"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=========

Monday, August 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish confessions

Broke and Bookish
I don't think I can come up with ten but here are a few of my bookish confessions.

1. I sometimes buy books for my library because I want to read them and hope that students will want to read them, too.

2. I currently have ten books on my nightstand. They have been there all summer and little by little I keep taking them back to the library, unread.  By the time school starts the pile will probably be down to two books.

3. When I count how many books I've read in a month/year, I count graphic novels and picture books.  Sneaky, huh?

4. I still haven't read any of Charles Dicken's novels except A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield.  I always put this on my list because I want to take care of this problem, but never seem to get to it.

5. I read Anne of Green Gables this year, finally.

6. I still get kinda weepy when someone mentions Borders Books going out-of-business.  It was the only bookstore in my town other than small, funky used book stores and I miss wandering around in it perusing books and getting my bookish fix on a regular basis.

7. I've only read the first book in many popular series.  For example--Twilight; City of Bones (Mortal Instruments); Monstrumologist.

8. I actually have a weird fantasy where I am forced to live in my library so I have nothing to do but read all the books in it.

9. I get kinda sad and/or a bit angry when students tell me that they never read anything, even required books.

10.  I afraid for the publishing industry with all the e-readers it seems like the printed book is going the way of the dinosaurs.  Sad....

I did it.  What are your bookish confessions?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield is a rare, well-done YA mystery.

Becca has always longed to break free from her small, backwater hometown. But the discovery of an unidentified dead girl on the side of a dirt road sends the town--and Becca--into a tailspin. Unable to make sense of the violence of the outside world creeping into her backyard, Becca finds herself retreating inward, paralyzed from moving forward for the first time in her life. -Goodreads
In addition to Becca's story, a girl on the cusp on growing up and leaving town, short chapters detail the last days of Amelia Anne Richardson. In a lot of ways the two young women are living parallel lives. Both are struggling with their own self-identity and are experiencing troubles with their boyfriends. As readers learn more about the two girls they are drawn closer and closer to the truth about how Amelia died.

I liked this book a lot.  Becca's issues with her family, her boyfriend, and her hometown all seem very realistic for a teen preparing to move off to college, making a huge transition in life. Unfortunately, however, though I will purchase this book for my library I will not recommend it for a Mock Printz Workshop selection.  Why?  There is quite a bit of teen sex and drinking in the story.  Since the list of books for the Mock Printz event has relatively few selections (10-15) and we tell students to try and read them all before the workshop, I think the books need to uphold certain standards. I am not prude. Sex and alcohol don't usually bother me in YA lit but this book had so much, it just seems over the top.

If you have read this book, let me know your thoughts about the explicit sex and drinking within. If not, what are your thoughts about those topics in YA lit?

Sunday Salon... August 26

Weather:  Sunny. Lovely.

Yesterday, We drove to Leavenworth, Washington to pick up a box of items from my in-laws for my daughter to use as she sets up her apartment. It was a long drive for a box of old pots and pans but it was a lovely day and I enjoyed the drive with my husband, plus we shared a piece of a yummy chocolate confusion cake.

Today: The day is wide open!.

Book challenge: I completed a book for the Jane Austen in August challenge: Dancing with Mr. Darcy, a collection of short stories.

  • Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin...my husband and I listened to half of this book our a trip to Leavenworth, we'll listened to the other half on a trip to Eugene the end of the month.
  • Lirael by Garth Nix...this one is in the CD player at work.  I listen as I put covers on books and prepare the library for a new school year.
  • Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fford...in the CD player in the car. Half finished.
Currently reading:  
  • After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
Recently finished: 
  • Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield...a YA mystery, look for my review later today.
Scripture Lesson today: Romans 5:2b "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."

I'm praying for: My aunt and cousins after the death of my uncle.

Around the house: the geraniums are due for a bit of deadheading.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dancing with Mr. Darcy: Stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House

Dancing with Mr. Darcy is a charming collection of short stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House, edited by Sara Waters. After Jane's father left the ministry and the family was forced out of their home in Hampshire Jane was unable to write for over ten years.  It was only after her brother Edward invited them to live at his Chawton House estate that Jane was able to write again. We know what she wrote at Chawton House has become some of the most popular and enduring novels ever written. The Jane Austen Short Story Competition celebrates Miss Austen and this home which provided her with enough peace and security to create them. This book is a compilation of the winning short story and the other finalists of the competition.

Being a Jane Austen fan I often enjoy reading retellings of her famous works and other stories about the author herself. So when I saw this book on the sale shelf at Borders Books (before they went out of business) I thought it would be right up my alley.  After reading the first two or three stories I set it aside, deciding that short stories weren't my thing and these stories seemed only loosely related to Austen anyway.  Then, while packing for our trip abroad, I decided to throw the book into my bag, in case I ran out of other reading material.  The book is small, I reasoned, and it could be discarded along the way to lighten my load, if needed.

To my delight I discovered that short stories are perfect reading materials for traveling.  One can start and finish a story during a short train trip or at the end of a busy day sightseeing. Because of the nature of short stories there is no time for lengthy plot development or tedious descriptions of settings, things that might deter a traveler from enjoying an otherwise enjoyable book.

My favorite story entitled "One Character in Search of Her Love Story Role" by Felicity Cowie reminds me a lot of Jasper Fford's Thurday Next series.  In this story a character in a book is dispatched to shadow heroines from Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. She actually goes inside the story and meets with the heroines when their character is not "on stage". It is such a clever literary device.  One character giving another character advice about how to handle men or other situations.  I found what Jane Bennet shares about the differences between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy to be very insightful and actually helpful in my understanding of the book.

Another story, "Somewhere" by Kelly Brendel, takes a look at Mansfield Park from the point of view of a very minor character, Mrs. Grant. She is Mary and Henry's aunt that lives in the rectory. She is convinced that Mary and Edmund are perfect together. I'd agree with her if my only knowledge of the couple came from this delightful and thoughtful tale.

In "Cleverclogs" by Hilary Spiers a young girl finds a connection to her grandmother through books, especially Austen novels. In the end Sense and Sensibility provides comfort and solace as her grandmother is gravely ill in the hospital. In "The School Trip" by Jacqui Hazell a high school class makes a field trip to Chawton House. One student gains insight from Jane Austen's writing desk about what she needs to become a writer herself, "I see that you need only a little space, a tiny desk, and a creaky door."

By the way, I didn't throw this book away, like I threatened I'd do to lighten my load. Instead I brought it home and will add it to my Jane Austen collection here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Even I am confused...

I am reading/listening to so many books right now even I am confused.  I normally can read three books at a time and have no trouble keeping everything straight.  But for some reason right now I have six books going, five of them I'm actively reading or listening to. Argh. My head hurts trying to keep all the plots straight. Here's the list:

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield. A YA mystery and teen angst story.  This is my first choice for reading right now but the book is often upstairs when I am down and I can't read while driving so...

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde, the 2nd book in the Thursday Next series was available at the public library in an audio format.  Thought I'd enjoy listening to it as I drive to and from work.  Only problem is that is a really slow way to digest a book so I checked out the paper copy of the book, too, so I can read ahead when I'm not traveling.  Don't you think this is an appropriate title for my current conundrum? Anyway, while I was at the library...

Lireal by Garth Nix, another audiobook, this of the 2nd book in the Old Kingdom Trilogy, screamed out for attention.  Having just read and liked the first book in the series, Sabriel, this summer I decided that I could listen to this book while sitting at work in the library preparing books and magazines for circulation. I enjoy listening to fantasy books for help with pronunciations and descriptions that are beyond the scope of my imagination. I was right about being able to listen while I work but the switch from the workplace to the car and beyond has been...

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett a dytopian novel that has received very good reviews. I haven't been able to focus on it as much as I'd like, for obvious reasons...

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is a tome of a book set in India between 1975 and 1984. I started this one on the plane ride home from Italy.  It is a very weighty book in more ways than one...

Emma by Jane Austen shouldn't really be on this list since I wouldn't really say that I am making much effort to read it.  I've been nibbling on this book since March.  I have it on my reading app on my smart phone.  The only time I ever read it is when I am stuck someplace without a book.  However, I did sign up for the Jane Austen in August Challenge so I vowed I would finish it this month.  Only 300 pages to go...

What are you reading right now? Are you doing better at keeping everything straight than I am?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top ten books I've read since the beginning of this blog

Broke and Bookish
Top books I've read since the beginning of this blog in July 2009. (Review date in parentheses.)

  1. The Things They Carried by Timothy O'Brien---(7-26-09) Written in the 1980s I'd been encouraged to read this book for many years before I actually did so.  This book, about the Vietnam War and healing oneself, is very powerful. It is possible that I started blogging because of this book.
  2. Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins---(10-4-09) I read Hunger Games in April and Catching Fire as soon as it came out in October, but I blogged about them together. I remember asking my library assistant to read Hunger Games when I first got it in the library so she could tell me what it was about. When she returned it she said it was "pretty good." When I finally read it I wondered at her understatement.  It knocked my socks off. 
  3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly---(10-15-09) This book is one of my all-time favorites. It is about a boy who is trying to find his way home but keeps encountering fairy tales with a twist.  Magical.
  4. Going Bovine by Libba Bray---(1-3-10) This book defies categorization. It is about a kid who is on a heroes journey to save the world or is dying from Mad Cow Disease. You be the judge.  Love it and love Ms. Bray.
  5. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth---(9-8-10) This book to be a fractured history. It takes an actual historical event, WWII, but changes one thing. In this case FDR is defeated by Charles Lindbergh, a known antisemitic, in the 1940 election.  Things go badly for Jews in America and fast.  I often think about this book and its message when I watch politics today.
  6. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann---(11-14-10) Interconnected stories that all revolve, in some way, around the World Trade Center Towers and the man who walked between the two towers on a tightrope when they were being built.
  7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams---(4-5-11) Can you believe that I didn't read this famous book until I was well into my 50s? This is a not-to-be-missed book.  It is simply laugh-aloud hilarious!
  8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green---(1-18-12) As a John Green fan I was holding my breath in anticipation of this book's launch.  I loved every moment of it, even those requiring hankies.
  9. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater---(2-25-12) A Printz Honor Award Book for 2012, this book was by far my favorite of all the winners.  I'm at a loss for words how to describe this magical book.
  10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline---(7-28-12) Anyone who sorta likes video games or grew up in the 1980s or is into computers and technology MUST read this book.  I'm not into any of those things and I still loved it.  Go get it now!
Honorable Mention:
  • Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
  • The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
  • Roger and Amy's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
  • Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Monday, August 20, 2012

Home from Italy!

Italy 2012
Isn't this picture so quintessential Venice?

We arrived home from Italy on Thursday afternoon. I had a teacher's in-service all day Friday. When I got home from that we immediately left for a camping trip with our church friends. We got home late Sunday afternoon. Today I had to go in to work for a few hours. Now, finally, I have a moment to reflect on our wonderful trip to Italy. As my husband, my daughter, and I were sitting at dinner one of the last nights in Venice we started picking out our favorites from the trip.  Here are a few of mine:

View from our hotel window of the Duomo and bell tower in Siena.
Favorite city: Siena or Verona. Both had so much to offer yet neither were run over by tourists like Florence and Venice.  You also got a sense that people really lived there. I think that Siena edges out a win because of the beautiful view that we could see out our hotel window.

The seafood spaghetti in Venice was fresh.
Favorite meal: I kept ordering things that sounded exotic then liked something my husband ordered better. The food that I liked the best, that I ordered, was the pear and cheese ravioli in a cream sauce. The most memorable meal was the picnic we ate on the train after we visited the market in Florence and purchased a loaf of fresh bread, a wedge of cheese, a ripe tomato, and a few peaches. We cut everything up with a tiny knife that my daughter purchased since we couldn't bring a knife on the airplane and ate as the scenery flew by.

Taken the day we arrived in Rome.  Ready for our first adventure.
Favorite hotel: Hotel Nazionale in Rome. It was located on Parliament Square, centrally located to many tourist destinations and just around the corner from a wonderful gelato store, Giolitti.  We visited it every day at least once. They had a wonderful breakfast buffet where I could make my own cappuccino every morning. The first morning I made three. We were even able to watch a few hours of the Olympics, though it was broadcast in German on an English station (Eurosport).  Go figure.

After a long, hot day of sight-seeing nothing cools you down better than a dish of gelato.
Favorite gelato: Rick Steves, the writer of many guidebooks on European travels, always makes a gelato recommendation for every Italian town he visits. We tried many of his suggestions. We really like Giolitti in Rome but it is very popular and extremely busy. Grom's Gelato stores in Florence and Siena were good but kind of pricey.  All of us agreed that our favorite was the one we stumbled upon in Verona, Gelateria Ponte Pietra. We were taking a self-guided Rick Steves walking tour of the town and found this gem off the beaten path.  Carly had canella (cinnamon flavor) that was so good she still makes yummy noises when she thinks of it. I had a Rum Raisin that was just perfect, not too rummy. And Don had passion fruit and coconut, one of his favorite flavors.

Sant'Anastasia, Verona
Baroque music concert, Frari Basilica, Venice
Favorite cathedral: Every town we visited had cathedrals. Many of them were beyond lovely, even gaudy. In a lot of ways they all kind of blur together in my mind with each having some feature that I really liked but I can't remember specifically what was where. It was thrilling to be in St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City because they are so famous and contain such famous works by Michelangelo and Rapheal. St Mark's Basilica in Venice was unique because the walls and ceilings were all covered in mosaics instead of frescoes like the other churches. The Duomos in Florence and Siena were both breath-taking for their beauty and the scope of the architecture. San Dominica in Siena actually housed the head of St. Catherine in a glass and silver box.  Now that is unique and pretty creepy. My favorite two churches were in Verona and Venice. Sant-Anastasia in Verona is simply lovely and the atmosphere worshipful. We went to the Frari Basilica in Venice at Rick Steves suggestion and stumbled upon a free Baroque concert. We stayed to absorb as much of the  music and the atmosphere as we could.

Via dell'Amore path between two villages in the Cinque Terre
Surprising moment: As my family and I walked the Via dell'Amore path from Riomaggiore and Manarola in the Cinque Terre we approached a open tunnel and heard a man playing an accordion.  Don started singing along to the song, Yesterday by the Beatles  All the sudden I was swept up in the moment and started weeping for the sheer joy of the moment. As we were exiting the tunnel the accordion player started playing the Louis Armstrong song, What a Wonderful World.  It certainly is!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sunday Salon: Italy Style

The Duomo in Florence; this was the view from our hotel window.

Sunday Salon, August 11, from Italy

Buon Giorno!

I'm vacationing in lovely Italy and am taking a few minutes to blog about my experiences so far.

Right now we are on the West Coast in the Cinque Terre region on the Mediterranean staying in a lovely little community called Monterosso. Today we took a boat up the coast and visited the other charming communities that cling to the cliffs and look down on the beautiful blue sea.  Heaven on Earth! We even hiked along an easy trail between one town and the next. At one point along the trail we were serenaded by a man playing an accordion. I wept for joy because of the beauty and the situation.

Prior to coming here we have visited Rome, Florence, and Siena. Next up Verona and Venice before we fly home on Thursday. Here are a few highlights:

Coffee: since I'm from the Seattle area you know that I like a good cup of coffee, so imagine my delight in finding Italy coffee and cappuccino.  Our hotel in Rome even had a make-your-own cappuccino machine.  The first day I had three!  Buzz! Every hotel we've stayed in has either had a machine to make them ourselves or an attendant will make one for us but so far the best was my first in Rome.  I was in love.

Museums: we've been to some spectacular museums and seen some phenomenal art like the David sculpture by Michelangelo in the Accademie in Florence, and the Sistine Chapel in Rome. We expected those to be good and the crowds to be daunting, but we did find one treasure that we weren't expecting, the Capitoline Museum. We stumbled upon it and its display of rare documents concerning correspondence with The Pope or the Vatican. There were letters from really famous people like Marie Antoinette  Abraham Lincoln, and Voltare. An other manuscript showed the actual transcript of the Galileo's trial declaring him as a heretic for believing that the earth rotated around the sun. Many of the documents were over 500 years old and were beautiful as well as awesome to behold. Another museum that was just sheer delight was the Borghese Gallery in Rome where I fell in love with sculptures by Bernini. My favorite was Apollo and Daphne.  We were all so taken with these masterpieces by Bernini that we had to circle around to see them again. Unlike so many of the other museums that allow masses of people to crowd in together diminishing the experience for all, the Borghese requires reservations and only allows a certain number of people to enter the museum at a time, making the experience much more pleasant.

Books: Italians must love books and reading because there are little book shops everywhere, often with lots of patrons or long lines.  Bravo!  I haven't seen anyone reading from an E-reader, either, except my husband who has been reading his Rick Steves Italy Guidebook that he downloaded onto his iPad. I was reading The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean earlier this week (I finished it) and the timing was perfect as there are Madonna paintings and frescoes everywhere in Italy. It actually made me much more aware of this special art form.

Friends/Small World: I ran in to an old friend and x-colleague who happened to be staying in the same hotel as us in Rome.  I hadn't seen Loni in years and it was such fun to catch up with her.  While in Florence we linked up with two couples from our social group at home for dinners and swapping stories.  It is a small world in so many ways.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Update: 20 books in July Challenge.


Now that it is August, it is time to report how I did on the 20 Books in July Reading Challenge.

Unfortunately I only finished 19 books, but I actually am pretty proud of that number.  I have never attempted to read so many books, especially when I had really big things going on with my family at the same time, like weddings and vacations. It was a tremendous month of fun and books:

Adult books
1. A Dog's Purpose by Bruce Cameron
2. Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
3. The Vow by Kim and Krickett Carpenter 
4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (also part audio)

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
6. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (nonfiction)
7. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Young Adult
8.  Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith (YA) 
9. Sabriel by Garth Nix (YA)
10. Putting Make-Up on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright 
11. Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers 
12. A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle 
13. Code Name Verity by Eizabeth Wein 

14. Stotan! by Chris Crutcher
15. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith
16. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (also part audio)

Graphic Novels
17. Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks 
18. Bride's Story 1 by Kaoru Mori 
19. The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell (1/2 graphic novel)

My favorite book of the month: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Now I am off to a vacation in Italy.  I will be checking in periodically but it is unlikely that I will blog much while away.  "See you" in two weeks!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Retrospective Wednesday: Stotan! by Chris Crutcher

Retrospective Wednesday is a feature at My Head is Full of Books designed to give bloggers a chance to highlight a book that was published in previous years, in the hope that it will cause others to go back and read it. The featured book must have been published one or more years ago. 

Stotan! by Chris Crutcher was an appropriate reading choice for this month where we are all watching the Olympics because this book is about four boys training for their school's swim team.  Prior to the beginning of the season their coach guides them through an intense training schedule to become stotans, or stoic Spartans. But in typical Crutcher style to book isn't just about swimming, sports, and boys.  It is also about issues that affect kids today like racism and abuse. It is about how to make one's way through life. Written in 1985 it has an almost historical fiction feel to it. What was life like for teenagers in the 1980s before computers, cell phones, Facebook, and digital photography.  But that is part of the book's charm, kids interacting in real time, face-to-face.

I am a fan of Chris Crutcher because his books all seem to be infused with integrity. Reader learn things bout themselves as they read his books. It would be hard not to feel inspired by Stotan! 
"I'll be a Stotan observer: look for the ways to get from one to the other of those glorious moments when all the emotional stops are pulled, when you're just so goddamn glad to be breathing air---"
I read this book as part of my Chris Crutcher Challenge--- 8/13
and it was my 17th book in Read 20 books in July Challenge.