Books read in April 2014

Good stuff this month.  Except for one YA that I felt very ambivalent about, the rest of these books were ones I would shove at you with varying levels of excitement.  If I had to pick just one, I would tell you to read This Song Will Save Your Life which hit every single teenage-girls-are-awesome buttons.  I’m mildly obsessed with Leila Sales, the author.

Picture books
The Scraps Book
Lois Ehlert
Read for Librarian Book Group.
Book about the author’s process in making her books.  Full of fun detail.

Middle Readers
The Crossover
Kwame Alexander
Poetry! And Basketball!  A tale of a middle school basketball star with a twin brother (who also plays) a dad who is a former pro-ball (in Europe) player and a mom who is the principal of the middle school.  The story unfolds in many short poems.  Very excellent.

Young Adult Books
Grasshopper Jungle
Andrew Smith
Read for Librarian Book Group.
For the first half of this book I was completely in love with the horny stylings of the narrarator.  The Iowa town was great, the friend/girlfriend were great, the love triangle was fabulous and I loved the descriptions of the school and teachers.  It was also funny on every single page.  But somewhere in the middle I suddenly didn’t love it as much and by the end I was just at a simple “like” which was too bad because it was headed toward five-star status.  But you should read it if you like gonzo plots, adolescent boys being very frank about sexual desire, adolescent boys who are trying to figure out their feelings–possibly romantic–for their best friend*, sci-fi stylings, or books about small town Iowa.  Also if you like funny.

Overall, I recommend. Maybe because I read it so fast I lost interest?  I can’t put my finger on what happened.

*This angle right here was enough for me to read the book.  Boys thinking they might be attracted to other boys, but still love girls isn’t something I see a lot of.

The Theory of Everything
Kari Luna
This won the Oregon Book Award for YA and I can’t say I loved it.  Was she hallucinating or was she experiencing breaks in the fabric of the universe?  It wasn’t super clear to me and I felt uncomfortable.

This Song Will Save Your Life
Leila Sales
My favorite kind of tale:  girl finds her “thing,” boy is superfluous. It reminded me a lot of the movie Whip-It in all the best ways.  This is a fun read and will resonate with anyone who has felt out of place in school, but at home when music is playing.

Grownup Books
Lessons from the Borderlands
Bette Lynch Hustead
Read for Kenton Library Book Group.
Essays written by a woman living in Eastern Oregon, who grew up poor in Idaho.  There were things I could relate to, which makes for good essay reading.

Story of a Marriage
Andrew Sean Greer
Beautifully written tale from the perspective of a woman living in San Francisco in the 1950s.  There were a couple of surprising turns I didn’t see coming.

This is Between Us
Kevin Sampsill
Reading this I couldn’t help but think repeatedly, “Is this how guys think?”  Because if it is, I have vastly underestimated the amount of time they are thinking about sex.  And that’s with studies being published telling me they think of sex every six minutes or so.  This book is a tale of a five years of a couple’s life.  A lot of sex.  A lot of thinking about sex.  I found it rather hot, though weird that the guy who wrote it is the guy who introduces the authors for readings at Powell’s.

Postcards from China & Finland.

This is from Lu, who wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  This caused confusion on my part as it’s the end of April.  The Chinese postmark says April 21.  When I registered it, I found that Lu sent it at the end of December.  Where did it go for four months?
Fun stamps.  I love the fish one especially.

This is from someone whose name was obscured by the bar code stamp.  She asked me about spring in Oregon and says that it’s 10 degrees in Finland. Google tells me that  is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. She tells me also that fishing season has started which is a good reason to stay outdoors.  She also hopes her choice of card is acceptable and it is, because I adore the two old ladies.  
Fun stamp with this one too!

Picture from long time ago.

This is E.F. and myself sitting in downtown Amherst in November of 1997.  I had traveled back to Amherst for Thanksgiving, or perhaps a fall visit.  The two of us had been roommates the previous summer.  Excellent mid-90s details include the red point-and-shoot camera held by EF, her short hair the fact that she’s smoking.  I am not smoking in this photo, but I’m guessing I have either just finished a cigarette or am about to have one.  I’m wearing my dad’s army pants, left over from the national guard, a spanking new pair of Doc Martens, my green sweater, which once upon a time belonged to Sara’s Great Aunt Hazel.  I’m also wearing the coat that kept me warm through many a freezing cold New England Winter.  On my hand is a ring that I gave myself, so as to be engaged to me and not any guys.  The backpack carries my things for the weekend.  I will take the Peter Pan bus back to Boston to work my first post-college job as a receptionist.  It is a job that is boring and lonely and I travel an hour each way to get to there.  I am lonely, and this weekend has been a very good one.

Three sentence movie review: Slings and Arrows, Season 3

Our wonderful theater troupe faces more hard times in this third (and final) season which features King Lear.  Sarah Polly is the seasons ingenue, playing Cordelia to a very crusty Lear.  Richard gets involved with a musical that is hilarious in its odiousness.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  at home with Matt

poster from wikipedia

Essay: Informational phoning rules reset.

Rules reset, phone manners.
Here’s an actual transcription of a phone call I received at work last week.
Me:  [Name of School], this is Patricia
Caller:  Uh, is this the school located at [gave address of school]?
Me: Yes it is.
Caller:  Are you gonna move any time soon?
Me:  We have our lease for another few years, but we have no plans to move in the future.
Caller:  Oh.
Me: Why do you ask?
Caller:  Oh.  Uh.  I’m opening a Medical Marijuana store and you guys are getting in the way of my plans.
Me:  Ah.  Well, you should plan on us being here for the foreseeable future.
Caller:  Okay. [Hangs up]
I chuckled, because I don’t get calls from medical marijuana dealers every day, but I also think this random interchange provides a great framework for shoring up our phone manners.  I’ve noticed they have diminished over the last decade or so, so let’s do a reboot.
1.  Figure out what you are calling for.
This seems rather obvious, but most people don’t do it.  I get a lot of random opening questions that aren’t quite heading us in the right direction to get the information the callers are looking for.  Then I have to play a hit-and-miss game of questions to pinpoint the information the caller is looking for.  In this case, Mr. Medical Marijuana wanted to know if he could hold off opening his business and still be in the location he had chosen because maybe the school had plans to move.  But yet, he starts by asking me to identify the school and location.
2. Begin with your name (first AND last) and perhaps title.
I know that many phone-type devices have ways to display who is calling, but this is not yet a universal thing.  I don’t have this for my phone at work.  When you begin your call with your name and title, it helps the person you are calling slot you into the correct part of her brain so she can help you.  In this gentleman’s case, I wasn’t sure if I was talking to a parent who needed the address, a visitor to the school or some other random thing.  If he had begun with something along the lines of, “Hello, my name is Steve Ganja of Ganja’s Buds and I have a question about your school,” then I would have been able to slot him into “outsider with random question” category and proceeded accordingly.
It’s also much friendlier to begin with your name.  I have quite a few calls from grandparents that begin with, “When’s Spring Break?” and when I tell them, they say thank you and then disconnect.  It feels rather abrupt and leaves me feeling slightly used.  And I’ve said it before, but please use both names.  All you Allisons and Jennifers and Dinas and Hilarys, there are multiples of you and I never know which one I am talking to.  I have to guess.  Throw on a last name and I’m golden.
3. State your question quickly and concisely.
In Steve Ganja’s case, he maybe could have said something along the lines of, “I’m opening a Medical Marijuana business and have just learned that your school is within 1000 feet of my preferred location, which means I can’t sell there.  But I’m wondering if you have any plans to move in the near future.”  See how clean and complete that is?
4.  When you have what you need, be sure to end the call politely.
A “hey, thanks” is always welcome.  Kind wishes for the day are good too.

If everyone would take these steps, phone conversation would be vaulted into pleasant interchanges during the day, rather than bemusing ones.

World Book Night

Have you heard about World Book Night?  Me neither. It’s a night where publishers publish books (list is here) so people can walk around and give them away.  How fun is that?  Powell’s had a kickoff event where Cheryl Strayed, Matthew Dickman, Amanda Coplin, Paul Collins, and Chelsea Cain all talked about a book that had influenced them.
Here’s Cheryl Strayed introducing the night. 
Matthew Dickman told us of his favorite book.  In the manner of all of the speakers, he managed to call out several before he got to the one he was really talking about.  He mentioned Island of the Blue Dolphins, (and I knew right then we were the same age, because that was a big one for me too) then talked about the poems they read in school, which were dense and heady and hard to comprehend.  So it was a watershed moment when he found All My Pretty Ones by Anne Sexton and he could read and understand the poems.  That lead him to Charles Burkowski and then his teacher gave him a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.  Along with the book came a postcard with Allan Ginsberg standing on a corner in New York with all his poet friends, and Dickman said that where he grew up, guys standing on the corner was a bad thing, and bad things came from guys standing on the corner.  To see a bunch of poets hanging about in such a way and creating art instead of trouble, was something to remember.  And so he read us an excerpt from Howl.
Chelsea Cain bought up her copy of Synonyms and Antonyms. Her mother had given it to her and inscribed a note in the flyleaf.  So we know that it was bought after a viewing of My Friend Flicka.  Cain pointed out that her mother made a habit of inscribing books, which means that now she can never get rid of said books.  Also that this was the first tool she was given as a writer and she used to page through it.  Now she uses a website to find her synonyms, which is a different thing than flipping through a book.  She then read to us from The Mystery of the Glowing Eye, one of the many Nancy Drew Books she read over and over again from first to fifth grade.
Paul Collins brought his copy of Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome.  Despite sharing a last name, too much time has passed between this event and this write-up of the event to remember why he chose that book.
Amanda brought Mouchette by George Bernanos.  She especially liked the version of the New York Review of Books Classics.
Cheryl Strayd brought her copy of Black Beauty that her mother read to her when she was three. (!)  Strayd said that she hasn’t read this book to her children yet, even though they are something like eight and ten years old.  The horrible things that happen to the horse are too much.  However, the book was incredibly influential in beginning the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals and the writing is beautiful.  Plus, her mother was a horsewoman and always had a horse.
This was an excellent presentation and introduction to World Book Night.  Thanks Powell’s.

Postcards from Taiwan and Ukraine

I loved this card, because the illustration is so detailed, plus there is gold filigree all over it that makes it very pretty to look at.  This is from Katherine and she is an 18-year-old student in Taiwan.  She said her parents used to go to grocery stores like this when they were young but such stores have been replaced by convenience stores.

You have to look sideways (sorry) but that’s a beetle and some kind of berry.

This is called “May Wind” and is from Caroline.  Her three facts are:  “I’m happy today very much because my mother has birthday.  I gather sugar packets.  I have more than thousand. I’m 27 years old but I still think and feel that I’m 15 years old. But I think that this is my advantage rather than disadvantage.”

When I registered the postcard, I told her how my friends and I used to bring each other lighters when we went on trips, even before any of us smoked.  And she wrote back and said that her friend’s daughter married a millionaire in America and when the friend went to visit they collected sugar packets everywhere.  
Postcrossing is so awesome.

Three sentence movie review: Captain America colon The Winter Soldier*

Chris Evans totally works for me as Captain America, and you can count me in the “Yes!” box for Scarlett Johansson, (especially when she has something to do besides look pretty) so I was pretty happy with this movie.  The plot was interesting, though a certain Movies 101 podcast spoiled almost everything for me.  It was long, but the pace clipped along quite nicely.

Cost:  $11.00 (it was an Easter splurge)
Where watched:  Regal Lloyd Center 10 with F. Kelly and Matt

*I like to say the colon out loud.  Because it’s kind of a pretentious title.  Why not just Captain American II?

poster from: