Saturday, October 14, 2017

UTB Spotlight: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Greetings! And happy Teen Read Week!

Traditionally here at BCPL, Teen Read Week has become the time when we announce the latest additions to our annual Ultimate Teen Booklist. This year, we are trying something a little different. Instead of providing you with a utilitarian list of all the new additions, we've decided to tell you a little more about each of our picks—including an explanation of WHY we believe it deserves a spot on our Ultimate Teen Booklist. Over the next several weeks, we'll be highlighting new additions for our 2017 list one by one so that you can learn more about each of them. So while Teen Read Week may officially end after today, we'll be keeping the celebration going!

The first new addition to our 2017 list is Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley!


Whaley's third novel was a Best of 2016 selection and has since appeared as a Staff Pick from yours truly, so it may come as no surprise that it's joining the Ultimate Teen Booklist. I've read each of Whaley's books, and every one of them has been named to the BCPL Best of the Year list: Where Things Come Back appeared on our 2011 Best of the Year list (our very first!); Noggin made the 2014 list; and, finally, Highly Illogical Behavior was selected last year.

Where Things Come Back also won Michael L. Printz and Morris awards, and Noggin was a National Book Award finalist. Yet of the three, Highly Illogical Behavior is the first to make the cut for our Ultimate Teen Booklist. All of Whaley's books are extremely well written, with snappy dialog and intriguing characters, but Highly Illogical Behavior is the one that, for me, is the most memorable.

What it's about:
Sixteen-year-old Solomon Reed hasn't left his house in three years, and even the thought of doing so brings on crippling anxiety attacks. Solomon loves his family and Star Trek—and he's fairly content with the status quo, even if his parents continue to hope he will someday want more. Enter seventeen-year-old Lisa Payton, a type-A overachiever with an essay to write about her "personal experience" with mental illness. Solomon's breakdown three years ago was pretty public, so Lisa decides to "befriend" him and "fix" him to lock in the scholarship she's chasing. She also pulls her boyfriend Clark in on the scheme.

Why it belongs on the list:
This is highly readable story about mental illness, friendship, and taking chances. It's funny, bittersweet, though-provoking, smart, and sometimes eye-opening. Mental illness has become a popular topic of YA fiction in recent years, but Solomon's anxiety is depicted so vividly that it feels like the realest, truest picture of anxiety I've encountered yet in fiction. Whaley has done a remarkable job of making the thoughts and fears of a teenage agoraphobe relatable.

The characters of Highly Illogical Behavior are complex and often defy stereotypes, from Solomon—who is so much more than the labels others might use to define him—to the sweet, unexpectedly layered Clark, who couldn't be further from the standard one-dimensional "jock" character we've come to expect in fiction. Then there's Lisa, who's self-serving scheme should make her an easy character to loath, and yet the reader can't help but see her redeeming qualities or at least understand her—and not just because of some "noble sacrifice" manufactured by the author to make her redeemable. Thankfully, Whaley has also avoided the too-common YA trope of absent or vilified parents—Solomon's are pretty great without being too ridiculously perfect either. While the book's characters act in a way that is completely believable, they still keep you guessing. Just when you feel a situation is taking a turn toward the predictable, it goes somewhere so much better and infinitely more honest.

Witty dialog, prose that seems effortless, and oodles of quirky charm make this book a joy to read, and the book is further elevated by the thoughtful, multi-dimensional treatment of a character with anxiety disorder. It's a book that makes you think about friendship, about forgiveness, and about personal courage—not the courage that wins medals and acclaim, but the small braveries that can be found in each and every day.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

SummerQuest 2017: 7 Guest Reviews from Middle-Grade Readers

SummerQuest is on! We're having a great summer at BCPL with events ranging from awesome makerspaces to gaming nights to an outdoor concert. But the heart of our summer library program will always be books and reading.

And we're so excited with the response we are receiving from the participants in our 10 in 10 Reading Challenge for Tweens, Teens, and Adults. Here are just a few of the book reviews we've received so far; more will be posted here over the month to come. A HUGE thanks to all of our guest reviewers for sharing!



Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Reviewer: Victoria R., Age 10
Victoria's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria's Summary & Review: The book Sisters is about two girls named Raina and Amara. Raina and Amara have to travel for a week in the car to Colorado when the incident comes up again.  I think this book is good because its about the sisters. The author is also creative. There is also a lot of drama between the two sisters.

*This book completes the Book By or About Someone I Admire challenge in Victoria's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

EXTRA: Tracy's Thoughts: This was my first Raina Telgemeier book, and I saw immediately why she has become so popular with both readers and reviewers. Her work is full of  heart and realistic relationships we can relate to. Here's what I had to say a few years ago, when Sisters made our Best of 2014 list:
In her follow-up to Smile, Telgemeier focuses on the ups and downs of her childhood relationship with her younger sister. The two are wildly different and have frequent battles, and yet they have one very important thing in common. Though there are frequent flashbacks to key moments, the narrative centers on a family road trip to attend a family reunion. The pacing, text, and expressive art are top-notch.

The Hunt for the Hundredth Key by Geronimo Stilton
Reviewer: Victoria R., Age 10
Victoria's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Young Readers 

Victoria's Summary & Review: The book, The Hunt for the Hundredth Key, is about Geronimo Stilton wanting to write a book until his sister takes him to help solve a mystery. I like the book because the author is creative. Another reason is because of the characters, setting, and the mystery.

*This book completes the Book I Loved As a Child challenge in Victoria's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

The Baby Sitters Club by Raina Telgemeier
Reviewer: Victoria R., Age 10
Victoria's Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria's Summary & Review: The book, The Baby-Sitter's Club, is about Claudia, Janine, and a baby-sitters club. Claudia and her friends want to baby-sit while Janine wants to study until an accident comes up. I enjoyed the book because of the setting, characters, and the author. The setting is outside and I like the outside, so that is why I like the setting. I like the characters because they are caring. I like the author, Raina Telgemeier, because she is creative.

*This book completes the Graphic Novel challenge in Victoria's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!


Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria's Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria's Summary & Review: This book is about a sister who loses her older sister while she was running to fast, so she slipped and fell into the slip. Her younger sister has help with her soul animal to find out why her sister had wanted to run faster. I liked this book, Maybe a Fox, because the author, Kathi Appelt, showed emotion well while writing. I also like how she describe every little detail. She also described each personality of the sisters really well. This is why I like the book Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt.

*This book completes the BCPL Staff Pick challenge in Katelynn's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!


Rutabaga The Adventure Chef...Feasts of Fury by Eric Colossal
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria's Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria's Summary & Review: Rutabaga continues his mission to find exotic foods for his dishes. While trying to do this, he runs into all sorts of messes. While being a chief he gets taken and forced to work as a chief for an evil goblin. The book was okay because the author didn't show any emotion while writing. Also, I don't really like comics. Another thing is that the characters don't really develop. This is why I think the book was okay.

*This book completes the Graphic Novel challenge in Katelynn's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!


Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Comedy
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria's Summary & Review: This book is about a kid who enters sweepstakes to earn something for his mom, because their dad died and they are put on eviction at their apartment for not paying the rent on time. I like this book because the author, Donna Gephart, puts good emotion into her writing. She also does a good job explaining how things happen in a different way than most authors do. This makes her writing enjoyable. This is why I think you should read the book Death by Toilet Paper.

*This book completes the Book Your Friends Love challenge in Katelynn's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!


Middle School Escape to Australia by James Patterson
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Victoria's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Comedy
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Victoria's Summary & Review: This book is about a kid named Rafe who wins an art competition and wins a trip to Australia. There he finds a group called the outsiders which he fits right into. He then makes a piece of art to display. What the people don't know is that he has a bigger surprise coming. The book, Middle School Escape to Australia, is something you should read. First the author, James Patterson, does a really good job on showing emotion. Also, he does a good job on describing the characters. Not to mention he has a really good plot. He also does a good job on the setting. He makes the setting fit the story. This is why I think the book Middle School Escape to Australia is a good book to read.

*This book completes the Book Published in 2017 challenge in Katelynn's 10 in 10 Reading Challenge!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

BEST OF 2016: Adult Nonfiction

As some of you may know, I tend to gravitate to fiction books over nonfiction. Case in point: of the 80+ reviews I've written for Book News & Reviews over the years, only two of them—Sex on the Moon and Tiger, Tiger—have been for nonfiction works. That's not to say I haven't read, enjoyed, and recommended plenty of nonfiction books. But perhaps I've been a bit less enthusiastic in my desire to share and talk about the nonfiction titles I've read.

But this year, there have been nonfiction books I couldn't wait to talk about. I was delighted when I learned a new essay collection would be released by Annie Dillard, a personal favorite ever since I discovered Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in an undergrad writing class. Then there was Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Klosterman's But What If We're Wrong?, both of which helped me finally get a word in edgewise with a certain friend who's convinced he understands all the mysteries of the universe and tends to lecture his less informed friends (like me) despite pleas for mercy. And who wouldn't want to tell everyone about a book featuring "the bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu"?

There were so many discussion-worthy nonfiction books in 2016, and not all of them could make our list of the Best Books of 2016. But if you have a favorite that didn't make our 2016 list, let us know. We're ready to talk books—fiction, nonfiction, whatever. 

The 2016 Adult Nonfiction committee includes:
  • Stephanie S., Reference Services, Hillview Branch Library 
  • Tanya, Circulation Clerk (various locations) 
  • Tracy (that's me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer


The Abundance by Annie Dillard

I say:
Annie Dillard can always be counted on for an offbeat perspective on seemingly everyday occurrences, and her way of observing the natural world is nothing short of inspiring. She's not for everyone, but her writing always leaves me in awe.

*E-book available via Kentucky Libraries Unbound*

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal

Stephanie says:
I am not usually one to read about science, blah! However, De Waal's book may just change that. De Waal's cross-species study of cognition is amazing, even to a layman like me. This book is to make you think twice when talking to your pets or walking through the zoo. 

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s
Most Precious Manuscripts
by Joshua Hammer


Tanya says:
It had me hooked in the first chapter. There's just the right mix of history and mystery, not overwhelming with unimportant details. This is a great read!

The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams

Stephanie says:
LOVED it. It is a simple read, but thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Stephanie says:
Loved it! Often when a musician writes a memoir, they use the same poetry they utilize in lyric writing and the outcome is disjointed, sporadic bursts of words that end up being too stream of consciousness. That is not the case with Born to Run. Springsteen does indeed employ the poetry he is famous for, but the end result is inspiring.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

I say:
In past years, books like Ghettoside (2015) and Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012) have given me an eye-opening glimpse at an unfamiliar world through in-depth fieldwork and compassionate reportage. Desmond's stories of eight real families living in poverty in Milwaulkee is yet another gripping ethnographic study that I will remember for years to come. Literary journalism at its finest.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Stephanie says:
This book is definitely a niche book, but it's really good!

Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent Dimaio and Ton Franscell

Tanya says:
I absolutely loved this book! It was a fast read, with very informative insights into current cases as well as infamous cases in history.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

I say:
I got more out of this book than I retained from an entire semester of advanced high school physics and two semesters of college astronomy. Rather than introducing boring formulas I'll never use and endless technical terms and dates, Rovelli focuses on the wider theories, their inconsistencies with one another, and the questions that still exist in our understanding. In under 80 pages, he explains a century's worth of physics in conversational language, creating an accessible, beautiful meditation on physics and philosophy.

*E-book and e-audiobook formats available via Kentucky Libraries Unbound*

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

I say:
Okay, I'll be honest. I haven't quite finished this book yet (it's over 600 pages, and the audiobook I'm listening to is over 19 hours), but so far it's fascinating! So I had to put it on this list anyway, even if it's all downhill from here. Jackson's life is interesting enough on its own, but Ruth Franklin does a wonderful job of grounding Jackson's work and influence in her time and makes a convincing case for why she deserves more recognition in the greater literary canon. I'm a total book nerd with an interest in the history of publishing, so I am loving the references to Sylvia Plath, Ralph Ellison, and other writing and publishing personalities of the era as well as the insights into Jackson's life and work.

*E-audiobook available via Hoopla*

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

Stephanie says:
This is a book about writing, but more than that. It is about the love of words, sentences. Anyone who loves books for the artform that they are, for more than mere entertainment, would enjoy this book. It was written to inspire, and it did. I wanted to write in the margins and highlight my favorite passages.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I say:
What a profound and moving book this is about death and about life. It's beautifully written—I  have oodles of  passages saved in my Kindle highlights—and the author's love of literature and his command of it permeates the entire book. One of my highlights (location 355) reads as follows: "Books became my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world." With his own book, Kalanithi indeed provides a lens into the world, not only into his own life that ended far too soon but also a lens through which its readers can better understand their own hearts and minds.

Stephanie says:
Paul Kalanithi always wanted to be a writer; instead, he followed in his father's footsteps and became a doctor. I am sure many lives were saved by Kalaithi’s hands, but I mourn the loss of the writer. When simultaneously faced with death and new life, Kalanithi struggles with the one question we all struggle to answer; why are we here? And in my opinion, he answers it. Full of hope, full of wonder, Kalanitih will help you look at your world through a different perspective. A highly enjoyable read!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

BEST OF 2016: Adult Fiction

If 2015 was the Year of the Super Long Book, then 2016 was an extraordinary year for short little gems. Four of the books to make our 2016 list—Another Brooklyn, Eleven Hours, Margaret the First, and The Vegetarian—come in at under 200 pages, and News of the World is just a tiny bit longer. Of course it's possible we were so exhausted from reading massive (but fabulous) tomes like 2015's Fates & Furies, A God in Ruins, and A Little Life that we were simply more apt to enjoy the shorter books this past year. But honestly, I think several 2016 releases nailed the ability to pack a truly powerful story into a slim volume, and we loved it.

In addition to these short-but-awesome reads, we also discovered some truly memorable, more average-length works across a variety of genres, including historical fiction, contemporary drama, and even romance. We were especially drawn to thrillers in this year's deliberations, and the committee had a tough time limiting the number to make the final list. But ultimately, we've created a list of titles we feel lives up to the designation "Best of the Year."

The 2016 committee includes:

  • Beth, Assistant Branch Manager, Lebanon Junction Branch Library
  • Donna, Circulation Clerk (various locations)
  • Stephanie S., Reference Services, Hillview Branch Library
  • Tanya, Circulation Clerk (various locations)
  • Tobee, Lebanon Junction Branch Manager
  • Tracy (that's me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer
  • Trish, Reference Services, Mt. Washington Branch Library


All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

Donna says:
A suspenseful page turner!

Trish says:
I loved this book. There are so many twists and turns!

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I say:
Woodson, whether she is writing in verse or prose, can always be relied upon for her stunning imagery and use of language.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Beth says:
I LOVED this book! It has a great story, and I could not put it down!

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

I say:
Patchett does a fantastic job of detailing the messiness of modern families.

Donna says:
I enjoyed this story as seen through the eyes of two families of children that are fused together through the dissolution of their own families and then joined by marriage. These children go through much chaos growing up, actually raising themselves. The bonds they form are lasting, and the stories they have to share are very eye opening and entertaining.

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

Tanya says:
Heartbreaking and mesmerizing at the same time. It's a beautiful, yet sad, portrayal of the emotions that different women can face during delivery. I read this in one night.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

I say:
There were passages in The Fireman that were so visceral and beautifully put that they held me in thrall. I was listening to the audiobook, so I often scanned back on the CD just to hear them again. Easily one of my favorites of the year.

Beth says:
Fans of Stephen King may already know that Joe Hill is his son, and you will see many nods to King's works in this riveting book. Hill’s work is getting progressively better—from Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2, Hill seems to have found his niche and takes you on a ride you never want to end. The Fireman is a terrific read, with characters I cared about within the first 50 pages. Every time I put it down, I was burning to pick it up again to keep reading. The best book I've read all year!


First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Tobee says:
This is an excellent contemporary romance with well-developed characters. The plot is fast moving with several surprises, and the interactions between characters and their unique points of views pull you in immediately.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I say:
Luminous. This sweeping saga begins in 18th-century Ghana and first follows two half sisters who are strangers to one another and then their descendants. While one sister's line remains on the Gold Coast, the other sister is transported to America. The story of each generation feels like an intimate, powerful tale all on its own, but together they all fit into one beautifully perfect book. It's a stunning debut and probably my favorite book of the year.


I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Donna says:
The book was a little slow for the first chapter or two, then it grabbed me with an iron fist! The plot is great, full of unexpected turns. I loved it. 5 stars!

Trish says:
When one of the reviewers said that they audibly gasped at one point while reading it I actually snorted. However, while reading this book one afternoon I gasped so hard that I dropped the book onto the ground. I highly recommend this book and I can honestly say that I loved it! Not one but TWO great twists!

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Stephanie says:
To call Jane Steele a retelling of Jane Eyre is unfair. Although the heroines share more than just a first name, the books are very dissimilar. Where Jane Eyre sees no justice, Jane Steele revels in it. Where Jane Eyre seems a timid girl, Jane Steele is beyond bold. Even those who have never read Jane Eyre will enjoy Jane Steele, a thoroughly avant-garde anti-heroine.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Stephanie says:
Dutton’s fictional work paints a beautiful picture of a not-so-pleasant past. This historical work reads more like a contemporary novel, or maybe it’s just that “Mad Madge” was sooo ahead of her time.

The Mothers by Brit Bennet

Donna says:
This is a story about a high school love where choices become lifelong consequences. It's a story of two sides of a family, with two sides of emotions. It gives readers a lot to think about, and with the different viewpoints, I think the book offers something for everyone.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Tobee says:
Very well written and interesting! In a western setting, just after the Civil War, an elderly ex-military man is taxed with the mission of delivering a ten-year-old Indian captive to her relatives. Captain Kidd and Johanna surmount numerous challenges and defy swollen rivers, outlaws, and the less-than-understanding attitudes of other people. The somewhat reluctant Captain and the half wild child become grandfather and granddaughter in a family bond that lasts the rest of their lives.

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Donna says:
I highly recommend this one! It's a story of a powerful love between a mother and daughter and how that love withstands the test of time, under extremely dysfunctional circumstances. It's a very entertaining story illustrating how many children with single parents that are seeking "true love" eventually find themselves. 

Tobee says:
The characters are wonderfully portrayed in all their good and bad traits, and the plot is riveting. Sometimes I laughed and sometimes I wanted to cry, but I always wanted to know what was going to happen next!


Redemption Road by John Hart

Beth says:
I LOVED this book! John Hart is such a wonderful storyteller. This is a really good crime story with a twisty plot and great characters.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Donna says:
There are parts of this book that are extremely hard to read or listen to, but it is so worth it. I loved it. This book really makes a person look at the world in a different way.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


I say:
This creative reimagining of the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad did more to aid my understanding of the risks undertaken by fugitive slaves and the Railroad's facilitators than anything I've read before. It's a wonderfully written book, with some passages I will probably never forget. 


The Vegetarian by Han King

Tanya says:
Not at all what I expected, but totally worth the read. I couldn't put it down; it was that good, that surprising.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Tanya says:
What an excellent read! The book is experienced through the perspective of all the characters involved, plus there's a plot twist I didn't see coming at all.

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