Books read in July 2017

There was a little bit of nearly everything this month, including poetry!  I love months with poetry books.  Perhaps I should make them more of a priority.

(This was not the book cover picture I thought I was getting.  But it does give you a chance to compare and contrast the British/US covers.  I prefer the US cover, on the left.  But the British one is nice too.)

Picture books: A tie between Tell Me About Sex, Grandma, and Yours Sincerely, Giraffe, neither of which really fit the picture book label, but I can’t be having 15 different labels each month.
Middle grade: A Crack in the Sea
Young adult: The Pearl Thief
Young nonfiction: One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
Grownup nonfiction: You and a Bike and a Road
Adult fiction: Attachment

Tell me about sex, grandma
A. Higgenbothem
Read for Librarian Book Group
Aside from having a great title that practically begs everyone to pick up this book, it’s also a wonderful conversation between grandmother/grandchild about that thing that all children are curious about.  The art is delightful, and I particularly appreciate grandma’s cool pants.

Blue Sky, White Stars
Baberhous, Nelson
Read for Librarian Book Group
Great illustrations of the United States we love.  Some of the text didn’t flow for me.

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe
Iwasa Takabatako
Read for Librarian Book Group
I’m a great fan of epistolary stories, so of course I would be delighted by this story of Giraffe, who writes a letter and sends it off.  Penguin writes back and so their delightful correspondence begins.  This early chapter book is funny.

Town is the Sea
Sydney Smith
Read for Librarian Book Group
Beautiful picture book which takes place in a Cape Breton mining town.  I suspect this will win many awards, due to the librarians going ga-ga over it at book group.

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Rita Williams Garcia
Read for Librarian Book Group
There was so much to love about this story:  the frustrating and unfair way his mother dealt with Clayton’s grandfather’s death; how a child grieves; love of jazz music; the grandfather/grandson relationship; the mother/son relationship; the father/daughter relationship.

And then it seemed like Garcia had filled her allotted amount of pages and things wrapped up much too quickly.  It was as if a living, breathing story was hurried to its ending before it could come to its natural conclusion.  This was disappointing.

A Crack in the Sea
H.M. Bouwman
Read for Librarian Book Group
Combining the middle passage experience of slaves brought to the US, with the post-Vietnam War boat people experience? No problem.  It totally works in this tale that mostly takes place in the Second World, a place that can only be accessed once in a great while.

This is not only a story full of tales, it’s also a brother/sister tale of adventure and exploration.  I loved this book.

The Pearl Thief
Elizabeth Wein
Read for Librarian Book Group
A prequel to the stellar Code Name Verity, this takes place several years prior and features Julia Beaufort-Stuart’s summer adventures.

I have a friend who loves to read British mysteries set at boarding schools between the wars.  This nearly hit all of those preferences, just missing out on the boarding school aspect. Although the miss was a close one.  Julia is home for the summer from boarding school.  Also, her home is being turned into a boys boarding school, as her grandfather has died and his estate is being liquidated.

This book begins with a wallop to the back of the head (Julia’s) and a summer of trying to unravel who hit her, and why.  As with all of Elizabeth Wein books, there are a treasure trove of details packet into a tightly woven narrative including freshwater pearls, the history of the Travelers/Tinkers, and general class injustice.

Now that this exists, I’m not entirely sure which book should be read first. If one begins with Code Name Verity, this book will have an emotional resonance it wouldn’t have had.  But maybe it’s best to start here, and tread slowly into the Verity waters?


The Lines We Cross
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Read for Librarian Book Group
I’m not familiar with Australia’s anti-immigrant movement, but the sentiments are not very different than what is expressed in the USA anti-immigrant movement.  In this book, the son of a prominent “anti” becomes friends with a girl who is a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan.

I found the prose to be clunky at times, but this is worth the read, both for the aspect of a teenager’s awakening (my parents believe X, do I also believe X to be true?) but also for the refugee perspective and the many hard places refugees find themselves in.

The Whole Thing Together
Anne Brashares
A brilliant and engaging premise.  Sasha and Ray share half sisters, but have never met, due to the terrible divorce between Sasha’s father and Ray’s mother.  They also share a bedroom at the beach house the divorced couple continues to occupy.

There are a lot of mid-chapter point of view shifts in this book that I found distracting.  And I wasn’t fond of how Brashares chose to wrap up the story.  It seemed too convenient, as in: “I’m tired of writing this story and need to be done.”  Still, the idea of two kids more or less the same age occupying the same space year after year, and yet never meeting was a winner.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
Nikki Grimes
Read for Librarian Book Group
Grimes pairs poems written by Harlem Renaissance authors with new poems written using the Golden Shovel method.  In this method, the author takes a line (or lines, or sometimes an entire poem) and writes a new poem using each word from that line as the end word of the line.

My brain boggled that such beautiful poetry could come from this method.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up
Atkins, Yogi
Read for Librarian Book Group
Graphic novel true story of one man who refused to go to the “relocation” camps during World War II.  Great for people who might need to be reminded about the United State’s shady history with justice.

You and a bike and a road
Eleanor Davis
Davis chronicles her bike ride from her parents house in Tuscon, Arizona to her home in Athens, Georgia.  Quick drawings and spare text are employed for maximum benefit.  There’s a bit in Texas that deals with border crossing that was done remarkably well.

Rainbow Rowell
Read aloud with Matt
I enjoyed this re-read. This makes our second Rainbow Rowell read aloud.

Portland Hill Walk re-routed

We took another Portland Hill Walk, but I did not know the Lower Macleay Trail was closed for renovation.  Instead of taking that red line back to where the car was parked at 29th and Vaughn, we took the very long detour which is the blue line that runs below the solid red line of the Lower Macleay.

However, it did take us by this building, the Historic Fairmount Apartments.  I’d been wondering if anything had changed with this building.Back in 2002, when I first moved to Portland, I secured a job with a company.  I’d been living with my aunt, which made it much easier to get established in Portland. With a job in hand, I started looking for studio apartments and I toured the Fairmount Apartments.

It was great!  For $275/month (or maybe even less?) I could get a studio with a shared bathroom in a building that was built as part of the Lewis & Clark Exposition. (!!!!Cheap!!!!Alternative living arrangements!!!!!Historic!!!!!) I was about to put in my application when the company rescinded their offer. By the time I found another job, an apartment came open in a co-worker’s building and I ended up in the more expensive ($500/month) and also delightful Rosefriend Apartment (now sadly gone.)

But I wondered if such cheap lodgings were still available in this building. When we walked by, I guessed that they they were no longer for rent.  I crossed my fingers that the chain-link fence didn’t mean the whole building was coming down.

Good news!  According to UD+P’s website, this building will be renovated.  To quote:

Over the next year, the property will be overhauled with new plumbing and electrical, a new roof, and new landscaping—all while preserving the historic charm of the Fairmount’s beautiful brick exterior. The renovated Fairmount Apartments will have approximately 80 modern units, all with private bathrooms, with street-facing entrances for many first-floor units.

The smaller-than-average square footage of the units will allow for cheaper rent than is typically found in comparable downtown Portland apartment buildings. This will help to set up The Fairmount Apartments as a viable choice for those who wish to live in a well-appointed historic building without the expensive rent associated with larger, similarly located apartment units.

Score and score!  While I remain skeptical that “cheaper rent” will translate into “amount of rent I could afford to pay today” I really appreciate what they are attempting.

Estimated date of completion is Summer 2018.  I wish them good luck.

Also, here’s a quote from a DJC article about the situation when the building went up for sale in 2011

The apartment complex has about 80 units – 26 with either one, two or three bedrooms on the first floor, and 54 studios with shared bathrooms on the second floor. The studios start at around $300 per month, a near rock-bottom rent for Northwest Portland.

So it seems that yes, until 2011, the super cheap rent was still available.

Portland Actor’s Ensemble: A Winter’s Tale

We traveled to Concordia University (not far from our house) to take in our second PAE outing this summer.

The jealous King Lontes

There’s always good people watching at outdoor Shakespeare

A very pregnant Hermione talks with her ladies.

I was obsessed with this audience member’s perfect summer sundress.

I also noticed that the Hermione on the program (sitting in the middle) did not match the Hermione in our production.  I wonder what happened to her?

As with most Shakespeare plays, the “rustics” were fun to watch. It was a good season of outdoor Shakespeare.

Postcard from Niagara Falls

Regular commenter Sara went to O! Canada! (and many other places) on her recent vacation. She sent me this postage-paid postcard, telling me of her great surprise and delight at Niagara Falls.  It’s dated July 1 and just arrived today on the 28th.  I can’t decide if it’s an international thing, or perhaps the wrong zip code.  The last two digits written are crossed off in inky black and re-written.  Perhaps some postal employees went the extra mile to make sure I got this?

Song of the month July 2017

Don’t Take the Money

It’s very 80s, in a good way.  And there’s some romance.  From random googling, it seems that critics don’t much care for Bleachers, but I sure do.

Here they are on the Tonight Show.  I was a little amused by several things during this performance. Namely: why two drummers? the odd silos of keyboards framing Jack Antonoff; the fact that Mr. Antonoff maybe doesn’t need to wear that guitar during the performance of this song, given how little he plays it.  Still, I did like how he seemed to be connecting with the Tonight Show crowd, and it was interesting to see how something that sounds very studio-produced translated to a live performance.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Tree

Australian tale of loss, grief and moving on. When Simone’s father dies unexpectedly, she hears him talking to her through a very large tree outside her home.  This is a quiet, slow film in all the best ways.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

poster from:

Employing all the devices

I’ve been busy this summer with the class Grammar Lab, which is taught by the UC San Diego Extension Service.  It’s class number one (of four) in a copyediting (or possibly copy editing–the term is spelled both ways) certificate. *

Though it very clearly stated when registering that this is NOT a learn-as-you-go class, it turned out to be just that.  The 10-week series was loaded on the first date and the instructor said things had to be done by the end date.  He recommended not getting very far behind.

This was great news to me as I had a vacation scheduled during Week 10, and I prefer to vacation during my vacations, not work on schoolwork.  After the first three weeks (which were killer) it got easier, so I’ve got a plan to work ahead and finish a week early.

The class requires taking multiple quizzes per week and one can use notes and other helping devices.  To save flipping between windows, I’ve started utilizing both my tablet and desktop computer.  The quizzes go on the tablet, where I’m able to type using my wireless keyboard.  Then I can look at my notes and online resources as I go using my desktop computer.

Speaking of online grammar resources, the internet is very generous in this area.  It’s as though the grammar people would like nothing better than for you to be properly able to use grammar correctly.  I’ve enjoyed Grammar Bytes for both its content and aesthetics, but the most helpful site for me this summer is the Guide to Grammar and Writing.  On this site you will be charmed (or repelled) by the early web page layout, but you will be incredibly appreciative of the clarity and volume of information. The guide to tenses alone saved my bacon repeatedly.

*And now that I’ve officially announced that I want to be an official copy editing-type person, all of the many mistakes contained in this blog look that much more terrible.  I hang my head in shame.

When the spell check fails

Signs like this break my heart, a little.

Shanna is, of course, speaking of crocheting–the thing with yarn and hook–rather than the game of croquet–the thing with wickets and mallets.  Writing this post, it turns out I can’t spell crocheting either, without spell check helping me. Luckily for me, my inability to bring together the letters in the correct order is paired with an ability to picking out the correctly spelled word from what I’m trying to say from a list.  Shanna seems not so lucky.  I would also guess from her handwriting that she is older, and perhaps not familiar with computers and word processing.

I hope that Shanna did get some interest and was able to create a book of everyone’s creations.