Monday, March 31, 2014

2013: My Year in Books

 Here are my books from 2013 with my brief commentary-- now that it's pretty much APRIL, I have finally gotten to posting this. I have tried to mark where they were graphic novels, audiobooks, etc., and also what age they might best suit.

  1. Across the Universe  - Beth Revis (half audiobook)
    • Great YA space travel dystopian novel with lots of twists and turns. Also got my husband hooked on this, muahaha.
  2. Delirium - Lauren Oliver
    • YA dystopian novel where love is illegal -- maybe not fleshed out as well as it could have been, but was fun along the way.  See #54 for my thoughts on the sequel.
  3. A Million Suns - Beth Revis (sequel to Across the Universe)
    • I don't normally read sequels, but I couldn't help myself with this one! 
  4. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
    • My teens were obsessed with this, and it got a lot of hype, so I read it. So glad I did - funky characters, great dialogue, and totally fun to read. Great for upper elementary and middle grade readers.
  5. The Case of the Deadly Desperados - Caroline Lawrence
    • Western for the elementary set? Yes, please! Main character Pinky is hilarious and deadpan, and expect a lot of adventure, with a pinch of gruesome. Better for middle grade.
  6. When She Hollers - Cynthia Voigt
    • Flipped through this fast - YA novel about abuse, and about a girl who just won't take it anymore. Gritty and tough, but handles this topic well. Best for high school.
  7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz
    • WONDERFUL. Loved these characters - great for upper middle and high schoolers.
  8. The Dark Game: True Spy Stories, From Invisible Ink to the CIA  - Paul Janeczko 
    • Great nonfiction for YA readers, and a great writer for this high interest topic. Short chapters about different historical periods could gain the interest of a variety of readers. 
  9. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
    • Being a friend's favorite book, I was more persistent with this book than usual - (I actually put this down, and had to re-read the entire first chapter over) - but I am really glad I did. The writing is phenomenal, and the layout of the book is unique and intricate. Although it's a slower read, it's also one that really sticks with you and my mind kept drifting back to it long after I put it down.
  10. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
    • Deserving of all the hype it's gotten - a great YA historical fiction, also recommended to adult historical fiction lovers with great success. Powerful story of two young women in WWII who do extraordinary things.
  11. Stormbreaker - Anthony Horowitz
    • Fast YA read for spy lovers - especially those who imagine themselves to be young James Bonds. Easy to recommend for boys who need fast action and adventure.
  12. Girl in a Funk - Tanya Napier
    • Great upper for teen girls - things to do to boost energy, creativity, and clear your mind and your stress.
  13. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
    • The characterization in this YA book was incredible - good realistic fiction for older high school (good amount of profanity) that will grab your heart and hold on.
  14. Okay for Now - Gary D. Schmidt (audiobook)
    • YA realistic fiction great for middle and high school readers (I've seen this listed as historical fiction -- it's set in the 1960s but doesn't read like historical fiction, if that makes sense). Character was jaded in a way that reminded me of Holden Caulfield, but without all the selfishness. 
  15. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
    • Wonderful fantasy of good vs. evil that had me hooked and wanting more. Good for high schoolers mostly due to sexual themes.
  16. Wake - Amanda Hocking
    • Deadly ancient mermaids prevail as young seductresses in this YA novel - slightly grotesque and alluring at the same time, I was hooked in this guilty pleasure book. Best bet for older middle and high schoolers.
  17. The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate
    • Totally deserves the hype this received. Sweet, heartwrenching, and poignant -- and the writing was fantastic. And this from the writer of the Animorphs series! I was astounded.
  18. Matilda - Roald Dahl
    • So nice to re-read a classic. 
  19. To Dance - Siena Cherson Siegel (graphic novel)
    • Graphic novel for the young ballet lovers out there.
  20. The Trouble Begins at 8 - Sid Fleischman
    • Great photographic biography of Mark Twain and his time out West. Great for middle school and up. 
  21. The Secret Prophecy - Herbie Brennan
    • Like The Da Vinci Code for middle schoolers and up. Fun, fast read. 
  22. Drama - Raina Telgemeier (graphic novel)
    • Raina is AWESOME. I saw her speak at this year's Books for the Beast conference, and she's amazing and funny, and Drama speaks to anyone with a dorky streak. Funny, realistic, and true to life, I loved this, and her art is excellent.
  23. Smile - Raina Telgemeier (graphic novel)
    • I re-read this because I liked it so much.
  24. I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1) - Ally Carter
    • An all-girls spy school? Adventure, boys, and coolness is what you'll get here - a fun, fast read, and my teens are hooked on this.  Good for middle school and up.
  25. The Secret Tree - Natalie Standiford
    • Great summer read that addresses being yourself, keeping secrets, and that there's another side to every story. Great for upper elementary and middle readers.
  26. City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau (re-read)
    • Re-read for book club (and sparked great discussion!). Good dystopian for older elementary and middle school.
  27. Beauty Queens - Libba Bray (audiobook)
    • I laughed out loud like a maniac listening to this audio. Libba Bray reads this audio, and it's hilariously satirical -- it spoofs reality TV, beauty queens, Sarah Palin, politics, commercialism, and so many other things I am probably leaving out. It's just excellent. Good for high school readers - some language and sexual themes.
  28. Fray - Joss Whedon (graphic novel)
    • Bad-ass girlness.
  29. Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia (graphic novel)
    • I didn't read the original non-graphic version, but this was fun all the same and made me feel like I should read it. 
  30. Bad Island - Doug TenNapel (graphic novel)
    • Cool concept and great execution! TenNapel rules, and his art's awesome. Good for older elementary and up.
  31. Sailor Twain - Mark Siegel (graphic novel)
    • Great adult graphic novel that incorporates Twain, the Mississippi, and mermaids. Neat.
  32. Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper - Kazu Kibuishi (graphic novel)
    • Awesome. Kibuishi rules -- great storyteller and great artist rolled into one. I love the way he takes you into his imagination. 
  33. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes - Ed. by Kazu Kibuishi (graphic novel)
    • This set of short graphic novel stories is woven together in such a unique way. I'm so impressed and recommend this to everyone under the sun.
  34. Princess of the Midnight Ball - Jessica Day George
    • BORING. Flat characters that didn't grab me at all.
  35. Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
    • Mysterious little story. Liked it, and would recommend it to those who like a little weird mythological-fantastical touch in their stories.
  36. Fun with Spanish - Lee Cooper
    • Fits the title. I didn't think this would actually help me, but it did, and it was, well. Fun.
  37. Invisibility - Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
    • Fast YA read with romance, ancient curses, and invisible boys. I liked this a lot.
  38. The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen
    • Boring. This felt tired to me, and I haven't actually read much else by Dessen. It was bland and boring, and I was not impressed.
  39. Foiled - Jane Yolen (graphic novel)
    • I was disappointed by Yolen's graphic novel, and surprised in that as well. The premise was good, but the execution and plot was bad. It was like she thought "Well, I should write a graphic novel now!", only she didn't know she wasn't good at carrying a plot with dialogue. 
  40. Abandon - Meg Cabot (did not finish)
    • Apparently, I was on a bad streak. I wanted to like this YA take on the Persephone myth, especially since she wrote the Princess Diary series which was so popular. But no. I hated the main character, and couldn't stand anything she did/said, so I stopped reading.
  41. Juliet Immortal - Stacey Jay
    • I loved this. It felt like a guilty pleasure - but I couldn't stop myself. The soul of Romeo and Juliet are reborn in new bodies, and are (im)mortal enemies, who are fighting a battle of good and evil. Good for middle and high school YA readers.
  42. Romeo Redeemed - Stacey Jay
    • Juliet's story was so good, I wanted to know Romeo's side, and see what happened to him in this semi-sequel. Also awesome. Great beach read too.
  43. The P.L.A.I.N. Janes - Cecil Castelluci (graphic novel)
    • Art bandits! Loved the idea of this book, and good execution as well. 
  44. I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats - Francesco Marciuliano
    • I cracked up at this so hard, I almost peed on this. Bravo! Having a cat, this all makes perfect sense.
  45. I Could Chew on This and Other Poems by Dogs - Francesco Marciuliano
    • Having had a dog, this also makes perfect sense. Even on the second one, I wasn't tired of this yet.
  46. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library - Chris Grabenstein
    • A fun novel that made great use of literary allusion that I appreciated. A lot of other kids that read it - mostly elementary, said they also loved it. Bravo!
  47. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
    • Great story and great writing. This is hard sci-fi, and even with the militaristic and political nature of it, I was completely drawn in by the story, and Ender's character.
  48. Millions - Frank Cottrell Boyce (did not finish)
    • The premise of this -- what would happen if you found millions in cash near your house? -- is a good one, but it lost me with the weird (but not compelling) main characters who is obsessed with saints, and the slow pace. Couldn't finish it.
  49. A Tale Dark and Grimm - Adam Gidwitz
    • Not very deep, but a fun fast read. Read for Books for the Beast conference. Middle schoolers said it felt "young" for a teen book, and they read it in 2nd grade.
  50. Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson
    • Beautiful, dark, and mysterious take on Peter Pan's Tiger Lily -- loved seeing this point of view, and the story is actually told from Tinker Bell's POV, which was really interesting. Read for Books for the Beast conference. 
  51. Trapped - Michael Northrup
    • Wanted to like this, but found the teenagers to be frustratingly dumb and unrealistic. They are stuck in their school during a blizzard, and they don't even try to explore it at all? Pffttt. Read for Books for the Beast conference.  Teens there liked it a lot, I will say that!
  52. Bootleg - Karen Blumenthal
    • A little dry at times, this is still a cool nonfiction book about prohibition. Read for Books for the Beast conference -- teens could not get through this, and said it was boring.
  53. Sacre Bleu - Christopher Moore
    • The type is blue/violet, and there are great prints throughout - so the book itself is beautiful. This weaves historical fiction of the impressionist artists in France with fantasy, and Moore does a phenomenal job. He's smart, bawdy, and hysterical, and this book is amazing.
  54. Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver - sequel to Delirium (go back to the top for my thoughts) 
    • Read for Books for the Beast conference, otherwise I probably wouldn't have picked up this sequel to Delirium. I liked it up until the end, where Oliver does the MOST ANNOYING AND PREDICTABLE THING EVER. Won't read Requiem on principal. Booo.
  55. Misfit - Jon Skovron
    • Awesome book about a girl with a demon mom (Astarte! Mythology!), and a priest demon-hunter dad. Excellent, and has great boy/girl teen appeal. Read for Books for the Beast conference, and all the teens really enjoyed this one.
  56. Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick - Joe Schreiber
    • Fast-paced, wacky book about a foreign-exchange assassin chick who ropes her host brother into chauffeuring her around NYC while she takes care of some business. Great high interest, low level book for teens. 
  57. Ghostopolis - Doug TenNapel (graphic novel)
    • TenNapel does it again! 
  58. I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure - Ed. by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith
    • This was so intriguing to read that I used as fodder to create my own Six-Word Memoir display for teens to write on post-its in the library. So much fun, and they were so creative. Woot.
  59. Jane, the Fox, and Me - Fanny Britt (graphic novel)
    • Quirky little graphic novel that I really enjoyed. Middle grade and teen appeal.
  60. Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (re-read)
    • Re-read most of this before I showed the movie and held Hunger Games trivia. Still good a second time around.
  61. Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay
    • Weird. This was fine, but it didn't really grab me. Good to read a mystery again though, but Dexter didn't appeal to me that much. I've heard great things about the show, so maybe I should try that?
  62. Marathon - Boaz Yakin (graphic novel)
    • Great YA graphic read about Greek history, dramatized for awesome action-ness. Reminded me a lot of the graphic novel 300. 
  63. Divergent - Veronica Roth
    • Really fast read, and really good, but still not on the level of Hunger Games for me, mostly because the writing isn't as put-together, and there are some holes that (now that I've read the whole series), I can say, she doesn't really ever fill for me.
  64. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas - Jim Ottaviani (graphic novel) 
    • I liked this, but it wasn't the most exciting thing ever, but it is nice to read nonfiction in a graphic format sometimes.
  65. The Clockwork Scarab - Colleen Gleason
    • Is this the first steampunk I've read? I think maybe. YA story featuring Sherlock Holmes's sleuthy niece, and Bram Stoker's vampire-hunting sister, and an ancient Egyptian cult. I was totally hooked. Best for middle and high school readers.
  66. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black
    • I liked this alright when I read it, but after reading some Goodreads reviews, was a little more disappointed in it, as they pointed out some serious flaws in the characterizations/writing that I overlooked while reading. But I liked it initially, so there's that, I guess?

Over 60 books this year -- woot! Of course, there was a good number of graphic novels in there, but still. :) There's my list. If you have any questions, or want to stay up to date with what I'm reading, I'm pretty good at updating my Goodreads -- you'll find me there at


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Minute to Win It Games

So, I came across the idea of Minute to Win It games as a teen program at the library, and it just instantly clicked that this is something I'd like to do. Ridiculous games, prizes, and only 60 seconds to do any of them. Yes! I have a teen advisory board (called ACT - Advisory Committee of Teens) that I started this summer, and they are awesome, because I can bounce ideas off of them, and they can tell me what they want directly. When we planned this fall's programs, I introduced them to the idea of Minute to Win It, and they all took to it.

Tonight's program went over so wildly well that I feel like I want to do one every week! Okay, maybe that's overkill.  But it was so popular, and really got them moving and having fun. I didn't think I would do this again soon, but I'm thinking it will probably need to be done again in the spring.


To plan it, I just started out on Pinterest. And what did I find? The most amazing website ever! It's got a great booklet of games with the materials listed, and all of the rules, and the how-to videos they use on the actual show. AMAZING.

So, that made planning SO MUCH EASIER, which made me a lot less anxious about doing the program in general.

As for the rest of it - you SHOULD definitely make sure that you do each of the activities before you let the teens do them -- I altered a lot of mine because they weren't feasible/didn't work well in my space/were too hard, etc.  Some I cut out all together because I couldn't get the hang of and didn't feel comfortable telling them to do something that I completely bombed.

I had 9 people come to my program. For the future, I think I would max it out at 12 if it were just me in the room, or if I had another person helping out, 16? It was a great number for my space. 9 was a great number, and especially because I had some great teens in my group.

Materials were REALLY easy, too. Since most of the games involve readily available and often inexpensive household materials, buying materials wasn't a problem. Also, we had a good portion of things already on hand at our library. I don't think I spent more than $20 for any supplies. I began planning about 2-3 weeks before-hand, and it took me about an 1 1/2 - 2 hours to set up the room on the day of.


When the teens came in, I gave them each a number (I printed these out on name badge labels with the Minute to Win It logo to make it look nice). This became the order that they played games in. I had a plastic cup that had a popsicle stick with the name of each of the games we could play (I had 14 games - originally 15 but I cut out Whippersnapper last minute). When it was their turn to go, they would pick a popsicle stick, and then they had to play the game on that stick. If a game was multi-player, then the next people in line would also go. For instance, if Contestant 1 picked a popsicle stick that was for 4 players, numbers 2, 3, and 4 would also go at the same time. If players successfully completed the task in 60 seconds, they received a gold token. I had them hold onto all the tokens they won until the end, and then once the room was mostly cleaned up, I let them trade in tokens for prizes. 1 token = a piece of candy. 3 = small prize (leftover summer reading prizes). 5 = free book!

If a multi-player task was difficult, and no one successfully completed it, I would often give a token to the person who did the best or got the furthest in the challenge.

I read the instructions to them aloud before they went, and if there was any confusion about the task, let them watch the video about how they were supposed to accomplish said task.  I also had a Minute to Win It countdown timer on my laptop, which we used as our timer, and also sounds more dramatic!

It took a little over 1 hour to complete the 14 games, which worked out really well. If they got bored when it wasn't their turn (which they didn't seem to be), there were snacks to munch on while they waited. I let them have free play at the end where they all went to a station they were interested in playing, and everyone in the room went at the same time (still 60 seconds). This was crazy, but in a great way. This let them get revenge on a game they didn't pass the first time around, or try one they didn't get to try before. They could also receive tokens for these rounds, and I did three free play rounds, making them reset their stations after they were done.  Although I couldn't monitor each individual game well, I told them that I would take them at their word that they did or didn't succeed, which worked out beautifully.


Bobblehead – 4 player
Elephant March (altered to using empty bottles, not set quite so far apart)
Face the Cookie - 4 player (altered to use 2 cookies)
Defying Gravity – 4 player (altered to use 2 balloons, and they had to keep one foot on a carpet square)
Mega Bubble - 2 player
Noodling Around - (altered to fit 5 pieces of round noodles instead of 6)
Nose Dive
Rapid Fire
Suck it up (altered to place M&Ms on tops of water bottles instead of straws)
This Blows
Triple Pong Plop (altered to use 1 plate instead of 3)
Wet Ball
Worm Diving – 4 player (created "fishing rods" out of dowels w/ fishing line and a paper clip)


I wouldn't have changed anything about this program! If I had many more teens, I would probably need to have another person helping. I may make the program a little longer next time to give them a few more times to free play, because they really seemed to enjoy that part of it.  I will definitely be doing this again with my teens. My coworker is doing Minute to Win It for the younger set as well, so we'll see how well this works for children, and I'll try to update my post with the results.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

App Love: For Book Nerds

 Here's the start of what I hope to be an occasional feature -- App Love, where I share some of my favorite apps in different subjects. I will try not to overdo it, and of course there will be apps that you'll see that I've left off. These are only ones that I have tried myself. If you have any you'd like to add, please comment below! As a perfect start to my App Love, I'm going to share some great apps for book nerds.

  • GoodReads - This app is a lifesaver. When I'm looking at books in the store, or at the library,  I can scan the ISBN and I can instantly access all the information about the book on GoodReads, including reviews. Additionally, I can see all of my own books, mark books that I want to read, see books I've previously read (along with their ratings and reviews), and a lot more. This is my all time favorite book app out there, and the website to boot. What did I do before GoodReads made this so easy? If you're interested in the social media aspect, you can also connect with other readers, see what they are reading, and (my favorite feature), compare your books with a beautiful Venn diagram! Huzzah!

  • Overdrive - If you like free books, then head to your local library and see if they have Overdrive. Overdrive lets you can check out free library e-books and audiobooks with a library card with participating libraries. Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (mine!) does it, and it's so easy. I can easily download an audiobook to listen to at the gym while I'm doing my warm-up. And if you don't think it's easy, then just ask your trusty neighborhood librarian to help you, and you shouldn't have any problems. Best part is, these library items can never be late -- because they return themselves when they expire!

  • Readar - If you travel a lot and like hitting up libraries, bookstores, and bookish events anywhere you go, then this is the app for you! By (where you can catalog your own home library collection!), this app will locate bookstores, libraries, and book events so you always know where you can get your next fix.

Some of the standards:
  • Kindle App for iPad and iPhone - If you already have a Kindle account, you'll find that the Kindle app makes it easy to read Kindle books on other devices. It's easy to use and is pretty. Which counts a lot in the world of apps.
  • iBooks - This was great for me when I had to read lots of PDFs. Of course, I hated printing them out, but I also hate reading on a computer screen. Reading on an iPad is a step up, and I loved it, and got to save some trees while I was at it.