Sunday, October 27, 2019

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon Wrap-up

I was coming off of a long week. Parent teacher conferences mean two 13+ hour days in a row, so I was both tired and behind on daily life. So I gave myself permission to just take the read-a-thon as it came.

It came with naps.

Still, the wonderful thing about it is that I give myself permission to not worry about getting anything else done on RAT days. I read as much as I want, whether that's 19 hours (my record) or 10, which is more what I did yesterday.

My completed books:

I started with The List, which is an OBOB book that most of my students wanted to read. I find that fantasy/sci fi is a hard sell for my reluctant readers, because they aren't up to the task of figuring out what the heck is going on, but it's the most popular genre for my enthusiastic readers because, well, spec fic is awesome. I really liked the premise too, which is that in some dystopian future, only 500 words are allowed to be used--except like the very Jonah like character who is apprenticed to a very Giver type character who tracks all the lost words. It obviously covers a lot of the same themes, but the world as we knew it ended not in war, but in environmental catastrophe.

I then read Lab Girl. It's my favorite kind of non-fiction: story mixed with information explained at my level of understanding. Jahren is exactly my age, and it was fascinating to read about her life, which is not at all like mine. It was equally fascinating to learn about plant biology and research scientists. She crams a lot in here, and I get the feeling there is just as much more that she chose not to add. She's definitely smarter than the average bear, what with her scientific discoveries plus her beautiful writing style. Like, pick a side of your brain and stop making the rest of us look bad.

It was after dinner by then, so I picked up a graphic novel I'd gotten at the library recently, Americana (And the Art of Getting Over It). It's a memoir of an Irishman's attempt to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016. I was a PCT book junkie long before Wild was published, so this was right up my alley. It wasn't the most eventful look at life on the trail, and I was a bit disappointed that such a visual medium did not include more scenery, but I'm still glad I read it.

I debated going to bed, then decided to fit in one fast read. My daughter had insisted I take a stack of her books, which are all YA thrillers, for my read-a-thon consideration. I picked up Liar, which is an avowed unreliable narrator story. So unreliable that at the end, I had lots of questions about what was and wasn't true, and even what was and wasn't real. I feel like the author knows, but from the brief amount of digging I did after I finished, there's clearly disagreement among her readers. I'd love to chat about it with someone! I then headed to bed around 1 am, which is hour 20 in my time zone.

I didn't have time to really prep any snacks, but I did stop by Trader Joe's the night before for a few treats. So I ended up eating bread and cheese and desserts all day, which might possibly be part of why I have a headache today. I know the first two 24 hour read-a-thons I did, way back in 2016, my eyes were not yet noticeably aging, but for the past few years, eye strain has become an actual thing for me. Getting glasses helped, of course, and even though I don't NEED large print books to read, I do think that having a large print title was easier on my eyes. It's very frustrating to have a limitation in an area that doesn't exactly seem like it's the kind of high intensity activity one expects to struggle more with as one ages.

Still, I will continue to look forward to this semi-annual excuse to prioritize reading over all else for a solid day and then some.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Dewey's Post: Six Word Spookiness

Andi at Estella's Revenge has challenged the Dewey Read-a-thoners to come up with six word stories appropriate to the season. This is the kind of writing exercise I adore, so here are my several examples.

Some from a kid's point of view:

My raincoat covers up my costume.

Yuck. Another stupid box of raisins.

Some from a teacher's.

November First. Candy wrappers. Tired kids.

Exhausted students on sugar fumes--focus!

Generally scary:

People don't believe in climate change.

Everyone I love will die someday.

Ate all my read-a-thon snacks already.

Halloween style scary.

Home alone. Hear breathing. Not mine.

No bogeyman--killer clown got him.

Mushroom stew, fresh from my yard.

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon Hour One

Good morning! It is 5:00 in the morning and it's Saturday and I'm up! There could only be one reason for such a thing--DEWEY'S 24 HOUR READ-A-THON!!! And I've not been blogging much at all lately, but for this--always. As tradition dictates, we will start off with this survey.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm in a suburb of Portland, Oregon on the west coast of the United States. It is currently pitch black out, so I can't give you much of a weather report, but yesterday was full of gusting fall leaves.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
All of them? I really like my stack this time. I plan to start with The List, which is a Battle of the Books title I'd never heard of before, but the premise sounds really cool.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
This is also 100% traditional for my read-a-thon enjoyment: my Trader Joe's Fleur de Sal caramels. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm a middle school reading teacher, and I'm kicking myself for forgetting to tell all my classes I am doing this. They are always so astonished; it's hilarious.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I'm trying to keep my expectations low in terms of how many hours I read. Every once in awhile I actually manage to read most of the night, but given how busy life is, I'm going to allow myself to go to bed at midnight or so.

Gonna go read now!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon TBR!

I have some OBOB books (Oregon Battle of the Books) that I haven't read yet, some large print books for when my eyes get tired, and some new graphic novels from my classroom. I don't know how much of the day I'll be able to devote to this--or how late into the night I'll be able to keep going--but it's always good to have multiple options!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Stories in Music

I was raised in the 1970s on a steady diet of Neil Diamond, Simon & Garfunkel, and John Denver. I later learned that actual rock and roll and even disco were big in that era, but at my house, we were all about the singer songwriters. When I say "we," in this case, I mean my three big sisters, who were teens to my little kid. If I came home and could hear "Matthew's Song" or "Cracklin' Rose" from the street, I knew Peg was vacuuming with the record player turned up high enough to hear over the noise.

Image result for john denver

So I blame my weakness for sentimental, story-telling songs on them. Songs you can hear the lyrics clearly enough to sing along with. And while I've loved all sorts of music and musicians in the years since then, if I had to pick a favorite type, that'd be it.

In the past week or two, I've been on a big nostalgia kick in my listening, finding songs by the women singer songwriters I loved in college and just after.  I realized that although the plot isn't as complete as in a book, there is a sense of character and emotion that appeals to me in the same way the best books do. These are from a different era than "Cecilia" and "Country Roads," but I know those earlier songs primed me for these.

Here's heartbreak in a song:

"Cold Tea Blues" by the Cowboy Junkies

If I pour your cup, that is friendship
If I add your milk, that is manners
If I stop there, claiming ignorance of taste,
that is tea

But if I measure the sugar
to satisfy your expectant tongue
then that is love,
But if I measure the sugar
to satisfy your expectant tongue
then that is love,
sitting untouched and growing cold

Image result for cowboy junkies

Or how about the pensive reminiscing here:

"Memories of East Texas" by Michelle Shocked (excerpt)

Memories of East Texas                                                                                                                                 
And piney green rolling hills                                                                                                                           
Covered in the springtime                                                                                                                              
With golden daffodils                                                                                                                                      
Rowing on Sandy Lake come April                                                                                                                
Harvesting hay in June                                                                                                                                  
Sitting by the road watching well-fires burn                                                                                                   
By an old October moon                                                                                                                                 
I learned to drive on those East Texas red clay backroads                                                                            
And I mean to tell you my friend                                                                                                                    
They weren't no easy roads                                                                                                                           
You had to watch out for all the curves                                                                                                          
Down by Kelsey Creek                                                                                                                                  
And detour through the Lindsay's pasture                                                                                                    
When the water ran too deep                                                                                                                        
Memories of East Texas                                                                                                                                 
And Gilmer, county seat of Upshur                                                                                                                
Looking back and asking myself                                                                                                                    
'What the hell'd you let them break your spirit for?'                                                                                        
You know, their lives ran in circles so small                                                                                                   
Ah, they thought they'd seen it all                                                                                                                  
And they could not make a place for a girl who'd seen the ocean                                                                 
Image result for michelle shocked
Or how about this domestic saga?
"He Thinks He'll Keep Her" by Mary Chapin Carpenter

She makes his coffee, she makes his bed                                                                                   
She does the laundry, she keeps him fed                                                                                    
When she was twenty-one she wore her mother's lace                                                                 
She said, "forever," with a smile upon her face                                                                           
She does the carpool, she P.T.A.'s                                                                                             
Doctors and dentists, she drives all day                                                                                      
When she was twenty-nine she delivered number three                                                               
And every Christmas card showed a perfect family                                                                      
Everything runs right on time                                                                                                    
Years of practice and design                                                                                                      
Spit and polish till it shines, he thinks he'll keep her                                                                    
Everything is so benign                                                                                                             
The safest place you'll ever find                                                                                                 
God forbid you change your mind, he thinks he'll keep her                                                           
She packs his suitcase, she sits and waits                                                                                   
With no expression upon her face                                                                                              
When she was thirty-six she met him at their door                                                                      
She said, "I'm sorry, I don't love you any more"                                                                         
(chorus repeats)                                                                                                                       
For fifteen years she had a job and not one raise in pay                                                               
Now she's in the typing pool at minimum wage                                                                           
(chorus repeats)                                                                                                                       
Image result for mary chapin carpenter

And then there's this one, which truly is a story song. I like to sing the last bit "in the solitude SHE DESERVED" because it's so upsetting.

"The Queen and the Soldier" by Suzanne Vega

The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door
He said, "I am not fighting for you any more"
The queen knew she'd seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside.
He said, "I've watched your palace up here on the hill
And I've wondered who's the woman for whom we all kill
But I am leaving tomorrow and you can do what you will
Only first I am asking you why."
Down in the long narrow hall he was led
Into her rooms with her tapestries red
And she never once took the crown from her head
She asked him there to sit down.
He said, "I see you now, and you are so very young
But I've seen more battles lost than I have battles won
And I've got this intuition, says it's all for your fun
And now will you tell me why?"
Well the young queen, she fixed him with an arrogant eye
She said, "You won't understand, and you may as well not try"
But her face was a child's, and he thought she would cry
But she closed herself up like a fan.
And she said, "I have swallowed a secret burning thread
It cuts me inside, and often I've bled"
He laid his hand then on top of her head
And he bowed her down to the ground.
"Tell me how hungry are you? How weak you must feel
As you are living here alone, and you are never revealed
But I won't march again on your battlefield"
And he took her to the window to see.
And the sun, it was gold, though the sky, it was gray
And she wanted more than she ever could say
But she knew how it frightened her, and she turned away
And would not look at his face again.
And he said, "I want to live as an honest man
To get all I deserve and to give all I can
And to love a young woman who I don't understand
Your highness, your ways are very strange."
But the crown, it had fallen, and she thought she would break
And she stood there, ashamed of the way her heart ached
She took him to the doorstep and she asked him to wait
She would only be a moment inside.

Out in the distance her order was heard
And the soldier was killed, still waiting for her word
And while the queen went on strangling in the solitude she preferred
The battle continued on.

Image result for suzanne vega

The funny thing, I'd maintain that I really don't like country music, but that's what most of this would be classified as. Which just goes to show you that genres can be limiting, and that a masterful writer can shine in any genre. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

September in Review

My Reading

# of books read: 9
Yes, this is the same amount I read in some weeks. But it was the first month of school, which is always excessively busy and exhausting. I'm okay with it.

Best(s):(In which I tell you all my five star reads and make up categories so they each win something)**

Best series re-read and wrap-up: Three Dark Crowns series. I read the first three books and the finale this month, and it was a blast. My favorite queen lived.
Five ​Dark Fates (Three Dark Crowns, #4)

Best use of red herrings: Keep This to Yourself. It really kept me guessing!
Keep This to Yourself

Best twisty sci fi ode to female friendship (and coolest cover): Wilder Girls.
Wilder Girls

Bookish Events and Happenings

I managed to take a dozen girls to see April Henry and Caroline O'Doherty at Powell's. I had to lobby hard and convince my admin that we could afford a bus, which is the only cost, since it was an evening event and I didn't need a sub. The books we got that night have been in constant rotation too. 

On the Blog

I posted five times, the new normal? I guess? My previous month in review, a couple of Top Ten Tuesdays, a Sunday post, and my first Classics Club spin (which I have yet to start--oops). 


September is all about school at my house. Between kids and me, that's all we have time and energy for. 

We did a book tasting to get students exposed to my library.

My sister helped me put together a long-term bulletin board outside my room. 

I can already tell you that next month I'll have more to report in the "life" and "books read" sections. September is something to survive. The good news is, my seventh grader, my freshman and I all seem to be set up for a good school year.

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!

Monday, October 7, 2019

TTT: Ten Things I Love About Annabelle from A Heart in a Body in the World

 TTT is now hosted by 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 is: ten things that make me fall in love with a book character

I think the author's skill is really the main ingredient--I love characters sweet and characters bitter, the angsty shy ones and the outrageous bold ones. So I'm going to explain ten things I loved about the main character of a book I finished about five minutes ago, A Heart in a Body in the World.

Annabelle is grieving. 
It takes awhile for the reader to really find out who and why she's mourning, but her grief is real and relatable, and made me care so much for her. There's a sense, when tragedy first hits, that recovering from it is not even a worthy goal, that it would be a betrayal of those you loved to want to start feeling okay again. Annabelle's guilt is even more complex than that, but I recognized it all the same.

Annabelle is an athlete.
I always say you'll only see me running if I'm about to miss a plane. But as much as I love a character I can relate to, I also love a character who has interests beyond my own. 

Annabelle is an awesome sister.
Her relationship with her little brother is so sweet and healthy and lovely. Sibling love for the win.

Annabelle find her mom infuriating and wise, supportive and frustrating, all in pretty much equal measures.
This is the mother/daughter content I can relate to. 

Annabelle hides her fury under her guilt.
Oooh boy. As a reader, you come to this understanding right along with her, and it is so satisfying to see her recognize and then claim her anger. 

Annabelle loves books, and shared that love with her bestie.
I'm pretty sure most readers love to read about readers, right?

Annabelle is figuring out some really tough stuff about what it means to be a woman in this world. She has some important questions about why girls are told they can do anything but still are held accountable for boys' actions to them. She struggles with how she can be flirty without giving up her right to say no. This is stuff that is really hard to navigate, and when I was her age, these questions were so far below the radar. It's a baby step, but I'm glad we are at least openly talking about this stuff now.

Annabelle's growth is not linear.
She makes progress, then she regresses. She claims her power, then loses it again. She gives up, but then she keeps going anyway. Not only does this make me super proud of her, but it is also far more relatable than a character whose arc is just up-up-up.

Annabelle's friends and family all have different, specific nicknames for her.
How cute is that? From Pip to Belle Bottom to Bella Luna, her people show their love by giving her a name just between them.

Annabelle dedicates herself to fighting against gun violence.
She's my hero.

BONUS CONTENT: Annabelle's mom, Gina, responding to her little brother Malcolm heading outside from the hotel room they've convened in the first evening of the story.
"It's dark out there. It's eleven thirty! We're in Renton."
This cracks me up, given that my sister lives in Renton, and it's...pretty bland. 

A Heart in a Body in the World

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

TTT: Numbered Titles

 TTT is now hosted by 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 is: NUMBERS. I'm super late getting this posted, but it seemed like too much fun to miss. So without further ado, here are ten books I've enjoyed that have titles with numbers. Condensed descriptions from Goodreads, except for the bread cookbook, which is really just a bread cookbook that I like.

One Word Kill
In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

One Word Kill (Impossible Times, #1)

Tale of Two Cities
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...

A Tale of Two Cities

Three Graves Full
"There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”

But it could always be worse. . . .

Three Graves Full

And Then There Were Four
When a building collapses around five teenagers--and they just barely escape--they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. 

And Then There Were Four

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

Six of Crows
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

The Seventh Wish
Charlie feels like she's always coming in last. From her Mom's new job to her sister's life at college, everything seems more important than Charlie. Then one day while ice fishing, Charlie makes a discovery that will change everything . . . in the form of a floppy fish offering to grant a wish in exchange for freedom. 

The Seventh Wish

The Eighth Day
When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday.

The Eighth Day (Eighth Day, #1)

Nine Horses
In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, America's Poet Laureate for 2001-2003, continues his delicate negotiation between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac.

Nine Horses

Ten Days a Madwoman
Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell's Island, and writing a shocking exposé of the clinic’s horrific treatment of its patients.

Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly