"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=========

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Every time I've hopped into the car to go anywhere for the past two weeks I've listened to Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood .  I would even listen to it when I was driving a very short distance.  I had to!  I was compelled to consume this book as fast as I could. Margaret Atwood's writing is so strong she can make a failing world seem compelling. As far as audiobooks go this one is quite unique with three different voice actors reading the parts of Ren, Toby, and Adam1.  There was also singing.  All of Adam1's goofy hymns were put to music. But more on that in a minute. Apparently, the book is a sequel or an addition to her earlier book, Oryx and Crake, which introduces a dystopian society on the brink of apocalypse.  That story was told from the aspect of the elites and CorpSeCorp, their corrupt paramilitary security force, that rules the world...what's left of it. This one covers the end of civilization mainly from the point of view of the "have-not" people.

Ren and Toby are members of a religious sect called God's Gardeners.  Adam1 is their leader. He preaches that a waterless flood is coming and that God's Gardeners must prepare themselves for its eventuality.  They do so by eating only a vegan diet, growing or gleaning all their food, using only recycled products, and setting aside food to be used once the flood hits. All of the hymns that they sing are related to extinct animals, or fungus, or vegan diets...weird stuff to sing about.  Prior to the cataclysmic event that ushers in the beginning of the "flood" both Ren and Toby are separated from Adam1 and the Gardeners.  For a time after the "flood" they think themselves to be the only survivors.

I didn't read Oryx and Crake before I read The Year of the Flood.  In fact, I didn't even know that the books were partners until I was well into the story.  I never felt like I missed something from the earlier story that was necessary to understand this one.  I don't consider myself to be a Sci-Fi fan yet would put this book way up on the list of books that I will recommend to others.  Margaret Atwood can write.  Her characters are multifaceted, her settings fully flushed out, and her storyline is compelling. What more does one want from a novel?

As I read, a thought kept popping into my head.  That nagging, pesky thought that sometimes keeps me awake at night.  What if this book comes true?  Oh please, oh please, oh please, do not let this book come true.  Read it and see what I mean!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happyface by Stephen Emond

Somehow I neglected to review Happyface by Stephen Emond after I read it this summer, which is really a shame since it is such a good book and worthy of a shout-out.  To begin with I should tell you that I have placed this book on my 2011 Mock Printz reading list. Students are just now starting to make their way through that list so I don't really have any feedback from others about this book yet. You will have to be satisfied with my thoughts for now.

The style of the book defies categorization.  One reviewer called it an illustrated diary, which seems to be just about the best description I've heard so that's what I will call it, too.  This illustrated diary belongs to Happyface, an otherwise unnamed sophomore boy, who is trying to make his way in the world while his family is crumbling.  After a move across town, Happyface tries on a new persona with his new classmates, one of a carefree, happy boy who won't be fazed by anything, though inside he is anything but happy. This persona intrigues and mystifies his new friends but also leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings as Happyface tries to hide information about his past.  All of this is revealed in the illustrated diary which is funny, sad, and insightful in turn. 

I think that teen readers will be able to relate to Happyface's dilemma and to his hidden insecurities.  The ending is very satisfying and it shows us the capacity teens have to show compassion and forgiveness.

Comic illustrator Stephen Emond's drawings in this book are amazing. Many of the drawings are simple line sketches where others are fully shaded and very detailed illustrations.  One is left with the feeling that this diary is exactly what one would expect a very artistic boy to possess. Readers are let in on the "mind of a teen-age boy" and you will immediately recognize that Emond got it "just right."

In the acknowledgment section at the end of the book Emond shows us the process he went through to create the pages with the combination of handwriting and illustrations.  I found that to be fascinating and instructive. I definitely want to read/see more from this author/illustrator and I recommend that you do the same. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday. Friday. Friday!

Book Blogger Hop
Happy Friday.  Happy hopping.

Question of the week:

"Where is your favorite place to read? 
Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"

My answer:
I pretty much love to read.  So where ever I am, I enjoy it, but if it is nice weather outside I really, really enjoy reading in the hammock in the shade under our Mountain Ash tree.  That is heaven for me.  This time of year, you'll usually find me snuggled up in the overstuffed chair by the gas fireplace.  And I always read in bed before going to sleep, but these days my bed is likely to lull me to sleep before I get too far in the book.  

How about you?

Meme 2:

Friday's Finest is a new meme from A Bookful of Thoughts.


~Post a quote that really stuck to you after reading it in a book.
~Make sure it isn't a spoiler!
~If you'd like, expand on what you think it means and why you chose it.

"The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything."  -The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, pg 1.

The story takes place on a planet where all male thoughts can be heard aloud, even male animals.  So begins this marvelous novel, part one of the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness.  I am just a few pages into the third book and I want to put everything aside and just read.  In fact, I think I will!  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WWW...Stuck in Slow Books

Should Be Reading

What I’m reading now:

Old Filth by Jane Gardam ---I have been reading this book for one and a half months.  I like the story fine. I like the writing style.  I have no idea why it feels like drudgery to read it.  But I am within 40 pages of the end and I WILL FINISH IT TODAY.

What I’m listening to now on audiobooks:

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood---a dystopian novel in a very Atwood-ish style, which means that it is a rather joyless story with brilliant writing.  I’d probably do better reading this book than listening to it since I've been listening to it for a week and I'm not even half way done.

What I recently finished reading: 

They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti---very factual, interesting, and disturbing book about the genesis and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan. It is immaculately researched and has lots of illustrations and photos.

What I will be Reading Next:

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam---the companion book to Old Filth.  This is this month’s book club selection so I definitely need to finish it by next Wednesday.  Best get right on it.
What I Wish I Had Time to Read:

Monster of Men by Patrick Ness---It is sitting right here, right next to me, calling out to me.  I am anxious to dive in to this book, the third book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy.

What are you reading right now?  What have you recently completed?  Wish you had time to read?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Top Ten Literary "Crushes"

The Broke and Bookish
I didn't think I could come up with a list of ten personal literary "crushes".  But I've been playing around with this list all week and here's what I came up with (in no particular order) and I found even more than ten:

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen): I think that every girl dreams of someone like Mr. Darcy, at least some time in her life.  He is handsome, reserved, honorable, and rich.

Captain Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion by Jane Austen): When he first meets Anne Elliott he has no money or pedigree, making him an unsuitable match for a gentleman's daughter. When he returns seven years later he has made something of himself and though he appears to feel the opposite at first, his heart still belongs to Anne.

John Ridd (Lorna Doone by Richard Blackmore): When I was in 6th grade my mother loaned me her copy of Lorna Doone which had belonged to her mother.  I read this antique book over and over again and was completely taken with the clandestine lovers, John and Lorna. When I attempted to reread the book as an adult I was shocked that I understood a word of it as a young girl. Nevertheless, their love affair made a deep impression on me and I always dreamed of having a young man scale a waterfall to find and save me from my captors.

Karl Shoemaker (Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes): This marvelous book was just published last year so you might be wondering what a grown woman is doing by having a crush on a literary high school boy? Well, I'll tell you.  Karl lives in the 1970s when I was in high school.  He is just about the best friend anyone could ever have.  He is hard-working, kind, thoughtful, and just about ready to fall to pieces. He stands up for the little guy and literally saves a friend's life.  I wish I'd had a boyfriend just like Karl.

Marius Pontmercy (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo): The kind and devoted gentleman who falls in love with Cosette, is kind to his friend Eponine, fights on the correct side of the revolution, and he is a devoted and faithful friend.  He's just about the perfect guy.

Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott): the next-door neighbor and friend to all the March girls, but especially Jo. I loved his friendships with the girls and his kindnesses to the family.  I always wanted Laurie and Jo to become a couple but understood that they weren't an ideal match. It didn't keep me from having a crush on him, though.

Prince Caspain (The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis): Caspain is the brave prince who fights for the rights of all Narnians and wins the devotion of his people and wins my heart along the way.

Mr. George Knightley (Emma by Jane Austen): the kind and practical friend and almost-brother to Emma who remains devoted to her even though she continues to bumble around with her match-making efforts. When he confessed his love to Emma I was swept right up, too.

Denys Finch Hatton (Out of Africa: a Memoir by Isak Dinesen, nom de plume for Baroness Karen von Blexin-Finecke): is it possible to have a crush on a literary character who was actually a real person? Well, I had a crush on Denys after the movie Out of Africa came out because he was such an adventurous soul who dearly loved Africa, was devoted to Karen, and died a tragic death.

Tristran Thorn (Stardust by Neil Gaiman): from Gaiman's magical fairy tale, Tristran falls in love with a star who has fallen to earth and morphs from a bumbling idiot into a handsome, swash-buckling hero.  This is one case where I actually like the movie better than the book, but both are good.

Sergeant Joe Harmon (A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute): Jean Paget meets Sgt. Joe Harmon when they are both Japanese prisoners-of-war in Malaya during WWII.  Joe becomes her hero when he steals a chicken so that the prisoners can have something to eat.  For this act of heroism he is flogged and, Jean thinks, killed. She learns many years later that he is still alive and she goes to search for him in the Australian outback.  I still have a crush on Joe and reread the book with some regularity.

Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen): Henry Crawford is one of Austen's cads. He sets out to win the heart of Fanny Price but she never truly trusts him.  She is right, of course, as Crawford ends up dishonoring the whole family by his affiar with Fanny's cousin.  If I were Fanny, however, I would have swooned by Henry's attention. He was fun-loving and high-spirited.  Crawford's spot on this list is my nod to all literary "bad boys."

Late addition:  Captain Antonio Corelli (Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres): Caught in the middle of WWII, Captain Corelli and Pelagia fall in love.  He is an "enemy" invader to the Greek Island, but he is charming and musical and their love story transcends the horrors of war.  I want someone to sing me an Italian love song, just like Antonio sang for Pelagia.

Who are some of your literary crushes?  What do you think of my choices?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Highlights of WLMA Conference

This week-end was the annual Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) conference.  It is my one chance all year to rub elbows with other librarians, authors, and book distributors. I get to hear what other librarians are doing to enhance reading, get lists of good books, and actually meet and talk to YA authors.  As in past years, I had a wonderful time.  Here are five highlights from this year's conference:

1.  Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, was the guest speaker at the Friday night banquet. He teased us by saying that he was drunk on estrogen since the audience was over 80% female.  He also pretended that he was reading a lost and found notice, "Lost: a pair of reading glasses...as if you guys care about a lost pair, since you all have about 10,000 pairs."  Once he got done teasing us, he talked about the effects of banned/censored books. When someone in Missouri recently wrote him to complain about Absolutely True Diary and how it was so anti-American he quipped that he wrote back asking the complainer to start a national campaign since efforts to ban a book always seem to increase sales.  Last of all, he read us the first chapter of his sequel to Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.  I can't remember what he said the title will be but it was thrilling to hear him read.  Once again he writes with equal amounts of humor and poignancy. Guess we'll all have to hold our breaths until this one comes out.

2.  Alyson Noël, author of the Immortals series, was the highlighted "high school author" breakfast speaker. Girls adore her books and I found her personal story to be very moving.  She came to writing via a very unconventional route but one that I think many students would find reassuring.  I am a new fan even though I haven't read any of her books yet. Her book Evermore (first book in the Immortals series) has zoomed to the #1 spot on my TBR pile.

 3.  Carl Deuker, author of many books for male reluctant readers, such as Runner and Gym Candy, held a session on how to encourage male readers through appropriate selections. Deuker, a 6th grade teacher in North Shore School District (North of Seattle, Washington) said that he always feels a little uncomfortable in his role as author/presenter as he is more used to being a member of the audience, collecting Clock Hours, a requirement for teachers in this state. He had lots of great suggestions to help us get boys to read.  The main idea that I took away was to not judge boys selections and don't make them feel like they aren't reading "real" books.  One thing is for sure, this guy is onto something.  Boys love his books, as do I.

4.  Lunch with the other librarians in my district at Sharp's Roasthouse, across the street from where the convention was held.  I'm not really meaning to pimp a restaurant, though the food was wonderful (I had a turkey sandwich on ciabatta bread), I am thankful for the time spent with my colleagues sharing what we've learned at the conference and discussing issues back in our schools.  Collaboration is a very important way to stay current and nourished (pun intended) as a professional.

5.   The presentation about Alex Award books, or adult books that cross over well for teens.  My friend Paige and her husband, both librarians, book-talked over 25 great books from this list and I got tons of suggestions for books I want to push with my students or read myself.
Here are a few of my favorite Alex Award winning books:
a.  Stitches: a Memoir by David Small (2010)
b.  City of Thieves by David Benioff (2009)
c.  Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2008)
d.  The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (2007)
e.  The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2007)
f.  Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (2006)
g.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2006)
h.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (2004)
i.  Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (2004)
j.  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2004)
k.  Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (2002)
l.  A Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks (2002)

Three books that Paige and Ira suggested that may be on the list of 2011 Alex Awards I definitely want to read:
aa.  The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni  (See about book here!)
bb.  The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Didn't Have To by D.C. Pierson
cc.  The Unlikely Disciple: a Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose 

My other highlights from the WLMA conference:
-A presentation on how to do high school book clubs with phenomenal numbers of students participating.
-Meeting Kimberly Derting, the author of The Body Finder.  She lives very close by in Bonney Lake, Washington.
-Visiting the Exhibitors and getting a few free books from Orca Publishers and several half-price books at Scholastic Books.Winning the silent auction bid for 20 Orca books (Hi-Low.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Cambell Bartoletti

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is an amazing writer.  She is a master at culling down all the information on a specific subject  and reporting this information to the reader in an attractive, easy-to-read format.  Her book, Hitler Youth, contained information that was a revelation to me, yet I was not bogged down with heavy, hard-to-understand text.  Her books also contain lots of images, photos, illustrations, and historical documents which add to the reading enjoyment and to understanding the text.

Her book, They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, is her next masterpiece.  Scrupulously researched, this short book carries a wallop.  After reading it I understand the genesis of the terrorist group, The K.K.K. (Ku Klux Klan), and it's evolution.  Six disgruntled young men, who didn't like what was happening in the South after the Civil War, said, "Boys, Let us get us a club." So began the secret terrorist group that took root in America.

The book is filled with chilling, and vivid personal account unearthed from old oral histories, congressional documents, and other primary resources, this is a book to read and remember. The idea for the book began when the author saw a statue commemorating Nathan Bedford Forrest, the infamous Confederate cavalry general who became known as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. "As I looked at the statue," writes Bartoletti, "I asked myself: Where are the statues commemorating the victims of Klan violence?" When she learned that no such statues existed, she turned to historical record poring over 8,000 pages of congressional testimony...2,300 Slave Narratives...and memoirs in order to uncover the lives of Klan victims. -From Book Jacket
 The book is truly amazing, disturbing, but amazing. It is also very instructive. Americans today often look abroad at terrorist groups and act as if nothing like that could happen here.  This books shows that not to be true. The K.K.K. operated very openly for over 100 years and terrorized not only African Americans, but also Jews, women, and homosexuals. It is disgusting the acts that they committed with a seeming lack of remorse.

For obvious reasons I do not recommend this as light reading, but if you are looking for information on this topic, or want to become more educated on US history this book is an excellent choice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I really didn't expect to like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater as much as I did.  It is a love story between a girl, Grace, and a werewolf, Sam.  If that doesn't sound hokey, I don't know what does.  But somehow it works and the story has some really magical and surprising moments. I listened to this in the audiobook format and it was delightful.  Jenna Lamia read the part of Grace and David Ledoux read Sam's chapters. I always enjoy it when the reader doesn't have to read opposite sex parts causing them to use a funny voice to pull it off. Both Jenna and David made credible teen voices, too.  Nothing worse that having a teenager sound like an old man or woman.  Ha!

In alternating chapters Grace and Sam tell their story of emerging love. In Shiver werewolves aren't the horrid creatures who emerge on moonlit nights and run around trying to bite everyone, rather they are human during the warm month and wolves during the cold months. At the point in the story when Sam and Grace meet as humans the temperature is dropping daily and both of them know that they are battling time until Sam changes to his wolf form.  They have to work pretty hard to keep him warm to prevent that change. Their story gets more complicated when another boy from school is bitten and one of Grace's best friends and his sister get involved in all the drama that ensues. Get out your hankies, though, there are some very touching, sad moments in the tale.

Maggie Stiefvater said, in the interview on that last track, that she set out to write a tear-jerker!  She certainly had me in tears at several times.  She also identifies herself as a musician and definitely incorporated music and poetry into the storyline.  I always like those little touches when I'm reading a book.

Since several of you have told me that you are eager to read my review because you have to book on you TBR pile I don't want to spoil anything but I think I would be remiss if I don't put up a mild word of caution. This book is for older teens and there is some mild sexual situations.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tagged. I'm it!

I was tagged by Sue at Great Books for Kids and Teens.  Thanks, Sue!

Rules of the game:
Accept the tag and link to the tagger at the beginning of your post.

Answer the questions honestly in your post by listing four things.

Pass on the love by picking four other people to tag and listing them at the bottom of your post. Notify them that you tagged them.

4 Things That Are In My Handbag
-Three glasses cases: regular case for my glasses; case with reading glasses; case with sunglasses
-Gum.  I'm the mom so everyone thinks I should have a constant and ready supply.
-A Brighton purse key fob that attaches my keys to my purse so I don't have to empty out my purse every time I look for my keys.
-A Mary Kay lipstick holder with a tiny mirror inside.

4 Favorite Things In My Bedroom:
-My cat, Demi, who always sleeps at the bottom of our bed.
-Framed art prints by Maryanne Radmacher
-Old radio case that my grandfather refurbished.

4 Things On My Desk: 
-Stacks of catalogs from book distributors or library supply companies.
-Photos of my family.
-A stuffed teddy bear in a Graham-Kapowsin HS cheerleader's outfit...very cute.
-A USA mug doubling as a pencil/pen cup.

4 Things I've Always Wanted To Do (but haven't yet):
-Take a cruise on the Mediterranean.
-Vacation with the family in Yellowstone in the Winter.
-Visit my friend in Singapore.
-Own a cabin on a lake or at the ocean.

4 Things I Enjoy Very Much At the Moment
-Gazing out the window at Mr. Rainier (from work)
-Listening to books-on-CD
-Playing games with my family
-Reading in the hammock (though it is put away for the year.)

4 Songs I Can't Get Out Of My Head:

-Don't Look Back by Boston
-I'm Backin' Up by AutoTune the News
-Alone by the Glee Cast
-Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet

4 Things You Don't Know About Me: 
-I was a classroom teacher for 25 years before moving into the library.
-I know how to make old-fashioned braided rugs.
-My husband is my best friend.
-My favorite vacation involved a three-day float trip down the Rogue River in Southern Oregon.

 4 Bloggers I am Tagging:
So many good blogs to choose from!  Here are some of my favorite blogs that cover kids/teens books:
 Tag, you're it!  Have fun with it.

-Pink Sheep Cafe
-Whatcha Readin'?
-My Reader's Block

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WWW Wednesday

Should Be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
* What are you currently reading?
* What did you recently finish reading?
* What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:  
1. They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; 2. Old Filth by Jane Gardham.  
I've been working on both books for some time now.  The KKK book is obviously very heavy and I don't enjoy reading it at night.  Old Filth reads fast if I would just force myself to sit and do it. I should be reading it's sequel already for book club.

Recently Finished:  
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (audio-book).  
This book was very well done in audio format. Unfortunately I didn't have as much car time as usual this past week so it took me longer to finish than I wanted.  I'll write a full review tomorrow.

What I'll Read Next:  
1. Black Hole Sun by David Maccinis Gill; 2. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (audio-book)
Black Hole Sun is on my Mock Printz list and it is due back at the library soon.  I hope it is a fast read.  The Year of the Flood was recommended by another blogger.  My husband is currently enjoying it immensely on his daily commute.  

What about you?  What are you reading, have recently finished, going to next?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ten Books I'll Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday
Never say never, right?  Well, I'm telling you that I will never read these books.  There are too many good books out there to bother with these.

1.  Anything written by Glen Beck.
     I don't agree with his politics nor do I like his style.
2.  Anything written by Rush Limbaugh.
     See #1
3.  100 People Who are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37) by Bernie Goldberg
     The list is mostly left-of-center politicians, authors, and celebrities that Bernie doesn't like. Barbara Kingsolver? Howard Zinn? Jimmy Carter?  Oh please!
4.   Sarah Palin: Going Rogue by Sarah Palin.
      Guess you are starting to get the idea where my politics fall.
5.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
     This book has been terrifying people since it was first published in 1959.  I get scared and have nightmares with mild horror fiction.  I dare not try this one for fear it would scare me for life..
6.   Climategate: a Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam by Brian Sussman.
      Doesn't it seem like a lot of Americans are anti-science? Not me!
7.  The Terrorist's Handbook by Chaos Industries
     It seems almost silly to even mention this since it is no longer easily available on-line after the Oklahoma City Bombing, nonetheless I would never, ever read it.
8.  Jewish Supremachism: My Jewish Awakening by David Duke
     David Duke, a white supremacist/neo-Nazi, blames Jews for everything.
9.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
     I've read that this book is on the top-ten list for books used by college professors and it is in the bottom ten list by college and graduate students.  At a 1000+ pages that's good enough for me to avoid it.
10. This Gracious Season: Barry Bonds and the Greatest Year in Baseball (2001) by  Josh Suchon.
     It bums me out that Barry Bonds and others have wrecked all the baseball statistics by using steroids.

I had no idea that some of these books actually existed before I created this list.  I was actually looking for books to make my point and I think I found some real doozies. You won't be finding me reading any of these books.  What books would you add to my list?