"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Year in Books...a meme

Photo Credit: A. Bennett, Chihuly Museum

Let's have some fun and take part in Adam's end of year meme, My Life in Books
The rules? Pretty simple: answer the questions with books you read this year!

In high school I was: a Love Warrior (Glennon Melton)

People might be surprised (that): I Heard God Laughing (poems by Hafiz)

I will never beA Dog in the Cave (Kay Frydenborg)

My fantasy job isLab Girl (Hope Jahren)

At the end of a long day I needHomegoing (Yaa Gyasi)

I hate(d) it:  When We Collided (Emory Lord)

Wish I hadMilk and Honey (Rupi Kaur)

My family reunions areOrdinary Grace (William Krueger)

At a party you’d find me (talking about): News of the World (Paulette Jiles)

I’ve never been toThe (A) Beatles (concert) (Bob Spitz)

A happy day includesHelp. Wow. Thanks. Three Essential Prayers (Anne Lamott)

Motto I live byThe Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in the Game Called Life (Kwame Alexander)

On my bucket list is: (is to see the musical) Hamilton (Martha Brockenbrough)

In my next life, I want to have: (Bernie Sanders Guide to) Political Revolution (Bernie Sanders)

Join in the end of year, life in review, what-books-did-I-read-this-year fun with Adam @Roofbeamreader.

JH/SH Nonfiction...an update

I've submitted lists of my favorite junior high and senior high nonfiction titles submitted for review by Cybils, Round 1 judges. So I actually have an evening where I can relax and not try to frantically read "one more book" before bedtime.

Now I can step back and take a look at what I have done and highlight for you a few of my favorite books.

There were 64 nominated books: 25 junior high and 39 senior. I read all or part of 51 of these books. I got most of the books from my local libraries. Those books not available were supposed to be supplied by publishers, however nine of those books were never sent or haven't arrived yet, so I had to attempt to review them using the LOOK INSIDE THIS BOOK feature on Amazon.com. That was less than a satisfactory way to view a book especially since many pages aren't available and often, in the chapters that are supplied, pages are skipped. But I could get the idea how the book was put together and what the writing style was like.

My favorite part of judging these Cybils nominated books is being "forced" to read such a vast variety of topics, ones I likely wouldn't have read if not for this position. I read books about famous historical people, climate change, Civil Rights,  wars, animal behaviors, pirates, politics, chocolate, Holocaust stories, and many books aimed at girls by girls.

Here are links to reviews I've written for a few of the books. I still have several books I hope to review in the future, too.
  • Vincent and Theo---Vincent Van Gogh and his relationship with his brother, Theo.
  • A Dog in the Cave---Research on mankind's relationship with dogs and their forebears, wolves.
  • The Whydah---a pirate ship which was recently found after being sunk 200 years ago.
  • The March Against Fear---the last big march of the Civil Rights era and the beginning of Black Power
  • Uprooted---Japanese Internment during WWII in America
  • Isaac the Alchemist---Isaac Newton, famous for his scientific and mathematical discoveries was interested in alchemy.
  • Double Cross---Deceptive techniques used during wars throughout history. (I know. Can you believe that I found this intersting? Ask my husband. I followed him around the house reading him stuff from the book. Ha!)
  • Girl Code---two high school girls take a computer coding seminar, create a web game, it goes viral!
  • Undefeated---Jim Thorpe and his amazing athletic prowess.
  • Alexander Hamilton---beyond what we learn from the musical.
  • Girl Rising---making education available to girls around the world
Now it is time for the conference calls. All the judges submit their lists. We take a look at the books again and debate and discuss until be come up with a master list of five books for each category.

Monday, December 11, 2017

TTT: Favorite books of the year

Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite books of the year.
Oh gosh. How can I decide? There were so many good books that I read this year. 
How do I narrow  down the lists? 
I know. I'll identify some of my favorites by category, which means the list has more than ten books.

Favorite YA Fiction
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
The Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Favorite Adult Fiction
 The One-In-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Ordinary Grace by Willian Krueger

Favorite YA/MG Nonfiction
The March Against Fear by Ann Bausum
Uprooted by Albert Marrin
Isaac the Alchemist by Mary Losture
The Whydah by Martin Sandler
Girl Rising by Tonya Lee Stone
A Dog in the Cave by Kay Frydenborg
Undefeated by Steve Shienkin
Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

Favorite Adult Nonfiction
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
In Our Backyard by Nita Belles
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

What about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2017?

Sunday Salon, on Monday, Dec. 11th

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" display in the New York Macy's store window display
Weather: Clear skies, cold temperatures, frosty mornings. While in New York we experienced a variety of weather: clear and warm, cold and windy, rainy, clear and cold.

Checking out those amazing dinosaur bones.
New York: Last week my sister, Kathy, and I traveled to New York to visit my daughter, Carly, and to experience NYC at Christmas time. What a week!

  • We saw six shows. Count 'em---six: The Play That Went Wrong; Home for the Holidays; Hello Dolly; The Rockette's Christmas Show; Waitress; and Come From Away. The last two shows we saw on Wednesday, one matinee and one evening show, after we stood in line in the cold for two hours to get rush tickets. Both were worth the effort! We even got back stage passes for Home for the Holidays after the show because Kathy is friends with two of the singers, Peter and Evynne Hollens. Fun!
  • We went to two museums: The 9-11 Memorial Museum (Yes, it was very emotional); and The Natural History Museum where we spent most of our time among the dinosaur bones and in the planetarium watching a show about dark matter and the universe, confirming how insignificant we are in the scheme of things.
  • We dined with friends twice: Chris, a Tri-Delta sister of mine, took the train over from NJ and we looked around Rockefeller center before heading to Carmine's for a fabulous feast; Ken and Carol drove over from NJ also for a quick dinner at the Glass House Tavern before we had to jet off to see our last musical of the trip, Come From Away. Thank you friends!
  • We walked half the Brooklyn Bridge and back so we could see the Statue of Liberty in the Harbor and the NYC skyline.
  • We did a bit of shopping, and more window shopping on 5th Avenue and Herrold Square.
  • We attended church at the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church. The early service is in the chapel, but the space is bigger than our sanctuary at home and has a pipe organ. We didn't want to miss out on the first Sunday of Advent. 
  • We stayed in a funky apartment in the Hell's Kitchen district of the city, not too far from Broadway. Carly was able to spend a few nights with us between riding the train back to Yonkers for her classes. We had wonderful food the whole trip, all except for a disgusting breakfast sandwich I bought at Starbucks, of all places!
On the Brooklyn Bridge
Yesterday: I traveled with the church choir to a small town church in Mineral, where they performed a portion of their Christmas cantata for the congregation there. It always feels a little like I have stepped into a Courier and Ives postcard when we arrive in Mineral. Afterwards we dined in a new restaurant in Eatonville, not far from Mineral, with our daughter/son-in-law/grandson, and my second cousin and her husband. Because of this, I didn't get my Sunday Salon written and posted on Sunday!
The 9-11 Museum. Who remembers the color of the sky on the day right before the first plane crashed into one of the towers? None of the tiles are the same color blue.

Carly in front of the building where her classes are taught at Sarah Lawrence University

Chris and me.  Tri-Delta sisters.

The food in NYC is so good. This food shot was taken in Juniors.

My little camera on my phone doesn't do justice to the beauty of the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Kathy and me. Macys in Herrold Square.

Kathy and Peter Hollens back stage after Home for the Holidays.
47 best books: This is the time of year when publications like School Library Journal and the New York Times put out lists of their favorite books of the year. A blogger at BooksAreMyFavourteAnd Best compiled all the lists she could find and listed the books by how many publications each book was named in. The winner, with 23 publications listing it as one of the year's best books, was Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I haven't read this book, but it is certainly going on my to-read pile. Check out the rest of the books which got listed on a lot of the "best of" end-of-the-year book lists by clicking on the hyperlink. 

Cybils: my work on this project as Round 1 judge is rapidly coming to an end and I am in a frenzy to read as many of the books as I can in these last few days. Of the 64 books on the list I have read all or a apart of around 45 and I have six books sitting here and one on hold at the library. By Wednesday I have to submit a list of my five to seven books in each category (junior high and senior high nonfiction.) Needless to say I will only have time for a cursory peek at the remaining seven books before then but I am not giving up. Today I found two really great ones and who knows there may be more gems waiting to be discovered.

Books read this week (not Cybils): 
  • Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson...a memoir by the syndicated columnist who writes "Ask Amy." This would make a good discussion book for a book club.
  • The Playbook by Kwame Alexander. 52 rules to follow to score in the game called life. Wonderful!
Currently reading (not counting the Cybils-nominated books):
  • My Brilliant Career. My Classics Club spin book. It is taking a back seat to my other books right now.
  • The Bus 57. A true story about how a crime brought two teenagers together. I've only just started it but am very fascinated by it.
Peter Hollens December Song: In case you aren't familiar with Peter here is his Christmas video from last year. He wrote this song. We saw him perform it at the Home for the Holidays show.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lists! 'Tis the Season

Now that it is December  Best books of the Year lists are starting to show up. I shall attempt to keep a list for you here of as many as I find them. As per usual, my focus shall be on Young Adults but many of these lists are attached to best adult list. All you need to do is trail back on the lists I link.

1. Publisher's Weekly- Best Children's and Young Adult books.
     The list is divided into Picture Books, Middle Grades, and Young Adults. There are 16 YA books identified, only two are nonfiction.

2. School Library Journal. Best Books of 2017.
     Lots of books are listed, they are divided among five categories: Picture books; Chapter books; Middle Grade books; Young Adult books; Nonfiction books.  Eighteen YA titles were listed.

3. National Book Award.
     Young People's Literature division winner: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway.

4. Kirkus Review.
    Broken Down into categories. Long.
5. Audible (Audiobooks). Best YA audiobooks of the year.
     Coming soon

6. New York Times 100 Notable books of 2017. 
     Published Nov. 22, 2017. I don't see any YA titles on here, but I may have missed something.

7. The Washington Post.
    There are several other links to other book lists, though they have a few YA nonfiction selections, no YA fiction made even the Children's list.
8. Best of 2017 Goodreads. Vote now on final round nominees in many categories.

9. 2018 Morris Award finalists.
(Debut YA author) five books on this short list. Award will be selected in Feb. 2018.

10. 2018 YALSA Nonfiction finalists.
(YA nonfiction) five books on this short list. Award will be selected in Feb. 2018.

11. Horn Book Fanfare. 
     The list is a jumble of middle grade and YA titles. It also recognizes nonfiction.

12. NPR Best Books of 2017. 
     There are 20 YA titles on this list but over 300 titles mentioned in all categories.

13. New York Times Notable Children's Books
Seven YA books in addition to several children's and middle grade books.

14. Chicago Public Library---Best Books of 2017.
     Click the link to view the different categories. The teen fiction list contains all the usual suspects and a few surprises.

15. Newsday. Ten best adult books of 2017.

16. 47 Best Books of the Year, compiled by Books Are My Favourite and Best

17. Pierce County Library. (My county in Western Washington) Twelve favorite books by category voted on my library users.

This list will be updated as more Best of lists are published.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Three nonfiction reviews about girls, by girls!

My Cybils reading has taken a bit of a backseat to the rest of my life lately, so I thought I would pause, take a breath, and let you know about three books I am really excited about. Three books about girls by girls. I am inspired and I hope teen readers out there will be, too.

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser
      Andrea and Sophie meet while they are attending a summer camp for girls on how to create computer code. The girls decide to work on their final project together---to create a web-based game. As the girls talk about their interests and hopes for their projects they realized they had similar ideals. They wanted to create a game that would make a difference for girls around the world. They decided, after gaining permission from their program director, to create a game called Tampon Run. As offensive as that sounds, they decided that girls around the world were often not allowed to do things, like go to school, because of taboos around menstruation. The game is not only fun to play, it is educational, as well. Even after graduation from their program the girls continued to work on the game. After its launch the game went viral and the girls were thrown into the spotlight even though they were both high school students who still needed to fulfill their class requirements. Both girls are now in college and wrote the book in alternating chapters about the challenges of being a girl in a male-dominated field.
      I loved this book. It was so real. Girls wanting to make a difference and being willing to break into a field, computer coding, dominated by males. The end of the book even has some basic coding suggestions for girls to use to get started coding themselves. As I read it I couldn't help but think about the AP Computer Programming class at my old school. The class was taught by a male teacher and was dominated by male students. I think the teacher should consider using this book to inspire his students, mainly the girls, to continue in the field.
     (Harper Collins eBook, 2017, checked out remotely from Overdrive)

Earth Hates Me: True Confessions From a Teenage Girl by Ruby Karp
     Ruby Karp is a sixteen-year-old is a comedian, performing at the UCB Theater in New York, an author, writing for Hello Giggles, and a high school student. Earth Hates Me is her first book. It is a combination of memoir and self-help book for teen girls. Ruby has a great sense of humor and this book reflects it.
Ruby advises her peers on the importance of feminism ("not just the Spice Girls version"), how to deal with jealousy and friend break-ups, family life, and much more. The book takes an in-depth look at the effect of social media on modern teens and the growing pressures of choosing the right college and career. Amy Poehler says, "This book is filled with juicy young person wisdom."  With Ruby's powerful underlying message "we are more than just a bunch of dumb teenagers obsessed with our phones," Earth Hates Me is the definitive guide to being a teen in the modern age (GoodReads).
     Even though I am not a teenager, I enjoyed this book immensely. Karp speaks authentically to teenagers and her humor helps the advice she offers to not come across with a heavy-hand or a preachy-voice. I hope that all high school librarians reading this post add this book to their next book order!
     (Running Press eBook, 2017, checked out from Overdrive)

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
     When Sandra was ten-years-old she had a gun held to her head when the refugee camp where she and her family lived was invaded by local terrorists. These men had already killed her younger sister and wounded her mother. Somehow she escaped and was reunited with remnants of her family. Eventually Sandra and her family were granted visas to move to the Untied States as war refugees. Once here she met with new types of problems--- poverty, racism, language, and lack of community. The death of her sister haunted Sandra, also, and she wanted to do something to help refugees around the world and especially in her beloved home country of The Democratic Republic of Congo. With the help from her college and her church Sandra found her voice and became a potent advocate for refugees, even making presentations for the U.N. and the PressCorps where she met Michelle Obama.
     This book is quite different than the other two I highlighted above. It is very inspiring, but also tremendously depressing to read about all the hate in the world and to learn about how it affects children. But I do encourage folks to read it, if for no other reason that to find how one person can make a difference if that person is willing to speak out!
     (Katherine Tegen Books eBook, 2017, checked out from Overdrive)

I am not sure if any of these titles will pass out of Round 1 judging for the Cybils Award but I do encourage you to read all of them. It warms my heart to read three wonderful and empowering books written about girls, by girls.

My last year for two reading challenges

It breaks my heart to say it, but I will not be participating in two reading challenges next year which were a big deal for me in the past:

  • Printz Project: To read all the Printz Award and Honor books. When I became a high school librarian in 2005 I discovered the wonderful oeuvre of YA literature with the Printz winners leading the way. I decided to read all the yearly winners and attempt to read all the books I had missed from previous years. I became rather obsessed with the Printz Award even starting a Mock Printz Project at my school and in my district. I did a good, but not great, job of fulfilling this challenge. Of the 85 Printz Award and Honor books since the year 2000, I read 68 of the titles (80%). Now that I am retired I am ready to focus my reading on more adult titles and don't want to feel the pressure to read YA titles that don't interest me as much any more. Interestingly, I got started on this challenge by joining the Printz Project at WordPress. I haven't visited their website for a while. It appears that it is no longer functioning, as the last book highlighted is from the Printz winner from 2016 (a year ago.) I guess it is a sign for me to end the challenge now, as well.

  • Read all the ALA YA Youth Media Award books challenge. I was the host of this award and obviously loved it. Every year the American Library Association and YALSA announces a slew of book awards at the end of their mid-winter conference. Many of the awards go to books targeted at teens, and those were the books I highlighted for this challenge. Every year the actual number of books varied depending on if the award was given to a YA or a MG book. Possible awards included:
  1. Printz Award (Best YA title of the year)
  2. Morris Award (Best YA Debut author)
  3. Schneider Family Book Award (Teen living with a disability)
  4. Alex Award (Adult books which have crossover appeal for teens, 10 are selected each year)
  5. Stonewall Book Award (LGBT-themed)
  6. Margaret A. Edwards Author Award (Contributions made to YA or Children's literature)
  7. YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
  8. Coretta Scott King Author Award (African American Author writing for teens or  children)
  9. *Coretta Scott King Steptoe Award (Debut African American author)
  10. *Sibert Informational Book Award (Children or teen books, nonfiction)
  11. *Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author Award)
  12. Odyssey Award (Best audiobook for children or teens)
  13. *Batchelder Award (Best children's/teen title translated into English)
  14. Pura Belpre Award (Latino author)
  15. *Newbery Medal (Best in children's literature)
  16. *Caldecott Medal (Best Illustrated Children's Picture book)
* titles not usually included in this challenge because the books are usually geared toward children not teens.

I will always keep my eyes on the YMA Awards, but no longer want to feel pressure to read 10-16 titles now that I am no longer in a position to make reading recommendations. Sigh. It makes me sad to say goodbye.

Reading challenges which I will continue:
  • Classics Club...reading off a list of classics titles which I created.
  • Pulitzer Challenge...reading the current Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction each year and attempting to read a few titles from previous years. This award goes all the way back to the early 1900s so I will not attempt to read all previous winners. On my list are 15 titles which I still want to read.
  • Other challenges which interest me hosted by others throughout the year like Austen in August, Big Book Summer Challenge, etc.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Quotes: December 8th

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: The 57 Bus: a True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater

Book Beginnings:
By four-thirty in the afternoon, the first mad rush of after-school passengers has come and gone. That's left are stragglers and stay-laters, swiping their bus passes as they climb onto the 57 bus and take seats among the coming-home workers, the shoppers, and errand-doers, the other students from high schools and middle schools around the city.
Friday 56:
'To me gender fluid means I have the potential to be anything, any gender at any time,' Nemo explained. 'I can be male, female, masculine, feminine, neither, both.' Like Sasha, Nemo uses they/them pronouns.
Comments: I just started this book, a nonfiction title, today so I haven't gotten far and don't have a feel for it yet, but I know that it is getting a lot of attention in the literary world, making it onto lots of best books of the year lists. It was just named to the YALSA Nonfiction Book Award short list with only four other YA nonfiction titles receiving that honor. The blurb in the book jacket says, "This true story, first chronicled in the New York Times Magazine by Slater and artfully, compassionately, and expertly expanded upon here, is a riveting exploration of race, class, gender, identity, morality, and forgiveness. The Bus 57 will inspire you to rethink all you know about crime, punishment, and empathy."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Taking a blogging hiatus

Photo Credit: NBC NewYork
I will be taking a short hiatus from blogging for a week. I hope to be back here by December 10th.

Never fear. I am taking a break from blogging to take a break (vacation) to New York City. Rockefeller Center, Rockettes, Broadway, and museums here I come.

See you in a week!

Review: Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II

Last year marked the 75th year since the bombing of Pearl Harbor which catapulted America into the Second World War. Our efforts in that war were marked by bravery and sacrifice both in the Pacific theater and in Europe. However, at home less than honorable things were happening. The government, by order of President Roosevelt, rounded up over 100,000 Japanese-Americans and essentially imprisoned them in internment camps, not too far from what the Germans did with their prisoners who were place in concentration camps.

The year was 1941. The Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor and killed over 2400 people, while sinking or damaging a good portion of the Pacific fleet. People at home were understandably angry and scared. With pressure from others, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to evacuate and detain persons of Japanese descent living on the West Coast of the United States. Japanese-Americans, many of them who were born in the USA, were given very little notice to vacate their homes, were moved into holding facilities, and finally relocated to quickly erected camps in various locations around the country. Behind barbed wire and guarded day and night, Japanese-Americans were treated like they were the ones who attacked Pearl Harbor, like the U.S.A. was at war with them. To make this all the more galling, no similar camps were set up to imprison German or Italian-Americans even though we were clearly at war with them, too.

In Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II author Albert Marrin takes a close look at the racism in America that led to the internment of its citizens and back-fills the events with historical events that led to that fateful decision. He also allows to reader to get up close and personal with life within the internment camps and introduces us to many of the prisoners in a personal way.

Even though I was on vacation in China I was determined to keep up with my readings for Cybils judging. As we traveled from Beijing to Xi'an via a bullet train, I settled in with my Kindle to read Uprooted. I expected to only learn a few things about Japanese history and then onto the American story, but I was surprised to find myself reading about Chinese history in the opening chapters of the book. Apparently Japanese history is very tangled up with its neighbor to the west, China. As I was rocketing past the Chinese landscape at 300 km/hr I learned about how WWII started in China in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria in Northeast China and eventually drove further south and west attempting to capture the whole country and all its resources.  This long involvement in China is what ultimately led to Japan invading us at Pearl Harbor. Their commanders thought that involving the USA in a war would allow them to get the fuel they needed to prevail in China! How fascinating to be reading about this while I was in China! When I mentioned some of what I had learned to our guide the next day, he was quite impressed that I was so interested in their history.

Though we weren't at war with China, many Chinese-Americans felt the racism directed at them after Pearl Harbor, too. It really was not our best moment as a country and our ugly racism surely showed itself for what it was.  After the war ended, those who were interned were just released. No reparations were made for the businesses and homes they lost during the internment years. Many had to return to communities where they were met with the continual ugliness of racism. Not until 1988 did the government officially apologize to the 100,000 Japanese-Americans who were treated so unfairly. They also received a small monetary compensation of $20,000 each, which barely touches all they lost.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I like this book. It is superbly written and researched. The photos added to an understanding of how much devastation was done to a race of people even though they were American citizens. I highly recommend it to all readers, not just to the target young adult audience. May this book serve as a reminder that we will never again do such a dreadful thing to our own citizens.