You'll never catch Elisabeth in the literary fiction-- she's the one skulking in the fantasy section, or riffling through pages in the Young Adult department! She's also a fan of humor writers and cultural history (she devoured Cake: A Global History in two days). Our events coordinator, Elisabeth lives with her husband, too many cats, and two small tiny overlords.
Elisabeth's July 2020 pick
I.... Had grand plans for a photo for Marie Kondo'd JOY AT WORK, but I think even a delightful Japanese cleaning fairy can't turn me into someone that I'm not. I took a before photo in March, and my new desk (in July) is still cluttered, even if less cluttered than the disaster that it was before.
And you know what? I like it. I am more efficient and less stressed at my job due to things I learned in Joy at Work. I can find the things I'm looking for. I can see when I am about to run out of specific supplies. I cleared my desk of most of my clutter by removing EVERYTHING from the desk and only putting back things that help me perform my job/home admin. I evaluated my storage and purchased different organizational tools that set me up for success, and I got rid of the pens that don't work nicely (LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR SHITTY PENS, SPLURGE AND BUY THE PENS WITH THE SATISFYING INK FLOW), and I planned out how to store items that I need to remember to handle. In my case, I am extremely visual, so I NEED to-do items to be visible or I completely forget they exist, so I bought a small vertical file display for bills and documents to live in instead of disappearing into the shuffle of papers laying on my desk.
Only one chapter is on physical clutter. She also addresses digital document clutter, and calendar and obligation clutter, and learning to say no to new obligations that don't actually help anybody, etc. It was helpful. I learned. I suggest it to stressed workers.
Elisabeth's April 2020 pickWhat happens to the Chosen Ones after they defeat the Dark One and save the world and the novel ends? There are no happily ever afters, just decades of PTSD and living with the trauma and memories, and struggling to find a place in the world that wants to keep you as its greatest celebrities, when all you want is to disappear.And then one day you get magically kidnapped into a desperate parallel world that needs you, an experienced Chosen One, to defeat THEIR Dark One, please and thank you. See, their Chosen One died horribly, and.... Veronica Roth's first foray into adult novels punched me in the face, which was wretched, and I say that as a compliment.The misery and unhappiness of Chosen One #2 Sloane (one of five; they stayed friends, because who else can understand a trauma like that? Dating is also tricky.) as she struggles to live her Post-Hero Life, struggles to live with her choices and their consequences, tries not to remember the memories, and takes benzos to sleep and survive the flashbacks, felt gritty and real. Similarly real were the grim realities of fear and struggle of their scrabble to survive, of the Chosen Ones trying to push down their panic at the thought of doing this all AGAIN, oh God no we barely survived last time, how can we face this again, we're barely holding our sanity together on the sunshiney normal days, let alone on the days when we've been yanked into an alien but bizarrely familiar parallel Chicago. And things here may not be what they seem... I had a pit in my stomach and an anxious ache in my shoulders reading this whole thing. Congratulations, Ms. Roth.
Elisabeth's February 2020 pick
This book simultaneously makes me want to cry from the self-examination it is forcing, and makes me feel so incredibly SEEN.
If you have ever felt that the liberating feminist freedom of "you can have it all" has become a pressuring mandate of "you MUST have it all, and you're a failure if you are average, or if you have only a career but no children, or only raised your children into non-serial-killers but don't have a successful career," this book is from your people.
If you have ever felt that you were running out of time to achieve the life goals that were decided for you in your youth, this book is from your people.
If you have ever felt the doors closing, and realized that your youth is disappearing and with it society's view of your worth, this book is from your people.
If you have ever thought "we were supposed to have figured it out by now," this book is from your people.
I finally have words for all the distress that has been swirling in my head.
Elisabeth's January 2020 pick
First, thank you to Emma Lord for introducing me to mustard in a grilled cheese in Tweet Cute, which is the darlingest romance I've read in ages. Seriously. I felt GOOD after I finished reading this. It made me HAPPY. Jack and Pepper made me smile. Tweet Cute is sweet and funny and there are no trope-y "this whole thing could have been explained if you had just waited for 10 seconds for them to explain a situation before you stormed off" moments. Pepper and Jack are both seniors at a prestigious and competitive high school in Manhattan, and both secretly run the social media accounts for their families' restaurants. When a Twitter feud over a secret recipe menu item breaks out between the two restaurants, they are unmasked to each other and it spills into real life, almost spoiling their burgeoning friendship and flirtation.
This is almost Romeo & Juliet with grilled cheese, but fewer people die. (Like, 100% fewer people die.) Or You've Got Mail in the Twitter era.
Elisabeth's November 2019 pick
Gird your loins; Jude is back for more courtly wheeling and dealing. This time she is forced out of the shadows and into the front battle lines as she fights two wars; one for the throne of Faerie, and one for the two loyalties of her heart. I didn't take a full breath for 300 pages.
Elisabeth's October 2019 pickNinth House is Queen Bardugo's transition from YA fantasy to adult urban fantasy, and it is flawless. If Six of Crows is PG-13, this is a hard R. It is dark. It is gritty*. It is real. It is spooky**. It makes you question whether a magical underworld really does exist in the real world, and you're in danger, living your mundane life, oblivious. The prose is divine, the characters are real, and nothing is more frightening than how vicious people can be.Told in alternating Then and Now chapters, two story timelines converge, slowly revealing what happened to Alex and Darlington in Late Fall, to give context to Alex's Winter (while you wonder WHAT HAPPENED TO DARLINGTON?!), before we finally catch back up to the Spring scene we all read in the first teaser chapter.*Content warnings would be appropriate before you let your high schooler read it. This is not Six of Crows Plus.**I spent one night too hot to sleep well because the comforter was too warm, but sticking my leg out from under would leave me vulnerable to a murderous spirit that was likely lurking in the shadowy corners of my bedroom.
Elisabeth's August 2019 pick
How many books say they're "Harry Potter for adults?"
How many books say they're "for people still waiting on their Hogwarts letter?"
So when MAGIC FOR LIARS was described like that, I rolled my eyes internally (but you'll notice i still picked it up) and expected a magical adventure that entertained but fell far short of HP.
This story isn't just for people who like wizards.
It's about a woman whose twin sister DID get a Hogwarts letter (well, not Hogwarts exactly), but she got left behind, mundane and normal and not magical.
And now here she is, 14 years later, jaded and bitter at the world, taking photos of cheating spouses for her private investigator business, gumshoeing through the linoleum'd hallways of a private wizarding boarding school that her estranged sister works at, and there are no magic talking portraits or floating candles or pumpkin pasties, but there is magic graffiti ("Samantha is a slut") that resists all attempts by the janitor to scrub off, and magic birth control from the health teacher, and dimensional folding to pass notes secretly, and mandated reporters for prphecy fulfillment.
AND A DEAD BODY IN THE THEORETICAL MAGIC SECTION OF THE LIBRARY, where the health teacher was vivisected into two equal halves.
Who didn't get their Hogwarts letter.
Please excuse me, this book won't finish reading itself. The Physical Magic instructor is HOT.
Elisabeth's July 2019 pick
I thought this book would be a fun romp. I thought this book would be sarcastic and snarky.
I did not expect depth, and found myself drowning in its literary beauty, in the feelings and poetry of Agent Red and Agent Blue.
This is the story of two rival Time Agents braiding and unraveling time through well-placed small actions, each seeking to bring about their agency’s ideal future; one a mechanized utopia, one a wild and free Garden. This is a universal story of two people on opposite sides of a war who fall in love. But for the settings, this could be a CIA agent and their KGB counterpart in the Cold War, or a British and Nazi duo in WW2.
This is the story of love and desperation, threaded through impossible settings and stories.
Short, less than 200 pages, this book is easily digestible in short chunks, read one of Blue’s chapters and then one of Red’s with breakfast, and then digest so you’re ready for two more chapters at lunch.
Elisabeth's June 2019 pick
If you want a sword-carrying librarian apprentice trying to care for and contain deadly sorcery grimoires (which may sing or bite or try to sew your face to their pages, before trying to turn into a monster to go on a murderous rampage), reluctantly teaming up with a debonair licensed sorcerer and his soul-bound demonic gentleman's servant, as they try to save the world (and the magical library system), this is the book for you. Come for the plot, stay for the humor.
It was a delight to have a single-shot book instead of a trilogy spread, but now that it's over I'm not ready for it to be over. I do hope Margaret Rogerson comes back to these characters in the future.
This book showed tremendous sophomore growth of Rogerson's writing craft following An Enchantment of Ravens (which I also liked, but this was BETTER).
Elisabeth's May 2019 pick
This is, on the one hand, the story of a Napoleonic Cairo con-woman who discovers her true heritage and scrabbles to find her feet in an opulent, unfamiliar, dangerous city of magic, and struggles to stay afloat as the rival factions seek to use her to their ends.
This is also a story about djinn politics, about classism and racism, and about war and the narrative of history.
This is also a story of the conflict of religion and power, of true and noble men trying to follow the tenents of their faith even when it conflicts with the wishes of the rulers who they have pledged their lives and obedience to.
There is murder and love and a cursed lake that may or may not contain a blood-thirsty marid (don’t touch the water).
Elisabeth's February 2019 pick
My flabber has been gasted.
"I don't like hyped-up books," I protested.
"Shhhh," whispered this book, stroking my hair.
"These rarely live up to their buzz," I whined, and turned another page.
The book smiled at me, and waited.
"Popular books are rarely worth my time! I've got a snobbish reputation to maintain!" I howled, rubbing sleep from my eyes and tossing leftover spicy peanut noodles at the children so I had time to finish it.
The book sipped its tea. It had won. I was in love.
Roshani Chokshi's The Gilded Wolves seduced me with promises of con-artist magic users, and also delivered a pulse pounding Indiana-Jonesesque adventure treasure hunt set in 1889 alternate history Paris. Magnificently crafted characters (Actual diversity, no icky-feeling token characters! Neurodivergent characters! Strangely sympathetic assholes who make mistakes instead of everything coming up roses!) in a well plotted and paced story, with a thread of romance that ADDS to the story instead of taking it over. Please excuse me while I got read everything else she has ever written (including that copy of The Star Touched Queen that I bought this summer and never got around to).
Elisabeth's October 2018 pick
Exhilarating and fresh, this book is part fantasy, part post-AI-apocalyptic dystopian. Two story halves (one a young mage Edge Guard in his idyllic hidden pocket of the world struggling to reconcile young love and duty, and one a young Resistance fighter struggling to save the human race from their genocidal robot overlords after the A.I. uprising 13 years previous) crash together in a shocking second act.
Elisabeth's December 2016 pick
For teens and lovers of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. (No sex in this book, although there's some forbidden romance and kissin’.) A fractured fairy tale, the story of how young Lady Catherine turned from a sweet young woman (and talented baker) into the bitter and jaded “off with their heads!” Queen of Hearts that we are familiar with.
The Queen of Hearts, she baked some tarts, all on a summer’s day. The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them clean away. He stole her heart too.
Elisabeth's September 2016 pick
There's something about a *Sarah's Scribbles* comic that cuts straight to the truth, espeically if you're an introvert. Each comic is hilarious and insightful, and makes you think "Yes. Someone out there gets me."
Elisabeth's September 2015 pick
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher
I challenged a co-worker to a cage match in order to get this Advance Reading Copy. (She declined. The publisher's rep had two copies.)
Reading a new Butcher book is always an emotional experience, in that you early want to suck down the pages, to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, but each page consumed brings you another page closer to the dreaded end of the book, and it will be at least a year before another new volume arrives to thrill you. I rejoiced with each page turn, and mourned as the unread section of pages got slimmer and slimmer.
This was a lovely new offering from Butcher, new series that has it all. Sky pirates (ahem, privateers), cats, sword fights, espionage, war, world building, genial wizards (of a sort) whose brains are too full of the magic of the ether to remember mundane things like how to work a doorknob or wear pants, sky battles, a subtle romance, politics, humor, and cats. Did I mention cats? Rowl is my favorite character. Butcher writes a cat's perspective very well.
An ensemble cast of characters provides chapters from multiple perspectives, even some from the (surprisingly sympathetic) enemy, and keeps the story moving without bogging down. As you observed each character from their companion's perspective and from their own thoughts, it was easy to get attached.
Did I mention the cats? Seriously one of the best parts. (I'm leaving out something very big here, so you can have the delight of discovery that I did when they appear about 20 pages into the book.)
Elisabeth's November 2013 pick
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
A hilarious romp narrated by Simon, a brilliant geneticist who, despite his lack of understanding social cues, embarks on a scientific campaign to find a wife, reasoning that companionship would be practical and convenient. His method of evaluating candidates, a lengthy questionnaire to ensure compatibility before investing time and effort, turns away several fantastic candidates, and his inability to pick up on social cues turns away several beautiful and brilliant and definitely interested women.
It is Rosie, a wholly inappropriate candidate (according to his questionnaire) who begins to mold Simon in to regular life as they work towards solving the mystery of Rosie's father (he's a geneticist, remember?).
The author is very careful not to label Simon as autistic, although autism and Asperger's Syndrome are mentioned, because the label would flatten this rich character into a two dimensional figure. Simon does have many characteristics that only he does not seem to notice, and has a very particular way of viewing the world that makes for a fascinating narrative, and it makes him a sympathetic and likeable character even as you scream at him to notice what is going on around him.
Elisabeth's May 2013 pick
Sanderson's worldbuilding ability shines in this novel, a first YA offering from this fantasy giant. An alternate earth contains just enough place names and events to provide a sense of familiarity to ground the alternate history and the fantastical events of this novel, and the physics and math based magic provides a credibility that "Abracadabra" just can't match. The characters of this novel suit the late middle school crowd of readers, but the serious tones of the novel will still hold the interest of a high schooler.
Elisabeth's January 2013 pick
A fascinating look into the ways our cultures have shaped the way we handle and interact with food. The tools are and technologies we use are just as influenced by our societies as our societies are influenced by our tools.
Particularly fascinating is how different things were 500, 100, even 20 years ago. Women were rarely the cooks for large houses or castles back in the days of open hearths, due to the danger of death from skirts catching fire. Forks were considered effeminate until about 200 years ago. The modern potato peeler, now an indispensable tool, only appeared in the 1990's!
Elisabeth's June 2012 review
Ruby and Simon, twelve-year-old twins, are passing their first summer at their family's new farm in Wisconsin, when a mysterious man shows up to explain that the strange weather they've been having is attached to Simon's mood and that Simon is the youngest (and potentially the most powerful) Storm Maker the world has ever seen.
A delightful middle-grade reader with a girl narrator telling the story, but centered around her twin brother (thus making it palatable for readers of either sex).
It is a delight to read a book that has average protagonists. Normal teens with normal tantrums and intelligences, confusions, and fears. Thrust into overwhelming and frightening situations, they act like twelve-year-olds, not politically saavy adults or exceptionally gifted and talented wonder-kids. It is no mysterious family secret or hidden bloodline, just chance that gifts Simon with his powers.
Written well for the age group, not dumbed down ("for kids") but rather written with an age-empathic vocabulary and sentence structure.
Elisabeth's March 2012 pick
Delightful! An awkward boy and an awkward friendship with the already heroic preteen Prince Achilles, and its organic growth into the magnificence that steals the stage in the Iliad. What a wonderful side to the epic, that at last receives the attention it deserves. Bravo to Ms. Miller is her tender and sympathetic treatment of these two heroes.
Elisabeth's February 2012 pick
I wept and I would still read it again. I am tempted to leave the review at that. "I wept." This book is wonderful and terrible, and well-written. John Green has the singular ability to write like people (teenagers especially) feel, to distill into words a feeling, an impression, in a very non-literary sort of way. He is also excellent at sympathetically channeling the singular misery and drama that teenagers feel. Give this to the teenager in your life who might also like Jodi Picoult.
Elisabeth's January 2012 pick
Cinderella set after World War IV, in New Beijing, with the protagonist as a cyborg (and thus a second-rate citizen). Throw in a deadly and very contagious plague reminiscent of the Black Death, and inter-galactic political difficulty between the Earth and the independent Moon. Instead of a glass slipper, the heroine accidentally leaves behind her cybernetic left foot.
I loved this book. I confess that when I picked it up, and even after I read the back cover, I wasn't expecting much. Too weird, I thought. How do you translate Cinderella into such a strange setting? Well, I read it in one evening. I couldn't put it down. The characters are three dimensional and interesting, and inspired emotional reactions (I wanted to shake the step-mother for being such a petty, horrible person). The love story was sweet and unforced. The heroine was no Mary Sue! The writing style was light and easy to read, making this a quick read. Entirely enjoyable, I would definitely recommend this book for someone who liked The Hunger Games for its downtrodden, flawed heroine in tough life-or-death political circumstances, but who is looking for something less bloody and gory to read.
King Hugo's Huge Ego is a delight! Written in rhyming quatrains, each page has the bouncing, contagious feel of a limerick (not a dirty one, thank you very much) which trips and rolls off the tongue. This story was a lot of fun to read to children.
This book may be classified as a YA novel, but I've definitely recommended it to just about every adult I know. An excellent pick for young adult reluctant readers, because the story really is that engaging. Chosen by lottery to compete in an annual televised battle royale, where the winner is taken care of for life and the losers are brutally slaughtered by other contestants for the viewers' cruel amusement in the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen just hopes to survive long enough to make it home, and to avoid becoming one of the human monsters she is fighting against. The story is horrifying and shocking, but I couldn't put it down, wondering what would happen next. I made the mistake of bringing this book on my honeymoon, thinking to read it on the beach. My husband had to threaten to hide it in order for us to go snorkeling.
Preorder your copy of Fairest: Levana's Story today to receive a Fairest hidden-message pocket mirror and a limited edition poster while supplies last! (On Sale January 27, 2015)
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