Summer Reading

Summer Reading 2014

“So many books, so little time!”

One of my goals has been to get back into reading young adult literature.  I’d been in a slump, or should I say disappointed with what I’d been reading, so haven’t been reading like a good YA librarian should.  To that end here are the ones I picked up to give a go and have read so far this summer:

1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (4 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction; PTSD]

Uhm, read it a LONG while ago, so don’t remember any pertinent details, just that it was good, not as good as some of her other books (ie: Speak), but still definitely worth purchasing.

2. Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (3 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction]

This was a VERY well written book and I have my own reasons, not to do with the plot/issue of the story, of why I didn’t give it a higher rating.  If anyone is interested in why I didn’t give it a higher rating, ask me in the comments and I’ll email you.  My answer has the potential to spoil the ending for those who may want to read the book and I hate spoilers so I wont do that to anyone else!!

3. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Franchesca Block (DNF); [science fiction; survival fiction; magic realistic fiction]

Okay, this one I just couldn’t get into – mostly due to the back and fourth “fantasy/reality” passages and as you really need to know/understand some mythology (I guess) to “get it” and I just didn’t feel like I wanted to put in that much effort in my summer reading!  Sorry!  This wasn’t my “cup of tea”!  Maybe others will enjoy it as I know she’s a popular YA author.

4. How to Love by Katie Cotugno (3 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction; teen pregnancy]

Good, but not great.  I like that the main character accepts responsibility for her actions; however, I don’t believe that it accurately depicts the hardships single parents face – she had it too easy!  This also borders on a New Adult(ish) title since half the book is while the main character is out of high school flashing back to high school and how she became pregnant so I don’t know that it is a true YA title in my opinion.

5. Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young (4 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic/science fiction; romance]

Reminded me of a YA version of the movie “Sliding Doors” – what happens if you make one decision/choice over another?  Does it lead to the same conclusion/fate?  I didn’t always like the choices Caroline made, in either “reality”, but overall I liked the book.

6. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (4 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction; bullying; romance]

Really liked the positive aspect of the adults in the main character’s life – didn’t stay in the background/absentee as in most YA, but took active roll!  Adults aren’t the enemy!

7. The Gaged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni (4 out of 5 stars); [historical fiction; mystery; romance]

Very interesting that the story is based on true account of caged graves!  Who ever heard of such a thing?  Weird.

8. Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel (4 out of 5 stars); [historical fiction; mystery; espionage; romance]

I would have given it even higher marks; however, this isn’t a YA book in my opinion.  This reads like a regular romance novel that happens to have a teenage protagonist.  It has very sexual undertones: an attempted rape; mentions of the kings mistress; witnessing a lovers tryst; etc.  While nothing overt/explicit, it is more adult in content and in writing style/language than most of my teens would be willing to invest.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and WILL be recommending it to my teen girls who like romance and mysteries.

9. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason (3 out of 5 stars); [steampunk; historical fiction; science fiction; romance; mystery; fantasy]

This book tired to be too many things and just didn’t work for me.  Overall, it is an okay story/mystery, but it just tried too hard to do too much at once.

Okay, that’s it for now, but I have a whole bunch more on my TBR pile.  I’ll post those as I get to them!  What have you been reading?

Photo credit: “So many books, so little time!” photograph by Heather Loy, 7/11/2014.

Technology Tools I Can’t Live Without

… Or technology I use daily.

I’ve been asked what technology I use and/or couldn’t live without. So here goes.  I doubt anything here is surprising. 

Email

Yep.  I’m still the “email queen” and it is my preferred method of communication. Don’t call or txt me – shoot me an email.  Yes, I have an iPhone, but I rarely use it as an actual phone!  I use it as an alarm clock, to tweet and to check email!  I check email first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to bed!  Yep, addicted.  I have a work email account, a mac account, and a gmail account that all have email coming in that have to be monitored!

iPad

The device I use daily.  Even more than I need my iPhone (or any cell phone).  See above.  Okay, I’m going to say something most librarians are going to want to hurt me.  I’d rather read on my iPad than pick up a book!  There I said it.  Holding the iPad is so much easier than holding a book!  Lighter too in a lot of cases (Diana Gabaldon’s WIMOHB is going to be 864 pages and 3.1lbs!)  Plus I can have a whole series on the device and in my purse than packing the hardcopies in my suitcase for spring break this week!  Since getting the iPad it has almost replaced my Macbook.  Almost.

Macbook Pro

I haven’t had a personal desktop computer in over 5 years and haven’t missed it once.  I also haven’t missed switching from PC to Mac. As I alluded to early, since getting an iPad, I’ve not been using this as the workhorse as much as I have in the past.  It is still my go to device for creation, but not so much for consuming.  I still need a keyboard to type!  My Mac is getting some age (keys are fading and one popped off – good old superglue to the rescue) and it needs memory & processor upgrades.  I’m saving up to get a new one instead as a Christmas present to myself.  I figure I’ll upgrade to better memory, processor, and other internal stuff , but downgrade in size. I don’t need the large 15 inch model I currently have that weighs a ton. I still use the Mac for: documents; spreadsheets; presentations; photo editing; senior video creation; etc.

RSS: Darn you Google for killing Google Reader, but hallelujah for Feedly (on iPad)

RSS has been a godsend in my life.  I follow hundreds of blogs, news feeds, and websites and having to check each originating site was a pain.  RSS allows all of the new content to come to me instead!  As I said, I follow 100s of RSS feeds and I typically read only about half of what is there.  I treat it like a newspaper – scan headlines and pics to see what strikes my fancy.  The rest I “mark all read” as I just don’t have the time to spend reading it all.  I figure I follow enough teacher, librarian, & education folks that I’ll catch the important stuff sooner or later from one of them.  That’s the perk and downside to following these folks – something “new” or “it” will be blasted by all of them sooner or later!  I love how Feedly arranges the posts in a “magazine” like layout for some and lists for others to make it easy for me to scan and for a more natural and appealing experience. I also love that it allowed me to transfer all of my Google Reader feeds directly so no setup hassle for me when Google let me down.

Dropbox & Evernote

I’m often asked why I have/use both?  Don’t they do the same thing?  Answer: NO!  Dropbox is my place to store files I need to access from more than one place (home, work, iDevice, etc.)  Things like forms, spreadsheets, PPTs, documents, etc. that I refer to and update frequently.  Dropbox is my cloud file/storage cabinet.  I have to say I’m a fan of the referral process to get more free storage so haven’t felt the need to upgrade.  

I use Evernote to store my ideas, lists, important emails, notes to myself, pdfs and articles I want to read later, links or what others call favorites or bookmarks, reminders, etc.  It is also my “archival” system.  With Evernote I can search for a keyword or tag to quickly find something.  Full disclosure, I am a “pro” member of Evernote – most folks can get by with the free version, but I wanted access to all the bells and whistles!

As a side note, I could NOT have planned the SCASL Annual Conference in 2012 without the combination of email, Dropbox and Evernote to keep me sane and organized.  

iCal

Thankfully the two main calendars we use at school have an iCal feed.  Those plus my own created calendars help ensure I don’t forget any important dates, meetings, or events.  I also love the ability to add an alarm to shoot me an email reminder!  However, I’m still having to use a PAPER scheduler to keep track of library scheduling.  Sigh.  I haven’t found an electronic version that can accurately keep up with the library schedule – at least one my FACULTY will actually use.  We’ve recently moved to Office365 and I’m hoping to move our labs and library schedules to the shared calendar features there as I’m hoping it will be a more accessible and easy to collaborate/use calendar for my faculty.

eBook Readers

I use a variety of ebook readers (Kindle, Nook, Overdrive, iBooks, Bluefire Reader, Reader, Kobo, Stanza, ComiXology, Follett Enlight, & Mackinvia) as I’ve been buying ebooks since they first starting appearing commercially.  I purchased one of the first Sony eReader on the market (and I’m not too pleased with them “going out of business” in the US and switching to Kobo – no offense to Kobo).  The bulk of my books; however, are through the Kindle (Amazon).  I also check out quite a bit through my local library using the Overdrive service.  Yay!  This is especially handy now that I’ve rejoined the SC Young Adult Book Award committee and have 100 books to read that I don’t want to have to go buy.  Quite a few are available as ebooks!

Audiobooks

I also purchase and listen to quite a few audiobooks.  The ones I don’t borrow from the public library I purchase through Audible or iTunes depending upon who has the better price at the moment.  And every summer for the past few Audiobooksync has been running a promotion giving away two free audiobooks each Thursday.  A classic paired with a contemporary.  They start up in May!  Be sure to get on their notification list!  

Newsstand

We subscribe to a few magazines at school that allows me to access them on my iPad (School Library Journal; The Week; & Entertainment Weekly) and I’ve subscribed to others in the past.  I’m not completely sold on the reading magazines on the iPad; however, I do find it convenient sometimes.

March Madness

Thank you, Cathy Nelson, for sharing her March Madness idea.  I so totally stole it.  Since I’d fallen down on focusing on my school lately, I’ve been trying to do a reading promotion every month (or two) and this one was a perfect follow up to our Blind Date with a Book promotion from Jan/Feb.   We started by printing off the Follett report showing the top circulated titles to determine the top 16 (in some cases, we combined them if there were titles in a series to only count the series not the individual titles).   Most of the books our students read are part of series! Students were asked to complete their bracket predictions and return the Wednesday before voting was to begin.  Voting is every Thursday in March.  Students whose bracket predictions prove correct receive a prize and any student whose entire bracket proves correct will receive a “big” surprise.   [Yes, I left it vague as at the time I hadn't decided on prizes!  Now, they get candy for correct individual bracket predictions and I have $25 Amazon gift cards if anyone's entire bracket proves correct.]

Since our building is scheduled to be painted this summer, I didn’t hesitate to use some black duct tape to tape up our bracket on the hall directly opposite the library entrance! While Cindy, my library aide, was putting it up she got some weird looks.  Everyone wondered what on earth she was doing!  Of course, we ran out of duct tape half way through!  Since Cindy is part time, I finished up the rest of the bracket the next day after restocking our supplies.  [My side - the right- isn't quite as straight and meticulous as Cindy's!]

March Madness Bracket

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our initial Sweet Sixteen bracket:

  • #1 Bluford High (series) vs. #16 Virals by Kathy Reichs
  • #9 Bitter End by Jennifer Brown vs. #8 Vampire Kisses (series) by Ellen Schreiber
  • #5 Beautiful Creatures (series) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl vs. #12 Matched (series) by Ally Condie
  • #13 Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter vs. #4 House of Night (series) by P.C. & Kristin Cast
  • #3 Cirque du Freak (series) by Darren Shan vs. #14 Darkness Rising (series) by Kelley Armstrong
  • #11 Infernal Devices (series) by Cassandra Clare vs. #6 Maximum Ride (manga series) by James Patterson
  • #7 Mortal Instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare vs. #10 Alex Rider (series) by Anthony Horowitz
  • #15 Luna Chronicles (series) by Marissa Meyer vs. #2 Vampire Academy (series) by Richelle Mead

Our Elite Eight:

  • #1 Bluford High vs. #8 Vampire Kisses
  • #5 Beautiful Creatures vs. #4 House of Night
  • #14 Darkness Rising vs. #6 Maximum Ride
  • #7 Mortal Instruments vs. #2 Vampire Academy

Our Final Four

  • #5 Beautiful Creatures vs. #8 Vampire Kisses
  • #7 Mortal Instruments vs. #6 Maximum Ride

And after today’s voting, our Finalists are:

  • #5 Beautiful Creatures vs. #7 Mortal Instruments

march madness book coversAfter the first round of voting, only one student had predicted all of the Elite Eight titles!  However, after the second voting, no one had a perfect bracket!  As of the last voting, only two students and one teacher still have any books on their bracket – and all three have correctly predicted the two finalists!  We’ll see if they can predict the winner!  The winner will be announced next Friday!