"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=========

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Salon...June 30th

Monthly wrap-up...June 2013

The photo: is my stuffed Muffy Vanderbear Jam Session bear and her little old-fashioned stove. I had to dig around to find it but on the heels of making so much jam this summer it was appropriate to display it now. When my girls were young we collected a lot of the Muffy Vanderbear outfits for different occasions. It is still fun to get them out occasionally.

Weather today: Gorgeous and hot. We had our nieces here for lunch and we sat outside and sweated in 90 degree heat, very warm for the Northwest. This past week started rainy and cool, temperatures in the 60s, then Wednesday the weather started to turn and the barometer swung wildly causing both my daughter and I to get killer headaches. The last half week has been sunny and warm.

Yesterday: We stayed close to home and worked in the yard (Don) and made jam (Carly and me.) Don finally got out and trimmed the branches off the maple tree that were damaged in the winter ice storm over a year ago. It was a big, tiring job.  I helped but only toward the very end as he was trying to cut up the limbs and fit them into our recycling barrel. While he was out, Carly and I were in the house making two batches of raspberry freezer jam. We have found the berries from the Puyallup Valley are fairly fragile so we need to deal with them almost as soon as they are picked. It wasn't the best day to make jam since it was so warm but it wasn't an odious task and now we have raspberry jam again.  I missed raspberry season last year so we haven't had any of our favorite jam for almost a year.

This month: June is a difficult time for me with the closing out of the school year, collecting and repairing all the textbooks, and getting ready for next year which includes inservice classes. I find my energy is pretty low after days of schlepping textbooks so I usually don't get much done at home including reading. This year, after all the school things were done and I was ready for summer vacation, I came down with a summer cold which laid me up for a few days last week-end and the early part of the week. Now that I am feeling better it is time for real summer activities to begin.

This evening: The Taste of Tacoma--- a food and music celebration at Point Defiance Park.Time to listen to a little jazz as we nibble on food from local restaurants....Woops, just got back from said event.  My daughter and I did a little wine tasting while we all listened to some jazz and people-watched.

Books completed this month (click on the hyperlinks to read my reviews):

Currently reading:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Winger by Andrew Smith

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32, The Parable of the Lost Son, should be renamed: The Parable of the Faithful Son, The Loving Father, and the Forgiven Son!

Prayers for: Our friends' son who has been in the hospital for a month after he was hit by a car on his bike. He has a collapsed lung that is still leaking.

In the garden: We played our first game of bocce ball for this summer this week.

From the kitchen: Roasted Vegetables, BBQ Tri-Tip Marinated in teriyaki, Marionberry Cobbler.

Review: Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson

I am determined to read a bunch of books this summer that I can recommend to my students in the Fall. Unfortunately, Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson will not get as many recommendations from me as I had hoped. Students often request funny or silly books, just lighthearted fun. Burger Wuss showed up on some list of very funny books that boys like so I was hopeful that it would be a new go-to book for me. I'm afraid, however, that it is starting to show it's age as it was first published in 1999. Though there were a few funny passages, the majority was more satire requiring a whole different subset of humor.

A comedy of romance and revenge, set in a burger restaurant. Anthony has never been able to stand up for himself — that is, not until his girlfriend is in someone else’s arms. Then Anthony vows revenge and devises a Plan. It begins with getting a job at the fast-food restaurant where his nemesis happens to be a star employee. But when the Plan is finally in place, will Anthony’s hunger for revenge be satisfied? Will he prove he’s not a wuss?- M.T.Anderson's blog
Though not a personal favorite, this book did have a lot to offer in which kids could relate:
  • Parents who try too hard to be supportive and understanding, to the point of being obnoxious.
  • Having to bum rides to get places
  • Working at fast food restaurants where the management is less than supportive/helpful.
  • Friends hooking up with other friends which changes relationships all the way around.
  • Girlfriend/boyfriend issues.
I enjoyed reading M.T. Anderson's blog about his own experiences with working at a fast food restaurant as a teenager and other things he was able to tap for material for this book.  I recommend that you hop over to his blog to have a look: Burger Wuss/MT Anderson

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

6 / 30 books. 20% done!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quote from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

This is a wonderful and diverse collection of poems that were favorites of Jackie Kennedy, selected by her daughter Carolyn.  Many were poems recited at a White House event in April 1963 for President Kennedy, organized by Jacqueline. A few of the poems were even written by her.

In addition to the poems Carolyn talks a bit about how much her mother loved poetry, and all good literature. Near the end of the book is this wonderful quote from the writings of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis encouraging us to read the masters:
Read for escape, read for adventure, read for romance, but read the great writers. You will find to your delight that they are easier and more joy to read than the second-rate ones. They touch your imagination and your deepest yearnings, and when your imagination is stirred it can lead you down paths you never dreamed you would travel. If you read great language you will develop, without realizing it, an appreciation of excellence that can shape your life.     ---from Books I Read When I was Young: The Favorite Books of Famous People,  by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 1980.
This is a worthy quote to remember and one that can serve as a guide to our literary lives.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

5 / 30 books. 16% done!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Deathwatch by Robb White

Yippee! At last, a book that fits all the requirements for those teen males who "have" to read something but "hate to read." Deathwatch by Robb White has it all: short---just over 200 pages, which most English teachers require; adventure; suspense; outdoors; mystery; guns; and, best of all, no gushy romance at all!

Here is how the conversations with these boys typically go:
Him: "I want a book just like Hatchet, which is the last book I actually read." (Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen is required reading in 5th grade in our district.)
Me: "Are you willing to read nonfiction adventure stories, like Into the Wild, or Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer?"
Him: "How many pages?"
Me: "Around 300."
Him: "No."
Me: "What about really exciting dystopian novels like The Hunger Games."
Him: "Does it involve any romance? Because I don't like books that have any romancing-stuff."
Me: "Umm. A little, but it isn't the main part of the story."
Him. "Then no."

Up until now my choices were pretty slim and many of them were really written for a younger audience.  Now I have discovered Deathwatch and I am fairly sure that this is just the book these boys have been looking for.

Here is the little teaser on the back of the book: "Madec was not the kind of man Ben would ordinarily have chosen as a companion for a quiet hunting trip...He was a cold man who liked to hurt things, and he was dangerous with a gun. But Ben needed money for another semester at college, and so when Madec offered to hire him as a guide to hunt bighorn sheep in the desert mountains, he agreed. it was a mistake that very nearly cost Ben his life."

And here is the funny part that it took me so long to find this book...it was first published in 1972. It is a timeless story, I didn't even miss the cell phones. With them, there would have been no story. Without them, it was a life or death struggle.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

4 / 30 books. 13% done!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a potential Mock Printz selection based on its reviews. It is a dystopian novel set 400 years in the future in Palmeres Tres, a pyramid-shaped city in what is now Brazil. The story begins as the city is preparing to elect the next Summer King, a figurehead male elected every five years. All Summer Kings are killed at the end of the first year after selecting the Queen who will reign after him. June and her friend, Gil, trick their way into the selection ceremony so that June can do a reflective thing with her art. While there they both fall in love with Enki, who becomes the next Summer King. Enki, who comes from the lowest tier of society, is wildly exotic and complex. After he becomes Summer King he spends his time romping around the city doing performance art with June, hosting wild parties, and messing with the Aunties, or the ruling class. Ultimately June, Gil, and Enki form a love triangle with a twist since Gil and Enki become homosexual lovers.

As the story progresses the inequalities in this "utopian" city become more and more apparent and the residents are poised for a revolution. Issues related to uses of technology, isolationism, and the power structure come into focus.

June, our heroine, is a lot like teenagers today: sullen, impulsive, headstrong, and slightly naive. She  fights with her mother and tries to get away with stuff at school. yet, in a lot of ways she is a very likeable character who is just trying to make her mark on her city. She does it with her art, which isn't what we'd consider art. She finds ways to infuse her art into murals, dances, even her skin. Eventually we find a city in trouble and Enki seems to be leading the charge toward some big change, or is he? And June soon gets tangled up in the mess, too.

Several things bugged me at the beginning of this book which took awhile for me to overcome.  First, the language and use of words confused me.  Ms. Johnson uses lots of unrecognizable words throughout the book.  Are they made-up words or are they actual Portuguese slang words currently used in Brazil? Secondly, the title of the book is wrong.  Enki is the Summer King, not the Summer Prince. Was it so titled so that the reader would know that Enki was young and hip and "princely", not old and stuffy and "kingly"? I also had a hard time getting any traction on my reading of this book in the beginning. But on closer reflection that was probably more a reflection of where I was mentally than about the book. Putting all of these things together it was a hard-starter for me and I really struggled with the first half of the book, so much so that I decided to go back and look at the professional reviews of the book again to remind me why we chose it as a potential Mock Printz selection. After doing that and as I forced myself to read on I found myself immersed in this exotic world of Palmares Tres and cheering on the exploits of the Summer King and his friends. The ending has a surprising and wonderful twist which left me feeling very satisfied.

Here is what a few of the reviewers have to say about The Summer Prince:

Johnson paints a brilliant picture of a seemingly lush paradise hiding a core rotted by class stratification, creative stagnation, and disenfranchisement. Evocative, disturbing, and exhilarating, this story leaves much for the reader to ponder, from the nuanced characters to fascinating central themes, including the impact of technology and the role of isolationism in a perilous world.- Booklist starred review
 In her YA debut, Johnson depicts a future that's recognizably Brazilian and human-June may have nanohooks, holo screens, and light implants, but 400 years on, teens still resent their parents and find ways to subvert the technology their elders theoretically control. With its complicated history, founding myth, and political structure, Palmares Tres is compelling, as is the triple bond between June, Enki, and Gil as they challenge their world's injustices. -Publisher's Weekly starred Review
 Rife with political turmoil and steeped in culture, this unique and highly fantastical dystopian romance is both intriguing and imaginative. Johnson excels at building rich and gorgeously complex worlds, and her prose shines with a sophistication that's uncommon in YA literature. -School Library Journal
With grace and precision, The Summer Prince walks the line between literary lyricism and good old-fashioned science fiction storytelling. Johnson has created a city that lives and breathes on the page, its samba rhythms and sea breezes balanced by algae stink and rusting spiderbots.- Petra Mayer, NPR Book Reviews
And an interview with the author which offers many insights that are helpful in understanding the story. Follow this link to the NPR interview with Alaya Dawn Johnson.

I'm not sure that The Summer Prince will make it onto our Mock Printz reading list or not.  But I will do my best to represent it well to the selection committee.  It you have read it, or after you read it, please let me know what you think of it.  I am eager to hear other opinions.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

3 / 30 books. 10% done!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Retrospective Wednesday: Beautiful Creatures

It is time for another Retrospective Wednesday book review.  Here I highlight books published in previous years that deserve a second look, or a first look, as the case may be.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, published in 2009 has never really gone out of popularity in my library, especially because there have been three other books added to the Caster Chronicles series since that time. Just about the time that the popularity of the first started to wane, the second book came out.  Clever marketing!

The book begins with this very compelling and intriguing first few lines:
There were no surprises in Gatlin County. We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere. At least, that's what I thought. Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave.
Not being a huge fan of the paranormal romance genre I was a little hesitant to pick up this book until I saw that a movie was coming out and it looked good so I determined to read the book first. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't the normal werewolf/vampire/fairy paranormal book. The main characters Lena and Ethan seem to be related to some past lives and loves back to Civil War days, and Lena's family are all Casters which means they all have different magical skills. They reminded me a little of the Addams Family without the humor but definitely with the quirky.

I listened to the audiobook version of Beautiful Creatures narrated by Kevin T. Collins. When Ethan would enter into his dream sequence the listener was treated to some eerie music which was helpful on one hand but a little off-putting on the other. Otherwise, I found the audio version very enjoyable. My eldest daughter is the one who recommended that I listen to this book after she found it a most compelling and engaging story.  She is going on and listening to the other three books in the series. I haven't decided if I will read on or not. At this point I feel pretty satisfied with the story and where it ended in this book.

After completing the book I checked the movie listings in my area and found that Beautiful Creatures was no longer in the theaters so I still haven't seen it and don't know if it is any good. If you have seen it, could you leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it?  Thanks.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

2 / 30 books. 6% done!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Final Sense and Sensibility Weekly Update

Weekly progress: Finished. Pages 292-312 (end.)

Action: Tom, a Dashwood servant, reports that he talked to Lucy Steele Ferrars in Exeter. The family is shocked that Edward and Lucy got married so quickly even though the arrangements for the parish haven't been made. They are also surprised that no one in London has written to tell them. Soon after receiving this news Edward arrives on horseback and clears up the miscommunication.  His brother, Robert, married Lucy. Edward is free to confess his love for Elinor. Edward shows the letter from Lucy breaking off the engagement. It shows that she never really cared as much for him as he thought. And it was apparent that Lucy meant to deceive the Dashwoods when she saw the servant in Exeter. Col. Brandon comes for a visit and the two men get along quite well. Letters from London about the marriage scandal finally arrive and they give the impression that Mrs. Ferrars might be willing to forgive Edward. Elinor encourages him to go to London to make amends with his mother. With the reconciliation came a marriage gift of ten thousand pounds which would enable Elinor and Edward to live quite comfortably along with the two hundred fifty he would make as a parish pastor. Col. Brandon secure now that Marianne is over Willoughby asks her to marry him and she agrees.

Surprises: I was most surprised by how few pages contained such important bits of the story---the proposals of both girls and the Ferrars' family matters. The movies led me to believe that there was quite a bit of dialogue here but actually there is very little. The movies also do not contain the reconciliation of Edward with his family, which I suppose is anticlimactic, so it makes sense why it is left out.

Thoughts: After finishing the book I rewatched the BBC version of Sense and Sensibility (pictured.) I'd always thought that this version was just a spin off of the Emma Thompson version but now I was viewing it with new eyes. This version is closer to the book in several ways---the confessions of Lucy and Willoughby, for example---and further in other ways---the courting of Marianne by Brandon is almost an afterthought in the book, but in this movie they make a big deal of it and actually have Marianne engaged before Elinor. Either way, reading the book led to further delight in the story and increased my admiration for Ms. Austen. I wondered at the best bits being played down by her and decided that might be a bit of her magic.  She lets the reader fill in the details as they see it, so the story never gets dull or out-of-date.

Up next: Mansfield Park, but I shall leave it for the winter months.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

1 / 30 books. 3% done!

Monday, June 24, 2013

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

Some of the books I hope to get to during this challenge
It is summertime at last! I've set myself a rather lofty but doable reading challenge...to read 30 books before I go back to school in the fall.  I'm off and running already having completed two books toward this goal already.  Stay tuned and watch my progress.

  • Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

2 / 30 books. 6% done!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Salon...June 23

Peninsula Park, NE Portland, Oregon
Weather: Rainy.  The way to tell it is summer in the Northwest...the rain is warmer.

Yesterday: My husband and I drove down to Portland, Oregon for a romantic evening as an early celebration of our 31st anniversary and to see friends visiting from the East Coast. Unfortunately I was nursing a bad cold so I don't think our romantic week-end quite lived up to the hype.

Today: we met our friends in NE Portland for brunch at Pine State Biscuits where we sat a covered picnic table and shared and ate the amazing biscuits meals. Afterwards we visited a nearby rose garden in Peninsula Park. It is appropriate to visit a rose garden in Portland since it is the Rose City. Thanks for the visit Ken, Carol, Allison, and Kevin. We love you.

This past week: was the first week of summer vacation for me but I worked or went to classes everyday.  The last two weeks of school are just a killer and I couldn't get everything done that I needed to do to close out the school year.  Now all the purchase orders are finalized, I've talked to the Principal about the technology needs for next year, and have cleaned up all loose ends except for the textbook repair.  I will probably work away on these repairs for a few hours here and there for the next few weeks. It is supposed to rain for the next few days so this may be as good a time as any to finish up this odious task.

Books read the past two weeks:

  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl---this was an audiobook selection that I listened to as I drove back and forth to work and during the rode trip down to Eugene to help my sister celebrate her retirement. It was my first qualifier to the Big Book Summer Challenge as the print version is over 400 pages.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen---I finished this book in less than six weeks reading around 50 pages per week to stay on track.
Currently reading:
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver--- my current audiobook. Kingsolver is an amazing writer.
  • The Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson---a possible Mock Printz selection, so far not a favorite but it could have something to do with reading it way too slowly.
From the kitchen: Salsa Chicken with polenta.  I made up the recipe. It's easy.

In the garden: three of four rhododendrons deadheaded; sweetpeas transplanted; lilacs starts relocated; and pesky blackberry upstart yanked out.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another hilarious summer reading list

Piles of summer reading books.  Will I get to them all? 

Another summer.  Another hilarious summer reading list that is probably impossible to complete.
Every summer I set my sites on reading new YA lit, old favorites, book club selections, and books that might entice reluctant readers.  Most of my summer reading is done for the expressed reason of finding good books to recommend to my students in the fall.

Here are the books I hope to get to:

Mock Printz preview books:

  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • Etiquette Espionage by Carriger
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys 
  • Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson
  • Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers
  • Maggot Moon by Gardner
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
  • Midwinter Blood by Sedgwick
  • A Corner of White by Moriarty
  • Teeth by Moskowitz
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Medina
  • Imprisoned: The Betrayal of the Japanese Americans
  • Emancipation Proclamation by Bolden
Book Club Selections (that I know of to date):
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Saving Cee-Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Of interest to my teen readers:
  • Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle
  • Deathwatch by Robb White
  • Crap Kingdom by DC Pierson
  • Quarantine Lex Thomas
  • Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson
  • The Silence of Murder by Mackall
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Henry Franks by Peter Salomon
  • Trapped by Michael Northrup
  • This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith
  • The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock
For my Reading Challenges:
  • Period 8 by Chris Crutcher (Chris Crutcher Challenge)
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Big Book Summer Challenge)
  • The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna (Read all the ALA Award books)
My reading goal is usually 30 books so I might be able to accomplish this list if other books don't push their way in and crowd out these.  Wish me luck!

What's on your reading list?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lucy is a normal teenager in every way except one. She is a piano virtuoso. At fourteen she was winning all kinds of competitions and was even recorded with the Cleveland Orchestra where she was the piano soloist. Just when it seemed that her talent was coming to a crescendo, Lucy quit the piano and hadn't even touched it for ten months. All of her family members attention shifted to her younger ten-year-old brother who was also extremely gifted on the piano. Now Lucy is just a normal teenager, going to high school, doing her homework, hanging out with friends, fighting with her mother, and wondering what happened to her and where did the music go. When her brother gets a new piano teacher, Lucy is lured back into playing. But can she play the piano without getting sucked back to the life she despised? Can she find a way to live a balanced life where she, not her family, make the decisions about what is best for her?

After finishing The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr I set the book aside thinking that normal teenagers, patrons of my library, would not be able to relate to Lucy and her issues. Students at my school don't have parents whose jobs center around their children and their musical talents. My students can't afford sweaters that cost $400 and obviously, because they attend a public school, don't have the funds to attend a private school, especially a music conservatory. Then I started thinking about other books that are great favorites where the characters live very different lives than  normal teenagers. Books can teach us things about ourselves and our lives without being identical to our experiences.

Ultimately Lucy is struggling with herself.  What kind of life does she want to live and who should have the say in those decisions? Aren't those questions that all teens grapple with? My students may not be struggling with which conservatory to attend but many will grapple with what college to attend and what classes to take.  All teens have to negotiate their relationships with their parents as they mature. These are universal themes. Lucy makes some good and some bad decisions along the way.  She hurts people that she loves, yet she finds ways to make things right. She struggles to find balance in her life, something that she didn't have the first fifteen years. These are issues my teen readers will be able to relate to.  In addition, musical students will appreciate all the musical references from musical terminology to actual titles of both classical and modern songs. I even spent a bit of time with iTunes listening to the short sound bites of songs referenced in the book.

If you are looking for another review of The Lucy Variations, I recommend that read The Playing's the Thing by Vivien Schweitzer of the NYT. Her review of the book has both a fuller summary (hint: a few spoilers) but really crystallizes the beauty of the book and the writing. This review turned my thinking from "meh" to good.

Lucy reminds us all that we need to find the joy in our lives. When she returns to music she won't allow it to control her, like it did before, "when she'd be too stressed to think about the beauty of music, when she'd trudge to the piano like it was punishment."

I consumed this in the audiobook format. Sara Zarr, the author, read the book herself and did a nice job.  I also enjoyed the musical interludes though I did notice that the book might reference the music of a famous composer and then the audio recording would play a piece by a different composer altogether. It bugged me at first but I didn't think about it much as I got more immersed in the story.

At the end of the book Lucy shares a list of her favorite songs. The song Happier by Guster was one of the songs on the list. I think (my opinion) that part of the reason Sara Zarr selected it because of the picture where a kid is smashing a piano. Have a listen.  If you go to YouTube someone has compiled videos of all the selections. Take a look at all of the,  Enjoy.

Metamorphosis by Philip Glass is an appropriate selection thinking about what the word means and that it is a piano selection.

Thanks Sara Zarr for an excellent book and for bringing some new music into my life.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sense and Sensibility Weekly update #5

50-page weekly met? Yes, plus some. This week I finished Part 3, chapters 1-11, which is pages 210-292 in this volume. At one point I thought I might actually finish the book but textbook fatigue would take over every time I sat down to read.
Willoughby is caught by Elinor and Marianne and the truth comes out.
Action: The Steele sisters go to stay with John and Fanny Dashwood and Anne lets the cat-out-of-the-bag about the engagement between Lucy and Edward. The girls are almost literally thrown out of the house in anger and revulsion. Edward, when forced to choose between Lucy or his inheritance, chooses Lucy and doing the honorable thing. Elinor now has to face it that she and Edward will never be together. She finally tells Marianne everything she knows and the sisters console each other. Col. Brandon offers his parish to Edward so that he can make a living somehow. Finally the girls are to go home. Mrs. Jennings is to accompany them as far as the Palmer's residence. While there Marianne gets gravely ill. It is feared that she might die. Col. Brandon rides to Barton Cottage to get Mrs. Dashwood. On the return trip he confesses that he is in love with Marianne, has always been. About the time that Elinor is expecting her mother and Col. Brandon's return, she is summoned out of the sick room and finds Willoughby waiting for her.  He unburdens his guilt on her as he confesses his true feelings about Marianne. Elinor's feelings toward Willoughby soften a bit. Once Marianne is well enough to travel and go home, Elinor tells her about the conversation that she had with Willoughby. His confession seems to bring Marianne a measure of peace and she confesses that she now sees that she would never have been truly happy with him in the long run.
Willoughby makes his confession to Elinor.
Surprises: This section could be titled "Confessions". The movies make quite a bit about the confessions of Lucy that she is engaged to Edward but do not play up or even include Willoughby's confessions to Elinor. I was most surprised to learn that the note that Willoughby wrote to Marianne the night after she saw him at the dance which contained a locket of her hair, was written by Willoughby but dictated by his fiancee, Miss Gray. I was also surprised by the length of his guilty confession made to Elinor and the effect this confession had on her and eventually on Marianne. Knowing how the story ends I am surprised there are only 30 pages of book left to go.

Note: Even though I think of myself as a person very familiar with the works of Jane Austen I keep finding little surprises each week as I read along. I encourage you to pick up a Jane Austen novel this summer and look for those little surprises within, too. By following this format of reporting on the action and remarking on my surprises I find the reading opening up to me.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

End of the year haiku (or are they senryu?)

After reading a description of the formula for writing haiku poems (5-7-5 syllables) I learned that this Japanese poetry is typically about nature. Whereas senryu poems are merely three-line poems that deal with foibles of human nature, often in a satirical way and are not bound by a syllable count. So here are my three-line poems (haiku, senryu, or otherwise) about my experiences at the close of this school year. Please take a look at last year's end-of-the-year haiku here.

Who needs to eat?
No time to grocery shop?
Steady diet of textbooks.

Armloads of textbooks.
Cranky students, teachers, all.
Last day of school "joys."

A teetering pile
of novels on my dresser,
but no time to read.

Fell asleep today
while sitting on the blue couch 
writing this haiku.

Two rolls of tape left.
Unfortunately won't fix
Piles of broken books

Last day of school year
Happy, sad mixed together-
Friends retiring.

End of year party
Laugh so hard I nearly pee-
Teaching stories!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sense and Sensibility Weekly Update #4

I've been off-the-grid for the past week so this post is a day late. My apologies.

50-Page Goal Met? No. In addition to not having enough time to blog, I haven't been reading much either. I did read 42 pages, Part 2, Chapters 9-14, ending this weeks reading on page 207.

Action: Marianne now knows that Willoughby is to wed another woman, a rich woman, and she is completely undone.  She just wants to leave and go home to her mother. Mrs. Jennings tries to tempt her out of her sadness with rare foods and social events. Col. Brandon shares with Elinor that a young charge of his was impregnated by Willoughby who left her destitute. Though Marianne  hears this new information, she is not completely ready to consider him a cad. On a rare outing, the sisters end up bumping into their half-brother John Dashwood. He asks them to introduce him to the Middletons and to Mrs. Jennings.  Soon the families are socializing together often. The Steele sisters, who are staying with the Middletons, end up in the social mix also, which ends up being advantageous for Lucy as she has an opportunity to meet Mrs. Ferrars. Elinor thinks that Edward's mother is a snob but Lucy thinks otherwise. During this time Charlotte, Mrs. Jennings daughter, has a baby, forcing Marianne and Elinor to socialize more with the Middletons, the Steeles, and their sister-in-law, Fanny. Edwards makes an awkward visit while Lucy happens to be visiting. Elinor seems resigned to her lot in life without him.

Surprises: On my last update I reported that there were few surprises and that the dialogue was very familiar as it was very close to what has been used in the movies.  This section is the opposite.   Few of the details were well known to me and little of the dialogue was familiar. It is hard to imagine life so ordered by social rules. Marianne and Elinor seems to be genuinely tortured by how much time they have to socialize with the Middletons, the Steeles, and their sister-in-law. Apparently unmarried women had very few opportunities to move about freely in society without the escort of a married woman.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sense and Sensibility--- Weekly Update #3

Here is the weekly update on my progress reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. My goal is to read a minimum of 50 pages, to note differences between the films and books, and to discover some surprise within. How did this week go towards these goals?

50 page goal met? Yes. Part 2, Chapters 1-9. I'm on page 164 out of 308, in my edition.

Current Action: Lucy Steele tells Elinor ALL about her love for Edward Ferrars and details of their long engagement. Elinor dare not tell her mother or sisters what she has learned. Mrs. Jennings invites Elinor and Marianne to stay with her in London for the season. Almost as soon as they get to London, Marianne sends off a note to Willoughby. When he doesn't arrive, she sends another note and spends all her time looking out for him. They eventually end up at the same party where Willoughby is decidedly cool. The next day he sends Marianne a note explaining that he is engaged.  If she was a basket case while she waited to hear from him, she is now a double basket case. I selected the cover picture this week because so much of the action involved Marianne moping around.

Surprises: There were few surprises for me in this section. The action and dialogue is very similar to the films. Willoughby was more obviously in London than in the movies. We know this because he did drop by Mrs. Jennings house while the girls were out and later was spotted by Sir John Middleton who invited him to a dance he and his wife were hosting. Willoughby didn't attend or he would have run into Marianne.

Question: As close as Elinor and Marianne are I am surprised at how little they actually share with each other about what is going on inside their minds and their feelings. Do you think that it is realistic?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Announced

The 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children's Literature were announced on Friday, May 31, 2013.

The Fiction Award Winner is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell!

Honors go to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman  

and A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

As you may know I am a huge fan of both Eleanor and Park and Seraphina. A Corner of White recently came to my attention but now I will have to run down a copy and read it for myself.

Unlike the American Library Association book awards which are announced in January and cover books published during a calendar year, Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards cover books published during a given school year. That is how Seraphina, published in July 2012, and the other two books, published in 2013, end up being considered for the same award.

For summaries of the books follow the link to the Boston Globe-Horn Book Announcement.

Sunday Salon...June 2nd

Weather: Overcast.  It was sprinkling this morning.  The weather was gorgeous yesterday afternoon, so much so that I got a bit of color on my face and took a ride in my husband's sports car with the top down.

Today: I have been very aware of songbirds. They have been singing so loudly and sweetly. For some reason I've been noticing them more than usual this week.

Yesterday: I volunteered with a few others from my church at L'Arche Farms. L'Arche communities are worldwide for individuals living with mental disabilities. The L'Arche community in Tacoma has a farm and the individuals work on the farm growing produce and plants for sale at Farmer's Markets in the area in the summer. In the winter they make soap and greeting cards from paper they made themselves.  It is a very cool organization.  Check out your area to see if they have a L'Arche community and learn how you can volunteer.

Last evening: My hubby and I went to McNamara's Irish bar so that I could have a glass of cold draft hard cider. It is a new favorite of mine.

This past week: we had our last Bethel S.D. Librarians meeting of the year at my house. Five individuals are retiring this year from our ranks. It was a wonderful celebration of their service but it is really hard to imagine the school year without them.

This next week: is all about textbook collection at work. Seniors last day is Friday so all their books must come in and fines/fees cleared.  Lots of work ahead.  In honor of it, here are a few haiku I wrote about textbook collection (See all here):

"I didn't do it," 
the red-faced student complains. 
Graffiti on page.

Black tape: bent corners,
Glue broken spine,  tape ripped page.
Book repair on cheap.

End of day drive home.
Listen to audiobook.
Only literary fix.

Books read the past two weeks (since I didn't post last week):
  • Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh...set in the 1500s the story centers around Jepp, a dwarf who is forced to serve in Court of the Infantata. An audiobook selection.
  • Freewill by Chris Lynch...the story of a boy who is experiencing a mental breakdown related to unresolved grief over the death of his father. This book was a challenging read because a portion of it was written in 2nd person as if the voice in the boy's head were someone else. This is the first book for which I've actually given a rating of 1 (bad). 
  • Courage Had No Color: The Story of the Triple Nickles America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone...Interesting and infuriating in equal measure. The racism in our country's history just makes me sick.
  • Uses for Boys by Erica Scheidt...a graphically portrayed description of the life of lonely teenager who becomes involved sexually early and for all the wrong reasons.
  • The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr...Lucy is a piano prodigy who quits playing suddenly to the consternation of her family. This is a story of how she finds her way back to music and discovers what she loves along the way. This was an audiobook selection. At the end of the book we are treated to a list of songs that Lucy loves.  One is Beethoven's 5th Symphony, the 3rd movement. I was going to post a YouTube video of it here for you but decided instead for Beethoven's 7th Symphony, 2nd movement. I like it better.

Currently reading:
  • The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson...set in Brazil in some far off future.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen...I'm nearly half finished. At this pace I will complete it within a six-week window of time.  Pretty good considering it took me a year to read Emma.
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia...my upcoming audiobook selection.
From the kitchen: Salmon with pesto and pine nut butter. This is Northwest comfort food.

Scripture today: Luke 16: 31  “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

I'm praying for: My daughter.  She has a job interview tomorrow. Also prayers for a friend who is struggling mightily with chronic fatigue and lack of calorie absorption.

Quote of the Day: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." — Mother Teresa