All the books I loved this winter … and totally failed to blog about.

First, an apology to these authors. While I have been haunting and at time commenting about my reads on the Tweets, I haven’t spent nearly enough time here… doing the book reviews. So let’s catchup!

Earlier, around the time I returned from ALA MW (the American Librarians big winter conference with an absolutely massive stack of books, I developed decision fatigue and could not for the life of me pick up any one book. So I did what any vaguely messed up human does and avoided all the goodness. And then I heard about this crazy sounding novel and broke my malaise by buying the Audible of Vita Nostra, a Russian novel released recently in translation. OH MY! I was totally entranced. Since the novel starts with Sasha(Sacha? – spelling is the one trouble with audio novels) as a Highschool student, the genre would be appropriate in Young Adult. There are limited but significant mentions of sex and drinking and smoking, so if that bums you out, take a pass here. But the complexity and intrigue means that it should cross over nicely into sci-fi and Realistic Adult Fiction.

This was a commute listen for me and yes, there were times I sat at my arrival spot and didn’t get out of the car immediately. The narration was superb, something special in that all the Russian names/words came through with all their cultural, symphonic glory while the translated English was completely immersive. The translation was IN-CRED-IBLE. The story made absolute sense while still preserving its geographic roots. It had a little magical realism and sci/fi and even a little philosophy (in the form of existential questioning of self) so I was sold. I was taken with how effectively I was unable to pin point the story’s place in our timeline. I just don’t know enough about today’s Russia to compare and that was a harsh realization in some ways. I loved Sacha/Sasha, our protagonist. I loved and wanted to be her, and to NOT be her. It was hard to decide. And I adored the slice of Russian life, time scrambled as it was. I left feeling like I had visited. So if you read only one Russian novel this year, forget Tolstoy, and read the more relevant, entertaining, and possibly modern Vita Nostra. Inquiring minds want to know… will there be more novels about the Institute?

#vitanostra @thedyachenkos @simonbooks @juliameihersey

Ha Ha! Made you read. :)

Thanks for not running off!  Find me @LibraryKATinAD .  My personal Twitter is @TragicCharacter. Did you know that MANY local libraries have electronic library cards?  You can often borrow eBooks, Audiobooks, and magazines for free from your hometown library.   Do a search and check it out!


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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

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Woodson is a master storyteller – there is absolutely no legitimate argument contrary to that. Her latest novel, RED AT THE BONE, is an incredible story of life in multiple generations. With a deft hand, Woodson creates a tapestry of grandparent-parent-child relationships. These relationships are the focus of the novel but not where all the action resides and in that, Woodson has created something utterly unique. RED AT THE BONE is almost a novel of multiple character studies, reflecting 4 generations of African American life – with tragedy and triumph throughout. While the books ends with a sad tragic twist (one that hopefully won’t be revealed casually in blurbs and reviews), that twist provided the delicate laying-to-rest of this story that I needed. Recommended for YA audiences where frank discussions of sex, LGBTQ issues, and teen pregnancy will be appreciated.

@NetGalley #Reviewathon @JackieWoodson @RiverheadBooks #ModernClassics #NetGalley #TBR

Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

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In this fantastical universe, our protagonist, Elsa, has the superpower EVERY bibliophile wants (whether they know it or not!)  And that is why I was compelled to read Ink, Iron and Glass…. ‘cuz I too really want to be able to write things into existence.

While set up as a YA book, the characters seemed younger than their years.  Perhaps Elsa’s isolation in growing up has given her an innocent bent or maybe I have just been reading more racy YA recently.  Aside from a few “damns” and a handful of passionate kisses, this story would almost be appropriate for competent Middle Grade readers.

One of my favorite parts of this novel though is when the characters pursue a plan of action, convinced that they understand their antagonist’s plan – only to discover that they are quite wrong.  This air of believability is refreshing in a genre where coincidence sometime plays a contrived replacement for plot.  It shows a willingness to grind on the part of the author and made up for the almost limitless power our Elsa was given in the form of a version of a literary Room of Requirement.  Mind you, I mean this with only a tiny bit of judgment.  I still would love to write myself One Million Dollars…..  nothing?  nothing? Bummer.


Unpresidented by Martha Brockenbrough

Many many moon ago, I started and finished Unpresidented by Martha Brockenbrough.  I waited, though, to write this review.  I wondered if there could be a better time – a less divisive time – when writing a review might draw more people to read it.  I surmised that during the Mueller investigation might not be the time to try and draw cross aisle readership.  But I think I have come to terms with the idea that people simply won’t read what they don’t want to know.  So for those of you who may believe in the value of our current Commander-in-Chief, I encourage you to read this book but I hold out little hope that you will.


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If, however, you are a seeker, someone who would like to understand the what, who and why of the current administration, PLEASE buy or borrow Unpresidented.

There is a wide relevance in this treatise on the First Family.  It is a history that tracks a familial ideology through to present day.  It explains the background and morality our President was raised in and links that both to his distant past and to our present.  If you are looking to learn the point of the Mueller investigation, you can dive right into page 263, when Special Counsel Mueller is appointed, and probably learn enough to be conversant on the topic.  But the value of this book is not merely in the clear laying out of the issues.  Nor is it as a cautionary tale for parents on how family politics and values shape our children.  Rather the most valuable aspect of this particular book is in the Foreward coupled with the 50+ pages of Endnotes that allow anyone to go to the author’s own reference material and decide for themselves whether she made the right interpretation.

On that note, I do take umbrage with the decision (by author or publisher or editor, I don’t know) not to include the endnote numbers in the text.  I realize those numbers can act as little interruptions in reading.  They can possibly make a book less readable.  But having them listed in the text body, referring directly to the source, would have enhanced the author’s point that “trust in basic facts is a vital part of civil society.  Facts become the basis of our decisions, and good decision are made with verifiable facts” (xii)  by allowing, even encouraging, readers to quickly verify the author’s assertions.  At minimum, I expected to see the citations broken out by chapter.  And I would have preferred an online guide (QR code readable) that linked to publicly available resources.  For future editions, please consider this addition.

This book is primarily written for a Young Adult/New Adult audience.  I would encourage all writers of non-fiction for this reading demographic to use contemporary citations (footnotes or endotes) for referencing.  We need to make it easy for readers to use references and we should familiarize people with the format.  Doing so creates an expectation in the minds of readers that factual books WILL have these citations.

Lastly, I would like to encourage Librarians, Social Studies teachers, Theory of Knowledge advisors, and anyone else teaching information literacy to consider using Brockenbrough’s Foreword to Unpresidented in their media literacy lessons.  The author is concise and clear in explaining “facts are facts.”  In this brief section, she logically and sequentially walks the reader through the Obama “birther” controversy – from media hype, to the official records, to WHY we should trust the records, to why we count on journalists to write “the first draft of history.”  She also discusses the concept of fairness and why it doesn’t require equality of time or resources but should instead be considered an issue of accurate representation – the middle points of a scatter plot graph not the outliers.  If nothing else, these few highlighted points (which are extremely relevant to the entirety of the book) are worth the price of purchase.

When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee

When Spring Comes to the DMZ is a book of contradictions.

It is a statement by a grandfather about his unhappiness being separated from the North but told by a child who has no background in a unified Korea. Through seasonal trips to the wall that borders the DMZ, we are shown how the DMZ – long abandoned by people – is now something of a wildlife refuge. Beautiful paintings show bucolic scenes tempered by razor wire and warnings in Korean.

The ending felt politicized to some extent (written originally in 2010 but advocating reunification at some level) and I wonder if this is the original intent of the author. I worried for all the animals wandering amongst the mines and (probably unwarrantedly) worried children would never grasp how destructive and dangerous the land there and in other demilitarized zones can be. Still, there is nothing like this on the market. For that and the pictures, this book should be considered. But for those libraries with Korean patrons, I would ask them their opinion and I would love to know the opinion of both Korean Americans and South Koreans on what their gut reaction was. #NetGalley

Fake News by Michael Miller

This is a great book for librarians and computer teachers who teach digital citizenship and information literacy. Honestly, it should probably be THE textbook for the subject,. In the span of just over 100 pages, this concise book explains the origin and psychology of fake news.

Even better, it offers practical solutions to combat it. I was particularly impressed with the comprehensiveness of the subject considering the small size.

WIth photos and graphics, it is an easy read for upper elementary through high school. While I especially appreciated the index, glossary, and annotations, it would be easier to encourage students fact checking if URL shortners or QR codes were included to link readers to resources.

I hope that this will become the first in a series on information literacy topics and will be offered at affordable prices so that school librarians are able to employ it in their classes.

#NetGalley #FakeNews

Bad Boys of Fashion

I am not a fashionista…. I am the girl who is rooting for Grunge to return, the sooner, the better. So I wasn’t sure if I was the best person to read and review a book all about men’ s style. To my surprise and delight, I really enjoyed this colorful, historical roundup of some of the most famous icons of men’s fashion. Right along with the Rebel Girls, this book is a celebration not just of clothing and accessory choices but of iconic men, some of whom have been marginalized in their time and in history.

What is there to learn from a fashion history? Well, let’s start with an explanation of one of America’s favorite children’s songs in the history of the Dandies. Yankee Doodle’s macaroni reference was finally revealed to me as (gluten-free) slang . Or what about the origin of The Fonz’s perfect bad boy style? I and my long suffering grandmother have Marlon Brando to thank for influencing my father’s teenage clothing choices. By far, though, I learned the most from the story of Oscar Wilde, an intense and unique author who took cosplay and capes to the extreme.

The frank discussion of homosexuality (including a definition of ‘sodomite’) will be appreciated by older students who are the logical target for this tome. The art (a combination of photos and modern graphic stylings) and direct writing approach should appeal to adults and teens who are interested in historical art and biographies, as well as fashion. I especially recommend this book for people who enjoyed Brazen which shared a novel graphic styling while telling intense and relevant stories.

@jencroll @AnnickPress @BadBoysofFashion