Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Dark Star

    It's tough enough being a teenage girl in a big city, but when your mom is a genuine super hero, it's even tougher. That's the basic premise behind Bethany Frenette's Dark Star, the first novel in the trilogy of the same name.
    Audrey Whitticomb has spent her whole life knowing that her mother  is Morning Star, a vigilante fighter with super powers whose job it is to keep the twin cities safe... but Audrey has no idea what it is her mom is REALLY keeping the cities safe FROM. Audrey grew up thinking her mom fights crime, but now, thanks to a series of crimes against teen girls (including Audrey's best friend Tink), Audrey has been forced into the realization that he mom is really fighting Harrowers. Demons from another dimension who are looking for one special girl - a girl whose blood can open a portal that would allow the Harrowers to enter the human realm en masse. Audrey wants to help stop them, but she doesn't have any powers... at least not the kind of powers her mother and Gideon, her mom's annoyingly perfect side-kick have.
    Dark Star had the potential to be a really fun, if not very original story. It ends up being just really average. It doesn't help that the main characters - Audrey and her mom - are both kind of one-dimensional and borderline annoying. I mean, how many times can you go through the same thing: mom says don't fight because you have no powers, you fight anyway, you get hurt, mom says don't fight. This is the pattern that gets repeated over and over through the entire novel, and it starts to get old really fast.
    It wasn't bad enough to make me want to stop reading it, but it wasn't good enough for me to want to complete the series either.

Final rating: 2/5 bookmarks

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Librarian Post: Learning ASL!

  On January 23rd I started taking a Basic American Sign Language for Library Staff class through the American Library Associaton's e-courses platform.
   There are a lot of reasons for me to do this. First, I am already bilingual but have always had a fascination with all languages and have always wanted to learn more. In addition to speaking English and Spanish, I have taken courses in French and Japanese, and am planning to add Italian and Portuguese to the list soon.
   Second, I like to learn. Learning is fun for me, it's a hobby of mine, and I never want to stop learning. 
   Third and most important to me is that my branch library has a good number of regular patrons who are deaf or severely hearing impaired. In our entire library district, we have one librarian who is proficient in ASL, and he is about 2 years from retirement, at which point we will not only lose our only signer, but also lose our Special Services librarian, which is terrible since our community has a TON of people with special needs! 
   In the 3 years I have been at my branch I have been increasingly frustrated by my inability to communicate smoothly with out deaf patrons. Sometimes, writing notes just doesn't cut it! ESPECIALLY because some of my deaf patrons are also Learning Disabled and can't write very well or are not very verbal either. 
    So I embark on this new adventure. It's an intense class and an intense concept. Luckily my bosses in library world have been VERY supportive, paying for the course and allowing me to work on assignments while on the clock (since it is directly a benefit to the library to have me learn this). I am VERY excited for this! 
   In case you want to learn a little bit of ASL yourself, below is a lovely chart of the finger spelling alphabet. Take a moment and learn to sign your name!

Monday, January 23, 2017

This Above All

     "This above all, to thine own self be true." It's one of my favorite quotes of all time, from my favorite author's favorite play. When Polonius says it to Laertes in Hamlet, it's some good fatherly advice. This book, Lindsey Roth's This Above All, explores what it's like to try to live up to that advice as a teenage girl.
     Piper is your quintessential "good girl." She is the middle child in a large, very devout, very strictly old-school Christian family. In fact, her dad is her church's pastor. Piper has always believed in Jesus, and in all the things that her religion teaches her: including the idea that being gay is one of the worst things anyone can be.
     Piper has always a model daughter and the apple of her father's eye and has never thought to rebel in any kind of way... until the day she decides to be a little bit adventurous and audition for the school play: Romeo and Juliet. Of course, she gets cast, but not as Juliet or The Nurse.... she gets the role of Romeo, which means she will not only have to dress as a man (and this is a girl who wears skirts and dresses EVERY DAY) but also kiss a girl ON STAGE in front of EVERYONE. Plus, if she wants to keep the part, she will have to lie to her father, who believes being an actress is pretty much being a whore.
    In the process of auditioning, Piper begins to meet some new people. People who do not belong to her church. People who do not follow a Christian life style, people who drink, people who smoke, people who (GHASP!) have sex and even worse, people who are gay. The thing is, these people are pretty nice, accepting and all around kind of cool. Which makes Piper question why her church has taught her that these people are so horrible... and it makes her question if maybe the church has some things completely wrong.
    Of course, the struggle of a teenager finding her own religious identity and coming to terms with her own beliefs about homosexuality is a massive topic to tackle, and this book is a bit of a simplistic view of it, but at least it presents a scenario that you don't often see in teen novels, and one that needs to be brought up in today's society. It's a good, solid effort to begin a dialogue.

Final Review: 4/5 stars, because these types of books really need to exist, and they need to be read.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Librarian Post: New Year, New Programs

So, what is everyone working on as far as new programs in the new year?

At my library we've added two new ones that seem to be going really well.

The first is called Gadget Day. It's mostly aimed at senior citizens. They can come in once a week and bring in their handheld devices, such as smart phones, tablets, e-readers or even laptops and they get a one-on one consultation with one of the three staff members who work the program. Typically the consultations take about 15-20 minutes and are meant to address specific problems or questions they users may have.
It's been really successful with about 20 or so people per week showing up. It helps that we got a write-up in the paper right before the holidays hit so people read about it ahead of time.
The only issue that we are running into is that a certain staff member who shall remain nameless but who should definitely know better has been telling people who call in that it's ok to bring in printers, web-cams etc. We have specifically said we are NOT tech support so we've had to remind him to let people know we can't help them with those particular issues. I definitely don'r want someone waltzing in with a printer. Nope.

The second program I'm hosting this year is a creative writing group. I have named it The Writer's Roundtable and we have had one meeting so far. I had two participants at the initial meeting (which for our tiny branch is a great start!) and a lot more folks who have expressed interest online and through e-mail so I am hoping this grows.
The people who are participating so far are a person co-writing a novel with their father and a person who wants to use creating writing as a form of therapeutic release for some PTSD issues they are working through.
I offer a writing prompt each month that they can choose to work on for the following meeting. For February it will be to write something giving their 10 years younger self some advice.

Keeping my fingers crossed this turns into a winner!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Adulthood is a Myth

     If you have not been reading Sarah Andersen's hilarious web comic Sarah's Scribbles there is something very wrong with you. 
    Lucky for you, Sarah has now collected some of her best comics about adulting into this cute little collection. 
    Basically, Sarah writes about herself, but at the same time she also writes about me. And your mom. And granny. And best friend. And really any woman who has ever attempted to woman. The comic tackles everything about being a girl in the world, and I mean EVERYTHING from nail polish to periods to pets. Sometimes it is epically terrifying how much of me and my life I see in these comics, but trust me, they're only scary-good. 
    Go read this now!

Final Review: 5/5 bookmarks! BEST!!!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: The Archived

     Ok, so, I have to start out by saying that The Archived by Victoria Schwab was one my favorite books I read all year. And, I swear it only had a LITTLE bit to do with the fact that the story revolves around librarians and a giant library.
     The story is this: there is a library in a hidden dimension called The Archive. This is where the dead go. They are called "Histories," and they are shelved into meticulous rows and stacks and preserved for all time and cared for by the Librarians. However, once in a while a History will awaken, and in it's frightened and confused newly dead state, try to escape back into the world of the living. Mackenzie is a Keeper. It is her job to find these escaped histories and return them to the Archive. She has inherited this job from her grandfather, whom she calls Da, and she takes the job VERY seriously.
     Lately though, Mackenzie is having a really difficult time with her job. Partly because she is recovering from the recent death of her little brother, but mostly because Histories seem to be escaping from the Archive at an alarmingly high rate, and Mac is starting to suspect that someone is deliberately waking them up and setting them free. Mac no longer knows who she can trust, and it's getting harder and harder for her just to stay alive, much less figure out how to restore the Archive back to normal. 
    I found this premise to be very creative, and all the characters are so well developed, even ones we never meet in real-time (Mac's brother and grandfather are only revealed to us in flashbacks and memories). It gripped me from the beginning and made me want to keep reading. In fact I went straight from this volume to book 2 in the series, which I will review at a later date. 

Final rating: 4/5 bookmarks!

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Goals!

Do any of you set reading goals for yourselves each year?
I do.
Mainly I just use Goodreads to set a goal on a number of books I would like to finish within the year. But, this year, I have decided it would be a good idea to set some different types of goals for myself and see if I do better at these "goals" that I do with my regular New Years resolutions, which I always totally suck at.
So, here are my reading goals:

1. The most basic goal - read at least 100 books. The books must be middle grade or higher, no picture books.

2. Update this blog with a review of a book at LEAST once a week. Monday updates will be reviews. If I get my stuff together enough, I will also do some Wednesday updates but those will be more librarian related.

3. This is the big one: read more diversely. I suck at this. I always read some very specific types of books and because of that, I tend to have a distinctly un-diverse reading lists. I almost always read books with a female protagonist, for example. So, I will try to read some "boy" books too. I also mainly read books about Americans or Brits, written BY Americans or Brits. That's going to have to change too. And I will actively seek out more books by people of color, which you would think I would already DO as a PERSON OF COLOR MYSELF.

I suck!!!!!

Let the reading begin!

Happy 2017!