"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, September 18, 2017

TTT: YA books I want to read this fall in prep for YMA

Top Ten Tuesday: YA books I still want to read this fall before the YMA in January.
(If you have read any of these titles, please let me know what you thought of it.)
1. Landscape with Invisible Hand
by M.T. Anderson
(Five starred reviews; amazing author, Sci-Fi; 
likely the first on the list I will get to since I just bought a copy on Audible)
2. A Face Like Glass
by Frances Hardinge
(Another five starred review book; this author is always winning awards in UK. 
Will this be the year she wins one in the US?)
3. Long Way Down 
by Jason Reynolds
(This book has five starred reviews and it won't be published until mid-October; 
it is about the effects of pulling the trigger on a gun and is written in free verse.)
4. Genuine Fraud
by E. Lockhart
(With four starred reviews this psychological thriller is calling my name.)
5. They Both Die At the End
by Adam Silvera
(Another four starred review book. Silvera is on a roll. This is his second YA publish in 2017.)
6. You Bring the Distant Near
by Mitali Perkins
(An immigrant's story. This one has already earned four starred reviews.)
7. The 57 Bus
by Dashka Slater
(A true story about two teens who got together because of a crime. 
This will be published in October and has eared three starred reviews so far.)
8. Borne
by Jeff VanderMeer
(This is the book I am most excited about on my whole list. One reviewer said this, "A dystopia novel written with impeccable weirdness." I can't tell from my records if it has three or four starred reviews, either way, this book has been getting a lot of national press and I look forward to reading it. Oh, guess what, I just figured out that this book isn't a YA title. I still want to read it, but not for the YMA books.)
9. Spinning
by Tillie Walden
(A graphic memoir about a dancer who also has to come to terms with her sexuality. So far it has earned three starred reviews.)
10. Wild Beauty
by Anna-Marie McLemore
(This three starred review book is set to come out in October and is filled with magical realism. I loved her last book, When the Moon Was Ours.)

((The publications which review YA books and award starred reviews for their favorites are: Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, and VOYA.))

***So far the only book I know of which has earned the complete seven starred reviews this year is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It is not on my list because I've already read it.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and Bookish.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

News of the World...a wonderful audiobook

Title: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Setting: Post Civil War, Reconstruction Texas in 1870.

Main Characters: 
  • Captain Jefferson Kidd, an elderly widower who participated and fought in three wars, is now an itinerant who makes a living by traveling around Northern Texas, reading the news to people hungry for a connection to the rest of the world.
  • Johanna, a rescued ten-year-old girl who was captured four years ago by Kiowa raiders after they killed her family. She no longer speaks English and is completely wild.
Plot:
     The plot is remarkably simple. Captain Kidd is asked to deliver Johanna to her only living relatives 400 miles over rough and dangerous terrain, one filled with natural barriers (rivers, deserts) and man-made obstacles (political and financial.) Johanna, who completely embraced the Kiowa culture, does not want to go. She wants to return to "her people", her Indian father and mother. She is wild by many standards: eating with her hands, throwing away her shoes, preferring the floor to a bed. But she is smart about nature, knows how to handle a revolver, and is a good problem solver. Nevertheless, as the miles pass, Capt. Kidd and Johanna form a bond of friendship and comradery. 

Themes: What makes a family? How is trust developed? How far does responsibility go? What does honor look like? The importance of balanced news. And historically, what was life like in Texas in the 1870s

Awards: National Book Finalist 2016. Spur Nominee 2017 (Western writing.)

About the author: Paulette Jiles is also a poet. She researches her topics extensively and picks her words carefully. When asked, at the National Book Award ceremony, who she writes her books for, Jiles said she writes for herself. In fact, she said, she enjoys rereading her books and looking for typos.

The audiobooks: You know, if you are a reader of this blog, that I like listening to audiobooks, so it won't surprise you that I selected to listen rather then read News of the World. But actually my decision to choose the audiobook was even more calculating than usual. I first read about ten pages of the print version and was frustrated by the lack of quotation marks. I like the fiction I read to use proper punctuation and will often get frustrated without it. I'm not saying I was frustrated by the print edition of News of the World, it just had that potential so I decided to switch to the audiobook. And the decision was a good one. First, I got to share the book experience with Don. We listened to it as we drove to Oregon and back last weekend. Don loves Western fiction and knows much more about the history of the US Army than me. Secondly, the audiobook narrator, Grover Gardner, had a perfect voice for the book. He has a real folksy style that comes across as authentic for the time and the setting. Thirdly, since the book is short (213 pages) the audiobook isn't prohibitive in terms of time. It is only 6 hours long, perfect for a short road trip.

Review: I really, really enjoyed this book. Capt. Kidd was a complex character. The peeks at historical events: War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Reconstruction Texas, were fascinating but not overwhelming. Both Captain Kidd and Johanna were misfits in a world where they no longer fit. I found myself cheering for these underdogs and for their unlikely triumphs.

What I learned: In addition to the peeks at historical events I learned that Johanna's difficulty assimilating back into life after the time she spent with Kiowa tribe was not unique. Research done by Jiles on the topic revealed that children who were captured and raised by Indians then rescued and returned to their original culture, did not assimilate well. Even if they only lived in the Native-American culture for just a year, they felt like misfits for the rest of their lives once they were returned to their families. One of the characters in book explained it this way, "In their minds they went. When they came back they were unfinished. They are forever falling." The book has a lot of heart and it touched mine.

Rating: 5 stars.
Edition: News of the World, Paulette Jiles, Brilliance Audio. 2016.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Welcome, Ian!

Welcome to our family, Ian.


Ian Bennett Adams born September 13, 2017
Parents, Dan and Rita Adams.
Grandparents: Rick and Nancy Adams / Don and Anne Bennett (us)

For I.B.A., 13th September, 2017

Ian Bennett Adams is here,
Sing joy, rejoice and celebrate!
For perfect love doth cast out fear;
All heaven laughs to mark this date,
Rejoice, rejoice,
With merry voice,
A guardian angel takes his place
To help this darling grow in grace.

Ian Bennett Adams has come!
His rosy lips move: taste and see!
He makes this groping world his home;
He curls his fingers, sucks with glee,
Is here, is here,
Beloved and dear
To all he made to watch and wait.
Rejoice! Rejoice! and celebrate!

(Adapted from the poem:
For M.S.J., 20th June, 1968
by Madeleine L'Engle)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein---a review and Book Beginnings quote

The year is 1938, right before the outbreak of WWII. The setting is an estate near Perth, Scotland, which is a bit northwest of Edinburgh. The main character is Julie Beaufort-Stuart, the fifteen year old granddaughter of the Earl of Strathfearn. Julie is home from school on a summer holiday to help her mother and grandmother close-up the estate after her grandfather's death. It will be her last summer on the estate and she wants to make the most of it. But the very first day she is home, while idling alongside the river which meanders near the estate, Julie is clobbered over the head and left for dead. If not for the assistance of some Travellers, camping on the estate with prearranged permission, Julie might very well have died. Because no one knew her identity, Julie was treated very poorly at the hospital, showing the level of prejudice against Travellers in the community at large. Eventually Julie regains consciousness and she is returned to her family, but she has no memory of her attacker or the circumstances leading up to being bludgeoned. In an oddly coincidental turn, just as Julie is returned home, the archivist working on her grandfather's estate disappears. Everyone fears that he is dead.

Thus begins a story which is part murder mystery and part coming-of-age tale. Julie and her brother Jamie meet and befriend the twins, Travellers who saved her life, Ellen and Euan. They all work to prove to the police that the twins did not murder the archivist and attempt to murder Julie. In the process they uncover a mystery which involves river pearls from the Earl's estate, pearls which can be traced back to Mary Queen of Scots.

In case you think you recognize the name Julie Beaufort-Stuart, if you read Code Name Verity, a Printz Honor book published in 2012, she was the protagonist of that book who was working as a British spy and was captured by the Nazis. The Pearl Thief is considered a prequel of Code Name Verity, but it very easily reads as a stand alone, though we do see the beginnings of Julie's skills as a first rate snoop and the makings of a spy. It is a very different book from CNV, in a lot of ways I liked it better, and that is saying a lot. In The Pearl Thief we meet a girl who is just coming into her own. She is trying to figure out issues related to friendship and prejudice, class and privilege, sexuality and manipulation. In a lot of ways Julie is an unreliable narrator but as she learns things, we do too. I loved her voice and seeing things through her eyes. The climax, which comes very late in the story, was a shocker to me, one I didn't see coming at all. Amal El-Mohtar, writing a review of PT for NPR said this about the two books, "It's an enormously different book from Code Name Verity — but across time, space, and genres, they slip off their gloves and hold hands." Isn't that a lovely description?

In the notes at the end of the book, Elizabeth Wein explains the research she conducted for this book centering on two unknown issues to me: the lives of Travellers (gypsies) and the difficulties that have befallen them since modern technology has altered the way people live today; and the plight of the river mussels, the makers of the beautiful river pearls. Pollution and population growth have led to a situation most dire and now the few remaining mussels are protected against harvesting and it is illegal to sell the pearls, even ones that have been in families for years. I enjoy learning something new when I read a book and The Pearl Thief sure fit that bill. Plus, and this is always a bonus for me, the book was filled with poetry, especially poems by the famous Scots poet, Robert Burns. Loved it!

Book Beginnings quote:
'You're a brave lassie.' That was what my grandfather told me as he gave me his shotgun.
Friday 56 quote:
And then among the piles of paper on the desk I was startled to see something I recognized.
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.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Edition: Print
Challenge: Read Books from Your TBR pile, Sept. 11-24.
Mock Printz recommendation: Yes




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Short YA Book Reviews

Once again I find myself falling behind on my book reviews. I am miraculously keeping up on reading goals but can't seem to say the same about blogging goals. In an effort to catch up I offer shorter reviews of several recently read YA books.

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner is an adventure story set in the fantasy land of Attolia and Mede, The book is heralded as the fifth book in the Queen's Thief series but also works as a stand-alone book with characters introduced in earlier books but whose stories are flushed out much more in this book. Kamet, a slave of a master in Mede, is whisked out of his country and his safe life by an Attolian soldier who is sent by his king to capture Kamet and bring him to Attolia. The two embark on a very long and dangerous journey, one filled with all kinds of adventures, near misses, and narrow escapes. It is a fun and exciting read from start to finish.

I haven't read the other four books in the series and I did fine with Thick as Thieves without knowing much about the world and the characters from the other books. But I confess I now want to go back and read them. Turner's writing is strong and the imagery is strong. I liked everything about this book and the reading experience and wouldn't mind repeating it again with the earlier books. In fact, this is the first book I've read all summer which had that wonderful can't-put-down quality.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Target Audience: Middle School and up


Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld is a new graphic novel series by a well-known author of several popular YA series (Uglies; Leviathan). Addison and her young sister live in New York near a Spill Zone which destroyed her old town and killed her parents. To support her sister and herself, Addison illegally enters the Spill Zone to take photographs which she sells for money. When her benefactor approached Addison with an offer of even more money she has to decide if she will risk another trip into the zone, this time on a much more difficult assignment.

I found myself to be quite captivated by the story in the Spill Zone and got totally caught up in the tension in this book, the first in a series. I am not the hugest fan of graphic novels but was really charmed by this book and will wait with expectation for the second installment in the series. I think that teens will become fans of this book (series) and hope it will win wide distribution with them.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Target audience: Grade 8 and up


In Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia we meet Eliza who is a shy and friendless girl in real life. She is also an amazing artist and the creator of a wildly popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea published anonymously online. Eliza has several very close friends online, none in real life. She is powerful and determined online, characteristics she does not convey in her day-to-day life. When she meets a new boy in her school, Wallace, she is shocked that he actually wants to spend time with her and she is shocked to learn that he is a huge fan of Monstrous Sea, even an excellent writer of some of the M.S. best fan fiction. Eliza knows she should tell him who she is, that she is the creator of his favorite webcomic but she just can't figure out how to do it. Each day she delays drives a wedge in their potential relationship and soon things snowball out of control.

In my estimation this book is a partial graphic novel with occasional drawings of characters from the Monstrous Sea webcomic included. I like illustrated books if the illustrations advance the story or help explain some concept more succinctly than words. I didn't find this to be the case in Eliza and Her Monsters. The illustrations seemed to be randomly placed and did little to enhance the story except to give us an idea about Eliza's drawing skills. I also found the relationship between Eliza and Wallace to be on a fairly predictable trajectory right down to the inevitable breakup. For these two reasons I don't think this book will be seriously considered by award committees. I predict, however, that the book will be quite popular with teen readers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Target Audience: Grades 9-12



Monday, September 11, 2017

TTT: Throwback Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite books published every five years since the year of my birth, 1957.

I turned 60 this past birthday. This TTT is a celebration of books which have been published in my lifetime. I've read all of them, but I didn't necessarily read them in the year listed, obviously.



Books I’ve read and enjoyed over the course of my lifetime;
 published 1957-2017
A=Adult titles; C=Children’s or YA titles

1957
A-On the Beach by Nevil Shute
C-Little Bear by Elise Holmelund, ill. By M. Sendak
1993
A- The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
1962
C- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
1997
A-The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
C- Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stoneby JK Rowling (first pub. in UK, series complete 2007.)
1967
A-One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
C-The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
2002
C- Feed by M.T. Anderson
1972
A-All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
C-My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
2007
A- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
1977
A-The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

2012
C- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
1982
A- The Color Purple by Alice Walker 
A-Schindler’s List by Thomas Kenneally (tied)
C-Jamberry by Bruce Degen
2017
C- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
1987
A-Beloved by Toni Morrison (tied)
A-The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher




Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and Bookish

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Salon---September 10th

Weather: Overcast and cooler. Yesterday it rained here, but we were gone so we didn't witness it ourselves. Please more rain, please, please, please. Our state is on fire. We need more rain.

Football: Yesterday was the first UO Duck football game of the season with us in attendance. If you are a Nebraska fan, you totally deserved to win...the second half. We, UO fans, on the other hand, deserved to win the first half. In my mind the game was a draw, we just had more points. The game was dedicated to Stomping Out Cancer and everything related to that aspect of the day was completely precious.

First Day of School and I wasn't there: But I did go out to breakfast with two friends, on two different days. Never before have I been able to eat out the first week of school. Both of my companions are educators who are retired so they had good advice for me. I also counted these events as two more 60 for my 60th celebrations. Thanks, Carol and Jane!


Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon: Will join in the fun and attempt to knock off a few more books from my To-Be-Read list. The read-a-thon is from September 11-24. Look for my posts which mark my progress. Thanks for Wishful Endings for hosting this event. You don't have to be a blogger to join in. Check out the link for the details. I currently have 52 books in my 'to-read' category on my Goodreads account and I am working on four books (which were on my TBR pile), my goal is to knock six to eight books off the list in the next two weeks that the read-a-thon is going.

Speaking of Goodreads, this past week was their 10th anniversary. This is a link to a list of the most popular books in a variety of categories over the past ten years. I've read all but one of the books in the YA category. Guess you can tell what I've mainly been reading over the past ten years.

Books completed this week:

  • Thick As Thieves by Megan Whelan Turner. The fifth book in the Queen's Thief series, which I haven't read, but I enjoyed this book very much. It was almost non-stop action. I think I will be forced to go back and read the earlier books in the series.
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death In a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. Horrifying details about what happened during and after Hurricane Katriana in a New Orleans hospital. This is a book club selection. I think it will generate a good discussion.
Currently reading:
  • The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. A prequel to Code Name Verity. I love her writing. 80%, print.
  • The Biography of The Beatles by Bob Spitz. My Beatles obsession continues. This book is abridged, which is good since the original book is over 900 pages, but just think about all the details I am missing. 60%, audio.
  • News of the World by Paulette Jiles. The writing sparkles. Set in Reconstruction Texas in 1870. 85%, audio.
On deck (three more YA books, which all arrived at the same time):
  • The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
  • Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden
  • A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
Baby Watch: We are still waiting on pins and needles to meet our grandson. No action, yet.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TTT: Ten Books I Struggled to Get Through (Or Didn't Get Through at All!)

Top Ten Tuesday: 

Ten Books I Struggled to Get Through (Or Didn't Finish)


















DID NOT FINISH
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
(I quickly read 100 pages and then stalled out)
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
(I read this on a plane flight home from somewhere and I can't remember a thing.)
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
(It is too depressing what the Internet is doing to our brains. Sigh)
Gulp by Mary Roach
(I actually think I will get back to this one, someday. I enjoy this author a lot.)
Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
(This is a tome weighing in at over 500 pages. I am currently reading it right now and wonder if I will finish it.)
Romeo and/Juliet: a Chooseable Path Adventure by Ryan North
(I read several of the adventures and all of them were stupid. I gave up or didn't know how to actually read the whole book.)

FINISHED, BUT IT WAS A CHORE
Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy
(A book club selection. I thought I would never finish the book. Ugh.)
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
(I was disappointed that this book wasn't anything like the movie. The middle part was especially draggy. It was a miracle that I finished it.)
Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
(I had heard this was a hilarious book, written in the late 1800s. I am not sure if I laughed once.)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
(What a weird book. WEIRD. I finished it because it, too, was a book club selection.)
The Hotel on Place Vendome by Tilar Mazzeo
(Everyone was disappointed by this book which had so much potential to tell real WWII stories.)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
(I had a lot of trouble reading this book, even though the story was good. I don't like reading plays.)


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Salon---Labor Day Weekend

Tea Party participants
Weather: lovely, warm with blue skies.

Labor Day: Tomorrow is Labor Day in the USA which always marks the end of summer vacation and back-to-school for me and millions of teachers and school children. But since I retired this past June, this will be the first time I will not be going back-to-school since I began kindergarten in 1962. I have very bittersweet feelings about it. Did I make a mistake in retiring too soon? I have this little voice in my head saying that sort of thing. This past week I volunteered at the school for eight hours checking-out iPads to returning students. I visited with many of my old colleagues and enjoyed myself but I also got to reflect on the mess we left behind after a long day, knowing I didn't have to clean it up. This week I have plans to join two friends for breakfast, something I could never do on the first day of school.  I am claiming this scripture today as move into my retirement years:
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10, NIV)
Tea Party: Last summer my Australian friend, Claire, and I hosted a tea party for my book club friends whom she had met on her first trip to Washington. We made scones and other pastries. Claire made a pavlova which was a scrumptious treat. This year, in memory of last year's party, I invited book club friends to join me at a local tea house, The Secret Garden, for a tea party and a 60 for my 60th celebration. We had so much fun. Tiny tea sandwiches or delicious salads, scones with whipped cream and lemon curd, and so many tea choices it was hard to choose. Thanks gals for joining me. Let's do it again next year! (This brings my 60 for my 60th up to 56!)

Baby watch: still no baby. But we are on watch and not making many plans that can't be easily canceled.

The Beatles obsession continues: I am still obsessed with everything related to my favorite rock/pop group. This week Sirius radio is playing a list of 100 favorite Beatles songs as voted by their listeners. Today Don and I caught the top five as we hopped in the car after church so we drove around for a half hour to listen to the end of the list. We have no idea where some of our other favorites landed on this list. Don said how could we choose a favorite child? We love so many of their songs. Here are the top five in reverse order:
  • 5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Harrison wrote this song and many think it was his best. It was on The Beatles album, usually called the White Album. Eric Clapton played part of the guitar solo.)
  • 4. Sun King Medley (Found on the 2nd side of the Abbey Road Album) it includes these songs: Sun King, Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came in Though the Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and The End.
  • 3. Hey Jude (Released as a single, written by McCartney. This one would have been my #1 vote if I had gone online to vote.)
  • 2. In My Life (Lennon-McCartney composition found on the Rubber Soul album. Lennon said this was the first song he had written which was taken from events in his life.)
  • 1. A Day in the Life (Another Lennon-McCartney composition found on the Sgt. Pepper album. I've always liked this one because of the line, "I just had to look, having read the book.")
(I just got back from a trip to COSTCO and I caught the program again, this time I heard #11-6...11. Eleanor Rigby, 10. Yesterday, 9. Let It Be, 8. Something, 7. Strawberry Fields Forever, 6. Here Comes the Sun.)

Food Chemistry: Before Carly left this week to return to New York, she and I experimented with food, attempted to make fruit juice caviar or balls. I was so hopeful that we would be able to make these delightful oddities. But no. We tried and tried and had no luck. The whole kitchen was in a complete mess and we had no juice caviar to show for it. Ha!

Book Completed this week:
  • Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott. I love Lamont's writing on spiritual matters. This small gem gives me a lot to think about my prayer life.
  • The Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld. A young adult graphic novel, the first in a series. It is an exciting dystopian tale about a community which was destroyed by a spill and a girl who transgresses the barrier intended to keep her out, so she can take photos. It ends o a cliffhanger which makes me eager for the sequel.
Currently reading:
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sherri Fink. About a hospital in New Orleans days after Hurricane Katrina and claims of euthanasia. This is a tome of a book weighing in at over 500 pages. Audio. 63%
  • Thick as Thieves by Megan Whelan Turner. Set in Attolia, a fantasy kingdom, this middlegrade/YA novel is the fifth book in a series, but I am reading it as a stand alone. Print. 22%.
Watching: Don and I watched all six episodes of The Tick in rapid succession one night last week. What a fun new series offered on Amazon Prime. If you have it, we recommend you watch it.
Now we are into Anne with an E on Netflix, a reworking of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. Love it.

China: Don and I just bought plane tickets for a trip to China in November with our friends Ken and Carol. We are super excited. It will be our first big trip of retirement.

Have a wonderful week. Happy back-to-school!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Midnight at the Electric, a book review

"Divided by time. Ignited by a spark."

Midnight at the Electric is one of those magical novels which is both historical and futuristic at the same time. It presents a mystery, over 100 years in the making, and it will likely will suck even the most reluctant readers into its multifaceted story line.

Adi Ortiz has been chosen for a great honor---to be one of the few who will colonize Mars. The year is 2065. As part of her training she has to move to Kansas and fortunately she has a long-lost relative not far from the training site, Lily, who is willing to house her during the months preceding the launch.

When Adi moves into Lily's house she discovers a post card mailed in the 1920s which references a tortoise which still lives on the farm over 100 years later. Adi is so intrigued by the cryptic message on the card that she starts investigating about the lives of both the author and the recipient of it. Her investigations uncover a mystery, which unwittingly involves both Lily and Adi.

At this point the story shifts to Kansas in the 1930s when the whole region was experiencing the huge, devastating problem called the Dust Bowl. Catherine, a teen living with her mother and younger sister, writes in her journal about her fears for their safely and for her sister's health. Young children were especially susceptible to a type of pneumonia caused by breathing in all the dust, making the lungs fill with a kind of mud. It was a deadly problem. In her desperation to save her sister, Catherine falls for the claims of a charlatan who promised a complete cure if they would show up at midnight and touch his electrical device. A few days later, their mother, Beth, almost dies in a dust storm. Because of this near miss, she hands Catherine a pile of letters to read. Letters which will change her life.

Once again the point-of-view shifts, this time to 1919 England. Lenore is writing to her friend, Beth, about her sadness after losing her brother in the Great War. She wants to come to America to visit her friend but circumstances are preventing her from traveling.

Surprisingly, Galapagos, the elderly tortoise, ties all three of the women together. Each of the girls---Adi, Catherine, and Lenore---fight for their own self determination. They each want a better future for themselves and for their loved ones. And all three of the girls learn that in order to move forward one must be willing to sacrifice something and leave it behind, knowing that love and self-acceptance will move forward with them.

Midnight at the Electric is a treasure. It is one of those books that is both a joy to read and to think about after the last page is finished. Jodi Lynn Anderson, who has published several YA novels already, has certainly hit a home-run with this one. It is interesting historically without being boring. It is thoughtful without being too sentimental. The characters are likable without being cloying or stereotypical. The book has earned six starred reviews and will likely be in the mix when award committees convene in the winter to discuss winners. I recommend it with and an enthusiastic YES!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation---Wild Swans

Six Degrees of Separation. 
We begin with
 
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
I haven't read this book but I've heard great things about it and I certainly intend it someday. It is story of three generations in the twentieth century and the effect that Mao had on their lives.

Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
This is the very first book I ever read about the Cultural Revolution in China and it was an eye-opening reading experience.
First They Killed my Father by Loung Ung
Another memoir that I read in the same time period as the above book. This is set in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge which terrorized its citizens for several years, killing thousands, maybe millions, of people.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
Also set in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge come into power. This novel is exquisitely written and really emphasizes human resilience. Told from the point of view of a young girl.

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
Another novel about a real historical event of epic and horrifying prepositions---the systemic slaughter of the Tsuti people by the Hutu tribe in Rwanda. The main character is hoping to go to the Olympics as a runner and it ends up being his salvation.

Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resistance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Another book about an Olympian and runner, Louis Zamporini, who became a war hero. After he was  adrift in the Pacific for several months he was captured by the Japanese. He resisted his captors and was tortured.  After he returned home he found peace through a personal relationship with Jesus. This is a very inspiring story.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Another inspiring story. In the face of the horrible events of WWII with the Nazi's killing Jews. Corrie ten Boom and her sister were imprisoned for sheltering Jews. She was able to survive her ordeal through the strength she gained from her faith.

I had no idea when I started this list that I would end here. China to Germany, via other continents. What a trip.

Join in the fum. Make your own Six degrees of separation list.

Hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best





Friday Quotes: Five Days at Memorial

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
Th
e 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: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

Book Beginning:
Prologue--- At last through the broken windows, the pulse of helicopter rotors and airboat propellers set the summer morning air throbbing with the promise of rescue.
Friday 56:
At 4:55 a.m., the supply of city power to the hospital failed. Televisions in patient rooms flicked off. Memorial's auxiliary generators had already thumped to life and were playing counterpoint to the shrieks of the storm.
Comment: It is timely that I am currently reading this book, about a hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as the events in Texas emerge after Hurricane Harvey. I read just the other day about the ordeal in a Houston hospital. The events in Memorial Hospital in 2005 after Katrina were horrific and I am reading this book with my mouth agape. Tragic and sickening, horrifying, and maddening. Is there any way to really be prepared when the worst storm in history (up to that point) hits and all plans are completely inadequate? This book is not a light and fluffy read by any means. It is long and detailed and has dominated my thoughts since I started it last week. I am reading this for one of my book clubs. I know we will have a lot to discuss.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Poetry calls out to me. Is it also calling out to you?

Recently I stopped by my public library to pick up a book on hold or to drop off an overdue book. While there I decided to peruse their poetry section. I'd never done this before since I was the librarian of a high school library and there were plenty of poetry volumes to keep me busy reading for years. While looking through the public collection I was struck by how most of their books of poetry were aimed at kids. What? Don't adults like poetry anymore? They didn't even have any of those huge tomes of poetry anthologies which I thought were requirements for for libraries to have on their shelves. Anyway, I did find three volumes which interested me enough to check them out. Below are highlights from these books. 


1. BookSpeak! by Laura Purdie Salas is a cute, children's illustrated volume of poetry all about books and reading. Each poem is about some part of the book: the table of contents, the introduction, the middle of the book, the index...you get the idea. The whole book is so precious and for a teacher or an elementary librarian it would be perfect to pique reading interest in their young charges. Example:

Calling All Readers

I'll tell you a story,
I'll spin you a rhyme,
I'll spill some ideas---
and we'll travel through time.

Put down the controller.
Switch off the TV.
Abandon the mouse and
just hang out with me.

I promise adventure.
Come on, take a look!
On a day like today,
there's no friend like a book.

2. The Ordering of Love by Madeleine L'Engle is a complete collection of all poetry ever published by this beloved author of A Wrinkle in Time. Though I have not read the whole book, the poems have a decidedly religious nature to them, deep in symbolism or drawing on religious metaphors which I think would go largely unappreciated without being fairly familiar with the Bible stories and scriptures. In the poem, "Who Shoved Me Out Into the Night?", I found myself thinking of Psalm 91 where God promises to send his angels to protect us and that He will hold us in the pinions of wings, safe from harm. It also reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia, where Jesus is represented by a lion, Aslan. After the set up of fear of the unknown, noises in the night, the poet encounters a lamb, which morphs into a lion.

...This is not hell, nor say I damn.
I know not who nor why I am
But I am walking with a lamb
     And all the tears that ever were
     Are gently dried on his soft fur.

...The lamb has turned to lion, wild,
With nothing tender, gentle, mild,
Yet once again I am a child,
     A babe newborn, a fresh creation,
      Flooded with joy, swept by elation...

In another poem, "How Very Odd It Seems, O Lord" L'Engle grapples with the concept to going to church or mass in churches away from home where she meets people from all stripes of life. All flawed individuals like herself. All seeking comfort and guidance from the Divine One, asking to be blessed. This poem seems particularly appropriate today when we are confronted with a President who wants to divide us and make us think of other people as wrong or less-than. L'Engle pointedly pokes a stick at that kind of thinking. Here is the conclusion of this poem:

...I share communion with the halt.
The lame, the blind, oppressed, depressed.
We have, it seems, a common fault
In coming to you to be blessed.

And my fit friends, intelligent,
Heap on my shoulders a strange guilt.
Are only fools and sinners meant
To come unto you to be filled?


3. Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets because his poems are so accessible. One doesn't need to have a MFA to understand his poems. I always get the idea when I read Collins that he is an accidental poet. It is as if he has to write down a poem or two every few days to survive, so he writes about whatever pops into his mind. The poems themselves aren't really stream-of-consciousness but the ideas for them seem to be. The first poem in The Trouble with Poetry, is a tease. In "You, Reader", Collins brags that he wrote down a poem that you or I should have, but he got to it first.

I wonder how you are going to feel
When you find out
that I wrote this instead of you, ...

Collins makes me laugh, too. He muses in the poem which is also the title of the book, "The Trouble With Poetry", that the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry. Isn't that the point? No wonder Collins was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-3. He is a good ambassador for poetry.

...Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry.

My favorite poem in this volume is "The Flock". Collins had read somewhere that it took 300 sheep skins to make the first Gutenberg Bible. In this poem, with an oblique reference to the 23rd Psalm, he imagines the sheep all milling around in the a pen. They are all squeezed together, all so similar one cannot tell them apart, so it would be difficult to know...

which one will carry the news
that the Lord is our shepherd,
one of the things they already knew.

Collins is one of the few poets, no wait, the only poet I have paid money to go and listen to. In this clip, you will find out what a wonderful experience it was listening to Collins reading his own poems. His humor is so dry and his poems invite me in. I can relate to them. The first poem he reads is called "The Lanyard", which pokes fun at childhood pursuits and reminds me of days when I, too, constructed lanyards to give away as gifts.

Every time I write a blog post about poetry I get comments from my readers that they don't "get" poetry and don't enjoy reading it. I wonder if it is a selection problem or a reading problem. I don't like reading poems which were written in past centuries in what seems like an archaic language, either. Unless I have help from someone else like Roger Housden in his Ten Poems series, I avoid those types of poems, too. In addition, I find that I cannot read poetry as I would a novel. I usually only read three or four poems in one sitting and then I need to sit and ponder a while. That is especially true when I am reading from a volume of poetry which seems to contain a lot of symbolism or religious references like The Ordering of Love. I have been reading this book for four weeks already and I'm only 1/3rd of the way through it. I may keep going, or I may set it aside for a while. No hurry. I am still savoring those poems which I have read and I don't want to race along and miss the good ones. Which reminds me. When I read a volume of poems, I never like them all. In fact, I often like just a few of the poems, but I like them so much, it makes the whole experience worthwhile.

Want to get started reading poetry? I recommend that you give books by poets Billy Collins or Mary Oliver a try. Both of these poets are living today and make poetry available to the common man. Or give one of Roger Housden's "Ten Poems" books a try. Housden not only highlights ten poems in each volume but talks about them and what different references mean. It is really his books which opened up poetry for me. I recommend them highly. In Collins, The Trouble With Poetry, one of his poems, "The Introduction" makes fun of poems which need explanations or prior knowledge to understand. That would probably be a great place to start.

Add a little poetry into your life today and see where it takes you.