Reading Recap: February 2020

Welcome back for another monthly recap!  It’s funny because February is the shortest month of the year… and I still managed to read over 4,000 pages of books.  What can I say?  I live a wild life.  (By wild, I refer to playing the dangerous game of “just one more chapter” and staying up way later than intended.)

During the first half of February, I pounded through several YA fantasy novels, including the first two installments of Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series and the conclusion to Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer duology.  All were solid, 4-star reads, with great world-building.  YA fantasy is the genre of my heart and it was wonderful hanging out with so many good stories in a row.  Plus, there’s a special satisfaction that comes with finishing three 500-page long books back-to-back.

I also read this year’s recipient of the Newbury Award, which is given for outstanding writing in a children’s book.  New Kid by Jerry Craft made history because it’s the first graphic novel to receive the award–a huge step forward for the genre!  Naturally, I got myself on the holds list as soon as I could.  I really enjoyed Craft’s novel.  The characters were well-formed, the art easy to follow, and Craft handles the struggles of fitting in and racism very well.

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January Reading Recap

Since publishing my list of favorite books read in 2019, nearly everywhere I go, people make comments about three things: the amount of books I finished last year, the quality of my selections, and how much they want me to write more.  “Amelia”, my friends say, “tell me what I should be reading.”

Well, friends, here I am… but I’m not going to tell you what to read.  Instead, I’m going to tell you what I’m reading and you can do with it as you chose.

Here’s what I’m thinking: Once or twice a month, I’ll do a book-related post.  I’ll list the books I’ve finished, mention what I’ve covered for book clubs that month, and share some casual reviews.  I’ll end the reviews with a recommended audience–that way, you can see if it’s something you’d like.  I’ll also include links to all the titles’ Goodreads pages so you can track things down on your own.

Sound like a plan?

Let’s go.

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Hitting Pause at L’Abri

I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I arrived at L’Abri.  For the past six months, I’ve been going so hard that I didn’t even notice that I’ve been functioning on empty for weeks.  As I neared the end of my summer classes, when I thought about how I wanted to celebrate reaching the halfway point of my master’s degree, the only place I could think of was L’Abri.  I’m drawn to this place in times of weariness; when the world is heavy, frustrating, and confusing.  Here, in this little refuge overlooking the city of Rochester, I always find peace and rest.  This weekend was no exception.

It’s been months since I’ve done any kind of life-update on my blog, so let me catch you up to speed on what’s been happening in Amelia-land.  First, let me show you where I’m writing.  Imagine yourself with me at this table, a mug of tea in hand, enjoying the golden hour as I ramble on.

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Thoughts on Kindness

Kindness, I’m learning, is a powerful thing.

Working in a public library, people from all walks of life come through my door.  I love this because it gives me the opportunity to interact with people who are very different from me.  One of the joys of being a small town librarian is the ability to really build relationships with my patrons.  They aren’t just faces checking out books.  I call them by name, remember what books they like, and get to be part of their routines.

You find the most generous people in small towns.  My patrons, in particular, have shown great kindness to me over the past two years.  They know I have a long commute and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been offered a place to stay on winter nights when driving conditions are hazardous.  A year ago, a family who knew I love cats surprised me by bringing in their litter of kittens.  Having a kitten party in the library was pretty much a dream come true and I glowed the rest of the day.  Recently, one of my regulars attempted to recruit my help in tapping maple trees and boiling syrup.  He’s a prankster and, when I said no, gave me a hard time.  A week later, though, he gave me a jar of homemade syrup anyway.

These relationships are one of the things I love most about my job.

One of my goals, and something I work very hard at, is to treat each person who walks in the door with dignity and respect.  I want people to feel seen and known when they visit the library–they aren’t just another faceless consumer.  I want people to feel like they matter.

This is no easy task and, so often, I fail to live up to it.  When people show you incredible kindness, it is easy to be kind in return.  When people are friendly, responsible, capable, and don’t argue when you tell them they have late fines, it is easy to show them love.

But people are hard.  They’re messy, complicated, and difficult.

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2017 in Books

Why hello there, everyone!  Long time, no see!  I hope to post a general life update soon (yes, I survived my first semester of grad school), but first, BOOKS!

I feel like 2017 is going to go down as a one of the most significant years in my reading life.  Looking back, I not only read more books than ever before, but I discovered countless new writers who I now cannot imagine my life without.

This year, I read 211 books.  Holy cats, that’s a lot!  This includes audiobooks and stand-alone graphic novels.  I did not include comic volumes or things I read twice in one year.  This number feels like a HUGE accomplishment.  It smashes last year’s record by 64 books!

The theme this year was all about YA.  I’ve always enjoyed the genre, but this year stepped it up several notches.  Being a librarian, I work to stay on top of new releases and up-and-coming titles so I can successfully help my patrons find things to read.  A perk (and curse) of this is that I’m painfully aware of what’s being published, when it’s coming out, and how to get my hands on it for free.

And, oh, the authors I’ve discovered this year.  It was a fantastic year for discovering YA fantasy writers.  Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, V.E. Schwab, Laini Taylor, where have you been all my life?!  I cannot imagine my life without the Court of Thorns and Roses Series or Six of Crows duology.  (I read A Court of Mist and Fury five times and have zero regrets.) I was charmed by Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer and swept away by Marie Lu’s Warcross.  I reread Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and fell in love with them all over again. There were some excellent Asian-inspired fantasies released this year; I really enjoyed Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao and Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh.  I’m currently in the midst of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, which I am loving so far.

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What I’m Reading: YA Fall Releases

It’s Thursday night and I’ve managed to talk myself down from the “I should be studying” ledge.  So, since I’ve decided that grad school is no excuse to not read for fun, why not talk about all the books I’ve been cramming in my spare time?  Thanks to my library, I’ve been on the top of the list for many of this fall’s hottest YA releases.

My mini reviews are spoiler-free, so no worries if you haven’t read them.

Here’s my lineup:

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What I’m Reading 9/14/17

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about all the things I’ve been reading.  Some of these, I finished almost a month ago!  Holy cats, does time fly!  I’m glad I take notes on each book I finish, otherwise I wouldn’t remember what I thought about them.

Here are the books I’ll be discussing today:

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Let me know what you’ve read lately in the comments!

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What I’m Reading 8/21/17

When preparing this post, I realized that I had written way too much content.  Since I’ve begun writing reactions/reviews/summaries in a notebook immediately after finishing a book, I’ve noticed that my comments have gotten a longer.  So I decided to do some shifting around, giving some of the books where I had more thoughts posts of their own.

Here, you can find my thoughts about several of my recent reads.  Keep an eye out over the next week for others–I’ve got a writeup for a fantasy novel primed and ready to go and, as soon as I finish Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, I’ll give the Monsters of Verity duology their own post.

Here’s what I’m discussing this week:

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Weekend Coffee Share 8/12/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be meeting at my library.  I’d be sipping on a mocha with an extra shot of caffeine that I picked up on the way to work.  It’s a slow morning… I’ve been here over an hour and only five people have come and gone.  Thank goodness, you’re here to divert me!

It’s crazy that summer is almost over!  It always goes by way too quickly.  My August is turning out to be very busy.  Between weddings and out-of-town commitments, my weekends are almost all booked.  When I get off work today, I’m heading down to Rochester to spend the weekend with L’Abri friends.  I’ve wanted to visit them all summer, but haven’t had the chance until now.  Next weekend, I’m taking off work to go on a retreat with the church my family has been attending.

I’ve had multiple cousins get married this summer–one was last weekend.  Is it just me, or are family weddings the most awkward of them all?  I’m not close with my dad’s side of the family, so it’s always uncomfortable spending time with them.  I’m one of the youngest and was painfully shy as a child, which didn’t help forge good relationships with my cousins.  Despite that, the wedding was really nice, there was an open bar, and fantastic cake.  And I learned that some of my cousins (and their significant others) are actually pretty cool!  So that was a win. Continue reading

What I’ve Been Reading 7/25/17

It’s time for another exploration of my recent reads.  I’ve been pretty spoiled by some of the books on this list–I rarely give out five star ratings on Goodreads, but there are some titles worthy of that honor in here.

Enjoy–and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book has been on my radar for a LONG time–it was just a matter of getting to it.  Well, I’m currently listening to it on audiobook and HOLY CRAP, HOW HAVE I BEEN MISSING OUT ON THIS?  The subject matter isn’t one that immediately sucks me in (which is why it has taken so long to pick up), but dang.  Once I got past the first few chapters, I was absolutely hooked.  What strikes me about this book is the excellent characterization.  It features a variety of characters and switches points of view constantly, but each voice is distinct.  Each character is fully-realized, which makes them feel so real.  Bardugo slowly unveils their stories, giving us hints and glimpses at their pasts and their ambitions with each page.  It makes driving to work an absolute treat!  I’m already dreading reaching the end of the audiobook, but I know I’ll be moving on to Crooked Kingdom straight away.

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

Gosh, WHY do I keep reading Dickerson’s books?  I’ve read almost everything she’s published and, even though I don’t love her stories, they’re enjoyable.  I love fairytale retellings, and Dickerson’s are subtle.  After the mess that was this one, I think I might throw in the towel.  Her stories are all formulaic, but the formula is definitely wearing thin.  Dickerson’s protagonists are always beautiful, kind, compassionate, selfish, pious, and BORING.  Her side characters have zero depth.  It’s like watching paper dolls act on a puppet show stage, then fall into a puddle and crumble apart.  I’m also almost insulted by how heavy-handed Dickerson is with her representation of Christianity.  Female leads are always quoting scripture, praying, and longing to someday be rich enough to own a Bible translated into German.  It’s as if Dickerson expects that, by making her women models of Christian femininity, that makes them good characters.  Um, no.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I talked about Schwab’s first book in this series, A Darker Shade of Magic, a month ago.  While I really enjoyed that book, I fell head-over-heels in love with this one.  I think this might be because I listened to it on audiobook, which meant that my reading was slower and more deliberate.  Schwab is excellent at world building–in the first book, she establishes the different Londons.  In this book, Schwab takes a new turn.  She expands the world of Red London through a magical tournament, which reminded me a lot of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter.  The tournament introduces the different empires and peoples, as well as expands on how magic functions and how each culture relates differently to it.  Schwab also continued to establish her characters, who have nestled their way deep into my heart.  Delilah Bard (who I found likable, but flighty and kind of annoying in the first book) is now making her way to my all-time favorite characters list.  I’m eagerly waiting for my hold on the third book on audio to come through at the library so I can continue.

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