Top 5 books of 2016

It was a bit of a rough year as far as favorites go.  Most of what I read didn’t blow me away.  I think I was just in a weird place this year – trying to look for a new job, building my social life up again, and having too much free time on my hands and being unfocused.

There were some books I read that failed to impress despite their blockbuster status (like My Name is Lucy Barton), but I think it’s more because of the place I was in this year, rather than the books not living up to their reputation.  Also, as I mentioned in my last post on my reading wrap up for the year, I read too many free advanced reading copies, and didn’t prioritize the books on my to do read list enough. But, there were some winners this year!

My top five books of 2016 are:

1.   The Girl on the Train.  Deservedly a bestseller and a movie (which I need to see), this thriller kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next.

From the cover:
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

2.    Modern Romance.  Even if you are not single and trying to date in these crazy times, this is a great read that gives you a hint as to what your single friends are dealing with!  I thought it was a funny, insightful examination of today’s {exhausting} dating culture.

Excerpt from the cover:
23453112A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices.

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

3.    Dreaming Water.  While this book honestly didn’t blow me away, it was a good read and it did get me to read out my usual genres and is encouraging me to read more books like it.  A tear jerker written in two voices, the book explores a mother daughter relationship and is a reminder to be grateful for the small things.

Excerpt from the cover:
Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama is known for her poignant, subtle insights into the most 51112complicated of relationships. Dreaming Water is an exploration of two of the richest and most layered human connections that exist: mother and daughter and lifelong friends.

Hana is suffering from Werner’s syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy individual: at thirty-eight Hana has the appearance of an eighty-year-old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with her grief at losing her husband, Max, and with the knowledge that Hana’s disease is getting worse by the day.

Dreaming Water is about a mother’s courage, a daughter’s strength, and a friend’s love. It is about the importance of human dignity and the importance of all the small moments that create a life worth living.

4.    The Forgotten.  Because I love thrillers and mysteries. Published in 2013, this book is the second in a series about character John Puller.  However, I never read the first book and didn’t have trouble following the story or understanding the characters.  A fun page turner.

15791157From the cover:
Army Special Agent John Puller is the best there is. A combat veteran, Puller is the man the U.S. Army relies on to investigate the toughest crimes facing the nation. Now he has a new case–but this time, the crime is personal: His aunt has been found dead in Paradise, Florida.

A picture-perfect town on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Paradise thrives on the wealthy tourists and retirees drawn to its gorgeous weather and beaches. The local police have ruled his aunt’s death an unfortunate, tragic accident. But just before she died, she mailed a letter to Puller’s father, telling him that beneath its beautiful veneer, Paradise is not all it seems to be.

What Puller finds convinces him that his aunt’s death was no accident . . . and that the palm trees and sandy beaches of Paradise may hide a conspiracy so shocking that some will go to unthinkable lengths to make sure the truth is never revealed.

5.    Past Crimes.  This was one free advanced reading copy I got at the ALA conference that I enjoyed.  This thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and is an exciting and fast paced debut.

Excerpt from the cover:
22535504.jpgThe Anthony, Macavity, and Strand Critics award-winning debut from Glen Erik Hamilton.

When his estranged grandfather is shot and left for dead, an Army Ranger must plunge into the criminal underworld of his youth to find a murderer and uncover a shocking family secret in this atmospheric and evocative debut thriller.

Van Shaw was raised to be a thief, but at eighteen he suddenly broke all ties to that life and joined the military—abandoning his illicit past and the career-criminal grandfather who taught him the trade. Now, after ten years of silence, his grandfather has asked him to come home to Seattle. But when Van arrives, he discovers his grandfather bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot to the head. With a lifetime of tough history between him and the old man, Van knows he’s sure to be the main suspect.

Edgy and suspenseful, rich with emotional resonance, gritty action, and a deep-rooted sense of place, Past Crimes trumpets the arrival of a powerful talent in the mold of Dennis Lehane, Robert B. Parker, and John D. MacDonald.

Honorable mentions:

Somebody I Used to Know.  Another free book from ALA.  I enjoyed this thriller about a man who seems a woman that is the spitting image of his college girlfriend – who was killed in a fire.

Sarah’s Key.  As my mom says, “An oldie (2008) but a goodie”.   I had a big phase this year with reading dual timeline novels.  This was my favorite of the bunch, connecting Sarah’s story in 1942 with Julia’s in 2002.  Also, check out the movie if you like the book.  It diverts from the book, but it also good in itself.

What were some of your favorites from 2016?


2016 Reading Wrap Up

I can’t believe it’s already time again for a reading wrap up.  2016 was a weird year, wasn’t it?  I’m looking forward to it being in the rear view mirror soon.

I didn’t read as many books as usual.  I think because it was my first free year after finishing grad school and I spent a lot of my time enjoying a social life again (another reason why I haven’t been blogging much this year!)  But, I still managed to read 32 books – not too shabby.

Total – 32
Percent fiction – 63%
Percent mystery/thriller –28%
Percent young adult –9%
Percent female authors – 34%
Percent nonfiction – 37% – up from 2%
Average per month – 2.6
Percent really liked – 24%
Percent just okay – 54%
Percent didn’t like – 22%

I started another four books that I didn’t finish, all four of which were advanced reading copies (ARCs) I got at the ALA conference last year.  Overall, I’ve sadly been unimpressed with the ARCs I got there and I learned my lesson that if I ever go again, I’ll be much more selective in which books I carry home.  Many of the books I got were those that publishers foisted upon me as I walked down the aisles and not what I’d usually read (as in lots of chick lit and kids’ books), but I was also trying to take advantage and explore new genres. It hasn’t been working out great, but I still have about 20 to go!

I again focused on reading more fiction (up from 31%) over young adult this year and succeeded (down from 25% to only 9%).  It was nice trying to focus on fiction, although I admit they weren’t all exactly “literary” and many were free books from ALA.


Somehow my to read list on Goodreads has exploded to over 300 books.  I think it may be time to clean out some of the ones I’ll never get around to reading!  But, in 2017, in no particular order, I’d like to read:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihira

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman

Stiletto (Rook Files #2) by Daniel O’Malley.  I really liked the first book, but I read it a long time ago and may need to refresh my memory.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Because I finally saw the movie and now I’m intrigued.

Trespasser by Tana French

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

And I saw this every year, but I’d like to try to read some short stories this year. Any suggestions on some good story collections?

What are some of the books you want to read in 2017?

I’ll share a few of my favorite books from this year soon!

PS Here’s my wrap ups from 2014 and 2013.

Image source.


Sonoma County Wine Library

It has been quite a long time since I posted anything, but I have a very good excuse (I think).  I finished my MLIS!  It’s hard to believe that I finally finished my three years and a few months journey through grad school.  It was an exhausting fall and holiday season and I needed some time away from the computer to recuperate and relax!

One thing I did to celebrate was to go wine tasting for the day with the bf.  Coincidentally, BayNet was hosting a tour of the Sonoma County Wine Library that same day.  Even luckier for me, the bf was into supporting my nerdiness and happily went on the tour with me.

The tour was back in October, so forgive the lateness of this post.  Like I said, I’ve been avoiding the computer for a couple of months.  Anyway, it was a good turnout and the Wine Librarian (how do I get that title?!?), Jon Haupt, pulled out some fun items to share with the group.

The library is located inside the Healdsburg branch of the Sonoma County Library system.


They have about 6,000 items in the collection, including 1,000 rare books, ephemera, periodicals, and wine-related clippings.  Topics include agriculture, cooking, viticulture, food, cheese, beer and liquor, regions, the wine business, and winemaking.


They use the Koha catalog system for their OPAC.  The collection is cataloged using the Dewey Decimal System.


The periodicals area, with approximately 60 different magazine subscriptions



The oldest book in the collection, published 1518 (but much older than that), the Libri de re rustica by Marcus Porcius Cato.  (See the digitized version at the Internet Archive!)


This was a beautiful and enormous book from 1900 containing illustrations of French grapes.  (I didn’t catch the name of it, sorry, so please let me know if you know the title.)


This is a fun pop up book – Hugh Johnson’s Pop Up Wine BookPublished in 1989.


Another rare book was one published in Spain in 1584 the Libro de agricultura: que tracta de la labranca y crianca, y de muchas otras particularidades y prouechos del campo, by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera.  The book is on winemaking, which he said they might have used for reference in the California missions.  See the digitized version at the Internet Archive.)


This is the rare books and clippings area.


More rare books


Subject files.  The clippings are in a database, but new items are not currently being added to the existing database.

Like many other special libraries, the Wine Library did not have a collection development policy when the librarian began, and they are out of space for the physical collection. He has not had time to do any deaccessioning. The library also does not have a strategic plan, although he would like to create one.

I thought these were fun..

And then there is the ephemera!  I totally want this game.



And a scrapbook on the region


An interesting special collection at the library is of wine labels.


Some of the food and cooking titles


Finally, I passed by the famous seed library inside the main Healdsburg branch


It is a great special library and I’m so glad I had the chance to see it.  It’s open to the public, and I recommend you visit if you can!

ARCs from ALA

Last week I attended and survived my first ALA (American Library Association) conference, which conveniently took place in San Francisco.  While I’m still digesting what I saw and did and learned, it was a pretty awesome experience.

But seriously, let’s talk about all of the free swag first.  You guys, you would not believe the giveaways.  I had no idea it would be like that.  I had been warned to not go too crazy in the exhibit hall, but I was expecting free pens and highlighters.  I was so, so wrong.  We’re talking massive amounts of free books wrong.  Major publishers like HarperCollins had giant booths, with stacks and stacks of advance reading copies (ARCs) to give away.  The smaller presses also had some giveaways, but of course not at the same level.


It was madness.  Luckily, there was also a post office in the exhibit hall.  After one hour, I had already filled up two tote bags and had to mail a box home!  And I just shipped a small box.  There were other people shipping multiple extra large boxes of books.


I got nearly 60 books, and believe it or not, I was being judicious in what I picked up.  I didn’t want to take something just because it was free it if it wasn’t going to be something I’d want to read.  I did take the opportunity to pick up books in different genres than I’d ordinarily read, though, like “cozy” mysteries.

Here’s the list of what I picked up:

Young Adult
1.    The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Mical Ostow and David Ostow
2.    If You’re Lucky by Yvonne Prinz
3.    The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
4.    The Marvels by Brian Selznick
5.    How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin
6.    Curiosity House: the Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H. C. Chester
7.    The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan
8.    Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
9.    It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt
10.    The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong
11.    Daughters unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
12.    Dead Investigation by Charlie Price
13.    Soundless by Richelle Mead
14.    Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
15.    The Forgetting by Nicole Maggi
16.    Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
17.    Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
18.    Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong
19.    The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy
20.    The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
21.    Unwind by Neal Shusterman
22.    UnWholly by Neal Shusterman
23.    UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
24.    These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

1.    Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
2.    Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade
3.    The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
4.    The Survivor by Vince Flynn
5.    The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack
6.    The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine
7.    The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich
8.    Made to Kill by Adam Christopher
9.    Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb
10.    The Paris Key by Julie Blackwell
11.    Checked Out by Elaine Viets
12.    Ripped from the Pages by Kate Carlisle
13.    Past Crimes: a Van Shaw novel by Glen Erik Hamilton
14.    Flame Out by M.P. Cooley
15.    The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey
16.    A Poet of the Invisible World by Michael Golding
17.    The Keeper by David Baldacci
18.    The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
19.    The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
20.    A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders
21.    Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell
22.    The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor
23.    The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
24.    Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
25.    Spellcasting in Silk by Juliet Blackwell
26.    Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay
27.    Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
28.    Mrs. Jeffries and the One Who Got Away by Emily Brightwell

1.    The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller
2.    Henry Clay by Giles Unges
3.    Last Stand at Khe Sanh – Gregg Jones
4.    Somewhere There is a Sun – Michael Greenbaum
5.    Goldy’s Kitchen – Diane Mott Davidson

I definitely got my registration fee and other expenses back in free books. I’m very excited about books from Kelley Armstrong (I got to “meet” her), Richelle Mead, Celeste Ng, Brian Selznick, and B.A. Shapiro, but they all sound good and I’ll be working my way through them over the next several months.  I’ll share which ones I love! Other giveaways were lip balm, a little seed bomb from Oakland Public Library, lots of buttons, and a print of San Francisco from the Library of Congress.


Vank Cathedral Museum and Library, Iran

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!  Look at me disappearing again for a long time.  Sorry.  After the semester finished a couple of weeks ago, I just needed some offline time.  I was so excited to finish my website for my web design class (Libr 240 for SJSU people) that I forgot to submit the link to it!!  Oh my.

All is now well and I’m recovering.  I’ve been wanting to share these photos I took of the Vank Cathedral Museum and Library in Isfahan, Iran for a long time.  Vank Cathedral is in the Armenian Quarter of the city and has a lovely museum with historical books.

(click to enlarge)

Gospel, created 1633

Gospel, written in Istanbul and decorated in Isfahan, 17th century

Missal, created 1687

Phylactery, worn on an arm, 17th century (sorry for the blurry picture, but I wanted to show how large the entire thing is)

Detail of the phylactery with it’s tiny writing.  Each circle was about an inch or so.

Gospel, written in 1607

Another gospel from 1607

Gospel, written in 1671

Gospel from 1627

Missal from 1687

Monolagium written in 1661

Gospel from 1626

I think the colors and ornamentation on these are so gorgeous.

I do have many other ideas for blog posts and now that things have slowed down somewhat for me, I hope to start posting more regularly again!

Now reading: The Secret Place by Tana French

10 Beautiful Books for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month!  In celebration, here’s 10 beautifully designed books of poetry published in 2014.

   wreckageNo Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

wingless The Wingless (Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series) by Cecilia Llompart

negmanejma by Nayyirah Waheed

daylightInto Daylight: Poems (Dorset Prize) by Jeffrey Harrison

abideAbide by Jake Adam York

bonemapBone Map: Poems (National Poetry Series)
by Sara Eliza Johnson

sixfoldSixfold Poetry Summer 2014 by Sixfold

fourpart#fourpartpoems by @emolabs

dangerousDangerous Goods: Poems by Sean Hill

You’d be amazed at how many poetry book covers feature trees or streams.

Do you have any favorite books of poetry?  Please share!