Saturday, July 30, 2016

July in Review

Monthly wrap-ups are rounded up by Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.  Check out what everyone's been up to and enter the scavenger hunt/giveaway!

My Reading

Books read:
16.  I wish I could just read all day every day, but I'm still pretty happy with the amount of reading I've gotten in this month.  Links below go to the book's page on Goodreads or to my review on Goodreads, if I've written one.  Warning--my reviews are just me rambling on about my personal response.


My daughter and I are still working our way through Prisoner of Azkaban.  It hasn't been a great month for bedtime read-alouds, as we spent several nights at the beach with family, and then she just got back from a week at camp.  But I did finish reading the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid to my son.  I think the series is great for hooking reluctant readers, and the way it combines words and art and blank space on the page was revolutionary.  However, the main character is a jerk.  That's kind of the point, and the humor lies in seeing the reality he's blind or indifferent to.  But the slower pace of reading it out loud made me just loathe the kid. I did not mention this to my own kid, in part because who am I to disparage a book he actually wants to finish, in part because he's still so literal that he missed a good 50% of the irony anyway, and in part because, "Wow, this character isn't being very nice to his little brother, is he?" is a good way to take all the fun out of a deliberately irreverent read.   

Mildly Disappointing

All of these were disappointing because I had high expectations and because they were uneven in one way or another.  I liked them all, but wanted more from them.  Fish in a Tree was my favorite of this group.  


I'm really happy to find out that so many of the books in my classroom library that I hadn't read are really, really good.  These were all unique and fun reads.  

Double Wow!

While I didn't have any five star reads this month, I find it interesting that all of my 4.5 stars were given to books for adults, two of which are memoirs.  Last summer I was reading amazing YA novels like Challenger Deep, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Made You Up, I'll Meet You There and Scorpio Games.  Am I pickier now?  Am I reading books based on "Which students will like this?" instead of "Ooh, this looks good!"?  Have I read so much YA in the past year that adult books are what I'm craving right now?  

Not Rated and In Progress

I'm reading Jasper Jones, A Darker Shade of Magic, and a professional book called Reading Ladders.  I've listened to part of E. Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle, one of my childhood favorites, but the narrator is bugging me.

Assorted Stats

I continue to read a preponderance of white, American, female authors.  Typecasting much?  Over half my books are from the library, and another quarter or so are from my classroom library.  I tend to write many more quick responses on Goodreads than formal reviews on the blog.

My Writing

This is my 16th post this month, which seems to be the average amount I've settled into.  My posts are all over the place in terms of content.  I suspect this will either drive you nuts or make you very happy, depending on your own personality.

I wrapped up my first anniversary of blogging with a post about my favorite reads from the past year and a woefully under-entered giveaway.  (If you are one of the winners--I haven't forgotten you!  Watch your mailbox this month!)  I participated in a few TTT's, sharing ten random facts about me, ten books set around the world, and a list of books that have inspired me to write.  I wrote a discussion post about my intense love for going into books absolutely clueless about the content, and a personal post about dropping my daughter off for a week of summer camp.  I did the Mid-Year Freakout Tag and updated on my progress with the Make-Me-Read-It Read-a-thon (Success!) and the High Summer Read-a-thon (Failure!).  And after watching the movie Legends of the Guardians with my kids, I wrote about talking animals in books.

I've been mulling over what will either be a series of posts, a PhD dissertation, or a book about the #WNDB and #OwnVoices movements and what that means for writers and readers.  (Spoiler: It will probably end up in blog post form, since I'm not in a PhD program or publishing academic books.)  (As if I'm publishing non-academic books!  Ha!)  This month also brings the Shattering Stigmas event, organized by Shannon at It Starts at Midnight, and I need to get cracking on some writing for that as well.


July is the Saturday afternoon of a teacher's enforced unemployment summer vacation.  I made the most of it--well, maybe not THE MOST, but I did have a good time.  There was the family reunion at the beach with my in-laws, which was really rather lovely.  There was the float trip down a local river on my birthday, courtesy of a friend I've had for 39 years now.  Board games with the fam.  An afternoon with a high school friend and her kids at a park; another afternoon talking on the couch at a friend and colleague's new house while our kids watched Zootopia.  Dessert and port with my sister one warm evening.  Reading professional development books at the pool my son's friend invited us to.  A day trip to Mt. St. Helens with my husband and son.  And cleaning the pantry, which really needed it.  The Winemaker got our downstairs bathroom put back together, which is kind of exciting and very appreciated.  We had a huge leak LAST SUMMER and decided to do the repairs ourselves.  "Ourselves" being a very loose term that really means "I pick out the paint colors and do some painting and you do everything complicated or difficult."  

August is my Sunday evening, and it's always bittersweet.  Some very fun things planned, some very good books to read, but my mind is going more and more towards school, and my body will have to follow suit soon.  Enjoy this most beautiful of months!  (Well, it is here in the Pacific NW.  Not sure about the rest of the world.)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Going in Blind: Discussion Post

This terrific t-shirt can be found here.

It's common courtesy in the book world (and movie world, and TV world) to not spoil the ending of a book.  There are those who turn to the last page to get a sense of how everything is going to end up before they start a story, but most of us prefer some uncertainty as we begin.

I take this a step or two further.  Ideally, this is what I know about a book going into it:

  1. the title
  2. the author

Obviously, this makes it hard to pick out books, so I do let things like recommendations and genre and the premise affect my choices.  But most of the books I've really, really loved, part of the charm is that the book unfolds exactly as the author intended, because I'm not waiting for "that part where" or "the character who" or anything except what brilliance the author has in store for me.  So if I'm reading the inside cover and the first two sentences grab my attention, that's all I need.

Here's a few examples of how this has worked out for me recently:

A.  I'm working my way through Jasper Jones.  I'd seen it on some list or other, added it to my TBR, and grabbed a copy for my classroom at a library used book sale.  One of my seventh graders checked it out, then returned it because his mom objected to the language.  I slapped a PG-13 sticker on it and put it aside to read for myself this summer.

Things that I did not know when I started reading the book, all of which, it turns out, are on the book jacket:
  • The book is set in Australia, and the author is Australian.
  • The book is set in 1965.
  • It starts with the discovery of a murdered body.
This is pretty basic info to not have.  It took me a bit to work out the time period, but I loved being tossed into the story all willy-nilly, wondering about Charlie's town, horrified at Jasper's discovery, eager to find out what would happen next.

B. I've been wanting to read Furiously Happy for months.  That grinning, gleeful racoon on the cover just drew me in.  But I had NO IDEA that the racoon is not just some wacky illustration--Jenny Lawson OWNS it, and taxidermied animals play a surprisingly large role in the book as a whole.  

Also, to be painfully honest, I had The Blogess conflated with Dooce, so I was a little confused about the lack of Mormonism in her environment until I worked out my error.  

C.  All I knew about Pax was that it had a cool cover with a fox on it, and people seemed to love it.  Turns out that the book is set in some undefined time and place and that the POV alternates from the fox's to the boy who raised him.  Who knew?  Probably everyone except me.

I can't honestly say it would have affected my enjoyment of any of these stories if I'd known these basic background facts going in.  None are plot points per se.  But I love that sense of figuring things out, of trusting the author to give me what I need to know.  Yes, I can wind up with duds that way, but we all do, right?  The trade-off is when I enter a world and am completely bewildered, but the author leads me step by step to complete understanding.  I love the feeling of being in the hands of a master, of knowing that all of my confusion will be cleared up and this will all make sense.

So tell me, what do you think about this?  Am I just weird?  How much information do you like to have going into a book?  If someone says, "Gone Girl has a terrific twist?" are you pissed off because now you'll spend the book waiting for the twist, or are you simply intruiged?  (No problem guessing which camp I was in, huh.)  Or do you scour reviews carefully and gather as much information as you can before deciding whether or not to read a book?  Or, like me, do you only read reviews AFTER you've finished the book, to find out how the book struck others?  Do preconceptions color your attitude about a book?  DID YOU REFUSE TO WATCH THE CRYING GAME BECAUSE EVERYONE SAID THE GIRL WAS A GUY ALREADY SO WHAT WAS THE POINT EVEN OF WATCHING IT NOW?!?  Or is that just me?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Makes Me Want to Write

This week the fine bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish asked us to think about ten things books have made us want to do or learn about after reading them.  I kind of took it in my own direction...

When I was little, I wanted to be a ballerina.  One day I was on a hike with my parents, gamboling down the trail ahead of them, and I heard my mom sigh to my dad, 'Well, she'll never be a dancer."*

Which stung, but was less humiliating than the time the elementary school PE teacher shouted across a crowded playground, "Falconer, you run like a turkey!"*

Luckily, I had a backup plan.  I was going to be an author.

A few years later, it occurred to me that authors probably needed to be able to come up with stories that were actually interesting (anyone who's ever read 3rd grade fiction knows what I mean), so I switched it to "journalist."  But introverts aren't big on interviewing people, so for awhile I went with "orthodontist," which is super weird.  I guess I figured you got a lot of money for pretty simple work, based on my understanding of what was going on with my braces.

When I gave up on eventual authorship, I didn't give up on writing.  I kept journals in blank books through elementary, middle, and high school, and kept it up in college and on into my twenties.  I wrote pages and pages of letters as I traveled away from friends and family.  PAGES.  I'd estimate that about 30% of all the return mail I got included the phrase "that wasn't a letter you sent me, that was a novel!"  (Since my handwriting is atrocious, that was closely followed by "We couldn't really read anything you wrote, but it was nice to know you were thinking of us.")*

I took writing courses in college, and was thrilled to find out that there was a name for the navel gazing type of writing I favored: creative nonfiction.  Those classes were great fun, in large part because I was usually the only non-English major in the room, which gave me license to start off all the discussions by stating the obvious while everyone else waited for their chance to say something insightful.

It's always been obvious to me that my love of writing stems directly from my love of reading.  In high school I had a teacher who'd taught my sisters eleven years earlier.  When we turned in our first essays, she read mine to the class and said, "This is the level of writing you do only if you are raised in a house without a TV."*  It was delightfully mortifying, and remains one of the best compliments I've ever received.  Because I knew that what she meant was that I had absorbed so many lessons in how sentences can be structured, how ideas flow and what writing can DO, simply from constant reading, that my writing sounded more like me than like a five paragraph essay.

Of all the things reading has pulled me to do, learn, study and explore, writing is second only to more reading.  Here, then, is my list of books about writing.  I'm dividing it between writing books I've read and writing books I still want to read.

1.  The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.
It's a classic for a reason that far outstrips its actual usefulness.  It's mid-century modern at its best.

2.  Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Recent reviews say this book isn't very good.  But recent reviewers were not young in the mid 1980s, when this book was THE book on writing.  College Me loved this book.

3.  On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Another one that totally dates me, this one was actually assigned in my college writing classes.  I just love the name Zinsser, frankly.  Names that start with Z are 27% cooler than other names. Scientific fact.

4.  A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
College Me also bought this one for my mom.  She loved it so much that a couple of years later she built herself a studio in the backyard for her fabric art.  No lie.  Woolf is still ahead of her time.

5.  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Now we're at least up to the 1990s.  Lamott is a hate-her-or-call-her-Saint-Anne type of writer and thinker.  I'm not a huge fan of her fiction, but I gobble up her essays, and this book is superb.

6.  On Writing: A Memoir of Craft by Stephen King
You don't have to be a fan of horror to appreciate Stephen King.  I read somewhere that he knows he writes baloney, so he figures it might as well be GOOD baloney.  His sick and twisted imagination is only half of the package; he's also great at writing compelling characters.  This book blends writing advice with personal memoir, and there's a reason why it's on the very top of Goodreads list of books about writing.

7.  The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
I kind of didn't finish Liar's Club, but I did really enjoy the part I read.  I'd love to find out what Karr has to say about mixing memory and story.

8.  59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts and Inspiration for Teachers by Kate Messner
I had this on my list for a solid year before realizing who the author is.  Now I REALLY want to read it.

* All of these are actual quotes.

Hello Muddah

WARNING:  There are no books in this post.  But I reference a short story that you may know from the movie, and there is a song at the end!

For at least the past two weeks, my daughter has been saying a couple of times a day, "I am kind of excited about summer camp, but I kinda don't want to go."  I keep telling her "I know, you're conflicted, but you're going to go, and I think once you settle in you will love it.  That's why we're sending you."

Then the past two days, as it drew even nearer, it was mostly, "I know I have to go to summer camp, but I wish I could stay home."  Again, I simply agreed.  Yes, you are nervous.  Yes, you have to go anyway.

It's our first sleep-away camp.  Our son will possibly never be ready for it (or rather, I can't imagine the underpaid teen counselor who will be ready for him), but my daughter, despite her well-earned separation anxiety, is more mellow.  Plus, horses.  I was so excited to find a horse camp we could afford, within a reasonable drive, and not completely skeevy, even if it is more bible-oriented than what we'd choose if money were no object.  She was dancing with joy when I told her she could go, but got more and more nervous as the time approached.

I LOVED camp as a kid. Of course, I didn't have separation issues, my big sisters (and mom and grandma) had already filled my head with wonderful camp stories and camp songs, and I always went with a friend.  I really do think she'll love it too.  That is why we're sending her.

But what I didn't expect was how I felt as we drove away.  No tears, but a huge rock in my chest and a pain in my gut.  It reminded me of the scene in "Brokeback Mountain" where either Jack or Ennis (I suspect Ennis; he was always more repressed) vomits violently after saying goodbye to the other, and has no idea why his body is so freaked out.  My body did NOT think I should be driving away from my sweet pea.

It will be a good week, I'm sure.  Having only one kid to focus on--the one who struggles to get enough positive attention--will be great.  Having some actual kid-free time when our son is at summer school in the afternoon should let me get some reading/writing/blogging done, and my husband and I have plans to go blackberry picking so he can make the port-style berry wine all of our friends and relatives adore.  In the meantime, our daughter will be immersed in horses, and swimming, and stargazing, and campfire songs.

I just didn't realize that all those reassurances were for me as much as for her.

If my title makes no sense, I was alluding to the classic anti-camp song, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah."

Fun fact: I once played in an orchestra that played "Dance of the Hours," which is where this tune comes from.  Who knew?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Post #10

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  It's "a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog."

This another two-week update, because we were at the coast last week and I didn't have time to do a Sunday Post.  I'm sure you've all been anxious about that.

Reading This Week:

6 books last week, but just 3 this week. I've finished  Sekret, by Lindsay Smith, as I mentioned earlier.  Then after my surprise library haul, I've read Furiously Happy and The Haters, both of which were so, so funny and super weird.  Trying to decide if it would be okay to have Haters on my PG-13 shelf, or if I need an even more restricted shelf.  For some reason, I kept having major restless-leg stuff going on at night, so I read both of them in the magical midnight to 4 am time slot, which kind of messed up the subsequent days.  Moms who need 8-9 hours of sleep per night shouldn't be staying up that late.

Last week I read a bunch of books for the Make Me Read It read-a-thon, choosing from the classroom library books my students selected for me to read over the summer.  They were: Mockingbird, Fish in a Tree, Another Little Piece, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, and The Eighth Day.  I also finished reading H is for Hawk, an actual book for grown-ups, at the very beginning of this two week stretch.  No duds in the entire group!

The book I was reading before I started Haters and Furiously Happy is Jasper Jones, which I'm continuing to read off and on.  I've gotta say, they are three entirely different genres but all include a fair number of brutally off-color jokes.  And other really difficult themes.  But they're AWESOME, all three of them.  You know, if you like that kind of thing.  If you don't, then stay far, far away.

Blogging this week:

This is my seventh post in two weeks, which is neither good nor bad.  I would like to be more on top of my blogging and writing in general; I can't seem to get ahead.  As usual, I'm blaming my busy life for this, but at some point I may have to confront the fact that the only way to get the time is to forcefully wrest it from myself.  

I participated in Top Ten Tuesday both weeks, so now you know ten random things about me and ten books I've read that were set outside the U.S.  I updated about read-a-thons twice, and the other posts were one about talking animals in books (as opposed to in real life, I guess) and a book haul when I accidentally checked nearly a dozen books out from the library even though I already have plenty to read.  

Life this week:

I've gotta wrap this up because the daughter is getting ready to go to sleep-away camp for the first time and is pretty clingy right now.  But yesterday was my birthday, and we went on a float trip down a local river with one of my oldest friends and her teen-aged daughter, and it was blissful.  Definitely the highlight.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Surprise Library Haul

I don't do book hauls, normally, but I just had to share this with you.

I've got over 30 books home from my classroom library, plus another half dozen or more checked out from the library, so when I stopped by to pick up the ice cream maker I had on hold, I was NOT planning on checking out any more books.

But they've rearranged the library lately, and it brought my attention to both the new book and the bestseller shelves, and oh my WORD did I spot a bunch of books that I have been hoping to read.  I started piling them into my arms like I was rescuing kittens from a burning building.

Here they are, in all their glory (and all my non-bookstagram-ness):

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
The Shadow Queen by R. J. Redwine
Prayers the Devil Answers  by Sharyn McCrumb
The Haters by Jesse Andrews
Gathering of Shadows by by V. E. Schwab (but I haven't gotten the first one yet, so I probably won't actually read it)
My Seneca Village by Marilyn Nelson
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (not pictured, because my daughter fell asleep in my room where it was and I didn't want to wake her up when I was taking the picture)

All the bestsellers, which are the ones with the pink labels, have a non-renewable two week time limit, so I am abandoning all my other reading intentions to get through as many of these as I can.  

All that AND homemade mocha-walnut-chip ice cream!  Life is good, indeed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Legends of the Guardians of the Protectors of the Knights of Gahoolyhillyhan

I had THE BEST NAP EVER today, you guys.  Wanna know what made it THE BEST NAP EVER?

It ended with my children standing next to me, saying quietly (QUIETLY, for once in their lives!), "Wake up, Mama, we made dinner."

And they really did, bless their peaked little heads.  Added noodles, bacon, and more sauce to last night's leftover meat, made a salad out of lettuce and grapes, set the table and got everyone ice water.  It was fantastic.  I'm not sure if I'm more amazed that they thought to include a salad, or that the two of them, unsupervised, came up with and completed a project without coming to blows.  I would have eaten it no matter what, but it was actually pretty tasty.

It was, of course, a set-up, but that's okay.  I'd declared today a no-screens day, because that's the kind of thing benevolent dictators do from time to time, just to remind the peasants who's in charge, and they were feeding me and getting along in order to butter me up for a family movie night.  Why would I object to a family movie night?  Well, because when they wait for ME to get around to making dinner, we usually eat and then start bedtime.  By wresting dinner hour control away from me, they managed to get us done in time to actually start a movie together.

Last week at the library we'd checked out Legends of the Guardians, based on Kathryn Lasky's Guardians of Ga'Hoole series.  I haven't read any of the books, although I know they are/were quite popular.  I feel like there's a certain age at which anthropomorphic animals are irresistible, but that window is long shut for me.  Reepicheep and the Beavers, yes.  Ratty and Mole, of course. Hazel and Fiver, all right.  Mrs. Frisby, sure.  Bianca and Bernard, terrific.  Really, if Garth Williams illustrated it, I loved it.  But I had aged out by the time of Redwall, thought the Warriors series looked like drivel, and wasn't even really paying attention by the time the ponderously named Ga'Hoole series came out.

So we watched it, all four of us, and I can't imagine that there are many other movies that would remind one of Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and The Lion King.  It's visually glorious, with soaring owls in sunset flight and settings that were strongly reminiscent of Mordor and Rivendell.  The battle scenes have those slowed-down, up-close action shots.  And there's a couple of goofy side-kicks to offer comic relief.

My daughter, aged ten, was absolutely entranced.  "You know what we're going to be playing tomorrow," she informed her brother firmly.  "I wish I had a poster of Soren flying" she sighed to me.  She was already a Hedwig fan; now her love for heroic owls has grown even larger.

I, of course, am hoping to leverage this into reading the books.  It was pretty obvious at various points in the movie that things had been condensed, and of course, the saga has just begun.  It can be hard for readers who lack confidence and practice to transition from sweeping visuals and musical cues to reading the words and constructing the story internally.  But she is so smitten that I'm hoping she'll power through.

And I am reminded once again that one of the perks of parenthood is discovering new children's literature.  Specifically, discovering it with your kids.  Had I read the book or seen the movie, I doubt it would have done much for me, but seeing her joy and excitement reminds me of what the discovery of a story like this can mean to a child.

Some questions for you!

  • Do you (or would you) let your kids see the movie before reading the book?
  • What talking-animals books did you love as a kid?
  • How do you feel about talking-animals books now?  
  • Have you ever been brought into a fandom by the enthusiasm of someone much younger than you?  I'm thinking also of Harry Potter, which I discovered through my then-tween niece.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TTT: Books Set Abroad

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a fun one, and I expect to learn lots from seeing what others post.  Because, of course, my TBR pile is never quite big enough!  Here, then, are ten books set outside the US.

1.  Sekret by Lindsay Smith.  RUSSIA (USSR)
I just finished this psychic-spy story, set in 1963 Moscow.  Teen psychics are forcibly recruited by the KGB to prevent the Americans from stealing plans for a moon rocket.  I enjoyed the crazy premise and the horribly realistic setting equally.

2.  When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park  KOREA
Set in WWII Korea, this story is a fictionalized biography of the author's mother, who lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea.

3.  In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez  DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
I've long considered this one a favorite.  You know from the first pages that the Mirabel sisters are doomed, but you still get invested in finding out how they got there.  Any little bit I know about the Dominican Republic and the dictatorship of Trujillo, I've learned from Alvarez's work.  This is the only one I've read that's actually 100% set there, instead of tracing the immigrant/refugee experience.

4.  Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi  GERMANY
This book hardly needs introduction.  I refused to read it for a few years, thinking of it as "The German Dwarf book" and figuring that Hitler and dwarfs were bound to be an upsetting combination.  When my sister finally persuaded me to pick it up, I was absolutely enchanted.   Sometimes everyone is talking about a book for good reason!

5.  Touch by Claire North  EUROPE
This book's locale varies widely, but mostly across Europe, as I recall, and the author is British, so I'm counting it.  A wildly inventive POV and approach to ghosts make this a clever, fun read.

6.  Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston CANADA
Not to be crass, but this is one of the best books dealing with rape that I've read in a long time.  Unlike All the Rage, which is also set in Canada, this one features a protagonist who has support and understanding from her friends, family, and local law enforcement after getting roofied and raped at a cheer camp.  It also got me to get over my dated prejudice against cheerleaders.  Hermione is as tough and focused as her namesake.

7.  A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah  SIERRA LEONE
Pretty much what it says.  Not an easy read, but very compelling, and hey, it's a memoir, so you know he survived.

8.  The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell LATVIA and SWEDEN
I'm a big fan of Nordic detective stories.  This one is set in Latvia less than a year before I moved there for most of four years.  And, it's set in the neighborhood I lived in when my husband and I spent another year there in the 21st century.  So I am completely unable to judge it objectively.  I just adore it.

9.  H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald  ENGLAND and WALES
Another one that doesn't really need me championing it.  I just finished it a week or so ago, though, and I found it fascinating.  Falconry and grief and T. S. White, and all of it so extremely British.

10.  The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer  FUTURE MEXICO/US BORDER
This is fudging a little bit, because it's set in the future in a land called Opium, which appears to be a new country located between the US and Mexico.  But the language and history are more Mexican that American, so I'm claiming it.  This hefty but engaging piece of sci fi begins the story of Mateo, a clone created to supply healthy young body parts for El Patron, an evil druglord.

This was an interesting list to make.  I was trying to get beyond the obvious (English classics) and also to push myself to not just make a list of books set in Europe as my next-level default.  I know I've read more books set in the Middle East and even in the Arctic and Antarctic, but I wasn't thinking of titles quickly enough to be useful.  I admit that Africa is a huge gap in my reading, and much of what I have read from that continent is by whites, from natives such as Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer to colonizers and travelers from E. M. Forster to Agatha Christie to Barbara Kingsolver to Karen Blixen.

I really do believe that reading helps us understand other countries, cultures, histories, and human experiences.  It's the closest thing to walking a mile in someone else's shoes that most of us can achieve.  So get out there and read books set far from your home!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Just Keep Reading: My Segue from Make Me Read It Read-a-Thon to High Summer Read-a-Thon

I got distracted from the Make Me Read It Read-a-thon by the fun we were having on our vacation.  I did finish The Eighth Day, which I really enjoyed, and then started in on Sekret, which I bought last summer and kept meaning to get to all year.  Enjoyed it also.

Thus, grand total for the #MakeMeRead blitz was five and a half  books, all YA/MG.  I really liked four of them, and the other two had strengths that made them worth reading.

I went ahead and finished up Sekret this morning, so I guess it also counts as my first High Summer Read-a-Thon book.

 My plan is to keep working through the next few books I'd put aside from my big stack.  That would be Jasper Jones, Salt to the Sea, and 100 Sideways Miles.  We're encouraged to read some adult books as well for this, so I also plan to dive into some of my summer professional reading goals this week.

Since I missed the Sunday Post this week, I'm also going to share some pictures from our family reunion at the beach.  My mother-in-law turned 75 last spring, and invited her sister and her family, their brother, and her two sons' families to spend several days at the coast this month.

They had really lovely plantings in the development where we stayed.  

Wave Jumping

The cliffs erode constantly--beach front property is a bit of a risk.

Looking north

We had 106 stairs up and down to the beach--just in time for me deciding to get in better shape.

I got the boys going on an engineering project.

Cousins and in-laws

My kid gathering shells

My other kid gathering shells

My girl and her local cousin

Some kid tried to claim this piece of driftwood for himself.  Nice try, kid!  No private property on Oregon beaches!

Tidal pools