Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On dreaming of being a librarian

Being a librarian has always seemed glamorous to me, but it’s a job I’ve never held. I’ve done plenty of things and had some fascinating jobs, but so far, I haven’t had a book related job. And maybe it’s about time I did.
My first librarian dreams started when I was in first or second grade. With a friend, I started a home library and made library cards for some of our friends (and all my siblings) to check out books from my bookshelf of children’s books. Within a couple days, I lost interest (since my siblings kept taking books instead of officially checking them out) and moved on.
Later, in high school, I realized too late that working at the library was an option. I already had a solid job running errands for a law firm, but every time I went to the library, I’d see a girl from my high school pushing carts around and shelving books. I was insanely jealous whenever she’d wave and continue working and I cursed myself for having a steady (and probably better paying) job.
It’s been years and I’m now a college graduate with a real grown-up job, so I’d mostly forgotten about my librarian dreams. Until my sister changed jobs, that is. In need of more cash, she took on the library as a second after-school job. After an initial bout of insane jealousy, I talked with her more about her job and learned that there’s a lot more to being a librarian than reading all day and suggesting books to people (she’s just a library page, so her view is somewhat tainted, but I trust her that it’s not all fun and words). A lot of her job involves pushing heavy carts of books up the steep ramps and reshelving books until her eyes hurt from looking at covers and organizing books that had just been returned. It’s a lot more heavy lifting and a lot less fun reading.
Still, in spite of this, I entertain hopes of one day working in a library, no matter how menial the tasks. If a real paying job at a library doesn’t work out, perhaps I can start my own Little Free Library and be the head librarian for that. Either way, I’ll finally achieve my dream of being a real librarian.

Monday, June 26, 2017

On gritty middle grade/YA novels

As middle grade readers begin checking out YA books, the transition can be tough. To begin with, YA books deal with much different issues than your typical middle grade novel. YA books also tend to be trendier, grittier, and have very upfront and in-your-face love stories (or bizarre love triangles). Writing for middle grade and for YA is SO DIFFERENT as well - most middle grade is much fluffier and fun, while many YA books use more difficult words and are written in more real voices. For a middle grade reader who doesn’t quite know how to deal with these changes, I have a few suggestions. These are also for anyone who wants a bit of easy, but gritty, reading:
  • Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale - While this novel isn’t entirely dark, it has several dark aspects to it. Montmorency makes a Valjean-esque change from rags to riches and spends plenty of time being confronted with his past - while still trying to provide for his future.
  • Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix - In a dystopian future not to far from our own world, families are only allowed to have two children. Haddix explores the stories of secret third children - and the terrible danger posed with their continued existence. My mum read these books before I did and highly recommended them when I was young. It was one of the darker books I read at a young age and I remember being somewhat
  • The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick - In this Lord of the Flies-esque book, Philbrick shows a dystopian future where children run their own dark society and where some children cannot let go of their traumatic pasts.
  • Lord Loss by Darren Shan - This series is one of the bloodiest I have ever read. For many children, the themes (and bloodshed) in this book may be too intense. The writing is very middle grade and incredibly easy to read. Parents may want to read this book before offering it to their children.
  • The White Mountains by John Christopher - This classic science fiction novel was one of the first chapter books I remember reading. At age 8, it both intrigued and disturbed me. Reviewing it later in life made me realize it wasn’t nearly as dark as it seemed to me when I was young, but for a kid, this book packs a punch. While being easy to read, it can be a lot of very young readers to swallow. Highly recommended for introducing your child to science fiction.

Friday, June 23, 2017

On my blogging routine

As someone who is still relatively new to blogging, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know what half the questions are at this point. But I have learned quite a bit in my time blogging and I’ve settled into a routine, which I would like to share with you today. So here we go - this is the evolution of each post I write.

Step 1 - I come up with an idea/title, make a new document on Google Drive, make a few quick notes about my thoughts, and save it. Often, I’ll have an idea at a time when I’m not able to sit down and actually write everything, so I just jot it down to work on later.
Step 2- Typically, Loverboy and I devote our Tuesday evenings to working on our individual hobbies. I usually read, knit, or blog while he programs. On my blogging nights, I browse through my possible ideas in my Google Drive and find one that catches my eye.
Step 3- I glance over the notes and begin writing a rough draft (during this step is also when I do my initial research for more in-depth posts).
Step 4- I return to the document several times over the next couple weeks (on another blogging night or just when I have twenty minutes to spare) to finish it and to make sure it looks good.
(Optional step) - I sometimes have someone glance over my blog post if I’m unsure about some aspects of it. Or, I’ll read it out loud a couple times to make sure it works.
Step 5 - I move the document into my “Ready to Post” folder until I feel like it’s time to post it.
Step 6- I look over the blog post one last time before scheduling it on my blog, adding in pictures and links, and making last minute additions and edits.
Step 7- Blog post goes up!

My process isn’t perfect and some blog posts don’t follow this exactly, but it’s a good routine for me to follow and it’s turned out some decent blog posts that I’ve had a lot of fun writing.

How does your blogging routine differ? How is it similar? Are there any blogging questions or concerns that are burning up your head?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On how to find book recommendations

Image result for book recommendations cartoon
Not all bookstores are as good about throwing book recommendations at you as I am.
It can be really difficult to find good books to read - especially if you don’t quite know what you’re in the mood for next. Here are a few suggestions for where you can find excellent book recommendations:
  1. Friends/family - This is the first place I would go for book recommendations. Often, your friends and family have a good idea of what you tend to like and they can offer some interesting recommendations. Downside: Sometimes, your friends and family will be into genres that you have zero interest in or they won’t be readers.
  2. Librarians - The next step up is to ask a librarian. Librarians work at libraries because they love books, so they’ll definitely have a lot of interesting recommendations. They’ll also be very aware of what books are at the library - so they can suggest a book and you can go get it immediately. Downside: While you can probably tell the librarians a few books you like and get some good ideas in response, chances are that you don’t know your public librarians well enough that they’ll know what exactly you like.
  3. Teachers - This is an excellent way to get non-fiction book recommendations. If you’re taking a class that really interests you, talk to the teachers about what books you can read outside of class for more information. Not only does it help you build a better relationship with your teachers, but they may actually own a copy of the book they recommend and they might lend it to you. Downside: If you aren’t currently in school, then this is a difficult one to do. Some schools post suggested reading lists that may help fix this problem, though.
  4. Book blogs - This can be a helpful resource if you don’t have a good idea of what you want to read. I read a lot of book blogs, and most of them offer either book reviews or lists of book to read -often structured in comparison with books you may have already read (i.e. “If you liked X, here are 10 books you’ll like”).  Book Riot is a good blog for non-bloggers to start getting book recommendations, but feel free to branch out from there. Every book blog will try to press new books on you - just find what you like and which blogs tend to suggest books you like and you’ll soon have endless recommendations. Downside: This can make your TBR explode - book bloggers recommend books faster than you can read them - trust me.
  5. Goodreads Recommendations - Goodreads recommendations page both intrigues and disgusts me. I love browsing to see what sorts of books Goodreads thinks I’ll like (based on books I previously rated), but sometimes, I don’t understand the connection. I’ll often be irritated by the recommendations it gives (“Another Stephen King? Duh.”) However, the few times I’ve read something that Goodreads suggested to me, I’ve been delightfully surprised. Maybe it’s time I started relying on this more.
  6. #Askalibrarian - I’ve written about this before, but I don’t know that I can ever fully do justice to this wonderful resource. Every Thursday, librarians respond to your tweets about what you should read. If you don’t want to ask for yourself (or if you don’t know what you’re looking for), simply browse other people’s questions and suggestions and maybe something will stand out to you.
  7. Websites - If you’re really getting desperate, there are plenty of websites out there to give you book suggestions. is a fun one to start on - you simply enter a book you enjoyed and the website gives you a list of similar books. There are a few issues though - there are plenty of books missing from their database and it’s often really flimsy connections (“These books are both humorous!”) If you want more generic recommendations, Olmenta may be for you - the website presents books to you that users recommend to anyone.
  8. Book displays - If you’re still lost after all that, you may be someone who doesn’t know what you want. It may be time to simply dive in and hope for the best. Most libraries and bookstores have book displays, where there are tables full of books within a certain theme or with a certain cover. Many also have a “staff picks” shelf (if you’re nervous to actually talk to the librarian or bookseller). I’ve found many wonderful books by picking them up from these displays. If you’re feeling more adventurous, many local libraries and bookstores do blind date with a book, where you can pick out a mystery book based solely on its description. You can also purchase a mystery book online.

How do you get book recommendations? What books would you recommend to readers who are looking for something new to read?

Monday, June 19, 2017

On questions constant readers have for sporadic readers

A few months ago, my brother was gifted “Ready Player One”. He read it in two days and went on and on about how much he loved it. And he hasn’t read for fun since.
He is a textbook sporadic reader - someone who will devour a book when it catches their fancy, but doesn’t read on a constant or consistent basis. Sporadic readers read when they’re taking a sick day or when someone gifts them a book or when their favorite author releases a new book. Sporadic readers are common (probably more common than constant readers) and there isn’t anything wrong with being a sporadic reader.
But I just don’t get it. Being a constant reader, it’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around not having a book to read at all times. So here are the questions I have from sporadic readers:
  • What do you do when you’re waiting at a doctor’s office or at the DMV or just waiting in general?
  • Do you tell people that reading is your hobby, or is that something that doesn’t come up?
  • HAVE YOU READ (insert current favorite book title here)?! Because you should. Everyone should.
  • What motivates you to read a book?
  • Do you take friends’ book recommendations seriously?
  • Do you need more book recommendations?! (Because I have a ton in mind)
  • What about a book will make you rant and rave about it to everyone you know?
  • Do you consider yourself well-read?

Maybe someday I’ll understand (probably not), but in the meantime, are there any sporadic readers out there who can enlighten me?

Friday, June 16, 2017

On science fiction albums

Sometimes, it’s nice to have a break from your favorite things - either by doing them in a different way or by doing something completely different. For those of you who love science fiction novels, this is your chance to continue loving your sci-fi while taking a break from reading. Here are a bunch of science fiction themed albums that you need to listen to:
  • .clipping - Splendor & Misery - Experimental hip hop
  • David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Glam rock
  • Electric Light Orchestra - Time  -Progressive Rock
  • The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - Alternative rock/neo-psychedelia
  • Hawkwind - In Search of Space - Progressive Rock
  • Janelle Monae - The Archandroid - Neo soul
  • Outkast - ATLiens - Southern hip hop
  • Parliament - Mothership Connection - Funk
  • Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship - Blows Against the Empire - Psychedelic rock
  • Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space - Space Rock
  • Zappa & Ensemble Modern - The Yellow Shark -20th Century Classical music

What science-fiction albums am I forgetting? What sci-fi albums would you recommend?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Series Review: The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

I’ve read plenty of YA novels at this point - so many that I’m really starting to get sick of the genre entirely. I do tend to like YA fantasy, but so many modern ones are full of so many ridiculous tropes that it’s difficult for me to read anything. But this one felt...different. In a really good way.
The Winner's Trilogy follows Kestrel, a general’s daughter, and Arin, a slave under Kestrel’s rule. As time passes, their relationship changes, their roles in their countries change, and the “peace” between their nations dies completely. Kestrel and Arin must choose what’s more important - following your heart or remaining loyal to your country.
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what was different about this series, but I’m going to try. Because this is one of the better YA series I’ve read in a long time.
The pros:
  • GOOD WORLD-BUILDING- Granted, this isn’t the best built world I’ve ever read, but compared to most YA books I read, this world was much deeper and much more interesting than I expected. There were cultural clashes and political intrigue and lots of interesting aspects to the world that made it feel more real - and a lot less like earth with a few small changes. I really appreciated the world. Also, there were several different societies and cultures that Rutkoski created that somehow worked together. It was interesting and obviously took a lot of work to create so much.
  • COMPLEX CHARACTERS - Now, again, I’m comparing this with other YA I’ve read, because I’ve definitely read more complex characters in adult fiction. But the two main characters in this series were much more complex and interesting than most YA main characters. I feel like most YA characters are so wrapped up in their love interest that the rest of the plot functions as a way to keep lovers apart. In this book, the main love story was basically put on the backburner for a lot of the series because the main characters had things to do instead of being madly in love all the time. Sure - their love story was a huge part of the series, but instead of being completely defined by their love interest, the characters were able to put it aside to accomplish things that were important to them. I know that’s kind of a low bar for characters, but it was really refreshing to read YA characters like this.
  • WELL-WRITTEN - I really liked Rutkoski’s style of writing. It was fairly simple overall, but she gave the books a very dark feel, while still giving the reader a small measure of hope that our heroes would triumph. I feel like the books started light, got significantly darker, and (in the end) got much lighter again. Her style of writing reflected this somewhat and it made reading more interesting.

And the cons:
  • FAIRLY BASIC YA FANTASY - If it isn’t already clear that I’m pretty fed up with this whole genre, this should help. While this series doesn’t completely follow every YA trope, it still is pretty straight-forward and basic - there’s an intense love story (which is a triangle at a couple points), a main character is the only one who can do what needs to be done, no one else can compare to the main character’s talents, etc etc. It’s getting old and this book refreshed me in some ways, but was pretty basic in a lot of ways.
  • NON-REALISTIC LOVE STORY - I did like the love story in this series overall, but it was just too much a lot of the time. I did like it more than most YA I’ve read, but the love story made me roll my eyes way too much - which might be a plus for some people, but wasn’t fun for me.

If you’re interested in easy, but slightly different YA fantasy, then this is a good series for you. Also, if you’re looking to move from basic YA into more adult fantasy, this is a good first step.