Monday, July 13, 2009

We are such creatures of habit. Once I hear Steve and Sophie moving about in the a.m. my body says it is time to get up. Well, when it is shortly after 6 a.m. I am not too keen on this, but I can't fall back to sleep so I got up and read for a bit. Steve crawled back into bed and he'll fall back asleep quickly (the bum!). He has his cardiologist appt. this morning. I am going with him so I can hear the test results. Steve is so macho he waited an hour before he actually told me he was having a tightness in his chest that wasn't normal. It was almost an hour before that he had asked me when I'd be done with what I was doing. I somewhat sarcastically responded that I was grading and it would be literally days, but, in a kinder voice (I hope!) asked what he needed. He said nothing, of course. I knew something wasn't right, but it took close to an hour before he admitted what was going on. He said let's give it five more minutes. I told him no and to get in the car! Thank goodness the hospital is less than 1o minutes from the house. He was in the hospital over night and most of the next day before he finally was released. I can't help but think it was some type of infection/virus that got into his heart as he was running a fever a couple of day before and after he got home. I changed the sheets twice one of the nights as he soaked through a t-shirt, sheets and mattress pad. If the doc didn't do testing on that I am going to insist he does as it could be serious.

Since I was up at 6 a.m. I finished The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier. I love his movies To Sir With Love and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night. I respect him as one of the great actors who has not gotten the attention he deserved. He writes about what it was like to be a star in the 50s and 60s yet not be able to walk in the front door of many hotels and restaurants. He shares a bit about his life as a child on Cay Island in the Bahamas where he ran around in burlap clothes and had no idea there was a different way of life. He has certainly come a long way - via Nassau, Miami, and New York. He could call the greats of Harlem his friends. He rambles a lot - it is after all, a spiritual autobiography written in his 70s after he survived prostate cancer, but I didn't see a man who grew as a father or a husband. He rarely wrote about his children and basically never about his wives. I don't think we can write a spiritual autobiography and not address our own nuclear family. He wrote extensively about his father, who he clearly respected greatly, and his quiet mother ,who rarely spoke, but he has at least 4 children and there is probably less than two pages total about them. So, I was disappointed in the book. A year later he wrote Life Beyond Measure: Letters to my Granddaughter Perhaps that is the book I should have read. Will see if I can find a copy of this is Half Price books. Hmmm. I think I'd rather listen to it as I love his voice.

I am still reading new YA author's debut novels. Julie Berry's The Amaranthe Enchantment is one my latest reads. As do many of the new YA authors, she has a MFA in writing for children and young adults. This is a Cinderella story about 15-year-old Lucinda whose wealthy parents are killed in a carriage accident when she is young. She becomes the ward of her uncle and aunt who own a jewelry repair shop were he ekes out a living. Her aunt does not hide the fact that Lucinda is a burden and makes her do all of the cleaning and may well ask her to scrub a floor over that she had just finished scrubbing. Everything in Lucinda's life changes whens the Amaranthe Witch entered the repair shop with a huge, unique jewel that she wants reset so she can wear it around her neck. When her aunt discovers who brought the jewel in for repair she said they will not do business with a witch and Lucinda is to return it to her. Well, Lucinda doesn't quite do that and it is stolen by the young thief who boldly enters her bed chamber that night and sleeps on her floor. Their lives become intertwined and she finds herself dancing with the Prince at an outdoor fair. She is quite bold in her approach to him as the thief has stolen the jewel from her room and sold it to the Prince to give to his new bride. She steals it from his pocket. Lucinda has fallen in love with the Prince and knows he is out of her league, but one's heart doesn't know when we shouldn't fall in love. The tale takes many twists and turns with Lucinda taken to prison to be hung in the morning for stealing the jewel from the prince, but her aunt, who is the one who "fingers" her as the thief, then bribes the jailer to free her. The Amaranthe Witch plays the role of fairy godmother, but she is from another world and the jewel is what will allow her to journey home. As all good fairy tales, and retellings, do - Lucinda lives happily ever after. And, of course, there is more to the young thief than meets the eye. Give this one to MS through HS girls who like to read fantasy romances. It is a delight fairy tale romp with a "intergalactic twist."

My students, along with introducing themselves, they also address the first book they remember reading or being read to them. Many of them are the old I Can Read or Dr. Seuss books. These all have a unique feel to them due to the limited use of color, often red, green, and blue, and the controlled vocabulary. A new title, that has that old "feel,"to add to the Early Reader group is Hat by Paul Hoppe. The cover immediately grabbed my attention as it is a simple drawing of a boy wearing a huge red hat that covers his eyes, but not the the satisfied grin on his face as he stands nonchalantly with his arms crossed. Young Henry finds a large brimmed red hat sitting on a park bench and the adventure begins. We see Henry laying spread eagle on a beach towel with Hat covering him almost down to his belly button. Hat keeps off the rain; it's great for catching mice, for hiding a rabbit - he is a very smug magician. It even becomes a sailboat and sled racing through the snow. Henry's imagination and Hat can even make Henry a superstar. But, imaginary adventures must come to an end when Mom reminds him that someone else may need the hat. Off his imagination goes again and he see a smug crocodile with the outline of a head poking out of him, because the adventurer didn't have Hat to shove in the croc's open mouth, a terrified grandma whose kitchen has been taken over by mice, and a sweating, sunburned lifeguard. Henry knows it is time to lay Hat back down on the bench and head for home with Mom. I absolutely love this book! The illustrations are of a minimalist style but throb with emotion and fun. A delightful book to share with your little and let him/her go on adventures with Henry and learn they can read this one on their own. What could you do with a hat the size of an umbrella? :-)

Time to get ready to head to the doc's with Steve.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oh my gosh - it has been over a month since I blogged. Guess I shouldn't be surprised as June was filled with the preparation for the COLRS Workshop for the scholarship students. We had so much fun and meeting them was such a joy. We had two great author presentations. Jacqueline Ogburn spoke about The Bakeshop Ghost The very cool part was she went to California to watch the filming of an independent film version. We were all sorry we can't buy it on DVD. Seeing how they made the huge cake with cardboard boxes covered with frosting and that the bakery hired to create the real cakes used in the film is "haunted" by the prior owner and the baker talks to her was way cool! We also enjoyed listening to Shana Norris talk about how the library and books impacted her desire to be a writer. She also shared the number of refusals she received in the beginning. But, now she is on a roll with her second book, Troy High out in August and of course, the warring football teams are the Trojans and the Spartans. I made the mistake of setting my copy of the ARC down at the Workshop and it disappeared. Will have to ask for another one from Abrams. I finished listening to three audiobooks since I last blogged. My favorite one of the three is The Splendor of Silence by Indu Sundarsan I love to listen to books set in foreign countries as I then know how to pronounce names as well as feel like I am there as the narrator typically has the accent of the country. Mathan certainly does - so beautifully melodious. This love story is set in India during WWII. Sam, a young Army captain on the surface, but in reality a OSS spy, meets Mila when he stays in her home as a guest of her father, supposedly recuperating from his shoulder injury. But he is trying to find his brother who has disappeared from his unit. The two fall in love in a time when there are few bi-racial couples. Mila is betrothed to a rich raj and when Sam leaves, she marries the prince, knowing she is carrying Sam's child. After Sam's death, a trunk arrives from India for his daughter, filled with her mother's saris as well as a long missive from the man who loved her mother as much as her father had, but sent her to Sam's family to raise. Through letters from the prince, she learns of her mother and father's love for each other, the political situation in his small kingdom of Rudrakot. An omniscient narrative style, changing from character to character, as well as to incidents before Sam and Mila met, adds depth, and sometimes a bit of confusion. However, it is a beautifully written novel that I would recommend to older teens who enjoy either historical fiction and/or a touching love story. Not at all "mushy" so male teens may also enjoy this novel. Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier pulls the reader into early 20th Century London where two young girls become friends, and sometimes enemies, because their family's grave sites are next to each other. Although they are separated by social class, with Maude really caring nothing about their wealth or social standing and Lavinia acting like she is from a family of higher social status than hers actually is, they love to play together in the cemetery. The grave digger's son, Simon, is a fascinating character to both girls and his life becomes intertwined with theirs, in part because the maid and cook in Maude's home feel sorry for him and feed him when he sneaks in by the back door, but also because his mother is the one who both delivers babies and terminates pregnancies. Maude's mother is not aware it is Simon's mother who terminates her pregnancy after a dalliance with the cemetery caretaker. Shortly after she recovers from the abortion, Kitty - Maude's mother, becomes a suffragette. It is at one of their rallies that Lavinia's younger sister disappears and Simon knows who is to blame. Lots of subplots to keep any reader involved. Chevalier is a superb historical novelist. Older teenage girls may enjoy this. I also listened to The Lady and Unicorn awhile back, which I also enjoyed. I would not have chosen Jane Hamilton's When Madeline Was Young I were to read it as I was not terribly intrigued by the book summary, but it was too inexpensive at Half Price books not to buy it! I am very glad I did as it caused me to pause and think how I would react to a man asking me to marry him and having to take care of his brain damaged wife who has the mental capabilities of a 6 or 7 year old. I suspect I am not a good enough person to have taken on this role, but Julia is. The family saga is told from the perspective of Mac, Julia and Aaron's son, who "grew up" with Madeline without realizing who she was until he was almost a teenager. Perhaps he had avoided knowing, but it certainly raised questions in his mind as to how different his family is from the normal conservative 1950's family. The narrative spans decades, with Mac resisting his wife's insistence they attend his cousin Buddy's son's funeral. Buddy had tormented Mac at the family lake house in Wisconsin when they were kids and though now a surgeon, Mac knows how Buddy will react to him. Hamilton pulls no punches and sometimes I found myself cringing as I read the personal feelings and experiences of this family, but it a novel I would recommend to anyone who needs to address the needs of a brain damaged adult. I also read what I would refer to as very hot on the spicy scale! Do not give this to a teenager as the sex scenes are not raunchy, but they certainly are close to erotic in nature. I love Christine Feehan's books and Burning Wild no exception. Like the bodice rippers I've been known to consume like a candy bar, I would take the cover off of this one before I read it in public. Steve noticed the studly man with rock hard abs covered in leopard print and I just smiled and said it was about a group of leopard people! It really is, but more of a romance than a study in how a human can become a leopard. Of course, the male falls in love with the woman who is caring for his son and .... well, you know how the story goes. I am addicted to her series. I did not realize there was a Leopard Series, with this being the second title, but I will find a copy of Wild Rain now that I've read the second one. My favorite series of Feehan's is The Drake Sister Series - 7 sisters who each have their own unique power, and of course fall in love with men after a love/hate relationship. I always say my inner child/teen is alive and well due to the amount of youth literature I read, but I admit when I step out of the youth literature arena, I need to just ready some "beach reads" for awhile. All of the above are going to Half Price today so I can see what other Feehan titles I can find. No point in trying to read any children's or YA while recuperating from knee surgery as I won't remember what I read anyway. I need to call the doc to reschedule on Monday - thought it was going to be Weds. but has to be postponed for 2 weeks as I have to be off the fibro fog meds. for 2 weeks before they'll put me under. Guess it can mess with heart rate. Not something I want to deal with! That's it for today. Need to get back to grading. I am teaching 3 classes this summer and it is about killing me.