Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'll be out on medical leave for Fall semester so my postings here will be limited to none. I am using to post books as it much easier for me. If you can't find me, and want to follow what I'm reading and have read, email me at and I'll friend you on You need to join if you don't already belong to to see what I've read. You can also find me on Facebook. Take care everyone, and happy reading! :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just a quick posting to let you all know that I am sorry I haven't done any posting for quite some time. Been quite ill and am taking the summer off from teaching to try to get back on my feet again. The grandkids have been to visit, which is good for the soul, but tiring for the body! They may no longer nap, but Gramma does. I finally joined Facebook so you can find me on there as well as GoodReads. That's were I've been posting what I've been reading. Quick and easy compared to here. Take care all!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Steve is trying to fix the mess I made on the other computer so I can't access a picture to add to this posting. Never download free anti-virus software 30 day trials is what I learned. The pop-up screen wanting me to purchase it is in an infinite loop and won't let me access a web site! Growl!!

I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend. Steve took me out to lunch on Saturday instead, which is good as he was worshipping the porcelain goddess on Sunday due to some short term bug or something he ate. Couldn't been too bad as he wanted meat loaf for dinner! He also gave me the coolest "picture tree" that you hang small photographs on to help me keep my family memories alive. Very cool! Once I find the top of my desk again I'll ask him to set up the photo printer so I can start filling those little frames up. I am also going to scan in a bunch of pictures my mom gave me and one of Mic and Mary when they were kids. Then I'll have them to look at whenever I want without hauling out the boxes.

We chilled at home yesterday and watched the sub-titled version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which was wonderful. But, you can't do anything but watch closely when a movie is subtitled as you'll miss something. What a beautiful stark area the movie was filmed in. Reminded me a lot of back home, especially the cold! It's funny - I never had any desire to read the book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (might be the very unattractive cover) but now that I've seen the movie I'd like too. Steve read it and didn't care for it but he did appear to like the movie. I kept asking him what was going on so I think those who have read the book have a much better idea of what is left unsaid in the movie version. After watching this version I don't know how I'll respond to the U.S. version of it. Should be interesting to compare them. I just read the short synopsis for the other two Swedish movies and would like to see them as well. Who knows, maybe I'll end up reading all three books. I've certainly heard enough people rave about them.

Speaking of raving about a book. I can't say enough good things about David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle Yeah - I'm a little late on this one as it is a 2008 debut novel, but I couldn't resist it on the Broward Regional Library book sale table when I saw it was set in Northern Wisconsin and mentioned towns I knew. I started reading it and basically spent every free moment with Edgar. It is one of those books you both savor and devour at the same time. You find yourself going back to read the beautifully descriptive passages yet barnstorming you way through it as you just have to find out what happens to this mute young teen who says more with his hands and his eyes than most people could ever dream of saying with words. Beloved by his mother and father, Edgar is raised on a rural dog breeding farm where the dogs are treated better than many people are elsewhere. The family's life revolves around breeding and training the legendary Sawtelle dogs that sell for well over $1000. They aren't any purebred, but through the years Edgar's grandfather and father have breed healthy, intelligent dogs that can be trained to do things many dogs will never be able to do. I have to admit, I wanted to skip over all the dog details to get to the good stuff - the dynamics of this unique family - but it is well worth slowing down and reading the details as they enrich the remainder of the book as the dogs are as rich, unique characters as the humans are.

As I set down The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, that did not end the way I expected it to, I realized had I not been browsing a table of $2 hardbacks at a library book sale I would have never read this book. The time spend browsing and serendipitously finding a treasure like this one is priceless. I wish we allowed our children and teens the pleasure of browsing libraries, book stores, etc. for treasure like this. No AR points involved, no preconceived notions of what they want to find, just browsing for a good book to curl up with.

A delayed treat after the Spring semester was put to bed was opening a box of Scholastic books. I found myself laughing aloud at Craig Smith's The Wonky Donky. This is a very cheap little paperback but worth every penny as I am sure it will be a story time and bedtime favorite if it isn't already as it was initially published in 2009. The illustrations by Katz Cowley are as funny, or funnier, than the text. It is a cumulative tale about a three legged donkey with one eye, who stinks, etc. My favorite double page spread is "I was walking down the road and I saw a donkey,
Hee Haw! He only had three legs, one eye... and he liked to listen to country music. Yee Haw! He was a honky-tonky, winky wonky donkey." The illustration of the yellow toothed, grinning donkey in a cowboy hat and a bolo tie with a guitar on it will bring a smile, if not cause a chuckle for any reader. There is a little funky looking yellow bird on each page and he's flat on his back as "he [the donkey] smelt really bad. He was a stinky-dinky..." You get the picture. Little ones will be "reading" this one on their own after a few read alouds. Cumulative tales are perfect for read alouds for this reason. The repetition is essential.

That's it for today. Steve is still working on the computer. Apparently there is a virus on it, smarter than the virus software already on it. Groan! He's going between computers and printing out directions to purge it. Thank goodness I am married to an IT guru!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

We forgot poor McKinley and Kegan's sunglasses when we went out in the boat and moving they had to squint the whole time. But, they did get to see one alligator. It was a cloudy day so there weren't a bunch of them sunning themselves. I had Kegan in my lap so I wasn't worried about them falling in but I can't imagine what it would be like to get lost in those canals amongst the weeds and dead trees. We have a note by the gate with the alligator catcher's name and phone # as it is gator mating season and I guess more of them come out this time of year. We've not seen any in our part of the canal but it is really shallow right now - more weeds than water. We need rain!!

The Internet was down this morning and I was up at 4 a.m. so I wrote the below fairly long blog entry:

My morning routine is off because our Internet access is down. We just don’t realize how much of what we do is dependent upon access to the Internet until we can’t use it. My early morning hours are for answering email, finishing up end of semester details, checking grades, etc. I’ve tried every way I know to bring it up but will have to wait until “IT Guru Steve” wakes up to fix it. Only a few more days to go and the Spring semester is over. And, I am taking the summer off from teaching. Yahoo!! I can sleep until my body says it has had enough – if that is possible. And float in the pool on the blow-up chair that floats back and forth, looking lonely right now!

How early my morning starts depends upon when the cat wants out and how badly my achy body wants out of bed – usually about the same time every morning – between 4 and 5 a.m. Groan! I so fondly remember the days of being a night owl and sleeping in until 10:00 in the morning and then “rushing” to get ready to leave for the office to do afternoon office hours and teach evening classes. 2:00 a.m. was not an uncommon bedtime back then. I’m not really a lark either, as I typically go back to bed when Steve gets up and sleep for a few more hours in the morning. Then it’s doc’s appointments or other stuff and another nap, dinner, and bed. It is a good thing Sophie and I aren’t competing for the same space on the bed! I’m looking at yet another neck surgery on May 10th. Let’s hope this one works!

My morning routine is off because our Internet access is down. We just don’t realize how much of what we do is dependent upon access to the Internet until we can’t use it. My early morning hours are for answering email, finishing up end of semester details, checking grades, etc. I’ve tried every way I know to bring it up but will have to wait until “IT Guru Steve” wakes up to fix it. Only a few more days to go and the Spring semester is over. And, I am taking the summer off from teaching. Yahoo!! I can sleep until my body says it has had enough – if that is possible. And float in the pool on the blow-up chair that floats back and forth, looking lonely right now!

How early my morning starts depends upon when the cat wants out and how badly my achy body wants out of bed – usually about the same time every morning – between 4 and 5 a.m. Groan! I so fondly remember the days of being a night owl and sleeping in until 10:00 in the morning and then “rushing” to get ready to leave for the office to do afternoon office hours and teach evening classes. I’m not really a lark either, as I typically go back to bed when Steve gets up and sleep for a few more hours in the morning. Then it’s doc’s appointments or other stuff and then another nap, dinner and bed. It is a good thing Sophie and I aren’t competing for the same space on the bed! I’m looking at yet another neck surgery on May 10th. Let’s hope this one works!

For those of you who have followed this blog for awhile, you’ll know Alex (Alexandra) Flinn is one of my all time favorite YA authors. I fell in love with Breathing Underwater and have read everything she’s written since then. We’ve been going back and forth via email lately as I recently read Cloaked and she let me know that, on May 20, Breathing Underwater comes out with a new cover and UPDATED CONTENT (e.g., no references to pagers, Beanie Babies, etc.). It will be 10 years old on April 24. It is amazing to think I have been using Alex’s books as required reading for 10 years in my YA literature course. Breathing Underwater has been discussed, booktalked, and contemplated the most of any of her books used in class, though they have all been booktalked many times. The background of the teenage male abuser in Breathing Underwater is a point of view we don’t often see and it opens more than a few eyes of teenage guys. And girls for that matter. I am delighted that it has been updated and a new edition will soon be available to teen readers. For those of you with older copies in your collections, now is the chance to replace it and booktalk it with your teens.

Now, back to Cloaked. Steve and I have had more than few strolls and meals along the legendary South Beach main drag and have seen some pretty bizarre and extraordinary things, but we’ve never seen an international celebrity princess in search of her brother who has been turned into a frog! In case you haven’t figure it out – this is a modern fairy tale retelling, but the cool part is, Flinn has merged several of the lesser known tales into a fast paced, laugh aloud fun romp from South Beach to the Florida Keys. I have often felt like a pauper among the wealthy when in South Beach, but imagine being a lowly shoe repair guy whose main fear is to make enough money so that the power in the apartment he shares with his mother is not turned off. Taunted by the good looking lifeguard, but friends with the coffee shop girl, seventeen-year-old Johnny just keeps plugging along repairing the shoes of frazzled businessmen and replacing heels on the stilettos of the fashionistas. And, when no one is looking, he is designing women's shoes that he figures will never see the light of day. But that is all about to change when Princess Vicky sets her sights on Johnny as the person who can help her find her brother and break the curse. Before long, coffee shop Meg, who is more than she appears to be, is involved and a race against time and foreign gangster-types have the teens using every resource available, including magic, of course. Flinn delightfully weaves 7 lesser known tales into a contemporary setting for a completely satisfying tale. She concludes with an author’s note that offers a bit of insight into each tale. I hope Cloaked will open the door for teens to seek out the original versions of the tales as folk and fairy tales are storytelling at its very best and a resource to be tapped by bringing them back to life via retellings. This is Flinn’s third fairy tale retelling and if you’ve not read Beastly (yes – it’s the one the movie is based on and this is the link to the movie tie-in paperback) and A Kiss in Time, you are missing out on two other delight tales. Alex told me – “My next will be a novel about Kendra (from Beastly) and her escapades, called Bewitching. It comes out winter, 2012.” I will be one of the first ones to read it!

Remember those ugly, slick covered biographies of presidents we all had on our library shelves that the students refused to even open unless they had to do a report? How about spending money on a family biography that will pique their interest instead? In the style of Russell Freedman, Harold Holzer brings the Lincoln family to life through descriptive text that focuses on the antics of the Lincoln boys and the family intrigue and, even better, is accompanied by well captioned archival photographs of the family and the time period and art reproductions. Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Son by Harold Holzer is a must have for every Elementary and MS library. I would even add it to the collection of most HS libraries as it so accessible to the resistant/reluctant teen reader.

Most of the time I prefer animal books with color photographs but the paintings by W. Allan Hancock in Amazing Animals: The Remarkable Things That Creatures Do written by Margriet Ruurs had me curled up exploring every illustration before I even read any of the text. The cheetah on the front cover grabbed my attention and when I flipped open the book I hit the page with the western diamondback rattlesnake and the artwork is so realistic I pulled my hand back from the page! Did you know that it uses the rattles, which form when it sheds its skin, to communicate with other rattlesnakes, not just to warn us to stay away? The short informative entries for each creature(bird, reptile, insect, mammal, fish, marsupial, etc.) in sections broken up by Size and Strength, Reproduction, Communication, Homebuilding, Migration and Navigation, Diet, Hunting, and Defense will fascinate readers both young and old. I can honestly say I’ve learned more about unique and well known animals, from this book than any other I’ve read as of late. Picture book style NF books are superb for introducing any topic to any age group. For example, it is good to know that a skunk can squirt its musk up to 20 feet away! If Tundra Books is not one of the publishers of NF books you look at regularly when doing collection development, add it to your review list. There is indeed a Canadian focus, but the books are well written and illustrated and always add elements not seen in other books of their kind.

With summer drives quickly upon us there are myriad children’s books to listen to, but for the adult crowd with no kids in the car I’ve a couple you may want to explore. My husband is not a fan of audiobooks but I do think he would have listened to John Grogan’s Life is Like a Sailboat: Selected Writings on Life and Living from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The topics cover everything imaginable and cause the listener to pause and think and to chuckle. He often goes for the heart strings or hits you in the gut and you can’t stop listening. These are stories about real people, including himself and his family. To add to the enjoyment, John Larroquette is the narrator. This is one I’d give to the male road warrior.

And for those of you who grew up on One Day at a Time, you know who Mackenzie Phillips is. I listened to her matter of fact narration of her autobiography High on Arrival. If you think she was a bad girl as Julie Cooper in this 1970s sitcom, she was an angel compared to her real life of drugs, sex, and a less than acceptable relationship with her father. She doesn’t pull any punches discussing her addictions or her wrong choices in life and although I did not enjoy listening to her describe a life that was so out of control it seemed unreal, I couldn’t stop listening. Would I have picked it up on sale at Barnes and Noble if I had not seen her on the Today Show? Probably not as I am a Valerie Bertinelli fan, but if you want to engage in tough love – give this one to the older teen or young adult who thinks drugs and alcohol are “harmless”! So many wasted years for such a talented woman.

This is an entry that has been worked on through time but I have a hard time editing myself so please excuse my typos and other types of errors.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Good Friday to one and all. The schools are pretty much out around here so there were families everywhere when we took time off from our computers to go out to lunch at the new Mexican place in town, Lime. A cute little cafeteria type place where you order and they bring it out to you. Lots of food and good food too at a reasonable price. Their sign says, “So Mexican we can’t open in Arizona!” Steve took a picture of it to send to a friend in AZ. We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful breezy day while we ate.

I was outside by the canal this morning finishing up a book I’ll write about in a moment and I paused to just quietly say thanks for the beauty of the area we live in. I was laying my head back on the chair and looking up into the canopy of cypress trees I was sitting under and thought I saw our cat asleep way up in a crook of the truck and a large branch. Thank goodness it was not Sophie, but a napping raccoon. I went in to get the binoculars and Steve to come look too. The raccoon was sprawled across the branches sleeping and opened his eyes long enough to look down at us and yawn and went back to sleep. Reminded me so much of Sophie when her nap is being interrupted, but lots bigger incisors! There was also a squirrel having a late breakfast of green coconut in the palm tree next to him. At one point while I was watching the squirrel he put his tail across his back so that he looked like Stripe from the old Gremlins movie. I laughed aloud and I swear he looked down at me and bared his teeth in a grin! If one sits back and watches nature around us it is astonishing. Sadly, I’ve really not done that much in my life. I’ve been too busy doing everything else to slow down and enjoy it. Perhaps there is some “goodness” to be found out of the health issues I am experiencing that have forced me to slow down. At least I am trying to view it that way, especially when I am frustrated and want to do something and haven’t the energy to do it!

Okay – now to the book I was reading when I spotted the raccoon. I was vicariously on the California coast near Monterey rather than sitting in the backyard in South Florida as I was finishing up a wonderful mermaid tale. I have been enchanted with mermaid and selkie tales since I was a kid so when I opened a box of review books from Houghton Mifflin and there was L. K. Madigan’s The Mermaid’s Mirror I knew it was going on my “gotta read” shelf. Since I have stepped back from reviewing for VOYA or LMC for awhile and reading what I want, I have been focusing on fantasy and Christmas “stuff” – alternating between the two. Imagine being a teen drawn to water with a father who was once an avid surfer and who will not step foot into the water or let her learn to surf. His fear of going into the water is painfully evident, but the cause of it is something Lena has never learned. But when she turns 16 the draw of the ocean near their California beach town is too much for her and she finds herself awaking from sleep walking on the beach. It is as if the ocean is calling to her in her dreams. She can hear it singing to her. Her boyfriend and best friend surf and Lena watches them from the beach and sometimes swims, but never surfs. Or at least, until she can’t stand it anymore and accepts her boyfriend’s sister’s offer to teach her. Lena is a natural on a board. No surprise as she is instinctually at home in the to sea and can read waves without thinking about it. She discovers why her father will not go into the sea and how her mother died – both of which change her life forever. She takes the chance of surfing one of the most dangerous stretches of beach to find the mermaid she is sure she saw in the ocean days before and who is drawing her to the sea. Lena almost dies in her attempt to surf the waves at Magic Crest Cove but instead she staggers out of the water clutching the key to her future and her past. A beautifully done coming of age and romance. I didn’t want it to end.

For any of you who have been reading my blog for a long time, you know I am a major Audrey Hepburn fan so when Margaret Cardillo’s debut children’s book, Just Being Audrey, from HarperCollins arrived, I had to read it immediately. The delightful, mellow illustrations by Julia Denos bring Audrey’s impish beauty to life visually for the young girls who have no idea who Audrey Hepburn was but know the “look” even today. This graceful gazelle of a woman enchanted us from the moment we saw her on the screen and humbled us with her humanitarian efforts when she was no longer acting. Quirky, often self-conscious, but also stubborn and sure of what she wanted, Hepburn left an impact on the world such that I am delighted to see her life introduced via a picture book. Perhaps it will pique both the mothers reading the book and the daughters to find out more about her, especially her later in life work with UNICEF, the organization that was there at the end of WWII when she was a hungry child, hiding with her family and 40 other people. This one goes in my personal collection to be shared with my granddaughters and hopefully we’ll watch Hepburn movies together when they are older.

Lastly, my Easter time Christmas reading! Heather Graham’s Home in Time for Christmas caught my attention because of the time travel romance that reminded me of my favorite Jude Devereaux novel, A Knight in Shining Armor But, instead of a nobleman coming back through a time warp, in Heather Graham's delightful time travel romance it is a young Revolutionary War soldier and author who appears in the middle of the road as Melody is driving home to spend Christmas with her parents. He is dressed in Revolutionary War-era clothes and has no clue what a car is or where he is. Instead of taking the man she “softly” hit with her car to the ER, she takes him home for Christmas. As one would imagine, she falls in love with the man but there is a contemporary rival for her heart who she loves but is not in love with. The best part of this book is Melody’s quirky parents. Her mother is a Catholic Wiccan and her father is an avid inventor who periodically sets fire to his workshop! Once they realize Jake truly is from the past and he needs to get home for Christmas to check on his sister, they are in on figuring out how to open the time portal. What fun to ponder time travel. I never tire of reading books that address it.

Now, since this is supposed to be a day off, I am going float in the pool for awhile!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I had the third procedure done on my neck and I am having a reaction, again, to the oxygen during anesthesia. The first time I thought I had caught something at the hospital as I was really sick for three days after I got home. This time isn't quite as bad - I just feel like I have to sneeze 24/7 and when I do it is enough to take the roof off! My eyes are watering and my nose is running. The doc's office called today and they assured me it would settle down "in a day or two" and it happens to some people. Oh joy!

It may be April, but I am always in the Christmas spirit and found Sherryl Woods A Chesapeake Shores Christmas at Borders. Our local one went out of business last weekend and I stocked up on Christmas books and other fun stuff I wouldn't normally buy. What a sweet Christmas story about a large family with the grown siblings having concerns, especially the one who became a divorce lawyer, about their parents getting back together years after their mother left for New York. From what read in the introduction there are 3 previous titles about the O’Brien family in the Chesapeake Shores series and a new series to come about the son who became a divorce lawyer. It is his infant son who helps bring him around to supporting his parents’ remarriage. With all the horrible natural events and other bad news we hear and read on a daily basis, a sweet, quiet family story/romance like this one is just what one needs sometimes.

I may have already written about Awakened by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast, mother and daughter writing team. The House of Night is my all time favorite YA vampire series as it features a strong will female main character, Zoey, who is part Native American. You don’t see this kind of character in YA literature very often. Stevie Rae, her blonde haired, rural Okie sounding, best friend is a key character in some of the titles – this one as well. Stevie Rae's relationship with Rephaim, the Raven Mocker, has taken a turn for the better and even his father has stood up to the nasty Neferet, but I am sure her evil doings are far from over. This 8th book in the series is as interesting reading as the first one, even more so when I think about it as I’ve developed a character/reader relationship with the characters in the series and find myself thinking about them as “real people” – which is fine praise for a series about fledgling vampires and High Priestesses!

Most of us know at least one of the versions of the story of the kind and not so nice sisters who encounter a goddess, witch, etc. Heather Tomlinson’s Toads and Diamonds is version set in a fictional India – the Hundred Kingdom. Diribani meets the goddess at the well while on a trip for water and is blessed with speaking flowers and precious jewels. One would think this would be a wonderful gift, but like all people with wealth, she has to wonder - are they loved for who they are or what they have? What happens to Dirabani is opulent captivity. What stayed with me more so is the strength of the sister, Tana, whom the goddess blesses with speaking snakes and toads. Tana has the intellect to turn what appears to be a curse into a blessing of sorts, saving the kingdom and herself in the end. Tomlinson weaves a land that fascinated me as a reader and created strong female characters, though very different from teens of today, ones whom they may well see themselves in as they compare the sisters' responses in this magical kingdom to situations in their own lives.

I am hoping I get to blog some of the many books sitting here on my desk that I've read when I haven't been feeling well enough to do much else. I am actually taking the summer off from teaching to see if I can get back on healthier footing. I hope I'll catch up on some of the blogging of books and sleep until I cannot sleep anymore. I think I've become a cat - my body wants to sleep more hours than it is awake and when it is awake, it is weird hours of the day and night. Please excuse any wonky wording in these blogs. My brain seems to be doing weird things as well!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I I feel like a heel because I am getting Astro's Valentine card and picture up barely in time for Easter! For those you who didn't read the earlier posting - Astro is the delightful Steller Sea Lion in Jeanne Walker Harvey's book Astro The Steller Sea Lion that is beautifully illustrated by Shennen Bersani. Jeanne sent me the above pictures and I am sorry I didn't get them posted sooner. The woman is Erin Gibbons, Astro's trainer at the Mystic Aquarium. Such a cool book! Has a really fun to read section at the back called "For Creative Minds". Did you know that pinniped means flipper footed? It is amazing what you can learn from children's books! :-) Now, I'm going enjoy the Sunday paper and the NBC Sunday morning news.