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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Quotes, Nov. 21

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: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Book Beginnings:
(NOAH. Age 13.) This is how it all begins. With Zephyr and Fry---the reigning neighborhood sociopaths---torpedoing after me and the whole forest floor shaking under my feet as I blast through air, trees, this white-hot panic.
Friday 56:  
(NOAH. Age 13 1/2.) The neighborhood terror threat level drops as I pan with Dad's binoculars from the forest and street on the front side of our house to bluff and ocean in the back. I'm on the roof, the best surveillance spot, and Fry and Zephyr are paddling through the break on their surfboards. I can tell it is them because of the sign flashing over their heads read: Itchy Blistering Brain-Boiled Sociopathic Onion-Eyed Asshats.
Oddly the two quotes are about the same theme: Noah being bullied. What you don't see is that right after the quote from page 56, Noah makes a friend who changes things for him.  I AM IN LOVE with Nelson's writing style, how she lets us into the mind of the narrators with their thoughts as asides, similar to the descriptions Noah has given to his tormentors.

Progress: Page 170 of 370.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

2014 National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature

The National Book Awards were handed out last night and Jacqueline Woodson won the Young People's Literature category with her book Brown Girl Dreaming.


"Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become."-National Book Award Website
Congratulations, Ms. Woodson. I am thrilled for you and I love the book. Here is my review, if you want to take a peek.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Salon, Nov.16th

Photo by Rachel Edson
Weather: Cold and clear. I drove to Portland today and had the sun in my eyes the whole way.

Family wedding photo: The above photo was taken after my nephew's wedding last month. All my siblings and their spouses were present but a few of the nieces and nephews weren't able to make the celebration. Welcome to the family Alyssa and Tati!

Portland: As I mentioned already, I drove to Portland today to meet up with one of my best girlfriends from high school days. She lives in Singapore so a long drive on a Sunday to see her is totally worth it. We ate brunch at a French restaurant with delightful ambiance and pastries.

x1.25: The Pierce County Public Library System subscribes to a cool service called Hoopla. Members can download movies, books, and audiobooks. The catalog of audiobooks isn't huge but has a fairly big collection of books in which I want to listen. I've already listened to one book through Hoopla: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I loved.  A very cool feature on Hoopla allows the listener to speed up the rate the book is played. I clicked x1.25. At first it was like listening to mice but when my brain adjusted I was able to listen to 14 hours of narration in under 12 hours. Cool.

D.R.S.: Yesterday Don and I attended a day-long seminar by the Department of Retirement Systems for the State of Washington.  We have begun the process of THINKING ABOUT retirement. Eek! There is so much to think about.  We went in thinking we'd retire in two to three years and left thinking it would be more like five. Sigh.

Books completed this week:
  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer---Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves, the ones that form our memories, are not accurate.
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Watson---my third book in the Magical Realism genre of the year. (Audiobook)
Currently reading:
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell---an audiobook by a favorite author. Progress: on disc 7 of 7.
  • Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King---she drinks a pulverized bat and now Glory can see into the future and what she sees is very disturbing.

For your listening enjoyment: Besame Mucho by Pearl Django. What a treat.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Publisher's Weekly Best YA Books 2014

Publisher's Weekly recently announced their Top Ten Favorite YA Books of 2014. Do you agree with their list? What books do you think they have left off? What books should they remove?

10. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
9. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King *
8. The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by EK Johnston *
7. Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann
6. Half Bad by Sally Green *
5. Family Romanov by Candace Fleming *
4. Pointe by Brandi Colbert
3. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll *
2. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
1. The True Tale of Monster Billy Dean by David Almond

* On the BSD 2015 Mock Printz list

Friday, November 14, 2014

Otherbound by debut author Corrine Duyvis

High school can be hard on the most popular of kids. But for Nolan, an amputee with a seizure-disorder, high school is almost unmanageable. At least everyone thinks he has a seizure disorder by the way that he zones out for long periods of time, seemingly gone from the world. In actuality Nolan is gone from the world. Every time he closes his eyes he is transported into the mind of Amara, a servant girl living in a place called Dunelands. In Dunelands, where mages and magic are common, Amara is forced to protect the exiled princess from harm. She does so by allowing harm from magic spells to hurt her instead of the princess. She can survive these magical spells because her body magically itself. Nolan has been watching this from afar for years until he suddenly realizes that he can manipulate her body causing Amara to become aware of his presence. They end up having to work together to discover the truth about the princess and those in charge of the revolution.

Debut author Corrine Duyvis has imagined a complex plot and fully flushed out an imaginary world in Otherbound. Dunelands seemed more real to me than our Earth. Magic spells and counter spells got all tangled up with detrimental effects on everyone. Relationships were complicated, messy, and sometimes hurtful. The conclusion was tense and exciting and didn't resolve predictably. Oddly, however, Duyvis went a bit overboard on trying to be inclusive. Nolan is an amputee, Latino boy. Amara is a mute servant because her tongue was cut out when she was a child. There are LGBT themes at play. To some degree these issues threatened to swamp the story rather than move it forward. Ryan Paulsen, for SLJ, disagrees with me,  he thinks "the true strength of the novel is in its positive portrayal of LGBT issues." Guess you will have to read it and decide for yourself.

Otherbound is one of our Mock Printz books. We selected it based on the first 50-pages, which was all I had read up to that point before our selection committee met. Students aren't as enamored with it as I'd hoped. They report that it is confusing (it is) and it takes a long time for the story to develop (it does.) Several students haven't even read it to the end, which is a shame since the ending is so exciting. Honestly, I understand their position and will do a better job setting up future readers of this book by telling them a bit more of the storyline to help ease the confusion.

Duyvis’s debut is an exciting take on the fantasy genre. I'd actually like to read more about this world.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Friday Quotes, Nov. 14

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: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Format: Audiobook

Book Beginning:
Georgie pulled into the driveway swerving to miss a bike. Neal never made Alice put it away. Apparently bikes never got stolen in Nebraska---and people never tried to break in to your house. Neal didn't even lock the front door most nights until after Georgie came home, though she told him that was like putting a sign in the yard that said PLEASE ROB US AT GUNPOINT.
Friday 56: 
He nodded. 'I thought it was a pen name. Georgie McCool. Sounds like a pen name.'
Comments: I read a quick review by a reader of this book who said, "I loved this book! I really loved it so much - the characters were all so real and so likable despite their flaws, and I felt every emotion in the book so fully. It made me laugh, it made me worry..." I concur.

Progress: I'm listening to disc 3 of 7.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

YA Books on the NYT Best-Selling List

I bumped into this list today of the New York Times Best Sellers YA titles. Notice how long some of these titles have been on the list. When it comes right down to it everyone wants to read the same books as their friends are reading. This may explain why all of John Green's books are always checked out of the library.

Here is the link to the NYT Best Sellers (YA)

The top book this week: If I Stay by Gayle Forman (31 weeks on the list)

The longest-running books on the list at 101 weeks (almost two years!) are two John Green titles: The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. Just one week off that record at 100 weeks is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

New to the list this week is a book I just learned about today and want to get for my library is Atlantia by Ally Condie.

Check out the whole list here plus the popular adult titles, too.

While you are looking at lists you may want to check out the NYT best-selling YA/Children's book in a series.  If you think two years on the list is a long time for John Green books, what about 295 weeks for The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and 210 weeks for The Hunger Games series?  Wow, what is that four, five, six years on the top list? Amazing.

There are two series listed that I'd better consider for my library: Sea Breeze by Abbi Glines (Teen Romance) and Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (Paranormal.) [Woops, never mind on the Sea Breeze series.  That looks like a good series to get from a public library.]

Reflection on lists like these make me sigh with contentment. Teens are still buying (and reading) books. Yay!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Jam Gallauhue is unable to deal with the grief over the death of her British-Exchange-Student boyfriend and eventually finds herself in The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, and in Mrs Q's Special Topics English class. None of this matters because all Jam wants is her boyfriend, Reese Maxfield, but that cannot happen, ever. Then one day Jam opens her class journal and before a sentence is on the page she is in Belzhar, a place of happy memories, memories from before...

In the Special Topics In English class Mrs. Q only teaches it when there is the right mix of students, this time only five get invited to join the class, Jam in one of them. The author they will be studying is Sylvia Plath, especially her only novel, The Bell Jar. They are also required to write in their special journals twice a week.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer received quite a bit of advanced publicity before it was even published. My team and I selected it as a Mock Printz selection before any of us had read it based on all that publicity. Unfortunately, I am not sure that the book lived up to all the hype. I had hoped for more about and from Sylvia Plath. Wolitzer did do a good job weaving in the theme of the bell jar (Bel-zhar, get it?) into the storyline but did not include much of her poetry, or even details of her life. Plath was such a spectacular writer and poet, I  had truly looked forward to this book for more about Plath but came away disappointed.

The reviewer for the New York Times, Amber Dermont acknowledges that "one of Wolitzer’s triumphs is that they [readers of Belzhar] may be drawn to read or revisit The Bell Jar.”  I admit I do feel the urge to reread The Bell Jar now myself.

Near the beginning of her stay at the Wooden Barn school, Jam and her classmates are told that WORDS MATTER and they are encouraged to write so that they can find their own truths. Along the way to those truths Jam finds friendship and can finally face her life with honesty. Ultimately she found the help she needed to recover, help that Plath never did find for herself.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday...My Favorite blog posts of 2014

I'm going off the board here and creating my own Top Ten Tuesday topic. I couldn't think of any characters that I'd like to get to know better. I hope you all indulge me and take a minute to look through favorite blog posts I've written this year.

(I assume you can appreciate how frustrating it is to write what you think is a good post on an interesting subject/book and get NO COMMENTS!  Argh!  Please, please, please feel free to leave comments either on this post or on the blog posts I have highlighted. Click the hyperlinks and use the return button to come on back.  Thanks.)

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a review. I put a lot of sweat and blood into this review and learned so much about the author and the genre Magical Realism. (Posted Sept. 21)

2. Snapshot Saturday, July 12, a photo montage. Quirky things I love about Italy. (Posted July 12)

3. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, a review. I listened to this book in the audiobook format. It required 20 hours of listening. I felt like I'd climbed a mountain when I was finished. Oh yes, loved the book, too. (Posted Aug. 23)

4. I Wish I Were a Poet, a musing by me. Sometimes the beauty of the world just overwhelms me and I wish I had the language skills to express my feelings better on paper. (Posted May 7)

5. The Ocean the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, a review. Loved the book and the review showed it. (Posted Feb. 26)

6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a review. There is something very magical about this book and I hope my review reflects it. (Posted April 14)

7. Ode to Maya Angelou, a poem by me on the occasion of her death. (Posted May 28th)

8. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, a review. this is a fairly recent review so it is fresh in my mind. (Posted Nov. 1)

9. Dedications, found in the front of books. I included a photo of a very funny dedication and no one even noticed or commented.  Be the first! (Posted Sept. 13)

10. Bless Me, Ultima by Ruldolfo Anaya, a review and commentary. My banned book selection of the year. Wow. Now it is a top ten favorite. (Posted Oct. 28)

11. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig, a review. Huge fan of the book and techniques within. (Posted March 25)

12. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, a review. The book not only caught my attention but so did the theme of beautiful ruins. See what I mean here. (Posted May 4)

13. Bookish Items I'd Like to Own, a Top Ten Tuesday list. I had a lot of fun "shopping" and dreaming while i created this list.  Did you make one, too? (Posted April 16)

14. Not a Zealot for Zealot, a nonfiction book by Reza Aslan, a review and commentary. I honestly surprised myself how much I reacted negatively to this book. I did a good job explaining myself on the blog post, though. ( Posted June 11)

15. The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming, a review. A good book for high school students interested in the last Czar of Russia. (Posted on Oct. 16)

I hope that you enjoyed at least a few of these reviews.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Salon, Nov. 9, 2014

Weather: Rainy and cold with moments of sunbreaks. Very Novemberish weather.

Cone of Shame: As you see from the photos our dog Muffy is currently sporting a very fetching look by wearing a cone to keep her from pulling off her bandages.  She has surgery on a fast-growing tumor on her leg on Thursday. The vet said to return in three to five days to replace her bandage. By the very next morning my husband had to take her in to replace the bandage since the first one was almost all the way off, stitches exposed. The new bandage was snugger than the first but she worked that one off by the next day, so back we went to the Vet hospital to have it replaced. This time she came out of the back room wearing the cone of shame.  Unfortunately, being such a short dog, it drags on the ground unless she lifts up her head and she actually runs into things like table legs with it.  But, the good news, the bandage is safely in place

Cue the music and listen while you read the rest of my blog. This is my new passion---Ravel's Bolero as performed by The Pink Martinis.  Love it.

Award books are my reading passion. I push award books as often as I can in my library and often gain new fans of these special books along the way. This week we checked out over 400 award books to ninth grader in a three day period. It was simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. First I had to dig pretty deep to find the sheer number of award books needed to cover all the students. I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it, so I went to two bookstores to pick up a few extras. I found award books I didn't know I had languishing on the library shelves. I discovered book awards I didn't know existed. I also discovered, much to my chagrin, how few sports books receive awards, especially in the YA Lit world.  Sigh.

Weird football play of the year: My daughter and I watched the UO v Utah football game on TV last night while Don, my husband, was actually AT the game in Salt Lake City. A Utah receiver made a fabulous catch and ran the length of the field for an apparent touch down.  Only problem, in his haste to start celebrating, he dropped the ball before he crossed the goal line, making it a fumble. A UO defensive player picked up the ball and ran 100 yards to the other goal line for a touchdown for our team.  I have never seen anything so weird and wonderful as this botched play.

Today's sermon was about the topic of suffering. It is a topic that few of us like to discuss let alone even contemplate.  But if we are suffering it is important to recognize that God is with us in the midst of our pain and sorrow. For some reason today while Gary was preaching I just knew I had to say this in my blog. If you are the reader that needs to hear this message today know this- God loves you and is with you in your suffering. He will not abandon you.
"No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I'm clinging. Since love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?"- refrain from hymn My Life Flows On
SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I can always tell when it is autumn because a case of SAD always descends on me like a black fog. I find myself wanting to hole up or cover up and not get out of bed until spring.  For me this means getting out the light box and spending time in front of it every morning before work. It seems to do the trick. I usually operate my light for about fifteen minutes in the morning while I put on make-up, style my hair and brush my teeth. Those fifteen minutes can really make the difference in my mood all day long. I think experts suggest that most people need at least a half hour in front of the full spectrum lights to be effective, but fifteen works for me.  This is the lightbox I use. (Check out the article linked above for five steps to help with SAD. I should add that listening to Bolero by Pink Martinis helps, too.)

Audiobook finished this week:

  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, read by the author. This is now one of my all-time favorite audiobook listening experiences. Ozeki did a great job with her own material. The topics of the book---depression, bullying, suicide--- were tough but I loved the whole package. Can't wait to discuss this book with my club.
Currently reading:
  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer---a Mock Printz possible title. The topic is depression due to grief and loss and incorporates Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar into the storyline. The jury is still out.
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell---my current audiobook.