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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 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.

Wintry Hodgepodge 1/6/17

January 6, 2018

“Any time it gets that cold, iguanas become lifeless. But that doesn’t always prove fatal.” (NPR)


“You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported.

I’ve only barely begun to read C.S. Lewis but I found this while browsing Tumblr and it makes me think I need to read The Problem of Pain, and his essays generally.

Reading YA in Corporate America (BookRiot) Come ON! What part of ” every book its reader” are we not understanding?

I’ve never thought much about how blackboards transformed American education, but this makes a lot of sense (JSTOR Daily)

Thanks to Lisa for reminding me that it is almost time to get obsessed with the Winter Olympics. I do love the speed skating… and the crazy feats of skiing.

And sometimes, I really love the figure skating.

2018 Reading Resolutions

January 1, 2018

Nothing says “plan grandiose reading resolutions” like January 1st. Read classics! Don’t buy any books! Read the books that have been languishing on the shelf! Read more diverse authors! Read more poetry!

Over the years I’ve done all sorts of ambitious variations, with admittedly patchy success. I did manage to churn through the complete Sherlock Holmes stories, so there’s that.

I set the bar pretty high for 2017’s total reads. But shooting for 200 did a number on me, as it were. I got to 196, with a good handful of shorter graphic novels and middle grade fiction. In November and December, I felt twitchy about making the numbers, and chose shorter books to read.

This year, I’m going to set the goal at 150, to encourage myself not to choose books as an excuse to churn through them faster. I might exceed that number, who knows?

And I’m modifying my No Buying Books resolution. Because yes, I have a definite need to read the books I’ve accumulated over the years, and I know that my library can keep me well stocked with new titles that catch my eye.

All of that said, I’m not going to penalize my favorite bookstore, Burton’s Bookstore, with my self-restraint. And, I like that buying books from Housing Works Bookstore helps a good cause. So this year, I’m modifying the resolution.

Image result for Burton's bookstore greenport

Image result for Burton's bookstore greenport

If and when it’s time to buy a book, I’m ordering it from Scott at Burton’s, or picking it up at Housing Works. For me, or for gifts.

As for reading challenges, I think I’m only going to do two:

The Mount TBR Challenge is a way to read books I already own and have been meaning to read for ages.

Challenge Levels:

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

And the rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you’re on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade.  All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

I’m going to sign up for the first level, Pike’s Peak, with the hope that I can read a few more than that.

I’m also signing up for the Hub Challenge when YALSA posts it next month, reading from a selection of award-winning YA and middle-grade titles. Because I feel like that gave me a good grounding in what’s out there in YA, and pointed me towards some titles that I might not have found on my own.

Seems like a good place to start.

Happy New Year, and Happy Reading!