"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx=========The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. -Jane Austen=========I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.-JK Rowling========I spend a lot of time reading. -Bill Gates

Monday, March 30, 2015

Birch Bay, Washington

A quick little getaway for a few days of my Spring Break, Don and I are vacationing at a condo on Birch Bay which is part of the Puget Sound. To say we were at the beach would be a misnomer. Around here if one says they are going to the coast they mean the Pacific Ocean. Often we will use the term coast and beach interchangeably. Though technically speaking there is a beach here on Birch Bay with mostly mid-sized smooth rocks and very little sand. There are tides, high and low, but only small waves. The Puget Sound is not just a part of the Pacific Ocean, it is a body of water unto itself with it's own characteristics. For example, it is salt water but not as salty as the ocean. Technically speaking it is the second largest estuary in the United States after Chesapeake Bay. Though we know what it means, we don't use the term "shore" unless we are referring to a particular type of bird like a seagull, which would be a shore bird or as a geographical note such as the shoreline. But when we visit our friends in New Jersey and they ask us if we'd like to go to that shore we know they mean the Atlantic Ocean.  Unlike at the ocean, the Puget Sound is relatively protected by land so picnics and camping aren't one big sand fight due to the winds we experience at the coast.

Today Don and I took a walk along the shoreline. The tide was coming in, but gently. Don had his big camera and took some interesting shots of the rocks, the sea life, and detritus. I searched for interesting rocks to take home to add to a pile of rocks there.

Check out the little red dot on this seagulls beak. It is supposed to be there.

My rock collecting bag.

"Danger. Keep Off".... Then why is there a bench on this dangerous pier?
Detritus 1
Waterlogged snag
Detritus 2

A view of the rocky beach
Shore birds


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Salon, March 29--- Spring Break Week

The ugliest potted plant in recorded history (and we were seated next to it.)
Location: Birch Bay, Washington (on the US/Canadian border)

Weather: Raining

Home: Don got home from Kentucky on Thursday, one day earlier than expected. Yay!

Birch Bay: our condo is right across the street from the beach (rocks) and Birch Bay, way up North near Blaine, Washington. Across the bay we can see the lights of homes in White Rock, British Columbia. This morning the color of the water (grey) and the color of the sky (grey) are the same.

Karaoke dancing: last night we went to dinner at a very divey restaurant/bar and the service was really slow. We were seated next to a large potted plant (see photo above) that was clearly the ugliest plant we had ever seen. We asked the waiter why they didn't get a nicer looking plant and he said, "Why, so drunk people can wreck it, too?" Later the karaoke started up and all the locals not only got up to sing but they also got up to dance when someone else was singing. By the end of the evening we were in high spirits from all the laughing. And, by the way, our salmon sandwiches were delicious.

Spring break: Spring break started at 2:30 PM on Friday afternoon. I had a very busy day on Friday in the library with students needing help on their assignments due that day, book-talks to Freshman, iPad check-outs to teachers, and the end of Jane Austen week. I was ready for a break.

Speaking of Jane Austen week: I showed the movie Becoming Jane and the attendees really got engrossed in the story. I don't know how true the movie is compared to her real life but it makes a plausible explanation for how she able to write such remarkable books about life in the Regency period in Britain. I have shared my love for my favorite author and I am pretty sure have created some new fans along the way.

Palm Sunday: we are missing services at our home church today but plan to drive down to Bellingham to attend services at the closest Presbyterian church in the area. Today is the day we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem just one week before he is crucified. Next week is Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection. *Update, we really enjoyed attending church Birchwood Presbyterian Church in Bellingham. The congregants were very friendly and we felt at home with the liturgy.

Books read this week:
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nevin---a very moving story about two teens who save each other, for a time. Very timely and touching. look for my review later today or tomorrow.
  • Shipping News (audio) by E. Annie Proulx---a re-read. This time I listened to the audiobook which is an abridged version. It made me want to re-read the print edition now. Egads. I love this quirky book set in Newfoundland.
Currently reading:
  • The Martian by Andy Weir---Don and I are listening to the audiobook together. 
  • Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan---an upcoming book club selection. I am reading this on my iPad...my first e-book.
40-bags-in-40-days update: only 3 bags done this week---
  • Two bags of books---1 bag I took to work to give away or to add to my collection, the second bag I set aside for Goodwill. I even threw a few books away.
  • Under the sink in master bathroom---as I was getting ready for work on Monday I accidentally dropped a diamond/gold earring down the drain. The water wasn't running at the time so I knew I could recover it but didn't have time to mess with the drain trap at that moment. After school my daughter was willing to climb under the sink IF I committed to cleaning it afterwards. I store all my hair and skin products under the sink and the place was jammed full of them. I threw away a bag of out-dated products.
  • One week left in the challenge and I think I am going to make it but I will have to get to work when I get home from Birch Bay. I still hope to tackle by T-shirt drawer, the linen closet, and the coat closet. That should do it. It has been a worthy task.
For your viewing enjoyment: Odin Eating Peanut Butter dressed as man. Make sure you have your sound on. It is impossible to not laugh when you watch/listen to this:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bloggiesta Update, Day 5 and 6

Themes : Organize and destress / Read

Goals: Day 5: Organize. Stay organized and stay up-to-date on my reviews, my challenges, and keeping my pages current. Day 6: Read at least four books this Spring Break.

Organize- sometimes I shock myself how unorganized I am about the blog and blogging. For example I am one month behind on my Books Read in 2015 page just because I forget about it. Or I ignore my challenges because I figure no one care than me. (So why do them?)

Destress: I purposely avoided getting on any lists to receive ARCs because I didn't want to be forced to read books that ultimately wouldn't help me in my position as a high school librarian making book recommendations to teens. I do feel stress when I compare my blog statistics to some hypothetical numbers. honestly I shouldn't even look at my stats.

Tomorrow's focus for bloggiesta is reading, since I will be en route to our Spring Break locale here is my reading list for the week (subject to change):

  • The Martian by Andy Weir---i'm seeing this book everywhere so I am anxious to start listening to this audiobook.
  • The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley---as part of my Printz Challenge
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven---I'm almost done with this one.
  • A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy---an ARC, after saying I wasn't reading any of them.
  • Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan --- on my new Kindle App on my new iPad. It will be my first e-book.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Jen Wang

In the graphic novel In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, Anda is a typical teen girl. She loves to play video games, especially Coarsegold Online, a very popular role playing game. Her mother is hesitant to allow Anda to spend so much time playing these types of games for fear of on-line predators. But Anda assures her that it is a girls-only site and she knows not to give out any personal information.

Anda’s avatar is a kick-ass girl who is also a fighter and a hero. In real-life she is an unsure, awkward teen. In the game she attracts the attention of other players, one of whom recruits her to assist in wiping out gold farmers.  Gold farmers are Chinese kids who collect valuable objects in the game and then sell them back to the “rich American kids.”  Anda can even make a little money for destroying these gold-farmers and so Anda decides to go for it. “But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.”—from the book jacket
I really enjoyed Cory Doctorow's writing in Little Brother, a modern retelling of 1984 where Big Brother is always watching. So when I learned that In Real Life won the Cybils Award for best Graphic novel of the year I was eager to read it. I am not a graphic novel aficionado so was hesitant to weigh in with my opinion of a book in this genre. But I should say I really did enjoy the book after the twist when Anda has an eye-opening experience that helps her to make a shift in her maturity and attitude toward others. This graphic novel is a spin-off of Doctorow's short story "Anda's Game" which led to the novel For the Win. When it was decided that the story would be made into a graphic novel Jen Wang was selected as the illustrator. Doctorow, in an interview with Oliver Sata for LA Times HeroComplex, said,
Jen did most of the writing and I want to make sure she gets most of the credit...For the most part, comics are about watching someone else do stuff, not being inside someone’s head as stuff happens.But Jen did all the hard work. She wrote a treatment, and then a script. I went through the script, I edited it, I vetoed a few things. I asked for a few things to be added. All the really good stuff in there is stuff Jen introduced. All the new stuff that isn’t in the story is stuff Jen introduced, and the cool thing about that is that because Jen did the script, and she did an amazing job, I can look at this thing that’s been adapted from my work, and without being conceited in the slightest, I can say how cool it is because it’s not me I’m praising, it’s Jen’s work. It really is terrific.
There you have it right from the author's mouth, this book is terrific. I agree.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friday Quotes: March 27

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now:

Book Title: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Book Beginnings:
Is today a good day to die? This is something I ask myself in the morning when i wake up. In third period when I'm trying to keep my eyes open while Mr. Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I'm passing the green beans. At night when I'm lying awake because my brain won't shut off...
Friday 56: 
On March 23, 1950, Italian poet Cesare Pavese wrote: Love is truly the great manifesto; the urge to be, to count for something, and, if death must come, to die valiantly, with acclamation---in short, to remain a memory. Five months later, he walked into a newspaper office and chose his obituary photograph from a photo archive. He checked himself into a hotel, and days later an employee found him stretched out on the bed, dead.
My comments: This is the first YA book I have read in a long time that has really caught my attention. I actually want to carve out time to read it and can stay awake long enough once I get in bed at night that I can read several chapters, not just a page or two, before lights out. The topic: teen suicide. The quote from both pages are quite disturbing and show the frame of the mind of the teenager who is obsessed with suicide.

Bloggiesta Update: Day 4

Theme: Reviews

My goal: to catch up on back reviews.

I partially participated in the Twitter chat today because I was actually home from work when it was scheduled. However, there wasn't a lot of consensus about what makes a good review so I will just give a few of my opinions about good reviews...and mind you, I don't always follow them!

  • Creative blog titles are best but they are hard to think up and some readers just want title and author.
  • The summary or synopsis of the book should be brief, one or two paragraphs only and should be written by the reviewer, but just grabbed from Goodreads or elsewhere.
  • Review can include spoilers if there is plenty of notice  that it is coming. Then readers have a choice to read on or not. I rarely include spoilers but sometimes feel like it is necessary to make my point.
  • I use links because I want to make sure to give credit where I got my information and to avoid the appearance of plagiarism. There were a variety of opinions about this topic but one blogger admitted that she often didn't include links due to laziness.  Hey, that's what I fight at school with high school writers.
  • My favorite reviews include a statement about who the target audience is, including concerns about age-appropriateness.
On a personal level I counted today and of  the 23 books I've read this year I've only written ten reviews, and two of those reviews were incomplete. I knew I wasn't up to date on my blog, but had no idea I was that behind. I analyzed the books and selected five more I hope to review in the next two weeks. And, of course, stay current moving forward.  I've already started. Today I got off a review for Three Men in a Boat and another review is half written and will likely be published tomorrow.

I am adding a rating system back for my reviews.

We'll see if  I can keep this up!

Here is the link for today's Twitter chat. It has some links to other sites about writing great reviews which I will look at tomorrow when I am not so tired.

Three Men and a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome

The book Three Men and a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) was written by a humorist Jerome K. Jerome in 1889. The book was also serialized in a publication, Home Chimes, so the reading public got their story in drips and drabs over a period of time. Apparently they loved the silly stories of the three men who took their dog, Montmorency, and went on a boating holiday down the Thames from Kingston to Oxford. The 1st edition sold over 200,000 copies which doesn’t sound that large in today’s market but was huge back then.

Jerome hadn’t intended to write a humorous book. When he started he wanted to write a travelogue to remark on the scenery and intricacy of taking such a pleasurable trip, but the book had a different plan and took on a life of its own. Lucky for us that it did, too, because I doubt a serious book about boating on the Thames in the 1800s would still be in print today. Three Men in a Boat has never been out of print and its popularity has remained high. In 2003 The Guardian newspaper created a list of the 100 greatest novels. Three Men in a Boat was #33 on that list with a note, “One of the funniest English novels ever written.” For comparison sake, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was #31 on that same list.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bloggiesta Update Day 3

Bloggiesta topic of the day: blog layout and presentation

My goal: to make my blog as user-friendly as possible.

I revamped my blog a year ago or so and thought I was doing pretty well but now know I need to continue to clean things up. Here are some of the highlights from today's Twitter chat on the topic.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bloggiesta Update Day 2

Day two: E-Presence

Honestly, I am not good at having an E-presence. I like blogging and do fine with Facebook with my friends, but I totally don't "get" Twitter. When I read the posts from people on Twitter I always think to myself, "who cares?" because it always seems like there are just random statements made with no context. Obviously I am doing something wrong. I don't really spend enough time on it to really understand all the tips to successfully use it.

So when I read through the Twitter chat from today and saw everyone extolling the virtues of Twitter and of Instagram I just froze up. Obviously if I want to improve my blog presence I need to work with the social media that people are using. But keep in mind, we are talking about a lady here whose whole job revolves around books and I didn't get a Kindle-reader until today.

So...I have a long way to go, I know. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Monday, March 23, 2015

TTT: Ten favorite books from my childhood I have or would like to revisit

Just today I was perusing a book titled 501 Must-Read Books. It is divided into categories: Children's, Classic, Mysteries, etc. As I looked through the Children's section I reminded myself just how much I'd like to reread some of the books on the list especially since I probably read the abridged version first time around. However, I had the privilege to reread several of these books when my children were young. Some of my favorite memories of those growing-up years were the times I spent reading out loud wonderful stories before bedtime with my girls.

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott---I'm pretty sure I read the abridged version first time around.