Saturday, April 17, 2010

A beautiful Saturday and instead of curled up reading in the yard swing I've spent it hobbling around doing laundry as poor Steve has walking pneumonia. A trip to the Kroger clinic and a bad diagnosis - allergies - so by the time he went in to the regular GP he was very sick. Poor guy is covered with blankets and/0r sweating and sounds like he is coughing his lungs up. I've been washing loads of mattress pads, sheets and towels. The doc said it would get worse before it got better and that sure has been the case. I've been popping my vitamins and praying I don't catch it. That's the last thing I need!

Although the appointment isn't until June 1st, I am delighted that my fibromyalgia doc at Vandy got me in to the Vandy neurologist who also has a background with immunology. If she can figure out what is causing this 24/7 headache I'll be one happy camper. I have honestly forgotten what it is like not to have a headache. Perhaps an accurate diagnosis will also explain the elevated heart rate so I won't be so tired. I still think the headache has something to do with the fall down the stairs in Denver as I've never had a headache like this one before. Once they figure this out I can have the knee surgery and start walking as exercise again. I miss being active.

Talked to Mary today. She is recuperating from surgery and has actually had time to read. Her babysitter brought her the Twilight series and she loved it. She acknowledged it got a bit overdone and Bella's too whiny at times but Mary has always love vampire books. She's been reading Feehan's Carpathian Dark vampire series. I've not gotten into it yet but love Feehan's spicy paranormal romance series, The Drake Sisters, The Leopard Series, and the Ghostwalkers series. Half Price Books had a copy of The Only One, , a novella trilogy by Christine Feehan, Susan Grant, and Susan Squires in the $1 rack so, of course, I had to buy it. The Feehan entry Dark Descent is really good. I see why Mary likes these vampire books. I was not impressed with Grant's The Star Queen as I am not a big futuristic/dystopian romance reader. But I was intrigued by Susan Squire's Sacrilege, also a vampire entry. I may just have to look into her books as well. So many books, so little time!! These are my bathtub or vacation books so I buy paperbacks in case I drop them, which I often do, in the water or can leave them behind for someone else to read when I finish them on a plane or by the pool.

I have read all the books but not seen any of the Twilight movies. Even with staying out of the "craze" I realized very quickly that Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is one to offer to the Team Jacob girls. I have an advance reading copy of Linger,, the sequel, to review but I have had so many of my YA literature students booktalk Shiver this semester that I knew I had to read it first. And, it is good! Very well written - the imagery and the sensations are so well described that you can almost feel the coarseness of Sam's fur when Grace buries her hand in it. And, feel his fear as the cold sets into his bones and he fears morphing into his wolf form in front of Grace. Is this love or obsession? Or, is there a difference? I am about a third of the way through and I have page markers galore so I can go back and read passages. I love Grace's practicality when it comes to others assuming someone takes after their parents. "It seemed you ought to pick the sort of person you would be, no matter what your parents are like." It's a good thing she feels that way as her parents are self absorbed with their professional lives and she pretty much takes care of herself. Being home alone leaves her plenty of time to watch for her wolf - the one with the yellow eyes who stopped the other wolves from tearing her apart when she was a child. She knows those eyes so well that she recognizes them on the naked boy curled up against the patio doors as the wolf who saved her. He was shot by vigilante hunters after the wolves who killed (or so they thought) the son of the wealthiest family in town. A superb book - so much better written than the Meyer's books. A great companion novel to the best YA werewolf book ever written, Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause about a female werewolf. Klause has also written one of the best YA vampire romances, The Silver Kiss Check out the paperback reprint - black background with two red leaves - to draw the eye of the Twilight series readers. Another great YA vampire title is Vivian Vande Velde's Companions of the Night I am hoping this vampire craze will introduce teen readers to the well written vampire/werewolf romances.

I've been a Neal Shusterman fan every since I read Downsiders - a wonderful fantasy about a society of people who have lived for generations underneath New York City in the subterranean tunnels built in the 1860s. They only come Topside at night, when they need something they do not have Downside. Talon ventures Topside to steal antibiotics for his very sick little sister and encounters Lindsay, a lonely teenage girl who is willing to help him. Their friendship blossoms and Talon does the forbidden - taking a Topsider into their world. An superb book that creates a world that is incredibly believable. And, that is what is essential - the suspension of disbelief - so that the author created world becomes real to the reader. Shusterman is a master at creating these worlds. So I entered the world of teenage Brewster without any reservations in Shusterman's newest title, Bruiser. It won't be out until late June but put it on your purchase orders now. Imagine what it would be like to fear caring about anyone because if you do, the emotional and physical pain inflicted on those you love occur to you. Their bruises appear on your body and their heartache causes you to sob, while they feel just fine. This is Brewster's world - he is an outcast at school because of his odd behavior. He is emotionally safe other than suffering his uncle's and brother's injuries until teen Bronte takes him on as her latest "rescuing a stray" case. Brewster doesn't stand a chance when he begins to care about Bronte and her unusual family. This is a beautifully written but heartbreaking novel.

Of course, I have to introduce at least one cool children's title. I have my eye out for new authors and flip open review books to check on the credentials of the authors even before I read the book blurb. Tannis Bill, the author of Pika: Life in the Rocks has taught elementary school for 19 years and has training in early reading intervention. I had hamsters as pets when I was a kid so Jim Jacobson's photograph of an adorable pika (looks like a hamster) on the cover got my attention. Bill's simple yet informative text and Jacobson's close up photographs of this cousin to the rabbit little critter will delight young animal lovers. A glossary of vocabulary words related to the pika as well as additional information about pikas' habitats and other resources make this Boyds Mills Press title a great addition to any primary school collection.

That's it for me tonight. I am watching a very creepy Hitchcock movie - Strangers on a Train as I type this. It based on Patricia Highsmith's classic novel of obsession. The screen adaption is written in part by Raymond Chandler. That name should sound familiar as he created the private detective Philip Marlowe from books like The Big Sleep He is right up there with Dashiell Hammett as a "father of noir". I love Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon but he is much better looking and a much bigger guy than Humphrey Bogart in the classic movie version But the movie version of The Thin Man got it just right with William Powell as Nick Charles. I love this series of old b/w movies. There is nothing that tickles my fancy more than Nick shooting a pop-gun between his slippered feet on Christmas morning - pinging glass ornaments from their Christmas tree, as full of tinsel as the trees I helped decorate as a child.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter weekend was beautiful here in Lexington. I was feeling a bit blue as I didn't get to see the grandkids dive into their Easter baskets of candy. And, clearly from this picture, I also missed out on sitting on the Easter Bunny's lap! And, as you can see Mary's family has expanded by one - a very large one! Zoey, a St. Bernard puppy, became the newest Quade family member when the elderly fellow who bought him could not take care of an exuberant puppy by himself. So, Zoey found a very active, loving home with two little ones climbing all over her. Mary seems smitten with her and loves to take walks with Zoey and Michael. Michael is still a bit uneasy around Zoey as he scares easily as many Asperger kids do. I read an article about a service dog brought into a family with two autistic children and how they both calmed down due to the dog's presence. I hope that would be the case with Michael and perhaps it still will be, with time. I also read an article in the latest Rolling Stone magazine, "The Surfing Savant" about Clay Marzo, a Aspie who can read a wave better than the top world rated adult surfers, but he lacks the social skills and coping strategies that would allow him to be in the midst of all the surfers at competitions and events. He is happiest surfing his Maui waves and being with his girlfriend. As I read this article I so felt for his family as I do for Mary and Scott as they figure out ways to help Michael. Like Clay, I believe in my heart of hearts that Michael will discover what he excels at and this will help him deal with all of the things in life that he does not handle well. When Michael is interested in something he can focus for extended lengths of time. He has a fascination with anything train related and he spends hours with his trains and tracks. And I was very impressed with how long he can spend on homework. I am not impressed with the amount of homework being sent home with a First grader - it is just crazy. When do these kids get to be kids and how many parents having the time in the evening that Mary takes to sit down with Michael and complete the assignments?

We just got back from a quick lunch. It is a beautiful but breezy day so a ride in Steve's car with the top down was heavenly. I spend so much time inside I sometimes feel like a mole. But, I do have two large windows in my office that look out over a very pretty green space so I can't complain too loudly. However, I can complain very loudly over the lack of doctors who will take worker's compensation patients. I am still dealing with the 24/7 headache since the fall down the stairs in Denver at ALA Midwinter last winter. After the trip to the ER room and the scare over a CT scan showing a possible skull lesion being cancerous I went to yet another neurologist and he is just "fishing" for a medicine fix. Two medications later - one made the headaches worse and other made me swell up like a beach ball - I am resigned to just waiting it out until the June 21st appointment with the UK neurologist. No one seems to know what the cause of the headache or the elevated heart rate is but I suspect the heart rate is high in part because I am dealing with the pain as best I can. To make matters worse the orthopedic surgeon won't schedule the knee surgery until there are some answers to the headache and elevated heart rate so I am dealing with that as well. No darn wonder people get upset about our health care system. We have good insurance and still can't get into specialists as there aren't enough to go around.

When the headache won't let me spend anymore time on the computer I will lay down and listen to books with lights out and just finished up Angel's Rest by Charles Davis which is set in Virginia's Allegheny Mountains. A father returns to his childhood home with his children and all of the memories return, even the fact that he cannot use his birth name or acknowledge who he really is - a man who was there when his father was accidentally killed when he was 11 years old. His mother took the blame for what clearly was not a self-inflicted gunshot wound as the dying father begged them to claim when the police arrived. No lawyer, even the big shot one who lived in the biggest house in town, could save her. Charlie repressed the memory of what really happened that day and he believe for a time that his mother did shoot his father and is very angry with her. When she is taken away to jail, the old black man who spent his days sitting in Charlie's father's shop downtown, takes over the care of young Charlie. Lacy has lived through an attempted lynching and is very aware that Charlie's grandfather was involved in this race hate-filled crime. Like Charlie's mother, Lacy did not want this impressionable young boy put in custody of his grandparents. The wild card is Hollis Thrasher, the emotionally and physically wounded Korean War vet, who returns to Angel's Rest to break Charlie's mother out of jail. The three run as far as they can North and take over the care of a lighthouse in a remote area. Here, Charlie's memory of the day his father died returns and he begins to understand the sacrifices his mother, Lacy and Hollis Thrasher made to save him. This debut novel is heartbreaking and even more so when listened to as the raw grief felt by the characters is even more intense when heard. The main character may be an 11-year-old boy but this is not a children's or YA book, though I am sure there are older teens who may enjoy it.
Excuse me if I already wrote about Sarwat Chadda's Devil's Kiss but I came across this fascinating YA novel again as I was going through my shelves of advanced reading copies I'd read. I wanted to see what the final cover at would look like as the advanced copy is just a black cover with red text - not very appealing. The final cover art shows a young woman with a sword in her hand. Though I cannot imagine 15-year-old Bilqis SanGreal actually wearing a wispy white dress like the one on the cover, the sword does fit. Know as Billi, this teen knows her life will never be spent hanging out with other girls in the mall. She is the daughter of a Templar Knight and she too will become a Templar. Her time is spent in weaponry training and learning the obscure history of the Templars. But, she is still at teenage girl with raging hormones that come to live when she meets the mysterious Michael. Little does she know but she is attracted to none other than the Angel of Death. The battle rages to save the souls of innocents as Michael unleashes the unholiest of creatures to destroy the Templars and the world as they have vowed to protect. This is a superb debut novel and one that will get the attention of the myriad horror and paranormal romance readers as Billi also has discovered her attraction to Kay, a childhood friend who will also have a role in defeating the Angel of Death. This is supposed to be the first book in a series so I am sure I am not alone in impatiently waiting for the 2nd book in the series to see what Billi gets herself into next.
That's it for today - back to email and grading.