Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17 - wet and windy!

Gray, wet, windy. I have made soup (butternut squash - and a beautiful orange that actually matches my dining room walls) and washed the dishes and have done a load of laundry. Nancy Pearl is on the radio and books are in my eyes and books are in my ears. She is talking about Pete Dexter's newest book, Sooner, and now I have to go find my copy to read next.

Sunrise is at 7:18, sunset's at 4:30 and it's so dark then that it compels me to go home and go to bed, there is a compulsion to nest, pilling quilts, pillows and cats around our knees and shoulders. A stack of books to sample...mmm (insert Homer drool sound here)...now that's good livin'.

I read After by Amy Efaw and it is a difficult book to read. Teens will absolutely be riveted by her story. Devon woke up one day in great pain and found herself having a baby. She put it in a garbage bag and threw it away. When the police find her, she denies having given birth, she has absolutely no memory of what happened or how she got to this point.

Devon is a great character, very well-drawn, very much someone you might want to know and her story is realistic. She is smart, responsible, a soccer player; not someone you would expect to be in this situation. Many girls have given birth and have thrown their babies away, many of them are caught and jailed, many more go on with what is left of their lives, holding on to the guilt and denial. Away tells their story well.

Amy Efaw based the story in Tacoma's Remann Hall so the descriptions of what it is like to live in a juvenile facility feel true and the explanations of what goes on prior to and during the court proceedings are fascinating to me. It is a fast-paced and tightly written story and will propel you from page to page.

Devon is a sympathetic character and her struggle to deal with what happened will resonate with those who read After. The psychological and emotional trauma she goes through while remembering what happened is grueling. It is a sad but hopeful look at a horrible thing and I liked it very much. I especially liked the notes at the back about why the book was written. It is an "important" book, like Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, that shows us what happens when people make certain choices, especially choices they feel they have no control over once they're made.

Age range for After is given as 12. Be aware that it is fairly graphic in its depiction of the birth and clean-up. Viking Books. Hardcover, $17.99.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Almost raining, heavy clouds, lighter gray skies out over the Sound. Birds are at the feeder, the cat is in the window doing a little chirruping, and I am looking forward to spending the day reading now that the dishes are washed and the floors are swept.

Sunrise was at 7:12, sunset will be 4:35. I would like to experience, at least once, a day that has no light and a night that has no dark; to see the sun slip toward, but not dip below, the horizon, to be in a place where the landscape is so broad that, could you stay awake that long, you could turn and follow the sun barely lightening the night sky or never completely going down.

It would be so cool to spend a year in a place where the changes in the day and in the seasons are severe, experiencing the anticipation of the longer days and the disappearance of the sun. Do you think the sociology of people who live in those areas would be different from those who live in places where the tipping away of the earth from the sun is not quite as obvious?

I have read many books about teenaged girls this week: Forest Born, by Shannon Hale; Hold Still, by Nina LaCour; Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Euhlberg; Ever After, by Amy Huntley; Lips Touch Three Times, by Laini Taylor; and After, by Amy Efaw. Wow. These are pretty amazing books and, for teachers, librarians and parents looking for interesting and timely books for teens, this clutch would make a nice, current, wide ranging selection. They deal with everything from the pleasure of seduction to the taking of and the taking control of your own life. They deal with friendship, family and loss. They are all very well-written and each one will pluck a string of recognition in the reader.

I won't review each one in this particular blog entry - I tend to use this blog as a kind of book list (I have a really hard time keeping track of what I read and I don't do Good Reads well. Yet.) so I just need to get the titles down so I have something to reference later.


Forest Born
, by Shannon Hale, is the fourth book in her Books of Bayern series. The series began with Goose Girl, many years ago (and if you are going to search the books out, look for the editions with the Alison Jay covers), and continues with a character from each of the books as the main character in the following ones.

In Forest Born we are reunited with Razo, Isi,Dasha, and Enna, and we get to know Razo's sister, Rin. Rin is a girl who knows a lot about the people in the forest where she lives. She can tell by the way they act whether they are lying or can be trusted. She is also a child of the forest: she can hunt, climb, travel quietly through the woods, and the trees offer her solace.

When Rin compels a young man to do what she wants, when she realizes that she is able to make people do things against their will, it makes her feel both extraordinarily powerful and sick at heart. When she takes to the trees to calm herself, she feels a wave of sickness and darkness settle into her soul. Sure that even the trees hate her for what she can do, she leaves the forest for the city, hoping she can find her true self there, away from the people she is sure to hurt.

She becomes a handmaid to the queen, a woman she would like to emulate for her strength, simplicity and incisiveness. The politics, intrigue and jealousy of being at court are even more complex than trying to find out what her role in the world could be. And then war comes to Bayern.

Rin and her new friends, Isi, Dasha, and Enna, head off to Kel to fight the new queen, a woman with the ability to people-read. This is the ability to read desire and need and then use that to make her subjects do what she wants, binding them to her with her voice.

On the way to Kel, Rin begins to find her way through the maze that is the woman she will someday become as she and her friends talk and fight and tell tales about the abilities they have to call the wind, fire and rain.

Forest Born is a really good book. The story is exciting and funny and you really don't have to read the others first (you will want to, but you don't have to). There are battles of wits, words, and weapons, there are bullies and lovers, there is great romance and deep despair. It is a book of fantasy and true-speak about how hard it is to grow up and take responsibility for what you do and who you are.
Ages 12 an up. Bloomsbury Children's Books. Hardcover, $17.99.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dishwashing on November 10

Yeah, it's still cold. Overcast. "Intermittent rain showers. All day." The woman on the radio sounds really sad about the weather. I think she needs one of those sunlight lamps at her desk. Or, she needs a birdfeeder! Nothing will lift her spirits like watching little birds jockeying for position at the feeder. They are lined up in the berry bushes like little airplanes waiting for clearance to land.

Sunrise was at 7:08, sunset is 4:38. I love this sunrise/sunset calculator. It shows how many minutes and seconds of daylight we lose each day (I assume it goes the other way when we get to the other side), when the solar noon is, and what the altitude of the sun is. It's very cool and it's site is if you would like to follow along.

When you finally have to drink your evening glass of wine out of a jelly jar, it is time to do the dishes. Every glass in the house was upstairs. How on earth does that happen?

I actually really like doing the dishes (and, no, we don't have a dish washer except for the human ones) because it is the only time I can see something started and then finished. It feels like I am actually organized. I like to wash each set of things like big dishes, then the little dishes, then the glasses...and then I end with the "silver"ware. Which I really dislike doing. There is always one more fork under all those suds - the utensils just go on forever - but then I am happy when, while trying to find the next last one, I realize that last one really was the last one!

Many years ago, back when I was in high school, I reread the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, by local author Betty MacDonald. I remember reading a story about a girl who hated washing the silverware and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle came up with a cure that encouraged her to think of this chore as a game, rescuing the princess spoons and making them safe and then saving the knight knives. I don't remember all the details but I still dry the utensils the way I did after I read the story: I dry all the big utensils and put them away, then the all the knives, then the forks and then the spoons (big ones, then small). I carry the memory of that story with me everywhere I go. I wash the silverware the same way wherever I wash dishes no matter whose sink it is.

And that memory reminds me of one of the nicest passages about dishwashing I have ever read. It comes from (I hope this is right) T. R. Pearson's amazing book, A Short History of a Small Place, in which he describes the sound of dishes against each other. The character is walking at dinner time and the windows of the houses are open and he is listening to the sounds of evening coming.

The description is so beautiful and true that when I read it, I imagined the house where I grew up, with the kids across the street still playing baseball in the lot under the window just as it gets too dark to see the ball unless it's against the sky, and just before the street light came on. This particular memory is attached to one of the only evenings in Port Orford where it was warm enough to have the windows open and calm enough that the wind didn't slew the ball throw.

I imagine that little yellow square of light, the open window sucking in the sounds of log trucks, voices yelling each other to run, and barking dogs, and the sound of dishes clicking and chipping against each other slipping out, sounds that evoke home no matter where you live. This book is a southern novel but this piece of it is something everyone recognizes. I immediately replaced his descriptions of place with mine.

If this isn't the right book and author, I apologize. Whoever wrote the passage I remember is a master of scene setting. It still surprises me when something I read changes the way I see the world and my place in it. I will see if I can find the book and double check it. I worry, though, that it won't be the same the next time I read it! This is T. R. Pearson's first book and is absolutely wonderful. Please check it out the next time you are in your bookstore, your local, independent bookstore, of course.

There must be 30 birds out in the bushes under the feeder. They explode into the air like a sneeze, abruptly and with great dispersion, every time I stand up. It is so cool.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4

It's supposed to be clear and sunny today. It's cold, though. Cold for me, anyway,in the 40s. Supposed to be in the 60's later. I am listening to Roger Faris, the home repair expert from Phinney Ridge, on KUOW about winterizing our homes for the season. I am taking notes and will be spending Saturday tightening up and filling in.

Sunrise is at 6:59, sunset will be at 4:47.

I moved one of the bird feeders and it seems to be attracting a few more birds in the new location, although they are now landing on the bare pole and using it as a resting place before heading to the water to stand in the spray. I have only seen chickadees and sparrows, so far. I put out a finch feeder and a hummingbird feeder. I guess I should be more patient. Right now, there are lots of berries in the bushes to compete with.

I just picked up The Atlantis Code, by Charles Brokaw, and Smells Like Dog, by Suzanne Selfors. Two very different books (one is adult speculative fiction, one is a humorous middle school novel)with similar themes: treasure, maps, danger. I love how that happens. Sometimes, every book I pick up for weeks will have some sort of serendipitous event within. Maybe this could be a new kind of divination tool? Palm reading via text? You hold a book, your palms touch the book, am I reaching too far? Hmmm....

I am looking forward to both of these books: The Atlantis Code is a Da Vinci Code-ish kind of book. Clues to the whereabouts of Atlantis are beginning to show up in archaeologist's digs. The clues, musical instruments, are covered in a written language that leading linguists can't read. The Catholic church is involved in trying to keep the clues and the dig secret, but leaks abound. It's a pretty good story, so far, although I had a hard time getting through the introductions of the characters at the beginning.

Smells Like Dog is written for elementary/middle school so not nearly as full of bullets, sex and blood as Atlantis Code. Funnier, though. I will let you know all about it when I'm done!

There are many birds, now, under the feeder and the bubbler out back is a big hit with the little birds. Lots of ducking and bobbing going on out there.

Atlantis Code is for adults. Forge. Hardcover, 25.99. Smells Like Dog is for ages 8-12. Little Brown. Hardcover, $15.99, available May 2010 (no cover art yet).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cool and overcast today. A lot of the trees are bare now and the sun is at that particularly low angle that comes from living so far north. Someday, I would like to see what the light is like say, in Calgary, at this time. A fresh batch of coffee is brewing and the smell is rising through the house. Sunrise was at 6:57 and sunset is at 4:48. 4:48! Damn you, Daylight Savings Time!

It is voting day and we finally found our ballots-I will drop them into the box on the way to work. I miss standing in line to vote. Our neighborhood voting place was Washington Middle School and many different languages were spoken in the line around us - it made me feel very patriotic and aware of what our country should be about; sharing this privilege with people who may have been voting, freely, for the very first time.

The new patios are in, the plants are planted and we have a water feature that burbles and splashes in the corner. We are waiting for birds to take advantage of the new feeders. Dennis said he watched one of the little popcorn birds out there, bathing in the pool. I haven't seen that yet. I keep looking out the window and stepping out onto the new steps for a view, but I think I scare them away.

I wish I could remember everything I've read the last week- maybe they will come to me over time. I am reading Fever Crumb right now. It is written by Philip Reeve of The Hungry City Chronicles (they may also be known as The Mortal Engines Quartet) and Fever Crumb is a good addition to the canon.

The Hungry City Chronicles
is this amazing series of books that take place very far in the future. There is no water, there are few resources, there are cities and villages that have been built up on engines that move them from place to place as the governors of those cities look for smaller cities to consume. This is called Municipal Darwinism.

Tom and Hester, the heroes of the series, travel together across the barren European landscape. They endure betrayal and jealousy, find cities to fight for and with, and get into adventures that take them to places that now only exist in memory and folklore.

This series is really great and anyone of any age who likes true science fiction will thoroughly enjoy them. Find them and read them! It looks like they may be going out of print, so buy them quickly! Oh, right, the library may have them, too.

So, Fever Crumb takes place in the same kind of world: Our earth, London, long after some kind of apocalypse occurs leaving the world in the hands of Engineers who are, truly, reinventing the wheel.

Fever, our hero, was adopted and then raised by the engineers, and is now considered to be an anomaly: a reasonable female, a girl child devoted to rational thought. As such, she is the first girl admitted into the Order of Engineers.

As she begins her apprenticeship with an archaeologist, in a house filled with warmth and emotion, memories begin to come to her, memories that she is sure aren't hers. Where did they come from? What should she do with them? Could it be she has the answers her world needs?

Mmmm. It's good, and if you like books that show what it's like to live after the fall, you will really like Fever Crumb. Fever Crumb is published by Scholastic, and will be out in April, 2010, for $17.99. Ages 11 and up. You can read The Hungry City Chronicles, now. The titles in the series are: Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain. They are published by HarperCollins Eos and, the ones that are still in print, are available in paperback. Again, ages 11 and up for these.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Overcast, cold, 40 degrees. Sunrise 7:48, sunset 5:58.

Today's morning routine: Listening to Stewart Brand on KUOW, the author of The Whole Earth Catalog, the bible of the environmental change that occurred in the 60's and 70's.

I was pretty young when the book first came out but a later edition was one of the first books I bought with my textbook money when I went to college (in Eugene, home of hippies and recycling on street corners). His new book is The Whole Earth Discipline which suggests we rethink our ideas of what we should be doing now to save our environment.

I just read that he was one of the Merry Pranksters.

Washed the dishes, had breakfast, started Last Night in Twisted River (I'm not sure if this'll beat out finishing The Midnight Charter), swept the kitchen floor and did a load of laundry. Showered and washed my hair (I hate washing my hair-it takes forever to dry).

That Dark Divine book I was reading yesterday was really good! It is about a girl named Grace, a pastor's daughter, and a boy she used to know (and had a huge crush on) who has come back home. He has changed in some pretty dark ways, but she still finds him more than attractive and realizes that he is probably dangerous.

Daniel (the boy) and Jude, Grace's brother, and she were almost family when Daniel moved in with them after his father beat him badly. While living at the pastor's home something horrible happened and Daniel disappeared.

Three years later, he's back to atone and take care of the obligations he has accrued in his life. Unfortunately, Jude and some others in town are opposed to his return and are furious that Grace is becoming more and more involved with him.

Things reach a flashpoint when animals start to go missing, dead people have their flesh torn, and rumors are flying that Daniel is the reason why.

I love Grace and Daniel as a couple, you know he has been pining, longing for her, all this time and I appreciate that we can see how strong Grace is in her feelings for him. Their relationship doesn't depend on him and his being or not being with her, she holds her own in this one. I like that the author really shows us who Grace is from the beginning without resorting to having the other characters tell us about her.

It's really good and I will tell you that I couldn't put it down. I left the book I was reading in a bag in the car the other night, The Midnight Charter, by David Whitley. It is really good and different (although, I don't like the finished cover as much as the reading copy cover).

Unfortunately, I just couldn't go back out to the car to get it. Fortunately, I happened to have The Dark Divine on the kitchen table and I am very happy it was there.

The Dark Divide has a reading level of 12 and up, but I think ages 14 and up is a better one. There's no sex, very little cursing, it's 14 and up in my mind only because I think 14 year-olds are readier for books like this than younger readers. Let me know what you think when you read it.

Published by Egmont, available January, 2010. $17.99.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesdays are fast becoming one of my favorite days of the week: I go to work late because I stay late. That gives me a morning to write and make soup, do an extra load of laundry, and listen to the garden show on KUOW.

I love getting up just a little later than usual and finding a new book to sample during breakfast, having a little more time to enjoy the book if it's good, a little more time to find something different if it isn't.

Today I've discovered The Dark Divine, by Bree Despain. My friend, Deanna, with Random House, handed out copies at Seattle Bookfest on Sunday and it definitely looked like something I would read. I didn't want to stop reading so it is obviously the new book du jour.

Today is another beautiful October day, blue and gold, cold and filled with color. Sunrise was at 7:46. Sunset is at 5:59! It's officially night before 6! Yesterday the rain just poured during the morning commute, one of the most un-fun things to be a part of. It is a most stressful beginning to the day.

Our landscapers are here a little earlier than usual. We are so excited to have a yard we will actually be able to use! Our landscaper said that, to start, they'd roll up the sod and then put down the mulch and things that we wanted. And then she looked at the ground and said, "Although, this isn't sod. I don't know what it is, but it isn't sod." This project is a really good thing, not just for us, but for our neighbors.

The yard was filled with little weedy hillocks left over from going out and weed-whacking. The weed-whacker twirls the high, high "grass" into twisty ties of weeds. Short weeds, now, but weeds. Ah. The project should be done this week (barring any more downpours).

I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson and it was so great! Thank you, John Green and David Levithan, for writing another really good book about friendship. About friendship between boys and girls, and friendship between boys and boys. WG, WG is about a boy named Will Grayson and his best friend, Tiny Cooper, who is a really big gay boy who makes the world more fabulous. It is also about another Will Grayson who has only recently admitted to himself that he is gay.

Late one cold and windy night in Chicago, the two Will Graysons meet and, like balls meeting in the middle of a pool table, their lives spin and twist in directions they don't expect. I absolutely adore the characters in this book. I would like to see them again.

This is a wonderful book about looking for, finding, and losing love and friendship. It also reminds us that we should let people know we love them. Often.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
will be published by Dutton and is for teens, 14 and up. $17.99, available April, '10.

I am going up now to read the rest of The Dark Divine.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What a glorious October day; flame colored trees along I-90; blue skies, golden air under the trees and bushes along the sidewalks. Cool breezes, warm air, football. Aaand, may I say, Go Ducks!

Sunrise: 7:43. Sunset: 6:03. Slept late, had a nap, made dinner, started a couple of new books. A good weekend day.

I really enjoyed The Amanda Project and I think teen-aged girls are going to, too. Lots of intrigue and mystery, lots of feeling out of step with the popular girls, lots of realizing that there are other people with good ideas who would be more fun to know. It was very hard to not finish it all at once and having to sleep was the only reason I did. It was fun and I can't wait for the next one.

Now I have to try and decide whether to read a grown-up book or a YA novel next. The choices, for tonight, anyway, are Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, or Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin.

John Green is one of my favorite authors so I am tending toward Will Grayson, but Alice (of Alice in Wonderland fame) is one of my favorite characters, so....it's a hard choice, but I think I'm going to go with Will Grayson for now.

I am working at the new Seattle Bookfest in Columbia City tomorrow. I think we've all missed having a book festival in town. I am glad someone is making the effort to do it and I hope it will happen again!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson will be published by Dutton in April, 2010, in hardcover for $17.99. Alice I Have Been will be published in January, 2010, by Delacorte and will be hardcover for $25.00.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23: Amanda Project: invisible i

Sunrise at 7:40, sunset at 6:06, not that we can tell. Even with the curtains open, I had to turn the lights on in the dining room so I could read while I had breakfast (at 8:30! I love weekends).

The tree across the street that I can see from the dining room window is filled with birds. I think they may be starlings; I got to the binoculars too late to focus and then they were gone, flying away from here. The birds in the neighborhood usually gather in that tree and then fly into the maple in our yard. Oh, they're back! Crows, not starlings.

I took my stack of books up steps last night and started The Amanda Project: invisible i, by Stella Lennon. I couldn't stop reading once I got started. I was only going to read for a bit but it was too hard to stop.

It's an interesting book: Amanda, the new girl, chose Callie to be her guide at the school and town. However, their friendship was hidden from the greater community, no one knew that Callie and Amanda were friends.

Amanda disappears; this isn't too weird, she was often away from school for days, but this time the vice principal calls Callie in to find out what she knows about it. When Callie comes into the office, two other classmates, Nia and Hal, are also there, being interrogated as to the disappearance. None of the three of them knew that the others also knew Amanda.

It comes out that Amanda chose each of them to be her personal guide, changing her personality and the facts of her life in Orion to suit them.

As the three of them begin to compare notes about what they knew about Amanda, they begin to realize everything they know is false.

This is a kind of a cool book, too, because you can go to www.theamandaproject.com and write stories, post art, leave notes, and there is a possibility that what gets posted is integrated into future Amanda Project books.

That's as far as I have gotten and I have to stop now so I can get ready to talk to my librarian friends at the Ravenna store! The children's book buyer and staff at the Ravenna Third Place store and I are book talking our favorite new YA books today and, because I read so much so far away from actual publication dates, I must spend some time today reviewing the ones I'm going to discuss. Exciting!

The Amanda Project: invisible i, by Stella Lennon, is published by HarperCollins. Hardcover, $16.99. Available now. Ages 12 and up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sunrise today is at 7:39, sunset will be at 6:08. I always feel like I've gotten more done in a day, I've accomplished more, and that I am hardier than I think, if I am up and around before it gets light; hard to do when sunrise happens when we're on the uptick to 8 am!

I finished The Poacher's Son last night and it was good all the way through. As I said in the previous post, it's primarily a book about family and responsibility; when does it end? Or does it ever?

Mike Bowditch is a game warden in Maine. His father, the poacher, is accused of murdering 2 cops and is the subject of an intense man-hunt. He eludes all the hunters and dogs because he knows how to maneuver through the woods and the mountains.

Mike knows his father couldn't have done it and he tries to insinuate himself into the case but, according to the other cops, is obviously biased toward his father and so is forced out of the chain of information.

Throughout the book, thankfully not every other chapter, we get glimpses into Mike's life as a child. He wants so desperately to have his father be proud of him, even remember him, and his dad is definitely not one of those kinds of men. I really didn't like that man and can see why so many people in the book wanted him to be the murderer!

The book is full of twists and turns and great writing. It was really exciting and absolutely riveting. I hope you like it as much as I did.

Now, I have to find the next book to read.

I have a house full of books to browse, and, tonight anyway, a car full of books in the driveway because I am speaking to middle and high school librarians tomorrow about my favorite YA books.

On the kitchen table in front of me I have The Amanda Project: invisible i, by Stella Lennon; Solace of the Road, by Siobhan Dowd; Day of the Pelican, by Katherine Paterson; Party, by Tom Leveen; Will Grayson Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan; and The Bread of Angels, by Stephanie Saldana. Which will it be??? I am taking them all up to bed with me tonight and the one I can't put down first will be the one I stay up with. It's my FRIDAY and I get to stay up and read!!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, The Poacher's Son

Rain. Rain. Rain. It's not supposed to rain tomorrow. It is today, though, the kind of rain that feels like it won't end any time soon. Cold. Wet. Dark. It's fall, I should be used to this. Sunrise at 7:37, sunset at 6:10. My sister's birthday is today, happy birthday, Keeli!

Stopped raining for just a minute - the birds are out of hiding. Big bluejay in the tree across the way, on the very tip top branch, something round in its beak. The little popcorn birds are bouncing from twig to twig, hanging upside down, pushing each other out of the way. Oh! They're gone!

One of the perks of being a bookseller, besides having access to books before they are published, is being invited to dinner with fellow booksellers and new authors. Isn't that a really cool thing?

I have been invited to dinner with Paul Doirin, the author of a book called The Poacher's Son. I got a copy of his book yesterday (it was in a pile of boxes just filled with advanced reading copies from Macmillan Publishing) and I thought I had better read a bit of it before I RSVP.

Do I really want to read a book about a poacher? Hunting? Not something I would probably pick up on my own but when you may be face to face with the author, you want to be able to truthfully say something positive about the book, so I started it last night. It's GOOD! It's more the story of family and what family responsibilities are or should be than it is about hunting and death.

It's about a man, Mike Bowditch, a game warden, whose estranged father (the poacher in the title) calls one night and leaves a message that involves him in a murder investigation. I love his descriptions of Maine, I really like the way this guy writes, and, having grown up with hunters, beating the grass for rabbits and pheasant, I can appreciate the characters and the way they feel when the government gets involved in their way of living when it's been that way forever.

It's really a fine mystery book, so far (I'm on page 72 as of this post), and I am completely caught up in it. It is a book for grown-ups. Minotaur Books, $24.99. Available April, 2010.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009: Things That Keep Us Here

Overcast with a pinch of cold. The trees are brilliant. Even with the rain and wind over the last few days, the leaves are still attached to their branches. Our neighbors have the most exquisite red bushes on their hillside. I don't think I have ever seen a red that color in nature. I have pictures; I should figure out how to load them in to show you. It's foggy up on the hills and kind of quiet. Sunrise was at 7:36, Sunset is at 6:11.

We got our every-other-month "white box" from the American Booksellers Association yesterday. Everyone gathers around and watches as the tape is slit and the cardboard wings are opened, ready for that moment when these new, not-yet-published books are exposed.

Emily took the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, Robert picked out the book about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I decided on a book, out of the big pile of things I want to read, called The Things That Keep Us Here, by Carla Buckley.

I have been reading only young adult books for weeks, now, in preparation for a book talk I'm doing on Friday and I have been looking forward to reading anything else. The Things That Keep Us Here looked like a good one to start with. I like books that draw me in right away, and I really like science and science fiction/speculative fiction. I started it on my afternoon break and did NOT want to stop reading. I took it to the gym and read while I did my cardio workout and then read late into the very early morning to finish it.

It could have "ripped from the headlines" emblazoned on the cover. It's the story of a family falling apart at the same time the world as they know it is ending. A flu pandemic carried by birds has begun circling the world, following migratory flight routes. As the flu infiltrates the United States, it follows the Mississippi river with the birds. Panic sets in and people begin to ransack stores and steal gasoline from their neighbors. Ann and Peter, parents of two girls, have to figure out how to survive a winter of severe rationing and fear.

What was really interesting about this book was seeing how quickly our society could fall apart when we are faced with such a calamity. How many of us have fireplaces and know how to lay a fire? When the stores run out of bread, would we be able to subsist on something like hardtack? Would we know what hardtack even is? What happens when the people who run the electric substations and water systems die? How do you get to a hospital when you can't get gasoline? Would you share your food, your bottled water, your house?

It was scary, what with the H1N1 flu in such high profile right now, reading something that seems so realistic and able to happen. It was good, but I am going to avoid crowds for awhile.

(Good for grown-ups with some teen crossover interest. Fans of Douglas Preston will enjoy it. Delacorte. Hardcover, $25.00. Available February, 2010.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 19, 2009

Fall really is i-cumin in. The trees are coloring up right nice and we have HUGE spiders spinning their webs from one side of the yard (and across the front door- much whapping of body parts while we hope the web still holds its spider) to the other. Sun rise was at 6:50 am! It was dark when the alarm went off! Greek Fests, Oktoberfests, county fairs!

A woman was shopping and held her two quite thick books up and said, "It's gonna take me a while to get through these!" and I said, "The rains will start soon and you'll have plenty of time to read." And then the rain fell and fell hard! And then the sun found a hole in the clouds and lit everything outside with focused light; the deciduous trees were incandescent against the darker green of the pines.

Going to the Puyallup fair to see James Taylor tonight. We will be meeting up with our niece, Brittney, and my sister-in-law, Mary, and Britt and I are going on the rides! Go, roller coasters! I like the spinny rides but no one else will go on them with me except for my sister, Keeli. I cannot bear the idea of ferris wheels, though; too open, too tippy, and I worry that I will accidentally throw myself out of them. What's with that?

The weather is warm, overcast, but the breeze keeps everything lovely. I am looking forward to sitting in the beer garden with my book, Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same, by Mattox Roesch. I love reading while having a beer, surrounded by people and their conversations, outdoors.

I love this book, too. It's the story of a 17 year-old gangbanger from L.A., Cesar, whose older brother is now in prison for having shot and killed two 15 year-old kids who wanted to leave the gang. Now that the trial is over, their Eskimo mother and Cesar move back to her home town in Alaska, Unalakleet, a village of about 800 people. There he meets his cousin, Go-Boy, a boy everyone knows and loves, a free-spirited young man who wants to make life good for people, but sometimes takes his role too seriously.

Sometimes we're Always Real Same-Same is beautifully written, a first novel, and the author reminds us (as adults) how hard it is to be a teenager growing up without roadmaps.

Cesar brings his big city boy crap with him to Alaska, treating girls without respect, trying to "be the man" in a culture that doesn't recognize that term, and having to live with and deal with the decisions he makes, learning, one mistake at a time, that he needs to think things through.

Go-Boy rides Cesar up and down roads that don't always go any where, talking about his personal philosophy, showing him what sights there are and introducing him to the people Go-Boy is so proud to be a part of, showing Cesar that he, too, is a part of this whole, that he is real same-same, whether he wants to be or not.

I don't want to tell you too much about Go-Boy and his problems, how Cesar finds his way through his childhood, how difficult it must be to live in a country like Alaska full time. I want you to discover it the way I did: one line and one page at a time unrolling ahead, filling your head with the brown and blue images of Unalalkleet.

This book is written and published for grown-ups but is a good addition to that teen crossover shelf. Unbridled Books, $15.95. Available now. Ages 15/16 and up.

P.S. James Taylor was great! The crowd (in that immense venue) was polite, and the rain held off all day and night. Can't get much better than listening to music outside, in the warm, all gathered together for the same reason.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's (PNBA) yearly trade show was last weekend in Portland, Or. The weather was HOT, the drinks were cold, and Portland is a beautiful city.

I had a great time checking in with old friends, gathering armloads of new books, hearing authors talk about their books at breakfasts, lunch and dinner. There were booksellers talking about books breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Workshops on how to talk about books, workshops on working with the public about books, workshops on letting other booksellers know about the books you're talking about to the public. Sharing the books we most want everyone else to know...Mmm, books (insert Homer Simpson doughnut sound here).

And, okay, I am really psyched to come back with my bags of swag so I can start reading something so new only the reps and publishing people have seen it.

Like Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick, the first book I pulled out of the pile!

We all know that books about the paranormal, vampires, fairies, werewolves, are all the rage and can there really be one more original story out there? I will give you a resounding yes!

Hush, Hush is the story of a smart and responsible girl named Nora Grey and the new boy in her school that she absolutely can't resist; his very smell compells her to him. She tries to drive him away and keep her distance, but Patch is always there: in her yard, behind her when she falls, in her mind, surrounding her all the time. When she finally admits how she feels about him, she finds out why her attraction to him is so overwhelming: he isn't exactly human. Two deep, dark scars on his back form a large V where his wings were ripped away when he fell from heaven. Patch has found a way to get his wings back and Nora is it.

Extremely romantic and exciting, Hush, Hush is a really good read- an especially good addition to the many books with angels as characters.

Ages 14 and older. Simon and Schuster, $17.99. Available October 14, 2009.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

(This is the newest BookNotes, an email newsletter I send out to friends, family and colleagues. Included are book reviews and information about the haps at Third Place Books, the bookstore where I work.)

A couple of Fridays ago we had 100 degree weather, broke records for length and depth of heat. The Blue Angels were practicing over the city and the grass smelled like dust. I sat outside and watched the air show as they flew over my house, eating peaches and cherries, drinking water and lemon juice. The smell of lemons lingered on my fingers, making the fruit sparkle with each bite. There was little noise after the unearthly roar of the jets passed; the birds were hiding and I-90 was closed so there was no traffic. We had someone else’s summer for five days!

The season seems to be turning already: the maple tree leaves are yellowing and there is a rill of dry leaves as they are scooted along the driveway by the little breezes. It is wet and I am going to wear a sweater today! It is a day to remember when we get into that last bit of summer that comes so suddenly at the beginning of fall.

And what does this time of year remind us of? Going back to school! New boxes of crayons and the smell of pencils, backpacks clean of unknown sticky patches, little crowds of teenagers whose perfumes battle for dominance. And! Invitations to Teacher Nights! As many of the readers of this email are teachers or librarians, I am inviting you to Lake Forest Park to join us at Third Place Books’ Teacher Appreciation Night on Tuesday, September 8, from 5-7 pm. There will be giveaways, booklists, knowledgeable staff people to question, and an author! A real live author! Phillip Done, the author of Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, will be reading from and discussing his book at 7.

After the BookNotes you will find a list of some of the upcoming Third Place Books children’s book events.

BookNotes


Alphabeasties: And Other Amazing Types, by Sharon Werner and Sarah Nelson, really is kind of amazing! Alphabeasties is an alphabet book of a different stripe; some of the stripes may be designed in Garamond Bold or Times New Roman, but they are stripes.

This is a book that will appeal to anyone who likes books and book design, anyone who feels that the typeface used in a story can influence the way you read, and anyone who likes to collect alphabet books. The illustrations all use different kinds of typeface to design the animal and its surroundings, so “tiger” has a specific kind of type to make up its body, with different typefaces to make up the grass or the trees or the clouds. It’s really cool. But, the thing I like best is the description of the typefaces in the back of the book! The other thing that’s really great about the book is that it shows uppercase and lowercase letters together, they are different sizes, and they have long As and short As, hard Gs and soft Gs side by side. This allows kids who are just getting ready to read to see that a letter is a letter is a letter, that because just because it looks different and may sound different it isn’t. This would be a really good book to design a lesson plan around.
All ages. Blue Apple Books. Hardcover, $19.99. Available now.

Richard Peck’s new book, A Season of Gifts, features Grandma Dowdel, the eccentric grandma who stars in A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago, will be available in September, perfect for the new school year!

It is 1958 and a new preacher’s family has moved in next door to Grandma Dowdel. A very poor family, new to the ministry, they have a rundown church that doesn’t even have windows. It needs a lot of help and so do they. Bob, our 11 year-old narrator, has a great view of his family and the woman next door whose daily oddities both fascinate and frighten him.

Grandma Dowdel is a woman who believes in being self-sufficient and thrifty. She raises all kinds of produce, isn’t afraid to protect her property from bullies and toughs, and is gruff in her affections. She also knows that sometimes you have to sidle up to a person and their problems so they don’t run away. I absolutely love Richard Peck’s stories about Grandma Dowdel and A Season of Gifts is so good. Funny and poignant, it is a little slice of small town, mid-century life, a time just as television is becoming a normality, but pumpkins are still picked in patches, some people still have outhouses, and the entire town knows who you are and what you did, forever, as long as memory survives.
9 and older. Dial Books. Hardcover, $16.99. Available September, ’09.

I just finished reading Jonathan Stroud’s newest book, Heroes of the Valley, and it was GOOD! You may remember that Jonathan is the author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, a series of books about a boy and the djinn he summons and tries to control.

Heroes of the Valley is a story filled with legends and a boy whose life is changed by the legends he grows up on. The setting feels a little Swedish, a little Norwegian, maybe, olden-times, fireside storytelling of the giants who founded the valley and protect it from the monsters who dwell outside the cairn lines. Halli Sveinsson is the youngest son of the house of Svein and a troublemaker. When his antics finally push the edge and cause much more trouble than he expected, he and his friend Aud, the daughter of a neighboring house, must find a way to fix it.

Epic quests, a great deal of humor, and some of the worst monsters you can imagine make for a really compelling read. While Halli may be the main character of the book, Aud is one of those strong, female characters we love so much. She is Halli’s friend and foil, adventurous and strong, and I am hoping for more about her in the next book (I am really hoping for a next book!).
Great for ages 11 and up. Hyperion. Hardcover, $17.95. Available now.



AND I just finished up the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare! The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass and are based in both the mundane world (the one most of us live in) and a world surrounding us filled with Shadowhunters, angels, fairies, vampires and werewolves.

Our main character, Clary, occupies both of these worlds, often with dire consequences. Clary is a human girl, as far as she knows, with the ability to see and hear those not-quite-human beings that surround her. This ability can be detrimental both to her health and to the health of others. When Clary becomes involved, quite by accident, in a non-human affair, those beings become very interested in the fact of her existence and her life as it was before is shattered.


The books are exciting and romantic, and there is a lot going on in them. Clary is friends with a boy who becomes a vampire, she is in love with a boy who is Shadowhunter, some of their friends are werewolves, and all of this is complicated by the fact that none of these supernaturals are comfortable with each other's existence, but they are all bound by Clary and her needs. Ooh…they’re good! You are all so lucky because you have all three to read at once, you won’t have to wait like the rest of us did! Except! I just heard that there is going to be a fourth book! There is more story to tell. I hate to use this tag-line but if you know any Twilight fans, they will devour these books, too.
Ages 14 and up. Simon and Schuster. The earlier books are available in paper. City of Glass is hardcover, $17.99. Available now.

Emperors of the Ice, by Richard Farr, is an amazing book about Robert Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic. One of the men on the trip, Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (Cherry to his friends), took extensive notes and wrote of his experiences when he returned to civilization.
Cherry was not a professional adventurer or scientist but he was fascinated by his Uncle’s stories of the Emperor penguins he found on Scott’s last trip. His uncle convinced Scott that Cherry would be an excellent crew member and he was asked to be a part of this ill-fated expedition.


Absolutely riveting, Emperors of the Ice is one of those books you cannot put down, even though you know how it’s going to end. Cherry’s descriptions of the hardships the men and animals endure are sometimes difficult to read as, in hindsight, we know what should or could have been done to keep them safe.


I started this book in bed and then found myself reading it aloud to my husband because I had to share it with someone, right then! He read it when I was done and we have both enjoyed talking about what it meant to us.


If you have boys (and men) who are looking for a great survival/adventure story, one with great humor and devastating sadness, then this is the book for you. It is filled with maps, a glossary, an immense bibliography, a chapter on what the men on the trip did when they got home, and, one of the hardest parts to read, the final letters to loved ones when the men knew they were going to die. This is a grand homage to the people who have gone before us to further our knowledge of the unknown, to those who further our knowledge of science for the sheer joy of discovery.
Ages 12 and up. Farrar Strauss and Giroux. Hardcover, $19.95. Available now.




Upcoming Kid’s Book Events at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park



There are so many great things happening at this store, I just had to let you know:


Monday, September 14, 7 pm: Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black, authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, are coming to present their next volume, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles 3: The Wyrm King.


Tuesday, September 22, 7pm: John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me has written Marley Goes to School, a picture book for children ages 4 and up.


Tuesday, September 22, 5:30: We have scheduled a “meet and greet” with Michelle Zink, the author of Prophecy of the Sisters. This is a chance to meet the author, get a book signed, ask a couple of questions, nothing too formal so don’t be shy, come and visit with us. This book is appropriate for ages 12 and up.


Thursday, September 24, 5:30: This event is a meet and greet with Gitty Daneshvari, the author of School of Fear, another chance to drop by and meet someone who may soon be topping all the bestseller lists! The book is good (and funny) for kids 10 and older.


Saturday, September 26, 10 – 12: Wendy Wahman, the author of Don’t Lick the Dog will be helping us celebrate Group Health READ Day.


Sunday, October 4, 12-1: Come and meet Kate DiCamillo and get a copy of her new book, The Magician’s Elephant, signed. This is not a formal signing where she will be speaking to an audience and then signing books. Kate is stopping by to sign books and will chat with those who would like to get one. We are thrilled to be able to offer this moment with her to you and hope you can come.


Teacher stuff:
We have authors available for schools and an email list for educators. If you would like to find out more information about what we do for educators, email Cheryl at cmckeon@thirdplacebooks.com.


For those of you with more (ahem) mature tastes: Diana Gabaldon, Richard Bach, Diane Ackerman, Alton Brown, P. C. Cast, Barbara Kingsolver….We have a list of authors for grown ups you won’t believe. Check the store website (www.thirdplacebooks.com) or call (206-366-3333) to get the information emailed to you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Catching Fire

It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day today, not too hot, not too cold, clearing later in the day. Can you believe the days are shorter already? It was dark at 8 last Wednesday.

The grass (well, the grass-like weeds, anyway) is crispy to the touch, the fallen leaves are puddling in the corners of the porch, the air is hot until the marine breezes come cool, and we are seeing many kids searching for books to complete their summer reading lists before school starts next week. I always feel a little conflicted by the seasons changing. I love fall, and I love twilight, that little extra fillip at the end of the day - the feeling of expectation that comes with the darkening sky - and summer in the northwest is the only time to do that. When it's dark at 4...Not much twilight happening then. It's just dark.

Today is Catching Fire day! The sequel to Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, can be put out on the bookstore floor today.

Hunger Games is this great book about a dystopian society (a far in the future United States) that requires two children from each city-state to fight to the death as a tithe and a way to keep control over the people. Katniss, our hero, has been chosen as one of the warriors.

Part Lord of the Flies and part Theseus and the Minotaur, Hunger Games is filled with action, philosophy, quick thinking and a little romance. Katniss returns in Catching Fire where she finds herself the unwilling center of a rebellion, receiving way too much attention from the government. Oh, it's good! A perfect way to relax before the hectic days of the first weeks of school.
Ages 12 and up. Scholastic. Both books in hardcover for $17.99.

Two of the other sequels to watch for this month are Fire, by Kristin Cashore (sequel to Graceling) and The Missing, Book 2: Sent, by Margaret Peterson Haddix (this is already on the shelf and is flying out of the store).

I am so close to finishing Velva Jean Learns to Drive, by Jennifer Niven, and it is such a great read. It's the story of a young woman living in a holler in Appalachia who wants to go to the Grand Ol' Opry when she grows up, and then life gets in the way. Velva Jean is a good character to expose older teens to. She runs wild after her mother dies, is raised by her sister, gets married, gives things up, gets things back, and becomes true to herself. I am going to go read, now, and see what happens at the end!
Older teens and grown ups. Plume Books. Paperback, $15.00.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The most recent newsletter I send out to friends (BookNotes) follows.

It’s Summer! July 15, ‘09


Hello! Are you still out there? It has been a while since I last wrote- not because there aren’t any books or because I haven’t been reading! I have been reading SO much, and there is so much to tell you, that I became a little overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of books and paper that surrounded me! Bear with me and I will get back to a somewhat regular schedule.

I just walked out to put the compost in the bin and looked out towards downtown. We have a tall building view and the fog has washed up against them, flowing upwards before breaking and wrapping around and moving on, filling the lower lands with clouds. Summer fog….my favorite memories are curled inside ocean fog: wrapped in sweatshirts covering halter tops and swimsuits, shorts, thongs (sorry, flip flops), sitting on the porch in the cold with my book, knees tucked inside my shirt, waiting for it to burn or blow off before heading to the beach or up the river. Going up the river was MUCH warmer. Warmth on the coast I lived on was in very short supply. The river banks always had hot rocks to lie on; the smell of hot rocks and evaporating river water rivals the smell of newly cut hay or salt water on a cold night.

I hope your summer has been a comfortable and pleasant one, filled with deep and long twilights, reading in the shade with a tall, cool glass of something by your side, and that you are making memories to hold you through the upcoming fall and winter. There have been some truly fabulous books released this summer and I hope they will find their ways into your lives.

BookNotes:

I truly love a picture book that I can read as an adult and share with a kid, both of us getting something good out of it. One of my recent favorites is Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators ever, Adam Rex.
Billy’s room is a mess and his mother is not happy. After many reminders that he has responsibilities and needs to take care of them, she threatens to get him a blue whale. While Billy neglects his chores, the threat of a blue whale is repeated, but Billy isn’t worried, he knows a bit about blue whales and he knows that one can’t be delivered to your house overnight!

Or, can they?

The next morning a blue whale is delivered to Billy’s house and that whale is now his responsibility; to go with him wherever he goes, including school where he and the whale disrupt the day, canceling the cowboy movie for a lesson on cetaceans.
And does Billy learn his lessons? Does he keep his room clean? Well, let’s just say he finds an alternative to this whole messy world.

While I don’t think I like the ending as much as younger readers will, I love the way Adam Rex illustrated this book. He uses a deep, saturated color palette, lots and lots of details to keep the read-to amused while the words are going, and a great deal of humor in the illustrations. His endpages are of sea-going advertisements, and that whale looks like he really needs a break. I especially appreciate the use of the often empty pages before a book begins as a story-mover: Billy’s mom is on the move, following the trail of toys, popsicles, and clothes to his room. I really like that the parent’s heads are cleverly camouflaged throughout.

This is a book I have already read and browsed 5-6 times and will pick up over and over- I love it! And it’s a good summer book! Ages 4 and older. $16.99. Disney Hyperion.

Another great picture book for the same age is a nonfiction book called Sparrows, by Hans Post and Kees Heij, illustrated by Irene Goede. It’s so cool to have a book that pulls common things out of the mundane and elevates them into the sublime, especially one for kids. This little book shows the life of a House Sparrow, one of the most common birds around, and gives us an up close and personal view of how they hatch, where they live, what they eat and how they attract each other.

It is a pretty simple book: lots of little pockets of text sprinkled over the two page spreads and, like Billy Twitters, the artwork is a huge reason to come back to it over and over again. There are tons of details and I have pored over the pictures many times since bringing it home. I love the spreads that show a little neighborhood of sparrows and their lives while the text explains what is going on. And, parents, it does show sparrows “pairing” and a bird actually laying an egg (although not in graphic detail, just as asides, something that happens naturally)! The book has an informational fact page at the very back. Beware, this book may turn some of your children into amateur birders, forcing you to head out to look for more! Ages 3-4 and up. $16.95. Boyds Mills Press.

One of the best books for middle readers this summer is When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. This is an amazing story about a girl whose world is filling with mysteries and conundrums.

Miranda and Sal have been friends forever and have finally figured out how to negotiate their neighborhood, avoiding the crazy man near the post box, crossing the street when they get to the group of boys hanging out on the corner. All is good until Sal gets punched by a stranger and then stops talking to Miranda.

Things begin to get a little weird when Sal goes away: the hidden apartment key disappears, shoes are stolen, the crazy man on the corner gets crazier, naked people are running through the streets, and little notes with information only Miranda should know start showing up in very odd places. One of the notes reads, in part, “I am coming to save your friend’s life and my own…You must write me a letter”.

When You Reach Me is a great story about a sixth grade girl who has an average life: she has friends, she has frenemies, she has crushes and a first kiss, her mom is wonderful and has a wonderful boyfriend. I like the book so much just for its ordinariness. Like Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, Miranda’s favorite book (and mine), Miranda is just a girl to whom things happen. But what happens…more than enough to last a lifetime.


I read this book twice. I read it once for the story, not knowing what was happening, and then again for the clues which made the story richer. AND if you have not recently read A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, dig it up and read it, too. And then share them both with a friend so you can talk about them! Ages 10 and up. $15.99. Random House.

If you like science fiction, check out Rebecca Stead’s last book, First Light, too. It’s the story of Peter, on a research trip in Greenland, and the story of a girl dreaming of seeing the sun. Thea’s culture was accused of witchcraft and hid ages ago under the ice and Peter is close to discovering her. This is a very good read. I guess it’s more speculative than science fiction, but you will like it! Ages 10 and up. $6.99. Random House.

Coming soon, September 22 (reserve your copy now!), is Libba Bray’s next book, Going Bovine. Both Going Bovine and When You Reach Me are books you really can’t say a lot about without giving too much away. Libba is best known for her gothic-y romantic, supernatural books about Gemma Doyle (A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in the series). Very much a departure from the English boarding school books, Going Bovine is a great addition to the Libba Bray shelf.

16 year-old Cameron wants to skate through life with a minimum of effort. All is going well until he finds out he is sick and going to die. And, yes, he has Mad Cow Disease. There is hope, though. A punk angel named Dulcie (really an angel? Hallucination?) tells him there is a cure but he must go on the road trip to end all road trips to find it.

Going Bovine is so great. Funny, sarcastic and heartbreaking, you will fall for lonely Cam on his trip to Disneyland (and a trip to lose his virginity before he dies) in a big way. Accompanied by a Garden Gnome who is actually a Berserker dwarf trying to get home, Cam’s story is one of the best of the year. I can’t wait to read it again – I lent my copy out to another bookseller - and can’t wait to talk to her about it! Don’t you love books that do that? Ages 14 and up. $17.99. Random House.

I’m in the middle of a bunch of things for grown-ups but I have to tell you about this non-fiction nature book about clouds that came in recently: Extraordinary Clouds: Skies of the Unexpected from the Beautiful to the Bizarre, by Richard Hablym.

This is an amazing book. It is filled with mostly color photographs of clouds. I guess the title pretty much sums it up but it does nothing to describe the photos. The photos are accompanied with explanations about the science of how the clouds were formed. Last Friday, while listening to Cliff Mass, weather guru, he described clouds that haven’t been seen this far south before, Noctilucent clouds. He said that if we went out half an hour or so after sunset, we should be able to see them, and so I did! On Sunday I looked them up in this book, and there they were! With the same explanation Cliff gave! Wow! Now I feel like a birdwatcher; I have a lifelist of clouds I would like to see: Fallstreak Holes, Mammatus, sonic boom clouds, and Angels on Horseback. This is a great browsing book for kids and adults and would be a very good addition to your science section. You do have a science section, don’t you? You will learn a little about physics and other sciences as you page through the book trying to figure out how clouds are made, an easy way to sneak science into your life, like bran in a muffin. All ages. $14.99. David and Charles.

I think I should get this sent off now. The opening paragraph was written a week ago and it’s obvious that the weather has changed a bit! The smell of coconut sunscreen is everywhere-

Rene’ Kirkpatrick

P.S. I am planning on sending this newsletter at some point via Constant Contact so I can add art and book jacket images. So, when I get it all figured out, watch for it. It will look different! I hope it will be a good change!

www.notesfromthebedsidetable.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hey! What's with the weather? I wore socks to bed, we slept in flannel sheets and a comforter, and Dennis, my husband (whose birthday is today: HBD, D!), said he saw a woman on the corner downtown where he works wearing a blue pea coat, a hat, and gloves! It's July 7, dudes!

I started reading A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick, last night. Set in the early 1900's, it starts off with a blizzard, a lie, and an accident in the snow and ice. It felt appropriate to be reading it on this very cold July night.

Speaking of A Reliable Wife: it is really good, so far! It's about a lonely, wealthy man living in rural Wisconsin who sends away for a mail order bride and, when she arrives in snow and steam, he sees that she is not who she said she is. Both of them are looking for companionship and warmth but I think she has some serious issues; a hidden agenda! She sent him a picture of a plain woman (and she is definitely not plain), she lies about how she knows what she knows, and she has obviously chosen Mr. Truitt for a specific reason. Can't wait to get back to it- a relationship that begins in a lie is bound to have good story behind it! I'll let you know what I think when I get done.

Later: I forgot that the All for Kids book group is meeting Thursday night and we are reading Austenland, by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury). Shannon usually writes books for teens based on ancient folk tales but Austenland is about a woman seeking Mr. Darcy. She gets a chance to spend 3 weeks at Austenland, a theme park in England where everyone is plunged headfirst into the Regency era. Must read this before finishing A Reliable Wife.

Much later: Beautiful night in the yard at book group and quite a lively discussion about Austenland (we really do talk about the book). Some snacks, some catching up, and we actually decided about the next TWO YEARS' worth of books.

Our little group has been meeting, what, 10, 12 years or so, and we started as a grown-up group reading kid's books. We expand outward every once in awhile but always come back to books originally written for children.

Our group was formed when Jo, a lovely woman who died of ovarian cancer a few years ago, suggested we get together to talk about all those books we should have, but didn't, read when we were kids. She brought in a few of her friends, some of the All for Kids' staff joined up, a few other childrens book aficionados came along, and we were off! We still meet once a month, now at each others homes rather than at the store.

Austenland was a fun, frothy read, good for 20-30 year old women. I found it quite funny.

Even more later:

I finished A Reliable Wife and it was GOOD. Many turns and surprises. It is brutal, sad, complex, and there were times when I was utterly stunned by the turn the story took. Complicated characters, devious plots, A Reliable Wife was an amazing look at how people make decisions, how they choose to see things, and then how to live with the results.

I have his first book, a memoir called The End of the World as We Know It, on my desk at work right now. It's gritty, harsh, the story of a man raised in the South of the 50's. We are looking back at his life in a dysfunctional family from his adulthood, where alcohol, mental, and physical abuse combine to take his childhood. I am only a little way in but it is absolutely riveting. (Both books are by Algonquin Books, Wife: $24.95; World: $13.95. Definitely adults only.)

Well, I am now going to cleanse my palate with a few kid's books. I have a hefty stack of books on the bedside table and a few more scattered around the house, butI think I will take a new book called Fairy Tale, by Cyn Balog, to sample when I go up to bed. Sweet dreams, all.