Archive | October, 2015

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

18 Oct

A lot of teen books deal with suicide: either characters have suicidal feelings or they are dealing with the aftermath of the suicide of someone close to them. I just finished listening to I Was Here by Gayle Forman, which falls into the latter category.


Publisher’s Summary: When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

It took me a while to warm up to Cody. She hasn’t had the soft life of some of Forman’s other protagonists. She is the only child of a single mother who is not very maternal, so has grown up tough and a bit prickly on the outside. She is, however, maybe more realistic that some of Forman’s other characters. because of her situation, there isn’t money for her to go away to school. She has to work after graduation and take classes at the local community college as she can afford them. Her dream of going to university in Seattle is a bust. But she’s making do. Meg’s suicide is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It turns her world upside down, but it eventually gives her the fortitude to take action.

Happy I Love Yarn Day!

17 Oct


It is a rainy Saturday in Portland, a hot bed of knitting, so it is a perfect place to celebrate I Love Yarn Day. I have several yarns stashes around my house, but this is my display stash


Literature’s most famous knitter is probably Madame Defarge   from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.


There are other books where knitting plays an important role. The first that comes to mind is Knit Your Bit  by Portland’s own Deborah Hopkinson.


I met Deborah at the 2013 Rose City Yarn Crawl and got my copy signed.

Publisher’s Summary: Mikey’s dad has left home to fight overseas during World War I, and Mikey wants to do something BIG to help. When his teacher suggests that the class participate in a knitting bee in Central Park to knit clothing for the troops, Mikey and his friends roll their eyes—knitting is for girls! But when the girls turn it into a competition, the boys just have to meet the challenge.
Based on a real “Knit-In” event at Central Park in 1918, Knit Your Bit shows readers that making a lasting contribution is as easy as trying something new!

Older readers will enjoy Boys Don’t Knit by T. E. Easton.


Publisher’s Summary: After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletcher must develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father’s mechanic class) with the impression that it’s taught by the hot teacher all the boys like. Turns out, it’s not. Perfect.

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to discover he’s a natural knitter, maybe even great. It also helps ease his anxiety and worrying. The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father. What a tangled web Ben has weaved . . . or knitted.

Last Saturday, I started my Christmas knitting. I can’t post a picture in case the recipient sees this post. Just know, I will be celebration I Love Yarn Day in a very appropriate manner.

An insanely great book: #GNCelebration

15 Oct

Several years ago I read Karen Blumenthal’s Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different. I almost didn’t finish the book because I found Jobs so off-putting. 

I was a little nervous when I picked up Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland,


expecting to feel the same anger and irritation at Jobs. Although Hartland talks about Jobs’ difficult relationships with people, I  enjoyed this graphic biography immensely.

The text really focuses on Jobs as an innovator and reveals his innovations by repeating the book’s  subtitle: “insanely great”.


The book follows Jobs’ life in chronological order, but pages are arranged creatively, sometimes with two or three cells per page, sometimes with only one. Hartland’s simple  black & white line drawings make his life interesting and even entertaining.

One of the real strengths of the book is that it does not assume readers know about the technologies that predated personal computers. One and two-page spreads explain “old” technology like arcade games, the history of the computer and how records had to be played on record players. All this is cleverly tied into Jobs’ great desire to make technology better and more beautiful. The overall impression I have from this book is that, for good or ill, Steve Jobs was a man who had a vision and would do whatever it took to implement it. You might not admire his style, but it certainly left me admiring his tenacity in adhering to his ideals.

This graphic biography would be a great introduction to the life of Steve Jobs. It also includes a bibliography in case readers want to learn more about the Apple co-founder.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please check out the other graphic novels recommended during October’s Graphic Novel Celebration.



A Wild Life

14 Oct

My niece Rachel was about 18 months old when the May 1979 National Geographic featured Jane Goodall’s article “Life and Death at Gombe“. Rachel would grab me by the hand, lead me into the living room and pick up that magazine so we could look at the pictures of the chimps. We didn’t call them chimps; to her they were monkeys. As we read it I loved asking her “What does a monkey say?” and she would scrunch up her little face, hunch her shoulders and say “OO-OO-OO.”

This was long before Jane Goodall became the world-famous messenger of peace. At this point she was simply jane Goodall, primatologist.

So, when I was ALA and saw that Anita Silvey would be signing free copies of her biography of Goodall, I waited in line for my turn. The book, Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, was certainly worth the wait.


First, it is full of pictures like the ones my niece loved, but also those of Jane’s childhood and her life beyond Gombe. The text is written in a highly engaging and informative style that young naturalists will enjoy.  Ample sidebars provide information about people and books that influenced Goodall, significant animals in her life, the people she has influenced and the organizations she is involved with. Unexpected, but interesting tips for kids who want a career with animals and  new technology for scientists in the field, help connect Goodall’s work directly to readers’ lives. Back matter includes a timeline, chimp facts, a Gombe family scrapbook, a bibliography and index.

This is an excellent book for research, or for those wanting just to browse through its stunning photos.

In and out of fashion: A Slice of Life Story

13 Oct


What’s a girl to wear?

Poor Fiona had surgery last Tuesday to remove two rather large fatty tumors that were protruding from her chest and dangling like two sweater puppies, if you catch my meaning. At her age, 14, I wouldn’t have considered the surgery but for the fact that they drooped off her chest so far that one was getting perilously close to the ground. I feared if I did nothing, those low hanging fruit would eventually begin dragging along the ground, becoming infected, unless I found a bra to fit her Rubenesque physique.


Fiona, age 7 (2008)

When I picked her up after the surgery, she was wrapped in a sleeveless sweatshirt that was tied up in two places in topknots held together with stretch bandaging. The location of the staples, about 50 in total, was such that the cone of shame could be avoided, but, she still needed to keep her wounds covered.

I had reached out earlier to the online basset hound community asking for advice. I got several good answers, the best seemed to be children’s undershirts. I’d picked up some cute little girl’s camis thinking they would be perfect.Colossal failure. Even though I tried them frontwards and backwards, they fit not cover the staples.  I tried cutting the straps and tying them better cover the incisions, but this, too, failed. So I fashioned a covering out of one of my t-shirts.


This required a large knot at the back, and pinned sleeves, but it worked. The next shirt was a much better color for Fiona.It, too required a knot and sleeve pinning, but it brought out the color in her fur that is much grayer than it used to be.


I finally found the perfect solution: boys small undershirts. The sleeves need no pinning. The middle is still a little big, but that problem can be easily resolved with a few more pins.


Fortunately, Fiona has been a good sport about wearing the shirts. Even so, I;m not planning on getting her a Hallowe’en costume.

A trip to Ancient Rome

12 Oct

Jennifer A. Nielsen has a new series and the first book is entitled The Mark of the Thief.


Nic is a Gaulish slave in mines in Ancient Rome. Temperamentally, he is much like Sage, the protagonist of Nielsen’s Ascendance  series: a cocky underdog. In some ways the story felt very similar to that series, just transplanted to a new location.

This novel felt more erratic that the previous series, with one action packed dilemma after another. The biggest differences are the location and the incision of magic.

Publisher’s Summary:When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods — magic some Romans would kill for.

Now, with the deadly power of the bulla pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic’s newfound powers for their own dark purposes.

In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome, and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire’s most powerful and savage leaders.

I don’t know if I will read the next novel in the series when it comes out next year. I think this series will be for ardent fans of Nielsen’s first series.


10 Oct

An amazing top 10!

Nerdy Book Club

There comes a time in every character’s life when they are at a crossroad. They must face the simple, honest truths about life and how to live it, but often times they need the insight, advice and guidance from a friend, parent or stranger to help them choose their own destiny. Whether or not they listen to this lesson is their decision, but we, as readers on the sideline, implore them to follow or even sometimes abandon the advice given.

Within these moments of every novel, we learn about others, the world and most importantly ourselves. It is within these moments we connect to books, to characters, and to moments in our own lives when we needed to hear those words. And because of those moments, we keep those words close to our hearts because no one knows what the future holds. Someday we may need Mr. Browne from Wonder

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