Saturday, June 30, 2012

Scary Laughter: Bagthorpes Liberated

Bagthorpes Liberated (The Bagthorpe Series)The third of my Bagthorpe books, which are #5 - 7 of the ten book series, kept me happy during the tiring extended hours of my vacation flight, a flight that kept stretching longer and including more airports and planes and eventually airport hotels. Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpes Liberated picks up a few hours after the end of Bagthorpes Haunted, which made for a nice grouping; all three books take place in within a week or so. this point in my exhaustion, the familiarity of the characters was an asset; I could relax into the sparkling dialogue, crazy situations, and extravagant actions taken by all the Bagthorpes. I especially liked the focus on the mom, who decides to push back against the advantages taken by the rest of the family, starting with her husband Henry.  Grandma's delight in stirring up trouble takes new heights, as when she successfully passes of a local tramp as an eccentric millionaire. As an added advantages, the way I constantly burst into laughter very quickly cleared me a wide space to stretch out in as I waited for the plane to take off again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

No Mercy: Bagthorpes Haunted

Bagthorpes Haunted
I polished off the second of my Bagthorpe books at the start of what looks like a prolonged airport stay. The sixth in the series,  Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpes Haunted follows the rest of their stay in an unfortunate Welsh house for a holiday.

Like book five, this book features unpleasant behavior, foolish eccentricities, and wacky high jinks. Although not quite as funny as the early book, perhaps because familiarity makes it easy to guess what each character will do, it still provided a few hours of fun while standing around in lines trying to find out where my planes plan to go.
 BarockSchloss CC license

I have one more Bagthorpe in my pile, and it looks like Cresswell went back again a few years later and wrote a few more, so I suppose I'll eventually have to dig those up as well.

Skipped a Week at the Library

Renton Library
I didn't manage to post a library list last week, but I had a really good reason. I didn't check out anything new! I did visit, and I turned stuff in, and I looked at stuff, and then I put my hands in my pocket and walked out. After all, I have dozens of books out already, so it was clearly the mature thing to do.

I bought myself an Ann Aguirre book to celebrate, because the library does not have the third book in her series. What's up with that? They have the fourth!

This week I somehow had three books waiting for me, but I turned in a bunch so I felt OK with that.

What did I get? Well, the hold shelf offered me three books, and then I grabbed a fourth:
Image of itemImage of itemImage of itemImage of item
  • Carnelians, by Catherine Asara. I have a fondness for her space opera books.
  • The Cheshire Cheese Cat, Carmen Deedy. A Cybils finalist.
  • Some Assembly Required, Anne Lamott. A surprise -- I thought I was still weeks out on the waiting list.
  • Mr Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell, Cynthia Rylant. Clearly an attempt to get the novice reader reading something, but I like them even on my own.
This brings me to a total of, wait for it, 42 items out on my card, plus a few ebooks that I'm in denial about. Yes, I have achieved my goal of getting the list under my age! Of course, almost all of them are actual books that I need to read, not CDs or anything easy, but still, there is hope.

I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bagthorpes Abroad: Fun Revisited

Bagthorpes AbroadI remember laughing at the Bagthorpe family stories decades ago, but somehow the latest batch of books got left on my TBR piles. They've moved with me a few times, and just turned up in the stack I'm working through on this summer drive. I'm glad I found them again; I just finished Helen Cresswell's The Bagthorpes Abroad and I laughed my way through it.
 BarockSchloss CC license
The Bagthorpes are a kind of English version of The Wimpy Kid family, where almost everyone is unpleasant or downright mean. Cresswell makes no bones about this, pointing out when the entire family is unsympathetic because they only worry about their own problems. She does give us Jack, the ordinary son, as a touchstone, and then flatters the reader a bit by pointing out that Jack, like most everyone, has common decency and kindness. Or the reader can choose to identify with the self-described brilliant members of the family and become complicit in their egotism.

I'm not sure how well the books works as an introduction to the series; although it's been years since I read the earlier books, I remember the family dynamics and had the correct expectations for the back-stabbing nature of the group.  The first chapter shows us the children huddling together to doctor their school reports, showing both the unethical attitudes but also that they can function as a family in their own special way. I'm glad I have two more to go; it will be a treat to spend an extended time with this unneighborly family.

Nordic Magic: Icefall

I have many reading lists going on -- I'm still plugging away at the Best of the Best books, I'm searching out state settings for my Where Are You Reading books, I'm dragging books off consecutive shelves of the library for my Reading My Library Quest, and I'm working my way through all the Cybils finalists in all of the book categories.  Oh, and this summer I'm trying to work my way through the kidlit shelf of my TBR bookcase. Some of these I do for fun (I like the beauty of my Quest, and the strange places picking a book because it's set in a state I've never visited takes me), but the Cybils list I enjoy because I'm guaranteed to find some real treasures.

Matthew J Kirby's Icefall was one such pleasure. It's a finalist in the Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction section, although it reads more as a history than a fantasy to me. There's no magic, no divine intervention, no runic power. There is a belief in gods and ghosts, a respect paid to dreams and portends, as well as a berserker power in battle that robs men of their sentience, but these seem as real to Kirby's characters as they did in a Sutcliffe novel.

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGThe biggest evidence of my respect for this book is that I never peeked in the back to figure out who survived or who was the traitor. Despite my usual distaste for suspense, I wanted to stay in the dark with Solveig so that I could appreciate her worries and her loyalties. I had my suspicions based on story conventions, but that actually didn't put me much ahead of the protagonist, who spends much of the book training as a skald and learning to cast her own world in terms of narrative and pacing. The vivid and real hardships and dangers were enhanced by the interior stresses and shifts as Solveig spends the winter learning how to value herself despite the expectations of others, and how to appreciate and see the truth about the people around her as well.
Sometimes I ferociously argued against her decisions and actions, but they always felt real and centered around a true personality. The setting and characterizations were strong, and the first person narration both let me see things that Solveig might miss but also taught about her connections with the other characters through what she reported or ignored.

I'm coincidentally reading Kirby's first book at the same time, and though I'm liking it I don't have the same passion as I did for Icefall. This book I highly recommend, and intend to press upon my younger son (the older one doesn't understand why I took so long to read it).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Serious Silliness: The Scarecrow and His Servent

The Scarecrow And His Servant
Somewhere I must have read a misleading review of Philip Pullman's The Scarecrow and His Servant, because I had the vague impression that it was a morality tale that would Impart a Lesson, probably with skill and style because this is Pullman, but still, why hurry to read that? Well, now that it turned up next in my bookcase during my Summer Reading blitz, I crashed through it, smiling on many of the pages.

I guess it does leave the impression that it's bad to coat the world in poison, which is a Moral Lesson, but it goes down easy. The Scarecrow is unabashedly a Fool, and his servant Jack serves as a loyal Sancho to help carry him away from windmills and signposts. Not that there's any heavy Quixote symbolism dragging down the sprightly story of an adventuring scarecrow and his boy; the story doesn't take itself too seriously and Jack understands what's going on, which keeps the author from continuously winking at the reader.
BarockSchloss CC License
I'm definitely handing this out to my boys when they get home from their European vacation; it's an fairly easy read that won't cause indigestion later.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Deja Vu?: The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha
I'm fairly sure that I've read Lloyd Alexander's The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha before, possibly even when I was the right age. It was published in 1978, and I think I was reading Alexander by then. But I like to read all the physical books in my house, even when I'm rereading the text. After all, you never know when authors will change things up or publishers have a glitch and miss crucial pages.

Reading it in the bifocal way, where I'm reading the words that I don't really remember but also reading the memories that the scenes seem to stir up, reminds me why I accumulate Alexander's books but rarely remember to list him among my favorite authors. He seems to write a bit too much from the mind even when telling stories from the heart, so that there is always a gap between the reader and the story. This is true in this book, where the emphasis on showing rather than telling keeps me aware that I'm reading a story.
BarockSchloss CC License

But it's still a wonderful story, with Lukas moving from a boy who revels in idleness to someone who has recognized responsibility and loyalty and knows that life without it is thin and unrewarding. I love how Alexander never explains the fantasy, but leaves the characters and the readers with the events but no explanation. Was it real? Does it matter?

I think I'll hand this book to my sixth grader to read this summer; he'll like the ambiguity and should also appreciate Lukas's pacifism.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Whoooo's There: The Captive

The Capture
I've read one other Ga'Hoole book as part of my Reading My Library Quest -- Kathryn Lasky's series gets its own shelf in the Children's Series bookcase. That was number 8, and now I find that I had the first book, The Captive, on my shelves at home. I wonder what else I've got hidden in there...

I remember only bits of the story; owls and their legends, ancient weapons and claw extensions, a Chosen One who must find his destiny. I'm fairly sure that Chosen One was Soren, the hero of this book, whose evil brother pushes him from his nest and into the claws of evil totalitarian owl fanatics. Or maybe not; it could be a prequel or something.
BarockSchloss, CC license
Through a combination of friendship, loyalty, sharp wits and the occasional magical hint, Soren rescues himself and his dimunitive friend and starts his quest to wider circles of the avian world. The writing and story line are fairly powerful and skillful; not the cookie cutter prose that I tend to expect from extended series. If any elementary school kid wants to plow through the entire owlish series, I say more power to them. (And the NOOK has it for only $2, at the link above.)

This was a fun book to read while I recovered from donating blood; I had my own small sense of noble sacrifice to help me emphasize with all the feathered heroes in the story.

Summer Reading Fun

Well, school is out for the summer, and X and P have flown away to Greece. My reading goal for the summer is to read a book a day from the kidlit shelf of my TBR bookcase, so we'll see how far down I can whittle it.

I finished the first four of those books, as well as a few other things:

  • Paper Covers Rock, Jenny Hubbard. NOOK. Best of the Best pick.
  • The Otherworldlies, Jennifer Kogler. RML book.
  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling, Maryrose Wood. Summoned back to the library.
  • The Kidnapped King, Ron Roy. From my shelves.
  • Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, Gennifer Choldenko. From my shelves.
  • Boys Book of Adventure, Steve Martin. From my shelves.
  • Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold. NOOK. ARC. Much fun.
  • Magic Under Glass, Jaclyn Dolamore. From my shelves.
Wow, only Bujold's book saves me from a week of complete kidlit. Although really why would anyone save me from that? But I guess I like to read a book about grown-ups from time to time.

What am I still reading? I'm trying to clear the decks for a short vacation, so after I finish my kidlit-book-of-the-day I'm concentrating on some aging library books. Fifteen books is a slight increase from last week, but I'll probably finish at least one while donating blood tomorrow.
  • The Capture, Kathryn Lanksky. Monday's kidlit book. I think this is the first of the series.
  • Jane, April Lindner. I read most of this because I thought I couldn't renew it, but then I did. Fun retelling of Jane Eyre.
  • Willie Mays, The Life, The Legend, James S. Hirsch. TBR He's up in the major leagues now. I'd better concentrate on this next; it's almost due.
  • Infamous Scribblers, Eric Burns. TBR Only a few pages left.
  • The Clockwork Three, Matthew Kirby. RML. The three protagonists finally meet together. 
  • The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller. Must find where eighth grader left this.
  • Doubleblind, Ann Aguirre. NOOK. 3rd book in the space story.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. NOOK. Interplanetary rich people plot things.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  I lost this, ironically enough, but now it's found again.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen. Everyone takes a bath.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. Her brother-in-law is a were-cat. Maybe he'll tell her that she accidentally got married. Nope, he won't.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Pope loses his territory.
  • Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx. Into the story about the rodeo guy.
  • The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Jeanne Birdsall. Audio. The Big Coincidence.
  • The Ring of Solomon, Jonathan Stroud. Audio. With 7th grader. CD 5. Tragically the boys left without finishing it.
I'll go sign in on the update posts that Book Journey does, where everyone notes what they read, are reading, and intent to read. Teach Mentor Texts echos this with a concentration on children's books which clearly is appropriate for me.

What will I read next? I still have far too many library books out, but at least I've slowed down the infux. I'm hoping for a lot of easy kidlit to help me make my daily book goal.

  1. Cybils: 61/73. Twelve more to go. That's about two a month, which is a breeze.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 13/21. I checked out an Australian book.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  23/50. Need to review Vermont, Montana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. I also read a Washington D.C. book. Almost finished with a Connecticut book.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. Haven't started the next book yet. Sigh.
  5. Reading My Library:  I'm falling behind my book-a-week plan here. Sigh.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 10/12. I need literary fiction and a classic. I wonder if Jane counts as literary...
  7. Best of the Best: 26/25. I'm almost done with #27. I think I'll just keep going, only in a less rushed way.
  8. Summer Reading Goal: 4 books in, on target.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stranger In a Strange Land: Magic Under Glass
BarockSchloss, CC license
I moved up a few years for my next summer kidlit book, Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass, which is aimed at I think middle grades. The characters are in their late teens or early twenties and act as adults, without any chaperons or protection.

I found the world building very interesting; at first I thought it was set in the London of Burnett's A Little Princess, but Dolamore is using a copy of that, called Lorinar -- close but different, which explains the Council of Sorcerers. The main character comes from a distant country, possibly patterned after Thailand, and her different appearance causes the same condescension and prejudice that it would in Burnett's London. So Dolamore gives a familiar setting but also has the ability to insert her own magic and political changes -- women wear corsets and long dresses, but there is a kingdom of fairies behind the wall to the west.

The protagonist, Namira, is an outsider so that she isn't complicit in the problems of the country and also has the chance to explain things to the reader. She's young enough to be sympathetic, but old enough to work and travel on her own, and to understand that marriage isn't just for love but also for economic security. The problems she overcomes are large enough to be interesting but still believable, and I'll keep this book for my eighth grader who will probably also want the sequel.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Boy Howdy: The Boys' Book of Adventure

The Boys' Book Of Adventure
It's the sad part of the summer, after my sons have flown off to visit foreign climes with their dad but before I zip off on my solo adventures of the year, so it's just me and the cats wandering around looking for people to pester. Well, I could always go pester my niblings, and they have actually been in and out of my house all day, but why let the truth get in the way of a misery story?

So I celebrated by doing all the things I can't do when the boys are around, starting with reading Forbidden Books. The first one luckily came from the top of my TBR stack: The Boys Books of Adventure: Are You Up to the Challenge? which is by Steve Martin. I'm pretty sure not that Steve Martin, though. Apparently I don't have the required stones to read this book, but I'm a rebel so I soldiered on.

Sadly, I unlocked no secrets of the universe. I'm not sure why hammock building, shipwreck swimming survival tips, and rope climbing are considered skills only for young males, but I now also have the scarey mystery instructions for these events. Er, Yay?

Actually, it was a fairly cute book of how-to sections, usually tied in with some adventure hook, then some safety-backpedalling ("have your parents check your hammock before you get in, and never hang it higher than three feet"), but usually some fairly reliable hints on how to do fun stuff -- white water rafting, snake charming, grave robbing ("but turn in all artifacts to the country's authorities!") and such. The short chapters and confident writing should appeal to even reluctant readers, especially if they are male and enjoy the implicit ego-stroking, or female and enjoy the implicit transgression of reading the wrong book.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer 2: Notes From a Liar and Her Dog

Notes from a Liar and Her Dog
I bought Notes From a Liar and Her Dog from a Scholastic catalog because I've read several books by the author, Gennifer Choldenko and enjoyed each one. She's probably most famous for the Alcatraz books that reference Al Capone, but she's also written some interesting books that address identity issues and show middle schoolers in a realistic light (which means like kids I knew, was, or know).

On the plus side, I loved Ant, the selfish, miserable, stubbornly unlovable protagonist. Her convoluted thought processes made perfect sense to me -- of course you tell your parents that visitors are banned from the math contests as soon as it looks like they can't go anyway. What else could you do? 

On the minus side, the dog in the title turns out to be a tiny yappy Chihuahua cross, which was a big negative. I prefer dogs large enough to pull my Yukon sled across the glacial sheets, not that I have one or get anyway near the treacherous ice, but you never know, right? So the book languished on my TBR pile until my summer challenge to read a book a day from said pile.

But so much of her problems came back to the annoying dog that she loved so much that she'd trick vets into treating him when he got sick. On that front I completely sympathized with the annoyed mother. In the end I couldn't really get over my distaste for the dog Pistachio, although people without my dog issues probably would enjoy the book more. I'll leave it out for my seventh grader, because he did rave about the Al Capone books.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Reading: Kidnapped King

The Kidnapped King (A to Z Mysteries Series #11)

I'm going to attempt to read a book each day this summer, working from my piles of unread books in my bedroom. I'll concentrated on the kidlit shelf to attempt to make this possible.

Of course, I also have the forty or so unread library books cluttering up my shelves, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

The first book today, chosen because it was on top, was a tiny mystery book, The Kidnapped King, which is part of Ron Roy's A-Z Mysteries series. I've shelved dozens of these for my kids' elementary school library, but I think the only other one I read was an emergency J book for an alphabetical challenge. It's a cute little story with large print and short chapters, following three kids as they solve a problem. The problem was actually rather Gothic -- a visiting wealthy prince disappears from a guest room, but luckily the kids find him before my imagination could paint the grim reality. I suppose children wouldn't find it that shocking, but I have to say I don't remember Encyclopedia Brown dealing with tough felonies like this.

Wow, looking at the Barnes & Noble page I see that the NOOK version costs more than the print. That's crazy talk! My niece saw me carrying the book out of the house this morning and recommended it to me; she was quite impressed that she had read it before me. Apparently she figures I've read just about anything she might try.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Creepy Guy: Gabriel's Ghost

I've been watching Felicia Day's online book club, Vaginal Fantasies, and their last pick was Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair, which I read a few days after they discussed it. So I was partly primed to beware of creepiness from their conversation, but then the reason I hadn't finished it yet was because I was so annoyed by the hero's careful hoarding of the truth.

From his first appearance on the page, Sully spent so much time boasting about how bodacious he was is and how he's sure to win the body of Chaz (the heroine) that he never had time to deliver any useful information (which monsters were hunting them, what modifications he's made to the star ship drive, small details like that).  Then when a crisis happens, he's suddenly all "no time to talk -- just trust me!" When Chaz complains about this, he gets all sad, tells her Another Dark Secret or insists that he can never reveal his Dark Secrets, so she has to comfort him, which uses up all the time they could spend bringing her up to speed on whatever arbitrary decisions he's made lately.

Also, he calls her "Chazzie-girl" and spends all his time ignoring her and belittling her in between his useless professions of love and her constant displays of competence. Well, relative competence.  And I hadn't even gotten to his true awfulness, which the book club complained of.  It wasn't so much that he kept secrets from her -- he was honest about the fact that he couldn't bear any questions and Chaz accepted that. But he would do things to her and conceal that, and then be all angsty when she got mad and make her comfort him for being so sad about being a tool. Yick!

I have enjoyed later Sinclair sci-fi romances, but in this one I felt Chaz ended up with a deeply untrustworthy man.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Space Wars: Wanderlust & Grimspace

I found a space opera that I'm enjoying enough to keep reading on my NOOK; although not earth shattering literature (either in beauty or amazing plot fireworks) it has good page turning (sliding? do e-pages turn) and a fun bunch of characters. Ann Aguirre'Sirantha Jax series has proven my favorite of all her work that I've encountered.

GrimspaceI read the first one, Grimspace, for Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy book club. It was the back up selection, and I read it while visiting my Dad because I wasn't enjoying the main pick at all. I liked the snarky bits, and how long it took her to figure out that Marsh could hear her when she thought about him (and she mostly thought threats and insults). I liked how they killed off the alien baby, because I didn't think Aguirre'd dare do that, and I liked how Marsh got all jealous when he thought she was going to sleep with the wrong pirate (that would be the one who was not him). These were all excellent things to have in an airplane book.

I didn't like how people would drag her about, not tell her things, and then blame her when she did something wrong. Hey, if you kidnap someone, don't yell at her for spilling blood in an escape attempt because you forgot to mention the native creatures that attack when that happens. Maybe avoid kidnapping strangers is a better lesson to learn there? 

Since the first book went down so easy, and the library has them all waiting for ebook checkout, I ordered up the next book, Wanderlust.

Wanderlust coverBad: Protagonist Jax now seems very passive. She repeatedly says she'll have to lead because her crew mates somehow look to her for direction, but actually she mainly reacts instead of taking initiative. Part of it is because of her wasting illness and part of it is the bizarre and active plots of all about her, but the result is that she rarely makes plans or acts on them.

Good: She doesn't sit about whinging but deals with her situation. She has a new and strong sense of self and refuses to hand that over to her mother or her boyfriend. When she hesitates to commit to March because of her possibly terminal illness, she also refuses to take his man pain on herself -- she doesn't want to be dependent on someone else, even if he would like to be essential to him. And she won't change her mind just because this makes him sad. Yet she allows herself to love him and to let him make his own decisions. I loved it that he stayed behind to fight a soul-destroying war and promised to try to catch her up later, and that she agreed and left anyway -- it's such a refreshing twist in a romance -- two adults respecting each other as people even when they disagree or have different goals.

The plot still seems rather convoluted; I have no idea why the people hoping the mission succeeds picked her as ambassador since she has no qualifications or even any demonstrated ability (see war raging on.  I'm not even sure why the people hoping for Jax to fail bother interfering, since she seems so unlikely to complete any diplomatic move; she's more likely to accidentally cause a mortal insult while looking for a bathroom. For a while I thought I had those groups confused (pro-mission people were the ones kidnapping/assassinating her, anti-mission people protected her), but that was wrong. Maybe this will become clearer in the next book. And I do want to read the next book, and my library is happy to oblige me.

Lay On For Reading!

This week I rested my eyeballs a bit after the fun of the reading challenge last weekend. My nephew came in from out of town and we held our annual Boffer Party, which involves running around and whacking each other with padded swords. I got to use the bow and arrow and even managed to hit some people, which is unusual and fun.

I finished a few books, but clearly nothing like last week:

  • Something To Hold, Katherine Schlick Noe. I picked it up because the setting was Oregon, but I'm glad I read it even though I finished a different Oregon book a few weeks ago.
  • The Ultimates 2 (Vol 2), Mark Miller. To honor the Avengers.
  • An Accidental Goddess, Linnea Sinclair. Because I didn't like her other book.
  • Icefall, Matthew J. Kirby. My favorite book this week.
I also went through two apology poem books, Joyce Sidman's This Is Just to Say and Gail Levine's Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It, both based on William Carlos William's plum apology poem. I much preferred Levine's take on this, which was frankly non-apologetic and a lot of fun, while I found Sidman's fake children rather treacly. Also, I find that poetry gets weak if the author cuts a lot of corners (a sonnet with eight lines, or a limerick that doesn't rhyme, for example), and Sidman in her persona as a bunch of kids lets them slack off.

What am I still reading? At least I have actually been reading most of them, even if not productively. TBR books are from my To Be Read list, and RML books are Reading My Library picks. Fourteen books aren't as bad as it seems; five of them are in my reading bag, two on my NOOK, two audio books for the car, and the rest I just dabble at.
  • Willie Mays, The Life, The Legend, James S. Hirsch. TBR He's up in the major leagues now.
  • Infamous Scribblers, Eric Burns. TBR Wow, I hadn't known about the Hamilton sex scandals.
  • The Clockwork Three, Matthew Kirby. RML. I'm glad the fiddler got a square meal.
  • The Otherworldies, Jennifer Kogler. RML. The girl on the cover is about five years older than the girl in the story, which I guess balances last week's Galactarian Legacy, which reversed the problem.
  • The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller. Must steal this back from seventh grader.
  • Paper Covers Rock, Jenny Hubbard. NOOK. I'm a bit tired of boarding school boys after 100 pages.
  • Phoenix In Flight, Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge. NOOK I won the sequel (I'm so lucky!) so I bought the first.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  I lost this, ironically enough, but now it's found again.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen.  Ignored this week.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. Also ignored.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Untouched.
  • Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx. If I keep putting this down after each break, it will take me years to read this.
  • The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Jeanne Birdsall. Audio. Marshmallow roasting.
  • The Ring of Solomon, Jonathan Stroud. Audio. With 7th grader. CD 2. We do love the narrator.
I'll go sign in on the update posts that Book Journey does, where everyone notes what they read, are reading, and intent to read. Teach Mentor Texts echos this with a concentration on children's books, and I mentioned the two poetry books just for them.

What will I read next? I need to clear out my library shelf so I can attempt to read a book off my to-read bookcase every day this summer vacation, which starts on Friday. I plan to concentrate on the kidlit shelf to make this feasible. This means some ancient books as well as the leftover Best of the Best books.

  1. Cybils: 61/73. I loved Icefall.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 13/21. No change.
  3. Where Am I Reading?:  23/50. Need to review Vermont, Montana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. I also read a Washington D.C. book.
  4. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. No change, but a qualified book is out from the library. I haven't read it yet, though I did read a few nonfiction books.
  5. Reading My Library:  I'm reading two right now. On Ks, with an M in waiting.
  6. Eclectic Challenge: 10/12. Need to review 3, though.
  7. Best of the Best: 25/25. I'm almost done with #26. I think I'll just keep going, only in a less rushed way.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lost Kids: Shattered Bonds

Shattered Bonds: The Color Of Child Welfare

Dorothy Roberts' book Shattered Bonds gives a damning description of the foster care system, describing in chilling detail how the government is willing to pay social workers to find and "rescue" neglected children, and then pay again for foster homes, but not to pay assistance to the impoverished parents to help them provide acceptable conditions in the first place. Roberts convincingly explains how the adversarial approach of child welfare followed the acceptance of Black families onto the welfare rolls; instead of supporting white widows heroically bringing up their families suddenly tax payers found themselves bankrolling Black welfare queens and their endless hordes of misused offspring, according to the new story society and the government told itself.

Racism permeates the system throughout, from judging which families need help and which get their children removed (it helps to be white to get help, but Blacks are more likely to have their children yanked). It's harder for Black families to get their children back, both in identical circumstances and because of features in the Black community; social workers tend to tread the more widespread use of relatives for childcare among Black families as evidence of parental neglect. Later, if children in foster care come in contact with the law, at every stage Black youths suffer stronger consequences.

There aren't easy answers; Blacks over representation in poverty means that they will be over represented in child abuse, neglect and other foster child situations. I can't argue that parents strung out on drugs are often dangerous to their children, but the many cases of social worker abuse and insanity make it clear that something is broken.

The book itself is ten years old, which leaves me wondering what has changed in the interval.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lonely girl Weedflower

WeedflowerCynthia Kadohata won a Newbery medal for a previous book, so when I hit her shelf on my Reading My Library browsing I grabbed another of her titles: Weedflower. This one is a historical book set during the Japanese interment
during World War II. The orphaned protagonist and her little brother live with her uncle's family, and when the men are sent to a prison camp and the rest of the family rounded up and sent to an interment camp she feels the loss of her home all over again.

Weedflower's camp is the one located on a Indian reservation, and she meets some of the people who are displaced to make room for the Japanese. We also watch as the fabric of her family is slowly frayed away -- children no longer show respect and the families tend to live parallel lives that rarely intersect.

As an adult, I can see how Kadohata hits educational points about World War II: the Japanese interment as well as the injustices on Indian reservations; the life and stress of the camps as well as the prejudices against the Japanese even before the round-up, the conflict between traditional Japanese culture and the different standards of American life. But although I would have soaked up these facts and impressions as a child, my attention would have stayed on the girl whose garden won a prize, who helped her friend learn about farming, who wrestled with her fears both for the cousin who wanted to enlist and the one bitter about white prejudice. Although not as powerful as Kira-Kira, I still enjoyed this selection.

Showing Off Our River Library

Renton Library
We had a special guest for our library visit, since my nephew is in town to help celebrate P's belated birthday party. We will be boffering on Saturday, so please send wishes for a less wet morning. Anyway, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and we zipped in and out fairly quickly.

Now that I've finished the 48 Hour Read, and gotten my 25 books for the Best of the Best challenge, I'm hoping to start whittling down my library list. I think I'll start next week.

This week I somehow had a full library hold shelf, and then I picked up five books for my RML quest. I'm starting to fall behind, so I think I'll hold off on getting more books until I finish all these, though.

What did I get? Well, the hold shelf offered me:
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  • This Is Just To Say, Joyce Sidman. We enjoyed Gail Levine's false apology poems so much we wanted to try more, but these are true apology forms and don't use the traditional structure. Humph.
  • A Child's Delight, Noel Perrin. Essays about children's literature.
  • Amazon, Hena Khan and David Borgenicht. For P, who likes to be ready for anything.
  • Red Glove, Holly Black. Cybils Finalist.
  • Warp Speed, Lisa Yee. Cybils Finalist.
  • Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick. Cybils Finalist.
And then I went to the children's section to pick up the next books for my Reading My Library Quest. The current section only had four books, so I grabbed them, and then noticed that one had been misshelved -- it didn't belong on the shelf I found it on. But now I wanted to read it! What a tough ethical dilemma. That's why I ended up with five books:
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  • The Lions of Little Rock, White girl's experience during school integration.
  • The Snow Pony, Alison Lester. I picked it because it's Australian, but I just realized that I've read and enjoyed many of her picture books.
  • Year of the Tiger, Alison Lloyd. The archer on the cover pleased me.
  • The Undrowned Child, Michelle Lovric. I actually checked this out once before, from the New Books section, but didn't get around to reading it. This is my chance to redeem myself.
  • The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, Tracy Mack. I like Baker Street Irregular books.
This brings me to a total of um, 49 items out on my card, plus a few ebooks that I'm in denial about. The good news is that this is not higher than last week! The bad news is that it isn't lower, either.  Oops. So no prize for me this week. Sigh. At least I'm much lower than my running age, and maybe soon I'll be under my actual age. I need some more birthdays.

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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Angels In LOOOOVE: Angels' Flight

angels' flight
Nalini Singh gathers four stories from her Guildhunter series together to look at action and sex in Angels' Flight.

The first, "Angels' Pawn", actually skips the sex to leave the couple in a state of high Unresolved Sexual Tension. She's a vampire hunter, he's a vampire whom she often hunts, and together they fight crime help the archangel keep order among his minions. In between solving the case, they admire each other's bodies.

"Angels' Judgement" gives us the backstory on secondary character Sara as she ascends to leadership of the Guild and acquires her ginormous lover Deacon. It's interesting that the woman in both these stories has more power in the relationship and in their professional life. This time the story is long enough for them to have sex, and I like the way that Elena walks away from him because her job is more important. Luckily Deacon quits his job so they can be together again -- HOT.

"Angel's Wolf" has the first male lead, as a traumatized vampire comes to work for a powerful but lonely angel, and they heal each other. How sweet, and rather dull. I had read this one a few weeks ago in a shared anthology, so I didn't bother rereading.

"Angels' Dance," the longest story, has one of the strangest conflicts -- it's nonexistent. Jessamy is a crippled angel whose wings don't work, Galen is a buff guy who doesn't like to wear shirts. They fall instantly in love but then Galen worries that she only feels gratitude because he flies her around. So they don't talk to each other for a year or so, despite living in the same large building. They don't even argue, they just spontaneously start ignoring each other so they can be depressed in alternating story sections. Then for no reason they get back together and live happily ever after, including some spectacular sex-in-flight (that's the title dance). As an anthropology-style slice of angel community, it's interesting, but as a romance it's rather pointless.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mormon Women: Heaven Is Here and The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

I recently read two memoirs about Mormon women in their early twenties who live radically different lives bound only by the strong religious beliefs. Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson chronicles the life of a Mormon housewife whose idyllic life with her four children and temple-wed husband takes a painful detour when she and her husband suffer severe burns and require months of therapy before leaving the hospital.  Thousands of miles away, Elna Baker's memoir The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance describes her life trying to start a career as an actress in New York but wondering whether being a Mormon actually precludes marriage or possibly would make any marriage she undertook intolerable.

I'm someone who doesn't stay close to my childhood religion; my children aren't baptised as Roman Catholics, I don't attend church regularly, and I think the Pope is frequently wrong. But I know many people who draw great strength and kindness from their devotion, so I don't think religious people are foolish, let alone alien, bigoted and cloistered. But I'm interested in how people can put their trust in powerful religious structures such as the Mormon Church, and especially how women find peace with the expectations laid out for them. These two books show women facing radically different challenges but still staying within the strictures of their church, although Nielson feels much more comfortable there than Baker does.

Check out the digital Preview of my bookNielson marries the man her prayers tell her is for her, and skips college to start raising their family together.  The accident sidelines them for a while, as they have to relearn how to survive before they can care for their children again. Their families rally around them and prayer helps cement them to each other and to their chosen life, which they slowly reclaim.  Her memoir consistently refers to the comfort and strength Mormonism gives her, and how powerful she finds the prophecies and blessings made for her.  In contrast, Baker finds her prayers rejected -- even the man she feels God has chosen for her gets away (and she's actually a bit relieved), and the man she thinks she loves has the fatal flaw of not being Mormon. Her life has many more temptations -- she lives in New York, trying to date and still stay pure, but more often finding that what she thought was true doesn't match up to what she sees and does, and that the promises of her blessings don't pan out. Yet the warmth and love of her family pull her back to the Mormon church. It's clear that to both these women the building block of their religion is a traditional family, and without that, Baker finds the foundations less stable, yet her sense of self pulls her away from Mormonism.

Neither story is complete yet, although Baker is on a path of greater changes and conflicts. Both were written with a strong sense of the author's personality, strengths and flaws. I received Heaven is Here as an ARC from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, while somehow Baker's book appeared on my TBR list in 2010. I really need to start giving myself notes about why I'm putting books there...