Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Perfect Summer Series for Teens

Sunrise was at 6:16 am, sunset will be at 8:07 pm.

It's still summer!  Cool mornings, hot afternoons, breezy evenings.  The sun is the most amazing orange as it sets so much earlier than last week, the color most likely the reaction to smoke and fire, barbecue or forest.  There are blue jays and bluebirds, chickadees and robins, ducking in and out of the fountain out back, bumblebees, and once I saw 8 honeybees at the same time, in the lavender out front.  I love hearing the neighbor's ducks as the sun goes down, a low rolling quack quack quack as they settle.  Today we seal the deck.  Again.

I just finished three books, a little series, that feature teens who go to a high school in France, The School of America in Paris, by Stephanie Perkins.  It was a lot of fun to read all three of them at once, following one couple and their troubles and love, and then the next book, a new couple and their relationship and cameos of the other students we came to love in the other books. 

I'm glad I got to read them one after the other as my memory can truly suck after a year (or two) between books and I can't remember who's who after that long.  You are so lucky to be able to read them all at once, too, now that they are available side by side on the shelf of your bookstore.

The series is based in Paris, can you get more romantic than that? and each of the books focuses on a particular pair of friends who eventually become more than.  Being in Paris, far from home, family, and other friends, our heroes are cut loose from all things familiar which allows them to reinvent themselves, test new waters, and fall in love as if in free fall.  The city is as big a character as the humans in the story and is a wonderful foil for all the romance, mean girls, and break-ups that happen in a relationship.

These books aren't simple: they are packed with crushes, break-ups, breakdowns, studying, sex (yes, sex), detentions, odd friends, mean people, good people...They seem realistic (from the point of view someone who has never been to Paris, gone to a private school or the Olympics - the sports Olympics, not the mountain range - but who has fallen in love) and the emotion throughout is certainly true to anyone who has loved or been hurt in love.  I really liked these books and I think any of you who like YA Lit or who have a 14 year-old, this series will be a perfect end of summer read.

All are published by Dutton, are for ages 14 and up, the paperbacks (Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door) are 9.99, and Isla and the Happily Ever After is $17.99.  All are available now and you can get them at your local bookshop.  If you don't have a local bookshop, call me at Eagle Harbor (206-842-5332) and we will ship them to you!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Some Books for Early Readers

Sunrise was at 6:04 and sunset will be at 8:23.  Just about 10 minutes less daylight than last week. It's dark when I get up, now.  There's just the barest bluing of the air, the wind picking up as the sun gets higher, but it is obvious that we're heading into winter.  The lilac leaves are turning bright red already, the maple's helicopters are huge and still attached (thank ALL the gods) to the maple, and the blackberries smell like cobbler when it's warm (a very autumnal smell).  It's hot, everything is dry, and I come up our hill at the end of the day anticipating the beer at the end of the trip home (which I drink out on the porch next to the bubbler, reading just one more chapter).

My commute has been WONderful!  Sometimes foggy, sometimes clear, but mostly cool in the mornings, and hot in the afternoon, I sit on the ferry, book mostly forgotten on my lap, and watch the water traffic and the view, looking for whales and taking pictures of families with Rainier in the background.  Enforced non-desk time.

Lately, I've been reading a few first and second grade readers, those in-between books that give kids practice reading, give them confidence and then lead them into the whole grand world that is literature.  I love the books written for this age and grade level - there are some wonderful stories out there now for kids who are ready to make that leap into longer and more complicated books.  And the best thing is that authors are writing these stories without using simple words or simplistic storylines!

Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson series is hysterically funny, well-written, has great artwork, and a porcine heroine with an amazing capacity for toast.  Kate's now added a new character to her younger reader books, Leroy Ninker (a man who works at a drive-in movie theater) and his horse Maybelline.  Well, when the story begins, Leroy has boots, a hat and a lasso, but no horse!  Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is the story of how Leroy meets and becomes friends with Maybelline, a four-toothed horse with a love of beautiful words, especially those directed at her.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is funny and made me tear up at the end.  It's a book filled with angst and fear, great love and joy, a wonderful ending, big words, and complicated feelings. The thing I liked best about the book were the words used: Solemn, Exceptionally, Emboldened, Concept...wonderful phrases like  "purple mountains", "rue and regret", "take fate in your hands and wrestle it to the ground"...Many of the words can be figured out from their context and once learned will be remembered forever.  I just love that Ms. DiCamillo doesn't write down to an age, she writes the reader up to a new level. (Ages 5-10, Candlewick Press.Available this month, August!  $12.99.)

Lenore Look's got a new addition to the Alvin Ho oeuvre: Alvin Ho Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions.  YAY!  Alvin is Chinese-American, in second grade, and pretty much afraid of everything.  Luckily, he has a great family that helps him through his worry and fear of EVERYTHING!

In this, the 6th, I think, in the series, Alvin and his family go visit his grandparents in Beijing.  Very funny, very realistic, Alvin is worried about everything, again.  He can't go up and down in the elevator, loses his dad's passport, won't go to the Great Wall... and yet still prevails, learning so much.  The best part was when he could NOT use the public toilets.  I really like these books.  Alvin is such a sweetheart, he always means to do the right thing, he just doesn't always get there.  I loved the part where he and his dad are lost in an alley and they go to a fortune teller.  She tells Alvin that he will be married and Alvin freaks, yelling that he won't be getting married and "HISWIFEISGOINGTOBEAHAMSTER!"

The books really appeal to this age group, 6-9, and the experiences will resonate with them.  There is a lot of information in these books and a pretty amazing glossary in the back, although the definition of EUNUCH is not included.  There's enough artwork to give kids' eyes a break from the text, and the art's pretty funny stuff, too.  (Ages 6 and up.  Schwartz & Wade,  Available now.  $15.99)

The classics are still good, too:  Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books, Syd Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur and Who Will be My Friends, Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series and the Cobblestreet Cousins series.  All of which are probably at your local bookstore on the shelves NOW! No waiting. No online problems, no censorship, you will be able to pre-order and buy whatever books you want from Hachette, Disney and any other publisher you can think of!  Who needs the store in the sky when there are so many bookstores waiting for you to be a part of their community of neighbors and ideas? 

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.