"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=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Snapshot Saturday---Dogzilla and flowers

 Dogzilla, aka Muffy, and I go for a walk. (Read the captions.)

Focus on the shadow, not the dog
You can see her tongue and her teeth

Muffy, aka Dogzilla,  really looks like a monster

Beware! Dogzilla may get you!

By they way, Dogzilla and I saw these flowering trees on our walk

I guess it wasn't such a scary walk after all.
Muffy gets called Dogzilla whenever we go for walks on sunny days because she looks like the dog in the children's book Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey (2003)

 Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Dear Teen Me

At graduation with friend Barb.
I am recently read a book called Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson.  Most of the 70 authors included in the project wrote letters not to give their teen self advise on what to change but just words of encouragement about how everything will turn out OK. Each letter is written by a different YA author and all of them include a photo taken sometime during their teen years (hence the photo of me as a teenager.) Some of the letters really moved me because the author had really lived through some horrific events (bullying, rape, eating disorder, death of parent, etc.) while others just spoke about issues that weren't quite as serious (shyness, getting into college, friends, etc.) The average person reading this book would probably find three or four letters that really spoke to their situations. Acceptance, forgiveness, healing, and patience were overarching themes.

As I read the letters I keep thinking about things I'd like to tell my teen self to stop or start doing.  I added a feature to my weekly Sunday Salon post called "Dear Teen Me" where I gave myself a bit of advice to make things better for the me of today. I have compiled and reprinted these pieces of advice here in hopes that they may also speak to you.
Dear Teen Me: Remember how you keep cheating in Mr. Luarca's typing class by sneaking a look at your fingers while you type? Stop it! Don't peek anymore! Keep on practicing the skill of typing without looking at your fingers.  You will not believe how much typing you will be doing in the future and you will be grateful everyday that you mastered the skill of typing without looking at your fingers. Help me out. Stop looking at your fingers even though you are just learning to type. The skill is more important than the grade.
Dear Teen Me: In a few days you will break up with your 9th grade boyfriend, DB. It will be very hard on him and he will do an alarming thing: he and his friends will hang a dummy from a noose from the edge of the school building dressed in his clothes, to make it look like he committed suicide over your break up. It is not your fault that he is so distraught, nor is it your fault that he did something so inappropriate. But this time I want you to tell an adult what happened and what you know instead of keeping it to yourself. You see, as an adult DB does commit suicide. In his 30's his suicide is completely unrelated to you but you will wonder IF you had done something earlier he may have gotten some help and wonder whether it would have saved him in the future. I have thought many times if I had said something to an adult back in 9th grade things could have changed for him. Trust me on this one. You don't want this burden. Talk to an adult who can help.
Anne: Hold in your head how much fun it is to play tennis and eventually racquetball. Right now you enjoy playing tennis with your brother and several other friends. Why don't you go out for the tennis team. You won't be a champion but you could have a hoot playing with other people and gaining more friends. Your first year in college you will take a tennis class which really hones your skills. Your second year you take a racquetball class and playing it becomes an obsession for several years. Keep it up. Remind yourself everyday that these are two sports you can do as you age. Make sports and fitness a part of your daily routine.
Dear Teen me---in a few years you will follow a diet craze which centers around eating only low-fat foods. It will be a very popular diet nationally. Everyone will talk about the virtues of eating low fat without good science behind the effects of such a diet on metabolisms. It also involves using artificial ingredients, bad oils, and lots of preservatives. Please, please, please do not follow the mob. Avoid this diet at all costs.  Eat healthy, natural ingredients. Explore your taste pallet and learn to eat a variety of healthy foods.  Just eat less if you want to lose weight. Saturated fats are not the enemy...avoid trans fats.  Look into it! Trust me on this one and you will feel a whole lot better.
Dear Teen Me- Boys. Let me tell you that you will have your heart broken a few times. Learn from your experiences and you will eventually meet a man who treats you the way you deserve to be treated. I'm married to him right now. Don't ever do things for or with boys that will diminish your own self-worth. And when the break-ups do come just love yourself. Don't worry, you will be OK.
Horsing around with friends Lori and Andy

What would you tell your teen self if you could go back and have a talk? Leave a comment here on my blog. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

 It's National Poetry month. Time to kick into high gear, dust off the poetry volumes and get my inner poet juices flowing.

First up, no need to dust this one off since it is a new book, Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann.

All the poems in this slim little volume take a modern spin off the theme of fairy tales, so are charming, some funny, others completely disturbing, but all thought-provoking.

The book begins with a very sad, alarming poem about anorexia, "The Never-Ending Story" reminiscent of all fairy tales tat begin with Once upon a time:
Once there was a girl who wore her bones outside her body. 
Once there was a girl who thought bones looked nice...
In "Sleeping Beauty's Wedding Day" she has so much to do after the initial kiss before she gets married, in the end she has this reaction:
No wonder that hundred-year nap
just doesn't seem long enough.
My favorite, "Prince Charming" is about a boy who arrives for his date. He is kind to the girl's mother, jokes with the girl's father, gives a small gift to the girl's sister, then says a totally rude, oblivious comment to the girl about the size of her boobs. I thought it was hilarious and read to both my husband and my daughter, at different times. Neither of them thought it was funny even after I explained it to them. Guess poetry is about personal taste.

I read the "SHAPE MAGAZINE Fairy Tale" to my hairdresser. It is a re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story but this one focuses on hair, face, and body fitness. The beginning is the part my hairdresser appreciated:
Once upon a time there was a girl who 
had a good hair week! Seven cute looks 
she could do at home, and their names were 
Waves, Bob, Bun, Bangs, Braid, Sleek, 
and Party-Ready Ponytail.
In "First Semester Haiku" there are haiku poems about the science project, another about virgin math (don't ask), and a third about art history. My favorite is about World Lit:
Jane Eyre fan fiction.
Under her demure wool dress
'Mad Woman' tattoo.
"Big Bad Spa Treatment" is a twist on Hansel and Gretel which begins with
YOU are the most important ingredient in the scrumptious day of pampering! 
and ends with 
400 degrees. Close your eyes. Feel the heat deep in your bones. We'll come and get you when you are done.
There are 50 poems. I enjoyed most of them and had fun sharing them

Happy Poetry month. Read a poem today. Do it for your soul.

Review: The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

Every year I attempt to read all the best YA literature published that year and in my mind I attempt to select the select the best of the best which should win a Printz Award or Honor. Every year I fail in my attempt to read the best and books like The Carnival at Bray fly below the radar, I don't hear anything about them, and suddenly they receive a Printz Honor. It happened last year with Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal and The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna in 2013. They aren't necessarily bad books, they just are books that few reviewers are talking about so it is a shock when they win the prestigious award.

This is the small little blurb that the Printz committee wrote about The Carnival at Bray, a book published by small company, Elephant Rock Books:
The Carnival at Bray---In 1993, Maggie is dismayed to leave Chicago and her beloved Uncle Kevin behind when she moves to a small Irish town. Yet it is within this evocative setting that Foley unwinds Maggie’s exceptional coming-of-age tale, where Maggie discovers music and forgiveness as antidotes for grief.-ALA Youth Media Awards
I thought the coming-of-age portion of the story was really effective. Maggie who comes from a dysfunctional family is forced to move with her mother and sister to Ireland when her mother marries an Irishman. Maggie is distraught partially because she is leaving her uncle Kevin, the only adult who seems to understand her. he is the one who introduces her to Kurt Cobain and grunge music. It is difficult to move to a new area during senior high school and even more difficult when the move involves international borders. Maggie has a hard time making friends her age and finds herself doing things she knows are wrong just to please her few friends. She does find solace in her relationship with an elderly gentleman, Dan Sean O'Callighan, who is content just to sip tea with Maggie in calm silence.

When Maggie falls in love and has to confront her feelings about a sudden death at the same time, naive Maggie thinks she can strike out on her own on a forbidden pilgrimage first to Dublin and then to Rome.
Things don't work out the way she envisioned them and now she is forced to make more decisions about her life and future without any supportive help from her family.

The Carnival at Bray is a good, solid story. Students will be drawn to Maggie as she navigates the ups and downs of her teen years. Descriptions of the Irish setting and people will enlarge cultural understanding also.
I hope to find student readers for this book among kids who enjoy reading books set in other countries or those who enjoy alternative music. References to Kurt Cobain are a plus since he was a Seattle-native. He still has a fan base in the area.

Rating 3.5/5

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Friday Quotes, April 17

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: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, translated from German by Ralph Manheim

Book Beginnings: (from the preface)
This inscription could be seen on the glass door of small shop, but naturally this was only the way it looked if you were inside the dimly lit shop, looking out at the street through the plateglass door
Friday 56:
Cairon's story of the terrible happenings in all parts of Fantastica had made an impression on him, but thus far the disaster was something he had only heard about. On the seventh day he was to see it with his own eyes.
Comments: I am within 25 pages of the end of the book. It has sometimes been very exciting and other times a bit tedious, but always highly imaginative about a troubled boy who discovers an extraordinary storybook-and the fantastical world within its pages.. This book came to my attention because it was listed in a book of 501-Must-Read books. I'm wondering if the tedious bits are magnified in the audio format I'm using to consume this book. If I were reading the print edition my eyes would generally skip ahead during slow parts. My daughter tells me that there is a movie made from the book.

***I'm surprised that no one has made a comment about the backwards words. I thought I was pretty clever for adding them to the post (my daughter figured out how to make them.)

The Martian...you may not want to go to Mars but your should go get this book

The Martian by Andy Weir is my new when-you-want-a-book-recommendation-go-to selection, this is the book I will recommend to you. In fact, I just recommended it a few minutes ago to a teacher passing through the library. It is likely I will tell someone else about the book before the end of the day.  It is THAT good. Few books have risen to the level of go-to book and once on my list will often stay on it for years. In the past some of the books on my go-to list have been: The Help; The Storied Life of AJ Fikry; The Invention of Wings; and Ready Player One. Now you get the idea of the types of go-to books on my list. It is special to be the newest book on the list because I recommend it the most.

The Martian was written by Andy Weir, a debut author who admits to being a Science Nerd. It was first published on-line where readers could get it for free. Next Weir self-published it on Amazon and charged the lowest amount possible, thinking only true science geeks would be willing to pay for it. When he started making money, he was shocked. Not only is the book a literary success it has been picked up by Twentieth Century Fox and a film starring Matt Damon is coming out this November. Read it quick!

As a librarian I am always interested in what genre books belong. This book would be categorized as Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) but that is a misnomer. Yes, the book is fiction in terms of its plot---an astronaut is abandoned by his team on Mars and he is left to his own devises to survive, or more likely die. But the science is not fictional. Every bit of science information in the book is accurate (remember how I said Weir is a Science nerd?) which makes the book fascinating on a whole other level. The book has a fascinating plot which is enhanced by the reality of the science and the math.

When Mark Watney is abandoned by his crew due to a completely credible misunderstanding, he has enough resources to support his life for about six months. The earliest anyone could possibly get back to rescue him is three years. So Watney has to figure out how to save himself and he has to do it himself since communication with NASA was disabled at the same time he was abandoned. Watney has to use his brain and good old ingenuity to survive. Parts of the book read like a really good adventure story with tense scenes where survival is questionable. Other parts, which really make the ultra-science facts bearable, are extremely funny. It is a well-balanced book: science-adventure-humor-ingenuity. What's not to like?

My husband and I started the audiobook of  The Martian during our Spring Break trip. I love to listen to audiobooks when I'm driving and my husband puts up with them. For that reason I try to select books he will like when we travel together. R.C. Bray does an excellent job reading the book and doing the character voices. Below is a snippet of the book, the first chapter. Hey, why not get started with the book right now and have a listen (6 minutes.)

Rating: 5/5, some strong language

Audiobook info: The Martian by Andy Weir, read by RC Bray. Podium Publishing on Brilliance Audio, MP-3 format, 2014.

Monday, April 13, 2015

TTT: Favorite Quotes

“The only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that's hardly worth the effort.” 
― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” 
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” 
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ryThe Little Prince

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn't it? And isn't the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?” 
― Donna TarttThe Goldfinch

“It is because good is always stronger than evil. Always remember that, Antonio. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant.” 
― Rudolfo AnayaBless Me, Ultima

“I remember it as October days are always remembered, cloudless, maple-flavored, the air gold and so clean it quivers.” 
― Leif EngerPeace Like a River

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” 
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

“Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.” 
― E.B. WhiteCharlotte's Web

“You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and not get wet.” 
― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

The Woman in White: installment, the first

Classics Club Spin #9, first update on progress

Book: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Pages read: 84 of 609.

Weekly goal: I adjusted my goal from a weekly goal of 120 pages to a daily goal, after recalibration, of 16 pages/day.

What I have learned so far:
  • Wilkie had this book serialized in Charles Dickens literary magazine, All the Year Round, in 1859. It became wildly popular with "The Woman in White" spin-off products like perfume, jewelry, scarves, bonnets, etc. available for purchase. It makes me think that this was the nineteenth century's marketing scheme similar to Disney products of today.
  • The book is described as the first detective novel and as one of the finest sensation fiction works ever written. I had to look up what a sensation novel was since I'd never heard of it before. Apparently this genre of novel lived a very short life, only from 1860 to1880.
Sensation fiction drew on a variety of popular forms including melodrama, domestic realism, newspaper reports, Newgate novels, and gothic tales. The gripping plots of these novels involved scandalous events including murder, adultery, bigamy, fraud, madness, and sexual deviance often perpetrated by seemingly moral and upright individuals in familiar domestic settings. The genre’s popularity provoked alarm and hostility on the part of literary, political, and religious authorities who denounced sensation novels for eliciting intense physical responses from their readers. The broad appeal of sensation fiction made it suspect as serious writing for nearly a century.---Matthew Rubery, Oxford Bibliographies
  •  The book is divided into sections narrated by different characters. Each section thus appears to be a sort of legal deposition with the character telling their side of the story or their involvement in the plot. At the opening of chapter one the first narrator is introduced thusly: THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT (of Clement's Inn, Teacher of Drawing). Each subsequent narrator is introduced in a similar fashion.
What pleases me:
Like so many other books that were first serialized in literary magazines, each chapter ends on a bit of cliff-hanger. It really does make me want to read on.

The action (no spoilers):
The reader is introduced to the woman in white very early in the first section. The narrator, Walter Hartright, does a little digging and a bigger mystery emerges. Don't you just love his name Hartright (Heart Right, get it?)

Even though I was the one who put The Woman in White on my list, I found myself feeling resentful that I had to read this book. My complaint was based mainly on the length of the book, 609 pages in this edition, and my reluctance to start it until I had finished the three other books I was reading at the time of the spin. This, I felt, would make it nearly impossible to finish by the deadline of May 15th. However, now that I've started I feel differently. I'm actually pretty excited to read my first sensation novel and I like the writing style.

Join me? 
If you would like to join me for a read-along you don't have to scurry too fast to catch up and then to stay caught up you need just divide the pages in your edition by 33 days (days left for this challenge) for your daily reading goal. I am currently on section 1, chapter XIII. Join me!

Review:The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Rarely is there a book that so universally delights readers even hardened cynics can't resist The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It is truly a publishing phenomenon, having been picked up by 38 publishers worldwide. It was called the "feel-good-book-of-2013" which was extended to 2014 and 2015, with its sequel The Rosie Effect coming out late last year. Even Bill Gates is charmed by the book.
It’s an extraordinarily clever, funny, and moving book about being comfortable with who you are and what you’re good at. I’m sending copies to several friends and hope to re-read it later this year. This is one of the most profound novels I’ve read in a long time.---Bill Gates, Gatenotes
Don Tillman, a 39-year-old genetics professor, who is somewhere on the autism-spectrum though he doesn't recognize it in himself, is the book's narrator. Nowhere in the book is Asperger's Syndrome mentioned but it is certainly implied that Tillman has it. Professor Tillman acknowledges that married people are happier than unmarried counterparts, so he starts the wife project to find the ideally compatible wife for himself. He creates a long questionnaire to weed out incompatible women. He hands this questionnaire to women he meets at social gatherings. Along the way he meets Rosie, who is the most incompatible woman possible. She is constantly late to appointments, she is a vegetarian, and she smokes, all no-no items on his list. Nevertheless, Tillman gets sucked into the Rosie project which is to help Rosie identify her biological father using DNA testing. Hilarity ensues. Tillman is completely baffled by his feelings for this completely incompatible person.

Both of my book clubs selected this book as our month of March selections. I honestly thought we would have next to nothing to talk about, which is what usually happens when everyone likes a book. But to my shock we had thoughtful and fun discussions in both clubs. We discussed aspects related to living on the "spectrum" and how we, the population at large, often judge and do not understand our differences. Like Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident in the Night-time, Don Tillman helps shed a light on what it is like to navigate life with autism. We all came away with the conviction that "one needs to be comfortable with who they are, and what they are good at."

On a personal level, my youngest daughter read the book last summer and made me promise to read it after she was finished. When I didn't get right on it, she continued to hound me. The book is so good it doesn't diminish in the mind over time. I opted to listen to the audiobook and when the library copy was booked way out I purchased my own copy. After laughing my way through the whole audiobook and being charmed by the Australasian accent of the voice actor, Dan O'Grady, I handed off the audiobook to my oldest daughter. Now the three women of the family have all completed the book and we have a common experience from which to draw. Now the challenge: can we talk my husband into listening to the audiobook but himself without one of us in the car at the same time?  He agreed after I explained to him that Bill Gates was huge fan of the book. He is currently in the middle of the book, listening to it during his morning commute to work. Every day he recounts some funny quip or joke from the book. Soon every member of my family will have The Rosie Project in common. More proof that books bring people together.

If you haven't jumped onto The Rosie Project bandwagon, I highly recommend that you do so soon. I say this because I understand that a film is already in the works. Books are always better than the film but most people, even me, don't go back and read the book after seeing the film.  Hurry on down to your favorite book store or library today!

Rating 5/5
Publisher/Format: Simon and Schuster Audiobook, October 2013


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Salon, March 12, 2015

Weather: sunny and comfortable temperature

Today: my daughters and I attended a baby shower which had a duck theme. The girls created cute duck cupcakes and the decorations were little rubber duckies. (See photo.)

Mundane week: this past week was pretty mundane. I just did normal stuff  like a a dental appointment (silver fillings replaced with composites); mammogram (a necessary evil); an in-service to learn a few tricks on my new iPad (I am excited about all the possibilities.)

Weeding and inventory: I finished the library inventory this past week. Yay! While inventorying the books I also spend some effort to weed out the old, out-date, non-circulating books. Out with the old, room for new books. After tossing 40-bags-in-40-days during Lent I was in the mood to continue the purge. So far I have weeded out several boxes of old books. The process of touching each book each year also gives me a chance to look it with critical eyes. I found several books that were part of series that I didn't have the other books in the series, sometimes not even the first book. Those books were the first to go.

Classic Club selection: Every quarter the Classics Club offers a challenge to read a classic work of literature. Participants are asked to create a list of twenty classic books they'd like to read. Then on the selected day a spinner is spun and the number is announced. The book in that spot for me was The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Stay tuned for weekly updates on my progress. The goal is to finish it by May 15th.

Books read this week:

  • The Martian by Andy Weir---my new go-to book for recommendations.
  • The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley--- a Printz Honor book.
Currently reading:
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende---my current audiobook selection
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins---my Classics Club Spin selection
  • Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford---written in verse.

Circle Me, O God: A prayerful song that can be a comfort to those who need to feel God's love and comfort this week, such as my friend who lost her brother to an accidental death on Friday. Click the link. (Sung by Ross Hauck, tenor. Written by Jeff Johnson.)