Flame In The Mist: Book Review

Title: Flame in the Mist

Rating: 4 stars

Mariko is the daughter of a prominent Samurai. Her only duty is to marry well. When her family ships her off to become the wife of one of the Emperors sons, she feels that her future is over. Bound by honor, but cursed with a bright mind and clever spirit, Mariko is conflicted about her future. When her envoy is attacked in the forest by the gang know as the Black Clan her future suddenly takes a drastic change.
Determined to find out who is trying to kill her she dresses as a boy to infiltrate the clan. But what she finds is not what she expects as her loyalty is tested to its limits. A rich lyrical tale set in feudal Japan.

I confess that I was frustrated with this book. I had heard over and over in the publishing world and through bloggers that this was a Mulan retelling. I think that I spend half of the book being super frustrated because that is what I was expecting. I finally decided to view this as a new story with familiar themes and I ended up enjoying quite a bit more.

What I liked:

It took a long time for me to warm up to the story. I confess that I didn’t like Mariko for a long time. She is nothing like your typical Disney princess. (On that note: Stop comparing books to movies! It’s set the reader up for disappointment and frustration) She is logical, independent, and a bit naive. She spends much of the book asking question after question after question. She is also doesn’t spend the book in a romantic fog. Her actions are planned and plotted almost to her demise.! Which is exactly why she drove me crazy and why I ended up loving her story. She grows on you. It’s a nice change of pace from most fairy tale type stories. I love that she feels like a real character with legit flaws instead of a fluffy Mary Sue.

I also enjoyed the setting and the little twists and turns introduced along the way. There is a slight magical element that I hope, takes a more central role in the next book. The book also reveals itself slowly at a pretty comfortable pace. It isn’t an action packed page turner until the very end! (no spoilers!)

Bonus: NO LOVE TRIANGLES! This story is not romance centric. While there are some pretty steamy scenes, (PG-13) don’t expect this to be a hard core romance from front to cover.

Things that were a bit frustrating:

I love a good backstory and got it with “Wrath and the Dawn.” I felt like this element was missing throughout much of “Flame in the Mist.” There is very little known about the motives of the Black Clan. How did they start? What is their purpose? Are they really good or more a Robin Hood type gang? I think that the author may have done this on purpose to give them a mystical feel.. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me. I want to know more about the supposed bad guys before I love or hate them. I’m hoping that their story and backstory takes a front seat in the next book.

Final thoughts:

Once I got past the Mulan thoughts I really enjoyed this book. I’m am very much looking forward to the second. Renee Ahdieh is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors to recommend to readers at the library. I am very much looking forward to sharing this as a great summer read.

Added note: 
This book is pitched as Mulan meets 47 Ronin and I would love if you forget that you ever heard this. Why? Because these comparisons sell it short. This is a story that stands on its own and one that might disappoint you if you are expecting the Disney Mulan treatment. I encourage you to read this as a new story with some familiar themes and only a squint (and you have to squint pretty hard) of Mulan. I have not seen 47 Ronin so I cannot compare it to that movie.

The Glittering Court Paperback Release Day and Giveaway!

I am so excited to share this post with you today! I am part of Penguin’s Paperback Release Day Blitz. The romantic, sometimes scandalous, and often intriguing tale “The Glittering Court” is out today in Paperback. If you have not had a chance to read this one give it a chance. To me, it feels like a blend of historical fiction and fantasy. The second in the series “Midnight Jewel” comes out in June.

The best part about this post?!! There is a giveaway link below for a chance to win one of ten copies of “The Glittering Court.” Good luck!!

Description from publisher: 

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

 

Link to the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GIVEAWAY LEGAL:

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of ten (10) copies of The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead (ARV: $10.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on March 28, 2017 and 12:00 AM on April 5, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about April 7, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

RICHELLE MEAD is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Vampire Academy series and its spin-off series, Bloodlines. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.

Leaving a job you love

 

Leaving a job that you love can be daunting. How do you say goodbye? How do you move on? I just left my Teen Library job in January and I thought I would share some things that I did to help me move on and to help the teens transition to a new librarian.

Some background: I worked at the library for 3 years. Two of them as the teen librarian. I had gotten pretty attached to the kids and I knew that it would be hard to say goodbye. I had worked hard to build a thriving teen area in our library and our Teen Advisory Board had grown quite a bit since I started. My teens were instrumental in helping me make positive changes in our branch and getting their friends to come to programs. I’m really proud of the TAB members and their dedication to making the library a great hang out spot for their peers. If I had to be happy about leaving, at least I was leaving on an upward trend.

Blogs and sites with great advice: 

I asked for some advice on Teen Services Underground and got some good ideas on how to start my transition. One of my favorite bloggers The Magpie Librarian has a great post about leaving your library. While our reasons for leaving are different (my husband got a job out of state), I still found her advice on point. Check out her post: On Leaving your Library.

One of my favorite points from her entry is to “create an “I’m Leaving” elevator speech. Trust me, you will need this. You will get asked by lost of people including patrons why you are leaving. It can become very exhausting to offer a lengthy explanation each time. My response varied depending on the person.

Patron Response“My husband got a job in another state. It’s a really great opportunity for him and while I’m sad to leave a job that I love, I think it will be a great fresh start for the both of us. Besides, Colorado is beautiful!” 

This response kept things positive and upbeat. I used this on adult patrons and parent’s of the teens I worked with. It summed up the reasons without giving too much away. If they had further questions I could respond or walk away as needed if I was busy.

Co-Worker Response– ” My husband got a job in another state. It’s a really great opportunity for him. I’m really going to miss working here. You have taught me so much (if this was a mentor). I’m thankful I got to work with such a great staff.”  (This is just a short example)

Be sure to thank co-workers who have mentored you. I worked for a huge system so it was hard to get to everyone before I left. Send cards or personal emails. Make a point to visit with staff that you are close with and have those “hey you’re an awesome person and thank you” conversations. I also sent a goodbye email to our branch and to the youth staff. If you want to stay in touch be sure to include your new contact information.

Here is another blog with great career advice and some good words about some of the responses you might need to prepare for when you announce that you’re leaving: Resignation After-Effects

Telling the Teens: Be prepared for the feels… 

So for this part I’m going to tell you what I did and what I wish I had done differently. My husband left for his job the first week of January. We knew in December that this was happening. I thought that it would be a good idea to tell my supervisors that I was leaving as soon as possible so they were prepared. Everyone knew I was leaving for about 2 months. If I had to do this again I would have waited a bit longer. While it was great for transitioning the teens (more later), it sucked having the “oh your leaving” conversation for 2 months straight. It wore me out emotionally and physically.

What worked:

I told my TAB kids in December. I wanted to wait, but one of the kids found out through social media. His sister had aged out of the teen program and we are friends on Facebook. (she’s now in her 20’s) He convinced me that it would be better to tell everyone now than wait until the rumors got started. It turned out to be a good thing.

Let me tell you this was the hardest conversation I have ever had with my teens. They were shocked and I did tear up a bit. I managed to not sob and I was very thankful that my volunteer was with me to help explain things and pass out Kleenex. I let them know that my hubby had gotten a job and we were moving to a new state. I told them that they were wonderful kids and that I would miss them so much. I also told them how proud I was to be their librarian. I listed all the awesome accomplishments we had as a TAB group and then let them ask me questions.

  • Be honest– They can handle things better than you might think.
  • Be prepared for a range of emotions– I was surprised by the sheer amount of tears from my teens. Totally not expected. A few were mad. One had to leave the room. Let them deal with their emotions as long as they are being mature. You might have teen that rages about never coming back to the library. Let them rage. Then remind them that there are other awesome librarians that care about them. You might also get a ton of hugs!
  • Tell them as soon as you can- I’m so glad I gave the kids 2 months to prepare. I had time to transition them to the new librarian. I also had a chance to ask them what they wanted from the new staff. They gave me honest and thoughtful answers and came up with a list of things they liked and didn’t like about the current program. One of my teens even wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the librarians applying for my position. It was adorable and I think it helped her get the job!! I also had time to visit my outreach schools and break the news. I was able to talk to almost all of my kids before I left so there were no surprises. I know that my transition time was pretty unusual and the typical time is a few weeks at best. Go with what works for you.
  • Let them throw a party– You might be shy or uncomfortable with parties. Teens are not. Having a going away party with your teens is a wonderful way to close doors and help them move on. It also lets them do something for you. My teens planned a snack night glitter fest. It was epic! We had a blast and no one left in tears. It was a happy celebration of my time with them and I love every second of it. (even though I’m still finding glitter in odd places)

  • Decide how to keep in contact– My teens knew that once they graduated from High School they could friend me on Facebook. By that time they are “adulty-ish” enough to make their own decisions. They can however, follow me on Twitter or Instagram since most of my posts are library or book related and not very personal. All of my TAB kids have my email and only 2 kids had my cell #.  This is because I helped them out at school functions and speech and debate tournaments. You decide what works for you. I got a ton of messages at first and now I only hear from 2 kids on a regular basis. I’m very thankful that they seem to be moving on. (only a tiny bit sad) Some kids need that connection, but it’s okay to say no or set up a side email if you are not comfortable.

Things I would change and things that surprised me:

  • Time- Honestly, 2 months was good in some respects and sucked in others. If I had to do it over I would have waited another month. There were some teens that were sad every time they came in during that time frame. They cried a lot. It was an emotional ride for everyone. I think it also got exhausting for co-workers. I got sick of having the “why are you leaving” conversation and I know they got tired of hearing it. After about a month I was ready to move on and unable to do so because I was packing my house and I needed the extra paycheck. Thankfully, I have some amazing co-workers who were super supportive during the whole transition.
  • My emotional responses– I was an emotional wreck and exhausted. My hubby was in Denver and I was dealing with the house and closing everything down alone. I barely cried and held it all in. IT’S OK TO BE SAD! Crying is not a weakness. Just pick and choose your moments carefully. Sobbing in the stacks in front of patrons might not be a wise choice. Go for a walk and let some of those bottled up emotions out. Take deep breaths. Get plenty of sleep. Transitions and moves are high on the stress list. Self care is critical.
  • Dealing with angry teens– While one of my kids came around and understood why I had to leave, another never came back. I wish I had stepped away from my group and had a conversation with them right then. I thought they would come back and I would get another chance to chat with them. I was not prepared for how angry some of the teens would feel. If I had thought about it sooner I might have been a bit more prepared for that response. I also realized that in the end I could not take it personally. You never know what it going on in their lives. Just knowing that anger and yelling was a possibility would have helped me prepare a response rather than standing there in shock.
  • Negative patron responses– I was pretty tied to the community through my involvement/creation of LibraryCon. I was not expecting that some of them would take it as a personal affront that I would no longer be involved in this program. In the end I had to let it roll off my back. You can’t make everyone happy.

Ultimately how you say goodbye to a wonderful job is up to you. I wrote this to share some of the things I encountered when leaving. Most of them were good and I only had a few moments of “wow.” Which is pretty much the joy of working with the public! I am thankful that my job was supportive of my long term resignation. I’m also thankful that my teens took it well and helped the library hire an amazing new teen librarian!

Final thoughts- Don’t forget to take care of yourself and let some of those emotions out. Leaving a job is hard even if you are ready to go. I hope this post helps. Is there anything that I missed? Do you have good advice for leaving? Please link me up or add comments below.

 

 

 

 

A Free Range Librarian in Denver

Welcome back friends! I have finally made it to Denver, Colorado after 2 long months of packing and selling our house. It has taken every ounce of brain power to leave one life behind and start another. I haven’t had a chance to blog or much less read. My life has been boxes, packing tape, contractors, and goodbyes. It’s nice to finally be a bit settled.

One of my first stops was the Arapahoe Library’s Castlewood Branch for a new library card. This is a smaller branch that reminds me a lot of the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch Library in Springfield, Missouri. The layout is open and welcoming with lots of seating for all ages. I am in love with their maker-space and looking forward to using it now that I’m in a tiny one bedroom apartment. It was really easy to find things and all the librarians have been very friendly. Bonus: You get to choose the color of your library card!!

I’m taking a bit of a break from job hunting right now. My hubby joked that I’m a free range librarian. I’m looking at my options and taking my time with the search. It’s hard to imagine having another library job that was as awesome as my last. I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment as I sit here writing this blog at the library. A huge part of me wants to be behind the desk helping patrons find books or planning a new teen program. For now, I think that I need some sleep and a few more weeks to get to know where I live! All good things are worth the wait.

So, what does this mean for Skipping through the stacks? I plan to do more book reviews and to revisit some of my library programs that I haven’t had a chance to blog about. I’m also going to add some book promos for upcoming titles that I think my readers would love. I also might throw in a craft project or two! I am debating on changing the look of the blog again or even going pro. It’s all up in the air, so be prepared for all of the above!

 

Finally here is a short list of books that I’m loving:

Read:

 

 

The Valiant By Lesley Livingston

Epic gladiator book featuring a kick butt female lead. Romance is a tiny bit predictable, but the twists and turns in this book kept me reading. Review to come.  4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

Currently Reading: 

 

Flame in the Mist vy Renee Ahdieh

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?!! I just started this one and I’m already hooked. It’s publish date is May 16, 2017. I’m so stoked that I got an egalley of this book. Thank you times a billion!! I loved Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. Be sure to add this to your list of hot summer titles for fantasy readers.

 

 

 

 

 

TBR Pile:

 

Some Kind of Happiness- Book Review

Some Kind of HappinessSome Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finley’s only safety lies deep in the heart of Everwood, a story that she keeps secret in her notebook. Her adventures there help her deal when the sadness and blue day threaten to overtake her life. When her parent’s send her off to visit Grandparent’s she has never met, the line between what is real and what is imaginary becomes blurry. Will she have the courage to save her story, her family, and most importantly herself?

This is a beautiful story about heartbreak, family, secrets, and what it’s like to have a sadness that you cannot explain. Finley’s world of Everwood is full of adventure and daring deeds, just like her real life if she can only stop long enough to see it.

What I liked:

This story hit me on a personal level that I did not expect. I could relate to Finley because at 11 I had those same overwhelming feelings that I couldn’t put into words. I created vast worlds and stories so I could escape from my real life and the dark thoughts that were always there. I wish this book had been written back then, because I could have used a story like this in my life. Finley is a great kid and I think middle grade readers who have depression and anxiety will connect with her story. I enjoyed how the plot was revealed within her made up world. It shows the world of depression and anxiety without overwhelming the reader. As a person who has struggled with both from a very young age, I felt it was true to what I experienced growing up.

Minor Issue:

This isn’t as much of a dislike as a quibble I had with the characters. It took me a long time to connect with any other people in the book. They were all pretty one dimensional until about halfway into the story. Later on I could see why the author chose to do this. It is really supposed to be about Finley. As a reader I like to have all the characters fleshed out pretty quickly in a story. For me, it helps me immerse myself in the world. Like I said, it’s more of a personal preference.

Final thoughts:

I really liked this one. It hit me in the feels in a way that I was not expecting because of personal experience. I think this is an important book for MG readers who struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety. It has a good message and a good ending that is true to life.

View all my reviews

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day- Book Review

Ms. Bixby's Last DayMs. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad this book was my last read for 2016. It is full of friendship and life. It also broke my heart in the best possible way. Usually sad MG books are not my thing because rarely do they offer any kind of realistic and uplifting moments. Many have endings that seem contrived and thrown together. When I picked this one up I was worried that it would be one of those books. One of my co-workers highly praised this one as a great middle grade read and make sure I had a box of tissues ready. She wasn’t wrong. It exceeded my expectations.

Topher, Steve, and Brand have one of the “Good ones.” Ms. Bixby is a teacher who makes you want to come to school. She sees the good and is truly one of a kind. When they learn that she is very sick and will leave their school before the end of the year, they come up with the ultimate plan. It will take courage, humor, and some clever negotiating skills to pull it off. Told through through three different perspectives, we learn about how one life can change the future.

What I loved:

Each character except for one, felt like a real person. Topher, Steve, and Brand feel like actual 6th grade boys. Each one has a different story and they all highlight the joys and pitfalls of friendship in the best possible ways. The friendship between the boys was realistic and sweet. It never felt fake or forced. I think that many MG students will find a piece of themselves in this story. I really liked that the story was broken into little bits. It made me want to keep reading. There were little twists and revelations that made the book very hard to put down.

Ms. Bixby is a teacher that all educators should strive to be. She is not perfect, but she is kind and compassionate. Her illness and story really make you feel like there is more to life than awards and accolades. It’s about the lives that you change for the better. Her character made me remember all the wonderful teachers I had growing up who saw more in me than that I saw in myself.

A tiny issue-

The only thing that I didn’t care for was part of the mission that these boys set out on. I felt that their goal of getting all these items off their teacher’s best last day list was pretty realistic except for the alcohol and it’s not for the reason that you think. Their run in with the creepy tattoo guy was the part that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. I feel like it could have been left out and the story would have been just as great. They already had a confrontation with a teacher and had a few other more realistic crisis moments thrown their way. The fight with the 28 year old guy was the only thing that didn’t fit. Having him take their money.. sure makes sense. Three 6th graders chasing down a grown man and giving him the beat down? Not so much.
I would have liked it better if they had realized that they didn’t need everything on the list to make a perfect day. But, this part is so minor to the rest of the story that it didn’t affect me that much.

Overall feel-

This is a good one for middle grade students. It is realistic where it counts and has enough humor to overcome the super sad parts. The ending is sweet and well written. It left me a teary sad mess at 1 a.m. I can see this being a classroom read aloud and I think it will turn up on many state award lists in the coming years. It is one of my favorite reads for 2016.

View all my reviews

Seasonal Passive Programming for YA

We do a lot of passive programming in our teen department. Most of it is themed and seasonal. Some of it follows special library events such as Banned Books Week. The most popular at our library is anything that involves art or drawing. I have a really creative group of kids that like to leave drawings around the library. We have a bulletin board in the department and I try to display as much as I can so the teens feel at home. Here are some ideas from our fall and winter displays. All of these ideas can created using die cuts.

 

Fall: Graffiti your Gourd 

The clever title was a suggestion from a post I made in Teen Services Underground. Thanks Jeretta! I think the pumpkins turned out amazing! I didn’t want to take them down for winter!

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Winter: Do you want to design a snowman? 

This one came from one of my teens. She sings this particular snowman song all year long and very loudly. I did have to toss a few snowmen due to carrots in inappropriate places. Other than that, they kept it clean! The snowman wearing the Led Zepplin shirt is my favorite!

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Passive Winter Prompt: Caption this Pet edition

This one is always entertaining. I love the this prompt. The “Caption this” idea came from Sherry at our Brentwood branch! We do this a few times a year at different branches with silly pictures or geeky movie stills.  I use post-it’s for the captions to cut down on the stuff I have to erase for being inappropriate. I also only put out pencils!

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As you can tell it’s finals week, so a few of my teens are pretty stressed out!

 

Do you do passives in your teen area? What are your most popular prompts? I would love to hear about them. As always feel free to steal these ideas! If you use the photos, please be sure to credit the source.