Category Archives: library

Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

2nd May 2013

pg1*I received this from the publisher Gotham Books in exchange for an honest review.

Josh Hanagarne needs strength – both literal and figurative. Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in high school, Josh battles his ever-increasing tics without success for much of his life. Crediting his dad for getting him to hit the gym, and his mom for the introduction to the library, Hanagarne relates his journey thus far in The World’s Strongest Librarian.

From a young age, Josh appreciated books, eating marigold flowers in an attempt to mimic a hungry gopher in a children’s book. His mother took him to the doctor, explaining:

“A story went to his head,” Mom said….

“He likes books,” she said. “They give him ideas, though.”

“That’s the point, right?” said the doctor.

Once his tics develop, Josh becomes more and more self aware and angry at his uncontrollable body, until discovering strength training and oddly enough, revisiting the library.

Though I tend to approach memoirs with one eyebrow raised significantly, The World’s Strongest Librarian is the best of memoir writing. Hanagarne doesn’t know the answers. In fact, the memoir feels significantly like an exploration of himself instead of an explanation, and Josh tackles his syndrome, his Mormon background, and his experiences at the library in this improbable tale, making this quote from his friend Frankie Faires both apt and intriguing:

“We get better at what we do. If your body is your biography, then you are, at any given time, a perfect representation of all of your resolved and unresolved stresses.”

As much about the strangeness of a library as it is about the strangeness of a life lived with Tourette Syndrome, The World’s Strongest Librarian is one you should add to your Goodreads shelf.

Fridays at Home: Bookshelf Update

19th October 2012

So ever since my bookshelves were finished, I’ve rearranged the books every few months. I knew I didn’t want solid books (not because I don’t like the look but because I wanted to take advantage of the dark background to display other things). Yet every time I rearranged the shelves, I still wasn’t pleased.

I would sit in the club chairs to read and end up staring at the shelves, trying to figure out a better way until I remembered….duh, Pinterest. I pinned a bunch of bookshelves before I had them built, so why not check them out for styling, too?

I love so many of my pinned bookshelf images, but this was the winner. (It may have helped that the wall color is super similar to my room.)

Source: Apartment Therapy

Source: Apartment Therapy

All in all, I love the interest of the different stacks of books, so last night I decided to rearrange them (a gal will do anything to avoid grading essays).

There are also some other reasons I wanted to rearrange. My office has a couple of dinky shelves, and I really want to remove them and do something in that alcove, so I had to move all those books. Plus, the sofa I discussed last week will go into my bedroom, and the sofa in my bedroom will go into the dining room. Ch-ch-ch-changes!

I still have a couple tweaks to make, but wow. I cannot believe I ever even showed you them before (they looked awful). Here are the shelves as of this morning – not perfect but a huge improvement:

I feel so much better, and I can actually sit in the reading room and read (though I’ll probably be staring at the shelves for an altogether different reason since they look so much better).

Hope you enjoy! Have a great weekend.

Review: Seeing a Large Cat by Elizabeth Peters

10th September 2012

*I checked out this book from my local library.

Reminiscent in many ways of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, Seeing a Large Cat is a novel of high adventure and mystery. The Emerson family is cobbled together, and Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson do their best to keep everyone safe and grounded, even though they’ve had a slightly unorthodox upbringing as Egyptologists. Ramses, David, and Nefret have been raised as siblings, though Ramses is Peabody and Emerson’s only biological child. Together after a summer apart, Emerson plans to reopen previously discovered tombs until a mysterious note warns him off Tomb Twenty-A. Romantic hijinks and near misses lead to mummies of all varieties.

After seeing Yvette review an Elizabeth Peters book last week, I decided I needed to track down some of these books. I’m so glad I did as I enjoyed everything about Peabody and Nefret’s ranting for equal treatment, Ramses’ secretive exploits, David’s loyalty, and Emerson’s spluttering rages. The family is so thoroughly entertaining that the lack of true mystery didn’t upset me in the least.

Not to say there isn’t a mystery, it’s just that unlike a Poirot novel, the bodies aren’t piling up, which is why I’d classify this as more of an adventure novel. Entertaining and full of interesting insight into Egypt at the turn of the century, including the long-held prejudices, Seeing a Large Cat is a fantastic escapade, and I’m so glad my library had several more books by Elizabeth Peters.

Check out other reviews, or add this to your shelf on Goodreads.

It’s My Party, and I’ll Read What I Want To

26th April 2012

First day of kindergarten. Yeah I was reading Cabbage Patch Kids. Got a problem with it?

Me, bro, and sis. I’m totally rocking that frizzy side pony.

Well today I am…a certain number of years old. When I spontaneously joined the Readathon last Saturday, I also called it #projectbirthday. Why? I’d noticed several bloggers posting about random middle grade books from when they were young, and each time I would comment, “I’d love to go back and read some of my favorite books from when I was young.” So I did.

I chose one Trixie Belden, one Nancy Drew, and one Babysitters Club to see how they’d stack up. Lori of TNBBC was worried for me because she’s had a couple bad experiences rereading childhood favorites. But I loved it. I can totally see why I went through these books like crack.

First up: Trixie Belden and The Mystery in Arizona by Julie Campbell

Trixie is in a spot of trouble. Her grades are falling. Again. And it’s horrible timing because Di’s uncle has invited them to his dude ranch for Christmas. When Trixie’s parents agree to let her go if she’ll play catch up, all the Bobwhites are thrilled. As soon as they step off the plane, though, there’s even more trouble. It’s a busy time at the dude ranch, and Uncle Monty’s staff, the Orlando family, has disappeared without a word of warning. Fearing they’ll be sent home, Trixie comes up with a solution. She and the Bobwhites will take on the extra work. But manning the dude ranch is nothing compared to finding out why the Orlandos left so abruptly and why people at the dude ranch are acting so oddly.

If you haven’t heard of Trixie, check out her website. I first heard of her when one of my mom’s friends recommended we visit a garage sale that had a good collection. Her friend knew I loved Nancy Drew and thought I might like Trixie. So at ten cents a pop, I bought about ten of them.

What was it like to go back? It was funny how much of the story I actually remembered. What I didn’t remember was the didacticism. Much of the first 60 pages of this book are couched in Trixie having to write a theme paper on the Navaho tribe with lots and lots of information about the customs of the Navaho. It wasn’t horrible, but I kind of just wanted to skip past all of that, especially because it’s so dated. But I forgot how much I loved Honey and the gang. They’re such a fun hodge podge group!

Next: Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew witnesses a mishap as she’s driving home to River Heights. A little girl loses her balance and falls into the river when a van nearly hits her. Nancy rushes to her aid, and Judy’s two aunts come rushing out. Nancy discovers that the movers stole from the aunts and that the two women can’t afford to have their family heirlooms taken from them. Their relative Josiah Crowley had promised to take care of them in his will, but he recently died and willed everything to the Tophams, a horrid family in River Heights. Nancy is curious, and becomes more curious still when she meets several others who were told by Mr. Crowley that he would provide for them. There is rumor of a later will, and Nancy is determined to find it, even if it means placing herself in danger.

What was it like to relive my first mystery with the sleuth? Ah, Nancy Drew, thank you so much for not being horrible. I was worried, guys. I adored these books. I even read the Nancy Drew Case Files books when I got a bit older. The mystery is straightforward and simple, but it’s still fun and interesting. The language isn’t as easy as I thought it would be, so I consider that a plus in a young reader book. And Nancy is so good. She wants to help this person and that. She’s very altruistic. I had to laugh, though, when Nancy is caught out by the bad guys and all they do is lock her in the closet. So tame. But I also read the next one, The Hidden Staircase, and I can tell the complexity of the mysteries will increase.

Here, too, I remember exactly what happened, but the strange part was the things I had forgotten. Where the heck were Bess and George? I always remembered them (or so I thought) from the first book. Not so. They’re not in the second book either. Her friend Helen is. Of course, sweet Hannah Gruen is there, but no Bess and George. Hmm.

Last: Good-bye, Stacey, Good-bye by Anne M. Martin

Stacey is finally comfortable in Stoneybrook. Her diabetes is under control; she’s part of the Babysitters Club, and her very best friend is Claudia. Life is good. As a BC meeting wraps up one night, her mom calls her to come home immediately. Worried something has happened, Stacey goes home, only to find that after only a year in Stoneybrook, her dad is being relocated to New York. Stacey is torn. She had a best friend in New York, but she also had some mean girls to deal with. When she breaks the news to the club, they’re upset about losing their friend and worried about the club’s future. It’s grown so much. How will they survive? And most importantly, what is the perfect going away gift?

This book was definitely the simplest of the three. Written from the perspective of the different girls and their notes in the BC log book, they’re typical 8th grade girls. Remember how the log book had different handwriting for each member? And Claudia’s horrific spelling? And was it Dawn who added hearts to her i’s?

What was it like going back? I wasn’t disappointed. Though these aren’t books I would probably re-read again, it was still an addictive story, especially when you read the series. You love those characters. At one point, my heart lurched a bit because they mention Logan Bruno. Logan Bruno! I remember having a crush on him. Craziness.

I also really enjoyed the inventiveness of the group. I remember the Kid Kits, and I always thought they were so cool. These were the days of Lisa Frank stickers, my friends. Remember those?


My trip down memory lane? I give it sparkly birthday candles. I had so much fun, and these books were such fast reads. I can remember haunting the library for new books in each series and getting so impatient that I would save all my money to buy the next in the series. Therefore, I have a bunch of the later Nancy Drew and Babysitters Club books that I bought after the library stopped being able to keep up with my pace. Luckily, I also have garage sale hard copies of some of the early Nancy Drew books.

Project Birthday is complete. Now where’s my cake? 🙂


World Book Night America – It’s Time!

23rd April 2012

Yea! It’s here! World Book Night America is the product of a lot of different people’s and organizations’ hard work. As the website says, World Book Night is “a celebration of reading and books” – and I am honored to be a part of that. It is incredibly powerful to know that the US, UK, and Ireland will all be giving out books the same night.

When I applied to be a giver, I mentioned in my application that one of the locations I wanted to include is the downtown branch of my library. I’ve mentioned in the past that it is a gathering place for a lot of low-income or homeless people. Here’s the thing, guys: everyone always has a book in his or her hands. It’s fantastic. So for me to be able to give a book – one that these people could own – is really important to me. And as my mom mentioned, it kind of sucks to give homeless people books and not food…so she’s making sandwiches. Thanks, Mom – for making sandwiches and for thinking about it when my head is in the clouds. My mom and sis are both joining me, and after the library, we’ll either head to the park or to a local hospice center, depending on how many books we have left.

My birthday is Thursday, and honestly, I have to say this is the best present. WBN sent me a box of 20 books, and I get to give them to others!! Sorry, I just can’t quite get over it. Which book? Well, you guys know I rave about The Book Thief. It was my first choice from the list of 30 books to give out, and I got it! It’s ironic because when I first read this book, I went and bought two extra copies so that I could pass them on to other people (my mom and bff) to read and discuss.

I went to Barnes & Noble last Tuesday and picked up my box. They said there were actually 6 or so other boxes there, and I was so curious. How did other people in my area hear about it? If I weren’t a blogger, I don’t know that I would have known about World Book Night. Some bookstores and libraries are having events so the givers can meet, but unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case in my area. Ah well.

I promise to take photos and record my experience for you guys. I’m a little nervous. Giving away books sounds like a piece of cake, right? But what if they think I’m handing out religious tracks or pushing a political agenda? I would certainly be a bit wary of anyone approaching me with a “free” book. Yeah, right. Nothing in life is free. I can hear it now.

How will I combat this? I’m going to be a book pusher. I’ll be giving away The Book Thief, but the only thing I’ll be taking is, hopefully, a contentedness for having participated. I’ll try to use a bit of humor, disarm possible recipients with my charm (*snort*), and get those books out.

If you’re participating or have participated in the past, I’d love to hear your advice or your own anxieties. Where will you be giving away books and which book is it? No matter what, have fun tonight! And if you’re not a giver, keep an eye out for those who are. It should be a really neat experience.