Friday, February 28, 2020

Rapid Fire Book Tag

This tag was created by Girl Reading, and it’s some quick bookish questions and their quick bookish answers. I stole it from Deb at Readerbuzz (and unlike last week, when I credited her with recommending Dreyer's English, I know she truly is the source this time). 

E-Book or Physical Book?


Paperback or Hardback?


Online or In-Store Book Shopping?


Trilogies or Series?

Trilogies or Duologies.

Heroes or Villains?

Heroes, but imperfect ones..

A book you want everyone to read?

How It Went Down

How It went Down by Kekla Magoon

Recommend an underrated book?
Witness by Karen Hesse

The last book you finished?

The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3)
The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

The Last Book You Bought?

Chirp by Kate Messner

Weirdest Thing You’ve Used as a Bookmark?

I'm pretty sure I tried to use my cat's tail at some point.

Used Books: Yes or No?


Top Three Favorite Genres?

Adult mystery, YA fantasy, literary fiction

Borrow or Buy?

Borrow from my fantastic library

Characters or Plot?

Long or Short Books?


Long or Short Chapters?


Name the First Three Books You Think Of:

The River Why Light It Up Not So Big House

Books That Makes You Laugh or Cry?


Our World or Fictional Worlds?


Audiobooks: Yes or No?

Yes, but only in the car.

Do You Ever Judge a Book by its Cover?

Of course.

Book to Movie or Book to TV Adaptations?

Book to TV.

A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?

Image result for the stranger netflix

Series or Standalones?


And there you have it. Quick and easy--it was kind of fun to just answer the questions without lengthy explanations. Feel free to adapt, use, and share!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Simplifying Life: From Walden to Swedish Death Cleaning

I've mentioned several times recently that my on-going obsession with tiny houses has re-emerged. Part of that is their adorable-ness, and part of it is the appeal of simplifying life.

Image result for tinyhouse   Image result for ross chapin homes

During my own lifetime, there have been various movements that championed aspects of this, and as I think about it, I see more and more times this has cropped up in modern western society.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau's hand-hewed cabin in the woods, with one chair for him and one for a guest, is the original American ideal of the simple, deliberate life. Case in point, his two most famous quotes:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.
Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
Sure, he was but a brisk walk from home and town, and had his mom do all his cooking and laundry, but he talked the talk very well and inspired generations to dream of a rustic cabin in the woods.

Back to the Land movement
Some hundred years after Thoreau and the transcendentalists left their Utopias, the hippies started to emulate them.
Image result for doonesbury comic walden puddle

Mother Earth News and Whole Earth catalogues tried to teach suburban white kids how to be self-sufficient homesteaders. Buckminster Fuller inspired them to build geodesic domes to live in. (I have friends in their early eighties who still live in theirs.)

(not my friends' home)

Nature Writing By/For Hermits
Many mid century essayists wrote movingly of their own experience with solitude and simplicity. Some of my favorites are:

Desert Solitaire
Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek
Sand Country Almanac

These three works were hugely influential on me as a college student in the late 1980s. The dreams they inspired of living a solitary and reflective life in harmony with nature still lurk in my subconscious.

Voluntary Simplicity was the buzzword in the 1990s, a precursor to today's Minimalism. Study groups formed to discuss how to live simply with less. I strongly suspect most of those having this conversation were financially secure--then again, that's where the "voluntary" comes in. There was a strong Christian bend to many of the books and conversations that went on in those days.

Image result for live simply that others
While this quote is attributed to everyone from Ghandi to bell hooks, it apparently started life as a bumper sticker.

Minimalism is the new Simplicity

Of course you remember  Marie Kondo's book The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. Can you believe it came out in 2011? Nowadays we all know what it means to Kondo a drawer.

Then came the Minimalists, with their road tour, podcast, blog, and book, Everything That Remains. If you search for books with the word "minimalist" in the title, you'll be absolutely swamped. (Does that qualify as irony?)

There were buy-nothing challenges that encouraged people to mend, trade, or do without new purchases for a full year. And now, there's The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which may be one of the best book titles in all of history.

What have we learned from all this? Well, that there's a tidy business to be made in selling people books about doing without. There's also a yearning for a life that we imagine as simple, unstressed and free of manipulation by advertising agencies. The jargon changes, but the underlying impulse remains the same.

If you're looking for me I'll be on the couch in my messy, cluttered living room in my house that has at least 2 rooms we never use, reading a book about tiny homes, and dreaming of a simple shack in the woods.

Image result for mt hood cabins

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sunday Post #48/Sunday Salon #22

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
After a dismal showing last week, I'm BACK, BABY! Well, and I also decided to actually count some of the tiny home and decluttering books I've been reading. I read eight books, five of which were nonfiction. This is a bit odd for me, but I think it's a reaction to reading so much YA spec fic in a short period of time.

Dreyer's English, recommended by Deb at Reader Buzz, is a gem. I was chortling while reading. My daughter said, "Only you would be laughing while reading a book about punctuation and grammar," but I am pretty sure that most people would be absolutely delighted by this book.

Tiny Homes on the Move: Wheels and Water
Tiny House Basics: Living the Good Life in Small Spaces
New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living
Of the dozen or more related books I've skimmed lately, these are the ones that actually pulled me in enough to read.

Talking to Strangers
I just sat by the library windows and polished this off in a couple of hours. I started out extremely skeptical of Gladwell's take on police violence, but he tied together interesting data about how most crimes take place in very small, specific areas, research on policing from a specific area of Kansas City, and how the disastrous misunderstanding that those two things are related has led to horrifyingly dangerous practices. Also interesting information on how making specific deadly means less available doesn't just shift suicide attempts to other means, but actually decreases suicide rates.

And in fiction, I read the sequel to The Hazel Wood, The Night Country, which was satisfying, Paper Valentine, which was on the "staff recommends" shelf at the library and was just the right amount of horror for me, and Spellslinger, which I didn't quite finish in time for the OBOB conversation. It is a creative and entertaining western/fantasy. It was my favorite of the week after Dreyer's English.

What I'm Reading/What's Next
I just picked up The Hand On the Wall, the final book in the Truly Devious series, so I'm super excited about that. I also just started reading Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, which should be a quick and fun read.

Three Things

  1. Today we took a bunch of clothes in to a local nonprofit resale shop that donates to homeless veterans in my city, which feels so much better than dropping them off at Goodwill. I also took a stack of books to Powell's to sell. Usually they take about 15% of my offerings and I get maybe five bucks store credit, but today they took almost half of my books and I got $33, enough to buy 6 books for my classroom. We also cleaned out kitchen drawers and cabinets and put stuff aside for the annual rummage sale the Latvian society has in April, and we're organizing our climbing boots and snowshoes (but not the camping or hiking gear) for the local mountain club's gear sale next month. Do you see a trend here?
  2. Check out our adorable sub-letter. The kid has named him Jimmy, and he appears to live under a juniper bush in our front yard. 

3. My daughter became vegetarian, then my husband went 90% vegan. Send bacon and cheese.

Monday, February 17, 2020

TTT: Juried Selection

 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is 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 books that most recently gave you a book hangover, but I'm going to do something else this week.

I just finished my own awards season, in which I read some dozen plus books to choose the best YA speculative fiction for round 2 of the CYBILS and to choose the high school titles for next year's Oregon Battle of the Books. They had nearly the same timeline and were decided upon in the past few days. Here are my ten favorites that were up for consideration that I had never read before, roughly in order of my preference.

  1. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood (OBOB)\
  2. Fireborne (Cybils)
  3. Stronger, Faster, More Beautiful (Cybils) 
  4. Seraphina (OBOB)
  5. The Bone Houses (OBOB)
  6. Tash Hearts Tolstoy (OBOB)
  7. The Electric State (OBOB)
  8. Little Brother (OBOB)
  9. Aurora Rising (Cybils)
  10. Noteworthy (OBOB)

And--bonus!--here are my ten favorites that I'd already read. Nine of them are for OBOB, because they try to choose books available in paperback, which basically translates to backlist books, whereas Cybils is specifically for books published in the past year.

  1. Internment (Cybils)
  2. The 57 Bus
  3. Darius the Great is Not Okay
  4. The Smell of Other People's Houses
  5. Far From the Tree
  6. Emma
  7. Gabi, Girl in Pieces
  8. Truly Devious
  9. Symphony for the City of the Dead
  10. I Am Alfonso Jones

70% of the new favorites are speculative fiction, including OBOB titles, but 100% of the older favorites are realistic. Interesting.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday Post #47/Sunday Salon #21

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
I don't know what's going on with me right now. I have read two books--not this week, but this MONTH--and one of them was a novel in verse. Both books I started as audiobooks during my commute, and once I was into them, switched to ebooks, because that was the handiest format without having to wait. Who am I? What's happening?

At least both books were solid reads. Kwame Alexander's Swing took a MUCH darker turn than I expected. I've heard him say that when he met his wife in college, she wasn't interested, so he wrote her a love poem daily for a year, and now they've been married for decades. It sounds sweet when he says it like that, but it also sounds like someone not taking "no" for an answer, so when a character in the book takes a similar approach to wooing a girl who was his friend, I was sort of cringing. HOWEVER, -- sort of a spoiler here--while it works in the short term, in the long term she decides he's not the one, and he accepts that with good grace. In this case, it was more about him shooting his shot, as The Youth say, instead of always hiding how he felt.


The Hazel Wood is dark and creepy and  delicious. If I were a librarian in charge of displays, I'd add it to a "If you like V. E. Schwab..." display. I'll be looking for the next one soon. It was another book that subverted romantic expectations. I kind of loved that about it too.

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)
I love this cover, but now that I've read the book, I REALLY appreciate it. 

What I'm Reading/What's Next
WHO EVEN KNOWS?!?!?  I don't think it's a slump so much as being distracted by internet and Netflix. The Winemaker and I watched The Stranger and continue to watch Schitt's Creek. He makes sad faces at me if I try to go read instead of hanging out with him in the evening.  We have also started daydreaming about Tiny Houses, and I guess we can say I have read after all, because I've been poring over a dozen books on the topic.

I have wrapped up the Cybils reading and the OBOB title selection reading, so I feel a sense of freedom. I may even read BOOKS WRITTEN FOR GROWN-UPS that aren't about tiny houses.

Three Things

  1. I already mentioned it, but CYBILS AWARDS ARE OUT. Also, I'm drinking a mocha and it seems to encourage me to use all caps. I really like Fireborne, the book we chose as the YA Spec Fic winner, though I argued for Internment for awhile too. And I'm super proud because Heroine, the book I nominated for YA contemporary, won. Ha! 
Fireborne (The Aurelian Cycle, #1) InternmentHeroine

2. I started a new semester at school with brand new students. My classes are tiny, because we just hired an additional math intervention teacher and pulled six classes of kids into math. Many of those kids would have had reading otherwise. I have mixed emotions about that. Reading is fundamental, to borrow a slogan, but the kids I do have are certainly going to benefit from the under 20 class sizes. 

3. The Winemaker and I had dinner at this noodle house last night while our kid was skating. It's not that different than Thai food, but the homemade noodles were really delicious. We rarely go out to eat, so even a casual restaurant was a nice treat for us. 

Image result for frank's noodle house portland