Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Slice of Life: Weddings and Funerals

I've always been a sucker for weddings. I'll cry tears of happiness at the wedding of two dear friends, or also at the wedding of my colleague's daughter whom I've met once before. But after I got married, there's something especially nice about attending weddings with my husband. I hold his hand, rest my head on his shoulder, catch his eye and smile. Weddings remind me that beneath the grind of daily life, deeper than the absent minded affection we treat each other with, we too have a love that is deep and pure and worth tears of joy.

But I didn't realize that the same is true of funerals. I went to two memorial services the year my mom died, and it was no surprise that they affected me deeply. One was mere weeks after Mom's death, and the other was for one of her oldest, dearest friends. Yesterday though, I went to a "celebration of life" for the husband of a woman I worked with and for during the early days of my career. The loss wasn't mine to mourn. But all afternoon yesterday, all morning today, I'm thinking of my own losses. The last weeks of my mom's life; the end of my dad's. Watching my old friend collapse against her daughter, forehead to forehead, made me think about my sisters and I, how we supported each other and bewildered each other with our different responses to grief. A large fluffy dog--a Newfoundland or a Bernese Mountain Dog--passed through the crowd and soaked up the love and affection. I thought about how cold I was all the time the winter Mom died, how I longed for a good Latvian pirts (sauna) to get myself warmed all the way through.

These are commonplace rituals, events most people attend repeatedly throughout their lives. But you don't really know what they are until you've been at the heart of one.

Image result for bernese mountain dog Image result for pirts

Monday, February 11, 2019

TTT: Favorite Couples

With the delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish moving on to other things, TTT is now hosted by just one of their contingent, That Artsy Reader Girl .  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 it out!

The topic this week, just in time for Valentines Day, is Favorite Couples in books. I was going to be all obstinate and talk about friends and pets and whatnot, but given the obvious connection to the holiday, I'll play along and talk about true love and soul mates. And so, logically, my list will have 14 couples. (Because Feb. 14--get it?)

Anne and Gilbert in the Anne of Green Gables series. I love the way their relationship develops over time, and the letters they wrote each other when separated.
“Gilbert, I'm afraid I'm scandalously in love with you.” (From Anne of Windy Poplars)

Sean and Puck in Scorpio Races. Gah. I was fully invested in their romance. 
“I say, 'I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.'
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, 'It's late for that, Puck.”

Ari and Dante in, obviously, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I was so happy for them when they figured it out. And there's a new book coming!
“I love swimming"
"I know," I said.
"I love swimming," he said again. He was quiet for a little while. And then he said, "I love swimming—and you."
I didn't say anything.
"Swimming and you, Ari. Those are the things I love the most.” 

Kaz and Inej in the Six of Crows duology. They've got issues, and may never be able to touch each other, but WOW is it an intense and, frankly, hot relationship. I just wish those pesky copyright laws didn't prevent me from dumping a bunch of fan art of them right here.

"I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all." 
 BRB, gotta go cry for an hour or two now.

Lazlo Strange and Sarai in the Strange the Dreamer duology. I need to go re-read this right now. Love them so much.
"I think you're magical, and brave, and exquisite. And..." His voice grew bashful. Only in a dream could he be so bold and speak such words. "I hope you'll let me be in your story.” 

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in the LPW series One of the earliest marriage of intellectual equals I saw in print. 
“For God's sake, let's take the word 'possess' and put a brick round its neck and drown it ... We can't possess one another. We can only give and hazard all we have.”

Marko and Alana in the Saga series *Sobs endlessly*
“At first, he annoyed the shit out of me. Marko can be a self-righteous ass, he has no idea how to sit still, and worst of all, he laughs at his own jokes."

"Then why did you risk everything to be with him?"

"Because your son is so goddamn beautiful."

"Ha. I assure you, looks aren't forever."

"Oh, I know. I wasn't talking about his looks.” 

Jack and Ennis from "Brokeback Mountain" in Close Range. This short story hit me so hard. Years later when I saw the film, I was shocked at how many details I had remembered. I also felt that its position as the final story in the book really brought to life the environment this doomed love foundered in.
“The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one.” 

Nathan and Gabriel from the Half Bad series I'm not much of a shipper in books, and will usually accept the first relationship I'm handed, but I was rooting for these two from the very start.
“You've been away a long time. Were you lost?

I was wounded, not lost.”
(If you haven't read the series, that quote is actually more romantic than it sounds.)


Todd and Viola from the Chaos Walking series. It starts as a hesitant friendship and nearly gets derailed several times, but whether or not it was romantic, their love and support for each other kept them connected to the people they were and the people they wanted to become. 
“Todd!” she says again but this time in a way that asks me to look at her and I do and she stops Angharrad at the edge of the square and she’s looking at me, looking right into my eyes–

And I read her–

And I know exactly what she’s thinking–

And my Noise and my heart and my head fill up fit to burst, fill up like I’m gonna explode–

Cuz she’s saying–

She’s saying with her eyes and her face and her whole self–

“I know,” I say back to her, my voice husky. “Me, too.”

Katniss and Peeta. Forever. 
“You love me. Real or not real?"
I tell him, "Real.”

Scarlet and Wolf from The Lunar Chronicles. They had to work for it in ways the other couples didn't.
“I really am sorry for shooting you."
"Are you?"
Her touch lingered as it reached the end of the bandage, checking that it was still securely tied. "What does that mean?"
"I suspect you would shoot me all over again if you thought it would help your grandmother."
She blinked up at him, almost surprised to discover how close they were standing. "I would," She said. "But that doesn't mean I wouldn't be sorry about it afterward.” 

Simon and Baz in Carry On. You crazy vampire and wizard boys, you. 
“You were the sun, and I was crashing into you. I'd wake up every morning and think, 'This will end in flames.”

Eugenides and Attolia in The Queen's Thief series. Talk about hate-to-love. She CUTS OFF HIS HAND for crying out loud!

“Unable to guess the answer, she asked, 'Who am I, that you should love me?'
'You are my Queen,' said Eugenides. She sat perfectly still, looking at him without moving as his words dropped like water into dry earth.
'Do you believe me?' he asked.
'Yes,' she answered.
'Do you love me?'
'I love you.'
And she believed him.” 

SO MUCH ROMANCE. I always say I don't like romances, but honestly, I adore all of these couples, and their relationships are central to their stories. It also appears I need to read more F/F love stories.

And then there's this epic romance. 💕

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Author Blogger Results! (Highly Unscientific due to Sample Size)

Last week I asked a bunch of questions about if you all have writing aspirations beyond blogging. Itt sure didn't help that I set up my Google Form so you had to log in to use it. I suspect I lost a few entries because of that. But given that, I still found people's replies interesting.

Two thirds of respondents have actually written, or are currently writing, a book. I am so impressed! I'm in the green "Nope" category, myself.

 I thought the variety on this was interesting. 

This one has a wide range as well. I'm not shocked there are no budding horror authors visiting my site, since horror is something I really don't read or talk about. I'd like to read those memoirs though!

I was also super interested to find that more of you would write an adult novel than a YA novel considering how much attention YA gets in the blogosphere. It's also cool that there's interest in picture books or early chapter books.

So there you have it! If you're interested in filling out the original survey, I believe it's working, and you can access it here.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

What The Youths Are Reading These Days


We started a new semester, and I have SO MANY READERS. We have waiting lists for several books, and kids share what they're reading with each other. Here are a few of the most popular books right now.

The Cheerleaders is a murder book with cheerleaders. I had to get a second copy because the holds list was so long. Then my daughter wanted to read it so I had to pick up a used paperback too. It does start out with the main character recovering from an abortion, so it's YA for sure, not MG.

The Cheerleaders

Tyler Johnson Was Here is a #BlackLivesMatter novel that two of my white kids are reading. One boy reports in every day, "Now they're organizing a protest." He told me he almost cried at one part, which is a pretty major thing for a seventh grade boy to admit.

Hey, Kiddo I am so glad to see this graphic novel memoir getting some love. It's being passed from hand to hand as fast as they can finish it. It helped that when I book talked it, one kid said, "Oh, I got that for my birthday! It's really good!"
Hey, Kiddo

The Hate U Give I expected this one to get a lot of momentum when the movie came out, but it seems that word of mouth is just now picking up speed in our school. Just in time for Angie Thomas's new book!

The Hate U Give

Oddity Skyping with author Sarah Cannon got one kid excited about it, then word started to spread about this wacky, funny book.


Ghost Boys I was explaining the premise--black boy shot by police meets the ghost of Emmet Till--and a student said "But that's terrible!" Yep. The kid who snatched it up is powering through it.

Ghost Boys

Lunar Chronicles Some of my strong readers are huge fantasy/sci fi fans. They are devouring this series, making my fan-girl decision to buy ALL OF IT finally pay off.


Dragon Ball Z This series, first published in the 1980s (!) is wildly popular with a subset of my students. Pro tip: when buying Dragon Ball Z books for your students, do NOT buy "Dragon Ball" or "Dragon Ball X" books. They will be sorely disappointed, because those are NOT the same.

Dragon Ball Z, Vol. 1: The World's Greatest Team (Dragon Ball Z, #1)

Storm Runner I'm really pleased to see the Rick Riordan Presents imprint starting to get some fame. Actual student quote: "I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I love this book!"

The Storm Runner (The Storm Runner, #1)

In the After/In the End This duology, which a coworker started with her classes last semester, remains on FIRE in our school. Neither of us can keep the books on our shelves, even though she has multiple copies. I even have a special education student who reads at first grade level set up with the audiobook version, and he pays rapt attention. For a series nobody has ever heard of, it's amazing.

In the After

It is so fun for me to see the variety these kids are reading. Manga, sci fi, contemporary, fantasy, graphic novels, thrillers. We're gearing up for a mini unit on Dr. Rudine Sims's "windows and mirrors" analysis of stories, and I'm excited to see my students are already seeking out books that offer both.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

January in Review/Sunday Post #27

My Reading

# of books read: 19
 I'm not including CYBILS titles in here since I don't want to show my hand before we announce the winners in two weeks. That also explains why these are mostly MG novels, since I was balancing the work of reading nonfiction with the quick reading I can do of those. I really liked most of the books I read this month, but these stand out:

Dear Sister by Alison McGhee An epistolary novel from a big brother to his annoying baby sister, this one is sweet, with just enough angst to keep it real.

Dear Sister

Oddity Author Sarah Cannon was matched with my classroom through #KidsNeedMentors, and we love her truly odd sci fi/fantasy novel in which evil puppets run a town in New Mexico.


The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden
You don't get a lot of middle grade novels that confront poverty so directly without getting mawkish. This one is beautiful.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

On the Blog

I posted 14 times in January, which is a bit of an uptick for me. My most viewed post was the deceptively named "2018 in Books: Round One," which turned out to be the only post in that series. I had a lot of fun with the Cookies and Books Tag. Overall, I tried to be more active in blogging community memes, participating twice in a Top Ten Tuesday (new to me authors and latest TBR additions) and twice in The Sunday Post.  I even tried to do some blogging ahead, which backfired a tiny bit when this post went up this morning as scheduled with only the headings actually written. Whoops! I also outsmarted myself on the latest additions post, because I tried to put in a Goodreads widget rather than having to manually add links and photos, but it keeps updating to always show the ten most recent additions. That means people's comments might refer to a book that is no longer showing in the post. 


New semester started! This was exciting because I have EVEN MORE students per class who are there voluntarily instead of being in the "mandatory elective" that you get if your reading scores are low. It really changes the tenor of the class to have students who are excited to read. 

My oldest friend and I have instituted First Friday Friend dates, and in January we made tacos and watched Dumplin' together. It was as delightful as it sounds. 

My sisters and I all got together last weekend, which doesn't happen very often. It was wonderful, and featured this gorgeously chubby kitty. Two of my sisters have cats that my parents owned, and this is the trouble-maker, Thomas. (Why are animals adorable when they're fat?) 

And the month began with a trip to our friend's mountain home, where we got to hang out with this sweetheart. My daughter took both of these photos, which kind of makes me laugh. She has a theme going on here.

My monthly summaries are always linked to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up on Feed Your Fiction Addiction, along with many other terrific blogs' monthly reflections.  Nicole usually puts together a fun scavenger hunt giveaway too, so go check it out! This week I'm also linking to The Sunday Post hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer, since it's Sunday and all. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Discussion: Do You Wanna Be An Author?

I'm going to make two large assumptions about you right this very minute:

a) You love to read.
b) You like to write.

Am I right?

But here's the thing I can't assume:
c) You want to write, or have already written, a book.

I know some bloggers are already published authors or professional writers. Others are anywhere along the drafting-getting an agent-shopping a manuscript stage. Still others have no interest in writing a full length book, but are quite happy tossing off polished (or not) blog posts on topics that are dear to their hearts.

Personally, I have always dreamed of being an author, but that's mostly because of a) and b) above. I love books. I like writing. But I have no story ideas. I am constantly amazed at the variety of stories and characters authors come up with. How do they do it? I long ago came to the conclusion that I'd never be a published author or professional writer.

And yet.

When we Skyped with author Sarah Cannon in January, I was so struck by her story of writing a book that was terrible, locking it away, writing a second book that was better, but didn't seem to go anywhere, locking it away, writing a book she liked and trying to get an agent with it, writing its sequel, still no agent, and then with her FIFTH BOOK finding an agent and publisher.

The idea that I could maybe write a REALLY BAD book to start with is weirdly exciting.

She also talked about participating in NaNoWriMo, and how having a deadline, and support, and the sense of adventure made writing that first book less daunting than it would have been.

And I said, "Hmm."

My word for this year is "bold" as in "Be bold, try something new, don't let fear stop you from doing things you want to do." There was no way I could have considered writing a book in the past few years, but right now it looks like next November might be a time when I could actually try that.

But I don't know. I STILL don't have any ideas, and it feels like plot and characters are pretty important when writing a book.

What about you? I'm really curious to know where others stand on this, so I put together this quick form. Next week I can share our results. Please play along!