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
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?
My 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.
Lately, 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.
And 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.)
Here’s my latest post for Comics, Cosplay and Geek Culture in Libraries:
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.
— William Ritter (@Willothewords) November 7, 2015
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 back on my television screen, and I’m back to blithering, I mean, recapping episodes, for Comics, Cosplay and Geek Culture in Libraries.
I’m also taking over the @ccgclibraries Twitter feed during episodes, for merriment and snark on #TheLibrarians hashtag.
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.
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.
NPR story on the rivalry (audio)
If this keeps up, I might just watch baseball. Or at least, keep following it on Twitter