Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunset was at 5:15, sunset will be 9:11, again. 43 seconds less sunlight today, people. The earth is 152.079 10 to the 6 power km from the sun, looking at the future distances we will be heading farther away each day (barring any asteroids or moon distortions. 66 degrees today, maybe? Cloudy with a chance of sunbreaks. I walked 12,953 steps yesterday. 643 so far today just walking around the house. I didn't get up in time to see the sunrise or walk the couple of miles in the morning I've been doing; will have to walk around the store more. One book to the shelf at a time.

Much splashing outside this morning, a couple of juvenile robins are chasing each other in and out of the fountain and into the bushes and trees above. They narrowly miss the windows. Sometimes, though, they seem to use them to carom off and away, lightly tapping their claws against the glass, gathering speed and a sharper curve to out-speed their partner.

I got home pretty late last night because Ivan Doig was at the store talking about the sequel to Whistling Season, Work Song. It was Cheryl McKeon's last event after almost 11 years of hosting authors and booking and taking children's book authors into the store and schools. She's moving to California and I am going to miss her confidence, humor, and laugh. She's got an amazing burble, I find myself laughing with her wherever she is, whenever I hear it. Yes, she has an infectious laugh. I had to hang out just to spend a little more time with her.

SO, I got home late and, having promised our Random House kid's rep, Deanna Meyerhoff, that I would start Jennifer Donnelly's new book, Revolution, next, started it.

Truly, DO NOT start this book unless you have a big block of time. I read until way too late (see the first paragraph) and then had to pick up a different book to read myself to sleep.

Revolution is GREAT (so far, anyway: I'm a third of the way through). It's the story of a girl, Andi, a musician and a senior, privileged and dysfunctional in the way only the children of the very wealthy seem to be, who is severely depressed after a traumatic family event. Facing expulsion at the school she attends, her father checks her also depressed, maybe psychotically broken, mother into a hospital and drags Andi to Paris where he is working.

Andi is a brilliant guitar player which is the only thing that saves her and keeps her evenly keeled. It is only good, though, for as long as the blood and pain stay inside her fingers. When she can't play, the thoughts and planning of suicide invade her mind, again.

While in Paris, she has to work on her senior thesis, one that seems to echo what her Nobel Prize-winning father does with DNA. The family friend, G, is a scholar in the French Revolutionary War, and lets her play one of the very first guitars ever made.

This gesture opens up the past for Andi: she finds a journal in the case that appears to have been hidden there since the Revolution, written by a girl who may have been involved with the last, late, lost prince.

That's where I left off. I wish I was riding the bus today- I could use the time to indulge in this book.

It is a really well-written, harsh and sad, story and definitely for the 14 and up crowd. Adults will like it, too. Deanna said she loved it and for her to say that is pretty impressive. If she likes it, it will be worth reading for sure. I was only reluctant to get started because I thought it was going to be a time travel thing- Andi would do something that would put her in the time period. I have been reading WAY too much fantasy. This is a straight-forward story with journals, history, horrible goings- on, a sympathetic character, very compelling writing. I am going to go make breakfast now and read until I have to go to work. (Delacorte, $18.99. 14 and up, available October 12, 2010.)

PS: This was kind of cool: I heard a radio story this very morning that seemed ripped from the pages of Revolution. Lady Gaga was accused of plagiarizing some of her newest single from a different song. And that song was taken from a previous one, back and back, all the way back to the earliest church music. This is what Andi's senior thesis is all about. She is tracing certain musical themes, groups of notes, from a certain musician, and the influence of his music through to today's music. Kind of like mitochondrial DNA!

pps: Jennifer Donnelly is also the author of A Northern Light, a really good, atmospheric, mystery book that everyone who reads it loves. Good mother daughter book group book.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June something, 2010. It's Tuesday.

Sunrise: 5:14, Sunset: 9:11.

Overcast, a little cool, it looks like it's going to pour.

We had warmth and sunshine for a few days this week. I bought strawberries and cherries at the farmer's market and the juices fair exploded in my mouth. The epitome of summer food- I could eat those almost black cherries until I hurt and spew. My fingers carred the stain and fragrance for a day.

I went out for my walk today and the flowers were bright in the overcast light. My pedometer and I, we are getting a head start on those 10,000 steps we should be taking.

My job often keeps me firmly in my chair in front of a computer. I have more pain in my hips than I have in years and my feet hurt, my back has this odd nerve cluster pain that really pulls and stabs, so I'm hoping the pedometer will push me to get up and walk more, maybe get my joints lubed up.

I'm a pretty competitive person and having this little marker on my hip keeps me thinking about how to get a few more steps in. I walk around the office instead of taking the back door shortcut. I don't wait to make one trip with a number of things, I will make a trip for each thing. I've been walking around the building on my breaks (we're in a mall so the outside area is pretty big) and that not only adds steps in, it adds to the half hour movement a day humans should do.

I really miss my hour and a half walks to work from here to University Village!

Yesterday: more than 13,000 steps. Last Tuesday: 948 steps.

Odd little thumpings and bumpings along the walls and the roof. Yesterday I heard a bird hit one of the windows. I think the starling fledglings that are nesting in our roof have taken wing and they are still pretty clumsy at dipping under the roofline to slip into the ventilation hole where the nest is. They've been chasing the robin out of the fountain and all three are in the water bowl ducking and flapping and splashing. Oops, there they go!

There's flicker at the edge of the water now and it's settling into the bowl, bending at the knees to get its breast in deep water. It's fluffing out its feathers to get water underneath. I am going to have to set up a camera out there. It's so cool. The other day we saw paw prints leading away from the bowl. Raccoons?

I have been finishing up the three books I've been working on over the last week. I just finished Omnitipia Dawn, by Diane Duane, and it was GOOD! Middle school and high school librarians can add this to their collections for a good science book read. There isn't any content or objectionable language that they would have to worry about-I really liked how she was able to describe computer games and gaming to someone who doesn't. And the money part of, it's a lot!

I'm about half way through Ghost of a Chance, and I had to start a different book on my way to work yesterday: Butterfly, by Sonya Hartnett. OMG.

If you were ever an adolescent girl, you will see yourself in this book, all the embarrassment, all the worry, all the hate and love, all the desire of even a little bit of the power the other girls have. She writes simply but filled with the perfect words to describe what Plum is feeling. It reads like it should be read aloud, although hearing the words would make me squirm- I can read it silently and not feel like everyone will know everything about me (I'm sure I won't be the only one who feels this way).

Plum is almost 14. She's lonely even though she has friends. She knows her friends don't like her very much and she's not quite sure she likes them either but they're what she's got. She doesn't think her family is much like the others in her town, but she loves her brothers. Just before her birthday she meets the next door neighbor and her son. Maureen is in her 30s and so glamorous, thin, beautiful, and she offers Plum a look into what her future as a woman could be.

This is a year of changes for Plum. She is beginning to realize that nothing is as it seems and that life itself is secret folded on secret. Sonya Hartnett has brilliantly captured what it is like to be in that bittersweet moment between childhood and everything else.

I don't know if this is a book for teens or a book for adults. Like Eli the Good, also by Candlewick, whoever reads it may need a little distance from the time depicted, a little perspective on the subject. I am really glad that there are so many amazing books being written now for teens and young adults that adults will be able to enjoy. Butterfly reminded me of really early Alice Hoffman: spare and lush, quiet and foreboding, true stories about things we know.

We really need that crossover bookshelf for books like these.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010

Sunrise was at 5:12, sunset will be at 9:11. The day's length is shorter only by a difference of a few seconds each day. It's a little odd to see three days listed at the site I check with the same hours. I can almost imagine the earth moving slower and slower as it reaches its apex, creaking to a halt, and then moving forward again, speeding up as we round the orbit into fall.

It's cloudy but light and it's supposed to be 70 degrees. Huzzah!

I'm reading The Last Dog on the Hill>, by Steve Duno, Ghost of a Chance, by Simon R. Green, and Omnitopia Dawn>, by Diane Duane.

Last Dog releases today and we have a long list of special orders for it- people who heard him interviewed on NPR have been streaming into the store looking for it. That's the power of NPR in Seattle (KUOW is our local station). He was interviewed a week ago and the book only comes out today. His event, the signing, will be on Saturday, I believe.

The book is soooo good. I know how it's going to end so I am only reading it in the daylight, although I have teared and choked up a couple of times already. If you have ever had a pet you have loved to distraction, this is a book you should read. If you just like animals, you will like this book. It will make you happy. And probably sad, too. I'm not done yet but it is worth continuing even though I think I know what's going to happen.

Mr. Duno is a local dog trainer from way back and Last Dog on the Hill is the story of the dog who got him there, Lou, a smart, funny dog saved from a life in the wild when Steve drove by a pack of dogs and whistled one down off the hill. (I'm reading this one at work on breaks.)

Ghost of a Chance is not starting as quickly as I wanted it to. It's funny, though, in that Simon Green way. His books are full of quirky characters, smart ones, too, who are snarky and quick-witted. His Deathstalker books are my favorites, though. Big epic-y space fiction. (Reading this one at breakfast and dinner.)

Omnitopia Dawn is pretty good, the story of a virtual universe game with microcosms that individuals can design and link to the multiverse. In this book, which takes place in 2015, the philanthropic world-master, Dev, is being targeted for destruction by his old best friend, Phil. At the rollout for the new game Phil is planning to destroy it, and Dev, in one fell swoop. Lots of detail in this book, mostly details about the worlds within the universe. There is a lot of detail about how the financials work when trying to bring down a business like this. Fascinating.

I really like Diane Duane's kids books, I don't know how many grown-up books she has but this one is good. And the rollout for the game in this book happens on the Solstice, June 21, and I was reading about it on that day! Cosmic! (I am reading this one in bed before sleep. Not such a good idea. I only get 2 or 3 pages in and I'm out...must move to a different time of day.)

It's been a pretty good week for reading. Lots of variety and lots of my favorite writers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solstice: June 21, 2010

Sunrise will happen at 5:11, sunset will be 9:11.

It's Solstice. I looked ahead to tomorrow's sunrise and we're already on that subtle slide to winter: 5:12. We are heading into the dark once again and we've had so little sun to actually worship.

D and I are on our way to experience to sunrise on the solstice the way you should: watching it come-even though we can't see it! And the high today? 61 degrees.

Books about the solstice that I really like are mostly kids' books: Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here by the best naturalist writer for kids around, Jean Craighead George; The Longest Day, by Wendy Pfeffer, and The Faraway Lurs,by Harry Behn.

I mentioned The Faraway Lurs in a past entry but I don't think I told you about it. It was one of the books that, even in 7th grade, changed the route of my life. It is the story of a stone-age girl named Heather, a princess of her tribe called the Tree People, and Wolf Stone, the son of chieftain of an iron-age tribe called the Sun People, and the subduction of one world as the other rolls over it.

One hot summer morning, Heather and her slave are in the trees looking for honey when they hear the sound of horns, the lurs. The horns have always been a sign of bad things to come, war and hatred, death, and Heather's slave has encountered them before.

When Wolf Stone and Heather meet (you knew they would), they fall in love and think that their love will conquer everything including the sacrifice that Heather must give and the horrible way the Sun People take what they want.

I was just the exact right age for this book- Romeo and Juliet (the Leonard Whiting/Olivia Hussey vehicle) was out, I was 12 or 13 years old, beginning to think about the future and my place in it, boys, getting my ears pierced, full of the romance girls feel when they begin to sense the woman they could be...

This was a book that was full of facts about what living in a world in these ancient days would have been like and I really wanted to be a girl like Heather. She was lighthearted, strong, funny, responsible, curious. A moment of that curiosity changes her life.

The romance between Heather and Wolf Stone must have seemed so huge to me at that age, having never had a boyfriend, no kisses yet, and being very shy and uncomfortable around people. The whole idea of this girl and this boy giving up everything to be together...sigh...

I'm sure you can guess what happens next.

This book instilled in me a lifelong love of reading novels filled with science and explanation. I LOVE books that try to fill in the blanks about times and people we know a little bit about. Books that take place in biblical time fascinate me, books that use fiction to explain why traditions and holidays exist, books that expand one piece of iron age information into a whole world.

I don't think I would have picked up a textbook on the subject of the stone age just to read it. I would have thought it interesting and maybe read the captions under the pictures but not necessarily gotten through it all if it didn't have something in it to make it personal, make it live and breathe, make me want to know what happens next. The Faraway Lurs made the subject matter sing for me.

I love reading books that make connections that allow me to see how chemistry and time travel and biology work... A Wrinkle in Time, Green Glass Sea, Alabama Moon, Dark Life. These are all books that use science and fact to further the fictional story. It's one thing to know that bog children were found in Denmark, it's altogether something else to read about how that child may have lived and loved and why she died.

I think The Faraway Lurs and A Wrinkle in Time and those other novels that use science to explain the world truly made me want to be a teacher- I couldn't decide what to do- I wanted to do everything. I started college as a biology major, switched to Psych (of course- didn't we all?) and then realized that I could do it all as an Ed major! Why settle for one subject when you can learn it all? (Now, if only people had more children to fill the schools and fewer teachers were out there when I graduated!)

Anyway. It's Solstice, even though it's overcast and wet. I heard that the fence around Stonehenge was open and people could watch the sun rise over the heel stone. They were allowed to touch the stones. Imagine that!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010

Sunrise was at 5:11, sunset will be 9:09.

It's wet.

My throat's sore, swollen, and my back aches. I spent all night snoring and waking myself up. My hands are still numb and tingly from the long drive home and then gardening on Monday. And did I wear my braces to bed? I know what happens after those activities and I didn't even think to pull them out of the drawer. I am still waiting for the wisdom and the adulthood that comes with being a certain age.

Like puberty, periods, menopause, wisdom should just happen next in the span of life! You wake up one day, the rolling heat and sweat of the last many years is gone and you know how best to respond to a crisis, you have the right words for someone in pain, and you remember to put your braces on and pay the bills on time.

Maybe that's not wisdom. Maybe it's just paying attention and a lot of practice.

Maybe wisdom comes when you finally don't have to split your attention between decisions you have to make, people you need to counsel, and wondering whether the butt sweat from that last hot flash shows when you stand up. When the energy you expend trying not to feel sick when that horrible prickly heat rolls up your body, when you finally don't wonder what happened to that flat belly, when all that time spent trying to stay cold (and still keep your feet warm) is over, you can think clearly enough to make good decisions.

Anyhoo, I'm cold now!

I am reading Per Petterson's I Curse the River of Time (Graywolf Press) while I ride the stationary bike in the mornings before work. It will be available for sale in August.

August is a good month for books written about Norway. It's good, so far, and keeps me from overheating with all the talk of ferries in the fjords and cold winds on deck.

It is about a man who is getting divorced. His mom has stomach cancer. She has gone back to her childhood home to think and he has gone to join her. Everything he does has a memory attached to it and I like that it feels so common; this is a story we could all write. It's a small volume and it seems like he chooses his words with care, picking the exact one to put his thoughts across, saving the excesses for a next, more exuberant book.

I just finished The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown Books). It was good, but not my favorite by any means. It wasn't as romantic or as exciting as her longer novels, it couldn't be since it is too short for much introspection or character development. It's something that fans will want to add to the canon and I can see where the writing of these novellas could be addicting. Pick a minor character here, a major character's life changing moment there, and there are whole new worlds to explore (and books to write) in nugget-like bits. I really want to reread Eclipse, now, to find where this book slips in. I like that a dollar from each book's sale goes to the American Red Cross.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Home from a way too short vacation in beautiful Bandon-by-the-Sea where we went to watch our nieces graduate from high school.

It poured buckets of rain until we hit the Coburg hills. We watched vast swathes of rain fall in sheets across the chartreuse and pine colored hills- watched rain come falling across the grass, which changed color from maroon to teal, depending on the rain and the direction of the wind. So beautiful. As long as we could drive between the rainfalls.

It was clear and sunny and very windy the rest of the drive. There were lots of elk in the refuge outside of Reedsport, many RVs on the road, and I love the drive between Drain and Reedsport. It was a pleasure to finish the 9 hour drive and still be in daylight, an exquisite view from our hotel, and a relaxing evening with the family.

We slept with the windows wide open, the roar of the waves comforting to me. I was so excited to hear the frogs out in the fields on the other side of the hotel: on the water side of the hotel: waves; on the street side of the hotel: frogs.

My mom lived back in the woods, just inside Bandon's city limits, blocks (and a stiff climb down) from the beach, and had a small, well-hidden, pond on her property. The frogs would be so loud that I could hear them through the phone when we talked. OVER the sound of the ocean. I LOVE the sounds of Bandon. It reminds me of home (I-90 is a poor substitute).

So, the girls graduated and were herded onto a bus for the secret graduation night trip, their sister, Kalayna, came home for the event and we went out for drinks with her and her parents and their partners and had weak drinks and oysters we didn't order and I tried really hard not to think about Seattle.

We walked on the beach, we ate at the Minute Cafe because Lloyd's was closed, we went to Coos Bay and North Bend for old time's sake, and Dennis played his guitar and I read Beautiful Darkness, the sequel to Beautiful Creatures. We slept SO hard and woke with the sun. Low tide every morning, gulls on the deck begging for us to hand them something to eat, our pockets full of rocks and agates.

We drove home, after visiting Ann and Henry Cooper in Otis, Oregon, after eating the mussels he harvested for dinner, and it took us only another 5 hours to do it. We went the long way along highway 99 and were accompanied by a sliver of the moon and Venus once we hit Washington. The sky was finally completely dark when we rounded the hill heading north into Olympia, just about 10:45. Home again at 11:30 pm. I am so glad I took today off.

(Beautiful Darkenss is by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Both books are published by Little Brown. B.D. will be available on October 26, 2010 for $17.99. It is really good.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sunrise was at 5:12, sunset will be at 9:06.

I got home last night just after sunset and it was dark and rainy. Warm, though. I was happy to be in my little container, windows slightly cracked for the cooler air, listening to Jonathan Goldstein try to best his friend Howard on the radio, thinking how I'm going to miss the first fifteen minutes of Glee. Looking forward to being in my little house with Dennis, rain enclosing, encozying, us.

I'm listening to the radio, again, and thinking about the story about the idea of Gross National Happiness. What a nice idea- the world can use more happy people. I know someone out there is rolling their eyes. Stop it! Being happy isn't a bad thing, it isn't even a silly thing. It is hard to do and people who are happy often go through their lives unnoticed and taken advantage of; no one writes books about the happy. It's time to find the silver lining and figure out how to get over the rainbow- maybe if we could find the good in what we have and do, we wouldn't want everybody else's stuff.

What I read this week:

I finished the Helene Tursten book, Detective Inspector Huss, and will be picking up the final one in the series soon. It was good. There is a great Scandinavian mystery table set up in the store, you should come and take a look. If you liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you will surely find something else on this table to enjoy.

I also read the newest Jennifer Crusie romance, Maybe This Time. I just LOVE her books! She's funny and her characters are good. I love how offbeat they are and, in this book, they are really offbeat.

I think I have read everything she's written solo and I can't believe it's been 6 years since Bet Me. Oh, you lucky people, to have this book to look forward to.

Oh, right, it's about a man and a woman, once married for a year, who you know still have feelings for each other, maybe not always loving feelings but still feelings. When Andie meets up with her ex to settle things between them because she is newly engaged, she accepts a job from him: she is going off to be a nanny to his niece and nephew who live in a huge mansion way off in the hinterlands. Their parents died and the aunt who was caring for them also died and every nanny has been driven away, often with questions about their sanity. Andie is a teacher and very practical, stubborn, and stable. Nothing in this house is going to get to her. Hah! Of course, there is sexual tension, there is a hard time bonding with the kids, there is much confrontation, horrible people, good people, ghosts.

It was really good and I remember telling Dennis, on our way to Willie's BBQ for lunch, that it always surprises me when you open a book and within a few paragraphs, nay, a few sentences, you know it's one of those books you will read at meals, in stolen moments in the bathroom (whose gonna know you aren't "going", just reading?), walking to work. Deciding to ride the bus to work because it will give you an hour and a half uninterrupted reading.

I was reading something else when I picked this up just to see and now I can't even remember what the other book was.

It's too early for a jacket cover here. The galley I have is red, with a red chair, a cup of tea floating in the air with a steam heart encircling the smoky looking letters of the title. It's very pretty and romantic. (St. Martins Press, it is due out in September, 2010. It is for adults. $24.99.)

Smile, by Raina Telgemmeier, is a really good graphic novel about a girl who falls and knocks out her two front teeth, just as she is heading to middle school. She is brave and wears the head gear and deals with her teeth being shorter than the surrounding ones, the awful teasing by her friends. Based on the author's real life, Smile will help your awkward teen through some hard times. It's good to see us reflected in books, it helps us to see we aren't alone and gives us ways to deal with our problems. Ages 9 and up. (Scholastic, available now. $10.99 in paperback.)

The Replacement
, by Brenna Yovanoff, is creepy and eerie, a story of a town that is luckier than the surrounding ones because they observe the old ways: they leave milk out on the step, hang iron over the door, don't mention the fact that their babies are being replaced by something else.

It is the story of one of these replacements, Mackie, who is a teenager in the hamlet, Gentry. Mackie is allergic to blood, iron, and consecrated ground, hardest to deal with because his father is the local priest. He is trying to be as normal as possible but when a little girl dies and is buried, her sister knows the body in the casket isn't Natalie's and comes to him for help. The town has always turned away from the question of who these people are, they are safe as long as the blood sacrifices continue.

It's a great story, atmospheric, rainy, scary, and combines the old lores of changelings and the fair folk. It feels a little bit like The Lottery, a reads a little bit like old Stephen King books, very much a book for those who like fairy tales that bite.

I'm reading The Tension of Opposites, by Kristina McBride, a book about a high school photographer, Tessa, whose best friend, Noelle disappeared 2 years ago. One day, the phone rings. It's Noelle. So far, so good- I'll let you know how it goes.

I am going to the coast for my nieces' graduation (twins) and am taking way too many books. But, what if the one you picked isn't something you're in the mood for right then? I like science fiction but what if I really want a mystery for reading myself to sleep? Some people take extra shirts, sweaters, in case the weather turns. I can just go inside if that happens and I will be HAPPY because I will have replaced my clothing with something good to read.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kalayna!

Sunrise was at 5:14, Sunset will be at 9:02. I was not up at sunrise today. It is my day off and I slept in until 7:45.

Today is Kalayna's birthday! Happy birthday, child.

I finally realized what old people all over the world know: the older you get the faster the time contracts. I was going through photos the other day and ran across pictures of me holding Kalayna on what I think was her third day in the world. I was babysitting and she was so tiny.

I remember some of the moments of the day so well- I was reading a romance book, a big and thick mass market paperback, called Manhattan and I know I'll remember the author as soon as I'm done with the post.

The weather was cloudy, a little spit rainy, the sun was warm when it was out.

I remember hoping Keeli would get home from the wedding she was attending before I had to do anything important, like feeding the baby or changing her. How do people who have never had babies before just know this stuff?

Anyway, I will send her the pictures (and I think I told Keeli I would send her copies of these 22 years ago. She is still waiting.) in a little album for a late birthday gift.

It is wet, again, and cold, again, here in Seattle. Everything is really green and it glows against the dark skies. The blackberries are starting to bloom. It's pretty and I am sure it feels lush and moist and young to people from Arizona and New Mexico. I would like to just be able to get out and get the weeds pulled out of the places they don't belong without getting soaked.

It's warm enough and wet enough for everything to grow at a rapid clip- we could probably hear it grow if we sat quietly. Yesterday, we found our across the street neighbor weed whacking and raking up our street easement on the west side of the house, the side we have to throw the extension cords to.

We sit on a really steep hillside and that side goes straight down about 30 feet to the street. We have a really long extension cord and Dennis throws it over the blackberries, trying to avoid the street trees below, so I can attach it to the weed whacker we own when the "grass" gets hip high.

Thankfully, and I really mean this, there are two houses, the families in them are all related, across the street whose owners mow our easement when they do theirs. I thanked Dominic profusely for the work yesterday and I am happy I live on a street where people do kind of keep an eye out on each other and help each other out when needed.

I guess we really should "landscape" that strip of whatever it is that's growing in there! Daisies and lilies, things that don't take a whole lot of care, things that butterflies and bees will enjoy.

This is my bedside table, the table that this blog was named for. Back when I was using a pen and paper for the BookNotes newsletter I write, I would use the notes from the bedside table for the reviews. It all comes around full circle.

These are the books I want to read next. There are galleys, finished copies and manuscripts all mixed up together. One of my favorite books of all time, one I discovered in 1968, The Faraway Lurs, is in a pile with a book that won't be out until fall of ought 10. All those words, rubbing up against each other.

So much to read: books splayed open and spine up on the sink in the bathroom; a stack by the bench in the dining room; piles, and not neat ones, on the living room floor. this is my job: To find a really good book to read so I can share it with you!

It is a good job.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sunrise: 5:15, sunset: 9:00. I sure hope we have a little sunshine before Solstice. Farmers are happy because the grasshopper infestation they were expecting this year won't be happening. The eggs are dying off because of the rain. Is that a Yay moment?

I was pretty surprised when Dennis' alarm went off at his version of 5 am (mine goes off a few minutes later at my idea of 5 am) and he bounded out of bed with "Are we walking today?" on his lips, a spring in his step, and a feeling of expectation following him out of the room. I said, "Yep- I'll be up in a minute" and turned over, feeling with my feet for any available warm spot.

The cat was thrilled, she knows that I will feed her soon after my alarm is turned off. She stopped walking around my head and got off my pillow and away from my hair. The floor thudded when she hit it; the girl is built like her mom. I could hear it was raining, I could feel how cold it was, I was perplexed- D. doesn't like to be out in the rain if he doesn't have to be and it sounded wet.

He was dressed (shoes at his feet) and on the computer reading by the time I pulled on my sweats and another sweatshirt and my WARM socks.

I think we need to move our coffee maker upstairs.

A few minutes later, 5:30 (we had to wait to hear the bottom of the hour funny piece on NPR), we hit the porch and Dennis stopped short, "Damn," he said, "I didn't expect this. It's raining." Hmm.

Well. We walked anyway. For people who have almost always lived in the Pacific Northwest (myself, I have only ever lived in the great PNW), we just aren't as likely to head out into the rain anymore. I guess if we are going to really dedicate ourselves to trying to get into some sort of shape more appropriate to healthy humans, we are going to have to go out in the rain.

I used to love running in the rain.

I could see myself in one of those Nike ads, the ones with a long, lonely road rising in the distance and curving away out of sight, nothing but trees and ditches on either side, a light rain - more of a heavy mist - falling, coating skin and hair with glistening droplets; hair in a braid, bouncing from one shoulder to the other like a metronome. No sound but my breath, my footsteps, my heart. No matter the weather or landscape, in my head it was always Nikeland.

I still like being in the rain. Focus becomes more intense, you pay attention to where you are and what you are doing, especially with all the snails that have come onto the sidewalks lately. There is nothing worse than hearing, no, more of a feeling that you heard, that crackly pop under foot and knowing what it was. (Insert creepy shiver here.)

Anyhoo, we went out into the world and walked in the rain and went up and down all our hills and then came home. I took Dennis to his doctor's appointment, his six month knee surgery app't, and the docs are just thrilled with his progress. So cool to see the x-rays before and after- when D. went to surgery, he had very bowed legs, and like the sailor he was, he walked lurching from side to side. Now, he has straight legs and is about an inch taller.

And now I have a few minutes before work to read more of Helene Tursten's Detective Inspector Hess, a mystery novel that takes place in Sweden. It's cold there, too.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written some really fun books for teens, specifically teen girls: Golden and Platinum, Tattoo and Fate, and The Squad Series, Perfect Cover and Killer Spirit. Her books are all duets (duologies?) which makes me really excited about the sequel to Raised by Wolves!

I've read almost everything by her (I think I missed Platinum) and they are a blast. Tattoo and Fate are about a group of friends who get tattoos that give them supernatural powers; Golden and Platinum are the classic haves against the have-nots with a little difference; The Squad books are about a cheerleading squad that is not like any you've ever seen before; and Raised by Wolves is the first (I hope) in a series about a girl whose family was decimated by werewolves, leaving her the only survivor, rescued and then raised by another group of werewolves.

Fabulous story, great adventure, Bryn is now 15 years old, and, except for the being human part, an almost complete member of the pack...until she finds a boy chained in a cage, someone who has been newly turned, something her pack doesn't do. Going against pack rule and disobeying the alpha, she realizes that this new werewolf may know what happened to her family and, no matter what happens to her and the relationships she has with the pack, she has to find out the truth.

This was really good and really funny. I'm glad that Jennifer started writing when she was 19- it means we may have many more years of books to shelve! (Raised by Wolves is published by Egmont and will be available soon. $16.99, hardcover only.)

PS! I just went to Jennifer's website (, which is really cool, and she wrote that her books will be available on the 8th of June and she was finishing up the sequel to Raised by Wolves, Trial by Fire! I am so excited!

Sunrise was at 5:16, sunset will be 8:59. Almost 9:00. I love the long nights of summer; the twilights that run until 11.

Cloudy, with some hint of blue. It's cold for the first day of June. I was looking at Hen Cam yesterday and there was a temperature stamp of 73 in the corner of the site (it was 94 in the coop last week. The coop's near Boston). I sat watching the hens fluff up and settle in the dust, the rabbit (Candy) lounging near the shade, imagining what 77 degrees would feel like while I sat on my steps: the warmth seeps into my butt on one side, the sun like melted butter on my hair, my feet cozy resting on the cement. Soon, it would get to be too much and I'd have to get up and move into the shade for a minute where I'd then be too cold. I am SO looking forward to being too hot.

I just finished all four of Diana Peterfreund's Ivy League books and it was totally satisfying. They were so much fun. Now I really want to read the third book in her unicorn hunter books. Write Faster! Please.

I also finished reading a book called Sima's Undergarments for Women, a debut novel by Ilana Stanger-Ross. I have had this book (in galley format) for two years and I am so sorry it took me this long to read it. At least now it's out in paper!

Really, this little book is so good, and would be such a good book group book, I am going to write a shelf-talker for it as soon as I get to work!

It's about a woman, Sima, in her mid-60's, maybe, who owns a shop that fits women for undergarments. She can take one look at a woman, see what she needs, and fit her for a bra that will be not only functional but make the woman feel beautiful and sexy. Into this little shop filled with neighborhood women and children comes Timna, a young woman, new to New York, fresh from the Israeli army, in need of a job. Timna is a seamstress and is living with her cousins until her fiance', Alon, gets out of the Army and comes to join her.

During the few months Timna works with Sima, we watch as Sima's years-long, very well-hidden secrets and resentments, her hopes and dreams, begin to come loose and threaten what she thought was a good, if not very exciting, life.

Sima and her husband tried to have children for years. When Timna comes into their lives, Sima begins to see what her life could have been like. She begins to obsess over Timna and her life with her friends in New York, her fiance' and what kind of life they will have.

Sima regrets much of her life and how it got to this point. We see how it happens when Sima remembers her life as a girl, her early married life, and how sad she has been.

It's a book a lot of women, and some men, maybe, will identify with in one way or another. Sima's worry all these years about why she couldn't have children (and I was SO PISSED at that scene), her regrets, the bitterness that sours her life, her need to have something to do to get away from her house and her husband...when a beautiful young woman joins her, showing her what her life might have been, it all boils over.

Sima's secrets, and her inability to share them with her husband, has eroded their lives into a series of unhappy moments joined only by recriminations and bossiness. The only beauty she has is in her basement shop where she has the ability to change the way her women customers see themselves, where she can show girls buying their first bras that they will be lovely.

I have to insert that I really like Sima's husband. It is obvious that he still loves her and would do anything to make her happy, except for the one thing he can't help her with. He brooks no bullshit and I love how insightful he is.

There is a lot of humor in the book, strong friendships and the kind of talk that only happens when women are unclothed and comfortable in front of other women, there is a lot of information about being a Jewish woman in a Jewish neighborhood, and there is a lot of wishing going on. I loved this book. I found myself wishing I knew someone like Sima; I would love a bra that does what it's supposed to do!