"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, November 30, 2012

BOMB: the Race to Build-and Steal- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

"In the end, this is a difficult story to sum up. The making of the atomic bomb is one of history's most amazing examples of teamwork and genius and poise under pressure. But it's also the story of how humans created a weapon capable of wiping our species off the planet. It's a story with no end in sight. And like it or not, you're in it." -p.236

Physics. World War II. Einstein. Robert Oppenheimer. Fission. Uranium. Plutonium. Los Alamos, New Mexico. Richard Feynman. Radiation poisoning. Trinity test site. Heavy water. Race to beat the Germans building the atomic bomb.Manhattan Project. FBI. KGB. Hiroshima. Enola Gay. Harry Truman.

These are all words (names) I knew a bit about prior to reading this book.  But here are some that were new to me---

Otto Hahn. Klaus Fuchs. Jens Poulsson.  Vermork, Norway. Harry Gold. Knut Haukelid. OSS. Theodore Hall. Paul Tibbets. Moe Berg. Greenglass. Potsdam Declaration. Lona Cohen. 50-megaton monster hydrogen bomb.

All the disparate pieces of information I had in my brain about the Atom Bomb came together through the reading of this book.  I had never before drawn the line between all the spy work done during World War II by the KGB, the creation of the Atom Bomb, and the Red Scare of the 1950s. Now I see how all of this is connected.

I found the book, written for young adults, to be both fascinating and terrifying. My whole life has been lived in the shadow of this bomb and the terrible consequences it can evoke on mankind. I remember as a child in elementary school practicing Air Raid drills. We would all jump under our desks as if those flimsy things would protect us from the melting heat, and earth flattening power of these huge bombs. How naive and stupid we were.

All of the men who were involved in the Manhattan Project later questioned if they had done a good thing. Oppenheimer himself tried to talk President Truman out of developing an even bigger bomb than the one he created to no avail.

Now with Iran threatening the fragile situation in the middle East with their nuclear aspiration, I am reminded again of how awesome and awful the inventions of man can be.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Books that would make good gifts

After viewing the video blog (below) put together by a favorite author, John Green, I decided to start a list of books that I think would make good gift books this holiday season.  I hope to hear from all of my readers with your gift book suggestions.

Here are a few books that I suggest:

For video game aficionados: 
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline...this is the most geektastic book I've ever read.

For fantasy fans:
Serpahina by Rachel Hartman...a mystery, an adventure, fantasy with dragons, and a bit of a romance. This book has eight starred reviews for good reason.

For fans of The Fault in Our Stars, especially irreverent boys: 
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Yes, there is a dying girl but this book is very different than FIOS and provides a humorous voice to a very serious subject. Boys at my school really like this book but beware of foul language.

For PBS viewers who enjoyed the Dust Bowl special: 
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This book must have informed the special. It is a very enlightening book about the conditions that led to and the tragedy of the Great American Dust Bowl. Timothy Egan is a fabulous writer.

Interested in LGBT or equal rights issues:
October Mourning-A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman. A very touching, moving poetic book. It deserves wide distribution.

Enjoy a little magic in your life:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern...this book has savored well as the months pass since I've read it.

After you take a look at what books John Green suggests, please leave a recommendation on my comment section.  Thanks you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Salon...Nov. 25th

The famous purple tree at Zoolights
My husband and daughter bundled up for a brisk walk around Zoolights.

Weather:  We've had record levels of rain this past week. Today it is foggy and cold with the threat of freezing fog.  Miserable but typical November stuff. The afternoon ended up being sunny.

This past week: Was our Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA. We hosted 17 friends and family for dinner, eight spent the week-end with us. We ate, laughed, shared remembrances and stories, watched football and movies, enjoyed being together.

Red wolf to match the type of wolves at the zoo.
Yesterday. The family members, that were still here, stayed and watched the Civil War game with us (Oregon v Oregon State.) After everyone left, we cleaned the kitchen (again) and then put on our woolies for a fun evening trip to see Zoolights at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.  We haven't been to this annual event since our children were young. It has improved since that time.  We enjoyed all the lights and the few animals that we saw (seahorses, sharks, tiger cubs, and meerkats.) Check out my photos. It is obviously very colorful.
An illuminated Mt. Rainier is tallest point in the background. The foreground was a wall of lights.
Today:  We will put all the fine dishes away, strip the beds and wash sheets, shrink the dining table back to its normal size, watch a Christmas DVD (The Santa Clause), and deliver our daughter back to college.

Book(s) I've finished this week:
  • A Certain October by Angel Johnson...another Mock Printz selection that deals with death, grieving, and friendship. Though it is well-written, I didn't think the characters were developed enough to really care what happened to them.
  • No others.  Sigh. A slow reading week (Wonder why?)
Currently reading/listening to:  
  • .Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz...the story of two boys who must learn to trust each other and allow their friendship to develop.
  • Bomb: the Race to build, and steal, the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin...fascinating and frightening stuff. I was considering this as an addition to our Mock Printz list but think that teens won't find it that readable.
Scripture Lesson today: 1 Timothy 6:17-19...."17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds,and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

I'm praying this prayer
: "God please give my friend comfort. Her husband is so ill with cancer. She needs your love and grace right now. Be also with her husband as he faces the challenges of serious illness. May he find comfort and strength in the promises of your love and eternal life."

From the kitchen: Leftovers. Mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, stuffing and baked chicken, since we ran out of turkey already. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is set in the 1500s in Brittany when kings and queens, dukes and duchesses warred with each other over land and power. Into this setting we meet Ismae, Gavriel, Anne, and a whole cast of characters.  One is never quite sure who is good and who is evil throughout the whole story.

Being the daughter of Mortain, the god of Death, has been nothing but a curse for seventeen-year-old Ismae until she is saved from a brutal marriage and finds sanctuary in the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that she can use she skills as a handmaiden to her father. But to claim her new life she must be willing to do his bidding which means taking the lives of others. Ismae is given an important task which installs her into the high court of Brittany where she is to act as the mistress of dark Duke, Gavriel Duval. Her assignment is to determine who is working against the duchess Anne and, if necessary take care to eliminate them.

I am hard pressed to name the genre of Grave Mercy.  By the cover I would name it a historical fantasy. It is also an action adventure with all kinds of intrigues, weapons, poisonings, and secret passages. Lastly, and perhaps most prominently, it is a romance with plenty of sexual tension skirting around the edges of the pages.

The book took me ages to read, over a month. I decided as I closed the cover on the last page that my problem was reading it too slowly. (What an obviously dumb statement.) This book needs a good long, dedicated time in the beginning to allow the reader to "get in to the story." Ten-minute segments here and there just doesn't cut it. It wasn't until I buckled down to "read it" that I started enjoying it. The other thing that was working against me is my audiobook right now, Seraphina, has a very similar story line, right down to the bastard dukes/princes. Trying to consume two similar books at the same time proved to be very confusing. At the halfway point I was ready to abandon the book and give it a poor review.  Boy, am I glad that I kept going. That said I do think the book was a bit too long with some slow parts that didn't move the action along.

Grave Mercy is a delightful tale with lots of action, adventure, and YA-type romance. Plus, as the reviewer at School Library Journal says, this book is a dream to "book talk."  All one needs to say is "nun assassins" to entice readership. I found myself truly rooting for Ismae and Gavriel, even though she is an assassin and one is never quite sure of his true allegiance.

Grave Mercy is the first book in the His Fair Assassins series, but unlike many series these days this one finishes up Ismae's story. The next one will tell Sybella's tale and the last will be Annith's story. I like that a lot.  When I recommend books to readers I can tell them it is the first book in a series but it is also a stand-alone tale.

This book is on our Mock Printz list that my team is reading this Fall.  I haven't heard back from many of the team members as to what they think of it but I have a hunch that the girls will like it better than the boys. due to all the romance.  I look forward to hearing what teens have to say about this book.

Sunday Salon...Nov. 18

Weather:  Cold and rainy. This is the miserable stuff that the Pacific NW is famous for.  Ugh.

This past week: 
I had a medical procedure on Thursday. Once I recovered from the anesthesia, I actually had a nice day "off work" with my husband and I just puttering around the house. 

Yesterday. A family member had a house-warming party. After leaving there I went to a church potluck with my daugheter and son-in-law.  My hubby is out of town.

Today:  I will spend the better part of the day readying the house for the Thanksgiving celebration we will be hosting on Thursday. The turkey is purchased. Now it is time to change the sheets on the guest beds as we will have a house full.

Book(s) I've finished this week:

  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFever...historical fantasy where the heroine is actually an assassin nun. It is one of our Mock Printz selections.
  • No others.  Sigh. A slow reading week.
Currently reading/listening to:  
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman...another fantasy this one involving dragons and half dragons. I like the writing. Another Mock Printz selection. Audiobook.
  • A Certain October by Angela Johnson...realistic fiction. This book has good reviews but so far, and I'm not far, I am unimpressed. Another Mock Printz selection.
  • Bomb: the Race to build, and steal, the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin...fascinating and frightening stuff.
Scripture Lesson today: Luke 12:15 "Then Jesus said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a person's life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions.'"

I'm praying this prayer
: "God with your help, I can simplify my life and silence the voices telling me that I need more stuff. As Christ works in my life, I will strive to do the will of God that comes in simplicity, faithfulness, and generosity."

From the kitchen: My husband made a killer pot of chicken cacciatore. When he puts his mind to it, he is a much better cook than I.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day by author David Levithan explores identity. What makes us what we are? It also addresses the old adage that love conquers all. Really?

The protagonist, "A", is a 16-year-old with no body. Every day he/she wakes up in a different body, lives within that body for a day, and wakes up the next day in another. As disconcerting as this in, it becomes ever more so when A falls in love with Rhiannon, the girlfriend of a boy, Justin, in which A lives for a day. Because A only wakes in teens living in Maryland, he finds it possible to continue a relationship with Rhiannon. This is obviously not a relationship that is familiar to us because A is a different person every day, or is he?

In addition to this budding relationship, A has to live within the body-of-the-day no matter what that body is dealing with: depression, addiction, abuse. Each day he/she approaches these hosts with compassion and empathy. These moments are interesting and add depth to the story.

Every Day is another book on our Mock Printz list. We selected it because it had received excellent reviews from several quarters including a Facebook review from an old high school friend who doesn't typically read YA Lit. He said it was one of the best books he has every read. I wouldn't go that far but I do agree that the story-line is very compelling, especially if the reader keeps these two questions in their mind: What makes us who we are? And can love conquer all?

Thanks David Levithan for asking these questions.  You've got me thinking.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George

Emily and Jesse are an unlikely couple.  Jesse, a social misfit at school has been out of the closet since she was fourteen, is the daughter of supportive, politically activist parents. Emily is a popular student who is active in student government. She has a boyfriend who is also popular and on the football team. Despite the vast differences, the girls start a passionate relationship which involves meeting together in a weekly tryst in the lavatory of the public library. The rest of the time Emily ignores and is almost rude to Jesse at school. When a huge chain store tries to move in to town and use the high school as a launching spot for its PR program, Jesse and Emily end up on opposite sides of the issue. As Jesse tries to make sense of the inconsistencies of her life she meets Esther, a teenage political activist who admires Joan of Arc. Jesse's new friendship with Esther gives Jesse the courage to become politically active herself.

Though The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George is touted as a LGBT romance, I didn't think that the was the strongest part of the story-line  It was hard to like Emily who was so concerned with her reputation that she seemed to be completely selfish throughout the story. Jesse's evolution from obsession to acceptance seemed much more authentic and realistic. As Jesse focused on her relationship with Emily she let another friendship slip. She had to confront this as she moved toward personal acceptance. This was the part of the book that I felt had the strongest message to teens---we need to be true to ourselves and to embrace and treasure our friends along the way.

The book is written in alternating chapters between Emily, Jesse, and occasionally Esther. Even though the book is really about Jesse her chapters are written in third-person while Emily and Esther's chapters are in first-person. It was very odd. Every time we switched narrators I thought about how odd it was. I don't think that is what the author hoped that the reader would think about when she chose this literary technique.

This book is on our Mock Printz list. We selected it because it received three starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Now that I've read the book, I disagree with those reviewers.  Though I liked the book, it really isn't that special, especially not special enough to be considered for the Printz Award. I will leave it on my list, however, because I do think it has literary value and I hope a wide variety of students read it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Crazy Day in the Library

Remember the wonderful children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst? I thought of that book today because I was living it right in the library.

The day started off on the wrong foot. I was late to work because my hubby is out of town so I had to take care of the dog before I left for work.  The dog wouldn't potty but I needed her to potty since she is in the house all day with no doggie door.  You can lead a dog to grass but you can't make her... you get what I mean.

As I opened the door to the library I knew it was going to be a busy day and it was.  We were mobbed all day with kids checking books in and out.  I love it when kids read and want a new book but it is often so spurty... no patrons for hours then everyone arrives at once.  In the midst of the mob scene at the circulation desk a teacher came to pick up the digital cameras which I was supposed to charge for her over the week-end.. but didn't. Eek. I just wrecked a teacher's lesson plans for the day. Sigh.

Incredibly only five minutes have passed since I got to work and I've already been mobbed and I disappointed. Now other teachers began to show up asking for just "small favors". Alone the things that were asked were no big deal, but together it was like being hit with a titlewave. I was swamped and the first bell hadn't even rang, yet.

The rest of the day went along like that with no let up. To make matters worse I left my lunch on the counter at home (I'll blame it on the dog.) So I just drank a cup of tea and found a bag of dried apples. I nibbled/sipped on these as I listened to a Webinar during the half hour set aside for my duty-free lunch. I was so distracted by all the stuff going on in the library just beyond the walls of my office that I hardly got a thing out of the session.

Finally the end of the day approached but not before the monthly district librarian meeting which was held at, you guessed it, my school. I ran around setting up tables, the computer/projector station, and the treat table when I realized that I had beverages to drink, but no cups. Oh man. Could the day get any more stressful? Well, after I ran around the high school to see if I could find any cups possibly stashed around someplace, I was actually able to sit and hoped to enjoy the meeting. That is until I learned that our director wasn't able to get to the meeting so now I was the ad-hoc leader by default since the meeting was in my "home."

Thanks for letting me debrief my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...I think I'll go to Australia.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday...Nov. 6th

Top Ten Tuesday ...Free Choice!

Top Ten Oldies but Goodies that deserve a look or a reread.

1. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams...if you haven't read this book yet, what are you waiting for? It is hilarious. (1979)

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith...we just read/reread this book in my book club and all the gals  expressed how much they enjoyed the book but didn't feel that way when they started it.  It is a slow starter but so worth the effort once you make it over the hump. This immigrants story gives all of us a peek at what life was like at the turn of the century in New York. (1943)

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry...probably a bit tame compared to popular dytopia novels today, this book is insightful and disturbing. Though I haven't read it, the fourth book in the series, Son, was just published this year.

4. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien...this is a powerful look at war and the need for soldiers to put all the pieces of their lives together when they return. (1990)

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson...the YA story of a girl who is so traumatized by her rape that she can't speak about it. This book has stood the test of time in my library and it is read today as often as ten years ago. (1999)

6. Persuasion by Jane Austen...you may not be as familiar with this Austen gem as you are with Pride and Prejudice.  It is just as good and shorter. Just get past the first chapter , which is very confusing. (1816)

7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood...a dytopian novel that strikes at society where it hurts: reproductive rights and pollution/climate change. This book will rile you up. (1985)

8. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak...my favorite Printz Honor book, this book takes a unique look at the travesty of WWII. (2006)

9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell... everyone feels like they've read this book because they have seen the movie.  Try the book.  It is so good. (1936)

10. Looking for Alaska by John Green...I had to choose a John Green novel for this list. The Fault in Our Stars is his fabulous novel published this year and a book that should not be missed but be sure to go back and read his first novel that just blew me out of the water. (2005)

Review: My Book of Life by Angel written by Martine Leavitt

The theme of My Book of Life by Angel written in verse by Martine Leavitt is innocence lost.

When Angel's mother dies of cancer her father falls into a deep depression and doesn't even notice that his daughter is practically living at the mall, shoplifting, and becoming friends with a man named Call who gives her "candy" which is really crack cocaine. When Angel comes home high one day, though, he does notice and kicks her out of the house. Now Angel is at the mercy of Call and soon begins a life of prostitution at his bidding. When a friend named Serena, who encouraged Angel to write down her life story, goes missing, Angel starts to straighten out her life.
"The deliberate use of spacing emphasizes the grim choice confronting Angel when Call brings home a new girl, 11-year-old Melli. Leavitt’s mastery of form builds on the subtle interplay between plot and theme. “John the john” is a divorced professor who makes Angel read Book 9 from Milton’s Paradise Lost, inadvertently teaching her the power that words, expression and creativity have to effect change. Passages from Milton frame the chapters, as Angel, in her own writing, grasps her future." -Kirkus Reviews

Angel begins to notice that other prostitutes are also missing and no one seems to be doing a thing about it, including the police. As the story draws to an end we are left with a feeling of hope that Angel will be OK. The story is based on the factual disappearance of dozens of prostitutes in the Vancouver, B.C. area over a ten year period of time.

The book is very well-written and thoughtful. Even though the topic is very disturbing the descriptions were never graphic or explicit.

*This book is a a "possible" Mock Printz book addition to my list of great books for 2012.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

A reading funk plagued me the whole month of September. When my reading mojo finally returned in October I was able to finish a pile of books but enthusiasm for blogging didn't return at the same time. Of the sixteen books I read only four reviews found their way into print here. Sigh.

In an attempt to remedy this situation I've decided to write several short reviews of those past books and to stay current on my reviews for this month.  Don't look for anything fancy but I'll do my best to give you my honest and candid impressions in a briefer than normal format.

Libba Bray's new novel, The Diviners, is a supernatural thriller set in New York City during the Jazz Age. Its main character, Evie O'Neil, is a plucky flapper who is both brave and brash. She is "gifted" with psychic abilities that come in handy to help track the evil Naughty John who terrorizes the city with his ceremonial murders. In addition to Evie there is a whole cast of characters and their stories are told expertly by Ms. Bray in third-person narratives that bring them and the 1920s setting into clear focus. There are Memphis and Isaiah, African-American brothers living in Harlem, both also have special "gifts". Uncle Will, who runs the Museum of  American Folkfore, Superstition, and Occult and his assistant, Jericho.  Both men harbor deep and possibly disturbing secrets.  There are several other interesting characters. One I found especially charming was Sam, who reminded me of Dicken's Artful Dodger. Everywhere the characters turn evil lurks and it is obvious that something very sinister is afoot.

This is the first audiobook I listened to on my iPod Touch. It was expertly performed by January LaVoy. She handled the cast of characters with ease and brought the Jazz-age lingo to life. Because I don't usually read the thriller/horror genre, I found myself on the edge of seat quite often.  I even had to turn off the iPod a few times to allow my heart to settle down. My only criticism, which won't be a bad thing for most people, is the book is very obviously the first book in a series.  The last chapter sets us up for more spine-tingling situations in book two and beyond.

Do I recommend The Diviners? Ab-so-toot-ly!

*This book is a Mock Printz selection for GKHS, my school.