"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=========

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Quotes: Life on Mars

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.

Review, of sorts, to follow.

This is the book I'm highlighting right now---



Title: Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith

Book Beginnings: (from page 3)
Friday 56: (from page 19)
Comments and a bit of a review:
Tracy K. Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2012 for this small volume of poems, focusing to a degree on space and life beyond our understanding. "The Weather in Space" poem asks an important and unanswerable question, Is God a being or pure force? Many of the poems take off from a similar theme and seem to try and answer or at least imagine an answer to that question. Which brings us to the first stanza of the poem "Don't You Wonder, Sometimes?" where David Bowie serves as a "cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see." The rest of the poem delights as Bowie moves in and out of sight.
The second section of poems focus on Smith's thoughts, feelings about the death of her father, who was an engineer working on the Hubble Space Telescope. I read them in a sort of dispassionate way, thinking that they did not express my feelings after the recent death of my father, but as I closed the book and turned off the lights I realized that a tear was trickling down my cheek. Good poetry does that, it often sneaks up on you.
The third section was full of poems that may have been pulled from headlines. I am not sure. There were no directions given to the readers what to make of the disjointed poems/thoughts. After I read one poem, in which most, but not all the words were italicized, I sat back and asked myself, Did I just read a poem about gang rape? Is that what the poem was about? Gang rape? I reread it. I'm still not sure. Then I spent the next few minutes worried that the poet herself had been gang raped before I decided that the poem's italics meant it wasn't her. Sometimes poetry is like that, it leaves the reader feeling cold and confused.
I haven't finished the book yet, I still have one section to go. After my thrill at the thought of Bowie as a cosmic ace and then my horror at the description of a gang rape, I am not sure what to expect from the rest of the book. I bet I will be surprised.
Tracy K. Smith is the current Poet Laureate of the USA.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Cybils Awards Announced Today!

The Cybils Awards were announced today and, oh boy, did a lot of wonderful books get picked!

For the complete list, click here.

The awards I was most interested in were the JH and SH Nonfiction categories since I was a judge for the first round, and two of my favorites won. In fact, I was the one who nominated the JH Nonfiction title:

Junior High Non-Fiction

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam
by Elizabeth Partridge
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Anne@HeadFullofBooks

Senior High Non-Fiction

I was also very invested in the poetry, graphic novels, and the YA fiction. I haven't read either of the fiction fictions but they are going on my reading list, for sure. The Graphic biography was my favorite YA book of 2018, so I am delighted that it was selected. The poetry winner, Long Way Down, was published at the end of 2017, making it qualified for this year's Cybils award but one not talked about much this year. It is a powerful story, told in verse, about gun violence.

Young Adult Fiction

Sadie
by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books
Nominated by: Samantha

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Tess of the Road
by Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Caitlin

Young Adult Graphic Novels

Hey, Kiddo
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
GRAPHIX
Nominated by: Julie Williams

Poetry

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Check out the whole list and let me know what you think. Thank you to all the many, many judges for reading and evaluating books at all levels of children's lit.




Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Two great book club selections


Last year (2018) I pledged to review all the books I read for my two book clubs. Today I complete this pledge by highlighting two of last year's best. But words fail me. Both of these books received some of the highest praise from all quarters making me feel inadequate to the task of saying anything more than "These books are great. You should read them!" So I've decided to do is to tell you just a little bit about each book and then point you to a few reviews worth your time.

Educated: a Memoir by Tara Westover

Summary: Tara was born in September 1986 to survivalist, Morman parents in Idaho. No birth certificate was issued at her birth and her aunt, mother, and grandmother couldn't recall the exact date of her birth. She was the seventh child born to her parents. Her mother was a midwife and a herbalist, with no official training in either. He father fancied himself as a prophet who owned a scrapyard on the side. Tara and her siblings labored in the scrapyard instead of going to school and almost all of them ended up with injuries due to lack of safety procedures. It was amazing that no one died. Supposedly Tara and her younger brothers never set foot in a school, instead opting for home schooling which consisted of reading religiously biased histories, the Book of Mormon, and little else. When Tara decided she wanted to go to college, she had to have a friend help her with math and algebra skills since she had learned none at home. When she did pass the SAT with high enough scores, her first day of school was when she stepped onto a college campus. While in school she felt like an outsider, since she had never experienced many of the things typical teenagers encounter everyday. But going home wasn't really an option either because it meant going back to work in the scrapyard and to the physical and emotional abuse from a brother who bullied everyone, but especially Tara.

Why this book made an excellent book club selection: The best book club books are those that give the members a lot to discuss and EDUCATED was stuffed full of items to chew on: survivalist's mentality; public education vs homeschooling: self-reliance; abuse; religious extremism; family; and loyalty. Everyone in the club was glad we selected this book. I listened to the audiobook read by Julia Whelan. My husband also listened to the book and it gave us a lot to discuss, also.

Reviews of EDUCATED I recommend you check out:
  • New Yorker (very short). The reviewer, Alexandra Schwartz begins by inviting you to read the book: "I am far from the first critic to recommend Tara Westover’s astounding memoir, Educated, but if its comet tail of glowing reviews has not yet convinced you, let me see what I can do."
  • Psychology Today. Goali Saedi Bocci, reviewer, is a Psychologist who looks at the book through that lens. She finds some controversy in the book not found in most of the other reviews, which makes this a valuable resource for a book club discussion. She concludes her review with, "It is a story that encourages profound reflection in each of us as to how we become who we are once we step outside the shadows of family."  
  • Gates Notes. The reviewer and blogger is Bill Gates. He sat down with Tara in an interview and discussed the book. A lot of insights come out of this review including this quote from Tara:
    • “I worry that education is becoming a stick that some people use to beat other people into submission or becoming something that people feel arrogant about,” she said. “I think education is really just a process of self-discovery—of developing a sense of self and what you think. I think of [it] as this great mechanism of connecting and equalizing.”

One more thing, if you aren't already convinced, to encourage you to read the book: I've told more people to read this book than any other book I read in 2018 and to a person they are thankful they did read it. One more thing: Tara has a unique and interesting "voice." It is as if by getting educated so late in life she had to develop her own way and her own voice shines through.


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Summary: Roy and Celestrial are a happily married, black couple living in Atlanta. They are upwardly mobile and doing all the right things until, by an evil twist of fate, Roy is arrested for a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison for twelve years. The strain of the separation and imprisonment causes the marriage to fall apart, we see through the letters the couple send back and forth to each other over the years. Though the story is about the end of a marriage, it has to be taken in a broader context. The US justice system isn't very just for a large portion of society where the color of a person's skin and the amount of money they have in their bank account have more to do with imprisonment and time spent behind bars. Roy is not given a fair trial and when he finally gets out he finds himself in a new world, one that does not like an ex-con.

Why this book made an excellent book club selection: Again, the book had a plethora of topics and themes worth exploring: racism in the justice system; marriage; culture; blindness to wrongs; what we can do to help. Few people in the group viewed this as a favorite book but all felt it was an important book.

Reviews of AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE you shouldn't miss:
  • New York Times. Stephanie Powell Watts concludes her review with this ominous warning, "It also warns us to awaken our compassion and empathy. This can be you, the story whispers. Forget that at your peril."
  • NPR. Karen Grigsby Bates highlights many of the same points that were made in the NYT review but here she tells more about Tayari Jones motivation in the writing the story and where she got her inspiration. And again, the reader is given a warning: "Even if you've never gotten so much as a traffic ticket. One mistaken identification, one careless follow-up, and like Roy, you can become part of the country's prison-industrial complex."
  • BookBub. An American Marriage book club page includes questions, food suggestions, and music selections. So fun! Wish I'd seen this page before our meeting.
One more thing, if you aren't already convinced: AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE ended up on the most "Best Books of 2018" lists of any book published last year. If all the critics agree, it's time to take a look.

Jump into the conversation on the comments section. Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Would you consider them for your club selection? Your thoughts?




Tuesday, February 12, 2019

TTT: Favorite couples in literature

Top Ten Twenty Tuesday: Favorite couples in literature. (Warning, this post will appear to be a bit of an homage to Jane Austen's pairs. Deal with it. Ha!)

1. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 

2. Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility

3. Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion

4. Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley in Emma

5. Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey

6. Enis Del Mar and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain

7. Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser in Outlander series

8. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters in The Fault in Our Stars

9. Cath and Levi in Fangirl

10. Eleanor Douglas and Park Sheridan in Eleanor and Park

11. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in Harry Potter series.

12. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in Hunger Games

13. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet in Romeo and Juliet 

14. Fannie Price and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park

15. Aristotle and Dante in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

16. Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire in The Time Traveler's Wife

17. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables

18. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre

19. Kya Clark and Tate Walker in Where the Crawdads Sing

20. Blue Sargent and Richard Gansey in The Raven Boys series.

Did I miss any of your favorite literary couples?




Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Salon---Snowmaggedon 2019 (Mostly photos)

Hard to tell where the deck ends and the yard begins. The blobs are flower pots.
Weather: Snowing, windy, and cold. We woke up yesterday to eight new inches of snow, on top of the snow and ice which hadn't melted from earlier in the week. It just started snowing again a few minutes ago and the local meteorologist tells us that we should expect another 6 inches tonight.
Ian enjoyed poking the frosting blobs on the birthday cake.

Michelle Obama event rescheduled due to inclement weather: My mother and sister came up to our house to join us for this book event. It was cancelled mid-day on Thursday but they had already board the Amtrak train en route to our house. They continued north and spent the snowy weekend with us.
Kathy reading to Ian, her grand-nephew

Early Birthday Celebration: Yesterday afternoon we drove up to visit our daughter and son-in-law so my sister and mom could see Ian, our grandson. We had a quick lunch of beef soup and biscuits followed by an early birthday celebration for me. We made it home in the daylight before the temperatures tumbled, again.

Ian is checking out the snowy road in front of his house. Photo Credit: Rita Adams

The Wisdom of Ian: Show your happiness and delight when you see someone you love and give them big, full-body hugs to warm their hearts.

Bingley the snow dog: Who knew? Bingley loves the snow and plays outside for long periods of time before coming in with small and large snowballs attached to his feathery fur. It is a delight to watch him play. (Not sure if my video will play.)
Our Japanese willow is weighed down with snow.

Books: What books? I finished the audiobook of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. Loved it! And I'm currently reading the children's classic The BFG by Roald Dahl. Cute.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review and Quotes: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

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.

Review to follow. Warning this post may contain spoilers!

This is the book I'm highlighting right now---





Title: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green


Book Beginning:
























Friday 56:
























Summary (Again, I warn you about spoilers):
Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. April names the sculpture Carl. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight. Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us. – Book blurb
Review: 
     This is my kind of book: quirky, even a little snarky at times. It grapples with themes and topics that are very relevant for today. One theme is how social media changes the definition of fame and how some people become radicalized. It shows how people can become dehumanized in other people's eyes. It also shows how we are trained to fight on one side of issues or the other and then communication is generally among the people who agree with you. I kept thinking of politics, though this book wasn't political at all.

     April May and Andy become victims of their fame, yet they both strive for a sense of their humanity. Carl (here comes the spoiler) is an alien. Even that topic gets people on one side or the other. April May fights for the Carls and for finding out why they are here. This puts her in the cross-hairs of those who want to vilify them.

     In the last chapters we are showed a few of the dragon's teeth that author Hank Green hid throughout the text, most I missed along the way. Now I want to go back and reread the book looking for those little gems hidden throughout the text. And then the ending. Oh, the ending. So perfect.

     I am told by my daughter, who visits Hank's vlog more often than I do, that there is a sequel. I don't think one is necessary, because I don't mind books which end in an open-ended way.

     Now here is the funny note. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kristin Sieh,and the last chapter by Hank Green himself. In my usual fashion I bumped up the speed of the narration to 1.25 which made the book move along at a fair clip. When I read the reviews on Goodread many people commented about how fast and furious the plot progressed. Well, guess what? It unfolded even faster for me. Ha! But I still loved it! In fact, I loved it a lot!



Monday, February 4, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday---Books I have recommended the most for the past decade

I'm off the day's topic...

Top Ten Tuesday: The book I recommended the most often to others in the past ten years. (Both in my capacity of a teen librarian, a blogger, and a reader!)

2019: (So far) Becoming by Michelle Obama*

2018: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Adult)*
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka (YA)*

2017: The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood (Adult)*
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA)

2016: West With the Night by Beryl Markham (Adult)
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Adult)*
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

2014: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (Adult)*
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (YA)

2013: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Adult)
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA)

2012: Ready Player One by Ernst Cline (Adult)*
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Scorpio Races* by Maggie Stiefvater (YA)

2011: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (adult)
Stolen by Lucy Christopher (YA)

2010: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (adult)*
Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Ender's Game by Orsen Scott Card (YA)

*I still tell people to read these books in 2019!


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sunday Salon: February 3

Weather: spitting snow. The temperature is above freezing so little is sticking.

Super Bowl: I am enjoying the commercials and I'm in the room while Don is watching the game. Favorite commercial so far: Avocados from Mexico at the dog show.

Ian's first visit to the Tacoma Zoo
The Wisdom of Ian: (For the next several Sunday Salons I will share with you a morsel of goodness I've learned from my grandson, Ian.)
When you are full, quit eating, and, if someone hands you more food, throw it on the floor for the dog. -Ian
Books: I participated in a read-a-thon last weekend and broke a personal record. I completed eight books. Woot. Woot. Since that time I have completed one more.
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Print.  A book club selection and a Pierce Reads 2019! book. I enjoyed this one though the ending may be a bit to Hollywood for my taste. Click on hyperlink for my review.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama. Audio. Loved it! And I will be in attendance this Friday when Michelle comes to Tacoma to talk about her book and her life. 
  • She Walks in Beauty: Poetry selected by Caroline Kennedy. Print.  I've been working on this volume of poems for several months.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Print. This was my Classics Club SPIN selection. It is a highly acclaimed book but I hated it. Yuck. Will not be recommending it to anyone. Click on hyperlink.
  • Native Nations Miniseries: Chiefs and Warriors by Edward S. Curtis. Print. Considered gift books, this is the first in a series of four which have the prints that Edward Curtis took of Native American warriors and chiefs, with notes he wrote to go along with the photos.
  • A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Print. Oliver just died two weeks ago and I wanted to read more of her poems. 
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Audio. This is officially my favorite book of the year and it is only January.
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Print. I bought this book nearly two years ago. Glad I finally got to it.
  • StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson (Young Reader's Edition). Print.This was a Cybils nominated book I didn't have time to do more than peruse back in December, but I liked it so wanted to finish it. It is very thought-provoking.
Currently reading:
  • Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward. E-book.  I started this book back in September and set it aside.  28% complete.
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. Audio. I love this book. It is just the kind of quirky book I always crave. 76% complete.
  • Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. Poems.
Sheets: Don and I stood in front of our linen closet yesterday trying to find the right combination of sheets to place on the beds since we are expecting guests later in the week. First problem, we couldn't find any bottoms for the Queen mattress other than the ones we were taking off the bed to wash. Apparently the old bottom sheets ripped or were worn out and we threw them away but kept the tops. When we finally found a set that matched and looked good, it crinkled when we picked up the bottom sheet...you know the sound that old elastic makes when it is no longer stretchy? Next problem, trying to find matching pillow cases that were a) not super yellow (why does that happen?) or b) not for king size pillows that we don't own. You are welcome to stay at our house but I cannot promise a matched set of sheets. Ha!

The bully in our family: our darling, sweet cat, Demi, is showing her true colors as she stalks and terrorizes our dog. They play hide and seek and chase and then she turns on him with a big swipe with claws out. No fair.