Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Chronicles of the Disappearing Music Generation

Okay, y'all, here's another round of reads. This one was definitely a mixed bag in both genre and reactions from me.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis was a book I first read in first grade. I figured after almost 30 years it was due for a re-read. I actually remember reading this the first time around. When my first grade teacher Mrs. Linder realized I was reading well ahead of grade level, she gave me my own reading assignments. We'd have one-on-one time where just she and I would talk about what I'd read. The fact that I still remember this all these years later says it meant a lot. Anyway, enough memory lane for now! Y'all, this book was fantastic. I can see why people are captivated by it. It's beautiful and magical and fun. I won't offer an extensive review because you've likely heard something about this one in the nearly 70 years it's been out.

Oh, but I will take this opportunity to offer you this musical selection/sketch you probably haven't enjoyed in awhile.

Read this book if - You are a fan of fantasy/magical reads. You've read this before, and you want to take a trip back. You never got around to reading this one. You need something that'll sweep you into a distant land for a bit.

iGen: IGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge is a book I picked up after hearing the author speak at a conference earlier this month. iGen (also known as Gen Z) is the next generation, and this book explores what the heck they're all about. Y'all this stuff is fascinating. As they're now in college, this is a read that is directly related to the work I do. This book is really interesting stuff, and I'm not just saying that because I work in higher education. It's genuinely interesting to see how different this group is from millenials. It's also fascinating and honestly kind of terrifying to see how they've been impacted by technology. 

Read this book if - You are currently teaching, working and/or interacting with students/humans who fall into iGen (born in 1995 and later). You find generational trends interesting. You want to understand more about the impacts of technology.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is this month's selection for my in-person book club. The best way to explain this one is that it's kind of like Empire Records, but with more feels. This one takes place in the late eighties. Frank is a record store owner who continues to resist adding tapes and CDs to his store. He prides himself on knowing just what music his customers need for where they are in life. One day, a girl in a green coat enters his life. As love stories go, they have some good times, but also things are super complicated. By the end, I was emotionally invested in this one in a way I didn't totally see coming. Due to this, I was somewhat frustrated by the ending for reasons I won't share so as not to spoil it for you. This one was enjoyable though. Also, it made me want to watch Empire Records soon.

Image result for damn the man save the empire gif

Read this book if - You are a "Damn the man, Save the empire" kind of person. You are a fan of music, particularly classical as this one had more references there than I was anticipating. You like an unconventional love story.

The Disappearing by Lori Roy is an ARC I received. The book is due out in a few weeks. How do I say this? I wanted to love this one more than I did. However, I think this is totally other people's jam, but it's just not totally mine for this genre. Lane and her two daughters have returned home to her hometown. With this, there are things in her family's past that are well-known that continue to impact how others see them. Then, one of her daughter's and a college student goes missing, and everyone wonders if this is the past coming back once more. However, there is so much more to the story. The twists in this one were legit jaw-droppers for me where I had to say, "Wait, what?" Ultimately, this one went just a little too dark for me, but again I think for others they're going to totally dig it.

Read this book if - You like a thriller where the truth is not at all what it seems. You like a twist that you will not see coming at all. You like a book where you just don't know who you can believe or trust.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Reality TV, Sibling Rivalry, A Thriller And A Donkey?

As the post title indicates, these titles could not be more different, but y'all they were each great in their own ways!

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Liane Oelke is a book that has been on my to-read list for awhile. I wish I could remember where I heard about it, so I could give thanks to that human for connecting me. Jane has been expelled from high school, and she goes to her local community college to complete her credits. While there, she finds out about a reality show that an aspiring student filmmaker wants to make. In exchange for a place to stay, Jane can join House of Orange. Jane joins up neglecting to mention she's not yet 18 and also anything about her past (Content Warning: Her past does involve mental health struggles). Like all good reality shows, Jane navigates alliances within the house, connecting at college, and her somewhat fractured relationship with her family. Y'all, I just loved this one. I'm always a fan of a good YA read and the added dimension of a reality television was just so different and fun. Not to mention, this was just a book with characters I was rooting for throughout as if I was watching them on House of Orange.

Read this book if - You share my love for YA fiction and/or reality TV. You want to read a book that's like Big Brother without all the drama and super weird games and with extra helpings of intriguing characters and stories.

Bring Her Home by David Bell was a thriller I picked up at some book sale. The plot on the back intrigued me enough to check it out. Bill is called to the hospital. His daughter and a friend have been missing/believed to have been kidnapped, and they believe they have found his daughter. Bill is relieved, but he soon begins to notice something isn't quite right with his daughter. He even wonders if it's really her. I will say I was worried that this one was going to have some predictable twists, and then it went some directions I did not see coming at all. In other words, it hit that thriller spot just like I was hoping.

Read this book if - You love a good Lifetime movie marathon. This one reads just like a Lifetime movie - at least from a suspense perspective, not from the cheesiness factor just to be clear.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech was an ARC I received. I didn't realize until I read the back that this is the same author who wrote Walk Two Moons which I read back when I was in the actual age bracket that read J Fiction. I've since moved a few decades (eek) beyond that. Even though that's the case, this book was totally my jam. Louie takes on caring for a sick donkey that he names Winslow. Others are skeptical that the donkey is going to even make it through the first night, but Louie is confident his donkey is going to survive and thrive. This one was just adorable. I absolutely loved this one, and whether you're eight or eighty, it's worth checking out.

Read this book if - You are a fan of a feel-good J fiction book. You love a good story about a kid and an animal friend. Note: THIS IS NOT AN ANIMAL STORY WHERE YOU END UP AS A HOT, SOBBING MESS OF EMOTIONAL FEELS.

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson was another J fiction read. I can remember this title from my childhood. I think I read it, but I'm honestly not sure? Again, it's been a minute. Basically, this one is the story of twins in the 1940s. Louise has a chip on her shoulder because of all the love and attention her twin Caroline has gotten since literally day one. Reading this as an adult, my first thought was - Whoa, this was a children's book!?! It takes on some heavy topics and some hardcore sibling jealous. I will say that all these years later, it's still a compelling read. I'll admit that Louise does have a point. Caroline totally gets all the things, and I'd be annoyed, too!

Read this book if - You're making your way back through the best children's books of the eighties? You want to read about a complicated sibling relationship. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Little of This. A Little of That.

Y'all, this was an interesting round of reads for me with a variety of feels. I offer the disclaimer that I didn't love them all, but I hope my thoughts can help y'all decipher if they might be for you.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is phenomenal. I had no idea a book about a pandemic flu could be so absolutely beautiful. This book starts with one of the first moments the flu begins as a lead actor in a production of King Lear passes out on stage. The book then weaves through different times and reactions to the spread of the flu. There's stories of the time before, stories of the spread, and then stories of how life has been since. Much of this involves the story of the Traveling Symphony which is a group of survivors who travel the country trying to keep the arts alive as they visit various settlements. As I was reading, I sometimes had to say to myself, "How can I be so captivated by a book about such tragedy?!?" However, it's just that well-written, and the stories of the characters were just that mesmerizing. 

Read this book if - You want to read dystopian fiction with incredible characters. You like a book that makes you feel all the things. You are looking for a book that captivate you from the first pages until the very last sentence.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh was a book I so wanted to love but instead ended up just liking. It was an advanced e-galley I received from First To Read, and I was pumped when I was selected. However, I went in with the wrong kind of expectations. I thought this was going to be more page-turning sensational thriller than it was. The story revolves around a couple who spend a week together and have a strong connection. However, then the dude just vanishes. The rest of the story then focuses on just what the heck happened and how the couple had a previous connection that is quite important. The story ended up being more romance/general fiction than thriller which isn't a bad thing. It was just different. I will say I thought I totally had the ending figured out, but there was an unexpected twist that I did not see coming at all. It's an interesting enough story, but if you're wanting more thrill with your vanishing lover, this isn't your jam.

Read this book if - You like your romance with a side of "What the heck happened?" You need a good beach read that keeps you reading to figure out connections in stories.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly is first of all one of my favorite covers of the year. The story is about two middle schoolers who find each other via an online Scrabble game. Both Charlotte and Ben are struggling with their middle school experiences, and they find connection they crave over the 1000s of miles that separate them. The interesting piece is that while both are struggling, neither admits this to their online friend. The book covers a week of their game in alternating narratives. I don't read a tremendous amount of J Fiction, but I really liked this one. 

Read this book if - You want a book with a unique spin on the struggles of middle school. You want a book that could start a conversation about how we connect.  You want a quick, quirky read.

Providence by Caroline Kepnes was a read that was way out of my normal wheelhouse. That's not a bad thing, but I think this one is better suited for people who aren't me. Specifically, this one was way more science fiction-y than I anticipated. Oh, and this was an advanced e-galley from NetGalley, so it's not yet available to the masses. Anyway, this story stars with two teenage friends - Jon and Chloe. Chloe is one of the only people that Jon feels truly understands him. Then, Jon is kidnapped by a substitute teacher. Four years later, Jon is released and returns with a new ability that means he has the potential to (literally) hurt those who (literally) get close to him. The rest of the story is then Jon figuring how to manage this power and his connection to Chloe. At the same time, it's Chloe figuring out what her connection to Jon is given his new normal. 

Read this book if - You are a fan of science fiction with relationships at the core of the plot. You like a fiction read that's a bit "off the beaten path" when it comes to the story it tells. You're looking for a book with a bit of a "Stranger Things vibe" going on.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Navigating A Book Sale Like A Boss

Y'all, is there anything better than an awesome used book sale? The answer is no - At least in my eyes. This week is the very, very best sale at least in JoCo as the Friends of the Johnson County Libraries host their Sizzlin' Summer Book Sale. If you've never experienced the pure joy of walking into a gymnasium full of books, you're missing out on life.

See? SEE. Isn't it beautiful.

In honor of this sale and any other book sales you might find yourself at, I'm offering up my best tips for scouting a sale.

1). Become a Friend. As far as perks of being a friend of the library go, the biggest one is early access to book sales. Most sales even allow you to purchase your membership on-site! The benefit of the early access is the crowds are usually a bit smaller, and you get first look at inventory. Beyond just this sale, being a friend gets you regular discounts at the used bookstores in the libraries. 

Time Out: These bookstores are a great place to find reasonably priced used books throughout the year. If you aren't shopping here, you should be! In addition to being able to find a great deal, your dollars go towards helping the library. 

Image result for win win gif

2). Volunteer. Another secret to getting the most out of the sale is signing up to help out. For the JoCo sale, you actually earn Book Bucks (think Monopoly money, but for books!) you can then use to buy books. In other words, they're literally giving you books to volunteer your time!

3). Have A Plan. The good news is there are SO. MANY. BOOKS. The challenge is there are SO MANY BOOKS to look through. That said, it helps to have an idea of what you're wanting to find. First of all, prioritize your genres. Start with the are you are most pumped about checking out because your energy is highest. For me, that's general fiction. Most sales will have signs marking each genre, and for the really huge ones, they'll even have maps!

I'd suggest getting even more specific and building a list. I do this with Goodreads. Throughout the year, I maintain a sub-list in my Want To Read section. It's called my Wish List, and it's the books I haven't yet read. When it comes time for a big sale, I take the time to read and review this list to commit some of the book titles to memory. I told y'all I was serious about this! 

I don't remember every single book, but as I'm looking it helps to have something that might catch my eye. Because y'all should also know that at most large book sales these books aren't going to be in alpha order. When you're scanning rows and rows of books, you need to have something that triggers that "Oh, I remember that title!" switch in your brain.

For reference, it's going to look a little like this, so you can see why this might be helpful.

Generally, you shouldn't expect to find anything that was released in the last year. If you go early, you might find a diamond in the rough, but those finds are going to be few and far between. Oh, and I also make sure to review the list of books I already own, but haven't read yet. This is mostly because I have a bad habit of buying books I've previously own/read, but that may just be a me problem.

4). BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags. I cannot tell you how many people I see at these sales struggling to manage a stack of books in their arms because they buy way more than they planned. An easy fix for this is to bring a reusable bag. I'm a super nerd and actually bring a roller cart, but if you're not quite on that level (and that's okay), something you can easily throw over your shoulder is indispensable.

This is my book cart of choice - The Smart Cart!

Smart Cart in Red

5). Have fun! Yes, this is a totally cheesy tip, but y'all, there is nothing better than finding your next great reads. It's like a treasure hunt for bibliophiles, and there's just nothing like it. Seriously. 

Happy Hunting y'all!

Image result for bookshelf gif