"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, October 8, 2015

Friday Quotes, October 9th

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: I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Book Beginning: 
Gustav is building a helicopter. Nobody knows because Gustav has been building it in small sections.
Friday 56: 
Then the drill bell sounds and the other two coffins open and the entire student body pours out of them. There are twelve hundred teenagers crowding around us, waltzing. They waltz beautifully. The song is Mozart's Waltz no. 1. It is played solely by cellos. This is the waltz drill.
Comments: This will be the fourth book I've read by A.S. King. All of them are intense and deal with issues teens are confronting today, even mental illness. The Friday 56 quote is a dream sequence. I think it is funny because we are always doing different types of drills in school (fire drill, earthquake drills, shelter in place drills), so it is funny to think of students doing a waltz drill.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Oct. 7

Canada geese flying in a V-formation. Credit: Ted (bobosh_t)
Just a little of this and a little of that...

1. Today I paused for a moment to watch a formation of geese flying over the parking lot where I stood. At first the formation was in disarray but as I watched the geese in the messy middle got themselves organized into the famous v-formation. I was struck that there was a life lesson for me here...it is possible and preferable to get my act together when I am in the messy middle of some project!

2. I've been re-reading my book reviews lately. Some of them are so inspired it is really obvious that I loved the book and did my homework and took my time to get things right. Other reviews are so uninspired. It is pretty obvious that I just knocked the review off without too much thought. Then I started noticing something. many of my uninspired book reviews are for audiobooks I listened to. Whether I liked the book or not it was just more difficult to write the review if I didn't have a print edition of the book in front of me to inspire me with quotes or for review purposes.

3. Speaking of audiobooks, I am listening to the book Being Mortal by Atul Gwande. It is about end-of-life decisions we make about health care that frankly may actually shorten our lives and definitely lowers the quality of that life in the end days. This book is dominating my thoughts these days.

4. My dog is on the mend. I came home from work today and was shocked to find her in the closet. She must have scooted in there because she can still barely walk. I took it as a sign she is feeling better.

5. I got into a tiff today with a colleague over miscommunication. Why is it that I am willing to give someone the power to make me feel bad? I hate that.

Thanks to Christine over at Bookishly Boisterous for hosting Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts.

Monday, October 5, 2015

TTT: Bookish things I am ready to abandon

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish things I am trying to quit (or at least slow down on)

1. Pulling book sets for students (it's a library thing)---In the past I would spend hours finding books for different class sets and then pulling them onto carts for students to peruse. When they were done I would have to put them all away.  Now that all students have an iPad at my school, I want to share with them how to find the books they need for the projects themselves and assist them in locating them in the library.

2. Cut down on the reading challenges I join---This year I have reduced my participation in year-long or open-ended reading challenges and attempted to join only short term challenges that fit with my reading goals of reading the Classics or reading YA Award winning or potential award winning novels. If some challenge like the R.I.P Challenge comes along and it fits into those goals then I am fine with joining up.

3. Accepting loaner books from friends---I've decided these loaner books are the biggest stress-makers in the reading world. I will no longer accept a loaner book. If I decide I want to read it, I will borrow the book from the library. For some reason books borrowed from a library do not stress me out. This is probably because no one at the library actually cares if I read the book or not.

4. Participate in blogging memes that don't give me joy---for a few years I joined several memes which just seemed to stress me out. I've decided the only memes I will participate in are ones, like this one, which I enjoy creating even if no one makes a comment. If I am participating because I want to increase traffic to my blog it is not a good enough reason for me anymore.

5. Avoid weeding out books because "someday someone might read it"---Did you notice the double negative? Weeding is necessary for keeping a library healthy and vital yet it is so easy to avoid removing books from the collection because of "someday someone might".  I have so many outdated books in  my library because of that mantra. It is time to get serious about weeding.

6. Feel pressure to write full reviews for all books I've read---I actually have never done this but I often feel a lot of self-imposed pressure to write something on every book I read.

7. Finish every book I start---I often find myself slogging through a book even though I am not enjoying it, just because I don't want to give up.

8. Buy books just because they are on the discount rack---I'm over it. Why buy a discount book I probably won't read. I'm heading to the library instead.

9. Avoid getting an e-reader---too late! I got an iPad and found out I actually enjoy reading books on it.

10. Kick myself for all the books I haven't read---instead I shall celebrate the great books I have read.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Salon...Oct.4

The cake donuts table
Weather: Fall like weather, vacillating between blue skies and rainy ones. Yesterday we drove to a wedding near Mt. Rainier and we drove into a cloud. Instead of a picturesque photo opp of the mountain all we could see was a big cloud. It was still lovely.
Brandi and Steven during their reception
Wedding in October: our friends Brandi and Steven got married yesterday in this beautiful outdoor venue. An outdoor wedding in the Northwest in October is risky but fortunately it didn't rain during the whole time we were there. They had a few other different touches---donuts instead of cake and Fireball whiskey instead of champagne. Everything worked and we had a fun time. Blessings, Brandi and Steven, may every day of your new life together be better than the day before!
We toasted the new couple with shots of Fireball.
Update on Muffy: she seems to be continuing to improve and is using her hind legs a bit to push up and to scoot herself around the kitchen but she is still not walking reliably. Yesterday, at Carly's insistence, she took a few steps independently and looked like a drunken sailor. We are starting to feel a bit of hope that she will regain enough function to be able to walk again.

Family: I am thinking of my family members today. For Tom who had surgery on his neck to relieve pain. The surgery itself is very painful. He is having to endure pain to get relief from pain. And for my sister Grace and her family. Their favorite cat sustained injuries because it was mauled by two neighborhood dogs. The cat did not survive the attack. Pets are members of the family and we are sad with you today. For my nephews Brent and Mitchell , and my sister-in-law Becky, who all have/had birthdays this week. I am the bad aunt/sister who always forgets them until after the fact. Sigh. Hope your birthdays were/are happy!

Books completed this week:
  • Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier---set in Australia in the 1930s, it is about mobsters and ghosts. It is weird combination but it works. Check out my review and see what I mean.
  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash---a graphic memoir illustrated and written by Thrash about a formative experience she had at camp as a teenager. Not my favorite (in other words, I didn't like it.)
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell. Now this book I did like. Please check out my review and watch the little video with Riddell and Gaiman. Wow. The book is a mash-up of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. My review.
Currently reading:
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gwande...Gwande is a doctor who has studied our approach to aging and how we treat our elders as they near the end of their life. I am thinking some new thoughts and hope to share them with my family.
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Perez Older...this is my next YA selection I will to start today.
Fall Colors: Overnight, it seems, the colors on our trees have changed to the lovely fall colors. On our drive up toward Mt. Rainier yesterday we were surprised to see the colors. In the NW we are so used to the green of the evergreen trees everywhere it is shocking to see the bright red and gold of the vine maples in the under-story of the forest.

Best new thing I discovered this week: (I'm a slow learner) is Amazon Prime Music. As a prime member I get access to this really cool resource of music just for the cost of membership. I've been listening to sound tracks all week, including music from my favorite show Doctor Who. This instrumental is from the 11th Doctor.

Prayers: for our nation and how scary it is because our gun laws don't protect us.  Pay for the families of the students killed in Roseburg, Oregon by a mad gun-man. Will it ever end?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Finally a fairy tale retelling worth the effort of a trip to the bookstore or library. Neil Gaiman's The Sleeper and the Spindle which is beautifully and intricately illustrated by Chris Riddell is not to be missed.

The Sleeper and the Spindle is a mash-up of two popular fairy tales, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps we could think of it as a continuation of the Snow White story, after she wakes up and becomes the rightful queen. And a warping of the Sleeping Beauty story. In this retelling three women take center stage, with a few dwarfs for good measure. There are no princes or handsome men in sight. Neil Gaiman said in a interview with Gaby Wood of the Telegraph "I don't have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men." So in his mash-up of the old favorites the queen kisses the princess awake, essentially saving everyone. In the end it is a little confusing who is who and who is good and who is bad but aside from that small need to reread a few pages the whole book is a complete delight.

Gaiman said about his creation, "I feel like some kind of alchemist. I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it's kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it's actually a new dish" (Gaby Wood, Telegraph, Nov. 20, 2014).

The mixture is a wonderful and unique combination everyone should try. But, for me, the real star of the book are the illustrations. Chris Riddell's elaborate pen and ink illustrations are simply stunning. One could spend hours, even days, looking at them. The intricate details he included on each illustration on every page are quite amazing. 

You have to take the time to view this YouTube video of Graiman and Riddell talking about the creation of the illustrations.  It is only 3 minutes long and you will get a strong feeling for how lovely, lovely the book really is.

My team read The Sleeper and the Spindle to consider it for inclusion on our Mock Printz reading list. We all decided it would be much more likely to win the Caldecott Award, and hope it does. Wow. You have got to see this book. I mean it. Go to your library right now and check it out!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier, historical fiction with ghosts

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier is not just another piece of historical fiction, this one involves ghosts, lots of them.

Razorhurst is set in Surrey Hills, a suburb of Sydney, Australia in 1932. During that time, according to a Sydney tabloid, The Truth, the area was full of “bottle men, dope peddlers, razor slashers, sneak thieves, confidence men, women of ill repute, pickpockets, burglars, spielers [swindlers], gunmen and every brand of racecourse parasite.” What a setting for a book! This was Australia's gangster period. The gangsters in Razorhurst used razors as their weapon of choice compared to the American gangsters who used Tommy guns,  but both had deadly effects.

For one day in July (winter) Dymphna Cambell, the best prostitute and gangster moll in the region, and Kelpie, a homeless girl with lots of street smarts, actually cause a shift of power among the bosses ruling the streets. Oddly both girls can see ghosts and there are lots of them to see, signaling to the reader to take note: a lot of people died during this bloody time in Australia's past. Kelpie, who is much less sophisticated than Dymphna, interacts with the ghosts. The ghost of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna's latest boyfriend to end up dead, tags along with the girls shouting advice as to what they should do next. Dymphna ignores him and Kelpie tries to. Throughout the day the girls attempt to dodge the violence and corruption that swirls around them but end up in the very heart of it by nightfall.

As an educator one would think I would have the initiative to do a little homework prior to reading a book about historical events I know nothing about. Unfortunately I did not. If I had perhpas I would have enjoyed the book better, especially in the beginning when I was quite skeptical about it. This morning, as I was preparing to write this review I visited Larbalestier's website and found an interesting page about the things which influenced her writing this book. She has recently moved to Surrey Hills which led to an interest in the history of the area. She read a nonfiction book about the Surrey hills razor gangs. Like so often happens, one thing led to another, and she found information on some real characters who used to rule the hills. Though not strictly historical, none of her characters actually existed, many of them were based on real people or combinations of two people.

And the ghosts? These were not the scary, rattling chains type of ghosts, but dead people stuck on Earth for a period of time. Some of them were willing to interact and even teach the characters things. Some were so faded they seemed to be just a web of grey matter, there but not there. In an interesting way Larbalestier used the ghosts to carry the plot forward and backward in a way to demonstrate how we are all linked by our history and can't escape it no matter how hard we try.

I listened to the audio version of the book read by three Australian actors. Though I was not able to relate to the story on many levels I enjoyed the listening experience immensely. The only drawback for this American reader to listening vs reading the book was I didn't have the glossary, available in the back of the book. of Australian slang available to me to look up words I wasn't familiar with. As I listened to each disc I got more and more "into" the book and wondered and worried about what was going to happen next. Larbalestier's writing is clear and descriptive. her characters fairly crackled with life. She brought the setting alive in my mind's eyes.

Unfortunately, I hadn't read the book before we selected our Mock Printz reading list for the year or I would have lobbied to include it. Australian gang history and ghosts, that would give our teens something new and different. I ended up really liking the book and will recommend it to my library patrons. I hope this gets the attention and praise it is due from reviewers and award committee members.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Because of the ghosts, I am using this book as part of the 10th R.I.P. Reading Contest.

Check out the details at The Estella Society. This is the second book I've read for this challenge which qualifies me for Peril, the Second.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Friday Quotes: October 2

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: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Book Beginnings:
I learned a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn't one of them.
Friday 56:
She and Felix felt the sorrows of their losses but also the pleasures of what they still had...One day, however, they had an experience that revealed just how fragile their life had become.
Comments: My parents are in their 80s. Each time I am with them I have to confront their mortality as I see them age. I hope that they both can experience a good ending to their lives far in the future. But I see it is partially my siblings and my responsibility to assist them as they make decisions about their healthcare and the quality of their lives at each junction in the future. This book, written by a doctor, addresses issues our society has with healthcare and aging. Lots to think about.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Images of the GKHS Library---Wordless Wednesday

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge and the R.I.P X Reading challenge completion.

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 have currently finished one book which is part mystery, suspense, thriller, Gothic, mild horror and supernatural book . This qualifies me for:

 Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge first came to my attention because it earned five starred reviews from the publications School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and the like. I try to review the highly regarded books as potential Mock Printz books and this one sounded like an intriguing selection since it seems to defy genre categorization. We always try to offer selections in different genres and this book helps our list seemed more varied. 
When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry, her sister seems scared of her, and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family—before it’s too late. Set in England after World War I, this is a brilliantly creepy but ultimately loving story of the relationship between two sisters who have to band together against a world where nothing is as it seems.---from the publisher
My daughter got to read this book before me and fairly flew through it, finding a Gothic fantasy to be just the perfect type of book to read on her breaks at work. (By contrast she is having a much more difficult time with the realistic fiction book is carrying around with her now.) She urged me to read it and she recommended it for possible inclusion on our MP list.

What I like about Cuckoo Song is how nuanced the horror is. There are terribly creepy characters, but they aren't invincible. I found scenes to be both creepy and compelling at the same time. The scary bits weren't scary enough to keep me awake at night, which is something I attempt to avoid. Triss and her sister, Pen, both have dark and light sides to their nature. I found myself rooting for both of them at different times. It also captured that time period between WWI and WWII in England when so many families were left to carry on without loved ones or had to deal with the soldiers who returned with PTSD. 

If there is a weakness in the book it is that the characters, other than Triss, who we discover is really a changeling, and Pen, all other characters are not very well flushed out.  We don't really understand why the mother is so inept and the father so controlling. Mr. Grace goes from nice to sinister in record break time. And Violet. Hmm. I didn't get nearly enough information about her.

But boy is this book creative. Krista Hutley, writing for Booklist, says the book is a "piercing, chilling page-turner." She also says few authors can evoke such a feeling of terror and wonder at the same time as Hardinge. This is my first book by the author but I will certainly look into her others. I liked this book a lot and we did decide to include it on our Mock Printz list of books for the year.

For more information  about  R.I.P X or to sign up please go to this website:

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. A review and a commentary.

Our high school requires students to read one book over the summer. Students from each incoming class can select their reading material from a list of books. Ascending seniors can choose Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, a book with a provocative reputation. I decided to read it after book-talking it for a class last spring. It sounded interesting...a talking gorilla who wants an assistant to help him save the world. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

And the book is intriguing.  In fact the philosophy introduced by Ishmael, the gorilla, is very thought-provoking. Through a series of Socratic-type questions Ishmael gets the unnamed narrator to recognize and embrace his world view. This view is basically that mankind can be divided into two camps: Leavers and Takers. Up until a few thousand years ago leavers roamed the earth using only what they needed and living in harmony with creation. Then a shift occurred and some men decided they wanted the land on which leavers were living. In order to get it, they killed the leavers rather than asking to share. These people became takers.  Takers act as if their way is right and other people are wrong and because they are right they should have whatever they want. This aggressive approach to life has led to wars and in some cases to the near annihilation of certain people. It is also causing catastrophic problems for the environment.

Interestingly, Ishmael points out, Takers need a prophet or god-figure to tell them how to live and to guide their actions. Whereas Leavers, who already live in harmony with nature and their creator, do not. Takers now use their Holy books and their interpretations of them to continue their march toward sure destruction and the demise of mankind. The stories they tell themselves about the creation of the world even plays into this philosophy.

This book presents heavy, thought-provoking stuff. After it was published in 1991 Ishmael Societies were formed where members could get together to discuss not only the meaning of the book but also to explore ways to abandon the Taker mentality and embrace the Leaver lifestyle. I have no idea if any of these Societies still exist today. It is an interesting concept, for sure, and it is one which has been much on my mind since I finished the book a few weeks ago.

There is evidence everywhere that we, mankind, by and large do embrace the Taker mentality...or "my world view is right and if you disagree I will fight you, demonize you, or even kill you." This week I found more evidence to support this. The Pope visited America. Pope Francis does not mince his words. He admonishes Christians to live their faith, to help the poor and down-trodden, to stop doing things that contribute to global warming, to live in harmony with others and with nature. Instead of falling on their knees seeking forgiveness for their hard hearts, some conservative commentators have decided to demonize the Pope, calling him a false prophet or the Antichrist (Napolitano). See what I mean? If someone believes differently than a Taker, they demonize that person. It is quite sickening, actually. It is hard to believe that anyone who witnesses the actions of this Pope could think anything but admiring thoughts about him, no matter what faith tradition they hold. But there you have it. He is now the "Antichrist" because he dares to say something about global warming and living in harmony with our neighbors which goes against some people's 'rich at any cost' philosophy.

It is a depressing thought, but maybe Ishmael is correct. Could we be on a collision course with our own destruction simply because we believe our made-up stories about how we are right and others are wrong? It is a heavy thought.

If you do choose to read Ishmael, I urge you to find a reading companion so you will have someone to talk to as you make your way through it. I suspect that was the reason for the Ishmael Societies springing up when the book was first published. This is not the type of book that sits well or easily and it demands to be discussed. I am going to advocate that we remove the book from our summer reading list. I think this book is too heavy for an ascending senior to digest on his/her own. It is the type of book which should be read and discussed in a class with a thoughtful, prepared teacher at the helm.

If you have read Ishmael, even if it was years ago, I'd like to hear from you. I am very curious how this book simmers in the background of the brain over time. Let me know.

Rating 4 of 5 stars.