Audiobook: My Hygge Home

by Meik Wiking
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: It’s pretty tame. It’s in the Design section of the bookstore, but it would work in the self-help section as well.

In this one-part design book, one-part explanation of what Hygge is, and one part self-help book on happiness, Wiking gives readers a layout of how to make their home their happy place. It’s got recipes, it’s got ideas on how to better develop communities (I feel like that’s a whole book in itself), and how to make your home a cozy, homey, inviting place. More hygge.

I did get some good ideas – more plants! more light! create nooks, and remember the functionality of the rooms – but mostly I was just delighted with Wiking’s narration. He was surprisingly delightful (I wasn’t expecting dad jokes!) and, well, Hygge, as he talked about his research at the Happiness Insitute in Copenhagen. Being Danish, he knows hygge (they invented it after all), and uses the philosophy and design elements to help stave off the dark winter months up there.

It’s not life-changing, but it was enjoyable, and I’ve found myself thinking about ways I can make my life this winter more hygge. So there’s that. At any rate, it’s a delightful listen, especially on a dark, January day.

In the Lives of Puppets

by T. J. Klune
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Release date: April 25, 2023
Content: There are a couple of swear words, including one or two f-bombs, plus some sexual humor. It will be in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

This is one that I feel like the less you know, the better off you are. The basic premise is this: Vic is a human who is living with robots – his father, an anxious vacuum, and a sadistic nurse robot (trust me) – in the forest. One day, he discovers an android, fixes it, and brings it back online. It has a connection to Vic’s father (who is, yes, an android) which changes the course of Vic’s life. 

What really drives this book is the characters. Yes, the plot is loosely based on The Adventures of Pinocchio (the book, not the Disney movie), but it’s the characters that drive the story. We got a couple of copies to pass around the store, and we kept reading passages about Rambo the vacuum and Nurse Rached aloud to each other. We started a text thread of quotes. We laughed a LOT. But it’s more than that, too. Klune is meditating on the purpose of humanity, whether we – with all our negatives – are actually worth being alive. And if we are worth it, what is that worth. 

Also, know that I sobbed for the last 50 pages of the book. Klune pulled me into his world and I felt every bit of it. Heartbreak, love, humor, betrayal, acceptance, and loss. 

I have been positively ruined for other books for a while. You will absolutely want to read this when it comes out in April.

My Best of 2022

I had an unusual reading year this year. Overall, my reading was down; more than half of my reading was graphic novels. I lacked the time and attention span to read longer books. I also listened to a lot more audiobooks than I usually do; it was a way to fit books in the cracks of the busyness that was my life this year. I want to be able to sit down and focus on reading; There is a part of me that misses doing that, but I also don’t quite know what to read anymore. With my current position at the bookstore, I’m hardly ever on the floor, so knowing what books are out and reading them has slipped in priority for me. Maybe I can change that in 2023.

Here are the numbers:

Middle Grade: 12
Young Adult: 22
Non-Fiction: 13
Adult Fiction: 23
Graphic Novels: 92 (be sure to check out our finalist lists at Cybils tomorrow!)
Total: 162

Number of those that were audiobook: 23
Number of speculative fiction (not including graphic novels): 29
Number by BIPOC authors: 30 (18.5%; I need to do better.)
Number by Latinx authors: 8
Number I reread: 13
Number I abandoned: 11

Out of those, here were my favorites:

There is a 10th, but it’s a graphic novel and so I’ll let it go this year because I was on the Cybils panel.

Some themes that I noticed this year:

So many memoirs!


I read/reread so many series (these are the first books):

Plus the next/last in continuing series!

And started new series:

So many series.

I (re)discovered an author I loved:

And fell into all the romance books:

Okay, not all Just five.

It wasn’t a bad reading year, in the end. I’m still hoping that next year will be better.

Monthly Round-Up December 2022

As per usual, I’ll round up the whole year tomorrow. As for December… It was another graphic novel-heavy month, but I didn’t mind. I was buy at work,a nd having a graphic novel to come home to was perfect. That said, my favorite wasn’t one

Nettle & Bone

I picked it up because it made a friend’s best-of list this year, and I was not disappointed.

As for the rest:

Non-fiction:

Beyond the Wand (audiobook)

Young Adult:

Lightlark (audiobook)
The Shepherd’s Crown (reread)

Graphic Novels:

Captain America: The Ghost Army
Clementine
Victory for Ukraine
Magical Boy
Unretouchable
Ducks

The Wolf Suit
Fibbed
A Tale as Tall as Jacob
The Doors to Nowhere
Just Roll With it
Cat’s Cradle

The Greatest Thing
Messy Roots
AlteZachen
Adora and the Distance
Numb to This

The Golden Hour
Enemies
The Woman in the Woods
Miss Quinces

Smaller Sister
Wingbearer
PlayLike a Girl

Victory. Stand!
Tiny Dancer
Slip

Stay tuned tomorrow for my best-of-the-year!

Audiobook: Beyond the Wand

by Tom Felton
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is talk of substance abuse, and swearing including a handful of f-bombs. It’s in the film section of the bookstore.

An admission: I’m not really a fan of Tom Felton’s. To be honest, while I liked the Harry Potter movies well enough, I was too old to get into being a fan of the child actors. It’s kind of creepy, at any rate. Let them be kids.

But, on the encouragement of a co-worker, I picked up Felton’s memoir on audiobook. And honestly? It’s delightful. I liked Felton’s devil-may-care attitude and the humor that he expresses looking back at the sort of kid that he was to land the role of Draco. He talks about how he ended up acting (it was a good way to skip school!) and talks fondly about his older brothers keeping his ego in check. He devotes a chapter to each of the people in the Potter films that influenced him (he has very kind things to say about Emma, Ruper, Daneil, and Jason Isaacs among others) and then goes into the past ten years after Potter. It wasn’t a great time for him. But he found his way through, and honestly, he sounds like a pretty decent man. He’s a delightful narrator (and does a spot-on American accent!) and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this one.

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 7

This is the last roundup for the year. My panel has met, and we’ve talked about all the books and come up with her our lists., which I’m quite proud of. It’s a good list, reflective of all the good graphic novels that have been published hits year We’ll announce it on January 1st!

Victory. Stand!
by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabile
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is racism and depictions of injustice. It’s in the Middle Grade Sports section of the bookstore.

This is the story of how Tommie Smith got to the 1968 Olympics, and the story behind the famous picture of him and John Carlos raising their fists at the medal ceremony. It’s a remarkable story, one full of sacrifice and good luck and determination and support. There is fighting for equality and civil rights, as well as excellence in sports.

I know I’ve seen the photo lots of times, but honestly, I’ve never thought about the story behind it. As a result, this book was incredibly fascinating. I liked hearing Smith’s story and the sacrifices and hardships as well as the opportunities he had on his path toward the Olympics. it was a reminder that racism was (is) everywhere, not just in the South, and that things were (are) much harder for Black people than it needed to be. The amount of racism that Smith faced is astounding, and it’s a little-known civil rights story that deserves to be told. An excellent book.

Tiny Dancer
by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Other ins the “series”: To Dance
Content: There are some mild swearing, divorce, and body image issues. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

About 16 years ago, the Siegels wrote a middle-grade graphic novel about Siena’s experience being a ballerina. It’s a good book, one that talks about the path to being a professional ballerina, and the subsequent injury that derailed Siena’s career. I thought it was a good story, a complete story, but the Siegels must have thought there was more to tell. Enter Tiny Dancer, where Siena goes deeper into what it takes to be a ballerina on the highest level and the consequences and aftermath of her injury. I don’t know if this book was necessary, but I found it interesting and worth reading. It hits some of the same beats as To Dance, but it adds another, deeper layer to the story. And, as usual, Mark Siegel’s art is beautiful, capturing the elegance of the dancers as well as the pain and indecision post-injury. A good book, overall.

Slip
by Marika McCoola and Aatmata Pandya
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is talk of mental illness, as well attempted suicide, and some swearing, including a couple f-bombs.

Jade has gotten into a prestigious art camp, a place for her to hone her art and get ready for art school. Right before she leaves, she finds out that her best friend Phoebe has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized. Jade still goes to the camp, but finds that she can’t focus because she’s worried about Phoebe. She also feels guilty as she develops feelings for another camper, Mary. It’s compliated dealing with everything, and Jade is not quite sure how to move on.

I really liked this one. I liked the discussion of mental illness and the difficulty it is when friends don’t know what to do when their friends are sick. I liked the art aspect, and the slight magical realism in it. It’s beautifully drawn, and I think it opens up an avenue for discussions of suicide and how to deal with friends who are suffering. Really really good.

Nettle & Bone

by T. Kingfisher
First sentence: “The trees were full of crows and the woods were full of madmen.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are some intense moments, discussion of domestic violence, and some other violence. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Marra is the third daughter of the king and queen of the Harbor Kingdom, and she never really expected her life to amount to much. She went to serve in the convent of Our Lady of Grackles when she was 15 and has spent half of her life feeding chickens and doing embroidery. But, after her neice dies unexpectedly and she discovers that her sister, married to the king of the Northern Kindom, is being abused, Marra decides to take matters into her own hands. With the help of a dust-wife, a disgraced ex-knight, and a reluctant fairy godmother, she attempts to tackle the impossible: rescuing her sister without disrupting the precarious political balance of the kindgom.

I’ve read several Ursula LeGuin books and loved them, and this is my second by Kingfisher (same person, diffrent nom de plumes) and loved this just as much as I did her other one. She has such a way with telling a story with heart and humor and embracing the tropes (the hero’s journey, in this one) while subverting them. She makes characters that are just wonderful to spend time with, real and complex and funny and grumpy — all of it. I loved every minute of reading this slim book, and I will happily read anything else that Kingfisher has out. I’m definitnely a fan, now.

EMG Graphic Novel Roundup 8

Last one!

Smaller Sister
by Maggie Edkins Willis
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is talk of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. As well as a lot of talk about crushes. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Born close together, Livy and Lucy were super close as kids. They played together, building imaginary worlds. It seemed to Lucy that they would always be inseparable. But then, their parents moved them to a different school and Livy became… different. She hung out with the popular girls, started talking a lot about boys, stopped eating, and (worst of all) stopped talking to Lucy. As things got worse, and Livy developed an eating disorder, Lucy was left to unravel things all by herself.

This one was just so good. I loved all the aspects of sisterhood that Willis touched upon, how the girls were close, and then grew apart as the oldest one got older. (They did make up in the end, and find their way back to friendship.) I also liked the focus on eating disorders from the outside. There is one scene, later when Lucy is in 6th grade when she decides to control her food, and Livy is able to talk to her and tell her from experience what was going on. It was an incredibly touching scene. A very good book.

Wingbearer
by Marjorie Liu and Teny Issakhanian
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are some intense/scary moments. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Zuli has been raised her whole life in the Great Tree, the place where the spirits of birds come to rest before being reborn. She is content there, communing with the birds, until the day that the spirits stop coming. Concerned, the birds send one of Zuli’s bird friends out to find out the cause, but when he doesn’t come back, Zuly and her companion Frowly set out into the wide world to find the problem. Once there, they find a world of danger, hardship, and a witch queen who wants to take over. On their journey, though, they find friendship and companionship, and most of all, Zuli finds out who she really is.

This is a really excellent hero’s journey tale. It has shades of Warrior Cats (there were at least a few pages that gave off strong Warriors vibes), but it’s still a solid tale. I love the world and the mythology that Liu has created and Issakhanian’s art is absolutely gorgeous. Definitely an excellent start to what could be a great series.

Play Like a Girl
by Misty Wilson and David Wilson
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Content: There is a bit of bullying and some friendship issues. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In this graphic memoir, Wilson recounts her seventh-grade year when she was on the football team. She was always an active girl, in sports, and not really terribly feminine. So when the boys tell her she “can’t” play football, she sets out to prove them wrong. On the way, she loses a best friend – Bree, who doesn’t want to be all sweaty with the boys, but instead befriends the mean girl in the school, shunning Misty – and gains some new ones, as well as the respect of some of the boys (but not all) on the team. She learns new skills and works hard to play the best and hardest she can.

I’m always down for a girl in a non-traditional sports book, and this is a good one. I loved Misty’s determination to do anything she puts her mind to, even in the face of opposition from her teammates. I’m glad she had the support of some of the adults in her life, and I appreciated that Wilson didn’t shy away from the costs Misty paid for being on the football team. The art is really good as well. An excellent graphic novel all around.

EMG Graphic Novel Round Up 7

The Golden Hour
by Nikki Smith
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Content: There is some depiction of a school shooting, talk of PTSD, and depictions of anxiety attacks. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Manuel is just getting back to school after witnessing his teacher get shot in a shooting (it was during the break; he happened to be at school helping his teacher when it happened). He’s not going great, mostly because he keeps having panic attacks that get triggered by his environment or the words being said. But he makes friends with Sebastian and Cayasha, who are part of the ag club. He goes out to Sebastian’s family farm and learns about cows and chickens and farm work. He also discovers that taking photographs helps ground him in the present and reduces his panic attacks. But, when he goes off to camp with Sebastian, they come back strong. Will Manuel ever recover?

I really liked this one. Not only because it was set among the wheat fields of Kansas (and written by someone who grew up here!), but because Smith focused on the healing aspect of a shooting and not the terror part. I liked that she addressed PTSD in kids, and how to handle it (with a therapist, of course). A really solid graphic novel, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Enemies
by Svetlana Chmakova
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Awkward, Brave, Crush, Diary
Content: There is verbal fighting and sibling rivalry. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Felicity is an artist and a gamer and has tons of friends at middle school. What she is not: good at making deadlines. Her younger sister, Letty, who is accomplished in all the “right” ways, likes driving that point home. So, when Felicity sees a poster about a “pitch the future” contest, she figures it’s her chance to actually win for once. The problem is that when she shows up to the meeting, her ex-friend (now enemy?), Joseph Koh is there. How will she be able to come up with an idea and deal with the drama surrounding Joseph as well?

I’ve liked this series by Chmakova in the past (I’ve read three of the five now), and this one is no exception. They work well as standalones, but you can also read the entire series and get to know all the kids from the middle school. It’s a good depiction of middle school and the different challenges kids have. I liked that this one featured a black girl who liked art and gaming. I liked her parents, and I liked that the friendships weren’t always smooth. It’s a solid book in a solid series.

The Woman in the Woods
Edited by Kei McDonald, Kate Ashwin, & Alina Pete
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: A couple of the stories could be scary for sensitive readers. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

In this collection of short folktales based on Indigenous mythologies and stories, there are trickster rabbits, shapeshifters, Rougarou, and other stories from differing tribes throughout the Americas.

All the stories were well-drawn and interesting, though my favorite was the Rougarou myth. Rougarou was a monster that existed because someone looked at a Rougarou. If you look at it, you turn into one, and you’re that way for 100 days. if you can survive the 100 days, you turn back, but with no memory. In this story, a boy finds the Rougarou in the woods, and knowing what he’s seeing, blindfolds himself. And then he proceeds to befriend the monster. It’s really sweet. It’s a good collection of stories and one I’m glad to have read.

Miss Quinces
by Kat Fajardo
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is a death in the family, which might be difficult for some readers. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Sue just wants to go to sleepaway camp with her friends this summer, but her mami won’t let her go anywhere without her sisters, and besides, it’s their family trip to Honduras. Once in Honduras – away from cell phones and the internet! – Sue discovers that her mami has decided that Sue needs a quinceañera. Sue puts up a fight, initially, until her abuela (who isn’t doing too well), helps her find ways to make it more, well, Sue-like.

This is a super charming story about finding one’s place. Fajardo got across how hard it is to be a child of immigrants; not American enough to quite fit in (her mami has super strict rules, and doesn’t understand some of the things that Sue is into), but she doesn’t quite fit in with her family in Honduras, either (she doesn’t speak Spanish terribly well, and doesn’t want a quinceañera). I liked the story, overall, and there were some tender and touching moments. It’s an excellent graphic novel.

Audiobook: Lightlark

by Alex Aster
Read by Suzy Jackson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is violence, including multiple deaths and one (mostly off-screen) sex scene. It’s in the Teen Section (grades 9+) at the bookstore.

Lighlark is in a world that has been plagued ed with a curse for the past 500 years. Isla knows this: as the Wildling ruler, she has been raised to go to the Centennial, compete, and win – all to break the curse and get the power she has been wanting. But, once she gets to the competition, she realizes that it’s not as simple as all that. There is love, pain, betrayal, and a twisting, winding path to get to the end, and hopefully break the curse.

Is this book a good one? Well, if you mean well-written, with a tight plot that kept me guessing? No, it’s not. But it is fun. I guessed the twist about a quarter of the way into the book, and the love story was SO smarmy. There’s a love triangle between an 18-year-old girl and two 500-year-old men! Ugh. But, it hit every single YA trope you can think of, and it was fun getting to the end of the book – the narration was excellent – even if it wasn’t a good book. Am I clamoring for the next one? Not really. But I don’t regret listening to this one.