Friday, March 30, 2012

Big Sister Poems: Emma Dilemma

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGMy fifth grader and I enjoyed Kristine George's Emma Dilemma, but we definitely treated it as a picture book rather than a poetry book.  In fact, P threatened to stop reading if I mentioned the p- word, but he has a vicious prose preference.  It's true that few of the pages stood alone; the evocative words worked with the illustrations to paint the story of a loving older sister and her sometimes pesky sibling.

It did rub against one of my current sore spots -- false childhood guilt. I dislike reading books that encourage kids to assume guilt they shouldn't own -- guilt is a very healthy emotion that reflects a missed opportunity, not one that reflects bad luck or accidents. When Emma falls towards the end of the story, it was clear to me and P that big sister had nothing to reproach herself for, but of course she feels guilty anyway.  Which I know kids do sometimes, but I've tripped across too much child guilt lately to enjoy it.

Here's my test -- if you look back and you wouldn't change what you did, then you aren't feeling guilt.  (You could be feeling shame, but that implies that you wish you were the person who would change what you did but you aren't.)  You may be wallowing in self-pity, but that's a different emotion, and I want my kids to learn the difference.

But besides my little hang-up, it was a bright, companionable book that we liked a lot.  Our favorite page had the girls playing cards, the mom advocating cheating to let Emma win (P and I were shocked), and the clever but rejected solution of 52-pick up, which had P chortling.  I got A and X to read it as well, since A is an actual big sister, and they also liked it (especially A). We ended up with a fun discussion about poetry -- all the kids were sure it was not a poetry book, but we agreed that a new word was needed for books that weren't poetry but had "picture book" language that felt a little richer than plain prose.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mean Kid: Spellbound


My family and I had enjoyed the first Book of Elsewhere, so when I saw Jacqueline West next book, Spellbound, I brought it home.  My seventh grader grabbed it and read it, and then eventually returned it to me.  The fifth grader avoided it, but he gets stressed if he has a to-read pile greater than one so he resists most of my suggestions.

I finally got a chance at it, but I confess I didn't like it as much as the first one.  It mostly isn't the book's fault -- the characters are still interesting, with the children prominent and kindly adults just fluttering in the background, but I've had a run of books with the main characters behaving badly and it's starting to annoy me. Olive, our heroine, spends most of this book being selfish and mean-spirited, partly because she falls under the influence of an evil book, although perhaps it's more accurate to say she leaps energetically into the influence; she certainly makes very few attempts to recover or struggle against it. If the book was so powerful, then she was boringly passive, and if it wasn't, she was complicit.

I have high standards for my heroes -- although they don't always have to make the right decisions, they should be aware of what right and wrong are, and should prefer to do right, even if particular circumstances make that too difficult right now. I'm glad our current car book is a Penderwick tale, because at least they admit when they besmirch their honor and don't spend paragraphs whining their way to a justification.

I'll still look for the next book in this series, but I hope Olive pulls her socks up for it.  X has no such qualms -- he thought it was a great book and is astonished that P didn't read it. His only complaint is that the third book isn't out yet.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Family of Refugees: The Porcupine Year

Image of item
Although I still haven't finished The Birchbark House (I'm reading it now), I found the third book in Louise Erdrich's series abut the Ojibwe family during the mid 1800's while grabbing books for my Reading My Library quest.  So I scooped up The Porcupine Year as a guaranteed good book, and was not disappointed.

Omakayas is a little bit older now, more responsible for her youngest brother and more aware of her male cousin, but still secure in the care of her parents and extended family, especially her grandmother Old Tallow, whose fierce nature and strong dogs provide protection for the tiny clan. At first things go easily because of their knowledge of the land and skills, with only childish (but dangerous) adventures, but the betrayal of their white uncle abruptly leaves them facing winter with no supplies or equipment.  Suddenly the family faces starvation, and the true effects of their expulsion from their birchbark house looms over them.

I liked the sense of realism -- there are real consequences and dangers, and the family expects that but doesn't let it devour them. Louise Erdrich has a good touch in these children's books just as she does in her adult works.

Lost In Heyer Space

I appear to have read almost nothing this week. I say "appear" because actually I covered a lot of words, I just didn't read any books from front to end. Instead I zoomed through a dozen or so of Georgette Heyer's books on my NOOK (go library, which provided all I needed), cherry picking my favorite scenes and characters from The Unknown Ajax, The Grand Sophy, Charity Girl, Faro's Daughter, The Corinthians, and I've forgotten what else.  Well, I probably could count The Grand Sophy as a re-read, since my favorite bits include about 90% of the text, but I did skip the introduction before Sophy shows up.

So, for my weekly check-in, using the meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, I have very little to list.  Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that concentrates on children's books, which seems to have made up the majority of my paltry completed reading this week.

This week I finished one book on my NOOK (in addition to the skimming mentioned above), one book from Reading My Library, and one tiny paperback. I didn't even read any picture books with my kids.
  • Tuesdays At the Castle, Jessica Day George. NOOK. Cybils finalist.
  • Knightley Academy, Violet Haberdasher. RML. That cannot be her real name, right?
  • Pursuit of the Screamer, Ansen Dibell. My own book!
I'm showing eleven books on my currently reading list, which really isn't that bad. Although my nonfiction ratio is still poor, I've got some historical fiction in there, which is close.
  • Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead. I seem to have misplaced this. Oops.
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacquiline Kelly. (TBR) I like Calpurnia a lot.
  • The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich. (TBR) I finally read the first one.
  • Star in the Storm, Joan Hiatt Hawlow. (RML) That's one smart dog.
  • Libyrinth, Pearl North. Online book club from last January, but I kept getting distracted.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  The finish-a-book slot reward slot.  We're getting some advice on improving our lacking executive skills.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Mom has stolen the little brother..
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  Social satire radio message from the moon.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. How to cook a marmet.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. Silly romance. Why is she buying this guy a plane ticket again?
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. The French Revolution was not good for the Church.
What will I read next? I've got the Cybils finalist Between Shades of Gray, Scalzi's Android's Dream, and I'm falling behind on my book-a-week goal for Reading My Library.  And the library just informed me that I can get Elizabeth Moon's latest on my NOOK right now, so maybe it's time to throw myself off the no-new-books island of the TBR Double Dare, only one week short of their April 1st target. That date sounds like they didn't really mean it, doesn't it?

  1. Cybils: 49/80.  I'm falling horribly behind on reviewing, though.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 9/21.  Europe is filled up now. South America is still hard.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Hey, I've actually reviewed Dragon Castle, so I can swap that in.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  13/50. If I don't start reviewing, I'll fall behind my March quota.
  5. TBR Double Dare.  15. But I may quit. I want to know what is happening on Paksennarian's world.
  6. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. The no non-fiction is holding me back.
  7. Reading My Library: Didn't finish anything.
  8. Eclectic Challenge: 3/10. I'm putting children's books in as my free choice.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sad Girl: Breadcrumbs


Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGThe latest Cybils Novel (Middle grade Fantasy & Science Fiction) finalist almost broke my heart.  My fifth grader is also unhappy in school, and I suspect that much of our "help" and advice sounds like the fake plastic words that try to smother Hazel in Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs.  Their troubles and problems are completely different, but their misery and bafflement at what people do to try to help sound crushingly familiar.

Ursu's words and images bring the interior life of a fifth grader vividly to life, and when Hazel pushes out of the real world and into the forest of fables and stories to rescue her friend the metaphors work unerringly -- the woodcutter, the garden of flowers, the match girl. Hazel never gets extra powers, but she almost despite herself clings to an inner core of strength -- she wants to rescue her friend because he was her friend, no matter what happens in the future.

I may request this book from the library again, because I'm curious as to how my kids would like it; unfortunately everyone else in my county wants to read this too, so my copy has to go back.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slovakian Heroes: Dragon Castle

Dragon Castle
Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGOur elementary school book club started the year with Skeleton Man, a Joseph Bruchac book that features  an Abenaki girl who uses the strength and knowledge gained from her family's folk tales to defeat a scary creature. Other books I've read by him also feature children proud of their Native American heritage. But in the Cybils Science Fiction and Fantasy (Middle Grade) finalist Dragon Castle, he turns to his father's people, the Slovakians, for inspiration and tone. The American kids put a huge emphasis on knowledge and competence; the Slovakian one trusts more in intuition and guidance. The feel of their interior lives is very different.

Not that Prince Rashko eschews competence; although he values his intellect highly (especially since he views himself as the only member of his family with a functioning brain) he also lets the reader know that's he's a big, strong, athletic swordsman, just like his simple-minded brother. And despite his towering intellect, he also rarely sees through to the meanings of the folksy proverbs scattered about by his father and other mentors.

The bad guys were suitably menacing, from the casual cruelties of the retainers to the magical attacks of the visiting prince and his beautiful daughter. Although I suspected from the first that Rashko severely underestimated the comprehension of his relatives, I liked how the entire family loved, trusted, and respected each other even when using vastly different tactics. The frequent intermissions to show the legend of Prince Pavol and the founding of the castle help build the themes of the story without slowing down the suspense.

My seventh grader also liked the book; the dragon and castle cover with its gently creepy color scheme enticed him to pick it up a few weeks ago. I'll see if the fifth grader wants to try it. (Nope)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Girl Who Reads: Among Others

Among OthersI read Jo Walton's Among Others back when it first came out, and then again when the paperback release arrived (I got both). I wanted to think on it for a little before I came to a reaction, and then of course it got lost under a pile of other books I had finished. As Jo Walton writes a column at solely based on books she re-reads, it seems appropriate that this post comes out the second instead of the first time that I read her autobiographical book.

It's even better the second time around, and I liked it a lot the first time.  It's about a girl turning into an adult who has spent a lot of time with books and in her imagination.  She's also faced great losses and experienced real magic. Now she is learning to live in a new and alien place where she clings to her reading as the only part of her previous life still available.  She's uneven and judgmental and clever and moral in a way that seems very true to life of passionate teenagers.

I remember thinking that the magic plot didn't integrate completely with the school and boyfriend plots, but on a reread I disagree with myself and found them to interweave well.  The danger from her mom and her dead sister echoed the problems with her aunts and her social awkwardness, and I liked how the men (dad and Wim) rallied to her when she returned from defeating the women (mom, and what the fairies wanted to make of her sister).  Of course, she didn't need them, but they were ready to offer. I also liked Mor's faults; her stubborn and often unpleasant contempt for the girls at school who don't like her; adolescents who can't win often furiously reject the game.

I still can't handle the sexual advances from her dad on her first trip with him; Mor's intellectual response makes bizarre sense but I don't really see the emotional aftermath reflected.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back From Vacation

I'm back from a wonderfully relaxing vacation weekend up at Lake Chelan.  We had a great vacation condo, beautiful weather, mostly delightful kids, and constant good luck in terms of timing and travel.  I even got my computer back (minutes before we headed out), but not in time to schedule posts on my blog. The only complaint we had was the poor internet access, but maybe that was a blessing in disguise.

I did take some time to finish off a few books, although not nearly as many as I carted along. But part of the joy of vacation for me is having lots of options.  I also packed a suitcase full of board games and the kids delighted me by trying out almost all of them. So I'll sign up for the weekly reading meme at Sheila's Book Journey.  Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that concentrates on children's books, which make up the bulk of my favorite reading.

This week was almost entirely kidlit, mostly from the seventh grade and lower section. I'm terrible at telling where books fall between third and seventh grade, partly because my most prolific reading kid reads all over the place:
  • The Inquisitor's Apprentice, Chris Moriarty. NOOK. Cybils middle grade fantasy, with a little too much stagnant guilt for me.
  • The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza. I liked his questions about racism, but found his answers biased and irresponsible.
  • The Magnificent 12: The Trap, Michael Grant. Still funny, and we hope he writes more.
  • Nerd Camp, Elissa Weissman. Cybils finalist, and also our March Family Book Club Pick.  Review will come after our meeting.
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness. Cybils finalist, and very gripping. Not quite what my 7th grader expected from the title, but he finished it and then warned me that it was depressing.
  • Spellbound (Book of Elsewhere #2), Jacqueline West. I got annoyed with Olive's spinelessness this round, but if there's a third book I'll try that too.
  • The Brooklyn Nine, Alan Gratz. I guess fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers are used to misery and unhappy endings, which would make these short stories perfect for them.
  • The Many Faces of George Washington, Carla McClafferty. Entwined history of the new manikins of George Washington with the history they were designed to teach.
I also finished a few picture books, all Cybils finalists:
  • Thunderbirds, Jim Arnosky. Nifty pictures, although the switch between facts and personal details in the text tripped us up a few times.
  • Self Portrait With Seven Fingers, Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen. More poems, although when reading it with my fifth grader he ignored the text and concentrated on the paintings.
  • The Emma Dilemma, Kristine George.  Actually a book of poems, but we enjoyed it as a picture book about two sisters.
I'm showing eleven books on my currently reading list, which really isn't that bad. I do think I need to read more nonfiction, though.
  • Pursuit of the Screamer, Ansen Dibell. Old fashioned DAW science fiction, slow reading but good.
  • Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead. Too teen for me; I have to read it in short bursts.
  • Libyrinth, Pearl North. January's online book pick, which I forget, then my kid stole, and now I finally can read it.
  • The Knightley Academy, Violet Haberdasher.  A reading-my-library choice that I will definitely pass along to X. Boarding school for knights -- perfect.
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly. A book that I own that is also on my TBR list, and it's even a lot of fun. Home run!
  • Tuesdays At the Castle, Jessica Day George. NOOK.  Cybils middle grade choice, very pleasing so far.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  The finish-a-book slot reward slot. I may reread this out loud with my scattered son.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Her little brother has disappeared. Life is rough.
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  News from the scientist left on the moon.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. United against a worse enemy.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales.  By modern we mean "before Vatican II."
What will I read next? The Birchbark House is up on my TBR list, Blood Red Road and several other YA Cybils finalists on my shelf, and maybe I'll try for the books I brought but didn't read on vacation.  As soon as I unpack, that is.

  1. Cybils: 48/80.  Very few short books left, in fact.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 8/21.  I had to invalidate my last European book for being poetry instead of a novel.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Unchanged.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  12/50. I only count reviewed books, so no change here.
  5. TBR Double Dare.  14. 
  6. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159.
  7. Reading My Library: Finished two more. Time to go back for more on Thursday.
  8. Eclectic Challenge: 2/10.  I'm hoping to not count kidlit, so nothing this week.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Depressing Poetry: Requiem

The next Cybils poetry finalist is one I suspect I'm going to have a lot of trouble convincing my boys to read.  The cover of Paul B Janeczko's Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto promises what it delivers -- notes from the inmates clinging to hope or despair on their way to death.  I think the only survivors are the notes written by the sadistic guards.

My younger son has been depressed lately, and when he came for bedtime reading complaining that he couldn't face the future and wished it would disappear, I cheerfully announced I had just the book for him and brought this one out.  But he couldn't face it, so instead we read about frogs on the brink of extinction and the so far unsuccessful attempt to find a cure for the fungus that has removed them from the wild. I myself carefully selected a beloved bookmark made by my older son to hold my hand when I went back to reading about Terezin.

However, I wish the afterward came at the beginning. Here Janeczko explains that almost all of the characters were fictional, composites or pure invention.  One poem came from a real person.  Somehow the single true character makes the imaginary ones seem shadowy -- there were thousands of real people there; if he's giving names and numbers away than I'm wondering if these are stolen from real victims.  It's an unsettling epitaph for a moving subject.

Broken Computer!

The big news this week (besides my birthday) is that I broke my computer! So my habit of constantly updating which books I'm reading, have read, want to read on Shelfari, Librarything, and Goodreads has been hard to maintain.  Consequently, I'm not all that sure what I read this week.  Not much, because I was supposed to read Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and I was avoiding it like the undead.

So, for my weekly check-in, using the meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, I'm having to guess and suppose whatever it was I was doing this week, besides sitting around and complaining about my computer.  Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that concentrates on children's books, which seems to have made up the majority of my reading this week.

This week I finished a lot of short chapter books, mainly so I could turn them in and also reach my birthday goal of reading my age in books in February & March.  I also read a few picture books for the Cybils challenge; I'm on the last book for both fiction and nonfiction picture books:
  • Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake. Cybils YA.
  • Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Julie Sternberg. Cybils short book.
  • The Trouble With Chickens, Doreen Cronin. Cybils short book.
  • Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus, Atinuke. Cybils short book.
  • Bad Island, Doug Tennapel. Cybils graphic novel.
  • Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu. Cybils middle grade novel.
  • The Amulet of Samarkard, graphic novel.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith, although for the last quarter I pretty much skimmed and skipped grumpily about.  This book didn't suit me.
I'm showing eleven books on my currently reading list, which really isn't that bad. I do think I need to read more nonfiction, though.
  • Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead. Gift from Librarything Santa, very teen vampire.
  • Spellbound (Books of Elsewhere #2), Jacqueline West. TBR list. Girl tries to save boy.
  • The Brooklyn Nine, Alan Gratz. RML. Stories, so far depressing, connected by baseball. Possibly a baseball.
  • The Trap (Magnificent 12 #2), Michael Grant. RML. I still like the golem best.
  • Inquisitor's Apprentice, Chris Moriarty. NOOK.  Cybils middle grade book.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  The finish-a-book slot reward slot.  My scattered son and I will take the tests real soon now.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Mom isn't coming back.
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  Back to earth.
  • The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza.  The solution is for blacks to buck up and work harder.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. United against a worse enemy.
What will I read next? I've Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls up for the Cybils book, the Reading My Library pile, Nerd Camp as our March book club book, and the next few books from my TBR list, such as The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

  1. Cybils: 43/80.  Halfway done! More, considering I can't read the Apps category.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 8/21.  Read another book in Canada, but I've already been there.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Still no geographic items. Oh well, it's early yet.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  12/50. Need to review some books so I can count them.
  5. TBR Double Dare.  13. 
  6. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159.
  7. Reading My Library: Didn't finish anything.
  8. Eclectic Challenge: 2/10.  Romance is done.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sampler: Nursery Rhyme Comics

Various authors; edited by Chris Duffy; introduction by Leonard S. Marcus Nursery Rhyme ComicsWhen I started this Cybils Graphic Novel (younger grades), I had extremely low expectations, set by my seventh grader.  "Really boring" he had told me.  But as I paged through Nursery Rhyme Comics I found them delightful and innovative, leaving me feeling smug and plugged-in when I recognized an artist but in general just sitting back and enjoying these fresh takes on old nursery rhymes.  The idea behind the book is to gather the best artists and cartoonists around and give them each a nursery rhyme to illustrate, and the result is a rub-a-dub-tub full of fun.

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGSo I went back to X to see how this book had fallen so flat for him, and found that he had bogged down in the introduction, where Leonard Marcus explains how much fun the book will be.  He never made it to the first comic. I shared the book one more time, and this time he's much more enthusiastic.  I'll also try it on the fifth grader, who may find this is right up his current short attention span. (Update-- he likes it but wanders off every fifteen pages or so.)

I do have a Cybils meta-question, though. From a reader's point of view, this seems more like a poetry book to me; it's certainly not a (graphic) novel.  I can see that the judges felt that the illustrations were the most important in terms of evaluating the work (Mother Goose and anonymous provide most of the text), but I'm not a judge, I'm a reader, so I don't think I agree. I'd shelve it with other Mother Goose and nursery rhyme books, which in my house are on the poetry side of picture books. (Our library puts it in 398 Folklore.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pleasant Pages: Dear Hot Dog

I just read another Cybils picture book, although officially Mordicai Gerstein's Dear Hot Dog appears as a finalist in the poetry category.  I have to say that I'm very particular about my poetry; I want it to resonate inside my head when I first read it, and then I want to go back and look at the rhythm and meter and rhyme and sound to see how it makes that beautiful sound.  I'm not sure that Gerstein's pages hold up to that secondary analysis, but they do reward their first reading.

When I stopped reading his book as a poetry collection and started over from the front to enjoy it as a picture book, I could let myself enjoy his word choices and the interplay between the text and the pictures and the resonant images conjured up throughout.  As a picture book, I highly recommend this work. There was no page that I marked as a great poem to save and enjoy for later, or that I thought I should add to my poetry notebook, though.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spooky Help: Anya's Ghost


My seventh grade son passed me Vera Brosgol's Cybils Graphic Novel finalist Anya's Ghost with the admiring caveat "it's creepy!"  I almost forgot that as I read the first few sections, which grounded Anya as a fairly shallow and spoiled girl who disdains her immigrant mother and longs for a better social status at her ritzy private school.  She finds a ghost after falling down the same sink hole that created the spirit, and at first she's happy to give the ghost a chance at seeing a bit more of the world, especially the bits that include cheating on tests and helping Anya get an invite to the best party of the year.

But things turn dark when the ghost starts making demands that Anya doesn't want to meet, and suddenly Anya finds herself forced to make stands that she's deliberately avoided for years.  The ghost turning creepy gave Anya a good place to take a position instead of slowly sliding down a path of lazy compromises and easiest shortcuts that nibbled away at her integrity. I liked that she got mad when her family was threatened, and got furious when the ghost went after her little brother.
Also, I could mostly tell all the characters apart (not a given for me with graphic novels!), with one small shock when someone referred to her best female friend and I had no idea what they were talking about because I had read that character as male throughout (I just thought Siobhan's parents accidentally saddled him with a girl's name because it was foreign).

I'm glad I read this before I got to Nursery Rhyme Comics, because I recognized Brosgol's style and felt very in-crowdy. I'm so hip!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Judge on Court: Making Our Democracy Work

Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's ViewI believe Stephen Breyer's Making Our Democracy Work is the last lingering book that I got from our library's Tempt-Me shelf last year, before the big ban of the Double Dare.  I liked reading about how one of our Supreme Court Justices thinks the Court should work.  He starts with a background of what the court is and the history of some major cases, but the main thesis of the book is how the courts work with the other sections of government in a pragmatic way.  Pragmatism is one of his key philosophies as a judge, preferable to other baselines such as original intent.

Breyer's view is that in general, courts should look at the presumed intent of Congress when interpreting a law, and apply that to vague or confusing passages.

In this way, voters can use the actual results of a law to decide if they like the way their legislatures are performing.  He gives examples both historical and modern, and uses cases where he ended up on both the dissenting side and the winning side to show the practical effects of various decisions.  He looks particularly hard at some of the worst cases to see how and why the Court went wrong, and what were the effects on its usefulness and public confidence (Dred Scott, Cherokee Trail of Tears, Japanese interment in WWII).  I fell he does a decent job of avoiding personal politics and presenting facts and effects of various judgements.  It's a readable look at our modern court, finishing with some of the post-9/11 decisions about the limits of habeus corpus.

He doesn't completely convince me about pragmatism; he seems to feel any time the court makes a decision that doesn't work out it has failed.  I think that sometimes that just echoes the fact that some laws are failures; the court interpreting them in a way that makes them work jumps boundaries.

Slow Week

I finished a few more books this week, and started even more. My son stole borrowed my NOOK for two days, causing great emotional distress, which is odd considering I'm also reading a large handful of paper books.

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 concentrates on children's books, which made up the majority of my reading this week.

This week I finished only books, three children books and two grown-up ones.  I also read a few picture books for the Cybils challenge, and wrote up our response to the Early Readers:
I'm showing eleven books on my currently reading list, which really isn't that bad. I do think I need to read more nonfiction, though.
  • Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead. Gift from Librarything Santa, very teen vampire.
  • Spellbound (Books of Elsewhere #2), Jacqueline West. TBR list. Girl tries to save boy.
  • Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake. Cybils. Ghost-killer rides into a Canadian town.
  • The Brooklyn Nine, Alan Gratz. RML. Stories, so far depressing, connected by baseball. Possibly a baseball.
  • The Trap (Magnificent 12 #2), Michael Grant. RML. I still like the golem best.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Green (NOOK).  For my book club. On Friday. Must read soon.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  The finish-a-book slot reward slot.  My scattered son and I will take the tests real soon now.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Mom isn't coming back.
  • The First Men In the Moon, H.G. Wells.  Back to earth.
  • The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza.  The solution is for blacks to buck up and work harder.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. United against a worse enemy.
What will I read next? I've got a shelf full of Cybils books waiting (many of them almost due back to the library), the last library book left from the beginning of the year, and the reading my library pile. P picked Nerd Camp as our March book club book, so I need to get on that. Also, I gave myself a Shelfari goal to read my age in books before my birthday, but that's going to be tight. Clearly time to concentrate on easy kidlit. On the plus side, I've read some of the books I've been reading the longest, so the icon on the right will keep changing.

  1. Cybils: 36/80.  Almost done with picture books.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 8/21.  Added Japan.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Replaced a weak entry with Christmas Angel.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  12/50. Only need three more this month.
  5. TBR Double Dare.  12. If I count the library book that I forgot I own.
  6. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. I need to read more nonfiction.
  7. Reading My Library: Some good ones in this month's pile.
  8. Eclectic Challenge: 2/10.  Romance is done.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rebel Flyers: The Girl Who Could Fly

book - the girl who could fly
When I saw Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly on the shelf during my Reading My Library collection run, it looked familiar.  I thought it was on my TBR list, so I congratulated myself on shooting two birds with one library card, but actually it was familiar because I had ordered it from a school book order some months earlier.  Well, technically it was my kid's order, but I'm fairly sure the hand on the pencil was mine. The fifth grader especially is of the opinion that we have plenty of books already.

So technically, can I move my copy of the book out of my TBR pile and count that? Hmm, ethical challenges for my reading challenges.

Anyway, Forester's book is about kids with superpowers and the government conspiracies against them, so YAY!  Pulling it down a bit was Piper's homespun accent and naive pollyanna-ish demeanor, but as long as the scientists kept messing with the magic kids I kept turning pages.  After a bit of a soggy middle, the final action scenes and split second plot worked really well, and I even enjoyed the happy-ever-after bits.  The door is open to a sequel, and if I convince my older son to try this book he'll probably make sure we find it.  The cover doesn't really appeal to his geeky soul; it's soft and flowing rather than stark and conspiracy-ish.

Also, I'm cranky that I can't identify Piper's home state.  West Virginia? Kentucky mountains? Argh!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reconnection: Twin Spica 3

A girl wearing bob cut hair in Japanese high school uniform—consisting of a blue pleated skirt, a blue blouse with a sailor-style collar and neckerchief, and an orange hooded sweatshirt—stands on a backdrop of exploding fireworks. Two glowing spheres linked by a glowing ring hover between her hands. The text "Yaginuma Kou Presents" and "Twin Spica Volume:01", and their Japanese versions, are written to her left.Kids in boarding schools are a strong genre, but Kou Yaginuma's Twin Spica puts a distinct spin -- the kids in its boarding school are heading for outer space.  Reading it gives me a chance to practice my manga-fu, which is still pitiably weak.  So far I really like the odd numbers of this series; #2 left me a bit cold, but #3 kept me interested and left me wanting the next, which of course I can't have for months because of that silly TBR Dare.  Humph.

Anyway, this one delved more deeply into the relationships between the students, especially the aloof Marika.  I still sometimes have trouble telling people apart, so I like it when characters are super short or always wear black or have some other cartoonishly simple identifier, but I think I'm slowly getting better at this, as well as reading backwards from line to line (I can turn pages correctly, but my eyes like to start at the left of each line, which makes many conversations skip oddly).  I'll go back to these once I'm ordering from the library again. My seventh grader has walked away; he gave up when he realized that the school itself is still on the ground and these kids are only *training* to be astronauts.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rational Love: Christmas Angel

If two people make a sound and reasonable decision to unite together in a plan of matrimony, secure in the knowledge that they can be good friends and helpmeets without going near that icky thing called love, and those two people are in a romance novel, can anyone predict the ending?  Jo Beverley's Christmas Angel doesn't pretend that the suspense lies in the HEA, or even in the skating rink smooth path to that destination, but rests the story in the slow unfolding of both Judith and Leander's trust in themselves. Luckily they (and we) are easily distracted from the pip-squeak forces pulling them apart -- how embarrassing to be the first one to admit that you've accidentally fallen in love with your spouse despite all promises?

So a lot of this book dashes back and forth from the shadowy menaces of both their families.  Her side is much less talked about but ultimately more sinister, while his side is a giant shadow form cast by a tiny and cute little mammal. This is a cosy story about two adults in an imaginary world who build a new family together despite having precious little experience in how to do that.  It's one of Beverley's Rogue books, about a group of fifteen or so very close friends and the women they marry.  I find that conceit charmingly implausible -- who has fifteen best friends? -- but it gives a nice umbrella to her wish to tie all these books together.

I do think the title is silly; yes, Christmas happens, but it's not that important to the story except as an excuse to make Leander try Judith's homemade wine. "The Poet's Bride" or "The Diplomat's Seduction" or "The Bereaved Angel" would all have at least something to do with the story.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Princess to Queen: Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Somehow I have four Cybils Fantasy & Science Fiction (YA) finalists out from the library at the same time (and a fifth that I own also in waiting).  So I'd better start concentrating on them, starting with the one on my NOOK, Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  (I do love my library's ebooks.)

Carson does a great job of portraying religion, even a religion possibly linked to technology (there are hints that the people arrived on their planet, like on Pern).  Some aspects are tangible; Elisa really does have a Godstone in her navel, and it responds to her surroundings and her prayers.  But various groups have vastly different interpretations of what God wants; different versions of the sacred texts are passionately defended.  Several times the point is made that many people seem to have very firm ideas on what God wants or dislikes, while Elisa herself with her living link can't fathom what her purpose or goals should be. I should do a list of SF that handles religion well; this book, Sharon Shinn's Samaria books, Peter Dickinson's Blue Hawk, any others?

Elisa also grows and changes throughout the book; at the start she despises herself for her lack of ambition and assertiveness, but slowly she learns to act in accordance with her values.  She saves the life of her prince, she searches for the information others try to hide, and she refuses to show fear before her enemies.  Maybe I'll now try to get the hard copy for X to read; I bet he'd love it but the book disappears from my NOOK tomorrow.

Speaking of my NOOK, I went shopping at B&N last weekend and drooled over the forbidden fruit (see TBR Dare on the challenges link). I went so far as to offer to buy X a NOOK for himself just because I had a really good coupon.  X, annoyed that I was talking to him when he was trying to read a book, told me it was unnecessary.  Well, guess who just discovered that the library has Dresden Chronicle ebooks available immediately (unlike the paper versions, which have long hold lists)? Guess who has STOLEN MY NOOK to read them.  Humph.  Now guess who's coupon expired yesterday?  Guess who will have to wait for his birthday now?