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Steampunk fairy tale

7 Sep

Yesterday, I taught my kids how to speed-date books.

I set tubs from my classroom library on each table and gave them 4 minutes to find title to add to their “To read” lists. The best comment I overheard was ” These books are way better than in elementary school!”

One table had tubs of “Dystopian” and “Steampunk” books. For most sixth graders, these are new genres. One book in the “Steampunk” tub was Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell.  I picked up at Powells this summer, on a SALE table.

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Author’s Summary:Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. The timing may be perfect: there’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

I recently discovered that Betsy Cornwell has written a sequel, Venturess, that came out in August. I have it on hold at the library.

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Author’s Summary: Nicolette’s Cinderella story is over, and she’s finally living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s a successful inventor now, free of her horrible stepfamily, and content in her loving friendship with Caro, a palace servant, and Fin, the prince of Esting.

Then she receives a message from her long-lost housekeeper, now a revolutionary, begging her to bring the prince to Faerie for a diplomatic meeting. Nicolette fears a trap, but decides that the chance to end the bloody war waged by their kingdom is worth the risk.

Together with Fin and Caro, she ventures across the monster-filled ocean to the lush continent she’s always dreamed of visiting. There, mechanical armies and dark magic await as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries – and for themselves.

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Kings, Queens and Thieves

3 Sep

As soon as I cracked open the newly designed paperback cover of The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, I was hooked (haha)  and tore through the next two books.

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Somehow, I missed the arrival of A Conspiracy of Kings. I don’t know why.

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But after hearing MWT talk at ALA this summer, I read the fifth book, Thick as Thieves.

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Thick as thieves has the newest cover design, not the luxurious style of the first four books.  They now have covers in the new style.

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Having read Thick as Thieves, I went back and read A Conspiracy of Kings. This is the sort of series in which you can do that. The first three books should be read in order. The two most recent books are about minor characters who appear in the first three. Although they are in chronological order, reading them out of order did not impede my understanding or enjoyment.

 

Not everyone’s cup of tea

23 Aug

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You are either going to love or hate The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I loved it.

When I first started listening to the audiobook, I did not really like Monty in the first chapter. He seemed an arrogant and entitled dissolute young man. But there is a reason the title has vice before virtue. As the story unfolds, we see Monty’s transformation as he learns to look beyond himself and see the needs and experiences of others. And I grew to love him. I also loved the humor. The summary below uses the word “romp” and that is the perfect word for the grand tour and Monty, Percy, and Felicity reel from place to place and misadventure to misadventure.

Although she was a secondary character, I loved Felicity. She is getting her own book next year. According to Goodreads, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is “narrated by Felicity and featuring travel, pirates, and a science girl gang”.

Christian Coulson’s narration is fabulous. The novel is written in the first person and Coulson captures Percy’s arrogance perfectly in addition to his confusion and transformation.

There is sexual activity and language, so this is a book for mature readers.

Publisher’s Summary:  A young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi LeeSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Getting to know you

20 Aug

Earlier this year, I joined a book club. It might surprise you that I’ve never belonged to one. This group is devoted to children’s & YA literature. Instead of reading, then discussing one book a month, we have a list of 10 or more. One of the books from our July meeting was Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa. and illustrated by Jun Takabatake.

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Publisher’s Summary:It’s hard to imagine someone you’ve never seen. Giraffe is bored, as usual. He’d love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal – Penguin. Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions. What does a penguin look like? Where is a penguin’s neck? And so the letters begin to fly from horizon to horizon. Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is a funny tale of mistaken assumptions and friendship.

There is a lot to like here, especially when there is so much talk about how we treat people who are other. Misunderstandings and assumptions happen, but the new friends work through the problem to come to a deeper understanding.

On a somewhat related theme, I just saw this video of Grace Lin talking about racism in favorite childhood books. It is worth watching.

Revisiting old friends

13 Aug

Although I got the book over a year ago, I finally read Stars Above by Marissa Meyer.

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This was a great way to revisit my old friends from the Lunar Chronicles series, without rereading the whole series. A collection of nine short stories, we learn a little more about the characters and their backgrounds.

CONTENTS

The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a young Winter and Jacin playing a game called the Princess and the Guard…

The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century.

 

 

The Road to Bend

8 Aug

Way back in the Spring, a friend and I signed up for a union sponsored, all-expenses paid, leadership conference to be held in Bend, Oregon. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

A few weeks before the conference she called me, thinking she didn’t really want to go anymore. I didn’t want to be assigned a random roommate, so we looked into cancelling. Apparently, others have felt this way in the past and cancelling would cost us each $150. So, we made plans for the trip.

The day before we made plans on where to meet. Thinking I was being helpful, I suggested the Starbucks 3 blocks from my house. My friend has a history of being late and I figured I could enjoy my coffee while I waited. I could also leave my car at home and buy her a coffee, since she would be the driver. While talking on the phone, I looked up the address and read it off to her.

The next morning, I was at Starbucks about 5 minutes early, as is my wont. The deal was that, if she wasn’t there by 7:15, I would call her. I placed my order and picked up my Venti soy latte when it was ready. Little did I know that my first sip of the mocha, would foreshadow other little mistakes.

By 7:10, I was getting anxious… and then my phone rang.

“Where are you?” my friend asked.

Well, it turned out I had not really been paying attention the night before because I;d given her the WRONG address. She was at a Starbucks on Burnside Street, but several miles away. Why hadn’t I noticed that last night? I gave directions to my location and she arrived within a few minutes.

Once she had her coffee, we sat to plan the route. East over Mount Hood, then South? Or South down I-5, then east? We opted for the Mount Hood route and tried to plug in the hotel address to her phone. It wasn’t taking it, so we just typed in Bend, and loaded the car.

After three hours of conversation, the phone began giving us directions. We followed them until she said, “Arrived at Bend”.

We burst out laughing, remembering we hadn’t put in the hotel address. My friend did so and we were off and driving again. Except it still didn’t seem right. Maps had the hotel in the north end of Bend and the phone was sending us South. We knew we were int rouble and started laughing. I was  laughing so hard at one point, I couldn’t speak. My friend pulled over because she was laughing and had to go to the bathroom badly. An accident was imminent. We pulled ourselves together and carried on, after finding a bathroom.

The phone sent us off the highway and through a round about then told us to turn left, but the barrier in the road made us turn right. We pulled off and put in the hotel’s name, instead of the address and, miracle of miracles, we had new directions. we arrived within a few minutes. We registered and made it to the opening lunch, which had just begun, and sat down, hopeful that our misadventures were over.

Just for fun, her are some pictures from the trails near our hotel and conference center.

A Journey Through Hobohemia

4 Aug

One of my favorite French poems is “Ma Bohème” by Arthur Rimbaud. I had to do a presentation on it in a university french poetry class and it has always stayed close to my heart. As you can probably tell from the title, this poem is a fantasy of bohemian life, and very much romanticizes the freedom of roaming with no cares in the world.

Ceceil Castellucci’s middle grade graphic novel, Soupy Leaves Home,  tells the story of a young girl who flees her home during the Great Depression and becomes a hobo and learns about the freedom and burdens of her “bohème”.

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Publisher’s Summary: Set in 1932, this is the story of two misfits with no place to call home, who build a relationship during a train hopping journey from the cold heartbreak of their eastern homes toward the sunny promise of California.

Pearl “Soupy” Plankette ran away from her abusive father, but has nowhere to go until she stumbles upon a disguise that gives her the key to a new identity. Reborn as a boy named Soupy, she hitches her star to Remy “Ramshackle” Smith, a hobo who takes her under his wing. Ramshackle’s kindness and protection go a long way to help Soupy heal from her difficult past. But Ramshackle has his own demons to wrestle with, and he’ll need Soupy just as much as she needs him.

In case you;d like to read “Ma Bohème”, you can click here for the original French, and/or the English translation.

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