June 29, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (3)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.


This post covers the month of June. I've been able to add a LOT of great reads to my shelves this month thanks to gift cards, used book sales, the library, and receiving books for review from publishers. I only spent about $20 total--I have to find ways to indulge my book obsession frugally since we're on a budget. 

I also won a few books from blog contests, but I haven't received them yet, so I'll save them for a future post. :)

Purchased
 

Borrowed from the Library
 
Received for Review via Audiobook Jukebox


Received for Review via NetGalley
I had originally planned on attending both BEA and ALA this year, but then I moved jobs, and I'm not eligible for vacation leave until I've been at the new library at least six months. So sadly, I had to miss out on both events! But I participated in Armchair BEA here on the blog, and I'll be following everyone's updates on ALA online too. I did get approved through NetGalley for a lot of great books releasing this summer and fall, so here's my (virtual) ARC haul! I'm aiming to post at least two NetGalley reviews a week this summer, so stay tuned for those.

June 28, 2013

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne


I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. 

Description: An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting. Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7” when—while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints—his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman—and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison—taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability— and navigate his wavering Mormon faith—to find love and create a life worth living.

My Review: This is a book that I knew I’d have to pick up after originally seeing an ad for it in Book Page magazine. Then I started reading rave reviews, so I was excited to receive a review copy myself. 

Of course, being a librarian, I loved reading all of the stories about the strange and interesting situations Hanagarne encountered at work as well as his childhood memories about his love of books and reading. The Dewey Decimal classification subject headings at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch! Beyond that, I was fascinated by the author’s experiences with Tourette’s and how it affected his education, career, faith, and family relationships. Hanagarne didn’t sugarcoat anything—he discussed the intimate details of his struggles and how he overcame some incredible difficulties to start a family and a career. At the same time, though, he maintained his sense of humor which made this book an entertaining, engaging read. 

A few of my favorite lines about librarianship: 

"I might be the only person whose first three-hundred-pound bench press was accompanied by the Recorded Press production of Don Quixote." 

"I loved my job from the beginning, although any romantic notions of being a purveyor of knowledge were soon interred beneath the duties of community council meetings, monitoring of the mentally ill, surrogate parenting, gang and drug activity tracking, and the myriad other realities of being a librarian (at least in this library) today." 

"If hate and fear have ignorance at their core, maybe the library can curb their effects, if only by offering ideas and neutrality. It's a safe place to explore, to meet with other minds, to touch other centuries, religions, races, and learn what you truly think of the world." 

"To see the value of a library, ignore the adults. Find an inquisitive child who doesn't have an iPhone yet, and tell them that they can learn anything they want here." 

June 24, 2013

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


Narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio (2013)
Length: 7 hours, 29 minutes (Unabridged)

I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox.

Description: “A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

My Review:

Story
I've had this title on my radar for a while, since it’s been winning tons of awards recently (Stonewall Book Award, Printz Honor, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults--Top Ten, Pura Belpré Author Award, and Lambda Literary Foundation Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult). Plus the cover kept drawing me in. How gorgeous is that? I went into the book with high expectations, and it definitely did not disappoint. 

This was a quiet and beautiful coming of age story filled with honest, authentic characters. I felt as if the characters were very real and their complicated relationships were portrayed perfectly. Ari and Dante’s friendship grows and changes over time. Ari comes to appreciate his imperfect but loving parents, and he begins to learn about everything that happened with his brother. 

While the story was slow-paced, I didn't mind because I loved the writing so much. I wanted to savor every word! Overall, I found it to be a thought-provoking story of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Ari struggles with questions of ethnic and sexual identity, but ultimately discovers that he doesn't need to be ashamed of being different. 

Performance
I really enjoyed the audiobook performance! The narrator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, sounded believable as a teenage boy, and he clearly differentiated between characters when speaking. I was drawn in from the first few sentences, and I feel like I connected more with Ari when listening to the narrator than I might have when reading in print. This was an emotional listening experience—I found myself smiling, sighing, gasping, and laughed out loud while I was listening. I even had to fight back the tears at a few points. I cannot recommend this audiobook enough! 

June 22, 2013

Slammed series by Colleen Hoover


 I purchased a copy of Slammed. 
I received Point of Retreat and This Girl from the publisher via NetGalley for review. 

 
  Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Description: “Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope. Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope. Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.”

My Review: This was a unique story, and it’s one that I won’t forget soon. The music lyrics and poetry incorporated into the story really ramped up the emotional experience for me as a reader. I love how realistically Will and Lake were portrayed, and I felt my heart aching along with them as they both faced incredibly difficult circumstances with their families. And the ups and downs of their romantic relationship were intense and gripping. Will was definitely swoon worthy --I have a weakness for boys who write poetry. The secondary characters in this story also felt very authentic, and I adored Will and Lake’s family members and friends too.  I highly recommend Slammed to those looking for a story about love in all its forms—friendship, family relationships, and romance. 

 
  Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

Description: “Hardships and heartache brought them together…now it will tear them apart. Layken and Will have proved their love can get them through anything; until someone from Will’s past re-emerges, leaving Layken questioning the very foundation on which their relationship was built. Will is forced to face the ultimate challenge…how to prove his love for a girl who refuses to stop ‘carving pumpkins.’”

My Review: After swooning over Will in Slammed, it was interesting to read something from his point of view. Plus it was fun to see Lake through his eyes. Will and Lake both have taken on more responsible roles in their families, but they act a bit immaturely when it comes to their relationship. There were a few plot twists that I found predictable, but I still enjoyed the emotional roller coaster that this book put me on.  It’s a must read for fans of Slammed

 
  This Girl by Colleen Hoover

Description: “Layken and Will’s love has managed to withstand the toughest of circumstances and the young lovers, now married, are beginning to feel safe and secure in their union. As much as Layken relishes their new life together, she finds herself wanting to know everything there is to know about her husband, even though Will makes it clear he prefers to keep the painful memories of the past where they belong. Still, he can’t resist his wife’s pleas and so he begins to untangle his side of the story, revealing for the first time his most intimate feelings and thoughts, retelling both the good and bad moments, and sharing a few shocking confessions of his own from the time when they first met. In This Girl, Will tells the story of their complicated relationship from his point of view. Their future rests on how well they deal with the past in this final installment of the beloved Slammed series.”

My Review: I wasn’t quite ready to let go of these characters that I’ve grown to love, so I immediately had to start reading this one! It was sort of a retelling of all the main events from Slammed from Will’s point of view as he explained them to Lake. We get a lot of insight into Will’s motivation behind certain choices, and we get a more complete picture of events. There is some extra content (including more poems), though, that makes it worth reading.  Overall, this series was a fantastic read. Colleen Hoover is a talented writer, and I will be reading more from her in the future. 

Overall series rating: 

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