Mermaid Sightings at the Library

It seems like I’ve got a new obsession every month, and lately, I’ve been all about the mermaids. It makes sense, I suppose. The summer heat and humidity combined with the delights of vacations and the cooling, beckoning water is a perfect setting for a mermaid’s enchantment to take hold. From the incredible fluke and tail to the magic of underwater kingdoms to the ferociousness and predatory nature of the mythical sirens, mermaids captivate the imagination and thrill us with danger and intrigue. Besides swimming every chance I get and looking into the market for real mermaiding gear, I’ve been diving into some mermaid books, movies, and TV shows that I’d recommend to any mermaid lover.

Books:

The Mermaid by Christina Henry (Adult Fiction)

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

The Mermaid Collector by Erika Marks (Adult Fiction)

More than a century ago, lighthouse keeper Linus Harris left his beloved wife and waded into the ocean with three other men to reunite with their mermaid lovers. The mysterious Mermaid Mutiny of 1888 has become legend for the residents of Cradle Harbor, Maine, honored by the town’s Mermaid Festival every August, when wind chimes are hung from seaside porches to drown out the alluring sound of mermaid song. For thirty-five-year-old Tess Patterson, the legend is more than folklore; it’s proof of life’s magic.

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter (Young Adult)

Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.

Hannah: Daughters of the Sea by Kathryn Lasky (Young Adult)

Daughters of the Sea tells the story of 3 mermaid sisters who are separated at birth by a storm and go on to lead three very different lives. Book 1 is about Hannah, who spent her early days in an orphanage and is now a scullery maid in the house of rich, powerful family. She is irresistibly drawn to the sea and through a series of accidents and encounters discovers her true identity. Hannah realizes that she must keep the truth a secret but she also knows that soon she will have to make the choice – to be a creature of the land or the sea.

Wake by Amanda Hocking (Young Adult)

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (Middle Grade)

For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Emily Windsnap has lived on a boat. And, oddly enough, for just as long, her mother has seemed anxious to keep her away from the water. But when Mom finally agrees to let her take swimming lessons, Emily makes a startling discovery – about her own identity, the mysterious father she’s never met, and the thrilling possibilities and perils shimmering deep below the water’s surface.

Trouble at Trident Academy: Mermaid Tales Series by Debbie Dadey (Middle Grade)

Mermaids Shelly and Echo are excited to begin third grade at the prestigious Trident Academy, but snooty Pearl, jokester Rocky, brilliant Kiki, grumpy Mr. Fangtooth, and an argument over their first project challenge the best friends. Includes facts about marine plants and animals and words to the Mermaid Tales Song.

Mermaid Dreams by Mark Sperring (Picture Book)

At bedtime, Meriam tells her mother what it was like to spend a day as a mermaid at the beach.

Sofia the First: The Floating Palace by Cathy Hapka (Picture Book)

During her family vacation on a floating palace, Sofia befriends a mermaid, and through their friendship helps save the mermaid’s kingdom.

Recommended Movies and TV Shows

Aquamarine (2006)

This movie is perfect for summer! Following the story of two girls who befriend a mermaid, it’s charming, lighthearted, and perfect at capturing the whimsy of the mermaid myth.

Siren (2018, Freeform/Hulu)

This is my current TV favorite, and it takes the mermaid and siren stories to a whole new level. Claiming that the mermaid is a predatory, carnivorous creature that can take down sharks and humans alike, Siren is a dramatic telling of the creature Ryn as she emerges on land in search of her sister who has been taken by government researchers.

H20: Just Add Water (2006, Netflix)

This Australian TV show is perfect for K-4th graders who love adventure, a little friendly drama, and mermaid transformations. The show is a little cliché and cheesy at times, but strangely addictive for audiences seeking something lighthearted.

 

 

Whether you’re a mermaid fanatic like myself, have a young one who is into all things mermaid, or just want to dive into something summery and sensational, I recommend giving any of these books or films/TV shows a try.  Let me know what you think if you do or if you have any other mermaid recommendations of your own. Don’t forget to sign up for the summer reading program no matter what age you are and keep track of your mermaid reading so you can win some awesome prizes!

Hope you have a “splash” this summer!

Book Subscription Boxes

This blog post comes with a few warning labels.

WARNING: If you have a book-acquiring habit that leaves your wallet bare, your shelves stuffed, and your marriage in jeopardy, you may not want to read this post.

WARNING: If you are susceptible to buying bookish items such as Harry Potter merch, posters of book characters, and limited edition covers with stained pages, autographed book plates, and specially designed bookmarks, you may not want to read this post.

WARNING: If your To-Be-Read shelf is so tall that it’s endangering your children, pets, and the value of your home, you may not want to read this post.

Lately it’s been feeling like my birthday every month. It’s because I’ve joined some book subscription boxes. If you’re unfamiliar with subscription boxes, they are a monthly box that features various, usually exclusive, items surrounding a particular theme. There are so many subscription boxes out there with themes for everybody. Beauty boxes, survival boxes, boxes for your dog or cat, boxes for your kid, boxes for your marital status. CrateJoy is the leading search engine to connect you with all kinds of boxes, including book boxes.

After drooling over YouTube videos and Instagram posts, I finally decided to take the financial plunge and buy subscription boxes from two different companies, Owlcrate and Fairyloot. My life (and bank account) haven’t been the same!

Owlcrate

Owlcrate and Owlcrate Jr. are a US-based monthly subscription service that includes either a newly released YA novel or newly released middle grade novel along with other exclusive items from various shops and companies across the country. Owlcrate has a direct connection with US publishers and not only features an exclusive edition of a new release, but a signed edition with a letter from the author and other memorabilia.

Every month Owlcrate’s box has a new theme. This theme ranges in concept and the featured book’s genre. The February 2018 theme was Hidden Worlds, March 2018’s theme was Across the Galaxy, and April 2018’s theme is Shadows and Secrets. Owlcrate releases a teaser of the book and other items in the box so when you receive your crate, everything in the box is a surprise!

I’ve received candles, jewelry, scarves, bags, stickers, tea, coffee, mugs, prints, and even a giant wall tapestry from Owlcrate! Here are some posts of items in past boxes.

February 2018 – Hidden Worlds
March 2018 – Across the Galaxy

With shipping and handling, Owlcrate costs about $38 a month. Considering the price of a hardcover book along with handmade, custom items, I think this is a pretty good deal. Customer service is really friendly, and once you get your first Owlcrate, you can join a private Facebook group to connect with other readers.

Fairyloot

Fairyloot is very similar to Owlcrate, but the differences are that Fairyloot is a UK-based monthly subscription box that features only YA fantasy books. Whereas Owlcrate may include a contemporary, thriller, or mystery book, Fairyloot only features books and items inspired by the fantasy genre. The box includes an exclusive, signed edition of a newly released YA book, a letter from the author, and other awesome goodies. Monthly themes have included Oh So Regal, Ladies That Slay, and Villainous.

January 2018- Twisted Tales
March 2018- Memorable Moments

Fairyloot’s items are mostly European including the candles and food items. Most of the time this is really cool, but there was one item, a bag of hot chocolate mix, that I personally didn’t like the taste of.

Fairyloot’s greatest attribute is the design and quality of their author letters, bookmarks, and book plates. Their graphic designer is outstanding, and every print item in the box is a piece of art. Fairyloot also features some really grand items like tote bags, exclusive scarves, and fabric book covers.

Because of international shipping and customs, Fairyloot is more expensive and takes a little longer to receive. With shipping, Fairyloot is about $60 a month and usually arrives towards the end of the month.

Give to Others or Yourself!

These book subscription boxes shine as gifts. Whether for birthdays, holidays, Mother’s/ Father’s Day, or just as a friendly gesture, both Owlcrate and Fairyloot would be so magical to receive.

It’s also a great form of self-care and indulgence for yourself as a reader. The great thing about both boxes is that they reveal next month’s theme a few weeks before payment is due so you can decide if you’d like to skip that month’s box and save some money.

Owlcrate May 2018 Theme
Fairyloot May 2018 Theme

Whether one time or every month, I definitely recommend giving one of these boxes a try!

Yoga at the Library and Yoga FAQ

What is yoga? Why is everyone saying it’s so good for you? Can you even practice it despite (enter issue here – age, weight, injury, post-baby body, anxiety, etc.). And why would you do yoga at the library? These might be some possible questions flooding your mind if you’ve happened upon our poster or Facebook event. That’s right, patrons! We’re hosting yoga classes at the library! I’ve been practicing yoga for years and after earning my 200hr yoga teacher certification, I wanted to share yoga with you in a comfortable and non-competitive environment; the library!

What exactly is yoga anyway?

It’s a 5,000 year old practice based in India involving an eight-limb philosophy including a mindful and healing connection between the breath and body. More simply, it’s moving your body while staying aware of your breath. Yoga is a way to exercise and as with any exercise, you can adapt it to your needs. Yoga has a very deep and rich history with a lifestyle methodology attached to it, but you need to know exactly 0% of that if you just want to move your body, get rid of built-up toxins, release stress, and increase your strength and flexibility.

Yoga involves moving into various poses or asanas (the Sanskrit word meaning “comfortable seat”), and each pose targets a certain part of the body. Depending on the style of yoga, you may be holding the pose anywhere between 5 seconds or 5 minutes. No matter what pose you’re in, the most important element of yoga is maintaining a smooth, even inhale and exhale typically through the nose (though you can breathe through your mouth if sickness has you down).

What are the different styles of yoga?

Yoga is really unique in that there are multiple styles developed from various schools of thought, Indian gurus, and interests. The most common styles are Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power, Hot/Bikram, Yin, and Restorative.

Here’s a brief run-down for you:

Hatha – a slower, mindful practice where the pose is held for 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. Focus is on individual poses, alignment, and release of tension. Perfect style for beginners

Vinyasa – a class emphasizing flow between poses. Each pose moves into the next pose fluidly while matching the inhales and exhales of the breath. Great for detoxifying, raising heart rate, and re-focusing an anxious or stressed mind.

Ashtanga – a style of yoga developed by an Indian guru and follows a specific series of poses held for a count of 10-15 seconds. Lots of Sanskrit is spoken in class and many “pretzel” poses you see on Instagram are from advanced Ashtanga practitioners.

Power – a style developed by Baron Baptise involving a combo of Vinyasa and Bikram. PiYo or Pilates/Yoga takes a lot from Power Yoga and includes fast movements, cardio, ab work, and a comprehensive workout.

 

Baron Baptiste in a crow pose!

Hot/Bikram – Bikram yoga was really popular in America for a while and brought the Hot Yoga craze. Bikram yoga is a specific, copy written series of poses that only a trademarked studio can teach, but any studio can teach Hot Yoga just by cranking up their thermostat. Both Bikram and Hot Yoga are about keeping the room hot so your muscles can completely relax into the poses. It’s intense, but very cleansing!

Yin Yoga – Yin is all about tolerating discomfort. Poses are long-holding, typically for about 5 minutes, and by holding these poses, inter-connective tissues within the muscles are lengthened and stretched in a way that increases and maintains your flexibility and brings healing to aching muscles.

Restorative – this style is about alleviating discomfort. Restorative is relaxing, slow-moving, and incorporates props like bolsters, pillows, blankets, and blocks that allow your body to feel supported. This is a great style for injuries, mental health issues, and trauma.

Why is yoga good for me?

Any movement done for the body is good because it builds your fitness, eases the strain on your heart, and gets rid of unwanted things in the body, but yoga is specifically healing because unlike most exercise which puts the body in a state of stress, yoga aims to put the body in a state of acceptance and relief. Practicing yoga targets muscles in the body not to overwork them, but to release the tension they’re carrying. Poses squeeze then release the organs and the lymphatic system which allows the body to cleanse and detox so you have less aches and pains, less headaches, and less discomfort overall.

Yoga also is healing to the mind. Breathing deeply has been shown to reconnect neural pathways in the brain, lower blood pressure, and purge impurities in the lungs which cause chest tightness. A key component of yoga usually includes some form of meditation or relaxation (savasana) which gives quietness to the otherwise cacophonous mind. While there is a competitive nature to any exercise, yoga is always a practice. It isn’t about perfection or domination but just coming to your mat and doing the best you can with where you are in that moment.

What can I expect from the Yoga for Readers class?

For our first yoga class, I wanted to present something that would be relatable for most patrons, but also similar to any class you would experience at a yoga studio. Yoga for Readers is going to feature a combination of Hatha, Vinyasa, and Restorative styles and include poses that will target parts of the body which hold tension during reading. We’ll do some hip opening poses which are great for people who sit a lot or have lower back/sciatica pain. We’ll do some upper back and posture-strengthening poses to help with back tension, and we’ll go through a wrist sequence to help when you’ve been holding a book open or keeping an e-reader upright for a long time. We’ll round it all out with a fun and easy meditation that will call on your creativity and relax your mind. The class will be accessible and gentle enough for first-timers or those recovering from injuries, but I’ll feature more challenging variations for seasoned yogis or athletes who want to strengthen and tone.

Finally, who in the world am I and what makes me qualified to teach yoga?

Hi, I’m Alyssa! Yoga came into my life 16 years ago when I was an anxious kid looking for something to do. I practiced yoga from DVDs throughout high school and taught yoga workshops in college, but it wasn’t until about six years ago that I took my yoga practice more seriously. I took classes at Siva Yoga Studio in Wichita and practiced daily with teachers Erin Motz and SarahBethYoga to build a more confident and rounded practice. Last year I finally made the commitment to get certified and earned my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification with Adrian and Whitney Tartler at Siva Yoga Studio which allowed me to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200) with YogaAlliance.

Beyond my yoga experience, I also have a Masters in Social Work from Wichita State University and experience as a Licensed Masters-level Social Worker in the state of Kansas. This has provided me with a holistic understanding of yoga’s impact on an individual’s psychosocial development and guidance in offering trauma-sensitive and culturally competent services.

Yoga for Readers at the library

We’ve got two free Yoga for Readers classes scheduled for the month of April, and we’ll be offering more classes if there’s interest in the community. Consider this your personal invitation to attend one of our classes so you can relax your mind, strengthen your body, and enhance your creativity! Ages 13 and up are welcome (let me know if you have a child under 13 who would like to attend, and I’ll make sure to modify).

Yoga for Readers classes will be on Monday, April 2 and Monday, April 23 from 6:30pm to 7:30pm in the Community Room. Limited yoga mats available, but we encourage you to bring your own mat, towel, and water bottle. No registration required.

See you on the mat!

~Namaste~

 

What’s a Read-A-Thon (and How Can I Participate?)

 

Is your giant to-read pile stressing you out? Do you suffer from the terrible affliction of checking out or purchasing a stack of new books despite having a full shelf at home?! You are not alone, my friend, but there might be a way to tackle that mountain of materials. Take your reading to a new level, and challenge yourself with a read-a-thon!

A read-a-thon is a community-driven attempt to read books during a set amount of time. Read-a-thons can last for 24 hours, a few days, a week, a month, or even an entire year. They’re hosted on a social media site like YouTube, Twitter, Goodreads, or Tumblr and never cost or require sign-up. Read-a-thons also may have challenges, sprints, and even contests or giveaways. Participants interact through the internet platform, and some will even post a wrap-up blog or video to showcase their results.

Recently I posted about my experience with the Biannual Bibliothon, and I have taken to exploring online read-a-thons to decrease my ever-flowing TBR pile, prioritize reading, and push my speed. There are so many read-a-thons out there with themes as specified as your reading tastes. You can find a read-a-thon for Harry Potter, science fiction, fantasy, Young Adult literature, graphic novels, classics, and more.

A YouTube creator, LittleBookOwl, has developed an amazing calendar with links to individual read-a-thon websites. Not all read-a-thons have announced their 2018 dates, but many are already scheduled that you can follow.

LittleBookOwl also released a video covering read-a-thons and organized them based on their length.

Interested in participating? All you need to do is find a read-a-thon that interests you, do a little research using the calendar to find the start and end dates and any specific challenges, and you’re set!

Here are a few Read-A-Thon tips:

1. Plan Your Books

Whether it’s a week-long challenge or just 24 hours, definitely go into the read-a-thon with a plan of what you’re going to read. Many read-a-thons have specific challenges that can guide what books to choose so it helps to have an outline of those books and to make sure you have access to them.

2. Prioritize

The read-a-thon is an actual challenge. It forces you to put down your phone, log off Netflix, and actually get to reading. Even with cutting out social media, it still can be hard to find time to read, especially with work, school, or if you’re around children. Before the read-a-thon starts, look ahead to that week in your schedule and plan your reading time. Even if it’s twenty minutes in the day, that’s still a book being read!

3. Audiobooks

Reading doesn’t have to be just for your eyes. It can also be for your ears! Consider the time you spend in the car or bus, the time doing menial tasks like dishes or laundry, or the places you are where reading a book would be difficult. Use that time as listening time, and you’ll bust through a book without even realizing it!

Read-a-thons are an awesome way to connect with other readers and spice up your reading in a new way. The next read-a-thon I’m going to tackle is the week long Read-O-Rama challenge from March 3rd – 9th.

Feel free to join me! I’ll be posting my wrap-up next month to share all the craziness.

 

 

I Tried Reading Seven Books in Seven Days

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I attempted to read seven books in seven days. Spoiler alert: I was super close! The week was insane and besides getting a major head start on my yearly reading goal, I was sleep-deprived, over caffeinated, and incredibly behind on laundry. It was all worth it! How did I do it? I participated in the Winter Biannual Bibliothon.

The internet is filled with read-a-thons, many of which are sponsored through a special sect of video makers on YouTube called Booktubers. From The Reading Quest to Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, there are so many exciting challenges held every month online and all you have to do to participate is pick a challenge, gather up your books, and start reading!

I’ve always wanted to participate in online read-a-thons and made sure to mark my calendar for the first big challenge of the year, the Winter Biannual Bibliothon. Check out the Bibliothon’s YouTube Channel here!

This week-long read-a-thon is held twice a year by a group of Booktubers and includes seven reading challenges, video challenges, giveaways, twitter reading sprints, and Instagram challenges. Participants can be as active or passive as they want during the read-a-thon and there’s no cost or sign-up to worry about.

Here were the seven reading challenges and my selections for each one:

  1. Read the group book: OTHERWORLD by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

Every Biannual Bibliothon, the hosts choose a book that everyone can read together then watch or participate in the Live Show on YouTube to discuss it in a similar fashion as a book club.

  1. Read a sequel

I chose Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, the second book in the YA Steampunk series, Finishing School.

  1. Read a book you’ve never heard of before

As a librarian, I’ve heard of a lot of books so to really make sure I picked a book blindly, I used a number generator and a blindfold and went randomly into one of our shelves. I chose the book, The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon.

  1. Read a book about mental illness

I chose a book that’s been on my to-read list for years; Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly.

  1. Read a book that was mentioned in another book/movie/show, etc.

In the movie, The Jane Austen Book Club, a character recommends the book Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin so I thought I’d give this one a chance.

  1. Read a book under 200 pages

My original intention for this challenge was to read A Room with a View by E.M. Forester, but I ended up reading Library Wars: Love and War by Hiro Arikawa and Kiiro Yumi. More on what happened there in my wrap-up below!

  1. Read a backlist title

This just means to read a book published before 2017 so I picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, published twenty years prior in 1997!

How Did It Go? (a.k.a. The Wrap Up)

Day 1 – Saturday, Jan. 20

Fifteen minutes after midnight, I started reading Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly. You might not have heard of this book because it was published in 1887! Nellie Bly was an amazing investigative journalist who feigned mental illness for ten days so she would be committed to an asylum. She discovered horrific things while she was there and opened the conversation about quality of care in institutions.

By 1AM, I’d gotten half-way through the book before responsibility took over. I had work in a few hours and needed to sleep! I finished Ten Days on my lunch break and was off to a great start!

Stats:

96 pages read

1 book finished

Day 2 – Sunday, Jan. 21

A day off from work and I was ready to read! The Left Hand of Darkness seemed like a complex book that would need a lot of attention so I dived right into it the moment I woke up. I immediately realized that I hated this book. I’m so sorry if you’ve read it and liked it, but for me, it was so convoluted and offensive and just ugh. I even had to read chapter summaries BEFORE reading each chapter just so I could understand what was going on.

I wanted to actually read each book I’d picked for the challenges so I crawled through this book to finish it. It took most of the day, but by 7pm, I’d finished Left Hand of Darkness, ranted about it for nearly an hour, then proceeded to throw it on the floor.  It still counts though!

Side note: Hopefully it’s unrelated, but the author Ursula Le Guin actually passed away the following day. It’s totally unrelated…right?

Stats:

384 pages read

2 books finished

Day 3 – Monday, Jan 22.

After the strain of the day before, I was losing a little steam, but I was excited to start reading The Doldrums, a book I’d never heard of before and went into without expectations. I tried to get a little reading done in the morning, but after working most of the afternoon, I had to read the majority of the book at night. The book was decent, not terrible, but not the best, and I was pretty weary by the end of the day. I finished the book, but the initial thrill of the Bibliothon had gone. Uh-oh!

Stats:

748 pages read

3 books finished

Day 4 – Tuesday, Jan. 23

Not only was I pretty tired from the past few reading days, but I felt a cold coming on (thanks, Kansas!) and I was super busy all day. With yoga training in the morning and work all afternoon and evening, I didn’t have time to even open up A Room with a View until 9PM. Thank goodness this book was small. I could do it!

By page three, I was falling asleep. The book may have been good, but it was not capturing my attention hard enough to keep me reading. I decided to forgo my hope of reading all seven intended books and picked up another book instead. Library Wars: Love and War was  interesting and quickly paced enough to get me through. While I probably won’t continue the series, it was a really fun story and even more fun to look up the anime and live action movie made in Japan!

Stats:

934 pages read

4 books finished

Day 5 – Wednesday, Jan. 24

I definitely wasn’t feeling 100% for most of the day. Whether a cold or allergies, my energy was zapped, and I was stressing over my ever-growing to-do list. Thankfully I knew what to expect in terms of pace, character, and content with the sequel challenge. During my lunch break, I read a chapter of Curtsies and Conspiracies, but after getting some bad news about the loss of a friend, I didn’t read again until later that evening. As a motivator to finish the book, I did a few reading sprints (reading as fast as one can within a set amount of time). I managed to get through the book which definitely wasn’t as good as the first in the series. We were coming into a Bibliothon low point.

Stats

1244 pages read

5 books finished

Day 6 – Thursday, Jan. 25

I barely read a thing. Besides feeling sick both physically and emotionally, I had so much work to do that reading took a back seat. I managed to read about 10 pages of Otherworld at night before falling asleep with the book on my face.

Stats:

1254 pages read

5 books finished

Day 7 – Friday, Jan. 26

The last day of the Bibliothon was here, and I came out guns blazing! After my morning meeting, I went home and did nothing but read. Otherworld, while flawed in some ways, was a really quick read and I was able to finish it by 12:30pm. I had to be at my second job by 5pm so with the time I had left, I dived into my seventh book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The problem for me with Harry Potter, especially the first book, is that I can’t read it fast. I like to savor it and even re-read entire passages while imagining Jo Rowling in her coffee shop, scribbling words on a napkin. I’d gotten through half the book before work, and when I got home, it was 10PM. I had two hours left and eight chapters to go. I tried my best, but when midnight hit, I was on page 244 of a 320 page book. So close and yet so far away!!

Final Stats:

1843 pages read

6 ¾ books finished

Lessons Learned

My experience with the Winter Biannual Bibliothon was a roller coaster, but despite the challenges, it was definitely the most I’d ever read in a single week. I managed to get through 7 books (I finished Harry Potter after midnight of course) and read books that I might not have given a chance otherwise. For future read-a-thons, I would probably consider picking smaller books and picking books that I had more information about. I also have totally learned that it’s okay to stop reading a book if it’s not working for you.

There are so many read-a-thons going on this year online! I’ll make a blog post in the future with a full calendar for you in case you want to participate, and I’ll share my future reading wrap-ups with you. I’ve got my sights set on tackling a 24-Hour read-a-thon next!

Book Review: An Enchantment of Ravens

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

First Line: My parlor smelled of linseed oil and spike lavender, and a dab of lead tin yellow glistened on my canvas.

Summary: Isobel lives in a land ruled by the faerie courts except that these faeries are not the pixie dust-throwing, nature-loving creatures from stories and lore. These faeries are alien, vicious, manipulative, and the only thing they love more than their own immortality is the art of Craft. Faeries cannot wield a pen, a paintbrush, a cooking spoon, or a sewing needle without disintegrating to ash. Therefore, they seek the services of artists like Isobel who will effortlessly paint their portrait. Isobel is the master of her craft and sought out by the most prestigious faeries including the powerful Autumn Prince. But when she paints human sorrow in the prince’s eyes, she infuriates him and is forced to journey to the land of Faerie to suffer the consequences.

High Points: The best part of this story is the writer’s use of language. This book is for readers who love a good metaphor. The writer paints such a vivid and magical image of this world, and its flowery and sophisticated prose will sweep you off your feet and right into the enchanted land of the Fae. This book is also excellent for artists, especially painters. Isobel loves her craft and prides herself on its perfection. The way she processes her art is fascinating and gripped me through the story.

Low Points: This book has two main flaws for me; distraction and “insta-love.” The book tends to distract itself with its own metaphors and artistry to the point that the actual plot gets muddled at times. The middle portion of the book is primarily a journey story in which the characters are traveling from one place to the next in the faery world. At times I found myself asking why they were going somewhere in the first place. The book also suffers from the “insta-love” curse meaning the main character, Isobel, and the Autumn Prince fall in love much too quickly. It’s a typical trope in young adult fiction and over time, I began to feel for their relationship, but it took most of the book for me to accept it.

FYI: This book is a stand-alone young adult novel, a rarity in the genre. I read half of this book and listened to the other half on audio and highly recommend the audiobook experience.

Book Review – The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The First Line: Asha lured the dragon with a story.

Summary: In a land where stories are poisonous and lure fire-breathing dragons, Asha, the daughter of the dragon king, is the most feared dragon hunter in Firgaard. As a child, Asha was addicted to telling the ancient stories of her people despite their power to call the dragons. When Asha’s storytelling brings a dragon to her village, killing hundreds and permanently scaring her, Asha is deemed the Isakari, the epitome of a cursed and corrupted god. But when Asha is charged to hunt and kill the greatest dragon of all, she unlocks buried secrets about her past. Joined by her dagger-throwing cousin, a mysterious slave, and the stories of the gods, Asha’s quest for freedom and redemption challenge everything she knows about her world and herself.

Highlights: This book is epic! From the amazing, axe-wielding main character to the unique world view and social structure of Firgaard to the intense fight scenes with giant, fearsome dragons, this book has everything you could want in a fantasy story. Storytelling is vital to this world, and the author makes that prevalent by including ancient stories in between the chapters of the book. These stories read like myths or fables and are just as intriguing as the present-day tale. What also sets The Last Namsara apart from a traditional fantasy narrative is Asha’s journey from resistance to acceptance. Firgaard upholds a rigid slave order with a sect of people who are collared and treated as less than human. Through Asha’s story, she finds herself connecting with a particular slave and sympathizing with his struggles. The villains in this story are so enticing. Asha is engaged to Jarek, the commandant of the Firgaard army, and his harshness and possessiveness are delightfully terrible. Of course, what also makes this story so epic are the dragons with their great, powerful wings, poisonous fire-breath, and an affinity for storytelling!

Lowlights: While I absolutely adored this book, some might find it a little confusing in the first fifty pages or so because of the unique terminology of the class system. Specific groups of people, such as the slaves, are called skrals, and the soldiers are called soldats which both took some getting used to. I had also wished there was a map of the world in the book to be used as a reference when the author describes other lands or areas within Firgaard. In the beginning, Asha was incredibly cold toward a slave and while she does eventually warms up to him, some readers might find that she takes a little too long. Readers also may find it difficult to keep the old stories and legends straight, particularly about the gods Namsara and Iskari. However, within one hundred pages, I found that all of these things were quickly rectified, and the story flowed incredibly well.

FYI: This book will be a part of a companion trilogy with the next two books having different main characters. Asha and her company will be featured as side characters. The next book is set to release in 2018.

The author, Kristen Ciccarelli, also filmed a beautiful video about her journey to writing The Last Namsara while sculpting a dragon mug from scratch! Check it out here on YouTube!

Fantasy Series for Magic Tree House Fans

The Kingdom of Wrenly Series by Jordan Quinn

If you’ve ever stepped onto the grounds of a Renaissance Faire, you know the thrill of seeing armored knights jousting on war horses, kings and queens reveling in court gossip, and sacred fairies and elves shouting at you from treetops. All of this and more can be found in the amazing young reader series, The Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn!

I am a sucker for a good middle-grade series, especially one that captivates the imagination while still being both accessible to new readers and not watered down in plot or character development for the sake of younger audiences. The Kingdom of Wrenly series is as rich as the fantasy worlds of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but with a tone that is both exciting and comforting.

Prince Lucas is the son of the King and Queen of the realm of Wrenly, a land of wizards and mermaids, fairies and gnomes. Along with his best friend Clara and his pet dragon, Riskin, Lucas has many adventures in Wrenly from battling a giant sea monster to stopping a witch’s curse.

Each book contains a map of the realm of Wrenly!!

The series has 12 books so far (we have 11 and the 12th one is on its way) and while the books are best read in order, readers can jump around without missing too much. Each book is like an “episode” in the world Wrenly and follows Lucas and Clara on an adventure that shows a new part of the fantastical realm. The books are on average 100 pages in length and each page has an amazing illustration or graphic to break up the text. The books are in the same writing style and format as the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne and excellent for readers who are ready for both chapter books and a beginner level fantasy series. If your reader is looking for a series that is both accessible and entertaining, I would highly recommend the Kingdom of Wrenly series!

P.S. If you would like additional activities about the Kingdom of Wrenly, check out the publisher’s website for the series, www.kingdomofwrenly.com for coloring sheets, a word search, quizzes, and more!

 

Book Series like Downton Abbey for Kids

Secrets of the Manor Book One: Beth’s Story by Adele Whitby

Before Game of Thrones ignited our TVs with swords fights, dragons, and bloody battles, another television show was charming audiences across the globe. In 2010, Downton Abbey made everyone, including me, wish to be British. From sipping tea in the parlor to donning glamorous early 20th century dresses at parties to Maggie Smith’s snappy comebacks, the world of Downton inspired us with stories of lords and earls and the secret world of the servants below the stairs. When the show ended its sixth and final season in 2015, I definitely felt a Britain-sized hole in my daily life until I found the most wonderful book series that any BBC fanatic would enjoy.

We have all eight books available at the library!

The Secrets of the Manor series by Adele Whitby is best described as a Downton Abbey story told by the children of the era.  The series, written for 4th – 7th graders but great for any age, starts with the Chatswood family at Chatswood Manor. The series spans across England, the United States, and France with each book revealing hidden family secrets about love, betrayal, and power.

Beth’s Story, set in 1914,  is the first book in the series.

Beth’s Story, the first in the series, follows the great-granddaughter of the family matriarch as she prepares for her twelfth birthday and the gifting of the coveted family heirloom, the sapphire Elizabeth Necklace. When Beth’s lady’s maid is accused of a terrible crime, Beth embarks on a quest through both the manor and her own family history to clear her name. The series continues on to tell the story of Beth’s cousin, Kate, their great-grandmothers Elizabeth and Katherine, and Beth and Kate’s children.

This series will delight any historical fiction lover or even a reluctant reader in search of some adventure, travel, and friendship. The series would be an excellent read-aloud story for the whole family or a great choice for school projects. Of course, the series is also excellent for adult readers seeking a quick but engaging read.

There are a few downsides to the series that I should point out. While each book could act as a stand-alone, it is best to read them in order. Many of the main characters traditionally have the same name, but use nicknames to distinguish them among each other. Despite the book including a family tree, the names of the characters and how they are related can get confusing. The series also ends abruptly at book 8 and the author Adele Whitby must be a pseudonym with no means of contacting her. I became so obsessed with the series that I actually tried contacting the publishers to ask if they’ll release more books, but I haven’t heard back from anyone. If I do, I’ll definitely let you know!

Despite these minor issues, the Secrets of the Manor series is a remarkable collection of stories set in an enchanting place and time. Laced with history, family drama, and warmth, the series is sure to delight you and make you crave a cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

Teen Film Crew Premieres Short Film Finding Sporky

*This post was written by the videographer/unit publicist of Specific Ocean Studios, the Summer 2017 Teen Moviecraft production crew*

Videographer/Unit Publicist Stephanie Bradshaw

My name is Stephanie Bradshaw, and I am the videographer and unit publicist for this summer’s Teen Moviecraft Program. Our team joined together this summer to create a film production crew dubbed Specific Ocean Studios, and together we have worked for seven weeks to create our short film, Finding Sporky. Finding Sporky was written by Carolynn Bradshaw and John Goodner and directed by Leah Khanu and Natalie Knowles. Our film is about a boy named John who throws a party when his little brother Jimmy swallows a spork, and his parents have to take him to the hospital. During the party things go horribly wrong when Steve the Spoon attacks with his army of household items like the Gangster Knives! This film has been a lot of fun to make, and it’s been great getting to see everyone work in their different jobs including set designer, special FX, costume and makeup designer and more.

Capturing the magic!

In between filming behind-the-scenes clips and taking pictures, I had the chance to talk to the co-directors about our film.

What is your expectation for the film?

Directors: Even though we know there may be some bumps in the road, we hope that everything goes smoothly and that our film turns out to be great. We hope that it turns out to be something that we can all be proud of.

I also interviewed the screenwriters of our film, Carolynn Bradshaw and John Goodner.

Joel Hileman, Carolynn Bradshaw, and Sophia Edmonson filming a scene

How did you come up with the story?

Writers: At first we just had a logline (a one-sentence summary of the story), and that gave us a feel of what we were doing. We knew we had this character, John, and he would be attacked by the spoon. Then we collaborated with the team to add other household items attacking people at a party. Once that idea was fleshed out, we had Natalie and Leah bring all of these ideas together into a single vision.

Did you enjoy writing this film?

It was fun! We got together at the writer’s table with the directors, and we wrote this amazing script. We ended up laughing so much that we could barely get anything down at first. It was an experience that we’ll never forget!

How did you come up with the characters?

Grant Bliss, Gia Alicea, Kristen Bradshaw, and Kyle Duggan at the “doctor’s office!”

It just happened. I (Carolynn Bradshaw) always love coming up with characters that have personalities as crazy and different as you can imagine. These kinds of characters really fit in with our hilarious storyline.

With this film being half animated, it took a bit more time and patience to do the stop motion and puppetry. With only two hours a week for seven weeks, we at Specific Ocean Studios definitely had a lot to do, but it was so worth it to finally have our film come together. I can’t wait for you to see Finding Sporky at our Red Carpet Premiere this Friday, July 28 at 6:30PM. All community members are welcome to come watch our film, snack on some popcorn, and talk with us about our project. I hope to see you there!

Specific Ocean Studios Logo designed by our awesome graphic artists Chloe Brown, Kaia Briggs, and Kaleb Trujillo!