Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kidlit Tuesday: Kids On Their Own

Since I'm about three months late, I'm trying to group some of the kidlit I've read into loose groups. This weeks batch is books about children, almost exclusively girls, left without parental support for some reason. For some reason I haven't read books lately where the boys are orphaned. Maybe I just read more books about girls? After all, we are more interesting, right?

Legends of Zita the SpacegirlCyborg (The Clone Codes Series #2)In some of these, the plot is an adventure and the parents are gone mostly so the kid can act heroically. Although there is some worry about the lost ones, clearly they need to be out of the way. Zita doesn't seem to trouble about her worried folks back on the home dimension, and Leanne, friend of the Cyborg,  doesn't have a personality as much as a plot purpose, so her worries about her arrested mom come and go depending on what the plot would prefer. My kids never worry about the missing parents in these books either, which concerns me a bit. I ask them if they'd notice if I were gone, and they say probably, although if magic or robots start appearing they might be too busy. Fair enough.

May B.Summer of the Gypsy MothsIn increasingly emotionally complex books, the parents are removed in a more realistic way. In Summer of the Gypsy Moths, two twelve year old girls desperately want to avoid foster care and so they conceal the death of their elderly guardian and survive alone in a house for a summer. May B.'s parents and employers manage to abandon her in a lonely sod house on the Kansas prairie with no way to get out or call for help. These last two are a good contrast, as May is capable of all the tasks she needs for survival, but is unwillingly alone and desperately lonely, while the lesser skilled Gypsy Moth girls not only have each other for support but could end their isolation at any time by admitting the truth. So while May cooks and manages and desperately tries to contact anyone, the Gypsy girls constantly fend off well-meaning adults to keep their isolation going while scrambling to feed themselves.

Cyborg: Clone Wars 2, Patricia, Frederick, & John McKissack. The writing is uneven enough to make me wish the author above had been pushier with her coauthors -- the characters' motivations and actions were often inexplicable (why didn't Houston tell anyone their ally was lying? Why did Leanne suddenly decide to give herself up without discussing it with her friends? Why did Toby suddenly show up a few pages before his help was essential?) It's like they think story doesn't matter if you are doing SF, especially SF with a message.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke.  My kids and I reallly like these graphic novels, with their attractive art and fast moving story lines. I found it interesting that Zita makes some big mistakes (stealing a spaceship) although my kids agree with her that it was just necessary. I also worry about her parents back home, which doesn't trouble the boys at all. We'll keep looking for more Zita.

The Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Sara Pennypacker. Classic story in the tradition of My Side of the Mountain, the Tillerman cycle, and other independent child tales, with two young girls fending for themselves after their foster parent dies. As an adult, I found the dead body creepier than my younger self would've, but the authentic voices of the girls and their often hilarious attempts to cover up their solitude more than made up for it. Very different from the Clementine books, but still good.

May B., Caroline Starr Rose. RML. Ooo, I strongly dislike poem novels. So I got mad when she did something silly even though she was only a kid. I liked that she went off on her own, even though only a coincidence saved her life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What Have I Been Reading Since I Got Old?

I guess what happened on my birthday was that I got too old to blog. Then I remembered that you are only as old as you feel, which I guess makes me about three, judging by my attitude towards chores and such. And three year olds can definitely blog, right? So here I am, accounting for my reading for March, April and May.

One thing I'm trying to do is focus my reading. Since I have a new and beautiful reading bag that is too small for the miniature library I tend to tote about, I'm trying to concentrate on one library book and one personal book, plus my NOOK for emergencies. Since my library pile recently burgeoned alarmingly, I'm hoping this helps me get through a lot quickly.

I'll go sign in at Book Journey's round-up of what people have read, are reading, and will read. I'm also heading for  Teach Mentor Texts since I read many youthful books.

This week I read:
  • Bob, Son of Battle, Alfred Ollivant. A dog story annoyingly crammed with impenetrable dialect and motiveless adult villains. I might have put up with it in my animal-story loving youth, but I would have been wasting my time. But I'm glad I finished this summer reading left-over.
  • The Iron King, Julie Kagawa. YA. NOOK. The main character spent the entire book shell shocked and ignorant, which was believable but not enjoyable.
  • Cold Cereal, Adam Rex. Kidlit. Strong comedy but a bit weak on characterization. Part of my Reading My Library quest.
  • A Dog's Way Home, Bobbie Pyron. Kidlit. A more enjoyable dog story, but I found the last fifty or so pages of coincidence-ridden drama a bit over the top. Another RML book.
  • The Tricksters, Margaret Mahy. YA. Interesting characters but the fantasy vs reality themes didn't mesh for me. Another summer reading left-over.
  • May B., Caroline Starr Rose. Kidlit. My distaste for poem novels kept me from enjoying it. Another RML book.
  • Deadly Games, Lindsay Buroker. NOOK. A fun romp in the Emperor's Edge series.
  • Olivia Kidney: Secret Beneath the City, Ellen Potter. Kidlit. Lots of quirky characters, but the combination of a main character who disdains reading and starting at the third book kept me from enjoying it. RML pick.
  • Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold (audio). I loved it, and my kids were happy to have it on in the car. I heard a different version on a long car ride, so it brought back happy memories.
  • Paranormal Properties, Tracy Lane. Kidlit. I'm having my kids read this to get their opinions.
  • Living Hell, Catherine Jinks. Kidlit. Australian book with the kind of depressing ending I used to get from John Christopher. I miss the good old days when happy endings weren't assured.
Earlier in May I read:
  • Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, Nancy Atherton. In these cosy mysteries, not only are there no deaths but there are usually no bad guys.
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman. YA. NOOK. A Cybils finalist. I liked it.
  • Necessity's Child, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.  A solid Liadan entry.
  • An Apple for the Creature (short stories), ed. Charlaine Harris. I got it for the Sookie story, but I enjoyed most of them.
  • Freak Show, James St James. YA. I was never sure where the author painted the reality line, but it was an interesting book with a great voice.
  • The Con Job, Matt Forbeck. For my Leverage addiction.
  • The Song of Scarabaeus, Sara Creasy. Fun Vaginal Fantasy pick.
  • A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny. Real life book club book.
  • Ivy and Bean Make the Rules, Annie Barrows. Kidlit. Cybils finalist.
  • Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris. Sookie settles down.
  • Marty McGuire Digs Worms!, Kate Messner. Kidlit. Cybils finalist, with a foolish kid.
  • Aftermath, Ann Aguirre. I like a SF Romance that is willing to mess up the romance.
  • Ghost Planet, Sharon Lynn Fisher. The main Vaginal Fantasy book, but I had real consent issues with the romance and then the science got confusing.
In April I read: 
  • Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, Susan Goldman Rubin. NOOK. From last year's Best of the Best YA books.
  • The Young Man and the Sea, Rodman Philbrick. Kidlit. RML pick.
  • Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst. YA. Cybils finalist. My older son liked it a lot.
  • Wild Magic, Tamora Pierce. Kidlit. For our April family book club.
  • Dark Currents, Lindsay Buroker. NOOK. Fun second book in Emperor's Edge series.
  • Impulse, Steven Gould. YA.  The guy from Jumper has a teenager; life is just. Now conveniently chosen as our family book club book for May.
  • Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler. YA. Best of the best pick, which I hated. I don't think children should be encouraged/allowed to date until they are twenty or so.
  • Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch, Nancy Atherton. Wow, there were actually some non-goodhearted people in this one, which was a bit of a shock. Most of them were merely misled, though.
  • Bossypants, Tina Fey (audio). Lost of fun, even though I've never seen her TV show.
  • How Clarrisa Burden Learned to Fly, Connie May Fowler. Good book about a woman growing into herself.
  • The Emperor's Edge, Lindsay Buroker. NOOK. Fun fantasy book we read at our real book club.
  • Shards of Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold (audio). Good car book.
  • Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Sara Pennypacker. Kidlit. RML pick that I enjoyed although the situation was a bit overwhelming for the characters.
  • Kris Longknife: Furious, Mike Shepherd. I can never tell whether Shepherd is making a statement about strange female behavior or if he thinks this is true to life.
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews. YA. Cybils finalist that is not quite as depressing as the title implies.
  • The War With the Newts, Karel Apek. Old SF that loses something because it was so timely.
  • Blackwood, Gwenda Bond. YA. Intriguing paranormal looking at the lost colonists of Roanoke.
  • The Serpent's Shadow, Rick Riordan. Final book in the Egyptian trilogy. OK but I wish Sadie had been less air-headed.
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, Eleanor Estes. Kidlit. A bit too slow to hold my interest.
And back in March, after my birthday, I read:
  • Bloody Jack, L.A. Meyer. Kidlit. Girl from the streets of London puts on trousers and joins the Navy.
  • Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery. YA. NOOK. From Best of the Best lists.
  • Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi (audio). The boys really liked this one.
  • Lioness Rampant, Tamora Pierce. Kidlit. We read the whole quartet for family book club.
  • The King of Attolia, Megan Whelan Turner. YA. A reread of an old favorite.
  • The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Tamora Pierce. Kidlit. Alana heads into the desert.
  • Read-Aloud Poems, ed. Gloria Hale. Kidlit. To my kids' relief, I did not follow the advice in the title (much).
  • In the Hand of the Goddess, Tamora Pierce. Kidlit. Alana learns to juggle career and boys.
  • Soup's Hoop, Robert Newton Peck. Kidlit. Leftover from the summer. Cute book about boys in New England back in the day.
  • Naked in Death, J.D. Robb. I reread this for the Vaginal Fantasy book group.
  • Steel's Edge, Ilona Andrews. I had some problems with the pacing, but in general it delivered a fun, action-filled tale of magic and partnership.
What am I currently reading? Technically I have 15 books open, but really I'm only trying to read three, plus a book of short stories I'm dipping in.  And the audio book.  The bookmarks left in the others will be tackled in their own turns, plus the books I'm just ambling my way through rather than seriously trying to read.
  • Half Brother, Kenneth Oppel. I like the parts with the chimp brother better than the parts with the other humans.
  • The Lottery, Patricia Wood. What happens when you win?
  • Some of the Best From Tor.Com 2011. (NOOK) This is from my favorite review site.
  • The Wake of the Lorelei Lee, L.A. Meyer (audio). Disc two, and finally the plot starts.
  • Keep Me Forever, Rosemary Laurey. Dipper. Nice change of pace.
  • The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, Martin Gardner. Dipper. I like his thoughts on prayer.
  • The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens. Dipper. Wow, lawyers make life depressing.
  • Senrid, Sherwood Smith. Dipper. Things are looking bad for the good guys.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Prairie Years, Carl Sandburg. Time to think of marriage, Abe.
  • A Parent's Guide to Developmental Delays,  Laurie Lecomer. How to spot various physical difficulties in the early grades. Wow, I should have read this when Susan gave it to me.
What will I read next week? From the library I'm looking at Death Comes to Pemberly and How To Save a Life, and from my shelves I'm hoping to finish Tessie. On my NOOK I have The Geography of Bliss and The Duchess War.

2013 Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 26/74. I finished Easy Readers and Early Chapter books (and I don't understand where they are drawing that line), Fiction Picture Books, and I've assembled all the younger graphic novels reading for reading.
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 24. I've now read at least three books from North Carolina -- what's up with that?
  3. Crazy Quilt Colors: 5/9. No luck yet. I counted "bloody" for red?
  4. Science Book Challenge: Need to re-sign up, especially since Righteous Minds would count.
  5. Reading My Library: Started last block of juvenile fiction, R-Z.
  6. Best of the Best 2012: 40/25. I'm not doing this years, since I'm still working on last year's list.
  7. Summer Reading Goal: I need to finish up the last few so I can start again in June.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Library Troubles and I'm Here Again!

Renton Library I hesitate to say "I'm back" because who knows when I'll post next, but I'm here to celebrate my library visit.  I had a fun and restrained time at the library, which is good because a few weeks ago I had to kill time waiting for kids at two different places, and I slaughtered the minutes both times at libraries with alluring shelves that left me with many tempting pages at hand.

Today I only picked up one extra book to go with the four books on my hold shelf, and two holds are really for my kids, not me. So I shouldn't really count them. And it was time to refresh my Reading My Library options, so that was another six books. Hmm. Well, it could been worse -- it could have been raining!

From my hold shelf and the new arrivals I picked up:
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  • Clementine and the Spring Trip, Sara Pennypacker. I just saw this on the book store and put it on my TBR list, and there it was in New Arrivals! My library rocks.
  • Endgame, Ann Aguirre. The last in the Sarantha Jax series, which for some reason my library does not have in its e-book collection, so I'm switching formats here.
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple. Our next book club book (not this one, but the next one.)
  • One Dead Spy, Nathan Hale. My eighth grader just read a Nathan Hale book from the Cybils list and he requested any others, so I got this for him.
  • The Dark Tide, Stephen Puleo. My sixth grader is doing a disaster report so we got this, although it came one day too late as he is now at his dad's place writing the report.

In my Reading My Library Quest I have entered the last block of Juvenile shelves. I tend to try to fill in holes in my 50-states challenge with these books so I'm swimming against my natural preference for fantasy and picking more realistic fiction, especially if the description tells me the country or state. From the six shelves housing authors from Ru - Sh I selected:
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  • Ordinary Magic, Caitlen Rubino-Bradley. I've seen this talked about a few times.
  • The Dreamer, Pam Munoz Ryan. I think this is on my TBR list, so bonus. Also, South America.
  • The White Giraffe, Lauren St. John. I need more Africa books.
  • Night of the Howling Dogs, Graham Salisbury. I like this author, and his books are set in Hawaii.
  • Smells Like Dog, Suzanne Selfors. Cute dog picture, and it's a farm boy so I'm hoping Midwest.
  • Blue Jasmine, Kashmira Sheth. Iowa City is Iowa, right?

I have a total of 56 things out on my library cards, which is a bit excessive, especially since only a few are CDs (4)  or short books (about 6) or things I got for my kids (about 3). So I forbade myself from buying any books, and I was really strict too. Sometimes I really hate me because I'm so mean.

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. And I think I'll sign up at Tynga's Stacking the Shelves, which asks for all the books acquired, which this week is just the library stuff.