Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Best and Worst Books of 2014

I love Best Of and Worst Of lists. December is a magical month for me when every media outlet compiles lists of everything that was awesome or terrible in the previous 11 months, from pictures of cats on Roombas to bullshit gluten free recipes for cronuts. I'm really only qualified to rank books. And by qualified, I mean I have a big enough ego to think I can tell other people what they should and should not be reading.

Disclaimer: These are all books I have read in 2014. They didn't all come out in 2014. This list also doesn't count books I re-read this year. And finally, it doesn't include books I couldn't finish. I don't feel right completely judging a book I didn't finish because maybe it got awesome in the parts I didn't read. Probably not, but it's a possibility - a Schrodinger's Cat kind of thing.

Best Books of 2014

5. Reality Boy by A.S. King



This book spoke to me. I hate saying corny shit like that, but it's true. When Gerald was 5, his family was on a reality television show called Network Nanny. Gerald's original problem was punching holes in the walls when he got mad. Then he started crapping on things. Like the kitchen table and his sister's bed. Gerald is a teenager now, and boy is he angry. King goes back and forth, trading Gerald's current narrative with stories of his life as an unwilling reality television star. It's one thing to know in your head that reality television isn't real and quite another to be able to peek behind the scenes. Gerald's life is a lot more complicated and tragic than Network Nanny ever let on. Gerald is one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever read without crossing into the pathetic, minus the sym. I understood his anger and frustration. There were times that I thought this book was written specifically for me. I know that's silly, but if an author can make you feel that, they've gone above and beyond good writing.

4. The Stand by Stephen King


This book was definitely not written in 2014. I'm super late to the game, but I'm glad I decided to give Stephen King a chance this year. I spent a lot of time hating on King because my brother liked him and my brother has shitty taste. I also dismissed him as a hack because anyone as prolific as King can't possibly be good, right? The Stand was awesome. I went into it without spoilers and while I thought the ending was a little anticlimactic, the journey was everything.

3. Noggin by John Corey Whaley


You can indeed judge a book by its cover. Look at that. It's genius. Who wouldn't want to read that? I had a few moments of doubt with this book early on because I'm tired of books about sad cancer kids being sad. 2014 was the year of terminal illness romanticism. Stahp. Please. But Noggin is different. Travis does die of cancer but comes back to life five years later with his head attached to a healthy donor body. His girlfriend might be engaged to someone else, but she and Travis never technically broke up, so they're still together, right? Even though she's 21 and he's still 16? This book really made me think about time and how we take it for granted. Five years can feel like a blink or a thousand lifetimes. It also forced me to think about death. What if it didn't have to be permanent? How hard must it be to say hello again to someone to whom you've already said goodbye forever? This book also made me laugh. And cry. A lot.

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


This book was so much fun. I'm really fascinated with online alterna-worlds. Yeah, I play Warcraft. There's so much to MMOs beyond shooting orcs in the face. Whole political systems and economies grow in a good MMO. Ready Player One takes the MMO to the next level. Most people these days operate in OASIS because the real world is so awful. Wade Watts aka Parzival is one of these people, but he also has a mission: to crack the clues left by OASIS's creator and win more money than he could ever use. This book is a love letter to 80s pop culture but you don't have to get all of the references to enjoy what is also a super fun adventure story. I am so looking forward to Cline's next book, Armada, which isn't coming out soon enough, dammit.

1. The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price


I read this book back in February and spent the rest of the year reading everything in comparison to it. The one word I think of in regard to this books is "refreshing." I read a lot and sometimes feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over again. Silvers was like a high voltage zap in the ass. Yeah, alternate realities have been done before but not quite like this. Price provides readers with a plot that starts with the end of the world and never slows down. There is also a cast of characters that are unique but still easy to relate to. I kind of have a crush on Zach Trillinger, but don't tell Amanda Given... Price walks that fine line between accessibility and wtf just happened? with his plot. This first book in what I hope is a long and engaging series answers just enough questions to keep readers satisfied but asks many more that will make your head explode with awesome. Silvers was my favorite book not just of 2014 but of several years before that. I talk about it so much that I think my coworkers are ready to beat me to death with a copy.


Worst Books 2014

5. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix


This book goes on the list for having so much wasted potential. The gimmick of this book was so clever, but that's all it was - a gimmick. The book is physically designed as a mock IKEA catalogue, complete with furniture diagrams that get more and more upsetting as the book goes on. It's worth a read through, but beyond the idea of a haunted IKEA-like store, there really isn't anything there. Hendrix's characters are forgettable and the plot was neither particularly funny or horrifying. I also got tired of Hendrix explaining every single reference and joke. Have some faith in your readers, man.

4. Dangerous Women ed. by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois


There's not much to say about this collection of stories except that it was a hot and bloated mess. I mostly bought the book for the Lev Grossman story and the George RR Martin story, but figured I would get some exposure to other authors as well and maybe discover a few that could become new favorites. No. Many of the works included in this volume were just boring, with a few bordering on offensively bad. The Grossman story was good but I later felt cheated when I read it as part of The Magician's Land. The Martin piece was like an exceptionally dry textbook. I say that having read the Song of Ice and Fire books multiple times. I also found the definition of dangerous women as presented by this volume a little off-putting. I thought I'd be reading a lot of Strong Female Characters, but mostly the women here just had axes to grind against men who wronged them in the past. This collection was just really not good and I'll be ignoring the second volume.

3. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor


It hurts me to put this book on the list. A lot. The first two in this series were incredible. Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight are superb. I still love them. I refuse to let the conclusion of the trilogy ruin the first two books. Angels, demons, artists, blue-haired girls, wishes made real, puppets, and Prague - freaking Prague! This beautiful series succumbs to teenage melodrama in the third book. What started as an engaging and epic story of family, war, and betrayal turned into 500 pages of Karou trying to figure out if she could still love Akiva after he murdered what was left of her entire race. I don't know... I feel like the answer should kind of be "no."

2. Deathnote by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata


This was my attempt to get into manga. A lot of the teens who come into my library like it and I figured I would make an attempt at connecting by reading it. I just didn't get it. Teenage sociopath with supernatural powers vs. teenage detective with preternatural powers of deduction. Death Note got boring and repetitive really fast. Maybe I would have liked this series better when I was younger.

1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Ugh. Ugh. I'm going to spoil this entire book right now in the review, so if you don't want spoilers, stop reading. Spoiled rich girl and spoiled rich cousins are tired of being used in their family's spoiled rich politics and drama. Spoiled rich kids get the brilliant idea to burn down spoiled rich racist grandpa's house to teach him a lesson. But spoiled rich kids don't understand how fire works and all but one of them die. And the family dogs die too. The one kid that survives is still spoiled and rich but now she is sad because her cousins are dead and grandpa is still rich and racist. There was nothing sympathetic or relatable about anyone in this book. I didn't feel like I learned anything after reading this book. I finished it and was only sad that I spent time with it. And yet, people love this damn book. It's won a bunch of awards and will likely be a 2014 Printz contender. Ew. Why? No, really, why? Someone please explain to me why this is a good book.

What's on your best and worst of 2014 lists?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Minecraft: What? Why?

I'm really smart. I know this about myself and I'm not going to be shy about it. But there are different kinds of smart and unfortunately, I am not the right kind of smart to make decent money with my brain or survive a potential Lost type of situation. Once, when I was in college, I put the wrong sized light bulb in a desk lamp and almost burned down the house I shared with three other people. My roommate said I was the stupidest smart person she had ever known. I'm the type of smart that could win at Jeopardy! but things like computers, cars, and overly complex word problems are like magic.


www.harkavagrant.com

Recently, I've been humbled by the video game Minecraft. And by humbled, I mean forced to admit I'm really bad at it and had a temper tantrum. I don't get it. I just. Do. Not. Understand.

This looks like a diseased penis with a face. I mean, is it?
Oh, I understand that you're a guy named Steve and you're supposed to rip up the land to build shit, but why?! WHY?! Part of the issue is that you have to or the diseased penis up there will arrive in the night and eat your face. But if that's the only reason, why play the game at all?

Okay, I'm starting over. Minecraft makes me a little angry. I'm trying really hard to understand it because I work with teens at a library and a few of us have gotten together to try and develop programming based on Minecraft because everyone seems to like it. And in order to get people inside the library, you have to entice them with things they like. Like Minecraft.

I bought a copy of the game and played it for about a half an hour, digging holes in the ground and punching the shit out trees but got frustrated and died because I got attacked by one of these things when I couldn't figure out how to build a door for my three walled dirt house:

 


Next, I did what I usually do when I get frustrated by something but can't just kick it and move on. I read some books and got my learn on. I read Minecraft for Dummies and Minecraft: the Unlikely Tale of Markus "Notch" Persson and the Game That Changed Everything. Here is a short list of the things I learned from these books and my half hour of game play:
 
1. There is no point to Minecraft except for the points that you create yourself. For example, if you want to log on and build a Hadron collider - do it. If you want to log on and lay in a hole and build crude dicks and butts out of dirt and rock, you can do that too.
 
2. There's a very vague storyline with an end boss but you can ignore it if you want to. The process of getting to this end boss is also mildly Satanic and may or may not involve a blood sacrifice.
 
3. You can eat zombie flesh, but it has an 80% chance of giving you food poisoning.
 
4. Zombie pig men are in this game but they won't really hurt you unless you hurt them first.
 
 
 
5. You can make a saddle and ride pigs. However, one of my coworkers has informed me that Minecraft also has horses.
 
6. Markus Persson is a gaming god and he always wears a fedora.
 
My problem with Minecraft is that I try too hard to find meaning where there is none. This game is all about the building and creating. But when you don't have an ounce of engineering enthusiasm in your body, what's left is the story. And to me, the story is thus:
 
You're a guy, dropped into a world alone. There are other people, but they're few and far between and they're much more primitive than you. Maybe you fell out of a spaceship? Or a wormhole? These people are too stupid to take care of you, but you don't seem to be phased by your own displacement anyway. So you navigate this world and learn that if you don't hurry up and build a house, zombies, creepers, and spiders will murder you in the night and take all your stuff. And you can keep on living this way, day after day, in a dirt house, your life becoming nothing more than the avoidance of a violent death. Or you can use your daylight hours to build fantastic structures that no one but you will ever appreciate and serve no purpose other than being a more elaborate way to stave off flesh eating pixel beasts. Or, you can travel to The End and kill a giant dragon, but the other people in this land won't even thank you because they had no idea it was there in the first place. And you can sit in your dirt house or to-scale replica of the Enterprise and weep silently for the life you were so crudely ripped from while breeding blue sheep and eating mushroom stew.
 
WHYYYYYYYYY?!
And this is why I'm not the right kind of smart for Minecraft. I can't comprehend gaming without a set objective. Even Pong has a purpose, which is to beat the other guy. I need structure. I need narrative. I need a definitive in-game goal or I will get bored and just come up with stupid ways to kill my avatar like building a house in The Sims and not putting in a toilet.
 
So, this has been my Minecraft experience. I'm going to keep trying because my patrons love the hell out of this game. But I may never really understand it. And I guess that's okay. For now though, I have to go. I have to level up my human hunter on World of Warcraft.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

50 Shades of Why

I already confessed this on facebook, but I have done a horrible thing. I read the first 150 pages of 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James.


*long, drawn out sigh*

I've been curious about these books for a while and as a library employee have had much more exposure to what was in them than I would have liked. There's nothing like listening to a woman old enough to be your mom gush about how amazing this trilogy is. I resisted reading them for two years for the following reasons:

1. It's Twilight fanfiction.
2. Twilight is already bad and fanfiction generally only makes things worse.
3. I hate fanfiction on principal.
4. I did not want to support bad fanfiction by spending money on the book.
5. I did not want to borrow the library book because of all the gross and sweaty hands that have already handled the book. In addition to the fact that certain library copies have tested positive for trace amounts of herpes.


But then the trailer for the movie came out and for some reason flipped a switch. Maybe I did want to give this book a try. Maybe it wasn't as bad as other people tried to tell me. Maybe they were just prudes about all the kinky sex and couldn't tell the difference between a book that was bad and a book that they didn't like. I mean, how could so many people who like the books be wrong? I had thought Harry Potter had to be terrible because so many people liked it, but Harry Potter is awesome! Maybe by not reading 50 Shades, I was missing out on something really important. Plus, the hot sheriff from Once Upon a Time was cast as Christian Grey. I liked that hot sheriff.



Not all of the decisions I make as an adult are well thought out, especially if they are based on the hot sheriff from Once Upon a Time. So, while my husband was busy getting the ultra hard achievements on BioShock Infinite, I went into the other room and read 50 Shades. This is a compilation of thoughts I had while reading:

1. This opening situation seems highly implausible for a lot of reasons. A reporter with the flu? Giving the Grey interview to her roommate as opposed to someone else who worked for the paper? Someone who has no reporting experience? This is supposed to be the biggest interview of the sick reporter's college career. Whatever. Just give it a few more pages.
2. Anastasia Steele is a name that obviously means Something Important.
3. There's a lot of blushing and lip biting.
4. AS trips through the door to CG's office. The first time he sees her, she is on her knees. Foreshadowing.
5. More lip biting.


6. CG has grey eyes. They flash a lot and turn different shades, like Christmas lights. Except grey.
7. CG also has copper colored hair. He runs his hands through it a lot. Does he have OCD or some kind of weird tick that makes him do that? He's going to go bald.
8. AS is going to bite a hole through her lip.
9. At 21, AS thinks all boys are gross except for CG. He might be stalking her, but he's not gross, so he's okay. It's okay to be creeped on by not gross boys.
10. And... CG is creeping. He goes to the hardware store where AS works and buys stuff that could be used for bondage play. Or murder. FORESHADOWING.
11. When is there going to be a sexy time? 100 pages in and there's been nothing but blushing, lip biting, eye flashing, and hair handling.
12. AS still refers to her vagina as "down there." Is she 5? That's so gross.


13. Oh wait, CG now wants to do the lip biting for AS. Maybe we're making sexy times progress.
14. Hold on. How did we get to this point where CG wants to bite AS's lip? I'm not sure I remember... There were expensive books. And drunken vomiting. And stalking. And AS used CG's toothbrush. That shit is nasty.
15. Okay, the sexy times are starting. But first, AS has to sign an NDA and some other paperwork agreeing for CG not to pee, poo, vomit on, or cut her. But she already puked on him once. How is this fair?
16. I think E.L. James got all of her BDSM information from early 2000s Livejournal and Yahoo! chat.
17. The sexy times happened. AS was a virgin. I hope CG flies the bloodied sheets from the ramparts of Grey Enterprises and Holdings because that would be funny.
18. Post sexy times, CG plays the piano naked in the middle of the night. Sex makes him sad. I bet pooping also makes him sad.
19. This book is really bad. Terribad.
20. Time for some cereal.



And then I sat on the couch in a daze and watched my husband play BioShock. Because what else can you do at that point? I damaged my own brain with toxic reading material. It was like I had gotten a clothes hanger, stuck it up my nose, and poked around in my frontal lobe for a couple of hours.

In my defense though, I think the experience made me a better reader. I tried something in an effort to connect with a certain demographic - I wanted to see what they were seeing. It was a failed experiment. But now I can at least say that I tried, which I can't claim for oh, crazy ass Pentecostal snake handling, or eating a turd out of the toilet. In other words, I have built character.

And as an aside, I'm not trying to book shame anyone except E.L. James for being such a terrible writer. You like what you like. If 50 Shades is your favorite book, I would say that you need to broaden your horizons. But at least you're reading. Kind of.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Adventure Time is Tops Blooby

I am an unashamed superfan of Adventure Time. This is a picture of the backs of my ankles. Yes, those are real tattoos.

My legs only look a little unshaven. Have you ever tried to shave over a fresh tattoo?
AT sometimes comes under attack for being a show for hipsters. I'm sure a lot of hipsters watch AT. It's a good show. It's funny and charming and sweet and disturbing and has on two occasions made me cry. But it's completely un-ironic in every way. Every story, even the one about the clown nurses or the ones with Lemongrab (especially the ones with Lemongrab), are told in earnest.

I can't even think about Cheers anymore.
AT has also evolved more than most live action hour long dramas. This season in particular has taken on some pretty serious topics, the most recent extended storyline revolving around Finn meeting his dad for the first time and finding out that he's a total donk.

Goddammit, I cried over this too!
Up until this season, no one knew anything about Finn's parents. He was the only human on the land of Ooo, which made him both unique and tragic. But he found his biological dad and dad turned out to be an intergalactic space criminal who caused Finn to lose an arm. It's a long story. It's an epic story. Told in tiny but brilliant 15 minute gulps with foreshadowing going all the way back to season 1.

I started watching AT because it was weird. I keep watching it because I fell in love. I fell in love with its innocence. I fell in love with how smart it is. I fell in love with its complex yet deceptively simple characters. I mean, Lumpy Space Princess is hilarious until you take 10 seconds to really think about her.


I've heard parents say that they won't let their kids watch it because it's stupid or has bathroom humor. It has a lot of bathroom humor and the characters do stupid things, but that doesn't make it stupid. And just because it's a cartoon doesn't mean it's only for kids.

I'm not asking haters to give it a chance. I'm not even really defending Adventure Time. I'm just rambling on and on about something I love a lot. And really, that's kind of what blogs are for.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mood Reading






I had a brief chat with a friend/library patron today who I shall call T because that is the first letter of his first name. He asked whether or not one's reading enjoyment could be affected by one's life situation. For example, if a person is having a really hard time of things, can that hard time influence how much he or she enjoys whatever it is they're reading.

The answer is yes, and in a million different ways. I don't know about you guys, but I find that if I'm in a bad mood, I have little tolerance for writing that I might otherwise enjoy. I've put down a fair number of books and saved them for later, for really stupid reasons - like word choice pissing me off when I'm already feeling foul.


This has happened with books I reread. One day, I'm enjoying Watership Down, and the next I just want Fiver to shut the hell up because someone pissed in my Cheerios.




The reason I bring this up, other than my conversation with T, is because I just read Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar for the second time and I think I liked it even better than the first time I read it. But, there are a million and ten reasons why I should hate this book.

1. The cover is hideous.






2. In technical terms, it's a hot mess.





3. As a rule, I generally don't like humor in my fiction and this book makes me lawl.

The first time I read it, I must have been in a rare mood. I remember really liking it and being really confused because I shouldn't have liked it. But not in the Twilight way. I think the pages of those books were laced with LSD or PCP or bath salts or something because I have no good explanation for not being able to put them down. At any rate, Lonely Werewolf Girl is fun and I liked it and my rare mood must be repeating itself because I liked it again despite all of its flaws. I am very picky about books with flaws.

Back to books and mood though, I think that the reverse can also happen. The quality of a book can affect your mood. Reading a good book makes me feel good and reading a bad book makes me feel bad. Sometimes, reading a good book also makes me feel bad, like The Road by Cormac McCarthy or Deathless by Catherynne Valente. Just because something is well written doesn't mean it's nicely written.

So anyway, does your mood affect your reading habits? Do your reading habits affect your mood?

Friday, May 16, 2014

More Itty Bitty Book Reviews

Because who doesn't love things that are both itty and bitty?

Itty Bitty Evil Committee

Sleep Donation by Karen Russell:


Here's an itty bitty review for an itty bitty book. I loved this. There's a world wide insomnia epidemic. People can donate and/or receive sleep transfusions. Some people's bodies don't accept the transfusions. Unless they come from Baby A - the first universal sleep donor. Oh, and don't forget nightmares... if you have them, you're in trouble. The concept was amazing and Russell's writing was awesome enough to make me pick up her full novel, Swamplandia!. Alligator rasslin'.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead


I read this book for reasons. Reasons that never manifested. I liked it, which surprised me. Mead is pretty good at world building and her characters are more fleshed out than the usual teen vampires. There was still a lot of brooding and unrequited love, but if you're jonesing for a trashy vampire novel, this one is like perfectly good food sitting on top of the rest of the garbage that's only been there for about two minutes.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell


My quest to read more non-fiction continues. This book was life changing, enough so that I got a quote from it tattooed on my arms last weekend. "Spontaneity isn't random." Blink teaches you to trust your instincts without dismissing a lengthier thought process, both within their proper contexts. By reading this, I learned not to feel guilty by the fact that sometimes, too much information is bad for me when decision making.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher


I have mixed feelings about this book. It's well written. It's going to stick with me for a while. But this story about a girl who is seemingly kidnapped at random and taken away to the Australian Outback, gets repetitive pretty fast. This book is a great character study of both the kidnapper and the victim, with a satisfying end. But be prepared for a lengthy character study of the landscape as well.

Ranger's Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan


Last one. I read this book for World Book Night. I was a book giver and this was the book I was assigned. I had a lot of fun and managed to give away 14 out of 20 copies. This book is perfect for the middle school or reluctant reader high school set. It follows the first adventure of Will, an orphan, who is chosen to be the local Ranger's apprentice. At 35, I feel a little too old for this book, but I would have loved the hell out of it in 8th or 9th grade.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I Liked It So Much I Put a Ring On it

Have you ever been completely taken off guard by a book? In a good way or bad way or somewhere in between? I'm feeling this way about the Vampire Academy books. See, I like them, and I feel guilty for liking them even though I told myself a long time ago that I would never feel guilty for liking a book.


I picked up the first book after being told that I might get to interview some people involved with the movie for Drunken Zombie, a blog/podcast that my husband is a part of. None of the manly men of Drunken Zombie wanted to read Vampire Academy, and I don't suppose I can blame them. I didn't want to read it either.

But.

But I kind of did. I had been eyeing it for a while. It looked intriguing, but I had been burned so many times by such horrid crap. There is so much god awful garbage in YA literature and I say this liking the publishing genre.


But I read the first book and I liked it, so I put a ring on it because I'm now reading the second book and will soon be onto the third. And I can only kind of tell you why.

Rose is a pretty cool character but Lissa makes me want to punch her. She's just such a victim all the time. But Rose? I like Rose. She's half human and half vampire and would just as soon punch you in the neck as talk to you. I guess I like that quality in a character. The world building is also pretty solid. I guess the first thing that will make me dislike a book is inconsistencies in world building. I can't read a book that doesn't make sense.

The series has its flaws for sure. There's a lot of brooding and making out and slut shaming and angst. But it all works. It all feels real. None of it is over dramatic.

I guess that's the bottom line - making sense. But I'm also sad that comprehension is all it takes to make me happy anymore.

This post was brought to you by Bianca del Rio.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What It's Like to Meet a Famous Author

C2E2 is coming up this weekend and it's probably my favorite weekend of the year. C2E2 is the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo and every year, I let my nerd flag fly. I love the excitement and the exhibits and the panels and just being surrounded by my giant nerd family. I also get to spend the weekend with my BFF in nerdom. This was us before leaving for last year's C2E2:

Oh. My. Glob. We look fresh to death right now.
One of the things C2E2 has been awesome about is including prose authors in their nerdy lineup. Every year, a few more show up on the schedule and it sets my heart racing. because while I love comics and toys, books own my heart and soul. Last year, my BNFF (best nerd friend forever) and I went to ALA and I thought I would die of awesome.

Derp derp derp.
I met Tamora Pierce, author of the Tortal books, and I cried and snotted all over myself. I've been a fan of hers for over 20 years. And this brings me to the actual topic... what it's like to meet a famous author.

I know that they are people like you or I and they put their pants on one leg at a time. But OMG THEY WROTE A BOOK!!!! Authors are like rock stars or movie starts to me.

Neil! I wanna party with you!
The more I like their work, the more nerve-wracking the experience. I tend to behave like a fangirl, which means I behave like a total idiot. And after every meeting, I feel somehow deflated because I acted like such an idiot. I say this never having met an author who was rude to me. George RR Martin seemed disgruntled and Lois Lowry was distracted. And I think I might have scared Ivan Klima with my fervor over his work... ugh. But I've never met an author who was rude or dismissive. My insecurities all come from this inner sense of self consciousness that only manifests itself in regard to famous authors. I don't care what the rest of all y'all think.

Even when I can put on a good face on the outside, I have a hard time remaining calm on the inside. I barely made it through my two minutes with Tamora Pierce before I started shaking and had to run away. Jacqueline Carey, one of my favorite fantasy writers, will be at C2E2. I worshipped her work when I was in grad school. I lived in the same town as her then and the idea of running into her at the grocery store or Barnes and Noble was enough to make me nervous every time I went shopping. I'm kind of afraid of spontaneously combusting on the convention floor.

The other side of this problem is that after I meet the author, it sinks in that they are a person. A real, flesh and blood person who has a real, probably messy, writing process. They have lives and do things like eat, sleep, and poo. They do not live and breathe their stories. Those stories do not come fully formed out of their brains onto the page. In essence, these writers are not gods.

And, I get a little sad. It's not the author's fault. I imagine I'd feel the same way if I ever met Mariska Hargitay and saw for a fact that she wasn't a 9 foot tall Amazonian, ass-kicking goddess in real life.

I love you, Mariska.
This is all my own fault for putting authors up on pedestals. On the one hand, I think I should cut it out. On the other, if I cut it out, that kills some of the magic of writing. So, what do you think. Have you met famous authors, movie.television stars, musicians? How do you react?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Amazing Tattooed Librarian

I am very lucky to work at a library where the director is totally cool with visible tattoos as long as they aren't swear words or boobs. I have five tattoos, two of which are almost always visible (forearms), two of which are visible in the summer (backs of my ankles) and one of which is never visible (back left shoulder, you perv) because our dress code forbids sleeveless shirts and tank tops.

This would be completely cool at my library.
I get patrons who ask about my tattoos and I like it. I get a fair number of tattooed patrons and sometimes I ask about their tattoos and then we geek out about tattoos for a while. A few of my coworkers also have visible tattoos. We're all kinds of progressive at my library. However, like most people, I do not like when patrons try to touch my tattoos. No one likes to be touched uninvited by a stranger. Tattoos are a part of a person's body - not some shiny thing for you to go all magpie on. So if you're thinking about it, don't do it.

Tattoos tell a story, which is why I like them so much. Even if you have a terrible tattoo, there's a story there, and honestly bad tattoos make for the best stories. I have a Metallica tattoo on my left wrist that wasn't executed very well. It also hard a hard time healing because I got it while I was sick with H1N1 (without knowing yet just how sick I really was). On my honeymoon. It looks gnarly, but that's the most exciting tattoo story I have. Part of me wants to cover it up and write a new story on myself, but another part of me feels like that would be invalidating the original story.

I like them both and I don't care what you think. Haters.
I love asking about other people's tattoos. I love gawking at other people's tattoos. And with warmer weather on the way, I'm going to get to do a lot of talking and gawking. This will be the first summer that I can show off the Adventure Time tattoos on my legs. Yeah, that's right - I have Fionna tattooed on the back of my left ankle and Cake on the back of my right. And there isn't even a story there except I flipping love Adventure Time.

What time is it? Tattoo time!
I guess this post didn't have a lot to do with the library or with books, except for the fact that I think of tattoos as a narrative on a person's body. They're a collaborative effort at telling a story. I appreciate that any tattoo artist worth their time and money doesn't want to tell a shitty story.

I'll leave off with my favorite library tattoo story. I have a quote from Watership Down on my right arm with that freaky looking rabbit from the cartoon, the Balck Rabbit of Inle.

Insert metal as hell guitar solo here.
People are always asking me what the hell it is and a lot of people guess either wolf or cat. A tatted up construction worker asked me once what it was and when I said it was a demon rabbit, he gave me the stink eye and kept his distance. But my favorite demon rabbit tattoo story is when this little girl asked me what it was. I said, "It's a bunny." She howled, "It's not a buuuunnnyyyyyy!" Her mom told her to stop and apologized. The girl got visibly upset and said, "That's not a bunny! It doesn't have a cotton tail!"

No, little girl, it most certainly does not.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Teen Space Rant

Last week, I had to politely ask a couple of senior citizens to leave the teen space area of my library. I have to do this a lot, but this particular incident made me mad because the adults became quite huffy about being asked to leave, asking rather rudely if they were disrupting the teens (who were using one of our gaming consoles).


Our teen space has the same rules as the children's department. If you do not have a teen with you, you cannot loiter in the teen space, much like the fact that you can't just hang out in the children's department unless you have a child with you. For some reason, patrons are okay with this rule in regard to the children's department but not with the teen space. Maybe, at some point kids get old enough that hanging out in their section as an adult makes you less of a creeper. Except that it doesn't.



Adults are allowed to browse the books in the teen space. A lot of adults love YA books (myself included) and the library wants to foster that love. But there's a difference between browsing the YA books and hanging out in the teen space to have a Bible study meeting while kids are trying to play video games. Especially if you have run of the whole rest of the library to do your business.



What really chaps my caboose is that this disregard for the teen space translates to a disregard for teens. Can teens be rowdy, disrespectful, noisy, and smelly? Hell yes they can. Are all of them? No. Do we still welcome the ones who are into the teen space? Yes we do. Teens are still learning how to be adults - social cues and deodorant included. My library wants to give them a space where they can do this with freedom from judgment. Yeah, they get told to be quiet if the noise gets to be too much and they're held to all the same rules as our adult patrons. But teens need their own space because so many adults would rather give them the stink eye than share theirs. And to relegate them to the children's department is telling them they're still little kids.

Were those ladies disrupting the teens who were playing video games? Not outwardly, no. But by plopping down in the teen space despite the signs that tell them they can't, they were sending the message that our space is our space and your space is also our space. To me, that's unacceptable.


Despite all this, I do feel awkward kicking adults out of the teen space, especially when there aren't any teens there. Explaining to a person that their very presence makes teens feel unwelcome, even if they're just sitting and reading, is uncomfortable at best no matter how you word it. I even had an argument with a patron once who claimed he had to sit in the teen space because he wouldn't fit in any of the other chairs in the library and I was discriminating against his disability. But I keep telling myself that if the tables were turned and we had a seniors only section where teens dared to enter, the seniors would be up in arms.

Not a whole lot of teens come into my library. When they do, a lot of them want to get on the computer or play video games. I'm just happy that they're coming in. Even if they never check out a book from this library, I'm a proud teen advocate and I'll do anything I can to make them feel welcome and keep them coming into my library.