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broodings from the burrow

June 12, 2014

yarning along: mid-june
posted by soe 2:35 am

Let’s have a look-see at what I’m carrying around with me these days, shall we? You haven’t seen any of this before:

Yarning Along: Mid-June

Yes, it is another Color Affection shawl in different colors from the last one. No, the previous one hasn’t been finished yet, but I’ve put it aside in favor of this one for the time being. Yes, I do think I might get tired of this pattern. No, it doesn’t really matter.

On the book front, what you see here are two books I’m reading for the Once upon a Time challenge. Wildwood is a contemporary middle-grade fantasy story written by the frontman for The Decemberists. Like his songs, Colin Meloy’s novel is chockablock full of words that would make Mr. Roget radiate with repletion. Yet the story, of a girl whose baby brother is stolen away by a murder of crows and who braves the untrespassed nearby forest armed only a backpack and her annoying classmate seeking to retrieve him, is fun and original and the dual narration doesn’t feel gratuitous. I’m about halfway through and look forward to finishing it this week.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a more traditional fairy tale. Our protagonist, a fat, 16-year-old, second-daughter princess, is married off to a stranger/king and then must move to his country via a jungle and desert journey during which time they are beset by brigands (eat you heart out, Meloy) all the while downplaying that she has God’s blessed gem living in her belly button. Oh, and there’s going to be a war. Okay, so maybe “traditional” was a bit of a stretch there earlier. But it’s compelling and I’m enjoying watching Elisa grow into the person she didn’t think herself capable of.

And on the audio front, I’ve finished with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which I highly, highly recommend both in print and audio formats) and tonight started a re-listen to the first Harry Potter audiobook. I still wish I could track down the British version, read by Stephen Fry, but the American version is perfectly fine, although if I recall correctly, the narrator isn’t great with girl/women voices and should never have been given the go-ahead for his rendition of Hermione. I particularly like audio for re-“reads” and I’m finding that it’s a nice alternative to tv for late-night knitting.

Yarning along with Ginny

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June 10, 2014

48-hour book challenge: summary
posted by soe 2:09 am

I spent the weekend reading, as stated in the last post, as part of Mother Reader‘s annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. The minimum goal of participation was 12 hours, which is just about what I managed.

During that time, I read five books:

  1. The Skin I’m In: Sharon Flake’s debut young adult novel focuses on Maleeka Madison, who is trying to get through 7th-grade unscathed. She’s got a best “friend” who shares clothes with her and tolerates her company in exchange for completed homework assignments, a classmate who sings unkind songs about how dark Maleeka’s skin is, and now a scarred English teacher whose interest in her potential are just going to bring down a heap more trouble on her head. (171 pages/2 hours)
  2. Walk Two Moons: Sharon Creech’s middle-grade Newbery winner tells the story of Salamanca Tree Hiddle, a 13-year-old who is on a road trip with her grandparents from Ohio (where she and her dad moved the previous year) to Idaho (to where her mother suddenly announced the previous spring she was going to take a solo trip). While on the road, she regales them with the story of her classmate, Phoebe, whose own mother also left home recently, and of adjusting to her new life.

    Sal and her mother are part Seneca Indian (she prefers that term to Native American) and share a love of their tribal folklore and of nature, although she does note that her mother had thought their tribe name was originally Salamanca, when she’d named her daughter. As for the diversity of the book, Creech’s portrayal of Native Americans relies heavily on the somewhat outdated late-20th century vision of Native Americans as being particularly in touch with nature. It was nice that the main character had some Native American blood in her from several generations back, but it seemed mostly peripheral to her life.

    That said, the book was still quite enjoyable and touching and her grandparents (who once were arrested when visiting D.C. for trying to borrow a couple tires from a senator’s car when theirs had flats) were hilarious and now rate high on my list of favorite grandparents in literature. (280 pages/4 hours)

  3. Nowhere to Run: Claire J. Griffin set her young adult novella in D.C. and dedicated it to her Montgomery College students. Calvin is a senior at a dilapidated public high school, but he only stays in school because he’d made a deathbed promise to father to graduate and because he is a sprinter on the school’s track team. He loves to run more than pretty much anything. So when a local gang leader threatens to break his legs (after Cal asks the guy to stop harassing his mom about protection money for her nail salon) and then settles on Cal throwing the District championship, Cal is stressed out. Other things that stress him out as the year inches toward that race are his school principal, who suspend him on wrongful charges of possession; his mom, who wants good things for him, and his kid brother, who looks up to him; his girlfriend, who is a daddy’s girl and who maybe thinks his best friend is a bad influence; his best friend, who is, in fact, a bad influence, but who also has always been there for him until he’s suddenly asking a lot more from Calvin; and his boss, who tries to get Cal to look at the long view and who reminds him that everything in life is a test.

    While I liked the local setting, this book stressed me out unbelievably and I kept putting it down every six pages or so to untense my muscles and to give myself some headspace. While I am not fond of the type of ending the author opted for, I can see it generating good discussions, particularly among teenagers who really do have to make hard decisions in their lives. (110 pages/3 hours) [Thank you to the book’s publisher, Namelos, for sending me a review copy.]

  4. Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream: Written by Jenny Han, this elementary school chapter book portrays 3rd-grader Clara Lee, who very much wants to be the Little Miss Apple Pie winner this year. She can see herself standing on the float, wearing the traditional Korean dress her grandfather brought back for her from his visit there, but to get there she not only has to beat out older girls at her school — and a classmate who has ties to the founders of the town — but also give a speech about what makes her town special in front of her whole school.

    Aimed at younger kids, I think this book will be a hit with its target audience. Clara Lee has an annoying, but supportive younger sister (she kind of reminded me of DJ from the Arthur series), parents who are realistically well-rounded and emotive, and an adorable grandfather, who jots down unfamiliar English words and idioms in a notebook to look up later in his Korean-English dictionary, fixes Clara Lee’s hair every morning, gardens, and helps interpret her dreams. While the main character is a girl, I don’t think there’s anything in the book that would keep a boy from finding it just as enjoyable as a girl would. (148 pages/1 hour)

  5. The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez: Raisin has just moved across the country after her mother remarries and begins a secret blog to share her new life with her two BFF’s back in California. She’s working hard to fit in at her new private middle school and to make friends with the most popular seventh-grade girls, but, somehow, things just never quite go her way (like when she invites one of them over to study for a math test and Raisin ends up having to remove the remnants of a bra from her step-sister’s dog or when she joins the soccer team without knowing the rules of the game).

    I picked out this middle-grade book by Judy Goldschmidt particularly because the drawing of the main character on the book’s cover featured a girl with brown skin. However, were it not for a Latino surname and a single mention by the main character of her “brown skin,” this book could have been about a middle-schooler of any ethnicity. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but may be something potential readers want to know. With several pop-culture references and its use of technology, this book, the first in a series, can feel a little dated at times, as well as somewhat insubstantial. Cute, but I bet I won’t remember it in a year. (202 pages/2 hours)

Thanks to Mother Reader for a weekend full of books. I enjoyed my first time doing the challenge, and will be back next year.

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June 7, 2014

48-hour book challenge
posted by soe 7:00 am

I’ve got some time this weekend, so I’m going to take part in MotherReader’s Ninth Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. I’m listing my start time as 7 a.m., as that’s the latest start time to correspond to 48 hours from the conclusion, but let’s all understand that at 7 a.m. on a Saturday I am “reading” with my eyes closed with my head on a pillow and the lights off.

The goal for the challenge this year is to read books featuring a variety of characters in support of #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

First up is The Skin I’m In, by Sharon G. Flake, whose Pinned I read and loved two years ago when I helped judge the Cybils.

Other books I have out from the library that feature multicultural characters are The Summer Prince, Walk Two Moons, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns. And I’ve got a bunch in the home-owned piles, too.

Let’s get reading!

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June 6, 2014

harvest, weekend away, and sunrise
posted by soe 2:22 am

Rudi at Bethany Beach toward Sunset

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. We harvest our first two quarts of strawberries from the garden.

2. Rudi and I spend the weekend at Bethany Beach in Delaware. There is sun and sand and surf and salt in the air. We eat giant ice cream cones and lots of fish and play mini golf and read on the beach. And because, for the area, the air and water are still on the cool side, there aren’t really any crowds.

3. I convince Rudi that since we’re on the shore, we should watch the sun rise over the ocean.

Hello, Sun!

How about you? What was beautiful in your world this week?

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