to arrive early and stand in line. This was my first time experiencing this. I was a 16 year-old girl, a Star Wars fan (I had written the entire cast list on my history notebook because apparently knowing who played Admiral Piett was slightly more interesting than knowing about U.S. history…whoops) and I had always felt like I was the only one who really loved these movies.  Then I got to stand in line.

Star Wars fans and geeks in general love lines. There is a reason. When you find yourself standing in a line for a movie/book/video game or convention appearance, you know you have something in common with everyone there. Casual fans don’t stand in line, casual fans will get tickets later when the rest of us finally go home. I’m not trying to pull rank here, I’m just saying that you know you are on the same level as those around you. I remember my Mom striking up a conversation with the people in front of us in line, talking briefly about Star Wars and our family.  Nothing in depth, we didn’t become life long friends, but for that brief moment, we connected with random people. Then the ticket office opened, we paid our way and went in to find our seats and I got to experience Star Wars on the big screen. The crowd applauded when “Lucasfilm” came on the screen and then cheered when “STAR WARS” began to fly through space. I can remember hearing the Tie Fighters flying around my head, but not much else about that viewing experience.

But that bond that we formed, however brief, stayed with me long after the movie. When “The Phantom Menace” was announced, I knew I had to see it at The Senator. After much debate, Lucasfilm announced that they would allow advanced tickets sales for Episode I. On May 11, 1999, my parents let me skip school and I convinced a few of my friends to come with me to camp out for tickets.  My mom dropped us off outside the theater. We arrived “late” by Star Wars fan standards (we were 18! What did we know!) and the line had already wrapped around the corner of the theater and was down the street.  We ended up on some dentist’s front lawn.  I brought my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game and we all waited.  We had blankets and snacks and we slept outside on the grass, in lawn chairs, or kept ourselves awake sitting on the sidewalk. I remember the local restaurants handing us their menus then coming back for orders. I remember the news showing up and filming us playing trivial pursuit. I remember a guy showing us his brand new tattoo, featuring Darth Maul. I remember watching the guy from the box office come out and count heads, passing us and then going down the line a bit more, only to tell everyone behind us that they wouldn’t be able to get tickets to the midnight showing because they were too far back in line.

We're on the TVs! It was an amazing experience. I think remember more about that night in line than I do about seeing the movie for the first time. My friends thought I was crazy but they also loved the experience because there is no other movie that you would do this for. NONE. Tickets on sale now!

When the movie night came, the crowd burst into cheers of delight as the yellow text scrolled up the screen, laughed when Obi-Wan mumbled that he “had a bad feeling about this” and you could hear the intake of break as Qui-Gon introduced his Padawan to Anakin Skywalker – it was a thrill like nothing else. A new Star Wars movie!  We had waited so long…and that is about all I remember about the TPM premiere.

Ticket Stub When “Revenge of the Sith” ticket sales were announced, thinking this would be the last Star Wars movie, I knew I had to get tickets. (I didn’t camp out for “Attack of the Clones” because Lucasfilm, in their wisdom, had the tickets go on sale while Celebration II was going on! My friend Paul stood in line for me, said that some guy took shots at them from his car, so he might not be as nostalgic about line standing as I am). The Senator still did not have online ticket sales in 2005 so I knew I had to camp out again. By this point, I had found a Star Wars club (DCSWCC) and had made friends with more awesome geeky people who were just as excited about the movie as me. Or maybe we were just excited about standing in line again? Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

It was a miserable, cloudy day out but we came bundled up and sat on the cold sidewalk.  Then the most amazing thing happened – the theater owner, Thomas Kiefaber, took pity on us and let us all inside the theater! He had his Star Wars memorabilia out for us to look at and brought us all some snacks.  We all sat around in the theater lobby, talking about life, the universe, and everything.

Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre When the morning came, we all miraculously went outside and got back in line again (after eating bagels that Mr. Kiefaber brought for us from the local shop!) and bought our tickets for the midnight show. Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

I don’t remember much about that actual premiere night. After the other two films, I think we all knew that this wasn’t going to end well but we knew that seeing it with 800 other fans would be better than seeing it in a mall multiplex.

Jump ahead 10 years later.  I was unsure about this new Star Wars movie. After the magic of seeing the prequels at The Senator wore off, I tired of them pretty quickly. I loved my original trilogy but was worried about what direction this new movie would take. I tried to stay cynical and distant. And then I watched the official trailer…and I was that 16 year old girl again, writing actor names on my notebook.

I ran upstairs and immediately went online to The Senator’s website and I snatched up two tickets for the 10:30 pm showing (apparently midnight showings have gone out of style?).  So no need to camp out in line, it was all about bandwidth. Still, I anticipated that I would need to get to the theater early to get the good seats.

I requested to leave work early on Thursday, December 17. My husband of three months agreed to come along with me. We ate dinner and got to the theater a little after 7pm. There was almost no line out front.  I think we were among the first ten (I was maybe a little anxious since one of my friends who attended the 7pm showing had arrived around 2pm).


Of course, this is 2015 so we all had our smartphones. The group behind us was watching Robot Chicken Star Wars clips on YouTube. Would I get to enjoy the feeling of belonging one more time while waiting in line? I wasn’t so sure, then I started listening to the couple in front of us in line.  They were saying random names of actors and musicians. I couldn’t figure out the connection. Finally, I found a way in to their conversation when Jim Henson came up (I was in the middle of his biography so I was bursting with random facts) and discovered they were playing The Name Game. They invited me to join and a little after that, the person in front of them in line also started to play. Eventually we had a fun little group, including my friend who had seen the prequels with me back in the day.


Around 9:15, the previous showing started to exit the theater and there was my brother and his girlfriend.  They came up to me and gave me their spoiler-free reactions and we talked for a bit.  After he left, my friend Steve and his wife appeared and gave me hugs and their quick reactions. Imagine trying to do that in a giant, 24 theater multiplex?  Yes, this was WHY I went to The Senator (and my brother too).

And then it was our turn to head inside.

I had fun with my single-serving friends and once inside the theater I never saw them again. We found our seats and listened to a local music teacher play Star Wars melodies on his keyboard while we got our popcorn.


The new owners of the theater said a few words and then a single trailer ran (ONE trailer – I can’t imagine how many the people in regular theaters had to sit through).
And then silence. A black screen. The green letters begin to sparkle on the screen and there’s a smattering of applause. And then STAR WARS and cheers. And the magic was back. And we laughed together. We cheered together. We gasped together. It ended and we applauded.

I left the theater, giddy from the movie I watched but sad because I knew that was the last time this would happen.  The experience of camping out for tickets, standing in line to see a movie – it would be gone soon. It made me feel kind of special, and kind of sad because I think it was these experiences that made me into the passionate Star Wars fan that I am today. It was just about watching a movie, but seeing a movie with a room full of strangers who are, for those two hours, also your friends. Because you all love that silly little movie on the big screen, even if it was only for 160 minutes.


An American Refrain

Libba Bray

Like many people, I’ve been grappling with making sense of our current political landscape. What to say about the hate speech being spewed by the leading GOP candidate, the anti-immigrant/anti-refugee/anti-Muslim fervor he seems intent on whipping into an ugly frenzy—and the lack of strong rebuke from his fellow candidates? What to say about candidates for the office of President seriously entertaining the idea of barring people from entering our country because of their religion? Of turning their backs on refugees—many of them children—fleeing persecution?

It is deeply troubling that this is where we are. But it is also, sadly, where we have been so often. This is an old American refrain.

For the past several years, I’ve been deep in the research for the DIVINERS series. Often, I talk about the parallels between America of the 1920s and America today, things I have uncovered while digging into our past. Here’s…

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