Ninja Librarians Recon Team!

So, I’m really excited!  This week in my Tuesday Top 10 I listed The Ninja Librarians as one of the books that is on my TBR list for this spring.  It’s a juvenile book, but I just love the idea of ninja librarians – what could be cooler?  Turns out, it’s even cooler when you’re selected to be a member of the Ninja Librarians Recon Team!  So every week, usually on Friday, I’ll be posting fun stuff about the book as well as just general fun stuff about books!  So, for this week I’m going to list the top ten book characters that I want to meet and share some great stuff about the book before it’s on the shelves!

  1. Minerva McGonagall from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – What a smart, funny, strong lady!  I feel like I could learn a ton from her and that we would become fast friends!
  2. Hawk & Spenser from Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series – I want to meet the two of them together, just so I can hang out and listen to them, their relationship is so unique and hilarious!
  3. Inspector Armand Gamache from Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series – I want him to be my uncle, my friend, my confidant, my protector – so honorable and smart and sincere.
  4. Jo March from Louise May Alcott’s Little Women – I always wanted to BE Jo March, so it would be great to at least get to know her…
  5. Mr. Penumbra from Robin Sloane’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Well, I want to meet all of the quirky characters in this novel and get a chance to hang out at that amazing bookstore!
  6. Lettie Hempstock from Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane – I’m a sucker for the supernatural and she’s so sweet while being stalwart and strong.
  7. Robert Langdon from Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books – It’d be fun to hang out with a super-smart guy who always manages to have history-altering adventures.
  8. Cliff Janeway from John Dunning’s Janeway series – Former cop turned rare book dealer he always saves the day and knows a ton about books!
  9. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – Cool, calm, honest, ethical – just a guy you want to know.
  10. Liesel Meminger from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief – A girl who loves words the way that I do.

What book characters would you like to meet?  Any fictional best friends or boyfriends you want to share?  Be sure to comment below!

And now, for some sneak peeks for The Ninja Librarians!

Check-out the book trailer here!

And here’s a snapshot of the cover and a picture of the author, Jen Swann Downey!









And an excerpt!

Check back next week for more fun stuff from the Ninja Librarians Recon Team!

Chapter 1

Books and Swords

Twelve–year–old Dorothea Barnes was thoroughly un–chosen, not particularly deserving, bore no marks of destiny, lacked any sort of criminal genius, and could claim no supernatural relations. Furthermore, she’d never been orphaned, kidnapped, left for dead in the wilderness, or bitten by anything more bloodthirsty than her little sister.

Don’t even begin to entertain consoling thoughts of long flaxen curls or shiny tresses black as ravens’ wings. Dorrie’s plain brown hair could only be considered marvelous in its ability to twist itself into hopeless tangles. She was neither particularly tall or small, thick or thin, pale or dark. She had parents who loved her, friends enough, and never wanted for a meal. So why, you may wonder, tell a story about a girl like this at all?

Because Dorrie counted a sword among her most precious belongings. Yes, it was only a fake one that couldn’t be relied upon to cut all the way through a stick of butter, but Dorrie truly and deeply desired to use it. Not just to fend off another staged pirate attack at Mr. Louis P. Kornberger’s Passaic Academy of Swordplay and Stage Combat (which met Tuesdays behind the library after Mr. Kornberger finished work there) but, when the right circumstances arose, to vanquish some measure of evil from the world.

Dorrie regarded every opportunity to prepare for that moment as a crucial one, and the Passaic Public Library’s annual Pen and Sword Festival—always bursting with costumed scribblers and swashbucklers—afforded, in her strongly-held opinion, one of the best. On its appointed day, she pounded down the wide battered staircase of her home long before the rising sun finished gilding the rusty dryer that sat, for lost reasons, on top of it. She did so in the one tall purple boot she could find, dragging her duffel bag behind her.

At the bottom, in the vast chamber that had once served as a ballroom, Dorrie caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that hung over a bureau by the back door, and hiked up her wide leather belt. She had buckled it over a hideous, electric-blue-and-black-striped suit jacket with ripped-out sleeves that Dorrie’s father swore he had worn proudly out in public in a bygone era. Underneath it, a shirt with great puffy sleeves and dangling cuffs screamed “pirate” loudly and well. After taking a moment to tug on the hem of the moth-eaten velvet skirt that was meant to hang to her knees but had got caught in the waistband of her underwear, she glowered into the mirror, her sword aloft. Despite the missing boot, the overall effect pleased her.

“Yo ho, Calico Jack,” called her father. “Put this back in Great–Aunt Alice’s sitting room, will you?” Dorrie looked away from the mirror to see her father, holding a tiny carved owl. He wore a ruffled, candy-striped apron that read, “You Breaka My Eggs, I Breaka Your Fast”. With his free hand he was stirring a pot of glopping oatmeal in the part of the old ballroom the Barnes called “The Kitchen”. Other parts of the once grand chamber served as “The Living Room”, “The Office”, “The Rehearsal Hall” for Dorrie’s fourteen-year-old drum-pounding brother, Marcus, and “The Playroom” for Miranda, Dorrie’s four-year-old sister.

Dorrie made her way to her father across one of the dozen rugs bought cheap from thrift stores currently living out their end days beneath the daily burden of ill-conceived art projects, the occasional mislaid plate of scrambled eggs, and books. Heaps and hills and hoards of books. Books left open on the back of the sway-backed sofa and under the piano, on the top of the toaster and hanging from the towel rack.

“Miranda borrowed it,” he said, dropping the carved owl into Dorrie’s outstretched hand. Dorrie gave her father “a look.” Her sister had a deeply ingrained habit of “borrowing” things. Dorrie set off for Great–Aunt Alice’s sitting room, which lay on the other side of the deteriorating mansion.

Great–Aunt Alice had invited Dorrie’s family to live with her two years ago when her sprawling home had become too much to care for by herself.

Besides the ballroom and a few bedrooms, the rest of the mansion was her territory. Just as shabby, she kept it spare and clean and orderly. Great–Aunt Alice claimed the Barnes side of the house gave her fits of dizziness.

After Dorrie set the owl back on its shelf in Great–Aunt Alice’s empty sitting room, the thick hush tempted her to tuck her sword beneath an arm and open a little stone box that stood beside the owl. Inside lay an old pocket watch and a silver bracelet set with a cloudy black stone.

The doorbell rang, and Great–Aunt Alice’s voice in the marble–floored hallway made Dorrie’s hand jerk so that the box’s lid fell closed with a small clack.

Hurriedly, Dorrie pushed the box back onto the shelf. Then, in a silly horror at the thought of Great–Aunt Alice—-who often seemed as remote and unfathomable as a distant planet—-catching her snooping, she wrenched open the lid of a cavernous wicker trunk that stood against the wall and scrambled inside, sword and all. She pulled the heavy lid down on top of her. It bounced on her fingers, trapping them, just as Great–Aunt Alice hobbled into the room. Dorrie sucked in her breath, the pain making her eyes water. She heard the sitting–room door close.

“Well, did he see you go in?” asked Great–Aunt Alice.

“Oh, he doesn’t have the imagination to suspect,” said a young woman breathlessly.

Dorrie pressed her eyes to the gap made by her swiftly swelling fingers. Amanda, Dorrie’s favorite librarian at the Passaic Public Library after Mr. Kornberger, stood now, inexplicably, just inside Great–Aunt Alice’s sitting–room door. Everything about Amanda Ness was long. Her skirts, her hundred braids which hung down below her shoulders, and her nose—-which had been given the usual infant inch and had taken a mile. If a long temper was the opposite of a short one, well, she had that too.

“You should be more careful,” said Great–Aunt Alice, stopping at her writing desk. She smoothed a few white hairs back toward the tight bun at the back of her head. “Has anything changed?”

“Not yet,” said Amanda, sitting down on the edge of a little pale–blue sofa.

“No. Of course not,” said Great–Aunt Alice, easing herself down into a straight–backed chair. “It’s patently absurd that we’re even discussing the possibility.”

Amanda looked vaguely hurt.

“I don’t know what I’ve been thinking,” said Great–Aunt Alice. “Sneaking around in there like a thief these past weeks.”

Amanda clasped her hands together. “You were thinking that the stories might be true!”

Dorrie listened so hard that she could almost feel her ears trying to creep away from her head.

Great–Aunt Alice picked lint from a sweater hung on the back of the chair. “Well, I’m a foolish old woman.” She caught Amanda staring at her. “Oh now, don’t look so disappointed.”

“Give it more time!” pleaded Amanda. “He said he wasn’t sure how long it might take.”

Great–Aunt Alice absently toyed with a little jar of pens on her desk. “I’m ashamed that I believed even for a moment in the possibility.”

In her wonder at the thought that Great–Aunt Alice could believe in anything fantastical for even the briefest of moments, Dorrie barely felt the wicker strands of the trunk embedding themselves in her knees. After all, Great–Aunt Alice had frowned disapprovingly when Miranda asked her to clap her hands so that Tinkerbell wouldn’t die.

Amanda leaned toward Great–Aunt Alice. “But it’s obvious that something special is supposed to happen there.” Dorrie held her breath so as not to miss a single word. The conversation positively bulged with mysterious possibilities.

“It’s obvious my father wanted something special to happen,” Great–Aunt Alice corrected. “My believing that it will happen is as ridiculous as Dorothea believing that she’s going to corner modern evil with a sword.”

At the mention of her name, Dorrie nearly lost her grip on the sword in question and had to scrabble to keep it from falling noisily to the floor of the trunk. There was a moment of silence during which Dorrie felt certain that Amanda and Great–Aunt Alice could hear the small cave-in taking place in the general vicinity of her heart, but her great-aunt only sniffed and began to talk about Mr. Scuggans, the new director of the Passaic Public Library, calling him insufferable.

Dorrie began to breath again in shallow little huffs. Ridiculous! She turned the stinging word over in her mind. Dorrie had never stopped to think about whether her desire to wield a sword against the villains of the world was sensible or ridiculous. It just was. She squeezed the hilt of her sword, drawing strength from it until the crumbling hollow feeling in her chest faded a little.

The conversation outside the basket had turned to the difficulty of cleaning the library’s gutters, and stuck there for what seemed like an excruciating eternity until, at last, Great–Aunt Alice showed Amanda out. Dorrie, her heart pounding, slipped from her wicker prison, and back through the double doors that led into her family’s side of the house.


Finding Books

I know that we all have a to-read list that’s way too long, and if you’re like me, piles of books sitting around that you haven’t yet read – piles that never seem to shrink.  But sometimes, all of us, even me with my huge piles of books and daily access to a library, don’t know what to read next.  Maybe we’re bored by the same old authors and genres, or maybe we love them and want to find more like them.  Could just be that we’re in the mood for some science fiction or romance or a biography or a mystery and don’t know where to start.   Luckily, there are tons of great free resources out there for bookworms.  I know that I won’t possibly list everything useful that’s out there, so please feel free to share your favorites!

  1. Your Local Librarian!  They deal with books every day – the read reviews, order books, read books themselves, and know what other patrons read and like.  Ask them for help!  They will surely have some recommendations.
  2. Novelist – If your library has a subscription to this online database, use it!  Unfortunately, our library system had to discontinue our subscription due to the cost and underuse, but I think it’s a really fantastic tool for readers.
  3. GoodReads – A place where you can keep track of what you read, read and write reviews, and get recommendations from other readers.  You can follow other readers, and they can follow what you read.  You can follow me there!
  4. Shelfari – Another place where you can keep track of your reading, read reviews, and share recommendations.  This is where I keep track of everything I read, even if I never review it.  I just like their interface better than others.  You can follow me here too!
  5. LibraryThing – And yet another site that does many of the same things as Shelfari and Good Reads.  Unfortunately, I no longer keep an active account on their site since I found the interface to be a bit too clunky for my tastes, but there is tons of information available on this site.
  6. The Reader’s Advisor Online – Search based on your reading preferences for a selection of applicable titles.  Clicking on one of the titles will give you a brief description of the book.  The ability to refine your search is really nice on this site and can give you very specific recommendations.
  7. Book Reporter – A site with tons of reviews and information about upcoming releases.  They also have contests and we all need to win more books!  😉
  8. BookPage – You may have seen this magazine in your local public library, but their website has even more reviews, interviews, and contests!  You can also sign up for emails.
  9. Overbooked – Lists of starred reviews as well as “if you like…” lists by author, genre, themes, literary devices and more!
  10. What’s Next – This site gives users a simple interface for finding the in-order list of books by an author or in a series.
  11. All Readers – The search possibilities on this site are significant.  You can narrow down your search to very specific books that you like or browse through lists by genre broad categories.
  12. YA Series – A site for getting a list of the books in a young adult series, in order.
  13. Fantastic Fiction – A site for getting the list of books published by any particular author and getting the ordered list of books in any specific series.

Looking Forward to March

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February Wrap-up

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monthly wrapup

Audio Books

Over the past year or so I have developed a love for audio books.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than the feel of a book in my hands, the feel of the paper, the smell, the weight, the sound of pages turning.  I have an e-reader, but I mostly use it for when I travel (my darling husband appreciates me no longer having an entire suitcase just for books!).  But for me, the real thing is still the best.  Unfortunately, life does have a way of getting in the way of reading, and there are times when I just can’t have a book in my hands.  L  And there is sooo much out there that I want to read!  Whether it’s the latest and greatest new release, a fun cozy mystery, a YA series I just never seem to get to, a classic I want a chance to read, an old favorite that I want the chance to revisit…  the list goes on and on… my TBR pile NEVER gets smaller!

Introducing… the audio book!  I admit to being a bit skeptical at first.  While we had listened to the entire Harry Potter series on trips with the kids, and they were admittedly excellent, at least I had read those books first!  What kind of person would skip the actual reading of the book?  Good Lord, what would be next?  Would I start reading books on my phone?  For a traditional reader such as myself, it seemed a bit blasphemous to rely on audiobooks for some of my “reading”.  But how could I consume more books given my pesky responsibilities and the unfortunate limit on the number of hours in a day?  There was so much time wasted everyday – getting ready for work, driving to work, doing laundry, making dinner, …  Audio books give me the ability to turn that “wasted” time into “reading” time.

And it was easy!  My library system offers downloadable audio books that I can get through an app on my smartphone.  Browse, choose, checkout and download.  That’s all there is to it and I have a book with me wherever I go when paper books can’t follow me.  Streaming in my car, playing through my headphones while folding laundry, sitting on the sink telling me a story while I put on my make-up in the morning.

What really surprised me though was how much I enjoyed most of the audio books I listened to, and how much I missed them when I didn’t have something downloaded and ready.  I don’t know why this surprised me, I wrote an entire paper on storytelling for all ages when I was taking classes towards my MLIS, but somehow I didn’t equate audio books with storytelling.  But at the root, that’s what they are, and the truth is ancient and universal – no matter our age, we all love to have someone tell us a story.  It’s not only the preschoolers who enjoy story time. 😉