"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, April 29, 2013

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book

Hosted by Broke and Bookish
Even though this is supposed to be my TOP TEN words or topics that would make me instantly pick up a book, there is no way I will reach ten. Very few topics or words have that much power in my reading selections.  But a few do.  Here they are:

1. Printz award winners...I try to figure out which books will win each year and then once the winners are announced I attempt to read them as soon as I can.

2. John Green...I read everything that I can by this author.  If I know that his book is coming out soon, I preorder it.  Simple as that.

3. Harry Potter...in the old days I would line up to get the newest book as soon as it was available.  If JK Rowling published a new book about Potter and friends, I'd buy it.

4. Audiobook recommendations...I am always up for a good audiobook and will request copies from the library based on these recommendations. I also like to give audiobook recommendations if anyone needs some ideas.

5. Starred reviews...books that receive starred reviews from several sources: School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, YALSA, etc. I don't read all books which get starred reviews but I favor them.

*Hey folks, please leave me a comment.  I love to  hear what you think, even if my ideas are more boring than yours.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Salon and Wrap-up of Readathon

It's Sunday and time for my weekly update. This week I will also update how I did on the Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-thon.

Readathon: as you can tell from it's title this was supposed to be a 24-hour reading session with updates along the way.  Well, I didn't even sign up until five hours into the thing, so that would make it a 19-hour readathon.  And I joined knowing that I already had commitments that day, most important was the preparation we needed to do for the event that we are hosting at our house today. If you cobble together all my reading times and subtract out all the time I was doing something else my 24-hour readathon suddenly became a 6-hour read when-you-can-a-thon. Now when I tell you what I read you might be more impressed than if you think I actually read for 24-hours and only finished this paulty list.

  • What I finished: 
    • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway...about his five years in Paris when he was a young, struggling writer.
    • Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime edited by Roger Housden...the last book in the ten poems quartet.
    • I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats...a really silly little book containing poems about, er-r, cats.
    • Dancing with Joys: 99 Poems edited by Roger Housden...I was over 3/4th of the way through this book before the readathon but I finished it up.  Such lovely selections.
  • Started but didn't finish:
    • Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos...a young, depressed boy expresses his feeling through Whitmanesque poems. 1/3rd complete.
    • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman...my audiobook selection. 1/7th complete.
Today: We are hosting a party for our church members to help welcome our new choir director, Erin, and her husband, Dom, to our church. It just so happens that Erin is my cousin, once removed. We are serving Branks BBQ and baked beans, others in the church will bring salads and desserts. It is due to start in a little over an hour.

Weather: this past week the weather was gorgeous, but today it is overcast and rainy...of course we are having a party, so it has to rain.  Sigh.

Scripture: 1 Peter 2: 11 "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Readathon...Update #2

Update #2

We just returned from the BBQ restaurant where we picked up the pulled pork and beans for tomorrow's party/open house.  While there the family got some dinner so, in keeping up with the readathon, I read poems aloud while we waited for our food.
Since the first update:

  • Finished, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, read 130 pages.
  • Read from, I Could Pee on This: Poems by Cats, read 20 pages.
Back to the books. Bye!

Readathon Update #1

Update #1

2 hours into my mini or half readathon and so far I've:

  • Finished, Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime edited by Roger Housden, pages read around 20.
  • Started, A Moveable Feast: Sketches of the Author's Life in Paris in the Twenties by Ernest Hemingway, pages read 85.

In addition to reading I have assisted my husband in readying the house for our guests and party tomorrow. Soon we leave to go do our shopping. The list has been made.

Back to the books.

Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-thon

Last minute addition to the Dewey's 24 hour Read-A-Thon, I decided to join the fun but will have to make mine a mini challenge because a. I didn't know about until now so didn't rise at 5 AM to start reading and b. I have a party at my house tomorrow and have to do some prep work for it today. But I did get up this morning and read before I got out of bed.  So I'm on my way.  Here's a little about me:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I live in Puyallup, Washington (NW Coast of the USA)

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I haven't planned any snacks so I will just eat regular food today, maybe munch on a few pretzels, too.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
My name is Anne and I am a librarian at a high school of about 1700 students. I have two daughters who are out of the house, one is married, the other in college. My husband supports my reading fanaticism and occasionally even discusses books with me. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I'm a first-timer. Because I am starting late I will take my 24 hours into Sunday. I am looking forward to finishing up books that have been sitting around for a few weeks on my pile. I hope to read:

  • Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime by Roger Housden
  • Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
  • Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems

Let the reading begin.

My Ideal Bookshelf

In February my daughter gave me a copy of a book, My Ideal Bookshelf  with a note that she knew I would love it.  She was right, I do! The moment I opened the book I not only dived right in but started organizing my own ideal bookshelf.

Visit the Ideal Bookshelf Website to get all the information about this fabulous project, look at the art by Jane Mount, and learn how you can get a picture painted of your ideal bookshelf from popular groupings or create a custom page.  That would be an awesome gift. Since I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, I considered the possibility of getting one with all her books until I remembered that I'm not actually sure I've read all the books.  Then I found the Chronicles of Narnia and was tempted especially since Mount painted the books in the right order!

The book highlights the ideal bookshelves of 100 famous (semi-famous) people: authors, editors, cooks, designers, artists,  etc. I immediately turned to Nancy Pearl's page. She is a retired Seattle Public librarian who now has a spot on Public Radio talking about books. I confess I haven't even heard of one of the books on her shelf. Many of the other bookshelves were stuffed with classic books or large tomes. I wondered if anyone's bookshelf would be more down-to-earth like mine. Stephanie Meyer, of Twilight fame, had several books on her shelf that I'd read and like. Gina Trapani, an app designer, has two of the same books as on my shelf.  After perusing the whole book I certainly had a few more books to add to my TBR pile, too.

In lieu of a painting or print of my Ideal Bookshelf, here is a photograph. I had a hard time limiting myself to just ten books. My current choices are:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (represented by the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)--- it is a sentimental favorite since I read it as a young girl and then reread it to my daughters when they were young.
  • Pride and Prejudice/Persuasion by Jane Austen---when people ask, I usually say that my favorite book is P & P, but I actually like Persuasion just as much. My husband paid me the ultimate compliment this year when he said he likes it that I am an Austenphile. How'd I luck out?
  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns---this is not only a fabulous story, it is also the book that brought me back to reading after a very long hiatus.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green---this book represents both excellent and ethical YA literature. When I started as a teen librarian eight years ago I wasn't a YA reader and wondered if I would be able to relate to any of it.  After reading Looking for Alaska, Green's first novel,  I became a huge YA lit fan.
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger---something about this story, a family in crisis and the miracles that happen, really speaks to my heart. 
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver---My parents were missionaries in Africa, this novel is about just that. I ate it up! Quite a few of Kingsolver's books could be on my bookshelf.
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling---so many good things have happened because of these books in my life and the lives of my children and students.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle---the first book I remember loving. The memory of what this book meant to me has remained vivid.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee--- (on my iPod)---I've never "read" this book, just listened to it on an audiobook and I've listened to it more than once.
  • The Bible---so important to my life!

What books are on your ideal bookshelf?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Retrospective Wednesday: The Great Gatsby

In high school I, like almost all American teenagers, was assigned to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Up until today I thought I actually read the book back then, but now I am not sure. I remember vaguely the descriptions of jazz parties and a observant narrator (Nick) but I got the rest of the details wrong. So maybe I just read a few chapters and pretended for the rest. What a great shame because The Great Gatsby, originally published in 1925, is not only a superb book it also provides an amazing peek at a bygone era written by the author whose works actually heralded in the Jazz Age. Lillian Gish said of Scott and his wife, Zelda, "They didn't make the 20's, they were the 20's." If for no other reason than to get a bit of a feel for life in the twenties, this book is a must-read.

So with this Retrospective Wednesday post I hope to encourage those of you who feigned your way through your first Gatsby experience like I did, barely reading it, or those of you who read it so long ago that it is now just a vague memory, to reread it. And for those of you who haven't read it yet, now's the time! Get to it! The movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby is coming to a movie theater near you soon. Read the story first because, as we all know, the book is always better than the movie.

Now I will leave you with a quote from a letter written to Fitzgerald by Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribners, after he'd had a chance to read Gatsby:
"I think you have every kind of right to be proud of this book. It is an extraordinary book, suggestive of all sorts of thoughts and moods. You adopted exactly the right method of telling it, that of employing a narrator who is more of a spectator than an actor...The amount of meaning you get into a sentence, the dimensions and intensity of the impression you make a paragraph carry, are most extraordinary. The manuscript is full of phrases which make a scene blaze to life...it carries the mind through a series of experiences that one would think would require a book three times its length." - from the postscript in my version of the book
Do yourself a favor read/reread The Great Gatsby soon! Or, as I did, pick up the audiobook and listen to the excellent voice actor Tim Robbins read it to you. The last disc of the set included a selection of letters written by Fitzgerald  to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, his agent, Harold Ober, and other friends and associates. This section was read by a different reader which gave it the feeling that Fitzgerald himself was reading us his letters. My only criticism of this recording was when Tim Robbins would drop his voice when Gatsby was making an aside and since I listen while I'm driving, road noise made it hard to hear during those parts. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the story in this format.

The audiobook was published in 2002 by Caedmon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday...Books I liked better than I expected

Broke and Bookish
Books I liked better than expected:

Almost all "classics" are books that have surprised me at how much I end up liking them. So many people complain about the books they "had" to read in high school yet I found all these excellent and so well-written.

  • Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald...currently reading and I'm blown away by the writing.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding...no wonder so many schools require this book.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo...all 1000+ pages of it.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith... an American story that talks to so many immigrant families experiences. I just was swept up in the story and the story-telling.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury...this is all about books and value of reading.  What is not to like?
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery...I just read this book last year and expected it to be a bit juvenile for me.  It wasn't and I loved every minute.\
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh...I guess books become classics for a reason, they seem timeless yet give a sense of history and bygone eras.
  • Emma by Jane Austen...though it took me forever to read it I didn't expect to learn new aspects of the story never covered in the movies, so I was delighted by it.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain...There is so much controversy about this book I wasn't prepared for how much a loved this classic American story. 
  • Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden...it is a poetry book, I had no expectations of enjoying it at all. I actually loved it.

Ten Poems to Open Your Heart by Roger Housden

"The purpose of a book is to serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us." -Franz Kafka

If the purpose of a book is to take an axe to our frozen hearts, the purpose of this book is to take an axe to my heart which was frozen without poetry.

Roger Housden tells us in his introduction, "Great poetry, like art, is a bridge between our heart and the heart of the world."  Though the ten poems highlighted in this book may not clearly be love poems in the typical sense, they all have a message that can help melt our hearts toward mankind, ourselves, or toward God. These poems all help open the heart of love by "embracing our frailties, our mortality, the clay of our human nature."

In "West Wind #2", Mary Oliver she encourages us to turn our boats toward the falls (love) and row. 
---when you hear the unmistakable pounding---when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming---then row, row for your life toward it. 
Housden reminds us when using a rowboat one moves forward by turning around and facing backwards to row. "Mary Oliver is saying it again: you cannot hope to see what lies ahead when it comes to a life lived with love."

Wislawa Szmborska's "Love at First Sight" challenges "the assumption that love at first sight erupts out of nowhere." Who's to say that a couple haven't been moving toward and next to each other for years?
Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.
My husband and I both attended University of Oregon but never met until after graduation. While in school we could have stood in line to pay our tuition, sat next to each other at a football game, drank from the same drinking fountain, or ate burgers sitting in nearby booths at Taylor's Bar. For all we know for years prior to meeting, the universe was conspiring to bring us together so that by the time we did meet our book of events was open halfway through.  And for the record, my husband and I had a lot of fun, after reading this poem, imagining all the times we may have run into each without realizing it before we actually met. This poem opened those thoughts for us.

The poem "Love" by Czeslaw Milosz asks us to look at ourselves as from a distance.
Love means to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
Ane whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills---
I don't think he just means a healing from narcissism but a healing of self so as to be open to what the world has to offer. Truly to be open to love, we have to love ourselves but we also have to be open to loving others.

In the first line of the final poem in the book, "Buoyancy" by Rumi, we are reminded of the connection of love and poetry.
Love has taken away all my practices
And filled me with poetry.
I hope this review has encouraged you to find a poem you love today. And once you find it you can read it to the person you love. Have fun with it, too.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Salon...April 21...A view from my window

A view from my window
Weather: overcast, light sprinkles, a few sunbursts

Today: We got outside for a few hours to plant some perennials, bulbs, and shrubs. We planted a Spanish lavender, a red/yellow columbine, a trailing rosemary, a new pierus,  and a few daffodil bulbs that were in pots and needed to get in the ground. We also pruned a flowering shrub that was encroaching on a Japanese maple.

Yesterday: I didn't get dressed until 2 PM...just sat around the house blogging and reading. We went out to dinner with some folks from church and had a "white elephant" exchange.  I brought dwarf candles and came home with a FoodSaver. Score!

A view from my window: if you squint your eyes you can see some lovely spring growth on the pierus, the coral bark maple has leafed out this week, the white azalea is on the brink of full bloom, the red tulips are up and colorful, and finally the multi-colors of the coralbells.  Lots of color. Love it. In other parts of the yard, the apple tree is ready to bloom, and the blueberry bush is full of flowers. The weather is supposed to be warm this coming week so we should have lots of changes by next Sunday.

Books read this week:

  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain...I now have the Hemingways running around in my head. This was a good book for a book club selection.
  • My Ideal Book Shelf edited by Thessaly La Force and art by Jane Mount...I will blog on this book later this week.
  • Ten Poems to Open Your Heart by Roger Housden...my fifth book of poems edited by Housden.
Currently reading:
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald...an audiobook selection.
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway...about his years in Paris, a follow-up to The Paris Wife.
  • Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime edited by Roger Housden.
  • Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer

Today's scripture: Isaiah 28:16, 17 "Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem. It is firm, a tested and precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never run away again.  "I will take the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness to check the foundation wall you have built." 

I am praying for: the families and individuals affected by the horror in Boston this week.

From the kitchen: roasted vegetable medley---asparagus, yams, carrots, red peppers.

Quote: "Despite all the tragedy, the people of Boston proved that good will always triumph."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 YA Audiobook Listening challenge

I just stumbled upon this reading/listening challenge and decided to join up even though we are already in the fourth month of the year. I will back fill with YA audiobooks I've already listened to this year and will follow the rules from this point forward. My Goal: Rock'n Out Level = 24.

Click on the links of YA Audiobooks I've listened to already and then go to my Challenges Page where I will  keep my list up to date.

The YA Audiobook Challenge Details:

Hello, and welcome to A Book and a Latte2013 Young Adult Audiobook Challenge! I hope you join us this year! I look forward to finding out what books you listen to in 2013 and discovering more great narrators and titles.

The Goal:

Choose a level below that will challenge you, and listen to and review the amount of audiobooks required for that level. To complete this challenge, you must listen and review a minimum of 12 audiobooks (released any year) of the YA (or MG) genre in 2012.
Easy Listening
Listen to and review 12 audiobooks.
Rock’n OutListen to and review 24 audiobooks.
Head Bang’n Listen to 36+ audiobooks, and review at least 24 of them.
Mosh PitListen to 48+ audiobooks, and review at least 36 of them.

Why should I join this challenge?

Because audiobooks rock! Listening to a book while doing chores or mundane tasks somehow makes them easier or at least not so bad, and they make hours in the car fly by… If you haven’t given audiobooks a try, use this challenge as motivation to do so!

What audiobooks count towards the YAAC?

Any young adult (or MG) audiobook! It doesn’t matter what year it was published.

What are the requirements?

  • Listen to and review at least 12 YA audiobooks (Easy Listening level) in between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013
  • Reviews should include the length of the audiobook, name of narrator(s), and include your opinion of the narrator(s)/production as well as the novel.
  • Review the audiobooks on either your blog, Goodreads, Amazon, or Audible, and then link them up here.
  • There will be a linky open here each month to link up your reviews.
  • Declare yourself a challenge participant (blog post/facebook/twitter) and sign up for the YA Audiobook Challenge at A Book and a Latte
  • HAVE FUN :)

Snapshot Saturday...April 20

Trees at public library and "pink snow."
I know this isn't the most lovely picture, but I was really struck by the pile of petals. They are like Spring leaves. Our weather has been so up and down this Spring that the flowering trees bloom out and drop their petals within days. I'm glad I caught this moment in time.

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by At Home With Books.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Today, April 18th, is Poem in Your Pocket Day.
Select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others throughout the day.

Here is the poem I carried with me today. I read it to any student or teacher who would listen.

Song of the Builders
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God-

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy, 
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

from Why I Wake Early (2004) by Mary Oliver

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind

Top Ten Rewind: Choosing a topic from posts I missed

Top Ten YA Books with Great Endings.

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell...I didn't get it at first but after I reread the ending all I had to say was Aw.w. My brain has been working on the "what-ifs" after the book's ending. I love it when a book gets my brain engaged imagining the story beyond the story. (2013)

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green...though the end of the story isn't what we would choose for Hazel and Augustus, it is still very sweet and poignant. (2012)

3. Going Bovine by Libba Bray... the story is either a madcap road trip novel or a tragic disease tale.  Either way, the ending brings all the parts together and the reader is left with both a question mark and a smile. (2010)

4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz ...this is a coming-of-age story about two friends who not only come to peace within themselves but find answers to move forward at the end of the tale. (2012)

5. Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes...you probably haven't heard of this book unless you have been a long time reader of my blog. It not only is a touching coming-of-age story set in the 1970s, the book has an amazingly redemptive ending. (2010)

6. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater...the whole magical tale builds to a satisfying ending. i can just sigh thinking about it. (2011)

7. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein...though this wasn't my favorite book of all time, the ending did a nice job of drawing all the pieces together to shed light on some of the mysteries I missed along the way. (2012)

8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman...this was my favorite Fantasy novel from last year. It is an exciting and imaginative book and though we are led to believe there will be a sequel, it was satisfying as a stand alone. (2012)

9. Dead to You by Lisa McMann...a thriller/mystery with a shock on the last page.  Do not read ahead. (2012)

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern...though not a YA book, it certainly would appeal to many teens. The whole book is ebbs and flows but the ending amazing and left me with a truly enraptured feeling. (2012)

I've hyperlinked all the books to my reviews. Check them out if you are looking for new reading selections.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Salon...April 14th

My library at night (the circular part on the second floor)
Weather: Cold, windy, and rainy, with occasional sunbreaks. I have purchased some plants but now don't feel like tromping around in the rain and cold to plant them.

Today: We have a full day ahead of us. After church I have a meeting to work on the "problem" of how we want to spend/invest/contribute our big pot of money for mission projects. "Problem" is tongue-in cheek for delight. Then we will race up to Seattle for a Brahms concert put on by the Seattle University Choirs. I'm promising myself a side trip to Elliott Bay Books.

Yesterday: Our women's group had a Spring focused brunch and a speaker from the WSU Master Gardener Association. Topic: perennials. I learned so much about our weird climate out here in the Pacific Northwest and why plant ratings about zones, and hardiness, and part shade/part sun don't mean a lot for our climes. I didn't learn much about particular perennials, but that was OK because everything else was so interesting.  If you are reading this, thank you Denise for organizing it.

This past week: I tried to figure out if my colleagues really think I'm a miracle worker or are playing me for a fool. On Monday a teacher asked me to put together a list of all the books I had from her list of authors.  I looked at it and thought I had about ten. All of the authors were Asian and she wanted every one of her 90 students to read three things by the author that they chose, including a full length novel.  She said she was fine if I could find any other Asian authors, but she didn't want Asian-American, Asian-Canadian authors.  I said I'd try but I didn't think I could do.  Then she added that the other teacher wanted to do the assignment at the same time, for another 60 students, and she wanted the books within a week. See what I mean? Miracle worker or fool? Well, I think am the miracle worker.  I set to work with the district-wide catalog and requested books from other schools and found lots of Asian authors I'd never heard of before or even realized I had in my library. I think by the time the classes come in on Wednesday I should have around 140 books to offer as their choices. It was a lot of work, but fun and rewarding at the same time. Fortunately our district allows interlibrary loans.

I'm irritated about: my "new" front loading washing machine (13 months old) because it no longer locks the door closed, rendering it nonfunctional   Of course, we are one month past the warranty.  The good news about this, we don't have to do laundry today since we are still waiting for the part and installation. Perhaps I'll be washing out my undies in the sink this week.  Ha!

Books I completed this week:
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh...I got really irritated with the main character toward the middle of the book and started wondering if I finally found a book I actually hated. But the ending redeemed it a bit. 
  • Twenty Poems to Bless Your Marriage and One to Save It edited by Roger Housden...I slowed way down this week and only read one poetry book instead of three.  I'm still a fan of Housden and the way that he makes poetry so accessible. Don and I have found ourselves reciting poetry to each other quite often lately.
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell...a new favorite!!! Please, pretty please click the link and read my review. 
Currently reading: 
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain...book club is Tuesday and I'm just a little over half finished.  Eek!  Ever have a week when you were supposed to read something but chose to read something else? That was this week for me. I read Eleanor and Park and back-burnered The Paris Wife. I'll pay for it today and Monday.
  • Ten Poems to Open Your Heart by Roger Housden...the book most clearly about love in the 'Ten Poems' series, yet I am not enjoying it as much as the other books. Hmm.  What does that say about me?
From the kitchen: Homemade Italian meatballs. My husband was so pleased that he gushed, "We just made 'real' food."

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:24
“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Spring in the yard: (Mainly noticed from car windows) Rhododendrons and Azaleas are getting ready to bloom. Usually azaleas are earlier than rhodies but I've noticed the opposite this year.  Today I drove past a gorgeous red rhody in full bloom.

Music fix of the week:
Josh Groban: I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. When I say I just finished listening, I mean it. I haven't done anything after the last sentence except open up this blog and begin typing. I don't want the magic to fade in my mind at all before I capture at least a tiny speck of it here. And, because I am so enraptured and enthralled, perhaps you will also capture a tiny speck of the same magic emanating from my computer screen to yours.

 Eleanor and Park are two teens who miraculously fall in love after ending up as seatmates on the school bus. Park, a half Korean-American boy, lives with his parents and younger brother. His grandparents live next door. His parents are not only still married but they clearly love each other.  Eleanor, on the other hand, lives with her mom and stepdad Richie. She and her four siblings all share one bedroom and tip-toe around the house trying to not make Richie angry. He is clearly a powder keg ready to blow. The kids can't go live with their biological father because he doesn't want them. They are stuck in a nightmare.

Even though Eleanor and Park become friends, life at this inner city high school in Omaha is difficult for Eleanor. She doesn't look and act like a "normal" teen and she is teased and harassed endlessly by her classmates. Just about the only good thing in her life is Park, and Rowell does an amazing job describing her deepening relationship with him through the words on each page.

Not wanting to give away any of the plot, my summary doesn't do the book justice. Just suffice it to say it is way better than I am making it sound.

The story is told in two voices in alternating chapters so we get to know, and love, both Eleanor and Park equally. As their relationship develops and deepens we also get to know and appreciate Park's parents, who play an important role in the story. One thing that drives me absolutely crazy  is YA novels where the adults (parents, teachers, pastors, etc.) are absent, clueless, or worthless. Eleanor's mom and dad may have been worthless but at least the school counselor and Park's parents were "good guys" and stepped in. The audiobook format is perfect, too, with two voice actors, Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, giving depth and texture to our characters.

Rowell seems to really "get" teenagers. Everything out of the mouths of these teens seemed authentic and true. I wanted to cry as I read it because I suddenly realized that the horror that Eleanor lives in the pages of this book is likely the horror that some of my students are currently actually living.  The dialogue between Park and Eleanor and the surprising way that they treat each other is such an affirmation to the potential within all of us and a testimony of how we should treat one another. There is nothing I don't like about this book, except perhaps the ugliness.  But, of course, without the ugliness we couldn't have the transcendence either.

(I'm still crying a little bit and really should get up and go wash my face and drink a glass of water...Sigh.)

As I was casting about on the web a minute ago looking for more on the book, author, etc. I ran into a NY Times review on the book written by John Green.  Yes, JOHN GREEN, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. His review is way better than mine. Please go and read it.

But first let me say I think anyone who is a teenager, has teenage kids, works with teens, likes YA lit, or is human should read this book.  And I'd recommend that you read it as soon as possible.  My library doesn't have a copy of this book yet but as soon as I make myself presentable, to the bookstore I go to pick up a copy.  I want it available for my readers Monday.  It is the best YA book I've read in 2013, by far.

Here are two quotes from the book.  No spoilers, just hand-holding...
“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.” 
“The first time he'd held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.” ― Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park

Friday, April 12, 2013

D.E.A.R.---Drop Everything and Read Day


From the DEAR webpage:
 What is D.E.A.R.?
D.E.A.R. stands for “Drop Everything and Read,” a national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. Because, what’s more fun(damental) than reading, really?

When is D.E.A.R. celebrated?
D.E.A.R. programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday, since she first wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (pages 40-41). Inspired by letters from readers sharing their enthusiasm for the D.E.A.R. activities implemented in their schools, Mrs. Cleary decided to give the same experience to Ramona and her classmates. As D.E.A.R. has grown in popularity and scope, the program has expanded to span the entire month of April . . . offering classrooms and communities additional time to celebrate!

Can D.E.A.R. be celebrated anytime?
Yes, of course! We encourage you to “Drop Everything and Read” every day throughout the year. The goal of the program is to prompt people to make reading a regular part of their routine . . . whether they’re reading solo or together with their classmates, parents, or friends. So, go ahead and join the millions of families, schools, bookstores, and communities who have participated throughout the years and pledge to “drop” what you’re doing in order to read a good book.

 30 minutes. Read. Today!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Attention Teen Readers-Writers!

Students: take note.  Here is your chance to do what you like best and make a difference while doing it.

The website Teenreads.com has announced that they are accepting applications from teens ages 13-18 to be on their Teen Board for 6 months (from July - December 2013). They are looking for teens who love to read and have the time and interest in contributing to their website. Teen Board members write book reviews, blog posts, and interact on the site. Read all the details here (the application is on this page, too, if you are interested).

Here is a little of what is says:
We value our readers’ opinions and read your emails faithfully to get your feedback on books and authors. We are looking for a select group of teens who will be asked to participate on a more formal basis. Opportunities will include contributing reviews, writing blog posts, sharing ideas for the site, giving feedback on features we have on the site and scouting trends in your own community. We want a group of diverse teens around the country to be able to weigh in on YA lit and share their opinions on it.

Sounds like a great opportunity for a book-loving teen...and it will look great on a college application, too!

 Thanks Sue at Great Books for Kids and Teens for this tip!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Retrospective Wednesday: The Kite Runner

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic asked about favorite books that predated my blogging career. I decided to focus on Young Adult books or else I certainly would have included The Kite Runner on my list. That got me thinking that I really should go back and blog about some of my favorite books that deserve a second look not only from me but from you, also.

This past February marked the 10th anniversary since The Kite Runner was first published. It was a publishing phenomenon. It spent something like 103 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list , which is just crazy to think about. But then it is an unforgettable story. It is about the friendship between two boys, one wealthy, one not, and the circumstances which catapulted them into different spheres.

The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.  It is a sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years.---Khaled Hosseini's Webpage

If by some chance you missed the two years that The Kite Runner was at the top of the heap or you were to too young to pay attention, it is not too late to discover this book for the first time. It is one of those books   likely to stay with you long after finishing the last page. If you, like me, read it ten years ago, maybe it is time to give it a fresh peek. It will be a good warm up, as I understand that Khaled Hosseini's third book, And the Mountains Echoed, is coming out next month. Can't wait!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday...April 8, 2013

My Top Ten Pre-Blogging Books
I became a teen librarian in September 2005. I started blogging in July 2009.  
I will limit my selections to YA books I read between those dates.

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green...this continues to be one of my all-time favorite YA books.
2. Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going...I listened to the audiobook of this gem.  It is a very funny, thought-provoking book.
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak...if you haven't read this book you are missing a GREAT one.
4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie...I just checked to make sure I hadn't reviewed this book and I found that it shows up on about every other Top Ten list I've created.  :)
5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson...another "must-read" YA book.
6. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman...I was mesmerized as I rapidly read through the books in this series.
7. Feed by M.T.Anderson...I listened to the audiobook of this Science Fiction selection. Apparently that is the preferred way to consume it as few readers have liked it as much as me.
8. Stiff by Mary Roach...the subtitle says it all: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. This is a nonfiction selection.
9. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose. Another nonfiction selection about the extinction of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.
10. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart...Frankie is so plucky I can't help but be a fan.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Ten Poems to Set You Free by Roger Housden

A strange thing is happening to me. I am falling in love with poetry. Roger Housden's series of poetry books called Ten Poems... have been the catalyst for this new found love. In Ten Poems to Set You Free Housden explains the difference between poetry and prose:
"Unlike prose, poetry does not explain things. It conveys the feeling of what happens. It articulates our deepest wonderings and aspirations, it shows us the world and ourselves in ways we might never have noticed before; it can name the questions that we wrestle with. Sometimes, it can prompt you to live your own answers in response."
I have found this to be true. The poem selections in this book, and his other books, speak to me about things I wrestle with and wonder about. They even have caused me to notice things in my environment and about my relationships. I do want to live inside the answers these poems provide. Housden explains it this way:
"Good poetry emerges from the wellsprings of the human spirit, and if we are in the right place in ourselves to hear it, it can call forth our own inarticulate knowings, and offer a mirror into the core and the truth of our own life. It can show us the spark, the fire at our center, which, in the end, is the only thing in us likely to endure, the one thing worthy of our true name."
Housden refers to poetry as the "fruit of the deep mind" and reminds us that it can help illuminate our way. In Mary Oliver's poem in this book she says:
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?-1
Oliver also asks in the same poem:
For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters, caution and prudence?-1
I've been listening to the shouters for years. So many times I think that my life has become dull, a tedious condition to be endured. Poetry has awakened in me the urge to live my life and to live it to the fullest. Rumi admonishes us to live our own stories, to make our own myths.
But don't be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
Your own myth, without complicated explanation,...-2
In the C.P.Cavafy poem,  "The God Abandons Anthony", Housden explains how the author "urges us along with his protagonist, Mark Anthony, to embrace the losses in our life along with everything else. For they, too, are a part of who we are; they, too, play their part in the process of soul-making."
---don't mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.-3
Don't we all need this reminder to embrace both the good and the bad in our lives and then rejoice in what was and to lean forward toward the what will be? I know I do. I want to run and hide from my defeats, not face them. But I can do so now, being graced with courage.

David Whythe in his poem "Self-Portrait" asks us to look at our authentic selves. His questions here both challenge and make me uncomfortable:
...I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with it's harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing...-4
These are very compelling questions. Am I ready to fall toward the center of my longing? All the poetry in this slim volume challenges me to do so. Shall I begin? Rumi encourages me to do so, yet reminds me that the road will be full of bumps and I might even feel weighed down but...
...Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes the moment
of feeling the wings you've grown,
I am preparing my soul for flight!

-1 "Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?" by Mary Oliver
-2 "Unfold Your Own Myth (Excerpt) by Rumi
-3 "The God Abandons Anthony" by C.P. Cavafy
-4 "Self-Portrait" by David Whythe.

Sunday Salon...April 7, 2013

Butchart Sunken Garden taken April 1, 2013 by Anne Bennett

Weather: Raining. Really hard rain, the kind that makes huge puddles and small lakes everywhere.

Today: is the last day of my Spring vacation.  A good day to stay inside, catch up on laundry, read a little, and enjoy the last of that vacation-feeling.

This past week: we spent the first part of the week in Victoria, BC. We rode the Victoria Clipper which is a boat not a ferry so we were carless. We purchased a Butchart Gardens package which left straight from the Clipper, after stowing our bags, did a small town tour, then left us to wander the gardens for several hours before depositing us at our hotel.  It was a perfect day. The weather was sunny and warm and the gardens were not swarming with people. Lovely.  Simply lovely.

Yesterday: we attended a promotion ceremony for a man that my husband works with in the National Guard and then his after-party.  All of the women and men that my husband serves with in this capacity are such good people. I mean really, really good people.

Last Sunday: Easter, was delightful.  Our pastor preached on the Trinity and had a piece of art displayed. He talked about how we are part of the trinity story. It was perhaps the most touching sermon I've ever heard. Afterwards we had a crew of folks over for dinner.  We roasted lamb, a first for us, and it was really delicious. After the company left and after we delivered our daughter back to college, we spent the night at the Edgewater Inn so we could be right near the Clipper docks for our morning sailing. Our room looked over the Elliott Bay with all the lights of West Seattle twinkling in the distance. It was so gorgeous and serene.

Books completed this week:

  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman---a psychological drama with a perplexing situation. I found it very readable but also quite depressing.
  • Prodigy by Marie Lu---after a month of dragging my heels and slowly inching along in this book I finally finished it and would actually give it a B or B+ grade. It is a YA Dystopian novel, the second in a trilogy.
  • Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo---Not high  literature to be sure, but a fun romp through the spots that Jane Austen frequented during her life and a look at how her books make today's gals pine unrealistically for happily-ever-after-endings.
  • Ten Poems To Say Goodbye edited by Roger Housden---the second his poetry books that I consumed like a starving person, starving for poetry. The poems highlighted in this collection are about goodbyes because of death, the end of relationships, and family members moving on to new station in life. 
  • Ten Poems to Set You Free edited by Roger Housden---I spent a bit of time perusing bookstores in Victoria for Housden's books and found three. After arriving back home I purchased another. Can you tell I'm obsessed right now?

Books I'm currently reading:

  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh---a book club selection. I just got back to it yesterday and I'm intrigued by the Victorian notion that each flower carries with it a particular message. For example, yellow roses stand for jealousy.
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain---another book club selection and the All-Pierce County Reads book of the year. This is about Hemingway's early life and his first wife.
  • Twenty Poems to Bless Your Marriage by Roger Housden. See, more confirmations of my current obsession with poetry and the editorial comments of Roger Housden.
  • Dancing with Joy: 99 poems edited by Roger Housden---all poems about the joys in life.

Food: This week of eating out a few favorites deserve a shout-out...the scones at Murchie's Tea Shop; the fish and chips and the bread pudding at the Irish pub our first meal in Victoria; and the bites of crab cakes I snuck off Don's plate our last dinner in Victoria. Yummy.

Poem for the day:
“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.” 
― Kobayashi IssaPoems