Madison's Library

Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Book Review: Blade of Secrets

Blade of Secrets – Tricia Levenseller – Bladesmith #1 – Feiwel & Friends – Published 4 May 2021

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims’ secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

My thoughts

Blade of Secrets is the first book in a new duology by Tricia Levenseller. It is a great fantasy novel, with an authentic main character, intrigue, and romance.

Ziva is a blacksmith. She feels most comfortable when she is in her forge, tucked safe away from other people. She also has the ability to infuse magic within the weapons she creates and she is building a name for herself with these abilities. When a warlord commissions Ziva to create a powerful weapon, Ziva discovers that the weapon she creates – far more powerful than she ever could have imagined – is not destined to help keep the peace in their newly divided kingdom, but to wreak destruction. Ziva, her sister, a scholar interested in magic and a mercenary for hire, unexpectedly band together to outrun the warlord.

This is a bit of a quest novel, except they are trying to outrun someone rather than find something. A lot of the book is spend as the four main characters are on the road, trying to find someplace safe to stay, as well as discover some way that Ziva might be able to destroy or hide her powerful weapon.

Ziva has social anxiety and this presented very authentically throughout the book. It’s not a feature of the story, and yet it does effect every part of the book, as it is Ziva’s story and she narrates. It’s a very powerful part of the book and the way Ziva thinks, reacts and guards herself is a genuine reflection of her anxiety.

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Book Review: Let It Be Me

Let It Be Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 May 2021

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Synopsis

Having graduated college at 18, Sebastian Grant has continued to leverage his intelligence and determination to become a pediatric heart surgeon. The more accolades he receives, the more he’s driven to pursue. Then he meets high school math teacher Leah Montgomery, and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop.

Solving advanced math equations by the age of five, Leah has always wanted to pursue a PhD in mathematics. She willingly put that dream on hold to raise her brother. Now that he is of age, she’s set on avoiding any obstacles to her goal–including romance.

When Leah receives surprising news in the process of taking a test for tracking her ancestry, she asks Sebastian to help her comb through aged hospital records to learn more. Soon his presence isn’t so easily ignored. But when Sebastian learns his best friend also has feelings for Leah, he begins to question his resolve to win her. Attaining their deepest desires may require more sacrifices than they ever imagined.

My thoughts

Let It Be Me is another heartwarming contemporary, Christian romance from Becky Wade. Like her previous book, Let It Be Me features one of the Miracle Five, five teens who had been miraculously saved after a building collapsed on them during an earthquake. Now adults, we follow them as they sort through their past hurts and journey on the road to love. This time it’s Sebastian’s turn.

Sebastian is a gifted surgeon. After the events of the earthquake, he turned his life around. Drawn into the Coleman family, he didn’t let being a foster kid define him. They saved him and offered what he most wanted – to belong. That’s way he would do anything for his best friend and closest person he has to family, Ben Coleman. When Sebastian meets and is instantly drawn to Leah Montgomery, he knows he has to get to know her better. The one problem is that it’s the same Leah Ben has been crushing on for two years. Sebastian does the right thing and withdraws but when Leah asks for his help to untangle a mystery involving DNA and hospital logistics, they spend more time together and Sebastian finds it increasingly difficult to stay honourable to his best friend.

I think this book has one of the few love triangles I’ve truly enjoyed. Maybe that’s because all along Leah has no feelings but those of friendship for Ben and it’s so clear that she and Sebastian are perfect for each other. Everyone is respectful of the other and mindful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. There is an intense connection between Sebastian and Leah but there are many obstacle in the path, firstly Ben and Sebastian’s duty of friendship but also Leah’s desire to remain single and Sebastian’s own habit of not getting to close to people.

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Ramblings: Countdown to National Education Summit 2021

Countdown to the National Education Summit Brisbane 2021

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I’m so excited that we are nearing the National Education Summit 2021. Rescheduled from 2020, I can't wait to meet face-to-face again with school library staff and educators. I'm also pretty excited that I will be one of the speakers at the 2021 Brisbane National Education Summit Capacity Building School Library Conference. I was fortunate to attend in 2019 - you can read my summary of the event here - and now I am thrilled to have the opportunity to present in 2021.

 

The conference runs across two days - Friday 4th June and Saturday 5th June, 2021 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. There is also a conference in Melbourne, with a 1 day event for school libraries-  Melbourne NES July 2021. . As well as the conferences there is also a free expo and free seminars.

In 2021 the Capacity Building School Libraries conference's focus is the power of reading, diverse collections, and the power of evidence. There will be four streams across the two days. Keynote speakers are Dr Margaret Merga, lecturer and researcher who is doing great things for school library research, and Clare Thorpe, Associate Director (Library Experience), University of Southern Queensland. There are also heaps of other amazing researchers, teacher librarians, authors and booksellers who are presenting. Head to the National Education Summit website for full details. The list of presenters has been updated recently, so check it out. Every time I look it sounds more and more exciting.

I'll be speaking on the Friday about genrefication and the steps we took as a library team to increase student engagement with reading and our fiction and non fiction collections. I'm really looking forward to presenting and to listening to all the other presenters.

 

You can find information about the presentations and buy tickets on the NES website.  I hope to see you there.

Ramblings: Library Design Resources

Library Design Resources

I am extremely excited that my new school is building a new school library in the next few years. While I have entered at a time when first designs have already been created and the general idea of the space is already known, there is a long road ahead as we finalise the library design and what the space will look like. I’d like to document this journey on my website. 

Following librarians on networks and social media, there seems to be a wonderful trend of school libraries being renovated or redesigned. Hopefully this is a sign that school libraries and their staff are being valued by their school leadership and communities.

I needed a place to start collecting the library design ideas and research I was finding. I’m putting it here in a hope it might be helpful for others as well. Continue reading

Book Review: How To Become A Planet

How to Become A Planet – Nicole Melleby – Algonquin Young Readers –  Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

My thoughts

How To Become A Planet is a novel about anxiety and depression, friendship and gender identity exploration for upper middle graders. Perfect for students just transitioning into high school and confronted with new levels of expectations, new hormones and feelings, and dealing with mental health and complicated feelings from family breakdown and changes in friendship groups.

Pluto has depression and anxiety and at the moment that’s all she really knows about herself. She struggles to get out of bed, and certainly doesn’t want to spend her summer break at her mother’s pizzeria and with a tutor so she can go to eighth grade next year. When Pluto unexpectedly makes a new friend, they each make a list of things they want to do this summer. Pluto’s list is all about returning to the girl she was before her diagnosis. For Fallon, her list is about telling her mother how she feels about having long hair and wearing dresses.

Pluto starts to develop romantic feelings for Fallon – funny feelings in her tummy and wanting to touch Fallon’s face. No labels are applied, but Pluto is supported by and identifies with her tutor who is in a homosexual relationship. Again, no labels are applied to Fallon’s desire to cut her hair short, and wear her brothers’ clothes, but these discussions and feelings are a major part of the book, giving readers something to identify with and relate to without applying labels.

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Book Review: The Hollow Inside

The Hollow Inside – Brooke Lauren Davis – Bloomsbury YA – Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

Phoenix and mom Nina have spent years on the road, using their charm and wits to swindle and steal to get by. Now they’ve made it to their ultimate destination, Mom’s hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina’s life.

After Phoenix gets caught spying, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets, she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn’t entirely line up with what Mom has told her. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth?

My thoughts

The Hollow Inside is completely addictive but I also kind of wanted to read it between my fingers while covering my eyes as there is a near constant feeling of impending dread. Revenges, lies, betrayal, longing – a mystery thriller with so much heart.

I was so caught up in the world and so torn between waning to rescue Phoenix from the woman she calls mother and rescue Nina, both from herself and from the pain of her past. On one hand I was totally, one hundred percent behind the notion of revenge – make that man hurt, ladies. And on the other it’s so easy to see the hurt and destruction Phoenix has to endure while her mother seeks this revenge. There really isn’t a right answer, yet Phoenix has to chose every single day what her right will be. She longs for her mother to acknowledge her and the sacrifices she is making, yet her mother is constantly upset with her, angry and takes it out on Phoenix.

As Phoenix and Nina arrive in Jasper Hollow the truth of what happened there is slowly revealed. Some of this Phoenix discovers as she goes undercover as a sad, homeless girl and finds herself invited to live with the Bowmans. Other, clearer details are revealed through flashbacks to Nina’s childhood. This is what really caught me between wanting a different life for Phoenix and wanting revenge for Nina, as we see the hurt through Nina’s eyes. Does it justify Nina’s actions now or explain them? The reader will have to decide, as does Phoenix.

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Professional Learning: April 2021

Professional Learning Opportunities April 2021

Here is my list of professional learning opportunities for April 2021. Some of them are time sensitive to April, others are just what has come to my attention this month. It’s a way to help me keep track of things that I find or that are recommended to me. They mostly are for school librarians or the school library setting, but many are transferable to any library or education setting.

Looking for more resources? Check out my Professional Learning Series.  

Most of the opportunities below are free and easily accessibly by following the links, others are require a fee.  If you have any suggestions or links, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or contact me here. 

Publications

STEM ED Magazine Issue 2 – 10 April 2021.

When Kids Say “I’m Not a Reader”: How librarians can disrupt traumatic reading practices. KQED. 

Conferences, Webinars, Podcasts and Meet Ups

Librarians & Dragons presents Dragons and Zombies. A face-to-face event about gamification, role-play games and escape rooms. Brisbane. 24 April 2021.

Australian Media Literacy Research Symposium – Face to face in Canberra, 13 April 2021

ASLA Keys To Learning Conference – 12-13 April 2021, online.

Future Ready Librarian Challenges

Our Primary Libraries 2021: Collective Collaboration 3 – 28th April 2021. Online

ALCC Copyright Training workshops and webinars – 15th April 2021, Brisbane and online.

STEM2021 On Demand. Free. Online. Starts 19th April 2021 but retain access to all keynotes and presentations until 31 December 2021.

Future Skills, Future Schools, Future Libraries with Karen Bonanno, National Director, Eduwebinar – 28th April 2021, 7pm. Online.

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Ramblings: Non Fiction Genrefication

Non Fiction Genrefication

If you have followed by blog at all or worked with me, you’ll know I have a great interest in genrefication. I started my journey with genrefication in 2017 and since then I have experimented with genrefying fiction collections and monitoring what made it work and what didn’t work so well. You can read my initial genrefication process of a young adult collection, a one year follow up here, and a review of genrefication. While I had been tweaking non fiction collections over the past few years, it wasn’t until 2020 that I got to fully genrefy my first non fiction collection.

Here is the process our library team undertook to complete this genrefication of our non fiction collection and our initial results.

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Book Review: Tiger Daughter

Tiger Daughter – Rebecca Lim – Allen & Unwin –  Published February 2021

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Synopsis

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

My thoughts

A beautiful and powerful #OwnVoices novel about abusive family relationships and the possibility of freedom offered by friendship and education.

Tiger Daughter is a book that really quick and easy to devour. It address some very serious topics – domestic abuse and control, suicide – but does so in a way that makes it accessible for young readers, compelling but also sensitive.

I love books that make me feel and Tiger Daughter had me swinging wildly from raging hot mad to sad and back again.

Wen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Travelling to Australia didn’t bring them the new, grand life they expected. Wen is bound by the restrictions her father places on her and her mother. Honestly, her father comes across as awful, but there is more to his story, more to the relationship Wen has with him. This book in no way excuses domestic abuse and nor does Wen. She knows how her father treats her and her mother is wrong and is determined to stand up against it in the ways in which she can. She is brave and determined. Her only friend at school, Henry, understands. He too is the son of immigrants. Together, they have planned to sit an entrance exam for an elite school – a future that will give them a way out and up.

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Display: Pop-up Displays Term 1 2021

Pop-up Displays Term 1 2021

New year, new school, new pop-up displays. Some argue that displays fall under the role of the library tech or aide (if you are lucky to have them), however, as a aide or a teacher librarian, I love creating library displays. It’s such a great way to get to know the collection, pull and promote books that need some love, highlight diverse books, new books, important topics or just some favourites.

I am loving the display shelves in my new school library. There are two vertical shelves and one horizontal setup on the library and they make putting up pop-up displays so much easier. Here are a few from the first term this year.

Library Lovers Day

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