"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, September 29, 2013

Sunday Salon, September 29

Minnie Muffy
Weather: Stormy. Rainy. Cold.

This week-end my church hosted an event called Faith in Action. Everyone is encouraged to go out into the community to provide service. In other words we are being the church instead of just going to church. We had about 15 service projects to pick from. My husband and I spent three hours at L'Arche Farms yesterday working in their greenhouse helping them prepare for their Fall festival. L'Arche is an international community of disabled persons and people who come alongside to help them. It is a very cool program. Today I stood outside a grocery story collecting food for the FISH food bank. FISH stands for Friends in Service for Him. Tonight our congregation gathers for a simple meal and a worship service where we can share our stories of the week-end.

Today my daughter returned from her trip to Disney World. She and her husband drove across country to deliver a car for a friend who is moving to Florida. As "payment" they were given passes to get into Disney World and Hollywood Studios theme parks. She brought home the Minnie Mouse ears that she put on our dog (pictured.)

Banned books week: I didn't promote it as much as I usually do because my library clerk was out all week and I was swamped running the library by myself.  But I did make a display of frequently challenged books and had some fun conversations with students about it. I also blogged about it three times. If you look back in previous posts you will find them.

Books read this week:

  • Orphan Trains by Christina Baker Cline... a good book club selection
  • Primates: the Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdakis by Jim Ottaviani... a graphic biography about these famous primate scientists.
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins...a reread, audiobook selection 

Currently reading:

  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway...I thought it was about time that I get around to reading one of his books.
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick...one of our Mock Printz selection, part mystery, part romance, part horror story.
Quote: "Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine." ---a line from a poem by Alexander Smith; it was this line that Guy Montag read that caused him to become a book reader instead of a book burner in the classic book by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit  451.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banning books for religious reasons

Since it is Banned Books Week I put out a big bookmark for my patrons that lists some of the most commonly banned/challenged books. The top book on the list is the Bible. Admittedly its placement at the top of the list was a bit provocative on my part but I placed it there to stir discussion and to make kids think.

But then I started thinking, the Bible is probably the most banned and censored book in publication today merely because it has been in publication for such a long time. In the early days church officials couldn't even agree on what books to include or leave out of it. And certain translations have been viewed by various sects as less worthy. One congregation in North Carolina even burned the Living Bible. I guess they thought it wasn't hard enough for them to understand.

When Tynsdale first translated the Bible into English in 1524 copies were smuggled into England from Germany. The church publicly banned and burned the copies they found. Despite these actions more copies were smuggled in and circulated. How is that for irony? Banning the first English translation of the Bible in England where they speak English! Unfortunately things didn't turn out so well for Tynsdale. He was arrested, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake. Those church book-banners were serious about their role as suppressors of God's written word. Isn't that sad?

Noah Webster, of dictionary-writing fame, published the first expurgated Bible in America in the mid 1800s. Apparently he made thousands of alterations to the Bible removing bits he thought were indecent. That edition of the Bible was available from 1833-1841. I was brought up in a Christian home and was taught that the Bible was the holy word of God. Hmm...I guess some editions were more holy than others.

Fortunately the Bible has not really suffered at the hand of man. It has sold more copies than any other book ever published and all of the efforts at censorship over the years have had little or no impact on its influence today.

Other books that have been banned, challenged or censored for religious reasons:
-On The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
-Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie
-Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
-His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
-Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
-Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
-The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
-The Witches by Roald Dahl
-Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

The last book I mentioned Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan was widely criticized on Fox News because the author is a Muslim. How could a Muslim, even though he was an academic who studies and teaches religion, possibly be qualified to write about Jesus, the Fox commentator asks? Thanks to this interview which you can view here, the book zoomed to the top ten best selling books on the NYT list this summer. If the people at Fox News thought Aslan's book wasn't worthy of being read, this interview had the opposite effect and caused many, many more people to purchase it to see what all the fuss was about. Ha!

Some time after his book, The Golden Compass, made it onto the ALA list of most challenged books for the year, Philip Pullman said this in an interview about religion and censorship:
Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of solace, artistic expression, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed...
He went on to talk about how the controversy over his book actually moved interested readers to search for the book.  If they couldn't find it at the library, they went to the bookstore and bought it.
The inevitable result of trying to ban something--book, film, play, pop song, whatever--is that far more people want to get a hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don't the censors realize this?
Source: Bald, Margaret. Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds, 3rd Ed. Facts on File: New York, 2011.
I really like this poster even though the dates are wrong. Notice if you drop off the B and D it spells my name! That would make it: " I'm with Anne."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm celebrating Hunger Games Trilogy during Banned Books Week

Of all the books I have in my library I've received more complaints by parents about The Hunger Games than anything else. This surprises me every time, since I love the book so much. The complaints usually center around this general idea, "I don't want my kid reading a book about teens killing teens." Obviously the person lodging the complaint hasn't read the book/series or they would know that the whole premise of the story is how very sick a society that forces young people to fight to the death for entertainment. In 2011 The Hunger Games trilogy books were third on the list of challenged or banned books in America as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom. The reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence. These reasons don't even sound like they match the books at all.

In honor of Banned Books Week and the delightful Hunger Games trilogy making the top ten list of challenged books, I am rereading Catching Fire, the second book in the series. More precisely I am relistening to it in the audiobook format. I am enjoying it just as much as the first time I read it several years ago. I had forgotten so many details and specifics that it feels fresh and new to me.

Pick up a banned book this week for a first or second time and refresh your memory of how much you really liked this book in the first place.

Here are a few I recommend, all from the top ten banned/challenged book list of 2012:
-The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
-Looking for Alaska by John Green
-Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
-The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
-Beloved by Toni Morrison
-Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's talk about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and banned books at the same time

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is the story of a very disturbed young man who wants to spend the last day of his life giving gifts to four people who were nice to him. He wants to thank them and let them know that it is not their fault that he needed to commit suicide, that he needed to end his pain. All four of the people are suspicious that something is wrong, but one, his Holocaust Education teacher, actually reaches out and gives Leonard a life-line. Will he take it?

The book, which is heart-wrenching to read, covers a very, very difficult topic: teen suicide. It is a topic most people only want to talk about in generalities. When specifics come up we want to sweep them under the table. Leonard was in pain emotionally for years yet his peers, teachers, parents, and counselors all missed the signs that he was in trouble until it was almost too late. They allowed him to isolate himself, even making him the scapegoat for all their bullying and bad behavior, piling more pain and humiliation on top of everything else. When he finally gets to the point of putting together a suicide plan it almost seems like the logical next step to end his miserable life.

As a teacher I have counseled a student who was contemplating ending her own life. It was very scary for me and painful for her. I had support from counselors at my school and we eventually got the parents involved and she got the help she needed. It was hard and scary. I didn't know if I was doing the right thing but I wanted to do something. Who knows, maybe I helped save the girls life. That is not the point. I did something because I had a bit of training and I was in the right place at the right time and I took her problems seriously. Are there more Leonard Peacocks out there who need someone to talk to them, to help them? I know there are. Perhaps that person, teen or adult, would feel more empowered to help if they had read this book first.

But here is the rub. This is exactly the type of book that gets banned or challenged in schools today. It is an important book on a tough topic and it doesn't mince words. I'm guessing that some would-be challengers would say that this book could give kids ideas to commit suicide so it should be removed from the shelves to protect children. But if they say this, they missed the point. Leonard was so sad that he considered ending his life but along the way he runs into a teacher who knows the signs and tries to help. This is a very important book that needs wide distribution for that very point...to highlights symptoms and makes it clear that we have got to help when we recognize them. Instead of giving kids ideas about suicide it empowers would-be helpers to act and act now!

This is a very important book and should not be missed by anyone who works with teens,  is friends with teens, or is a teen.

Banned Books Week, September 22-28, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Salon...Beginning of Banned Books Week

Poster for ALA Banned Books Press Kit
Weather: Cold, rainy, and windy. We watched the progress of the weather front as it moved in yesterday afternoon. As the sky darkened and it began to sprinkle a beautiful, vibrant rainbow decorated the sky.

Today: we move our youngest daughter back to college in Seattle. She begins classes on Wednesday. Right now she is moving around the house finding all the little items that she hasn't rounded up yet. I may not have enough time to finish this post before she is ready to leave.

This past week: It was school as per usual. We are done checking out textbooks so I was able to give library introductions to ninth grade classes. I felt like a REAL librarian especially when the books I talked about were snatched up and checked out.

This coming week: is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, September 22-28. Every day this week I will post a review or a commentary about banned books, censorship, freedom (freadom) to read. Please come on back and visit often and join in the conversation about our 1st amendment right to read what we want. Here is a link to the ALA Banned Books page.

Currently reading:

  • Orphan Train by Kline...book club selection, club is Wednesday so I hope to have it done by then.
  • Catching Fire by Collins...audiobook. This is my 2nd time through the 2nd book in the Hunger Games series.
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick...a 2014 Mock Printz selection that I haven't read yet.
Books finished this week:
  • Forgive Me , Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I will be reviewing this book soon. Come back for it.
  • Pablo Picasso: Yo El Ray by Carmen Bernier-Grand. An art/poetry book about the famous artist. It looks like a children's book but isn't.
Gotta run my daughter up to Seattle now.  Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Snapshot Saturday, Sept. 21. Taking a break from reading...

Snapshot Saturday is hosted at West Metro Mommy. All photos must be originals.

Photo by Lia Poole, used with permission

This is a photo of Guinness. His "mom", Lia, is my friend and a fellow teacher. Lia was taking a break from reading the book Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl when Guinness decided it was time for a nap. He wanted Lia to know who the REAL beautiful creature in the family was!

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey


The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is a WOW book. A not-to-be-missed book. A stay-up-late-and-read-book-because-you-have-to-know-what-happens-next book.

I predict that The 5th Wave will be the next IT book with teens in the tradition of Hunger Games and Divergent.  I am not alone in my estimation because a lot of people who know more about books than me are saying similar things:
*"Yancey's heartfelt, violent, paranoid epic, filled with big heroics and bigger surprises, is part War of the Worlds, part Starship Troopers, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and part The Stand . . . a sure thing for reviewers and readers alike."Booklist *starred review*
"Step aside, Katniss."—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“It has the dark, swoopy adrenaline of The Hunger Games, but the elegiac tone of The Road. Who cares what shelf you find it on? Just read it.”—EW.com
 "A modern sci-fi masterpiece . . . should do for aliens what Twilight did for vampires."—USAToday.com
After reading the first few chapters I called my family together and put together a plan in case of  an alien invasion here. (I am not kidding.) I lived the book during all my waking hours and I'm pretty sure that my dreams were tainted by aliens, too. To say that I was freaked out would be an understatement. I listened to the audiobook of The 5th Wave. The narrators, Brandon Espinoza and Phoebe Strohl, must have needed oxygen between their reading sessions. They read the book at such a breakneck speed, building the tension with every new chapter.

Within months of the alien mothership arriving above our planet over 7 billion individuals are dead, yet no one has even seen a single alien. It's pretty hard to fight an enemy you can't see.
  • The 1st Wave: an electromagnetic pulse that rendered all machines inoperable.
  • The 2nd Wave: a tsunami that wiped out all coastal areas
  • The 3rd Wave: the red death, similar to Ebola, spread by birds.
  • The 4th Wave: humans implanted by aliens are shooting and killing other humans
  • The 5th Wave: you will have to read the book to find out.
We included The 5th Wave on our Mock Printz list of books. Even though the book is popular it is also well-crafted. Could it also be an award winner? We'll see in January.

In the meantime, I challenge you to read The 5th Wave and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2014 Mock Printz list

Below is the Bethel School District 2014 Mock Printz list. The three high school librarians (myself included) met today to hash over our long list of potential Printz award books. We had hoped to only add books that one or more of us had read and recommended but, alas, we couldn't do it with so many great YA books out there this year that none of us have read. We based our decisions on selection priorities set by the actual Printz committee, starred reviews, and our gut feelings.  Every year we think of all our readers when making our selections: boys/girls; young(14)/old(19); LGBT/straight; geeks and regular kids. We think our list represents a strong and diverse field of contenders this year.

2014 Mock Printz books-
  1. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black...vampires
  2. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty...fantasy
  3. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell...realistic fiction, romance
  4. Far Far Away by Robert McNeal...fairy tales
  5. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey...Sci-Fi
  6. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick...realistic fiction
  7. Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan...African culture
  8. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters...historical and horror
  9. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner...Dystopian
  10. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick...mystery, horror, romance
  11. Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian...realistic and cultural fiction
  12. Primates: Fearless Science by Jim Ottaviani And Maris Wicks...graphic biographies
  13. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler...memoir
  14. Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson...Sci-Fi
  15. Winger by Andrew Smith...realistic fiction, LGBT
  16. *Boxer/Saint by Gene Luen Yang...graphic novel set, historical
  17. *Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff...mystery
*Newly added as of December.
As in years past our list remains a bit fluid. Since we haven't read all the books we may end up removing books that don't live up to the hype. And we may add books that come to our attention between now and the ALA midwinter meeting when the actual Printz Award books are announced.

Come back to this page often as I will hyperlink my reviews the books as I complete them.
Join us in reading through this list and then let us know your favorites.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR Pile

Today I am listing the top ten books that I hope to read this Fall. I am always searching for the "best YA" book of the year, so all these choices are or will be published in 2013.

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth, the third book in the Divergent series is due out the end of October.

2. More Than This by Patrick Ness. Patrick Ness, author of the Chaos Walking series. Need I say more?

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I love her other book published this year, Eleanor and Park. I'm in line for this one behind my daughter who is going off to college this week so it may be a while before I see it.

4. The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer. This is the long awaited sequel to The House of the Scorpion. I have placed a hold on this audiobook at my public library. I hope it comes soon.

5. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. This is the 2nd book in The Raven Boys series, which I loved, Loved, LOVED. It should arrive this week.

6. Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian. My librarian friends tell me this book is amazing.

7. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler. A memoir. Recommended by a fellow book blogger. My daughter read it and was very touched by it.

8. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. This was on my summer TBR pile and I didn't get to it. I'm hoping that I can at least read a few chapters by Wednesday when we are having our Mock Printz selection meeting. This is a candidate.

9. If you Find Me by Emily Murdoch. Another book I had hoped to read this summer and another potential Mock Printz. I may pull it off my list if we don't select it in favor of some of the other books on this list.

10. Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore. The description of this book compares it a bit to Scooby-Doo mysteries. I loved Scooby-Doo when I was young so I want to check this book out. But I am not sure I will get into it as it is the second book in the series and I haven't read the first, Texas Gothic.

Review: Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle is a time travel tale from modern time back to the Elizabethan period in England when Shakespeare was alive but hadn't yet written any of his plays or sonnets.

Miranda wants to become an Shakespearian actor like her famous parents but she is not pleased with her performance as the lead in A Taming of the Shrew. In fact, she is so discouraged by her performance that she is thinking about giving up acting altogether. As she sits in her dressing room brooding she is approached by another cast member, Stephen Langford, who asks her if she would like to meet Shakespeare, the real guy. Miranda thinks he is a nut-case until he whisks her off to the roof and poof they are in England in the 1500s. Stephen tells her that he needs to help to convince Shakespeare to continue his writing and not go into the priesthood. Miranda reluctantly agrees, if for no other reason than she wants to get back to her life in the 21st century.

In the back of the book the author, Pamela Mingle, says that there is very little known about Shakespeare's early life, prior to his marriage to Anne Hathaway and his life on the stage in London. A few documents have been found giving possible evidence that he was a tutor in a wealthy man's home as a late teen. In addition, during this time period there was a great deal of trouble in the country around religion. Queen Elizabeth's sister Mary wanted the country to be catholic, QE wanted the people to worship in the Church of England. Catholic priests were actually hunted and killed or banished. This book assumes that Shakespeare was a tutor in his late teens and may have been courted to join the priesthood. Miranda was sent to the time period to save Shakespeare from joining the priesthood.

After completing the book I went to Goodreads to log my progress and decided to glance at the reviews from other readers. I was surprised to see that the reviews fell into two camps: "loved it" or "hated it." Most of the "hated it" reviewers didn't even finish the book and were critical that Shakespeare didn't play a more prominent role in the book. If I had stopped read mid-book I would have probably said something similar. Admittedly the book was a slow starter for me. But as I started seeing the connections to The Taming of the Shrew I found it to be a delight. If you want to really enjoy this book I recommend that you take a look back on a summary of the Shakespeare work and then look for similarities in this book. Other reviewers have found some similarities between this book and The Tempest.  Either way, I do recommend this book for strong readers or fans of Shakespeare.

Disclaimer: I checked this book out from my school library.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Salon...Sept. 15

Autzen Stadium before UO v Tenn game
Weather: Overcast and sprinkling periodically.

Yesterday: Don and I went to our first U of O football game of the season at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. We were with my parents, sister and brother-in-law, a cousin and his wife, a niece and her friend, my aunt, my brother-in-law and his friends. We were a large party. Our team, the Ducks, won handily. After the game we gathered for a meal and a birthday party for my dad. He will be 85 years old this week.

Today: Before we drove home we had a wonderful breakfast with my sister and her husband.They made us scrambled eggs from their own chickens, and tomatoes from their garden. I really should have a vegetable garden since I am so jealous of people who have their own produce. Delicious.

Weeding books: My parents had to collapse a bookcase so they are now busy sorting through the books of their marriage determining what they will finally part with. My sister and I looked through them before they would be given away to the book sale. It is really sad, with the exception of a very few special books, how quickly books become out-of-date. Even books about timeless places like Yellowstone didn't interest me since the photos are so dated. As a book lover this struck me as very sad.

This past week: We finally finished checking out textbooks to students. On Monday I start my introduction to the library sessions with all freshman English classes. About time!

Currently reading:
  • Please Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. A YA gem about a disturbed, suicidal teen. This is quite eye-opening.
Books completed this past week:
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I am as excited about this book as I was about Hunger Games when I first read it. Will this be the IT book of the year? I think so.
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King. This is the first book in King's very popular Dark Towers series. We listened to this audiobook on our way to Oregon and back.

A big bummer: Two years ago we had hardwood floors installed on our whole first floor. This past week we discovered that our dishwasher has been leaking for a few weeks. Now we have the blowers and dehumidifiers running to dry out the floor. Next step will be getting a new hardwood floor in the kitchen and a restaining of the whole first floor.  Ugh.

It was a busy week. I hope to blog more this coming week.

What do you have on your calendar for the week? I have book club Tuesday, and my daughter heads back to college next week-end.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Salon, Sept. 8

Weather: As I sit here sipping my coffee looking outside on the backyard and  I notice that it is a bit foggy. Yesterday afternoon was lovely, so hopefully today will be a similar day. This week, however, the weather was weird. We had a storm move in from the Pacific bringing rain and thunderstorms. Usually thunder storms around here are the FLASH....BANG kind. This storm had the FLASHHHHHH.....RUMBLE....RUMBLE.....RUMBLE kind. It drove the dog absolutely crazy with fear. She couldn't find a place to hide from it. Next came the rain. 2 inches in 24-hours. Ugh.

This past week: School started so I am back to work. Currently my job consists mainly of checking out textbooks. My eldest daughter, who is substituting this year, is helping us out, which is a great bonus. Dividing the job into thirds makes everyone's job less taxing.

Today is the Sunday School Kick-off at church: We host a picnic afterwards so I hope that the weather holds. My youngest daughter and I made a dessert to share and I am worried that it didn't turn out.  Would it be weird to cut out a piece to check it out before we take it?

Tomorrow: We  will go to the Washington State Fair. A friend's band is playing excerpts from Les Miserables. She is so excited.

Books read this week:
  • Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama...set in three time periods in the Plymouth region of Massachusetts, the story includes mermaids, a murder mystery, and a romance. I enjoyed listening to this on audiobooks.
  • Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle...Miranda time travels back to the Elizabethan period to try to convince Shakespeare to write his plays and sonnets. It was a hard-starter for me but I eventually got into it.
Current audiobook:
  • The 5th Wave by Philip Yancey...an alien invasion. The first few waves have wiped out almost the whole population of the earth. The remainder are fighting against an unknown enemy. This book has got me hooked.

From the kitchen: a favorite---Crazy Corn Casserole, and a new recipe---Pumpkin Praline dessert.

I'm praying for: A friend's husband. He is experiencing some relief from his cancer symptoms with his new treatment. It is the first good news they have had for months.

Ha-ha: Don't you ever feel like this when people watch the movie and think they know everything from the book?

Have a good week!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A conversation with my cousin's daughter...

I sure hope that the written word never appears this way to you.
Last night I had a conversation with my cousin's daughter. I felt gratified to learn that she reads this blog, so I imagine she will see this post. (Hi, sweetie!) Anyway, she asked me how I can read so many books. The conversation got me thinking about reading and how it is that I consume as many books as I do. If you have some other suggestions, please help me out and add a comment below. In the meantime, here are a few of my "techniques":

  • Read as though it were homework. When stuck, this works for me to get me started again. When I was a classroom teacher I spent a portion of every day lesson-planning and grading papers. Without those tasks I can set aside time most every day to read as if it were my job. Hey, reading is my job. As a librarian I view it as part of my job to be familiar with as many books as possible.
  • Set reading goals. Along the line of reading like it is homework, I frequently set myself small reading goals. This morning I decided, for example, to read 50 pages of my current book before I got dressed. Goodreads has an app which allows readers to set yearly goals. My yearly goal is to read 108 books, which divided out is nine books per month. Lofty but doable.
  • Experiment with genres. I get bored with books in just one genre. This past Spring I went on a poetry rampage. I just finished two biographies. My last book encorporated US history while my current book is set in Elizabethan times. I'm listening to a Science Fiction book right now on audiobooks.  Switch it up to remain interested and to keep reading fresh.
  • Talk about books with friends and colleagues. Readers like to talk about the books they have read. I think it is fun to discuss my thoughts on books as well as listen to others' thoughts and from it gain new suggested titles to look for. Book clubs are perfect for this but one doesn't have to join a club to talk about books with others.  When I go to a party or dinner out with friends I often find myself asking, "What are you reading right now?"
  • Listen to audiobooks. I spend at least 45 minutes of every work day in the car, that is audiobook time. I especially like listening to fantasy books or books set in other countries. Why? Because the narrator helps me with pronunciation. If I don't know how to pronounce a word, it really slows down my reading speed. It really helps me to get the names of characters and places that I would stumble over if I were just reading the book.
  • Read fast. I am not taking a test over the novels so I don't have to read slowly and methodically. I read as fast as the book will allow, often skipping many words. This means I sometimes miss stuff that I have to go back and find. Ha! When students complain they don't like a book it is often because they are only reading it for ten minutes a day. They aren't reading fast enough to stay interested. Reading fast is different for every person. No one should try to compare my reading reading speed to theirs.  My advice is just read faster than what you are currently doing.
  • Abandon books that drag you down. I'm not so good at doing this myself, sometimes allowing myself to get completely stuck in an uninteresting book. Nancy Pearl suggests that one should read 100 pages minus your age before determining if a book should be cast aside. For most teenagers that is about 85 pages, which seems a bit much to me.  I usually tell kids to read at least fifty pages before giving a book the heave ho. This should not be a hard and fast rule, however. I just finished the book Kissing Shakespeare which only caught my attention at around page 150. Reluctant readers will abandon a book much sooner, so they need help selecting books that start off with a bang.
  • Read reviews, both the good and the bad. I sincerely hope that my reviews on this blog help you make good selections. But I encourage you to read others, too. I read professional reviews but I also read reviews on Amazon and Goodreads written by "regular" people. I want to read real opinions from people so I read reviews from those people who both liked and from others who hated the book. I also read reviews from bloggers that I trust have similar tastes in books. 
  • Once you find an author you like, read their other works. Many people cast about trying to decide what to read next. If all fails, try another book by a favorite author. 
  • Read award books. National Book Award, Printz Award, Carnegie Medal, Newbery, Pulitzer, etc. There is a reason these books won an award and are worthy of our attention. One student, upon returning an award book last spring, commented to me that all other books were spoiled for her now that she knows what good writing is like.  
  • What helps you read lots of books? What other suggestions do you have for my readers? Please comment.  Thank you.

Snapshot Saturday, Sept. 7

Last week we went for a walk along the Puyallup Riverwalk. along the way we were stopped short by this wonderful carved tree. We obviously hadn't strolled on this route for a few years since we didn't know about this carved monument full of northwest animals and symbols.  Love it! Look carefully for all the critters, birds, fish, and gnomes.

Bad photo, but it shows the size of the carved tree

A little door for the gnomes or dwarfs

Can you spot the salmon, the great blue heron, and the racoons?

Turtle and fox

Owl, eagles and sleeping gnomes

Snapshot Saturday is hosted at West Metro Mommy. All photos must be originals.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the one you are currently reading.

Book: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Book Beginnings:
Friday 56:
There were patterns of tiny spots covering the wall and long, sickle-shaped stains on the floor. It was like living in a 3-D abstract painting.
My thoughts: I have discussed an alien invasion plan with my family...just in case. This book is really scaring me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

I decided to post a very quick review of the fabulous book Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama before I drag myself to bed after my first day of the 2013-14 school year with students.

Monstrous Beauty came to my attention because it was an Odyssey Award Honor book last year, which means it was recognized as an excellent audiobook selection. I am such a fan of audiobooks that I instantly requested a copy to borrow from the library. I downloaded it and then didn't listen to it before it expired. Then I forgot all about it until I was at the library again a few weeks ago and saw the CD on the shelf waiting for me again.

The beginning of the book is pretty confusing. The book starts in Plymouth in the 1600s, just at the beginning of our county. Here we are introduced to a beautiful mermaid, Syrenka. She falls in love with a fisherman but the results are devastating. Next the book jumps back and forth from modern times back to the 1800 when Syrenka once again makes an appearance. Hester, our modern girl, becomes interested in her family history and as she digs around in the library archives and talks to oldsters in her community, she is drawn into wanting to discover the reasons behind the triple murder/suicide from the past century. The more she learns, the creepier and more sinister the plot becomes. It kept me listening every afternoon and reading late at night.

One of things that I really liked about the book was the descriptions of the Plymouth region of Massachusetts from three different time frames. I've never been to this part of the country so I wanted to visit it so I could get a picture reference to assist my imagination. After finishing the book I found this blog, The Midnight Garden, which did a special event with Elizabeth Fama last Fall. Fama contributed some of the photos she took as she was doing research for the book of the community where it was set.  I wished that I saw them before I read the book.  Take a look. Scroll down on the post.

I know that my students will like this book.  It has a mystery, a romance, a bit of history, and lots of suspense. The audiobook deserved the awards it earned and I highly recommend the book in this format.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

End of Summer Report Card

Yesterday was officially the end of summer for me. Today I went back to school as a high school librarian. It is time for my summer challenge report card. How did I do on my summer challenges?

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

35 / 30 books. 117% done!

*I finished my 35th book of the challenge last night.

Big Book Summer Challenge
(Books must be over 400 pages.  My goal: 1)
1. Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl, 563 pages
2. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, 436 pages
3. Winger by Andrew Smith, 448 pages
4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 399 pages (close enough)
5. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, 454 pages
6. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, 394 pages (close enough, again!)

*I didn't put the bar very high by setting my goal at one book. I met my goal times 6! Yea!

3.  Progress on other challenges:
A.Chris Crutcher Challenge 
Read Period 8, part of the Chris Crutcher Challenge
B. YA Audiobook Challenge
YA Audiobook Challenge...Listened to these audiobooks that are YA Lit:
  1. Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
  2. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  3. Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan 
  4. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd 
  5. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer  
  6. What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard         
*I always hope to knock off quite a few books from my reading challenges during summer. No matter how many I read, I'll always think I should have read more.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How did I do on my hilarious summer reading list?

At the beginning of the summer I published a list of books I wanted to read this summer. 

How did I do? I did read over 30 books, just not all the books on this list. I read 34 books, four were rereads so I figure that I just made my actual goal of 30! Ha!  

In addition, I blogged about every single book I read... a first for me. I learned something about myself from doing this.  If I sit down to review a book within two days of finishing a book, I can do it.  The longer I wait to write it, the harder it is. Click on the hyperlinks to see my reviews.

Here's how I did on my hilariously long summer reading list.

Mock Printz preview books: (10/13 completed)
Book Club Selections : (1/1)
Of interest to my teen readers: (4/11)
  • Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle...reading this currently, should finish by Monday, the end of summer
  • 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: (2/3)
  • 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)
Totals from original list: 17/28
Books I read not listed on original list:

Book Club selections:
Potential Mock Printz Books
Of interest to my teen readers:
For my own interest:
Totals from books not on original list: 17

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday Salon...September 1st!

Puyallup Riverwalk Tree Sculpture
Weather this past week: has been very weird. It poured on Thursday, and I mean, poured. The next day the news reported that there had actually been a tornado alert...in Western Washington! Yesterday it was sunny and warm but muggy. Ugh. How do people live in places where it is muggy all summer long? I can barely stand it for a day.

Yesterday: My husband and I took the dog on a walk on the Puyallup River Walk. We were shocked to see all the improvements including this sculpture tree.  It is difficult to see in the photo but the tree is full of carved animals and wildlife.  It also has a sweet little door for gnome or pixie to use.  I didn't have a camera with me so I had to grab the photo off Friends of Puyallup Riverwalk Facebook Page. I'm going back with my camera tomorrow.

Today: After church we are heading to Seattle to help our daughter rearrange her apartment so it will be ready for her new roommates to move in. She had a disastrous time last year with weird roommate situations so she is hoping to avoid some of that with proactive steps.

This past week: I spent a majority of my time volunteering at GKHS getting ready for school which starts on Tuesday. On Thursday around noon I thought I was ready with my stuff until I realized that I hadn't checked the little button that said "Processing Needed". We still had 16 textbook orders to transfer to other schools in the district.  Ugh. More work. I didn't finish this task until 2:30 PM on Friday! (Of course, there were lots of interruptions.)

Books read this week:
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina...interesting title, huh?
  • Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers...set in Harlem; a quick read.
  • The Tragedy Papers by Elizabeth LaBan...an audiobook.
Currently reading:
  • Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle...time travel to the Elizabethan age.
  • Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama...mermaids and family history. Audiobook.
Summer is over, back to school this week: a new school year is here.

I'm praying for: the situation in Syria.