Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Taxonomy of Love (Hardcover) by Rachael Allen

Normally I am not that fond of novels that mix letters, emails, etc into the text as plot movers. In this case, I didn't mind, as some really fun taxonomy drawings were part of that mix. (Also, the emails/texts between Hope and her sister made sense, as they were separated by an ocean, not by an office wall or city block as often seems to be the case when electronic communications are used as a device.) Two other things endeared this book to me -- it covers the course of a relationship between the characters (and among the characters) over 5 years, 8th grade to 12th grade, showing ebbs and flows, giving room for growth or exposures of weaknesses. It also featured a main character with a disability. Spencer has Tourette's syndrome. The author uses this as a teaching tool, modeling how (and how not) to relate to someone with a disability, be it Tourette's, Spina Bifida, or Sickle Cell Anemia. The medical treatment o Tourette's was also interesting for me, as a retired RN. It really is am alphabet soup of trying to find the right drug to do the trick along with awareness of triggers/responses.

All in all, I enjoyed this story of exploring what being a friend means, and how love grows and changes over time. Thanks to the publishers who gave me this copy while at YAllfest 2017. The book is due out in January 2018.

Tags: 2017-read, advanced-reader-copy, fantasy, read, rounded-up-in-star-rating, ya-lit, yallfest

From the publisher:
The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

Had not heard a thing about this book before it caught my eye on Blogging for Books, but it really grabbed my attention once I started reading it. Yes, it's YA, and has a lot of familiar elements, but there were some totally unexpected moments. It felt real. Matt's dilemmas with the girl next door/best friend and his passionate relationship with basketball all felt honest, even to woman of a certain age. (I'm not so old that I don't remember first love.) I loved the character of Mr Ellis, and wished I'd had him for an English teacher when I was a freshman. And thanks to this book, I'm going back and picking up Sherman Alexie's  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I've started and stopped several times in the past. I need to read the tree scene, especially since I hd my own tree scene when hiking in the mountains last weekend.

Good job, Jared Reck.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending me a copy.

From the publisher:
The unrequited love of the girl next door is the centerpiece of this fiercely funny, yet heart-breaking debut novel.

Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

One of the nice things about having Yallfest in my backyard every year is that there's the opportunity to hear and meet some really fantastic, interesting people, who love books, love reading, and in some cases, write books, too. Hearing the keynote address at the 2017 YAllfest, with Patrick Ness and Renée Ahdieh was perhaps my favorite event this year. The two spoke brilliantly, eloquently, and passionately about a number of things, but for me, the takeaway message was how they each responded to not finding characters like themselves in books they read as teens, so they wrote them. As a result we have some damn fine books that explore the issues which confronted these two authors: Patrick as a gay teen, and  Renée as a girl with a face that reflects her Asian heritage. (As she said, she was pretty sure there were no books out there about girls who were half Korean, half Scottish, who played the cello.)

An offshoot of all this was a brief mention of a recent Patrick Ness book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Not everyone gets to be Buffy or one of her pals, some kids just want to go to prom, graduate, maybe kiss the person they're crushing on, and do it before the Buffy-types blow up the high school-- again.

This was a great read, and while the element of the supernaturals was present, it really was a good story about friends and friendship. It explored some aspects of life, particularly when life isn't perfect. As the cover says, sometimes you have to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. The chapter headings explore the life of the Chosen, and their story; the rest of the the chapter is devoted to a the regulars, in the form of Mikey, Mel, Jarrod, and Henna, who are, in fact, true stars, in their own rights,

Looking forward to future literary adventures with Patrick Ness (and Renée Ahdieh). I liked their straightforwardness, their honesty, their spoken thoughts, the way they related to the YA audience (with some old fart ringers, who like to read YA) and their honesty. It is with pleasure I find that I like their writing, too. (And I snagged a signed copy. Yay!)

Tags: 2017-reada-favorite-authorfantasygreat-covergreat-titlei-liked-itmet-or-know-the-authorreadwill-look-for-more-by-this-authorya-lityallfest

From the publisher:
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...

The Realms of God (The Shards of Heaven #3) by Michael Livingston

A pretty awesome wrap-up to a series that had both real history and fantasy to it. And did I mention it's partially set in Petra? Good stuff.

As a person who is fascinated by what has gone on before on this earth, the historical aspect of this book really grabbed me. It's not surprising because Michael Livingston knows how to tell a tale, whether it's in a university classroom, a convention for fantasy geeks, or, so I'm told by some who have heard him, an auditorium of medieval historians. He's taken his phenomenal breadth of knowledge about the days of the Roman empire, and woven a tale of mystery, suspense, added a pinch of loyalty, a dash of romance, some bad arse demons, and a healthy dash of the fantastic, then tucked it nicely around the elements of history as we know it (what is known in the trade as a "secret history".)

The Realms of God is the third, and final installation in a trilogy that starts in the times of Cleopatra (with some throw-back in the book and in a companion piece to the days of Alexander the Great) and finds its conclusion in the dusty stones of Petra. (Yeah, that Petra, which you probably remember from Indiana Jones and the something or other.) And if you're thinking that maybe Roman history isn't your thing, I've given the first book in the series to several non-history loving friends, who not only read it, but eagerly pre-ordered book 2 and 3 (which is pretty much what my history loving friends, also gifted book 1, did. I'm seriously mystified why this series wasn't marketed both as historical fiction/mystery and fantasy, but that's a complete other tangent.)

Bottom line. Read the trilogy. And if you're like I am, you'll be looking for the secret histories, hidden away in our past, everywhere. The only thing that could have made this book better for me would be if it was inscribed by the author. (Hint. hint, Michael Livingston. I could have bought a kindle version, but got the hard-copy so I can have a full inscribed set.)

tags: 2017-reada-favorite-authoradvanced-reader-copyfantasygreat-covermade-me-look-something-upmet-or-know-the-authorpart-start-of-a-seriesreadreallyexcitedtoreadsecret-historythanks-for-the-mapwill-look-for-more-by-this-author

From the publisher: The Ark of the Covenant has been spirited out of Egypt to Petra, along with the last of its guardians. But dark forces are in pursuit. Three demons, inadvertently unleashed by Juba of Numidia and the daughter of Cleopatra, are in league with Tiberius, son and heir of Augustus Caesar. They've seized two of the fabled Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of God, and are desperately hunting the rest.

Through war and assassination, from Rome to the fabled Temple Mount of Jerusalem and on to the very gates of Heaven itself, the forces of good and evil will collide in a climactic battle that threatens the very fabric of Creation.

The Realms of God is the thrilling conclusion to Michael Livingston's historical fantasy trilogy that continues the story begun in The Shards of Heaven and The Gates of Hell.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Book of Joe: The Life, Wit, and (Sometimes Accidental) Wisdom of Joe Biden by Jeff Wilser

Disclaimer: this is not the sort of Joe I often am associated with. There is no "cuppa" before it.

For many, Joe Biden became a name well known when he became the 47th Vice President of the United States. Even though I'm not from Delaware, I've known of Biden for a long time prior to the Obama years. This little book, which doesn't claim to be a biography or all-inclusive, gives snippets of Biden's life, often in his own words. It's more like a love poem than a serious examination, but it's a quick and interesting read, and fills out the image of the man in the memes. (And for the record, all the mentions of Hot Young Joe Biden did succeed in sending me to the internet to look for pictures.)

For the record, my favorite memory of Biden thus far is the presentation of he Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction, which he received in January 2017. The man's response was priceless. He is a mensch.

Thank you Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending me a copy.


It's been an up and down sort of time here in czukland. The personal interactions and relationships are all doing fine, thank you. It's the other things, the noisy confusion of life that have me muttering the lines from Desiderata* like a mantra. (Sidenote: amazing how something I loved as a preteen has managed to follow me through life, and still fit like a comfy sweater.) To mix my allusions, I'm giving that sorting hat a workout as I figure out which things to accept, which to change, and hope for that all important wisdom to know the difference.**

And yesterday, in the midst of so many things pushing hard trying to overshadow that which I treasure, it was the hearts of my friends that reached out and reminded me "with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."*  I am blessed with friends, and they help me keep peace with my soul, regularly, with a smile, a word, a memory. Thank you all, near and far. You are loved dearly, by one small bookczuk.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952; Full text here.

**Reinhold Niebuhr, American Theologian. Full quote "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

This came in yesterday's mail, out of the blue. A good friend I met through BookCrossing died almost three years ago. Another friend and I worked to make a memorial bookplate for BookCrossers to use-- our way of keeping his spirit present and honoring him. She and I share a love of whimsical art (and art in general), owls, books, and many other aspects of life. We also share a name. So it was fitting that we shared the creation of a bookplate. For this hoody, she has the owls we each created wing in wing: same thing, only different, but friends for life. Thank you, Other Amy. This, like your own spedbuggery self, means the world to me.