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Review Policy

March 15, 2012

I am particularly interested in books in the following categories:

  • Extremely well-written YA  fiction (no vampire romance or dystopia, please!)
  • Diverse writers and characters  portraying a range of authentic experiences
  • Historical fiction
  • Foodie lit or foodie memoir
  • Historical mystery or forensic-based mystery

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

Books Read in May 2018

June 5, 2018

A little late with this, as expected: The end of May included some vacation time, and the Book Expo! Hooray for the Book Expo!


  1. The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg (library book) by Nicholas Dawidoff. (library book) I wanted to love this more than I did, but I also wanted it to have more daring tales of adventure and capers, rather than an eccentric who seemed to spy by the seat of his pants.
  2. Aru Shah and the End of Time (library book) by Roshani Chokshi. Aru’s adventures with the mythological creatures and realms of Hindu mythology… Part of Rick Riordan’s new imprint showcasing writers and mythology from a range of cultures. I wish I’d felt less of his trademark zany stamp on the narrative voice itself.
  3. Murder, Magic and What We Wore by Kelly Johnson. (library book)  Fun historical YA.
  4. Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke. (library book) I need to remember I don’t love reality shows… this book didn’t subvert the idea of a reality show and a taciturn college misfit enough.
  5. *Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews (library book) Autobiography transformed into a beautifully illustrated children’s book.
  6. A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena.(library book) I’d been curious to read YA set in Saudi Arabia but I found this more voyeuristic and uneven than I wanted.
  7. Calling My Name by Liara Tamani. (own book) I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story, as the narrator grappled with her spirituality as well as other growing-up challenges. Beautifully written.
  8. Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (library book) by Kory Stamper (library book) Great fun, and I’ll never think about dictionaries the same way again!
  9. The Story of the Great British Bake-Off by Anita Singh (library book) I enjoyed this as much as I enjoy watching the show. A cheerful delight.

Graphic Novels

  1. Runaways Deluxe Vol. 1  (library book) by Brian K. Vaughan. Sort of a reread, as it contained a previous volume I’d read, but continued on from there.
  2. *As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gilman.  (library book) I love slice of life told in graphic novel format, whether memoir or fiction, and I really liked how this dealt with spirituality. Gorgeous illustrations.
  3. Bingo Love (library book) by Tee Franklin. So good! Loved the story and loved the color schemes! Also, I met the author/illustrator at Book Expo and I got to blither happily at her which was neat.
  4. Runaways Deluxe Vol 2. by Brian K. Vaughn (library book) I think I’m done with this storyline. This volume was really disconnected in terms of art style and plot. I got bored.
  5. Goldie Vance Vol 3 by Hope Larson (library book) As usual, I love these cheerful mysteries.


  1. Guards, Guards! by Terry Pratchett. I’d read the book, but not in awhile. Nice to revisit as audio, though I wish Stephen Briggs had been the narrator.
  2. The Science of Discworld Volume 1 (library book) by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs. An ideal sleep book- combines the Discworld wizards with gentle explanations of science concepts.

16 books total, of which I own two, and the rest are library books. I’m slightly stalled out on the Hub Challenge, alas, somewhere around 18.

And another challenge is on my radar: PBS has the Great American Read, and I’m chagrined to notice I’ve read only 30 something of the 100 on the list. (However, I’m not going to read the rest of the Twilight books, I’m just not.)

Books Read in April 2018

May 8, 2018


  1. The Royal Nanny (own) by Karen Harper. Interesting historical fiction that’s been kicking around on my Kindle for a while. I think I meant to review the galley 3 years ago. Whoops!
  2. *The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked and Found (Library) by Martin W. Sandler. I love it when the Hub Challenge puts books like this on my radar. I might not have found this on my own, and I really enjoyed it.
  3. *The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (own) by Pablo Cartaya. A sweet, coming-of-age story for a young teen boy. Really wish the Zamoras’ restaurant existed. Because I want to eat there.
  4. As You Wish (owned) by Chelsea Sedoti. YA with a weird premise: a small town where everyone gets a wish that comes true on their 18th birthday. Like a somewhat friendlier Night Vale. I spotted the ending a few chapters in.
  5. The Fifth Elephant (own) by Terry Pratchett. I realized I hadn’t read this yet.


Graphic Novels

  1. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier because it’s popular with my young patrons.
  2. Invincible Iron Man: Iron Heart, Vol. 1. by Brian Michael Bendis. I really like this storyline, with Tony Stark as an AI, coaching a young, tech-savvy woman who’s just as stubborn as he is.
  3. Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess Book 1. by Jeremy Whitley I didn’t think I could like a storyline better than i like Princeless, but here we are.
  4. Princeless, Vol 6.: Make Yourself by Jeremy Whitley. The original storyline is still pretty good, though.
  5. Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Unicorn of Many Hats by Dana Simpson. Still loving this series, and eager to read more.
  6. Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green. Autobiographical graphic novel about dealing with anorexia. It was a tough read, but an important one. I don’t know what reading this would be like for someone who had experience with an eating disorder… but I can say that the graphic representation of anxiety and depression and fighting with your own mind… was one of the best I’ve seen.
  7. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 7: I’ve Been Waiting For a Squirrel Like You by Ryan North. Weirdly, I did not love this as much as previous volumes, though parts were certainly fun.
  8. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. Lovely and adorable, and I’m going to have fun recommending this to anyone who loves a dreamy fairy tale.

Okay, 13’s pretty respectable! I think it’s my cruising altitude. I cracked 50 this month. And I read 2 for the hub challenge, as well as churning through three books I own. I’m not going to keep my copy of As You Wish, though I might hold onto The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora.

Sobering thought: Book Expo is coming up at the end of May and I still have a TBR pile from past years that’s easily taller than me, to say nothing of library books. Whee.


Books Read in March 2018

April 4, 2018

The YALSA Hub challenge started this month, which makes me very happy. It’s a challenge to read through 25 of the past year’s award winning YA titles. Having a list of over 100 to choose from between now and June makes this challenge manageable. The shorter books on the Hub challenge, and a couple of weeks nursing a cold and lying low beefed up my book totals for the month.

Hub titles will be starred *


  1. *Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali. A Muslim teen girl, dealing with ordinary high school things- crushes, friends drama, family, and also dealing with being a Muslim in her community. Well done. (Library book)
  2. Keeper of the King’s Secrets- Michelle Diener.  Historical romance (Library book)
  3. Immaculate by Katelyn Detweiler. The idea of a virgin birth given 20th century treatment… Not as good as I was hoping.  (Library book)
  4. *Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire. Creepy riff on fairy tale and fantasy magic, and sisterhood.  (Library book)
  5. The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon, I Mean Noel by Ellen Raskin. A goofy puzzle book, whimsical and strange. About midway through, I remembered reading it as a kid, but I still enjoyed the ending.
  6. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli- Sweet and charming and worth the hype it’s been getting.  (Library book)
  7. Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold. An omnibus of multiple Miles Vorkosigan novels, so I feel that I should get extra credit.
  8. *42 is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport. This slim volume packs in a lot of information about Jackie Robinson.
  9. *Dreadnought by April Sinclair. Danny lives in a city where superheroes and their battles are the norm. When the mantle of the dying Dreadnought passes on to her, it gives her superpowers, and also remakes her body into the girl’s body that matches her true gender identity. I was really impressed with the way this book handled the superheroics and Danny’s coming into her own.
  10. *Malagash by Joey Comeau. An interesting little meditation on dealing with grief, though too short for me to really feel I knew the characters.  (Library book)


  1. *Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, read by Eddie Redmayne. A weird choice for an audiobook,, but it was part of the Hub Challenge, so….  (Library book)
  2. *Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery. This worked really well as an audiobook- it was like getting to listen to the book as a great oral history. Very cool.  (Library book)

Graphic Novels

  1. *Jonsey Vol 1. by Sam Humphries. Too Steven Universe for my taste.  (Library book)
  2. The Comic Book Story of Beer by Jonathan Hennessy. Great blend of fun and informative, and the graphic novel format really served this well.  (Library book)
  3. *Backstagers by James Tynion. Great fun romp, I’ll keep reading the series.  (Library book)
  4. *Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. A graphic novel with memoir elements would catch my attention, even if not for the challenge. I wish this had been longer.  (Library book)

The grand total is an entirely respectable 16. I’m pleased with myself.

Two were books I owned, and the rest were from various libraries.

That’s 10 for the Hub Challenge (!!!!) out of the challenge’s potential 25. So I’m off to a good start!

I’m pleased with March, even though I spent most of it having a cold.


Books Read in February 2018

March 2, 2018

Paper & E-Books

  1. The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack. This was wonderful! A history and exploration of puns. With puns, actually part of the text. Great fun!
  2. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. Decent YA about a cappella. I wish I’d had this to read when I was in high school.
  3. I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris. Silly, kid-friendly poems and illustrations by a guy who’s visibly trying to be Shel Silverstein. I can see using a few bits at storytime, but wouldn’t encourage reading the whole thing.
  4. The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso. This right here was the best book of the month! Really interesting fantasy, with fascinating worldbuilding and suspenseful turns I didn’t see coming. I owe this book a full review. Great stuff.  So good it basically gave me a book hangover, where I just couldn’t figure out what to read next.
  5. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova. Another really good one. Really interesting magic system, drawing on Latin American culture and magic systems… teenagers saving the world but also being teenagers, and having first crushes. A fitting book to shelve alongside Shadowshaper
  6. Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder. About a women’s junior college basketball team in the Depression, and also women’s sports of the era generally.


Rare Book of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch.

Should probably count the above as 1.5, as they were short, more like novellas.

Plus one excellent graphic novel: Ms.Marvel Vol 8: Mecca. I swear, this series is just… It gets better and better and better, and I’d say read it even if you don’t read comics.

I also saw Black Panther and I definitely plan to see it again.

So, that brings the grand total of books consumed for the month to… 8.5? Is that a new low for me? Eesh!

On the plus side, I’ve been chipping away at my TBR pile. I owned both the audiobooks and the Dust Bowl Girls book was on my Kindle. So that counts for something.

And it’s certainly good reading weather today!

Hope everyone’s safe and warm.

Hodgepodge 2/10/18

February 10, 2018

Hieronymous Bosch Butt Music. (VoxPopulli) No, really. It’s actually rather melodic.

I’m a little obsessed with the Winter Olympics right now, and Mental Floss is taking good care of me. They live-tweeted the Opening Ceremony and it was brilliant.


The Most Decorated Winter Olympians in History  (wonder how much this will change in the coming weeks?)

How is the Olympic flame lit, and how does it stay lit?

The high-tech gear the Americans will be wearing at the Olympics (via Smithsonian mag)

Some other goodies from the Internet.

24 Children’s Books to Read During Black History Month (HuffPo)

10 Books That Were Written on a Bet (Electric Literature) 

Books Read in January 2018

February 2, 2018

January started out somewhat mellow, and then gathered speed. I have a feeling that the next couple of months are going to be a similar stampede of library and life busyness. Hoping that at least committing to a monthly blog post tallying up my reading will help remind me that I’m taking time for myself and my TBR pile.

Paper and E-Books

  1. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. (Library book). Been meaning to read this for ages, and glad I read it at least somewhat close to Christmas.
  2. The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin. (Library book) Wow. This series… just… wow. The worldbuilding and language really got into my head.
  3. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. (Library book). Yeah. Wow.
  4. Whiskey Words & a Shovel III by R.H. Sin. (Own book) A poetry collection I picked up a while ago. I really liked several poems and will come back to this.
  5. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. (Library book). Narrative journalism that told an important story, about a crime and its consequences for two teenagers and their families. I didn’t love the disjointed, mediated way the story was structured. I read it for a discussion group with my fellow YA-ers.
  6. Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo. (Own book) A funny little middle-grade novel I’ve had on my shelf since several Book Expos ago. Can see the Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans loving this.
  7. And the Rest is History by Jodi Taylor. (Library book.) The latest in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s ripped my heart out. Ripped my heart right out. Ugh. I was too shocked to weep.
  8. The Big Meow by Diane Duane. (Own book.) I’m so glad this latest in Diane Duane’s cat wizard series is finally out. I zoomed through it delightedly.
  9. Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood. (Own book.) Phryne Fisher is a good comfort read. I’d had a tough week.

Graphic Novels

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis. (Library Book) Superman as a young 20something. I like that he has friends and family ties, still from growing up in Smallvile in this version.


I re-listened to Snuff, by Terry Pratchett, as read by Stephen Briggs, as my bedtime book for a few nights. Got it from the library.

The resolution reckoning…

11 books, 4 of which I own. And even the library books I chose had been on my Goodreads TBR, of meaning-to-read for a while. So I feel that things are getting off to a good start.

I’ve also been scrolling through the earlier reaches of my Goodreads Want-to-Read shelf, as well as my stacks of physical books, and getting rid of books I’m unlikely to read in the next year or so, or those I could get from the library if I feel the whim. I have a stack to donate to Housingworks that’s almost as tall as I am. I just keep having free time on days with soggy weather, which has kept me from actually getting said books out of the house.


Hodgepodge 1/10/18

January 10, 2018

A yoga sequence to do while reading? Thank you, BookRiot!

If Jane Austen had written The Empire Strikes Back…. I’m not sure what to do about this. Found via Ted Gioa’s Twitter feed.

It’s been a year since David Bowie’s passing. In addition to taking a moment to celebrate his oddities and mourn the music he is not here to make, taking a moment to honor him as a voracious reader. His son has started a book club in his honor.

Matt de la Pena asks great questions about the responsibility of children’s authors, and how they address dark or difficult topics. Should be required reading for librarians, too. (TIME)

Fascinating things discovered during the expansion of London’s underground (MentalFloss)

This list of Book Towns is how I’m going to plan vacations forever.