Friday, May 2, 2014

Sick Day Reading on a Beautiful Day

Thursday, May 1 (rabbit rabbit rabbit).  Sunrise today was at 5:52, sunset will be at 8:22- Woo HOO; all that daylight!

P-Patch hens dust bathing in the warm dirt
It's going to be HOT today- amazing how quickly the weather changes around here.  It was cold last Thursday (see last post) and it may be a record breaker today, mid-80s!  Last Saturday I spent a couple of hours weeding out along the big rosemary bush at the edge of the house - you might remember that I mentioned that it had blossomed and I didn't see any bees in it.  Well, they found it!  You can hear the bees humming in and around it, honey and bumble, the branches bouncing when the bumbles leave one and move to another.  You know what was really cool?  Weeding and feeling bees fly into me, boomp, and then careening off back into the bushes.

What a week for books!  I had lunch with my friend Colleen, a rep for Penguin children's books, last Friday and she generously shared 4 new YA books with me.  I've wolfed down two of them, am halfway through the third and have the fourth on the bedside table.  On that Friday, a warm and sunny one, I was in the middle of Mink River, by Brian Doyle, and put it down for an hour (reading in a local bar) to dabble in Althea and Oliver, by Cristina Moracho.

And then, I woke up on Saturday with an awful sore throat and stayed home on Monday, sick, sick sick .  Ah, but I love being sick if I don't have to work.  Those long hours reading and sleeping, sweating and cooling, books, socks and kleenex discovered, pushed down to the foot of the bed, under the blankets.

Sick day books:

Reading Mink River on a ferry in a cloudbirst
Mink River is a book for adults, a song of a book, about a small Oregon coastal town and the people who live and love in it.  It isn't a book for hurrying through, you have to settle in with it, moving through it like the river moves between its banks to the ocean.  Like Ken Kesey and his Sometimes a Great Notion,  Mr. Doyle knows his Oregon landscape, weather and people.  I miss the people in this book already, and I am more homesick for Port Orford than I have been in a while.  The sequel, The Plover, is on my bedside table, too.  (Mink River: Oregon State University Press.  Plover: Macmillan.)

Pennyroyal Academy, by M. A. Larson, is more a middle grade novel than YA but it was great!  A fairy tale variation on the whole  princess theme, Pennyroyal Academy is a training school for young women (and one boy) who want to become Princesses, bold, courageous women (and, now, one boy) who battle dragons and witches.  Princess is not just a title at Pennyroyal, it is a way of life and a military role.  Those who become Princess are brave and strong, enduring months of training under a Fairy Drillsergeant. 

Evie, our hero, is a young woman with no memory, wrapped in a dress of spider webs, who has just escaped a witch and is heading toward Pennyroyal Academy accompanied by a young man who is off to become a knight. Her journey to Princess is athwart in horror and terror.

Great action, horrible jealousy, a little romance, Pennyroyal Academy will be a hit with the 10 and ups and moms who are really tired of the standard fairy princess world - if Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch was in your stack of read alouds, this is the book for you.  (Pennyroyal AcademyPenguin.  Available 10/14.  $16.99.) (Paper Bag Princess:  Available now.  $6.95.  Paperback.)

Probably not the cover! On my way to work after a sick day.
And the last book to keep me company on what was, from the window, anyway, an amazingly beautiful, warm and breezy day, was one I only just started before I faded into a very slightly feverish nap, Dove Arising, by Karen Bao.  You all know I love science fiction, real science fiction where you can believe that what is happening can happen and Dove Arising is one of these books.  The author is very young (I think Colleen said she was 17 when she started writing this book) and quite talented.  Dove Arising is the story of Phaet (pronounced Fate) Theta, a young gardener on the Moon, colonized by scientists to lower the chance of conflict due to religious controversy.  Phaet's family is broken up when her mother gets arrested and she joins the military to try and provide a better life for her siblings.  It's at that point she discovers that everything she thought she knew about her world is wrong.

Dove Arising was fun and thought provoking, filled with political machinations and really nasty people willing to hurt someone to get ahead.  It is fast-paced, humorous, and I loved the military training scenes a lot; I think this could be a great book for both sexes.  I am hoping there will be a sequel but it ends in such a way that it feels okay to wait.  (Dove Arising: Viking.  Due August 2014.  $17.99.)

It's going to be a good year for books if just these few titles are anything to go by. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bees and Bee Books!

Sunrise was at 6:04, sunset will be at 8:12.

Windy, cool, and wet.  Our lilacs smell so GOOD.  The air is fair thick with floral scents and color:  lilac, the last of the cherry blossoms, the chartreuse maple catkins, woody lavender...imagine being a bee in all that ultraviolet light, all those little flowers flashing "Land here! Land here!  Pollen and more pollen HERE!"  The rosemary along the house is huge and blue - no bees, yet, though, and it usually hums with all the bees jockeying for position.  I worry that the flowers will be gone before the bees arrive (if they arrive!).  I just went to the Puget Sound Beekeepers site to check the bee friendly garden plant list and will be heading to Swanson's soon to go shopping.  I also checked out how to become a hive renter.  We have a small yard but it has amazing plants that bees LOVE, we are on a hill with no buildings to our western side, and I think a few hives would be perfect here.  I'll let you know what I find out.  (I understand that renters get a couple of jars of honey that "their" bees make.)

Some favorite bee books from my shelves.
There is a new book out called The Bees, by Laline Paull, the latest in some pretty good books about bees and the lives of bees.  Paull's book gives us a good look at the life of a honeybee hive.  From the lowliest worker bee to the queen, she explains how the hierarchy of the bees in a hive behaves, including what each caste of bees does and is responsible for.  The story focuses on Flora 717, a sanitation worker, who is dangerously curious about the hive, the other bees, and the world that surrounds her.  Using Flora's curiosity about how things work, we are let in on the secrets she uncovers through her journey from each level and season.

The science of The Bees was pretty cool, lots of information about royal jelly, how a queen is made, what workers do, how a hive operates, what the foragers do and how they do it.  I LOVED the parts about the foragers, especially, because they're the ones we see.  These are the bees that make our world bloom, blossom and seed.  The bits about flying over a field covered in pesticides or gas and oil were pretty horrible and paint a pretty good picture of why we should be more hesitant about hopping into our cars.  I really liked the parts, too, about why not every pretty flower is particularly worth having in a yard.  (Ecco Press.)

One of the first fictionalized books I read about bees was A Hive for the Honeybee, by Soinbhe Lally.  This was a stunning story about a worker bee, Thora, and the upheaval in the hive when the old queen is sent out to start a new hive and a new queen has yet to be born.  Originally published in 1999, with pictures by Patience Brewster, it is a little gem of a book filled with good information about bees and bee life. It looks as if this title is now out of print so the library might be the only place to see it.  (Scholastic.)

Robin McKinley's Chalice is a fantasy novel filled with magic and bees.  Mirasol is a beekeeper until the death of the Priest of Fire's brother dies and the new Master appoints her his Chalice.  Her duties are to bind the Master's Circle, the land and its people to its new Master - but his touch can burn human flesh to the bone. Romantic and busy, Chalice is a fairytale filled with earth lore and the healing power of honey.  Like a few of McKinley's other books, the narrative wanders around, a little stream-of-consciousness-y, but I kind of like that.  (Penguin.)

Bees, Nature's Little Wonders, by Candace Savage, is a lovely, gifty book filled with facts and the science of bees and how they live and work.  In addition to the facts of bee-life, the book is packed with lore, tales, photography and other ephemera gathered through the years.  It's a good basic book about bees. (Greystone.)

Anything out there that you've loved, bee-wise?