Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I recently succumbed to the temptation to subscribe to Amazon Instant Video (it’s not my fault, my friend made me watch Veronica Mars!) and have started going through the back catalog of television shows I’ve been meaning pick up but never got around to.  My latest obsession is with The Good Wife. Normally, I’m not big on courtroom dramas (sorry, Law & Order fans!) but this one appeals to me.  I am in love with the characters, with all of the recurring judges and lawyers we get to see on a regular basis.  Since I’m done with season 4 (and am waiting for season 5 to be available for free streaming) I thought I’d make some recommendations for some read-alikes featuring a female lawyer who manages to come out on top.



She-Hulk (2014- )

I was not a comics reader until recently, but I also used to prefer movies to TV. She-Hulk is the adventures of Jennifer Walters, a green giantess lawyer whose series Marvel recently re-launched.  I just started reading this title and it is absolutely wonderful, previous incarnation She-Hulk fans let me know in the comments which of her previous incarnations I should be reading.

The colors are vibrant and the illustrations, particularly the character’s expressions do much to move the story along.  Jennifer’s larger than life clients and adversaries are met and countered with a good natured sense of justice.  You won’t regret giving this one a try!



Chambermaid coverChambermaid by Saira Rao

Sheila Raj is a recent law school graduate who lands a clerkship with esteemed judge Helga Friedman.  Think of this as the Devil Wears Prada in the courtroom.  Sheila admirably navigates her complex work environment maintaining a sense of humor and a grip on reality.  It’s a great summer read and provides a memorable look at how it feels to discover that our professional idols are only human with their own shortcomings and foibles.




Three parts dead by Max Gladstone

Tara Abernathy is a first-year associate with an international necromantic firm investigating the death of the fire god Kos.  With the assistance of Abeldard, an acolyte of the dead god’s and some occasional intersession by her new boss Tara must go up against her former mentor in court.  Only in Alt-Columb court does not depend on impassioned speeches made before juries, the power Tara holds as a craftswoman may hold the key to survival of the city and the gods.

If you read and like this one, there are two more books waiting for you in the wings!


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For some reason this year, I felt like revisiting a book I had read ages ago.  For my 14th or 15th birthday, a friend of mine got me an autographed copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Living in Southern California, we had access to Ray Bradbury for many years at the LA Times Festival of Books, and this felt like a great time to revisit a fall book, now that the temperature has actually started dropping.

Cover - Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes is the story of two boys, caught between being boys and young men – anxious to be older and yet not ready to grow up.  The carnival comes to town and offers an escape from their daily lives, but for a price.  While the ride on the carousel could fulfill a deeply held wish, there is danger lurking in striking bargains with beings you don’t fully understand.  Bradbury’s approach to fantasy is wonderful because of how much he’s willing to leave unexplained and letting the reader gather her own conclusions.


Cover -Carnie PunkCarnie Punk is a collection of short stories by a variety of authors.  With a little bit of everything, these stories are as varied as attractions at a carnival.  Short story collections are always high on my to-read list, particularly when life gets busy.  Each story will whisky you away to the midway for a short while.  If you want to try a story without checking out the whole volume – Jennifer Estep’s Parlor Tricks is available for free on Amazon as of 10/31.

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With the Oz the Great and Powerful movie out in theaters, it’s not surprising that there are a number of tie-ins and a great deal of interest in Oz over the past weeks.  Due to being on top of some of my media and behind in others, I happened to have a week full of stories of both Oz of the books and Oz of the movies.  Below are links to the pieces that helped my past week fill to the brim with Oz.

historychicks The History Chicks covered L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz in their podcast and they also did a minicast on the Women of Oz, providing a brief overview of the women of the movie version of the Wizard of Oz – focusing on Judy Garland, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton.  After listening to their podcasts, see their show notes for excellent supplemental information – beautiful photos, illustrations from the book and recaps of the information provided in in their conversation style podcast.  Beckett and Susan are always entertaining and cover a variety of women in their regular podcasts.  I highly recommend going through their archive after you’ve finished their two Oz related podcasts.

geeksguideThe Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy had a wonderful interview with Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked as well as writing an introduction to a new Oz anthology.   The remainder of the podcast was a discussion about the host’s memories of the Oz books, the writing of the new Oz anthology and memories of the 1939 movie.

reimaginedLast but not least, I just finished Oz Reimagined edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen.  Oz Reimagined is a wonderful collection of short stories by a variety of authors, each taking his or her own take on the original Wizard of Oz book.  Some of the stories took Oz into a science fiction realm, one into a reality TV show, multiple detective stories and one took Dorothy from Shanghai into a parallel Oz.  My favorites were Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust by Seanan McGuire, A Tornado of Dorothys by Kat Howard and The Cobbler of Oz by Jonathan Maberry and Beyond the naked eye by Rachel Swirsky.  All of the stories were wonderful and an imaginative reimagining of Baum’s Oz but these four stood out for me.  The anthology is worth reading in its entirety or each individual story is available for sale individually.

emeraldsEmeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust follows an adult Dorothy as she investigates the mysterious death of a Munchkin in Emerald City.  Ozma and Dorothy do not get along as they did in their youth and there is unrest between the Ozites and immigrants like Dorothy who have decided to make Oz their home.  In addition to her short story, McGuire has written and sung at least two songs that mention Dorothy, Wicked Girls (2012) and Dorothy (2007) the lyrics to both of which are available on her website.  

tornadoA Tornado of Dorothys by Kat Howard shows us what happens when a place needs its story told at all cost.  Oz needs a Dorothy, a Glinda and a witch of the East and someone must always be conscripted to play the roles.



Cover- The Cobbler of Oz

The Cobbler of Oz by Jonathan Maberry gives the back story behind Dorothy’s silver slippers, from their creation, to their fall into disrepair and the adventures of a brave and generous winged monkey, Nyla, to restore them to their former glory.



wishIn Beyond the Naked Eye Swirsky turns the adventures of Dorothy and her friends into a reality show – one where she is one group among several competing to have a wish granted by the great and terrible Oz.  However, political unrest in the Emerald City cannot be completely eclipsed by the drama on screen.

All of the original Oz books are available in the public domain at Project Guttenberg if you want to reacquaint yourself with some of the original stories before diving into the later incarnations of the wonderful world.

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Rodman, S. (2011). Infiltration. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers.

Rodman, S. (2011). Infiltration. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers.

Infiltaration by Sean Rodman is one of the books I picked up at ALA in Anaheim.   As I was walking through the exhibit hall I was attracted to the Orca soundings booth by a large sign advertising “Teen fiction for reluctant readers.”  My sister works for a a high school that has a large number of students who cannot read at grade level.  I know she works closely with her school’s librarian and I got very excited about the book offerings and wanted to look for some books she could keep in her classroom for her kids and for some literature to pass on to the librarian so she could add books to the library.  One of the Orca representatives was kind enough to give me a copy of Infiltration to read and pass onto my sister for her students.

Orca sounding provides young adult books that are aimed at teenagers but are at a grade school reading level.  They have a great selection teachers’ guides on their website and each title includes the reading level (though this is a Canadian publisher and I think the grades are a year ahead? behind? what the US grade level is).  I did not see the Spanish books at the exhibitor booth but they have some Spanish titles listed in the website.  How exciting is that?  I know I’m going to have to look at a few of those when I finally start taking Spanish.  When I took French in high school our choices were Le petit prince and Petit Nicholas.  It would be much more appealing to have a contemporary character to entice me into second-language reading or improving my skills.

Bex likes to break into abandoned buildings and other urban architecture and post pictures of his daring endeavors on the internet.  He connects with other “urban exploration” enthusiasts but for the most part his preferred companions are his girlfriend, Asha and his best friend Jake.  Their adventures, while not exactly legal do not destroy any property and so there is little conflict.  However, when new boy Kieran finds out Bex’s online identity, he enlists Bex to help him break into his father’s workplace.  Bex needs agrees in exchange for money, which he thinks help him in his relationship with Asha.

The break in scenes are well paced and vivid.  The plot moves quickly, I can see where this would be an appealing read for a teenager.  There were some hints at a good b-story with Bex trying to interrupt his jealousies and insecurities of Asha’s summer job and preparations for college.  Kieran has a complex relationship with his father that could have been explored in greater detail.  I understand some of these details had to be sacrificed to keep the book short and at a low grade level but at 130 page I think an additional 10-20 could be added to flesh out some of the sub-plots instead of ending abruptly with no resolution.  Bex’s approach to relationships and his worldview seem convincing for such a short novel; this would be a good addition to any classroom with struggling readers.  The contemporary characters, fast paced adventure story and age-appropriate protagonist will help them develop an enjoyment of reading at their current reading level.

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I will have more to post about ALA in the next few days (weeks, months?) but I thought I would change things up from the previous mad postings of recaps.  For those of you who want some more ALA in the interim I have a copy of my notes from sessions I attended here (ALA 2012 session notes).  I hope to post each session separately in the coming weeks as well as start exploring some of tools and suggested readings mentioned by the speakers.  I will also be posting brief reviews of the ARCs I picked up in the exhibitor hall, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

Now, a break from professional development and on to something interesting.  Despite having lived in Orange County for nearly three years I have kept my Los Angeles Public Library card in good standing, primarily so I could use their e-collection.  I usually use Overdrive to access some audiobooks and books for my Kindle.  Today, however when I went to the LAPL I accidently found myself on the Magic Wall for LAPL’s Axis 360 collection of e-books.   This was very exciting, I had not seen this collection before and I was instantly intrigued and spent my morning break working through the logistics of downloading a book.

The actual download and check out process was not difficult.  It did require reading software called Blio, which I was able to get as an ap on my iphone.  As I waited for the ap to install, I started poking through the Blio page and came across the most exciting looking promotional video for reading software ever.

Seeing the animation, I fully expected some sort of added illustration elements to be added to any of the books with pictures.  Perhaps not full blown movies, but I wanted the characters to say a line or wave if I tapped them with my finger or clicked on them with my mouse.  But this was not to be.  My downloaded Blio came with The legend of Sleepy Hallow and The tale of Peter Rabbit.  Both books were nicely laid out, and in the case of Peter Rabbit illustrated in color. But beyond the animation of a page turning (which occasionally lead to a blank page being displayed) there was no added value in this format over another.  I thought perhaps the default sample books perhaps weren’t as elaborate as another title might be, so I checked out The Superhero Book, imagining if this one did not warrant some explosions, nothing would.  Still, nothing, a nice reproduction of a printed page but nothing to make it an e-book.

One nice added option is you can download a voice to read the book to you ($9.99).  I have not downloaded any of the voices though I did sample each of the offerings.  The options sound very mechanical and not like something I’d want to listen to for the length of an entire book, not to mention something I’d want to give up space on my phone for.  I noted that when I went to look at the voices options it said that “2 of 3 books in your library may be read aloud by Text-to-speech voices.”  All three of the book icons have the green headphone icon on the desktop so I don’t know if the limitation is on the library book because it’s a library book or if it’s the picture book that creates the limitation.

All in all I’m disappointed with the format, I don’t feel like it lives up to it’s “Don’t just read books. Experience them!” tag line.  I looked at the book offerings on their for sale site and the prices are comparable to other e-book sellers.  I am sad that this format won’t work with my current e-reader, I won’t be doing much reading on my phone (it eats through the battery).

On a related note, you may be interested in looking through the Libraries, patrons and e-books report put out by the Pew Research Center.  I wonder how the format war will be affected by patrons like myself who have tried new formats and have found them to fall flat.  I cannot keep a separate e-reader for every  e-book database my library subscribes to (note I own a Kindle and a Nook, though the explanation is longer than I will go into here) though if someone wants to lend me their tablet so I can fully investigate Blio I’ll be happy to return it when I’m done playing.

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One thing I miss about working in a school library is the opportunity to make displays of books for different themes, weeks and months.  Children’s book week is in May this year!  I remember it being in November but since it’s earlier this year it overlaps with Asian Pacific American History month.  Below I’ve outlined a few picture books that speak to Asian American experiences that younger readers (or adults) will enjoy. I will be following up in the rest of the month with some chapter books for older readers as well as some adult books.

Filipino Friends by Liana Romulo and Filipino Celebrations by Liana Romulo & Corazon Dandan-Albano

I found these two books at the LA Times Festival of Books.  I loved the pictures, Sam and his friends seem to be having such a great time.  I was surprised at how many words Romulo was able to fit on a page.  My husband is first generation Filipino-American and can read Tagalog (ie. make the correct sounds) but he does not speak it very well.  He helped me pronounce most of the words and learned that some of the words he thought he knew were wrong.  For example, our niece (who is also his goddaughter) refers to him as “ninong” which, as we found out from Filipino Celebrations means “godfather” rather than “uncle” as he thought.  He also finally learned that a “kalabaw” is a water buffalo, not a cow.  We’ve loaned these books to my sister-in-law for my niece and nephew and I’ll take them back when they’re a little older.  These seem like a great introduction to Filipino words for readers of all ages who want to learn a more about Filipino customs.

Henry’s first moon birthday by Lenore Look

Cover art

In Look’s book Jenny helps her grandmother prepare for her brother Henry’s first moon birthday, complete with ginger and red eggs.

I have only been to one first moon birthday, for my friends’ son.  When you are celebrating a girl you take an even number of eggs for luck and an odd number for a boy.  I did not realize that I would be bringing eggs home and had hard-boiled a number of eggs a day before for use at home.  It was a very strange way to have an abundance of hard-boiled eggs!

The name jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei just moved to the US from Korea and is having trouble adjusting to a school where no one can pronounce her name.  So she enlists her classmates to help her choose an American name by choosing a name from a jar.  Imagine her surprise when she chooses a slip of paper with her own name on it!

I could relate to Unhei’s trial of a difficult name.  Although Mary-Michelle isn’t hard to pronounce people keep trying to shorten it to Mary without checking with me first.  I love my name and would not change it but unusual names can be difficult!

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I read a short post by Miss Information this morning, basically it’s a short snippy comment to everyone who must have a copy of the Hunger Games – RIGHT NOW!!!!! because the movie is out.  This happens whenever any movie comes out and while I’m certainly guilty of wanting to read the book when I hear about a movie I’ve long since learned how to use a holds list. [BTW, if you haven’t seen the Hunger Games yet, it is excellent and I highly recommend it.  Also, when you get a chance take a look at Hunger is Not a Game initiative with Hunger Games fans and the Harry Potter Alliance]

Since I work in ILL though, I tend to get grumpy when the fortieth or fiftieth or umpteenth request comes through for a book that 1) I know we probably will not get because they will be in use and 2) even if we do get it – it will be either a) recalled the instant we’ve finished processing it or b) come no renewals and we will have to send several renewal denied requests to the patron in an effort to get the book back.  I understand the value of reading for pleasure, and I’m not above using the ILL system to get books for that purpose from time to time through work.

However, for popular fiction I truly believe that the public library is a better choice than an academic library (see Dos and Don’ts of Interlibrary Loan for more on that).  As it is we send the request out to a string of 10 lenders or so (most of whom have already noticed this book is a very popular item and have stopped lending it outside the library for a time) and cancel the request.  Cancelled requests leave everyone unhappy.  Does anyone know of a partnership between a university and a nearby public library to encourage patrons to use the public library for pleasure reading sources?  Should academic libraries carry a greater number of high demand books or just buy them on demand for patrons? I would love to hear more about how your library handles ILLs or referrals for popular fiction titles.

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