"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, July 30, 2019

TTT: Books which make me appreciate nature more

Top Ten Tuesday: 
Books that have increased my knowledge and/or appreciation of nature

1. RED BIRD Poems by Mary Oliver
I am currently reading this little volume of poems published in 2008. Oliver always make me walk out the door with a new appreciation of nature and new eyes to with which to see.  Here is a small word of advice for today---
Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

2. FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver
This novel deals with the results of global warming on one creature: the monarch butterfly.
“For scientists, reality is not optional.”

3. LAB GIRL by Hope Jahren
Ms. Jahren is a scientist who studies plants, especially trees. My heart opened to a new language, the language of plants, as I read this memoir.
“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.”

4. OVERSTORY by Richard Powers
This Pulitzer prize winner is described as a "paean to the natural world." It is also about how humans can help resist the downfall of nature.
  “To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs. No: life is mobilized on a vastly larger scale, and the world is failing precisely because no novel can make the contest for the world seem as compelling as the struggles between a few lost people.”

5. MARTIN MARTEN by Brian Doyle
This quirky book set in a small community on the foothills of Mt. Hood opened my eyes to the unknown specialness of a certain animal I've never thought of before---the pine marten.
“It’s wrong to say that animals do not feel what we feel; indeed, they may feel far more than we do and in far different emotional shades.” 

After reading this novel I dearly wanted to visit a marsh before they are all gone.
“Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

Extinction is forever and this book is about how a bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, went extinct. Can we prevent it from happening to other birds, species?
Audubon's illustration of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This is all the world has left of this magnificent bird.
8. THE LORAX by Dr. Seuss
My first book about conservation. It should have been a warning to us all. Heed Dr. Seuss's words.

9.  A THOUSAND MORNINGS Poems by Mary Oliver
Poetry speaks to my need for more nature. Lucky I am on vacation is a very nature-full setting.
From the poem Hum, Hum

"The resurrection of the morning.
The mystery of the night.
The hummingbird's wings.
The excitement of thunder.
The rainbow in the waterfall.
Wild mustard, that rough blaze of the fields.” 

How can a forest fire save America? When that fire led to more safeguards by preservation and more National Parks and forests. Now everyone can enjoy nature in these saved spaces.
“Far ahead of his time, and to the criticism of isolationists in his own party, Roosevelt tried to get the major nations of the world to come together and take stock of the globe they shared.”

What books have awakened a deeper appreciation of nature in you? 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Friday Quotes: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

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

The book I'm reading now with a review to follow...

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Book Beginnings:
Friday 56:

Comment: Frederica is dating Laura Dean, the most popular girl in school but Laura keeps breaking up with her. Because of this Freddy writes an email to ANNA VICE, who has an advice column. (Book Beginnings.) And she goes with another friend to see if a fortune-teller can offer her advice to help her situation. (Friday 56)

Review and summary:
Tamaki is a genius at understanding people, specifically teens. She is the author of the coming-of-age book, One Summer, which won several awards. This time her tale takes readers to meet Frederica Riley who is miserable. She is in love with the most popular girl at school, Laura Dean. Laura is Freddy's dream girl but Laura keeps breaking up with Freddy. Freddy's other friends are thoughtful at first but get tired of the on again, off again drama. Freddy seeks advice on what to do from an advice columnist ANNA VICE and from a fortune-teller. The fortune-teller tells Freddy to break up with Laura Dean, to stop the dance that she is performing with her. ANNA VICE comes through with solid advice about what love should feel like and what it shouldn't feel like. In the meantime, Freddy has to figure out to how to be a good friend to others in her orbit and she sees first hand both positive and negative examples of relationships in her LGBTQ community. In the end Freddy finds love, acceptance, and happiness right under her nose.

I highly recommend this book for older teens and others who enjoy reading graphic novels. It is a fast read, taking me less than two hours to read.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Review: CIRCE by Madeline Miller

I loved CIRCE by Madeline Miller but it got off to a slow start for me. I listened to the first disc of the audiobook and turned it off thinking I couldn't do it in that format and maybe not at all. But Circe is a book club selection so I waited a few days, turned the audiobook back on and fell in love!

My first problem, I discovered, is that I know very little about Greek mythology. I think the last time I actually read any of the old stories for myself was back in junior high school...a long time ago. I knew the barest bones of the stories told and most of them related to Odysseus and his journeys.  I had never heard of Circe before so I had to do some research about the Greek gods and goddesses and all those demigods and titans.

Here is what I learned about Circe from Wikipedia:
  • She was the daughter of the god Helios (sun god) and the nymph Perse
  • Some accounts have her fall in love with the sea-god Glaucus, but he prefers the nymph Scylla. In jealousy Circe poisons Scylla's bathing water and turns her into a monster. 
  • She was vanquished to Aeaea by her father for a variety of transgressions.
  • She was well-known for her knowledge about herbs and potions
  • She changed most of Odysseus's crew into swine when they visited her island, Aeaea, on their way home from the Trojan war. Odysseus forces Circe to switch them back and then ends up staying with her for a year before returning home, after fathering a son with her, Telegonus.
  • Classic literature from the Renaissance time depict Circe as a predatory female.
  • Art work with her depictions show her as a female to be feared as well as desired since she is viewed as sexually free.

In other words, Circe is the bad girl of Greek mythology, a person to be feared for her skills and predatory nature.

Then along comes Madeline Miller with a new interpretation. In this book Circe becomes a powerful and sympathetic character. Ron Charles, in the Washington Post, started his review with this funny line, "The archaeological evidence is sketchy, but the first pussy hat was probably knitted by Circe." In Miller's hands Circe becomes a feminist before the #MeToo movement. She is powerful, beautiful, wounded, and complicated. She is a very sympathetic character. Ron Charles tells us, "And to anyone who thinks that women can be shamed into silence, this witch has just one thing to say: 'That’ll do, pig.'"

Miller collected all the bits of Circe's stories from mythology and pieced them together into an incredibly well-written story. AND, and that is a big AND, it made me want to read more on the topic and by this author.

I will be recommending this book to everyone who reads...well, not to little kids, but everyone else.

 (RHS book club July 2019)

P.S...I was shocked that only one other gal in book club actually liked the book as much as I did, and two gals used the word 'hate' when they talked about it. We may have had the worst book club discussion over CIRCE compared to any other book we've read together. I now recognize that it is a book that will evoke strong feelings in its readers and not all of them will be positive.

TTT: Book settings

Top Ten Tuesday: Some of my favorite books set almost exclusively at a school.

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Hogwarts is such a magical setting.It really is a character itself.

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green. Set in a boarding school. All the characters rub off on each other, for good and bad.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Also set in a boarding school. This book is hilarious about Frankie trying to join an all-boys club.

4. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Stargirl transforms a whole school with her positive and kind ways.

5. Espionage and Etiquette by Gail Carriger. The finishing school teaches students to finish everything, including death, diversions, and espionage.

6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Set in a college, Cath has to learn how to write fanfiction AND be a good roommate, girlfriend, sister, and daughter. That's a lot of pressure.

7. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard. Sent to a boarding school after a horrifying experience at her old school, Emily has to do the work to help herself overcome depression. She does it with the help of Emily Dickinson's poems.

8. Paper Covers Rock also by Jenny Hubbard. Alex can't save his boarding friend school from drowning. Now he feels like he is drowning, too.

9. Matilda by Road Dahl. Thank goodness for Miss Honey, Matilda's teacher at school.

10. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Auggie finds acceptance and love from his classmates, something new to him since his face is so disfigured. This book is VERY inspiring.

What are your favorite books set in a school?


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday Salon, July 21

Bingley hiding out in the hostas. Playing hide-n-seek with Ian.
Weather: Gorgeous, sunny day. The weather has been mild and rainy for the past two weeks so we are happy to see the sun. Temperature right now is 83 °F (28°C). It is not roasting hot like in other parts of the country.
Mom and her whole crew.

California: My mom and siblings, along with our spouses, converged on my brother's home in California last week for a family reunion. My brother lives and works in Switzerland but kept his home in California to return to when this job finishes up. The community where they live has a man-made lake and the whole place caters to outdoor fun. We swam, paddle-boarded, floated, played bocci ball, and sat outside and visited. There were even a few wild hands of Nerts played. Our daughter who lives in SF and a few of our nieces and nephews joined us for part of the time, but mainly it was us old folks just hanging out together. Thank you for providing the place for the fun, Tony.

GERD: Right at the beginning of our California trip I started getting symptoms of GERD (gastrointestinal something) which causes tremendous pain in the stomach. I started taking the OTC drugs which usually check the symptoms pretty rapidly, but this time not so fast. By the end of the week I was feeling tender but a lot better. Since then I have continued to have symptoms. Guess it is time to see the doctor, huh? I feel pretty good today but am too afraid to eat anything for fear of upsetting the apple cart again. It is Kefir and tea for me right now.

Ian preparing to climb the tree, right before his foot got stuck.

The wisdom of Ian: ask for rides in the wheelbarrow and climb trees while you can.

Books completed since my last Sunday post:
  • Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker. I enjoyed the folksy style of Walker's writing. The book was given to me by a retired librarian who lives in Montana. It is set in Montana in the 1940s. Print.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller. A book club selection this one is a retelling of stories from Iliad and the Odyssey and other Greek myths. I ended up LOVING the book after a slow start. Audiobook. 
Currently reading:
  • The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom. Albom is a favorite author and his books usually contain some spiritual aspect. This book is no exception. Print. 33%
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. A collection of over twenty vignettes  of a summer's activities of a grandmother and granddaughter on an island off of Sweden. Translated to English. E-book. 40%
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers. I haven't actually started this audiobook yet, but it is cued up and I am ready to start. This YA book, published last year, has lots of rave reviews. I hope I'll like it, too. Audiobook.
Just because it is funny: (Thanks Carly, for telling me about this old show.)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Friday Quotes: The First Phone Call From Heaven

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

I'm currently reading-

Title: The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Book Beginning: 
On the day the world received its first phone call from heaven, Tess Rafferty was unwrapping a box of teabags. Drrrrnnn!
Friday 56: 
"Hell, the Bible says God spoke through a burning bush," Fred said. "Is that any stranger than a telephone?"
Comment: I just started this book by a favorite author, Mitch Albom. Every book I've read by him has a spiritual aspect. This one is no exception. Members of small community start receiving calls from heaven, or people who have died. Is it really happening or is it a gag trick? No one knows.


2019 starred reviews on YA books (so far)

2019 is half over. What YA books do professional reviewers like best? They tell us by giving their favorites "starred reviews." Therefore, the more starred reviews, the more agreement among the pros.
Six different journals are used for the purpose of compiling starred reviews: Booklist, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.
Here are their favorites:

Six Starred Reviews
Two books:
On the Come Up. Angie Thomas. B, BCCB, HB, K, PW, SLJ.
Shout. Laurie Halse Anderson. B, BCCB, HB, K, PW, SLJ.
Five Starred Reviews
One book:
Lovely War. Julie Berry. B, HB, K, PW, SLJ.
Four Starred Reviews
Twelve books:
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America.
B, K, PW, SLJ.
Courting Darkness. Robin LaFevers. B, K, PW, SLJ.
Dig. A.S. King. B, BCCB, HB, SLJ.
The Gilded Wolves. Roshani Chokshi. B, K, PW, SLJ.
How It Feels to Float. Helena Fox. B, BCCB, K, PW.
Internment. Samira Ahmed. B, K, PW, SLJ.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. Mariko Tamaki. B, BCCB, K, PW.
Spin. Lamar Giles. B, K, PW, SLJ.
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. David Elliott. BCCB, K, PW, SLJ.
We Rule the Night. Claire Eliza Bartlett. B, K, PW, SLJ.
We Set the Dark on Fire. Tehlor Kay Mejia. B, K, PW, SLJ.
With the Fire on High. Elizabeth Acevedo. B, HB, PW, SLJ.

There are ten YA books with three starred reviews but I will stop at four, figuring I wouldn't have enough time to read many more than these books by the end of the year. Ha! I've hyperlinked the books already read. If you have read any of these books, please let me know what you think.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker

I recently attended an event with several friends. The host's mother was visiting from Montana and she and I always have a lot to talk about since we are both retired librarians. At one point in the conversation I asked if she had read Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, a Montana author and a book about one-room schools. She hadn't but then she told me if I liked Doig I should read something by Mildred Walker, another Montana author. At that point she disappeared into the house and reappeared a few minutes later with a book in her hands, Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker. She pressed it into my hands and told me to keep it or pass it on after I was done with it. She assured me she had another copy. I normally don't like getting books from people because they make me feel so much pressure. But I was intrigued by this one sporting a big sticker, "One Book Montana."

I've heard of towns selecting a book for everyone to read, or counties, but not whole states. Winter Wheat was the first book to be selected for the all-state read. An article from the Missoulian by Sherry Jones (May 29, 2003) describes the One Book Montana this way:
If you're going to ask everyone in the entire state of Montana to read the same book at the same time - as the Montana Center for the Book is doing - it had better be a darned good book, one college students and townies and farmers and ranchers can all relate to, one good enough to find its way into classrooms, one entertaining enough to keep those pages turning and dense enough to keep those tongues wagging long after the back cover has been closed with a satisfied thud.
The committee selected Winter Wheat, published in the 1940s, as its first book because they thought it would "amuse, inspire, provoke, and uplift state readers." Not being a Montanan myself I am here to say that the book does all of those things, even if you don't live in the state.

The story is set on a dry-wheat ranch in eastern Montana. Dry, I came to understand, means that the rancher does not water the wheat and relies on nature for the amount of water the crop gets. Ellen Webb is the only daughter to a reluctant rancher from Vermont and his wife, Anna, whom he met during WWI in Russia. Ellen loves the land and her life but dreams of being a linguist. After one year at the University of Minnesota she has to stop her schooling because the she could not afford tuition after a year of a failed crop. When her boyfriend comes to visit, she suddenly sees her home, parents, and the landscape through his eyes and finds them wanting. When he calls off the relationship, Ellen's heart is broken not only for his love, but for the loss of her first love for family and home. A lonely year as a teacher in a remote one-room school house gave her lots of time to gain a perspective and to come to accept and once again relish the life she has always loved on a land she loves.

If there is a stereotype of a person living in the west, it is of a lonely white male who wants to do everything himself and not accept help from others. I would add that this person is probably wearing cowboy hats and boots, to my way of thinking. But in Winter Wheat, Ellen helps break that stereotype. For one thing, she is female. And the book is not so much about independence--- though Ellen is certainly a very competent and self-reliant person---it is more about the connections we have with other people and with the land. Though Montana is usually thought of as Big Sky Country, here we are looking down more often at the dirt and mud (they call gumbo), the flowers and the new wheat growth, and the snow or rain.

Winter Wheat is beautifully written. It is simple and straight-forward, kind of like the people I have come to know who are from the great state of Montana. It isn't flowery or especially sentimental, it is just solid, good writing. The kind of book I want to share with my mom, whose father was a homesteader back in the early 1900s, or my husband, whose grandfather grew up on a ranch in eastern Oregon.

A side note about the book. It was published in 1944 and WWII does enter the story. I used to tell students that books like this one would read as historical fiction but it wasn't written to be historical fiction. It was written as contemporary literature. I appreciate books from which I can learn something about what life was like during the days leading up to and the beginning of a huge event, like war. It feels like reading a first-hand account. The war wasn't the point of the book, but it gives today's reader a peek at the past and new insights.

Monday, July 15, 2019

TTT: Books with "Summer" in the title

Top Ten Tuesday: 
Books I've read and want to read with "summer" in the title.
(Today's topic: Must-buy authors. Since I don't a. usually buy books and b. have any authors I must read, I opted to go off the board today.)

When I decided to make a list of books with "summer" in the title, I thought I probably have read many, many books and would have several titles to pick from. Not so. I have only read six books with summer in the title since I started keeping track in 2009, and two others before that time, so I decided to add a few titles which I would like to read.

1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
A graphic novel, one of the best coming-of-age books ever written.

2. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
It is astonishing how many events that we still talk about happened in the summer of 1927. I am a huge fan of this author, too.

3. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
If you haven't discovered the art and whimsy of Shaun Tan, you are missing a rare treat.

4. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
An interestingly different  Sci-Fi novel.

5. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Very summerish but not my favorite novel by this author.

6. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
This book really inspired me and I quoted from it often.

7. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
 I read this book before I started keeping track of them on Goodreads. Set in a summer during WWII. It is a heart-breaking coming-of-age story.

8. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
If I have a must-read author, it is Kingsolver. This book carries a strong ecological message.

Books I want to read with "summer" in the title:

Martin Marten by Brian Doyle

I grew up in Oregon and lived in the Willamette Valley. My grandparents lived in Bend on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. I became very familiar with all the passes across the Cascade mountain range. One route from Portland on Hwy 26 takes drivers right past Mt Hood en route to the east side of the state. Right after the village of Rhododendron is a small community named Zigzag, both being part of the villages of Mt. Hood, known as the Hoodland Corridor. I remember driving through Zigzag thinking it was such a funny name for a village, not even realizing it was named for the Zigzag River, a tributary of the Sandy River which eventually joins up with the mighty Columbia River on its march to the sea. I often wondered what kind of people would live in such a place. Now I know. 

Martin Marten is set in Zigzag, which seems like a fun and quirky setting for a story about a boy, David, who is coming of age on the mountain, as is a young pine marten, named Martin. The boy and the marten live separate lives, though their paths cross several times in the story. This is not one of those cutesy books where a wild animal comes to live with humans, or vice versa. Rather it is a story set on the edge of civilization with a whole host of quirky characters, both human and animal.

There is 14-year-old David who lives with his parents and his precocious  6-year-old sister, Maria. Dickie Douglas, the trapper, who knows the mountain like the back of his hand. Miss Moss, the storekeeper and community know-it-all. Cosmos, the crazy bike rider who always wears orange suits. And Moon, David's best friend, whose parents work in the high-tech world which is the exact opposite of the rest of the folks in the story. Many of the characters are unnamed, including David's parents.

There are also odd animal characters, none of them talking. Besides Martin, the pine marten, there is the largest elk bull ever seen named Lewis, a wise old horse named Edwin, a silver fox, an old mountain lion with a huge territory, and a dog who lives with a man, but the man does not own him.

David loves nothing more than exploring his part of the mountain and running along its trails. It is here that he bumps into the pine marten, Martin. Martin enjoys running also and often accompanies David on his runs through the forest, but he does his running in the trees. At one rather dramatic point in the story, Martin plays a critical role in the safety of Maria.

Aside from the aforementioned scene, most of the book is made up of moments in the lives of the characters without a bunch of drama, though life on a mountain can be very hard for both humans and animals.  Author Brain Doyle, an Oregonian, has obviously done his homework on the flora and fauna of Mt. Hood, called by its Indian name in the book:Wy'east, and I learned quite a bit about animal life especially, which I found very enjoyable. My husband and I listened to the audiobook as we drove to Canada and back last week and we both enjoyed the story but didn't find it especially riveting. At one point, after we were restarting the story after a stop, my husband remarked that he didn't remember where we were in the plot. We decided to just figure it out as we listened without backing up for clues. We knew we wouldn't miss much.

I read the book for an upcoming book club. It was part of a library book club kit, which means that some librarian thought this would make a good discussion book. I hope we do have a lively, quirky discussion to match the book. (Discussion questions here.) I just learned that the author Brian Doyle, died recently at a age 60 and was eulogized by many in the writing world for his skills. Watt Childress, of Juniper books, said that Doyle "relayed stories like prayers" and compared his writing to the music of Van Morrison because it was so lyrical. Doyle is quoted in the same article as saying that writing is just "talking an idea for a walk." What a perfect way to sum up this book. Doyle, just took his characters for a walk around Wy'east and voila!


(SOTH Book Club July 2019 selection)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Friday quotes and a review: Lovely War

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

Summary of the book and a review to follow---

Title: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Book Beginnings:
Friday 56:

Summary: (from Goodreads)
It's 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She's a shy and talented pianist; he's a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it's immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped  off to the killing fields. //Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who's played Carnegie Hall, he's a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that's before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who's already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans. //Thirty years after these four lovers' fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II.
     Lovely War addresses the age old question, 'Why are love and war inextricably bound together?'
     When Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, is accused by her husband Hephaestus of taking a lover in Ares, the god of war, she tells the story of the four lovers from the Great War over twenty years earlier. She asks Apollo, Hades, and Ares to add to the story as they crossed paths with the lovers themselves. Music, death, and war were all intertwined in the love stories.
     At first I was critical of gods and goddesses telling the love stories of the two couples who met during WWI. Having the gods as narrators felt like an unnecessary schtick. Weren't the love stories enough? But as I thought about it, I realized the author wanted to do more, she wanted to show the connection between war and love. It's about relationships that never would have happened under regular circumstances but they grow and bloom quickly in time of war.
     I enjoyed the love stories between Hazel and James; Aubrey and Collette. I didn't really pay attention to the drama between the gods and goddess. But what I liked best was the parts of the story that Berry took from history---about the 'negro' infantry called the Harlem Hellfighters and the band leader James Reese Europe, whose band took ragtime to Europe. Ragtime was the precursor to jazz and the war provided a chance to spread this very American music abroad. This was all news to me.
     I loved Julie Berry's The Passion of Dolssa so I had high expectations for Lovely War. I wasn't disappointed by the writing, I just didn't enjoy the story as much as Dolssa. I really do recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and to someone who likes to learn new information.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Friday Quotes and a look at the works of an author: A.S. King, updated with brief review

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

A summary and review of the book as well as a look at other works by the author to follow the quotes....

Title: Dig by A.S. King

Book Beginnings:
Marla Hemmings is hiding neon-colored plastic Easter eggs in the front flower bed.
Friday 56:
Her eyebrow is controlling me. If she lifts it, I feel I have to say one thing, if she lowers it, I have to say another.
Summary (from Goodreads):
The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets... As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.
Review: (NEW) At its core Dig, a deep and confusing surreal novel, confronts the reality of a family who is deeply poisoned by racism. Poverty, hatred, family violence, and disenfranchisement are the results. Each character, most we don't even know their names until late in the book, confronts the parent for the ugliness and scars left behind from the horrors of racism. One questions the information in textbooks as biased and racist, another thinks that blood from a black person is different than blood from a white person, another uses her friendship with a biracial boy as a way to get back at her mom, while another boy is befriended by a man during the winter so he doesn't see his racist tattoo until spring when the coats come off. The poison runs deep and destroys a family from the inside out. King, in the author's notes, asks readers to confront racism in all its forms, many we never even think of as problems. The surreal text sets the issue on its edge, causing the reader to look at the problem in a new way.

King is a brilliant writer, so sharp and precise at getting her points across in a new way. Where all of her books attack problems from a unique vantage point, this one really highlights the issues of racism and its many ugly tentacles. 

This will be a difficult book to recommend because it is so weird, so surreal. But if the reader is patient, the disparate parts come together and there is definitely a feeling that the characters, so hopeless in the beginning, may be able to DIG (get it?) out of their situation and a brighter future is on the horizon.

Other works by the author and a few of my thoughts:

I've read six other books by A.S. King. This is almost unheard of for me. I rarely stick with one author through so many years and books. I have loved her works from the very first book and every time I read one I feel like my socks are knocked off, her writing is so good. But, and this is a big BUT, all of her books are very similar. Let me explain.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz. I read this book in January 2011. It won a Printz Honor that year. The book just blew me away how King used movement back and forth in time to tell the story of a girl whose best friend, Charlie died under questionable circumstances. She covers up her grief with alcohol and with busyness. At times the reader is led to believe that Vera is going to have, or has had a mental breakdown. This was my first A.S. King book and the first blog review I was truly proud of. I read it too late to add to my Mock Printz list of selected titles for 2011 but each year after that , for several years we added her subsequent works onto our list hoping King would be a repeat Printz winner.

Everybody Sees the Ants. I read this in October 2011 and promptly added it to our Mock Printz list for 2012. It didn't win any actual awards but had an important message about the detrimental aspects of bullying and how things can improve if one takes action. But to get to that point the main character, Lucky Linderman, has to have lots of interactions with his grandfather who was a war hero and who is dead. Once again mental health issues play a prominent role in the plot.

Ask the Passengers. Read in late December 2012, I was a bit lukewarm on this book compared to the other two. It felt like a too familiar trope to me: Girl (or boy) questions her sexuality, people find out, tease and bully her (him), which causes a crisis of self-esteem. In this book, like others, this character talks to people who aren't in the room---passengers on airplanes high in the sky and certain long-dead philosophers. Mental health issue or just a crisis of identity?

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. A November 2014 read. By the title, this book promised to be different than the other three, with a Sci-Fi aspect to it, I thought. It is about a girl whose mother committed suicide when she was young and she fears that her destiny may hold the same thing. Until one day she starts having visions of a disturbing future and she decides to write down her visions and do her damnedest to make sure these things never happen. Apparently I never reviewed this book, which was on our Mock Printz list and won the Walden Award, given out by English teachers. But on my notes of many books written at the end of this year I said this about Glory O'Brien's History of the Future: "A.S. King is a kick-ass author. All her books are so good, yet recently they seem to have formed an amalgamative mass of gel in my brain and I can't remember which story is which. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future just isn't clear in my memory anymore." This book WAS different. Were the visions brought on by mental illness or was it a true Sci-Fi book? Note---I am definitely picking up on a theme to King's books.

I Crawl Through It. Read in November 2015. I had to reread the summary of the book to recall deails but what I did remember was how weird this book was and how full of symbolism it was. This is perhaps the most surreal book I've ever read. In fact, I added it to the Mock Printz list that year, thinking it might win an award because it is so different. Four teens are stressed to the max and the adults in their lives aren't paying attention. One turns herself inside out, another splits in two, while another can actually see the invisible helicopter her boyfriend is building, but only on Tuesdays. Call it PTSD or mental illness, but the teens are definitely in trouble.

Still Life with Tornado. Read in November 2016. Sarah drops out of school when her art teacher says that nothing new is ever created but only redone. She looks for creativity to prove the teacher wrong. During her search she finds her younger self and an older version of herself. From each she gains some wisdom into her current circumstances but it isn't until her mother gets activated that Sarah is able to reintegrate all the broken pieces of herself. 

Though I've read most of A.S. King's books I did miss two YA titles along the way: Reality Boy (2013), and The Dust of 100 Dogs (2009). Now that I've read Dig I might reach back and give them a try. My favorite of the six is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, the first I read. I feel like I am forever chasing that book to find a new favorite by the author. You can tell from my summaries that each one has something to do with mental illness or a surreal representation of things falling apart. After adding her books to our Mock Printz list every year, we stopped in 2016 because we felt the real Printz committee would also note the similarities in themes and move on to other authors exploring a wider range of themes in their books. Either way A.S. King is a remarkable writer and I can't seem to get enough of her books.

Monday, July 8, 2019

TTT: Top Ten YA Characters who deal with mental illness

Top Ten Tuesday: YA Characters Who Battle Mental Health Issues 

1. Leonard Peacock in Please Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick  (2013)---Leonard Peacock is seriously depressed and suicidal. It is an intervention with a teacher that saved him. Cries for help are important steps in getting better.

2. Adam in The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Totem (2013)---Adam struggles with OCD yet he can help others members of his support group as he fights for equilibrium in his life.

3. Darius Kellner in Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (2018)--- Darius has clinical depression and he is becoming more and more isolated. When his family makes a trip to their homeland, Iran, he finds acceptance and friendship and comes to embrace himself.

4. Aza in Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (2017)---Aza struggles with OCD and obsessive thoughts. She finally gets help for herself and acknowledges that this is something she will work on for her whole life.

5. Vivi in When We Collided by Emery Lord (2017)---Vivi spirals into a manic phase of her bipolar disorder. Jonah, a new love interest who is struggling with depression himself, notices and gets the adults activated to get her help.

6. Henry Denton in We Are the Ants (2016)---Henry thinks he has been abducted by aliens and the survival of the world is in his hands. He is never quite sure about reality (nor is the reader) but he is certainly dealing with deep depression over the suicide of his dear friend. Eventually he gets to help he needs to stay firmly in reality.

7. Vicky Cruz in The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork (2016)---Vicky attempts suicide and survives but she has a lot fo work ahead of her and she finds help in a small group run by a doctor. She is not only able to find helrself but helps others to find themselves.

8. Violet Marsh in All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nevin (2015)--- Violet meets Theodore when they were both on the school tower and it is not clear who saved whose life but the two seem to have a good impact on the other, that is until Theodore doesn't make it. Violet is able to reach out for help this time.

9. Caden Bosch in Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2015)--- Caden's life seems to be split in half---half regular life, and half life on the ship traveling to the lowest point on the planet under the ocean. He eventually gets help for this schizophrenia. Shusterman wrote in consult with his son who is a diagnosed schizophrenic.

10. Lia by Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)---Lia has an eating disorder that completely dominates her life. After the death of a friend, she spirals down until her family is finally able to get through to her and get her the help she needs to start taking steps toward health.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sunday Salon, July 7

Photo credit: Don Bennett, all rights reserved
Weather: Overcast, it looks like it will rain.

Waiting for the concert to begin. Photo credit: Rita Adams, all rights reserved.

Whistler, B.C.: We spent last week in Canada at our time share in Whistler. It was a near perfect week. Both daughters joined us, as did our grandson which added a new dimension to our family vacation. The photo of Ian was taken during a hike to Brandywine Falls, just a few miles from Whistler. He had discovered a big ant and was inspecting it on his finger.

Canada Day: As is often the case, we were in Canada on July 1st to celebrate their special holiday but missed ours on July 4th. To celebrate this year there was a parade down Whistler village with lots of maple leaves and bicycles. Later we attended a free concert in the Olympic plaza with The Tenors (used to be named The Canadian Tenors) as the headliners! Among the many songs they sang, 'O Canada' was especially poignant for the crowd since The Tenors sang it at the first NBA championship game for the Toronto Raptors who eventually won the series, a first for a Canadian team. None of us could believe our good luck at being in such a lovely setting with such incredible music and it was free!  (Even Ian seemed to enjoy the music, until he decided that playing on the swings would be more fun.) I tortured my family the rest of the week by listening to a rather select playlist of the Tenors on Spotify.

Photo credit: Don Bennett, all rights reserved

Hike to Brandywine Falls: The day was overcast but the setting was breathtaking. Don's photo could be printed as a postcard.

Ian and Grandpa playing in the water. Photo by Rita Adams
Meadow Park: We took Ian to a park which was a favorite spot when our girls were young. He loved running through the water tunnel and did it over and over again.

Train wreck art. Photo credits: Anne Bennett, all rights reserved.
Train Wreck hike: Back in the 1950s there was a big train wreck near Whistler. Five of the cars were so damaged it wasn't worth moving them from the spot of the wreck so they were left to rust in the forest. Years later graffiti artists found them and have enjoyed decorating them since that time. Three years ago a good trail and suspension bridge were constructed so that hikers and bikers could find this strange art installment.  Don and I hiked in and braved the rainy weather to enjoy this unique setting.

Books completed this past week:
  • Dig by A.S. King. A surreal look at five teens who find they have a lot more in common than they knew at first. Super weird but satisfying. E-book.
  • Martin Marten by Brian Doyle. The setting is a loosely knit community at the base of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Two concurrent stories interweave---that of David, a young teenager who is growing into a young man and Martin, a marten who is also growing up as a predator in the forest. This is a book club selection. Audiobook.
  • Lovely War by Julie Berry. A YA novel set during the first world war. The narrators are Greek gods and goddesses. Strange, but it works, especially the parts which expanded on the contributions made by the Harlem Hellfighters, a "negro" squad that fought with ferocity and valor.  Audiobook.
Currently reading:
  • Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker. I am enjoying this folksy style of Walker's writing. The book was given to me by a retired librarian who lives in Montana. It is set in Montana. Print. 14%
  • Circe by Madeline Miller. Another book club selection this one is a retelling of stories from Iliad and the Odyssey. So far I am not able to follow it and may have to change format to make progress possible. Audiobook. 5%.
Photo by Rita Adams, all rights reserved.
Wedding: We raced home from Canada so we could attend a family wedding (the daughter of my husband's cousin.) It was set at a resort, Alderbrook, on the Hood Canal about 90 minutes from our home. It wasn't a sunny day, but the weather held and we had a lovely time. In the photo, Don and I have our name placards stuck to our foreheads in an attempt to entertain our grandson who was ready for dinner before we were served. We wish Colleen and Balder a happy marriage.

New computer: My laptop crapped out so I am working out the kinks with a new device. Fortunately the old computer gave us notice so we were able to save all our photo and documents. Now to get things set up how I like them on this new one.

Yesterday: Last week my daughters and I went to see the movie about the Beatles music called Yesterday. Today I am taking my hubby to see it. So I've got to run. I hope to get a few more photos posted but I will publish now and finish up later.