"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, February 27, 2013

Cybils Announced last week

CYBILS: Children and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

The 2012 Cybils Awards were announced on February 16th. In the teen categories the winners were:

Young Adult Fiction:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

My Mock Printz team of students will be delighted to hear that one of their favorite books of the year won this award. I really like this book and it's use of a variety of formats. Here is my original review. And this is what the committee had to say about it:

"With sharply-drawn characters,  dialogue so real you expect to hear it in the school hallway, and a mix of formats that keep the story moving, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a book that will make readers laugh out loud even as they sympathize with Greg's bumpy journey into adulthood." -Cybils Committee

YA Fantasy and Science Fiction:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Another Mock Printz favorite and one of my 2012 Top Ten, I adore this fantasy novel by debut author Rachel Hartman. Take a look at my gushing review here. Apparently the Cybils review committee felt the same...

"Seraphina is a genre-blending fantasy that dazzled us all. Dragons, a murder mystery, family secrets, and a love story--there is something here for everyone, even those who aren't regular high fantasy readers. We were hooked by the mystery and intrigue of dragons and conspiracies as well as the fascinating and intricate world building. Seraphina is a complex and appealing heroine. She's fiery and vulnerable and gifted and brave. Her love of music is a refreshing thread throughout the story as is a fairly surprising mystery. Seraphina's transformation throughout the novel was inspiring and wonderful to follow. With beautiful writing and tight pacing, Seraphina kept us turning the pages, eager to follow the heroine and learn more about the strong ensemble cast. We're sure readers will find a lot to love in this highly original dragon story"-Cybils Committee

YA Nonfiction:

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

A concise and fascinating look at the race to build the atom bomb. It includes information about the key players in the bomb development and back stories of both heroes in Europe who stood in the way of the Nazis getting the bomb first, and spies here in America that were helping the Soviet Union to develop theirs faster. It is very readable. This is my review.

"A first-rate page turner that has impeccable research and is sure to interest both MG and YA readers, Bomb is the perfect example of how nonfiction can be everything fiction is--and more." -Cybils Committee

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free
 of bloodshed and war. This is not that world.

Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor where we are introduced to two lovers: Karou, an art student, and Akiva, an angel. In Days of Blood and Starlight we find Karou with her kind, chimaera,  who have attributes of both animals and humans. In fact she is carrying on the work of Brimstone and acting as the resurrectionist for the chimaera, bringing back fallen chimaera to life. While Karou is fighting for her side, Akiva is fighting a different sort of battle, one for redemption and for hope. You see, Karou blames him for the near destruction of her people and doesn't want anything to do with him anymore.

Told in alternating chapters we see Karou and Akiva both fighting mightily to change their worlds. Angels are good and chimaera are bad. I mean, chimaera are good and angels are bad. It is really obvious that there are both good and bad members of angels and chimaera and it isn't always abundantly clear which is which. And then, just when we think that the story could have a happy ending, we find out that the world is bracing for a catastrophe of epic proportions and we are left dangling with a to be continued....

Agh......that is me screaming.  I want to know how the story ends. NOW. But the third book in the trilogy won't even be out until next year. Why do I do this to myself? I should know better than reading the 2nd book of a trilogy before the 3rd is published.  It happens to me every time. 2nd books in trilogies tend to have the "Empire Strikes Back" story-lines. Know what I mean? In the Empire Strikes Back the bad guys make great gains and the good guys seem stymied and possibly near defeat. That is sure the case with Days of Blood and Starlight, lots of bad stuff with just a bit of good sprinkled in here and there.

I am a huge fan of this series and obviously can't wait for the next installment.

Monday, February 25, 2013

YA Nonfiction...some of it is REALLY good

I just finished listening to the audiobook, The Impossible Rescue: the True Story of Amazing Arctic Adventure by Martin Sandler, read by Malcolm Hillgartner.
In 1897, winter blasted early, bringing storms and ice packs that caught eight American whale ships and three hundred sailors off guard. Their ships locked in ice, with no means of escape, the whalers had limited provisions on board, and little hope of surviving until warmer temperatures arrived many months later. Here is the incredible story of three men sent by President McKinley to rescue them. The mission? A perilous trek over 1,500 miles of nearly impassable Alaskan terrain, in the bone-chilling months of winter, to secure two herds of reindeer (for food) and find a way to guide them to the whalers before they starve. With the help of photographs and journal entries by one of the rescuers, Martin W. Sandler takes us on every step of their riveting journey, facing raging blizzards, killing cold, injured sled dogs, and setbacks to test the strongest of wills. -Goodreads
This account of the incredible arctic adventure and rescue at the end of the nineteenth century is simply fascinating. It is so hard in the jet age in which we live to imagine this kind of rescue over land on dog sleds having any kind of chance of success. Yet it was successful against all odds and Sandler did a good job writing about it in this short, 176 page YA information book. It was just the right dose of information for me. I stayed interested as I followed the story, but never bogged down in too much back-story or details.

I think that is what is lovely about YA/Junior nonfiction works: digestible bits of information on fascinating subjects that you want to learn about but aren't interested in deep study on the subject.

In addition, authors of these YA nonfiction books are generally very good.  They have to write very clearly and organize their text around good illustrations or photographs to keep their readers interested. That is why I keep buying them for my library even though many are advertised for younger readers.  I disagree. These books are only good if someone reads them and learns something from them and that might be teens and even adults, like me and my husband!

Here is a list a some of these YA nonfiction books that I've read and recommend:

  • Bomb: the race to build-and steal-the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin-winner of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction this year.
  • Moonbird: a year on the wind with the great survivor B95 by Philip Hoose. A worldwide community of bird-watchers and researchers come together to track the migration patterns of birds, and cheer the survival of a bird named B95.
  • Truce: the day soldiers stopped fighting by Jim Murphy. Fighting on the Western Front during WWI ceases for Christmas day and soldiers come together.
  • An American Plague: the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 by Jim Murphy. This plague nearly killed some of our founding fathers in the opening days of our country.
  • They Called Themselves the KKK: the birth of an American terrorist group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. 
  • The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Philip Hoose. Scientists attempted to rescue the Ivory Woodpecker before extinction. Their efforts were too late but the Audubon Society was formed.
  • Hitler Youth: growing up in Hitler's shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. A fascinating and disturbing look at the way Hitler brainwashed a generation of Germans.
  • Janis Joplin: rise up singing by Ann Angel. Her life, her music, her death.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Salon...Feb. 24

Weather: Windy and cold

Yesterday: We attended a memorial service for the mother of a friend. It was an awesome service, quite a testimony to the woman's life and her legacy. I felt honored to be in attendance to have known the woman and her family. In the evening, we attended a musical performance in Seattle that my cousin's daughter was involved in.  It was mostly baroque-type music and dancing. It was lovely.

Today: my husband and I messed around setting up my new laptop and getting programs and files off the old one before we decommission it. I am posting this blog from my new computer. Ah....

This past week was much less crazy and frantic than the week before. My birthday was Tuesday and I had lots of small celebrations all week including gals at my book club singing to me, two different dinners out (Monday AND Friday), and no school for one day, and a teacher in-service another day, making my birthday week seem like a short work week.

Tonight: Academy Awards.  I  hope that Argo wins for Best Picture, Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor in Lincoln; Sally Field in Lincoln. And the Oscar goes to...

I'm reading:

  • Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor...book two of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.
  • Emma by Jane Austen...goal 50 pages a week.  I didn't make my goal last week. Sigh.
  • Prodigy by Marie Lu...book two of the Legacy series. I'm only reading this at lunch time so progress is slow going.
I'm listening to:

  • Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor...I'm listening to AND reading this book at the same time.
Finished this week:

  • Impossible Rescue: the True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by Martin Sandler
  • Moon Moth by Jack Vance 
This week's scripture: Ephesians 4:3 "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

Focus of prayers this week as part of Lent: For our President and elected officials.

Around the house: Unfortunately, I've not done much.  In fact, I stood and looked at a bunch of pet fur all over the kitchen floors just a few minutes ago and didn't jump up to get the broom.

From the kitchen: Broccoli Beef made with the leftover tri-tip beef. It was about the only thing I cooked all week.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Moon Moth, Jack Vance, and Me

A few days ago I received a box of books from Junior Library Guild. It contained books I'd ordered because they sounded good and the price was right, not because I'd read them or even heard of them before. In the box was this little graphic novel, The Moon Moth by Jack Vance. I'm sure I ordered it because I have a lot of graphic novel fans that use the library. At first glance it didn't seem that different than a lot of graphic novels I've handled in the past but as I started to read the forward by Carlo Rotella I realized I was wrong.  This was no ordinary graphic novel, it was one based on the classic short story by the master of this genre, Jack Vance. By the time I was done reading the forward this thought went through my head..."Oh no, I am almost too late to discover a treasure who has been with us for 96 years and I 've never heard of him before."
Jack (John Holbrook) Vance (born August 28, 1916 in San Francisco, California) is an American mystery, fantasy and science fiction author... Among his awards are: Hugo Awards, in 1963 for The Dragon Masters, in 1967 for The Last Castle, and in 2010 for his memoir This is Me, Jack Vance!; a Nebula Award in 1966, also for The Last Castle; the Jupiter Award in 1975; the World Fantasy Award in 1984 for life achievement and in 1990 for Lyonesse: Madouc; an Edgar (the mystery equivalent of the Nebula) for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for The Man in the Cage...Although legally blind since the 1980s, Vance has continued to write with the aid of BigEd software, written especially for him by Kim Kokkonen. .... A 2009 profile in the New York Times Magazine described Vance as "one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices." -Jack Vance Website
Wow, I'm not the only one who nearly missed this guy. "A distinctive yet undervalued American voice." 

The Moon Moth was originally written in 1961 and has been resurrected in the graphic form with terrific illustrations by Humayoun Ibrahim. Head over to Tor-Com to take a look at a page of the illustrations. It didn't take me long to read the book, just a few lunch periods in between circulation duties. I was quite captivated even though I didn't always know what was going on. Part of the reason for that was plot driven: 
Edwer Thissell, the new consul from Earth to the planet Sirene, is having all kinds of trouble adjusting to the local culture. The Sirenese cover their faces with exquisitely crafted masks that indicate their social status. Thissell, a bumbling foreigner, wears a mask of very low status: the Moon Moth. Shortly after Thissell arrives on Sirene, he finds himself embroiled in an unsolved murder case made all the more mysterious by the fact that since everyone must always wear a mask, you can never be sure who you’re dealing with. -Tor-Com
 In a lot of ways I think that Jack Vance was poking fun at some terribly series science fiction books with The Moon Moth, which was obviously silly and obsurd. Of course, one can't catch a murderer if everyone was wearing a mask, right?

Read it yourself and see how things turn out. I bet you'll become the next fan. Line up right behind me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Top Ten Characters in Dystopian Lit

Top Ten Characters found in Dystopian literature 
in no particular order:

1. Katniss Everdeen  and Peeta Mellark in Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2. Thomas and Minho in The Maze Runner by James Dashner

3. Day in Legend by Marie Lu

4. Beatrice 'Tris' Pryor in Divergent by Veronica Roth

5. Offred in A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

6. Jonas in The Giver by Lois Lowry

7. Todd in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

8. Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

9. Wade Watts in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

10. Kathy in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Had to add one more...

11. Violet in Feed by M.T. Anderson

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Salon...February 17

Weather: sunny but deceptively chilly with a brisk breeze.

Valentine's Day: my husband gave me the beautiful primroses (live not cut flowers, he said) and I gave him this fill-in-the-blank book that I mentioned last week.  I worked and worked on it and still didn't get it done, but he was impressed with my effort.  It has generated some good conversations and reminded us of loving memories.

Yesterday: My husband and I took a drive on around the Hood Canal looking at property or homes for sale with a view.  We are dreaming.  Nothing serious yet.

Today: We attended the wonderful celebration of the life of a friend who died of lung cancer right before Christmas. His daughters sang a moving John Denver song "On the Wings of a Dream" which starts with the stanza: "Yesterday I had a dream about dying/About laying to rest and then flying/How the moment at hand is the only thing we really own." I shed a few tears, believe me.

Later today: my daughters and son-in-law return from a trip to see their grandparents in Oregon and will sup with us before returning to their abodes. I miss them when we are separated. Since having children everyone has told me how difficult the empty nest is, well, they are right.

Upcoming this week: one day off school, one conference day, and my birthday. Should be a good week.

Currently reading:
  • Prodigy by Marie Lu, the second book in the Legacy series. I am reading an ARC though it is already published.
  • Emma by Jane Austen, I'm taking a second crack at this. Last year around this time I started it and read about 150 pages before I abandoned the book. I am determined to finish it this time
Currently on audiobooks:
  • Impossible Rescue: the True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by Martin Sandler
Recently finished:
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, an amazing adventure story that I finally read after having it on my TBR pile for seven years.
  • Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen, a graphic novel, 2nd book in the series.

Church today was led by a pastor from Malawi. His examples were so perfect for his culture. It was a lovely worship experience.

My Lenten prayer focus this week is for people trapped in homelessness. Last week's focus was on families affected by gun violence.

From the kitchen: Flank steak is marinating, recipe for pumpkin bars is pulled ready for me to whip up soon.

Quote of the week: (I included this in book I gave the hubby) "I've seen the best of you, and the worst of you, and I choose both." -Sarah Kay

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: In Darkness by Nick Lake

“In Darkness,” written by Nick Lake and published by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
2013 Printz Award winner In Darkness by Nick Lake was an interesting and enlightening read about both the history of Haiti and living conditions in that impoverished island country today.

The main character, Shorty, is trapped in darkness in the rubble of a hospital after the earthquake that decimated the country. As he tries to tunnel his way out, he senses another "being" or presence, that of Toussaint Louverture. Louverture is the 19th century revolutionary who freed Haiti from France and from slavery. Shorty thinks he is dying or hallucinating as this mystical connection between himself and his hero is made. In alternating chapters the two, Shorty and Louverture, tell their stories of oppression and hope, of slavery and poverty.

Printz Award Committee Chair Sharon Grover said about this winning selection, "This bold weaving of gritty contemporary drama, revolutionary history, and magical realism tells a one-of-a-kind story as fiercely intelligent as it is heartbreakingly honest."

This book would be an ideal audiobook. The frequent use of Creole and French words and phrases often left me in the dark. Though translations were provided, I didn't know how to pronounce the words. This is one of my favorite reasons for listening to books rather than reading them. At the time I first checked on Amazon.com the audiobook was out-of-stock. Obviously I'm wasn't the only one to have this thought.

Though not my favorite book of the year (my vote, if I had one, went to The Fault in Our Stars), I did learn a ton about Haiti's history and current conditions. It is obvious that the author Nick Lake did a ton of research and deserved all the praise he received for this work. Printz Award books often become shelf-sitters in my library because they are well-written but do not appeal to the general teen population.  I hope this is not the case with this book. In an attempt to increase its circulation I will purchase the audiobook and suggest it to the English teachers for inclusion in the world literature reading circle kits.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Midwinter Break

Today is the first day of what my district calls Midwinter Break, or two days on either side of a week-end making a small vacation of four days from the routine of school. Believe me, it is a much needed break for me and my library clerk.  We have been working so hard the past two weeks.  It is almost laughable how busy we've been every day for the last nine days.  Anyways, enough about work.

Today I had breakfast with my husband before he went off to work, then I went to coffee with a friend, had a massage followed by a chiropractic adjustment, finished a book, walked the dog, visited with a neighbor, and watched Northanger Abbey on DVD. How's that for the life of leisure?

While walking my dog I was amazed at the signs of spring that had heretofore been missed. First, it was sunny, a rarity in the winter in the Pacific Northwest. I should have worn sunglasses but opted to just squint as the chiropractor had just reminded me that I should get out and get some vitamin D. Isn't that a funny thing to say instead of 'what a lovely day for a walk'? I noticed a few blooming bulbs, crocuses and something else that I couldn't identify without tromping though someone's yard. While I was marveling at the bulbs I looked up in time to notice a hummingbird sipping at a feeder on a neighbor's porch. Are these tiny birds supposed to be back already? I thought they migrated south for the winter.  What could it possibly be living on right now? Just this lone feeder? While I was pondering these questions I became aware of the sound of a croaking frog. Once again, isn't this a bit early for frogs? Up ahead there was a gaggle of little boys playing outside in shorts! It may still be winter but spring is here!

I'll sign off so I can start a new book. Happy reading!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Salon...Feb. 10

Weather: clear and cold, though it was a bit foggy this morning early.

This past week: was very stressful. I had a Library Club meeting after school, the first of the school year, and it felt flat and unexciting, especially considering that only seven students attended it. As the kids were coming in and getting settled a parent of another student came to the library to complain about a fine and after I excused the fine, she started yelling at me about what a bad attitude I had and how awful I was.  I was shocked by the ferocity with which she attacked me. (And didn't deserve.) Oh my. What a bad scene.

Friday: We went to the one-man play Ed Asner as FDR. It was very well-done and interesting. I needed some diversion after the hectic week.

Saturday: I went to a luncheon at church and got myself elected to the organizing board for this next year.  What was I thinking? Ha!

Today: I drove to a nearby town (Lakewood) to go to the Barnes and Noble store there.  We don't have a bookstore in my town anymore.  Sigh.  It has been a long time since I've been to a bookstore and I spent several hours perusing the shelves and picking up bargains.

Books I am reading:
  • In Darkness by Nick Lake. Set in Haiti after the recent earthquake and 100 years earlier when Toussaint l'Ouverture led the slave revolt to win independence. I am FINALLY getting some traction on this book and should finish it tonight or tomorrow.
  • Prodigy by Marie Lu. The second book in the Legend series. Should be a fast read.
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. This book has been on my TBR pile for seven years.  I am finally getting to it.
Finished this week:
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: a memoir of going home by Rhoda Janzen. Both humorous and thought-provoking, I enjoyed listening to this memoir a lot.
Today's Scripture: Colossians 1: 17--- "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

I'm praying for: my neighbor who is home from the hospital after open heart surgery.

Pre-Valentine's Day: I purchased a Valentine's Day book for my husband (I am trusting that he won't look at this blog without a prompting to do so) where I fill in the blanks about our love relationship. I hope to have it finished by Thursday. I started it and decided that I can't do it all in one sitting so I will have to work on it every afternoon for the next few days. Tonight I am making heart shaped sugar cookies to send to my girls.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Award Winning Audio Books 2013


John Green's The Fault in Our Stars Wins the 2013 Odyssey Award

Congratulations to author John Green for his outstanding work in young adult fiction and Kate Rudd for her excellent performance. Brilliance Audio won The Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production, the annual award given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults. 

Odyssey Honor Books:

Artemis Fowl:  The Last Guardian” written by Eoin Colfer, narrated by Nathaniel Parker and produced by Listening Library
Ghost Knight” written by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill and produced by Listening Library
"Monstrous Beauty” written by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren and produced by Macmillan Audio

Here is a list of Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks 
for Young Adults in 2013: 

Personal Effects*
written by E. M. Kokie
and narrated by Nick Podehl

 The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic*
written by Allan Wolf
and narrated by Michael Page, Phil Gigante, Christopher Lane, Laural Merlington, and Angela Dawe

written by R. J. Palacio
and narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd

Code Name Verity
written by Elizabeth Wein
and narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip
written by Jordan Sonnenblick
and narrated by Luke Daniels

Dancing Carl
written by Gary Paulsen
and narrated by Nick Podehl

written by Alethea Kontis
and narrated by Katherine Kellgren

The Fault in Our Stars     *******WINNER**********
written by John Green
and narrated by Kate Rudd

 The Freak Observer
written by Blythe Woolston
and narrated by Jessica Almasy

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd
written by Patrick Ness
and narrated by Jason Isaacs

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
written by Lesléa Newman
and narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Christina Traister

 See You At Harry's
written by Jo Knowles
and narrated by Kate Rudd

If I were Kate Rudd, I'd ask for more money next time someone asks her to narrate their book.  She is the narrator of four of the top ten books this year!  WOW!  Congratulations!

I've read about half of these books. Now I look forward to listening to some of them and encouraging my library to purchase them for many people to enjoy.

Happy listening!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Know Me Better...Feb 5

I am a Reader, not a Writer
This Week's Questions:
Is there anything you would like to say to or ask your favorite author?
  •  Yes, I'd like to ask John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) who always refers to his wife on his vlog as the Yeti, how she feels about that?
Are you a dreamer or a realist?
  • I'm half dreamer, half realist. I spend a lot of time in my head thinking about or dreaming of things.  But I also have my feet firmly planted on the ground.
Theater or Rental?
  • I love going to the movie theater but seldom do.  I try to see movies that would be best if viewed on the big screen at a theater and save my money and rent if the movie would be fine on a TV. But every once in a while we go wild and go to two movies in one week-end like this last week-end.  Woot. Woot. 
Share a family tradition.
  • A bookish tradition that we share...Every Christmas season we sit down together and read aloud The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  We've read it so many times we could probably all recite it line by line. Another bookish tradition, when I was growing up my father would read us How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss every Christmas Eve, right after reading the Christmas story in the Bible. 
Favorite late night snack?
  • Ice Cream, but I shouldn't and, in fact, I've stopped buying ice cream because if it is in the house we eat it!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Top Ten Bookish Moments

The Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday: Top Bookish Moments

1. Reading aloud to my daughters. I loved, loved, loved reading to and with my girls. Some of my favorite books/series that we read together: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Harry Potter books, The Borrowers series, and, of course, lots of Dr. Seuss.

2. Listening to audiobooks with the family. I usually have audiobooks going in the car, which includes family car-trip vacations. The two most memorable audiobook experiences were when we listened to: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman on a camping trip to Washington Coast and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on a Southern Oregon/Northern California vacation.

3. Reading Cold Sassy Tree on the Victoria Clipper en route to Victoria, BC. This was the book that provided a reading catalyst for me after a ten-year reading drought.

4. All-Pierce-County-Read events with author visits and book club discussions.
  • Alexander McCall Smith author of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. He is genuinely funny and an excellent storyteller.
  • Jamie Ford author of The Corner of Bitter and Sweet. This historical fiction story was set in Seattle and Puyallup, where we live. Very interesting.
  • Timothy Egan author of The Big Burn and Worst Hard Time. His writing about these two historical events is fascinating and it was so interesting hearing him speak about how he collected the information.
5. Other author events where I was in the audience or actually met the author.
  • John Green author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars at the WLMA conference several years before he was mega-popular.
  • Sherman Alexie author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian right here in Puyallup and at the WLMA conference. Two times the fun.
  • Frank McCourt author of the memoir Angela's Ashes. His lovely Irish brogue was so captivating. He read from his book Teacher Man. So funny and charming.

6. Mock Printz Workshops. I've hosted four or five of them so far and they are so stimulating and fun for a bookish person like myself. Students get jazzed up about books and reading.  A very satisfying experience.

7. Meeting President Jimmy Carter as he signed his book after an event I attended in Seattle.  I admire this man and what he has done since leaving the presidency so much. It was just a thrill to be so near him.

8. The St. John's Bible Project. An illuminated Bible project that was displayed at our local museum. I was blown away by the gorgeous calligraphy and illumination. Go to this website for a cool example of the Psalms in this project (turn the pages of the book it displays.)

9. Attending the Harry Potter book launch party at Borders Books with my daughters. Sigh.

10. Discussing books with my mom. I have a great relationship with my mother but we seem to have a special relationship around books . She is 80+ years old and I suddenly realized that I won't be able to have these discussions forever. I'd best treasure them more now. I also treasure the memories of mom reading to me and my siblings as children. I have really happy memories of her reading Mark Twain short stories aloud during power outages and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever every Christmas.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Salon...Feb. 3rd

Weather: Foggy, again! This is the foggiest winter I remember.  Ugh.

Yesterday: My husband and I went to see the movie Argo about the rescue of six American diplomats hiding in the Canadian embassy during the Iranian crisis in 1979/80.  It is very well done and thrilling.  The night before we went and saw The Hobbit. We joked that we should go to another movie today but there is a football game on this afternoon...

Today: I finally cleaned off the guest bed which had been cover with Christmas wrapping paper and bows. Don removed the lights from outside the house yesterday. Now if I get around to removing the wreath from the door we'll have all traces of Christmas finally put away.

This past week: This past Monday was not only the first day of a new semester it was the Mock Printz Workshop after school. Nearly thirty students showed up to discuss and vote for their favorite books of the past year. It was very stimulating.

Currently reading: In Darkness by Nick Lake. This was the actual Printz Award book this year. It wasn't on many lists so I am sure that I am not the only one who was surprised that it claimed the highest honor.

Currently listening to on audiobooks: A Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: a Memoir of Going Home by  Rhoda Janzen. This is a book club selection.

Completed this week: Railsea by China Mieville...this was a REAL challenge to read to its completion. I ended up enjoying this steampunk-meets-the-future story but it took over 150 pages of reading until I thought this.

From the kitchen: Did I cook this week? I don't remember. The whole week was a blur.

I think I'll take a little nap before the Super Bowl. Bye!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Last week in my Sunday Salon post I reported that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was like reading one really long, beautiful poem. I must not have been the only one to feel this way. As the week unfolded there was lots of good news for this lyrical book.  It won a Printz Honor award (One of the best in YA Lit), the Stonewall Award (Best LGBT lit), and the Pura Belpre Award (Best YA lit by Hispanic author.) WOW.  What a week. Lots of recognition and honors for a very deserving book.

Summary: Two Hispanic-American boys meet one summer at the swimming pool. Dante offers to teach Ari to swim and it is the beginning of a very important friendship for both boys. Though they have a lot in common they also have many differences but in the end it is their friendship that saves both of them. And through their friendship they discover important things about themselves, too.
"In breathtaking prose, American Book Award winner Benjamin Alire Saentz captures those moments that make a boy a man as he explores loyalty and trust, friendship and love." -From the book jacket 
Of the five LGBT-themed books I read this season in preparation for the Mock Printz, this one was my favorite for a variety of reasons.  First, I really think that Saenz got the language and internal conflict just right for questioning teens. Everything isn't cut and dried. Everything isn't about sex and sexual thoughts. Sometimes it is just those mind-blowing big questions- "Who am I? How do I fit in the world? Where do I belong?"-  that seem to dominate our thoughts.
 "They were all over me, hugging me and saying nice things, and I wanted to cry. Because their affection was so real and somehow I felt I didn't deserve it...I wanted them to hug me because I was Ari and I would never be just Ari to them. But I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that's not true. There was no learning involved. I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt." -p.242
 "Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing. Like my father. I think that's where he lived. In that in-between space. In that ecotone." - p.335
"We stood there for a long time. Neither of us said anything. I felt small and insignificant and inadequate. I hated feeling that way. I was going to stop feeling that way. I was going to stop..." -p.357
I'm sure that this review and the sample quotes I selected don't even begin to do this book justice. Please just read it and see if you don't agree that this is a wonderful, memorable, and important book.

Through all my youth I was looking for you without knowing what I was looking for. -W.S. Merwin.