"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=========

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lit Up By David Denby

Title: Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Schools, Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.
Author: David Denby
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 238 plus notes and index
Rating: 4

FTC Disclosure: Checked out from my school library.

Please excuse me if this review turns into a long, rambling fan letter. I want to record quotes from the book for safe keeping. I am placing them here so I can look back and grab them when I need them. When I read books which inspire me to be a better teacher, a better educator, I always feel like underlining all inspiring quotes to revisit on down days. This blog post is my effort at e-underlining.

The reporter, David Denby visited three schools on and off for a whole school year. He wanted to see what books the English teachers were assigning and what they did with the books they did assign.
Denby worried, as many of us bookish types to, that students today are not being introduced to great literature and afraid their life is the poorer for it.
"Reading fiction carries you further into imagination and invention that you would be capable on your own, takes you into other people's lives, and often, by reflection, deeper into your own." (xvi)
So he set out on this project to see what was actually happening in schools.  He visited Beacon School in Manhattan, Mamaroneck HS in Pennsylvannia, and Hillhouse HS in New Haven, Connecticut.
"I wanted to see if readers could be born---what happens when a nonreader becomes a reader?---which meant necessarily recording the students' mistakes and awkward moments as well as their insights and breakthroughs as they struggles into life. If they struggled into life." (xx)
David Denby spent the most amount of time with a tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Leon, at Beacon School.  Mr. Leon shared  some ideas from the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran with his students, "A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil." (9)

As the class is grappling with A Brave New World, Denby muses,
"The Internet informs, informs, informs; connects, connects, connects; but I could say from my own experience that it also dissolves deep concentration, maybe even dissolves the self, whereas reading something in depth patches it back together again. As you read in depth, you're in touch with the large movements of history, commerce, art...You move move outward and inward at the same time, drilling into yourself, matching your own acts against those of men and women in fiction, in history, in sports, in science, anywhere. After that, the book settles into your unconscious; if affects you without your knowing exactly how."  (57)
Mr. Leon's is often provocative with his classes. He intentionally riles up his students to spark conversation and get them to think.
"Yet, Mr. Leon implied the students were in "chains," to use a Rousseau's word that he placed on the board at the beginning of the year. He loved literature, he wanted students to love it, and he believed in the character-forming experiences of reading difficult books. He wanted to strike the leg-irons, open the links; he wanted to make a new boy, a new girl. He wanted to get them to talk to one another, not to text one another. He demanded conversation rather than networking." (61)
Again Denby muses about the value of literature in today's society.
"The experienced self yields a soul. Education in largest sense creates social beings, citizens, and also a soulful life, and reading has to be a big part of the slow-moving, slow-gathering process...If you don't read books, and if you don't get consumed by the physical and moral life of men and women in fiction and history, too many facets of yourself may never come into being." (62)

At Mamaroneck HS the English department was trying something new to remake the students into students who enjoyed reading.
"The habits of 9th and 10th graders could be changed. The nonreaders, or grudging readers, could be gently but firmly pushed into becoming readers---real readers, not just functional readers. They could be pushed into enjoying themselves...The practical question was this: How do you waken hunger amid indifference or disgust? Answer: With persistence, pressure, and subtlety...The people I spoke with were book lovers, and, for them, nonreading was an offence against spirit. Just as much as Mr. Leon, they were out to save lives." (79-80) Students were encouraged in their free choice selections to ladder up...read better stuff. Teachers book talked books one or twice a week. It forced teachers to read more and pay attention to what was popular. The superintendent of schools decided to change the gap between rich and poor kids on testing by getting more kids reading. (84)

Denby is pretty frustrated by what he finds at Hillhouse HS,  in New Haven, Connecticut. He points out all the ways that the school is letting down these students living in an impoverished area of town. They don't even have anyone at the school designated to help kids get into college. And if kids do go on to college, they are likely to run out of money or think it is too hard and drop out. "Miss Zelenski [their English teacher] knew all this, but she said a larger issue than college entrance was at stake. They needed literature to live." (163) I love this thought.

College is important but we need literature to live!

Mamaronek HS used all kinds of lesson plans to engage students in literature. The class Denby visited was studying Macbeth and Shakespearean soliloquies. Both were written by the Bard in iambic pentameter. To assist the class with this the teacher attempts to read one of the soliloquies while a student taps a drum in the rhythm. The effect is not bad. She has the students' rapt attention. She then asked the students to write a soliloquy of their own. "Write in the voice of the leading character of the book you are currently reading. Currently reading! Write it in iambic pentameter and in blank verse, without rhymes, but don't worry too much about consistency. Follow the rules and break them. Shakespeare broke rules all the time, she told them." (181)
      Part of the connection between classic texts and contemporary books was that they intermingled in the reader's mind, working on each other. It is the goal at Mamaroneck "to create pleasure by connecting one book to another, the endless chain that made a reading life and that made a man and a woman, too." (183)

Denby noticed and appreciated the hard work of all of the teachers he visited.
"The students worked hard; their teacher worked hard. School! It can---sometimes----be the most worthy place in America." (204)
" Everyone milled around at the end of the last class and some of the students were unwilling to let go...No one could say what would happen to any of the students in the future, but it was unlikely that they would be afraid of an book, and unlikely as well that they would go through life thinking that literature couldn't possibly matter to them." (221)
"In all the classes I attended, teachers put themselves out in order to get students to put themselves out. This meant more than the obvious things---that a teacher has to be intellectually serious, responsive to everyone, and also in her person the spirit of justice. I repeat, for many kids, a good teacher may be the most palpable form of honor they ever experience." (237)
I was really touched and caught up in the message of this book.  Good literature is vital to life and we must not push it off the curriculum just because students balk at having to read hard or long books. They actually end up feeling really proud when they do conquer these books.

I can't decide who I should loan this book to first, my principal or the AP Lit teacher who is forever putting great literature in students hands?

One more message I don't want to forget. Mr. Leon asked and reminded his students to be present as they read. He hoped they would be confused and willing to look for themselves in what they read. He also promised he would always be present. He loved teaching and would always bring his A-game to class. That is a pretty fantastic promise to make.

For teachers, especially teachers at the high school and community college level, this book is a treasure. Read it.

Monday, May 30, 2016

My Weekly Update and Memorial Day, We Remember.

The Stars and Stripes displayed for the Memorial Day Celebration 2016
Memorial Day. A day to remember our war dead.

Weather: Beautiful. Sunny skies and temperate temperatures making it very pleasant to be outside.

Memorial Day: Yesterday Don and I attended a public ceremony to honor American heroes, the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their military service. It was a moving ceremony with several speeches by politicians, appropriate songs sung by the Pierce College Chorale, and a naming ceremony where all military personnel from Puyallup who lost their lives in any conflict from WWI through the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts had their names read out and wreaths were placed by the War Memorial in their honor. We remember.  During this part of the ceremony a thought struck me, what will happen when this generation dies off? Who will remain to carry on these traditions? It seems really obvious by the average age of attendance that the young generations in our country are not interested in participating in these types of events. Sigh.

We remember. We are grateful.
Disturbing news out of California: Graffiti artists spoil a Vietnam Memorial Wall right before Memorial Day. A community comes together to clean it up.

Long weekend: We had both Friday and Monday off work for the long Memorial Day week-end. Opting to stay home meant getting a few things off our "to-do" list. I've finished reading five books, four of them I've been working on for a while. Carly and I got outside and deadheaded the rhododendron bushes. Don and I pulled up a dead azalea bush and planted a few annuals for some summer color in its place. Right now Don is outside playing with his new birthday gift, a saw. He is making tomato cages. Friday nights we went to a Mariner's Game in Seattle. our team lost (boo) but we still got a great fireworks show afterwards (yay.)

Currently reading:
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley. A young adult book dealing with mental illness, panic attacks, and friendship.
Completed this week (and I am feeling very accomplished by this list):
  • Lit Up by David Denby...the subtitle says it all: One Reporter, Three Schools, Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.
  • The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark...another book about the value of reading, especially reading the classics. This book then focuses on what a writer can learn from these books to make his/her writing better.
  • Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling by Tony Cliff...a graphic novel set in the 1800 with a female character who is like Indiana Jones.
  • Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela Turner...a real life Samurai who lived in Japan over 700 years ago. He is still a hero today!
  • The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry...The Crusades, The Inquisition, Mystics. Europe in the thirteenth century. Love, love, love this book. (Audio)
Up next (or what I have waiting for me at the public library, not sure if I will get to everything):
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, YA/print.
  • We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson. YA/print
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Audio.
  • Circling the Sun by Paula McClain. Audio.
  • Unbecoming by Jenny Downham. YA/print.
A confession and a promise: I seem to have taken an inadvertant hiatus from writing books reviews for the past several months. I am something like 15 reviews behind where I want to be.  I promise to do better going forward and shall attempt to write at least shot reviews of those past books I missed. When I finally got around to counting them up the other day, I was very shocked at how behind I am.

Comment Challenge

This summer I am participating in a new challenge called the COMMENT CHALLENGE. It is designed to facilitate deeper relationships with other book bloggers by increasing the amount of comments we give and receive. It is hosted by Lonna @ FLYLēF and Alicia @ A Kernel of Nonsense. It is too late to sign up for June but not too late to sign up for July and August as every month there will be a shuffle and bloggers will be assigned new partners each month.

My new partner is Lisa at Lisa Loves Literature.  She and I should swap 11-20 comments in June. I hope I am a faithful and thoughtful partner.

Head on over to the link up at FLYLēF for more details.

Let the comments begin.

Three short book reviews

There are not enough hours in one day to read all the books I want and to catch up on my past due reviews. Hence, the short reviews.

Minamoto Yoshitsune should not have been a samurai. But his story is legend in this real-life saga. This epic warrior tale reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history. ---Goodreads

I have been looking for a book like this my whole time as a librarian for those students interested in Asian history or more specifically about the history of the Samurai in Japan. Finally I have a book I can recommend on the topic, Samurai Rising by Pamela Turner. It is about a real-life Japanese hero Minamoto Yoshitsune who lived in the 12th century. He has been immortalized for his bravery and daring. The author became interested in the subject when she was casting about looking for an activity she could do with her son. They selected something related to Japanese swords. This reminded her of book she had read about the Samurai written in the 1300s. Thus began the research which led to this book. It was well researched as evidenced by the over 60 pages of end-notes. It reads like an exciting adventure story full of plenty of gore and dramatic fight scenes.

Tony Cliff's second installment in the Delilah Dirk graphic novel series, Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling is pure fun. Set in the 1800 Delilah Dirk has made a bit of a name for herself with her swordsmanship. But her fame doesn't keep her from being framed as a spy by an English officer and she barely escapes with her life. Her need for revenge takes her back to England but just about swamps her friendship with Selim. Once in England Selim learned that Delilah Dirk is her pseudonym and this female hero is leading a double life.

I would recommend that readers begin with the first graphic novel in the Delilah Dirk series, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, by Tony Cliff, author and artist. I was a bit lost in the story not having followed my own advice. The book has earned four starred reviews for its action sequences, beautiful and color illustrations, and a nod to girl-power. Fans of this genre will find a lot to like in the series which I will be buying for my library.

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos. Imogene Scott's mother left when Imogene was a baby. All she really knows about her mother is what her father has told her in his bedtime stories. Now Imogene's father has disappeared and she is sure he is looking for her mother. She is also sure that her father, a mystery writer, has left her the tools and the clues to find them both. In the process of searching for her parents Imogene learns a lot about herself, and about loyalty and friendship.

When Imogene begins the search for her parents she thinks she is a lone wolf and must find them herself so she does not share her thoughts and fears with the police or with her stepmother. But to do her investigations she needs to help of her neighbors, her best friend Jessa, and Jessa's brother and mother. But can she fulfill her investigation without telling them what she is doing?

Like many teen books this book, which was advertised as a mystery, doesn't live up to the hype. It is more about Imogene and a coming-of-age tale where she finally confronts her father's mental illness and her need for need for real friends, not just literary ones. Reviewers on Goodreads are pretty critical of this misclassification. They, like me, want a mystery to be mainly a mystery with the action and tension that goes along with that type of story.

That said, I think there is some really solid writing in The Mystery of Hollow Places and I found the strength of it in the blossoming friendship between Imogene and Jenna.

All three of these books would qualify as Printz contenders since they are written for young adults and published in 2016. I won't be recommending any of them for my Mock Printz team, however, though I think they all have literary value.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

12 / 35 books. 34% done!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Salt to the Sea by Sepetys, a review

Sepetys has done it again. She has brought forward an event in history little known or discussed today: the plight of refugees on the road in East Prussia near the end of World War II. The people were attempting to escape their liberators, the ruthless Russians, preferring to side with their conquerors, the Germans. The Russians have this little corner of the earth (Northern Poland today) surrounded and they are being squeezed toward the sea and the only possible route of escape, the Baltic sea and a ship which will transport them to Germany and beyond. Sepetys lets her readers know right from the outset that the story ends with a shipwreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a luxury liner tapped for the evacuation of the refugees. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustlaoff caused over nine thousand people to drown in the frigid waters that January day, far more than the 1,500 people who went down with the Titanic. Yet few have heard of the details of this horrific sinking until this book, Salt to the Sea, was published.

The story is told from the point of view of four people who must depend on each other for survival: Joana, a beautiful Lithuanian nurse-assistant; Emilia, a young Polish girl with a big secret; Florian, a East Prussian man carrying important Nazi papers and an rare artifact; and Albert, a German soldier who dreams of being important but his dream world and his real world do not match up. Each of the narrators reveal bits of the story in alternating short chapters. The three characters Joana, Florian, and Emilia meet up on the road as they make their way to a port town, Gotenhafen, where they will seek passage on any ship leaving the area. Albert is the first German soldier they meet in town and they find in him a willing accomplice to their plans to get aboard a ship and to stay together.

The fast pace of the book makes it seem like a thriller, yet each person is holding back a big secret to the story has the edge of a good mystery. Yet the book is mainly touted as historical fiction impeccably researched by Sepetys. Whatever genre you want to apply to this book, it is worth the read.

My only criticism, if it is a criticism at all, is the shortness of each chapter. Readers are given such small snippets of information at a time it is difficult to figure out what is happening and the importance of the fragments until well into the book. And then, because we know what awaits our protagonists, we spend the rest of the book wanting to scream, "don't get on the ship."

I met Ruta Sepetys several years ago after publication of her first book, Between Shades of Gray. That book was also about a little known or not oft reported event from WWII, the relocation and crushing of thousands of people from the Baltic States under Stalin. Her grandfather had been a commander in the Lithuanian army prior to WWII and he and his family had had to escape the country to avoid being swept up in the purge Stalin conducted. Many of her family members did not escape, however. That story is authentic and heart-wrenching. This story about the other end of that horrific war is similarly gut-wrenching and enlightening. The part that got to me the most, though I knew I was reading a fictional account of the events, these accounts were based on real events and it just about broke my heart to think about all the refugees fighting to stay alive by any means possible. It reminds me of events happening today in the Middle East and in Europe.

This book qualifies by virtue of its publication date and its target audience of young adults as a potential Printz contender. I will likely recommend that we include the book on our Mock Printz list of selected books.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

10 / 35 books. 28% done!

Monday, May 23, 2016

TTT: I feel differently about these books now

Today's Top Ten Tuesday deals with my changing opinion about books over time. 

1. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James...I initially gave the book a 3 rating. I am such a huge Jane Austen fan and I didn't think the book lived up to the her standards.  I have since seen the movie and I liked it a lot. I have reassembled my thinking on the book based on the movie.

2. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin...We read this book for book club. I was so put off because the author didn't use traditional punctuation such as quotation marks. I rated the book a 3 at the time. Everyone else in the club really liked the book and we had a fabulous discussion. By the end of the club, I had already upgraded my rating.

3. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh...this was also a book club selection and I was so irritated by the main character I gave the book a 3 rating. Since that time the book is often on my mind especially when I am in the mood for flowers.

4. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown...I can't believe I initially gave this book only a rating of 4. After the reread and meeting the author, it is certainly a 5+.

5. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin...I loved this book, gave it a 5 star rating. Months later I could barely remember the plot. I think 5 star books shouldn't be so easily forgettable.

6. Glory O'Brien's History of the World by A.S. King...see the above comment. Same for this book.

7.  The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings...This classic novel has simmered very well. I rated it initially at a four but it deserves higher than that. All my memories of the book are positive.

8. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes...I like this book fine but actually not as much as I initially thought.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Salon, May 22, 2016, Billy Joel edition

The Big Screen Announces the concert, Billy Joel at Safeco Field
Weather: Currently sunny but not sure if it will hold. Grey skies seem to be moving in.

Billy Joel: Friday night Don and I attended a Billy Joel concert in Seattle at Safeco Field where the Mariners play baseball. As the stadium lights went down and the stage lights went up, Billy Joel started singing the songs of my life. I had never thought of it before, but it is true. Billy's first hit, "She's Got a Way" hit the scene in 1972 when I was in secondary school. I probably listened to it at school dances or on the radio when I was learning to drive. "Piano Man" (1973) has long been a favorite because I too played the piano. In 1975 as my classmates and I sashayed down the aisle to receive our diploma's, Billy Joel was making it big with "The Entertainer." No doubt we listened to it at our grad party later that night. We had friends and brothers who fought and died in Vietnam and we were angry about it. Billy Joel gave voice to our feelings with "Goodnight Saigon" and "We Didn't Start the Fire." His songs "She's Always a Woman" and "Just the Way You Are" were favorites at house dances at my sorority in college.  I remembered hearing his song "Honesty" for the first time when I was in London on a study abroad program in 1979. "She's Got a Way" made a resurgence in 1982 just in time for my wedding. About that time. as I moved into the working world. I stopped associating songs with particular events in my life, but many of Billy's songs were favorites to hum along with as I drove to work and back and just lived my life. "Allentown", "Uptown Girl", "So It Goes", and "The River of Dreams" were a few I loved. Who didn't? I seem to have stopped paying attention altogether for a few years and then Movin' Out hit Broadway in 2004 and a traveling troupe eventually came to Tacoma for a one-night show. We got tickets and took our daughters to see it. Wow. Cue the love. After that night all four of us were singing and humming his songs, not just me. Now, after over 40 years of following and loving his music, the music playing in the background of my life, I finally got to see Billy Joel live and it was awesome!

Billy Joel and his band played five songs for their encore. "Uptown Girl", "It's Still Rock-n-Roll to Me", "Big Shot", and two others not recorded here, "You May Be Right" and "The Good Die Young." Wow!
Hints of the sunset happening behind the stadium while we waited for the concert

Books read this week:

  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys...set in Poland/Prussia near the end of WWII when thousands of people were attempting to get away from the advancing Russian Army. They crammed onto a ship heading for Germany, The Wilhelm Gustloff...and the rest is history.
  • Exit, Pursued by Bear by E.K. Johnston...a YA novel about cheerleading and surviving rape. This was my audiobook selection of the week.

Currently reading: (I'm in the middle of four books right now which I'm unlikely to finish. How did that happen?)

  • Lit Up by David Denby...still plodding along in this one.
  • Samurai Rising by Pamela Turner.... when narrative nonfiction isn't very engaging it is hard to want to read on even when the topic is of interest.
  • The Art of X-Ray Reading by Peter Clark...I hope to skim this whole book looking for tips to help me enjoy reading literature even more.
  • Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling by Tony Cliff...a graphic novel. I may abandon this one since I didn't read the first book in the series.

Cue the music: Go to your music library and cue up a few Billy Joel songs. Right now I am listening to "Innocent Man." Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Friday Quotes, May 20

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

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. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing by Roy Peter Clark

Book Beginnings: Introduction: Where do writers learn their best moves? They learn them from a technique I call X-ray reading. They read for information or vicarious experience or pleasure, as we all do. But in their reading, they see something more. It's as if they had a third eye or a pair of X-ray glasses like the ones advertised years ago in comic books.

Friday 56: X-raying James Joyce: Let's look closely at that first sentence, in which Buck Mullignan carries the holy objects of shaving: a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. If Buck is the priest, that bowl of lather substitutes for the chalice that will hold the blood of Christ. How appropriate that the mirror and the razor lay "crossed," as every Mass takes place before a crucifix and is considered a reenactment---not a symbolic imitation---of the saving suffering of Christ.

Comment: I bumped into this book at the public library and I picked it up in hopes of gleaning a few tips I could share with my teachers. But secretly I just want to learn all the tips I never learned myself due to the lack of lit classes in college. I am having such fun with it even if I haven't read all 25 of the books highlighted within its pages.

Monday, May 16, 2016

TTT: Books I purchased on a whim

Sponsored by The Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've recently purchased on a whim.
Note: I don't often buy books for myself and I usually scrupulously research books I purchase for my library before add them to my orders. But for some reason the following books just caught my fancy and I purchased them without my usual regard.

1. Dodgers by Bill Beverly---it is touted as a literary crime novel, which is probably why I bought it, but it is an adult book which makes me wonder what I was thinking as I don't usually buy adult books for the high school library without reading lots of reviews first. (Purchased May 2016)

2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson--- a nonfiction book about the justice system and defending those wrongly committed. I think I read a few reviews on blogs and thought it sounded good though it doesn't really sound like a book teenagers would be likely to read, (Purchased May 2016)

3. The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez---I don't even remember reading the review for this novel though I am always on the hunt for multicultural books. I hope it is good. (Purchased May 2016)

4. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke---talk about a whim of a purchase. I read one blogger's raving review and added to my next order. (Purchased May 2016)

5. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heillig--- less of a whim purchase than the above four books, but only because it was on my order wishlist for several months before I purchased it.  It doesn't mean I know really anything about it. I think I saw the cover on a lot of blogs and thought, "why not?" (Purchased May 2016)

6. Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Schools, 24 Books That Can Change Lives by David Denby---I saw this on a blogger's Goodreads page (was it Nance at ReaderBuzz?) and I decided I had to have it without reading a single other review. I bought it for my library, for other teachers. I'm half way through it and loving it. (Purchased in April 2016)

7. All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton---another blogger review caused me to buy this one on a total whim. I have finished it and recommend you buy it on a whim, too. (Purchased April 2016)

8. Readers, I Married Him. Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier---I love reading short stories when I travel and I hope to travel this summer. Plus I am a fan of Jane Eyre. When I saw this, I bought it without much other thought. (April 2016)

9.  The Man in the High Castle audiobook by Philip K. Dick---my family and I watched the Amazon Prime series on TV and really got in to the story line. As the last episode ended I immediately went to the computer and ordered the audiobook for us to listen to in our cars. The book is not nearly as good as the TV series, which is quite altered from the original. (Purchased December 2015)

10. Speaking With the Angel. Original Short Stories, edited by Nick Hornby.---this is whimiest buy of them all. I was waiting for someone at a grocery store. I glanced at the used book sale table which was set up for some benefit and saw this book. One of titles caught my eye, "Nipple Jesus". I bought the book. It cost a dollar. I actually read the whole book, not just the provocative story, on a trip to Europe. Ha! (May 2012)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Salon, Pentecost Sunday

Fourth of July, our climbing rose, looks lovely on its first bloom of the year.
Weather: Light Spring rain

Pentecost Sunday: Today is a church holiday that signifies the arrival of the Holy Spirit. My church always celebrates this day with by asking parishioners to wear red and we usually have a special service, a joyful celebration. Today was especially joyful because we were also celebrating the completion of the remodeling work we have been working on for so long. In 2005 we started a church committee to begin the process of deciding what improvements we needed and as you see by today's date, it has taken a long time for us to finally have all the plans come together. We built a huge garage/out building to house our church van, lawn mower, and other outdoor tools. This space will also be used for the youth group for their raucous games. We relocated our kitchen and added to the square footage of it. And we added a new office wing and a library. The service today was progressive, we went from one space to the next asking God's blessing on it and the work that takes place in that area.  The church was festooned with red balloons and looked so bright. We invited the construction company man, the architect, the financial man, and others to join us for the day. Joy.

Don is as old as I am again: Don is a few months younger than me so every year on his birthday he catches up with me. Yesterday we celebrated by having a family dinner of grilled steak, grilled potato packets, broccoli, fresh pineapple and cake from Carina's bakery, The King's Favorite (banana cake, with peanut butter and chocolate frosting.) Yum. The girls gave their dad money to buy a new golf bag and I bought him a new table saw. Man stuff.

Books read this week:
  • My Name if Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout---an easy, thoughtful read about a time in a woman's life when she has to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time and her mother, whom she hasn't seen for year, comes and stays with her for a few days. This is a book club selection and I think we will have quite a bit to discuss.
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater---the fourth book in the Raven Cycle series; an audiobook. I love the series and the narrator, Will Patton.
Currently reading: 
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys---YA, set East Prussia near the end of WWII when Germany is collapsing. The Russians, who have no trouble with the mind set of Rape and Pillage, are advancing on the area and those people who were loyal to The Reich are now attempting to get back to Germany to avoid them. Progress: 26%
  • The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan---Set in Ivory Coast on a cocoa plantation where working conditions are awful. If I have learned anything from this book, it is a MUST to buy only fair trade chocolate products, which is not easy to do. Progress: 80%
  • LIT UP by David Denby---I started reading this book again after a few week hiatus. It is a look at teaching and literature in schools today. If I owned my own copy it would be full of underlinings. Progress: 50%
  • Samurai Rising by Pamela Turner---a nonfiction book about the famous and ruthless samurai, Minomuto Yashitsune who lived in Japan in the 1100s. Interesting but not really my cup of tea. 24%.
Disney Princesses Evolution: Love any of the Disney princesses (or all of them?) Have a listen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The hunt for the 2017 Printz Award contenders

So far this year I have read seven books which qualify as potential Printz award books. By qualify I mean that the books fulfill the requirements to be considered because they were published in the U.S. in 2016; they fall into the Young Adult classification of literature; and, *this is important to me, have all earned at least three starred reviews. There are currently around 30 YA titles which have earned three or more starred reviews. I hope to read them all before the end of the year. Of the seven books I've read that fulfill these qualifications, no winner has emerged yet, though many were very good. (*Earning starred reviews from literary review journals is NOT a requirement for Printz consideration, I just have to start and end somewhere. If I attempted to read all YA book published a year it would be hundreds of books, an undoable task.)

Having fallen way behind on my book reviews this Spring, I've only reviewed one of the seven books, my goal is to remedy this situation this week. But in the meantime, these are the titles and a brief summary of the books.

Burn Baby BurnBurn Baby Burn by Meg Medina---set in NYC in 1977 the summer when disco was king but the city was under siege of Son-of-Sam, arsonists, and a heat wave which caused brownouts, looting, and crime. I was in college when disco hit the scenes so I enjoyed the blast from the past and looked for authentic 1970s cultural references. I haven't had any students read this book so don't know how much it would appeal to them, though I know the Printz Award is not based on popularity. My review here. (4 starred reviews)

The Mystery of Hollow PlacesThe Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos---a girl's mother abandons her when she is very young. Her father, who clearly has mental health issues, never seems to recover from the abandonment. When he also goes missing, the girl is sure he is looking for her mom and it is her job to follow the clues to find them both. I listened to this audiobook on my staycation which my husband as he and I drove around Western Washington looking for weird and quirky landmarks. The landmarks we found were much more exciting than the mystery in this book. (3 starred reviews)

The Steep & Thorny WayThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters---set in Southern Oregon in the 1930s when and where, oddly, the KKK was active. The main character is half African American. Her father was killed for the color of his skin. Hanalee has to make alliances to get to the bottom of what is happening in her community. These alliances put her at odds with her family. The supernatural parts of this book make the story seem less credible but I did enjoy it. (3 starred reviews)

The Memory of LightThe Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork---Vicky attempts suicide and ends up in the hospital on the Psych Ward. While there she meets other troubled teens and starts to understand herself and her pain and despair came from. I've been a Stork fan since his book Marcelo in the Real World was published. This book is very credible and, I think, helpful in terms of the treatment of depression and suicide ideation. (4 starred reviews)

Golden BoysGolden Boys by Sonya Harnett---a new family moves into a neighborhood with two school-aged boys. These boys seem to have every toy any boy could want and they are willing to share them with their new friends. The only problem is their father seems far too interested in the neighbor boys than is healthy. Honestly this book was mesmerizing, but mesmerizing in a creepy way like reading Lolita. (3 starred reviews)

Anna and the Swallow ManAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit---set in 1939 Poland just as WWII breaks out, Ann's father, a professor is taken by the Nazi's and Anna is forced to fed for herself. She links up with a man she calls the Swallow Man and the two of them walk and hid and survive on their own for years. The book is less about the war and more about the relationship of the unlikely pair. (3 starred reviews)

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater---this is the fourth and final book in the Ravel Cycle series, which I love. It is a wonderful and complex book with plots twists and new characters. Of the lot, this one is my favorite but I doubt this will be seriously considered by the Printz Committee because of it is part of a series. I hope I'm wrong. (4 starred reviews)

2017 Printz Award Contenders

7 / 35 books. 20% done!

If you want to immerse yourself, as I have, in the world of starred book reviews, please visit Jen J.s Blog. She is keeping close tabs on the books earning to most stars in the YA world. Visit her blog by following the link.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday Quotes, May 12

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

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. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Beginnings: 
Guilt is a hunter. My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child.
Friday 56:
The temperature dropped and the exposed parts of my face began to sting. We had been walking for over six hours. Eva complained incessantly. She hated the trek, she hated the cold, she hated the Russians, she hated the war.
Comment: I actually haven't started reading this book yet but I hope to start it soon. Ruta Sepetys wrote another amazing book about WWII in Lithuania called Between Shades of Gray. I am hopeful that this book, also set in Lithuania/Russia during WWII, will also be well-written and heart-wrenching.

Monday, May 9, 2016

TTT: Books I discovered while weeding the library

Top Ten Tuesday: Today's topic is to list my favorite non-book websites. Since I am pretty boring with Internet searching no one would have fun with my list which has things like CNN, Huffington Post, and Daily Kos...in other words, news and political sites. So I am going off the board today.

My top ten list---Books I rediscovered during library inventory today which I had wanted to read at some point in the past (and may still want to read.) You will notice all the authors are R-Z, which was the area of the library I was inventorying today. ***If you have read one of these books and you think I should skip it, please let me know the title and the reason in the comment section. Thanks for your help.

1. Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross (2013)
Sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon, a plain, impoverished girl in Belle Epoque Paris, is hired by Countess Dubern to make her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, look more beautiful by comparison but soon Maude is enmeshed in a tangle of love, friendship, and deception.

2. So Shelly by Ty Roth (2011)
When their mutual friend Shelly is drowned in a sailing accident, high school junior John Keats and his volatile classmate Gordon Byron decide to steal Shelly's ashes and, in a romantic gesture, return them to the small Lake Erie island where her body washed up, but the journey proves more revealing and emotionally complicated than either of them had anticipated.

3. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (1961)
Features two stories in which younger sister Franny obsesses about her spiritual impurity by praying a repetitious prayer to Jesus, and she ultimately suffers a mental breakdown. Zooey her older brother in the second story attempts to make her come to her senses by dropping her quest because it makes her more self-centered than she already is.

4. Night of the Howling Dogs by Salisbury (2007)
Eleven Boy Scouts, their leaders, and some new friends camping at Halape, Hawaii, in 1975, find their survival skills put to the test when a massive earthquake strikes, followed by a tsunami.

5. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (2012)
A girl, having traveled with her mother to an animal sanctuary for bonobos in the Congo, struggles to survive with the animals after revolution breaks out and she and the chimpanzees are forced to flee into the jungle.

6. Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (2013)
In the mid-21st century major world cities are controlled by a formidable security force and clairvoyant underworld cell member Paige commits acts of psychic treason before being captured by an otherworldly race that would make her a part of their supernatural army.

7. The Riverman by Aaron Starmer (2014)
Fiona Loomis claims she is visiting a parallel universe where a nefarious, called The Riverman,  is stealing the souls of children and the boy. She asks to write her biography because she fears her soul may be next.

8. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (2013)
An Odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail where they deal with pirates, buried secrets, and extraordinary encounters.

9. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder (1927)
When a bridge breaks in Peru sending five people to their deaths in 1714, a monk who witnessed the accident attempts to prove that their deaths were the result of divine intervention, not an accident.

10. The Dooms-day Book by Connie Willis (1992)
Kivrin researches the Black Plague in the fourteenth century in her time travels, but she is stuck in time without anyone to rescue her. She becomes an angel of hope during the darkest hours of the Middle Ages.

11.  The Pigman by Paul Zindel (2005)
Two high school sophomores from unhappy homes form a close friendship with a lonely old man who has a terrible secret.

Remember: please leave me a comment if you think I should avoid a book or if I should move a book up on my TBR pile.  Thanks for your feedback.