Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Graphic Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten Graphic Novels".

I don't read many graphic novels but here are a few that I liked. The first two are based on the authors' youth. In Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi writes about her childhood in Iran during the revolution and in March: Vol. 1, John Lewis describes his involvement with the civil rights movement as a young man. 

Persepolis: Vol. 1 by Marjane Satrapi

March: Vol. 1 by John Lewis

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang writes about what it's like to grow up Chinese American using three different narratives that somehow intersect. One boy just wants to fit in and be "All American" and another is embarrassed by his visiting cousin's antics. The third story is about the Monkey King who wants to join the gods but is rejected.

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Kamala Khan is a young Pakistani American teen who suddenly finds herself with superpowers. She decides to become a superhero and use her powers to help others but she has to hide her activities from her strict (but loving) parents.  

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona wants to be a sidekick to supervillain Sir Ballister Blackheart but he is having none of it. She ignores this and set about showing him how useful she can be as he attempts to get revenge on Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin by proving that he isn't really a hero. 

Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey by Camaren Subhiyah

Agent Gates is a spoof of Downton Abbey. The illustrator captures the characters of the original very well and the names make it easy to figure out who is who (Agent Gates=Mr. Bates, O'Malley=O'Brien, etc.). It is a fun story that combines espionage and Downton Abbey.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Post (77) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It was a quiet week with not much going on. On Wednesday I had the day off so I went to see Hidden Figures, which was excellent. I haven't read the book yet. I also started watching This is Us. I've only watched a few episodes so far and I like it but don't love it. I didn't get much reading done. I finished one graphic novel. I had hoped to read more. I've been spending too much time on my phone reading depressing news and watching more TV lately.

Yesterday at the library I had 14 people show up to watch The Girl on the Train. Seventeen people signed up but I usually have a few that don't attend after registering. I was still happy with the turnout because for weeks only two people were signed up. Tomorrow is my next program, a coloring night. Only eight signed up which is down from my attendance last year. I've heard that the popularity of the coloring trend is dying down. On Tuesday I have my book group meetings. This is the first time since July that I'll have two book groups as one of my coworkers temporarily ran the afternoon group for me from August through November. I wish I could have given it to her permanently as it just gets to be too much for me. This afternoon I plan to look for some ideas for our March books. 

I am sad but not surprised to see the snow is back. Our parking lot at work was so icy yesterday morning that I felt like a penguin trying to slowly make my way in without falling. My director called someone to come and ice the lot so it wasn't bad by the time we opened for the day. So far we've been lucky this winter without much snow though there has been some ice. I just wish it was spring already! This week we'll hear from Puxsutawney Phil. Hopefully he won't see his shadow :)

Last week on my blog:

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (review)

Books read:

March: Book One by John Lewis

The first volume of the graphic novel trilogy March tells the story of civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis from his childhood through his involvement in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. I thought the book was inspiring.

Currently reading:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread)

As much as I loved the book when I first read it, this reread is going very slowly. I  doubt I'll have it done by my book group meeting on Tuesday. I think part of the problem is that there are so many other books I'd rather read as well as a review book I have to read soon.

Currently listening to:

Starflight by Melissa Landers (reread)

I am enjoying the narration of this audio book but I don't think I'll have it done before it expires (I got it from the library through Overdrive). I'll have to get it again sometime. I had hoped to finish it before reading Starfall, which sadly doesn't appear to be available in audio yet.

On my TBR pile:

This is the book I have to read for review. Part of it sounds interesting (the story of sisters during WWII and after as they start a cosmetics company) but they had to ruin it by adding a ghost. Who knows, maybe I'll still like it. 

March: Book Two by John Lewis

New books received:

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman (library book)

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (library book)

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White (library book)

March: Book Three by John Lewis (library book)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Born a Crime

Born a Crime
By Trevor Noah
Published: November 15, 2016

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

My review:

I picked up this book on a whim when I saw it at a library over the holidays. I knew it had been on the "best books of the year" lists and I had ordered a copy for my library but I didn't pay much attention to it. I didn't even know who Trevor Noah was. I'd just heard the book was good so I thought "why not?". 

Born a Crime is a series of essays about Trevor Noah's childhood and youth growing up in South Africa during Apartheid and afterwards. Trevor is (as the rest of the world except me probably knew) the host of The Daily Show so while the stories cover some heavy and sad topics like racism, poverty and domestic abuse, the essays are also infused with humor. I laughed out loud several times while reading this book and also felt sorry for his mom because he was such a rascal as a kid! 

Born a Crime focuses on Trevor's youth from his early childhood to his teens. Trevor tells a lot of funny stories about his behavior as a kid and young teen but through it all, it is clear how much he loves and respects his mom. She is smart, caring, loving and deeply religious. She was also a fast runner (and so was Trevor when he got into trouble, which happened a lot). I enjoyed the stories of Trevor's misbehavior and awkward teen years and also the sweet relationship he had with his mom.

While this book is entertaining it also looks at some important topics. Trevor talks about the history of racism in South Africa and how ridiculous the whole concept of Apartheid was. Even the differences between the various groups of nonwhites and how the white South Africans set people against each other to keep the system of Apartheid working. Growing up, Trevor had to be hidden by his mom during Apartheid because his existence was illegal as a biracial child. He also talks about not quite fitting in with the blacks (whom he chose to identify with), the "coloured people" (people with multiracial ancestry as well as those that the white South Africans decided were "coloured" based on random criteria) or the whites. Trevor used his gift of languages to find common ground with his classmates. It helped them realize he is the same as them. Sharing a language brought unity and shows that people are not so different which is why the government did its best to keep everyone segregated.

Apartheid ended in the 90s while I was in high school but I didn't really know much about it. I don't think it was something we learned about aside from news coverage on Channel One. Of course we were teens with our own self centered concerns. Reading this book helped me understand more about Apartheid and what life was like under Apartheid. 

I was able to listen to the audio version of this book as well as reading the print version. Trevor narrates the audiobook which is fantastic. He does a great job with the various voices and accents, especially the Afrikaners (white South Africans of Dutch descent). We had several Afrikaner library patrons at my old library and Trevor's accent was spot on (unlike Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond).  I recommend listening to the audio version if you can. Trevor is a great storyteller. Audible is currently offering the digital audiobook for free to members of Goodreads. Find out more here.

I hope you will consider giving Born a Crime a try. It is funny, educational and inspiring and likely to be one of my favorites.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Freebie".

I meant to share my list of favorites when that topic was covered in December but I missed that week due to illness. I got the idea for for the setup of my list from Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict. You can find her list of 2016 favorites here.

In 2016, I read 140 books. Several of those books were rereads. I had fun rereading the Harry Potter books on audio, rereading The Lord of the Rings, and rereading several classics (also on audio). I also read quite a few books I requested for review as well as some new to me authors I found out about at the library or through other book bloggers. Let's hope 2017 is filled with many more great books to be discovered.

My favorite 2016 books for adults:

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

If I had to pick just one book that would be my favorite of 2016, this would be it. In my review, I described it as a "thought provoking and unputdownable story". While her books can be hit or miss, this one hit it out of the ballpark.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

I decided to read this one after seeing a really positive review for it (thanks Christina!) and because I was in the middle of planning a trip to Monticello. I took the book with me and it really enriched my visit. It was also a fascinating look at Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures through the eyes of Jefferson's daughter.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

I was initially hesitant about reading this though the premise sounded interesting. I wasn't sure if I would like it since it is technically science fiction but I loved it. In the story, couples can have a surgery done that will allow them to experience each other's emotions so they'll feel how much their partner loves them. The main character undergoes the procedure with her almost-fiance but it backfires and she hears another guy's thoughts instead.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I wanted to read this because it involves libraries and being able to travel to different worlds through the library. I thought it would be similar to Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, a YA book I loved but it was refreshingly different. I have since read the sequel and now can't wait to get my hands on the third book. I think it is an interesting fantasy with dragons, fairies and librarians. There is even an evil rogue librarian on the loose. You don't have to be a librarian to enjoy this though. :)

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

A book that involves time travel and stopping a serial killer? It sounded like a win-win to me and it certainly was. I was recommended this book by a coworker of mine and I'm glad I listened to her and decided to give it a try. The main character is an FBI agent who suffered a serious and traumatic loss when her team is betrayed. While trying to stop the suspect, she ends up back in time in the early 1800s where a serial killer is on the loose. Sounds crazy but somehow it all works.

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

I thought this was well written. I liked the descriptive writing style and imagery and the way the setting seemed to come to life. This would be a good pick for book discussion groups too.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

I loved Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and while this novel is different as a historical rather than contemporary, it also deals with village life like the first book. The setting is the summer leading up to WWI but I was reminded of the WWII TV series Homefires. The main character Beatrice Nash is a Latin teacher new to the village and there are those who feel she isn't right for the job and that a man should have been hired instead. 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves is the story of a woman who is tragically widowed when her husband's helicopter goes down over the Pacific and a few years later she has found love again. She is just newly engaged when she finds out that her husband is still alive. In the wrong hands this could have been tired melodrama but instead it is a thoughtful novel about love and life choices.

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Her first novel, Secret Daughter is one of my favorites so I couldn't wait to read this. Also taking place partly in India and partly in the U.S., The Golden Son is about Anil, a young man who dreams of being a doctor and what his life is like when he finally gets to go to medical school. He is torn between life in the U.S. and returning to India where he is expected to take up his dad's role as arbiter in his village. The other main character is Leena, Anil's childhood friend and the tough path life takes her on.

And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

This little novella packs a powerful punch. It is the story of Noah, his father and his grandfather who is suffering from dementia. Fredrik Backman is becoming one of my favorite authors. 

My favorite 2016 young adult books:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea is the beautifully written companion novel to Between Shades of Gray (though the book can be read as a standalone) and features Lina's cousin Joana. The novel tells the true story of the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustlaf and the refugees who hoped to find freedom aboard the ship.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I thought this sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses was even better than the first book. I loved the worldbuilding, the character development, the romance and the unexpected twists. Unfortunately the book ended with a cliffhanger and I can't wait till the third book is published in May.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

This book is set in Nazi Occupied Amsterdam and the main character Hanneke makes a living by delivering black market goods for her boss. She gets involved (initially unwillingly) in the Resistance when one of her customers hires her to track down a missing Jewish girl she'd been hiding.  I think readers who liked Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein would like this book

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

This is the sequel to Walk on Earth a Stranger. While I preferred the setting for that one as I love pioneer stories and reading about wagon trains, this was also interesting. The main setting is a mining camp. The characters also continued to grow, even the secondary ones and there was plenty of action. I can't wait for the next book.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

I've never been to a Comic Con though my library has held our own mini Comic Con event for the past two years. I loved all the "nerdy" references and couldn't help but root for Graham to win Roxy's heart. From my review: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love was a joy to read. It is a sweet and funny story about friendship, love and fandom.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I really enjoy Morgan Matson's books and this one didn't disappoint. I liked Andie and Clark and I loved the development of Andie's relationship with her dad and the portrayal of the ups and downs of teen friendship. 

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

This book was pretty sad. In one storyline teenaged Alia is upset with her parents and decides to visit her dad at his office in the World Trade Center on September 11th. In the other storyline Jesse is growing up under the shadow of her brother who died in the World Trade Center ten years before and she gets in trouble for a racist incident. Both stories interconnect and make for a moving and thought provoking read.

My favorite 2016 middle grade books:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I decided to read this book when it was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award. Pax is a fox who was rescued as a kit by his boy Peter. Now Pax and Peter have been separated by a war and both boy and fox are trying to make their way home to each other. Such a sweet and bittersweet story. 

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost is the story of Cedar and her mom and younger brother Miles who have just arrived at their summer home for the first summer after the death of Cedar's dad and brother Ben. It is touching and funny and I enjoyed seeing Cedar's friendship develop with Leo and how they changed each other's lives. The theater is an important component of the story and there is also a little mystery to be solved.

My favorite books for adults published prior to 2016:

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

This is partly historical fiction set in Russia during World War II and partly a modern day story about two sisters and their complicated relationship with their cold and distant mom. It is fascinating and deeply sad as their mother's history and the truth is revealed. One member of my book group said she thought it was better than The Nightingale

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

I wasn't sure I was going to like this historical novel. It is written in diary entry form and the main character starts out with poor grammar and spelling (she is barely literate at the beginning) but as the story progressed, her grammar and spelling improved and I found myself sucked in to a fascinating tale about life on a wagon train in the late 19th Century. Also it's based on a true story.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

I read this with my book group and while I didn't like it as much as A Man Called Ove, it was still pretty good. I liked the close bond between Elsa and her grandmother as well as all the humor. 

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe

I read this with my book group and I think it is perfect for book discussion. The main character Emmy is growing up in a really strict household in 1950s Minnesota and she is expected to marry Ambrose who is not the greatest guy. Emmy grows from being this acquiescent and biddable girl to a young woman with her own mind in a place where women were expected to abide by the rules of their husbands or fathers. 

We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This is another book I read with my book group. I haven't read her debut novel The Language of Flowers though it got so much buzz but I thought this was pretty good. I felt frustrated with the mother, Letty, at times but I liked her more as she stepped up to become a better mom.

Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

I almost added The Bookshop on the Corner to my honorable mentions list but didn't like that one as much as this. I loved Rosie and her aunt and the residents of Lipton (except the dentist). The setting was fun and although a lot of the sweets were new to me, I liked the descriptions of the sweetshop. It sounded like a magical place.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I thought this was both funny and a thoughtful look at careers, family, and the importance of books.

My Favorite Books for Teens Published Prior to 2016:

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This graphic novel was creative and funny and I loved the illustrations. Nimona is a strong character and I liked Lord Ballister Blackheart, villain with a heart of gold. This is probably the most unexpected and surprisingly good book I read in 2016.

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

I loved The Kiss of Deception but didn't get around to this sequel till this year. The Heart of Betrayal really develops the characters from the first book and introduces the fascinating setting of Venda. A lot changes over the course of the book and there is a cliffhanger ending.

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Another fantastic entry in this YA suspense series about some talented teens working for the FBI. The main character has a gift for profiling killers. It can be chilling to read at times. 

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

This was a fun historical fantasy novel set during the Regency. There is a theft of a jewel, magic, some crossdressing, plenty of humor and adventure. I wish there was a sequel!

Best Audiobooks:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike

This is the first classic I listened to from Audible Studios. I loved Rosamund Pike's narration. She does a great job with all the voices and her interpretation of Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins had me in stitches. I wish she'd read Jane Austen's other novels too.

Anne of Green Gables, read by Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams did a fantastic job bringing Anne Shirley to life. I enjoyed listening to this story and do wish she'd record the rest of the series for Audible too.

Emma by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson

I've heard that Juliet Stevenson is the narrator to listen to when it comes to Jane Austen (I make a notable exception for Pride and Prejudice though I may give her version a try someday). What made this so fun to listen to (aside from the novel itself) was her performance as Mrs. Elton since she so memorably played the character in the Gwyneth Paltrow film version.

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix, read by Faye Adele

Although I have an ARC of this book I chose to listen to the audiobook when I found it through my library on Overdrive. It was such a fun book to listen to and very entertaining for my work commute. I enjoyed it so much that I may listen to it again sometime.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, read by Katherine Kellgren and Kevin R. Free

At first I almost returned this to Audible because I am not a fan of Katherine Kellgren's voice. I got used to it though as the story progressed (it was only shrill every once in awhile) and got caught up in the adventure. I am sure I will listen to this series again in the future.

The Princess, the Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken, read by Marc Thompson and Rebecca Soler

I wanted to read this book but when I saw that Marc Thompson read the audio (as well as Rebecca Soler, who narrated the Lunar Chronicles so well) I knew I had to listen to the audio version. The story is a retelling of the "first" (as in original 1977) Star Wars movie, mainly through the eyes of Leia. It really helps add depth to her character and everything that happens. Both the story and the narration were fantastic. 

Honorable Mention Books for Adults:

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown
On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins (published Jan. 2017)
The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany
The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms
The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Honorable Mention Books for Teens:

Wanderlost by Jen Malone
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Exile for Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin
Flying by Carrie Jones
United by Melissa Landers
Starflight by Melissa Landers

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Post (76) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It's been a long week and I'm glad it's the weekend. I had the day off Wednesday and did some much needed cleaning and decluttering though I still have a long way to go. 

At work on Thursday, a patron asked me if I was American because I don't "look American"-her words (she seemed to think Americans would look like her). It was part of a much longer conversation dealing with people from Pakistan and India and "what kind of people they are". She was rude and it bothered me but she was being unintentionally racist I think as her whole purpose in coming to the library was to learn Urdu and find out more about Pakistan because she recently met someone from there she wants to befriend. I ordered her a book on culture and etiquette in Pakistan among other things so hopefully she won't be rude to him too! 

I finally booked some library events for spring. Last March a local musician did a Celtic music concert for us at the coffee shop and he said he'd like to do it again this year and this time it is actually on St. Patrick's Day. I hope it will be as successful as last year's concert. I'm planning to ask him if he knows The Skye Boat Song. Last year he included tunes from The Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe so why not include a little Outlander (plus it is a legit Celtic song) :) The other event I'm really excited about is a paint night. I wanted to do one last year but didn't have enough in the budget so I'm glad it is working out this year. It is going to be in April during National Library Week. Now I need to come up with my programs for summer and I'll be golden.

Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. Thanks for reading!

Last week on my blog:

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis (review)

Books read:

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

I finished this on Saturday afternoon. It took awhile to get into it and get past the vernacular writing. In the end, it just wasn't for me. I didn't really like the characters except maybe Miss Love. I'm betting my book group loved it though.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I loved this book about comedian Trevor Noah's childhood growing up in South Africa as a biracial kid under Apartheid. You'd think it would be pretty depressing but he is a very funny writer as well as a thoughtful one and I learned a lot and laughed a lot too. He was such a rascal as a kid! The Audible book is free to Goodreads users. I highly recommend it as the author is the narrator. Find out how to get your copy here.

Currently reading:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread)

Currently listening to:

Starflight by Melissa Landers (reread)

On my TBR pile:

I have to read this for review. I hadn't heard about it before but it looks kind of interesting.

By Your Side by Kasie West

New books received:

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell (for review)

March: Book One by John Lewis (library book)

March: Book Two by John Lewis (library book)