Monday, February 27, 2017

TTT: Ten Blogging Related Thoughts (Well, nine plus an American Girl Doll's Insta Account)

The delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly list challenge.  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check them out!

HOWEVER, they are on a well-deserved hiatus.  And I am on a less-well-deserved slump.  So here is a list of ten things I do want to let you know about the blog these days.

1.  I'm going to do a February wrap-up.  Soon.  I think.

2.  I read I Hunt Killers this weekend, and it was really good, but it was also much creepier than I'd ever expect a YA thriller to be, and I had to go watch Finding Dory on Netflix after I finished so I'd be able to get to sleep that night.

3.  I plan to join the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life Challenge for March.  I did it last year and really enjoyed it.  Even though I haven't put ANY thought into it this year, and in fact just clicked away from writing this post in order to go sign up for the event, I'm still going to go for it.

4.  I did some math today and realized I've spent over $780 on books for my classroom library this year.  Which is insane.  Especially since I won that grant for 500 books that I received last summer, so it's not like there aren't any books in the room.

5. I went to a tech conference last week and now I can't stop bullet journaling, which is hilarious, since usually tech conferences don't get you engaged in hands-on, real-world activities so much.

6.  I want to join a Twitter chat--either the Nerdy Book Club's #titletalk or maybe #TwoJennsBookClub, but they are all set up for when the East Coasters have gotten the kids to bed, which means they're at 5:00 my time, which is when I'm driving home and/or transitioning into family life.  Not a good time to go stare at my screen for an hour.

7. The Winemaker and I watched all of Wallender (the Kenneth Branagh version) recently.  I'd only read two of the books, but I really liked them, and this adaptation is pretty much fantastic.  Bleak though.  The Winemaker also watched Chamber of Secrets with the kids in the middle of this and had trouble wrapping his brain around Professor Lockhart and Kurt Wallender being the same actor.

8. I'm also going to put together a post soon about our World Read-Aloud Day experience.  My students Skyped with four different authors.  They were all super awesome.  My kids were...themselves, so I have a few good stories.

9.  I recently picked up a Large Print copy of a book in the library, because sometimes you can avoid long holds waits by doing so, and I realized--hey, this is actually easier on my eyes.  SO OLD.  I'm contemplating stockpiling LP books before the next 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, because my eyes felt all fuzzy during the October one.

10.  I let my ten year old start an Instagram account for her American Girl Doll.  No, that has nothing to do with books.  It just cracks me up.

Friday, February 24, 2017

In Which I Attempt to Explain Why I Have 82 Goodreads Shelves

In the beginning (2008), when I was neither a blogger nor a reading teacher, I had the same three shelves that everyone starts with: Read, To-Read, and Currently Reading.  I've never been a big fan of "Currently Reading," as I tend to read too fast to bother keeping up with it.  It also seems a bit cursed to me; any book I do take the time to add to that shelf tends to never get finished.  If it were called "books I feel like I should read but actually feel rather lukewarm about," it would be more accurate.

I soon saw that you could add categories.  I couldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure the first few I added were Mystery (because I read a lot of mysteries), Abandoned Midstream (because I'd never heard of DNF), Read Repeatedly as a Kid (because I initially tried to put all the books I ever remembered reading onto Goodreads), and Other Worlds (because I didn't realize how silly it was for me to combine every sci fi, fantasy, dystopian, magical realism, and other type of speculative fiction into one giant shelf).  I'm still regretting that last one, as it has 317 books on it, and I dread the idea of going through and re-sorting them all into more specific shelves.

From then, I've added shelves sporadically and spontaneously.  My additions fall into three general categories.

1.  Genre and subject matter
Professional Reading, Poetry, Historical Fiction, Immigration, Bullying, Memoir & Biography, Adoption & Parenting, etc.

2.  Type of material
Picture Book, Graphic Novel, Audiobook, Novel in Verse, etc.

3.  Note to self
These are categories that help me to organize my reading and book buying (Wish List, In My Classroom Library, Mt. TBR 2017, etc) or are purely subjective comments about various books (Made Me Laugh, Feminist as Hell, Didn't Live up to Premise, etc.)

Sometimes things overlap.  If I have a Call a Doctor shelf and a Mental Illness and Differences shelf, where does a book with a protagonist who's autistic go?  Sometimes I start a very specific shelf, and then neglect it.  Other times I adapt to a shelf without really registering that change in the shelf name.  I have a shelf called Bullying unit 2014, which consists of books that my department used in, yes, a literature circle unit around the topic of bullying (guess when?).   But since then, whenever I've read a book that seems like it would be a good fit for a middle school bullying unit, I add it to that list, even though it wasn't in our original syllabus.  Somewhat similarly, when I first served as a Cybils judge last year, I put the books I had to read in a Cybils shelf, but since then I've added other books that I heard about because they were short-listed or winners for any Cybils category.  It's a bit messy, as there are plenty of books that I'd already read that have been honored in the 11 years of Cybils awards, so the shelf really reflects books I heard about specifically through the Cybils website.  And then there's the Award Winner shelf.  I was thinking things like the Newbery or the National Book award, but Goodreads helpfully informs you when a book has won some obscure local award as well--so do those books make the shelf or not?

Whenever I get to dithering too much about that type of issue, I remind myself why I have this system in the first place. This is not a professional task, and it's not something I have to make clearly navigable for others.   I just want to track my reading and see what my trends are.  I want to be able to find books that I only half-remember later on.  I want to sort the thousands of books I interact with into more manageable groups.  And sometimes, I just want to browse my titles and Goodread's resources and enjoy myself.  One fine day, sorting out that Other Worlds shelf will be exactly the kind of precise, yet untaxing, project I'm in the mood for.

If you're on Goodreads, how many shelves do you have?  Which are your biggest?  Besides that giant Other Worlds shelf, I have 572 on my YA shelf and 372 on my In My Classroom Library shelf.  Do you find the shelving system useful overall?  

Also, take my poll!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mini Reviews: Tell Me Something Real, The Sound of Wild Snails Eating, Period Eight

I still haven't been blogging much.  But I have been reading, and while I haven't been writing up full reviews, I did jot down my thoughts on several books over on Goodreads.  I'm sharing them here as well now, in batches.

Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin

This book's cover is not doing it any favors. I picked it up at the library because I vaguely remembered hearing some positive buzz about it. I liked some aspects of it, and read it in one fell swoop between work and dinner. It's engaging and all. But even without knowing there was supposed to be a twist (which it says on the jacket), I caught on pretty early as to what that twist would be. And as someone who was a kid in 1976, I felt that while the clothing might have been described accurately, if they'd taken out all mention of the year (and those fashions), I would have thought it was contemporary, just from how people talked.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

I read this for a specific reason. Some review or TTT list made it sound necessary, and I put it on hold at the library and got it almost right away. But now I can't remember where I heard about it, even though it couldn't have been more than two weeks ago.

At any rate, I read a few chapters before realizing that the author/narrator is a woman, then I got caught up in trying to decide if that changed my view of the story at all. (Not really.) It's just the right length--the first time I sat down with it, I got a bit bored and wondered if I'd finish it, but the second time I sat down with it, I finished it. If it had been a big tome, I think I wouldn't have ever given it that second chance. It's the memoir of an invalid, but she's very oblique about what is going on with her, focusing far more on the life and adventures of a woodland snail a friend places into a terrarium at her bedside. Bailey does a good job at weaving the gastropod research she did then and later into descriptions of that specific snail, and there are plenty of surprising revelations about mollusks, at least for a not-very-sciencey person like me.

Period Eight by Chris Crutcher

Not Chris Crutcher's best, but still a damn sight better than most.  All of his hallmarks are there--the dedicated swimmer, the flawed mentor, that one girl who's smarter than all the guys put together, the absent parents and the awful parents, and the guy in the middle, our protagonist, trying to figure out how to be a decent human being in a crappy world, with no more natural heroism than anyone else has been handed.  Set all of this in a small town in the inland NW, take a few potshots at racists and other types of bigots, and give everyone a few terrific comebacks and figures of speech, and you're comfortably in Crutcher land.  To this he adds a mystery/thriller aspect that's not as typical of his work, and since the first scene features what is clearly a teenaged prostitute leaving a hotel room, you know shit is going to get ugly.  (Oh--and cussing.  Crutcher is famous for his cussing.)  I didn't get as emotionally involved as I did in Whale Talk or Deadline, but it's up there with Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.  In other words--this one made me laugh, but it didn't quite make me cry.   Still worth my time.