Friday, February 28, 2014

Itty Bitty Book Reviews

Long and drawn out book reviews - ain't nobody got time for that!

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick:

This cover is hideous. At first I thought it was a weird face with a heart for an eye and a knife hand with hair. None of the covers for this book are good. The book however, is worth checking out. First you should read it from beginning to end. Then, read it again from end to beginning. It's like Cloud Atlas if Cloud Atlas didn't suck. It's also the 2013 Printz Award winner.

Dangerous Women edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois:

Bottom line: TL;DR. This anthology is a hot mess. Some of the entries are awful, most are forgettable, and the only great one was by Lev Grossman. I'm annoyed with myself for buying this for my father in law before actually reading it.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell:

I enjoyed this book. It was sweet and then sad and then sweet and sad all over again. However, this is one of those YA books that doesn't feel like it was written for YAs. I think it will appeal more toward slightly older, nostalgic As.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:

If you haven't heard of this book by now, you're probably not reading this blog. If you haven't read this book by now, nothing I have to say will change that. I was finally browbeaten into reading this book. I didn't want to like it, but I did, but I don't like to admit to it.

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn:

This book was both charming and strange. There's this kid, right? He thinks he might be a werewolf. He thinks he might have killed someone while wolfed out. Because, you know, he's done some pretty awful stuff in the past, which is why he lives at a boarding school and hasn't seen his family in four years. This book alternates between the past and the present and nothing is at all what it seems. P.S. I liked it.

Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison:

I do not like fanfiction. I have no desire to read it. However, I work with teens and many of them write it. I wanted to better understand fanfiction and this book served that purpose admirably. It was also a hell of a lot of fun to read.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline:

This book was straight up fun. I didn't get all of the 80s references and I'm not a really big gamer, but this book was still a badass adventure that I had no problem understanding. This is so far my favorite book that I've read in 2014, at least until I finish The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price. If you don't like this book, you don't like fun.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Last Book in a Series

I just read MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, even though it came out last October. I even got an advance reader copy of the book at ALA back in July. It languished on my book shelf for more than seven months. The only reason I finally read it when I did was because my husband threatened to tell me spoilers if I didn't hurry up. I hate spoilers.

Oryx and Crake is one of my favorite books of all time. I read the companion book, Year of the Flood the week it came out. I was really excited about MaddAddam, especially since I had recently listened to Year of the Flood with my husband and fell in love with it all over again. But I didn't read MaddAddam because I was afraid.

Stab you to death in the shower afraid.

I am afraid of the last books in most series.

I like a good end to a series but they scare me too. Because when a good series comes to a good end, it's done. There's no more. Those are all the words you're going to get, pal. And what if the end isn't good? What if it's terribly disappointing? If the final volume of a series sucks and you don't read it, does it still make a sound?

The closer I get to the end of a story, whether it's books or a television series, the less I want to finish it. This is a fairly recent development, and I'm going to go ahead and blame the show Lost. I blame Lost for most of my issues. Never has the end of a story left such a huge gaping hole in my life. It scarred me.
Finishing the MaddAddam trilogy was painful even though I liked the last book a lot. I can't bring myself to move past season four of Breaking Bad. I still haven't watched the last episode of season one of Orphan Black (but I will before season two starts). I've been carrying around volume six of Locke and Key almost since it came out, afraid to open it up. What if Bode doesn't get his body back, dammit?

This is why I'm totally cool with George RR Martin taking his sweet time with A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe there will be a last book, eventually. I don't know. But I don't have to worry about that book right now. I try to read series that are already over. For some reason not having to wait for the end makes finishing a little easier. But I can't do that all the time. I need to stay current for the sake of maintaining some sense of street cred with the three high school students who actually read the YA books I pick out for my library.

I need to get over this because it's silly. Reading MaddAddam was great. I loved it. If I had continued to ignore the book, I would have missed out on so many awesome moments. I would have missed out on a whole other level of understanding not available in the first two books. But reading it was still difficult because I am a wuss. I am a book wuss.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Library Responsibility Vs. Common Sense

One of the most difficult parts of my job for me - and I know a lot of people don't have this problem - is maintaining a composed exterior in the face of things that are just plain wrong. I have never been able to hide my feelings, good or bad. Even when I try, people know something's up because a fake smile on me looks a lot like this:

I can help people find things and do all the stuff that librarians are expected to do when they get hired. It's the weird stuff... the gross stuff... and the stuff that is just pain wrong that throws me for a loop and makes me wonder when I will finally break - when that safety lock of "I enjoy being employed" will fail me - and I will ask someone what goes through my head a hundred times a day: "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Every library - every building where the public is allowed to spend their time - has their crop of weirdos. I know this. I've done a few other types of jobs before I found myself at the library. And there are some things we are allowed to say to our patrons, such as:

  • Please put your shoes back on.
  • Please pull up your pants.
  • Please don't smoke that e-cigarette inside the library.
  • Please don't smoke that real cigarette in the library.
  • Please take your break up fight outside.
  • Please don't look at porn on the public computers.
  • Please don't hang out in the teen or children's sections if you are creepy middle aged man with no teens or children.

And then there are things we're not allowed to say because instead of being a matter of breaking library rules, the problems in question are a matter of breaking the rules of common sense. And enforcing the unspoken rules of common sense is not a librarian's responsibility. I can't say things like:

  • No I don't want to handle your library card after it's been in your sweaty bra all day.
  • I think you're a terrible parent for doing your kid's homework for them.
  • In 2014 there is no excuse for you to not have at least a very basic understanding of accessing the internet.
  • Just because you're old, you don't get to also be mean.

Those are the times when I have a hard time keeping to myself.

My dad used to be a corrections officer. There are days when I feel like our jobs were not that dissimilar. A lot of times, he probably wasn't allowed to say things either in the interest of not rocking the boat. And that leads me to the uncomfortable idea that every job is like that of the corrections officer. We're all at the mercy of the people we serve - in the interest of not rocking the boat. The customer is always right... or else. At least my customers don't carry shivs on their person. Probably.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars 3/4 Report

I'm about 3/4 of the way through The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I don't usually read books like this, and by "like this" I mean the ones that are specifically written to make you pee tears out your eyes.

I hate crying. Crying for my own personal reasons is bad enough - I don't want to cry over fiction. And yeah, some fiction makes me cry. But TFiOS feels designed for that purpose. I generally don't want to read/watch/listen to something if I know going into that I'm going to cry. Crying makes me mad and when I get mad, I want to punch things.

This is me when I'm sad.
Anyway... as a YA librarian, I got to a point where I figured I either had to read this book or quit my job. Since the book is frigging everywhere. John Green is everywhere. Like a lot of other books and some authors, TFiOS and John Green have transcended the YA label.

But finishing the book is hard. It's well written. I enjoy it. I like the characters. Sometimes, it's funny. But the crying is going to happen. I should have finished it days ago, but I've been sitting there and putting off. Finishing it feels like when I used to wax my own eyebrows (I now pay someone else to do this). I would stand in front of the mirror with the wax strip on my face, taking deep breaths and counting 3... 2... 1... okay, 3... 2... 1... oh my god, for real now! 3... 2... 1... And would end up standing there for half an hour because I was afraid of the pain of ripping that strip off my face. I wonder if I could pay my hair stylist to read the end of TFiOS out loud to me so I didn't have to. Maybe finishing it would be less painful that way.

Jodie, do you have a two hour block free?
I know that this shouldn't be an easy book to read. Teens with terminal cancer isn't an easy topic. Ignoring difficult things does them a disservice. I know that. And yet, I still have never seen Schindler's List. I will never see or read 12 Years a Slave. On some level, this makes me a bad person because if these people have lived the horror, then the least I can do is acknowledge their suffering by reading their stories. And now I've just compared teens with cancer to the Holocaust and slavery. But of all the things in the world that suck, those three things are pretty high up on the list.

If you've read TFiOS, I'd love to know what you think. I'm going to go back to wishing for a snow day tomorrow so I can finish the book and blubber about it in peace.