"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Books I've read by Aussie Authors

Today is the last day of Australia week as my guest is leaving for California tomorrow. Today my FREEBIE list is focused on Aussie Love...books that is. I've read all these books.

The Power of One (The Power...1. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
The Book Thief2. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor3. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Old Kingdom Trilogy Box Set...4. The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix
Clariel (Abhorsen, #4)5. Clariel by Garth Nix (Prequel to the Old Kingdom trilogy)
The Ladies of Missalonghi6. The Ladies of Missalonghi by Coleen McCullough
Schindler's List7. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
On the Jellicoe Road8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I Am the Messenger9. I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
Finnikin of the Rock (Lumat...10. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Thank you Australia for breeding such a wonderful crop of authors!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Salon, January 18th

Mt Rainier, view from Rainier View Winery on Jan. 16, 2015

Weather: Rain. Hail. Wind. Miserable.

Australia week: My guest, Claire, from the Melbourne area of Australia is still here. It has been a fun and busy week. Three of the school days she had to supervise her students as they took day trips around the area to sightsee and to shop. Two of the days the students and teachers stayed at school to attend classes, or in the case of the teachers, to teach classes. Claire has come home every afternoon pretty tired. Friday was Australia Day in the library where the teachers and a few students showed off cultural items. The most popular being the video of Australian Football, a fast paced game that for some reason reminded me of quidditch. Ha!

Australian guests and their hosts at Rainier View Winery
Claire and Amanda with Mt. Rinier in the background.

Wine Tasting: after school Friday the Australian teachers and their hosts went to a wine tasting at Rainier View Winery not far from our school. Mt. Rainier was actually visible. The winery is owned by one of our fellow teachers and her husband. He makes all the wine in an old European tradition which uses very few chemicals. Therefore the wine tastes more like fruit and has a higher alcohol percentage than what is available at the stores. It was a lovely afternoon.

Hammering man at S.A.M.
Seattle Art Museum, Asian Art Museum, and Conservatory: I overheard Claire telling a friend yesterday that at long last she got to do something to her tastes, going to museums. We started the day at Seattle Art Museum (SAM) which has a very eclectic collection with art from every continent and era. We were delighted when we rounded the corner to find Aboriginal art from Australia. After a quick lunch at the restaurant at SAM we raced across town and made it to Volunteer Park in time to run around the conservatory for 10 minutes before it closed. Our SAM admittance allowed us free access to the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park so we decided to pop in for a quick look around.
Claire and I in front of Aboriginal art at SAM

I was over-awed by this over-large manga painting done by Mr.

We popped in to enjoy the Japanese pop art exhibit: We were all wowed by the pop art exhibit, especially the large paintings of manga. Claire and I were just gobsmacked (speechless.) Too bad our high school students who love manga couldn't see this. In addition to the pop art, there was an exhibit of Persian art done quite exquisitely and minutely that it really required magnifying lenses to appreciate the details. My very favorite piece of art in the whole museum was the photograph of the finches. It is a black and white photograph that is so exquisitely composed it looks like a painting. I could have looked at it for hours.

Can you believe this is a photograph of a photograph?  I am enchanted by it.

Books read this week: 
  • Half Bad by Sally Green---I finally finished it. It took me over two months to read it. I guess you can tell it wasn't my favorite but it certainly has an interesting plot that appeals to teens.
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater---third book in the Raven Cycle series. This one ends on a cliffhanger. When is the next book due out?
Currently reading:
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin---an odd story about a woman who goes missing in Seoul, Korea. Chapters represent the back story as seen through the eyes of different family members. Oddly it is almost impossible to tell who the narrator is as the book is written in 2nd person point of view. Book Club is Tuesday, we'll see what the other ladies think of it.

Seahawks win! In one of the greatest comeback games of all times. They were down 0-16 and ended up winning 28-22 in overtime. On to the superbowl again! Yay!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Clariel by Garth Nix

Walk around with characters from books in your head long enough and what happens? You never want the story to end because it is like saying goodbye to good friends. This is what happened to me when I read Clariel by Garth Nix. I just wanted the story and the characters to go on and on. I also wanted to live inside that story. For days after I finished listening to the audiobook, I pined for my "friends" in Clariel and wondered and worried about what happens next.

Clariel is the fourth book in The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix (sometimes called the Abhorsen Triology) which started with Sabriel, then Lirael, and lastly The Abhorsen. Now Clariel, a prequel to these stories, is published eleven years after The Abhorsen. Talk about a long wait!

Here are two YouTube videos that give you an idea about the book and series, but I warn you the second one has SPOILERS, so don't watch it if you don't want the big ending revealed. What I love about the second video is that Garth Nix talks about his series and it is insightful. Hey, I have an idea.  Run out and read the book, then come on back to this blog and watch the second video with the SPOILERS, because then they won't be SPOILERS to you.

WARNING!!!!! SPOILERS revealed in this video:

I feel completely ill equipped to do an offical review of this wonderful book or series other than to say, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? READ IT!

I've read a lot of YA books this year, some wonderful and some completely meh.  It is shocking to me that this book isn't getting more LOVE from those you think they know what they are talking about when it comes to potential award books. Garth Nix is a fabulous, FABULOUS writer...and he writes out his chapters long-hand if he gets stuck in the process. The world-building he has done for the series is beyond magical and inventive.  I can picture every step each character takes as they walk through the story.

Garth Nix is Australian which happens to be a BIG GIGANTIC coincidence since I am highlighting Australian authors this week and I am hosting an Australian teacher in my home right now.  Not sure if it is the sunshine, the Southern Hemisphere, or rubbing elbows with kangaroos, but there sure are a lot of very talented authors harkening from Australia. I recommend that you check out a book by Garth Nix (or Marcus Zusak, or Melina Marchetta, or Jacqueline Moriarty, or...)

Nix says that he is currently working on another book from The Old Kingdom. Argh! Another wait. Perhaps I'll just start again at the beginning in anticipation.

For what it's worth, this book gets my vote for serious PRINTZ consideration. Printz committee members are you paying attention?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Salon, Jan.11, 2015

Welcome Australians!
Weather: Drizzly and foggy. It has been really awful weather all this past week.

Australian visitor: last night we picked up our Australian visitor, who is chaperoning a group of students on exchange to our school for the next eleven days. We didn't get home after picking up Claire until after midnight. We look forward to showing off our state and area. Let's hope that this foggy weather pattern disappears soon. I keep thinking about this group of people leaving sunny, hot Australia for our foggy, wet weather.

More football: Exciting football days. Our Seattle Seahawks football team won their first playoff game yesterday evening, 31 to 17. Our University of Oregon Ducks play in the first-ever championship game vs Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday night. It won't be as exciting for us as the playoff game we saw in Pasadena last week but we will cheering from home this time.

Back-to-work week: I think a lot of teachers didn't spend time relaxing over the winter vacation. I heard more from teachers who said they needed a week off. After having just returned from two weeks off school that struck me as funny.

Graduate school applications: Carly has worked on her applications all week. She mailed one off today and hopes to hit submit on the others before the end of the weekend.  These applications have loomed large in her life for many months and we are so proud of her for hard work to get them done.

Book completed this week:
  • Clariel by Garth Nix...the prequel to the Old Kingdom series (Sabriel) and I just loved it. Nix is an Australian author so it is perfect timing that I just finished up a book by authors I am highlighting this week because of our international guests. Look for my review soon.
Currently reading: 
  • Half Bad by Sally Green...I have been SLOWLY reading this book for over a month and I am so close to finishing it I can finally say I will finish it. Sometimes when I read a book too slowly I just can't seem to get the traction I need to enjoy it but when I spend time with this book I really do like it, so I am not sure why I can't seem to make myself bear down on it to finish. Progress: page 330 of 394.
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater... the third book of the Raven Cycle series. This is my current audiobook. The voice actor is Will Patton. I just love him. I'm on disc 8 of 9.
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyong-sook Shin...this month's book club selection. I have it on audiobooks but want to finish Lily Blue first. Eek! I must get going on it or I won't finish it.
From the kitchen: Homemade turkey meatballs and spaghetti one night, crumbled meatballs on homemade pizza the next. Not bad.

Funny quote: “Everyone should be able to do one card trick, tell two jokes, and recite three poems, in case they are ever trapped in an elevator.” ― Lemony SnicketHorseradish

Shane Koyczan: To This Day...for the bullied and beautiful---it it worth the time to listen to this poem on TED.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Display in GKHS library, ready to welcome our visitors.

Our school is preparing to welcome 48 exchange students from Australia and their chaperones for an eleven day visit. As the school librarian I thought it would be a welcoming gesture to highlight some current YA authors from Australia by making a book display to encourage circulation. I was amazed by the quality of writers heralding from Australia and the high number of award books credited to them.  I also added to my display a few adult authors who are quite famous worldwide for their literary contributions.

Here is the library display I made to highlight the authors and their works.

Students have already started checking out books by Australian authors.
The display is just stuffed with wonderful books and books in a series by these Australian authors.

I had no idea until I started creating this display just how many very, very good authors come from Australia.
Markus Zusak
From: Sydney
Facts: I Am the Messenger and The Book Thief won The Printz Honor in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Book Thief was made into a movie in 2013.

Lili Wilkinson
From: Melbourne
Not available in GKHS Library: Pink (Available from SLHS Library.) This book earned a Stonewall Honor book award.

Craig Silvey
From: Dwellingup
Fun Fact: He is the singer/songwriter for the indie/pop/rock band The Nancy Sikes!
In GKHS library: Jasper Jones . It was a Printz Honor book in 2012.

Garth Nix
From: Melbourne
Fun Fact: He was once a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve
Books in the GKHS Library: Sabriel , Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel (The Old Kingdom series), and A Confusion of Princes and many other books.

Jaclyn Moriarty
From: Perth
Facts: Her book A corner of White was a GKHS Mock Printz book last year.
Available in GKHS library: The Year of Secret Assignments and A Corner of White.

Colleen McCullough
From: Wellington
Fact: Not a YA authors but her books are excellent representations of life in Australia.
In GKHS library: Thorn Birds and The Ladies from Missalonghi (a personal favorite)

John Marsden
From: Victoria
Fact: There are at least seven book in The Tomorrow series.
Books in the GKHS: Tomorrow, When the War Began series.

Melina Marchetta
From: Sydney
Fact: Her novel Jellicoe Road won the Printz Award in 2009. Finnikin of the Rock won the Aurealis Award for best YA novel in 2008. This an Australian-based award.
Books in GKHS library: Jellicoe Road , Finnikin of the Rock series. Saving Francesca.
Justine Larabalestier
From: Sydney
Fact: She is married to Scott Westerfeld, an American author.
In GKHS Library: Liar 

Margo Lanagan
From: Newcastle
Facts: Several of her books have won literary awards
In GKHS library: The Brides of Rollrock IslandBlack Juice (short story collection), and Tender Morsels

Thomas Keneally
From: Sydney
Fact: His book, Schindler’s List, was made into an award-winning movie by Steven Spiegelberg.
Everyone should read: Schindler’s List

Catherine Jinks
From: Brisbane
GKHS library: Evil Genius series, and The Reformed Vampire Support Group.

Cath Crowley
From: Melbourne
Only book in the GKHS library: Graffiti Moon 

Bryce Courtenay
From: Canberra (now deceased)
Fact:  He was born in South Africa. The Power of One is on this blogger's list of favorite books.
GKHS library: The Power of One

Kate Constable
From: Melbourne
Fun Fact: As a young girl she lived in Papua New Guinea.
Available at GKHS: 
The Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy

Lucy Christopher
From: Wales, UK (used to live in Melbourne)
Fact: Stolen won a Printz Honor in 2011. It remains very popular in the library today and is on the Nifty Fifty list of books.
At GKHS library: Stolen (4 copies)

Isobelle Carmody
From: Victoria
At GKHS: Obernewtyn series.

Laura Buzo
From: Sydney
Available in GKHS library: Love and Other Perishable Items 

A.J. Betts
From: Queensland
Fun Fact: Published first poem when she was twelve
New in the GKHS library: Zac and Mia

Alexandra Adornetto
Fun Fact: She was born in 1992 (she is younger than my daughter!)
Available at GKHS: Halo Trilogy (This trilogy has been very popular for several years.)

Friday, January 9, 2015

CYBILS---YA Finalist Books

Cybils Logo 2014Lists, lists, lists!  A wonderful thing about the first of the year is all the book lists and award lists to peruse and pine over.  This one, a list of all the YA titles identified as finalists for the CYBILS award is nicely varied.  The folks over that School Library Journal annotated the list of YA books on the list.  Please, please take a look over at their site, which is much more detailed than mine. And find your way over to the actual CYBILS site for the complete list, which includes children's and middle grade books, as well.

CYBILS : Children and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards.

 School Library Journal for an annotated list of the CYBILS YA finalists.

2014 CYBILS Finalists:

YA Nonfiction:
  • COE, Alexis. Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis. Zest Books. Oct. 2014. 
  • THOMPSON, Laurie Ann. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters. S. & S./Beyond Words. Sept. 2014.
  • KUKLIN, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Candlewick. Feb. 2014.
  • VAN WAGENEN, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. Dutton. 2014. 
  • FLEMING, Candace. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. Random/Schwartz and Wade. July 2014.*
  • MITCHELL, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. Scholastic. Apr. 2014. 
  • SHEINKIN, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2014. 
YA Graphic Novels:
  •  DOCTOROW, Cory. In Real Life. First Second. Oct. 2014.
  •  GILL, Joel Christian and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History. Fulcrum. June 2014.
  •  BROOKS, Max. The Harlem Hellfighters. illus.by Canaan White. Broadway. Apr. 2014.
  •  YANG, Gene Luen. The Shadow Hero. First Second. July 2014.
  •  CARROLL, Emily. Through the Woods. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. July 2014. *
  •  KOYCZAN, Shane. To the Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful. Annick Books. 2014.
YA Speculative Fiction
  •  CYPESS, Leah. Death Sworn. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2014.
  •  KING, A.S. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. Little, Brown. Oct. 2014. *
  •  WHALEY, John Corey. Noggin. S. & S./Atheneum. Apr. 2014. *
  •  DUNCAN, Alexandra. Salvage. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2014. 
  •  DE LA PE√ĎA, Matt. The Living. Delacorte. 2013.
  •  RUTKOSKI, Marie. The Winner’s Curse. Farrar. Mar. 2014.
  •  HEALEY, Karen. While We Run. Little, Brown. May 2014.
Young Adult Fiction
  • QUINTERO, Isabel. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces. Cinco Puntos. Oct. 2014.*
  • GILES, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick. May 2014.*
  • NELSON, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. Dial. Sept. 2014.*
  • COLBERT, Brandy. Pointe. Putnam. Apr. 2014.
  • REYNOLDS, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. S. & S./Atheneum. Jan. 2014.
Poetry (only YA or Middle Grade titles listed)
  • WOODSON, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books. August 2014.*
  • LEWIS, J. Patrick. Voices from the March on Washington. WordSong. Oct. 2014. 
My thoughts:
  • I am shocked,  SHOCKED, that the graphic novel This One Summer is not on the list.  It seems to be on everyone's  list of favorite books for the year and is a strong contender for the Printz Award. I've only read Through the Woods on this graphic novels list, so maybe all these other books are SO good that This One Summer just got kicked off the list by virtue of the others being so fantastic. I don't know, but I'm thinking, in reality, this is big oversight.
  • This award is for books published in 2014, which makes me wonder why The Living by Matt De La Pena, published in 2013 is on the list. It was released in November of 2013, so perhaps October is the cut-off. I don't know.  Anyone?
  • One of the cool things about the CYBILS list is you don't see all the same books as other end-of-year-best-books lists.  There are many titles on this page that I haven't heard of before and I want to investigate further. I am most intrigued by Voices from the March on Washington because I am such a sucker for anything poetic and While We Run as it sounds like a book students would like.
  • This is a great year for nonfiction. It doesn't surprise me at all that there are seven titles on this list. I just wish that Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman was on the list.  Oh well, I still recommend it and think every teen should read it.
  • * = books on the GKHS Mock Printz list.
  • My favorite book on the whole list. In fact, my favorite YA book of the year: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I know, I know, this blogger keeps gushing about this book, but honestly, it is spectacular. Read it!
  • CYBILS winners will be announced on February 14th, a good day for book love!
Your thoughts:
  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
  • Please!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Audiofile's Best YA Audiobook titles of 2014

A few days ago I made an audiobook round-up report here at Head Full of Books. (Check out the link.)
Every year I try to listen to as many YA titles on audiobooks as I can and I am always looking for lists of good book to listen to next. Today I found such a list, published in the December /January AudioFile Magazine. They have done the work for me, by identifying the best audiobooks of the year. It appears that the list is alphabetized, so think of them all on an equal level as far as excellence.

AudioFile's Favorite YA Titles of 2014
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, read by Corey Allen (Recorded Books)*
  • Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy, read by Andrew Eiden, et al (Scholastic Audiobooks)
  • The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming, read by Kimberly Farr, et al (Listening Library)*
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, read by Julia Whelan and Jesse Bernstein (Brilliance Audio)*
  • I Am Malala, Young Reader's Edition by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick, read by Neela Vaswani (Hatchette Audio)
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels (Brilliance Audio)*
  • Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern, read by Rebecca Lowman (Harper Audio)*
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton; read by Cassandra Campbell (Brilliance Audio)*
  • We are the Goldens by Dana Rienhardt, read by Julia Whelan (Brilliance Audio)
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Ariadne Meyers  (Listening Library)*
  • The Young World by Christ Weitz, read by Jose Julian and Spencer Locke (Hatchette Audio)
In addition there were a few titles on Audiofile's favorite Children's books list perfectly fine for teens:
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, read by the author (Penguin Audio)*
  • Egg and Spoon by Gregory McGuire, read by Michael Page (Brilliance Audio)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by full cast (Harper Audio)
The editors of the magazine remind us of what makes a good listening experience. " It is the alchemy of writing and performance, of interesting characters or fascinating facts, a pleasing voice and a favorite genre..." (AudioFile)

 Let's hope that 2015 is another fantastic year for audiobooks!

Happy listening.

*Books on the GKHS Mock Printz list. I'm happy to see these fabulous books on more than one list.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Woops, I missed the 2015 Morris Award finalists announcement, too

Apparently December wasn't a good month for me in terms of paying attention to what was happening in the world of books. I missed announcements of the finalists for both the 2015 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction books AND The 2015 Morris Award finalists.

The Morris Award is handed out each year for excellent YA literature written by a debut author (debuting in the YA genre, that is.) Finalists are announced early, giving the committee time to reread and mull over their favorites. “This year’s Morris Committee had the distinguished task of finding the strongest voices from a quantitatively and qualitatively exceptional field of debut writers,” said Robin F. Kurz, chair of YALSA’s Morris Award committee. (ALA News)

The 2015 Morris Award finalists are:
  • “The Carnival at Braywritten by Jessie Ann Foley, published by Elephant Rock Books.
  • The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim written by E.K. Johnston, published by Carolrhoda Lab™, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.
  • “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” written by Isabel Quintero, published by Cinco Puntos Press.
  • The Scar Boys” written by Len Vlahos, published by Egmont Publishing.
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” written by Leslye Walton, published by Candlewick Press.
I have read The Story of Owen, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.  In fact, all three of these books are on my Mock Printz list of books.  My favorite of the three is Ava Lavender. It has been a year of magical realism reading for me and this book is an exceptional example of that genre. To my knowledge this genre has never won a YA award. It is time to change that.

Hmmm...now I must run out and see if I can locate copies of The Carnival at Bray and The Scar Boys. Finalists for the Morris Award are usually quite good and are worthy of a spot in my library.

The Morris Book Awards will be announced at the conclusion of the ALA Midwinter meeting, Feb. 2nd.

Stay tuned.

2015 YA Nonfiction Finalists Announced December 18th...and I missed it.

 I went on Winter Holiday December 19th and returned to work yesterday. In the meantime life went on for the rest of the world. I just wasn't paying attention, preferring to spend my time frivolously making cookies and shopping. Now that I'm back it is shocking to learn how much I missed. For example, YALSA announced the finalists for the 2015 Nonfiction Book Award. It has been a very strong year for nonfiction so these books must be spectacular to have risen to the top of the pile.

The 2015 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalists are:
  • “Laughing at My Nightmare” written by Shane Burcaw, and published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group;
  • “The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia” written by Candace Fleming, and published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books;
  • “Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won!” written by Emily Arnold McCully, and Published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.
  • “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” written by Steve Sheinkin, and published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’ Children’s Publishing Group;
  • “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” written by Maya Van Wagenen, and published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.
 The winner will be announced at the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting on Feb. 2nd.

I have read The Family Romanov and The Port Chicago 50, both are very good. I hope, between those two, that Romanov wins because it is clearly written for a bit older audience. I am so tired of all the good nonfiction written for youth being directed toward middle grade students. High school students deserve quality nonfiction, too! I haven't read the other three books but want to pick up Laughing at My Nightmare, a decision based solely on the cover.

Have you read any of these nonfiction books? What are your thoughts about nonfiction and teens?


Monday, January 5, 2015

Sunday Salon on Monday, Jan. 5th

Selfie of Don and I at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

Today's Weather: Rain, rain, and more rain. Reports of flooding on certain rivers in the area.

Pastorale scene at The Huntington near Pasadena.
New Year's Day: Don and I opened our new year in Pasadena, California for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. We had SO MUCH FUN. Leading up to New Year's Day we spent prowling around art museums in the area.  See my Snapshot Saturday post for photos of our museum visits. On New Year's Day we bundled up for the parade which started at 8 AM PST. We bundled up because the temperature was hovering around zero, a Rose Parade record. We had seats in the bleachers. Last time, twenty years ago, we tried to see the parade without tickets in the bleachers and we just couldn't see a thing. This time we paid the money for seats and it was well worth it. We sat with a congenial bunch of folks who were all willing to cuddle since we were all so cold. Ha!

A section from one of my favorite floats in the Rose Parade.

Rose Bowl Game: Later in the day we walked up to the Rose Bowl Stadium from our motel (around two miles) and took our seats in the University of Oregon section with other Duck fans. Again we made fast friends because we all were cheering for the same side. The game ended up being a blowout for the Ducks as they beat the Florida State Seminoles 59 to 20. By the time we walked back after the game I was pretty tired. But what a fun day.

Weird weather: since it was so cold in Southern California our flight home was delayed for two hours because there was frost on the wings and the airport didn't have any de-icing stuff.  They actually moved the plane into the sun and hoped it would melt the ice that way. Fortunately for us we were in no big hurry to get home since Carly wasn't picking us up at Sea-Tac until after noon.

Reading funk: for some reason or another I hardly cracked a book during the whole winter holiday. I checked out six books from my library and only finished one of these books. It is time for a book to help get me out of my funk. Any suggestions?

From the kitchen: Our neighbor gave us a HoneyBaked Ham for Christmas and we are still nibbling on the ends of it over a week later. Last night Carly and I put together a big pot of split pea soup with the scraps from the ham. Just the right thing on a cold, rainy day.

Back to school: My husband "made" me go to bed early last night as today was back to work after two weeks off. I am like a teenager: given the chance I will stay up late and get up late so adjusting back to rising early is always hard for me. But tonight I should have no problem going to bed early.

Currently reading:
  • Clariel by Garth Nix. This is the prequel to The Old Kingdom series that includes Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. It is an audiobook. I am "in love" with this new book. I think it would work as a stand-alone, too.
  • Half Bad by Sally Green. I finally have some traction on this book that I have been toting around for over a month. Just reached the halfway point.
 Recently finished reading:
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I listened to all 32 hours of this audiobook. In that amount of time I could have driven all the way to Indianapolis, Indiana or to LA and back.  It took a chunk of time, that is for sure, but I was so enthralled by the story.
  • The Kids are Alright: a memoir by Diana, Liz, Amanda, and Dan Welch. These four people lost both parents when they were children and somehow they all managed to land on their feet. This was an Alex Award book a few years ago.
No reading resolutions this year: except I hope to read 100 or more books. I joined so many challenges this past year and then flaked out on most of them. This time around I am only reading what I want to read, or book club selections. We'll see how long this resolution starts before I sign up for some challenge or another. What about you? Are you participating in any reading challenges for 2015?

Word of the week, maybe year: barukh, which is a jewish word meaning blessed! "Barukh is a homonym expressing a reciprocal relationship: man can address God as barukh by expressing feelings of thanksgiving, reverence, love, and praise, while he is barukh by God who bestows His material and spiritual gifts." (Jewish Virtual Library). I really like the thought of my relationship with God being two-way. God is barukh and He, in turn, causes me to be barukh.

Music of the week: somehow it seems appropriate since the title is Remember When it Rained. (Um, the answer is yes. It is raining right now. Ha!)