Monday, December 10, 2012

Heading Into the Holidays

I continue to neglect this little blog, but I'm also getting stressed about the holidays approaching. I still need to finish all my challenges! And if I have time around that, I might do some Christmas shopping or decorating or maybe baking. Hmm. I can probably delegate that last to my kids; they make better cookies anyway.

This week I only read five books, and four were middle school books. None were from my Cybils challenge, none gave me new states, and one filled in my final North America slot. What they had in common was the library calling them home - all five had no renews left.

Next week I REALLY need to read at least two more state books, although I'm partly through at least one, as well as making progress on two Cybils books. I got a last South America book from the library from my latest READING MY LIBRARY gathering, although now I note that I need another South Pacific book.  And I want to spend time in Robin McKinley's Sunshine, although I can dally there since I've read it so many times already. But the library strain is lifting, and I should make it into January, where I'll institute some kind of Read-Your-Own-Silly-Shelves discipline.

I'll go sign in at Book Journey's round-up of what people have read, are reading, and will read. And since almost all of my reading this week was middle grade, I'll also check in with Teach Mentor Texts, which specializes in books for the non-voting crowd.
  • Milagros, The Girl From Away, Meg Medina. A Reading My Library book that also takes place in non-USA North America.
  • The Clone Codes #2, Patricia C. McKissack. Continuing the series that my school book club is reading.
  • War Horse, Michael Morpurgo. RML book that makes me all trendy.
  • The Magnificent 12: The Key, Michael Grant. Third in the series; lots of fun although the kids liked it more than I did.
  • Master and Apprentice, Sonya Bateman. Sequel that grew on me the longer I read it.
What am I currently reading? Technically I have 28 books open, but really I'm only trying to read about six. I guess that doesn't make me sound much saner, does it?
  • Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Rereading my favorite vampires & chocolate book. Yum. I don't mind how long this reread takes.
  • Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King. Cybils book, and also a Best of the Best pick. Looks like it will be depressing.
  • Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman. History of heavy metal that is set in NORTH DAKOTA. It emphasizes how out of it I was in my youth.
  • Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool. I bought this for the Newbery sticker, and it's set in KANSAS.
  • The King Commands, Meg Burden. Sequel to an earlier Cybils book and top of my TBR list.
  • Sheltered From the Swastika, Peter Kory. Present from LibraryThing. The war just ended, and bureaucracy has a plan for Peter.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) Paulos can't understand why Xan and I stick with this; the scene with the kid trying to rip out a corpse's heart started this conversation again.
  • Frost, Marianna Baer. (NOOK). I got it back! I have to say, modern boarding schools are tough reading for me; the kids just seem less interesting on their own.
  • The Enemy, Charles Hudson. NOOK. This was almost our December family book club pick, but no longer. I guess I'll finish it anyway.
  • The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt. (NOOK) My brother recommended this to me, but it keeps getting buried beneath challenge books.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK).  Deaths and dismemberments in the final battle!
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Well, I finished it but I'm still going back to the really fun parts. That doesn't mean the sex, which Spencer doesn't do particularly well.
  • The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. Dipper. New book from my classics shelf.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Dipper. Stop with the Spiller hating!
  • War With the Newts, Karel Capek. Dipper. We have met the newts/
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Dipper. Europe has just separated church and state, often with disrespect to the True Church. 
  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Megan McDonald. Dipper. They garborated the class newt!
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Good stuff. I like the kids agreeing to plans because they are sure they know what they are doing...
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
The list of the books I started but didn't finish over the summer has not budged:
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. Was getting dull.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 70/73. Three YA books left; one almost finished, one started, and one waiting. I'm calm.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 19/21.  I finished North America, I have a South America waiting, and I need an Oceanea. Slightly stressed.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  44/50.  Currently reading Kansas and North Dakota. Have New Hampshire waiting. I think I have North Carolina waiting as well. Need to check on Delaware, and I think I still need Idaho. Stressed.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. Done, but I'd like more. I wonder if Righteous Minds will be science? And if I'll get to read it this year?
  5. Reading My Library:  Finished two more, by Medina and Morpurgo. Got the next six, some of which fit into the other challenges.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 11/12. Still need a classic. Stressed.
  7. Best of the Best: 32/25. Wendigo is sliming along, and I picked two more audios from the list for our holiday traveling. Some overlaps with Cybils will also notch this up. No stress at all.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: I think I'll try to finish the cleanup during the January no-new-books period.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Journey Into the Past

A huge chunk of my historical knowledge comes from the historical fiction I read, so I hope that the authors try to get things right. Sometimes it's realistic, and sometimes magic is used to get modern day characters with their comprehensible perspectives into the right place. I enjoy getting the feel of life in a different place, especially when the author is able to give the sense of a different culture, one with different moral codes and expectations.

Lolah Burford gives a double dose of this, as her book wanders between the distant world of Stephen and the less different but still alien world of the children his visits in his visions. Stephen himself agrees to things that would astonish my kids, especially in terms of what he owes his parents and the justice in punishment for rules he broke with a very good reason. Erik Haugaard's version of historical Japan doesn't dally with any fantastical elements, but manages to give a strong sense of place without lapsing into a didactic tone too often. And the fairy tales of Hausman read like ones from long ago, when fairy tales were told to families and not reserved for children or sanitized for tender adult sentiments.

The Vision of Stephen, Lolah Burford. One of the titles that Noel Perrin recommended in A Child's Delight, his book of neglected children's literature.  I found it fascinating, and I would have loved it as a kid, but I'm not sure whom to recommend it to. There is torture and death, which may turn off the young kids, but there isn't sex, so YA may see it as young. I liked the strong historical sense of Stephen's life, even as he finds himself in an untenable position. (I tried to get Xan interested, but the hazy cover didn't grab him and the book had to go back to the library.)

The Revenge of the Forty-Seven SamuraiThe Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samurai, Erik Christian Haugaard. I enjoyed the glimpse into historical Japan, where Jiro's lowly position gives him a reader's eye perspective on the world of samurai in the changing society.  I did occasionally wonder where the viewpoint was coming from -- it seemed too mature to be Jiro's childhood thoughts, but not removed enough to be his memories as an adult.  I enjoyed learning about Japanese customs and mores in the 1700's too much to worry about it much. Haugaard does a good job of letting Jiro question the samurais' willingness to face execution without making him appear as a modern character somehow plunked in a historical novel. In general I like Haugaard matter-of-fact approach to historical fiction, and I've read several of his books from Vikings through Japanese history.

The Rat-Catcher's Daughter, Laurence Housman. Noel Perrin also recommended the stories by A.E. Housman's forgotten brother, who apparently was the famous one during their early careers. These are beautiful fairy tales that remind me of my childhood book Great Swedish Fairy Tales. They are ruthless in the way only fairy tales can be (lots of kids and babies die, and the small child who grows up trapped in Sleeping Beauty's cursed castle is heartbreaking). Well done, Housman's younger brother.

Monday, December 3, 2012

December Round-Up

Another week of reading but not reviewing. I do actually miss the chance to reflect on what I'm reading, but as long as I check in with this weekly update I feel I'm keeping a toe in the blogging world. Right now I'm very focused on the challenges left over; I'm feel strangely guilty when I'm not reading a Cybils book or one of my geography challenge slots. But there's so much else in the world!

Next week I need to read at least two more state books, at least one Cybils, and I need to look around for another South America book. I want to finish my last Early Review book from librarything. And I want to spend time in Robin McKinley's Sunshine, although I can dally there since I've read it so many times already. Oh, did I mention that my last two Reading My Library books are due on Thursday? So not really a lot of wriggle room there.

Last week I managed to finish seven books, as well as a few picture books. I'll go sign in at Book Journey's round-up of what people have read, are reading, and will read. And since once again most of my reading this week was YA or younger, I'll also check in with Teach Mentor Texts, which specializes in books for the non-voting crowd.
  • Chucaro, Rancis Kalnay. This Newbery honor book is set in Argentina -- go Global!
  • The Hum and the Shiver, Alex Bledsoe. I really enjoyed this Foolscap treasure, and as a bonus, it's set in Tennessee.
  • The Geometry of Sisters, Luanne Rice. NOOK Rhode Island is for families that hurt each other.
  • Words in the Dust, Trent Reedy. The story in this Cybils finalist is important, but the writing wasn't stellar.
  • Super Human, Michael Carroll. Nifty Best of the Best choice, as well as a Nebraska tale (a pleasant surprise).
  • Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun, Rhoda Blumberg. I'm surprised at how much I like kidlit nonfiction.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. NOOK. Pure delicious candy rereading.
I also read some picture books with my youngest nephew:
  • Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster, Susan Hood.
  • Bear Has a Story to Tell, Philip Stead.
  • Bear Says Thanks, Karma Wilson.
What am I currently reading? Technically I have 24 books open, but really I'm only trying to read about six. I guess that doesn't make me sound much saner, does it?
  • Milagros, Meg Medina. A Reading My Library pick which also happens to be set in the Caribbean, finishing my North America requirement. Score!
  • Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Rereading my favorite vampires & chocolate book.
  • Sheltered From the Swastika, Peter Kory. Present from LibraryThing. Memoir of hiding from the Nazis in World War II.
  • Frost, Marianna Baer. (NOOK). Still waiting for the library to give me this Cybils pick again.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) Two disks left; it's about to get gross again.
  • The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt. (NOOK) My brother recommended this to me.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK).  Wow, the many characters are now on the same planet.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Well, I finished it but I'm still going back to the really fun parts. That doesn't mean the sex.
  • The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. Dipper. New book from my classics shelf.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Dipper. Stop with the Spiller hating!
  • War With the Newts, Karel Capek. Dipper. We have met the newts/
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Dipper. Europe has just separated church and state, often with disrespect to the True Church. 
  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Megan McDonald. They garborated the class newt!
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Good stuff. I like the kids agreeing to plans because they are sure they know what they are doing...
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
The list of the books I started but didn't finish over the summer remains depressingly static:
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. Was getting dull.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 70/73. Three YA books left; one in my bag and one half way done.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 18/21.  I've started the final North America, then I need another South America and ideally an Oceanea set somewhere other than Australia or New Zealand.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  41/50.  Finished books in Tennessee, Rhode Island, and Nebraska. Have library books waiting for North Carolina, New Hampshire and North Dakota. Noticed books on my shelves in Kansas and maybe Delaware. Still need Idaho. 
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. Done, but I'd like more. I wonder if Righteous Minds will be science?
  5. Reading My Library:  Chugging along.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 11/12. Still need a classic.
  7. Best of the Best: 32/25. Really liked Superhuman, and Wendigo is sliming along. I have the next one waiting.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup. My bare shelf is filled up again, but two boxes have disappeared from my living room.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weak Internet Is My New Excuse

Still here, but sparsely. I did try to do some reviewing, but my internet connection kept failing. I'm blaming the heavy rains, but I hope it steadies itself soon.

I managed to read just about everything I really really wanted to finish, jettisoning a few books when I discovered I already had read books set in the same state.  I got everything in on time, and even slipped my library holdings under my age for a few minutes -- the time between dropping of my books and walking over to the hold shelf ;-). So I only read nine books, returned three unopened, and declared victory.

Next week I hope to finish two books that the library will call home soon (Superhuman and Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun), finish one Cybils and start the next, and read some picture books with N. He's currently got a stash of books about Egypt and the pyramids, and I snuck in one about Germany as well, since he'll go on vacation there soon. I'll probably also pick up the next Reading My Library selection as well as at least one of the books I've been buying.

What were those nine books? I'll go sign in at Book Journey's round-up of what people have read, are reading, and will read. And since most of my reading this week was YA or younger, I'll also check in with Teach Mentor Texts, which specializes in books for the non-voting crowd.
  • Rock Bottom, Erin Brockovitch & C.J. Lyons. West Virginia!
  • The Rat-Catcher's Daughter, Laurence Housman. Elegant fairy tales.
  • The Vision of Stephen, Lolah Burford. Respectful time-traveling kidlit.
  • Wild Wild Death (Pepper Martin #8), Casey Daniels. New Mexico!
  • Hot WaterErin Brockovitch & C.J. Lyons. South Carolina!
  • The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samurai, Erik Haugaard. More quality historical kidlit.
  • A Friendship For Today, Patricia C. McKissack. A Reading My Library selection.
  • Rescuing the Children, Deborah Hodge. Fascinating nonfiction kidlit about the Kindertransport.
  • Queen of Attolia, Megan Whelan Turner. Reread for my family book club.
What am I currently reading? Technically I have 24 books open, but really I'm only trying to read about six. I guess that doesn't make me sound much saner, does it?
  • The Geometry of Sisters, Luanne Rice. (NOOK) Takes place in RHODE ISLAND. The family claims to love each other, but everyone is indescribably cruel.
  • Super Human, Michael Carroll. I'm enjoying this Best of the Best pick enough that I picked up the sequel for X.
  • Frost, Marianna Baer. (NOOK). Waiting for the library to give me this Cybils pick again.
  • The Hum and the Shiver, Alex Bledsoe. I like the mystery about this Tennessee family.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) The grossness has reached new and awesome heights.
  • The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt. (NOOK) My brother recommended this to me.
  • Words In the Dust, Trent Reedy. Cybils finalist. I've read two kidlit books about Afghanistan, and both involved girls with a cleft palate.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK).  I'm not reading this that quickly.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Knock 'em out, Oilcan!
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Dipper. Intruder alert! 
  • War With the News, Karel Capek. Dipper. Not really starting yet.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Europe has just separated church and state, often with disrespect to the True Church. 
  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Megan McDonald. They garborated the class newt!
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Good stuff. "Organization" and "time management" are also weak areas for me and my kids.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
The list of the books I started but didn't finish over the summer remains depressingly static:
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. Was getting dull.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 69/73. No change, but I'm partly through 2 of the final four.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 17/21. I got one waiting in my book bag.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  41/50.  One month, nine books. This is looking grim. I added South Carolina, West Virginia, and New Mexico. I'm currently reading books in Tennessee and Rhode Island. Still need Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and North Dakota.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. Done, but I'd like more. I wonder if Righteous Minds will be science?
  5. Reading My Library:  Chugging along.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 11/12. Still need a classic.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. Almost done with Superhuman, and Wendigo is sliming along.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup. My bare shelf is filled up again, but two boxes have disappeared from my living room.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still Here!

My second week posting in a row!  I'm clearly (sortof) back.

I'm going to try to do a lot of reading this week, since I have seven books from the library that cannot be renewed, as well as four challenges that still need spots filled. Luckily there is a least a little overlap between those categories, so I only need to read ten books or in the next six days. We'll see next week how successful I am...

What have I read this week? I'll go sign in at Book Journey's round-up of what people have read, are reading, and will read. And since most of my reading this week was YA or younger, I'll also check in with Teach Mentor Texts, which specializes in books for the non-voting crowd.
  • Page By Paige, Laura Lee Gulledge. Cybils graphic novel. 
  • Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland, Sally Walker. Did you notice the MARYLAND in the title?
  • The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan. Pre-reading for family book club.
  • The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan. Family book club book!
  • Unspoken, Sarah Rees Brennan. Smart and funny YA fantasy.
  • The Murder of Tutankhamen, Bob Brier. Gave added insight to the Tut exhibit at the museum.
  • All Seeing Eye, Rob Thurman. Fun paranormal but not a romance.
  • The Voyage of the Frog, Gary Paulsen. Hemingway for the elementary school crowd.
  • Close Range, Annie Proulx. Wyoming!
What am I currently reading? I started four books yesterday after noticing that the library would call them home soon. I have three others that I'll attack if I do well with those four, and then there are the other books I was reading anyway:
  • The Vision of Stephen, Lolah Burford. One of the books recommended in Noel Perrin's A Child's Delight, a book of book recommendations. Due at the library VERY SOON.
  • Rock Bottom, Erin Brockovich & C. J. Lyons.  Takes place in WEST VIRGINIA, and due soon.
  • The Rat-Catcher's Daughter, Laurence Housman. Another rec from Perrin, who thinks that the poet's brother is a bit neglected. Due at the library.
  • Hot Water, Erin Brockovich & C. J. Lyons. Takes place in SOUTH CAROLINA, and due soon.
  • The Geometry of Sisters, Luanne Rice. (NOOK) Takes place in RHODE ISLAND, but is apparently not a fluffy romance.
  • Super Human, Michael Carroll. My son recommends this Best of the Best title. So far I agree that it is fun.
  • Frost, Marianna Baer. (NOOK). Waiting for the library to give it to me again.
  • The Hum and the Shiver, Alex Bledsoe. I'm liking this. I like the girl soldier.
  • The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samurai, Erik Haugaard.  Interesting setting in Japan around 1700.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) The grossness continues, although with some very strange female characters.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK).  I'm not reading this that quickly.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Knock 'em out, Oilcan!
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Dipper. Intruder alert! 
  • War With the News, Karel Capek. Dipper. Not really starting yet.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Dipper. 
  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Megan McDonald. They garborated the class newt!
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Good stuff. The "planning" chapter hit home.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
I'll keep the remaining list of the books started but unfinished over summer vacation here for my reference, as I do plan to finish them, hopefully before next summer:
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. Was getting dull.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 69/73. Final four; I'm about to start Words in the Dust
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 17/21. About to start a South American book.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  38/50.  Got Wyoming and Maryland. Two months, twelve books left. I'm currently reading books in Tennessee, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. Still need Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and North Dakota.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. Done, but I'd like more.
  5. Reading My Library:  Chugging along.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 11/12. Still need a classic.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. No change, but one has entered my reading bag.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup. My bare shelf is filled up again, but two boxes have disappeared from my living room.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What About the Parents?

This kid may need parents.
The burning question for children's books (including YA) is what to do about the parents. Books are much more interesting if the protagonists run things, but for most kids, that's rather unrealistic. So adventure style books tend to have a large proportion of orphans, so that mom or dad aren't intervening to prevent the action from happening. The three middle grade books I read this week take drastically different approaches -- Pinky Pye is a cosy family story, where everything that happens is at a small scale that the parents approve and participate in. Magic Below Stairs has a true orphan, raised in an orphanage and without any connection to family. Finally, The Red Pyramid puts the kids in the driver's seat -- their father has been kidnapped so that he not only cannot prevent the jeopardy, his situation motivates them to dive further into it.

I admit to liking all three kinds of story, although usually they appeal to different moods.

Fast Responses:

Pinky Pye Pinky Pye, Eleanore Estes.  I'm glad I'm finally getting through some of the leftover summer books, which had a disastrous final month (I kept starting a book a day, but was left with over twenty unfinished stories). I find Estes' voice cosy and warm, although I can see how it might read as coy or cloying if your inner voice runs that way. But for me, the summer with the Pye family and their pets was a gentle delight, especially when Rachel moves to the front.

Magic Below StairsMagic Below Stairs, Caroline Stevermer. I grabbed this book because I've enjoyed Stevermer's other works, which are mainly YA or even general fantasy.  This one is aimed at a younger crowd, but seems to be set in the same world as the YA letter books that introduced me to her. It's a solid engaging fantasy but without the depth of her older books. For fans, it gives a fun glimpse at Kate and Thomas from underneath. I gave it to X; if he likes it I'll hand on some of her other books.

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles Series #1)The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan. No fair thinking about this one until after book club meeting!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Picture Books

This Kid Likes Picture Books
I've been looking for picture books to tempt N into doing some reading with me, which actually is mostly an excuse to read picture books again. Picture books cry out to be read aloud, which for me is easier if I'm reading with someone else. P often indulges me, but N is actually in the right demographic. He also has very definitely interests, so I try to accommodate him.

This renewed interest in picture books makes me examine what I really look for in one. An excellent picture book relies on its illustrations as much as its text, so that the words alone don't convey the whole story. In my favorite books, the illustrations often run counter to the text, contradicting or undermining the words on the page. This requires a bit of sophistication on the audience's part; tiny toddlers might wrestle with this but in our house the boys loved this for as far back as I can remember.

Looking at the picture books of the week, this tension between words and pictures clearly runs in my favorite stories. The Klassen does it to perfection, and the Piggy Wiggy uses the illustrations as punchlines for the text. And on the opposite side, the Pharos book has pictures that reflect the words, illustrating a scene straight from the text but without adding surprises, and that's probably why it felt a bit flat to me.

Image of itemThis Is Not My Hat, J. Klassen.  Universally popular, from the early-reading nine year old through the sophisticated eighth grader, and including me and my sister. I read it today with N, and he adored the contrast between the text and the pictures, burying his head in excitement as the great fish arrowed down on the little guy. I think this would be an excellent way to introduce "point of view" discussions in elementary (or even junior high) writing classes.

Image of itemVoyage to the Pharos, by Sarah Gauch, illus Roger Roth.  Egyptian, ancient wonder of world Alexandria lighthouse. Cosy, fresh pictures, slightly androgynous boy.  Not enough pyramids, really.

Image of itemThe Return of the Library Dragon, Carmen Agra Deedy. (no kids yet). Ah, my beloved genre of books about books! I think this is a sequel to a book I read ages ago, although this time the librarian confronts a paper-hating ebook revolutionary. The message is a bit muddled, but kids might not mind since the illustrations of the dragon erupting from the librarian's shadow and soul are entertaining enough.

Ten Little Mummies, Philip Yates. Enjoyed by N, the pyramid-loving nine year old, but not really ground breaking. A cute little counting book, not irritating but not outstanding.

Image of itemAround the World, Piggy Wiggy, Christyan Fox. I checked this out for the pyramid page, but in general it's a refreshing and joyful pop-out book, with each page unfolding into a giant picture of a famous location, but done in an innovative way. So the rocket page unfolds only vertically, while the pyramid goes in all directions and reveals a surprise with the last crease. I also appreciated how the text is repeated on each section, so you don't lose the story as you unveil the picture. Well done. N wants to renew it, so it succeeds with the target as well.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Back in Spirit

Well, no one can notice, but I've actually started creating blog posts in drafts. So I'm almost back to my blog. I have a New Idea! I'll put short reactions to different kinds of books into the same essay, and that would give me a chance to be more reflective. So I could post on Picture Books, Kidlit, YA, Genre, Nonfiction, and Other stuff, and if I don't read any of those books in a week, I just skip. So far I've started some drafts, and if any of those escape to the wild I'll see how it works.

I seemed to have missed a week again, but here's my round up of what I've been reading for the past little while. Some of it is kids books, so I'll check in both with Book Journey's weekly round-up of what everyone has done and on Teach Mentor Texts. Nothing is reviewed yet, so again this is a very boring list, but I'm happy enough.
  • The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith 
  • Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway
  • Oracle's Moon, Thea Harrison
  • Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express, Megan McDonald
  • Betrayer, C.J. Cherryh
  • Her Royal Spyness, Rhys Bowen
  • Hollywood Vampire, Keith Topping
  • Pinky Pye, Eleanor Estes
  • Magic Below Stairs, Carolyn Stevermer
Picture Books (it's great having an emerging reader as an excuse to get these):
What am I currently reading? Fewer than thirty books!
  • The Murder of Tutankamen, Bob Brier. I lost this and now I've found it again.
  • The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan. For my family book club of October -- I'm late.
  • Super Human, Michael Carroll. My son recommends this Best of the Best title.
  • Frost, Marianna Baer. (NOOK). Cybils choice, but it just expired -- I have it on hold again.
  • The Hum and the Shiver, Alex Bledsoe. I got this at Foolscap, and I just noticed it's set in TENNESSEE.
  • The Voyage of the Frog, Gary Paulsen. From my shelves.
  • The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samurai, Erik Haugaard. Again from my shelves.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) We've decided that the grossness makes this a perfect book for dieters. Ew.
  • Written in Bone, Sally Walker. (NOOK) Excavations of colonial graves in MARYLAND.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK).  I'm not reading this that quickly.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Knock 'em out, Oilcan!
  • Close Range, Annie Proulx. Dipping book. Wyoming does not seem full of happy people.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Another dipping book. The plot is about to start.
  • War With the News, Karel Capek. Dipper. Does this count as a classic?
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Dipper. Now to read about the heresy of Modernism.
  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Megan McDonald. Dipper. 
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Good stuff. I'll get around to the "initiating tasks" chapter one of these days.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
I've knocked off one of the leftover summer books; I'll keep the remaining list here for my reference:
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. Was getting dull.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 68/73. No change, although I have most of the books in hand.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 17/21. No change. I need 2 South America, one North America, and one Oceania.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  37/50.  Two months, thirteen books. I'm currently reading books set in Maryland, Tennessee and Wyoming, and need to read Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico,  North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Luckily Book Club gave me some good recommendations.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. Officially done, but I'd like to get a few more.
  5. Reading My Library: Another shelf done.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 11/12. Need a classic.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. No change, currently listening to one and reading one.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup (see above)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Long Pause

Well, I've been avoiding my blog for the past month, but I'm coming back! Probably. Maybe. Anyway, I'm still reading.

I'll jump back in with my weekly report on what I've been reading, am reading, and will read, although I'll also include everything I've read through most of October, and then I'll go check in with Book Journey's weekly round-up of what everyone has done. I'll also check in on Teach Mentor Texts since I do read a lot of kidlit. Nothing is reviewed yet, so this is a very boring list, but small steps lead to long trips, or else to a path to the couch, one of the other.
  • Unveiled, Courtney Milan
  • Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, Esri Allbritten
  • Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris, R.L. LaFevers
  • Gunmetal Magic, Ilona Andrews
  • Foiled, Jane Yolen
  • Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke
  • Starfields, Carolyn Marsden
  • Eternal Pleasure, Nina Bangs
  • Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai
  • The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon
  • Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith
  • Casket of Souls, Lynn Flewelling
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond E. Feist
  • Carousel of Hearts, Mary Jo Putney
  • Tales From Silver Lands, Charles J. Finger
  • The Birthday Ball, Lois Lowry
  • Level Up, Gene Luen Yang
  • 11 Birthdays, Wendy Mass
  • Team Human, Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Picture Books (it's great having an emerging reader as an excuse to get these):
  • This Is Not My Hat, Jon Klassen. Lovely.
  • Ten Little Mummies, Philip Yates
  • Pyramid, Dana Meachen Rau (it got N reading!)
  • I Want My Mom, Tony Ross
  • Rat and Roach, David Covell
  • Make a Wish, Bear, Greg Foley
  • Why the Chicken Crossed the Road, David Macauley
  • What To Do If an Elephant Steps On Your Foot, Michelle Robinson
  • I'm Not, Pam Smallcomb
This week I read: 
  • On the Island, by Tracey Graves
  • Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • The Girl Giant, Kristen Den Hartog
  • When Fairies Go Bad, Ursula Vernon
  • Fire, Kristen Cashore
What am I currently reading? I left some in-progress books at home during my gallivanting, and I cherry picked from my options to things I thought I'd enjoy.
  • The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith. Extra Africa book.
  • Oracle's Moon, Thea Harrison. From Felicia Day's book club some months ago.
  • Hollywood Vampire, Keith Topping. Collection of Angel summaries, which has caught X's eye.
  • The Murder of Tutankamen, Bob Brier. Borrowed from my BIL after we saw the Tut exhibit.
  • Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway. (NOOK). Slow to grab me, but it's starting to work.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) OK, we had some action and things got creepy. And gross. P has dropped out of the listening.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK).  I'm pretty sure we are out of the opening setup acts now.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Time to uncover the conspiracy.
  • Close Range, Annie Proulx. Dipping book. I'm finding the stories very depressing.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Another dipping book. The plot is about to start.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Dipper. Now to read about the heresy of Modernism.
  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, Megan McDonald. Dipper. 
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Good stuff.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
I've also got a pile of unfinished summer reading books, which I'll probably work through in the next few months:
  • Pinky Pye, Eleanor Estes. I bought a bunch of Estes at one time. I'm not sure I've read this one before.
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. See above.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 68/73. Final five -- YA, middle grade, and one last GN.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 17/21. This moved! Still very short on South America.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  36/50.  Three months, fourteen books. I tried to read three books for this this week, and they were all mistakes. But good books, so I win anyway.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. The code book is science!
  5. Reading My Library:  Chugging along. 11 Birthdays went to my niece, which is AWESOME.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 11/12. I was all about real books this week.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. No change, but one has entered my reading bag.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup. My bare shelf is filled up again, but two boxes have disappeared from my living room.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reading Story

I've continued reading my plethora of books, although I let myself stick with anything I'm enjoying until I want to move on. The big reading event for me was attending FOOLSCAP, my favorite conventions, since it's about books. Well, books, art, and fancy hats.

Technically I don't read much during Foolscap, but I do talk a lot about reading and also pick up a bunch of books as well as a bunch of titles that I'd like to read. This time I even got to host my own panel, which was a little scary but also fun (Breaking the Rules -- what books break the rules of fiction/genre, and more important, which of these books are wonderful?). And I was on a panel about polite disagreement, during which I terrified the room by pretending not to believe in vaccination (as an example of someone holding a belief not supported by science, but I thought it was too crazy for people to take me seriously).

I'll go check in with Book Journey's weekly round-up of what everyone has read, is reading, and will read, and then, since most of my selections are children's books, I'll also check in with the kidlit version at Teach Mentor Texts. I still haven't got back into the swing of reviewing these books, so I'm afraid I'm a rather dull entry to both these lists, but I'm trying to jump back on the horse. In a mixed-metaphor kind of way, of course.

  • Dark Destiny, M.J. Putney (YA)
  • Unclaimed, Courtney Milan (Romance, NOOK)
  • The Azalea Assault, Alyse Carlson (Mystery)
  • The Far West, Patricia C. Wrede (YA)
What am I currently reading?
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) Argh, at least they are traveling towards some action now.
  • Team Human, Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine Larbalestier. Rats in the school! Ick! My copy.
  • Tales From Silver Lands, Charles Finger. Kids helping each other stories. Summer leftover.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK). The space battles continue. My copy.
  • Unveiled, Courtney Milan. (NOOK) The first in the trilogy; I've read them in reverse order. Library book.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Kidnapped!
  • Fire, Kristen Cashore. (reread) Fire is enjoying the capital.
  • Foiled, Jane Yolen. From my TBR list. I like the graphics.
  • Eternal Pleasures, Nina Bangs. For Felicia Day's book club.
  • Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai. Book in verse.
  • Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, Deborah Heiligman. Interesting biography.
  • Close Range, Annie Proulx. Dipping book. I'm tense with expecting things to end badly.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Another dipping book. The plot is about to start.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Interesting to read about America from outside.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist. The girl helps fight off the bad guys.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Currently on building emotional regulation. Good stuff.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 66/73. No change. Nominees for next year's books start soon.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 15/21. At least Tales From Silver Lands is set in South America. 
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  35/50. I bought a Tennessee book this weekend.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. 
  5. Reading My Library:  Have on in my bag.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 10/12. No change.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. No change.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Am I Reading?

Ah, it's nice to be settling back into a routine of reading a bag full of books at once, letting myself either move from one to another at intervals or zooming ahead with one if it's particularly gripping. In a few weeks the library list will come tumbling down on me, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the calm that a brief spell of sanity at the end of the summer granted me.

So, I'm reading a book to satisfy my book challenges, a book from my shelves, a book I grabbed for fun from the library, a reread, and a leftover book from this summer's reading fun. Oh, on my NOOK I'm reading one book from my library, a reread, and a new one that I bought. And there's an audio book in the car for the rare occasions that we're all in there together.

I'll go check in with Book Journey's weekly round-up of what everyone has read, is reading, and will read, and then, since most of my selections are children's books, I'll also check in with the kidlit version at Teach Mentor Texts. I haven't really gotten back in the swing of reviewing these books, so I'm afraid I'm a rather dull entry to both these lists, but I'm trying to jump back on the horse. In a mixed-metaphor kind of way, of course.

  • Ghost Dog Secrets, Peg Kehret. For the elementary book club.
  • Dragon Ship, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I really enjoy their books.
  • Chronicles of the Red King: The Secret Kingdom, Jenny Nimmo. For the elementary book club.
  • Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Sarah MacLean. Fun in spots, but too inconsistent to really enjoy.
  • Batman, The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller. A classic of the comic book world.
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, Lenore Look. For Reading My Library, and because I like Alvin.
  • Two-Minute Drill (Comeback Kids), Mike Lupica. For the elementary book club.
  • Masters of Disaster, Gary Paulsen. Last book for the book club!
  • Rufus M., Eleanor Estes. Catch-up for the summer book club. Lots of fun.
  • The Code Book, Simon Singh. For my evening book club. 
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer, Dan Wells. I read it as a companion to I Hunt Killers, and it was interesting in a very different way.
What am I currently reading? I left some in-progress books at home during my gallivanting, and I cherry picked from my options to things I thought I'd enjoy.
  • The Azalea Assault, Alyse Carlson. For my Where Am I Reading challenge. I find the motivations occasionally baffling; it feels almost like a mid-series book.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) We think the action will start any minute now.
  • Dark Destiny, M.J. Putney. Fun book about time-traveling psychic teens who find true love while fighting to save Britain.
  • Team Human, Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine Larbalestier. Rats in the school! Ick!
  • Tales From Silver Lands, Charles Finger. Leftover from this summer.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. (NOOK) . At page 100, and I think I've got most of the characters sorted. It helped that a lot of them just died.
  • Unclaimed, Courtney Milan. (NOOK) The male virgin romance that helped me discover Milan.
  • Elfhome, Wen Spencer. (NOOK, reread) Time to uncover the conspiracy.
  • Fire, Kristen Cashore. (reread) Archer is the jealous type.
  • Close Range, Annie Proulx. Dipping book. I'm finding the stories very depressing.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Another dipping book. The plot is about to start.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Now to read about the heresy of Modernism.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist. Yes, the badder guys just showed up, in time to save the alliance of good guys and bad guys.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. Currently on building emotional regulation. Good stuff.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. Paused.
I abandoned one book, Knight of a Trillion Stars by Dara Joy. When a romance book has a sex scene, it should not include the line "If you touch me it will be rape" before the characters get it on. That's a bit too Alpha male for me. It didn't help that she was still upset about the brain surgery he had forced on her after she declined it.

I've also got a pile of unfinished summer reading books, which I'll probably work through in the next few months:
  • Pinky Pye, Eleanor Estes. I bought a bunch of Estes at one time. I'm not sure I've read this one before.
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. See above.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 66/73. No change. I've got two graphic novels waiting for me.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 15/21. At least Tales From Silver Lands is set in South America. Where would I count a book in Puerto Rico?
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  34/50.  Still reading a Virginia book.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 3.1415/3.14159. The code book is science!
  5. Reading My Library:  Another one down, and the next batch stacked up at home.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 10/12. I think it would be cheating to count Bat Man as a classic.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. No change.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup. My bare shelf is filled up again, but two boxes have disappeared from my living room.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dance Your Troubles Away: The Grand Plan To Fix Everything

Uma Krishnaswami's small book The Grand Plan To Fix Everything offers a light travel itinerary and cosy little problems with cute solutions to the elementary crowd.

Dini, the main characters, has cute problems but doesn't seem to feel things deeply. She's sad when her planned Bollywood dance summer camp visit with her best friend is canceled, and a bit disconcerted to learn that her family is immediately moving to India for two years, but she accepts it as the way things are. She is delighted to learn that her favorite Bollywood movie star is also likely to be in her same village, and naively plans to meet her immediately. She clearly recognizes what kind of book she's in, because of course their paths do cross.

The side plot with the poor but enthusiastic postal deliverer, also a fan of filmi star Dolly, links them first with the chance to deliver the poorly address fan letter, and then unites them in a vacation to the same small Indian town. Everyone's problems (from the loneliness following a drastic move to the broken engagement of Dolly herself) has a quick fix that Dini can fit in her planned movie script of real life. It's a lightweight but warm hearted story that doesn't offer much to an adult but should work well with third grade kids (Dini is eleven, but reads as a few years younger to me).

Seismic Shift

Renton Library
I'm moving my library day to Saturday. This is big news for me, since usually I like to exploit my stay-at-home status and avoid the crowds. But I also like to drag bring the kids with me to the library, and after-school events are now pervasive.

Sadly for me, as I make this transition I accidentally sorta went to the library three times this week, picking up a few extra books each time. Oops. Just when I had this reading thing under control, I overload again.

Ignoring all the extra trips, on Saturday I came home with four books from the hold shelves:
Image of itemImage of itemImage of itemImage of item

  • The Birthday Ball, Lois Lowry. From my TBR list. I like to keep a book and a spare around.
  • Master and Apprentice, Sonya Bateman. Sequel to a book I read last week.
  • The Magnificent 12: The Key, Michael Grant. 3rd in series popular with my kids, and enjoyed by me. I just bought one of Grant's YA books, which the 8th grader has been devouring.
  • Cyborg, Patricia, Frederick, & John McKissack. Sequel to a book I'm doing with my elementary book club.
I also got three CDs, chosen in haste without looking at the covers. I'll surprise myself in the car with them.

This left me with 52 items out on my card, a large step over my age. I grabbed a large stack of books for my geographic challenges, and I also got the next batch of my Reading My Library quest books in one of my sneak-trips. It's time to put myself back on a strict diet.

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.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Historical Nooks: Infamous Scribblers

Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism
I know the basics of American history, although not nearly as much as my BIL, who will soon in fact be a history teacher. (He's student teaching now.) But I had American history in school, and I read Johnny Tremaine and My Brother Sam Is Dead, and then I had it again in college to learn about the dark seamy side of history and I read John Jakes books, and I've taught it to my first grader which involved watching a few Dear America movies.

But I only know the highlights, so it's interesting sometimes to take a journey into someone's particular interest, looking at the nooks and crannies of history on the tails of a passionate researcher. Eric Burns turns his focus on newspapers and journalist in Infamous Scribblers, which traces the first newspapers in America through the scurrilous and furious Federalist/Republican feuds. I hadn't really thought about how newspapers made money, or even ink, in the days before comics, so I liked reading the early chapters following the first editions which showed how information moved around in the days when social media meant passing the broadsheets around the local pub.

Benjamin Franklin gets his own chapter, from his apprentice days and anonymous letters that tricked his brother into giving his annoying family member his own series through his own paper in his new city. And later on Franklin's grandson becomes one of the most hated editors with his own scurrilous journal. The final chapters involve a lot of scandal, because the newspapers all had axes to grind and had no compunction about making things up, but even more glee when reporting things that actually happened, such as Hamilton's torrid affair or Jefferson's use of his slave, Sally. I learned to heap shame of the politicians who either encouraged papers that attacked their opponents but then recoiled when the same tactics turned on them (Thomas Jefferson especially comes out badly in this instance).

Anyway, it's written in a clear if not compelling language, and mostly carries along the non-specialist reader (me) without assuming I remember more than a smidgen of my history. It's a good look at the development of journalistic ethics, something that few of the publishers back in the Founding Father's day would recognize.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fanfiction: Jane

JANE - a novel by April Lindner
April Lindner's Jane is a legal fanfiction AU (alternate universe) of Bronte's Jane Eyre, with Jane as a freshman in college left penniless while Rochester is a wild rock star planning his comeback tour. Although Lindner's Jane doesn't have quite the fire of Bronte's, the story still works for me as a thoughtful homage placing many of the same themes in our modern world.

Lindner skips most of Jane's childhood, choosing rather to start as Jane leaves college to find work as a nanny. Her cultural blinders help her -- Rathburn has specifically requested someone who is not a fan. From here on the parallels to the original keep right on track -- the kindly housekeeper, the sweet child with French interests, the strange drunken woman on the forbidden third floor, even the Bianca woman making a play for Rathburn.  A few differences appear -- there is no question that the child is Rathburn's, Jane's uncaring relatives are her siblings, not her cousins, and the saintly St. Johns are not distant relatives.  These were fun to read as I wondered how Lindner would echo the plot; the celebrity rock star status works well as a social divide, and there's a subtle difference in the ploys of a successful photographer (modern Bianca) versus a marriageable heiress (real Bianca).

It's a fun experiment for fans of Jane Eyre, although clearly there isn't much suspense since we know how the story will go. Apparently Lindner is now writing an homage to Wuthering Heights, which isn't quite as tempting since I didn't really like the original. On the other, she did interesting things with Jane Eyre...

I wonder if this counts as literary fiction? It takes place in Connecticut, which I need for my Where Are You Reading challenge.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Otherworldies

The cover of Otherworldies amuses me because it has nothing to do with the contents of the book.  Well, maybe it's a picture of what the protagonist will look like in five or so year; it sure doesn't look like the twelve year old girl in the story. It also promises a lot more vampire than Jennifer Anne Kogel's text delivers. It's especially funny compared with another Reading My Library Pick, Izmaylov's Galacterian Legacy, which had a cover picture of a girl five years younger than the protagonist. Good thing I picked out both books; they average each other out.


Otherworldies is about Fern, a girl who is horribly bullied by her peers at school, because she is sickly, sunburns easily, and prefers wearing her brother's hand-me-downs to designer clothes. She has a twin brother who loves and tries to protect her, an older brother who also loves her, and a hyper efficient single mother who expresses her love through high expectations and constant protectiveness. Oh, and she's also a vampire, but she doesn't figure that out for a few hundred pages (no one shows her the picture of her older self from the cover, I guess).

What makes this story interesting is the realistic stuff -- the mean kids at school, the vindictive teacher, the worried mother, the frustrated brother. But if the paranormal extras weren't there, it would be too easy to get impatient with whats-her-name; the fact that her problems stem from her extreme otherness keeps her more interesting and sympathetic. I admit that I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book; I had it pegged as an almost-YA vampire book, but its firm roots in kidlit kept the focus on character, danger, and plot rather than silly romances, so I ended up quite liking it. I'll see if my 7th grader wants to plow through it before he leaves for vacation (he's got two days left!).

Well, actually I'm posting this long after he returned from vacation, and I couldn't get him past the cover, which screamed "vampire love triangles" at him. Too bad, he would've liked it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lonely White Girl: Something To Hold


Something to Hold Cover

I picked up Katherine Schlick Noe's Something To Hold from the library's children's section of new books mainly because it takes place in Oregon, although in the time between check out and actually opening the book I read a different book set in Portland. Oh well, I still enjoyed this one.

Noe's book recalls her childhood spent on various Indian reservations in the early 1960's. Her father worked as a forester for the Bureau of Indian Management, just as main character Kitty's father does, and the author's note explains how much of the book was based on her own experiences. The past setting is specified by both details of their shopping and by society's expectations -- only boys play baseball or ride in the parade, for example. Kitty and her family are among the few white children at the local school, and they face uncomfortable times and find outsiders even more clueless about the lives of their friends.

Kitty makes a credible journey from the basic assumptions of her time ("everyone's family comes from somewhere) to an understanding that her classmates did indeed come from here and to notice some of the prejudice and misunderstandings faced by her friends. But she also struggles with making friends, worrying about the dangers faced by both her father and her friends, and has adventures ranging from sneaking into a work site to facing down a forest fire.

I've read a bit about how American Indians feel about literature about their lives (see Oyate.com) and Noe does a lot of things right -- she's not writing about Native Americans, she's writing about kids who are Wasco, Paiutes, or Warm Springs tribe members. I think they'd wish for more books that placed the tribe member at the center, but this story is clearly the one that Noe had to tell. She even gives Kitty her own name (Schlick) to underline how personal this novel is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Normal Again

Well, I'm almost back to a normal reading program after spending the summer starting a book a day, and then avoiding that book because pressure gets me down. Now I'm back to just reading whatever I want. And I want books that are on my lists. You know that Facebook thing where there's a word find and LOVE, FAMILY and FRIENDSHIP are spelled out horizontally to make them easy to find? Well, I missed them completely and found LIST going diagonally down the side. That's where my OCD heart lies.

So, I'm reading a book from my online TBR list, a book to satisfy my book challenges, a book for a book club, a book from my shelves, a book from my library's shelves, a book I grabbed for fun from the library, and a leftover book from this summer's reading fun. Oh, on my NOOK I'm reading one book from my library and one book that I own. And when I switch books, I cleanse my reading palette with a few pages of a book from my TBR bookcase. And this insanity makes me deeply happy.

I'll go check in with Book Journey's weekly round-up of what everyone has read, is reading, and will read, and then, since most of my selections are children's books, I'll also check in with the kidlit version at Teach Mentor Texts. I haven't really gotten back in the swing of reviewing these books, so I'm afraid I'm a rather dull entry to both these lists, but I'm trying to jump back on the horse. In a mixed-metaphor kind of way, of course.

  • The Clone Codes, Patricia McKissack (and family). For my elementary school book club.
  • Master of None, Sonya Bateman. On of Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy bookclub picks, although I think they switched this one out for not having any romance. Well, any sex.
  • Wild Girl, Patricia Reilly Giff. Another elementary book club pick. I was supposed to read these over the summer.
  • Trial By Desire, Courtney Milan. NOOK. Fun little romance about a woman hero and a man with mental illness. 
  • Buffy and the Heroine's Journey, Valerie Frankel. Interesting literary essays on my favorite vampire series.
  • Stink: The Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown, Megan McDonald. Another elementary book club pick.
  • One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia. There were a lot of these elementary book club books. I've been meaning to read this one anyway; it won all the awards.
  • The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars #1, Tracy Mack. I'm finally getting back to my Reading My Library plan.
  • Sassy #1: Little Sister Is Not My Name, Sharon M. Draper. Elementary book club choice, and it's by a famous YA author.
  • Year of the Tiger, Alison Lloyd. This is for the third L shelf in my library's kidlit section.
  • The Lions of Little Rock, Kristin Levine. This is the 2nd L shelf. And it's a book I've heard about.
  • The Woodshed Mystery (Boxcar Children), Gertrude Warner. This was the last book for my summer reading sprint. Whew!
  • Taken At the Flood, Ken Catran. Book-a-day pick at the end of the summer reading sprint.
  • The Snow Pony, Alison Lester. For my Reading My Library quest, chosen because I like her picture books.
  • Warp Speed, Lisa Yee. This is a Cybils pick.
And these are from the week before:
  • United Tates of America, Paula Danzinger. Summer reading book.
  • Turn Homeward Hannalee, Patricia Beatty. Summer reading book.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor. Best of the Best pick.
  • The Cow-Tail Switch, Harold Courlander. Summer reading book.
  • Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan. Summer reading book.
  • Three Stuffed Owls, Keith Robertson. Summer reading book.
  • A Child's Delight, Noel Perrin. From my TBR list.
  • The Ghost Belonged to Me, Richard Peck. Summer reading book. A reread.
What am I currently reading? I left some in-progress books at home during my gallivanting, and I cherry picked from my options to things I thought I'd enjoy.
  • Ghost Dog Secrets, Peg Kehret. This is for my elementary book club. I have about four to go.
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer, Dan Wells. I got this to match with I Hunt Killers, the other YA book about a boy worried that he might be a serial killer. It's my library free choice book.
  • The Azalea Assault, Alyse Carlson. First in a murder mystery series, and it takes place in Virginia! Which I need for my Where Am I Reading challenge.
  • The Code Book, Simon Singh. This is for my primary book club, the real-life grown-up one.
  • The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller. Book from my shelves. Well, technically, from my brother's shelves.
  • The Heart of Christmas. NOOK. I got this for the Courtney Milan story, but I'll try the others as well.
  • Dragon Ship, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. NOOK. I bought the next Liaden book directly from Baen. Their no-DRM policy is very appealing.
  • The Curse of the Wendigo, Richard Yancy. (audio) Another Best of the Best audio finalist. The boys both like it so we only listen when we're all in the car.
  • Team Human, Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine Larbalestier. Started on the plane last July, but the onslaught of past-due library books made me pause it.
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey. I'm stalled on this one too. I think I'll try it again on my NOOK.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. NOOK. I paused this one because  I wanted my Liaden fix.
  • Close Range, Annie Proulx. Dipping book. I'm finding the stories very depressing.
  • The Borrowers Afield, Mary Norton. Another dipping book. The plot is about to start.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. Too rapey to be as much fun as the cover predicts.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. I'm finding the American history through this lens fascinating.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist. I think the badder guys are about to show up again.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peggy Dawson. I read a chapter to reward myself for finishing something.
  • Fire, Kristen Cashore. I'm rereading this to celebrate reading Bitterblue.
I've also got a pile of unfinished summer reading books, which I'll probably work through in the next few months:
  • Rufus M., Eleanor Estes. I like the innocence of their problems and solutions.
  • Tales From Silver Lands, Charles Finger. These are better a few at a time than all at once.
  • Pinky Pye, Eleanor Estes. I bought a bunch of Estes at one time. I'm not sure I've read this one before.
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. See above.
  • Ecstasia, Francesca Lia Block. I find her mythic stories harder going than her Weezie Bat books.
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. I'm not liking the dialect, and I think the guy I hate is supposed to be the hero. Oops.
  • Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. I have no excuse for not finishing this yet.
  • Tessie, Jesse Jackson. The author makes me giggle.
  • Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. I had too many Dolittle books back-to-back.
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher. I lost this while reading it, but now I know where it is.
  • The Eye of the Warlock, P.W. Catanese. Mixed-up fairy tale.
  • Redskin and Cowboy, G. A. Henty. Waiting for the boy to run away from home.
What will I read next? The rest of the elementary book club books, then my real life book club book, and then Team Human. Those are my priorities.

Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 66/73. I think I'm in good shape for finishing by Christmas.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 15/21. At least one of my current books is set in South America. And one book took place partly in Mexico, so I may count that.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  34/50.  Currently reading a Virginia book.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 2.1415/3.14159. I'm not sure I reviewed the last one, though.
  5. Reading My Library:  Finished four, reading to march forward again.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 10/12. I need literary and a classic. Still.
  7. Best of the Best: 31/25. Inching slowly along; I'll see how far I get before next year's lists come out.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: All over but the cleanup. My shelf look bare! Now I can unload the books in boxes onto it!