Monthly Archives: January 2017

Great escapist books

I read for a lot of reasons. To put myself in others’ shoes, to travel to different places (real and fictional), to learn about the world. I’m always on the lookout for a good story well told. But sometimes, I read to escape the stress and pressure of whatever else is going on in my life. Lately, these books have provided wonderful escapes.

Empire of Storms.Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

This is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, so if you haven’t read the others, I highly recommend starting at the beginning. Some series you can pick up in the middle and be fine, but this one builds on everything that comes before it. This is a great fantasy series with lots of plot twists and characters you want to root for — even when rooting for one means rooting against another character you love.

Crooked Kingdom.Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This is the second book in the Six of Crows duology, and I cannot recommend this series enough if you like richly-developed fantasy worlds, heists, and characters you can’t forget. I love how much thought is put into the social, political, and economic climates of this world — everything from how different kingdoms view magic differently to how different cultures have shaped their languages. Rarely do I come across a series with an ensemble cast where I don’t have a favorite character, but I love all six members of Kaz Brekker’s gang equally.

The Sun is Also a Star.The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Like Yoon’s first book, Everything, Everything, I read this book in twenty-four hours. Her writing is full of humor and hope, and even though romance isn’t usually my go-to genre, this book was exactly what I needed when I read it.

Do you ever read to escape? What books would you recommend?

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Books I’m excited for this winter/spring

There are so many awesome books coming out in the next few months! I don’t have the space to highlight all of them, but I thought I’d share a few that I’m really looking forward to. All descriptions are from Goodreads or Amazon.com.

History is All You Left Me.History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (out January 17, 2017)

I loved Adam Silvera’s first novel, More Happy Than Not, and I’m so excited to read this one! I’m waiting until I’m in the mood for a good cry, though, because I’m sure I’ll be in tears by the end of this.

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

A Conjuring of Light.A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (out February 21, 2017)

The final book in the Shades of Magic series! I’m a big fan of Schwab’s fast-paced fantasy thrillers, and am eager to see how this story ends.

London’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

The Hate U Give.The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (out February 28, 2017)

I have been dying to read this book since I read the short blurb of it after it went to a thirteen-house auction a few years ago. This is one I know the teens at my library will devour, too!

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Blood Rose Rebellion.Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves (out March 28, 2017)

It may be cheating for me to mention this, since I’m reading an ARC of it right now, but I’ve been looking forward to this book since I read an early version of the first pages as part of a contest a few years ago. I’m more than half-way through and loving it so far!

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romani, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

Girl Out of Water.Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman (out May 2, 2017)

This sounds like the perfect contemporary summer read for me, and it’s recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen, whose books I adore.

Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home-it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins.

Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be. Sure, she loves her family, but it’s hard to put her past behind her when she’s living in the childhood house of the mother who abandoned her. And with every Instagram post, her friends back home feel further away.

Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.

What books are you looking forward to this year?

Apps to aid with self-care

Sunset.One of my goals for 2017 was to concentrate more on self-care. Here are some apps I’ve used or had recommended to me to help with both physical and mental health. If you have any apps you’d recommend, please share in the comments!

Calm — I recently started trying to meditate with this free app. I can’t say too much about it yet, but so far it has helped with my anxiety. The backgrounds, complete with sound effects like a crackling fireplace, rain on leaves, waterfalls, and more, are hypnotic to watch. And the free “sleep story” I listened to yesterday, while far from the next Great American Novel, did help me relax and fall asleep faster than I usually do.

Headspace — I haven’t tried this mediation app yet, but I’ve heard good things about it. If Calm doesn’t work out for me, I plan to give Headspace a try.

Couch to 5K — Everyone I know who’s used this app has loved it. It builds up your endurance slowly, so even if you haven’t run before, by the end of the program you should be able to run a 5K.

MyFitnessPal — If you’re trying to lose or manage your weight, the free calorie counter that comes with this app is a great help. While I haven’t tried this app myself, it comes highly recommended by a few friends.

OverDrive, Hoopla, and Podbean — I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the apps I use to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, which have gotten me through so many anxiety days. When I’m so stuck in my own head even reading print books or articles is a struggle, audio can get me through.

What apps would you recommend for physical and/or mental self-care?

Podcast recommendation: 1A

1A.One thing 2016 made abundantly clear is how polarized U.S. politics has become. Social media has made it easier to mute the voices we disagree with and boost those who share our opinions. For a fascinating look at this, check out the Wall Street Journal‘s “Blue Feed, Red Feed,” which shows the stories that are most liked and shared by those who self-identify as “very liberal” and “very conservative” side by side. And when one person engages someone with a different opinion on social media, so often it devolves to trolling or personal attacks. It’s easy to look at your news feed and think everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, dangerous, uninformed (or, worse, misinformed), etc.

Enter NPR’s new podcast, 1A. This show draws its name from the first amendment, and discusses timely issues from policy to politics to pop culture. What I like most about this show is that host Joshua Johnson invites people with differing opinions on the day’s topic, and asks questions from listeners in addition to his own questions. Already this show has helped me to understand the arguments made by those whose politics I disagree with. While they’ve yet to change my mind, they’ve helped me see important issues from new angles, and provided insights that simply listening to others who share my views would not have given me. If, like me, you’re craving intelligent, civil discourse that respects differing opinions, I highly recommend this podcast.

On formats and access

Happy new year! I’m starting off 2017 with a look at inclusivity in reading formats. Over the weekend, Eb tweeted a thread about book formats and access that I think bears repeating:

I recommend reading the whole thread, but basically, it boils down to this: no format for a book (eBook, large print, audiobook, etc.) is better or worse than any other. To advocate “traditional” print books above other formats is to deny access to readers who are visually-impaired, or who comprehend content better when they hear it, or who have a physical disability that prevents them from holding a hardback book comfortably. eBooks are great for people who can’t afford print books and don’t have transportation to the library. Audiobooks help struggling readers keep up with their peers and develop a love of reading. And on the days when anxiety makes it impossible for me to read a print book, I am so, so grateful for audiobooks.

I will always love traditional print books. I will always buy traditional print books, both for myself and for my library’s collection. But my library will also always have books in multiple formats, because different readers have different preferences and needs.

Here’s to another year of serving all readers, in whatever way they choose to read.