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Review Policy

March 15, 2012

I am particularly interested in books in the following categories:

  • Historical fiction
  • Foodie lit or foodie memoir
  • Historical mystery or forensic-based mystery
  • Extremely well-written YA  genre fiction (no vampire romance or dystopia, please!)

If I request a specific title, I will do my best to review it in a timely manner. I will review books outside of the above criteria at my discretion.

Thank you so much for keeping me Surrounded By Books

– Elizabeth

Resources for Teen Librarians: Websites and Blogs

November 15, 2015
image of figures leaping over book stacks

Tomorrow, E.B., a library school buddy, is starting work as a YA public librarian. To wish her luck on her first day, I’m pulling together a list of some of the blogs I know are terrific for book recommendations, program ideas and general teen library wonderfulness.

Book Riot covers bookish topics for all ages, including reading life and book recommendations of many kinds. For budding YA-brarians, 3 on a YA Theme archives can be a good place to start, browsing. And here’s a direct link to the YA category on the site.

Comics, Cosplay and Geek Culture in Libraries Exactly what it says it is. Great resource for comic, anime and manga collection development, and program and event ideas. Wondering what a maker space is? How to host a superhero-themed event? Browse through the sections on this blog. Also: Ellyssa Kroski, who started the site, has a new book on Cosplay in Libraries that’s really well researched. (While my opinion on this is slightly biased since I write for the site and think Ellyssa is pretty close to being a superhero in her own right, the fact remains it’s an informative site.)

Diversity in YA: Founded by YA authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo, great place to find statistics on diversity in YA, along with useful booklists. They’re also on Tumblr

Disability in Kidlit does great reviews of individual books as well as overarching thematic discussion of disability issues in literature for kids through teens. Their policy is to have someone who has the same condition as the characters in the book review books, which I think is important. They also have a Tumblr.

Panels, run by many of the same people who do BookRiot covers all things comics and graphic novels, from reviews to industry news to the latest on comics adapted to movies/TV

Reading Rants: Reviews of all kinds of genres of the latest teen lit from Jennifer Hubert-Swan. I took her class in YA Genre fiction and her reviews on the site give a great sense of how she teaches- enthusiastic and thorough. Plus, her topical lists are a good place to start for book displays or other genre-theme needs.

Stacked hosts smart, socially aware librarian-centric blogging, including terrific book lists and professional development resources. For the sake of brevity, here’s the YA, but the whole site is worth exploring, including the archives.

Teen Librarian Toolbox is a librarian-friendly source for reviews and activity ideas with lots of guest bloggers from libraries all over.

We Need Diverse Books reviews and promotes books with diverse characters, culture, race, sexuality, disability, for all age ranges, including YA.

YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association is like the mothership of all teen librarian resources. I know it’s already on my buddy’s radar, but the list feels incomplete without it.

I know I’ve left off Tumblr and Twitter, both of which I’ve relied on for book recommendations and easily consumed bites of library information… but this list was getting pretty long and I don’t want to overwhelm my friend on her first day. And I haven’t even touched on bookish podcasts, which would be a whole other project.

What are your go-to resources for reviews and programming resources to make your teen programs amazing? Leave me a note in the comments. And wish E.B. luck as she gets ready to jump in and be awesome.

Booking Through Thursday: Nostalgic

November 12, 2015

Booking Through Thursday logo This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks:

What book (or books) from your childhood do you think about most often? That had the most effect on your life?

The Westing GameMy first answer is, and probably always will be, The Westing Game, which I’m sure comes as a surprise to not one single reader of this blog, ever. I know I’ve read it more than twenty times, almost once a year since I was 8 years old. (Just realized I missed reading it this past Halloween. In my defense, I was a little bit busy starting a new library job. Maybe I’ll curl up with it this weekend, while the leaves are still falling. It’s a good, autumn book. And as many times as I’ve read it, there are still surprises: details I had forgotten since the last reading, or ways the plot connects and foreshadows clues I didn’t remember catching before. (Some parts of the narrative are really dated, even cringe-worthy. But for a book that’s just about as old as I am, I think it stands up well.

jacket image, All of a Kind Family by Sydney TaylorLately, I’ve been thinking about re-reading The All-of-A-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor. I remember checking them out of the library when my family first moved to New York City, and enjoying the stories because they let me get to know my new city and its history. Like the Little House on the Prairie books, which I read around the same time, in elementary school, they had the wonder and strangeness of the past, but being able to see some of the actual street names and brick buildings Taylor wrote about made the story easier to grasp. Been thinking of re-reading the All of a Kind family books recently, as I’ve been listening to the Bowery Boys podcast, in which two guys riff on New York city’s history. I keep telling myself I’ll sit down and dig into books about New York history and become a self-taught expert… but I think that’s more on the order of pipe dream or bucket list than anything that I’m likely to read in the near future.

Jacket image, Harriet the Spy by Louise FitzhughAnd of course, there’s Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I remember that I read it on a family trip to Washington, D.C. I must have been about 9 or 10. I already went everywhere toting a notebook to scrawl things in (because I was born to be that kid.) But that book let me play Harriet the Spy and be completely delighted with the game. Lurking in corners and hiding behind potted plants with a notebook was especially fun in the hotel lobby. And I’m pretty sure that I kept it up for a few weeks once we came home.

I didn’t uncover any stunning secrets or particularly good gossip, which is probably just as well. Then, as now, even the thought of social mortification makes me horrendously squeamish. (Social upheaval and bullying tales make me squirm worse than murder and bloodshed, to be honest. So we won’t even be talking about Blubber or any other books by Judy Blume, which I read at about the same age. I remember reading them avidly, but also disliking the squirmy sense of living through the characters’ misery.)

The Librarians and What Lies Beneath the Stones: Episode Recap

November 11, 2015

Here’s my latest post for Comics, Cosplay and Geek Culture in Libraries:

The Librarians and What Lies Beneath the Stones: Episode Recap

Book Review: Beastly Bones

November 10, 2015

jacket image, Beastly Bones by William RitterBeastly Bones
by William Ritter
Algonquin Young Readers
(galley from BEA)

R.F. Jackaby solves crimes that deal with the supernatural and the arcane. While wearing a silly hat, and being trailed by his long-suffering assistant, Abigail Rook. I’m very happy to see the adventures of Jackaby and Miss Rook continue in a second volume. Even if reading it gave me nightmares about murderous kittens and carnage. Ritter’s turns of phrase are so delightfully arch and funny, in both Jackaby’s absurd dialogue and Rook’s narration, including passages that made me giggle out loud, I’m willing to forgive the odd nightmare about kittens embarking on a fuzzy, murderous bloodbath.

The author was moderately sympathetic when I yowled at him on Twitter about book-induced nightmares.


Reading the first Jackaby novel is a very good idea before reading this one. There is a decent amount of recapping of the previous adventure embedded in Abigail Rook’s narrative, but to get a real feel for a Jackaby mystery, it’s a better idea to start with the first book, especially to see how the dynamic between Rook and Jackaby has unfolded, and to understand why Abigail Rook is trying to maintain her awkward and halting friendship with Jenny the Ghost, or her charmingly awkward budding romance with Charlie the policeman, both of whom were introduced in book 1.

The main adventure of Beastly Bones begins innocently enough, with cats and kittens. Lest this seem too banal a mystery for a keen intellect like Jackaby’s… these are no ordinary kittens. They are shapeshifting ectomorphs, and are only temporarily kittens. These ectomporphs shift by consuming the thing they are going to become. (Like I said, bloodthirsty, nightmare-fueling kittens.)  Mere days later, their owner is found murdered. Was it the kittens on the attack? Or some more sinister supernatural rampage?

Rumors of a similar killing take them out to the country, to the site of a dinosaur excavation. This whole setting is a delight, because it lets Abigail Rook be interested and brilliant. (She has studied paleontology, raised by a father who encouraged her interest.) Seeing the depiction and discussion of paleontology circa 19th century England was fascinating and fun, even more so with Ritter’s wry turns of phrase. Although there were plenty of fantastical elements, I could see the historical research in the characters and methods of the dig, and I loved it.

Having read this in tandem with the return of The Librarians to my TV set, I found a  lot to love in the comparison between the two: snappy dialogue and fantastical adventures, and a really fun team dynamic between the characters. I think The Librarians will suit fans of Jackaby and vice versa.

This was a fast, fun read, and it left me wanting more Jackaby adventures, though it also whetted my appetite for other books in that sweet spot between historical and fantastical.

The Librarians are Doing It By the Book (2-Episode recap)

November 6, 2015

The Librarians are back on my television screen, and I’m back to blithering, I mean, recapping episodes, for Comics, Cosplay and Geek Culture in Libraries.

The Librarians are Doing It By the Book (2-Episode recap)

I’m also taking over the @ccgclibraries Twitter feed during episodes, for merriment and snark on #TheLibrarians hashtag.

Interesting Stuff I’ve Read Recently: Halloween Edition

October 31, 2015

Candy corn, the Halloween staple, used to be a year-round penny candy. Great roundup of its history from Timeline. (Noting, I’m not a fan of candy corn at all. Although it was fascinating in terms of social history, reading this made me want to brush my teeth.)

Every year, the simple act of being a kid choosing a costume devolves into Boy Costumes and Girl Costumes. Gendered marketing makes me angry. Here’s the New York Times on Halloween costumes, armed with plenty of evidence that breaking out of circumscribed gender roles is a great idea for everybody. And yet, every Halloween, “girls” costumes get more sexualized, younger. Yuck.

Related: When I go to Halloween stores, I’m always amazed/horrified at the ingenuity of the Sexy Costume variants. This year’s crowning glory, click at your own risk:

Sexy Ninja Turtle

And this one’s even worse

On to less scary topics, like dead bodies, blood, and rabies: BookRiot has an excellent roundup of grisly nonfiction. I have read, and enjoyed Stiff by Mary Roach, and I’m definitely adding the book about the Body Farm to my TBR pile.

Books on the Salem Witch Trials, courtesy of the NYPL. I haven’t read most of these, but I’m intrigued. I remember going to the museum in Salem when I was a kid, and being both fascinated and freaked out by it.

World Series: Library Rivalries

October 30, 2015

As my friends and family know, the closest I come to appreciating baseball is rereading Shoeless Joe. 

Thanks to public libraries on Twitter, that’s changed.

When Toronto and Kansas City faced each other in the playoffs prior to the World Series, the Toronto Public Library and the Kansas City Public Library started a Twitter rivalry full of book spines and snark. It was magnificent.

Kansas City and Toronto Library Exchange Literary Insults on Twitter.

I’m agnostic about baseball, but I was marginally cheering for the Royals… purely because I am a huge fan of the Kansas City Library. (Hi, Kaite!)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Liesl Christman sits at a conference table inside the Kansas City Public Library’s downtown branch, surrounded by stacks of books with snappy titles such as “Choke,” ”All Bets Are Off” and “Winning It All.”

The above sets the scene for a very cool behind-the-scenes look at the crafting of bookish Twitter trash-talk. Once again, the Kansas City Public Library is a great example of smart, excellent social media.

Even when they bring the fight to my backyard.

As the Royals and the Mets face off in the World Series, the Twitter feud has shifted to the NYPL and Queens Public Library.

Book spine poetry, baseball hats and snark.

NPR story on the rivalry (audio)

For live updates, follow @KCLibrary  @nypl and @QueensLibrary on Twitter.

If this keeps up, I might just watch baseball. Or at least, keep following it on Twitter


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