cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Libraries”

Reading Round Up: May


May provided a mixture of titles. It was a grab and go find time to read as the month was filled with AP testing and finishing up curriculum units. Brain in a blender is how I refer to those mad days of teaching in overdrive mode. Sometimes it’s difficult finding enough energy to peruse a few pages without falling asleep. Book whap in the face is embarrassing.

Greenwillow by B.J. Chute

An enchanting tale with a warmth about it that makes it suitable for a cozy wintertime fireside session or as a drowsy summer hammock companion.

Reminiscent of Tuck Everlasting in how true love is shadowed by a family curse, with a bit of the charm found in D. E. Stevenson’s novels. Gently told and full of quaint characterization and imagery. I hope to find other novels by the author. A delightful five star read.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

A bit of Benjamin Button mashed with Dr Who timey-wimey stuff. The idea of someone who ages incredibly slow is intriguing as it has so many plot possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the story centers on how miserable Tom Hazard is concerning his condition. He is over 400 years old though he looks to be in his forties. Falling in love is problematic, as is staying in one place for more than eight years. The flip flop of Tom’s backstory mixed with present day is the stuff of novels these days, so that wasn’t the issue as much as the over-dramatic ending with serious plot holes. The overall premise is quite clever, the storyline fairly entertaining despite Tom’s grousing. The inclusion of Shakespeare garnered the four stars, otherwise a middling three.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith

While some readers may appreciate yet another spin off of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is a universal truth that providing a refreshing retelling is difficult. This is the case for First Impressions by Debra White Smith, who begins her series of Austen retellings with the familiar love story of Darcy and Elizabeth. White attempts to freshen up the story by placing it in a contemporary Texas small-town. Some of the characters have changed, yet not so much for the better. Darcy is Dave, a millionaire hiding from his fame, Elizabeth is Eddi, a sassy lawyer, Jane is Jenny, ambivalent about the men in her life, and Bingley is Calvin, endearing, yet somewhat bumbling in his attempts at admiring Jenny. Lydia is Linda, the promiscuous sister. The Bennett parents still play their assigned roles of mother with no filter and passive father. The other two sisters didn’t make the cast. Wickham is a police officer gone wrong, and Connor becomes the awkward smitten cousin. Overall, the dialogue and attempts to match key dialogue and plot points comes off forced, such as making Connor a third cousin, with several reminders that it’s okay to marry cousins in Texas.

Retelling such a well-known story can be problematic, partly since readers have high expectations the characters and plot will provide similar vitality. Unfortunately, First Impressions did not impress, and it is with regret, as it held promise in its chosen format, but tried too hard to emulate Austen’s story and earns a two star.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrell

Piper loses her best friend Lydia, and is determined to find out what happened to her. This is no easy task for an eighteen year old society girl living the crime-prone era of 1920’s Chicago. As Piper begins her investigation into Lydia’s disappearance, she begins to jeopardize her own safety. Fast-paced, with notable era details, this is an engaging read. Odd, that it is labeled as a YA, since its history-mystery format is more inclined towards an adult audience interest-wise.

One off-putting aspect of the novel is the way Piper is presented: tomboyish, clever, yet emotionally immature. Her overly-dramatic behavior makes her seem much younger than eighteen, more like fifteen, which makes it surprising that a mature police detective like Mariano would be interested in her. The ending definitely hints at sequels, as there are a couple of loose ends that need attention. A four star in spite of Piper’s tendency towards being irritating in her enthusiasm in solving problems.

Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

One of those books that turn out to be a not what I thought after reading a trade review. I liked the cover and was initially persuaded this would be quirky graphic novel. The idea intrigued me of illustrating published stories, a blending of text and visual interpretation. Somehow the stories didn’t quite work. The art kind of did. But they didn’t necessarily work together. “Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.” is the best pick–fresh and funny. A middling three. A side note is that Niffenegger is the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

After next week I am free to read anytime I care to since school obligations will be over. I already went shopping at the library and have a shelf of reads ready to go. I look forward to feasting with my reading sessions instead of the peck and nibble I contend with. As much as I enjoy teaching, it does get in the way of my reading.

Happy June–the gateway to summer. Aah, yes…

book cover images: Goodreads

hammock image: Pinterest

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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?

POM: April 19


Walt Whitman. I now associate him with Robin Williams’ Dead Poets Society when he is coaxing Ethan Hawks’ character to create a poem about “Uncle Walt.” A “sweaty-toothed madman” is the description that rolled out. Walt Whitman is a bit of a madman. He wrote and rewrote Leaves of Grass throughout his career–sadly his new approach to poetry wasn’t readily embraced which is reflected in this poem.

I can relate to Walt and his statement about being open-minded to new ways of thinking. While his writing was not fully embraced in his time, Whitman is now considered one of America’s greatest poets.

 

morguefile image

Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries

by Walt Whitman

 

Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;
A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything;
A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect;
But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad!
It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.

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?

 

 

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?

A Good Year for Reading


January is a month of reflection. This is probably due to January being the default month since it is between Christmas past and Valentine’s Day to be. While working off Christmas treats in order to succumb to anticipated chocolate hearts I have decided to give my 2015 year of reading a closer examination. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have done much more than said “Cool. I met and surpassed my Goodreads Reading Challenge.” Since they took the time and trouble to send me such an attractive report, I shall share the highlights with you all. If the pontification of accomplishments is not within your scheduled viewing, I am absolutely not offended if you drift off to the next blog in your reader. However, I am hoping you will stick around.

First Off:
Books Read: 91
I set my Reading Challenge at 50 books, thinking “Hmm, that’s about one per week–that’s doable.” With so many great recommendations from so many dedicated Book Boosters like Heather and The Paperback Princess, I kept adding to my “To-Read” list and kept reading. I still have about 73 books on my TBR list. *Sigh* I have need to read issues.

Secondly:
The Short and Long of It
Shortest book: 96 pages

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin

Reading books to kids at bedtime is a lovely routine, a cozy bonding time, and a way to pass on the joy of words to children. I anticipated this sort of connection when I requested Ehrlin’s The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep and was sorely disappointed when I discovered the text to be a form a hypnosis-inducing sleep tool. The purposely scripted story is almost a little scary in its intent. Instead of waving a golden watch and chanting, “You are growing sleepy” a fuzzy bunny becomes the stuff dreams are made of.

While some may like a lab technique to put kids asleep, I’ll go for the classic lullaby of cuddle and lulling words.

                                                             LONGEST BOOK
                                                                  624 pages
                                                                   Jane Eyre
                                                         by Charlotte Brontë

Average Page Length: 305 pages

Most Popular Book:

4,019,963

people also read

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I decided to reread the entire series in one dedicated weekend as a preparation for the last installment of the film adaptation. I do think JLaw IS Katniss.

Least Read Book:

2

people also read

Sky Blue Pink
by Pam Lippi 
This is a self-published fictional memoir and it is a fun little read about two seventeen year old girls who travel around Europe after graduating from high school. This was back in the days of the seventies when bell-bottoms and adventures were part of the culture.

Benediction:

Completed square

You read 86 out of 50 books. [I actually snuck in 5 more after this]
172%
Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too!
Not a bad year for my Goodreads [a litotes, if there ever was]
Okay–your turn…
How was your 2015 year of reading?
Favorite book?
Definitely won’t be recommending?

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?

POM: SEPTEMBER


September heralds in fall and school. Being a librarian at heart with a day job as an English teacher, I have a soft spot for poems about books, especially those about libraries. This one hits the spot quite nicely.

My First Memory (of Librarians)

Nikki Giovanni
This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
       wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
       too short
              For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big
In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
       a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

This summer was an odd one. In my part of the world June is usually a bit drippy around the edges until after July 4th. Summer decided to rev up early and we suffered through high nineties through most of the season, which caused a set of horrendous fires in the surrounding states.

We usually coast into a gentle fall, with chilly nights and warmer days, allowing the ability to sneak in sandals and linen skirts a couple of more weeks. Not so this September. We are nightly lighting chill breakers in the stove and I forlornly have folded away my summer stock of tank tops and capris.

As a farewell to summer, as fall officially begins this week, I have included an August poem.

August

Lizette Woodworth Reese
No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still

BookMarks 


You know you are a book nerd when you start collecting photos and misc tidbits about books. Here a few I found cluttering up my files:

  Do you know the French have a word specific to their country addressing booksellers? I came across the word Bouquinistes in a review and became intrigued. The photo and info are both from Wikipedia.
Bouquinistes are small bookstores in Paris, on each side of the River Seine. They are green boxes made ​​of wood. They were classified as a World Heritage Site in 1991. The word bouquinistes is used only in Paris. The word comes from bouquin, book in French slang.

Gluten-free is the new buzz in product promotion. I spotted a sign signifying a snack as being gluten-free: an apple? Really. I did have to stop and click when I came across this sign in a used books store display window: 

 
Another slice of book interest, a Kindle ad in a magazine: 

 
Have you come across a free library tucked away somewhere expected? I discovered this one situated in a quiet little neighborhood. It looked child-centered. How fun it would to be a kid and check for new books or exchange ones out! 

   
What about you, dear readers–any fun, interesting, wonderful noteworthy bookish bits to share?

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Last Day–Flights and Angels


All really great things come to an end. Today was the last day of the Summer Academy. The day consisted of presenting our projects and acting out our scenes. What amazing projects the talented  participants  provided! They ranged from exploring the historical context of the ghost to women playing Hamlet (Sarah Bernhardt) to studying how Hamlet has been visually represented in old illustrations–and so much in between. I am humbled to have been part of this cavalcade of ingenuity. Since these 29 teachers are from all parts of the continental US, you  can rest assured quality education is still very much and profoundly around.

The second highlight involved performing. We only had two practices but some people managed to memorize their lines! Our group was assigned Act Five and we stylized it as a cocktail party. Hamlet played some melancholy blues on the stage piano and when Laertes walked into the party they fought with the cocktail swords. It brought down the house. I played my Horatio a bit too heartfelt. In retrospect, I would have camped it up considering my BFF was basically a lush and tended towards rash actions with deterimental consequences. 

What was really cool was the fact that we acted on America’s first Shakespearean stage.  Yup, my first and last stage Bard play appearance (maybe) took place on an authentic stage. The film crew did not return, which took a lot of pressure off our already ramped up nervousness.

Last events included food, fun, and fellowship–the best parts of the day.

Tomorrow I head back to (still) hot (but not muggy) Northwest. 

See ya around, DC. The rest will be a much anticipated silence from the continual hum of a great city. 

twice a day I passed the Capitol–wow!

Trivia: Folger broke tradition and kept the reliefs low so that people could see them. Each represents a Shakespearean play.

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