Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Three Middle Grade Books for Summer Reading

Sunrise was at 5:13, sunset will be at 9:11.  -26 seconds of daytime since Solstice.

Today, Monday, is wet, gray, cool.  All the colors, especially the chartreuses, are eye-poppingly bright.  That particular color just glows against wet fences and rock walls, the pines and firs and an especially pewter-colored sky. It's supposed to be kind of nice tomorrow.  By nice I mean warm, there may be even some sun!  It sure would be good to have a day made for walking around Seward Park.  The late evenings have been lovely, though.  The sky often starts to clear around 7 or so and by full dark there are stars and the moon.

Do you remember Ray Bradbury's story, All Summer in a Day?  Well, I think I spent that one day of sun sitting in the unemployment office.  I know it's on its way, it'll be summer overnight and then I will long for rain and fog again.

I am so far behind in writing about the books I've read.  I have this stack of books, maybe a stack 3 feet high, that I've read and really enjoyed and just haven't had the time to write about.  Some are hard to write about because I loved them so much I'm afraid I won't do them justice, some I've wanted to bundle into a theme and review together, some I don't remember as well (duh, I read them back in JANUARY!) so need to refresh my memory (which means re-reading at least enough to remember).  It's hard for me to keep track of everything because I read so much faster than I write.

So! I loved these three books for middle grades, the under-12's, that were all available as of February, two of them appropriately released on Valentine's Day based on the outpouring of love they've received.  They are very different from each other, and yet all so appealing. There's something for everyone in these books.

Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is a bookseller/librarian's delight.  It's the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy with a facial deformity that keeps him from attending a mainstream school until 5th grade.  When he makes the decision to go to a regular school, he also makes the decision to open himself up to all the bullying and hate that comes to anyone who is different.  In Auggie's mind, he is an ordinary 10 year-old kid who does all the regular 10 year-old kid things.  What's different about him, though, is his face, a face that sends little kids screaming away from him.  Obviously, this will make it difficult for him to be accepted and treated like everyone else.

Wonder is a great read for kids, parents, teachers and librarians.  Maybe it should be an all-school read at the beginning of the school year along with Sahara Special, by Esme Codell?  Auggie only wants the experiences any other kid that age wants.  With all the surgeries he's had, the illnesses he's had, he's only now been strong enough to go to a "regular" school.  He knows it's not going to be easy but he is so willing to try.

There's a lot of crap that gets thrown his way, but there are also lots of people who look beyond his outsides and get to know him as a friend.  This book is NOT goopy or all feel-good-ish.  Descriptions of Auggie's mealtimes are kind of gross, he has a keen sense of humor, and there are lots of people who make fun of him who will never learn better.  I really liked the alternate view points that come up half-way through the book, although I wasn't ready for them.  I was totally in Auggie's head and I was a little disoriented by the change-over.

Wonder took me by surprise and I wish I'd read it as soon as it was in my hands.  It's not too young for older readers, if you can find the right ones.  It isn't sweet or a book about being brave.  It's  really about being ordinary no matter how extraordinary you are, and don't we all deal with that?  Ages 8 and up.  Knopf, $15.99.

Bliss, by Kathryn Littlewood, is one of those magical books that will captivate children from the very first page.  I remember starting this story on a weekend afternoon, settling down to "read" (it's probabley not fair to start a book knowing a nap is imminent) in my great big, comfy chair, and realizing that I'd finished it just as it started to get dark!  No nap because of this book!

It's a fun, quirky book about a family with a little bit of cookery magic, a magic Cookery Booke, and a bakery.  When the Bliss family parents are unexpectedly called out of town, the children break all the rules and bring the Booke out into the kitchen.  Surely a little experimentation with a few Cookies of Truth or Love Muffins won't hurt, right?  The town of Calamity Falls may never be the same.  Stir in a really horrible Aunt Lily who has her sights set on the Booke and the dough really hits the fan.

Bliss is reminiscent of Ingrid Law's Savvy and Jeanne Birdsall's Penderwicks.  It's a really great summer book, light, funny, magical and it would be really fun to have a mother-daughter book group read it and share the cookie recipes they come up with.  Ages 8 and up.  Katherine Tegen Books, $16.99.

The Humming Room, by Ellen Potter, is one of my very favorite books of the season (this season, summer-not the book season since it came out in Feb.).  It's atmospheric and descriptive and filled with legends and ghosts and adventure.  There also are orphans and almost orphans and very prickly children.  It's packed pretty full for a book of only 192 pages!

Roo hides.  She likes to go to ground, find a place close to living dirt, listen to the shifting of roots and worms.  It's the way she's found to be connected to something solid.  Her family, her dad and his girlfriend, are not very stable and one day they are murdered.  Because she is hiding under their trailer, she survives.  Everything finally shakes out and her caseworker finds her last relative, her reclusive Uncle Philip, who reluctantly takes her into his house and his life.

Philip Fanshaw lives on an island in the St. Lawrence river, in a house that was once a children's tuberculosis sanitarium.  It's a big, round place filled with empty rooms and walled off hallways, and nowhere to hide in the bedroom she's been given.  On one of her long rambles through the areas she's allowed she hears someone humming, but, as far as she knows, except for her uncle, herself and the few staff, there's no one else in the house!

Roo eventually finds the source of the humming.  A massive secret no one wants her to know.

I LOVED this book.  There are secret rooms and a dead garden.  There is a nature imp of sorts, a boy who lives on and around the river, who is followed by a heron.  There are sickly children and tantrums thrown.  There are broken adults and healing kids and secrets and nature.  There are legends about the boy on the river and gossip about the owner of the sanitarium.  It is a wonderful book inspired by The Secret Garden and a very good book for summer reading.  It would be a really good read-aloud, if you can keep it from the kids when you aren't looking.

It's a captivating story for ages 9 and up.  Feiwel and Friends, $16.99.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a Good Book for Summer

Sunrise was at 5:12, sunset will be at 9:11, 6 seconds less day than yesterday. 

View from kitchen window in summer.
Funny how this little bit of time, the time of a deep breath, will chip away at the daylight until, by October, it's dark when we wake, dark when we get off work.  Of course, that darkness is helped by the earth's topple as our part of the world starts to turn away from the sun.

I don't mind the lessening of the daylight, but I will miss the long twilights that accompany this time of year.  I'll miss that amazing yellow-orange light of deep afternoon that shows every crevice, and the clear, transparent blues that come late late late and early early early.

No matter what's going on around the house, however dull the daytime has been, those long evenings make me think of what could happen next, there's so much anticipation and secrecy in the cooling day, that moment of transition between now and then.  Noises are both clearer and whispery and you lean, slightly, to hear better; the air near the ground is warm but you'll need another shirt as it cools and fills with the clean scent of salt water.

The sounds from over the neighbor's way?  Those domestic sounds of grill clinks, glasses chiming, burbling words, it's obvious that they have a very secret, much more interesting kind of life once the daylight fades and their Christmas lights come up.  Everyone seems mysterious, sophisticated, and so much thinner as the light wanes.

I just finished reading The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey, something I've wanted to read for a year, and I think it'll be my go-to birthday gift for all the women in the family.   It was so much fun, so romantic, so frustrating.  Anyone who has enjoyed all those Jane Eyre-ish type books will LOVE this one.

I have to say that being able to steal a couple of hours out of the middle of the day, JUST TO READ! has been one of the few joys that comes with being unemployed.  I haven't done it often, only a few times since February, and now, on the eve of my newly hatched employment, I wish I hadn't felt so guilty about it.  I am happy happy happy that the Gemma Hardy library hold came up now, when I was finally over some of that guilt and could luxuriate in the story.

I don't usually like period pieces because so much detail is put in trying to set the scene that the story gets lost, probably because I keep rolling my eyes at the references.  Just get on with it, already.  TFOGH doesn't hit you over the head with timely music or politics, only a few things that come up like naming a chicken "Petula".  Which is kind of perfect because the story needs the slowness of those times, the lack of present day immediacy, to make it work as well as it does.

Gemma Hardy is a strong young thing with a very particular view on her life.  After losing her Icelandic family at age 3, she is adopted into her uncle's Scottish family and raised happily until he dies.  After his death the rest of the family is finally able to treat her the way they'd always wanted to.  She is threadbare and hungry, a drudge in the home, until she wins a scholarship to go away to boarding school.

Unfortunately, her (male) teacher tries to help her and he is drummed out of town by her aunt, and Gemma goes blithely and unknowing as to his disgrace, off to school only to realize that her scholarship pretty much only gets her into the building.  She and the other scholarship girls are the unpaid servants and servers for everyone else, having to teach themselves anything they can when they have the time and are awake enough to learn.

She gains strength through this, though, and eventually ends up at a manor in the Orkneys as the au pair for a little girl named Nell, then meeting Nell's uncle and falling in love.  But, of course, things don't go smoothly.  There are secrets and lies and new people and running away to far places and all so very enjoyable that I wouldn't read in bed because I didn't want to miss anything!

I loved that the book was (oh, so subtly) written in this time period ('60s) because cell phones, laptops, facebook don't exist and Gemma could really disappear and get into the trouble she did.  No ATMs, no credit cards, she doesn't drive so no driver's license.  She hasn't traveled overseas so no passport.  There's no way to find out who she is or isn't, except by using the ways of the small towns in the past:  gossip and the slow travel between villages.

It was so much fun and I can't wait to share this one around!

Good for older teens as well as adults, for anyone who love Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Little Princess or The Penderwicks.   (HarperCollins.  Available now.  $26.99)

(No recompense was received for the review of this book or any other in this blog.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hilary McKay Has a New Book! YAY!

Sunrise was at 5:11 (someone really needs to let that one bird know.  Every morning at 3 am it starts in with its singular loud 3 note chirp.) and sunset will be at 9:10.

It is very gray and very warm and very windy outside my house today.  The only real pops of color are the hummingbird feeder and the hummingbirds' throats as they turn in the air.  Their feathers are  a mossy gray-green and I've only caught a glimpse of their scarlet throats when they are directly in front of me.  Like the other day when one of them flew to the window and seemingly stared in at us, hovering, as the cat backed right up to the edge of her window seat, jabbering in excitement.  Today there were two out over the fountain, bobbing and weaving to figure out who got which side of the bubbler.

There's this great series of books for middle grade readers, by Hilary McKay, that I just love.  They're funny, poignant, have really well-drawn characters, and really great, kooky parents that are still part of the story.  There's no real series name but they are all about the Casson family, an artistic, charming family of 5 children, a couple of parents and a slew of friends.

I first discovered Hilary McKay when a customer recommended reading The Exiles.  I know!  Someone recommended something new to ME!  That happens so rarely, and of course I couldn't not be in the know, that I had to find a copy and read it IMMEDIATELY!  I fell right in love.  It's an amazing and thrilling thing to find a family in a book you want to live with.

I could have happily spent forever reading about these girls sent away to live with their grandmother for the summer, exiled from their family for reasons they don't understand.  They aren't allowed to take anything much with them, but the no books rule really hurts!  Their parents are worried that they aren't playing enough, they don't do anything but read.  Oh, the horror of it all!  And Grandma's house is almost completely book-free, only Shakespeare and cookbooks.  The girls tackle their exile with little grace but eventually find themselves in all kinds of adventures and outdoor pursuits with a very prickly boy as a new friend.

There are three books in the Exiles series:  The Exiles, The Exiles at Home, and The Exiles in Love.  All are really good, but the first one is still my favorite.  Unfortunately, they are out of print so you'll need to haunt the used bookstores or check ABE books for copies, or try the library.  Grab 'em up when you find them, they are perfect summer reads, perfect for ages 9 and through 12 or 13.  Her books tend to have characters in the single digits up through the late teens so there's something to please everyone, especially the parents who should be reading these aloud to the family!

Our grown-up-book-group-that-reads-kid's-books chose to read Hilary's book Dog Friday.  It's hard to find a funny, light, book with some substance for discussion but this one worked very well.  Robin is absolutely terrified of dogs, having been savaged by one when he was a child. When new neighbors with a crowd of kids and a dog, a smelly, carpet-like dog, move in next door, it puts Robin smack dab in the middle of his own private hell.  When he finds an abandoned, starving dog on the beach, he has to figure out how to overcome his fears to rescue and save him.  Chaos ensues as the family next door rallies 'round to help him help his dog.  Dog Friday is the first of three books about the same kids and animals.  I liked this one best but they were all fun.  I believe all but Dog Friday are out of print, as well.  Follow the above directions about finding them, they are The Amber Cat, and Dolphin Luck.

And then our book group had to read Saffy's Angel.  Sigh.  We loved Saffy and her boisterous family, the Cassons.  They are all artists of one kind or another living in a house filled with paint and paper, lots of voices and wispy mom, hard working dad, bouncing and fighting and making up.  Saffy is different from the rest of her family and this book is the perfect invitation to come and visit and stay for awhile.

And now we get to the new book, the reason for this post:  Caddy's World.  The Casson family books were a nice, tidy stack of 5, a book for each child in the family, focusing on the trials and tribs of being only one of a riot of people contained in a very small house and now there's one more!

Caddy's World is a prequel to the rest of the series and I am so happy to be able to let you know that it's available now.  If you like loud, raucous, funny stories about kids growing up, you really need to read all of Hilary's books.  I'd say that most of her books are coming of age stories of one kind or another.  in this book, Caddy is 12 years old and her life is anything but stable.  There's a new baby coming, a fragile child that you will read about in Permanent Rose, friends coming and going, and her boy friend is not content with just one girl.  Caddy is finding her place in the world and realizing that it is a big place with room enough for all.  The rest of the books are: Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star, Forever Rose, and Caddy Ever After.  Except for Caddy's World, they are all available in paperback.  Ages 9 and up.  Great read-alouds.  Caddy's World is available now, in hardcover, for $16.99.  (All are published by McElderry Books.)

I love Hilary McKay's books, I'm sure that's pretty obvious by now, and I like them so much mostly because of the sense of fun and humor that are part and parcel of the story.  Families are funny and each of these families are a lot like ours.  There are big fights and lots of yelling and bad words but they are funny because they are familiar.  I especially appreciate how Ms. McKay shows us how flawed the parents are.  The books aren't all happy, fluffy, clouds and rainbows, the parents can be pretty awful and self-centered, but that's true of all families.  I think that sharing these stories with your kids could open up some interesting dialogue!  Give them a try!

(No recompense was received for the books reviewed in this post or this blog.)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More About Books and Teachers

Sunrise was at 5:11, sunset will be at 9:10 and the weather is gray and overcast.  Again.  I think we can count on one set of hands the number of days the skies were not only clear but the air was warm.  Solstice is coming , surely we'll get some days where we have to open and leave open the windows and doors.  I have a brand-new screen door I want to take out for a test run.

I'm sure that many of you have your own private memories of Ray Bradbury, his books, the influence his writing had on you.  I recently shared my own introduction to Fahrenheit 451 with the Northwest Book Lovers on-line magazine and you can read it here.

What I neglected to do in that remembrance was to thank the teacher who introduced me to Ray Bradbury and the teacher who introduced me to the other author who changed the way I look at life, John Steinbeck.

Mr. Beckman, thank you for handing out those stacks of books with Fahrenheit 451 included.  Mr. Davis, thank you for John Steinbeck and your encouragement to study all of his work. You may never know just how much those volumes influenced us or what we are able to do as a result of being exposed to them.  Their writings definitely changed the way I read, the way I write, and the way I encounter people. 

I've always felt lucky to have been a student in a really small high school with a very small faculty.  Each of our teachers had a pretty profound affect on me and truly did what high school teachers everywhere are supposed to do:  show us who and what we can be and help us learn the skills to be the best at it.

Hmm...maybe it's appropriate to end with a thank you to all of the teachers out there who don't get the acknowledgement they're due when the end of the school year comes.  My love of science would never have blossomed if it hadn't been for Mr. Bures; I still sing (loudly) the songs Mr. Lannom shared with the Ensemble and the choir; Mr. Radcliffe showed us all how to respect ourselves and others; Mr. Reeves let a cheerleader into his auto shop class and gave her the ability to pretty much do anything as long as there was enough grease and a wrench; and Ms. Hamblen gave me art, a very sharp knife, and the confidence that I'd be able to handle it well. 

Here's to you!  A very belated thanks to you all.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Clutch of Speculative Fiction

Sunrise was at 5:12, sunset will be at 9:07.  It's cold, today, so far.  I understand it may get warmer and, oh, that would be nice. 

I wrote not too long ago about going to Portland to celebrate my niece's birthday. We had a great time and did eventually make our way to that scion of the book world, Powell's.  I can never just walk to Powell's. Powell's is like Brigadoon: only accidentally findable.  Maybe that's because it has entrances everywhere and everyone has their favorite corner to come in on so there are always differing directions.

Keeli finished the book she was reading before we left the hotel so she picked up the fairly new-to-paperback Mourning Gloria, by Susan Wittig Albert.  I'm looking forward to reading it when she's done.  I have all the other China Bayles books on a single shelf and I love to browse them in order, reading how the relationships between the characters change.

I still had way too many books to read on one trip in my backpack so I didn't buy anything, just picked things up and petted them. And, yes, I did straighten AND I fixed a few uneven displays.

Luckily, each trip to and from Portland took just over 3 hours, enough time to almost finish one long-ish grown-up book and still have just enough to go to bed with.  I read Amped, by Daniel H. Wilson, on the way down to Portland and Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, on the way back.  These are two science fiction novels based in the near future.  Well,  more speculative fiction than science fiction, I guess, since both books, as different as they are, feel very much as if they could happen, that the history we're reading is culmination of what we're doing now. 

I am a big fan (BIG FAN!) of Wilson's Robopocalypse and was pretty darned thrilled to have a copy of his next book in my hands.  I opened Amped up and read the first few pages a few days before the trip and had to put it down because I had to do something else and I knew that I wouldn't be able to stop if I didn't right now.  I remember thinking, "Ooh, this is good!"  And it IS GOOD!

Amped takes place in the pretty near future when neural transmitters can be implanted in the brains of people who have epilepsy, are mentally challenged, have fetal alcohol syndrome, etc.  They enhance brain function.  Our hero, Owen Gray, is a high school math teacher with an implant to correct the epilepsy he acquired when he sustained a traumatic brain injury.  At this time, lines are being drawn between those who are "amplified" and those who aren't.  The amped are seen as having options that the pure humans don't, like jobs, because they are so much smarter.

Owen's dad was a scientist who was able to provide something extra for his son after his accident but hoped he'd never have to tell him what it was.  When the Pure Humans attack and start making it hard for amps to live, all he could do to help was tell him to go to Oklahoma and find a man who could tell him how to handle what's in his head.  The trip is wild and violent and way too close to what could be realistic to be comfortable.

There's a civil war coming and it isn't going to be pretty.

I can't tell you how very disappointed I am to find that I missed meeting Daniel H. Wilson not once but TWICE.  He was in Portland the evening I left for Seattle and in Seattle the next day and I DIDN'T KNOW!  I am so bummed.  I don't even want to tell my husband who also loved Robopocalypse and is in the middle of Amped.

Ready Player One also takes place in Oklahoma and also has references to Rubik's cubes (one of the characters who had fetal alcohol syndrome in Amped is brilliant at solving the Rubik's cube) (I love finding these little coincidental samenesses in one book and then the other) AND is really, really GOOD.

In the world of Ready Player One, the recession we're in now extends for decades.  Few people have jobs, the world is a real mess, and most everyone is involved in a game called OASIS, an immersive virtual utopia that allows people to escape from life in 2044. 

Wade, our teenage hero, is just one of millions of very poor people in the game and on the search for the ultimate prize buried deep by the maker, James Halliday, before his death.  Finding and solving the puzzles will give the winner immense riches, ownership of the game and inheritance of all of Halliday's wealth.  It's been years and no one's yet been able to solve any of the riddles, all of which involve Halliday's favorite era, the 1980's.  The search gives the many unemployed something fun and happy to focus on, involving them in the world of big hair and John Hughes, Pac-Man  and Japanese cartoons, discussing the finer points of obscure lyrics in the music of the times.

Then Wade finds the first puzzle.  All of a sudden, he is watched by everyone in the world, all following his every move as he moves toward the solution.  He's also being watched by a group who is very willing to commit murder in the real world to take possession of what Wade knows.

This was such a very cool book.  It's funny, it's poignant, the characters are great and it's full of surprises. I've never played a computer game before, never been in a multiple player world, Pong was as deep as my desire went, but now I think I may have missed something vital in my education! 

I would recommend all three of the books mentioned in this post for older teens and adults (Robopocalypse, Amped, Ready Player One).  I'm always on the lookout for books for my nephews and for other boys whose parents are desperate to give them a good, engaging, fun read that will lead them to ask, "You got anything else?" when they're done with the one in their hand.  These books warrant a wide place on the shelf.

(No recompense was received for blogging about these books.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Random Stacks of Books

The next Random House "We Ask a Book Blogger" is out!  Take a look at what will be in the best book bags, at the beach, and on back porches this summer (whenever it gets here).  Just click here and be transported!

Three by Natalie Standiford

Sunrise was at 5:12, sunset will be at 9:05!  Already twilight, that extraordinary purple light we get here after the sun goes down, lasts until almost 10. It's cold today, the air is full of water but it isn't raining.  Yet.  There are patches of blue through the clouds and it's hard to believe that we're just a couple of weeks from summer. 

I recently got to be a part of a telephone roundtable with Natalie Standiford, her editor David Levithan, and a whole slew of booksellers from across the country!  We dialed in and were introduced to each other and then just started to talk.

We were gathered together to talk about Natalie's new book, The Secret Tree, published by Scholastic.  Well, it turns out that we are all big fans of The Secret Tree, one of those great summer books for middle grades.  It's filled with intrigue and mystery, growing up and growing away, learning what it's like to be a person all by yourself.

The Secret Tree is about Minty, a girl heading into 6th grade, and the summer everything changes.  She and her best friend, Paz, want to be roller derby skaters and they spend a lot of their time trying on new names and practicing their moves.  Both girls have older sisters, great parents, and live in a neighborhood with woods and a haunted house and everyone knows who they are.

One day, there's a flash of light in the woods.  Minty, against the wishes of everyone she knows, chases the flashmaker through the woods.  Worries about the Man-Bat and the witch in the house on the other side notwithstanding, Minty charges after the boy, losing him in the trees.  When she stops and looks around, she is standing next to a big tree with a huge hole in it.  In the hole is a piece of paper.  On the paper is a secret.  No one loves me except my goldfish.

Minty follows the flashes to a boy named Raymond who lives in a model house in an unfinished cul de sac on the other side of the woods and, drawn together by the secrets left in the tree, they become friends.

Through the summer, Minty and Raymond spy on their neighbors, matching secrets to people, all the while navigating the rough world of growing up.  Raymond has secrets he shouldn't have to keep on his own, Minty's friend Paz is growing away from her, and Minty's sister, Thea, has become the epitome of what a true teenager is:  moody, scary, unpredictable.

Their little neighborhood has too many secrets and something's going to go drastically wrong.

The Secret Tree was GREAT!  It's a cross between Harriet the Spy and Post Secret.  I love the idea that if you can put your fears, your secrets, out into the world they won't be festering in your mind. By making them solid and then releasing them, perhaps they lose their power.  I like that, by confessing this way, the secret keepers also take the chance that the secrets will become public, that maybe they can be absolved and forgiven for what they perceive as sins. The confessional, after all, is just a hole in a tree, lots of people have secrets in there!  The secret's been told, now they can go on.

Minty is just a really well-written character.  She is at that tipping point between being a part of an amorphous body of a child-filled mob, between that point of just being and loving what and who you are and wondering how others see you and worrying about the things to come.  Her best friend is growing up ahead of her, the teenagers in their families are awful, and the secrets people hold are tearing them apart. 

This is a good read for ages 9 and up.  A couple of people on the roundtable were reading it to their younger children and it can certainly extend into the early teen years. There's so much more to the book than the surface jacket copy.  It would be a good choice for an all-school read, and I think any teacher who is still reading aloud to a classroom should move it to the top of the pile, lots and lots of very discussable points.  (Scholastic.  $16.99.  Available now.)

And so I had to read all the other young adult books Natalie's written:

How to Say Goodbye in Robot is one of those books that you'll remember for a very long time.  Bea is a new girl in town and the seating chart in school has put her next to Jonah, a boy everyone calls Ghost Boy (he gets this name via a cruel joke in middle school).  Jonah, not a big fan of people in general, makes an exception for Bea and the two of them soon find themselves inseparable.  It's a love story but not one you'd expect.

I still have a tender spot in my chest where my heart hurt while reading Goodbye.  It's a story of loneliness and love and how much people really do need each other and how far they'll go to help someone they care for.  There's a community of late night radio listeners who are each others' family, there's great betrayal, great redemption, and great love.  I carried this book in my bag for days after I finished it.  Just didn't want it to end.  Ages 14 and up.  (Scholastic.  Published in 2009.)

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters was a hoot!  On Christmas morning, a wealthy Baltimore dowager lets her family know just how offended she is by something one of the family did.  She will disown them all and leave them penniless unless they, the children of the family, confess, in writing, to the sin.  But who did it?  It turns out the sisters all have secrets that could have been the reason for being Almighty's dissatisfaction with them.

Confessions is a little heartbreaking, a story of discovery, really funny, and it is a great look at how families work (or don't).  Like Standiford's other books, it's filled with secrets that will eat at one's soul, secrets best lit up like paper lanterns and let go to burn to ash in the air.  Ages 14 and up.  (Scholastic.  Published in 2010).

(No recompense was received for books reviewed in this blog.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Going to Portland, Going to Portland!

Sunrise was at 5:14, sunset will be at 9:02.  Everything smells so good outside.  I've been trimming back the rosemary bush.  It was great gardening weather; overcast, cool, and then the sun came out just in time to stop.  The fountain burbled, the birds chirped, the ducks next door were rowdy.  It was all good.

I'm heading to Portland to spend the night with my sister.  My niece is turning 24 (25?  Ah, I'm a bad aunt) so we're celebrating together!  It's the first birthday I've celebrated with her since her first birthday.

So what do you take on an overnight trip to Portland?   

I know you all do this:  I have a 3 hour trip, one way, and I have  6 (SIX!) books in my bag.  I'm always worried that I won't like a book, finish it faster than I thought, lose it, or have I pack far more than I really will finish, at least in real life.  Although, now I'm worried that 6 books won't be a good plenty.  If I read a book an hour... Well, and then there are meals, coffee shops, that little bit of time between wine and sleep, those moments waiting for someone who actually does wear makeup to come out of the bathroom.  And what if the bus is delayed?  Oh, man.  I'm meeting my sister at Powell's, you'd think I'd be okay. I just need to find one more book, a thick one, to add to my bag.

What's in the pile?  What do I travel to Portland with?  You Are My Only, by Beth Kephart (Egmont); Small Town Sinners, by Melissa Walker (Bloomsbury); Rift, by Andrea Cremer (Philomel); A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness (Candlewick); Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (Crown); and Struck, by Jennifer Bosworth (FSG).  I just added Railsea, by China Mieville (Del Rey).

It's a little bit of everything: Contemporary fiction, historical fiction, horror, science fiction, and a little romantic eco-chaos fiction. I'm set now!

I'll let you know how they were when I get back!

(no recompense was received for the mention of the books in this blog.)