Books read in September

Wherein I should be reading books for a conference but get distracted by a bunch of comics for teens and kids that I just happened to see on the shelf:

Unicorn on a Roll (Heavenly Nostrils, #2)Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Not quite as good as the first collection, but still adorable and fun. I love this series!!!

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This One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I think a lot of us have a “one summer” that we can remember. Maybe not quite as dramatic as this one, but I do remember having those crushes, the mystery of what being “older” was all about, and straddling that line between wanting to be a kid and wanting to be a teen. Tamaki and Tamaki capture it all perfectly.

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Storm Vol. 1: Make it RainStorm Vol. 1: Make it Rain by Greg Pak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always think of Storm as being a side character, usually shoved into the back of scenes in the movies, the writers never sure how to handle her powers. I mean, she can fly and control the weather – she could destroy us all pretty quickly. It was great to read a comic with her at the CENTER of the attention. This was a great start to the series and I am looking forward to reading more. She has been underutilized as a character for far too long.

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Sunny Side UpSunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a surprise on so many levels. What I thought was going to be a little summer vacation story turned out to be a much more powerful semi-biography. Holm & Holm capture the innocence and confusion of being a child with a family member who has a substance abuse problem.

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Love Letters to the DeadLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to this book because I knew there was no way I could read it. It falls to far into the angst/trauma area of YA Lit that I tend to not read. But I am facilitating at a conference so I had to read it so I could help with the discussion.

My biggest complaint is that the whole “letter” thing, which wore thin by the end. Plus, sequences when she was, say, black out drunk…how exactly did she write that all out later? It just didn’t work and about halfway through the letter format would pull me out of the story and remind me that this was a book. I think it would have worked better if the letters had maybe been scattered in the book with just regular narration beyond that.

Plus, it just felt like too much for one story. Though this book might find its way into the hands of a young person who is dealing with one or all of these issues and it will help them. So I can’t discount it. But as far as being a “great book”, meh.

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The Worst Class Trip EverThe Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Something about this book rubbed me the wrong way. I think if I was a 12 year old boy, I probably wouldn’t care so much, and that is the target audience so it’s not that big of a deal. But reading this as an adult that lived through 9/11, it was hard for me to feel comfortable while reading about supposed terrorist plots and assassinations. It just kept me from laughing at all the fart jokes…I wanted to laugh but it was just really hard with that plot line yanking me out of the funny and into the real world.

I was really hoping that this was just going to be a story of shenanigans as the kinds bumbled around, I felt the terrorist plot was unnecessary. Wyatt and his friends were clearly dufuses and they didn’t need a wacky plot to make idiots of themselves. Just wandering D.C. as a class should have been funny enough.

Oh well…kind of a let down from some one who loved Dave Barry when she was 13…

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books read in August

Giving myself a little break before I start to pack up some more boxes for the move to OUR HOUSE!! (Yes, I haven’t posted in awhile because we were buying a house and it turns out that takes up a huge chunk of your time…and money…dear god, we have no money now LOL j/k)

Here are the books I finished in August.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book for so many reasons. I picked it up on a whim after seeing it had a starred review in School Library Journal. I don’t even think I read the blurb, I just started to read it and I couldn’t stop.

Simon is a character that so many can relate to. He is gay and hasn’t come out to anyone except for his online friend, Blue. And I think a lot of us “digital natives” are more honest with our online friends sometimes than we are with our IRL friends.

This is a sweet and funny story and definitely a feel good book. I really hope it finds its way into the hands of lots of different teens.

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Maggot MoonMaggot Moon by Sally Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me awhile to get into this book but once I did I couldn’t stop reading. Standish, our narrator, is all over the place and working out the timeline takes some concentration in the beginning. But once you start to piece it all together, you find a powerful story of an alternate history.

While the book and chapters are short, this book probably wouldn’t fly with a reluctant reader because of the language and allusions. This is one of the best first person narratives I have read, restricted just to standish’s pov with no moments where I felt his descriptions were beyond what he would know.

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Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: CrushedMs. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Crushed’ has some really good moments for Ms. Marvel and a few scenes that made me shiver, drawing parallels to what happens to so many girls who become enamored with the wrong guy. But that was just a piece of the story. I really love this series and hope the quality stays where it is.

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Scarlett UndercoverScarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

‘Scarlett Undercover’ is an homage to classic noir, almost to a fault.

The story is told by Scarlett, a fast talking Muslim-American teen who graduated high school early and now spends her days solving little mysteries around town. Of course, the one mystery she can’t solve is the death of her father. The cops said it was a heart attack but she knows different.

It was a good read, but I felt like it tried too hard in a few spots to keep that noir feel when I was ready for the story to move a bit quicker. This might just be me though, perhaps these kinds of mysteries are not my thing. I enjoyed reading about Scarlett investigating and collecting clues, but some of the noir cliches pulled me out of the story a few times, felt forced.

But a teen who hasn’t had as much exposure to classic noir or the Veronica Mars series might enjoy the book more than me and find these little bits charming.

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My Little Pony: Discord and the Ponyville Players DramaramaMy Little Pony: Discord and the Ponyville Players Dramarama by G.M. Berrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, this My Little Pony story is written for all the kids who love Broadway musicals. It contains several Pony-fied versions of classic showtunes, like “Singing in the Rain” and “Seventy Six Trombones”. I’m not sure how many kids will get these gags but those that do will love this book.

There’s also a nod to John De Lancie’s Star Trek persona…

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Jon Stewart; or why I will be crying my eyes out later tonight

Tonight at 11pm, the final episode of Jon Stewart’s 16 year run as the host of The Daily Show will air.

I remember when Jon took over as host of The Daily Show. Back then, during Craig Kilborn’s short run, it was more childish and immature and it appealed to high school me. I used to watch it every night while chatting on AOL Instant Messenger with my friends. Then Jon Stewart took over and while the silly jokes were still there, it was clear the brains behind the gags were not just going for the easy punchline. I suddenly found myself learning about the world, about politics, in a way I had never been engaged before.

I watched Daily Show all through college and for a good while after that. I attended the Rally for Sanity in Washington D.C., one of the craziest events I have ever been to. Jon and the crew were the voice of reason, or at least they admitted how ridiculous politics can be, and will always be. Instead of thinking “am I the only one who sees this?”, Stewart reassured me that, no, I was not crazy, the world was crazy.

Like Joss Whedon’s shows, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show made me feel less alone in this crazy world. They reminded me that other people, a LOT of other people, laugh at the same jokes as me and have the same serious concerns about our world. It was comforting.

I know when I watch that final episode I will cry. Not just because it is goodbye, but because I won’t know where to go to find that comfort anymore. Yes, there are little niches and nooks on the internet that probably provide similar satire, I can watch John Oliver’s segments on YouTube, but a mainstream, popular source of levity on a daily basis won’t be readily available to me.

And maybe I will be surprised again by Trevor Noah and the new team taking over.

But right now I am very scared, as I see the new presidential candidates lining up, as I see that FOX NEWS is still a thing, as I see ignorant comments online about all of the things happening in the world…and I realize that after tonight, Jon Stewart won’t be there to react to it, to tell me that my frustrations are well founded, that I am not the only one staring at the screen and wondering WTF is going on.

in praise of Hannibal (why are you not watching the best show on TV?)

Hannibal Season 3 is a prime example of how much better a television or movie series based on books can be if all of the source material is out in advance. Watching this season, as the writers fold in the 31-year old story of Red Dragon and knead it into their current narrative, into our current world…there are only a few more episodes before it is all done, but even after the show ends, there will still be this delicious dish left over for others to savor.

Going to ramble a bit about the show vs the book so spoilers here and there for both of them. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I just read Red Dragon a few months ago and I thought it had stood up pretty well, but, of course, Will and Hannibal’s relationship is nothing like the show. When Harris wrote the novel, he had no idea what Hannibal would become. Bryan Fuller ans his team managed to craft a prequel to the story over the past two years, lifting elements from other books in the series and they have made the characters and story richer for it. The connection between Hannibal and Will is even stronger, even creepier.

With the addition of Alana Bloom and her relationship with these two men, the story gets an extra layer. Watching her “wag her finger” at Hannibal in last night’s episode made me worried about where her path would ultimately lead. She knows Hannibal will kill her. I feel like she is resigned to that fate, but she will do everything in her power to keep him locked up for as long as she can. I’m concerned she won’t survive this season, that maybe instead of sending the Red Dragon after Will, Hannibal will send him after Alana and her new family. Though I suppose that wouldn’t really count as him killing her, which was his promise. He is very particular about language and meaning, that Hannibal.

The scene between Will and Hannibal was so fantastic. The language was magnificent, as Hannibal proclaimed that he had created a family for Will already and how betrayed he felt, not because Will took the stand against him in court (though his comment about the cologne shows it did bother him a little), but that Will has moved on and created a strong bond with another person, a person who makes him better, not worse. Hannibal doesn’t like it.

And, of course, Jack and Hannibal. Trying to play each other. Was Hannibal really surprised that Jack read his note? He must have known that would happen and as soon as Will revealed that he had read it, Hannibal knew Jack had too, that he had manipulated Will and also Hannibal. Or had Hannibal manipulated Jack? I think they are believe they are playing each other and are aware that the other is playing them.

I love how Hannibal’s cell shifts between reality and the mind palace he has created for himself. That one moment Will is beyond the glass and the next they are in Hannibal’s office. And the flashbacks to Hannibal’s secret life with Abigail…his comment to Will about the “ready made family” with Molly, how her already having a son meant that he didn’t have to worry about passing on the traits he didn’t like about himself…and then telling Will that he gave him a daughter once. But for Hannibal, Abigail was the daughter with the traits he wanted, someone willing to hunt with him and for him. Something a biological child could not guarantee him either.

Then we have Richard Armitage lurking around as The Tooth Fairy The Great Red Dragon, with only moments of actual dialogue but mostly it’s about flexing and twitching and screaming into the sky. Yet he is still amazing and captivating. The way he curls his back and his hands, the agony of transforming. It took me a moment to realize that so much of the book we are IN Dolarhyde’s mind, HE hears the voices but in reality no one else would, so those moments of him freaking out, growling, smacking himself, there is a voice he hears that we do not. We are the sane ones watching him, NOT hearing the voice of the monsters in his head. It makes it even more terrifying because as an audience we can’t even pretend to understand.

JIMMY! BRIAN! FREDDIE! The old gang is coming back together and they are just as amusing as they were before. Especially Jimmy’s line about being overly fond of cats (which later made me think of Beverly and how we all cried for her even though Hannibal had slaughtered so many before her…anyway, we are all overly fond of cats/Katz).


books read in July

Hm…not as many as I thought…you know why? Because I signed up to be a moderator at a book conference in October, got the list, checked out all those books…and then immediately set out at finding other books to read instead. Because that is what happens when I get any kind of assigned reading, even when I assign it to myself!

ANYWAY, it’s a short list. I’m including a couple picture books because why not?

Wolfie the BunnyWolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun, fantastic book about family, specifically dealing with siblings. Because when your parents bring home a little brother, you assume he is another species. Great for a school visit.

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I Am Princess XI Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had no idea what this book was about and it was a pleasant surprise the whole way through! Very quick read, just enough suspense to keep you reading one more chapter and I love the Princess X comic! Highly recommend it!

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Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekPopular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Really cute book, perfect for geeky teens who want reassurance that popularity is more about point of view. I don’t think this was works as well for an adult read, but I think middle schoolers (Maya is in 8th grade when she write this) will identify with Maya and her classmates and her grand experiment.

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Modern RomanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book gets an extra star for being such a surprise! I’ve read plenty of books by comedians and usually they end up either being transcripts of their stand up acts or a strange mix of memoir and gag chapters. Aziz Ansari was smart. Instead of just signing a book deal and taking the easy way out of copy+pasting his jokes, he instead decided to use this time to dig deeper into something that has inspired much of his observational humor – dating and relationships in the modern, mobile phone world. He teamed up with a sociologist, did his homework, and created a fascinating book about the pros and cons of dating in 2015, about how much has changed in the world of relationships and how things have stayed the same. A really fun read!

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The Princess and the PonyThe Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is going on the school visit list for sure! I love Kate Beaton’s adult comics and she managed to write a children’s book that is just as much fun. LOVE IT!

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books read in June

I don’t think I’ve read this much in awhile! Probably means I’ve gone to bed at a decent hour more this month…probably because most of my shows are on break…

The SculptorThe Sculptor by Scott McCloud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really don’t know what to say about this beautiful book. It was not at all what I was expecting. It is a story about life, death, rebirth, love, family, legacy, art, promises we make to ourselves, friendship…so many things, all of them handled so well by Scott McCloud.

Go into this book as blindly as you can, don’t read any reviews or plot summaries. Just read it.

I think this would look nice on my shelf right next to Blankets

So You've Been Publicly ShamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book gets an extra star for making me really step back and think about social media and the Internet and participating in any kind of online “debate”. It made me realize that there IS no conversation online, just people yelling at each other or, as in the case of this book, yelling about one person.

If you have any kind of social media account, especially Twitter, you should read this book, if only to help you think a bit more about public shaming. There was a reason it was outlawed in the late 1800s.

I really wanted Ronson to go further into the psychology and also into the difference between here and now. He stops short of what I wanted, I could read another 300 pages on the WHY we do this to each other. But I think he knows that book would be better suited for a more scholarly writer.

If you’re reading this review, than you should read this book, because if you use the Internet, you should read this book. You may not agree with everything he says, but it is necessary for you to hear it and think about it, especially before you join in on a public shaming event on twitter.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation WhyMs. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Started off a little slow but once I saw where it was going and the message being sent, it all came together. Another great installment of the series, with Kamala growing as a person and hero on each page. Well done!

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman)Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series just keeps getting better! I am embarrassed by how little I knew about this American hero. I mean, we are told about Harriet Tubman in school, but it always felt like a footnote. Hale’s book introduces us to the real “Minty” and her adventures.

Dragonbreath (Dragonbreath, #1)Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great start to a series and perfect for early chapter book readers in 2nd/3rd grade. Lots of humor and GREAT vocabulary. This would be a really good pick for a kid/adult book club read too.

Louise Brooks: DetectiveLouise Brooks: Detective by Rick Geary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rick Geary tries his hand at historical FICTION and does a wonderful job! As usual, his story left me wanting to know more about the real Louise Brooks. But the mystery was a lot of fun too!

Not Every PrincessNot Every Princess by Jeffrey Bone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful and sweet book with a subtle message that you can be whatever you want to be, that being a boy or a girl shouldn’t limit your imagination and your dreams. It was a cute little poem and by including the word “princess” in the title this book is sure to get into the hands of many little girls.

I like that the message isn’t in your face because for most kids (at least we hope) the idea of NOT being able to be something because of their gender should be ridiculous. To quote Sarah Silverman, “Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. […] Not because they can’t but because it never would have occurred to them that they couldn’t.” Our adult hang-ups are usually what really hold back kids from believing in their abilities.

I appreciate the inclusion of a note for parents at the end with talking points on how to make their kids think outside the box or at least feel comfortable wishing to be something that maybe our society doesn’t usually say they can be.

I only wish the book was a little bigger so I could do it with my storytime crowd.

The Bunker DiaryThe Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t even know what to say…this book grabbed me from the first page and did not let go. I would fall asleep with it in my hands and wake up and try to make myself read more, to find out what was happening.

This would be so good for a book discussion, to ask what would you do?

I forgot how powerful Kevin Brooks books are…

The Silence of the Lambs  (Hannibal Lecter, #2)The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book, I kept marveling at how faithful the film adaptation had been! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book and known it so well because of the movie. It was like they actually just took the pages right out of the novel and copied them into a script, even the descriptions were spot on. Really the only part missing was the Crawford family’s drama but that doesn’t play an important role with the main plot.

Unlike ‘Red Dragon’, I knew the story of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ pretty well because I had seen the movie several times. It’s a classic! But that still didn’t stop my heartbeat from speeding up during the last few chapters.

Also, Clarice Starling is such a great character. I was really impressed with how well written she was. She was a strong woman in a field dominated by men. But Harris didn’t hit you over the head with the sexism issue, he just quietly slid it in there, with little phrases of how the men reacted to Clarice’s presence.

I’m thinking this may qualify as a modern classic. Or if anything, the movie and the book should be held up as a how-to of from page to screen.

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movie thoughts: Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out is only the third movie I have seen in theaters this year. We debated going to see Jurassic World instead but we opted for this one instead.

We made the right choice. It was worth every penny.

This is Pixar storytelling at its finest, taking an abstract idea about emotions and feelings and turning it into a whole new world.

It was hard not to fall in love with Joy immediately because AMY POEHLER. Joy was very much a Leslie Knope type character, trying to keep the team at its best.

(I just lost like 20 minutes because I went over to tumblr and typed in “Inside Out Gifs” and then proceeded to save WAY too many of them…because this movie).

I’m not going to spoil it for you. This movie was beautiful. The characters were well written, the voice acting was top notch, and the story was classic, perfect, Pixar. It was truly a film for all ages, as a child, teen, young adult and adult could all watch this movie and get it in all the feels. I had tears rolling down my cheeks by the end, that same swirling of emotions that I got when I saw the final moments of Toy Story 3. (and Pixar knows you will be sniffling at the end, so they put some silly moments in as the credits start to roll to help you laugh the tears away).

Just go see it. Now. Go experience it in a dark theater with a group and hear them laughing and sniffling with you.

I give this movie all the stars. All the thumbs up. It will be a part of my collection as soon as I can purchase it on blu-ray.