Monday, December 4, 2017

Librarian Post - Family Feud at the Library

Recently I hosted a very successful Family Feud program that was popular with both teens and adults.

I have to warn you guys, the program takes a lot of work to put together, but if you do it right, it is definitely something that will appeal to a wide audience.

The first thing I did was decided that all of my questions were going to be library related. But I also did a second round of surveys with a music theme, so I can use them for Summer Reading.
For the library themed game, I asked things like "how many hours a week do you spend reading" and "how many books do you normally check out at one time." Then I put these questions into a Survey Monkey survey in order to solicit respondents. (Keep in mind, Survey Monkey's free platform allows you to create surveys of up to 10 questions each. I ended up with 16 questions so I created 2 surveys to avoid paying). I then posted survey links on my personal Facebook, as well as on a few groups I am a member of, and e-mailed them out to my coworkers.

I got my 100 respondents shockingly fast, so make sure you keep an eye on the numbers and close the survey as soon as you get 100 responses. It's going to be hard enough to cull through all the answers with just those 100 trust me.

Also worth noting, the free version of Survey Monkey caps your surveys at 100 responses, which is actually perfect.

Once I had my responses, I had to go through them, and that was a tiny little nightmare. Do this any way you think will work, but what worked best for me at the end, was, once the survey was closed, I copied and pasted ALL the answers for each question into a Word document. Then it was easy, though highly time consuming to group like answers together and see what my top answers were.

Like on the game show, I kept only the top 5-6 answers that were given and threw all others out for playing purposes. (Someone actually asked during game play why point totals were not adding up to 100 so I felt that ought to be explained on here as well). I printed out answers and number of responses and attached them to poster boards and just used construction paper taped over them to create our super low-tech "board" which worked out fabulously!

My "boards." Simple, easy to make, and easy to use during play. 

This was one of the very few times I asked for registration in advance. This was because I wanted to have an idea of which teams to pair against each other, since the game was open to ages 8 and up... it didn't feel very fair to have, say a team with a bunch of elementary school kids up against a team of adults.

I got good coverage for the event through posts on social media, the local paper and even a DJ on a local radio station who signed her family up and mentioned the program on her show.

Gameplay was just like on the show... 2 teams pitted against each other per round and one person from each team doing a face off to determine which team would play the round. Steals were allowed after 3 wrong answers, and top score after 2 rounds was considered the winning team. We were able to get through 6 rounds in about 50 minutes, and this was after throwing out one "round" which not person could give an answer to. I had a table with random prizes that the winners got to choose from, and there was enough for every person to take something home. In the end I would call this an extremely successful program! I even got a call from a player the next day telling me how much fun they had and thanking me for hosting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: The March of the Crabs

   The March of the Crabs is a translation of a French graphic novel by Arthur de Pins. And yes, it is a graphic novel about crabs. Specifically, it is a story about a species of crab that has not evolved in millions of years.
    Cruelly cursed by nature with the inability to turn themselves, they are doomed to walk a straight line forever.... that is until the day one crab comes up with an ingenious method to change his direction, and his entire outlook on life.
   Of course, as you can imagine, this sudden change angers some of the more lunk-headed members of the animal community.
   With an amusing side-story about a pair of documentarians trying to make a movie about the crabs. this story is at once light-hearted and deep, silly and profound. Higly recommended!

4/5 Bookmarks!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: Beauty

     Coddie is just a plain looking little girl who stinks of the fish she helps her mother clean and cook for their meager living. That is, until the day a fairy grants her a spell to make her the most beautiful woman in the world. Everything goes great until it starts to go horribly wrong: women hate her and are envious of her beauty, and men can't control themselves and try to have their way with her constantly.
    Pursued by angry villagers, Coddie is saved by a young lord and thinks she has found real happiness... for a time, but life's may harsh lessons teach Coddie that being beautiful has its own set of dangers and sorrows.
   Intriguing twists and uniquely beautiful artwork make this highly unusual fairy tale a must read!

4/5 bookmarks!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Librarian Post: Cosplay Meetup - What Kind of Meetup Are You Hosting and What Will You Need?

The first thing you need to do to host your Cosplay meetup is decide what type of program you want this to be?

Do you want this to be a special one-time program or a recurring event?

If the answer is one-time, then you had best find yourself an experience local Cosplayer to come in and speak or even demo some of their techniques.

If you want to do a recurring event, then you can either set it us as a mini maker space (this is what I do) and have equipment and tools available to people who want to work on their cosplay or you can do something like a monthly series where you will either teach a skill (wig styling, for example) or create a specific project (a mask, goggles or a cape perhaps).

I chose to make my program a recurring mini-maker space because I feel this is the most inclusive type of program for Cosplay. Say you offer a specific project - how to make some Steampunk Goggles for example - the only people who are likely to show up are the ones interested in a costume that uses that specific item or technique. I encourage people who come to my program to bring in projects they are working on so that they can share techniques with others, and so far that has worked out really well. I was also fortunate enough to be able to get some basic start-up supplies for people to use communally, and hope to add to the stash next time we have budget availability.

Basic Supplies You Might Need:
* Hot glue guns (and plenty of glue sticks).
* A couple of self-healing mats.
* Rotary cutters.
* Scissors: at least one good cloth-cutting pair, some basic paper scissors and if possible fancy scrapbook scissors with shaped blades.
* Nail polish. Cheap $1 ones are just fine. They can be used for painting ALL KINDS of things, including jewelry or small areas that require precise application.
* Paint brushes of various sizes and types including foam brushes.
* Acrylic paints.
* E6000 craft glue (it glues almost anything to almost anything else)

Additional Supplies to Consider:
* Various leather or cloth remnant pieces. (You can buy large packs of leather remnants from most hobby shops for very cheap).
* Ribbons, especially single-colored sateen and grosgrain. I avoid the wired kind. They're less versatile.
* Assorted Beads and buttons.
* Feathers.
* Cardboard of assorted sizes and shapes.
* Duct Tape in various colors.
* Spray adhesive.
* Mod Podge
* Craft foam.
* Spray paints, ESPECIALLY metallics.
* X-acto knives or box cutters.
* Interfacing in various weights, iron-on is especially useful.

For the REALLY advanced or REALLY adventurous: (use and supply with extreme caution)
* Modeling clay.
* Clay tools (can be bought in sets from most hobby shops).
* Air Dry clay.
* Plaster of Paris
* Liquid Latex
* InstaMorph moldable plastic (requires heat, so provide at your risk).
* Sculpey
* A sewing machine.
* Iron and ironing board.

Also remember to think about the space you are going to be using and the safety hazards they might pose. I lead my program, for example, in our basement auditorium, so ventilation is NOT good. Therefore I do not allow the use of spray paints or spray adhesives in the space. And use caution when setting out things like rotary cutters or box cutters, and find out beforehand if your library would require you to have some kind of release signed in order to allow patrons to use the items that might lead to cuts or stabbings.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Librarian Post: Cosplay Meetup = Adults and Teens at the Library!

So the great question at many libraries seems to be "how do we get teens and younger adults interested in our library programs?"

One type of program you can try, which has been very successful for my library is a Cosplay group.

Some of you may be asking yourselves: "what the heck is Cosplay?" Cosplay is the art of creating costumes that resemble your favorite characters from a variety of fandoms. Most people who Cosplay do so for conventions such as Comic Cons or Anime conventions. There are a huge variety of Cosplay subgroups and philosophies, and I will not even try to get into them here, because there are just so darn many. Suffice it to say those who Cosplay do so in large part for the social aspect of it. Going to a convention in costume can make you a star for the day. People ask to take your picture, and you get to embody a character you love and admire. Storebought costumes from places like Party City are NOT considered genuine Cosplay, and Cosplayers are expected (and in some cases REQUIRED) to make their own costumes and prepare their own makeup in order to enter into the competitions that the conventions offer.

By they way, I know this stuff because I AM a Cosplayer. I frequently attend conventions in several states and have cosplayed a variety of characters from different fandoms including:
Carmen Sandiego (old-school video game heroine/villainess)
Esmeralda (Disney leading lady and non-princess from The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Kiki (anime character from Kiki's Delivery Service)
Rowena Ravenclaw (founder of Ravenclaw House in the Harry Potter universe)

If you have been reading this post and all of this information is brand new to you, and you are not a Cosplayer and have never worn a costume that was not store bought, the best advice I can give you is DO NOT host this type of program by yourself. Find a local cosplayer (there may even be one or more on staff!) that is willing to partner with you to run a program like this. Geeks (yes, we call ourselves Geeks, but if you are not one of us, you don't get to call us that) want to learn from fellow Geeks, and will come to a Cosplay program if they feel they are going to either learn from someone more seasoned than they are, or be able to share ideas with others.

Cosplay is a very fast-growing hobby and has been starting to hit the mainstream more and more thanks to shows like Heroes of Cosplay and Cosplay Melee. If there are any Comic Cons in your area, if your library or town has ever hosted a Con, I guarantee there are Cosplayers or would-be Cosplayers in the environs.

In the next few posts, I will share how I run my program, some other ways you could try a Cosplay program, what you will need and how to go about getting the word out.

May the force be with you! Here are some shots of me in my Cosplays.

Me as Kiki with a home-made bow.

Carmen Sandiego with props. 

Esmeralda. Bpyfriend is Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Librarian Post: Adults Just Wanna Have Fun!

Do adults get to have fun anymore?

I am not talking about the type of fun that we think it's ok for adults to have - going out drinking or dancing or taking the kids to a movie.... I mean FUN fun... the kind of fun we used to have when we were kids.

Sure. some adults out there get to play with Legos or jump ropes or tether balls, but I am willing to bet most of those adults do these things with their kids, or BECAUSE of their kids. Do we do it on our own? Do those of us who don't have kids do these things? Probably not, because for some reason we are raised to think we have to give up these things in order to be REAL grown-ups.

I respectfully call bullshit.

This is why for the rest of the year I will be focusing my programming on ways for adults to have real, goofy, child-like fun in the library. Trust me, it's good for you! Playing with things like play-doh and blocks helps relax you, it helps with fine motor skills for older types and it gives your imagination an outlet! Having fun, good healthy laugh out loud goofy kid fun is good for your heart, your soul and your spirit. It heals the mind AND the body!

Stay tuned for my adventures in fun things!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: Perfected

        Basically, what you need to know about Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch is that it is set in a future in which teenage girls have now replaced tiny dogs as the new "it" accessory for the rich. These girls are genetically engineered to be beautiful and taught absolutely nothing except how to sit and be pretty.... they are literally pets:  they are raised in kennels, and at one point, the owner of the book's protagonist (Ella) is actually given a freaking DOG TAG to wear around her neck.
      Because of the way she was raised, Ella actually thinks she has it pretty good. Her new family seems nice enough (even though they make her eat in the kitchen and she has a specially formulated super bland diet so she doesn't gain weight) and they dress her up and give her a pretty room. Plus she really likes the family's young daughter. And then her new owner starts acting kind of creepy. Sexually creepy. And she starts hearing about the LAST pet... and how she got "sick" and sent back to the Kennel. Plus she starts developing feelings for her owner's son, which the owner does NOT like.
     Just as she is trying to figure out all her confusing new feelings, Ella is kidnapped by a well-meaning but misguided person who thinks all pets should be set free. Penniless, illiterate, and completely terrified, Ella is left to wander the unfamiliar streets and must decide if she wants to go home, or try to start a new life out in the world.
    As far as the story goes - there's nothing new here: books about genetic engineering and people as pets have been around a long time. Still, the writing style is engaging, and though Ella is hopelessly dull as a character, some of the other characters, especially some of the other pets are interesting and fun.

Rating: 3/5 bookmarks, because I actually WANTED to read book 2 to see how this played out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Librarian Post: Attack of the Smelly Patrons

      To say that summer is warm where I live is the understatement of a lifetime. Our temps are often in the 110's and higher, and it's sunny almost every single day. People say "but it's a dry heat," and that may be the case, but when it's 116 degrees how dry it is doesn't matter: what matters is that you burn your hands just getting into your car. Your power bill quadruples. You literally feel your skin sizzle if you stand in the sun for more than minute or two.
     As you can imagine, the nice, air-conditioned library is a favorite place for people to hang out in this weather. Especially for those who may not have a lot of money to spend on air conditioning at home, or who may not have a home at all. We welcome all of them, of course - and we expect anyone who ventures outside in this heat to be a little sweaty and smelly when they come in. But lately, it seems that some folks are going past sweaty-stinky into "been dead for 3 weeks in a pile of poo" smelly. We have one man who smells so bad he comes with his own swarm of flies, I kid you not. When these folks come in, not only does it make it REALLY hard for the staff to help them, but it makes life super uncomfortable for the other patrons who have to sit next to them at a computer or study table.
    The thing is, I am completely incapable of telling another human being they reek, unless they are my close personal friend and I love them. I can't go up to some poor stranger and say "I am sorry but you smell HORRIBLE, people are passing out around you and you need to go back out there into the 120 degree summer, away with you!" I would rather gag at my desk and even go puke real quick than have to have this conversation with someone! I feel like the worst person in the entire world having to tell someone their personal scent is making people sick... mostly I have been sending my boss and our poor security guard to do it, but I KNOW a time will come when I have to do it too and it makes me want to cry.
    How do you do it???
    Is there ever a "good" way of doing it? A nice way? A way that doesn't make the person you're talking to feel even worse about their situation?
    Sadly in my community there is not really anywhere they can go have a shower... we have one homeless shelter and it's closed during the day, so what is a librarian to do when the smelly patrons attack?
    I would love comments on this subject, because I am truly at a loss.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Review: Lunarbaboon - The Daily Life of Parenthood

    I am not a parent. I do not ever plan on being a parent. Even so, Lunarbaboon's web comics CRACK ME UP! They are also often extremely touching and heartwarming, and the interaction between the mother and father in the series reminds me a lot of my boyfriend and myself, while their son reminds me a lot of my nephew.
    This collection is a great intro for those not familiar with the web series, and will also appeal to those like myself who love Christopher Grady's light and touching humor. These comics are guaranteed to either make you relate to this families experiences, or chuckle and say "I am so glad that's not my family!" Either way they will definitely put a smile on your face.

Final verdict: 4/5 bookmarks

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Librarian Post: It's OVER! Goodbye SRP 2017!

6 weeks.

     1 Kickoff Party

     1 Farewell Party

     31 Children's Programs

     18 Teen Programs

      29 Adult Programs

Some reptiles, a magician, a balloon man, LOTS of decorations and LOTS of reading logs..... and a staff of 6.

And so it ends.

Build a Better World is over.

Now to start planning next year's music themed programs.

Who else needs a nap?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Review: Only Ever Yours

    I had to take several very deep breaths before starting this review. That is because as a woman, Louise O'Neill's Only Ever Yours is one of the most disturbing books I have read in a long while, and it is difficult for me to accurately explain WHY this is without spoiling major bits and pieces but here is my attempt.
    The story is set sometime in the seemingly not so distant future. Untold events prior to the book's beginning have rendered the population infertile, and made the world a completely barren and desolate place. Freida, our protagonist, is one of the few young women in the world, bred in a lab to be almost genetically perfect and raised completely within the confines of an all-girls "school." Her entire purpose in life is to be beautiful, desirable and popular, so that one of the few young men her age (all sons of prominent figures in this society) will choose her as either a wife, or a concubine. If you're not chosen for those two roles, you are forced to become a sexless and celibate teacher. So far, Freida has been doing this very well - she is among the top ranked girls in her year (ranking are determined by near constant posting to social media and their feedback from boys). Freida's best friend Isabel has also being doing well for herself, until this year when Isabel does the absolutely worst thing any woman in this society can possibly do: she starts gaining weight.
   That's only part of what makes this world so disturbing. It's basically the worst high school experience you can imagine but magnified. Every single one of the girls here has severe issues. Eating disorders are considered a good thing, and the only classes the girls actually take are things like building nice outfits. There's even a class where your "friends" are encouraged to tell you everything they hate about you as a way for your to "improve."
   When the boys finally arrive to make their selections everything gets about a million times worse. The girls who want to be wives have to tread an EXTREMELY thin line so as not to be considered either too cold or too slutty, while some of the girls just completely chuck the hope of being a wife and just start being completely promiscuous, their theory being that being a concubine is better, because you get killed sooner and don't get ugly. Oh yeah, did I mention that most wives get euthanized at about 35? After loads of plastic surgeries of course, because being old and ugly is worse than death. And the husbands just go back to the schools and pick out new, better wives... 16 year old ones. Because that's how old these girls are. SIXTEEN.
I just.... can't even. This was horrible. HORRIBLE, It was also the best book I have read so far this year. Though I have to say, I put it down and walked away several times. Read it. It's awful.

Final verdict: 5/5 bookmarks.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: Goldie Vance

   Hope Larson's new Goldie Vance series is sort of a Nancy Drew for a new generation of girls. You may know Larson's other fine works - she's the author/illustrator of Chiggers and was responsible for the graphic novel adaptation of Madeline L'Angle's A Wrinkle in Time... so it's safe to say she knows how to write fun, spunky girls.
    That's exactly what Goldie is: a fun, spunky girl with a mission. Goldie lives and works as a valet in a large resort hotel her dad manages. She is also an accomplished driver and crazy drag racer... and somehow finds time for her real passion: helping the hotel's on-staff detective (why does a hotel have an on-staff detective?) solve crimes while playing matchmaker to her adorable friends. Oh, there's also Nazis, stolen jewels, secrets, a rivalry between Goldie and a spoiled rich girl, and a very subtle LGBT story line.
    Yeah, it pack a lot in. In fact, it packs in almost TOO much for a first volume, but with beautiful bubble-gum bright artwork and fun characters, I can definitely see this being a huge hit with older tweens and younger teens, especially girls looking for a new role-model.

Final verdict: 3/5 bookmarks

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Librarian Post: The Cheapest SRP program ever!

     Let's face it, these days just about every library in the country is strapped for funds. I know librarians who tell me they have been working with a budget of zero for both collection development and programming supplies for YEARS.
     That's when all start getting super creative about doing programs like recycled crafts and movie nights that don't really cost much. This year, with our Collaborative Summer Reading program theme being Build A Better World, my library wanted to do some programs that actually took the "build" part literally, by reinforcing STEM through engineering and construction.
     Enter the humble index card. Super inexpensive - you probably have at least one pack of these guys in your office right now, and if not, they are readily available just about everywhere for around a dollar or less.
     So this was my program: I handed people (in teams of up to 4) a brand new, unopened pack of 100 index cards and gave them 2 challenges:
                   1) build the tallest structure you possibly can using nothing but index cards. Do not cut or tear them (folding is ok).
                   2) build a second structure and we will see how many books it can hold before it collapses. Again, no tearing, ripping or cutting, but folding is ok.

That was it. An hour-long program that appealed to people of all ages, got them to be creative, taught them some science, and was pretty much the cheapest thing I did this summer.

By the way, if you don't have index cards, playing cards work just fine too.

One pack of index cards = an hour of almost-free library fun!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: The Best We Could Do

     Thi Bui's biographical graphic novel The Best We Could Do explores a wide variety of themes and emotions. The story spans multiple generations of one Vietnamese-American family, from the good times in their homeland, through the war, to the modern day in the USA.
     At its root the story is not just a story of immigrants, but a story about family, and about what it really means to be the adult child of a parent. Bui raises the big questions: do we ever really know our parents? How do you know you're really an adult, and do we ever really "grow up?" What is a woman's role in life, and what does it mean to be an American, especially if you are not born in America?  Do we ever really find the answers to any of these questions?
     I have to say, as a first generation immigrant myself, this story hit very close to home. Granted I did not come from a war-torn country (though there is an enormous amount of violence in my homeland) and my parents moved us to a nice, safe, rural area and not a huge city. But I can definitely relate to the author's parents paranoia... never quite feeling safe, never quite feeling American, never quite trusting "white people" and never really giving up the hope that maybe someday things will change enough that they could go back home. I think my parents have always felt that way, even after 30 years in the USA. Of course I also relate to the author's struggles as their child... parents, family and culture pulling you in one direction, never wanting you to forget your roots and desperately wanting you to maintain the old ways while you try your hardest to fit in to the new culture... a culture that is so strange and different to them. Always feeling like you are an outsider to BOTH cultures and never really fitting in anywhere no matter how hard you try.
    Beautifully illustrated in shades of blue and orange throughout, honest and stark, the story is moving, at times amusing and very relate-able even for those who have never been through the immigrant experience.
    Final verdict: 4/5 bookmarks

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Librarian Post: Escape Room - the aftermath

     Alright, so, if you have read the blog in the past you all know that I had been working on an escape room created by me from the ground up. This was a sick and wrong decision on my part, and it almost killed me dead but I am happy to report the first full run of the room was on June 21st and we all survived to tell the tale.
    First, you all ought to know this program was MILES more popular than I ever would have expected. If you all are looking to bring millenials and 30-somethings into your library, DO AN ESCAPE ROOM PROGRAM and do it now.

Group #3 came the closest to escaping the room.
    Originally the plan was a one-day only run of the room, with 4 groups of up to 6 people. Normally getting 24 people to sign up for, let alone actually SHOW UP for a program at our little branch would take Harry Potter like-wizarding skills, but we had a total of 23 slots filled and of these 19 humans actually showed up, which for us is a massive win. Also, I am now going to have a second run of the room in July because I had 20 OTHER people who were too late to sign up for this run on a waiting list and eager to participate.
     Even though I had opened the registrations up to "all ages" I was warning parents that anyone under about age 8 would be horribly bored. I was 100% right about that. I had one mom who very much insisted on bringing her 6 year old and he lasted about 3 minutes before he started crying, demanding to go home, asking for candy and trying to destroy various items. Everyone else however, had a fabulous time!

Group #1 was almost all strangers. It took them longest to start working together. 
     The hardest part of the run was room setup, which I luckily had the opportunity to do the day before the program. Re-setting the room after each group was surprisingly easy. I had allotted myself 15 minutes for each reset and it took only about 10. Before I let anyone in the room for their time I did ask them very nicely to please try not to actively destroy the place, which they were all very good about. I also did not allow cell phone use, or writing utensils in the space. This made it so that no one was trying to google answers to things (which would have been hard anyway since all the puzzles came from out of my own head) and not to deface anything in the room. They had 30 minutes to attempt completion and none of them successfully "escaped."

    Here are some things I discovered while observing the teams in the rooms:
                  1) Kids between the ages of 8 and 12 were the best at this! The one team that came closest to completing the challenge had 3 kids and 3 adults in it.
                  2) Adults do not listen to kids, but they SHOULD. Several times a child would have a GREAT idea about how to solve a clue, would voice their opinion, then would be promptly ignored until it proved that their suggestion was completely awesome and valid and would have saved their team loads of time.
                  3) Teenagers really sucked at this game. One group was made up completely of teens, and this was the group that did the worst. In general the other teens who participated also got really confused really easily. I noticed that the all-teen group was the only group that chose to completely ignore the first clue they were given and simply looked for any puzzles in the room without trying to solve any of them. This was a VERY bad plan because then they got totally confused, could not remember where they had found the puzzles or clues and could not figure out how anything related to anything else.

My all-teen group, Group #4 had the hardest time. They also made the biggest mess.
                4) People fixate on REALLY weird stuff and ignore other REALLY obvious stuff. Of course, there were several red herrings in the room, but some people got really tied up in them. One person got completely obsessed with a small bowl full of gold buttons. They were 100% convinced that the buttons were important and spent at least 5 minutes trying to arrange them into some kind of pattern. Several people got very hung up on a few outdated newspapers in the room, and someone else on a tin filled with ribbon scraps which they were convinced held a message.
                    At the same time, it took every group shockingly long to realize that there were complete keys to each of the puzzles prominently displayed in the room. One person realized one clue was in Morse code, for example, and then spent several minutes looking through a pile of books trying to find one on Morse code, while there was a complete chart taped to a wall in plain view.
               5) Pressure makes fast friends. Most of my groups were made up of pairs of friends, parents with small kids or couples smooshed together into a team. It was great fun to see everyone being very shy at first, with friends sticking together on opposite ends of the room... but the closer the clock got to that end game, the more everyone worked together and made friends. By the time they were done and getting pictures, everyone was chatting and smiling and recounting their adventures.

Group 1. They did well once they loosened up. Only 2 knew each-other prior to the game.

Group 2: They did well, but our youngest player got bored very quickly. 

Group 3: They did the best. They came so close I gave them goody bags even though they lost. 

Group 4: They had fun even though they admitted their strategy was a big mistake in hindsight. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: Letter 44 Volume 1

    The premise: it is the day after Inauguration Day and President-Elect Blades has just become our 44th president (in our world, this would be Barack Obama). In his new office is a letter (Letter 44) from President #43 (in our world George Bush Jr.) that reveals a horrifying secret: the president basically created the war in the Middle East in order to distract America from a much more horrible truth. The country has discovered evidence of alien life, and the aliens seem to be building a massive something in space, which is likely some sort of weapon.
   President 43 used the war as cover to train soldiers and pump money into defense in case these aliens really are planning to nuke us into oblivion. He has also sent a team of scientists and soldiers into space to retrieve intel on the contraption... on what everyone involved assumes is a suicide mission. Oh, and one of the ship's crew is pregnant. President Blades now has to figure out what to do: does he tell America the truth and risk a panic? Keep quiet and risk word leaking out and being labeled a liar? Prepare for war? Whatever he decides, the only thing that is certain is that everything is uncertain, but a decision needs to be made and quickly.
   The story alternates between Blade's point of view and the point of view of the crew on board the recon ship which adds a nice dimension to the story. The artwork (by Alberto Albuquerque) is excellent, except for the aliens, which when we finally see them are... let's just say underwhelming.
    I still haven't decided if I want to continue with the story, but it's an interesting take on politics at the very least.

Final Review: 3/5 bookmarks.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: Mistress of the Art of Death

      Adelia Aguilar is an extreme oddity for her time: a woman, living in the 1100's who is a licensed Doctor. She is the titular Mistress of the Art of Death in Ariana Franklin's novel: someone who is skilled in figuring out how people died - what today might be called a forensic pathologist or a coroner. 
    Though she is Italian, and makes her home in Naples, she has been summoned to England as the king's last hope: to solve a series of brutal child murders that are being blamed on Cambrige's small but wealthy community of Jews. Being unmarried, and a Jew herself, Adelia must travel incognito, with her chaperones Simon (also a Jew) and Mansur (a Moorish eunuch) posing as the doctors and Adelia posing as their assistant. Adelia must maintain her secret or risk being accused of witchcraft (an accusation punishable by death) all the while hunting a twisted serial killer. Everyone she meets is a suspect - even the king himself. 
    The novel is an unusual amalgamation of genres - partly historical fiction, partly murder mystery, with just a smidge of unlikely romance tossed in for good measure. It's also the first book in a 4 book series. Though some aspects of the book are extremely unrealistic for the time period (the fact that the protagonist is a sassy, self-sufficient FEMALE DOCTOR in Medieval England being the most unrealistic) it is a great page turner and a really satisfying mystery. I didn't have any clue who the killer was until the very end when it was revealed, which I always appreciate in a mystery, and happens all too rarely. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Final Review: 3/5 bookmarks


Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: The Diva Rules

     Michelle Visage, for those not in the know, is a judge on the best show on television: RuPaul's Drag Race.  She is also a former member of a 90's girl group (Seduction), and a radio personality. Her book, The Diva Rules is part biography and part self-help book: a list of rules for living a super diva-esque life as well as tales from her youth in the club and ball scene in New York in the late 80's and early 90's.
     Despite the fact that Michelle is not my favorite personality (she is often mean and a bit abrasive to the competitors) I found the book a really fun read. Michelle writes exactly the way she talks, which made me happy, because often you can tell a ghost writer has tried really hard to make the person seem a lot smarter or more articulate than they are. Not so here, where Michelle's sassy New Jersey personality pops out of every single page. She is also extremely open and honest about her past, including her experiences with plastic surgery, bisexuality, depression and being adopted as well as finding her birth mother as an adult.
    The book reads quickly and it's peppered with really good, sensible advice as well as fin family pictures and pictures of Michelle with RuPaul and some of the other Drag Race girls. I definitely recommend it to fans of the show, as well as fans of sassy broads without a filter.

Final Review: 3/5 bookmarks.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review: Big Mushy Happy Lump

    Her name is Sarah and she writes about my life,
    Well, actually she writes about HER life, but it's also my life and your life and the life of every girl who is just a little bit weird, a little bit awkward and a little bit silly.
    Big Mushy Happy Lump is the second of Sarah Andersen's collections from her popular web series Sarah's Scribbles, but in this round we also get to know a little bit more about the author, because Sarah has also thrown in some stories about herself and some of her personal issues and struggles.
   The book, like everything Sarah writes is funny and heartwarming and totally honest and real.
   I love her.

Final Review: 4/5 bookmarks.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

   Oh joy! Another book about a fat girl who is not at all fat learning to love herself because a boy likes her. Yaaaaaaaaay..... Ok, now let me put my eyeballs back in their sockets, as they fell out from the massive amounts of eye rolling I did while reading this book.
    Virginia Shreeves is not fat. She is just slightly larger than the rest of her family members, which she is CONSTANTLY being reminded of by her disgusting misogynist father (whose favorite things to say include things like "skinny women are more attractive." Joy!) and a mother who may or may not have an eating disorder (though the book strongly hints that if she doesn't have one now, she most likely had one in her teen years).
   This book is, for some reason a Printz honor book. I have no idea why, as it hits on every single "fat girl book" cliche in existence. 1) Fat girl is not fat!!!!!! 2) Popular and pretty girls at school are secretly miserable and have eating disorders 3) Fat girl only has one friend in the whole world and this friend has moved, oh woe is fat girl! 4) Fat girl decides the only way a guy will ever like her is if she in a huge slut, because hey, why else would ANYONE EVER be interested in a fat girl. 5) Nice, cute boy actually LIKES fat girl, but of COURSE she doesn't believe it at all until she loses a bunch of weight (with almost no actual effort at all) and gains all kinds of self esteem because all it takes to have self-esteem is to be skinny!
   Throw in a date rape and a neo-feminist sister and you have a delicious cliche pie. A delicious AWARD WINNING cliche pie.
   *Commences stomping up and down and tearing out her hair*
   Listen to me fellow fat girls of the world (size 16 here, and also, smoking hot, if I do say so myself): THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. Your life will NOT become instantly better if you drop weight - if you are messed up in the head, losing weight is just going to change your BODY not your PERSONALITY. Also, it will take you longer than a minute and a half to actually drop weight. And ALSO there are MANY MANY MANY wonderful, handsome, decent and respectful guys who would LOVE to date you regardless of how many fat flaps you have! Trust me. I outweigh my boyfriend by a good 80 pounds on an average day and we're just fine!
   Books like this that try to "help" by perpetuating disgusting stereotypes DO NOT HELP. Awarding these books DOES NOT HELP.
   I'm done ranting now. I'm gonna go eat an ice cream now.

Final Review: 2/5 bookmarks (only because I like the best friend character and her weird, onion loving parents).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Britannia

    In Peter Milligan's Britannia, the land that we now know as Great Britain is a nasty, festering, haunted hell hole that has just been taken over by the Roman Empire. Rumors abound that there are demons there, and news of murders and chaos have now made their way back to the Caesar, Nero who has dispatched Antonius, First Detective of the Empire to figure out just what the heck is going on.
    Antonius is not a well man though. He's still suffering from the childbed death of his beloved wife, and grappling with the decision he made to give up his son, who now believes him to be merely a family friend. Plus, Antonius has been to Britannia before, and nearly lost his life in the process. Still, part of him is just suicidal enough to take on the mission, accompanied by his faithful slave, who is a Britannian native and knows more than Antonius about this strange and deadly land.
   Of course, along the way there is plenty of T and A to keep Antonius distracted. For some reason every single female he encounters along his journey is a super hot busty blonde who is more than willing to jump into bed with him (he even bangs a Vestal Virgin). This obviously knocks my opinion of the story down a few notches, because it's just on the wrong side of pandering for my liking.
    The art is amazing though, and the concept behind the story: the history of Great Britain as told from the ancient Roman point of view is not something I have seen before. It almost makes up for the blatant fan service.


Final Review: 3/5 bookmarks. Because the T's and A's are at least gorgeously rendered.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: The Life After

     Joshua Hale Fialkov's The Life After is one of the most off the wall and weirdest graphic novels I've read in quite a while.
     Our main character Jude has an extremely average life. It seems to him that all his days are pretty much the same. He's never even had the courage to talk to the pretty girl who rides his bus. And then one day he does talk to her. In fact he reaches out and touches her, and in that moment all hell breaks loose. Sort of literally, actually.
    Jude can see into the girl's past, and ultimately realizes that all his days feel the same because they ARE the same - he is stuck in purgatory. The purgatory reserved for suicides, in fact. And he seems to be the only person there who knows this... until he runs into Ernest Hemingway. Yes, THAT Hemingway. Papa H is the only other guy in the place who is self-aware and knows he's in purgatory. Of course, once these two team up it causes a bunch of problems at the home office, which is a very corporate and soulless, kind of like Office Space but worse. And when Jude starts to figure out who he really is and why he is really in purgatory stuff really hits the fan.
    God makes an appearance, (and WHAT an appearance God has! GROSSSSS!!!) as does a crazy shape-shifting hell-demon assassin bounty hunter. Oh and there's a cute dog! Because you have to have a cute dog! With artwork reminiscent of Chew (though less stomach turning), done by the super cool artist Gabo, it's totally worth checking out.
    This one kind of blew my mind in a very cool way. Go read it!

Final Review: 5/5 bookmarks!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Librarian Post: So You Want To Build An Escape Room (Part 2) - The Dry Run

Ok people, this is it, I tested out my Escape Room with actual living human beings. ARGH! I was so nervous that this would not work at all!
Disclosure: all 3 people who were in my test group knew at least SOME of what I was working on, since 2 of them were coworkers and one was my boyfriend and all 3 had either heard me talking about some of the puzzles or knew something about what I had been working on, so they did have a bit of an unfair advantage going into the room.

It took me about an hour to set up the room as far as I did. If you remember from my last Escape Room post, I had 10 props in the room that contained actual clues or puzzles, and the rest were red herrings. Before entering the room the participants were read the scenario and told the rules of the room:
1. Their 30 minutes of time would start when I closed the door.
2. They were not to force locks under any circumstance, or try to remove the bungee chords off of any locked item without opening the lock first.
3. They were not to throw any items on the floor, or at each other.
4. They could, and in fact were expected to, talk to each other and work together, but could not ask me any questions about anything in the room.
5. Their first clue was written on the white board, and would point them in the correct direction once solved.

Clue #1.

Two things I SHOULD have told them was that cell phones, or writing utensils were not allowed in the room! At one point there was a fairly simple math problem (basic arithmetic) that needed to be solved, but because time was running out and tension in the room was high, one of the testers became flustered and wanted to use his phone's calculator. I was actually surprised he did not try to Google some of the other clues! Cheater! Haha!
The other issue came when one of the testers who for some reason had a pencil in his pocket tried to use it to write something on one of the puzzles. I reminded him that on the day of, the scenario would have to be re-set 4 times and I would rather not have to have 4 version of each puzzle ready. Also, the puzzle solution was simple, 4-letter word, so they really didn't need to write anything down, but I think the pressure of solving it had become too much for coherent thinking.
I will definitely enforce these 2 rules during the "real" program date.

Overall, I think the run-through was both a good idea, and a success. The testers major feedback was that there was not enough "stuff" in the room. They all thought it was almost too easy to find items that held clues because there just weren't that many things in the room period, so most of them would by default have clues. I am already working on more red herrings and bringing in more weird stuff from home to use.
Because of their feedback, I also decided to completely change the end-game puzzle. and re-evaluate one of the puzzles, which involved invisible ink that just totally failed to "activate." They had a great suggestion for a replacement, so I will be trading out the invisible ink for something else.

The best part of the whole thing, other than watching the testers have fun, was watching how easily they freaked themselves out and how often they saw clues in things that had nothing to do whatsoever with the game. At one point, for example, they found a piece of paper that just happened to have a small hole of it, that was there of its own accord. They cumulatively decided this HAD to have something to do with the game, and wasted at least 5 minutes holding this hole up to everything in the room hoping a secret message would be revealed. They also thought the conference call system, which is just part of the room and could not be removed was part of the game, though in that case I explained it was not before they wasted too much time.

My biggest issue? Keeping myself from laughing hysterically at every single thing they did, and trying to keep a poker face when they would ask me questions they KNEW they were not supposed to be asking.

More on my Escape Room adventures to come! For now, here are some pictures!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Castoffs

     New series alert!! M. K. Reed's The Castoffs is going to be a popular one with tweens, especially tween girls! 
     The story begins in a futuristic society where many inhabitants are born with magical powers. Those who do not have magic have turned to machines - but now society in this world has gotten to a point where a great deal of resentment has been brewing between the magic users and the machine users, and a war has erupted. 
    Fast forward a decade or two and a grudging peace has been achieved, with the magic users having separated themselves from the machinists and live an work in their own guilds. That's where we stand where the real meat of the story begins - with three ethnically diverse mages  being sent to deliver something important to a neighboring guild. One of the girls is an incredibly skilled fighter, but kind of bossy and a pain in the butt. One girl is a bit of an outcast, because despite having the power to make herself invisible, she is also a total klutz who breaks pretty much everything she touches. And one girl is SUPPOSED to be an herbalist, but kind of sucks at making potions. (Of course, girl #3 has a cool secret.)
    On the way to complete the mission, the girls accidentally stumble onto a dastardly plot that aims to bring machines back into power and destroy the magicians. Even though the girls don't really like each other very much, they realize they need to come together for the good of their people.
    Beautiful illustrated, and snappily written this series is a great one for young girls (and there's plenty here the boys will like too!) and this is a really promising start. It just hit shelves on April 12th, so go pick it up!
   Final Review: 4/5 bookmarks! Best new tween graphic novel so far this year!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Recorder and Randsell

     As a long-time manga fan, I have to say that I am extremely confused by Meme Higayashi's Recorder and Randsell. The premise sounded cute when I picked up the book: a typical Japanese brother and sister have adventures, but the sister, who is high school, looks to be about 8 years old, while the brother, who is in 5th grade, looks like a fully grown man. 
    However, this is a style of manga that left me scratching my head. Instead of being a complete story about the siblings, it is done in a style similar to Sunday funnies - where each "episode" is a 5-panel "joke." After about three pages, the joke wears VERY thin: "oh how funny, the brother keeps getting arrested because the cops think he is trying to kidnap a little girl, but it's his sister." (I guess Japanese culture still things pedophiles are funny. Ew.). "Oh, haha! the sister can't get into the movie because the ticket man thinks she's not old enough." "And now a sexy lady is hitting on the poor, frightened 5th grader."
    It goes on like this for over a hundred pages. The same jokes over and over and over and over.
    The books only redeeming qualities are the lovely artwork and the genuinely warm and loving relationship between the siblings. Even the title is weird and confusing.

Final Review: 2/5 bookmarks.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review: Mer

     Joelle Sellner's newest offering, Mer is made up of all basic the elements of a teen title: an angry teen, a hot hunk, teen jealousy, shape-shifting and even an evil stepmother.
     Aryn, our lead character is an anxty teen who has just moved to a new town with her dad and sister after the death of her mom. Aryn is basically mad at the world, and takes it out mainly on her dad, and marginally on her little sister. School doesn't make it any better, as it's full of snooty rich kids. But, Aryn quickly makes at least one friend who seems decent, though the friendship quickly (and predictably) unravels when Aryn's friend falls for a boy who falls for Aryn.
    Of COURSE, the boy in question is a shape-shifting merman who is only on land to find a mate (at  age 16, because why not). At the same time, there is a second plotline happening involving a beasty that is hunting down Mer people and eating their hearts. Stuff happens, people die, and Aryn needs to make a choice whether to stay with her family or leave for the Mer world.
    The story itself is pat and formulaic (and I am bothered by the fact that only SOME of the Mer people speak weird broken English... why only some?) but what saves it and will make it appeal to the target audience is the absolutely gorgeous art by Abby Boeh. It's totally worth picking up just to look at her gorgeous work.
   Mer hits shelves today, April 17th, so check it out, if only for the art.

Final Review: 3/5 bookmarks (it got an extra bookmark because of the art).