"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=========

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Friday memes...August 1st

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. I'm reading:

Book: The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Book Beginnings: 
"Just call me Ethan. You're reading this first, but I'm writing it last. I'm at a corner table in this low-rent Starbucks a few blocks from my house. I had planned to write this on the living-room couch, but I have triplet sisters, and they are four years old."
The Friday 56:
"I liked calculus. Scratch that. I hated calculus. But I liked calculus class. The only other class Luke and I had together was English, where BradLee and Aura Heldsman, in very different ways, made it hard to goof off."
Comment: I think that Freda at Freda's Voice if off this week which is good since my Friday 56 quote is, gasp, actually from page 57. What has caught my attention, since I haven't started reading the book yet, is that the book is currently written in past tense. We see this from the quote on page 57 but not the quote from page one. Our narrator tells us that we are reading it first but he is writing it last, so it is not in past tense.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014



(Hosted  by Bookishly Boisterous)

1. We are heading out for a week-long vacation/family reunion. There should be some good sun-n-book time. Here are the books I am taking along:

  • One Summer: 1927 by Bill Bryson...audiobook for the car ride there and back
  • The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg...an upcoming book club selection
  • The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely...YA novel
  • A Matter of Souls by Denise Patrick...a short story collection
  • The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer...another YA novel

2. I don't honestly think I will finish five books in one week, but what if I did? I don't want to have nothing to read.

3. I've been rather obsessed with the book Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith this past week. It is a fabulous book that is so raunchy I am afraid it will be challenged or banned.  Here is my review, in case you are curious. As a school librarian I worry about that kind of thing.  I keep thinking about the scene in the movie The Music Man where the women's auxiliary is going after Marion the Librarian for pushing smutty books. Ha.

4. I challenged myself to read 30 books this summer (until Labor Day). I am currently reading book #15. Eek. Can I read 15 books in one month? The challenge is on.

5. I have never requested an ARC but I really, really want to read the new A.S. KING book that is coming out in October, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. Does anyone know how to go about getting an Advanced Reader Copy of a book without getting on some list where I get boxes of books I don't want to read and review. I just want this book early.

6. To see the movie If I Stay or not, that is the question. Have you read this sweet, tear-jerker book? If not, read it quick before seeing the movie. I still haven't decided if I feel like going to movie where I know I will cry during the whole thing. Sigh.

Have a very good week.

Grasshopper Jungle dilemma

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is quite clearly one of the most talked about Young Adult novels of the year. Now I know why. It is "a rollicking tale that is simultaneously hilarious and creepy" (NYT).

In the opening lines of the book we learn humans are "genetically predisposed to record history" and that is what Austin Szerba, our narrator, does. He writes down everything...everything that is happening around him as the end of the world comes into view. He not only writes about the events that led up to the night when he and Robby inadvertently set into motion a chain reaction which releases a plague strain into their community, but he also writes about his confused feelings toward both his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend, Robby. He spares no details when it comes to the working of the teenage male brain, either. This is a sci-fi apocalyptic coming-of-age story all rolled into one tale.

Here are just a few lines from the editorial reviews of the book:
This raunchy, bizarre, smart and compelling sci-fi novel defies description – it's best to go into it with an open mind and allow yourself to be first drawn in, then blown away. ---Rolling Stone
If you appreciate kooky humor, sentences that bite, and a nuanced understanding of human beings’ complicated natures and inexplicable actions, then you, too, will love Smith’s bold, bizarre, and beautiful novel.The Boston Globe
The end of the world comes with neither a bang nor a whimper but with a dark chuckle and the ominous click-click of giant insect mandibles in this irreverent, strangely tender new novel by Andrew Smith. This but hints at the intricately structured, profound, profanity-laced narrative between these radioactive-green covers.The Washington Post
No author writing for teens today can match Andrew Smith’s mastery of the grotesque, the authentic experiences of teenage boys or the way one seamlessly becomes a metaphor for the other.”BookPage, Top February Teen Pick
How lucky we are that it gets marketed with the label "Young Adult." Because of that, it'll get banned and challenged and more teens than ever will actually read it. I needed this book 22 years ago when I was 16. I have a hunch there are some 16 year olds around who still do.   ---Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice 
The Aaron Hartzler quote leads to my dilemna. If Grasshopper Jungle is one of the best YA novels of the year, then it will surely be considered for the Printz Award. If it will be considered for the award, then I should certainly contemplate adding it to our Mock Printz list of books for 2014. But the book is raunchy. Read between the lines when I say "spares no details when it comes to the working of the teenage male brain."

What is a public school librarian to do? I want to include this book for its literary merit but I dare not for fear that the whole Mock Printz workshop gets axed by angry parents when they find out what kind of "smutty books" (Music Man reference) I am handing out. If it were just up to me I'd be willing to stay with Grasshopper Jungle even though it is full of confused sexual feelings, a pooping dog, horny man-eating praying mantises and more. But on this one, I'm thinking my hands are tied. The book will remain in the library, I just won't recommend that we include it on the Mock Printz list.

Have you read Grasshopper Jungle? Can you give me any advice to ease my dilemna?

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

13 / 30 books. 43% done!

Monday, July 28, 2014

TTT: My bookshelves are stuffed with books by these authors

Top Ten Tuesday: authors from which I own the most books 

*Note: I am a devoted library user and I rarely buy books for myself. I only "collect" books from authors I love and books I plan to reread. Therefore, I have very few books by most authors, even if I really like them.

1. JK Rowling---we own the whole Harry Potter series plus a few other books about the magical series.

2. Jane Austen---I own all six of her full-length novels, plus her novellas and her unfinished novels.

3. CS Lewis---we own two sets of the Chronicles of Narnia. We had to replace one set because the books were published out of order (meaning it started with The Magician's Nephew instead of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.) Then I found a hardcover set and had to buy it. I also own a few of his adult books: Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.

4. John Green---between my daughter and myself we own all of John's novels. including two or three copies of The Fault in Our Stars.

5. Suzanne Collins---we own the Hunger Games series.

6. Barbara Kingsolver---my favorite author after Austen. I own all her novels and most of her nonfiction. I think I have eight of her books.

7. JM Montgomery---somewhere along the line I picked up the complete Anne of Green Gables series, I haven't read them all, however.

8. Mary Norton---The Borrowers series. When my children were little their grandmother gave them the whole series in lovely old hardback covers.  Hmm....I wonder where they are? I must find them. I believe we have all five of the books in the series.

9. Bob Welch---Welch is a family friend. I have lots of his books, they are mostly essay collections. You might know him from his popular book: 52 Lessons from It's a Wonderful Life.

10. Dr. Seuss---I got rid of a lot of my childrens' books but couldn't bring myself to get rid of his books. They are still in a pile in the Bonus Room. I just found them when I was looking for The Borrowers.

11. Beatrix Potter---They aren't my books but they are in my house. My daughter collects Beatrix Potter books and figurines. You know her best as the author and illustrator of Peter Rabbit. She has been a delight in my household for many, many years. She has the complete set of her small, children's books (23) and then a few books about this favorite author.

It seems that for the rest of my favorite authors I don't own many of their books: Ivan Doig (2); Max Lucado (2); Annie Proulx (2); Mark Twain (2); Olive Ann Burns (2); Sue Monk Kidd (2); Erik Larsen (2)... you get the point.

What authors take up the most space on your bookshelves?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Salon, July 27

Two batches of raspberry freezer jam
Weather: blue skies, temperature in the mid 70s. Lovely.

Raspberry Jam: My daughter, husband, and I made two batches of low-sugar, freezer raspberry jam yesterday evening. It is not REALLY summer until the raspberries are ripe. It is a really easy process with three sets of hands working on it.

Walking the dog: we took our dog Muffy on a longish walk yesterday. She was so eager at the beginning but starting dragging midway. Nearing the end of the walk she would lay down if we slowed at all. Guess she's a bit out of shape

This coming week: our nephew is getting married in Boise, Idaho. We will hit the road around 6 AM on Friday in order to make the 500 mile journey in time to get into town for the rehearsal dinner.

Blogoversary: This week will be the fifth year of my blog. Happy Blogoversary to Head Full of Books.

Books read this week:
  • The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by EK Johnston---set in modern day Canada with one huge difference---dragons are everywhere and things are getting worse. This book is a gem and I will recommend it for our Mock Printz list.
  • Always Emily by Michaela MacColl---a mystery involving Emily and Charlotte Bronte. I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it for fans of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
Currently reading:
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith---weird, weird, weird but I am eating it up.
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker---my audiobook selection for the next few months! Ha! I'm on disc six of 22.
Weird Al marathon: Weird Al's new CD Mandatory Fun is out and I can't seem to get enough of his zany videos. Here is my favorite "Word Crimes." As a teacher I am always concerned with poor grammar. Maybe students would pay attention to our rants if we presented the information like Weird Al does. Enjoy!

Read this poem: A Summer Day by Mary Oliver. It has two themes I am exploring today: summer and grasshoppers.  It is one of my favorite poems. Read it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Snapshot Saturday, July 26

This week I wanted to show you the giant stargazer lilies I have in my yard. Everyone else I know has stargazer lilies that are waist high with a few flowers on the stem. Not mine. They are taller than a person with twelve or so flowers per stem. (The bush behind her head is a climbing rose, the lilies are the pink flowers next to her head. The tallest stem hasn't bloomed out yet.)

My daughter standing next to our goliath-sized lily. The cat was NOT happy to be in the photo.
(Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friday memes...July 25

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. I'm reading:

Book: The Golem and the Jinni: a novel by Helene Wecker

Book Beginnings:
The Golem's life began on the hold of a steamship. The year was 1899; the ship the Baltika, crossing from Danzig to New York. The Golem's master, a man named Otto Rotfeld, had smuggled her aboard in a crate and hidden her among the luggage.
Friday 56: (Actually page 52 this week. See explanation below.)
She read the book three times through, trying to understand these long ago people. Their motives, needs, and fears were always on the surface, as easy for her to grasp as those of a man passing by.
My Comments: A golem is a person made out of clay. I started listening to this audiobook in June, set it aside while we traveled, and then just picked it back up this week after a five week hiatus. In order to find the quotes, I had to look in the Google book. The only provided pages went up to page 52, that is why my quote is from that page rather than 56. To be honest I'm a bit freaked out by the length of the audiobook. It has 22 discs. An average book has 11-14. Eek. I will be listening to this book for months!

Delightful new novel about the Brontë sisters: Always Emily

Before Emily and Charlotte Brontë became published authors, before the world knew them as two of the first female and best authors to date, they lived in a quiet town in Yorkshire with their father, brother, and younger sister, Anne. Their mother and two older siblings have already died. It is hard to imagine these sisters, who led such quiet lives, could become the authors of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. But perhaps their lives weren't so quiet after all. (Watch the book trailer now.)

Michaela MacColl, author of Always Emily, helps us imagine the Brontë sisters as young girls who team up to solve a mystery that involves their brother, their father, a neighbor, and mysterious man that Emily meets while walking on the moors. MacColl incorporates real biographical details into this mystery novel and includes quotes from the works of both Brontë sister. It reads like a young adult novel of today, however, missing the more stilted, complicated language usage of their day.

I enjoyed Always Emily a lot. In the book's afterward, MacColl gives a brief biographical history of the Brontë family including information on Anne, the third published author in the family. This saved me having to look on the Internet for more information about them since the book piqued my curiosity. As a teenager I read both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, preferring Emily's masterpiece for its spooky details and obsessive love affair. But I suspect if I reread them today I would prefer the more popular Jane Eyre. Unfortunately, few teens today read these Brontë classics. A few years ago April Lindner wrote a book called Jane which is a modern retelling of the Jane Eyre story. When I urged girls to read it they would tell me that they hadn't read Jane Eyre nor did they know the storyline. Isn't that sad? I am hoping that the mystery aspect of Always Emily will attract readers and perhaps, I'm keeping my fingers crossed, it will encourage them to find their way to the BRO section of the library where they will find Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre waiting to be read.

I will not recommend this book for our 2014 Mock Printz event, however. I liked the story and the writing but I don't think it will have strong crossover appeal for boys, which is something we look for in our selections.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

(Hosted at Bookishly Boisterous)

Apparently this meme encourages bloggers to talk about bookish things that are happening in our lives this week.  Here goes. Let's see...

1. I placed eleven books on hold at the public library today. They are already causing me anxiety and pressure.  How will I actually read them all if they arrive at once? What was I thinking?

2. I am currently reading my thirteenth book of the summer toward my goal of 30 books. I've written reviews for all but one of them. I've started to notice that I get very few or no comments on my reviews but I get comments when I participate in memes. I wonder why my reviews are NOT comment-worthy?

3. My favorite way of consuming books is in the audio format but I've noticed a disturbing thing...most YA books published this year that I want to read do not have audiobooks or my library hasn't purchased them yet. I contemplated purchasing a few of them myself which I usually don't do but I am getting desperate.

4. I am reading a strange looking book right now. The text block of the book Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is yellow, bright yellow. Weird.

5. I am currently obsessed with the Bronte sisters. I finished Always Emily yesterday and instantly started looking up information about the Bronte family. I've never really read much about them before.

6. Speaking of obsessed, I also can't get enough of the new Weird Al music videos from his new album, Mandatory Fun. My favorite is Word Crimes. Check it out. 

7. I've decided it is time for me to attempt homemade Naan. My sister-in-law makes it and it is so yummy. I found this recipe and it doesn't sound too hard.

Our 2014 Mock Printz reading list

Every summer the Bethel School District high school librarians attempt to read as many potential Printz award books (YA books published in 2014.) Here is the list of books we are working on this summer. The third column contains shorthand of the publications that have given these books starred reviews. (See the legend at the bottom of the page.) √ Check marks indicate books I've committed to read.

TitleAuthorStarred Reviews; starred out of all reviewsComments
Grasshopper Jungle Smith, AndrewSLJ, PW, KR; 3 of 6
A Matter of Souls PatrickKR; 1 of 3Vignettes, Racism
We Were Liars LockhardtBL, KR, PW, SLJ; 4 of 4
Guy in Real LifeBrezenoffKR; 1 of 3
She is Not InvisibleSedgwickBL, KR, PW; 3 of 3Thriller
The Story of Owen JohnstonBL, KR, PW; 3 of 5Fantasy
The Impossible Knife of Memory AndersonBL, BCCB, NYT, PW, SLJ; 5 of 7PTSD
A Time to DanceVenkatramanBL, SLJ; 2 of 3Multicultural
Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy HattemerBL, KR; 2 of 3
Complicit KuehnBL, PW, SLJ; 3 of 3Kuehn won Morris Award in 2014
Going Over KephartBL, SLJ; 2 of 2Berlin wall
Half BadGreen, SallyBL, PW; 2 of 3Paranormal
Never Ending BedfordBL, KR; 2 of 4Grief/death
The Sound of Letting Go KehoePW; 1 of 4Autism; verse
ShackletonBertozziKR; 1 of 1Graphic biography
Red Madness JarrowKR; SLJ; 2 of 5Nonfiction 5-8
Noggin WhaleyBL, PW; 2 of 4Science fiction
Free to FallMillerPW, SLJ; 2 of 3Romance, futuristic 
Always Emily MaccollSLJ; 1 of 4About Bronte sisters; grades 6-10
Changers: Book One: DrewCooper/CooperPW; 1 of 3
Infinite SkyFloodBL; 1 of 3
Girls Like UsGilesBL, PW; 2 of 3
Say What You WillMcGovernBL, PW; 2 of 4
Marina Ruiz ZafonSLJ, PW; 2 of 5Historical/Horror a cult classic in Spain
The Vanishing SeasonAnderson, JodiPW, SLJ; 2 of 4Suspense/horror
Gandhi: My Life is My Message QuinnBL, KR; 2 of 5Graphic biography
IllusiveLloyd-JonesBL; 1 0f 2
SilverWoodingBL; 1 of 2Horror-Sci/Fi
I'll Give You the SunNelson(Read the reviews)LGBT; due out in September
100 Sideways MilesSmith, AndrewBL, 1 of 2Due out September
Why We Took the Car HerndorfVOYA, NYT, KR, PW; 4 of 6Translated from German
The Gospel of Winter KielyBL, PW, KR; 3 of 4Sexual Abuse in the church
AfterworldsWesterfeldBL; 1 of 4Novel within a novel; due out in September
Starbird Murphy and World OutsideFinneyfrockPW, BL; 2 of 6Set in WA state; funny

Legend Key: BL=Booklist; PW=Publisher's Weekly; SLJ=School Library Journal; KR=Kirkus Reviews; NYT=New York Times; BCCB=Bulletin of the Center for Children Books; VOYA=Voice of Youth Advocates Magazine

THE STORY OF OWEN is not your normal run-of-the-mill dragon story

Siobhan, the story's narrator, meets Owen Thorskard the first day of school their junior year when he asks her how to get to English class. They are late to class and have to serve a detention together. Thus begins a friendship between Siobhan, a Band geek, and Owen, nephew and son of famous dragon slayers.

Imagine our world and our history where everything is pretty much the same as it is today with one huge difference---dragons exist and they also thrive on fossil fuels. Mankind is forced to spend a goodly amount of its energy defending themselves against these dragons to preserve these fossil fuels. Dragon slayers defend cities and important installations but rural areas are usually left unprotected. When Owen and his dragon slaying family move into Trondheim, a small village in Ontario, Canada, everyone is delighted. Now, surely, they will be safe from dragon attacks. But instead of being safer it seems that there are more and more dragon attacks. What is going on?

Siobhan is asked by Owen and his aunt Lottie, the most famous dragon slayer since St. George, if she would join the team as Owen's bard. Bards are the people who do the story-telling and music-making. In today's language a bard would be a PR representative for a famous person. The person who controls the media. Siobhan agrees and thus begins her work as a dragon slayer's bard. In old fashioned terms she would be called a troubadour. "Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, and the last in a line of legendary dragon slayers."

The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim #1 by EK Johnston is very clever. Take any point in history, insert dragons, and that history is fractured. For example, why have so many people left Michigan? Dragons were attracted to it because of all the factories where automobiles were made and all the exhaust that cars emitted and soon there are too many dragons and the state must be evacuated. Why were parents worried about the effects that the Beatles had on their children? Because the Beatles never mentioned dragons and how to keep safe from their attacks, of course.

Parts of the story drag a bit as EK Johnson is building the dragon-filled world and introducing us to its cast of characters. For example, the first dragon flight doesn't happen until around half way through the book. But other than that it is quite a clever, exciting story. It is also, refreshingly, not stuffed full of teenage drama or romance. I'm hoping this fact will make the book more attractive to male readers who just want a good-old-adventure story. I know it is the first book in the series by the title and by the end of this book I was ready for more dragon-slaying tales. As Dan Kois, writing for the NYT Sunday Book Reviews, says: "The promising Story of Owen is a clever first step in the career of a novelist who, like her troubadour heroine, has many more songs to sing."- May 9, 2014, NYT, Sunday Book Reviews 

The Story of Owen will definitely make it onto my list of recommended books for our Mock Printz event this Fall.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

11/30 books. 36% done!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey

One couldn't really invent a more compelling or interesting scenario: a brain scientist has a stroke in her mid-thirties and as the event is happening she realizes the need to pay attention so she can report back her experience for others to learn from it. The left hemisphere of her brain is severely compromised during the stroke, leaving the right hemisphere in charge. What Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor experienced when the right side was in control was near nirvana...a peaceful state of bliss where she was acutely aware of the flow of energy around her and her union with that energy. After eight years of rehabilitation and recovery she believes that her brain is back to "normal" but she now chooses to live her life differently, embracing her insights from the stroke and spending more time in the right side of her brain than she did before.

The book is divided into several sections: before the stroke, during the stroke, care immediately after the stroke, rehabilitation, and finally a new reality in the years since the stroke. I found the information about Taylor's experiences during the stroke to be fascinating. I also appreciated her advice on how we can live differently based on her insights. Here are a few of her thoughts:
Many of us make judgments with our left hemisphere and then are not willing to step to the right (that is, into the consciousness of our right hemisphere) for a file update. For many of us, once we have made a decision, then we are attached to that decision forever. I have found that often the last thing a really dominating left hemisphere wants is to share its limited cranial space with an open-minded right counterpart!
It seems that the more aware I am about how I am influencing the enregies around me, the more say I have in what comes my way. To monitor how things are going in my life, I pay very close attention to how things are flowing, or not flowing in the world around me. Depending on what I am attracting, I take responsibility for how things are going and consciously make adjustments along the way. 
I read the book very quickly, finishing it on a four-hour flight to Nashville. When one of my colleagues commented on that I quipped that I wasn't taking a test over it. But then, one never knows. There is some really practical information in this book that may actually come in handy some day. Maybe I should have slowed down and read it with more care.

As I prepared myself for this review and for the upcoming book club where the book will be discussed I found this TED presentation where Jill Bolte Taylor talks about her experience, her stroke of insight.  The presentation is 18 minutes long. I found it interesting and insightful. You decide if you want to take the time to have a look at it. Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

10 / 30 books. 33% done!