"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, August 24, 2016

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Last Friday I flew to New Jersey alone, which gave me a perfect chance to do some serious reading sans interruptions. I brought along two print editions and one e-book with me for options and "just in case"  I ended up with more reading time than anticipated. A few minutes into the flight, we hadn't even pushed away from the gate, I started reading The Memory Book by Laura Avery. I would have finished it before landing at Newark International except for one small problem, I forgot to pack a handkerchief and had no tissues to wipe my crying eyes and blow my dripping nose, so I had to give it a break until I had the needed supplies available.

Samantha McCoy is a talented and driven high school senior who seems to have her whole life planned out. First she wants to win the National Debate Tournament. Next she wants to give a speech at graduation as the valedictorian. After a summer of transition she plans on attending NYU in the Fall to major in economics and public policy and finally law school at Harvard. Ultimately she wants to be a lawyer who represents civil rights violations. But all of her plans are in jeopardy when she learns she has a genetic condition called Neilsson-Pick, type C (NPC) which will erode her memory and attack her body, eventually killing her.

In an effort to help Future Sam, Sammie starts a diary of her memories. As events happen or reflecting back on past events, Sammie chronicles her life. As the disease progresses the reader is even given glimpses of times when memory fails and she regresses to an almost child-like stage. The once driven girl now has to face a new and limited reality about herself and her goals. As she does this she finds herself relying more on friends, especially a new love interest, Stuart, and an old childhood friend Cooper. And, you guessed it, a love triangle develops...but it advances the story and doesn't dominate it.  Toward the end of the book other people, mainly family and a few friends, also write entries into Samantha's memory book so readers get a fuller picture of how Samantha's disease is progressing and how her life has impacted them.  Hence, the need for tissues!

When Sammie's mother writes about her happiest memories she writes these poignant woods, "Words cannot capture my grief at watching you fall away little by little. But I suppose in losing some layers, your golden core came out." As readers we get to see that golden core, too, and it is both lovely and heartbreaking to witness.

As I closed the book I wondered to myself why I haven't seen any reviews of it. Surely the YA lit world must be lighting up about another sweet, sad, funny book about a teen who is dying. I'm wondering if there is a title issue with this book. When I googled it there were many more hits for another book by the same title by a different author. That could prove confusing to folks trying to find out about the book. When I found the review for this book on Kirkus Reviews some lady made a devastating comment telling readers what a travesty the book was and no one should read or buy it and they should avoid the author, too. Then the next comment pointed out that she was talking about the wrong book and author, to which the first woman to make a comment admitted she was wrong and got things goofed up. See? Confusing.

One thing I am not confused about is how much I like the book. I think readers who enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars or All the Bright Places will like this book, too. With three starred reviews it should at least be considered by the Printz committee, though they don't usually select such cry-worthy books, I will recommend it for inclusion on our Mock Printz list when the team convenes in September.

Rating: 4.5
Source: Checked out from the GKHS library, a new book just processed this summer
2017 Printz Award Contenders

28 / 35 books. 80% done!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Friday Quotes

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---

Title: Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Book Beginnings:
The women in the river, singing. This is Bit's first memory, although he hadn't been born when it happened.
Friday 56:
The kid herd is at the stream. The foot bridge is not safe: it wobbles, its ends dunked in the wild runoff...Do it! shouts Leif, who has turned into a dancing goblin. He is hysterical with violence.
Comment: this book is for an upcoming book club. The blurb on the back of the book says that Arcadia is set up as a Utopian dream from its start through its heyday. I am excited to dig in to this book. I can especially attracted to the second quote. I have met children who are so goblinish they seen hysterical with violence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

I had so much much fun with my last book review when I analyzed the book based on its title I decided to try again with Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Now granted "draw the line" is not nearly as obscure a phrase as "exit, pursued by bear" but let's see what I can find. The urban dictionary defines the phrase this way:

draw the line

1. To decide firmly an arbitrary boundary between two things: "Where do you draw the line between your  own decisions and those of your superiors?" (Robert Marion).
2. To decide firmly the limit of what one will tolerate or participate in: The officer committed fraud but drew the line at blackmail.

So that isn't very fun. But it does explain quite a lot of the story. Aidan Piper is an graphic artist, a nerd, a shy-guy, and gay. He tries to fly below the radar. He doesn't even sign his name on his website promoting his art.  All of that changes one day when he witnesses, and attempts to stop, a hate crime on another gay boy, an acquaintance of his. Someone caught him on film screaming and shared it on social media. Now the whole school knows he is gay and bullying really begins. After weeks of letting everyone walk all over him, Aidan finally decides he has had enough and he draws the line. He will no longer be silent and fly below the radar if it means that he or others will have to bear the brunt of thuggish behavior. With his art Aidan creates a superhero, Graphite. Then Graphite, the gay superhero helps Aidan find his real power.

Hey, why take it from me? Take a look at the book trailer:

The trailer makes the book seem like it is all graphic novel. It is only partially so. About 50 of the 500+ pages are illustrated. Fortunately the book reads really fast.

I've read a lot of LGBTQ books this summer, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. The strength of Draw the Line is the powerful message it gives to its readers to be yourself and embrace your own skills and talents.  When Aidan was finally ready to accept himself he found a whole world of friends ready to embrace him, and yes, he also found a very hot new boyfriend!

Here is what Time Federle, an author of another LGBTQ book I read this summer had to say about Draw the Line:

“Laurent Linn had me at ‘gay superhero’—and kept me glued to the page with his thoughtful storytelling and genre-defying art. It’s not a graphic novel. It’s not a novel-novel. It’s Draw the Line, and it’s unmissable.” Tim Federle, author of The Great American Whatever

Aidan and his alter-ego, Graphite, are superheroes and role models for all teens today. And we all need as many positive role models as we can get.

At 515 pages, Draw the Line qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

27 / 35 books. 77% done!

Monday, August 15, 2016

TTT: Favorite books set in boarding schools

Top Ten Tuesday: YA books set in boarding schools. (Not sure if I can come up with ten but I'll give it a try.)

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green---my first John Green book which I understand is loosely based on his own experience attending a boarding school.

2. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling---Dud, I almost fogot about the most famous boarding school of the all, Hogwarts.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart--- this book is a favorite and so funny. Frankie is very plucky and I love her!

4. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray---It has been a lot of years since I read the first two books in this series set in a very creepy and atmospheric boarding school in England.

5. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan---this book has a lot of themes and levels. I even learned a little about albinism from it.

6. Winger by Andrew Smith---hey, this list is easier than I thought. This is the first Andrew Smith book I read and it seems normal compared to the others I have read since then. The main character is younger than his peers. Funny and poignant.

7. Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard---- a really depressing but beautifully written book about coping with the death of a friend.

8. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard---- two in a row by the same author, that begs the question, did Jenny Hubbard attend boarding school herself? This one deals with the subject of suicide and incorporates poetry. I was enraptured by it.

9. Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki----really funky graphic novel set in a a whacky boarding school. This book grew on me as I read it.

10. Sabriel by Garth Nix---If you haven't read this series by Nix, wht are you waiting for.  It starts in a boarding school but quickly moves to The Old Kingdom where magic exists.

Yay, I did it. I was right when I thought that a lot of YA books are set in boarding schools.

Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Several months ago I listened to the audiobook production of E.K. Johnson's book Exit, Pursued By a Bear. I've been sitting on this review since that time because, frankly, I couldn't figure out what angle I wanted to take with the review since my feelings toward the book are ambivalent. I like the book, I gave it a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads, but I also had some problems with the book. These problems got me stuck. This review is my effort to get unstuck.

Roy Peter Clarke, the author of The Art of X-Ray Reading, encourages people who want to get more out of a book to use X-Ray reading techniques. One of those techniques is to pay attention to titles. What is the author trying to tell his/her readers about the story through the title? Today when I told myself I could delay writing this review no longer, I decided to investigate this very odd title; Exit, Pursued By a Bear. Since I listened to the book instead of reading the print edition, I couldn't look back in the physical book for clues so I looked on-line to see if I could gain some insights. For some reason I thought the phrase was from a poem. I started my investigation there. What I discovered instead got me all excited. The phrase "Exit, pursued by a bear" is one of the oddest stage directions ever given and it was done by Shakespeare in "A Winter's Tale." Directors are left to determine what he meant and how it should be carried out. Did he mean a literal bear or a figurative one? Should the exit be terrifying or comedic?

In an article published in the Baltimore Sun in 2002, Holly Shelby interviews several people at the Center Stage in Baltimore who were performing "A Winter's Tale" at the time, and asked them about the crazy stage direction, "Exit, pursued by a bear." First, they wanted us to know, one has to understand that "A Winter's Tale" is a very peculiar play. Shakespeare seems to tease his audiences with all kinds of misperceptions. "The bear makes as much sense as anything else," the director said.
"The bear is indicative of the show's entire aesthetic," says Charlotte Stoudt, dramaturg at Center Stage. "It's a narrative pivot point, the turn from tragedy to comedy in the play. It's crazy. It's campy. It's fun. It's scary. You have all these contradictory feelings, which add up to one of the best moments of the play."
Ah, I've got it. "Exit, pursued by a bear" is a narrative pivot point. In "A Winter's Tale" it is the point at which the action moves from tragedy to comedy. In the book, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, it is the exact opposite. It is very clear to me now how this fits with this book. Hermione and the other cheerleaders in the book are looking forward to  cheer-camp. Everything is going along just great until Hermione is slipped a "roofie" and raped by someone, probably a participant of the camp. Everything pivots at that point. Hermione doesn't remember the rape, except just snatches of her attacker's face because she was drugged. What starts out as a promising year ends up being a nightmarish hell with one very noteworthy exception, Hermione has wonderful and supportive friends who do not abandon her. In fact, in a lot of ways I think the book is less about rape and its ramifications and more about how to be a good friend.

It would take a very sophisticated teenage reader to pick up on the Shakespeare reference in the title, but teens certainly wouldn't miss the point that bad things could/would happen if one were pursued by a bear. Let's go back and see if we can gain any insight about bears from Shakespeare.
"In The Winter's Tale, the word `bear' has its own life, it's mentioned in the play about 12 times. It starts as a word meaning `take away' as in: `Bear the boy away.'' But by the end of the play, the word `bear' becomes about responsibility for one's actions and bearing them and bearing the weight of guilt. And in between weight and responsibility is the ferocious creature." -Baltimore Sun
Wow. All of the sudden the title of this book not only seems good it is almost perfect. Should we think of the "bear" as in a ferocious animal, or a rapist, as in our story? Or is it about "bearing", as in bearing the burden of friendship? And finally, though we don't really see this in Johnston's book, is it "bearing" the weight of guilt, as so many rape victims are left feeling? Or all three? Me thinks all three!

The next time you are stuck on a book review, let me recommend x-ray reading. I am not kidding. Suddenly the whole story makes sense and I am no longer ambiguous about this book. The author is brilliant (and so am I for figuring it out!) I think she wants her readers to know that even in the face of horrible, terrifying events they can be rendered bearable with the support of good friends. Do I think this should be a Printz contender?  Yes, yes I do. Read it and see what you think.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Audiobook purchased with my own funds.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

26 / 35 books. 75% done!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Olympics book tag. Join the fun!

This tag is from Starts At Midnight and since I am currently obsessed with the Olympics so this tag was impossible to pass it up! 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
I not only loved it from the first page, I loved it from the first line:
"How is it possible to bring order out of memory?"

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
This has been a reliable book recommendation over the years, too.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Peeta or Gale? Who could possibly pick with these two choices?

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
I rarely do not finish books but I DNF this one. I just couldn't do it.

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki  and Mariko Tamaki
A graphic novel and a wonderful coming-of-age tale.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rawling
Need I say more?

Steeplejack by AJ Hartley
A recent read for me. I enjoyed all the plot twists I didn't see coming.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This book broke my heart then stitched it back together.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Is it really slow paced or am I just not really taking the required time to read it quickly?

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This was my favorite book as a youngster by far. I still love it.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
Sweet. Sweet. Sweet.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet by David Mitchell
This book seemed WAY longer than its 479 pages. 
In fact, this book has become a joke of sorts among my book club friends. 
All of us struggled to finish it.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 
 Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue.
I want friends like these guys.

Stotan! by Chris Crutcher.
Competitive swimming.

I'm not tagging anyone in particular, but if you would like to join in please feel free.  

Sunday Salon, August 14, 2016

The doorway to marriage, at a lovely outdoor wedding on Falls Creek of the daughter of our long time friends.

Weather: Lovely. Blue skies and mild temperatures in the 70s.
Subaru is loaded. Destination: New York
New York or Bust: Carly and Don left for their cross country trip today, Washington State to New York State. Carly is moving to New York for graduate school. They pieced together a jigsaw puzzle of boxes and bags to pack all her things in the car yesterday. Only one left behind are one big suitcase which I will take with me when I fly to meet them later this week and two big boxes to I need to pop in the mail. Rita and Dan joined us for the farewell breakfast this morning before they took off somewhere around 9:30. First day's goal: Missoula, Montana, a stop over to visit family friends.

65th Wedding Anniversary: This past weekend we celebrated my parents 65th wedding anniversary with a full day of events. We started the celebration during the church service where several grandchildren sang the anthem, a grandson played the guitar during communion, which mom and dad served together. During the coffee fellowship hour we hosted a reception and held a small program. Finally, after we left the church, we congregated at my sister's house for a family BBQ and party. It was such a wonderful day to honor our parents.
Grandkids sing during service

Mom and Dad prepare to serve communion

Cutting the cake, 65 years after cutting the wedding cake together

A photo of what love looks like.
Family Reunion: After the anniversary celebration the family reunion started with a raft trip down the McKenzie River.  Don't we all look great? The water is very cold and the day was cool. It was lovely, but we were all cold by the end of it. After we dried off we all raced to the Oregon Coast for a few days of fun and relaxation.
Ready for the raft trip down the McKenzie River. This photo was taken before we were cold and wet.

The dock in Florence, Oregon. Decorated seals were everyhwere.

Sunset over the Pacific, view from our room

My nephew and his girlfriend at Heceta Head Beach

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Dan, Rita, and Carly ready for some fun on the dunes.
Books read in August:

  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton...magical creatures with extraordinary powers make this book a wonderful and exciting YA addition. Print.
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald...a cute, light story about the power of books and friends. A book club selection. Audio.
  • My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter...a look at slavery, up close and personal. Audio.
Currently reading:
  • Draw the Line by Laurent Linn...LGBTQ-themed, part graphic novel. Print. 57%
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen...no progress on this book for weeks. Print. 26%
  • Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti...with three starred reviews I decided I should listen to this book. Just started it. Audio. 
What I plan to take with me to New York (for reading on the plane mostly):
  • Arcadia by Lauren Groff...a book club selection. Hopefully the e-book version from the library will be available by then.
  • The Memory Book by Lara Avery...this is the Mock Printz selection on Goodreads for August. Print.
  • American Girls by Alison Umminger...(Possibly. Is it crazy to take three books when I likely will have very little time to read once I get to New York?)
Prayer concern: Praying for my brother. He is seeking additional, and hopefully curative treatments, for melanoma.

A little rant about the Olympics: I am sort of obsessed with the Olympics. It happens to me every two years (winter and summer) but it always bothers me that two things happen with the media coverage of the games here in the US. 1. The networks are only likely to show up what is happening IF some American is doing well, otherwise we have no idea what is happening.  2. For some reason the prime time coverage does not start until 8 PM and continues until 12 PM. Who wants to stay up that late? Gr.r.r.