Archive for the ‘Books’ category

Best books of 2017

December 19, 2017


I made it a priority to read more books. Reading is a priority because I’m busy, not despite being busy. It’s a small but important difference.

Most of the books I’ve been drawn to this year have strong female characters – they make mistakes, they doubt themselves, and they forge ahead to save themselves – and everyone around them. And I’ve been reading more young adult fiction, because I’m curious about the books this generation of teenagers is growing up reading. The outlier is Stan Lee, because his autobiography is just that entertaining.

Here are eight of the best books that I’ve read in 2017.

Best young adult dystopian fantasy with otherworldly magic, hounds, and epic battles:
“Elite” by Mercedes Lackey – about social media, celebrity culture, and fan service; the illusion of safety; taking action despite fear; and believing that you can continue to learn

Best ‘weakest character is sometimes the strongest’ urban fantasy:
“Silence Fallen” by Patricia Briggs – about the bonds between people; personal power vs. the power of relationships; the power of belief; and coping with trauma

Best murder investigation by the last unaugmented human in town dystopian science fiction novel:
“Company Town” by Madeline Ashby – about being seen as you really are, accepting who you are, wanting a better life, justice, friendship, seeing reality vs. filtering reality, and one person changing the future

Best young adult interstellar search for meaning romantic science fiction:
“Defy the Stars” by Claudia Gray – about the line between human and machine, the temptation and terror of free will, the search for meaning in faith, and self-sacrifice for a cause

Best romantic science fiction novel with sentient ships and alien alliances:
“Dark Horse” by Michelle Diener – about trust; keeping your word; surviving by adapting to new situations; taking responsibility to end slavery; and music that brings joy and inspiration

Best off-the-grid FBI agent investigates a conspiracy thriller:
“The Silent Corner” by Dean Koontz – about justice, people mattering more than ideas, recognizing the humanity in others, and the danger of absolute power

Best lessons from military leaders account:
“The Courage to Take Command: Leadership Lessons from a Military Trailblazer” (2015) by Jill Morgenthaler – about overcoming obstacles; standing up for yourself; bringing out the best in your team; and speaking out against injustice

Best real life turned comic book adventure autobiography:
“Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir” (2015) by Stan Lee with Peter David and art by Colleen Doran – with creativity (he has conversations with his younger self), sly humor, humility unwillingness to make personal attacks, and tact

What book themes resonate with you? What have you been reading lately?


I’m in love with the library

October 17, 2017

I appreciate everything that the Friends of Hawaii’s Public Libraries does for the community – buying books, supporting children’s events, sponsoring performances. In honor of National Friends of Libraries Week, we’re singing “Library” to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

The club isn’t the best place to find a novel
So the library is where I go (mmmm)
Me and my Friends at the shelves choosing books
Reading fast and then we talk slow (mmmm)
And you come over with a book recommendation just for me
And trust I’ll give it a glance now (mmmm)
Hold that book, stop, get that novel from the bookshelf
And then we start to read
And now I’m singing like

[Chorus 1]
Library, I want your books
Your books are written for somebody like me
Come on now, just let me read
I will be reading, don’t mind me
Shh, Friends, let’s not talk too much
Pick up a book and read that book to me
Come on now, just let me read
Come, come on now, just let me read (mmmm)

[Chorus 2]
I’m in love with the library
We browse and borrow books we see
Although I like Amazon too
I’m in love with the library
Last night I was up too late
And now I can’t wait to debate
Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library

Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library

One week in we let the story begin
We’re starting in our first book (mmmm)
You and me are carefree, so read all you can read
Settle your mind and settle in a Nook (mmmm)
We read for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour
Flights of fantasy, conflict and courtship (mmmm)
And pause and pick up a new book, the cover got you hooked
Libraries take you on the best trips
And I’m singing like

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2]

Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library


My best friends from high school is a librarian. Who is your favorite librarian? Why do you visit your favorite library?

Surf a book, live a museum

September 19, 2017

This Saturday, September 23, 2017 there two awesome events that you won’t want to miss: the Surf-a-Book Festival and Museum Day Live!

If you read with children or have ever thought about writing a children’s book, you’ll want to catch the Surf-a-Book Festival, a celebration of children’s literature in Hawaii at the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu, 10 am to 1:30 pm. There will be free presentations, children’s activities, read-alouds, book signings, a book exhibit, and panel discussions, with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Beginning authors and illustrators can dive into their own story and meet local authors and illustrators: Joy Au, Chris Caravalho, Kirsten Carlson, Ellie Crowe, David Estes, Leslie Hayashi, Dani Hickman, Lavonne Leong, Christin Lozano, Alina Niemi, Elizabeth Oh, Jessica Orfe, Tammy Yee, and more.

One of the best projects I’ve ever done with my son has been writing a book together. For a second grade recycling project, he created Mr. Roboto out of recycled materials (tissue boxes, plastic bowls, bottle caps) and started writing stories about him. That summer, he wrote and illustrated “The Story of SuperPoliceboto!” The best part of it was opening that bright orange Shutterfly box and seeing his book for the first time.

Another great way to spend your Saturday is by bringing the past to life at Museum Day Live!, an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Each Museum Day Live! ticket provides free admission for two people. Just find a participating museum or cultural institution, print your ticket or download it to your smartphone, and head to the museum.

In Hawaii, there are 7 participating museums:

* Honolulu, Oahu: Hawaii State Art Museum, which features contemporary artwork by artists with a connection to Hawaii (the current exhibit is “Hawaii: Change and Continuity”); Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy; Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Historical Gallery, which exhibits Okage Sama De: I Am What I Am Because of You (displaying the Japanese immigration experience from 1868 to modern times) and the Honouliuli National Monument Education Center (highlighting Oahu’s World War II internment camp); and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, which exhibits aircraft and tells the stories of aviation in the Pacific.

* Lahaina, Maui: Baldwin Home, the oldest house still standing on Maui; and Wo Hing Museum, a restored social meeting hall for Chinese laborers who helped build tunnels and irrigation systems through the mountains.

* Lihue, Kauai: Grove Farm Museum, with authentic sugar plantation buildings and homes, orchards and pasture lands, and operating sugar plantation steam locomotives.

The Okage Sama De exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is a wonderful experience. Walking through the gallery is like stepping into the past. If you haven’t already visited the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, I encourage you to take your family this weekend!

Share your Museum Day Live experience @MuseumDay  #BoundlessCuriosity  #MuseumDayLive

What are your favorite children’s books? Have you ever thought about writing a children’s book? Where will your curiosity lead you?

Build a better world with 2017 summer reading programs

May 30, 2017

School may be out, but books are always in. Hawaii residents are lucky to participate in two long-time summer reading programs.

For readers of all ages, the Hawaii Public Libraries is sponsoring a summer reading program from June 4 to July 15, 2017 for children, teens, and adults. For the first time readers can register online using Beanstack, where you can earn badges and set reading goals. This year’s theme is “Build a Better World” Each library has different activities and prizes, but you need a valid library card to participate.

During the 2014 summer reading program the most recent library data I could find, 29,847 participants read 358,660 books. Wouldn’t it be amazing if 100,000 readers signed up this year?

In addition to reading books, you can also support your local library by volunteering with the Friends of the Library of Hawaii. Help out during the summer reading program and throughout the year – such as shelving books, selling used books, counting visitors, or donning a costume to delight the kids. Contact your local branch to ask how you can help build a better local library.

Students in grades 1-6 can also join the Barnes and Noble summer reading program, from May 16 to September 5, 2017. Students can read any eight books this summer and record them in the Summer Reading Journal, along with a note about your favorite part, and you can earn a FREE book from the book list on the back of the journal. There are two Barnes and Noble stores in Hawaii, in Honolulu, Oahu and Lahaina, Maui.


Mahalo to Hawaii Public Libraries and Barnes and Noble, for encouraging readers, discovery, and imagination.

What books will you read this summer? What does building a better world mean to you?

Exciting! Electrifying! days for readers

May 2, 2017

Exciting! Electrifying! Calling all Star Wars fans, book and music lovers, and comic book readers! Be prepared for an amazing week.

First, there’s… May the Fourth, aka Star Wars Day, a day to celebrate all things Star Wars. Dress up as your favorite Star Wars character. Stay up for a Star Wars movie marathon. Read your favorite Star Wars book (my 10-year old son’s recommendation: “Lost Stars” by Claudia Gray). Indulge in Vader taters, Wookie cookies, and Yoda soda. Practice your lightsaber moves.

Followed by… Free Comic Book Day. From the nostalgic (Archie and Underdog) to the futuristic (Avatar and Dr. Who), for kids (SpongeBob) and kids of all ages, there’s a comic book for everyone! On Saturday, May 6, stop by a Hawaii public library and get a free comic book. Show your HSPLS library card at a Hawaii public library in Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Hilo, Kahului, Kailua, Kailua-Kona (students, dress for the Cosplay competition!), Kapolei, Kihei, Lahaina, Lanai, Liliha, Makawao, Manoa, McCully-Moiliili, Mililani, Princeville, Salt Lake-Moanalua, Waikiki-Kapahulu, Waimanalo, Wahiawa, Waimea (Thelma Parker Memorial), and Waipahu. Check with specific libraries for special activities.

Wrapping up with… the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, May 6-7 in Honolulu. Immerse yourself in book readings, author signings, panel discussions, storytelling, music, hula, food demonstrations, and more. Trade your gently-used books at the Book Swap. Bring folding chairs or mats to sit on the lawn and soak up the entertainment. Let kids work off their energy in the Keiki Zone. A fun idea would be to have a round-robin storytelling, with a group of people pitching in to create an unexpected, one-of-a-kind story!

What books, comic books, or graphic novels are you reading? Which historical, futuristic, or fictional world do you wish you could live in?

Best books of 2016

December 20, 2016

Best books of 2016

I haven’t read as many books as I wanted to this year, but I want to share some of my favorites with you. Here are six of the best books that I’ve read in 2016. I hope that one of these books will inspire you to read, or intrigue you enough to visit a library or bookstore.

Best young adult time-travel adventure romance:
* “Passenger” by Alexandra Bracken – about finding out who you really are, choosing your future, refusing to conform to society’s expectations, power that corrupts, and opening yourself to possibilities.

Best rip your soul to shreds to save the world new adult fantasy:
* “Empire of Storms” by Sarah J. Maas – about power and responsibility, loyalty- self-sacrifice, creating a better world, and love making you into the best possible version of yourself.

Best thought-provoking, alternate worlds, yourself as hero and villain science fiction:
* “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch – about our choices changing the future, family vs. career, alternative realities (“every thought we have, ever choice we could possibly make, branches into a new world”), the act of observation determining reality (“what a strange thing to consider imagining a world into being with nothing but words, intention, and desire”), and the idea that identities are fluid and multifaceted.

Best provocative, discussion-generating essay collection about Hawaii:
* “The Value of Hawai’i 2” (2014) edited by Aiko Yamashiro and Noelani Goodyear-Ka’opua – about “everything we value about Hawai‘i,” challenging us to think about: “How can more of us protect and enhance what is precious about Hawai‘i for coming generations?”

Best reaching for success by running like the Flintstones self-help nonfiction:
* “Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life” (2015) by Ron Clark – about sprinting to success, rewarding top performers, and motivating everyone to contribute more.

Best my life is a magnet for weird and funny humorous autobiography:
* “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” (2015) by Jenny Lawson – about choosing to be vehemently happy with depression and mental illness, taxidermied raccoons with big grins and jazz hands, and midnight cat rodeos.

Which books have made an impact on your life? Which books comfort you and inspire you?

Influential books of my childhood

August 9, 2016

Happy Book Lovers Day

Some books we read and enjoy in the moment. Some books we read over and over, like comfort food, because they tell us something we need to hear. And some books stick with us for the rest of our lives, even if we never read them again.

In honor of National Book Lovers Day, a day to celebrate readers everywhere, I decided to share 6 influential books from my childhood and youth – and what I learned from them.

* “The Little Princess” (1905) by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Separated from her beloved father, Sara Crewe went from privilege to poverty at an exclusive boarding school. Despite dealing with disagreeable students, bewildered friends, and distrustful animals, and often going hungry, she was always kind, optimistic, and open to wonder. She used her imagination to make her life and the lives of her friends better. It taught me that we cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we react to adversity.

* “Dragonsong” (1976) and “Dragonsinger” (1977) by Anne McCaffrey. Menolly refused to give up music, despite her parents’ disapproval and a serious injury to her hand, and even left the comfort and safety of her home to keep playing music. It taught me that when you find something you are passionate about, you need to pursue your dream.

* “The Blue Sword” (1982) and “The Hero and the Crown” (1984) by Robin McKinley. Newcomer Angharad “Harry” Crewe and reluctant princess Aerin are both out-of-place and disregarded, but they become warriors who save their people. It taught me that you need inner strength and fortitude as well as physical strength to be a hero.

* “Pawn of Prophecy” (1984) by David Eddings. Garion is a scullery boy whose safe life on a farm is exchanged for a life on the road filled with danger, excitement, and magic. His practical, sheltered upbringing is challenged by events he doesn’t understand and can’t explain. Mister Wolf reveals, “When you get right down to it, nothing – or at least very little – is actually impossible.” It taught me that we don’t know everything we think we do, and almost anything is possible.

* “Dorsai!” (1959) by Gordon R. Dickson and “Dune” (1965) by Frank Herbert. Donal Graeme is a military genius who rises to prominence to face a ruthless interstellar businessman; and Paul Atreides is a psychic nobleman who rises to lead the Fremen of Arrakis against the Emperor. Both are the result of warrior cultures and breeding programs that created a kind of superman. Despite the limited female protagonists, these futuristic science fiction novels taught me that humans have the potential to evolve and become better. However, those gifted people at the forefront of change (enhanced, mutant, Inhuman) can inspire both wonder and fear.

* “Arrows of the Queen” (1987) by Mercedes Lackey. Talia grows up in a society where women are viewed as inferior and women’s choices are limited. Her life changes when is Chosen by a Companion of Valdemar to serve the kingdom. It taught me that honor, responsibility, and hard work are rewarded.

While coming up with this list, I realized that I’ve only read a few of these books as an adult. I’m almost positive that if I were to read these books today, I would focus on different things and take away different meanings than from when I was younger.

There are several books that I absolutely loved, but I never felt the urge to re-read them – like “A Wrinkle in Time” (1962) by Madeline L’Engle, “Over Sea, Under Stone” (1965) by Susan Cooper, and “The Black Cauldron” (1965) by Lloyd Alexander. Some of the books I remember from childhood are not the same when I read through with adult eyes – like “The Secret Garden” (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I think we take away the meanings and values that we need at the time, without worrying about the rest.

Which books influenced your childhood? Do you have “comfort books” that you turn to, or do you rarely read a book more than once?