Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kid Power: Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls

There are 14 (soon to be 15) Sammy Keyes stories, and I still love them.  In Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls, Sammy's adventures stay vaguely in the realm of the possible, and her problems vary between family issues, friend strife, junior high social catastrophes, and the criminal element that fuels the mysteries.  Sammy has changed some in the past year; her friend Casey is now her boyfriend, her willingness to hit back against her nemesis Heather has moved from a fist in the jaw to fighting a rumor blaze with fire, and her grandmother suddenly realizes that Sammy is really growing up.

The mystery floats along in the background for most of the book, as the kids spend most of the time on Halloween and the following holidays -- All Saint's Day, Day of the Dead.  The ramification of Halloween night ripple out just as Casey and her friends learn the pleasures of a graveyard picnic and even pause for some teen aged ruminations on death.  OK, things sometims come out a little too pat, either in a good way (her new relationship with Borsch) or in a bad way (Casey's crazy mother), but it's done with enough humor and solid characterization in the fore front that I don't mind at all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cybils Easy Readers

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGI managed to get all four of the Cybils Easy Reader finalists at the same time, so I could force all the kids to look at them and directly compare to make their judgements.  I have one kid who is actually a beginning reader, so I could see which books encouraged him to read and keep reading, and then the fifth and seventh graders picked which books held their interest despite being aimed younger.

This is a popular category around here; both my sons see no reason to stop reading books just because they can read harder stuff now.  What were the options:

I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems.  Last years Cybils had converted all of us the Elephant and Piggie fans; in fact N had gone back and checked out every single one, so we had read this one already.  Its one of the few books N enjoys reading himself; he'll sound out the words.  It lends itself easily to shared reading -- all the text is dialogue so he picks one character (usually Piggie) to vocalize.  The older kids also enjoy them.

Aggie Gets Lost, Lori Ries. The illustrations distracted us a bit during this book; everyone found the trees a bit creepy.  The words themselves were simple, although the story had drama and tension.  N preferred to listen rather than actively read this book; his favorite bits were the post-skunk illustrations.

Dodsworth in Rome, Tim Egan. This was more popular among the older kids than with N, who was never quite sure how worried he should be about the duck. P found it enchanting and wants to get the rest now.  I liked the mixture of steady format (picture on top, paragraphs below) with some challenging words.

Frog and Friends, Eve Bunting.  Astonishingly, my main library system doesn't have this book -- I had to get it from the city. It's a pity, because the pictures and text charmed N; he liked the episodic chapters with the hippo reference linking the first and last stories.  He wanted to hear it a few times before attempting to read himself, but was lured into helping during the repeating bits ("absolutely perfect" or "UP UP UP").  I liked the introduction of interesting words but in a supportive environment.

And now... the prizes!  We had a very split panel this time.  P voted for the Dodsworth.  A and  X voted for I Broke My Trunk.  N and I settled on Frog and Friends.

And the Cybils committee says...: Mo Willems with I Broke My Trunk.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Girl Hero: Claudette Colvin Twice Towards Justice

Rosa Parks is the famous name associated with the Montgomery bus boycott and the breaking of segregation, but she wasn't the only hero.  Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice tells the story of Colvin's court cases, her life, and the blow to segregation in his oversized book for child audiances.  I approached figuring I probably knew all the facts and would appreciate the presentation and found that there was quite a lot I didn't know.

I had known that Rosa Parks wasn't the first to refuse to stand up; I hadn't realized that Colvin not only was the first to fight her arrest through the courts, but also went back and was one of the four names in the constitutional challenge that legally broke the back of segregation.  The bus company didn't fold in the face of the boycott -- the courts ordered them to cease segregation due to a court case that Colvin testified in to great effect. However, as an underaged single mother whose child was suspiciously "light," nobody really wanted to use her as the front of any publicity.

The epilogue was deeply moving -- pictures of Colvin speaking in front of students at Booker T Washington high school, the school which had expelled her the year after her first court case because she was pregnant.  It's a reminder that not only did she fight segregation twice in the courts, she also had to fight prejudice twice -- once as an African American, and once as a woman.

I'm posting this on a Monday so I can take part in Non-fiction Monday, hosted by The Children's War.

Leap Year Extends My Reading Time

I finished a good chunk of my currently reading pile, and put a bunch more books in my bag to start Real Soon Now. I knocked out some more Cybils books, chugged along on my Reading My Library quest, and even finished some books both from my shelves and from my TBR list.

This is the meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  What I read, what I'm reading, and a peek at what I'll read next, where I check up on my reading patterns for the previous week. Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that focusses on children's books which I'm definitely a good fit for this week.

This week I finished nine books, five children books and four grown-up ones:
I'm showing nine books on my currently reading list, which really means only three since I have no intention of spending much time on the other six. I'm almost normal!
  • Dragon Castle.  Joseph Bruchac. Cybils finalist; my son recommends it.
  • Making Our Democracy Work, Stephen Breyer.  Supreme Court Justice on the supreme court. Where they get their mandates from.
  • Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson. NOOK.  Cybils YA finalist. Hey, the husband didn't die, she wandered off without him!
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  The finish-a-book slot reward slot.  My scattered son and I will take the tests as soon as we stop procrastinating.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Shopping with a spoiled brother isn't fun.
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  Scientist buddy abandoned.
  • Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott. Tough and glorious parenting moments.
  • The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza.  Back to society again.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. Eating angry soup together.
What will I read next? I've got a shelf full of Cybils books waiting, a single library book left from the beginning of the year, and the (refreshed) reading my library pile.  March will be the time to really concentrate on books in my home, and also leave me in a comfortable place, library shelf-wise.  The TBR Dare is still on, despite horrible temptations while taking my son to cash in his book-store Superbowl winnings.  What's fun is that my Shelfari icon on the right will finally start changing!

  1. Cybils: 33/80.  The library can't buy Ee's book, so I guess I will.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 7/21.  Seventh continent is easy.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Still hoping for cute replacements for some categories.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  11/50. Helping out March task here.
  5. TBR Double Dare.  10. Read a book from my shelf!
  6. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159.  Cybils Picture books for the decimal points.
  7. Reading My Library: Got the next batch.  I should keep a list of these, maybe.
  8. Eclectic Challenge: 1/10.  Science fiction is done.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kids in Space: Orbital Resonance

Orbital Resonance (Meme Wars Series)Jo Walton on recommended Orbital Resonance; in fact she recommended most of John Barnes's work, although she warned that much of it doesn't make for pleasant reading.  As I'm now digging up my TBR list I'm actually following through on many of her picks, and she's a good match for me.  This book fits in the genre slot as some of Heinlein juveniles and the response books to him, such as Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage -- kids in space grow up and show us their society, especially the bits that haven't firmed up yet.

Orbital Resonance takes place in a world gone seriously wrong -- plagues and environmental destruction have left the remnants of humanity huddled on a few domed cities, while hastily built giant asteroid space ships orbit between Earth and Mars providing the only hope of enough resources to keep humanity alive.  The adults all grew up in the collapsing societies of Earth, but our narrator, Melpomene, grew up in the ship and finds all the news stories about dire conditions on Earth remote and boring.  She's more concerned with her school work, which involves lots of cooperative grading and consensus building, the social ramifications of the new kid's arrival, and her brother's performance in the prestigious ship-surface races.

I like the mix of story and world building - as Walton points out, it's hard to notice the grim truth of the society since Melpomene's acceptance and approval of it resounds through the narrative.  All the children have been raised to value service to the ship and each other; competition is valued as a way to improve performance but trying to rise by pushing down other people is abhorred.  The adults in fact deliberately set out to create children steeped in these values, but they don't really understand what a society formed by the kids would look like.  Orbital Resonance catches this society as it emerges, and gives readers a chance to judge the parents who set it up.

Eclectic Challenge

No, of course I don't have enough book challenges going on.  Besides, this one should happen automatically; it's not like I'm going to be sitting around on New Years Eve frantically reading books.  Couldn't happen!

I'm joining the Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge, where the goal is to read books from twelve different genres. All the ones listed are subjects I've enjoyed before, so this should just be a chance to make sure I'm having fun all over the library. Since this doesn't look that hard, I'm going to try to fill it out with books I haven't read yet, although if December rolls about and I've got some gaping holes I reserve the right to go back and see if any of my January reads qualify.

The categories are:
  1. Literary Fiction: The Girl Giant, Kristen Den Hartog
  2. Crime/Mystery Fiction: Perry Mason and the Case of the Horrified Heirs
  3. Romantic Fiction: Christmas Angel
  4. Historical Fiction: (A Star in the Storm, Joan Harlow)
  5. Young Adult: Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
  6. Fantasy: Echoes of Betrayal, Elizabeth Moon.
  7. Science Fiction: Orbital Resonance
  8. Non Fiction: Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell
  9. Horror: The President's Vampire, Christopher Farnsworth
  10. Thriller / Suspense: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
  11. Classic: Tales From Silver Lands, First Men in the Moon
  12. Your favorite (probably kidlit): Breadcrumbs

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Silly Fun: Lover Unleashed

LoverUnbound, Book FiveJ.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books comprise ten or so linked paranormal romances about the super-macho, designer clothes wearing, eternal vampire dudes who are so awesome they rate extra letters in their names, mostly extra "h"'s.  Rhage. Qhuinn. Rehv. Hhubhert (OK, I made that one up.) The language is unrepentantly over-the-top, and no one is denied a happy ending.  Or lots of sex.  Sometimes the silliness doesn't cover the ridiculous relationships or situations and the books drag, but Lover Unleashed provided me with constant amusement, alternating between hilarious sentences and extreme situations that left me giggling out loud.

The plots in these stories are buried deep beneath the prose; I think some people fell in love, while in the background some other people realized their love might be possible, and some other people recommitted to each other. Oh, and some sinister people lurked about but they turned out decent at the end. But the important thing is that the brothers feel each other, that the woman gets to speak in archaic and goofy cliches, that people make enormous sacrifices while mentioning their designer cars, clothes, and drinks, but then find that their sacrifice wasn't necessary and is in fact returned while love shines down on all. There's some interesting bits around a spinal injury, and for a while it looked like someone would find true love in a wheelchair, but that got shelved quickly.

I did like that in Ward's quest to find a new couple, she had to bring up a formerly minor character.  Manny, the hero, was the minor crush of a heroine of a previous book, mostly there to let that hero show off his jealous side.  Now he's dragged back into the Brotherhood, hurt that the girl let him think she was dead, but of course he gets over that when he realizes that she is, in fact, dead.  Just a kindly, gentler dead that doesn't interfere with her love life or surgical practice. See what I mean about all sacrifices getting repaid? I think you can pick these books up anywhere, since all the characters tend to grimly review any important backstory whenever they stride on stage.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ew?: Y The Last Man Safeword

Y: The Last Man, Volume 4: SafewordMy seventh grade son read the latest installment of Brian Vaughan's Y The Last Man before I did, and when I finally got around to reading #4 Safeword I found myself very uncomfortable. It starts with an extended scene about a very odd suicide intervention technique involving rape, bondage, unpleasant homo-eroticism, whips, and asphyxiation.  At the last minute the purpose of helping Yorick reclaim his desire for life pops out, so they don't actually have nonconsensual sex, but wow, did it make me turn the pages gingerly from then on. I've read dubious things with him before, but usually he's not the one out in front.

At least it made a lot of graphic violence seem almost safer, by contrast. Maybe? I have to admit that I'm losing my taste for this series, but X remains enthusiastic so I'll probably read the ones he brings home. Except he's getting them quickly and my TBR Dare prevents me from reading them.  Just as well, although as a parent I'm now a bit curious what's in them.  Geez, I guess the author started feeling funny about having a series about the last man on earth without any sex in it.  So suddenly there's all this very odd almost-sex.  Which my kid is reading without bothering to ask about it, which either means that he found it boring or that he's now old enough to find this stuff strange to talk about with his mom.

Heh, actually, I'm guessing it's the former, although the latter is probably also true.

Solo But Successful Run

Renton Library
Due to unexpected sickness, I made a solo run to the library, which meant no helpful children throwing themselves between me and the books I could be checking out.  I had to throw myself, which is uncomfortable and gives me a crick in the neck.  Humph.

I dredged up some books to return, including the ones the library insisted on seeing back, and I'm really close to my age limit, especially if I give myself credit for my next birthday, which is right around the corner.  Two more Cybils came my way, and I remembered to freeze the holds on the next batch until I start catching up.

For the Cybils:
I also have two ebooks out, both Cybils books:
  • The Girl of Fire and ThornsGirl of Fire and Thorns
  • The Inquisitor's ApprenticeThe Inquisitor's Apprentice

This brings me to a total of 46 items out on my card, which is too many.  But a bunch of them are things I've finished that I keep around to lure the kids into reading, or rereading in the case of the beginning reader.  The towering pile of review-real-soon-now books is now lower than my lamp, which I'll count as progress.  I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Late-Developer Magic: Akata Witch

Akata WitchSunny has been an outsider for a long time. Her family is Nigerian, but she was born in New York and moved back with her family at just old enough to have a foreign accent.  She's the youngest kid in her class, and gets annoyingly good marks.  Her father only likes his sons. She's an albino in a black family, and with her accent she's frequently mistaken for white.  So at least when she stumbles into the magic side of society, she's used to being the only one who doesn't have inside information.  Everyone else has grown up with these rules and knowledge, and rarely does anyone give her extra time or help in dealing with the world.

Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch is an engaging story of a girl who discovers (like Harry Potter) that she can do magic, and she goes off to learn with her new magic friends.  This isn't a boarding school story, so she only goes for occasional lessons, but she gets to go on special field trips and play sports (magic is cheating, though) and be a part of an important peer group that saves the world.  I liked that four kids made up a special magic group -- in fact, the first suspicion that they may be the chosen ones comes when they notice that they make up a balanced set -- two boys, two girls.  Two Americans, two Nigerians.  Although Sunny is the main character, all four kids have very distinct personalities, strengths and weaknesses.  The personal nature of the danger worked for me; from the beginning parents have worried about the killer, and slowly we learn that the problem is even grimmer than any adult can imagine.  I'll give this book to X to try, and keep an eye out for any more.

P.S. The library claimed the book back before X could try it.  Too bad.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Friends and Activists: Operation Redwood

When you read multiple books at the same time, it's always fun when certain themes repeat, especially if the books themselves cover very different areas.  I read S. Terrell French's Operation Redwood while also finishing Stupid Fast, and both books featured moms failing their sons completely during summer vacation.  Stupid Fast is aimed at adolescents, and the mom disappears in a dark way involving family secrets and psychological dysfunction, while in French's book Julian's mom just gets an irresistible career offer that mandates dumping him on his barely known paternal uncle for the summer.  Unfortunately, it turns out the reason they barely know this uncle is because he and his wife have been trying to conceal their active dislike for our hero, which makes for a very uncomfortable time for the boy.

All this is from the child's perspective -- it's a series of injustices and petty meannesses that just get filed under general adult craziness for Julian and his friends, and the story is about the friend Julian makes and the plot they concoct to send him to her farm for a visit instead of to the horrible math camp his aunt inflicts on him.  The kids have a visceral love for the old growth redwood grove that the uncle's company has slated for logging, and their various plans and failures as they try to save it make for an interesting story.  The family dynamic glides along in the background, making me as an adult want to reach in and crack some heads together but not really interfering with a kid perspective on the story.

It's a really fun book that I'm going to put aside for my seventh grader; I think he'll enjoy Julian's decency and initiative.  I'm glad my Reading My Library quest brought me this book, and I'll look out for anything else French has written.


Accelerated Degree ProgramsMy blog got nominated for an award!  I was informed that I got nominated based on my Cybils challenge post.  I'm a little afraid I'm not really eligible, since I'm not actually a librarian; I just like to talk to them and hang out with them and get them to give me books.

Also, as much as I appreciate the complement, I can't really claim that my blog is one of the most fascinating of the year.  I mean, my own mother doesn't bother to read it.  On the other hand, SOMEONE nominated me.

So thanks again for the nomination, and I'm hanging this badge out so my sister can realize how famous I am now.  And if my mom ever checked on my blog, she could vote for me.
accelerated degrees

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Snooty Manikin: The Friendship Doll

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGOne pleasure of the Cybils Middle Grade Finalists this year is their variety.  I've only read three so far, but I've gone from a boy-centered middle school peer group to a ghetto community of cowboys and now I've followed an exquisite Japanese Doll from its introduction to New York society in the early 20th century through the depression and into modern times. Kirby Larson's The Friendship Doll provides a mostly cosy series of strong girls dealing with problems small and large, helped by the inspiration of a doll they only occasionally view.
Miss Kanagawa arrives from Japan as a Friendship Ambassador, and through the course of her career becomes more and more shabby while interacting with various children and inspiring them towards their better selves.  Meanwhile the children themselves teach her about love and humanity, although she never gets to be real.  It's a fun little story that reminded me of Miss Hitty and some other "dolls through the generations" stories, but I felt the lack of connection between the children pushed it more towards an episodic feel than a continuous arc.  Miss Kanagawa's growth wasn't really enough to glue the sections together.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Maps and Schematics: Into the Unknown

Into The Unknown

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGThe next Nonfiction Cybils finalist enchanted me.  Stewart Ross and Stephen Biesty (a famous schematic illustrator) deliver a beautiful combination of text and graphics with Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way By Land, Sea, and Air.  Their list of explorers include names I'd never heard of, including Pythias the Greek and the Piccard family, but also gives me sound summaries of voyages by people I thought I knew about -- Columbus, Eriksson, Hillary and Armstrong.

The fold-out maps add another joy to the already interesting text illustrations.  Each page folds out to give succeeding maps or illustrations, either tracing the routes or explaining how the vehicles worked (or occasionally, didn't) to propel the explorers along their journeys.  I admit that I prefer the maps, but my sons definitely drooled over the schematics.  I'm going to loan my library copy to my son's fifth grade class because I think they'd love it.  And our librarian has put it on her To-Buy list -- she appreciated how the folding pages were set inside the covers, which makes them more likely to survive multiple customers.

Heading Into Mid-Winter Break

I am almost done with a bunch of books, but managed to finish very little, mostly books for the Cybils challenge, which got a boost from me by announcing the winners!  I did look at them, but then I forced myself to forget all the winners so I can finish reading them all without undue influence.

This is the meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  What I read, what I'm reading, and a peek at what I'll read next, where I check up on my reading patterns for the previous week.

This week I finished four Cybils books, a Reading My Library choice, and an audio book:
  • The Friendship Doll, Kirby Larson. BOOK.  Cybils Middle Grade Fiction.
  • Into the Unknown, Stewart Ross. Cybils Nonfiction.
  • Stupid Fast, Geoff Herbach.  Cybils YA Fiction.
  • Ghetto Cowboy, G. Neri.  Cybils Middle Grade Fiction.
  • Operation Redwood, S. Terrell French. I'll pass this RML choice onto my son.
  • Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones.  Audio.  Actually it's still in the car, but I skipped ahead.
I'm showing fifteen books on my currently reading list, but it's not as bad as it looks. None of them occupy any of the same space in my brain. It's always interesting to see what I put on my TBR list, and the RML (reading my library) books give me choices I might not have found otherwise.
  • Christmas Angel, Jo Beverly.  My librarything Santa present.  There is an assassin out there.
  • Anya's Ghost.  Vera Brosgol. Cybils GN finalist; my son says it is spooky.
  • Making Our Democracy Work, Stephen Breyer.  Supreme Court Justice on the supreme court, which I found on the library's Pick Me shelf before Christmas.
  • The Porcupine Year, Louise Erdrich.  Migration story. RML.
  • Claudette Colvin, Philip M. Hoose.  Stayed on the bus before Rosa Park. TBR
  • Orbital Resonance, John Barnes.  I think Jo Walton recommended this coming-of-age-in-space book, and it's a fun member of that genre. TBR.
  • Among Others, Jo Walton.  Re-reading and enjoying it even more than the first time.
  • Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson. NOOK.  Cybils YA finalist.  I wish I didn't know the husband dies, because I quite like him.
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Laurie King. (reread). Audio book when kids aren't in the car. Too long for my taste, though.  I also got the paperback so I can read it inside.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  How to know when you or your kid has a problem.  I think I'll put books I read for parenting in the finish-a-book slot.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Gramma is grumpy about mom's departure.
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  Violent escape from moon-creatures.
  • Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott. Honest portrayals of complex family relationships.
  • The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza.  He's leaning towards genetic racial differences.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. Two enemies must face a greater foe.
What will I read next? I've got a shelf full of Cybils books waiting (poor library hold management), a small handful of library books left from the beginning of the year, and the (refreshed) reading my library pile. And all the books in my unread book case that I keep hoping I'll start reading.  I thinking March will be the time to really concentrate on books in my home, and also leave me in a comfortable place, library shelf-wise.  The TBR Dare is still on, despite horrible temptations in two libraries.

  1. Cybils: 29/80.  I finished all the Easy Readers, should write them up.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 3/21.  Now complete with fancy graphics!
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6.  Still need a topological feature. The year is young.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  10/50. February quota done. 
  5. TBR Double Dare.  9. All library this week.
  6. Science Book Challenge: 1.14/3.14159.  Cybils Picture books for the fractions.
  7. Reading My Library: Got the next batch.  I should keep a list of these, maybe.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cowboys Against the Man: Ghetto Cowboy

After a rocky start, I managed to fall completely into the story G. Neri spins in Ghetto Cowboy, a Middle Grade Fiction Cybils finalist.  Cole, a part-time seventh grader, falls into the world of Philadelphia urban horse fanatics when his mother dumps him on his absentee father at a moment's notice. This gives Neri the chance to explore this culture from the bottom up, since Cole is initially as disbelieving and cynical as the most curmudgeonly reader.
Actually, I enjoyed the sense of history the most -- as Neri explains in a final author's note, he based this story on real stables and events in Philadelphia, so the feel of the community's struggles to keep their horses, both because they love them and because they provide one of the few alternatives to drugs and failure for their kids.  The city authorities either ignore or actively undermine their efforts, withholding services capriciously and suddenly remembering long abandoned property rights.  Cole's story itself has a few giant leaps for me -- did his mom really have to plow down someone else's horse on her way out the door?  Was it necessary for Cole to immediately bond with a skittish horse? I suspect child-me wouldn't have blinked at either the melodrama of the love-at-first-sight between the city boy and Boo the wonder horse.  

Anyway, I recommend this book, but I can't help wishing I was reading it in the nonfiction finalist section instead.  I'll pass it on to the boys for their reaction.

Mean Kids Keep Me On Track

Renton Library
It looks like I'll be spending my midwinter break reading up on all the Cybils books that the library likes to surprise me with -- I staggered out of the library with a hefty load from my holds list, as my son swayed beside me with another big pile.  Tragically, or fortunately, he was feeling very grumpy with me and ignored my strong hints that he check out two series books that the New and Interesting kiosk dangled in front of me (the new Marjorie Liu book and the new Ilona Andrews).  Humph.

Since I have literally ten books waiting for reviews on my bedside table, I turned in almost nothing and now am over my age limit again.  I guess that's incentive for me to actually start thinking about what I've read.  I also kept out a few picture books that I'm pressing into kids' hands.

For the Cybils:
Also two book club books:

  • Image of itemAbraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith.  I've successfully dodged the zombie book, but now my book club forces me to the vampire one.
  • Image of itemThe Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King.  For the (postponed) book club.  I've been listening to this but my sister prefers text.  Hey, I just realized I have no idea where I put down my library's mp3 player.  Oops.  I'm sure it's somewhere very safe.
I also have two ebooks out, both Cybils books:

  • The Friendship DollThe Friendship Doll 
  • The Girl of Fire and ThornsGirl of Fire and Thorns

This brings me to a total of 50 items out on my card, which is too many. This was the wrong week to start counting ebooks! On the bright side, nothing is overdue and nothing looks like it will get overdue.  I'm even keeping up with my ebooks.  Everything fits neatly in my library bookshelf, although the Challenge section is looking intimidatingly stuffed. And of course there is the towering pile of review-real-soon-now that threatens to crush my reading light.  I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Go Global!

Last year I ended up scrambling to finish the 2011 Global Reading Challenge, but it was still a lot of fun.  So this year I looked around for another one, and found it at Mysteries in Paradise's 2012 Global Reading Challenge.  At the Expert level, it asks for three novels from each continent, with Antarctica as the seventh continent -- you can substitute books set off world for it.  I am of course back-dating all my reading so far, or at least the books that I consider real novels and that take place somewhere.  I'm going to try not to count books set in the US, so I'll probably count Central America as part of North America to give me some options, although I'll also look for books about American Indians that don't take place in the political United States.

Mysteries in Paradise pointed me to a map that shows where I've been (literarily speaking, not literally), which I shall attempt to reproduce here:

create your own visited country map
  1. Akata Witch (Nigeria)
    • The Other Side of Truth (Nigeria)
  2. Child of Dandelions (Uganda)
  3. CowTail Switch (Liberia)
    • The Big Tent Wedding Party (Botswana)
  4. Twin Spica 3 (Japan)
        • Wandering Son (Japan)
  5. Between Shades of Gray (Russia)
  6. Zahra's Paradise (Iran)
      • On the Island (Maldives)
      • Words In the Dust (Afghanistan)

  7. The Shattering (New Zealand)
    • Taken At the Flood (New Zealand)
  8. The Snow Pony (Australia)
  9. The Sex Lives of Cannibals (Kiribati)
  10. Europe
  11. Bindi Babes (UK)

  12. Anna and the French Kiss (France)
  13. Dragon Castle (Slovakia)

  14. North America
  15. Half World (Canada)

  16. Starfields (Mexico)
  17. Milagros, Girl From Away (La Brisos)
  18. South America
  19. Tales From Silver Lands (all over). This is a stretch as a novel, but it does have a tiny frame.
  20. Chucaro, Argentina
  21. Bringing the Boy Home (Brazil)
  22. Seventh Continent
  23. With a Single Spell
  24. (fantasy world)
  25. Mastiff (fantasy world)
  26. Orbital Resonance (outer space)


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chrysalis Jock: Stupid Fast

I'm having fun reading some of the Cybils finalist on my NOOK; I'm glad to have a library that's hip with all this technology stuff.  The YA books especially lend themselves to this much lighter medium; my NOOK can carry around five or six library books without straining the seams of my book-bag.  I'm glad they had Geoff Herbach's Stupid Fast, a Young Adult Fiction finalist, in ebook form.

Puberty is traditionally a time of great change, but Felton's life embraces the metaphor with frightening intensity.  Just as his body emerges hulk-like from childhood with rapidly emerging muscles and unceasing energy, his family life twists out of recognition. Having always cast himself as the ineffectual member of the family, Felton resists taking any initiative or action, leaving his younger brother to whirl in increasingly desperate circles while their mother barricades herself in her room.  This all sounds depressing, but Felton's essentially sweet voice keeps things light enough to let the humor shine through; there are a lot of laughs in this summer of changes.

In the meantime, Felton finds himself suddenly inside the forbidden circle of jocks, unsure whether his welcome includes anything but his new muscles. His first girlfriend also pushes him to move past the insecurities of childhood, but no one sees all the different stressors pushing on him until he finally stands up and asks for help.

The ending works very well, with the same themes echoing through the football season, the connection with his best friend, and the long distance talks with his girlfriend.  I'm not as sold with the insomnia flashback chapters that lace through the book, but it does give a good metronome for the pacing of the book.

WAIT -- late breaking news.  Stupid Fast has won its category!  Congratulations.  I shall now forget this so I can read the rest of the finalists with an open mind, and then come back to compare our reactions with the judges'.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Weekly Update

My younger son is charting the number of books I finish each day, and the pressure caused me to choke, starting several things but not finishing much. My to-be-reviewed pile is looming dangerously, so I tend to dodge actually finishing anything and added to its height. Oh well.

This is the meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  What I read, what I'm reading, and a peek at what I'll read next, where I check up on my reading patterns for the previous week.

This week I finished:
  • Y: The Last Man: Safeword.  Brian K. Vaughan's next installment.  I'd probably quit, but X is still interested. Of course, I can't order the next one from the library due to my new book ban.
  • Just Grace and the Double Surprise. Charise Harper.  Cybils finalist.
  • The Girl Who Could Fly. Victoria Forester.  Reading my library pick.
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. Lenore Look.  Book club pick for the elementary school.
  • The Maze Runner. James Dashner.  Family book club book.
  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor.  YA fantasy from my TBR list.
I've also read some more of the Cybils picture books.  I'll have most of them done before the award comes out on Valentines day.

I'm showing thirteen books on my currently reading list, but it's not as bad as it looks.  The bottom five are just there for poking at, and the other are all different enough to keep separate. It's always interesting to see what I put on my TBR list, and the RML (reading my library) books give me choices I might not have found otherwise.
  • Christmas Angel, Jo Beverly.  My librarything Santa present.  They got married.
  • Ghetto Cowboy, G. Neri.  Cybils finalist; I expect grim stuff from this author.
  • Operation Redwood, S. Terrell French.  Grandma to the rescue. RML.
  • Among Others, Jo Walton.  Re-reading to decide which library to donate the extra copy to.
  • Stupid Fast, Geoff Herbach. NOOK.  Cybils YA finalist.  Boy makes friends with his body.
  • Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones.  Audio book for when the kids are in the car.  English accents are fun.
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Laurie King. (reread). Audio book when kids aren't in the car. Too long for my taste, though.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  How to know when you or your kid has a problem.  I think I'll put books I read for parenting in this slot.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Mom has fled the scene.
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  Captured by moon-creatures.
  • Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott. She's a little too cosy with her addictions.
  • The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza.  Some double standards here.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. Standard fantasy maps and battles.
What will I read next? I've got six Cybils books waiting, a small handful of library books left from the beginning of the year, and the reading my library pile. And all the books in my unread book case that I keep hoping I'll start reading.  The library books probably still take priority. The TBR Dare is in full effect, although I have a few book club matters to complete.

  1. Cybils: 24/80.  I need to start responding to the shorter stuff.
  2. What's In a Name?: 5/6.  Still need a topological feature.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  8/50. Needed 10 by the end of February. 
  4. TBR Double Dare.  9. Rereads count, right?  
  5. Science Book Challenge: 1.14/3.14159.  Cybils Picture books for the fractions.
  6. Reading My Library: Need to get the next batch; I'm heading for the Hs in children's fiction.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hard To Tell I'm Restraining Myself Sometimes

Renton Library
Again I showed unexpected strength and determination at the library, although you certainly couldn't tell it from the heavy bag of books I lugged out of the library tonight. It is true that I saw but didn't check out new books from at least three authors I enjoy on the library Temptation Shelf.  However, it is also true that somehow I had eight books on my hold shelf, plus I needed the next six books for Quest Reading My Library.  But I only read one of those a week, so really, how can they count?  So technically I did not break my TBR Dare, but I'm not feeling the scarcity.

I was trying to manage my hold list, but apparently I didn't pay enough attention to other people's due dates -- about three books skipped from 5th in line to on my shelf TODAY. Oops. I did manage to convince P (my only companion) to check out a book for himself, so that was another victory.  Of course, X stole that book as soon as we got home, but most of my victories are short lived so I don't grieve too hard.

For the Cybils:
Also from my hold list, but not for Cybils (I've been waiting for this one for a long time) was:
I needed to renew my stash of Reading My Library books, so I dragged P over to the next section of children's fiction shelves, assigned him one case and took the other.  Three shelves per case this time, so I got (first three I picked, the next three are P's choices for me):

This brings me to a total of 43 items out on my card, which is exactly my age.  Soon I'll have another birthday and have an excuse to keep out even more books!  This includes about seven books that I finished but haven't blogged, so they didn't make it to the library sack for returns.  I'm sneaking one book a few days overdue so I can finish it, but I also found a lost book that X was about to pay for, so there is karmic balance. Everything fits neatly in my library bookshelf, although the Challenge section is looking intimidatingly stuffed.  I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (this weeks host), where all the library addicts compare their treasures.