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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 November

December 11, 2017

Late with this, and kind of can’t believe it’s December. (Don’t even ask about the state of my holiday shopping, eesh.)


  1. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison (for an apocalypse-themed book club.)
  3. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
  4. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
  5. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
  6. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Graphic Novels

  1. Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm by Dana Simpson
  2. Spinning by Tillie Walden (more a memoir than a graphic novel. Beautifully done)
  3. Ms Marvel, Vol 7: Damage Done. by G. Willow Wilson. Ferociously good.
  4. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: The Best There Is by Amy Reeder. So’s this one.
  5. Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart. Thayne made me do it.
  6. Wonder Woman: Earth One by Grant Morrison. Also Thayne’s fault. I do not think I liked this book.


Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Much better as an audiobook. I can see returning to this.

Okay, so 13 books completed. So we’re up to 174, which has me very impressed with myself. If not altogether sure I can make it to 200….

The goal of 200 is kind of messing with me, I’ll be honest. “Hmm, let’s dig into that pile of comics! And short YA novels, Kindle says I can burn through this in two hours! Yeah!”

Mostly because I want to read for charity and write EveryLibrary a fat check for $200 sooner rather than later, plus the GoodReads challenge gamification is messing with me, as well.

What do we think? Do I try for 200 in a binge of comics and short books? (And the possibly vain hope of a free afternoon to just hole up and crank through a novel or two?) Or should I back the challenge down to 180 and get ready to feel impressed with myself?

Books Read in October

November 1, 2017

As of the end of October, according to Goodreads, I have read 161 books. That beats my grand total for the entirety of 2011,  my previous record for reading for charity. Go me!

Here’s what I read this month:


  1. Away with Words: An irreverent tour through the world of pun competitions by Joe Berkowitz. Hat-tip to Scott of Burton’s Bookstore for suggesting this enjoyable romp of a book.
  2. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Very much a John Green Book, complete with erudite, quirky teenagers. But I give this kudos for being real about anxiety and mental illness. I’m glad it exists.
  3. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor. Very creepy, suspenseful scifi, set in Lagos, Nigeria.
  4. Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan. This series is still so good!
  5. When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Churchill Robbed a Bank by Giles Milton. Yes, I totally read this for the title, and for the premise of short, bite-sized chapters about history’s unknown moments. Again, a hat-tip to Scott at Burton’s for putting this one on my radar.
  6. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, because it’s a Halloween tradition. I’ve read this something like 30 times.

Graphic Novels

  1. Visitor Vol 1 by Yee-Jung No. Korean manga, suggested to me by Esther, the manga-loving teen. Creepy, but palatable. I may continue the series.
  2. Real Friends by Shannon Hale.  A graphic memoir that captures tween girlhood and frenemies. Brought back memories, oof!
  3. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Delightful!
  4. Phoebe And Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm by Dana Simpson. I love this series.
  5. Rivers of London: Black Mould by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel and Lee Sullivan. Another great, creepy entry in the Peter Grant series.


Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs.

So, that’s a total of 13 books consumed for the month, and a grand total of 161 so far. Hm, I’m trying to hit 200, but I’m not sure I can make it, especially as the Readathon whizzed past me, and I couldn’t join in, as I was working.

Almost all of these were library books, with the exception of The Westing Game.

Hodgepodge 10/24/17

October 24, 2017

Been a while since we had one of these

The Moth: Hatpin Mary This is an audio file, and it’s NSFW (swearing) but it’s magnificent. Like a time capsule of New York and coming of age.

Company Uses Mushrooms to Grow Plastic Alternatives (JSTOR Daily). Nifty science!

Must-read Manga for Fall (BookRiot) Blame my library life

Diverse and Spooky Reads for Kids (Book Riot) and 13 Spooky YA Horror and Thriller Novels (Kirkus) Going to use these to freshen up the Halloween book displays

John Green and Turtles All the Way Down (Teen Librarian Toolbox) because I read the book, and it does an impressive job of showing a teen grappling with mental health issues, while still being a teen in a John Green Novel.

Dan Brown is pretty much what you’d expect (Omnivoracious)

Another from Teen Librarian Toolbox: Post-It Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle-Grade Books. Because there are good graphic novel suggestions and because I need to steal the Post-It Note speed review technique

Slowly, sadly and properly

October 18, 2017


If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me,
They bury me some place I don’t want to be,
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously,
Away from the swollen city-breeze, garbage bag trees,
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly, sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy,

It feels weird to mourn a public figure, an artist. Even someone whose songs have been in your eardrums for almost two decades. I knew, last year, that Gord Downie had terminal cancer. I watched the last Tragically Hip show, from my couch, with one eye on Twitter, where fans were singing along, trading stories of favorite songs- feeling far away and very close to Canada.

An ordinary, even mostly cheerful morning before I found out, heading to a new books presentation for the morning, to learn about the latest and greatest forthcoming teen titles alongside some of my library colleagues, who are a good bunch.

Scrolling through social media absently…

Knew it was coming, didn’t expect it so soon. Didn’t want to cry outright, because it was more of a melancholy gut-punch. And plus, there was a work game face to wear, presentations about new books to hear.

Kind of glad that today was a training day, with extra time to ride the subway and listen to music. Had to skip a couple songs, the ones I knew would make me cry. Because work, game face, getting on with the day.

Yeah, definitely not going to listen to “Nautical Disaster,” which makes me cry on a good unemotional day.

Then the dream ends when the phone rings,
You’re doing alright he said it’s out there most days and nights,
But only a fool would complain.

Mourning a public figure feels so weird, it’s weird. But no less vivid. I’m not even Canadian. Justin Trudeau paid tribute to a man he knew as a public figure and a friend. (I didn’t look at this til after work, because I knew it would make me cry.) One fan Tweeted “Canada has had a death in the family.” Which about sums up the reaction scrolling through #RIPGordDownie on Twitter… Like watching the last show, having Twitter made me feel closer. But still strange.

It feels strange to mourn a public figure. Never knew the man… only saw one concert, bought a handful of CDs. And listened, and listened.

Feeling sad, and weird about it… because, on balance, my immediate and farther life is fortunate, it’s good. Good people, a good job… sometimes reading the news and getting the national and international not-enough-good-in-the-world blues and terrors… turning the music up, trying to find the sweet mix of chords to keep me going. A lot of the time, that was the Hip.

Full of skills and their frustrations

And Grace, too.

Back shortly to your regularly scheduled book blogging, or the busy absence thereof…

But tonight, going to turn the music up. Sorry, neighbors.

And I really hope Mick Jagger has been taking his vitamins, because damn it, the past couple of years have whisked too many musicians up to the Great Gig in the Sky.


Update 10/23/17: Still listening to music, still feeling weird and sad and may have just bought myself a Jaws T-shirt. Learning more about Gord’s solo albums, which I hadn’t really listened to… a way to trick myself into hearing his voice and having it be new.

Listings in library catalogs still say:

Downie, Gordon, 1964-

Which got me wondering. I looked up the Library of Congress policy on adding death dates to records.  (Click at your own risk- I barely understood it. Made me glad I don’t have to do cataloging, anymore, ever.) So I’m pretty sure it’ll be updated when his last solo album (which I have pre-ordered) comes out in December.



When Dimple Met Rishi Book Talk

October 11, 2017

Below is the text for the book talk I did for When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.

Librarians and teachers, please feel free to use this in whole, or in part, as text or presentation. If you do, please drop me a line in the comments and tell me where you used it because I’m curious.

Cover image, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

When Rishi met Dimple, he said “Hello, my future wife!”

When Dimple met Rishi, she threw her iced coffee at him, because, Hel-LO, crazy person?

… Maybe Rishi should have introduced himself first.

Here’s how Rishi sees things. He’s going to a six-week program to learn about coding, but, more importantly, he’ll have a chance to learn about Dimple Shah, the girl his parents and her parents have picked for him to marry. It’s a way to honor his Indian heritage and look forward into the future.


Here’s how Dimple sees things: She’s going to Insomnia Con, an amazing program to fulfill her dreams of learning about coding and working in tech. More importantly… no, there is nothing more important than that. All Dimple has ever wanted was to work with coding, and Insomnia Con, headed by tech mogul Jenny Lind is her chance to get started.

Dimple’s parents never told her about Rishi. Marriage to an Ideal Indian Husband? The idea makes her cringe. And the idea that her parents have set her up with this Rishi Patel… well, that makes Dimple furious!

Yep! Dimple’s furious! About the arranged marriage thing, and about working with Rishi. She’s not sure whether they’re going to make the killer app of her dreams… or wind up killing each other. She and Rishi have nothing in common: He’s easygoing and she’s ready to fight for her beliefs. Indian family traditions make him feel connected and her feel trapped.

But here’s the thing. Rishi’s really easy to talk to. He gets what it’s like to grow up with strict Indian parents… Even though he clearly has a crush on her, he’s willing to put that aside, and put everything into helping her win Insomnia Con.

Here’s the thing: Dimple can’t stop staring at his mouth, and wondering what it might be like to kiss.

Dimple and Rishi have nothing in common.

Dimple and Rishi have more in common than they think.


Books Read in September

October 9, 2017

The real end of summer, but I managed to sneak a few more long weekends away, amid a lot of training at the library and the start of having a different group of kids in the library.

Books and E-Books

  1. Invictus by Ryan Graudin. A fun time-travel caper with a found-family ship’s crew, and some excellent twists I didn’t see coming. Also, lots of gelato and a red panda. For reasons.
  2. Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller. A prequel to the Little House on the Prairie books, that awed me by showing just how much work and strain Ma (Caroline) had to go through to make the memories Laura Ingalls Wilder turned into children’s stories.
  3. Home by Nnedi Okorafor. Technically, a novella, but… Fascinating science fiction, raising good questions about culture and science and humanity. Plus lovely writing.
  4. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein. Can’t believe I never read this collection of Shel Silverstein poems before now!
  5. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. A reread, in preparation for giving a booktalk presentation as part of my librarian training.
  6. A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King. Picking up this Sherlock Holmes series where I left off. It was all right, but I’m not sure I’m going to continue voraciously.
  7. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch. I held off as long as I could, and now there are no more new Peter Grant novels to read. Woe is me!
  8. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed. This was a hell of a powerful book. I want to get it into as many teen readers’ hands as I can.
  9. Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Meh. I was looking forward to these tales of old New York, but disjointed narrative and, eh.
  10. The Pants Project by Cat Clarke. Charming book for young teens.
  11. Since You Asked by Maureen Goo. I really liked this. For the narrator’s snark and for how she talked about growing up with a Korean family.


Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett – one of the wizard ones, as read by Stephen Briggs, whose narration I really like.

Graphic Novels and Comics

  1. Unicorn vs. Goblins by Dana Simpson. Another fun Phoebe and Her Unicorn adventure. Made me giggle.
  2. All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. A coming-of-age comic set around a Ren Faire! Good stuff!

Okay, so 11 books, one audiobook finished, and two graphic novels. So, 15, total. Which brings us to 149 for the grand total, which is exciting, as it means that I’m going to exceed the most books I’ve ever read in a Goodreads challenge… at some point in October.

I just checked, and I’m pretty sure I blew through 2016’s yearly total somewhere in July. That’s intense!

Books Read in August

September 3, 2017

August included the end of Summer Reading at the Library (yahoo!) and a few precious and lovely days of vacation with family (and books.) So let’s see where we are:


  1. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy. This one isn’t due out til the middle of September, but put it on your list. It’s really solid, well-researched history, with a good balance between personal stories and larger contexts. Loved it!
  2. Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood. A Phryne Fisher mystery. Fast/comfort read.
  3. Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood. See above.
  4. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Fascinating science fiction, suspense and worldcraft built into a tiny novella. I didn’t want the pages to stop turning and have it be over.
  5. Secret Sisters by Joyce Calloway. I was super excited about this historical novel when I heard about it at BEA, but the reality was… kind of a tedious read that seemed to take ages. Meh.
  6. Dead Light March by Daniel Jose Older. An excellent novella that fits in between Shadowshaper and Shadowhouse Fall
  7. Lockdown by Laurie R. King. Intense story of a school shooting, told from multiple perspectives.


Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

Graphic Novels

  1. Archie, Vol 1.: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid. I like this version, a good update.
  2. Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson. Phoebe & Her Unicorn
  3. Razzle -Dazzle Unicorn by Dana Simpson. Ditto
  4. Unicorn Crossing by Dana Simpson. Ditto. These comics are charming and they make me smile.

So… 7 books, 1 audiobook and a paltry 4 comics?

Whew! a total of 12 books for the month! For me, that’s like a reading slump!!! But, that still adds $12 to the tally for EveryLibrary for the year and takes us to $134. Not too shabby.