"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=========

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Friday Quotes, July 3rd--- Everything, Everything

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: Everything, Everything (ARC) by Nicola Yoon 

Book Beginnings: 
I've read many more books than you. It doesn't matter how many you've read. I've read more. Believe me. I've had the time.
Friday 56: (actually from page 155)
He sends pictures of his locker (#23), his class schedule, the library, and the librarian who looks exactly as I imagine a high school librarian would, which is to say bookish and wonderful. 
Comments: Maddy had a condition where she is allergic to just about everything so she has to live her life in a bubble of protection, vicariously living through others and through books. It is a really cute story. I had to break the rules and pull the quote from page 155 because I am a high school librarian and I like thinking that some students think I look bookish and wonderful! :)

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that’s still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who seems to truly understand Eva’s grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head-over-heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the west coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love. ---Goodreads

When I was a young teenager I, like our heroine Eva, was obsessed with romance novels. They were very tame by today's standards. For example I recall the description of a passionate kiss as, "the man and woman kissed hard." These books provided a little titillation to my imagination and used to devour them. When I read the above description of Kissing in America by Margo Rabb I immediately thought of my younger self and wanted to read this book. Here is a character I thought I'd relate to.

Eva and her friend Annie are not the coolest kids in school but both of them dream of true love and spend a lot of time watching other students around the school. Both are good students, Eva in English and Annie in Math and Science. Eva volunteers as a tutor. This is where she meets Will and they discover that they have something in common---they have both had a close family member die. With this tenuous connection they build a friendship which looks like it is getting ready to turn into something deeper when Will abruptly moves to California. With thoughts of true love in her head, Eva drags Annie across the country on a zany road trip. She is sure once she gets to California her life will end happily, just like the endings in all her romance novels. As you can imagine, all does not go as planned.

I was pretty irritated by Eva by the end of the book...she was such a...teenager. Woops! I get it. I am not a teenager and as an adult I more easily play the role of the crabby mother than the loved-crazed girl. I actually, on reflection, think that my teen readers will like this book and will relate with Eva and Annie and their half-baked schemes to find true love.

You will have to read the story to discover for yourself is Will and Eva eventually did kiss hard.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

7 / 30 books. 23% done!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wordless Wednesday, July 1

Wordless Wednesday

(My first time! Caption: Pay attention to me not the computer or else I'll fall asleep on your case!)

SuperMutant Magic Academy

Back in 2010 Jillian Tamaki started a webcomic named SuperMutant Magic Academy. The book by the same name is a collection of the best of those webcomics plus a 40 page story at the end to conclude the series. I didn't know about the webcomic until today when I was looking around on the Internet for information about the book and the author/illustrator Jillian Tamaki and I ran into her webpage about it. Here is what I found:
New York Times and New Yorker illustrator Jillian Tamaki is best known for co-creating the award-winning young adult graphic novels Skim and This One Summer–moody and atmospheric bestsellers. SuperMutant Magic Academy, which Jillian has been serializing online for the past four years, paints a teenage world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence. Jillian deftly plays superhero and high school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like: the SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep-school for mutants and witches but their paranormal abilities take a back seat to everyday teen concerns.---SuperMutant Magic Academy Webpage
Every page is a scene in the day-of-the-life of students from the academy. Some of the scenes are funny, some realistic, some absurd, and while others are poignant. It took me a good fifty pages to "get it" and just settle in to reading the little blurbs and quit looking around for a cohesive story. Just try to imagine for a minute if you took twenty five teenagers (or so) and isolated moments in time and then placed them all together in some format what a mishmash of stories you would uncover. No doubt there would be some recurring themes, but there would also be these random, out-there comments that don't seem to fit. That is what it is like reading SuperMutant Magic Academy.

This comic really made me laugh since I am always running around looking for material for my blog:

 And this comic just seemed like a real conversation between two friends, concerned about the future but at the same time willing to put-off thinking about things in the present tense.

It took me ages to complete the book probably because I was going about it all wrong in the beginning by trying to find a cohesive story within, and then because I kept attempting to read it in bed and would fall asleep before much progress was made.

As I neared the end of the book I realized something that I missed in the beginning, too. The book is brilliant. Simply brilliant. Tamaki is spot-on with her observations of teenagers. Don't adults often view teens as if they are mutants from another planet? We stand around and judge them according to our life experiences while they are just trying to figure things out for themselves. Tamaki drew many of her characters as mutants, some with chicken heads, horns, or lizard faces. Do you remember ever feeling like that? Like you were from some other place and every thing about you stuck out or was different---your hair was too frizzy, or your zits too pronounced, or your feet too big? Tamaki understands this about teens by magnifying these characteristics and then making none of the characters aware of the differences in each other. Brilliant.

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

6 / 30 books. 20% done!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A mother-daughter conversation about The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

My daughter, Carly, and I recently read the same book, The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner. In lieu of a regular review, this post will reflect the conversation we've had about the book.

First a little summary: Aaron Rowe is a troubled teen who lives with his Mam in a trailer park. Things aren't going well for Aaron. He has nightmares that involve dead people and he sleepwalks, often miles from his home. . He is worried about his Mam who seems to be losing her mind. As hard as Aaron tries he can't seem to protect her from herself. But one thing is going well for Aaron, his internship as a trainee at John Barlow and Associates, a funeral home.  working with the dead is somehow comforting and John Barlow thinks that Aaron is a natural for the mortuary business.

What was your reaction to how many details the book gave about corpses?

  • Carly: It set the scene well. You could put yourself in the shoes of Aaron, or a new person to working in the mortuary business. Because it was so specific in real life it made the details in the dreams seem more realistic. I used to watch Crossing Jordan on TV, which is about the work of medical examiners, so I wasn't shocked or surprised by the details
  • Me: I couldn't believe how graphic the details were about working with corpses. I wasn't grossed out but I kept wondering how some students would react.
Aaron is a loner and seems to be tortured by some past memories or events, did the author help us understand what was going on?

  • Carly: I wanted more details about what happened to Aaron in the past to help me understand why he was so tortured in the present. At one point he made a comment about having used up his quota of words and I wondered if it was an actual limit that was imposed on him supernaturally.
  • Me: Like all good books readers are given details a little bit at a time in THE DEAD I KNOW, but I still wanted more back story to help me understand why he was so reticent to ask for help with Mam.
What did you think of Skye, the funeral director's daughter?
  • Carly: She was obviously a precocious girl. I think she probably didn't have many friends because of living next to a funeral home. Because Skye was somewhat odd, she could relate to Aaron like no one else could and therefore could draw him out of his shell.
  • Me: Even though Skye was pretty irritating as a character, she provided a necessary avenue for gaining information about Aaron and his insecurities.
John Barlow, the funeral director, was an unexpectedly nice guy. What was your reaction to him?
  • Carly: He was an example of a person who has faith in other people and he was an excellent role model for Aaron. At one point in the story there was a comment about a past trainee who disappointed him yet he did not lose his faith in mankind and trusted Aaron.
  •  Me: Often in YA lit adults are not available to help teens with their problems. That is not the case with John. He was an excellent role model for Aaron and really helped me at his most desperate moments. I really liked him.
What did you think of the ending? (No spoilers.)
  • Carly: I am glad that the ending gave clarity to the mysterious event(s) in Aaron's life. There was a lot of foreshadowing leading up to the ending. It was nice to know what happened but I still wanted to know why he lost his memory.
  • Me: Like all good books this book comes to a climax and then has a satisfactory resolution. I had most of my questions answers and even shed a tear or two. I liked the whole reading experience.
  • Carly: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Meh.
  • Me: 4 out of 5 stars. I liked the book. 

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

5 / 30 books. 16% done!

Monday, June 29, 2015

TTT: Favorite books read in 2015, so far

Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Broke and Bookish
Topic: Favorite books read in 2015, so far

Favorite Audiobook
Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, read by Jonathan Hogan

Favorite Adult Fiction
The Martian by Andy Weir

Favorite Adult Nonfiction
The History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage

Favorite Young Adult Fiction
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Favorite Young Adult Nonfiction
March, Book Two by John Lewis

Favorite Book Part of a Series
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite Fantasy
Egg and Spoon by Gregory McGuire

Favorite Science Fiction
The Martian by Andy Weir

Favorite Poetry
Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers

Favorite Reread
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

Favorite Classic
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Favorite Book Club Selection (for readability AND discussion)
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Graphic Novel or Biography
Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Salon, June 28th

King Estate Winery
Eugene, Oregon

Weather: Muggy. The temperature was in the mid 90s yesterday but felt warmer because of the humidity. This morning the temperature seems a bit cooler but the day is young. High clouds.

Air Force Honor Guard

Memorial Service: Yesterday we joined Don's cousin Shelley, her husband, and a few other relatives to honor the life of Uncle Don. He served for 23 years in the US Air Force and there was an Honor Guard at the service which conducted a short ceremony involving flag folding and concluded with the playing of taps. It was a fitting farewell.

33rd Anniversary:
Married 33 years!

King Estate Winery: after the service we drove 20 miles south of Eugene to a winery for lunch and a wine tasting. The view was spectacular and was the food. Every once in a while in life perfect moments come together: setting, food, company, and wine. This was one of those moments. The purple lavender was in full bloom, too. Lovely.
View from King Estate Winery. Lovely!

Owls: My sister and her husband have an owl nest in their back yard. The owlets fledged a few days ago and now "hang out" in the trees in their yard. Last night, right after dark, we were able to witness the parent owls feeding their young, who had been calling to their parents from high up in the trees. The father was pretty cross with us and kept making a clicking noise which Tom said meant BEWARE.
Recently fledged owlet, photo by Tom Buhler, used with permission

Summer Reading/Blogging goals: a week ago I indicated one of my summer goals was to go back and post reviews for seven YA books which I had recently read. I'm almost caught up, having written review for six of the books, but I also kept reading and finished four new books. This brings my totals to: six new reviews, five reviews left to go, net gain--- one! Ha. Below is a list of the books I reviewed this week. Click the hyperlinks to read them:
A celebration of a career well spent: today we attended church with my parents. Today was the last day the ministers would be with the congregation before retirement. It was a lovely service, a celebration of John and Debbie's careers. As I sat among the congregation a thought ran through my head, will I be so honored when I retire? Will I be remembered for a job well done? 

Books read this week:
  • Kissing in America by Rabb---a girl looks at her life through the lense provided by romance novels.
  • SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki---a graphic novel; all the events occur at the Magic Academy, each page is just snippet in from the days in the lives of the students. Very clever.
  • The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond---a coming-of-age story set in England after WWII
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel---post apocalyptic novel, what life is like on Earth after 99% of the population dies. A book club selection.
Currently reading:
  • Deep Down Dark: the story of the 33 Chilean miners buried for 69 days by Hector Tobar---an audiobook selection and another book club choice.
  • Vivian Apple and the End of the World---what if the right-wing is correct about rapture and the end of the world? An audiobook.
  •  March 2 by John Lewis---the second of three, a graphic biography of John Lewis' tremendous career and the Civil Rights movement.
Quote: “I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.” ― David ArnoldMosquitoland

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

 Mosquitoland by David Arnold is one of those books that makes reading YA literature worth it---so special, sweet, profound, moving, and touching it will be hard to capture its essence on a blog post.
 After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new step-mom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.---from the book jacket
"I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not OK", says our heroine Mim Malone, who is a multi-layered character. She is not only trying to find her mother, but herself as well. At the beginning of Mosquitoland, so named by Mim because of all the bugs in Mississippi, she seems completely incapable of thinking clearly about herself or her situation. As the Greyhound trundles her North, as she ditches her medications, as she interacts with other passengers we see a new Mim emmerge and we really like who we find underneath all the layers.
"Arnold boldly tackles mental illness and despair, and sexual assault and sexual identity, without ever once losing the bigheartedness of the story. . . In the words of one of Mim's Greyhound seatmates, Mosquitoland has pizzazz--lots and lots of it." —Booklist, STARRED review
“This book makes me wish I were a school librarian, just so I could buy ten copies for my collection.” —Barnes & Noble Teen Blog
As a high school librarian I am already planning how I will get Mosquitoland into the hands of my readers by suggesting to my team that we include it on our Mock Printz reading list of books.

I listened to audiobook of Mosquitoland expertly read by Phoebe Strole. My favorite character is Walt, a young adult with Down's Syndrome who greets each situation with an exuberant, "Hey, hey. I'm Walt!"

My daughter, who listened to the book after me, read a review that said Mosquitoland was the perfect road-trip book: 5% in the beginning spot, 90% on the road, 5% at the destination. We both agreed that the best aspect of the book happened on the road. I was delighted to see Arnold's answer to the question in an interview in BookPage, What do you think it is about the road-trip narrative that appeals so well to teen readers?
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, stepping out your front door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Tolkien got it. Because WHO doesn’t want to be Frodo in this scenario? We imagine Bilbo saying these words to us, speaking of mountains and elves and dragons and man: Is it time to go yet? I won’t speak for other readers, but I think part of why I’m so drawn to a journey story is because it’s an outward display of every character’s inward struggle: How do I get from here to there? You could set an entire book in one room, and that question still holds true. -BookPage, David Arnold interview
 How do I get from here to there? That is exactly the question that teens ask, are asking, trying to figure out for themselves. During Mim's trip from Mississippi to Ohio she is allowed the time, the miles, and the experiences to start the discovery process to answer that question. Don't we all wish we could find the space and time to do the same thing?

A word of caution, the book is a bit of slow-starter. In fact, a few of my blogging friends said they couldn't get "into" it and abandoned the book after a few chapters. Be patient and you will be rewarded with a wonderful, heart-warming tale and one of the best endings in YA this year. Bravo, David Arnold on your debut book! I love it and I certainly grateful it is "packed full of quotable moments that will likely end up being literary tattoos in the future...” —The Huffington Post

Rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Friday Quotes, Station Eleven, June 26th

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: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Book Beginnings:
The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.
Friday 56: 
"There's a prophet," Kirsten said. "There are grave markers with their names of them. The midwife said I should quit asking questions and we should leave quickly."
Comments: the opening line occurs before the catastrophic event that kills nearly 99% of mankind. The quote from page 56 is made by a character in a traveling theater troupe after the apocalypse. I just finished the book today and it certainly and frighteningly seems like it could be possible...the end of the world as we know it. But no matter what we still have a need for the arts.

Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

A disconcerting thing has happened. I have almost completely forgotten the details of a book I finished only a month ago. In fact, it took be a whole paragraph before I recognized  the plot of The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. In light of these glowing, starred reviews I'm beginning to wonder if it is me, not the story that is slipping.
Suma excels in creating surreal, unsettling stories with vivid language, and this psychological thriller is no exception. Along the way, Suma also makes a powerful statement about the ease with which guilt can be assumed and innocence awarded, not only in the criminal-justice system but in our hearts—in the stories we tell ourselves. A fabulous, frightening read. -Booklist, April 1, 2015, starred
In lyrical, authoritative prose, Suma weaves the disparate lives of these three girls into a single, spellbinding narrative that explores guilt, privilege, and complicity with fearless acuity. Amber's voice is particularly affecting -- she narrates from an eerily omniscient first-person plural perspective that speaks powerfully to the dehumanizing realities of teen imprisonment. The twisting, ghostly tale of Ori's life, death, and redemption is unsettling and entirely engrossing. -Horn Book Magazine, March/April 2015, starred
Believable and well developed, Vee and Amber have strong, unforgettable voices that ring true. Suma's unflinchingly honest depiction of the potentially destructive force of female friendship and skillful blending of gritty realism with supernatural elements is reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls (Viking, 2009), and the eerie mood she evokes is unnervingly potent. VERDICT A powerful story that will linger with readers. -School Library Journal, March 2015, starred
"VERDICT A powerful story that will linger with readers." Hmm. Apparently the story didn't linger long for me as the SLJ reviewer predicted. But I wonder sometimes if consuming books as fast as I do doesn't allow for proper marination of each of the tales. Looking back on my Goodreads account I see I've read ten books since completing this one. No wonder the details are a bit fuzzy. Oddly, I remember quite clearly Nova Ren Suma's previous book, Imaginary Girls  which I read a few years ago, and I have been creeped out by the memory of it ever since, too. Suma knows how to write hair-raising tales.

At any rate here are a few details I do remember now and I shan't give any big spoilers. 

  • Two friends enjoy ballet. One is rich , the other is not. They are both good which draws the attention of other girls who gang up on them.
  • They do something in retaliation and one of the girls ends up in prison.
  • Once in prison there are ghostly occurrences.
  • Guilt and anger abound.
Based on my rereading of the starred reviews and my hazy memory, I'd say that The Walls Around Us is worth your consideration. Especially if you like to read ghostly/horror mysteries.

3.5 out of 5 stars.