Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice!

Sunrise was at 7:55, sunset will be 4:20.

Solstice will fall today, Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 9:30 PM.

I just have to mark this longest night, shortest day of the year with a post. The sun is up, and it is shining at its lowest point in the sky. Today, the sun's rays only illuminate a very few of the windows in the buildings on the east side of Beacon Hill-they are already fading from a molten gold to beige....and gone!

There are weeks when we get no sunlight at our house and nothing really dries out, only evaporates and then turns green, mossy and slick. Reading in the window light means sitting with one's head at an angle, book held close, everything tilted toward the little bit of ambient and reflected light that makes it through. There will be an extra second of daylight tomorrow and I will thoroughly enjoy it!

Still reading The Storyteller, and I have Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Lockdown on the bedside table, Sisters is on the buffet for quick meal reading, and I just finished reading Josh Bazell's sequel to Beat the Reaper, Wild Thing. I LOVE these books.

Josh's books are funny and profane and gruesome but there's something endearing about our "hero", whoever he is this time. They are smart and filled with all kinds of sidebar facts, they are mysteries about a man in witness protection trying to keep himself safe and out of his old life. He is a medical doctor but can only work in iffy jobs as a result of his past. The medical part is what makes the books more than a little gruesome, but the writing is so funny and our hero so wants to do good that everything else just adds more substance to the story. Beat the Reaper is out in paper, now, and if you like that kind of hardboiled crime story with a little whimsy thrown in, you really should give them a try.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Books you'll miss your bus stop for

Sunrise was at 7:54, sunset will be at 4:20. One more day 'til Solstice, tomorrow will be the long dark and then we start the upswing into the light, a few seconds a day until summer swings us back into the dark. I woke at 7:30 this morning, still dark, clouds glowing from city lights still on, the football field's arches streaking red and green, red and green, red and green.

I have read a few books recently that I have either missed my bus stop reading or started in bed and had to finish before sleeping. In the last post I wrote about The Last Princess, by Galaxy Craze (don't you just love her name?), a book I started when I went to bed and had to finish before I could go to sleep.

I missed my bus stop reading Embrace, by Jessica Shirvington, last week. I remember looking up while still in Seattle and the next thing I knew I was at a stop I didn't even recognize. I had to get off and walk back along the route to reach my destination. So funny to have that happen; you think you are jaded because you read so much, but, no. If someone writes a good story, it will take you out of your life enough to make you miss your stop. Embrace is a really good story about exiled angels and humans who are half-angel.

Violet is in heavy physical training for a number of sports, marathons, rock climbing, kickboxing, and may have more than simple feelings for her trainer, Lincoln. When Phoenix walks into Violet's life, all the secrets that Lincoln's been holding about himself and her literally lead her into hell. Violet's been training for something more than the local 5K, she is one of the Grigori, an angel/human mix, someone who is on earth to keep the exiled angels from taking over the world.

There are a lot of angel books out there but this one is, I think, the best I've read, yet! It's the first of a series and the next one (Enticed) will be out in September (Embrace won't be out until March, 2012) and the third 6 months after that! YAY for series written in other countries and then released in the U. S., and YAY for publishers who recognize that people who read series may outgrow or forget and then not care about the next ones if they have to wait a year for that book. It's really good and I can't wait for others to read it! (Sourcebooks, price TBA. Available March 2012.)

Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, one long read, one long wish that it would never end. I read nothing else while I read Scorpio Races. I didn't want to sully the pictures in my head or to dilute the story with something else. That never happens - I almost always have 3 or 4 books going at the same time (until one book tugs my attention away from the others) - and I would have turned it over and started it again if it weren't for the shelves of unread things pulling at me. Best book of the year.

And now I'm reading The Storyteller, by Antonia Michaelis, and all I want to do is read. It's beautifully written and I'm only a few chapters in so I don't know what's going to happen, but the author's ability to convey emotion and to put together a storyline is entangling. I started the book last night and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. I woke up and still had the book in my hands, upright on my stomach, legs bent in a V behind it.

So far, we have Anna, a good girl, finding herself fascinated with bad boy Abel and his little sister, Micha, a sweet child who loves Abel. Abel tells amazing stories to Micha, and sells drugs on the school campus. Anna may actually be falling in love even though she has only just met him. She just followed him to school where he picks up Micha and then to the university cafeteria where she hides herself and listens into his conversations with his sister. I can understand her compulsion to follow him, to try and engage (she actually buys some drugs so she has a reason to talk to him). He is two different people in one body, the outside is tough, Nazi-like, and the inside is white noise and Leonard Cohen poetry and a big brother raising and caring for a little girl.

I tried to convince D. that I could take the bus today instead of driving (so I could keep reading) but it would get me home after 10 tonight and sometimes my neighborhood isn't the safest for walking in. I will be thinking about this book all day. (Amulet. $18.95. Available January, 2012.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Last Princess, Galaxy Craze

Sunrise was at 7:43, sunset will be at 4:18. The air is still and water laden. It's foggy and wet this morning and it probably won't get much above the low 40s-I'm not complaining about that! It's not snowing. There is a flicker on the telephone pole across the way, pecking away at a hole up towards the top. Flickers are one of my favorite birds, their cool tails with the patch of white you can only see when they fly, their strong beaks, that great dun color, flecked with black.

I talked to the Lake Forest Park Preschool yesterday, stayed late and talked about some of my favorite picture books. It's always weird to have such a different schedule: the sounds in the store are different, the staff is different, the way we interact with customers is different. Folks are a little more laid-back, coming in from the dark, looking for something to read.

I must remember to make a list of what was in the stack of books.

So, it was late when I got home and I had a glass of wine and watched John Stewart, finished sending out the BookNotes newsletter, before heading up to bed with a new book.

I don't know how you all choose what you read when but when the evening gets late and turns to night, I tend to look for what might be considered lighter fare for reading to sleep. I usually pick up something funny in the middle grade/chapter book genre or something science fiction-y. I don't have to think too much about those kinds of books, I won't miss too much if I fall asleep over a couple of pages- do you fall asleep still holding the book upright in front of your face? Sometimes I dream I'm still reading and when I wake up I realize I the book doesn't make sense and I have to start over.

Yesterday, in a black box on my desk, was a new book settled in a nest of purple confetti: The Last Princess, by Galaxy Craze. I grabbed it up and stuffed it into my bag on my way out the back door to the car. When it was time to go to bed, I had a pickup sticks conglomeration of books on the kitchen table to choose from and I chose The Last Princess- if it was worth reading, I'd know soon, and not lose much sleep over it if it wasn't. Well, I was up until I finished it (thankfully I read fast and I didn't have to be up early) and it was worth every single second!

It's 2090, the earth is in an environmental shambles, and the Royal Family in England is challenged by and then overturned by a revolutionary group. In a violent coup, two of the three royal siblings are arrested and imprisoned. The third child, Eliza, escapes and swears she will avenge her family and re-instate the Windsors to their rightful place.

In a rough and tumble world, Eliza joins the revolutionaries to find out what she can about her family, learning along the way just how tough she is and how strong she is going to have to be if she is ever going to find the remnants of her family.

The Last Princess was REALLY GOOD and well worth every second I gave up in sleep. There were pretty good descriptions of battles, the disgusting streets filled with rats Eliza has to hide in and hunker down in seemed realistic, and I think the environmental disasters that changed the world we know into one we don't holds as a basic story line. I really enjoyed the few "historical" links to our days, Eliza runs her hands over the dresses her great-aunts Princesses Kate and Diana wore, touching the robe Elizabeth wore when she became Queen.

There's a nice romance, one filled with secrets but sweet for all of that, a wonderful, brave dog and a war horse named Caligula that Eliza wins over. Good, good, good! 12 and up. It will be available in May of 2012. $17.99. Poppy (an imprint of Little Brown). I just saw on the Little Brown website that Galaxy is working on a sequel to Last Princess! Yay!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Good to be Home

Nothing like coming home after dark, unpacking the car of groceries, book bag, books, walking laden up to the porch, feeling the thump, thump, thump of a bass in my chest, throwing the door open and being awash in Pete T's voice. Mmmmm. Thank you, D. That was nice.

Presents for Me!

Sunrise was at 7:40, sunset will be at 4:19. Beautiful morning, blue skies, cold (39 degrees), windows across Beacon Hill exploding in color orange and yellow.

I don't have to be at work until 10:30 today because we have an author coming at 5:30, so I can watch the hummingbirds in the fountain and hope the swelling in my right eyelid goes down enough to be able to see.

I don't know what happened, one minute it itched, the next it started to swell. Maybe I touched my eye after touching spices on something we sampled at Pike Place? There's a little white spot on the swollen part, maybe a bite? I can't see my tear duct and it looks really weird. My eyelashes haven't turned under yet. I wish I'd taken a Benadryl last night but I forgot and now I'm worried that, if I take it now, it will put me back asleep.

We went to Urban Craft Uprising and Pike Place Market to shop and be around people yesterday- nice to see so very many people shopping at booths and filling bags with homemade local goods. Too crowded for me but it was exciting to be in the scrum! D wanted to shop at the market for stir-fry veggies and it was just a blast to be in the middle of all those locals and tourists. The colors of the vegetables fairly glowed in the lights as the sun went down.

Just a veritable bounty of bookish goodness at my house: John Green's manuscript of The Faith in Our Stars, the new Krisin Cashore sequel to Graceling and Fire, Bitterblue, and Bloodrose, the last in the Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer.

I am so looking forward to getting the couch cleared so I can just settle in for hours and read. I think there are times when you just need to skip the sweeping and the folding, let the cat deal with her own issues, put something in the slow cooker, and then provision yourself with a full pot of coffee, cheese and crackers and salsa, warm and thick socks, the coziest sweats and blankets, plump up the pillows and move your couch so it's under the window so you can read in natural light for as long as you want. During the daylight hours! Doesn't that sound positively decadent? Doing something completely for yourself? It would be a spa day without ever leaving the house.