Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry...random thoughts...

Finished my fourth book of the year last week. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. A lot of times, I don't talk about the books I read for school, but I just couldn't let this one go by without saying a few words about it. Because I loved it.

If I'm being completely honest, I must admit that I don't have a perfect record with Newbery Medal winners. Many I love, but some, well, not so much. So the fact that this was a Newbery winner didn't assure me that this book and I would hit it off. And there was the fact that I'd seen a few different people saying that they didn't understand how this book had won the Newbery to start with. Now, having read it myself, I have to say that's an opinion I most definitely do not share!

This book was wonderful. Wonderful.

Set in Mississippi during the 1930s, it relates the story of a year in the life of the Logan family through 9-year-old Cassie's eyes. While saying that the Logan children were lucky would be overstating things (it's hard to justify saying that an African American family living in a racist society that not only condoned but in many respects celebrated inequality was lucky), but compared to their friends and neighbors the Logans had one big advantage: land. The land, and all the things it meant, was in one respect the heart of this story. But more profound was the heart of this little girl.

This book sort of had it all, ran the gamut of emotions. It made me laugh, though I wouldn't really call it a funny book. And it made me cry. I cry a lot when I read books, I know. But this book managed to make me cry both in sadness and in pure anger. It was a book full of strength and pride, full of terror and injustice. It was also a book full of love and hope. It was beautiful and it was bittersweet.

And I loved her descriptions of the seasons:

Spring. It seeped unseen into the waiting red earth in early March, softening the hard ground for the coming plow and awakening life that had lain gently sleeping through the colder winter. But by the end of March it was evident everywhere: in the barn where three new calves bellowed and chicks the color of soft pale sunlight chirped; in the yard where the wisteria and English dogwood bushes readied themselves for their annual Easter bloom, and the fig tree budded producing the forerunners of juicy, brown fruit for which the boys and I would have to do battle with fig-loving Jack; and in the smell of the earth itself. Rain-drenched, fresh, vital, full of life, spring enveloped all of us. (p. 195-196)

August dawned blue and hot. The heat swooped low over the land clinging like an invisible shroud, and through it people moved slowly, lethargically, as if under water. In the ripening fields the drying cotton and corn stretched tiredly skyward awaiting the coolness of a rain that occasionally threatened but did not come, and the land took on a baked, brown look. (p. 227)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

quoted...

I am so bummed with myself...I had totally intended to steal Lu's awesome habit of capturing at least one quote from each book she read, but alas, already with my first book of the year, I failed. Didn't think to write down a single thing from Saffy's Angel, and this is a real shame as I would love to have some of the words from that book captured here in my personal little journal. But it's not too late for book two of the year, A People's History of American Empire. It was a wonderful book, but a very depressing one. Save for the last page. I love Howard Zinn's words:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we remember those times and places, and there are so many where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. Hope is the energy for change. The future is an infinite succession of presents...and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of the worst of everything around us, is a marvelous victory.

good stuff...

*I finished my second book of the year yesterday (along with my first, which I already wrote about). A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, and Paul Buhle. So good. A graphic novel that both relates the history of the U.S. in terms of it's imperial ambitions and corporate greed, but also relates a bit about Howard Zinn's personal history. I only wish it were longer, both because I know there's so much more to tell and also because there were a few times when the book felt a bit "jumpy." This would make an awesome read for next month's graphic novel month...and yes, Chris and Rich, I'm looking at you--I really think you'd both love it too.

*Rich, Max, and I had another binge session of The Walking Dead last night. We watched five episodes and are now a little over halfway through season 3. I consider this Good Stuff because 1. it's so much fun watching with Rich and Max, and 2. I just love this show so much! But damn, is it an emotionally exhausting show. It doesn't pay to get invested in the characters and yet it is impossible not too (at least for me). I *love* these people. And it causes nothing but heartbreak. No one is sacred to the writers...for every bit of joy there are a dozen instances where your heart is ripped out.

*I finally finished Aldo's and Lucky's cat pillow. It was supposed to be a Christmas present...but yeah, better late than never.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

first book of the year...

I hadn't expected it to take me a week and a half to finish my first book of the year, but then again, I guess I'm not really surprised either. As usual, I just have too many books going at once. Anyway, I am so very pleased that Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay was the first book I finished...I'm pretending I believe in "signs" and this is a sure sign of a wonderful year of reading ahead. It also qualifies as my first read for Ana's and Iris's Long-Awaited Reads Month. (Or in my case, Long-Awaited Reads that are All Ana's Fault Month.) :D

Okay, Saffy's Angel. *hugs book tenderly and fiercely all at the same time*

It is the story of the Casson family, a family who most definitely lives life on their own terms. I'm not sure if anyone else would agree with this comparison, but I was strongly reminded of Francesca Lia Block's writing. Or really, I guess I mean her characters, at least from the Weetzie Bat books. Both Block's and McKay's characters have this utterly refreshing quality to them--they are quirky and odd, they are unique and delightful, they are so positively themselves. And I love them to pieces.

Eve and Bill, parents, artists. Caddy, the oldest daughter, loves animals, believes she will never pass any exam she ever takes, and is quite infatuated with her driving instructor. Saffy, next oldest daughter, feels somewhat out of place and lonely. Indigo, next oldest and the only boy in the family, an inventive cook, loves "his pack" (aka his sisters) fiercely, and works hard to conquer his fears. And Rose, the youngest daughter, bold, fearless, and a budding artist herself.

At the beginning of the book, Saffy discovers that Eve is not her "real" mother, but her aunt, and her siblings are her cousins. (Her mother died when she was just three, and her grandfather brought her from Italy to come live with the Cassons in England.) While she is every bit as much a sibling as any of the others in the minds of Caddy and Indigo and Rose, she finds herself feeling as if she somehow doesn't belong. The book tells the story of Saffy's search for her angel, a stone angel from her Italian garden that her grandfather left to her when she died, but no one knows where it is. But it really tells the story of Saffy's search for her place in the world, her place in the family.

This is not a heavy, soul-searching tale though. It is light and so utterly charming, it is laugh out loud funny, and it has more heart than one might imagine could be stuffed into 215 pages. Saying that I loved it feels like such an understatement.

With this book alone, I can most definitely declare Long-Awaited Reads Month a success for me! Ahhh, but so many more books still to come...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

hello January...

What better subject to start off in this new year than upcoming reading, huh? Last January brought me a nice chunk of my favorite reads of the year...and this was thanks to Long-Awaited Reads Month, Ana's and Iris's brilliant creation. And I couldn't be more excited that they're bringing it back again this year. I won't be able focus exclusively on my Long-Awaited Reads pile, of course (yes, homeschooling, I'm glaring at you).

Okay, so my potential reads for January:






























Pile 1: Homeschool pile.

This pile is quite incomplete. Sing Down the Moon by Scott O'Dell and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton should both be on the pile but I don't have them yet. And I just haven't gathered up books for the second half of the month yet. Note: As much as I'd like to, I likely won't get Look Both Ways or Sex and Sensibility read but will just have Annie read them on her own.






























Pile 2: Current library pile.

In all honestly, all of these other than A People's History of America Empire (which I started yesterday) will probably be going back to the library unread, as I'd like to focus on my Long-Awaited Reads pile as much as possible. Ahhh, but the beauty of the library is that they'll be there for me to check out at a future time.






























Pile 3: Dip into and misc. pile.

One of my personal goals for 2014 is to read a short story, an essay, and a poem every week, and thus the Bradbury, the Sapolsky, and the Levithan books. The Householder's Guide to the Universe is set up in month-by-month fashion, and I'd like to read along in just that fashion. (I read about a third of this book before, and I loved it...but decided it might *feel* better if I read it so the months matched up with what was really going on in our gardening life.) Mister Monday is the book I'm currently (if slowly) reading with Max, and The Shining is the book I'm currently reading with Rich. And finally, Lifemobile was sent to me by my dear friend Jean, who knows the author. It is about a father and son and an old Corvair. The author, Jonathan Rintels, kindly signed and passed along a copy for Gray and me. I believe the book is loosely autobiographical--and the author's son has Aspergers, which is why they thought of us.






























Pile 4: Long-Awaited Reads pile!!!

And yes, just as I did last year, I actually made it a Long-Awaited Reads Because of Ana pile! :D I kept it small because I really want to get through them all. And in the event I really do get through all of them, my shelves are plenty loaded with other books I'm dying to read all because of Ana. (Delusions of Gender also could have been placed on the homeschooling pile as Annie and I will be reading it for her feminism course, but it is such an "Ana book" in my head that it had to go here.)

Yep, I'm almost certainly biting off more than I can chew with my reading plans this month...but what's wrong with dreaming big. :P

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

favorite reads of 2013...

I really had no intention of doing this, but I just have so much reading everyone else's lists that I couldn't stop myself. It was really hard to keep it down to ten, but I managed with a little bit of cheating. :P (One thing that helped was not allowing myself to count rereads, of which I had quite a few this year...only makes sense not to count them as it's unlikely I would have been rereading them if I didn't already know I at least liked them a lot.)

In no particular order, my top ten reads of 2013:

*The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi. Damn, but this book just holds a very special place in my heart. Always will.

*the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. Yeah, here's the cheating. It's seven books, but I honestly don't know how to separate them from one another, as it was the experience as a whole. They were exciting and heartbreaking and pull-you-in-and-not-let-you-goable. And there was the added bonus that I read them with Maxidoodle.

*Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. One of those, I-wish-there-was-a-way-to-make-everyone-read-this-book books.

*The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. This book has stayed strongly with me despite it being one of the first books I read this year. I loved it wholeheartedly. Even more than Fingersmith, I think, though it also made my list.

*Castle Waiting II by Linda Medley. If rereads counted the first one would be here too. I just can't put into words how much these books charm and delight me!

*Shine by Lauren Myracle. Oh my god, how this one got to me. Shattered my heart.

*Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. *hugs book*

*The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I've had a hard time explaining even to myself what it is about this book that captivated me so, but it is, without question, a treasure.

*Hero by Perry Moore. This is probably my surprise of the year. It's not that I didn't expect to like it; in fact, I was rather certain I would. But I did *not* expect to fall so head-over-heals completely in love with it. A definitely one for the huggable book category!

*Under the Dome by Stephen King. Despite it's massive size, I never wanted to put this book down. It was engrossing in the most horrifying way. And horrifying not because of the speculative aspects, but for the all-too-human ones!

And a few honorable mentions: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah, Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal, Joyland by Stephen King, More Than This by Patrick Ness, and Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang.

I read a total of 105 books this year (if I don't finish any more this year, and I likely won't). That's a lot for me--I'm pretty sure I haven't finished that many books in a year since before Annie was born, maybe not since I was a kid myself. February, aka Graphic Novels Month, definitely helped bring that number up this year. And I'm very happy to say that Chris is up for doing another Graphic Novels Month with me again this February! :D

Here's to oodles and oodles of awesome reads in 2014!!!