Sunday, June 20, 2010

My life in Ashes

I just recently read Kathryn Lasky's Ashes, and, as a librarian, I have to say it hit home, mainly because of the strong focus on books. Ashes is about a thirteen-year-old German girl growing up in Berlin just as Adolf Hitler is coming into power. Gabriella Schramm's father is the chairman of the Department of Photoastonoy at the University of Berlin. Her mother is a pianist, and her sister Ulla, also a gifted musician, has recently turned away from her studies to focus more on boys. The world is changing around Gaby just as she is beginning to grow up. The years 1932-1933 thrust her into moments of adulthood which she writes about in her Diary of Shame. Moments that either made her feel uncomfortable, or times when she thought she could have reacted better to a situation. Most of those situations dealt with something to do with the growth of the Nazi party in Germany.

Gaby spends much of her time reading books that the Nazis will soon label as being subversive. Soon both her beloved books and her Jewish friends, including Albert Einstein, are under attack. While some might claim the book burning to be the defining moment, I focused more on the librarian Frau Grumbach, and her refusal to hand over the names of students who checked out "questionable" books to Fraulein Hofstadt. Frau Grumbach disappeared the next day and was never seen again. As a librarian myself, of course that was going to make me think of my own responsibility towards my patrons. And wondering if I would have the guts to make a stand about something I know is fundamentally wrong, or would I go along with it in order to cause the least harm to myself by not standing out. Oo, ethics. Of course, I can really just hope that I'm never in that situation.

I also enjoyed that this book was written from a gentile's perspective from that time period. It always seemed like the books I read about World War II when I was a child/young adult mainly featured Jewish or other persecuted people. I think there should be more like this. It was like how I learned at a young age from Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier that not all German people were evil Nazis (besides, who wouldn't get a youthful crush on Anton).

I am participating in Centreville's teen summer reading program this year as they are doing "Team Teen" vs "Team Adult" where as Kent Island is doing the middle schoolers vs the high schoolers. I'm kind of glad that I'm not doing it in Kent Island because the high schoolers already have over 4000 pages read-and that was done by just one girl this past week! I would so lose to her.

I am getting ready to have our first adult summer reading book discussion this Tuesday evening. I hope it goes well! I'm not the best at public speaking, so hopefully I will as all the right questions to get the discussion humming and I won't have to talk again. I wish! The book we are doing this time is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Later in the summer it is The Hunger Games. I'm quite looking forward to that one. If anyone will actually show up for them.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hour 48 is here. Finally!

Seriously, it is challenges like this, and my obstinate nature, that only propels my natural state of being a hypochondriac into overdrive. Like, maybe I should get some sleep, but, no, we stayed up and read the entire 48 hours. Go me! Two years in a row. However, if this is going to be the weekend date this challenge is held from now on, I'm doubting that I will be participating so heavily in it in the near future because I have a new nephew. He's so adorable! And hopefully he is doing well considering I was totally selfish and didn't call to ask about him this weekend at all. He is home from the hospital, I know that. I also didn't pick up my parent's call. I need to call them now to see when they are planning on arriving here today.

So I'm kind of tossed as what to do right now. Spruce up the apartment, take a nap, or go to church. At this moment, I'm actually feeling quite perky. Energy drink kicking in 6 hours late? Maybe so.

I think, however, I will hold off doing my last few reviews until the next post.

However, here are the books I read for this homestretch:

13) A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith
14) Nightlight by The Harvard Lampoon
15) Bad Kitty: Catnipped by Michelle Jaffe
16) Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
17) Hunger Games (audiobook) by Suzanne Collins

Time spent reading/blogging: 48 hours
Books read: 16
Pages: 4118
Money donated: $75.25

Let the partying begin!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

38 hours 20 minutes... end is nearing!

I'm getting to that veiny point in the competition, where the veins on my feet, legs, hands, and arms make their appearance. Needless to say, this last 12 hours or so are my favorite. From what I can recall from last year. However, new plan for tomorrow morning is, despite how scummy I feel, I fully intend to read/walk my way over to the playground area that they have by the school/church right next to me and doing the last couple of hours over there. I did that tonight before it got too dark and it was quite lovely getting to see someplace that wasn't the living room in my apartment. And I can rest quite comfortably reading a book on the slide. I'll have to remember this for next year.

New reading updates:

9) Hilary McKay's Wishing For Tomorrow. So, no lie, I grew up loving Burnett's A Little Princess. One of my all-time favorites. So when I discovered that there was going to be a sequel of sorts, I had to jump all over that one. And I am quite pleased with the result. The first couple of chapters do have bits from the original novel (basically the banquet/Sara finding the "Indian Gentleman") but it mainly deals with life at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary after Sara leaves. The main thread throughout the story of the girls' left behind is Ermengarde and how she deals with losing her best friend. Or how she thinks she has lost her. But, McKay does a wonderful job of fleshing out Lotte, Lavinia, Jessica, the two Miss Minchins in addition to adding new characters like Alice (the new maid-love her!), Tristram (the boy next door), and Bosco (the cat). This is going to be a book that I buy to keep!

10) Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. I didn't mean to read two 12 Dancing Princesses books for the challenge, it just happened. Why I haven't read this one earlier, I don't know. My only defense is that once I own a book, it gets regulated to "read last" status because I always have a billion books checked out. I've loved Jessica Day George back when I read her first novel, Dragon Slippers, so I was happy to read these fairy tales retold she has been doing. This was is a lot more traditional retelling of the story (as opposed to The Thirteenth Princess) but still very well told. I love the knitting knight Galen. And, I think with all books based on this story, there is the lack of character development except for a few of the major princesses just because there are so many of them. These princesses all had flower names as their mom was big into flowers. She was also the cause of them being cursed to dance (and then marry) the half-demon princes because her mom made a deal with their dad. Good idea, right? So not. Very fun read.

11) Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George. I fought to get this book from the Bloomsbury Publishers at ALA Midwinter this year. I knew what I wanted, but it was at the bottom of their stack. After asking three times, however, someone was willing to go get it for me. And I loved it! This one is a sequel of sorts to Princess of the Midnight Ball and focuses on Poppy, one of the middle princesses (and a twin) who is sent to Breton as part of a new royal exchange program. Not that the king wants her there because his son happened to die attempting to break their curse back when they had to dance every night. So hostilities from that direction. And then she meets Prince Christian who just happens to be captivated by a former lady now servant Eleanora? Something is not quite right, and Poppy will need to use all of her wits and knitting power to set things on their correct course. A twist on the Cinderella story, but who is the real Cinderella? Needless to say, it was worth every moment spent annoying the publishers for my ARC of it.

12) Ouran High School Host Club Vol 1 by Bisco Harori. Jo seemed to very much like this series. I just didn't get into it. Maybe I need to read it when I'm not so tired? I'm not sure. Oh well.

Time spent reading/blogging: 38 hours, 20 minutes
Books read: 12
Pages: 3239
Money donated: $58.75

27 hours and still going

But maybe not all that strong. I'm sensing a need for chocolate in the near future. Especially because I seem quite excited that my newest book, Hilary McKay's Wishing For Tomorrow, has pictures.

More books, please.

7) I somehow sense that there are going to be a lot more sequels I am going to want to read in the near future. Like Y.S. Lee's The Agency: A Spy in the House. A fun, light Victorian mystery romp. At age twelve, Mary Quinn, orphan and convicted criminal, fell off the scaffold and into the care of Anne Treleaven, the headmistress of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. There she is educated and at age 17 becomes a part of the "The Agency", a select organization of crime-solving women. Because who really expects Victorian women to be all that exciting? So you know that while there are good women in the story, that means there is also going to be bad women, too. Just have to figure out who is who. Her first mission is to infiltrate a rich merchant's home as a lady's companion. Then the real adventure begins! Looking forward to the next Agency book.

8) Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede. I might have hit this book at the wrong time because it came highly recommended to me, but it just seemed to drag. Maybe I'm just getting to the point of tiredness due to lack of sleep.

Last night Jo and I read out loud to each other the first half of Nightlight. We also spent a couple hours resting our eyeballs and listened to more of The Hunger Games also did this during breakfast which was thoughtfully provided for us by Jo's mom and her sister. Yay! In addition, I ate a piece of the best chocolate chip pie I ever had thanks to my friend and co-worker, Erin.

Now back to reading hard-core. Seriously. ;)

Time spent reading/blogging: 27 hours, 20 minutes
Books read: 8
Pages: 2214
Money donated: $42.00

17 hours in...

Alas, poor Yorick, I sense no sleep for me tonight. No sleep, and no air conditioning. It was supposed to be fixed yesterday afternoon. No show. This afternoon. No show until almost 7. Then, apparently some other part was broke and since it was too late to buy the part (and are these places closed on Saturdays?) I was informed that I would have to wait until Monday. Vexed, you say? Vexed was way back there. It's been over a week now. ::grumblegrumble::

There are so many worse things out there. I shouldn't be complaining about a silly thing like that. Besides, just think of the savings on my electric bill!

I have now read three more books! So...

4) Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. Any book in it that discusses musicals (even if it is Grease) is fine by me. And, there even was a mention of how the musical differed from the movie, that's a nice plug. Lucius managed to create a rather large explosion his freshman year of high school and blew off his arms. Now he has hooks. His scars are quite visible to the outside world, making him open to torment by fellow students. Aurora's mother recently died of cancer. Her scars are inward and I got the feeling she didn't talk much about her mother with her new friends. They are both new to the school, their respective parents having moved them to a new school district for a new beginning. I thought it was a good read. Plus, Aurora's father was the school librarian. The awesome one would could find you research. Gotta love that!

Took a break from reading books and switched on an audiobook of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games for dinnertime. We are doing this book for a summer book discussion shortly and I need a refresher. Somehow, though, listening to Katniss talk about the time she nearly starved and how Peeta saved her made me feel not so hungry anymore. It was like the time I was at Dachau Concentration Camp and we had just watched the introductory film filled with starving prisoners and some American stood up after the video was ended and loudly proclaimed, "Well, it's time to go get something to eat!". Tact much?

5) The Everafter by Amy Huntley. One of those books that I probably needed to read. Why? Because I form strange attachments to inanimate objects just like Madison Stanton, the protagonist, did. And now that she is dead, she has discovered that through the objects she's lost throughout her life, she can go back and revisit those moments. Until she finds the missing object and the experience of that memory is forever lost to her. It made me wonder just what sort of lost objects I would find in my own "Is", though I would go beyond year 17 now. I was surprised just how she died. I wasn't quite expecting that.

6) The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler. A fairy tale, retold. This one of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses". Jo recommended that I read it next. It was light and enjoyable, having the tale told with an extra princess. One who is, unfortunately, regulated to working as a servant because her father, the King, blamed her for causing her mother's death. And for not being a boy. Despite that, Zita (unlike her sisters who's names all start with "A's"), has turned out to be a well-adjusted girl who, during the course of the book, befriends a stablehand, a witch, and a soldier, all on her quest to help her sisters end their curse. I did figure out earlier on who the bad witch was. I'm not sure if I should be proud of myself, or not!

Currently reading: The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee - Fun!

Time spent reading/blogging: 17 hours, 15 minutes
Books read: 6
Pages: 1567
Money donated: $31.50

Friday, June 4, 2010

9 hours in...

And I feel like I'm moving at a snail's pace reading my books. All will be well, though, I am sure. As long as I have four total done by hour 12, I think I should reach my goal. Maybe? Goal being to at least match the amount I read last year.

So, what have I been reading so far?

First up was Castle Adamant by Sally Watson. She's an old favorite of mine who just recently started writing again. Or at least publishing her books again. The problem with her books that generally her characters are at least slightly related to characters from other books and it makes me want to go read the other ones again! Watson again wrote a fabulously eccentric female character from the time of the Civil War in England, Verity. She being a Roundhead "kidnapped" by Royalists and ending up at a Royalist stronghold Castle Corfe. Pretty much all of Watson's main female characters give me hope that maybe men out there really do prefer their women intelligent instead of just easy-going, as of course Verity was going to end up with the snappish Peregrine, as they battled out their feelings for God, country, and themselves with a dialogue peppered with Latin, Greek, and Bible scripture. A rewarding read.

Next we turned our thoughts to modern times with a paranormal twist. In other words, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. So I figured out some of the villainy ahead of time in this book, however, I wasn't quite prepared for all the treachery or the death. I can see why Jo would want me to read it as it is very entertaining and pulls you in. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Thirdly, was Julia Golding's Black Heat of Jamaica, the fifth book in the Cat Drury books. I had to order this one from the UK because it wasn't out yet and I can't say enough about the fun that is this series. Seriously. Not to mention we have Billy Shepherd actually acting, dare I say it, passably nice to Cat in this one. Actually, most of the major players from earlier books were gone in this volume and we were left with many a villain. Or at least scoundrels and one villain (Kingston Hawkins). And believe you me, he was up to great and terrible things. Looking forward to the next adventure with Cat (yes, I actually already have this one pre-ordered) but it is going to be a lengthy wait.

And now I'm reading Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

Hours: 9.5ish now
Books read: 3
Pages: 883
Money donated: $15.75

Ready, set, go!

"The moment we have all been waiting for," quote Jojo. And I'm ready to start this thing.

My charity of choice this year is a couple from my church who are in the midst of adopting a baby boy from Ethiopia. So, I am doing $5 per regular book read, $1 per graphic novel, and $.25 per valid comment on my blog. I can wait to meet their new son!

And now it starts with a Sally Watson book, as tradition dictates. Hopefully my air conditioning issue will be fixed today.