Category Archives: adult

When superlatives are not enough…

the-philosophers-flight-9781476778150_lgThis book.  This book.  This book.

I don’t even know where to begin.  I brought The Philosopher’s Flight  home thinking my son might like it, because it’s kind of alternative history, kind of fantasy (not usually his thing, but it will work if it’s on the edge of sci-fi), and kind of different.  He likes that.  A day later, he announced that he loved it and that I needed to read it, too.  He’s a teenager, so if he likes something enough to suggest it to me, I try to read it and soon.  It’s really an honor when someone tells you about a book they love, and when it’s your teenager — who probably thinks you’re an idiot about half the time and doesn’t detach from the devices as often as you’d like — it’s worth taking the time to make some kind of connection, right?

The Philosopher’s Flight is a coming-of-age story set in an alternative early twentieth century.  Women empirical philosophers dominate human flight and sigilry—which is not exactly like signaling or casting spells, but can be used for transporting humans, creating smoke shields and other things, healing and more.  Robert has grown up with a mother and sisters who can do all of this, and he wants to fight for his dream of becoming a rescue and evacuation specialist.  There are all kinds of other things going on – a group of zealots who hate the women who do this, factional fighting within the women philosophers, war, love.  You know.  All the usual stuff.

I can’t shut up about this book.  I’ve told at least ten people about it already, including a few who I know don’t like reading things outside of their usual very limited boxes.  Oh well.  This is one to take a chance on, because it is just SO fun.  I can’t be friends with you anymore if you hate it.  Well, actually, I can.  But I’d be bummed you didn’t like it, because it’s just THAT good.

Also, the author is from our neighboring state of Wisconsin–Wauwatosa to be exact.  Having spent a delightful afternoon at a ‘Tosa city pool/biergarten some summers ago, I have an extra fondness for it, and I’ll be looking for the next one, Tom Miller.  Don’t make us wait too long.

The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

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Letters we all could write

dearf451Dear Dear Fahrenheit 451,

You showed up on my desk that extremely cold Saturday when almost no one came in.  Did I read you then?  No, I did not, because unlike the popular (and completely wrong) stereotype, library workers do not sit around reading at work.  I may have spent quite a long time discussing kidlit and graphic novels with a coworker I rarely see that afternoon, but you rested quietly in the stack of books in my locker until I headed home.

When I opened you later from my warm nest on the couch, I laughed frequently enough that my husband and son wondered what was up.  They were watching Game of Thrones (also in my stack) and things were particularly bloody and violent, so it probably seemed a little jarring.  What can you do?

I especially appreciated your letter to Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian, because I have also been told, enthusiastically and repeatedly, that I would just LOVE that book or the previous books in the series by people who don’t know me at all.  I’m not snippy about many books, but let me tell you, that’s one of them.  (Sure, there’s a book for every reader, but that doesn’t mean I’m the reader.) I would be more likely to read Sexy Beast VIII or any of the other originally and uniquely titled Sexy Beast books.  I try to keep an open mind, really I do, but I’m just not all that successful sometimes. But that’s a rant for another day, probably.

What amuses me most about you, however, is that three or four of my favorite patrons suggested you to me, although two were careful to note that some of your language is a little profane.  One handed you to me to check in and commented that she just didn’t think it was appropriate for a librarian to swear that much, but that just makes me love you more, because honestly, there are days when it’s all I can do to wait for the door to close behind the late-in-the-day-angry-at-the-world-and-taking-it-out-on-everyone-jerk-of-the-month to mutter “@#$^%!!!” and head home.

Yours  very truly…

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

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Good guys and bad guys, survival and struggle

1saboteurI’ve loved historical fiction about World War II since I was first reading chapter books.  One of my all-time favorites as a kid was Snow Treasure, a story about kids who foil the Nazis by sneaking gold out of the country on their sleds.  Over the years, I’ve also read a lot of nonfiction on the topic, everything from Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts to Double Cross by Ben Macintyre and quite a lot in between.  I also have a fondness for World War II era mysteries – everything from the Foyle’s War TV series to the Bernie Gunther novels of Philip Kerr, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series (which actually starts at the end of World War I) and the Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal.

So it’s no surprise that I loved The Saboteur: the Aristrocrat who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul Kix.  French Resistance, Nazis, escaping certain death several times – I’m there!  The story of Robert de La Rochefoucauld reads like a spy novel instead of a series of documented life events, which has ensured that I’ve suggested it to all of my patrons who like reading about spies, war, or French history.  It’s also a wonderful book, because it addresses the gray areas in which people exist during war.  Not everyone is 100% good or bad; there are compromises and bad decisions in addition to all of the luck and occasional happy endings.

While I can see many adults and even some teens enjoying this book, you might also consider some fictional favorites of mine on similar topics.  Some are specifically for younger readers; others work for many ages.

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2017 – at least we had some good books….teen & adult!

Here are the last of my favorites from 2017.  I don’t read as much in teen and adult books, but these are all keepers.  Take a look if you missed them the first time around!


Secrets in the Snow by Michaela McColl

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius (also appropriate for older middle grade readers)

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson (also appropriate for older middle grade readers)

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

Denton Little’s Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin (sequel to Denton Little’s Deathdate)

The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle

Wonder Woman:  Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

 A few great books written for adults:

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Killers of the Flower Moon:  the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI by David Grann

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: a True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

Whew!  Now on to 2018!

Depression visualized

night shiftNight Shift might look like a picture book, but it’s not.  If you’ve ever lived through or known someone who’s lived through depression, it will look all too familiar to you.  There might be dragons and other fantastic thingss, but the lingering, all-consuming fog, the difficulty of daily survival – it’s just all there on the page.  It’s not fun to read, but it does end with hope, as well as an explanation.  Definitely worth a look.

Night Shift by Debi Gliori

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When 63 pages = powerful…

dear ijeawele

If you’re a feminist, you’ll love this engaging, funny, thoughtful essay on raising feminist daughters.  It works for grown-ups, too, since many women rethink their place in society at challenging moments.

“Being a feminist is like being pregnant,” Adichie says.  “You either are or you are not.  You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not.”

I am a feminist.  I did love it.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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When to stay and when to go – 40 years of tough choices

fortyautumns I don’t read a lot of books for adults these days.  It might be my abysmally short attention span.  It might be the pretty colors in the graphic novels and picture books.  It might be the fact that reality is feeling a little surreal these days, so nonfiction is usually out.  I’m just not enough of a smartypants to read literary fiction anymore.  The genres just fall away as my excuses pile up.  Too preachy, too cute, too violent, too angry, too much substance abuse….

But then something happens.  Like the flu.  On New Year’s Eve.  Perfect for avoiding my many social invitations but not so great for actually doing anything fun.  And with a strangely small stack of books-to-be-read, I picked up Forty Autumns, read the preface, then a few chapters.  And before you know it, I was halfway through it.

My brain on a virus can be a little confused, but I’ve found that certain things actually work better when I’m not able to do anything but lie around for long periods of time.  It’s the only way I could ever get myself to watch Schindler’s List, for example.  Usually I read or watch a lot of Jane Austen, which I find exceptionally comforting and can dip in and out of.  Today, in recovery, I can do the entire collection of Harry Potter movies, but that doesn’t work when I can’t move my head because it hurts too much.

So Forty Autumns ended up being perfect.  It is a really good read, but reading it mostly in one go – something I’m not usually able to do — made it even better.  The lingering and unsettled feelings surrounding those left behind in what became East Germany stayed with me.  In addition to the family stories, there is a lot of history here – how leaders supposedly working for the good of the people let everyone else suffer while they lived in gated communities with fancy cars and imported food, keeping others trapped in a twisted system that actually built walls to stop them from depriving the government of their labor.

It might be a strange thing to recommend on the beginning of a new year, but sometimes looking back can help us see our own moment in time more clearly.  And we can use all the help we can get right now, right?

Forty Autumns: A Family’s Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner

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2016 – Finally over?

1,165 books later, we’re almost to 2017.  Or was it 1,265?  I lost count and either added or dropped 100 in my count, and that’s sort of how the year seemed to go sometimes.  I don’t feel like going back and re-counting, though.  It was a long year any way you look at it.

I didn’t read all of those – some were for my family, some were books I was taking to show kids at school, some of those items were DVDs, and some just never got read, even if I renewed them a time or two.

Although I mostly write about picture books and middle grade these days, some others for teens and adults also stood out to me.  So here, finally, is the last of my favorites of 2016:

March, Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Snow White: a graphic novel by Matt Phelan

Secrets in the Snow by Michaela McColl

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Britt-Marie Was Here  by Frederik Backman


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It takes a village…or a book…or a soccer ball

britt-marie-was-here-9781501142536_lgI’m taking a step outside my box today, people.  I read a lot of middle grade, teen, picture books, and more graphic novels, too, as time goes on, but I’ve moved away from most adult fiction other than mysteries.  The last several “big” books have been a disappointment,  you see, and the ones that are supposed to be heartwarming are often just kind of saccharine and annoying.

However.  Just when I get to be a little bit of a snob about something – as I’ve noted in recent posts about the body count heading up some middle grade and teen books – I can be blown back by books that work for me. Books which might seem on the face to be set up to trigger warm and fuzzy feelings about quirky and/or crotchety characters. Who knows?  Maybe the timing was just right and I’m a sap.

Sometimes, though, broken wheelthe way that books land in your lap or your ebook bookshelf is just serendipitous, as it was with both The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald) and Britt-Marie Was Here (Frederik Backman).  Both have socially awkward, female main characters.  Both find themselves in a new community without understanding all the rules and expectations.  Both make mistakes, a lot of them, and develop relationships with other outsiders.  Both finally find a home.

If you made an outline of these two books, they might not look much different.  Maybe their similarities would put you off from reading them one after the other.  Perhaps I just needed a little connection with some women taking uncomfortable chances and finding out who they really are after years of being told what they are.  Whatever the reason, I’ll carry them both in my heads for at least a little while, and I’m grateful for that.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald) and Britt-Marie Was Here (Frederik Backman)

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365 days – 1,342 items in the book bag, give or take a few

book stack

Why would one person check out this much stuff? Books, magazines, graphic novels, movies, music, picture books, middle grade, teen, mysteries, history, sci-fi, tv series, the occasional puppet and so much more. E-books and e-audiobooks aren’t even included, nor are the things which never end up in my email folder of library receipts. If I actually buy something, it’s not counted – and those are often the books I’m most excited about and can’t wait for the library to get. My husband and son also figure into this number; it’s usually just easier to check out what they want when I’m at work. And some things never get read or watched, even though they come home with me.  So I’m never sure exactly how many books I read.

Still, why so many?  It’s not just that I love the library and work in one. My healthy holds list means that I’m never short on new things to look at. (Often there are 80-90 things on that list in addition to everything I have checked out.) I also follow authors and what’s new in publishing, and I lead a writing group, which frequently has me thinking about storytelling or word choice or past favorite reads. Teaching a college class this fall also meant I needed books to look over and consider for student assignments. Some of those items are books or cds I requested when I was scheduled to lead story time or wanted to talk about a particular topic at one of my volunteer gigs.

When I look at everything the library shared with me (for free!), I see new favorites and things to laugh about, scary stories, great friendships, love, grief, fear, and hope. My life is so much more exciting and full because I read. I can’t wait to see what the next year holds – more books, more tears, more laughter, more joy.

Not everything I read was published in 2015, but many were. Here are just a few of my 2015 favorites, in no particular order, grouped by loose categories:

Picture Books

Wolfie the Bunny

Rude Cakes


Last Stop on Market Street

Please, Mr. Panda

Boats for Papa

Leo: A Ghost Story

Imaginary Fred

Nerdy Birdy

We Forgot Brock!



Middle grade

The Terrible Two


Gone Crazy in Alabama


The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

Beware the Power of the Dark Side

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend

The Thing about Jellyfish

Circus Mirandus


Graphic Novels

The Graveyard Book, vol. 1 & 2


The Sleeper and the Spindle (I’m putting this one with the graphic novels, because it’s such a beautifully illustrated version.)

The Phantom Bully

Little Robot





Teen Fiction

Under a Painted Sky

Silver in the Blood

Carry On

Everything, Everything


Library of Souls


Teen Nonfiction

Symphony for the City of the Dead

Most Dangerous

I Will Always Write Back



Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

A God in Ruins

Between the World and Me

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