cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Book Boosters”

Review Round Up: January


I began a new Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2017 in January. I made my goal of 101 books (with a couple to spare) for 2016, so I thought “why not?” let’s see if I can achieve it again–maybe I’m pushing it. After all, to hit my goal I need to read at least eight books a month. So far so good. Of the eight books read in January here are my top picks:

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

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The main problem with patterning a storyline after Hamlet is the knowledge there will be no happy ending. This is especially true when the main idea is about a boy and his dog–Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows–case in point.
However, I plunged ahead because I am always open to a Shakespeare retelling, especially if it’s Hamlet.
As a debut novel, it’s ambitious, to say the least. First of all, it takes on Hamlet. Secondly, it weaves the story around the complicated business of dog breeding. Then there is the unique physical attribute that Edgar (the story’s Hamlet) was born without a voice. What he saw he could not easily tell. Pun or a deep metaphor? I haven’t decided.
The story also provides unusual omniscient point of view chapters. We even hear what the dogs are thinking.
It works. (four stars)

 

Rory's Promise

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A fascinating insight into another historical aspect of the Orphan Train. The Foundling Society of New York administered by Catholic sisters provided a clean, safe environment for orphans, a much different perspective than the more widely known Children’s Aid Society who ran the Orphan Trains that went out West.

The protagonist, Rory, refuses to be separated from her sister and risks her life to keep her promise that she would watch over her.

Based on historical fact, and the meticulous research is evident in the story. (four star)

 

 

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A throwback to the days of Greyhound travels and 1950s culture and values, Last Bus to Wisdom is a coming of age novel busting with wry mirth. Seemingly a combination of Little Britches and Mark Twain adventuring, Ivan Doig’s last novel truly is a wise choice of reading. (four star)

 

These three novels got me through the bleak days of January’s wintry blah days of icy cold and snow. A good book (three–score!), a cup of cocoa, and a crackling fire. Hmm, that’s what I call Book Booster happiness.

Challenge Met


Done did it with 8 days to spare and 5 extra books.

That’s right–I achieved my goal of reading 101 books ūüďö! And then some…

Goodreads sent me my stats a wee bit early when I had two more books to go. Their stat gnomes indicated a confidence in my ability that spurred me on to finish strong and well.

Your 2016 Year in Books

TOTALS: 101 books
27,046 pages
AVERAGE LENGTH: 282 pages

SHORTEST BOOK: 20 pages
God Bless Our Country by Hannah C. Hall

LONGEST BOOK: 573 pages
Villette by Charlotte Bront√ę

Villette by Charlotte Bront√ę

MOST POPULAR: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1,868,794 readers)

God Bless Our Country by Hannah C. HallThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

LEAST POPULAR: Artists of the Renaissance by James Barter (2 other readers)

MY AVERAGE RATING : 3.9

HIGHEST RATED ON GOODREADS: Lots of Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids by Whee Winn (4.58 average)

 

NOTE: Goodreads creates a gorgeous color montage of all the titles a person has read during the Reader Challenge. And they send along a nifty bit of applause:

Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too.

Hope your 2016 was full of reading delights and you also challenged yourself to explore the joy of reading.

I’m deciding upon my 2017 goal…hmm, up the ante? keep the same? make each month a special focus? So many choices!

I’m interested in any challenges met, planned, or otherwise. What’s going on for you in 2017 book wise?

 

Reader Round Up


As I prime for lots of unfettered summer reading I’ve been able to start my freed-from-grading daze with a few truly amazing books, an eclectic mix of non-fiction and novels.


First up is an Audrey book. I’m not much for reading full-blown biographies because they often reveal aspects of the person which might change my comfortable opinion. So when I spied this petite photo biography about Audrey Hepburn and her style relationship with Givenchy, how could I refuse when it practically hopped into my library book bag? If you are an Audrey fan, this is a must read.


This title was circled as a “want to read” selection in my Book Page circular. Be Frank with Me almost falls into “seen this before” trope of precocious kid, odd famous parent, and the Mary Poppins who is hired to bring order to chaos. Surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying this fast read. One reason is it has that forties comedy film feel to it with its madcap, impossible hijinks, situations, and characters. I simply accepted the break in versimilitude and let the show roll.


Yet another DE Stevenson. My list of her forty or so published titles is rapidly approaching completed unless her granddaughter finds more manuscripts in the attic. This one is post-war Britain and has Young Mrs Savage dealing with widowhood and four children all under the age of eight, and she’s not even thirty yet. There’s mystery, a variety of suitors, and delightful Scottish pluck and scenery. There is even a snarky set of villianesses to boo at.  I also adore the old school cover art.


Another non-fiction involved a flashback to my past, all the way to 1962 and the Seattle World’s Fair. Being a young thing then, the memories are a bit sketchy, so I definitely added this coffee-table photo historical to my checkouts.I reveled in forgotten exhibits, vendors, and magic moments of the fair. There is also that behind-the-scenes info the feeds my  craving for trivia snacking. Seattle remains a top fave for favorite cities, in case anyone is doing a poll. It’s such a unique, iconic landmark and I have some of the best family memories involving that futuristic trademark of the Emerald City. 

As of Monday afternoon I shall be released from the classroom and will gladly kick into summer vacation mode. Woo hoo!

Any other teachers out there ready to get their summer on?

Reader Round Up: TAB Syndrome


Upfront and personal: I am not a quitter.

I will gamely finish the less-than-savory pasta I paid for at the overrated restaurant, keep eating salad until the last of the holiday pounds melt away, and keep grading essays until my eyeballs roll around to the back of my head.

I stick to it. Just so you know.

That being said. I am struggling with my reading habits these days. I used to stick with a book, even if it took me days and weeks to soldier on, I would finish it, gritting teeth if necessary (Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady comes to mind). Lately, I give a book approximately five chapters, roughly a hundred pages, before I judge and jury it back into the library bag for prompt return. My dilemma is this: Would a true Book Booster succumb to TAB Syndrome? Is it acceptable that I wontly and willingly set aside a chosen read and it becomes The Abandoned Book?

Maybe it’s because I realize there are so many books out there waiting for me. Why should I commit to reading something that I really don’t like? Frank Zappa, of all people, is credited with saying:

I have dismissed the following books in the last couple of months.

Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs.

 

image: amazon.com

My mom recommended this author. Often. Frequently. *sigh* Trying to be the good daughter,  I gave it go. Mom and I have different tastes in reading. I toss out titles to her. She tries them and politely responds how the book didn’t quite work for her. This time she tossed out an author to me.  Apparently Susan Wiggs is a popular, best selling author of over 35 books. I had no idea. A whole shelf is dedicated to her novels at our library, or at least ones that haven’t been checked out.

This particular plot focuses on a mother embittered by life since she is now a quadriplegic from a skiing accident that also killed her husband. Her three children are all successful and have aptly provided for her–she is at odds with the oldest son who would rather send a check than visit with mumsy. Mums burns through caretakers like bees flit through a garden. This is where the underdog caretaker is hired. There is also the cold, yet efficient assistant/fiancee to said distant son. I knew where this was going after I read the blurb. I would have hung in there, as I don’t mind the romantic trope of jerk-son-gets-bested-and-turned-around-by-single-mother-with-a-heart-of-gold-who-has- two-extremely-needy-daughters plot. I’m not terribly prudish, yet when everyone starting dropping profanity as if the educated 10% do so because it must be oh-so-cool, I thought “Five chapters–I’m out of here.” Sorry, Mom.

Next up was an AP recommended author I’ve been putting off reading because his writing style is so Joycian. I don’t mind creativity, but I do like commas and other regular punctuation. Emily D is an exception–dash it all, I can handle her penchant for pause for something as short as her poetry. An entire novel of creative punctuation is too much for this English teacher.  So I got Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses as an audio book. If I can’t see the punctuation misdemeanors I can simply focus on the story. Wrong.

I really like John Grady Cole. He reminds me a bit of a young Paul Newman in his cool, calm and collected approach to life. I even tolerated Lacey’s potty mouth because his colorful vernacular was such a part of who is. He probably couldn’t talk if a swear word wasn’t in there. Plus, the audio book reader was talented at creating distinctive characters. I hung with Horses until John Grady and Lacey get hired at the Mexican ranch. As soon as the boss’s daughter arrives on the scene I couldn’t bear the heartache of watching John go down as he fell for her. I became too attached. Maybe I’ll watch the movie. I can always fast forward Matt Damon’s pain.

 

 A student wanted to do David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas for his Author Spotlight and I try to check out what my students are reading. I tried to get involved in the book, the premise sounds fascinating; however, I couldn’t get past the guy sifting the rocks for cannibal teeth so he could make dentures for a high society lady and then tell her that she was chewing with said teeth. Too gruesome for me. I might give it go sometime, someday because the switched storyline style intrigues me. There is also the movie.

I have abandoned other books. Not often, but I do. I don’t feel this guilt out ejecting a movie from the DVD player. Somehow setting aside a book is like walking away from a conversation. It feels rather rude. I’m working on casting off this guilt. There are, after all, so many other conversations waiting for me out there.

Anyone else struggle with TAB Syndrome?

 

 

Book Booster Spotlight


Around four years ago when I began this blog I set up a page dedicated to collecting Book Boosters.  The qualifications were fairly simple:

Do you love books?

Do you have favorites you read, recommend, and even re-read?

Are you a frequent flyer at the local library?

Are you an on-line regular of book sites, be they promoting to buy, review, or boast books?

Perchance you operate on a need to read basis‚Äďyou have to have a book in hand, by the bed, stashed in the car, or have one nestled in the backpack.

You then, my friend, are a Book Booster. And you are in good company. Add your name to the list and welcome to the shelf of those who appreciate and advance the cause of books.

To date there are around 70 Book Boosters. There are no secret handshakes, no monthly meetings. I have considered t-shirts and bumper stickers.  As a thanks for taking the public step as a proclaimed bibliophile, I shall spotlight a random Book Booster.

This month’s BB Spotlight is:

Tish Farrell

Portland 6 (2)

In her own words:

Being a writer¬†can be wretched. (What did¬†Douglas Adams say about it: staring at the page until your¬†eyes bleed?) So in an attempt to stop my eyes bleeding, or my brain exploding I thought I would use this blog to¬†write about the place where I am now (Shropshire) and the places where I used to be (Kenya). Sometimes they get mixed up together. But that doesn‚Äôt matter.¬†Anyway, the literary analysts¬†tell us¬†that creating a convincing setting, that telling¬†sense of place through which the¬†human action¬†threads and is revealed¬†is crucial to any story ‚Äď non fiction or fiction. So these are my practice pieces, then; a fending off of¬†writer‚Äôs block perhaps.¬†Who knows? Other stories might spring from them.

Tish also provides amazing photos. I especially appreciate her Kenya shares, as I doubt I will ever make that journey.

Are you interested in proclaiming your love of books, your need to read? Leave your name and I will gladly add you to the growing list of Book Boosters, and who knows you too might find yourself as a featured BB Spotlight in the near future.

 

 

A Bit of Book Botherment


As much I proclaim to be a Book Bookster, I fear I’m not a proper one, for if I was, ¬†wouldn’t I be scandalously boring about reminding everyone that September was National Get a Library Month (“get carded at your local library”) or that October was National Book Month? I’m not fully living up to my potential. I’m hoping it’s okay that I just read and blog about what I’m reading. Guilt does overtake me now and then that I should be organizing parties and perpetuating cute little cookies in the shapes of books or something. Perhaps I need one of those calendars that they tend to pin on the wall in the staff bathroom that spouts when it’s national Eat a Chili Pepper Day or National Hug Your Bank Teller Day. There must be a calendar app just for bibliophiles.

However-

In an attempt to make amends for not noticing October was National Book Month, I will reprint an article about books that have influenced a batch of Ted Educators. We do like our Ted Talkers.

If I were a Ted Educator and someone did ask me about a book which had influenced me, I would wholeheartedly reply: To¬†Kill a Mockingbird¬†for the reason that having read it I keep passing on my passion for it on to my students. It’s not just required reading. It’s required to read to understand our US country’s history better and how Jim Crow laws affect who we are today, and how walking around in someone else’s shoes should be a lifestyle commitment not just the answer to the question on the test of “name a famous Atticus quote.” I know the book makes a difference in my students’ lives because when they return to me three years later as seniors that unequivocally agree that TKAM ¬†is “such a great book.”

As to the idea of books making a difference or creating an impact in live I provide for your entertainment and enlightenment John Green’s list of books he appreciates.

 

So, by the by–which book has changed your life? Or is there a book you want everyone to go and read right now?

Another Year of Interesting Words


Keeping track of words learned is becoming as much of a habit as keeping track of books read. Learning words definitely is result of reading books. I wonder if there is a cousin Good Reads tracker app for Good Words yet. No doubt there is. Or maybe the next dot com app millionaire is in the wings. There is a untapped market for word nerds.

My method is fairly Neanderthal. I’m basically in hunter gatherer mode as I set forth daily upon the plains of learning. That is a bit much, isn’t it? Actually, it’s more or less serendipity. When reading, and I come across words of interest, I type them into my phone in my notes under the file Vocabulary. And like the Guardians of the Galaxy Collector, I keep them there so I can view them.  Some are prettier than others, while some are rare and exotic, and some I take out of my collection and begin implementing, realizing their worth increases with continuous use.

Here are some live captures. For interest, I state where I captured the lexical little beastie.

 The Year of Lear by James Shapiro

  • recusant: a person who refuses to submit to an authority or to comply with a regulation. [Lots of Catholic/Protestant tussling going on in England around 1606]

The Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion, and Technology by Sarah A. Chrisman

  • quotidian: of, or occurring every day; daily [a 21st century woman choosing a 19th century lifestyle would get used to the daily routine of repetive tasks such bread making]

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. NOTE: as long as keep teaching the novel I keep rereading it, and yet I still find new words. Fascinating.

  • deglutition: process of swallowing
  • celerity: swiftness of movement

Emma (The Austen Project #3) by Alexander McCall Smith

  • impedimenta: equipment for an activity or expedition, especially when considered as bulky or an encumbrance [this one I’m willing to trot out and air as in addressing my students, “Excuse me, your impedimenta is blocking the aisle.”]
  • canard: unproven rumor or story

This next batch mainly derive their existence and capture from the books of D.E. Stevenson. It is an on-going project to read her legacy of 40 novels (give or take a couple of Mrs. Tim’s). She’s primarily writing about Scottish and English life pre-WWII to 1975. It’s been interesting to see which words she favors and which words were in vogue during the span of her long career. She did favor the sprinkling of French.

  • ructions: a disturbance or quarrel [“ruckus” a relative?]
  • pourboire: a gratuity or tip
  • cavil: make petty or unnecessary objections
  • muckle: to cover inanimate objects in glitter in a vain attempt to make them appealing enough to buy [Mike Allegra dislikes muckley Christmas cards]
  • gaucherie: a tactless or awkward act
  • vaunted: highly praised
  • pied-a-terre: a temporary or second residence [very handy for the dismal months of winter glum]
  • arriviste: a social climber, a blunder

Do you collect words while reading? 

Oh de plume


Being a gregarious hermit means I have moments of friendly banter mixed with overpowering needs to keep myself to myself. This is why I hide behind my plumey of Cricket Muse. I chirp when in the mood, and spend the rest of the time ensconced thoughtfully in my little world of teaching, reading, and writing.

I have played around with what my pen name should actually be. So far I’ve been published under three. The Chicken Soup people wouldn’t let me publish my essay on “Piece of Quiet” as Cricket Muse–too, umm, cute. They did relinquish under my compromise of C. Muse. Friends and family responded with “why”? As in why not use my real name.¬†I guess I could have used my own name, but where’s the mystery in that? ¬†I am in good company. Look at these wonderful authors and their real names. See–it worked for them.

          Name               Nom de plume                           
  1. ¬†Anne Bronte–Acton Bell
  2. Benjamin Franklin–Alice Addertongue
  3. Anton Chekov–Antosha Chekhonte
  4. Charles Dickens–Boz
  5. C.S. Forester–Cecil Smith
  6. C.S. Lewis–Clive Hamilton
  7. Charlotte Bronte–Currier Bell
  8. Washington Irving–Diedrich Knickerbocker
  9. Ray Bradbury–Douglas Spalding
  10. L. Frank Baum–Edith Van Dyne
  11. Emily Bronte–Ellis Bell
  12. Eric Arthur Blair–George Orwell
  13. Georges Remi–Herge
  14. James Alfred Wight —James Herriot
  15. Michael Crichton-John Lange
  16. Daniel Handler–Lemony Snicket
  17. Agatha Christie–Mary Westmacott
  18. Edna St. Vincent Millay–Nancy Boyd
  19. Isaac Asimov–Paul French
  20. Hector Hugh Munro–Saki
  21. Stanley Martin Lieberman–Stan Lee
  22. Victoria Lucas–Sylvia Plath
  23. Francois-Marie Arouet–Voltaire
  24. William S. Burroughs–William Lee
  25. Vladimir Sirin–Vladimir Nabokov

While I figure out under what name my masterpiece shall be published, I will keep playing with possibilities. I found the nifty pseudonym generator. So far I like:

Dewey Raferty

Grange Moser

Dalli Easton

Here: give it spin and see what you come up with…and do share it you get a doozer.

Name Generator

Bookstore or Library


I am a Frequent Flyer of the literary miles category. I inter-library loan, grab stuff off the FREE shelf, donate back, check out DVDs, CDs, books, audios, magazines–if it has a bar code I find a way to get it checked out and get it home. I have yet to check out their seed catalog *make note*. I even joined the Library Board of Trustees for a year and a half. That could be a blog post in the making.

image: morguefiles.com/kieransmiles Libraries. Sigh. Wait, shouldn’t that “l” be an “L”? Aren’t libraries proper nouns, words of significant importance?

Now–with all my Book Boostering, you would think I would buy more books. My bookshelf at home is actually rather anemic. Somewhere in the post collection I have photos and details. Here’s the deal: I don’t buy them because the library has already done that. Plus, books need dusting, and bookshelves take up a LOT of space. Teeny house. Hate dusting.

SO–

I don’t go to bookstores. I just don’t. I don’t want to spend the money. I just want to read the book. Occasionally I will buy a book as a gift. I usually review books because they are free and then I give them away. I prefer the word “frugal”, thankyouverymuch.

Yesterday I broke the pattern. I actually stepped into a bookstore and actually bought a book. Ours is a smallish town and box stores consist of the ubiquitious Wal-Mart, a half-hearted Penney’s, one Hallmark, the usual fast food five, and a handful of motels that are in everywhere anytown. No Barnes ever so Noble, only three private bookstores. One smells like the dusty, mildew-ish haunts I avoid, one is bright and serves up new books (and I’m glad they offer discounts to teachers), and the other is an anomaly. This is the one I popped in to visit.

It smelled of new books, was brightly lit up, organized well, had reasonable prices, and an eclectic assortment of titles, plus it had the quirky owner esconced behind the counter. After my purchase of a gift book (no spoilers), I learned the no-funky smell is due to the painstaking care of each book being sanitized and being given a new cello cover. Lovely.

I still prefer libraries, but should I ever develop that urge to squander my occasional windfall on books instead of the usual dinner out or garden plants or gifties on the progeny, I now know a place where I can meander and come away with a treasure.

So–

Bookstore or Library: preference?

Second Servings on Hunger Games


I am wrapping up my Hunger Games marathon and I am now anticipating November 20th when Mockingjay Part Two will arrive in theaters. I wonder what the shipment code will be under: Bread and Dead–a play on Panem meaning “bread” from Roman Coliseum days, and it’s no spoiler than there is going to be some heavy warfare going on in the Capitol.

I don’t feel as invested in the Divergent or Maze Runner series, which are both pretty good for dystopian reads. Yet, I fell for Katniss (like so many others). It’s partly due to having read the book before it was discovered. Way back when, I came across a tip from one of my book blogs to check out Hunger Games. Going out of town on a loooong car trip, I listed to HG as an audio book. Just me and Katniss on that long stretch of highway. I even sat in my car to finish out the story. This girl from the Seam, with her simple complexities rang something within me, the need to survive, yet have a strong sense of compassion. A tough cookie with a creamy center.

Brian Unkeless: “So, anyone read this book called The Hunger Games?”

Another back in the day, whilst at a writing conference, I popped into a session about film adaptations. I’m always up for film-from-novel magic. This turned out to be extra special. A rep from Lionsgate (at that time, a smallish company) stood by a cardboard cut out announcing their next movie: Hunger Games. When he asked if anyone had read it, I embarrassed myself and waved my hand like he was asking if anyone wanted the keys to a new Camaro. “Great book. I just read it.” Everyone else in the room looked at me oddly, because 1) My reaction was a bit too enthusiastic 2) isn’t that a YA? Who reads YA?

Apparently, Lionsgate had done well enough with their gamble with bringing Lord of the Rings to the screen (basic understatement), that they had a few bucks to invest. Their Magic 8 Ball must be working overtime. After the session about what it takes to bring a book to the screen, I stayed after and further embarrassed myself and told this up and coming producer that it would be smart to get a reading campaign going as a tie in to the book. I think he was either amused and impressed by my passion. It was hard to tell because he wore black sunglasses (he did apologize to us–something about an eye dilation thing–he didn’t purposely want to appear Hollywood cool).

Since then, I’ve been attached to Katniss and her entourage, and have whipped up interest in my family, dragged them off to the theater and tried not to be obnoxious filling them in on plot tidbits. I think part of this is because JLaw IS Katniss. And Josh IS Peeta and Liam IS Gale. In fact, the cast is perfectly cast. It’s so rare to have a film line up so well in transference.

So now, as I reread the series. Back to back. No having to wait for the next book. I overlay JLaw and the entourage into the pages. I am involved. Ridiculous that I am brought down by a YA series, a college-degree toting English teacher, who is a grandma, to boot. BUT–I know I am not the only one. I remember AARP running an article about how older folk were sneaking Hunger Games reads as if the books were clandestine literary contraband.

How about you? Are you revving up for Part Two? Are you rereading the series in anticipation?

Ready for a Teaser?

Katniss preparing to rain down her wrath on Snow’s reign of terror image: comingsoon.net

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