Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lark in the Morning, Alki in the Evening

Dennis took Friday off and I don't work Fridays so we went for a drive to and a walk in West Seattle. I am really going to have to keep a camera in the car-There's always something I'd like to share with the people I know who never see Seattle the way we who live here every day see it (and then I want them to keep in mind just exactly how many days of cloudy weather we have).

Friday wasn't clear and sunny, there were spots of sunlight but it certainly wasn't warm. We walked around the Junction in West Seattle, stopped in at the record store, and just window shopped. Eventually headed down to Alki beach to walk and watch the sky.

I headed down to the waves to look for sea glass, listening to the burbling of the rocks as the wavelets run up and back, and Dennis walked along the prom and people watched. It was a great day to picnic because you could really get your pick of spots! Lots of tents and sweaters over shorts, bonfires lit, wind whipping sand through the flames, little dogs squinting and crouching as they walked into the wind.

We weren't dressed for rain, we had jackets and scarves but no hats, and we watched this huge rainstorm coming east toward us across the islands and the mountains and the Sound. Sheets of rain falling and then the clouds dissipating as they broke up once passing into the open area of the Sound, so, no rain on this side. Absolutely gorgeous skies. The sun slipped through and lit up the trees on the hillsides, a wet golden wash of color that reminded me of the colors I imagine you'd see in Italy along the sea.


I read a book called Lark, by Tracy Porter, this morning. Picked it up to add it to a pile and opened it, finished it still sitting on our uncomfortable kitchen chairs, elbows on my knees. A small thing, big content, pretty cover, ugly story. Kind of a cool way to trick someone into picking the book up, it wants to be held; it feels good, it fits in a hand just so. It's the story of Lark, a girl who was left to die, tied to a tree, and the story of her best friend and the little girl who sees her spirit.

It is an ugly story: Lark and her best friend have had a fight and haven't spoken for awhile when, on the way home from school, Lark gets into a car and gets killed. She is tied to a tree and left in the cold.

When she dies, her spirit tries to convince her friend and the girl to see her so she can move on. Neither of them understands and won't look at her so she can't leave this plane, and the other trees around her are whispering that she will be imprisoned forever, like them. The two girls finally meet at Lark's house when her mother invites everyone to come and choose something to remind them of her. When they meet, they realize there is something they have to do, as hard as it will be for them to do it.

It's a much better book than this review reveals. It's a tiny book, very short, but such a good book for girls, especially, to read. Lark dies because she is polite and gets into the car because the man has the perfect story to get her inside: His son's in the hospital and he doesn't know where it is. She is so reluctant, she says no, she knows there's something wrong with this, but what if he really does have a son who's in the hospital? What if she keeps him from finding the hospital and the son dies? She gets into the car.

That is the only decision she had to make, get in, stay out, and she made the wrong one. Would boys have gotten into the car? Would the driver have even stopped for a boy? Would a boy even worry about what the driver thought or about the son?


I know my brother didn't grow up worrying about someone's feelings if he said he wouldn't get in the car; I worried that if I didn't smile if someone whistled at me, they wouldn't like me. Now that I'm old, I still think that way. Not so much the whistling, not so much the liking, but the what ifs that come with telling someone no: what if he really is stranded? What if that child really is hurt? What if no one else helps?

I think we need to train our girls to be rude and powerful in themselves. Not physically strong, although that would be good, but able to know that it's okay to walk away, to not engage, to know that no one worth knowing will ever say it was wrong to leave a date, to fight back, to call for a ride home. It's better to be whole and uncomfortable, than dead because they were worried about hurting someone's feelings or want to have that boy still like them after.

I'm glad books like this are being written. It's a quick read, simply written, engaging, and gets to the point quickly- I'm sorry that they need to be written.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Summer Saturday and Putting Makeup on Dead People

Sunrise was at 5:19, sunset will be at 8:55 and it's beautiful today, breezy, partly cloudy (that means there's sun!) and the blues are blue, the mountains are out, and the air is full of birdsong and jet engines.

D and I walked to my first boxing fitness class in years this morning. I am going to hurt. but it will be such a good hurt. We walked the route I used to take when I walked to AFK. The houses and gardens are much changed, the demographic has changed, and it was a lovely, quiet, early summer walk. And then I wrapped my hands, grabbed a jump rope and some gloves and proceeded to find out just how truly out of shape I am.

Besides running and ballet, boxing fits my mindset. It's you against you and no one else. No special gear, some wraps, some sweat and a serious need to see if you can do just a little more than last time. The music is good, there were only three men in the group and 6 women, and there was some serious thumping going on. I think my left hook is still pretty good (having hips like mine helps to give the punch a little extra sumpin' sumpin') but I was sucking some major air in no time. It's a good thing we walked home-I needed the half hour to catch my breath!

Read Putting Makeup on Dead People, by Jennifer Violi, yesterday. What a book. It's about a girl whose dad died a few years earlier, everyone in the family is still getting over it. All the major changes happened at the same time: Older brother graduates, she is heading into high school, dad dies. Nothing easy about any of it.

Four years later, just months from graduation to go to the local college to study something she doesn't really want to do, Donna is still grieving her losses, no boyfriend, no close friends, and a classmate dies. While standing in the viewing room and helping the others figure out what they are supposed to do, she has a revelation: She wants to be a mortician. Which, of course, no one understands as her desire to help people traverse the difficulties of burying their friends and family, to help the living to keep living.

When she makes a new friend, Liz, charismatic, funny Liz, she realizes that everyone has begun to leave their paths of least resistance and being the first one out is going to force everyone to look at their lives in new ways.

I absolutely loved this book. It was funny and thought-provoking. It gives people a chance to think about where they are going and how they get there. Even for older readers, it asks about what one brings to a greater world and how that can help you make a living doing it. The one question that stopped me cold for a minute or so was "what do you want to be?" and the answer for our hero was like "amazing and memorable" and the response was something along the lines of "So, how do you get there?" Questions we should ask, probably, all along. As we change and grow up, maybe our views of who we are and what we thought we should be should change.

It was a really good book for teens ages 12 and up. Hyperion. Available now, I think- the galley says July but I think it's on the shelf now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Still Cold, Spent Time in Never Land

Sunrise was at 5:21, Sunset will be at 8:52

Cold, wet, gray, up to 60 degrees today, maybe 58. Nights are in the 40s. We leave the windows open, the pillows stay cold, and we cover our heads with the quilt to stay warm.

There are spots of color: bright yellow irises, hot pink whatever-they-ares in the front yard, that chartreuse green of new growth and peas. We have golden hops growing up a trellis, bright blue flowers on a bush, something that starts with a c, that, at the nursery, was COVERED with honeybees, the bush was humming.

The blue blossomed rosemary plant we have had something that I thought were bees but weren't the cozy, round, furry bees holding pollen like saddlebags. They must still be moving pollen, don't you think? Could it just be a different species? We have tons of bumblebees, and tons of bumblebee holes in the hillside and under the rosemary, and they are very cool to watch as they take off and land at the mouths of their tiny caves.

The lilacs lasted a week. When they finally unclenched and opened wide, the scent flooded our yard and street. That day was warm and slightly overcast and the smell was held in the air. And then it rained and they turned brown. They usually bloom at Easter, the bushes look like they are filled with Easter eggs, but they were about a month late this year. Already time to deadhead.

I'm in the middle of three books, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, Queen of Hearts, by Martha Brooks, and Stay, by Deb Caletti but I have to read (and can't wait to start) Wonder Struck, by Brian Selznick. We need to write up a proposal for the publishers to draw him to our store in the fall when he's on tour. Wish me luck!

I also have China Mieville's new book, Embassytown, on the table here. I am so excited about starting that one. Steve from work said he can't read it on the bus, it takes more concentration than that, so I've been reluctant to pick it up until I can read straight through. John Scalzi seems to like it, I like John Scalzi (Old Man's War), so I am really looking forward to this!

I'm also really excited about going to Chop Suey this weekend to hear him talk to Paul Constant between music sets. Nothing better than books and beer. I have ALWAYS loved to read in bars. Max's Tavern in Eugene, wooden booths, hard seats, cold beer, talk all around, music on the boom box and then on stage, and a book. Books, beer and music. I'm not very social but I love being with people as long as they are over there; I love to be a part of the crowd but it's best if there is something between me and them, like a book!

Just finished reading the spin-off novel from the Peter Pan and the Starcatchers books, The Bridge to Never Land, by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. It takes place in our world, and the adventure begins when Aidan and Sarah Cooper find a cryptic note that references characters and things in the Starcatcher books.

Things unfold as they should to have an adventure that leads you from your comfortable world to Never Land, and you need to suspend a little disbelief. Eventually Sarah meets Peter and Tinkerbell in a race to save her brother and to keep Ombra from overwhelming the world. It was fun and anyone who's read the others will appreciate this addition to the series. Age 9 and up. Hyperion Books, $18.99. Available in September of 2011. (No cover art available yet, sorry!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rosanne Parry: Second Fiddle

Rosanne Parry came to the store on Sunday afternoon, May 22. It was a nice day, 60 degrees, the farmer's market was in full swing, the air was damp but not rainy.

This was such a fun event. She and her daughters played a little Pachelbel's Canon pre-talk and the audience was filled with family. We changed up the normal way of doing a stage event and circled the chairs around the mike, using monitors on the floor to direct the sound, making the space feel much more intimate.

Rosanne is a YA author from Portland, she has family up here, and her newest book is called Second Fiddle. It's a good book about a trio of girls, friends who play music together in Germany, the children of parents who are in the military. They are rehearsing for a contest in Paris and they think they might win! This will be the last time they play together, their parents are being reassigned, and Jody, our main character, will miss the others greatly. This is the first time she's been in one place long enough to actually make good friends and she is secretly writing a piece of music to honor them.

On their way home from the music master's, very disappointed because he is ill and will be in the hospital so unable to to take them to the contest, they try to figure out how to still make the trip.

While walking around on the "other" side of the Berlin wall, they watch Russian soldiers throw a beaten man into the river to die. Jody jumps into the river and drags him out, applies CPR, and tasting chemicals and oil, watches as he finally takes a breath and vomits. It turns out he had information he was sharing and the other soldiers were teaching him a lesson, probably assuming he would die and the problem would be gone.

Jody and the other girls hide him and give them what they can, deciding to come back in the morning with food and clothes. They get his story the next day: He is an Estonian citizen, forced into the military, and missing his family and country. All he wants to do is go home. And the girls figure that they can still get to the contest and help him get home: He will be the adult they need to register them and they will smuggle him into Paris and then to a Lutheran Church where he may be able to find other Estonian patriots.

That begins a great story of discovery, both of who Jody really is, and of the greater world in general. This is an adventure story for girls, smart girls who are able to figure out what to do and then how to do it.

I loved listening to Rosanne talk about the book and what didn't go into it. Her stories of being a soldier's wife in Germany, the stories told to her about the old German veterans and their naked, drunken runs through the streets (after trading their prosthetic limbs with each other) with an American soldier following behind (also naked, but with his own limbs!), how she decided on this time period. Besides being an amazing time, one that Americans will also know, there weren't cell phones or the internet, so the girls were on their own, pretty much unable to contact anyone. They had to be self-sufficient and figure things out.

It's a great book for libraries and classrooms, it's filled with talking points about differences and samenesses and whether we should we believe everything that people in power tell us. It's a good book for looking at research and why someone needs to do it.

The best thing about these book events is finding out the backstories, for every story or item that makes it into the book, there are tons that are left out - they are often the more interesting ones, the ones that are maybe a little over the top, and this is the only way to find out about those. It's all about the connections between people and their stories and how those stories change us all.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

PS: I'll Be There

Sunrise was at 5:45, sunset will be at 8:27. It's cold, gray and wet. Again. We had a warm day on Friday, not a clear one, but it finally reached the 70's.

I'll Be There,
by Holly Goldberg Sloan, is one of my top 5 books of the year. It's got everything you want in a book: adventure, suspense, interesting people, great sibling relationships, romance, horrible and loving adults. AND no supernatural events or beings, the only angels are the human ones we encounter in daily life. It is SO good, and I love the way it was sent out to buyers and booksellers.

And, if I could find my copy -where oh where can it be?- I'd take a picture of it and show it to you!

Like Delirium, I'll Be There had no giveaway info on the galley. Unlike the manuscript for the Delirium, IBT has a brown cover, black type, and at least had the author's and publisher's names on it. A blurb from the editor on the back was the only entreaty to open the book.

I saw it in a box, the plain kraft paper brown cover, the title and author, and thought, "Ooh! What's that?" and then my next thought, "I want that." Judy said it was being highly touted by the pubs and they wanted everyone to know about it and she thought it was really good. (It's hard not to get everything first, anymore. Sigh.) So, I asked if I could read it and she handed it over. I turned it over, looked in and out, asked what's it about? and thought, wow, this is a chance-taking book. This is a book that is going to be only hand-sold to buyers. I didn't see any cover art, didn't know who the author was, no photos, no flap copy. There is nothing like reading something completely blank slate-ish.

It took me a while to become completely caught up in the story; I had a lot of other things I had to read for work, there were blog posts to write, a house to clean. I finally took it with me when I went to do the weekly chores and knew I was going to eat lunch out. Isn't that how you always kickstart a book you aren't sure about? Make it the only thing you take with you when you have to eat or pump gas, walk to work or around the lake?

I started it and was really surprised to read the words "Junction City"- oh, a clue!- she must be acquainted with the northwest, at least Oregon, the Willamette Valley for sure.

And then I got a little farther along, finished lunch, and reached the part where questionable activities happen and I had to put it down. I got scared for the characters- the two brothers who have been stolen by their father and have been on the road, out of school, for 10 years and the older brother is 17, his brother may be autistic, and the boy is worried about being beaten. Enough for me until I know how tense I need to be prepared to be.

Eventually, with reassurance from the rest of the staff, I finished the book and oh, it was good. It may be one of those books that transcends most stories for teens. There isn't much dialogue (128 different characters in the book), it is very movie-ish, lots of scenes where you are living in the character's heads, seeing and hearing what they see, quick moving, well-paced, surprising in a number of ways. I think I was most surprised by the idea that there are probably a lot of families out there who aren't on the grid, don't subscribe to the ordinary ways of the world: school, church, neighborhoods, community. They have withdrawn from the norm for whatever reasons they have.

It's a good book for adults to read, too. Smart, funny, different.

I'm not going to tell you anything about the story itself. You need to read it and have the joy of having it unfold in your head without expectations. You need to meet everyone as they do. mmm. I'm glad that you have it ahead of you to read for the first time.

I'll post a photo of the book when, or if, I ever find my copy of it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Holly Goldberg Sloan: I'll Be There

Sunrise was at 5:40, sunset will be at 8:32. Monday, May 9, 2011- School visits.

I'm on my way to a school visit to Aki Kurose Middle School with Holly Goldberg Sloan! Her first book, I'll Be There, is a suspenseful, survival story filled with longing and love. It's the story of two brothers, an abusive father who keeps them on the move, and the girl who discovers them. So GOOD!

A first-time author (a debut author in the parlance) is often difficult to market to schools, to readers, to librarians, but I gave the ARCS to some teachers and they snapped her up (after checking their testing schedules).


Well, Aki's presentations were good.The other one, not so much. How are schools so different in preparing their students for something like this? Both were middle schools, notoriously hard to control, very different demographics, but the south end school was monitored and the expectations of them were much higher than the north end school.

I walked into Aki, a large urban middle school in south Seattle on a really pretty day, no rain, no wind, and the sound of voices led me on up into the Library, a soaring library, all ceilings and windows. Holly was there with her driver, Diane, and Dene, the librarian, was ready to go.

We usually first meet the authors for these events at the places they are scheduled to go. So, we walk in cold, no real ideas about what we're going to see or hear, no ideas about the behaviors of the students, just a great hope that what is about to happen will inspire everyone in the room to at least read the book or, maybe, think about the possibilities of "future".

Holly had these 100 or students in the palms of her her hands. She introduced herself and the book and then started to talk about where she got the idea and how important the small things that happen in your life can be, that those are the things we might should be paying attention to. Her first book, I'll Be There, is built on those small turns in a person's life, whether you should go to that church for the music or the other, whether you should walk your dog past this neighbor or the other, whether your husband should eat that shrimp or even go on that vacation.

Holly is a filmmaker and entertained us with stories of movies and trips into exotic places, made herself loved because her dad designed the tests the kids are taking, talked about the book and her job as a writer, but especially wanted them to pay attention to the things in their lives that may not seem important at the time but could send them in a direction they may never have considered.

I especially liked how the kids meet her as a novelist, but she writes screenplays as her day job. She told them about how if you like to write, it doesn't have to be narrative. There are all kinds of different ways to write and make a living doing it. I'm glad those kids got to hear this from someone who has gone from no work to too much just because writing is writing is writing, you just have to learn the procedures for the differences.

She started writing as a 7th grade journalist (another turning point, first day of school, AP English, fires in the hills, teacher said, let's write about that, investigate, and the single page newspaper became a weekly award-winning event), graduated and went to college to study writing, won an award for a short story she wrote about a man she met on her walks into town, who sat in a lounge chair on the sidewalk, and then went on to write ads and lines for different kinds of things, tires, tacos, and started to write television shows and movies.

Just by the bad luck of an off-shrimp, and a vacation to a far-flung yoga retreat, the lack of any kind of electronic device, and the memory of a story a friend had just told her, she wrote I'll Be There, while she waited out her husband's sickness. Using only paper and a pen.

It's exciting to see how a chance meeting in a school library with someone like Holly could possibly shift the direction a life might take.

I stopped back by the school to talk to Dene and she said that the students were checking the books out and still talking about the visit. YAY! It worked!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sunrise 5:46, sunset will be at 8:27

Today's my birthday! Claudia wished me a year full of good wine and books. I am going to start today!

It's cold, wet, and GRAY! The maple catkins are unfolding with that neon shade of green only seen against a sky this color. Yesterday, when it was warm and clear, the birds and bumblebees were swarming them, today, they are hunkered in their nests and caves, waiting for a little dry spell to go out.

The lilacs haven't even started to open, they are usually in full bloom by Easter, but are still in little fists of purple. The tulips, though, are strong and vigorous, and, oddly, run in straight lines across the landscape. We have tall, thick stemmed yellow tulips and sunset colored ones that opened wide showing their throats, some little frilly fuschia ones I don't remember planting. The daffodils are up, the narcissus are all over the yard, and everything smells so good.

I am going to treat myself to a new book, a BOUND one, one I get to buy and haven't yet read, today. I don't know which one, I'm just going to take a little break and find something that speaks to me.

I'll let you know what I find when I post next!