"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=========

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The end of Summer Reading Challenges. How did I do?

It is almost time to head back to school. Labor Day is just a few days away. Time to take stock how I did on my summer reading challenges.

I. Thirty Book Challenge: I read 35 books this summer. I may get two or three more finished before the Labor Day deadline, too. Here is the breakdown, the total is over 100% because some books are in more than one category:
  • 25 YA books that may be considered for our Mock Printz event starting later in September or October.
  • 5 book club selections
  • 6 nonfiction
  • 14 audiobooks
  • 4 graphic novels/biographies
  • 2 by Harper Lee
  • 3 books I may actually finish before Labor Day will bring total to 38---To the Field of Stars; Ishamael; and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
30 books Summer Reading Challenge

35 / 30 books. 117% done!

II. Summer Big Book Challenge hosted over at BookbyBook. I entered through the back door on this challenge. I read a 400+ page book then signed up for the challenge. It was a cheap trick, I know.
The book I read that qualified for this challenge was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

III. Austen in August hosted by RoofBeamReader. The goal is to read anything Austen in the month of August, including books about the author. I read What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullen. Mullen asked and then answered twenty questions about Jane Austen and her writing style. I found most of the essays very interesting and enlightening.

Two pending challenges, (both have a late-October deadline)---

Classics Club Spin Challenge: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

R.I.P. X Challenge: this is a challenge to read a thriller, horror, Gothic, or suspense novel. I will be reading Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge but I haven't started it yet.

A love/hate relationship. I love challenges because they spur me on with my reading sometimes even forcing me to read books I've wanted to read for years but never quite had the time or the volition.  I hate challenges because they seem to add pressure (self-imposed) and stress.  That is why summer challenges are perfect.  My lifestyle is less stressful during the summer so I can take a bit more stress from the challenges and there is always an end point in mind.

As I was looking around the Internet for stuff on reading challenges I stumbled upon this huge and hilarious reading challenge graphic which is designed to assist the reader of the challenge to read a YA book a day for a year. Take a look. 365 Day Challenge.

Do you ever join reading challenges? How do you feel about them?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation’s leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys’ exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phillip Hoose’s inspiring story of these young war heroes.---From the Phillip Hoose Webpage.

Several years ago I was doing some reading about WWII and I cam upon some information about Denmark and WWII. The source said something about the Dane's saving almost all of their Jewish citizens but sending them to Sweden. I didn't read much more and thought that the Danish people must have been so brave to stand up to Hitler. After I read this book I learned it was a bunch of teenage boys who spurred them into action. Knud Petersen and his friends were ashamed of their countrymen and the adults that seemed to just roll over with out any resistance. They wanted to be like the Norwegians who were putting up a huge battle against the Germans and continuing with brazen acts of resistance. But what could teen boys do to fight the behemoth? Knud and his friends thought up a lot of things. Some were simple like changing street signs to confuse the Nazi's, and other things much more daring like stealing their weapons and setting fire to their cars. When the boys were finally caught and imprisoned the country seemed to awake from their stupor. It took the daring, audacity of teen boys to call a country to action.

Hoose does a fantastic job telling Knud Petersen and the Churchill Boys' story. The book is very readable and should be on had at all secondary schools and public libraries for school reports and to fill out the WWII collections.

It amazes me that stories are still coming forward about a war that ended over seventy years ago. Knud Petersen and his friends were true heroes (though they would have given their mother's fits!)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

30 / 30 books. 100% done!
I have officially completed my summer reading challenge with this book.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

R.I.P. X Challenge

R.I.P. X Reading Challenge hosted by The Estella Society

Image used with permission, property of Abigail Larson.

 R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril  is what the title stands for. This reading challenge officially runs from September 1 through October 31. It is perfect for ushering in the Fall season. I am signing up for Peril the Third which is a one book commitment.  The only requirements are that the book fit into one of the following genres.

Dark Fantasy.

I plan to read Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

For more information and to sign up please go to this website:

TTT: Jane Austen Characters I Just Couldn't Connect With...or Like

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters You Can't Connect With...Jane Austen version
TTT is hosted at The Broke and Bookish

Today (Monday) is the last day of Austen in August over at RoofBeamReader, so I decided to select all my characters from the works of Jane Austen.

1. General Tilney
Northanger Abbey
Obsessive, mean, and selfish

2. Mrs. Norris
Mansfield Park
Jealous, controlling, thoughtless

3. Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Pride and Prejudice
Snotty and classist

4. Fanny Dashwood
Sense and Sensibility
Selfish and thoughtless

5. Mr Collins
Pride and Prejudice
Annoying, tedious, sniveling

6. Mr. and Mrs. Elton
He is unforgiving; she is bossy and a loud-talker

7. Mr. Elliot
Self-Centered, Conceited, and neglectful toward daughter Anne

8. Lady Susan
Lady Susan
Scheming and unscrupulous

9. Isabella and John Thorpe
Northanger Abbey
Conniving golddiggers

10. Caroline Bingley
Pride and Prejudice
Conceited and insincere

We All Looked Up by

Imagine if you wake up one morning and notice a big asteroid in the sky. You wonder if it is anything but beautiful. Later you learn that scientists believe there is a 67% chance the asteroid will hit Earth and end life as we know it. What would you do? Would you keep going to work or school? Would you continue your cancer treatments or stay on your diet? Would you apply to the college of your dreams or try drugs for the first time?

These are the types of things that Eliza (the school slut), Anita (the goody-two-shoes), Andy (a stoner), and Peter (school jock) have to face in We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. . They seem to form a "karass", a group of people somehow oddly linked together. Before the asteroid made its appearance the four barely knew each other and now, well, let's just say their lives become all tangled up together.

The story is set in Seattle, though a hardly recognizable one since almost the whole area is crippled as the infrastructure of the city starts falling apart as people stop going to work, including firefighters and doctors. The four decide to host an end-of-the-world party but plans are difficult to make and to carry out in these extraordinary circumstances.  Romances spring up and die. Crime is rampant. None of the old rules apply.

A few years ago a movie starring Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley called Seeking a Friend For the End of the World came out. The premise was very similar. A huge asteroid was heading to earth and people stopped behaving like a civilized society and chaos reigned. Both the movie and the this book make you stop and think, "if the end of the world was imminent how would I behave?" I like to think that I would remain a good person, law-abiding, helpful, and kind. But who knows. Each man is out for himself after all.

Parts of the book were so good, and so heart-wrenching I really felt for these teen trying to make something of their lives. But other parts of the book just seemed so far-out, odd, and unbelievable, I really couldn't embrace the book fully. I just had a funny thought, though, as I sat here typing this blog post. Who would have thought that things would have worked out the way they did in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? With people being arrested and detained without legal representation for days, months? So maybe the things that happen to our karass of teens in We All Looked Up isn't so far-fetched as I initially thought.

The book is really quite entertaining and I think today's teens will find a lot to like in it.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

29 / 30 books. 96% done!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Salon, August 30

Don at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma
Weather: Rainy. Yesterday we had a freak storm preceded by high winds that took out power to much of Western Washington for several hours, blew down trees, and generally caused havoc in the area. Much needed rain followed the wind. Today it's still rainy and overcast.

Power Outage: It is rare to lose power during the summer, rarer still to have the power out for over six hours. We had just climbed up to retrieve our oil lamps from their storage space above the refrigerator because the light in the house was waning when the power came on.  I did quite a bit of reading before Carly got home, then she and I played cards. The simplicity of our activities reminded me how dependent we have become on our technology.

Forest Fires: Our state is on fire. Hopefully the rain will make it to the east side of the state to assist firefighters with the Herculean task of putting them out. Our fires are so bad the Governor had to call out the National Guard to help fight them and firefighters from Australia and New Zealand are here helping us, too. The photo is a fire near Alder Lake which is not far from where my daughter lives in south Pierce County. We're hoping the rain has a positive effect on putting this thing out.

Adventure Monday: Don and I stayed closer to home this past Monday for our adventure day. We went to the Glass Museum in Tacoma.  In addition to viewing the glass treasure from the Chihuly Venetian collection we sat and watched artists actually work the glass into treasures in the hot shop. We are so lucky to live in an area that has so many opportunities to view art.

Don peeking around Chiluly glass
School starts September 8th: but I am back to work almost daily getting the library ready for business or attending in-service training.  This week we check out the iPads to all students in one day. Eek! Could be overwhelming. Before school starts we have one more road trip. We head south to attend the season opening UO football game on the Saturday before Labor Day. We will spend one night at the Oregon Coast before heading inland to Eugene. We are spending the night at Depoe Bay, which has its claim to fame as the world's smallest navigable harbor.

Reading assignments: last week I posted a blog about all the books I am reading that feel like reading assignments.  I am happy to report that I am making good progress on most of these books:
  • What Matters in Jane Austen? This is the book I selected for the Austen in August Challenge. I finished this book this week. Read my review, if your dare. 100%
  • To the Field of Stars. This is the new book club selection for this coming meeting. It is written by a Catholic Priest who was a pilgrim along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am finding this very readable and enjoyable. 65% 
  • Great Expectations. This is my book for the Classics Club Spin. I haven't read Dickens since I was a kid when I read an abridged version of David Copperfield. My goal, so I can complete the goal on time, is to read 57 pages a week. I have nearly doubled that at just over 100 pages. I have also found a good audiobook for this classic which will help me stay on track. 24%
  • Ishmael. I am still plodding along on this book which is surprisingly deep and philosophical. I have decided I will need to challenge myself to read at least 25 pages a day or I may still be reading this book a month from now. 56%
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Don and I will listen to this together on our trip to Oregon this coming week-end. I made no progress on it this week. 16%
Books completed this week:
  • The Truth Commission by Susan Juby...a YA novel written in a narrative nonfiction style. I liked it a lot
  • What Matters Most in Jane Austen? by John Mullan...Twenty essays about Austen's writing. For Austen geeks only.
One more bookish task looming: I have fallen behind on my book reviews, AGAIN. Can I possibly write six book reviews before the beginning of the new school year? I hope so!

For your musical enjoyment: Peter White and Marc Antoine. Love it!!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

"Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met."---from Amazon

Simon vs.  the Homo Sapiens Agenda is by debut author Becky Albertalli and I simply cannot say enough good things about it. Simon is a typical teenager and the tone of the book is both appropriate and realistic for that age group. It is a wonderful coming-of-age tale, too.

Simon is a not-so-out gay boy who is communicating with another boy at his school via a private email, set up just for it. When another boy finds the email and reads a few of the messages, Simon is afraid he will be outed so he goes along with that boys plans and schemes, even though he recognizes it as a form of blackmail. Like most teens, Simon just wants to have friends, do well in school, have fun, and get along. This potential outing is not in his plan and obviously rubs him the wrong way. At the same time, Simon does not know the identity of the boy with whom he is communicating via e-mail. He is ever on the lookout for signs as to his identification. As in most situations tensions arise with Simon's other friends as he struggles to gain some equilibrium in his life, yet in the long run his friends are very supportive.

With LGBT issues in the forefront of the news today it is refreshing to read a book about a boy who just wants to live his life, have friends, and come out on his own terms. The email communication between Simon and the unknown boy are so sharp, funny, and revealing. It is not often we are allowed to see the inside thoughts of boys, gay or straight, in such a candid way. I enjoyed the book a lot and will recommend to all my teen readers this Fall.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

28 / 30 books. 93% done!

Celebrate---August 29

Discover. Play. Build.

The  assembled group

At Elk Lake, a favorite vacation spot

Me and my siblings

Mom and Dad with grandkids
Mom is telling us a story of growing up in the part of the country. Lovely setting.

Today I celebrate family. Two weeks ago we had a family reunion and gathered in Central Oregon. My dad is 87 and his health is failing; my parents celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary; all my siblings and most of my children and nieces/nephews were able to be with us for a few days. Every day and every event with Dad is a day to celebrate.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Austen in August---Challenge complete

 I finished my Austen in August Challenge selection yesterday.
Austen in August is hosted by Roof Beam Reader. Check out his site.

What Matters Most in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved.
by John Mullan

Let me summarize the last five essays then I will review the whole book. Feel free to go back and read the weekly updates made prior to this post to get a fuller picture of the book and the questions that Professor Mullan is attempting to answer about the writing of Jane Austen. 

What Matters Most in Jane Austen? First update, Introduction to essay 6
What Matters Most in Jane Austen? Second update, essays 7-9
What Matters Most in Jane Austen? Third update, essays 10-15

16. Are Ill People Really to Blame for Their Illnesses? The early 1800s was a frightening time to become ill. Apothecaries and surgeons were battling it out as to whose methods were best. There were no antibiotics. Mercury and lead were not known poisons. The medical practice of bloodletting was common. Little was known about germs. Colds were thought to be caught from being out in the rain and getting wet. Frightening. Is it any wonder that so many of Austen's characters were hypochondriacs? The biggest of these hypochondriacs is Mr, Woodhouse who calls himself a 'sad invalid', and Mary Musgrove who foresees 'that she should not have a day's health all autumn.' Women were expected or at least accepted for histrionics. Mrs. Bennet completely falls apart when she learns about Lydia and Wickham; Marianne won't eat or even speak after Willoughby leaves AND this was before she knew for sure the relationship was over. Only in Persuasion do we see real illnesses and infirmities: crippling diseases or wounds. No doubt illness played a big role in the lives of people living in Austen's day, so it is not surprising she included it in her stories. 

17. What Makes Characters Blush? Here is a topic on which I have never thought about before. Blushing. "Austen requires her reader to be an interpreter of blushes." She also often using blushing to confuse characters. For example, Fanny blushes at something Mary Crawford says. Mary thinks she is blushing because she is happy or shy, really Fanny is angry or upset. Here are some of the wonderful blushing moments from her books: 'She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused the confusion, suffered no variation in color.' (Jane and Elizabeth blush, those who should be blushing, Wickham and Lydia, don't in P and P.) 'Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.' (Mrs. Bennet is "so embarrassing because she is immune to embarrassment" in P and P.) Fanny has 'soft skin...so frequently tinged with blush.' (Henry Crawford notices Fanny Price because of her blushes in MP.) 'Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both overspread with the deepest blush.' (Darcy and Elizabeth happen upon each other at Pemberley in P and P.) When Lady Russell hints to Anne (Persuasion) at a 'possible attachment' and a 'desirableness of the alliance' with her cousin, Mr. Elliot, Anne 'only smiled, blushed, and gently shook her head.' So many blushes, so few books full of them. I am going to start paying attention to modern literature.  Do our characters still blush?

18. What Are the Right and Wrong Ways to Propose Love?  I guess we can all agree that proposing by letter is not a good idea. Poor Robert Martin in Emma learned that the hard way. Had he asked Henrietta in person I'm sure she would have said yes and the whole book would have fallen apart at that point. Unbelievably marriage proposals by letter were not uncommon in Austen's day, Apparently there were even letter-writing manuals which provided templates for doing so. Wouldn't that be a shock to discover that your beloved ask you for your hand in marriage by using a template? Lengthy courtships were not the fad, either.  Charlotte Lucas tells Elizabeth her sister Jane 'should...make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his [Bingley's] attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.' Secure him first, love second. "In Austen, a man's declaration of love is (or should be) the same as a marriage proposal." Elinor thought Marianne and Willoughby were engaged because she was sure they had declared their love. It took us a book to learn that such words had never been spoken aloud.

19. When does Jane Austen Speak Directly to the Reader? I have always been shocked when Austen does this. I am reading along and suddenly Austen inserts herself into the story. What I didn't realize is that other writers of the day did this with some frequency. Usually she inserts herself near the end of the tale as in the ending of Pride and Prejudice where we learn of the happiness of Mrs. Bennet at marrying off three of her daughters when Austen breaks in, 'I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of her earnest desire of the establishment of so many of her children, produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life.' Regrettably she remains a silly woman, "even Austen cannot change her." I love that idea that Austen created her but cannot control her. Ha! The author enters Mansfield Park "nudging us into accepting what the novel was not going to show." In Persuasion Austen again speaks in first person to the reader "in order to signal a withdrawal from the lives she invented." In Northanger Abbey the author is present throughout. This may account for why this book feels so different than her other novels "we are constantly reminded of the author's presence, arranging and commenting and speaking as herself." And in the last chapter sign-off she tells the readers she is aware she has compressed some of the details. Do we like Austen so much because we feel her presence with us while we are reading her books? Just a thought.

20. How Experimental a Novelist Is Jane Austen? "Jane Austen knew her novels were different...it can be seen in her book/booklet 'Plan of a Novel [1816].' Austen did not create perfect heroines, for one thing. "Austen's interest in her heroine;s faults and errors was in itself something extraordinary in fiction."Some critics believe that Austen was the first extensive practitioners of what is called the free indirect style." In this style both thoughts and actions are integrated into the narrative. Through Austen's mastery of this style we not only know how a character behaves but how these actions are affecting him internally. "Any novelist can tell us what a character feels; Austen developed a means of declining to tell us." I'm not sure I completely understand this writing technique (obviously) but suffice it to say that it is one of things that sets Austen apart from other authors.

For an Austen-geek like myself this book was a treasure trove of information and insights. I doubt someone who has not read all or most of Austen's novels would find it very engaging. Characters and plots are not introduced assuming that anyone who would pick up this book wouldn't need such introductions. In a few places I got lost, especially the last were her experimental style of writing was extolled. Oh well, I guess I just need to read and study more. I was fascinated by the insights Mullan provided about topics like marriage proposals, blushing, the games they played, and what they call each other. I shall think of these things every time I reread one of Austen's books. And speaking of rereading, I now have an insatiable urge to do just that. I have decided to reread Sanditon, this time with some help of the Internet to determine which bit Austen wrote verses the bits written by 'a lady.'

I'm assuming if you have read all the way to the bottom of this post you too are an Austen fan. For you, I do recommend this well-written and well-documented book.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Friday Quotes, August 27

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

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: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Book Beginning:
My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
Friday 56:
And now, when they were all in lively anticipation of ‘the two villains’ being taken, and when the bellows seemed to roar for the fugitives, the fire to flare for them, the smoke to hurry away in pursuit of them, Joe to hammer and clink for them, and all the murky shadows on the wall to shake at them in menace as the blaze rose and sank and the red-hot sparks dropped and died, the pale after-noon outside, almost seemed in my pitying young fancy to have turned pale on their account, poor wretches. 
Comments: I am participating in the Classics Club Spin Challenge. Great Expectations was my selected book. I have never read Charles Dickens before. I think it is about time, don't you? So far, so good. One of the things I understand about Dickens is how verbose he was.  Take a look at the sentence from page 56 for evidence of this. Joe is the town blacksmith, he is fixing a pair of handcuffs, and then he and Pip will go watch the military capture some escaped prisoners.

If you want to join the Classics Club Challenge, it is not too late.  Make a list of 20 classics books you'd like to read. Number them.  Then go to their website and check out the spin number. That will be the book you read. It is a fun and supportive way to read those classic books we all want to read but can't seem to find the time to fit into our reading schedule.