Monday, October 26, 2015

TTT: A Handful of Bookish Scares

This week's Top Ten topic is the truly timely "Halloween Themed Freebie."  As always, we are graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Some people think haunted houses are fun.  That would not be me.

I was going to skip this week's theme, but decided to challenge myself.

Have I mentioned that I hate horror?

That I dislike being startled?  (Almost didn't make it through the first season of Buffy because they kept doing the "sudden jump from behind a dark corner" thing.)

That when the spooky music starts, I cover my face in my hands and peek between the bars of my fingers, because that allows me to maintain the "it's just a story" distance I need to survive the experience?

And yet--I have always loved mysteries, and I'm don't mean "Cozies."   Buffy became one of my all time favorite shows.  I live for the shocking twist, and I like it when my protagonists are in high stakes situations.

I think the main thing is, I don't mind reading about people in terrifying situations, but I myself don't want to be terrified.

That being said, here are seven  book-related frightening moments, because that's all I could come up with.

Seriously, the cover is freaking me out.
1.  I didn't read Stephen King's It because, like I said, I hate horror.  But I distinctly remember the girl on my hall who read it freshman year in college, and how jumpy she was the whole time she was reading it.  It really reinforced that this genre was not for me.

2.  I once made the mistake of reading a Patricia Cornwall mystery about a serial killer who was stalking young women who lived alone--when I was a young woman living alone.  Bad idea.

3.  On a similar note, I only tried true crime once.  I need that barrier of fiction in order to handle scary stuff.  It was Anne Rule's Ted Bundy biography, and probably empirically no more messed up than half the mysteries I've read.  But it was real (and local), and it freaked me the freak out.

My best friend in high school moved our senior year, but was able to keep attending our school.  I'd drive her home, past another local high school, and she'd want me to pick up the cute boys hitchhiking outside.  "Ted Bundy was good looking, too!" I'd tell her.

4.  When I was sixteen and a new driver, I was reading a chase scene set on hairpin curves in the Alps, and I realized that I was gripping the book harder and harder.  I may or may not have been trying to brake with my foot as well.  I believe the book was a Simon Templar "The Saint" book, but I have no idea which one.  I know that's not Halloween-scary, but fear is fear.

On the other hand, it was hard to find a cover
for this book that really captured its creepiness.
5. I was talking with my 20 something nephew a few years ago. The conversation was about how I hate horror but like paranormal stuff and thrillers and mysteries, and also how I can read about things I could never watch.  He suggested Let The Right One In, a Scandinavian vampire novel set in the bleak 1980s.  His dad expressed interest, and my nephew was all, "I don't think you would really get it, Dad."  So then I was super pleased with myself that he thought I was cool enough to read it.  It was extremely creepy, but good.  Not too scary for me.  I guess I like my horror like I like my spicy food--enough for flavor, but not so much it makes me cry.  (And people that like the "real stuff" think I'm a complete wimp.)

6.  Back to Stephen King (naturally)--in middle school I did read a book or two of his short stories, and I STILL remember the one where the guy is looking for his girlfriend, and hears a news report about a serial killer who's attacking young women, so he's kind of worried about her safety, and then he finally sees her and runs up to her BUT IT'S NOT HER AND HE'S SO SHOCKED AND DISAPPOINTED THAT HE MURDERS HER and you realize that HE is the killer, and that he's absolutely nuts, and then he wander off, all "I'd better go find my girlfriend before something bad happens to her."  I often look at books on my "read" list on Goodreads from a year ago and have no recollection of having read them, but I've remembered that story for over 30 years.

Really, any time you're in the mind of a killer it's kind of freaky for me.  Except maybe Dexter.  His brand of madness makes sense.

7.  I maintain that Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the most terrifying characters ever created.  In part because she's such an evil bitch, but even more so because she has complete power over her charges.  It goes beyond life and death--she controls their sanity, which is horrifying.  I was also extra freaked out because my mom did a rotation at the Oregon State Mental Hospital (where the  book is set) during her nurse's training in the early 1950s, and she said the book was pretty damn accurate.

This is what Halloween means to me. 
Okay, that's all I've got.  Happy Halloween! I'm going to eat a bunch of candy and not watch a single scary movie.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Look at what I got! Fun with Uppercase YA Book Subscription

When I started book blogging a few short months ago, I was a little confused by the Book Haul posts.  To me, it wasn't much different than the equally baffling youtube videos my 9 year old loves to watch, in which kids open Little Pony blind bags.  I should care about your stuff why?  But obviously, my daughter isn't the only person that does love to see what people got.

There are a few groups with whom I share my new books.  Most obviously, if I buy YA books, sooner or later they end up in my classroom.  I love to create a sense of excitement around them by holding raffles for who gets to read each book first.  It leverages everyone's desire to win contests into getting everyone to want to read the new books.

If I read a book I like, or find a new author or series that I enjoy, I will often tell my sisters.  Two of us are library users and one is a purchaser, so it's not so much "book haul" as book recommendations.  That being said, the copy of Gone Girl that I picked up at a used book store last summer has gone from one sister's house to our niece's house.  I have some other reader friends who I'll share titles with, and sometimes we even do White Elephant exchanges of books off our own shelves.

All of which is a super lengthy way of saying I feel a little weird about what I'm about to do, which is tell you about my Uppercase book shipments.  (We won't even get into my hangups about advertising for a company for free.  Suffice it to say that when designer jeans first hit in the late 1970s, my mom looked at the names on the rears and scoffed, 'Why should I pay to advertise their product?" and that's the attitude I inherited.)

BUT.  I do think these boxes are exciting.  Well, they're actually little bags that come in soft packages.  I've gotten two so far.  The first book was really, really good.  The second book was mediocre, but I can't expect every single choice to be exactly to my taste, right?

Alas, I did not photograph and Instagram the actual opening of the boxes, so you'll have to bear with me as I try to pull together some visuals after the fact.

SEPTEMBER--my first box.

THE BOOK: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
This was such a great surprise book.  I doubt I would have read it otherwise, yet I really enjoyed it.  I am also completely enamored of the cover.  Again, I would not think that brown, orange, skulls and guns would do it for me, but it works really well.  Also, instead of the slick, cold paper that is used more often, it's a very soft, tactile cover that I actually didn't have to take off in order to read the book.  I appreciated being pushed outside my usual genre.

The books also come with a half dozen post-its interspersed.  When you hit that point in the book, you enter the secret code on the post-it for more content online.  Like, stuff about the author's inspiration, or an online discussion about who should play which part if it's made into a movie.  This is so not important, and yet so very fun.

Finally, each book includes an autographed bookplate.  Not as meaningful as getting a book autographed personally, but still kind of cool.

One pair of Golden Snitch earrings.  The only people who have noticed them are my daughter and one of my friends who's a big HP fan.  The earrings are studs, and my hair kind of covers my ears.  The two people who noticed them were SUPER enthusiastic and suitably jealous.

One stylish "Books To Read" notepad.  It's funny; I wasn't all that thrilled initially, but I've been using the notepad daily at work, and every time I start a new page, I feel happy.  (Shh--I don't use it to list books to read.)

All packaged up in a little linen sack.  I need to figure out what I can do with these as they pile up.  There was also a Vengeance Road bookmark in this order, which given my love for the cover, is really pretty.  I don't use bookmarks much in my real life, but at school I have to read in dribs and drabs, so I'm using the bookmark there.

I'm not sure about the etiquette here, so since I don't have any photos, I'm going to send you to Uppercase to look at other people's photos.

And since it's late, I'm going to stop here.  If you are interested, I can write another post about this month's box.  And so on, because I don't see ending my subscription any time soon!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's Kind of a Funny Story, except it's really not funny at all any more.

Last week I finally read--and really enjoyed--Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story.
There have been some struggles with suicidal ideation within my family, and I really appreciated the twin messages of "this is real, and it's a lifetime struggle" and "this is also treatable, and it doesn't have to define and control you."  There was such well-earned hope at the end.

Then I found out that Vizinni has since killed himself.  And that kind of ruined the book for me.

I know I'm not really being rational about this.  There are stories in which people with mental illness get the help they need, and stories in which they don't.  This is a direct reflection of real life.  Not everyone makes it.  Not everyone doesn't.  I've read books in which things DON'T work out, and while I've been sad about them, I've been okay with that being the direction the book went.

There have also been depressed artists for centuries.  Back when I had to give a little talk about the piece or composer before performing in the monthly piano recital my teacher hosted, I was startled at how many of the classical composers had ended their own lives.  The list of authors who have killed themselves is both long and distinguished.  So why am I feeling so betrayed?

There seemed to be so much of Vizinni in his book.  The end note pointed out that after spending five days in the adult psychiatric ward as a teenager (just like the book's protagonist/narrator), he drafted the book within two months.  I know it wasn't a memoir by any means, but it was clearly directly informed by his life experience.  I wanted that life experience to extend to Craig's "Shift" at the end, when he embraces life again.

So if Vizinni became a respected author, grew up, got married, had a child, and then killed himself, what does that say about Craig?  The two are intertwined in my head, and I feel, rightly or wrongly, that by ending his own life, Vizinni let us know that Craig wouldn't have made it either.

I know that Challenger Deep is informed by Neal Shusterman's son's struggle with schizophrenia.  Yet if the younger Shusterman succumbs to his illness someday, it won't rob Caden of his future.  That one degree of separation lets the story be its own creation, with truths of its own.

I wanted to write a post about the interaction between an author's life and their books, and ask whether or not it was acceptable to let their life influence your understanding of their books.  But I'm still too hung up on this particular incident.  (I had vivid dreams the night I found out about Vizinni, in which I was crying inconsolably because someone I barely knew had committed suicide, but it was making me fearful for my children's lives.)  So talk to me about this.  Can a writer's message of hope outlive their own despair?  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Toxic Siblings: Tangerine and Riding Invisible

Reading Reality Boy last week reminded me of this post I'd put together for my students.  Like RB, these two books feature main characters with abusive older siblings.  It's kind of interesting--most "my sibling has a mental illness" books are uplifting and possibly even preachy, but "my sibling is a psychopath" books have a distinctly different feel.  Let's just say that your sympathies are less divided.

With a few minor revisions, here are my other Toxic Siblings reviews.

Let me start by saying that I love all three of my sisters.  My status as the family afterthought meant that I avoided all that sibling rivalry and bickering, and once I caught up to them in adulthood, they became my closest friends.

But not everyone is that lucky, right?

Today's post will focus on two books that have one thing in common: the protanogist's older brother is a horrible human being.  Both books are told from the protagonist's point of view, which means that they themselves might not understand everything that is going on, or that went on.  As they go on their own journeys of discovery, the reader is right there with them, seeing what will happen and learning what has already happened.

In Tangerine, our narrator is Paul, whose family has just moved to Tangerine, Florida.  Paul is legally blind behind his thick glasses, but has enough vision to be a killer keeper on his middle school's soccer team.  The book has many mysteries and secrets that are slowly revealed--Why won't the team's star player grant interviews to the local paper?  What caused the sinkhole under the school?  What exactly is being sprayed into the air from all those trucks?  But the biggest reveal has to do with how Paul lost his sight, and how his family responds to that knowledge.

Riding Invisible is in the form of an illustrated diary.  Yancy, the narrator, is 15, and he is running away with his horse, Shy.  Why is he running away--and on a horse, no less?  It's because his dangerously aggressive brother has gone from bullying Yancy to attacking his horse.  Yancy's brother, Will, has a severe conduct disorder, and their parents are so focused on trying to help him and manage his behavior that Yancy feels invisible in his own family.  Once he breaks away, Yancy struggles to survive, meets a girl, learns some life lessons from a migrant worker, and forces his family to see him in his absence in a way they never did when he was there.

Added comments for Falconer's Library:

I have loved Tangerine since I first read it almost 15 years ago.  There is so much going on--family dynamics, environmentalism, exploration of classism,  denial, and an awesome scene in which a sinkhole  swallows up some portables.  I am re-reading it for the first time right now--slowly, because it was the read-aloud one class voted on.  I've realized that Paul's life in a wealthy, white family is pretty far removed from most of my students', and I'm chomping at the bit to get to the parts where Paul meets other kids and figures some stuff out.

Riding Invisible resonates with me as the parent of two kids, one of whom is considerably more "troubled" than the other.  How do you balance the very different needs of both children; how do you give them both the time and attention they deserve (while still maintaining your own sanity)?  Neither of my children are psychopaths (or even high functioning sociopaths), but I know my younger kid often feels shafted when her time with me gets highjacked by her brother's shenanigans.

Monday, October 19, 2015

TTT: I Dream of Book Genie

I had no ideas for the last few weeks' Top Ten Tuesday themes, but I had plenty for this week.  The wonderful bloggers at The Broke and The Bookish asked us to think of ten things we'd ask the Book Genie to give us.

What a fantastic prompt.  I stopped at ten, because that's the name of the meme, but I'm pretty sure I could have come up with another ten without pausing for breath.

10 book wishes

I can’t decide on an order for these, so I’m just presenting you the list as it came to mind.

I'm also importing pins of bookish lusts I have.  Like a bookshelf door to a secret library.  

1. I would like my excellent public library branch to move about ¼-1/2 mile away.  Far enough that I get a little walk in, but close enough to lug books home.  Bonus if they also move the ponds and trails they have out back.   I don’t need a new branch to open—I love the one I use—and I don’t want to move over there.  But I DO miss being able to walk to my library.

See?  Isn't it nice?  So much natural light, natural materials, comfy chairs...and lots and lots of BOOKS.  Plus, we just checked out an ice cream maker.  But I grew up walking to the library, and when my side of town just had a dinky little strip mall library, I could walk there too.  sigh

 2. Monthly author visits to the school where I work.  Marissa Meyer, April Henry, Mo Willems….Last year we hosted Colleen Houck, who volunteered her time, which oddly enough, was EXACTLY within our budget.  It was such a blast.  Then I recently attended a conference in which several local authors were on a panel, and I enjoyed it so much.  I'd love to have that happen for my students regularly.  Plus, I'd love to hear them myself!

I also want this clock, although perhaps with different "number" books.  

 3. Control of my school’s library purchases, and an unlimited budget to work with.  I kind of got this just recently—my principal and our school’s library aid asked for my input on their request to the district for $10,000, and we were successful.  They are starting with the list of books I’d put together, and asked me to keep developing it.  I FEEL SO POWERFUL.  And, you know, like I’m using my power for good.  

And this t-shirt.  I was up until 2 last night, then had to get up at 7 today to go on a field trip with my son.  Argh. I blame A. S. King.

4. Some top notch mystery series set in places other than Great Britain.  I’ve listed my favorites before, but I’d enjoy both some new series  and to see some set in, say Nova Scotia or Portugal.  Branch out a little!  Bring me with you!

Or, let me sit here.

 5. Ooh, ooh, I have a good one!  A device that  converts pages read into calories burned.  Yes? Are you with me on this one?  I used to hike as well as read, but now I don't, and I've gone up three dress sized in nine months.  (Yes, you young ones, it's true that your metabolism slows waaaaaaay the fuck down after a certain age.)  

If I had this book nook, complete with window and kitty, I'd never move, so I'd really need that converter.

6. This one is not original, but I could use an extra day of the week when I can read and nobody will need anything from  me.  (That’s actually more important than the extra day part.  You feel me?)  Or, every other day set up like that.

7.  For my husband and kids to fall in love with reading.  My husband is literate, he just doesn’t…read fiction.  And my kids are struggling readers.  They like to be read to, but reading is a chore for them.  What's that thing about the cobbler's children having holes in their shoes?  For my husband, my reasoning is entirely selfish.  We have other things in common, and I knew going into this that he's not a fiction reader, just like he knew I am not a sports fan.  I just wish I could talk to him about books more.  With my kids, I feel a little more panicky about their lack of reading love.  (And, to be honest, more like it reflects on me.)

It would fantastic to have a framed print of this.

8.  A Magical Paperback Refresher I can spray onto my musty, yellowing, dingy paperbacks to make them more tactilely and visually appealing again.  Some people like old books, but when the pages get all crackly and the spine gives up entirely, I just don't want to pick up my beloved childhood copies of books.  Hardbacks seem to fare better.  

I can never decide which book I'd choose, or even which product (poster or shirt), but I ADORE what this company does.  I guess I could ask the genie for all of it, right?  Not sponsored, just a genuine bit of admiration/coveting.

9.  To have a team of reading teacher greats—Atwell, Miller, Kittle, et. al—come give me on-the-job coaching, in which they manage to make me into an amazing reading teacher--without making me feel like crap first.  

And then let me come home to some sort of fireplace/book area.  

10. To write and publish a book.  Well hell, as long as I'm wishing on a genie, I'll even go so far as to demand that it be a GOOD book.  I know some book bloggers are indeed authors (published or not),  but I’ve never had any ideas.  This is why non-writers ask the obnoxious “Where do you get your ideas?” question.  We feel like we COULD write if we just had an IDEA.  So then I think, okay, creative nonfiction.  Write about…what?  My Peace Corps days?  A teaching memoir?  I just don’t have enough MEAT behind my little anecdotes to make it worthwhile.  An adoption memoir?  Well, if I’m going to write true life, I need to be honest, and there are too many other people involved to be blunt.  All the same, I dream of one day being an author.  For now, blogging is satisfying that urge to write, but if a genie would be my muse, I'd be thrilled.

Of course, if I just got a run-of-the-mill genie, instead of the Book Genie, and I only had three wishes, it would be hard to beat this one a friend of mine shared today:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality Boy by A. S. King

Published 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
353 pages; YA realistic fiction

When a book's epigraph is "People are full of shit," the tone has been set for unrelenting anger and hostility.

The first half of this book positively vibrates with Gerald's rage.  It is electric, and it reminded me how satisfying anger can be--in the moment.  When you are unleashing your anger, you feel powerful, even if after the rage has passed you are humiliated by how out of control you actually were.  Anger can be intoxicating and addictive.

Gerald has been abused, ignored, and gaslighted (gaslit?) since birth, and his rage is well earned.  So much has been denied to him that as a reader, you can completely get behind the fact that he bit a chunk out of a classmate's face in 8th grade.

But at the same time, you know that's pretty messed up.  I would not want Gerald in my class, let alone in my family.  He is learning to control his rage, and articulates pretty clearly the various work-arounds he's developed for himself, most of which involve trying to live in a state of total numbness as much as possible.  Still, the great journey of this book is not the road trip, but his growth from a young man who has learned to keep his anger in a cage to one who is able to actually confront the source and thus start moving beyond it.

Spoilers ahead.

I was a little confused when reading at how he talked about Roger, his anger management coach.  Who is this guy?  Why isn't he a "real" therapist?  After I finished the book, I realized that this was yet another example of his mom setting him up for failure.  She had to go through the motions of getting him help for his alleged problems, but she did so in the least effective way possible.


As a parent, this book was tough to read.  The mom is wrong, wrong, wrong.   And yet--if your beloved first born is a monster, what IS the right way to respond?  The dad was wrong too--but how do you choose between supporting your wife or your kid or your other kids?  I've got one kid that sucks up a lot more of our time and attention than the other.  Neither my husband nor I handle it well all the time.  I feel guilty for not protecting my "easier" child from the chaos; I feel guilty for not parenting my son with more patience and skill; I feel guilty for not being on the same page as my husband.  It's not that easy.  Still--it's not as freaking hard as Gerald's family made it out to be either.

It's interesting to me that many reviewers were really off-put by the whole Crapper aspect of Gerald's personality.  There was so much more going on here.  And as anyone who's ever had a cat knows, crapping in the wrong place sends a crystal clear message.  I saw it as demonstrating the pure animal rage and complete helplessness that Gerald experienced, and I didn't dwell on imagining the visuals.

The romance--I could take it or leave it.  Hannah is no manic pixie dream girl, or rather, she begins as one, but as soon as Gerald actually starts interacting with her, that bubble bursts, and she becomes an actual human being.  She seemed like she might be an interesting person in her own right, but this is very much Gerald's book, and she was really just there to be a catalyst for him finally figuring out some of his stuff.  In this regard, I was reminded of Everybody Sees the Ants, which also featured a young woman who prodded the protagonist to grow as a person, without the book being very romantic.  Sure, Gerald and Hannah do have a romantic relationship, which is important to the book,  but it's not the kind of romance that gets people talking OTPs or Team This Guy.

And Tasha--woah, Tasha.  Gerald's big sister has joined a special group (along with Dolores Umbridge and the daughter-raping racist in TKAM) of characters who are disturbingly real in the very awfulness.  Still, given that she is dealing with mental illness, I almost wonder if Gerald's mom isn't more truly evil, since she, presumably, had more choice in how she acted.

The whole reality show aspect was an interesting premise, and we sure learned a lot about Gerald's family from the memories of the filming, but while King was certainly making some sharp criticism of both the industry and the viewers, the thing that pulled me in was Gerald's voice, Gerald's struggles, and Gerald's growth.  A. S. King's books punch me right in the gut.

4.5 stars

If you've read this, do you think Tasha or Gerald's mom is more awful?  What the hell was up with the whole circus thing?  And am I the only chubby middle aged reader who now wants a punching bag?

Friday, October 16, 2015

TBR Tag, or Wendy Compulsively Stockpiles Books and Titles

Áine at Writing on a Vintage Typewriter just shared a fun TBR tag.  I can spend ridiculous amounts of time browsing for books, reviewing lists on Goodreads, checking different book awards over the years, scouring top ten Tuesday posts, flipping through my students' Scholastic Book flyers, and wandering the stacks of libraries and bookstores, all to add yet more books to my list of books I'd like to read someday.  Thus, I decided to tag myself ("Tag!  I'm it!") so I could play along.  

Back in the old days, I used to browse bookstores, and write titles of interesting looking books on the back of my checkbook.  Then I'd pull it out when I was at the library and see what I could find.  Nowadays it's all on Goodreads (and I no longer use a checkbook for anything, even checks).
Print.  I've read a few things on my laptop or tablet, but only because I had to.

First, on what I have handy, which usually means it's either at the public library, the school library, or in my classroom library.  From there, I just decide what I'm in the mood for.  If I don't know what I'm in the mood for, I start reading first chapters until I hit a book that I can't stop after one chapter.
I have always liked Dickens, but I've never actually read David Copperfield.  It's been on my mental to-read list since the mid 1980s.  And Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea has been on my Goodreads to-read list since June, 2008.

I just (like five minutes ago) put a bunch of books on the CYBILS nomination list onto my to-read list.  The very last one was The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, by Shaun David Hutchinson. In a more spontaneous vein, I recently added Passionate Learners, by a teacher blogger named Pernille Ripp, because I kept pinning EVERY SINGLE ONE of her blog posts.  So inspiring. 
You mean, besides the one with me on the cover? ;)  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  I love the cut paper silhouette style.

An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't.  It looks like fun, but it's been on my TBR since June, 2011, and seems like more of a bathroom reader than a "real book."  Not to be a book snob, just that I'm a story fiend.

Margaret Whalen Turner has two untitled, unpublished books listed as "The Queen's Thief 5 & 6."  I hope these are real plans that become real books in the near future.  


People don't really recommend books to me.  One of my colleagues did--that's how I met Marissa Meyer's and Rainbow Rowell's books--but she works somewhere else now.  If a book has a positive review/rating by Donalyn Miller or any of a number of bloggers I follow, it goes on the TBR list, but I don't see that as being the same as someone recommending a book to me specifically.  Well, I guess my continued slog through George R. R. Martin's saga is partly due to my math teacher buddy telling me how much he'd enjoyed them.  Can't be out-read by the math department, right?

Just like the blogger I'm stealing this from: Winter and The Rest of Us Just Live Here.  (Horrifying little secret: i bought a copy of The Rest of Us at Target.  It's signed by the author.  I feel like a terrible person, but it was the first time I'd seen it in print and I couldn't stop myself.  And now I'm afraid to read it, because I'm worried I've built it up too much in my mind.  Argh.)
Um.  931.  But I have 31 books checked out from the library right now, so really, only 900 of them are still "out there."  Technically.

OKAY, I'M KIND OF A MESS.  But what a great problem to have.  *happy sigh*

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One of THOSE people

My children have passed a certain threshold, and it seems parents are no longer expected to stay with them at birthday parties.


I am not anti-social.  But I'm not a fan of making small talk with strangers in crowded, noisy locales.  (In my bar hopping days, I went with friends, not to meet people.)

Like any bookworm, I'd get my kid checked in and see them off to roam the trampolines/video arcade/bowling alley, smile uncomfortably at the other hovering parents, then find an out of the way place to sit and pull out my book.  It was still kind of awkward, but it sure beat being there without a book.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who is your basic extrovert.  "Oh my God!" she laughed.  "You're one of THOSE people!"

Yeah, I thought proudly.  I guess I am.  I always wanted to be one of THOSE people.

And I thought of Uncle Glen.

He wasn't a real uncle, but that was how my family dealt with the question of what to call adults we knew well. Glen and my dad met through work, though their wives became closer friends.  My middle name is Louise, after Glen's wife.  She was a stern and grumpy lady that I was rather afraid of, so I've never been a big fan of my middle name.

Uncle Glen, on the other hand, was pleasant and quiet.  He did PR for the local electric company, and I remember hearing him quoted often on the radio during Portland's back-to-back ice storms in the 1979 and 1980.  But that wasn't the thing I admired most about him.

What I most admired about Uncle Glen was that, whenever my parents had Glen and Louise over for dinner, and the adults retired to the living room for after dinner conversation, Glen would only last about ten minutes.  Then he would drift to our bookshelves, find himself a book, and sit in a comfortable chair to read.  I had never seen another adult do this, and I thought it was SO COOL.  I was dimly aware that he was breaking an unspoken rule by doing this--"When you're a guest in someone's house, you have to pay attention to them and/or be interesting for them."  And I knew he didn't mean to be rude.  He just...really wanted to read now.  He was one of THOSE people.

I bet you are too.

What social rules are you willing to bend or break in order to get your reading fix?  Has anyone ever disapproved of your reading?  Who in your life is your reading hero?

Also, my husband thinks I'm awesome because I keep volunteering to take our son to his diving lessons.  What he doesn't seem to realize is that I get almost 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading time in by doing this.  Quintessential win/win!  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Look! I'm on a book!

Plus, I'm obviously very poetic.

My sister just sent me a link to this book, because she recognized the cover photo.

Top right--little girl with braids looped up Heidi-style, furiously engaged with her book.  Aren't I cute?  (My dad's skill with utilizing "sweet light" doesn't hurt.)  I don't know how this particular photo escaped his stock agency into some sort of public domain, but I know it's out there--I first saw it on a billboard advertising, appropriately enough, the Oregon Education Association.  "Working Wonders in Oregon Schools" was the tagline, and given that I'm both a product of Oregon schools and have been employed in Oregon schools for nearly two decades, I guess I make a pretty good poster child.  

Anyways.  I just had to share.  It's always a little disconcerting, but also kind of fun.  Back when stock agencies were how photographers shared non-assignment photos, we'd run into pictures of our family all over the place*, but now that the internet has changed everything, it's pretty rare.  I see the book is not new, so I guess that also explains it.  

I marked it "to read" on Goodreads, but it actually sounds kind of dry.  Let me know if you know otherwise...

*Like, a picture of my mom and our husky on the packaging for an emergency whistle, or a picture of my nephew's first hair cut appearing in a mall in Iowa, where another sister happened to be.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Review (well, mostly me complaining): Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

William Morrow Paperback, 2013
Historical Fiction/Realistic Fiction

I saw this at a bookstore last year, and was all, "ooh, orphan trains!"  I think that one of those cheesy Readers' Digest Condensed books I read in my impressionable youth featured plucky orphans undergoing that forced migration.  You would think that, as an adoptive parent, it might have occurred to me that orphans actually aren't a cute and compelling trope, but actual people.  

On the other hand, there is a long history of orphan books, so it's not like I'm the only one who gets confused.  This book alone mentions Anne of Green Gables, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Jane Eyre.  

I was eager to read the book, and when I had an unexpected night to myself, I decided to dive in.  I found myself absorbed in Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian's sections, but increasingly annoyed with Molly's.  It just--argh.  The whole premise, that she's working for Vivian to stay out of juvie, was ridiculous.  This is not pre-revolutionary France.  We don't lock up peasants for stealing worn paperbacks from the library.  Seriously; I can't imagine a single person who has any interaction with kids thinking that this is a lock-up worthy crime.  And her boyfriend, ol' what's-his-name, was stunningly bland.  Why was he even there?  To be her conduit into Vivian's life?  Couldn't her social worker or a school acquaintance have done the job without giving rise to the expectation that that person would actually be important in the story?

My difficulty entering Molly's world made me suspicious of Vivian's world.  Maybe it was equally unlikely, and I am just easier to fool about events that took place 90 years ago.  Her struggles were frightening, and seemed possible, but her love life (and its results) were improbable.  

I sound really cranky.  It was a readable book, but I was frustrated with it, and am surprised it has the buzz that it does.  

2.5 stars

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Borrowed Cup of Chocolate.

Elizabeth at Thoughts from an Evil Overlord has this amazing post in which she joined in a group of other bloggers to post two questions, then answer everyone's question together.  I'm pretty sure I clicked on it because it has the word "chocolate" in the title--"The Hot Seat with Hot Chocolate."  The questions looked like fun, and since I wasn't motivated to do the TTT topic this week, I wanted to have some other organizational force to write a post around.  Without further ado, here are the questions her Hot Chocolate group generated, and my responses.

Olivia @ The Candid Cover

Are you a fan of book-to-movie adaptations? If so, which is your favourite?
Princess Bride, LOTR, and the Anne of Green Gables mini-series were all great.  (Incidentally, a typing accident just showed me that an acrostic would be Anne of Green Bagels.)
Do you ever have crushes on characters in books? Who is your current crush?

Oh, all the time.  I currently have a completely age-inappropriate crush on Finn from Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, since I finished it a few hours ago.  Of course, it’s really the "high school me" I become while reading a high school book that has a crush on him, just like it’s the "princess me" that falls for the dashing prince, or the "detective me" that falls for the wounded but kind hearted client.  I feel what the protagonist feels for her love from her point of view.

Also, I am still digging Tyrion from GoT. Not sure what that's about.

Elizabeth the Evil Overlord

How long does it take you to pull together a review after you’ve read the book?
I don’t write many reviews.  When I do, they don't take that long, because I pretty much just write what I’m thinking.  Half an hour? Considerably longer for other posts, like this one.
Do you read ahead or skip certain elements in a book? Why?

Read ahead or skip, no.  Read SUPER FAST at times, yes.  Descriptions of scenery and clothing usually don’t get much attention from me.  I’m focused on the events and emotions, not on visualizing in detail. Every once in awhile if a book is really boring me and I'm going to abandon it, but there is some interesting plot point, I will go ahead and read the end to find out how it resolves without having to slog through the rest of it. But if I'm going to read the book, I read it in order.

Milka from Read, Read, Read

Which book would you like to see turned into a film or a TV series? Who would you cast for the roles of the main characters?
Graceling would be fun to see on the big screen.  
Which fictional character would you like to go on a date with? What would you do?
I’d happily take a hike with Loyd Peregrina from Animal Dreams.  

Kat from Books & Sensibility

What is the last book you pre-ordered or purchased the day it came out?
The only book I’ve pre-ordered is Marissa Meyer’s Winter.  After her publicist sent my class the first three books for free, it was the least I could do.  Plus, you know, I really want to read it!

Which author do you think is amazing that you feel l like doesn’t get enough love?
Marge Piercy. Some of her early stuff was very 70s feminist, which isn’t a bad thing, but does feel dated.  But she has some gorgeous books that are timeless.  City of Darkness, City of LIght is historical fiction (French Revolution)  He, She, and It is grown-up dystopian sci fi to rival The Handmaid’s Tale, and her poetry is really accessible.   (Translation, I enjoy it instead of being bored or confused by it.)

Alice @ Alice’s Book Vault

What book, if there is one, has given you the worst book hangover?
The Brothers K, by David James Duncan, broke my heart in so many ways.  I read it about twenty years ago, and I remember it far better than most books I read in 2014.  I still can’t believe the man stopped writing novels.  Such a loss to readers.  
What series do you wish would never end? That you could always get more of?
I hope Elizabeth George keeps writing mysteries that feature Inspector Lynley and Detective Sergeant Havers for a very long time.

Wesaun from Oreos & Books

If you had to face your biggest fear or fears with a character to be your guide along the way, which would you choose?
That’s hard to say.  The tough, brave girls, from Caddie Woodlawn to Katniss Everdeen to Lisbeth Salander would probably be impatient with me.  But I want someone with some gumption, right?  I’m going to volunteer Rose Campbell from Eight Cousins to be my guide and support.  Jo March would be another good one—I guess Ms. Alcott was good at writing women who were strong without being tough or emotionally distant.

What’s a book that would inspire you to do a cosplay/nail art/clothing/other? Why?
Well, I do love my golden snitch earrings...

Brittany @ The Passionate Bookworms

What is the last book you DNF’d? At what point did you stop and why?
After two runs at Throne of Glass, I gave up for good about 100 pages in. I just couldn’t get invested in the characters.
What do you think the next trend of books will be? For a long while it was dystopian, what is your prediction for the next big genre?
With #WNDB becoming a “thing” lately, and all the great titles I saw the summer on the TTT about diverse books, I have been reading a lot of really good contemporaries that include characters with mental illnesses, non-white characters, and GLBQT characters.  So maybe that will become a trend.

Nori @ ReadWriteLove28

If you could visit any world in any book, which world would you visit?
What character do you think could be your best friend?
Hermione.  Rev. Clare Ferguson. (mystery series) Taylor Greer. (The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven).

Tee from Me, Books & the Internet

Which book character do you think you’re most like? Why?
Oh dear God; I’m too dull to be a book character.  Beth Ellen in The Long Secret reminds me a bit of me, just because she’s quiet without being dull, and sometimes lets herself get pulled along by more extroverted friends.  However, I did not grow up with a maid and chauffeur.  I know I’ve read books that have decent moms in them, and/or decent teachers, and I’d like to think I’m somewhat like those women too.
Have you ever read a book that had a moment that happened to you in real life?
This isn’t an answer to this question, but I watched the episode on Buffy where her mom dies just a few months after my mom died, and, oh man.  That was rough.  I also have some struggles as parent and keep flashing back to the character in The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood who “dropped her basket” for awhile.  Those were both awful examples.  Hmm.  I once held my clothes over my head while crossing a stream, which made me think of Caddie Woodlawn, and inspired by Betsy in Understood Betsy, I once dealt with a sticky situation by imagining how someone I admired would handle it, and then pretending I was her.  

Elly from A Hufflepuff’s Thoughts

Choose one shelf from your bookshelf.  What does it look like?
We have a cabinet that we were given at a garage sale,  My husband painted it to match our walls, then added giant golden bear paw prints across the front.  (When people asks him why, he likes to stare at them for a few moments, then right as it gets weird, say, “You mean, why the big pause?”)  
The middle shelf is where we put most of our library books (there are also always random stacks hiding in bedrooms, in bags, or on the coffee table).  Right now there are 37 books jammed onto that shelf.  Many are YA fiction that I am “previewing for my students” (yeah, right).  The next biggest group are picture books to read to my kids, and a few early readers they read themselves.  Finally, there are a few nonfiction books I feel like I should read--one about education, one about writing, one about anger, one about racism--and, for going on three months now, A Storm of Swords.  
If you could have any animal from any book, who/what would you choose and why?

Just one?  Pfft. Hedwig, because she’s gorgeous and useful.  Lassie--from the book, not the TV show!--because she’s gorgeous and loyal.  A direwolf, because how awesome would that be.  
Yes, that was very fun.  It strikes me how many of my answers were from childhood favorites.  I re-read pretty much everything in those days, so the books and characters have stayed with me so well, Also, books have shaped and influenced me, shown me who I want to be and who I don't want to be.