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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Quotes, Dec. 19th

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.

Book Title: The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry

Book Beginnings:
My name's Doug Barnes, and this stuff happened on Christmas Eve in my town, which is Asquont, New York. According to Mr. Purcell, who's my Social Studies teacher, Asquont is an Indian name that mean some Indian thing like "Hunting place in the Green Forest," but sometimes I think it was just a a joke by the Indians to get white people to say "Asquont."
Friday 56:
We were driving on Route 218 when Frank saw a squirrel, and he must have thought it was a really dangerous-looking squirrel because he jumped out the window to get it.
Comments: Dave Barry is a journalist who used to write a humor column for the Miami Herald newspaper. This book is so funny it is an absolute scream, yet it is also poignant and touching at the same time. The "Frank" who jumped out the window of the moving car was the family dog. The story is set in the 1960s and there are many cultural references that I recognize from my own childhood. I gave this book as gifts to everyone on my gift list a few years ago.

Progress: I have read this book something like five times but I haven't read it yet this year. I definitely will read it before Christmas, though, and most likely will read it aloud to my family.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Booklist published their end-of-the-year Editor's Picks list today

In my attempt to make lists of the best YA literature of the year, here is the list, just published, by Booklist Magazine. I've only included the YA titles on their list. For the full list and/or for short descriptions of the book listed, follow the links.

Fiction for Older Teens:
Althea & Oliver. By Cristina Moracho. Viking. Gr. 10–12. 
The Art of Secrets. By James Klise. Algonquin. Gr. 7–10.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces. By Isabel Quintero. Cinco Puntos. Gr. 9–12.*
Girls like Us. By Gail Giles. Candlewick. Gr. 8–12.*
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. By A. S. King. Little, Brown. Gr. 9–12.*
Going Over. By Beth Kephart. Chronicle. Gr. 9–12.
Half Bad. By Sally Green. Viking. Gr. 9–12.*
I’ll Give You the Sun. By Jandy Nelson. Dial. Gr. 9–12. *
The Impossible Knife of Memory. By Laurie Halse Anderson. Viking. Gr. 9–12.**
The Infinite Sea. By Rick Yancey. Putnam. Gr. 9–12.
Revolution. By Deborah Wiles. illus. Scholastic. Gr. 6–9.
This One Summer. By Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Illus. by Jillian Tamaki. First Second. Gr. 8–11.*
The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim. By E. K. Johnston. Carolrhoda/Lab. Gr. 8–11.*
A Time to Dance. By Padma Venkatraman. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Gr. 7–12.*
The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean. By David Almond. Candlewick. Gr. 9–12.
Wildlife. By Fiona Wood. Little, Brown/Poppy. Gr. 9–12. 

Nonfiction for Older Teens
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. By Susan Kuklin. Illus. by the author. Candlewick. Gr. 7–12.
Eyes Wide Open: Going behind the Environmental Headlines. By Paul Fleischman. illus. Candlewick. Gr. 8–12.*
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. By Candace Fleming. illus. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Gr. 7–12.*
Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. By Mary Cronk Farrell. illus. Abrams. Gr. 7–10.
A Volcano beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War against Slavery. By Albert Marrin. illus. Knopf. Gr. 8–12.

*= books on the BSD Mock Printz list
**=books on the possible Mock Printz list


Oh no. I did it, again.

Unbelievably I have done it, again. I have purchased another graphic novel not appropriate for public schools.  Last year I had to send back Habibi by Craig Thompson. Even though it had delightful illustrations I felt that the graphic nature of the rape scene was too explicit. If a regular novel has a rape scene one can imagine the details but in a graphic novel those pictures are right there.

I vowed to do better, to really do my homework before I ordered another book that needs to be returned because it is inappropriate for a school library. Apparently my admonition to myself didn't last long because earlier this month I ordered the graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color  by Julie Maroh in an effort to enhance my LGBT selections. Apparently I didn't spend a moment looking at reviews, however. When it arrived I set it aside to read before I processed it (luckily) and within the first twenty pages I had a strong suspicion that the book was too "graphic" for us. I read on and with each page I felt that sinking feeling that comes when one becomes aware they've wasted money. As I called up the reviews, after closing the book on the last page, the first word that jumped out at me was "erotica." Oh-oh.

Don't get me wrong I am not condemning the book, I am only condemning my actions, ordering a graphic novel without reading the reviews first. Blue is the Warmest Color is the story of a girl, Clementine, who is attracted to another girl, Emma. She doesn't think of herself as gay and has a really hard time accepting herself and the attraction feelings she has toward Emma. There is a lot of anti-homosexual messages coming at Clementine from her family, friends, and society. She is very unhappy and records her thoughts in a diary. At her death Emma is given the diary to read. That is how the story begins, placing the last part first.

Blue is the Warmest Color is translated from French. It was made into an award-winning movie by the same name.
As tragic as the story is, the execution is fantastic. The illustrations are marvelous and the plot is helpful, if for no other reason than to shed a light on how devastating hatred and bigotry can be on actual lives. Occasionally I was a bit lost when the illustrations were supposed to carry to story forward and somehow I managed to loose the thread, but I was always able to find my way back to the plot. This book belongs in a public library and should be made available to the broadest clientele as possible. Unfortunately, it is just too graphic for the public schools. I will be sending it back. *Sigh.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

100 Sideways Miles...a long delayed review

A lot of things factor into the writing of a book review, as you fellow bloggers know. Immediate impressions of the writing and the themes, likeable characters, believable plots, relatability to the book, all these things factor in to my willingness to sit down and take the time to write a review. Unfortunately, the longer I put off the review, the less likely it is that I will even come back around it as the story starts to fade in my mind.

Such is the case with 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. I liked the book but it was just weird enough that I didn't (don't) know how to write a review of it. I read the book months ago and today, finally, I make my first stab at a review of it. Should I focus on the weird way that the main character, Finn, prefers to measure time in miles? I don't even know how he does it. He has got it figured out that the Earth rotates around the sun at a rate of 20 miles per second which leads him to the conclusion that the event where a dead horse fell from the bridge, killing his mother and rendering him as an epileptic, took five seconds or 100 sideways miles. Even though the time/distance thing is weird it doesn't dominate the book. It appears more like a quirky literary device. I liked it but since I personally can't do the calculations I started ignoring the time/distance references.

Next I wondered if a better way to review the book was to hold it up next to other books by Smith and kind of do a Venn-diagram-thing by comparing and contrasting them. That idea would work except I couldn't think of many things to compare except the use of foul language and sexual messages, lots of them, and how much print space should be dedicated to these topics? Well, actually I do want to say a bit about the foul language. I am not a prude. I've been an educator for a lot of years working with teens. I know many teens often supplant actual verbs and nouns for foul words. But does every other word out of a characters mouth need to be a foul word? Sigh. The abundant use of foul language actually reduced my enjoyment of the book. All three of the books contain LOTS of foul language with this one topping the list. The sexual content actually worried me enough that I considered not placing 100 Sideways Miles and The Grasshopper Jungle on my Mock Printz reading list. I was worried what parents would think.

Actually now that I am on a comparison vein I should mention that a lot of reviewers are comparing 100 Sideways Miles to Smith's other works, especially Winger and The Grasshopper Jungle and most think that this book is a bit more complex and well-done. I honestly liked all the books but worry about them in equal measure. (See note above.) Both Grasshopper and 100 are coming-of-age tales which really explore the friendship between boys, Finn and Cade in this book/Austin and Robby in Grasshopper. These relationships are well fleshed-out whereas girlfriends in the books are just peripheral characters. Since I am always looking for books that would be attractive to male readers this is a real asset. Boys at my school get so tired of reading those "lovey-dovey" books obviously aimed at female readers. Neither of these books would be described  that way , even though Finn does experience first love and his atoms turn all sticky around Julia.

Lest you think the two books are the same story with two different covers, they are not. Soon after the coming-of-age beginning, Grasshopper Jungle veers sharply into the Science Fiction realm with big, gigantic insects eating up everything and awful happenings to the world because of the actions of the two boys, Austin and Robby. Nothing nearly so melodramatic happens in this book but the ending is tremendously satisfying and, I should mention, involves a bridge and a jump that lasted, oh let's say, probably about 100 sideways miles.


Monday, December 15, 2014

TTT: My favorite books read in 2014

Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
    Read for my SOTH book club in January.
Round House by Louise Erdrich
    Read for my RHS book club in January
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic for Gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin by Daniel Brown
    Nonfiction; also read in January (it was a month of good books) for RHS book club in February.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
    An audiobook read by the author. Very magical and imaginative.
Wonder by RJ Palacio
     A Junior book but quite wonderful and magical. Read for SOTH book club in March.
How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig
     Ever hear the phrase "The book fell open and I fell in"? This phrase aptly describes my experience with this book. I hoarded it and kept renewing it at the public library until they wouldn't let me renew it again.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
     Everyone who had read this book before me told me I would love it. They were right.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
     This is the book I tell people to read if they can't figure out what to read.  What is not to like? A book about books and short stories!
Looking for Alaska by John Green
     My only re-read on this list. It has been a favorite YA book for a long time.
The Golem and Jinni by Helene Wecker 
     This was another audiobook selection and it took forever to finish the book in this format but I loved the experience of this book.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
     My first magical realism in a super-long time. I had to work pretty hard to appreciate this book but the work paid off and I'm pretty proud of myself for both conquering AND enjoying this book.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
     Important topics---anti-slavery AND feminism written by a favorite author.
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
     My second magical realism of the year and I was ready for it.  I see why this one ends up on a lot of "must-read" lists, but like One Hundred Years of Solitude, it is not a good selection for someone not willing to work at it.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
     An audiobook read by the author.  I LOVED this book but others in my RHS book club didn't which makes me wonder if the format (audio) was the trick.
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
     My favorite YA book of the year and the one I hope wins the Printz Award.

And lastly, I am sure this book will be on my favorites list but I am not finished with it yet:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and Bookish.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Salon, December 14th, late edition


Weather: today was cold and clear. Mt. Rainier looked spectacular off-set by the blue sky.

Cue the music: another Christmas song by Pentatonix.

3rd Sunday of advent: the church choir made the annual trek to visit a small country church to share and afternoon of music and carols. Both of my daughters and husband sing in the choir so I go along to experience the wonder of this time of year in another setting. I always feel like I am stepping into a Currier and Ives postcard which we visit this small church. Afterwards we had a lovely dinner at our daughter and son-in-law's new home. Yum!

Our "Moose-a-muffin" project is essentially finished. September 1st we bought a new car and that decision has led to chain reaction of tasks to an effort to get space for the car to park in the garage. Step 1: new shelving in the garage; Step 2: clear a space and pour a concrete pad in the back yard; Step 3: build a garden shed on the concrete pad; Step 4: Move large items from the garage into the shed so that the car can finally be parked in the garage. Done. It only took us three months but we've been wanting to do this for eighteen years, ever since we moved to this house. 

Currently reading: I am honestly only reading and listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It is a very complex story but exquisitely written. When I am not reading it, I am thinking about it. Progress: page 417 of 771; that is the 14th of 26 audiodiscs.

Ha-ha: I saw something about Cat Shaped Marshmallows (see photo) on Facebook. I thought it would be a fun gift for my daughter who loves marshmallows AND cats. When I searched around on the internet where to buy them, I ran into a website selling Marshmallow Willies. Check the link (I don't want the picture on my blog, ha!) 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Snapshot Saturday...Dec.13

On September 1st we bought a new car. We decided to embark on a project to finally reclaim the third bay in our garage for parking a car instead of storage of junk. 

Step one was to buy shelving to move items off the floor. Some items (like the lawn mower) wouldn't fit so we decided that a garden shed was in order.

Step two: a concrete pad for the a shed. Poured between rain storms in early November.
Step three: build a shed for garden tools and other items stored in garage. Finished yesterday, Dec. 12th.
Step four: move items into shed; park car in garage; First time in 18 years we truly have a three-car garage
This has been what we call a Moose-a-muffin project, so named by the children's book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin. The story is how if you do one thing it leads to another and another thing. When we bought the new car (middle bay of the garage) we started a chain reaction that involved lots of work but we finally have come to the end of a lot of projects. What we think is funny is how long it took us to finally make these improvements to our house. We've been talking about them for eighteen years.

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts

 This meme is hosted by Bookishly Boisterous.

 1. I am currently compiling a list of my favorite 50-60 books for a very bookish gift that I want for my birthday. Cheryl Sorg creates thumbprint portraits.  Oh, they are so wonderful (check out the link to see what I mean.) Anyway, after sending her a sample of my thumb print, I have to give her a list of 50-60 books to include in the "portrait". I thought it would be easy.  It is not easy, in fact it is hard to narrow the list down to 60 books. In addition each book I am putting through a mental screening process in which I try to figure out if  I will actually like this book in ten or twenty years from now.  Some books are easy:  To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind have already passed the "stood the test of time" test. But what about others that are favorites today but haven't been on the list that long?  I don't know if they will stand the test of time. What if I put them on my list and end up feeling ambivalent about the books later? Argh! I am trapped in a mental mess of my own making.

2. By the way, I thought I would add lots of young adult books to my list of 60 books but actually most haven't passed the "stood the test of time" test and so very few are on my most recent list. Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia; The Book Thief; and Where the Red Fern Grows are the only ones on the list right now. YA lit seem much more "in the moment" than their adult counterparts, for obvious reasons. Just today I was looking at the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It was published in 1999 and has never been out-of-popularity in my library.  Some books just seem to have a universal message that can stand up to the ticking clock, but not many.

3. Our school has adopted a new English curriculum and the administration wants the teachers to teach it with fidelity. This leaves no time for them to bring their classes to the library to check out free-choice reading books. Circulation is way down this year.  Last year after four months of school we had checked out 6643 books. This year, in the same period, the number is substantially lower, 3980. Isn't that SAD?  The district wants kids to do better on the standardized tests but they are sacrificing reading for it.  And how do they expect children to develop a love of reading if they rarely encourage them to read a whole book from start to finish? SIGH***

4. Speaking of reading a book from start to finish, will I ever finish The Goldfinch? It is 770 pages long, I've been reading it for over a week pretty much whenever I have a moment of time and I only on page 300. It's a good one, though, very well done.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Geekily and greedily reading all the end-of-the-year-best-books-lists!

I kid you not. I spent hours today looking through all the the end of the year BEST of the BEST books list that have came out this past week and month. My focus is on Young Adult Literature.

Take a look at the lists for yourself and indulge your inner book geekiness, too.

School Library Journal divides up their list into four categories: Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Nonfiction. They have eighteen books on their young adult list with many of my favorites of the year making an appearance: I'll Give You the Sun; Gabi: a Girl in Pieces; Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. It also lists several books I've not even heard of.  Oh-oh more books to add to my next order.

New York Times, Notable Children's books: It also lists books in three categories: Picture Books, Middle Grades, and Young Adults. There are only six YA books listed, and I've read them all.

Kirkus Reviews, Best Teen Books. By far the most books of any of the lists. This one contains over 50 YA titles. Many of the books I have enjoyed and I liked seeing them on a "best of the year" list.

Horn Book, Fanfare! Their list doesn't isolate out the YA titles from the middle grade fiction but there are a few YA titles on the lists.

National Public Radio (NPR), Best Books of 2014. They have books in 27 categories with eleven books in the YA category. However YA books are in other lists, too. Have fun looking around.

Morris Award finalists: These are the best five books by debut authors. My favorite is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I deeply love this book.

Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2014. Books in thirteen categories, young adult lit among them. This list has most of my YA favorites of the year on it.

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalists: Five titles have made their short list. The winner will be announced on Feb. 2nd.

How do these lists affect the Printz selection? The best of the best of the best decision? I have no idea. But I know I was gratified to discover that my rather long 2015 Mock Printz list had all but two of the books listed most frequently on these lists. I think we did OK on our selection.

Monday, December 8, 2014

TTT and Sunday Salon rolled into one

Today is Monday, halfway between Sunday Salon and Top Ten Tuesday. Since I didn't get to my weekly post on Sunday I am combining the two together. TTT visitors, feel free to read the whole blog post or just read the information about authors I was introduced to in 2014, leave a comment, and head on to the next person on the list.

Weather: Gray, cloudy, and rainy. Pretty depressing weather, actually.

Top Ten Tuesday: What authors did I read for the first time in 2014? Over half of the books I read this year were written by authors I hadn't read before. Since a list of over 50 people would be pretty boring, here are ten that I particularly enjoyed:
  1. Ruth Ozeki---I just finished A Tale for the Time Being and LOVED it. You might know her from a previous book I haven't read, My Year of Meats.
  2. JoJo Moyes---I cried my way through the last half of Me Before You. I see her books everywhere. I was slow coming to the Moyes party but I have arrived now.
  3. Rudolfo Anaya---written in the 1970 his Bless Me, Ultima is a classic. the guy has written many, many books with Ultima being his most famous.
  4. Emily Carrol---lovers of graphic novels will be very familiar with Ms. Carrol. She has a large on-line presence. Through the Woods is my first of her graphic novels i've read, this one being a series of haunting/horror short sotries with very creepy illustrations.
  5. Louise Erdrich---I'm ashamed to say that Round House is my fist novel from this celebrated author. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who will listen.
  6. Stephanie Kuehn---Ms. Kuehn is a relatively new author. I read two of her books this year, Complicit and her debut novel, Charm and Strange.
  7. Nick Hornby---one of those authors I've been meaning to read but never got around to reading until this year.
  8. Alice Munro---I read one of her short story collections while traveling in Europe this past summer. I decided it was high time after she won the Nobel Prize in Literature, for goodness sake.
  9. Helene Wecker---loved her book The Golem and the Jinni. I think (but I'm not sure) that it was her debut novel.
  10. Leslye Walton---The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I'm sure that this is Ms. Walton's debut piece. I enjoyed it a lot. See my review below.
Second week of advent: word for the week PEACE (last week's word was HOPE.) During church yesterday we sang the lovely, old hymn Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming. If you aren't familiar with it, it is so, so lovely and meditative.

Cue the music: This week is another holiday song, this one sung by the a cappella group, Home Free. Have a listen while you read the rest of the blog post.

Recipe of the week: Baked Brie with Kahlua/ Pecan topping. We took this as our appetizer to a holiday party on Saturday. Everyone circled around for seconds. I watched. Super easy to make.

Jigsaw puzzle: We tend to only put together jigsaw puzzles during the holidays. My daughter and I started working on one Friday afternoon and spent the better part of the week-end hunched over it.  Now all that is left are the hard bits!  Ha!

Books completed this week:
  • Blue Horses by Mary Oliver. Her newest poetry collection.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. A thoughtful book about the quality of life.
Currently reading:
  • Half Bad by Sally Green. I'm not sure it counts since I didn't crack it open all week.
  • My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins. not sure this collection is my cup of tea, but I'm only on the third story. I'll withhold judgment until i've read a few more.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm on page 130 of 778. Need I say more?
And the big news around our house: The University of Oregon Ducks are going to the College Football Play-offs as the number 2 seed. Don and I just bought tickets to fly to the Rose Bowl in California to see the game.  Yippee! We still need tickets to the game but hope they won't be that hard to come by.