The Ballroom

Hi Guys,

My most recent read was one of those where the cover struck me and I just had to pick it up. I read the synopsis and poof this one went to the top of my to read pile and boy was I glad it did.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope begins in 1911 on the Yorkshire moors and largely takes place on a huge estate, used as an asylum. In this asylum men and women are segregated, only coming in contact once a week in the ballroom. Every Friday, the asylum has a dance. The patients who have been good all week are allowed to attend.

The story follows three perspectives: Ella, a new member of the women’s ward, John, a member of the men’s ward, and Charles, one of the head doctors of the estate. Ella and John have this intense connection and they kindle it through their dancing and via letters they exchange in secret. Charles, on the other hand is obsessed with John and his obsession turns dark quickly.

This is a story about what it means to be in an asylum during the Edwardian era. Love, obsession, madness and the politics of the time propel this novel forward. Will Ella and John ever be free of the asylum and will their connection survive it’s trials? Will Charles embrace eugenics and will his infatuations break him entirely?

This book was just fascinating. Getting an inside view of what was and wasn’t considered “crazy” at a time where discussions of sterilization of the poor were seriously considered, made for a dark intricate telling. This was a book that I thought about for days after.

I loved that even though there was this romance that spurred two sides of the story, the book wasn’t really about the romance, it was instead a vessel for freedom and a push-back against the societal norms of the time. Ella and John have this bond but equally important to them both is freedom and second chances.

The men of this story where so layered and there was this desperation to their narration that kept you on edge. Charles seemed like he’d be this fluff of a side character but instead his is probably the most intricate of all. And John’s outward appearance vs. his inner voice, shows how he has pushed through depression and finally come “alive.”

This book just talks to so much of what that time period was like… segregation and the difference in being a man or a woman in the asylum, homophobia, depression, eugenics, poor vs. rich, and so much more.

The Ballroom was dark and yet there was this light pushing through that kept you grounded. This is an adult book and I think it could reach a wide range of readers. 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Vassa in the Night

Hi Guys,

I finished the most interesting book the other day, a book that felt so original it was refreshing.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter is a modern retelling of a classic Russian folktale. In Brooklyn the days are short and the nights are long… like really long, almost never ending. In Vassa’s little pocket of Brooklyn magic is real but smart girls steer clear of it. Vassa may be smart but she is also reckless and restless and she finds her way into magical trouble that doesn’t want to let her go.

Vassa finds herself “employed” by a convenience store named BY’s, known for its dancing jingle and beheading shoplifters. Vassa must survive three endless nights and navigate impossible tasks or risk losing her own head. But Vassa has a good luck charm up her sleeve.

Erg is a wooden doll with quite an attitude and a voracious hunger. But Erg has ulterior motives and Vassa is conflicted and confused. What Vassa does know, is that BY’s is wrong and if she is going to die anyway, then she is going to go down fighting. Can Vassa survive the convenience store from hell? Will she uncover Erg’s secrets? And will night ever end?

Vassa in the Night is so weirdly original that I couldn’t put it down. At the same time, I wanted to stop reading and find the Russian folktale just to see what matched up and what didn’t.

This book was a dark fairytale, with severed limb, bizarro dreams, magical beings and more. And yet, I found it really easy to read. Even though the story was complex and there were many a “wtf” moments, it wasn’t a hard or confusing read. This is hard to do when the book is supposed to leave you questioning until the end, but it succeeds. It was also suspenseful and well paced.

I didn’t really care for Vassa one way or another but I enjoyed the rest of the characters immensely, especially the two lawyers and even the severed hands. Now that I think of it, there were a lot of details in this book that I wanted to actually see. I’d love to see an artists interpretation of this book in a graphic novel. Seems like just the right kind of weird for something like that.

Overall, this was an entertaining read. This book is targeted to teens. There is some violence but then what doesn’t have violence these days. And the violence almost feels abstract, like you are watching it happen through several filters. A fun read in my opinion, so it gets 4.5 stars. Time to go find the folktale!

That’s all for now!

-M-

DIY Spinners

Hi Guys,

On days the kids in our county have off from school, my library plans No School Activities. These can be movies, crafts, game days, activities. Today’s No School Activity was actually planned to coincide with the Maryland STEM Festival.fun-spinners-craft-for-kids-to-do-this-summer-900x1359

The Maryland STEM Festival is a ten day long collaborative effort by schools, science
centers, libraries and more to provide science, technology, engineering and math based activities to Maryland communities. This is my library’s second year being part of the STEM festival.

This year we did a STEM craft incorporating force, motion and optical illusion. Thanks to makeandtakes and agirlwithagluegun we made our own DIY spinners.

First thing I did was gather my supplies: cardboard, paper, glue sticks, scissors, hold punch, rope cording (knitting string will work), and crayons. For my kids, which tend to run younger no matter how high you put the age limit, I pre-cut and pre-hole punched the cardboard.

20161107_135514I created my own circular patterns on different colored paper so that the kids would have bright fun colors to work with. They created their own patterns, cut out their circles and put the whole thing together. Then the fun began.

We experiments with the length of rope, how fast to pull and release, pre-spinning for longer and more. The goal was to keep our spinners spinning and if you could make a zzoomm sound, you were really an expert!

How’d it go? We had a nice sized group today. Not too many kids but a fair amount. Everyone was successfully able to create spinners, even if some struggled with getting started. Overall, this was a successful and fairly easy program. A good one to keep in the back pocket.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Menagerie

Hi Guys,

I read Rachel Vincent’s duology, The Stars Never Rise earlier this year and came across Menagerie and figured I’d give the audio book a go.

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent takes place in a world where Cryptics, anyone not entirely human, are hunted and abused. The story follows Delilah Marlow, who used to be human until she visits a renown traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, and enraged by the injustice wrought on the Cryptics, she transmutes and a beast she never knew she had is let loose.

Not knowing what she is or what she is capable of, Delilah is sold to the Menagerie, where she is to become a caged exhibit. Caged alongside her are werewolves, shifters, trolls, centaurs, sirens and more. And soon, bound by captivity, Delilah comes to care for her fellow cryptics. But Delilah craves freedom and refuses to give in to the demands of the menagerie.

Delilah is forced to train with Gallagher, her handler, captor and potential ally. But Gallagher isn’t entirely what he seems. Who can Delilah trust in a world that has stripped her of every human right? Will she be able to tame her inner beast or will she let it loose for good? More importantly, what is she? Will Delilah gain her freedom or will she become another broken member of the menagerie?

This was an interesting story. I’ve had a soft spot for carnivals and circus’ ever since I read The Night Circus. It is just such a dynamic setting for a story and perfect for mixing fantastical elements. And in terms of interesting, this one did deliver.

I have to admit–I was a bit bored at first. The story didn’t really capture my interests until Delilah was actually a captive of the menagerie. I was also appalled by how many references to rape and trading sex for favors there were. Thank goodness this is an adult book because if it were labelled teen, I’d have a real problem with it.

This book is meant to set the stage for it’s sequels. There are some storylines that were mentioned but not fully developed and there were others that I thought would develop but were literally killed off. The ending was a bit rushed as well.

I did like this book even with it’s flaws. It was haunting and dark and speaks to injustice and the fair treatment of others. Many of the characters were intriguing and I would be interested in seeing how they progress in subsequent books. There are a lot of great supernatural elements that appeal to me as a reader… a sense of fascination for the unknown.

Overall, this was an entertaining audio book. There were some cringe worthy parts but other then that not bad. 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Give Thanks & Be Happy

Hi Guys,

Yesterday, I put up a new display in the children’s room of our library. In November we try 516dsrpefdl-_sx375_bo1204203200_to do an interactive display. Something revolving around being thankful and/or what we are thankful for. Last year I put up a giant turkey and the kids wrote on baby turkeys what they were thankful for. We hung everyone’s turkeys up for the month of November.

This year I wanted to do something other then a Thanksgiving theme, but something
that would still portray the theme of thankfulness. I had an idea to do something with Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree20161101_104519

So I figured I would incorporate fall colors in the leaves and in place of the title and author I wrote: Give Thanks & Be Happy.
The only leaves I could find for our accucut were kind of tiny, so the kids will only be able to write their names this 20161101_104505year. But they can tell us (the librarians) what they are thankful for. We have a little basket with pencils and different color leaves the kids can pick out.

I gotta say, I really love this one and it wasn’t all that hard. I am super proud of my boy–I free-handed that sucker!

Overall, this was a really simple display that gives quite a pop of color to the J-room. It is interactive, which the kids love and the Silverstein books will get a boost of circulation because of it.

20161101_104713

 

So fun!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Dance Your Fanny Off: Halloween Edition

Hi Guys,

Yesterday morning my library held one of our most popular programs: Dance Your Fanny Off! This is basically 30-45 minutes of dancing and shaking for walkers up to age 5. We toss out shakers and scarves and just dance.

This edition of Dance Your Fanny Off was even more fun because it was Halloween themed! All the kiddies wore their costumes and I added some spooky songs to the playlist from Kidz Bop: Halloween. 20161031_073446

This was my first time running DYFO and it was a blast… exhausting, but still a blast! I was the Tooth Fairy for Halloween, so dancing in my wings and tutu was a lot of fun.

Here’s the playlist I used. I had twenty-five songs total, which was the perfect amount. I don’t have my list in front of me, so there are two songs missing from the list:

  1. Top of the Morning
  2. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
  3. Locomotion
  4. Sun
  5. Monster Mash
  6. Labamba
  7. Wheels on the Bus
  8. Thriller
  9. Shout
  10. Down by the Bay
  11. ABC
  12. Purple People Eater
  13. The Twist
  14. Hokey Pokey
  15. I Want Candy
  16. Footloose
  17. If Your Happy and You Know It
  18. Happy
  19. Spaghetti Legs
  20. Can’t Stop The Feeling
  21. Skidamarink
  22. Best of Friends
  23. Goodbye, So Long, Farewell

We had more than a hundred people show up for this program and fun was had by all!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Little Beach Street Bakery

Hi Guys,

Happy Halloween!!!! Hopefully, I’ll have a Halloween themed post later today–if not tomorrow morning.

So I was home sick the other day, fire roaring, tea and blanket on the couch kind of sick. If I wasn’t coughing it would have been really lovely. Anyway, figured I could use a light read so I decided to give another of Jenny Colgan’s books a try. I really liked The Bookshop on the Corner and sick days call for light reads.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan follows Polly who is looking to rebuild a broken life. Polly’s business and relationship goes under and instead of looking to her friends for help, she picks herself up and moves to a dilapidated apartment above an empty storefront on a tiny seaside town no one cares about.

Bankrupt and alone Polly does the only thing that makes her happy… she bakes. Polly has a knack for bread and soon she is making friends and enemies over her prowess as a bread baker. Polly comes to care for the tiny town of Polbearne and its inhabitants. She never thought her bread-making would amount to anything but soon her bread becomes a staple of the town and Polly forges herself a place in it.

But romantic entanglements, little old ladies, low funds and even the weather are determined to bring her down. Will Polly find herself on an island at the mercy of the tide? Will she find a man who understands and encourages her? Or will she be driven out of town, poor and alone?

Little Beach Street Bakery has a pretty familiar plot. I’m actually starting to wonder if all of Colgan’s books follow the same story line. Girl loses job. Girl loses man. Girl picks up and moves to the smallest out of the way town ever. Girl falls in love with town and wants to stay forever. Girl finds job/success doing a previously unrealized passion. Two men in girls life, one wrong, one right. Girl chooses wrong man first then ends up with right one. Annnd they all live happily ever after. This was literally the same plot as The Bookshop on the Corner and I had to love Bookshop more because a) it’s about books and b) hot Scottish men in kilts. Don’t judge. cv90cx6vyaa9msz

Don’t get me wrong, the book was cute. It was a perfect sick day read. Quick, easy, makes you want to learn how to cook copious amounts of bread… carbs be damned! And I did. I tried making bread. Looks pretty… doesn’t taste so pretty.

Ultimately, this was a story about a little town that sticks together and one girl who shakes things up for the better. I shall label this one, easy reading.

3.5 stars from me. Not bad but not my favorite.

That’s all for now!

-M-