Archive | December, 2016

Like A Hallmark Christmas Movie

30 Dec


This would have been a great read before Christmas, snuggled up under a blanket with a cup of cocoa on the table beside me. It is a Christmas romance, a little light, set in a Christmas tree lot.

Publisher’s Summary: Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

It was an ok book, but it  got me thinking about a couple of Hallmark holiday movies. The first one, from 2005, also involves a romance that springs from a Christmas tree lot.


IMDB Summary: Christy Byrne, a Christmas tree farmer, whose wife died four years ago, goes to New York with his children and meets Catherine O’Meara, whose husband died three years ago. Though their paths cross frequently, Catherine and Christy remain emotionally isolated until a compelling crisis draws them together and allows them to rediscover the faith, hope, and love of the Christmas season.

Catherine O’Meara is portrayed by Anne Heche plays who has quite a history in Hallmark holiday movies.

This year she stars in Looks Like Christmas.


IMDB Summary: Two single parents battle for control of the Christmas holiday at the middle school their children attend and learn a lesson about the meaning of Christmas.

Two years ago, we saw her in One Christmas Eve. 


IMDB Summary:A series of mishaps threaten a recently divorced mom’s attempts to make her two kids’ first Christmas “without dad” perfect.

Dark Days Make Me Happy

29 Dec

I love the gloom of a Pacific Northwest Winter. Grey skies just fill my soul with happiness. Don;t get me wrong. I enjoy some Winter sunshine, too, but I love the atmosphere of a grey sky: brooding and thoughtful. Perfect for staying at home.

While staying at home the last few days, I read The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman.


Publisher’s Summary:London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

This wonderful  blend of Regency romance and dark fantasy was the  perfect read after Christmas. I lost myself in the familiar historical setting and enjoyed the fantastic twists Goodman included. She has created a complex fantasy world without being onerous.

I’m not sure how I missed this one. It was published in January and I have only just heard about it. My timing, however, seems to have served me well. The sequel, The Dark Days Pact,  is due for publication on January 31, 2017, so I don’t have to wait long to find out what happens to Lady Helen following the climactic events at the end of the first book.


Reflecting on my 2016 OLW

27 Dec


My One Little Word for 2016 was contentment.  As I sit on my sofa, snuggled next to my dog, Lucy, sipping tea and listening to the radio, I exemplify my wishes for 2016. In January I wrote:

I am an introvert by nature and I think a lot of 2015 put me out of my comfort zone. I had to be more extroverted than I am by nature. I want to reclaim my introversion and just be happy with what I have, where I live and work. I am sure I will find something that will catch my fancy and will let it sweep me up, but for now, I am content with life and I just want to embrace that for a while.

2016 has let me be. There were no major catastrophes. No family or pet deaths, like there were in 2015. No job changes. I have had time to become a better 6th grade teacher and no longer feel like  the newbie at school. This unruffled year of contentment has allowed me to grow.

It is lovely to have vacation at the end of the year, but know that this little cocoon I have wrapped myself in since school let out will end soon. And I am ready for that. I am ready for what 2017 will bring and for my new OLW. I’ve been thinking about it, maybe too much. but I have an idea of the butterfly that will emerge from the cocoon of contentment.

Jólabókaflóð 2016

26 Dec


Another bookish Christmas…I should be Icelandic! Without further ado, here is the list of what I gave & what I got.


To my niece, a first year university student, I gave Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. 


My brother-in-law can be a tricky choice, but I thought a collection of Stanley Elkin Essays, Pieces of Soap, would be just the right thing.


I chose two for my twin sister:one for a birthday gift, one for Christmas. I like to get her a book with a connection to Oregon and something else that is just a good read, So I got her Cat Winter’s Yesternight  and Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett.

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To my teaching partner, who has just discovered steampunk, I gave  Arabella of Mars  by Portland author, David D. Levine.


I have a pretty little pile of books that I can hardly wait to dip into. My birthday book was the winner of the Giller Prize, the Man-Booker Prize and the Governor General’s AwardDo Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.


Two other Canadian novels round out my Jólabókaflóð. The first, The Night Stages,  is from  Jane Urquhart, an author I have long loved.


The second is from an author who is new to me, Saleema Nawaz.


I’d love to hear what books you gave & received this holiday season.



Happy birthday to we!

23 Dec

My sister and I turn 52 today. It makes me giggle to say this because, although my body has given me some trouble lately, my mind feels young. Maybe that is because I work with you people. Who knows. I don’t have a ton of pictures of myself as a tiny tot, but this is one of my sister and I with Mamère, our maternal French-Canadian grandmother.


She passed away not long after this and I have no memory of ever meeting her. There are very few shots of me smiling as little person.

highchair  swaddled

It surprises people to learn that I didn’t grow up surrounded by books. We went to the library and we had books in the house, but I wasn’t obsessed as a child the way I am now. I blame that on Mrs. Lew, the New Hamburg Children’s Librarian.

The year I was born, 1964, saw the publication of a few children’s books now considered classics.

Believe it or not, Flat Stanley, who is still being sent and photographed around the world, first appeared in 1964. He’s had many incarnations, but the story remains well-loved.

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Charlie and the Chocolate factory also appeared in 1964. It, too has seen many covers.

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Harriet the Spy has also evolved.

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Other books came out that year:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  by Ian Fleming


Across Five Aprils  by Irene Hunt


The Pushcart War  by Jean Merrill


The Giving Tree  by Shel Silverstein


Sequel? Companion? Excellent!

22 Dec


So, Gemina picks up about 5 minutes after ILLUMINAE ends. The book continues the story of the invasion of Kerenza IV, and clears up many things that seemed unanswered in the first book. This was as good, if not better than the first book, and I don’t say that often. Second books so often feel like a place holder, but this one really added to the bigger story. I am sad to say that, although the third book is due out in 2017, I fear it won’t be released until October, which is when the first two came out.

Publisher’s Summary:Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

My Trek Through Snowmageddon

20 Dec


As forecast, the snow started falling just after noon. At first, it didn’t stay and I was relieved. Maybe my afternoon commute wouldn’t be that bad, I thought hopefully.

And then it stayed and my anxiety began to rise. While my students discussed their book club novels, I checked the forecast and traffic reports. None of it looked good.

Sixth grade teachers have plan at the end of the day and we were all abuzz after the kids left for their last period class. By then, I had decided to leave my car at work and take public transportation home. One of my teaching partners lives near a transit center and he offered (was coerced?) into driving me there, once we could leave.

We’d received an email outlining that buses would be late, due to snow-caused gridlock. Walkers were to be dismissed first, parent pickups second and, once they were ton, bus students were to gather in the upper forum. All teachers were to meet there and help get kids organized.  Although it seemed chaotic at first, once students were sitting and reading or using a device, it was remarkably quiet.

“Teachers, I know some of you have kids at home or long commutes. If you can stay and help, we would appreciate it, but if you need to go home, go.” I caught the eye of the my driver and we made a beeline for our rooms to get our coats.

We turned left out of the parking lot and had gone less than a mile when we saw the first flashing lights at the intersection where we would have to turn. We decided to turn around and go for Plan B. What should have been a 15 minute drive to the transit center, took over an hour. Cars crept along on snow-covered roads that were getting slippery. My colleague and I breathed a sigh of relief as, near 5:30, we took the last right that would lead us to the transit center. The scene that greeted us was disheartening. Abandoned cars faced all directions up the small hill and a truck was almost sideways. We weren’t going that way.

“Turn around and drop me at the nearest bus stop,” I told my colleague. “Get yourself home and I will catch the next bus.” After I assured him I;d text when I was on a bus, He left me off at the nearby corner that had a bus shelter. I felt good. I had a plan and the bus would have chains.

There was a woman in the shelter when I got there. She had abandoned her car a mile away but was unsure how long she’d been waiting. We talked in the way stranded travelers do, but in her calls to her family, I could sense her anxiety rising. When a man stopped at the shelter to tell us no buses were coming because of the traffic, and that he had walked from 185th ( 3.2 miles, I later Googled) she seemed to lose hope. He was walking to the Transit Center, he said, but we would be waiting a long time in the shelter.That was enough for my shelter companion. She decided to walk back to her car and try again.

I was alone. And this is where my confidence faltered.  Did the man even know what he was taking about? Should I wait? Should I walk? I  was unsure about how far it was to the transit center or the ability of my healing knee to make the trek. Turn right and walk or turn left and find shelter?   I decided to turn left and go into the grocery store across the street and regroup.

The little Starbucks area was full of others like me: watching the news on the TV on the wall and trying to figure out how to get home. I got out my phone and computer and started texting and emailing people. cabs didn’t seem to be running, but public transit was, though buses and trains were delayed.

“Adrienne, ask for help” was the advice my sister had given me when I first hurt my knee and she repeated this advice in her messages to me. And so I did. I contacted a neighbor to go to my house to feed and walk Lucy. Once I knew she was cared for, I could take care of myself. My confidence rose as my plan took shape. I would walk to my colleague’s house and take refuge there until things cleared.

When I left the grocery store, the snow had stopped falling and the traffic on this street was lighter. As I neared an intersection, the bus I needed stopped on the opposite corner. I waved, hoping the driver would see me and stop, but he didn’t.  I had a little cry as I continued my walk. Just before I arrived, I texted my friend to let him know I was close. He texted back that he was having dinner in the pub next to his apartment so I met him there.

By this time it was well after eight. School buses were still driving past the pub, but the commute seemed better. After discussing options, I decided to see if I could get an Uber to either take me home or to the nearest train. After a few jobs that were picked up then dropped, Uber driver Robert picked me up. It turns out he was a teacher in another district and we had a nice conversation as he drove me to my destination. My confidence buoyed as we made progress. I was going somewhere at last!

I had to wait about 30 minutes for a train, but once I boarded the train, at 10:20, I felt warm and more assured that I would actually make it home. The train took about an hour to get to the station nearest my house. As I mounted the stairs from the tracks, I again had a choice: left to the buses or right and walk home. I saw no buses, didn’t know if they were running or when one would come, so I turned right.

Less than a block from SE 39th, I saw a bus going my direction. Yet again, I was just a little too far away to get it. But by that point it didn’t matter. Every step was taking me closer to home. The snow had stopped and the night was cold and quiet. It was a beautiful night for a walk. I got weepy again a I rounded the corner to my street. I walked in the door and was greeted with Lucy’s usual enthusiasm and my eyes filled with tears of thanks. I dropped my bag and put on her leash to take her out for one more potty break. When we came in, the clock read midnight.




Looking ahead and taking a stand

19 Dec

I’ve been seeing lists of books people are looking forward to arriving in 2017. I have put some on hold. Most notable is Perfect,


the sequel to Flawed,  by Cecelia Ahern.


Flawed is a YA dystopian novel. The main character, Celestine, accepts society’s rules. Until she doesn’t. When she speaks up and takes a stand, her whole life spins out of control.

Publisher’s Summary: Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.

She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Perfect follows Celestine as she lives the life of a Flawed.

Publisher’s Summary:Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

Perfect isn’t coming out until April, so you have lots of time to read Flawed before it does.


MY Holiday TBR Pile

18 Dec


Winter Break officially began yesterday, but we got a gift of a two-day head start. Two weeks stretch ahead of me. I have some merry-making planned, but I also have this lovely pile of books waiting to be read.

Rani Patel in Full Effect  by Sonia Patel: Rani Patel, almost seventeen and living on remote Moloka’i island, is oppressed by the cultural norms of her Gujarati immigrant parents. But when Mark, an older man, draws her into new experiences, red flags abound.

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung: In Australia, Lucy tries to balance her life at home surrounded by her Chinese immigrant family, with her life at a pretentious private school.

Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally: Tired of the half-truths surrounding her famous family’s past, Phoebe visits her indie-rock darling sister Luna to see how she fits into a family of storytellers.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard: Pen is a sixteen-year-old girl who looks like a boy. She’s fine with it, but everyone else is uncomfortable–especially her Portuguese immigrant parents and her manipulative neighbor who doesn’t want her to find a group of real friends

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman: In April 1812, as she is preparing for her debut presentation to Queen Charlotte, Lady Helen Wrexhall finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy reaching to the very top of society, and learns the truth about her mother, who died ten years ago.

Samurai Rising  by Pamela S. Turner: Documents the true story of the legendary samurai who was raised in the household of the enemies who killed his father before being sent to live in a monastery where, against the odds, he learned and perfected his fighting skills

The Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana: Tara, an Indian-American junior at Brierly prep school, feels her world dramatically change when a mirror planet to Earth is discovered and she, in this new era of scientific history, reconsiders her self and possible selves.

American Girls by Alison Umminger: Fifteen-year-old Anna runs away to Los Angeles where her half-sister takes her in, but after spending days on television and movie sets, she learns LA is not the glamorous escape she imagined.

Watched by Marina Budhos: Far from the “model teen,” Naeem moves fast to outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents, their gossipy neighbors, and the other forms of surveillance in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens, but when his mistakes catch up with him and the police offer a dark deal, will Naeem be a hero or a traitor?

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd: A girl living in a children’s hospital during WWII discovers that a winged horse has entered her world and needs her help.

The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely:Hendrix and Corrina bust Hendrix’s grandfather out of assisted living, and leave LA for New York in pursuit of freedom, truth, and love.

The Left-Handed Fate  by Kate Milford: A quest story to find the three pieces of a magical engine which can either win the War of 1812 … or stop it altogether.

Every Hidden Thing  by Kenneth Oppel: In the late nineteenth century, a budding romance develops between Rachel and Samuel, two teenagers from rival families of fossil hunters heading out to the badlands in search of a rare dinosaur skeleton.

Coping with Portland’s Snowmageddon

16 Dec


Yes, Portland was brought to its knees by two inches of snow. I will save the recounting of my 7.5 hour trip home until Tuesday’s Slice of Life post. Suffice it to say, I am reveling in two extra days of Winter Break, knitting the Cooped Up sweater


while listening to And I Darken  by Kiersten White.


Publisher’s Summary: No one expects a princess to be brutal.

And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This is a Dracula story my reading friends, with Vlad the Impaler reimagined as a young woman!  Lada is the ugly daughterr of Vlad Dracul. As characters and events appear in the boo, I have enjoyed looking at what really happened in history and White has done an excellent job taking the realities f history and using them to create this enthralling, dark tale.

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