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The thrill of victory…

7 Aug

…the agony of defeat.

Growing up, many a Saturday was spent watching Wide World of Sports. Its opening became  an iconic sports meme for me long before the Internet was flooded with them.

I’ve been thinking about this intro as the Olympics begin.

There are lots of ways spectators can participate without flying to Rio. Knitters can join the Ravellinic Games on Ravelry, where there is only one rule:

The One Rule To Rule Them All: Challenge yourself by starting and finishing one or more projects during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

There are actual events such as the Mitten Medley, WIPs Wrestling, Sock Put and Synchronized Spinning. Although I am madly working on a WIP (Work in Progress) I am not participating in the Ravellinics. Too much pressure to perform.

I am however, reading a sports themed book!

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Publisher’s Summary:

I am Lou Brown:

Social outcast, precocious failure, 5’10” and still growing.

I was on the fast track to the Olympic superstardom.

Now, I’m training boys too cool to talk to me. In a sport I just made up. In a fish tank.

My life has quickly become very weird.

Nat Luurtsema’s YA debut is side-splittingly funny and painfully true to anyone who’s just trying to figure out how they fit into the world.

Goodreads gives a little more detail.

Goodreads Sumary: Lou Brown is one of the fastest swimmers in the county. She’s not boasting, she really is. So things are looking pretty rosy the day of the Olympic time-trials. With her best mate Hannah by her side, Lou lines up by the edge of the pool, snaps her goggles on and bends into her dive…

Everything rests on this race. It’s Lou’s thing.

… or it was. She comes dead last and to top it all off Hannah sails through leaving a totally broken Lou behind.

Starting again is never easy, particularly when you’re the odd-one out in a family of insanely beautiful people and a school full of social groups way too intimidating to join. Where do you go from here? Finding a new thing turns out to be the biggest challenge Lou’s ever faced and opens up a whole new world of underwater somersaults, crazy talent shows, bitchy girls and a great big load of awkward boy chat.

Lou Brown guides us through the utter humiliation of failure with honesty, sass and a keen sense of the ridiculous. This girl will not be beaten.

This book was first published in the UK as Girl out of Water.

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In France, it is Moi et les Aquaboys.

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No matter what language you read it in, this is a funny and poignant novel about what happens after the agony of defeat.

Custard and Parasols

27 Jul

Instead of spending Monday night glued to my radio listening to the speeches at the Democratic Convention, I went to Powells to meet Gail Carriger.

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She is the author of the Finishing School series I finished in April.She was in town promoting her newest novel, Imprudence, the sequel to Prudence, and the second book in the Custard Protocol series.

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Unlike many author presentations, Carriger gave a very brief presentation, covering topics she is asked about a lot. She spent most of the time answering questions of the packed house. Through the wide range of questions, we got to know Gail Carriger’s sense of humor, writing routine and plans for the future.

I’ve been reading her series out-of-order. I started with the Finishing School series, the began The Custard Protocol.  Now, I have her first series, The Parasol Protectorate,  in my queue.  Each of these series is unique unto itself, but they are all set in the Steampunk world she created and there are some characters that overlap. I loved how Carriger explained that each of these repeating characters seem to be a little different in each series because are shown as perceived by protagonist of the series. I was impressed and that helped explain why the Lord Akeldama of Prudence is so different from the Lord Akeldama of The Finishing School.

Of course, I took my moment to get my books signed and chat for a few moments with Gail.

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When I got home, I learned I had missed some fabulous DNC speeches, but I didn’t mind. I could watch them online. I had enjoyed a marvelous evening and had a new book to read.

A Highly Logical Book Choice

27 Jun

I was a quirky teen and found my peer group in Reach for The Top and friends who were not outcasts, but not top of the social heap that is high school. As I was reading John Corey Whalen’s Highly Illogical Behavior,  I felt I had found my peeps.

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This slim novel, a mere 256 pages, is a quick read narrated by two characters: 16-year-old agoraphobic Solomon and 17-year-old Lisa,  who wants to befriend Solomon, cure his agoraphobia and use this as the basis for scholarship application to a psychology program.

Publisher’s Summary:Teen and adult fans of All The Bright PlacesMe and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Everything, Everything will adore this quirky story of coming-of-age, coming out, friendship, love…and agoraphobia.

The Last Boy…..

15 Jun

Being the only person of your color, language or religion at your school isn’t that uncommon. Lots of kids live this daily. It can be lonely and isolated, but they make friends and adapt.

Jeremy Miner, the protagonist of Lee Gjertsen Malone’s  The Last Boy at St. Edith’s is isolated because he is the only boy at his school.

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Publisher’s Summary:Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem. 475 of them to be exact. That’s how many girls attend his school, St. Edith’s Academy.

Jeremy is the only boy left after the school’s brief experiment in co-education. And he needs to get out. But his mother—a teacher at the school—won’t let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands: he’s going to get expelled.

Together with his best friend Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he’ll get kicked out with minimal damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide how far he’s willing to go and whom he’s willing to knock down to get out the door.

When I was a librarian I would occasionally be asked for books about pranks. There aren’t as many as you might think. And though the book seems a little far-fetched, it really works. The characters are believable and Jeremy’s family life and friendship give some insight into economic disparities and gender roles. Yeah, these are all white kids, but it is still a good read about individuality, conformity, and friendship

My ridiculousness

31 Mar

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Like most mornings, I arrived at school early. I was so on top of things today! I got the papers organized for the quiz the kids would take. I took special care with the papers for the five new students I got in February. They would do a modified test. I marked the questions they didn’t have to do, put a name on each paper and set them in a safe place, where I could access them easily. I sat back down at my desk and started grading the mountain of final drafts I had somehow managed to neglect over Spring Break. I was humming with productivity!

When test time rolled around for the first class, I was a wreck, scrambling to find those papers I had so carefully prepared. Not on the front table. Not on my desk either. I was so sure I’d sent them on the table at the front of the room and yet, they were not there.

Suddenly Marvin’s voice piped up, “Ms. Gillespie, could it be the papers clipped to the front board?” Ah, he knows me well. I nodded and smiled as the class erupted in laughter.

At the end of the day, I was excited because I got an email saying my Powell’s order was ready. It is a perk of living in Portland that Powell’s gives us a 20% discount for anything we buy for school. We just have to pick it up. No problem, the store is only 10 minutes from school and more or less on my way home. I knew we had a big order and I worried about carrying multiple bags out to the car so I planned ahead. I had some boxes I’d saved from a Scholastic book fair and grabbed two, knowing I had a foldable luggage cart in the trunk of my car to carry everything. I was ready.

I walked towards the stairs that lead from my second floor classroom to the main entrance swinging the boxes. It was sunny and I was bound for Powell’s; life was good! I nodded and smiled at the substitute who arrived at the stairs just before me. She was about half way down when she turned and asked if I needed help with the boxes. She’d noticed I had my left arm over the rail, wrist resting there, holding a box.

“Thanks, but they’re empty,” I replied to her kind offer.

“I thought so because I saw you swinging them,” she said. “But you are supporting that one so I thought I might be wrong.”

I blushed and confessed that, because it was sunny, I had packed my coat in my bag. Now, I am a woman of a certain age and I always go down the steep steps, holding the hand rail, but, I don’t actually like to touch it for fear of germs. I usually pull my jacket sleeve over my hand to hold on, but, without a jacket, this was my next best plan to avoid the germ handrail. She laughed, agreeing that she, too likes to hold the handrail on the way down, but had never thought about the germs before. We exited the building together smiling at the sunshine that met us.

When I finally arrived at Powell’s, I loaded the empty boxes on the cart and, since no one was at the School & Library desk, I went to the main counter for help. I told the kind woman there how prepared I was as she walked me over. She  looked on the shelves but couldn’t see anything for Stoller Middle School. And then we both saw it. The large hand truck stacked to the top with 4 huge boxes. Our eyes met and we laughed.

“Let me run my cart to my car and I’ll be back to take this one,” I offered.

“I can’t leave the counter area, but I can wheel it to the door for you,” she replied, smiling.

I was back in a flash and managed to get the very heavy hand truck to my car, load the boxes in the trunk and return the cart. The gentleman at the info desk told me I could just leave the cart with him. I waved at the woman at the counter and went out to my car, ready for a delightful drive home on a sunny March afternoon.

2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #7

13 Mar

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I’ve read a total of 23 titles for the 2016 Hub Challenge. To finish, I only have to read 2 more. Some years, I read more than 25, but I might just stop at 25 this year because I have this giant pile of TBR books at home: arcs and library books.

This week saw me finish two graphic novels and a regular novel.

The first graphic novel was Super Mutant Magic Academy by  Jillian Tamako.

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Summary:SuperMutant Magic Academy, paints a teenaged world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence. Tamaki deftly plays superhero and high-school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like: The SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep school for mutants and witches, but their paranormal abilities take a backseat to everyday teen concerns.
Science experiments go awry, bake sales are upstaged, and the new kid at school is a cat who will determine the course of human destiny.  Whether the magic is mundane or miraculous, Tamaki’s jokes are precise and devastating.

The second GN was Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia.

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Summary: The children of U.S. small-town Alexandria are just trying to live like normal teens until their parents’ promised return from a mysterious, four-year religious pilgrimage, and Ben Schiller is no exception. She’s just trying to take care of her sister, keep faith that her parents will come back, and get through her teen years as painlessly as possible. But her relationship with her best friend is changing, her younger sister is hiding a dark secret, and a terrible tragedy is coming for them all. Filled with teenage loves and fights and parties, Sacred Heart is a wonderful coming-of-age graphic novel set against the threat of a big reckoning that everyone fears is coming but has no proof.

I didn’t love either of these. I’m not a huge reader of graphic novels and these two just weren;t my thing.

On the other hand, I loved Dumplin’  by Julie Murphy.

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Summary:Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

The third book

8 Feb

I’m about 2/3 of the way through the third book in Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. series,  The Hollow Boy.

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Although these are books about ghosts, they aren’t really scary, which is why I can read them. The Hollow Boy  gets into much more character development and moves Lucy, our narrator, Lockwood & George beyond the sort of stereotypical Harry Potter trio trope. The humor is still there. Lucy is testing her ability to talk to ghosts, we learn more about Lockwood’s past and George gets a little more depth. The problem of “The Problem” isn’t solved yet, so we can look forward to a fourth book.

Publisher’s Summary: As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.’s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

If you are looking for a not too scary series for a middle grade reader, I highly recommend Lockwood & Co.

Extraordinarily Ordinary

6 Dec

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This is a novel about a group of ordinary friends who want to have a normal life and graduate before their school blows up. The plot was pretty straightforward the only hints that something bad might happen were the chapter titles, which were mini-descriptions of what was going on with the indie kids (the Chosen Ones). the novel is s satire of YA novels in which kids save the world, but I think it sensitively sheds light on what it is like to just be an ordinary kid. And in a  way, just being an ordinary kids requires super powers.

Publisher’s Summary: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Making me LOL

2 Dec

Lucy is a silly girl and her goofy antics have had me laughing, which is making Fiona’s loss bearable.

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I don’t often read humorous books, but I’m listening to Finding Audrey  by Sophie Kinsella  during my daily commute and I am actually laughing out loud as  drive.

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Gemma Whelan, the narrator is spot on and these Brits know how to do this sort of off beat humor. It isn’t really a funny story, more of a tragicomedy. The eponymous Audrey is slowly emerging  from the fog of Social Anxiety Disorder that resulted from vicious bullying.She wears dark glasses and avoids contact with people outside her family. But under the guidance of her therapist, Dr. Sarah, who feels rather real, Audrey is pushing herself to move forward.

Parents are often undeveloped or completely absent in YA novels, but Audrey’s parents are farcically realistic and form a fitting counterpoint to the real struggle Audrey feels. There’s a little love story, but it doesn’t overshadow the power that is Audrey, facing her fears.

This might be one of the best YA books I’ve read about mental illness this year. Kinsella shows recovery from mental illness as a long process of two steps forward, one step back. Even at the novel’s close, Audrey has not been miraculously cured.

Lightning VS History: A Slice of Life Story

3 Nov

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Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

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History repeats itself.

Today I declare History the winner.

Yesterday, while walking the dogs on a not so dark Monday morning before school, I found some money. Six dollars: a five and a one. They were folded over, just lying there, wet, on the sidewalk. I looked around. There was no one in sight, so I picked them up and tucked them in my pocket, happy because I was now six dollars richer and I hoped that boded well for the first Monday in November.

The funny thing is, I found the cash about ten feet away from where I’d found a wallet two summers ago. You can see now why Lightning lost.

I put forth some effort to return that wallet to its owner, but with no one in sight, I figured it was OK to keep the money. I felt a little guilty, wondering if someone had lost their last six bucks. I didn’t feel guilty enough to leave it lying there, all sad, soggy and forlorn.

On the drive to work I saw a rainbow. This must be my lucky day, I thought to myself.  There might have been a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, but I decided to leave it for someone else.

 

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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