Readers’ Advisory book lists

Tomorrow my Readers’ Advisory course begins, making this the third time I will teach this course at St. Kate’s. What librarian could say no to teaching a fun course all about books and reading?

Because I try to pick pretty current books, people always ask me for my book lists, the many books my students will read in the course. Here are my lists for last year’s class and this year’s. (Students read two books in each category.)

2014 Book ListShiningGirls

Literary Fiction
Perfect by Rachel Joyce

The Heist by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg – mystery
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes – suspense
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – mystery/detective
Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis – cozy mystery
Cell by Robin Cook – thriller

Historical Fiction
The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye – late 19th century/early 20th century MN
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – saga/U.S. 19th century
I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe – romantic historical/U.S. Civil War
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – WWII Germany/ParisNearToYou
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris – historical thriller/19th century Paris

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – epic fantasy
Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey – mystery
Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor – short stories
Written in Red by Anne Bishop – paranormal/urban
Vicious by V. E. Schwab – superhero

Science Fiction
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – space opera
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – alternate history
Red Rising by Pierce Brown – dystopian
Influx by Daniel Suarez – techno thriller
Defenders by Will McIntosh – aliens

Graphic Novel
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (2 books) – historical/fantasyHellfighters
Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges – memoir
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Fornay – memoir
Attack on Titan 1 by Hajime Isayama – manga
Attack on Titan 2 by Hajime Isayama – manga
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks – historical
Goddamn This War! by Jacques Tardi – historical
Hinterkind, Vol. 1: The Waking World by Ian Edginton – fantasy
Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan – fantasy
Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin by Geoff Johns – superhero
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World by Greg Pak – superhero

Romance/Women’s Fiction
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan – contemporary romance
Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins – contemporary romance
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – regency romance
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle – women’s fiction/issue-driven
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi – women’s fiction/family fictionHitler

YA Crossover
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – contemporary
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – fantasy
More Than This by Patrick Ness – science fiction
Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley – historical fiction
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Gardner Berry – mystery

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber – narrative nonfiction
Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower – history/WWII
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – memoir
Gulp by Mary Roach – microhistory/science
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull – business

2015 Book List

Rose Gold by Walter Mosley – mystery/private investigator
Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis – cozy mysteryGirlTrain
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – thriller
The Stranger by Harlan Coben – suspense

Literary Fiction
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Historical Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – WWII Germany & France
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman – early 20th century New York
The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman – late 18th century England
West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan – 1930s Hollywood

Romance/Women’s Fiction
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – contemporary romanceBollywood
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – regency romance
The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes – women’s fiction/historical
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman – women’s fiction/short stories/historical
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi – women’s fiction/issue-driven

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab – alternate/parallel worlds
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – epic fantasy
Written in Red by Anne Bishop – paranormal/urban
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – mystery/urban

Science Fiction
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – space opera
The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – post-apocalypticBunker
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – time travel-ish
Lock In by John Scalzi – mystery

Young Adult Crossover
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – contemporary
More Than This by Patrick Ness – science fiction
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – historical fiction
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks – psychological thriller
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – fantasy

Dead Wake by Erik Larson – narrative nonfiction
Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization by Andrew Lawler – microhistory
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – memoir
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe – science/humorMarch

Graphic Novel
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast – memoir
Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson – superhero
Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder – superhero
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen – fantasy
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan – fantasy
March: Book One AND March: Book Two by John Robert Lewis – historical/biographical
Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 AND Vol. 2 by Hajime Isayama – manga

Happy reading!

Miss you, dad

dadI haven’t written anything here in a long time, and part of that is because I was busy planning for and teaching the Readers’ Advisory course at St. Kate’s, but the biggest reason is that my dad unexpectedly died in the middle of the summer. I haven’t wanted to write anything here until I wrote about what happened, and it’s been hard to bring myself to do that.

When I say my dad unexpectedly died, it’s really true. It was a complete shock to us. He didn’t have a deadly disease. He wasn’t sick. He wasn’t battling anything other than high blood pressure and aches and pains having to do with arthritis and his knees. It’s still hard to talk about what happened because we’re still so unsure about what caused his death.

This is kind of a long story, but enough people have wondered what happened, and it’s hard to tell the story without crying, so here goes.

On Friday, June 27, I went to my parent’s place because my mom and I were going to go to a play on Saturday evening at Theatre L’Homme Dieu. My sister Tammy and her husband Dean were also visiting that weekend and that night we had a great time playing cards. One of my favorite things to do with my family is play cards, especially Up and Down the River, and we played multiple games of that on Friday, staying up until 11:30.

My dad seemed perfectly fine that night, joking with us as he always did, even though he didn’t win at cards, which was rare. Going to bed that evening nothing was off, nothing was suspect. We all went to bed like normal, expecting nothing out of the ordinary.

At about 3:30 a.m., I was woken up by my dad screaming. I hopped out of bed and went into his room where he was sitting on the side of the bed, asking who was in the house. I tried calming him down telling him that it was just me and that no one was there. I even went into the dining room area and turned on the light to show him that no one was there. My mom said that he often had night terrors and that this was probably one of them, but then I noticed his pillow was completely wet, that he had woken up sweating, and it sounded like he was having trouble breathing. I asked him some questions and he seemed a little bit delirious, so I went to get Tammy and Dean. Dean used to be a first responder, so I wanted to grab them before calling 911 to see if they knew what might be wrong.

Not long after they came upstairs we called 911 because he was having trouble standing and breathing. They did take his blood pressure and it was fine, but there was enough wrong with him that we called 911.

When you live in the country, the ambulance is not the first to arrive. The people who arrive first are volunteer first responders who also live in the country or in the nearby small towns, so cars and pick up trucks started pulling into the driveway within 10 minutes. And my dad, like he always did, was joking with the people he knew saying things like, “Oh, no, they sent you to help me?!”

The first responders gave my dad oxygen, and after that he seemed so much better. So much so that by the time the ambulance arrived we all said we were wondering whether we should call it off, but we didn’t say anything and dad just said, “I guess I’m going for a ride,” as he hopped on the ambulance bed. He told us he’d see us at the hospital, but we didn’t realize those were the last words we’d hear him speak.

We didn’t go in the ambulance with him, but instead we took two cars – my mom was with me in mine, and Tammy and Dean were in theirs. Tammy and Dean beat us to the hospital, and when my mom and I were walking into the emergency room a “Code Blue” was broadcast over the speakers. When we got to the waiting room with Tammy and Dean we started talking about how we’d be waiting a long time because they were going to take care of the “Code Blue” patient before they got to my dad. There were three ambulances that arrived at the same time, so we assumed it had to be someone else who was having the “Code Blue.” My dad was joking with the first responders and seemed perfectly fine when he got into the ambulance, so it couldn’t be him.

It was him.

About 45 minutes after we arrived a doctor came into the waiting room telling us, “Well, we almost lost him.” The shock on our faces is something I’ll never forget. I think one of us said, “Wait, you’re talking to LeRoy Suchy’s family,” because we were certain he wasn’t talking to the right people. He had to have been accidentally giving us bad news when it was clearly meant for someone else. My dad was fine.

The doctor told us that my dad arrived at the hospital with a face as purple as the shirt I was wearing. He wasn’t breathing. They were able to help him and he was stable, but my dad was really strong and when he was coming to he was fighting them so they had to sedate and paralyze him. The doctor told us my dad’s blood pressure was good, the oxygen levels in his system were good, and he didn’t have a pulmonary embolism. He said he wasn’t sure exactly what caused it, but that they were moving my dad up to ICU and he’d probably be in the hospital for a few days.

So we were given bad news, but it ended on somewhat of a good note hearing that he’d be in the hospital for a few days. I was still nervous, but comforted thinking that there was an ending to this. That in three days we’d be taking care of him at his house.

We were told that he’d be moved into ICU in a half hour, and about a half hour later we heard another “Code Blue.” Panic set in, but my sister asked the woman sitting at the desk in the ER if the “Code Blue” was for my dad. She eased our panic because she said that LeRoy Suchy had been moved up to ICU so it couldn’t be him.

We made our way up to ICU and when we got there they wouldn’t let us in. That should’ve been a sign, but we didn’t recognize it as one at the time. They told us that they just didn’t have LeRoy ready yet so we should sit in the waiting room and they’ll come get us soon. We made our way to the waiting room and Tammy and Dean decided they should go get us some food. They got on the elevator to make their way to a gas station to get coffee, juice, and donuts, and almost as soon as the elevator door closed a doctor came into the waiting room.

As the doctor was talking, I texted Tammy to come back instantly because the news was bad. The doctor told us that my dad wasn’t going to survive in the Alexandria hospital. He wasn’t sure what was causing his body to stop breathing, but my dad had another “Code Blue” and there wasn’t much more they could do for him. He said it may be heart-related, and we could airlift him to the St. Cloud hospital for more help, but he most likely wouldn’t survive the helicopter ride. We were given the option between bad and bad.

We asked the doctor what he would do, and he said he’d get him on the helicopter, so we did. My dad had another “Code Blue” before they got him on the helicopter, and to even get him on the helicopter they had to have a machine attached to him that pumped his chest up and down. I wish I hadn’t seen that machine, because seeing it I really had no hope at that point. We all said that when we saw the machine attached to him to help him breathe, we wanted to stop them, to tell them not to take him to St. Cloud, that we would just be around him at the hospital when he passed. But it all happened so fast. We really didn’t know what to do at that point. With the doctor saying he’d get him on the helicopter, and a woman telling us that he was good as she was pushing him towards the helicopter, we remained silent and watched it happen.

I don’t have regrets about getting him on the helicopter, though. If there was a slight chance we could’ve helped him, we were going to take it, even if we didn’t have much hope left. I would’ve lived with a lot of regret if we didn’t try, so I don’t have to live with that regret. Not trying would’ve haunted me my whole life.

He did die on the helicopter. He didn’t survive the flight, but at least we got him on the helicopter. My dad liked helicopter rides, so he got a send off flying high in the skies.

When we got to the St. Cloud hospital, the doctor told us they still didn’t know what was causing him from not being able to breathe, but that it did start in his lungs. There was something in his lungs that was causing him from having trouble breathing, and with trouble breathing, he couldn’t get enough oxygen to the rest of his body and his other organs started shutting down. The doctor said the only way we’d know what caused this was if we had an autopsy, and my mom started laughing. She said, “Ha! He’d hate it if I had you poke around in there, so no, we don’t want an autopsy.” We all started laughing because he would’ve hated that, but it is hard not knowing what happened.

The doctor said it may have even been pneumonia, and when we said he wasn’t coughing or having any other symptoms, he said pneumonia can actually be a silent killer. People associate coughing and other symptoms with pneumonia, but one does not have to have those symptoms, which is why it’s so key that older people get pneumonia shots. My dad did have his pneumonia shots, but they’re just like flu shots – you can still get pneumonia.

But it may not have been pneumonia. The doctor wasn’t quite sure, so we aren’t either, and it really doesn’t matter. Something took my dad from me on June 28, 2014, and I really miss him.

As I type this I’m watching Andy Griffith episodes. I grew up watching Andy Griffith episodes with my dad, and to this day Barney Fife is still my favorite television character of all time. I have watched Andy Griffith episodes my whole life and I always think about my dad when I do. I would even call my dad to tell him when a good episode was on, like the pickle one, or the one where Opie throws a tantrum, or the one with the lady convicts, or the one my dad loved where Rafe Hollister (actor Jake Prince) sings. My dad really liked all the episodes where there was singing, whether it was from Andy, Rafe Hollister, the Darlings (bluegrass band The Dillards), or even when Barney attempted to sing, like that great choir episode. I would always call him when I saw one of those episodes was on so he wouldn’t miss it. I sure do miss calling him.

I’ll miss many things about my dad. I’ll miss playing cards, where he almost always won. I’ll miss poking and prodding him every year about what he was getting mom for Christmas, because he said they didn’t need anything, though as stubborn as he was, he’d always come around and ask me to get something. I’ll miss his sense of humor about any and everything. He always looked for a joke in any situation, which leaves us with a lot of memories where we laugh.

Though we often still cry through the laughter. I know that will change. I know there will be a time when I can tell this story and wonderful stories about his life where all I’ll do is smile and reminisce, but that time isn’t here yet. I’m not sure when that time will come, but for now, I’m okay that I’m crying as I write this and that I can’t get through certain Andy Griffith episodes without tears running down my face.

Just know that I loved my dad very much and I miss him. It aches how much I miss him. I wish you could’ve all known him because you most certainly would’ve loved him, too.

They say it’s your birthday

bday cardI am now officially closer to 40 than 30. I’m in my late 30s. Late 30s. Ouch.

It’s not that 40 is old. 40 is practically the new 20, isn’t that what they say? Every so often I think, “I still feel like I’m 25,” until I’m actually around 25-year-olds and I realize I am so not 25.

With my sisters all in their 40s, some of them close to 50, I know that 40 isn’t old. 50 isn’t old. Hell, 60 doesn’t sound old to me. It’s just that I can now see 40 from where I sit and I don’t know how I got here. I’m close to 40? How did I get to be close to 40? Isn’t my mom still 40?

Even though I’m still trying to accept my age, I rang in my birthday in a great way. My oldest sister was going to come visit me and we were going to go to a comedy club with two of my friends. Well, we did go to a comedy club with two of my friends, but my sister surprised me by bringing my two other sisters and my mom with her. I went to open my door expecting one sister and all of them were there.

I don’t do surprises well. Well, it’s not that I don’t do them well, but I wish I handled them in a much cooler way. I’m the one who is so charmed and overwhelmed by the surprise that I cry. I got an award from the president of the Minnesota Library Association and I cried. An ex-co-worker told me when I left that if I ever needed a reference he would tell anyone how amazing I was. I walked away so he wouldn’t see me cry. And when my sisters and mom surprised me for my birthday, I cried.

We went to the Chatterbox Pub, had pizza and beer, played games, and then we headed to the comedy club with my friends and laughed the night away. It was a pretty good way to ring in my birthday, but I’m still closer to 40 than 30. Sigh.

(Picture = a birthday card from a friend. On the inside it read: “No reason. Happy birthday!”)

Couple of reviews

I reviewed a couple of books lately, both which were a disappointment. One I can still say I liked because there were many redeeming qualities, but the other was just pure crap.

crane wifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife is Patrick Ness’ return to adult fiction after writing some amazing young adult fiction I have loved.

In The Crane Wife, Ness updates the old Japanese folktale of a crane returning a favor to a helpful man. You can read a summary of the old folktale on Wikipedia, but I suggest you ignore it and dive into Ness’ novel because it is richer than the tale, even if it doesn’t completely come together.

In Ness’ version, shop owner George, an American living in London, is awoken late one evening to a strange cry coming from his garden. Upon investigating, …more

thecircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle by Dave Eggers reminds me of Albert Brooks’ 2030 – a soapbox set around flat characters.

In Eggers’ novel we follow Mae, a young, new employee at The Circle, a technology company that’s pretty much like Google, Facebook, PayPal, and Wikileaks in one. We’re told at the beginning that The Circle has actually put companies like that out of business, so think of them as even larger than Google and a permanent staple in everyday life.

At The Circle, transparency is a big deal. …more

Ebooks & more

Today was the last day of teaching my short, J term (January term) Ebook Technology course at St. Kate’s. It’s a course designed to give students a basic introduction to ebooks and ereaders in libraries and it was on Saturdays from 8am-1pm. I know. 8am. On a Saturday. And the students always made it on time. Probably because I brought those awesome pastry rings from Panera.

No, really, it was a fun course full of good students where we talked about all the issues libraries have with ebooks.

If you’re a non-library person, do you realize what libraries are dealing with, specifically when it comes to popular fiction and non-fiction?

Libraries pay way more for ebooks than you do. Sometimes 300%+ more than you do.

Or, if we don’t pay more, after the book is checked out 26 times we no longer own it.

Or, no matter how many times the book is checked out, after one year we no longer own it.

To read more about these publisher restrictions and more, this Forbes article sums is up perfectly – You’ll Need a PhD To Make Sense of the Pricing Schemes Publishers Impose on Libraries.

There are a lot of other issues we went over in my course, like what ebooks look like in school, public and academic libraries, consortial deals, alternatives from libraries, ebook and ereader statistics and future predictions, and more. My students then gave reports on items we could only touch upon, like accessibility issues, DRM, and self-published ebooks, and they did a great job.

With such a short course, everything is just a basic introduction, hopefully giving the students enough background for when they dive into a job or have a discussion about ebooks. One student questioned why this course isn’t semester-long, because there is definitely enough to talk about, many things I could never get to in such a short course, but with the rapidly changing landscape of ebooks a semester-long course would probably be outdated by the end of it.

So Ebook Technology is done (well, I still have to grade) and now I’m moving onto my next endeavor or two.

The first: I’ll be doing a There’s an App for That course in public libraries around the metro. It’s a two-hour course for public library patrons focusing on free apps for business. I’ll be doing this about ten different times in the next few months and I’m really excited to present this information to public library patrons, which is new for me.

The second: I think I may be teaching the Readers’ Advisory Services course at St. Kate’s this summer. I taught this course last year at St. Kate’s and it was so much fun. What book-loving librarian doesn’t like to talk books? I need to start reading a ton of books to figure out my booklist.

I keep saying yes to things because I just love having these experiences. Some days I’m tired; some days I question why I keep saying yes. But overall, I love learning and trying new things and these have been great experiences. Remind me I said that if I complain about being too busy.

Doctor Sleep

Doctor SleepDoctor Sleep is the sequel I never thought I wanted.

I was a teenager, somewhere around fourteen, when I read The Shining. I was on a Dean Koontz teen horror kick and I figured I better try the so-called King of horror. The Shining was way scarier than anything I read by Koontz. The idea of being snowed in and unable to leave an old, haunted, abandoned hotel, the gruesome ghosts, the topiary that moved, the dad turning against the family, all of this scared the crap out of me.

Another scary thing was the son, Danny. Danny was a five-year-old who had secret psychic powers, the shine, that made him very intriguing to the hotel’s ghosts. Through Danny is where we see the brunt of the supernatural beings and this poor little kid has to fight them and then eventually his dad.

Doctor Sleep is all about grown-up Danny, or Dan as he’s known in his thirties, and Dan’s not doing too well. A full-blown alcoholic and one step away from being homeless, Dan seems hopeless until he hits a really low point in a cocaine-induced haze. Scared with what he did, Dan moves to a different part of the country and gets help from some new friends, one of them being a 12-year-old girl, Abra, who has the same psychic powers he does, though hers are much more powerful.

But Doctor Sleep isn’t all about Dan and Abra. There’s also the True Knot, a group of traveling vampire-like gypsies who have been around for centuries feasting on the souls, or the steam, of the shining. When these gypsies set their sights on Abra, Dan once again has to fight.

This was a great sequel, but even with a spooky band of soul-sucking gypsies, Doctor Sleep is not as scary as The Shining. It’s really not scary at all. People expecting as much terror as in The Shining will not find it, but what they will find is a fabulous character-driven thriller, with a splash of the supernatural, that is really emotional and moving at times.

The moving parts come with Dan, both when he’s overcoming his alcoholism and when he’s working in hospice care. Part of Dan’s sobriety is how he channels his shine. Instead of drinking it away, Dan uses it to help comfort the dying. Some of these scenes are incredibly touching and not what I expected with a sequel to The Shining.

When it comes to horror novels, I prefer The Shining to Doctor Sleep, but Doctor Sleep has a leg up on character development and compassion where we can really see where King has grown. Some of the scariest things in life aren’t the supernatural, but are in purely human moments, like death and the way we handle relationships and problems put in our path. This is where Doctor Sleep shines and why I would recommend this book. I liked the True Knot and the clever ways Dan and Abra fight against them, but it’s not why this was so good. This was good because it was an intimate, well-developed look at Dan and who he has become.

This was the sequel I didn’t need but I’m so glad I got.

Originally reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

Girl Power playlist

Spotify is now free!

Well, Spotify was always free, but only on computers. It’s now free on mobile devices, too. No subscription required to use the apps for phones and tablets.

I’ve been making more Spotify playlists because of this, and of course I had to make a Girl Power playlist. Enjoy!