Friday, July 25, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel Robin Sloan

When Clay is downsized out of his web design job, he gets a job as the night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore that has a weird backlist--books written entirely in code. The only main customers are ones who come in with a secret code, return one of the backlist titles and ask for another. Only those with the code can access the backlist and Clay has to write an extensive journal entry about it. In order to impress a cute girl from Google (and to stay entertained) Clay decides to do a 3D data map of the journals and he discovers that there’s a pattern to what books are being asked for, and the pattern makes a face. He and his tech friends then try to get computers to decode the books, which sets off an adventure and a discovery of a secret ancient society that they’re about to seriously disrupt.

On one level it’s a good exploration of old v new, print v tech, in the book world, with no real answers. On the other, it’s a fun read with romance, adventure, and a side-kick. I like how Clay actively recruits a side-kick and a wizard from his friends as they go on their quest (he reserves the role of rogue for himself.) And a good dose of poking fun of the early Millenials/late Gen-Xers of San Fransisco. There’s a lot of food for thought, but in a way that’s not heavy.

I loved it.

Oh, also, an Outstanding Book for the College Bound. And the cover glows in the dark.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dead Man's Knock

The Unwritten Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly

So, there’s a new Tommy Taylor book coming, and it’s terrible. But will Wilson Taylor show, or is this just a cabal ploy to get to Tom? Either way, this is one book release party with a body count.

Also, who is Lizzie? Is she really escaped from Dickens?

And here’s where I started to get a better sense of what, exactly is happening in this world, and it wasn’t really what I thought it would be, which is awesome. I like how it explores Lizzie’s backstory with a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type issue (although it was really hard to read by booklight!)

Oh, and Richie becomes a vampire.

It's hard to talk about this one without giving it all away. But mostly, this is the one where it starts to make sense and where I really started getting into the series.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Strobe Edge

Strobe Edge Io Sakisaka

I’m just going to review this entire (finished) series because I devoured them all together and it’s too hard for me to separate out each volume, especially as the review part (as opposed to the plot summary part) would basically be a copy/paste job from one volume to the next.

All the girls at Ninako’s school are in love with the quiet and elusive (and totally hot) Ren, but he’s turned them all down. Ninako doesn’t get it, until she ends up next to him on the train home one day. They end up together on the train a lot and become friends, until Ninako’s feelings turn to something more.

Ren rejects Ninanko romantically, because he already has a girlfriend, but the two stay friends as she tries to quash her feelings. Meanwhile, Ren’s former best friend has come to their school and falls for Ninanko. She likes Ando as a friend, but can’t return his love.

I loved Ninanko. She was a little hyper and a lot of fun. She's a bit taken aback when guys like her, but not because of a "but I'm so plain and boring" thing we usually see, but more that she's been too busy being awesome and having fun that she hasn't really noticed guys in that way before, so she's a bit bemused that guys have been noticing her. but she's a great friend and has a good outlook on life--it's not hard for the reader (and her friends) to see why guys like her.

I also like that she actually liked Ren in a way we don’t often see. So halfway through the series, Ren and his girlfriend break up (for reasons I won’t spoil). Everyone tells Ninanko to go for it because now’s her chance, but she doesn’t, because she see Ren’s hurting and he needs her as a friend right then. She really did understand Ren (because they were actual friends) and her love for him isn’t selfishly focused on her--it’s genuine love for him.

I also liked the depth that Sakisaka was able to give to some of the side characters (something you can do over 10 volumes). There are a few bonus stories at the end of volumes that often deal with side characters or something that happened before the series began.

In her many intro letters, Sakisaka says she wanted to capture that heady feeling of falling in love and that moment everything could change (she called the series strobe edge because she compares the feeling to being on the edge of a strobe light, which I really like.) Overall, I think she really succeeds. The series does drag a bit in the middle, which is something I may not have noticed if I hadn’t been binge-reading.

One thing I noticed with this series that I haven’t seen with others* is that we get a lot of letters from the author--both at the start of each volume, but also some random sidebars. I thought it was a fun touch and a behind-the-scenes look at her process and life.

Overall, a fun series that I enjoyed. (Also, shout-out to Drea, who when I asked her which of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens I should read first, pointed me in this direction. THANK YOU DREA!)

*Not that I’ve read a lot of other manga, especially shojo, this just might be a new thing for me

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue Tom Angleberger

When we last saw our origami alliance, fighting against the FunTime(™) menace, Rabbski had promised to “look into it” but it’s been weeks and nothing has changed. But this time, someone has taken the case file and given it to Principal Rabbski. With her own origami finger puppet.

Yes, Principal Rabbski IS Princess Leia (what?!). Whoever gave the case file to Rabbski knows that she did not force FunTime(™) on the school--she’s another victim, but whoever did it also knows that the case file is the only way for Rabbski to see that the Rebel Alliance isn’t fighting this just to fighting this, but to show they they have very real concerns and they’re trying to address in the most responsible way they can.

As we saw with Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, this is a series that continues to grow really well and is just getting consistently stronger, which I didn’t think possible, but bam! there it is. I also like how it explored the deeper issue. The kids (and I think most of target-audience readers) would see this thing as imposed by Rabbski, because she's the highest authority they see, but she answers to someone else, and it's a good lesson/reminder that when it comes to educational policy, not a lot of it is set at the school level. (Also, I LOVE the tweets from the actors in FunTime(™).)

Oh... coming out in a few weeks is Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, the LAST book in the series.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time of Your Life

Time of Your Life (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 4) Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, Jeff Loeb

Ok, so somehow I skipped reviewing this one.

Buffy and Willow are trying to figure out the scythe and Buffy somehow* ends up propelled into the future, where once again, there is only 1 slayer a generation. Buffy’s trying to figure out where everything went wrong to get back to that point (plus, how to get home) but she’s walking into a trap of a Big Bad that we’ve seen before. This time though, the ending is devastating. (This is also apparently a crossover with Fray, which is a Whedon comic I’ve never read, so I can’t speak to how to works on that side, but if you didn’t know it was a crossover, you’d never be able to tell.)

Meanwhile, back in the present, Twilight attacks the Scottish fortress that Buffy and Co. have the hanging out in.

It was a weird diversion of a comic because even though Twilight attacks, it still seems a little more “Monster of the Week” rather than over-reaching story arc. But, as I write this, I have read the rest of this season (heck, I even have the reviews written for the rest) and I can see its place a little more. Something I’ll start pointing out more is that overall, this season deals really well with the consequences of Buffy’s actions. And this gives Buffy a glimpse of the long-term consequences and she has to try to figure out how her future actions may mitigate going back to a “chosen one” Slayer lifestyle. That said, this is probably the weakest volume in Season 8.

*mystical magical convergence oddities

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hypothetical Box Curator: Summer Reading

If I had a subscription box service, this month's theme would be Summer Reading, and here's what you would get:



Personal Library Kit so you can lend your favorites to your friends in style (and know who to bug to get them back!)



This Superfudge shirt from Out of Print Clothing to wear your reading pride, even when you aren't actually reading.



This "Feeling Austentatious" tote bag from the awesome people at Forever Young Adult so you can tote your books to your favorite summer reading spot.



Moleskine Book Journal to help keep track of everything you read.



Two Moons in August by Martha Brooks-- a perfect summer book that I reread every summer.

Check out the Pinterest board for more Summer Reading Goodness!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Keeping Organized

I am a complete and utter scatter brain, but I have a lot of responsibility and stuff to do in my professional and personal life. Organization is the only way I stay on top of things and am at all functional.

A few weeks ago, the #readadv chat was on how we stay organized. People were pretty interested in each other's systems and wanted more in-depth info than Twitter really allows. Kelly kicked off some posts here for people to share their systems.

People seemed especially interested in Bullet Journaling, which is my personal system. Here's how I do it. (Followed by why it works for me, and how I organize my reading and blogging, too.)

When I was working and in grad school, I swore by the BusyBodyBook planner, but they no longer make them. I loved the columns for different aspects of my life (work/school/blog/LIFE) and I tried a few other things since then, but nothing that I loved as much. I started doing Bullet Journaling this spring and LOVE IT.

So, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of Bullet Journaling, read all about it here or watch this video.

One of the things I love about this system is that it's very flexible. It's incredibly easy to modify it to fit your needs. I don't like how he does calendars, because I need the visual of a typical calendar, so I printed some out and taped them in:


Also, I need to do a certain amount of pre-planning, so I do a few months at a time, and then have another list for events further out. The calendar print-outs are a free download from the Organised Housewife. I like that they have the to-do list on the side of monthly things. I also have a "master to-do" list for things I'm thinking about (like winter holiday presents I want to make, or very long-range projects that are still percolating, or little things that don't have a definite timeline like scheduling a fall dentist appointment.)

I also use a modified version of this key:


(I found it on Pinterest and it doesn't link to anywhere. Does anyone know who created this key? It's GENIUS and I'd love to give full credit.) The big thing I modify is, much like a c and e in the box for "call"/"email" I have a t for "text" and an r for "review" I especially love the half-filled box for things I worked on, but didn't finish. I do break projects into smaller steps, and do that in my journal, but it some steps just take a really long time. I also use the half-shaded box for things I need feedback on, like I needed to talk to someone, but they weren't in, so I just left them a voice mail. The half box lets me know that I may need to follow-up and try again later, but I don't need to worry about it for awhile.

Here's my page from yesterday:


You'll see some other things I modify on my daily pages. I the bottom I have section called "5 things" where I try to write down 5 good things about the day, every day. This is really helpful in combating some of my own personal negativity. I also track my water intake.

For all of this, I use extra-large Moleskine Cahier with gridded paper The extra-large gives me enough room each day, and the gridded paper just lends it self really well to all my to-do squares. I like the cahier because it has a soft cover, which makes it easier to decorate. I embroidered my current one:


To mark important pages, such as the master list, and the current daily page, I use large colored paperclips, as they're easy to move around and won't rip off in my purse:


I change pen colors every day, so I know if notes were made on the same day, or later. My currently into the Le Pen, because it's a slim line felt-tip that won't leak through a thin Moleskine page and comes in good colors. I also like the Sharpie Fine Point Pen for similar reasons (but it's harder to wash off when you accidentally draw on yourself. Not that I ever do that. Nope. Not me.)

So, this system works for me because it combines everything into one place that I can easily move around with me. My meeting notes are next to my schedule and easy to find again to follow up on. I can easily write down hilarious things my daughter said and other things that happened in a day. I can add in pages for projects or brainstorming that are easily accessible. I like that one days I'm not doing anything, I don't have to make a page--I don't have random blank pages or "wasted" space.I like that I can change it whenever I need or want to. The table of contents at the beginning is so basic, but it works SO WELL. I know some people don't like having to number the pages, but I just do it every time I make a new page--no big deal. I really like the key system because it's neater than crossing something off while still having the same level of satisfaction. It also works really well with the GTD system of time-management (I don't do full GTD, but I do parts of it, including just doing tasks that are under 2 minutes, and breaking down projects into steps and only worrying about the one in front of you.)

I also do Inbox 0 at work. It keeps me from missing important messages and quickly shows me what needs to be done. I don't do this at home.

I also have an entire Pinterest board for this subject, full of ideas and things for planners and organizing (including awesome sticky notes and notebooks).

Now, how do I track my reading and reviewing? Like I mentioned above, I modified the key so there's a symbol for call, email, text, and review. I try to review library books before they're due back and am pretty good about it. I try to review books I own shortly after reading, with less success. I tend not to schedule my reviews or review to a date unless I'm reviewing for someone else (RT Book Reviews and School Library Journal have deadlines, for instance) or a blog tour. Deadlines go on the calendar and get exclamation points on the daily list.

I keep track of my reading in a notebook. I have them dating back to spring of 2006 and printed lists going back to 2003, but wish I had kept track of stuff previous to that! Here's what my notebook looks like:


It's pretty simple. Month, title, author. A check mark once it's been reviewed on the blog, or the review has been linked to on the blog.

To do more in-depth review tracking, I use a Google spreadsheet that I update every few months.


Month and year help me cross-reference with the paper book. You'll see I'm full of typos and shorthand for titles--as long as I know what book I'm referring to, I'm good. Then there's the column I can mark if a review has been written. I have a giant Google doc for reviews. I then edit/update/polish when I paste them into Blogger to preschedule/post. Then I have a notes field, where I can write when things are prescheduled for (if it's further out than the next week or two--I use this a lot with ARCs as I tend to post reviews on pub date or only a day or two before), if it's a review that's posting elsewhere, if it's a committee book so reviews need to be held, or modified, or just not done (depends on the committee regulations/policies), if I have notes on it but no review, etc etc etc. It's pretty basic, but it does what I need it to do. Once a review is posted, I delete that line, so the sheet ONLY tracks outstanding reviews.

So, that's how I do it. I'd be happy to answer any questions!


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Monday, July 07, 2014

The Taming of the Tights

The Taming of the Tights Louise Rennison

Tallulah is back at school, ready to put Cain and the kissing behind her. Even if Charlie has a girlfriend. She also has bigger issues--Dother Hall is still very financially unstable and while it’s not in danger of closing, it is very much in danger of falling down. And while Sidonie recognizes Tallulah’s talent, not everyone else does and the more she tries to prove herself, the more hilariously she fails in the eyes of her teachers (but never to us, dear reader.) And there is still the Cain thing. Tallulah may be willing to ignore the kissing, but Cain has no problem telling others about it.

I love Tallulah and her craziness. I like that only some of her drama is self-invented. I love the insanity that is Dother Hall and the Dobbinses and the Tree Sisters and her fun size pal and the crazy dog Ruby. Overall, very hilariously funny. I don’t think it gets near as much love as Georgia, which is too bad.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick

Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Suzie works at a library that’s about to be foreclosed on. While at a fundraising party to try to save it, she meets a guy she likes and they sleep together. It’s only in the afterglow that Suzie discovers that Jon shares her secret--after orgasms, time stops until she’s ready to go again. When she sleeps with Jon, they’re in trapped time together (she calls it The Quiet. He calls it Cumworld.) Jon works at the bank that’s foreclosing on Suzie’s library and hates it. So… why not make the best of their talents in order to rob the bank so they can give the money back in the form of the library’s mortgage payment?

My brother-in-law has a comic book store and last time I was visiting them, my sister was SO EXCITED about this series, so I was excited when the omnibus showed up.

I love the premise and it’s executed so well. Suzie narrates and it goes between the present and the past, and how she figured out about The Quiet. It’s really funny and a great introduction to a world that I want to know more about (Jon and Suzie aren’t the only ones with this talent, and they will get caught breaking the rules, even if time is standing still.) I also love the artwork when time’s standing still, so you know what’s going on. But most of all, I love Suzie. I love that she robs banks to save her library. I love her voice. I love the idea of her as a librarian. She isn't mousey and quiet, isn't too in-your-face cool. She is very cool, and very committed to books and research and helping people who came in to find their information--reminds me of a lot of the librarians I know and love. It was nice to see in pop culture.

I also like the back matter for this one. In addition to the regular offerings of page/cover sketches and rejects that we usually get in omnibus back matter, this had some great stuff on process, and the complete brain-storm list of made up positions.

Obviously, with this premise, it’s an adult title. But while the gimmick is lewd, the execution is beautiful and the actual story is worth digging into--there’s definitely some there there.

Cannot wait to read more.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy Elizabeth Kiem

Marina may be a teen in the Soviet Union, but her mother is the country’s premier prima ballerina, so her family lives in privilege. Marina herself trains for the Bolshoi. Like her mother, she sometimes sees visions. These visions cause problems when, on the eve of Breshnev’s death, her mother sees something she shouldn’t--one of the USSR’s dark secrets about testing biological weapons* that gets her taken away.

Suddenly, it’s not safe anymore. Marina and her father must leave quickly, and end in Brighton Beach where her scientist father struggles to find a job and a way to rescue his wife. All Marina wants to do is dance, and her father is convinced this will help him make contact with the KGB so they can negotiate. Meanwhile, he gets tangled in with the Russian Mob as Marina tries to lead a normal life in a new country while fearing for her father’s safety and sanity.

I really liked this one and Marina’s father’s mental descent. You could see why he thought the things he thought, while still seeing how wrong they were. I liked how the romance was handled. Marina likes Ben, whose parents also escaped the USSR, but he has a girlfriend, Lindsay. Marina and Lindsay are also friends, and while it’s complicated, and slightly heartbreaking, it’s not overly dramatic and the way the characters handled it made me really like and respect them. Lindsay often didn’t know what she was talking about, especially when it came to the KGB and the Mob, but she was a really good friend and a great character.

I do think it needs an end note. Teens today don’t understand Soviet communism and the Cold War. (And trying to explain the terror of the Cold War to kids who’ve grown up in a world of terrorism and suicide bombers is really heart-breakingly hard.) Heck, when this came out a librarian only a few years younger than me was confused about what was so scary about that time. I also wanted to know if the testing episode that Marina’s mother knew about was real. It’s real in the book and seems more than plausible to me. A quick google doesn’t turn anything up, but was it based on other incidents?

I’m also not sure the paranormal psychic-vision thing was necessary. It was the lynch-pin as to why Marina’s mother was taken, and Marina’s visions added some moody foreshadowing, but there might have been another way for Marina’s mother to find out about the testing and made the book straight historical fiction, which would have made it stronger. 99% of the book is realistic historical fiction, and it’s tricky, because it’s a time period that many adults (read: parents and other gatekeepers) remember living through, but many readers (read: teens) don’t know much about, and the 1% that is paranormal makes the rest of the story easier to dismiss as “pure fiction.”

Overall though, I did really like it. It’s hard to go wrong with something that involves the KGB, the FBI, the Russian mob, and ballet. And, as someone who has very vivid memories of the end of the Cold War, I am loving all the YA fiction we’re seeing now about it. (Plus, not a book, and not for teens, but let’s just think for a minute how awesome The Americans is.)


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.