Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sunrise was at 5:13 am, sunset will be at 9:03pm.  I got home last night at 10 pm and the sky was still light.  I LOVE this time of year.

Cool, cloudy, massively green out there, this morning.  The view from our dining room is full of blackberry bushes, trees and birds.  A chickadee has been hovering over the blackberries like a hummingbird and plucking petals off the blossoms and carrying them away - decorating a nest?  I don't know, but it's pretty interesting.

Lexington Ave. On my way to see Peter Sis!
I just got back from New York for the big book show.  I like New York, I like books, I like most of the people attached to the show, I have a hard time with crowds, kind of a conundrum when every aisle in the building is packed with (mostly) younger readers, bloggers, waiting in long lines for signed books.

Those of us who had work to do could only look at what was being handed over and yearn for the time to wait for that book.  That book for me was  Sinner,
Maggie Stiefvater's new book, but I didn't have the time to wait.

Ambassador Eoin Colfer and me at BEA
I did, however, make the time to wait in a line the next day with very excited bloggers (the very first person in line was hyperventilating; he kept saying, Oh, my God, I'm so excited!) to meet Eoin Colfer.  I am going to tell you now just how thrilled I was when Eoin caught my eye and then waved at me standing there in the line.  Sigh.  So, I waited through all the pictures and hugs and babbling of all those bloggers and a few librarians until it was my turn and, yes, I did the exact same thing.  I'm sure I babbled a little but I demanded a picture of the two of us AND a hug.  I love me some Eoin Colfer.  (Here signing The Reluctant Assassin, book 1 in the W.A.R.P. series.)

Book Love:  I did find some things I can't wait to read - they are still on their continental drift from that coast to this - but I had to make lists of the things I didn't pick up for immediate consumption so I can remember to look for them later.

Ember in the Ashes Manuscript
One of the books I picked up and then packed up to share with the staff is by a new author, Sabaa Tahir, who on her own has an amazing story to tell, but the one she's written, Ember in the Ashes, is a fast-paced adventure story that feels as if it's placed somewhere on this earth, somewhen in the far future, and is a not-so-gentle mix of mythologies from all the hot places, Rome, the Middle East, the Mojave.  The military is a harsh bunch trained from youth who feel it is their right to take what they want, when they want.  Our heroine, Laia, has lost the last person in her family to this brutal bunch.  She knows he is imprisoned somewhere and she joins the underground to find him.  Unfortunately, circumstances put her in the ultimate danger, in the home of the head of the military, vicious woman, the mother of one of the soldiers.  This is a tough, unforgiving life for the people living, and dying, here.  The book is packed with action and danger, but it isn't without hope and courage (and a big helping of romance!). 

I can't wait to start selling this book to our customers.  It was SO good and I am hoping there will be another one SOON!  I don't know when it's coming, I don't know the price...It's so new and exciting! I know it's published by Penguin Young Readers Group and everyone should put it on order at their Indie bookshops, like Eagle Harbor Book Company!   (Ages 13+)

(No Recompense Received for this Post.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sick Day Reading on a Beautiful Day

Thursday, May 1 (rabbit rabbit rabbit).  Sunrise today was at 5:52, sunset will be at 8:22- Woo HOO; all that daylight!

P-Patch hens dust bathing in the warm dirt
It's going to be HOT today- amazing how quickly the weather changes around here.  It was cold last Thursday (see last post) and it may be a record breaker today, mid-80s!  Last Saturday I spent a couple of hours weeding out along the big rosemary bush at the edge of the house - you might remember that I mentioned that it had blossomed and I didn't see any bees in it.  Well, they found it!  You can hear the bees humming in and around it, honey and bumble, the branches bouncing when the bumbles leave one and move to another.  You know what was really cool?  Weeding and feeling bees fly into me, boomp, and then careening off back into the bushes.

What a week for books!  I had lunch with my friend Colleen, a rep for Penguin children's books, last Friday and she generously shared 4 new YA books with me.  I've wolfed down two of them, am halfway through the third and have the fourth on the bedside table.  On that Friday, a warm and sunny one, I was in the middle of Mink River, by Brian Doyle, and put it down for an hour (reading in a local bar) to dabble in Althea and Oliver, by Cristina Moracho.

And then, I woke up on Saturday with an awful sore throat and stayed home on Monday, sick, sick sick .  Ah, but I love being sick if I don't have to work.  Those long hours reading and sleeping, sweating and cooling, books, socks and kleenex discovered, pushed down to the foot of the bed, under the blankets.

Sick day books:

Reading Mink River on a ferry in a cloudbirst
Mink River is a book for adults, a song of a book, about a small Oregon coastal town and the people who live and love in it.  It isn't a book for hurrying through, you have to settle in with it, moving through it like the river moves between its banks to the ocean.  Like Ken Kesey and his Sometimes a Great Notion,  Mr. Doyle knows his Oregon landscape, weather and people.  I miss the people in this book already, and I am more homesick for Port Orford than I have been in a while.  The sequel, The Plover, is on my bedside table, too.  (Mink River: Oregon State University Press.  Plover: Macmillan.)

Pennyroyal Academy, by M. A. Larson, is more a middle grade novel than YA but it was great!  A fairy tale variation on the whole  princess theme, Pennyroyal Academy is a training school for young women (and one boy) who want to become Princesses, bold, courageous women (and, now, one boy) who battle dragons and witches.  Princess is not just a title at Pennyroyal, it is a way of life and a military role.  Those who become Princess are brave and strong, enduring months of training under a Fairy Drillsergeant. 

Evie, our hero, is a young woman with no memory, wrapped in a dress of spider webs, who has just escaped a witch and is heading toward Pennyroyal Academy accompanied by a young man who is off to become a knight. Her journey to Princess is athwart in horror and terror.

Great action, horrible jealousy, a little romance, Pennyroyal Academy will be a hit with the 10 and ups and moms who are really tired of the standard fairy princess world - if Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch was in your stack of read alouds, this is the book for you.  (Pennyroyal AcademyPenguin.  Available 10/14.  $16.99.) (Paper Bag Princess:  Available now.  $6.95.  Paperback.)

Probably not the cover! On my way to work after a sick day.
And the last book to keep me company on what was, from the window, anyway, an amazingly beautiful, warm and breezy day, was one I only just started before I faded into a very slightly feverish nap, Dove Arising, by Karen Bao.  You all know I love science fiction, real science fiction where you can believe that what is happening can happen and Dove Arising is one of these books.  The author is very young (I think Colleen said she was 17 when she started writing this book) and quite talented.  Dove Arising is the story of Phaet (pronounced Fate) Theta, a young gardener on the Moon, colonized by scientists to lower the chance of conflict due to religious controversy.  Phaet's family is broken up when her mother gets arrested and she joins the military to try and provide a better life for her siblings.  It's at that point she discovers that everything she thought she knew about her world is wrong.

Dove Arising was fun and thought provoking, filled with political machinations and really nasty people willing to hurt someone to get ahead.  It is fast-paced, humorous, and I loved the military training scenes a lot; I think this could be a great book for both sexes.  I am hoping there will be a sequel but it ends in such a way that it feels okay to wait.  (Dove Arising: Viking.  Due August 2014.  $17.99.)

It's going to be a good year for books if just these few titles are anything to go by. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bees and Bee Books!

Sunrise was at 6:04, sunset will be at 8:12.

Windy, cool, and wet.  Our lilacs smell so GOOD.  The air is fair thick with floral scents and color:  lilac, the last of the cherry blossoms, the chartreuse maple catkins, woody lavender...imagine being a bee in all that ultraviolet light, all those little flowers flashing "Land here! Land here!  Pollen and more pollen HERE!"  The rosemary along the house is huge and blue - no bees, yet, though, and it usually hums with all the bees jockeying for position.  I worry that the flowers will be gone before the bees arrive (if they arrive!).  I just went to the Puget Sound Beekeepers site to check the bee friendly garden plant list and will be heading to Swanson's soon to go shopping.  I also checked out how to become a hive renter.  We have a small yard but it has amazing plants that bees LOVE, we are on a hill with no buildings to our western side, and I think a few hives would be perfect here.  I'll let you know what I find out.  (I understand that renters get a couple of jars of honey that "their" bees make.)

Some favorite bee books from my shelves.
There is a new book out called The Bees, by Laline Paull, the latest in some pretty good books about bees and the lives of bees.  Paull's book gives us a good look at the life of a honeybee hive.  From the lowliest worker bee to the queen, she explains how the hierarchy of the bees in a hive behaves, including what each caste of bees does and is responsible for.  The story focuses on Flora 717, a sanitation worker, who is dangerously curious about the hive, the other bees, and the world that surrounds her.  Using Flora's curiosity about how things work, we are let in on the secrets she uncovers through her journey from each level and season.

The science of The Bees was pretty cool, lots of information about royal jelly, how a queen is made, what workers do, how a hive operates, what the foragers do and how they do it.  I LOVED the parts about the foragers, especially, because they're the ones we see.  These are the bees that make our world bloom, blossom and seed.  The bits about flying over a field covered in pesticides or gas and oil were pretty horrible and paint a pretty good picture of why we should be more hesitant about hopping into our cars.  I really liked the parts, too, about why not every pretty flower is particularly worth having in a yard.  (Ecco Press.)

One of the first fictionalized books I read about bees was A Hive for the Honeybee, by Soinbhe Lally.  This was a stunning story about a worker bee, Thora, and the upheaval in the hive when the old queen is sent out to start a new hive and a new queen has yet to be born.  Originally published in 1999, with pictures by Patience Brewster, it is a little gem of a book filled with good information about bees and bee life. It looks as if this title is now out of print so the library might be the only place to see it.  (Scholastic.)

Robin McKinley's Chalice is a fantasy novel filled with magic and bees.  Mirasol is a beekeeper until the death of the Priest of Fire's brother dies and the new Master appoints her his Chalice.  Her duties are to bind the Master's Circle, the land and its people to its new Master - but his touch can burn human flesh to the bone. Romantic and busy, Chalice is a fairytale filled with earth lore and the healing power of honey.  Like a few of McKinley's other books, the narrative wanders around, a little stream-of-consciousness-y, but I kind of like that.  (Penguin.)

Bees, Nature's Little Wonders, by Candace Savage, is a lovely, gifty book filled with facts and the science of bees and how they live and work.  In addition to the facts of bee-life, the book is packed with lore, tales, photography and other ephemera gathered through the years.  It's a good basic book about bees. (Greystone.)

Anything out there that you've loved, bee-wise? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gabrielle Zevin on tour for The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Sunrise was at 6:15 am, sunset will  be at 8:03 pm.

Here is some of our staff at Eagle Harbor Book Company celebrating Gabrielle Zevin (in the black hat) and her new book, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (Algonquin Press).  Gabrielle visited 16 stores in three days here in the greater Puget Sound area:  islands, mainland, ferries, freeways and presents from each store that reflect that store's personality.  We presented her with a poem written by John Willson (in the blue shirt and beard) about a dead sea lion on a neighbor's beach, a copy of Ann Combs' book, Once Upon a Two by Four, about raising her five children while rebuilding a house on BI in the '70s (she is in the blue shirt, no beard), and a little box of locally made fudge from Bon Bon candy shop.  (A little bragging about John:  He was recently named a Bainbridge Island Treasure for his work in writing and teaching poetry on the island.).

Gabrielle signing books.  Some have chicken stickers!
Gabrielle and our local rep for her book, Kurtis Lowe, presented each store with a quote from her book and this one is particularly resonant for me: "Books typically smell like Daddy's soap, grass, the sea, the kitchen table and cheese".  There is a moment, just as I step through the door here, the first time the door opens that day, where the soft scent of books and wood, dust, an inexplicable tang of lemon and baby hair, washes over me. I try to remember, as the key enters the lock, to take a deep breath just as the door opens.  That smell is too soon absorbed into the general movement and energy of the day and it will be another 24 hours before I'll smell it again.  So many children and adults tell us how much they love the smell of books when they come in and I'd love to know what that is for them, where the smell comes from, the memories that smell carries for them.  Comfort?  Flannel and cat?  Apples and sunlight?  Gasoline and sand?  All for Kids Books and Music often had an undertone of wet diaper!  And it wasn't unpleasant!  Probably because of the memories of where that smell originated:  BABIES and the books they ingested.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a sweet, lovely book about books and bookselling.  Mr. Fikry is a bookseller, a recent widower, sad, unhappy, and his bookstore is a reflection of his feelings: persnickety. Island Books is on the edge of collapse if he isn't careful and the addition of a new publisher's rep for a small, literary house, a perky young woman replacing a long-time rep friend, isn't making him any happier.  Over the course of a couple of publishing seasons and a couple of ferry visits to his northeast island store, relationships are established, a child is left on a doorstep, and a wonderful book is born.

Booksellers love this book and the only concern I have with it is how realistic it is!  What if all our secrets are let loose?  The ARCs and manuscripts that line hallways, stacked 15-20 books tall, tippy piles to be written about, sticky notes to mark a quote that you won't know why you liked when you finally get around to the review.  The notes and three word reminders feathering when the wind lifts, no flat spots to sit, cups stuck to the covers of the last book, book as coaster, furniture.  That galley from 1992 inscribed to you over the third glass of wine. Do you need to know that? 

Wait, I'm not the only one, right?

There's also that small thing about bookseller friendships:  booksellers have very intense friendships with their reps and each other - we don't see each other very often but we are (often) the only people we know and see socially!  So, two or three times a year we have a meal and a two hour visit with each other, trading news and ideas and books read, and fill up to the top with the joy of working with the only other people who understand our language and love to do what we do.

Each chapter opens with a review of a book, a memory for the future, and the motto of the store is No Man is an Island:  Every Book is a World.  SO TRUE!!

Go, buy this book from your local bookseller, get a look at the receiving area and offices of the booksellers who share their favorite books with you, and enjoy.  (And if you have a personal relationship with a bookseller, and all relationships with booksellers are personal, ask to see the advance reading copy of the book - more reviews and thoughts about this book are included in it and they are really fun to read.)

Algonquin.  $24.95.  Available now.  (It is a really pretty book and it feels good to hold. You won't get that on your e-reader, either.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Sunrise will be at 7:38 am, sunrise will be at 5:08 pm.

It's still full dark as I start typing here at a few minutes before 7 am.  The radio says it will be warm today, 45 degrees right now.  That's nice because it has been damp-ish and cold and... I really can't complain, can I?  We don't have snow or floods so...a scarf, some gloves, we're good.  I did have to put socks on when I got out of my very comfortable, very warm bed but I didn't have to wrap up any outward facing metal pieces, the sugar water didn't freeze in the hummingbird feeder, and I won't have to wear a hat today.  I am looking forward to a HOT shower, though.

The big building across the valley from us, the old veteran's hospital, is lit by blue and green lights these days in honor of the Seahawks' participation in this week's Superbowl.  I don't usually follow football but this is pretty exciting stuff for Seattle.  There are big 12s all over town, flags and post-it note art of the Seahawks' logo in windows, skyscrapers with all the lights out except for the ones that write out "12".  For those not aware, 12 stands for the 12th Man on the Field, the fans.  The fans are really noisy, yes, seismically loud, and have been known to throw off the other team because they can't hear their plays. 

I wonder what people on flights into SeaTac think as they fly over the city, see it all lit up in blue and green, with a skyline full of 12s?
Rainier Tower downtown Seattle all lit up for the Superbowl

I love science fiction and February brings us one of my very favorite books this year, The Martian, by Andy WeirThe Martian takes place in the fairly near future as Mars landings and explorations are in their infancy.  Six days after the first Mars landing occurs, a massive storm overtakes the team and they are forced to abort the mission.  But one of the crew is skewered by a pole and can't make it to the lander.  The rest of the crew believes he is dead and are forced to evacuate or they will all perish.

A few hours after the rocket leaves the surface of Mars, Mark Watney wakes up still in his suit.  Air pressure has forced the blood in his helmet to close the cracks, he is completely alone on a planet 6 months space flight from home, has no way to contact anyone, and a sincere desire to stay alive as long as possible.

The Martian is his journal about how he survives on Mars, alone and mostly in the dark and cold.

This is one of the best survival stories I've read recently and I think it would be a really good book for boys 13 and up (good for everyone, really, over 13).  It's packed with science and physics, it's funny (truly spit take funny) and poignant, and once you get started, you are going to want to keep reading until you're done.  It is a wild ride and, yes, it is rocket science.

The author, Andy Weir, was hired as a programmer for a lab at age 15 and has been a software engineer ever since.  There were a few times when the humor seemed a little forced, and my husband (a journalist by trade) was a little put of by the constant cursing by the woman who was controlling the press.  I didn't really notice that part, she was under a lot of pressure, but I did think about the f-word's presence as far as schools and school librarians recommending it to students.  Luckily, I have no problems with it and will be talking about it to EVERYONE.

This is a GREAT book for the Common Core curriculum and for any school that has a STEM program. (Crown.  Available February 2014.  Adult but good for anyone over 13 who likes survival stories.)

PS  My husband, D, can't wait for us to share this with his brother and I can't wait to share it with my nephew.  I sense a small family bookgroup in the making.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ambassador Kate

Sunrise today was at 7:51, Sunset will be at 4:48.  It's foggy, overcast and gray.  No bright colors except for that rampaging hummingbird, a flash of scarlet as he twists at the feeder.  Everything is dun and fir, gray and bark. Most of the birds are the same quiet dirt colors, the ivy is a brighter dull green.  It's cold, and even with the curtains all open, it feels like the shadows are shimmying for more space.  Spring is on its way, though, and the daphne blossoms, the bits that didn't freeze and drop off, are pinkening right up.  I think it's finally time to get rid of the sticks that are all that remain of the huge coleuses (coleii?) on the porch and find something a little more festive to put in those great big pots on the porch.  This time of year is why I leave the Christmas balls in bowls and hanging in the windows, just a little extra shine when the sun isn't out.

Yay for Kate DiCamillo!

This is Kate!
Last  July I got an invitation to be part of the committee to choose the next Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  Yes, I know, isn't that just the epitome of cool?  I went to New York at the end of August, stayed by myself in a little hotel on the edge of Times Square, and spent a couple of hours in the cozy, book filled offices of the Children's Book Council with the rest of the committe: a couple of librarians, a couple of teachers, a bookseller (ME!), and the current Ambassador, WALTER DEAN MYERS!  Be still my heart!  It was a heady couple of hours, let me tell you. The following list is who was on the committee.
  • Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2012-2013
  • Luann Toth, managing editor, Book Review, School Library Journal
  • Rene Kirkpatrick, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
  • John Sexton, assistant library director, Greenburgh Public Library, Elmsford, N.Y.
  • John Schumacher, teacher-librarian, Brooks Forest Elementary, Oak Brook, Ill.
  • Cathryn M. Mercier, director, Center for the Study of Children’s Literature; director, M.A. Children’s Literature and M.F.A. Writing for Children degree programs; English professor, Simmons College, Boston
There is nothing, NOTHING, like being in a room with other people who do what you do but differently.  The room vibrated with excitement, being there to talk about books and authors...Nothing is like that.  Well, I guess there are other people in other jobs who get that feeling, but hey, it's BOOKS!  AND AUTHORS!  And people who KNOW about books and authors! I sat next to John Cole, director of Center for the Book, and had a nice talk about Nancy P. and our Center for the Book.  I think I remember that he has connections to the area; it would be nice to take him on a little tour of all our lovely bookstores and libraries.  I can't tell you how honored I was to be a part of this group.

It didn't take very long to get our long lists down to a short list; not that it was easy, we were just serious about getting it done.  There was discussion about what we thought the ambassador should be and do, information we each held came to the table, and Kate rapidly came to the front of the list.  Done and done!

Kate's platform for the next two year period is "Stories Connect Us", something that all of us who work with children and books often say.  Stories allow us to step into others' shoes, to become empathetic, to test ideas before trying them.  We become better people for them.  I can't wait to hear more from her.  Oh, the video link below is an interview with her on PBS where she says stories are stories, that people should read what they love, that there shouldn't be adult books and children's books, just books.  Love that, Kate.

Okay, now, I have to tell you about Walter Dean Myers.  I have been a fan of his from my first children's lit class at U of O where I read Fallen Angels, and fandom only increases.  I remember sitting on the curb outside the U of O bookstore on a break, drinking a coffee and reading - crying and laughing at the same time.  Sitting across from him at the CBC office, drinking in the experience, hearing about his two years of being the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, was inspiring.  He spent his time going to schools, going to juvenile detention facilities, convincing people that Reading is NOT an Option. He says, "Children who don't read are, in the main, destined for lesser lives. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to change this."
    This is Publisher's Weekly's article about Kate and the Ambassadorship
    The following is the PBS Newshour video with Kate.  Sorry, I can't upload the video here, you'll have to do it yourself:

    If you haven't had a chance to read Kate DiCamillo's newest book, Flora and Ulysses, please head to your nearest independent bookstore and get a copy.  You will love it and then you can share it with your kids and they will love it.  If you don't have a local bookstore, give me a call, and we'll take you in and make you a part of the Eagle Harbor Books community!

    Flora and Ulysses is the story of a lonely little girl, divorced family, a sad dad and a recently vacuumed-up squirrel who now has superpowers. Flora reads a lot of comics and has been reading the Terrible Things Can Happen to You! series and is beginning to think in word bubbles.   Their adventures begin when she rescues the squirrel from the vacuum disaster and Ulysses discovers the typewriter and types, "Squirtel".

    Flora's been unhappy and with the discovery of a super-powered squirrel sidekick, she begins to find reasons to reach out to other people and reconnect to the world.  With Ulysses' zen-like sensibilities, his exuberance for life and the ability to express it via typewritten poems, they make a dynamic duo until her mom tells her dad to take the squirrel out, and not out as in let him go, but out in the New Jersey-Sopranos way.  Much hilarity ensues and many hearts are expanded.  Truly a laugh out loud story but one with phrases and bits that you'll re-read and then share with your partner over breakfast burritos while they say, "Uh, huh?"  because they have no idea of what you just went through.  Ages 7 and up.  (Candlewick.  Available now.  HC, $17.99.)

    PS  F&U is also illustrated by K.G. Campbell, in black and white spot illustrations and some entire comic book style scenes, a perfect companion for Kate's words. 

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    The Good Life? Simple Life? Hmmm...

    Rene' and sister, Keeli, at G'pa and G'ma's
    Sunrise was at 7:57, sunset at 4:33 pm.

    Ugh- I hate not sleeping through the night, especially when I have to get up so early to go to work. 1:30 am wake-up call.  I just roll around remembering rep appointments that crept up, an upcoming interview, learning how to use more of the POS at the store, health issues, freezing weather and an uncovered daphne plant.  The daphne plant I could take care of RIGHT NOW, although it may have been too late. Thankfully, D can sleep through the light so I can read myself back to sleep. The hard part is finding something that won't make me want to keep reading until the alarm goes off.

    The choice of the early morning read was Chickens in the Road, not a particularly good choice because it took two hours to finally realize that my eyelids were heavy enough to stay shut. One and a half hours later, the alarm goes off and I spring (well, in my head I spring) out of bed, grabbing CITR and my glasses and head off to grab coffee and a few more minutes with it before I hit the road for the bus and ferry rides that are nothing more than free reading time.

    I have ALWAYS wanted to live on a farm.  We lived with my grandparents when I was very young.  A few acres filled with horses, rhubarb, tansy ragwort and summers full of canning jars, plastic jugs of drinking water (the well water had arsenic in it), feral cats, and running through the creek (crick if you are a Kirkpatrick from Spencer Creek) looking for frogs.  There were two barns, one for the horses and one for the tack, and electric fences buzzed in the night.  Grandma had grape arbors and a small vegetable garden.  We lived there for a few years until Mom could afford to move to town.

    The effects of  "the house" (everyone in the clan knows that when you say "the house" you mean Grandma's little white house even though she's been gone a few years) have stayed with me all this time and I have only just, only this year, realized that I am way too old to actually leave my city ways and move to a farm and do all those farm things. That realization has made me kind of sad.  How could I suddenly be too old?

    Thankfully, people actually DO make changes in their lives, at ages far earlier than 50-something, uprooting themselves and family and moving to the way outback to wrestle with chickens and snow, foxes and old orchards, learning to can beans without botulism and how to butcher a hog and then they WRITE about it!  Thank God for books and their writers! 

    Chickens in the Road was great!  Suzanne McMinn was 42 and a popular romance writer, when she decided to move to West Virginia with her partner, 52, somewhere she could have chickens that could walk in the road.  Well, she got the chickens, and then goats, a cow, an uncooperative neighbor, snow, snow and more snow, and then mud, all mixed up with her children, an kind of odd partner (what was his problem?), and all the people who make up a rural community.

    CITR is mostly a slice of life look at what it takes to live way out in the country.  She was lucky enough to have lived in West Virginia before, so she knew some people and had a safety net of sorts.  She'd done some canning and wasn't shy about asking for help, what she doesn't have is a very helpful partner or any real money.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I learned a lot, it was entertaining, and there are recipes for the food and crafts she mentions in the back.  (HarperOne.  Available now.  Hardcover, $28.99.)

    But, one book about living a sustainable life, about supporting yourself with what you make with your own two hands, just isn't enough and I happened to have a copy of Bootstrapper, by Mardi Jo Link, on the shelf, too. 

    Mardi Jo's life starts to unravel after her marriage falls apart, leaving her deep in debt on a farm in northern Michigan.  Deciding to stick it out with her 3 boys, she faces foreclosure, a bad well, feral chickens, and wins a zucchini contest that keeps the family in bread.  Over the course of the year she eventually begins to dig herself out of the depression and the money pit she's found herself drowning in, finding joy and love in the mud and defrosted remains of their only meat, getting creative with her few resources.  Her boys are the real heroes, here, although she deserves a lot of credit for raising them.  They are strong and caring boys, able and careful, willing to go along with the idea of the farm. 

    Very good, funny, but not overly rah-rah!  It's hard being a single mom with three kids and she doesn't slack on the pity parties.  She is realistic about how difficult this kind of life can be.  (Knopf.  Available now.  Hardcover, $24.95.)

    My other favorite book about living on a farm is Farm City, by Novella Carpenter.  This one has been out for a while and I still sell it to the people on the island who are thinking about getting chickens and starting a garden.  Novella moved to Ghost City from the Seattle area, a rundown neighborhood near Oakland, and started a farm. She started with chickens and bees and eventually expanded it from her house and yard into the abandoned lot next door.  The pig might have been a breaking point for any other partner, but obviously, Novella chose the right one (partner, not pig.  Well, maybe the pig, too).  She decided that if she's going to eat meat, she needs to raise and then slaughter the pig.  Chasing around fancy restaurant dumpsters for leftovers to feed the pig is funny, learning what goes into getting a pig ready for food is fascinating.  The part about the effects of live animals on kids in the neighborhood is amazing and surprising.  Give it a try, you'll want a beehive next!  (Penguin Books.  Available now.  $16.00.)