Guest Post with Danica Davidson, Minecraft Author: Speaking to Members of the EU About Literacy, Online Citizenship, & Fact-Checking

Today on The Hermit Librarian, I’m pleased to welcome back Danica Davidson, author of over twelve Minecraft books for young readers. Last year, Danica spoke to my readers about her adventures in publishing. Her adventures have certainly taken on a grander scale as recently she had the chance to speak before members of the EU and their children about literacy, online citizenship, and fact-checking, as well as her catalog of books that embrace a lot fun aspects that appeal specifically to the children.

With a new box-set recently released, An Unofficial Overworld Heroes Adventure Series Box Set, as well as a section of her website with writing advice for ambitious young writers (here), Danica continues her excellence in reaching out to audiences that directly enjoy her books and those that put her titles in the hands that most benefit from them.

 

 

If you’re invited to give a speech before members of the European Union and their kids, what do you say?

Last spring Microsoft invited me to speak in Brussels, Belgium in their special offices that work with the EU. They were putting on a Minecraft event. I write adventure chapter books for kids that take place as if Minecraft is real (twelve books out so far!), and I talk a lot about literacy and empowering kids through reading.

I flew from Detroit to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Brussels. The area of the city I was in (there wasn’t much time for sightseeing) was mostly government buildings. I’d never been to Brussels before, and I always love the opportunity to see more of the world.

Before I gave the speech, I’d discussed the details with Microsoft and we came up with an outline for what I’d talk about. So I started the speech by talking a bit about my background, then why the game Minecraft makes for great storytelling. It encourages imagination and critical thinking. Writing books about Minecraft can bring in kids who love gaming but might not be so into reading, and it can hopefully show them how fun reading can be.

Then I talked about some of the issues my books cover, while stressing that the most important thing for me with these books is that they’re entertaining. They’re adventure stories with many cliffhanger chapter endings — the main character, 11-year-old Minecraft character Stevie, has his fill of fighting monsters and saving the worlds. But… at the same time the books talk about things like cultural differences, teamwork, online citizenship and critical thinking while online.

I show cultural differences with how Stevie finds a portal to Earth and makes Earth friends. They are literally from different worlds, and they don’t always see eye to eye or agree on things, but Stevie gets a basic understanding that different things work for different people and that people have more in common than they have different. The real world is more complicated than this, but the fantasy setting does allow me to talk about real issues in a made-up setting.

The characters almost always have to work as a team to get things done. With online citizenship, I discussed how Stevie is baffled by the Internet when he comes to Earth, seeing as how it can be used for helping or harming. The books discuss cyberbullying.

I also talked about fact-checking, which is brought up briefly in my book The Last of the Ender Crystal:
“I think we just need to watch and learn,” Maison said. “My mom always said you can’t jump to conclusions and you have to learn all about something before you have an opinion on it.”

Yancy snorted. “Not in the days of the Internet. The more knee-jerk your reaction, the more the Internet seems to reward you for it.”
Those lines especially got a good response. I want kids (and adults!) to think through things and double-check on details, not jump on loud bandwagons that are going to cause more harm than good.

The speech was about twenty minutes long, and the next ten minutes were full of questions from the kids of EU members. They seemed really into what I was talking about and wanted to know more. I’ve never had any other experience like it, and I’m grateful that I was able to have this chance.

 

About the Author

 

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Danica Davidson is the author of YA and children’s novels and graphic novels. She has the Minecrafter novels Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down Into the Nether, The Armies of HerobrineBattle with the Wither, Adventure Against the Endermen, Mysteries of the Overworld, Danger in the Jungle Temple, Clash in the Underwater World, Last of the Ender Crystal, and Return of the Ender Dragon; the how-to-draw manga books Manga Art For Beginners and Manga Art for Intermediates; the comic book Barbie Puppies: Puppy Party; and “Picture Perfect” in the graphic novel Tales from the Crypt.  Her books have been called “EXCITING” by Forbes, “RECOMMENDED READING” by School Library Journal, and have been spotlighted by NPR, Sci Fi Magazine, Barnes & Noble Kids Blog, MTV and other publications. Please check out her site at www.danicadavidson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

The draw of storytelling, the connection of a shared identity…

Janet and Abby have a lot in common, despite being separated by more than sixty years. Their worlds, for all the similarities between them, are also vastly differently. 1955 is, for members of the LGBT+ community, nothing like they are in Abby’s 2017 and yet, maybe, not so different as you might think.

The dual perspectives, interspersed with selections from novels written by Janet, Abby, and lesbian pulp authors within Robin Talley’s world, spell out a story that is as engaging as it is terrifying, as hard to put down as it is heartbreaking.

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Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound | Libro.fm

Published: 13 November 2018

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Category: Historical Fiction/Young Adult/LGBT+

In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

Rating: 5 Stars

Content warning: homophobia, racism, moments of intensity/discomfort (please read last paragraph of review for further information)

Janet and Abby were interesting characters. Their voices were strong separate from each other, in their own timelines, while still being complimentary of each other. The things that reached across the years, whether it was one of the books or authors or something that is a spoiler, were well crafted by Robin Talley. She kept up the interconnections in a way that would’ve been difficult in less skilled hands and I applauded her keeping the story together and weaving it so well.

 

What I Liked

 

I preferred Janet’s perspective a bit more because Abby’s perspective was a bit more familiar to me, modern as it was and much closer to my own experience. Janet’s perspective offered, on the other hand, insight into a time that I haven’t often read about. The 1950’s were a terrifying time for people considered “other” by those in power (read: cis-gendered white men). This sense of unease and terror was palpable throughout the writing, even more Janet and her friend, Marie, became aware of it as it related to them personally.

Abby was a complex character that had a lot going on and while there were some things about her chapters that I wasn’t a fan of, overall I thought her interesting. Walking through her handling not only of her senior project, but also of the pursuit of the identity of her favorite author and her daily life opened up a character map with many offshoots and paths to explore.

 

What I Didn’t Care For As Much

 

While Abby’s complexities did speak to the realities of not only being human, but especially a teenager in her situation (dealing with parents that are fighting; a little brother being affected by that; a potential uniting with her ex; among other things) it felt like at times that all of these threads got tangled and made it hard to follow which one the reader was meant to be concentrating on at any given time.

 

Would I Recommend

 

I would recommend this, especially if you’re interested in the era of lesbian pulp fiction. As someone who didn’t know much about the genre prior to reading this title, I think I found out a quite a bit, including threads to learn more (I didn’t realize The Price of Salt, aka Salt was a lesbian pulp novel, for example). Robin Talley included information at the back relating to real titles and authors to explore and that inspired her before writing her own story, which I found incredibly useful.

I would remind readers that there are scenes, particularly those that take place in Janet’s timeline, that have an overwhelming feeling of tension relating to homophobia, whether external or internalized. Whether on the page or inferred from the context of the events in the book, it could make some scenes difficult to read, so be aware of that when diving in. The book is well worth the read, but some fair warning may be needed.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

 

 

 

A Rock Star Book Tour: Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Love the thrill of Chopped Teen? Kids Baking Championship? Throw those together with some of the cutest elements of romance tropes and you’ve got Stephanie Kate Strohm’s latest novel,  LOVE A LA MODE.

Embracing one of my favorite genres of television, this book was fun to read, from the name dropping of famous chefs, restaurants, and shows to the look at what a culinary high school might look like for our cast of characters from across the globe). Foodie and romance fans alike may well find something to enjoy in Strohm’s novel that has the earmarks of these classic shows and tropes but with its own spark that takes place in one of the most iconic/romantic/food-centric cities in the world: Paris.

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Title: LOVE A LA MODE

Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm

Pub. Date: November 27, 2018

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 304

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | B&N | iBooks | TBD

Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. …

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

Rating: 4 Stars

I wanted to read this book because I love cooking shows, whether they’re made for an American audience or a British one (there’s a distinct difference, let me tell you). Having read one of Stephanie’s books before (Prince in Disguise, my 5 star review here), I knew the writing would likely be good. Stephanie’s got a feel for writing a nice cast of characters and sweet moments for them, particularly those that end up in romantic situations.

Rosie and Henry, the central couple of Love a la Mode, certainly have some of those: their meet-cute on the plane, certain scenic locales around Paris, and so on. Their early interactions are some of the best in the book, before the hectic nature of not only school, but this particular school and plot points/developments get in their way.

Rosie had, by far, the best depth of anyone in the book and it was lovely getting to know her, not only as an enthusiastic pastry chef but as someone particularly close to her family. Her joy working with flour and butter and sugar came through whenever she was around these ingredients, working its way off the page and to the reader.

Henry didn’t have quite the same spark for me. There was a lot of energy he put into assuring his mother that he wanted nothing more than to work in a restaurant, but like his teacher Chef Martinet said about his cooking, I never sensed him in his food (unlike with Rosie).

Whatever other good elements Henry had, such as friendliness or enthusiasm, there were some traits that rubbed me the wrong way. The miscommunication between him and Rosie was one thing, almost understandable in its own way. His jealousy regarding her and Bodie Tal, another student at the Ecole, was another. It felt like too much, the assumptions he was making stretching beyond the bounds of reasonableness. Some of the thoughts he had felt rather possessive, which was odd especially considering a) he and Rosie weren’t in a relationship at the time and b) there’s never any understanding between them of any sort. His reaction to her interacting with Bodie, therefore, wore away at the goodwill that had been built up toward him in the previous chapters.

There were other elements of characterization regarding the rest of the cast that felt a little lacking. The other students didn’t have as much depth as I would’ve liked. The feel I got from them was that they were reserved, almost like they were being kept back for a spin-off or sequel. I’m all for continuing to see these people, especially Priya and Hampus, but not at the expense of their appearance in this book suffering.

One other facet I did like was that while there were potential stereotypes of high-school dramas in the mix (Clara as the mean girl, Bodi at the bad boy teen star), they didn’t play to expectations. It would’ve been easy to see nasty personality aspects pop up and they could’ve felt tired or they could’ve been done well, but by going in a different direction, the author gave Love a la Mode a freshness that I enjoyed.

 

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About Stephanie

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It’s Not Me, It’s You; The Taming of the Drew; Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink; Confederates Don’t Wear Couture and the upcoming The Date to Save and Prince in Disguise (Fall 2017). She grew up on the Connecticut coast, where a steady diet of Little House on the Prairie turned her into a history nerd at an early age. After graduating with a joint major in theater and history from Middlebury College, she acted her way around the country, performing in more than 25 states.

Although she was born in New York, she currently lives in Chicago, and doesn’t discriminate against any type of pizza. When she’s not writing, she loves baking, walking her dog Lorelei, taking dance cardio classes too seriously, and playing board games with her husband. Photo credit: Melissa Lynn

 

Website |  Twitter | Facebook | InstagramPinterest | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details

 

3 winners will win a signed finished copy of LOVE A LA MODE (US Only)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Tour Schedule

 

Week One:

11/26/2018 – Mary Had a Little Book Blog – Review

11/27/2018 – Oh Hey! Books – Excerpt

11/28/2018 – Here’s to Happy Endings – Review

11/29/2018 – A Gingerly Review – Review

11/30/2018 – Adventures Thru Wonderland – Review

 

Week Two:

12/3/2018 – Novel Novice – Review

12/4/2018 – Do You Dog-ear? – Review

12/5/2018 – The Hermit Librarian – Review

12/6/2018 – A Dream Within A Dream – Excerpt

12/7/2018 – YA Book Nerd – Review

 

Week Three:

12/10/2018 – Eli to the nth – Review

12/11/2018 – BookHounds YA – Review

12/12/2018 – Savings in Seconds – Review

12/13/2018 – Clarissa Reads It All – Review

12/14/2018 – Kait Plus Books – Review

 

Week Four:

12/17/2018 – Book Dragon Lair – Review

12/18/2018 – EatingbetweenthelinesINC – Review

12/19/2018 – Smada’s Book Smack – Review

12/20/2018 – Lifestyle of Me – Review

12/21/2018 – The Heart of a Book Blogger – Review

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Libro.fm: The Pro Indie Bookstore Way to Enjoy Audiobooks

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I’m a big enthusiast for listening to audiobooks. Narrators open up the worlds of my favorite books in new ways and help introduce me to previously unknown stories. Audiobooks enable me to multitask and read while doing other things such as knitting, dish washing, or working. They are exciting  and have the added benefit of making less pleasant experiences better.

In the past I’ve been an Audible patron because it was the first platform I was introduced to and I stuck with it because I didn’t really know of anything better and my library didn’t have a selection of audiobooks that could keep up with my reading tastes.

However! Recently I came into contact with Madi from Libro.fm’s marketing team and learned about their wonderful site/app and how it combines audiobooks with support for indie bookstores.

 

A Little About Libro.Fm

 

Libro.fm is the first audiobook company to directly support local, independent bookstores. We have over 500 partner bookstores across 1,000 locations and over 4,000 engaged booksellers who handsell Libro.fm audiobooks every day.

 

The price of a membership to Libro.fm ($14.99 USD) versus Audible ($14.95) is comparable, as they both also have a 30% discount on further books, but there is also a significant difference: a portion of the money I spend with Libro.fm can support one of my local indie bookstores (Black Dog Books in Newton, NJ gets my vote 😉 ) or be generally allocated to one of the participating stores. What a fabulous bonus!

Selection wise, I have yet to encounter a downside. There are some titles which the publisher restricts, though that’s not something I’d consider a downside to Libro.fm really because that’s hardly something they could control. They do still have an immense library that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed perusing since I learned about them and today I’m sharing with you a playlist I’ve curated that I hope will inspire you to try the site as well.

 

The Hermit Librarian’s Libro.Fm Playlist

 

Young Adult Titles

 

 

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Narrated by Therese Plummer

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 7 June 2016 / Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Paranormal

There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

 

Why I Chose This Title: one of the things that Victoria does really well in her writing is examine characters that embody the sentiment of monsters playing at being humans and humans being monstrous (to paraphrase something her own Victor Vale says in Vicious). This Savage Song is a good example and almost a literal one as you’ll see when Kate and August meet and interact.

 

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Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, Narrated by the Author

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 22 May 2018

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT+/Fiction

A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

 

Why I Chose This Title: this was such an emotion filled novel that it’s hard to express how much it may mean to each reader because it will be, I think, a unique experience to each. Moss’s coping with the circumstances of his father’s death, of the world around him, and his own internal workings are just part of the excellence of this book. It being narrated by the author. That adds an extra special something.

 

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What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, Narrated by Noah Galvin & Froy Gutierrez

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 9 October 2018

Publisher: HarperCollins

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT+/Romance

Critically acclaimed and bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera combine their talents in this smart, funny, heartfelt collaboration about two very different boys who can’t decide if the universe is pushing them together—or pulling them apart.

ARTHUR is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

BEN thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

What if it’s us?

 

Why I Chose This Title: I loved this book when I reviewed it earlier this year (link to my review here). It was a highly anticipated title for me. When I started listening to the audiobook, though, I was so glad that I decided to read it a second time because the narrators add SO MUCH to the telling of the story. There’s one thing about reading about the hilarious interactions between Arthur and Ben and the funny reactions they have to what’s going on in their lives during the course of the book. There’s an entirely different thing when you hear Noah & Froy put so much energy and emotion behind the work and get all the nuance of them just right.

 

 

Adult Titles

 

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, Narrated by Steven Crossley

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 20 April 2015

Publisher: Tantor Media Inc.

Category: Fantasy/Fiction

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. There’s White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. And once upon a time, there was Black London . . . but no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

 

Why I Chose This Title: Schwab is on my list again because I couldn’t make a list without A Darker Shade of Magic being on it. The concept is so interesting to start with, the telling is so good, and Steven Crossley does a fabulous job of switching back and forth between perspectives (Kell, Delilah, and brief asides) that I was never bored.

 

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Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls by Lauren Graham, Narrated by the Author

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 29 November 2016

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group

Category: Autobiography/Nonfiction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

 

Why I Chose This Title: I love the Gilmore Girls show and Lauren Graham is the perfect person to give a behind the scenes peek at the show, given that she plays one of the titular characters. There is no one more perfect to narrate it either, because she a) it’s an autobiography and b) Lauren is able to retain the energy and speed for which she as Lorelai Gilmore is so well known. There’s more to her life and career in this book than just the one show, providing insight into this lovely woman as she became the person we sort of know from an iconic program.

 

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Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart, Narrated by the Author & Judy Young

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 18 October 2016

Publisher: HarperCollins

Category: Autobiography/Nonfiction/LGBT+

The wildly popular YouTube personality and author of the New York Times bestseller My Drunk Kitchen is back! This time, she’s stirring up memories and tales from her past.

By combing through the journals that Hannah has kept for much of her life, this collection of narrative essays deliver a fuller picture of her life, her experiences, and the things she’s figured out about family, faith, love, sexuality, self-worth, friendship and fame.

Revealing what makes Hannah tick, this sometimes cringe-worthy, poignant collection of stories is sure to deliver plenty of Hannah’s wit and wisdom, and hopefully encourage you to try your hand at her patented brand of reckless optimism.

Personal note:

Hello, my darlings! I am incredibly pleased to present BUFFERING: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded!

As a big fan of memoirs, I wanted to try my hand at writing about the events of my life that deserve a little more consideration than can be accomplished in 140-characters or a 6-minute vlog. Now on the cusp of turning 30, I’m ready to expose some parts of my life that I haven’t shared before. Before, it was all about privacy, process and time. And now the time has come! I’m ready to put myself out there, for you.

I’m a little nervous about all these vulnerable words going into the world, these tales about my love life, the wrestling I’ve done with faith, how I feel about sex and my family and myself. I’ve had a lot of trials, a lot of errors, but also a lot of passion. Here’s the thing–I’ve always found comfort in the stories shared by others, so I hope my stories, now that I feel ready to tell them, will bring you some comfort too.

And when you read this book please remember: Buffering is just the time it takes to process.

Enjoy!

Love,

Hannah

 

Why I Chose This Title: Hannah Hart is a buyouant personality and I couldn’t help but be pulled in by her YouTube videos once upon a time. I’d gotten her first book as a gift once and while listening to the sample for Buffering, found myself hooked on this one as well. This is more autobiography than recipe book like the last one, so there’s more insight and personal stuff, some of it a bit heavier than you might think. Very honest, very open, Hannah’s telling of her story is a good read and she does a great job of expressing it to the listener.

 

 

Kids Titles

 

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A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, Narrated by Stephen Fry

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 29 March 2005

Publisher: HarperCollins

Category: Childrens/Classics/Fiction

Paddington Bear had traveled all the way from Darkest Peru when the Brown family first met him on Paddington Station. Since then their lives have never been quite the same … for ordinary things become quite extraordinary when a bear called Paddington is involved.

 

Why I Chose This Title: A Bear Called Paddington is a classic story from my childhood and I’d never heard the audiobook before, but once I knew Stephen Fry was the narrator, it was a quick to pick it up. His voice is extremely pleasant and one that lends itself very well to audiobooks in general, but especially children’s books. The story itself is silly and fun and so classic, you’ll want to have an orange marmalade sandwich yourself by the end.

 

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Narrated by the Author

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 11 November 2003

Publisher: HarperCollins

Category: Fantasy/Horror/Childrens

In Coraline’s family’s new flat there’s a locked door. On the other side is a brick wall—until Coraline unlocks the door . . . and finds a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only different.

The food is better there. Books have pictures that writhe and crawl and shimmer. And there’s another mother and father there who want Coraline to be their little girl. They want to change her and keep her with them. . . . Forever.

Coraline is an extraordinary fairy tale/nightmare from the uniquely skewed imagination of #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman.

 

Why I Chose This Title: The tale itself is spooky and well written enough to have appeal to a cross-section of audiences, a bonus for books that can be read by themselves or as a group activity. This audio edition is read by Neil himself, as a lot of his titles are, and adds to the eerie atmosphere of Coraline’s adventure into the realm of the Other Mother. It’s such a good partnership between writing and voice that I don’t know that there would’ve been any other possibility that would’ve been quite as good.

 

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Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Narrated by the Author

Goodreads  |  Libro.fm

Published: 4 July 2000

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group

Category: Classics/Childrens/Fiction

This Newbery Honor Book by E. B. White, author of Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, is a classic of children’s literature that is “just about perfect.”

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter.

E. B. White’s beloved book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.

 

Why I Chose This Title: Most of what I remember of the story of Charlotte’s Web comes from the film, but the book holds a special place in my heart because it was the book that really got into my heart. The movie never quite got the emotion of E.B. White’s setting and character relationships, particularly the ending (no spoilers here just in case). I made the mistake of reading this in public at the time and I would highly recommend tissues if you choose to do so yourself! ^^; lol

 

 

Now for a special surprise! As a reader of my blog, I have a code just for you all to use. From now until March 30, 2019 at 5PM, you can use code HERMITLIBRARIAN at Libro.fm to start your own membership and get 3 books for the price of 1! It’s a SUPER value and I hope you’ll take advantage of the many great titles available. While you can purchase titles from most places in the world, memberships are only available in the US and Canada, so the code is restricted to people in those countries.

What books might you check out with this fantastic code? I’m thinking of picking up Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim or Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Let me know about your potential picks in the comment section down below.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling (author), MinaLima (illustrations)

After seeing the first film and reading the script for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I wanted to know what would come next. There were some development that I expected, given the history of the Wizarding World, but then there were many more characters that were totally new. What would be their fate? Did they really survive the first installment? You have to pick up Crimes of Grindelwald to find out the details & answers, so I did.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 16 November 2018

Publisher:

Category: Screenplay/Fantasy/Fiction

J.K. Rowling’s five-film Fantastic Beasts adventure series continues with the original screenplay for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

At the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured in New York with the help of Newt Scamander. But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escapes custody and sets about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore enlists Newt, his former Hogwarts student, who agrees to help once again, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

This second original screenplay from J.K. Rowling, illustrated with stunning line art from MinaLima, expands on earlier events that helped shape the wizarding world, with some surprising nods to the Harry Potter stories that will delight fans of both the books and films.

Rating: 3 Stars

There were a lot of threads to sort through in Crimes of Grindelwald, subplots and whatnot, some of which were more interesting/important than others. It’s hard to go in-depth with them, considering the spoiler content that would come up. Suffice it to say, there was one main story line that I was particularly interested in (Creedence) and that had some good momentum until the last page.

For whatever reason, there were at least two major changes to Wizarding World canon. One may still turn out to be a falsehood, but as it stands in this book? I’m frustrated because it just doesn’t make sense within the established world. Without any significant spoilers, I’ll say it’s regarding Creedence, his journey into the magical world, and his search for his magical heritage. Creedence is interesting, but I hesitate to say whether the choices made regarding his path will end up being good and just a poor attempt to tie him into established characters’ stories.

Speaking of established characters, this one might be slightly spoiler-y as I talk about their appearance specifically: Minvera McGonagall

SPOILER

McGonagall makes an appearance as a thirty-year-old professor at Hogwarts. Why is this a problem? Well, for one, she shouldn’t be born when Crimes of Grindelwald takes place, much less the flashback she appears in. Second, her inclusion felt like it was only being used in order to tie the Fantastic Beasts series back to Harry Potter. She didn’t bring anything to the story otherwise.

END SPOILER

The same goes for Nicholas Flamel in terms of using his appearance to tie things back to HP. From the trailer it looks like the actor will be good, but in terms of substance in the screenplay? Eh, I think he could’ve been almost any other wizard and it would’ve worked just as well.

There are sure to be some wonderful visuals when the film is seen in conjunction with reading the screenplay. MinaLima did a fabulous job with the line illustrations and the written descriptions of creatures and scenes was adequate enough to picture the action.

I wish, though, that there had been more focus on, say, the circus where Creedence met Nagini. There is a tour of the French Ministry of Magic that may well have some amazing shots, such as there were in Fantastic Beasts and the visits to MACUSA.

This screenplay will be good for fans of the series, disappointing as the appointment of certain cast members remains. As a script on its own, there were some developments that didn’t make much sense, characters (such as, you know, the author of the Fantastic Beasts field guide) that weren’t really handled as well as I’d have thought, and missteps regarding established canon.

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Cover Reveal! WRAPPED UP IN YOU by Ceillie Simkiss, with EXCLUSIVE Character/Author Interview

One of my favorite new writers of 2018 has a new book coming out in just two short weeks! Ceillie Simkiss’s latest book, WRAPPED UP IN YOU, continues the story of Cora and Elena, the stunning young women readers met in LEARNING CURVES and caught a glimpse of in THE GHOSTS OF HALLOWEEN. Today, not only do I have a hot aesthetic to share, but the debut of the cover for Ceillie’s newest romance.

If you want to read my review of book one, LEARNING CURVES, check it out at the link here.

 

Wrapped-Up-In-You-Kindle

 

Amazon | Goodreads

Published: 14 December 2018

Publisher: Self-published

Category: Novella/Romance/LGBT+

It’s been two years since Cora and Elena of LEARNING CURVES discovered how easy it is to learn to love–but with Christmas just around the bend, they’re going to have to learn to cope when both their families descend on their household for the first time ever. With her brothers and parents underfoot and a million dishes to cook, it’s hard enough for Elena to plan her double surprise for Elena, even harder when she has to corral her wayward brothers into it–but when Cora’s own surprise plans tangle with Elena’s, it may be impossible to tie up the holiday in a neat little bow.

There’s mayhem and laughter, warmth and unexpected turns–and even if it all doesn’t go according to plan, neither Cora nor Elena care so long as they can stay wrapped up in each other.

There are so many things to ask not only Ceillie, but the lovely ladies in her books. I figured, why stop at one? Below are some of the questions that I came up with that Ceillie, Elena, and Cora took the time to answer. Hopefully the holiday theme and a peek into the future of Learning Curves stories (and more!) will prove just as interesting to you all as they did to me. 🙂

 

Wrapped Up In You Aesthetic

 

Character Interview

 

The Hermit Librarian: Jolabokaflod is the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve and spending the night reading and eating yummy treats. What book would you give each other this year?

Cora: Elena isn’t much of a reader, I think that we would tag team this tradition. I would be in charge of the books, and she would be in charge of the of the treats. Which just sounds great, honestly, right hon?

Elena: it really does. I would make some deliciously chewy gingerbread cookies for us to eat, and of course picking books for me, it’s going to be a poetry book.

Cora: Of course it is! You like poetry more than you like prose. I’m not gonna buy you books you don’t want! And if you’re nice, I’ll even read it to you.

Elena: Now that seems like the perfect night in, doesn’t it?

 

The Hermit Librarian: if there’s one recipe from the upcoming WRAPPED UP IN YOU that you’d want to share with your fans, which one would it be?

Elena: You know, I don’t think there are any real recipes in Wrapped Up In You. Cora does more cooking than I do, but Mama does more of it than anyone else. However, if you’re looking for holiday recipes, I highly recommend The Kitchenista’s recipes! She has a holiday cookbook that will absolutely not let you down!

 

The Hermit Librarian: what is one go-to accessory you like to wear that is specific to this time of year? Like a head band with antlers or a pair of earrings with bells, that sort of thing.

Cora: As y’all will remember, I hate hats. But you have to do something to keep your head warm when you have short hair. It’s just the way life is, unfortunately. I have a collection of knit ear-warmers and infinity scarves that keep me plenty warm and fashionable, no matter what outfit I wear! I don’t think I could stand wearing earrings with bells. Those would be really distracting!

 

The Hermit Librarian: do you put up Christmas trees? What kind of decorators are you? Classic lights and bauble strands or eclectic assortment of ornaments types?

Cora: *snort* What kind of question is that? Of course we put up Christmas trees! We don’t go quite as hard as Elena’s family, but it’s also early in our lives together. We only have one tree and it’s decorated with simple ornaments that I made in our favorite colors.

Elena: it’s also a pre-lit artificial tree, which would horrify Mama to no end to have in her own house. It got classic white lights on it that sparkle so nicely. We also have bunting and strands of baubles around the house and on the front porch. I think it’s quite pretty.

Cora: I think so, too.

 

Author Interview

 

The Hermit Librarian: what was it about the winter holidays that made you want to write a new story for Cora and Elena? Was there a certain element you were looking forward to writing about?

Ceillie: A Christmas story seemed perfect and necessary to wrap up Cora and Elena’s romance.  It’s my favorite holiday for many of the same reasons that it is Elena’s – the food, the family, and all of the beautiful decorations. It’s also the perfect time for surprises, which WRAPPED UP IN YOU hinged on, as you’ll see when you read!

I think I most look forward to writing about Cora being a real part of Elena’s family. You see her kind of starting to get there in Learning Curves, but you also see her be totally accepted as part of the family, which I think is just beautiful. Family is a bit of a bittersweet topic for a lot of queer people, myself included, and I wanted to give Cora and Elena the family reception that I wish I’d had.

The Hermit Librarian: have you considered other holiday themed novellas or short stories for Cora and Elena?

Ceillie: It’s a possibility in the future! I want to spend some time on projects other than Learning Curves projects for a little while, but I won’t rule it out! Ghosts of Halloween kind of struck me as something I wanted to write and it came together just in time for Halloween. If there’s a holiday you’d like to see Cora and Elena celebrate, drop me an email at contact@ceilliesimkiss.com and I might just come up with something for you!

The Hermit Librarian: what’s next on your agenda project wise, writing or otherwise?

Ceillie: In personal news, I’m headed for carpal tunnel surgery in the near future, so if you have some prayers, good thoughts or vibes to send someone else’s way, I’d appreciate them. And remember, if you don’t have insurance, you can get it through the marketplace through Dec. 15! It’s so important in case of emergencies like this, y’all.

As far as writing goes, I am nearly done with the first draft of a project I’ve called A KNIGHT TO REMEMBER. It’s a fantasy romance featuring two separate romances – one between a trans man knight and a lady knight, and the other between a soft male blacksmith and a nonbinary tailor. I’ve already created a cover for it and everything! I just have to finish it and then do revisions. I hope to have it out to you all in February!

I also have a witchy short story that I hope to publish sometime – for free to everyone who signs up for my newsletter! I’m a super infrequent emailer – maybe every two weeks at the most when I have new stuff to give you or share new info. There’s already a few stories up there for anyone to read with the right password!

 


 

Thank you so much, Ceillie (Elena & Cora too), for answering my questions and sharing a little bit about your lives and future projects. I’m sure we’re looking forward to WRAPPED UP IN YOU, out in just two weeks!

Available for preorder now, be sure to pick this title up now so you too can read Elena and Cora’s Christmas tale as soon as it’s available. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Light Between the Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

Fans of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series will find a new story to love in Laura E. Weymouth’s debut The Light Between the Worlds. There is a classical feel of magic suffused within the pages, but also the darkness that comes from being thrust out of your world and having to find your place in a new one.

Set during in 1940’s England and told in dual perspectives between two sisters, both sharing more than they realize, Weymouth’s debut earns its place among other literary tales of alternate worlds and the magic that exists in whatever world you inhabit.

 

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Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 23 October 2018

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Historical Fiction

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

Content warnings are available at www.lauraeweymouth.com/books

Rating: 4 Stars

Content Warning (provided by the author’s website; please highlight to reveal due to possible spoilers) “The Light Between Worlds portrays characters dealing with depression, self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, illness and disordered eating, and the loss of a loved one. It refers to possible suicide, contains scenes of violence and war, and brief mentions may be unsettling to readers with emetophobia.” *end CW

Part One of The Light Between the Worlds is told from Evelyn’s perspective. The youngest of the Hapwell siblings, it is she that finds the Woodlands most comforting. It’s something that Philippa and Jamie, despite having experienced that world with her, fail to understand most of the time, especially when they return to England.

The ache that Evelyn felt for the Woodlands felt intensely relatable. The Woodlands was the first place she’d found that was home, having been less than understood in England and then displaced by the bombings of World War II. The constant moving around, ostensibly for her safety, made it difficult to find anything in “our” world that felt as comforting, as true to her own heart, as the world that she found in that birch clearing.

Searching for someplace that is as home to us, that calls to our hearts as wholly as that enchanted place, can be incredibly difficult, as some readers may well understand. Wandering through the world, going through the motions of our lives like Evelyn did at school, gardening, attending classes, and so forth…all of it feels easily like life these days, trying to find what peace we can in an otherwise terrifying world that seems to have no place for us.

I’M AFRAID OF WHO I’M BECOMING. I CATCH MYSELF singing when I cross the back field, early in the mornings, to visit the cows. There’s something inside me—a glad, bright feeling, fragile and lovely as a dew-spangled cobweb, and I’m terrified.

Reading through Evelyn’s grief and depression was at times difficult. It resonates through her, even in the “light” times of spring and summer. It was almost like Seasonal Affective Disorder in the way she experienced the waves of emotions related to the world she was forced to leave. Even in good times there was a lingering fear. It’s hard, when you’ve been encapsulated by grief and depression for so long, to begin to feel better. What passes for normal can be so different from how you’ve been coping it can be an entirely different sort of terrifying to the pit you’ve been in.

Part Two of the book is told from Philippa’s point of view. After Evelyn’s disappearance, there are many questions, almost none of which can be answered because there were few people that knew Evelyn to begin with and none better than Philippa herself. Despite all that transpired between them, anger and bitterness and betrayal, there are answers needed and the narrative follows along as Philippa tries to find out, one way or the other, what happened.

It was lucky that there was Philippa to try and to believe in Evelyn, even considering how they’d left things before Evelyn’s disappearance and Philippa going off to school. Jamie, their elder brother, never seemed to have the ideas that Philippa did regarding their sister. That highlighted, among other instances, how much weight there’s been on Philippa, always. Keeping things together, finding answers, it falls onto her shoulders.

Despite recognizing her strengths, it was more difficult to like Philippa, even if understanding her was relatively simple. There’s a lot that happens that would be spoilers, but suffice it to say, I thought she made a great many mistakes regarding Evelyn, both before and after the Woodlands. The understanding comes in that, I get where she and some of her family were coming from, encouraging her to try school abroad and the like. And yet, there’s still a bone deep betrayal that never sits right, even after the end.

Powder and pumps. Jamie once told Evelyn that’s all I’m interested in since the Woodlands, but what he doesn’t realize is that you can wear powder like a shield, and wield the right lipstick like a sword.

I will give her credit in that, for what Susan of The Chronicles of Narnia was apparently criticized for after her adventures (I’ve only read books 1-3), Philippa understood how to make the world, whichever one she was in, work for her. There was a lot of strength in her character and, despite not liking her much, I can admire her ability to cope. I only wish she’d extended some of that courtesy to Evelyn.

There were some pacing issues in both parts that made things feel like they dragged on a bit, but it wasn’t wholly unpleasant, just frustrating. The world building was not my favorite in terms of uniqueness, but what there was was exquisite as Weymouth moved between them, showing the passage of time and how it affected our two different main characters. The writing in and of itself was so good that I found myself wishing there were more books by this author. That is the tragedy of reading a debut book so close to publication: the waiting until there’s (hopefully) more.

While there are tough moments throughout, as detailed in the Content Warnings section above, I really think this book will be a favorite as it showcases grief, betrayal, duty, sibling relationships, and identity.

Whether in our world or the Woodlands, times can be difficult and finding the magic in each day may well be the only way to move forward.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.