Sunday, March 29, 2020

Puzzled Books Galison Ideal Bookshelf: Universals Puzzle, 1000+ ...

Anne over at My Head is Full of Books has been, like many of us, doing puzzles lately. She put together this one from Ideal Bookshelf and was inspired to create a little tag based on the labels. I've been struggling to get myself to blog, so I thought I'd jump on this and share my first thoughts with you. Obviously, there are dozens of options for any of them, so I'll try to not second guess myself. 
  • Unforgettable Book: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • Book a Friend Gave Me: The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis
  • Book that Gives Me Happy Tears: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Book I Read Again and Again: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
  • Book I'd Grab to Save From a Fire: My tattered copy of The River Why by David James Duncan
  • Best Book I've Ever Read: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Childhood Favorite Book: Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
  • Book That Makes Me Look Smart: The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne (Just because so many people say they hated it as assigned reading, and I actually enjoyed it.)
  • Book That Makes Me Laugh Out Loud: Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer
  • Super Fantastic Book:  Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Book I Never Finished: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Feel free to play along! Let Anne know if you do!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

No Thank You: Books To Avoid In These Trying Times

While writing this week's top ten Tuesday post, I casually mentioned a few books I won't be reading this month (season? year?) because of how terrifyingly plausible they seem these days. I keep thinking of more and more of them, so even though I DO NOT RECOMMEND reading them right now, I couldn't resist listing them for you.

1. The Stand
I read this book in 1995, in my little flat in rural Latvia, and I have not yet forgotten the opening scene, with the guy slipping out of the gates as the science goes wrong, then driving off with his wife and baby, coughing ominously.

2. Dry
Neal Shusterman himself just tweeted about the eery connection between his novel of water running out and the current situation (of TP running out?)

3. Life As We Knew It
I lost interest in this series as it progressed, but the first book, in which a slight shift in the moon's orbit basically destroys everything on earth made me want to stack the pantry with canned goods. Hmm, what does that remind me of?

4. Station Eleven
This one's not as near future as the others, so it's a little less relevant. But it's pretty bleak.

5.  Wilder Girls
Quarantined girls unsure if their food source is a boon or the problem...yikes.

6. How I Live Now
How quaint, a near-future book in which nuclear war derails regular life. Seems like a very 1980s concept. Though the cousin incest makes it less quaint, of course. Or more so? Wasn't that a thing in the 1300s?

7. In the After
As my students like to point out, this book came out well BEFORE The Quiet Place came out. After the aliens have attacked the earth, the only way to avoid getting eaten is to be unheard.

8. The Last Policeman
I love this trilogy about the trials and tribulations of trying to be a police detective when the whole world is aware that a meteor is going to take everyone out in a few months.

9. Not a Drop to Drink
I can barely let myself think about this one. After our scare with losing power yesterday, I started to wonder how feral we'd all get in pursuit of water for our immediate family.

10. The Living
The Big One wipes out the west coast, and the resulting flood of illnesses and refugees send the entire country into a tailspin. Oof.

The cover colors and styles kind of crack me up. Compare them to most contemporaries or rom-coms out. These books want you to know they are ominous. Kind of like poison dart frogs or something.

Image result for poison dart frog

What books would you add to this list? Are you brave enough to read any of these right now, or do they all strike a little too close to home? Me, I'm heading back to my comfort reads. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

 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: top ten books on your spring TBR.

Which is kind of not how I read, but here's the thing. I have 79 items checked out from my local public library, another forty or so I brought home from my classroom library, plus, oh, maybe 30? books I already own. (Yes, all those school and library books could be contaminated, but so could I, and I'm not leaving home for anything other than rare grocery runs from here on out, and my household consists of people in the low-risk categories.) So of all the millions of books in the world, those are the ones I'll be choosing from. And as I mentioned earlier, I've been stressing out (unlike the rest of the world, right?) so my focus right now is on comfort reads. Which means no fucking Station Eleven, The Stand, or Life As We Knew It

(Actually, that might be a hilarious top ten: ten books I will NOT be reading during my social distancing experience.)

Instead, I'm currently drawn to fantasy, thrillers, and re-reads. LET ME ESCAPE. 

Your recognition of that gif will probably reveal which generation you're from, BTW. 

Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3)So, of the books currently in my home, which ten am I most looking forward to being whisked away by?

1. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

I grabbed Courting Darkness at the library thinking, "Oh, I liked that author!" then when I started reading it, realized it was actually a continuation of the series. Not remembering it very well, I grabbed all three books from my classroom as I evacuated Friday afternoon and re-read the first book this weekend. I feel like I don't need to re-read the second book, because I get where it's going, but I'd like to re-acquaint myself with Annith's story, in part so I understand the beginning of Courting Darkness.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks2. Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
I've been wanting to read this since before it came out. I started listening to it a week or so ago when I was working on my huge Goodreads purge and reorganization project, and brought my classroom copy home to finish it up.

Foul Is Fair (Foul Is Fair #1)

3. Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin
This came to my attention because the author was tweeting about how glorious it was to be publishing something so righteously angry. Then I heard "MacBeth retelling." Then I saw the cover. SOLD! Or borrowed from my public library, technically.

Death Comes to Pemberley

4. Death Comes to Pemberly by P. D. James
I saw this on the library stacks and screeched to a halt. One of my early favorite mystery authors? Doing a Jane Austen inspired book? Absolutely irresistible at any time, and perfect for escaping from current reality.

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)

5. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My autographed copy is sitting on the shelf in the upstairs room with the comfy chair by the window. *Happy sigh.* I think this will be my third reading of it.

Shadowblack (Spellslinger #2)

6. Shadowblack by Sebatsian de Castell
I read the first book in the series when it was nominated as an Oregon Battle of the Books title. It grew on me, and although I'm a little intimidated by the length of the series as a whole, I decided to give the next book a go and see what I think. 

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

7. The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide by Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt
Ironically, I JUST paused in the writing of this post to argue with my teenager about the need for her to eat something even though there's "nothing to eat" in our house. She's currently slamming things around in the kitchen to demonstrate my complete unfairness and unreasonableness in expecting her to cook for herself when she's hungry and cranky. Maybe I should bump this higher up the list.


8. Jackpot by Nic Stone
Okay, this is kind of terrible: one of my students is reading this, but they didn't take it home, so I grabbed it from the class cupboard and took it with me instead. I'm pretty sure it's the only way I'll get a chance to get my hands on the class copy anyway, as it's quietly but steadily popular.

Patron Saints of Nothing

9. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
I don't know much about this one. It was a Book of the Month selection, it's #ownvoices Filipino American, and, um, that's it. I want to read it so I can booktalk it to my students. 

Frogkisser!10. Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
This is one of the books my students read for the Oregon Battle of the Books that never happened. Some of them liked it, some of them didn't, but I've always liked Nix in the past, so I'm going to read it. I read a couple of chapters months ago and found it charming, but that was just to get a feel for it. 

Current State of Mind: Sleepless in Beaverton


I completely get it if you are TIRED of reading about this. Feel free to ignore this and come back when I post about books. But for now, I'm gonna vent.

Oregon schools closed  a week before spring break My district told us to treat these 2 weeks as an extended time off--no teaching or learning was expected of students and staff. So at first I was all, "Awesome. I will take some time to read whatever I want, sleep when I want, do some baking, etc. If this goes on longer, then I'll come up with a firmer schedule for both the kid and me at that point."

And that worked for a few days. I have over a hundred books available, because in addition to having a few unread books at home, I brought home two crates of books from my school library and another 56 movies and books from the public library before settling into self isolation. My daughter got up every morning and made breakfast with me. (We've had waffles, pancakes, and crepes.) The Winemaker and I played board games, and he set up some online games with his bridge friends.

Then yesterday around 3:30 our power went out. And I went into a quiet panic. Sure we have food, but nearly all of it is somewhere between gross (canned beans) or inedible (rice) uncooked. Our heat is from natural gas, but the actual fan that blows that heat around is electric. We have a few camp stove canisters, but not enough for any extended time.

I tried to read to distract myself, then took  long nap. When I woke up at 7:00, the lights had just come back on. Dinner was delicious and warm, and everything was fine.

Except I couldn't sleep last night. And I am a CHAMPION  sleeper. Stress usually makes me sleep more, not less. I finally got to sleep around 3 am, thinking that maybe my nap had messed me up, but now I'd sleep half the day. Instead, I popped awake at 7, restless and tense.

I think I'm going to need to put myself on a schedule sooner rather than later. I have all these great ideas about what I could be doing (like actually writing on my blog!), but have trouble settling down to do any of them, even as I realize that those things would bring me more peace. I also know my own contrary streak, so I'm not going to set it up in 2 hour time blocks or anything, but instead commit to a few specific things each day. Like today, I'm going to bake bread, wash the kitchen floor, take a walk, and figure out where I was in the knitting I was doing over winter break. If I do other things, great. If I go back to bed (at 9:30 I'm finally starting to yawn) and get all this done in the late afternoon, fine. But setting some goals might give me back a little bit of control and lessen this underlying anxiety.

Oh, and since coming home from work last Friday, I've read Half Brother, Mary's Monster, and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, re-read Grave Mercy, and finished Light It Up So yes, being a reader is definitely a boon in a situation like this.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunday Post #49/Sunday Salon #23

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
Three books: two middle grade and one coffee-table book, for lack of a better term. All of them very good.

Bibliophile is a collection of books, lists, interviews, descriptions of bookstores, and most of all, illustrations from the artist behind the Ideal Bookshelf website. Well worth spending some time poring over.

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe is a really good, quite funny middle grade novel that deals with calamity physics and grief.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #1)

The Lost Girl is a gorgeous dark fairy tale book that might be one of those books for kids that adults like better. I'm going to see if I can get some kid readers to attempt it and weigh in. I apparently didn't read the description very well and spent most of the book wondering when one of the sisters was going to disappear. That doesn't happen.

The Lost Girl

What I'm Reading/What's Next
I'm plowing through Courting Darkness and enjoying it very much, even though it definitely references people and political events from the His Fair Assassins trilogy, which I read far too long ago to remember anything useful about. Next week I'm starting a novel-in-verse unit with my classes, hoping to read each of them a book between now and spring break. Which, now that I count the days, is not gonna work. Crap. Anyway, even if there's a weird gap in the middle, I will be re-reading somewhere between two and six novels in the next few weeks. The options I'm offering are:
Yellow Star
They Call Me Güero
Inside Out and Back Again
Make Lemonade
Keesha's House

all of which I recommend, obviously.

Three Things

  1. I think I'm funny. I've been trying to figure out how to draw rabbits, since our buddy Jimmy started hanging out under the juniper bush, and then this happened. 
  2. I signed up for an art class through the library that is closest to my house, even though I consider the one I'm at right now to be my "home library." I used to do things in the evening all the time, but between parenting and age, it doesn't happen much anymore. The year before I met my husband I did a huge mountain climbing course AND took salsa lessons every Monday. 
  3. No further developments on the whole "Covid 19 takes over the NW" story. Well, other than my husband is supposed to be going to Cleveland in a couple of weeks for a bridge tournament, and his partner's wife doesn't think he should travel because he's over 60. Of course, the plane tickets and room reservations are all non-refundable, so my husband may be getting a long weekend in Cleveland without much to do. Any suggestions? 

Stay healthy! 

Friday, March 6, 2020

My Favorite Book Award: Michael L. Printz Award for YA Lit

When I was a kid, way back in the previous century, the only literary awards I was aware of were the Newbery and the Pulitzer. (We were a newspaper family.) Newbery winners were a mixed bag. I mean, look at the winners from the 1970s, when I was young:

Sounder--dead dog book
Summer of the Swans--this has NEVER sounded interesting to me, and the copies that were around looked like they were forty years old when they were four years old.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH--great book my fifth grade teacher read aloud to us
Julie of the Wolves--cultural appropriative nonsense
Slave Dancer--jeez, just those two words together make me cringe
MC Higgins the Great--this early attempt at "edgy" YA was okay, but kids in these books talked like adults thought kids talked, if you know what I mean.
The Grey King--I didn't read this series until I was in college, but I would have loved it as a kid, and I have no idea why I was oblivious to it.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry--I appreciate that there was a book about black kids on the list, but did not like this one.
Bridge to Terabithia--I liked it, but only enough to read it once and be forever scarred by a kids' book that kills off a main character
The Westing Game--okay, this one is truly amazing and unique and I adored it as a kid.

That's two I really liked, one I would have liked, and seven I didn't care for or could never even work up enough interest to attempt. Yes I only gave links for the ones I like. #petty #sorrynotsorry You can understand why as a kid, and ever more so as an adult, a Newbery is not enough to make me pick a book up. If anything, I am slightly suspicious that they are the boiled broccoli of books, something other people say is good for me, but that I find completely unpalatable.


Luckily for today's youth, there are all sorts of awards now--both the adult ones that existed all along and plenty of more recently created or revitalized young adult and children's literature awards. From state awards (Oregon started an Oregon Spirit award in 2005 and a reader's choice award in 2010) to the diverse set of awards for Latinx authors, African American authors, books about the LGBQTIA+ experience, books that honor physical and mental diversity, and more, a wide range of shiny award stickers can be slapped on an excellent book. But if my extremely amateur participation in selections for Cybils awards and OBOB lists have taught me anything, it's that one person's favorite book is another's complete dud. There just aren't any awards given by committee that will work for all the readers all of the time, or even for one of the readers all of the times.

The Printz award, founded in 2000 to "celebrate literary excellence in young adult literature,"  gets pretty damn close. Winners include modern classics like The Poet X, Midwinterblood, Looking for Alaska, and American Born Chinese. Runners up are just as terrific: A Heart in a Body in the World, Strange the Dreamer, Long Way Down, Scythe, Code Name Verity, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Scorpio Races--so many of my five star books of this century have been honored by the Printz committee.


I have even created a semi-official challenge to myself to read all of the winners, then all of the honorees. I inadvertently had already read all of 2004's books, but somehow have yet to read a single entry from 2008. There have been a few that I personally would not have chosen as the very best book that year but there haven't been any that missed the mark entirely. I can see why they were chosen, even if they're not MY favorite. (Unlike, say, the 1953 Newbery, which went to Secret of the Andes instead of runner-up Charlotte's Web. Can you IMAGINE being on that year's committee? The shame!)


According to the YALSA website, the committee has vague yet lofty criteria for choosing books:

What is quality? We know what it is not. We hope the award will have a wide AUDIENCE among readers from 12 to 18 but POPULARITY is not the criterion for this award. Nor is MESSAGE. In accordance with the Library Bill of Rights, CONTROVERSY is not something to avoid. In fact, we want a book that readers will talk about.
Librarianship focuses on individuals, in all their diversity, and that focus is a fundamental value of the Young Adult Library Services Association and its members. Diversity is, thus, honored in the Association and in the collections and services that libraries provide to young adults.
Having established what the award is not, it is far harder to formulate what it is. As every reader knows, a great book can redefine what we mean by quality. Criteria change with time. Therefore, flexibility and an avoidance of the too-rigid are essential components of these criteria (some examples of too-rigid criteria: A realistic hope - well, what about Robert Cormier's Chocolate War or Brock Coles' The Facts Speak for Themselves? Avoiding complicated plot - what about Louis Sachar's Holes? Originality - what about all the mythic themes that are continually re-worked? We can all think of other great books that don't fit those criteria.)
Which makes me wonder--who advocates for avoiding a complicated plot in award winning books?
But otherwise, this is a great explanation.

Stay tuned to this space for follow-up posts on who Michael L. Printz was in the first place and a list of my top ten Printz books!


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

TTT: An Alphabet of One Word Titles

 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: books with one-word titles.

I found a TON of book for this (see below), even when I set arbitrary rules like "A" and "The" count as words and subtitles count as words too, unless it's "volume one" or such.  I thought about finding the 10 least-known books to highlight, or just sharing my favorites, then I finally decided to choose one for each letter of the alphabet, which is a few more than ten, but we'll all survive my wild refusal to follow the rules. Maybe TTT stands for Top Twenty-six Titles, who knows?

Of course, then I had to go BACK to Goodreads to find books I read longer ago that would qualify for Q, W, X, and Y. I have no single-word titles that start with Q or X, so I dug around and found some on my TBR. Phew! 

Then I added a one sentence comment for each, since that actually seemed easier than getting pictures of all the covers. 

  • Autoboyography Gay Californian transplant meets closeted Mormon.
  • Birthday Terrific story of transitioning, friendship,  and love.
  • Chomp My daughter's favorite in fifth grade, "Florida man" mystery shenanigans for middle grade.
  • Digger The best graphic novel series about a wombat ever.
  • Educated Gritty memoir of growing up without school, medicine, or government.
  • Fireborne Cybils winning Spec Fic novel with dragons.
  • Ghost Jason Reynolds takes on middle grade with books about a track team.
  • Heroine Harrowing story of addiction that avoids "Movie of the Week" shallowness.
  • Inkling A sentient ink blot, because why not?
  • Jackaroo I love this 90s swashbuckling fantasy way more than Jackaby.
  • Kingdom Very British graphic novel about a bored teen spending a boring week at the beach.
  • Lizzie Borden took an axe...
  • Mockingbird Middle grade book about a girl on the autism spectrum. 
  • Noggin Teen gets a whole body transplant after his head's been frozen for five years, and now all his friends are adults.
  • Oddity A quirky town with many secrets.
  • Pet You can wipe out all the monsters, and humans will just keep becoming monstrous.
  • Quiver According to Goodreads, it's about the unlikely friendship between two teens from opposite sides of the culture wars.
  • Release Patrick Ness's small town novel that was inspired by Mrs. Dalloway and Forever, two titles that have probably never been considered for a mash-up before. 
  • Spin Tragically under-read YA mystery in which two enemies band together to solve the murder of their common friend.
  • Thunderhead The middle book in the Scythe series, which you can now all read because the third book is out so you won't have to suffer through 8 months of that cliffhanger like I did.
  • Unsheltered Two time periods, one setting.
  • Vicious Anti-heroes like only V. E Schwab can write them. 
  • Wrecked A campus sexual assault--at my alma mater. 
  • X One of the few Kinsey Milhone novels I haven't read yet. 
  • Yo! Julia Alvarez returns to the García girls in this semi-autobiographical novel.
  • Zenobia Horribly sad Danish grahpic novel about a Syrian refugee child.

And if that wasn't enough for you...

Behold, seventy-six one-word titles, culled from the last 500 books I've read.


Sidekicks (Santat)

Sunday, March 1, 2020

February in Review

My Reading

# of books read: twelve
Best(s):(In which I tell you all my favorite reads and make up categories so they each win something)
Best grammar and style book that is actually hilarious: Dreyer's English
Best fantasy novel I read a little too late for OBOB judging: Spellslinger
Most enjoyable of the many, many tiny home and decluttering books I've read this month: Tiny Homes on the Move
Best middle grade sci fi novel that pushed me to actually think about science-y stuff: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style Spellslinger (Spellslinger, #1) Tiny Homes on the Move: Wheels and Water Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #1)

Book of the Month, aka extremely satisfying conclusion to a shockingly good series: The Hand on the Wall

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

Bookish Events and Happenings

I started the month with a new semester, new students, and World Read Aloud Day. So there we were on our third day of class, skyping with authors all over the country. We talked to:

and all were fabulous! The whole thing is made possible in large part by the work Kate Messner does in connecting authors and teachers. Considering the rate she publishes at, this is proof that if you really need something done, ask a busy person.

February was a big month for book committee announcements. CYBILS releases its list of winners on February 14th, and the committee I was on, YA Spec Fic, chose Fireborne as the winner. As always, any book that makes it to round 2 in any category is worth picking up. And the committee I joined this year to pick next year's Oregon Battle of the Books titles for high school students completed its work the next day. We have a terrific list, if I do say so myself. My only real disappointment is that Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood was kept off the list because it's hard to get copies of. The middle grade group took a big step forward--they were looking at both Amal Unbound and Amina's Voice and decided that including both would be a good way to counter "The Danger of a Single Story," as explained in Chimamanda Ngozi's Ted Talk.

One other thing that happened this month --and I am SO PROUD of this-- is that I attacked my Goodreads TBR. Instead of some 1,800 titles spread over five different TBR shelves, I now have ONE shelf that has a mere 671 titles on it. It was a major undertaking, but also extremely fun. 

On the Blog

I posted a mere five times. I'm finding I enjoy the blog more when I don't force it. I am often at the library for several hours on Sundays, so I've been doing Sunday updates. I also wrote a quick, fun tag that I found on Readerbuzz, and wrote something that was not quite a discussion post nor a top ten post about books about simplifying life.


  • We're fighting the good fight about devices with our teenager. It's hard parenting this, since we don't have any lived experience with it. Like, I have memories and thoughts about curfews and cussing and driving, but guiding a healthy digital life is brand new. So we end up changing the rules, which is crappy, but it's because we didn't realize what the rules should have been until we see it not work. 
  • Oregon's first Coronavirus patient is at the hospital 2 miles from my house. My hands are already chapped from such frequent washing, and we did stock up on some groceries, but I'm trying not to overreact. They've suggested parents keep kids home if they "have the sniffles," and I'm like--dudes, it's late winter, EVERYONE has the effing sniffles. 
  • I love spring flowers. I am not a gardener, mostly because I loathe weeding, but we still have daffodils, croci, a forsythia, and rosemary blooming. 

If March is supposed to come in/go out like a lion/lamb, I have no idea what's in store. Today is super cold with snow in higher elevations, but also sunny. I hope it's a great month for all of you. 

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!