February Favorites and completing book challenges..

yes we crab

I was invited to a book challenge at work called “Yes we crab.” The goal is to read a select number of books and then work on your blogging habits during the month of February. I decided to try and read 20 books and blog once a week. Needless to say, I didn’t make it. Thankfully this is a low key challenge and nobody is going to come and get me for not finishing. I am happy to say that I did read 10 books and I blogged twice. It was a bit more challenging because I chose lengthy YA chapter books to complete. Usually I am pretty hard on myself with book challenges but this time I am actually pretty proud that I got though half of what I wanted to complete. February was a busy month at work and in my personal life so reading 10 books was pretty awesome!

Most of the time I avoid book challenges. They tend to make me anxious and feel like a bit of a failure when I don’t finish them. Plus, in 2015 I was stuck in the worst book slump ever. I had picked up a few books that were just terrible. After that nothing was appealing and I was burned out.  Completing a book challenge sounded like torture.


However, “Yes we crab” was a simple enough challenge without the usual guilt trip. This month I am doing my own personal book challenge and calling it the “Clean sweep.” I have stacks of galley books and a huge TBR pile that keeps staring at me from my crowded shelves. I hope that I can clean up at least 15 of them before the month of March ends. Feel free to join. I don’t have any fancy hashtags but you are welcome to tweet me about what you are reading from your own piles. @MsVal313

Here is what I read in February.

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Full list:

The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary: (4.5 stars) If you are a fan of the Studio Ghibli films then this is the book for you. It is charming and full of adventure. I really liked this one! (Full review coming soon)

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins: (3.5 stars) This book is filled with action and lots of romance. Perfect for those teen readers that love to gush over handsome boys and daring deeds. While the romance was not my favorite (so not a romance reader), I did love the action. Aerity is a strong female character that I actually liked despite her brush with insta-love.

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by  Sarvenaz Tash: (4.5 stars) A geeky love story that unfolds at New York City Comic Con. Follow 4 teens as they profess their love for artists, authors, and each other in this fun coming of age story.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi: (3 stars) The words in this book are rich and enthralling like the tapestry they describe. Blending Greek mythology and takes from India, the author takes you on a twisted tale full of colorful characters and plotting demons.

The Red Wing by Jonathan Hickman: (2 stars) This one was just weird. Too much story and not enough book. Very heavy handed on the message of “leave the world a better place.” This easily could have been a longer series. Very disappointed that it’s just one book.


Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Nathan Fairbairn: (3.5 stars) This one was pretty fun. I enjoyed reading an adult graphic novel. Lots of humor, plenty of adulting, and the graphics are fab.

Trail of the Dead (Killer of Enemies #2) by Joseph Bruchac: (3 stars) This book took me a few weeks. It was not as good as the first in the series and I kept putting it down. I did love the story of Coyote and the additional Native American mythology. That part of the story was very well done.

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen: (2 stars) This one frustrated me! The characters read way younger than they really are and there are too many themes for such a short book. I don’t know who I would recommend this too because it is complicated mess.

The Isolator, Vol. 1 (The Isolator #1) by Reki Kawahara: (3 stars)  This was my first trip into the “light novel” world. It wasn’t horrible and the story was fairly good. Not a series that I would likely continue but one that I would recommend to my anime fans.

The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh: (5 stars) The Wrath and the Dawn was my absolute favorite read of 2015. I have been anxiously awaiting the final book after a heart wrenching cliffhanger!
This book was everything I wanted it to be. The story is rich and complex just like the first with humor, thrills, daring deeds, strong female characters, and a lush romance. I love what Renee Ahdieh has done with story of “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.” The ending was almost perfect.

Best wishes on your March reading list!! Feel free to join the “Clean Sweep!”




Banned Books week- A passive program

Looking for something easy to do for Banned Books week? Try asking the following question:



I am happy with the results and I have watched it spark quite a few discussions among the teens. It is a simple way to get them thinking about having the freedom to read and what might happen if that is challenged or taken away. One of the No answers was -“I think that defending a book is important but there are more important things that I would risk jail time defending than something like Twilight.”  (I might have giggled a bit over that response!) Another teen said Yes because “Taking away one freedom makes it easier to take away others.”

So.. Would you risk jail time to defend your favorite book?


Meet our Little Free Library #9078

It’s official, we now have a lovely Little Free Library in our front yard! What is a “Little Free Library” you ask? It is a small box or similar structure that houses books. The idea is to take a book and return a book for neighbors to enjoy. Want to know more? Check out the video from the official website.

As a Librarian, it seemed logical to put one in our yard. We were adopted by a local girl-scout troop who built, painted, and installed the library in our neighborhood. I told them to go nuts on the colors and it is really adorable. The troop leader’s husband built the library and the girls added the paint. It even has shingles and weather stripping!


Here is the front of our library. The number is #9078. It has a custom latch and cute little door knob!


The girls added a mini chalkboard on each side so I can leave messages.


The back is just as cute as the front!


Inside the library visitors will find an assortment of books. We have been hit pretty hard in the past few weeks are running low! It’s a good problem to have!


I added a notebook and pen for people to leave us messages. I also added a cup of bookmarks. The messages have been very encouraging. One person wrote: (cue tears)

Thank you so very much. It’s people like you who make a difference. I’m still young. The only reason I can read is because of people like you.” 

We have had an absolute blast having this in our yard. It has helped us get to know our neighbors a lot better and we have loved seeing all the visitors. This year we are on a city wide scavenger hunt for a Passport to health living program and our visits have almost doubled in the past few weeks.

If you are looking for something fun to do in your neighborhood I highly suggest adding a Little free library. It is a great way to share the love of reading to those around you! For more information click on the link below and check out the libraries in your city!






That last book..

Do you ever put off reading the final book in a series because of how much you love the characters? This happens to me all the time. There are lots of books that I devour quickly because I am desperate to find out what happens next. Those are the books with epic cliff hangers and lots of action. Then there are some that I feel like I “need” to finish because I have devoted so much time to the series as a whole.

Then there is that one book.. you know the one. This is the book that has captured your heart. The characters are your best friends. You have laughed, cried, and raged about the story-line. When you put the book down you worry about the characters and if they will be okay until you get back. Or, you read into the wee hours of the morning because you just can’t bear to leave the story. Yeah.. that book!

Then the very last book in the series arrives and you are faced with a choice. Read it immediately or wait. I am sure there are lots of people out there that think I am nuts because I wait. Before you judge let me tell you why. I don’t want to leave the story. Especially if it is a long series that I have committed most of my reading hours to. I don’t want the it to end.

I received a copy of “The Forgotten Sisters” by Shannon Hale at ALA annual last year. I absolutely love the whole Princess Academy series and recommend it to my young patrons as often as I can. I have used Princess Academy in book studies and discussion groups because of the strong female characters. That being said, when I got a copy of  of the last book I let it sit on my night stand for months. Why? Because I wasn’t ready to leave Miri’s world.

I finally picked it up last night and it was wonderful. The ending was perfect and even though I was sad that the series was over I am happy that I have such a great book series to recommend to our patrons! The other series that I love just as much is the “Ranger’s Apprentice” by John Flanagan. Thankfully he has decided to continue writing in that world.

So dear readers, do you have a series that you loved too much to finish? Or do you devour everything you read? I would love to hear if you do the same thing!

A Bookish Countdown Survey

I am doing this electronic swap on Swap-Bot and thought it would be fun to post a bookish survey here. It is also a reminder of all the books I have yet to read! These are in no particular order and it was really hard to choose my favorite covers.

 10 Books Already Released That Are On My Wishlist

9 Favorite Covers

8 Not-Yet-Released Books That I Can’t Wait For

7 Auto-Buy Authors

Good or bad, I always buy books from the following authors:

Jessica Day Lewis

Shannon Hale

John Flanagan

E.D. Baker

Karen Traviss

Juliet Marillier

Gail Carson Levine

6 Book Boyfriends (and/or girlfriends)

Okay, they are more like characters I really really love. They have struck a chord and they are my favorite not real people.

Aragorn- Lord of the Rings

Gandalf- Lord of the Rings

Miri- Princess Academy

Anne Elliot- Persuasion

Hermione Granger- Harry Potter

Will Treaty- Ranger’s Apprentice

5 Books I Recommend The Most

Since I work with kids and teens these are the books that I recommend nearly every week.

4 Books I Thought I’d Like But Didn’t

3 Books That Made Me Cry

2 Books I Never Plan On Reading

1 Favorite Genre At The Moment

Meeting Authors and getting books-ALA part 2

The best thing about the ALA annual conference is the books. I really tried not to pick up everything I saw since I was flying. But, the temptation proved to be too much and I shipped a huge box of books home. Many of these are destined for the teen department as giveaways and others are for friends. A few will stay in my collection with their treasured autographs!

33 books later… oops!

The publishers at ALA are so nice. I had the best conversations about upcoming titles and they really cared about what my patrons were reading. One publisher at Bloomsbury handed me a stack of Tween fantasy reads when she found out I was a fan of Shannon Hale. Another invited me to the Disney Fall preview where I got to meet Mo Willems! Dudes I about passed out from excitement. He read us his upcoming Elephant and Piggy book and there may have been tears. The man is amazing. He even does the voices!


EEP! I met MO!!!! Cue exited screaming!

Next, I got the opportunity to go to the Printz Awards. This is the award for the best YA title. This year it went to Marcus Sedgwick for his book “Midwinterblood.” Read more about the awards and honor books here. I loved the format of the ceremony. Each author talked briefly about their books and then answered questions from teens and librarians all over the country. It really gave good insight into the mind of an author. If you have not tried Sedgwick’s book I would recommend it. It is a twisty and dark tale of love, curses, modern and ancient stories, and quite different. It is told in 7 parts and each is more interesting than the last.

The next day I went to the author Coffee Klatch hosted by YALSA. The room was set up in a speed dating format. You were at a table of 6 other attendees and the authors would rotate through for a brief 4 min talk. The authors I got to meet at our table were: Marcus Sedgwick, Katherine Howe, Ally Condie, Marie Lu, Mary Pearson, and a few others. It was really cool to hear about their upcoming books and ask them questions. These are the 3 titles from Penguin that I am really excited about for Fall:

Atlantia by Ally Condie- A stand alone fantasy set underwater.

Conversion by Katherine Howe- A contemporary fiction title inspired by the Salem Witch Trials

The Young Elites by Marie Lu- High Fantasy villain origin story set in Italy


While roaming the exhibit hall I got to meet a few more of my favorite authors:

Kate DiCamillo. She is the sweetest person!

Scott Westerfeld. He signed a book for the Mister and chatted with me.

Meeting Scott Westerfeld was by far the highlight of my trip. I told him that he was my husbands favorite author and we ended up chatting for quite a while. I met him again after the Printz awards and had the best conversation about his writing, getting teens interested in books, my role as a librarian, how he promotes his books, and upcoming stories. I quickly found out that authors are pretty awesome people and are willing to chat with librarians about anything. It was a really fun experience and one I will not forget. Check out his book “Afterworlds” which will be released September 23rd.

The final highlight of the trip was attending the Caldecott and Newbery awards which is pretty much the Grammy’s for authors. I was invited by the publishers at Baker and Taylor. The food was divine, the conversation with other librarians… perfect, seeing authors all over the ballroom.. starstruck, and hearing two amazing speeches .. priceless! If you have not heard Kate DiCamillo speak be prepared for tissues and sobbing. She is a master storyteller and speaker. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Take the time to read her speech at the following link. It will warm your heart and make you realize what a wonderful writer she is.

ALA Newbery Acceptance Speech for Kate DiCamillo

The Caldecott and Newbery award program! A pop out train!

I could go on and on about the authors and books that I am excited about but I would likely bore you to tears. If you ever have the chance to go to ALA I highly recommend it. It is quite the experience and I learned so much from everyone I met. I made some great connections to publishers and got an insight into the world of books that I will remember always. I am looking forward to attending again someday.