Books Read in August 2016

Why hello, Middle Grade Month of August.  I’ve been prepping for the 6/7 grade Family Book Group I will be running in the autumn.  Thus, a lot of middle-grade reading.


Picture books:  none read this month.
Middle grade:  A lot of good choices, but I’ll go with Save Me a Seat
Young Adult: I am Princess X
Young Nonfiction: none read this month
Adult Nonfiction: no recommendation
Smart Smut: no recommendation
Adult Fiction: none read this month

middle grade

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
Read for Librarian Book Group
Delightfully creepy in that safe, middle-grade way. It was good enough  I didn’t even mind so much that it was yet another book that took place in Europe during WWII.  Children are sent away to a castle in Scotland so they can remain safe for the duration.  Unfortunately, Rookskill Castle seems to not be the safe place they were hoping for.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
John David Anderson
Read for Librarian Book Group
Follow three boys as they attempt to give their favorite teacher a party.  This book is funny, with true emotion and deeply felt relationships between the boys themselves and the boys and the teacher.

There are a couple of iffy teacher moments here–things that I think really good teachers would not do.  However, the various scenes are so vivid (it turns out you can pick your friend’s nose) I’m going to let them slide.

Save Me A Seat
Read for Librarian Book Group
The alternating perspectives of two fifth grade boys: Joe, suddenly solitary after his friends move; Ravi, newly arrived with his family from India. Ravi was quite popular in India, partially because of how smart he is.  He assumes that he will be just as popular in his new school.

Ravi is wrong.  Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan get so much right:  the difficulties of not being able to learn like everyone else does; the difficulties of making new friends; the problems with pre-judging people; supportive families and how they both help and harm; parents not getting it.

This was a well-written book, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth as to what we value in U.S. culture.

Maybe a Fox
Read for Librarian Book Group
This is the second book I’ve read this year from the perspective of a fox.  Like Sara Pennypacker’s Pax, this was engrossing, heartfelt reading.  I could have done with a little more development of fox culture (what is is this Kennan thing?) but overall, it’s a good meditation on grief and people’s roles in others lives.

Full Cicada Moon
Marilyn Hilton
Yet another story told through poems.  I did not find the poems particularly powerful as poems, but they did a good job of telling Mimi’s story of moving to a small Vermont town in 1969.  She’s half black and half Japanese.  Also she wants to be an astronaut.  You can see how there might be problems.

young adult

My Lady Jane
Let’s first discuss what I didn’t like about this book:

The cover.  In the acknowledgments section the authors write of their delight at the cover and I’m glad they are happy.  But it does nothing to depict what is on the inside of this book.  In fact, the two people I asked, both said they thought it had something to with the 1960s. Something about the center part and freckles says flower children, not pseudo-pre-Elizabethan England.

Moving past our cover judgement, my other dislike is that this book doggedly follows the classic chaste romance plot arc, so much so that I knew what was going to happen before it did.

Now that we’ve gotten past those things, I must say that this book was weird in such a wonderful way.  It begins on the acknowledgements page, where the three authors (again: weird) dedicate the book to everyone who knows there was room for Leonardo DiCaprio on that door. Inside Titanic reference!  They also dedicate it to the people of England and apologize for ruining their history.

The authors create a historic fictional fantasy world in which Lady Jane Grey (she of the nine days rule and subsequent execution by Queen Mary) is hastily married off to the younger son of Lord Dudly (just like in real life) but Lord Dudly’s son in the book spends his nights in human form, reciting poetry and his days as a horse.

Yes, as a horse! In the world of this book, some of the people assume animal forms!  Nothing on the cover or the plot synopsis indicates anything about this interesting wrinkle in made-up history.

I found this aspect delightful and enjoyed reading, despite the conventional chaste-romance plot.  And so I recommend this book for you!

I am Princess X
Cherie Priest
Resistance was high, namely due to the title and the mix of graphic novel/traditional narrative.  For some reason I can deal better with all graphic novel or all traditional narrative, but when combined there is some sort of anti-synergy that happens.

But all that resistance dissipated by the end of the first chapter.  This book has a great setup:  two girls create Princess X in fifth grade and spend all of middle school writing and illustrating adventures.  Then one girl dies and all the Princess X stories are lost.  Flash forward three years to when the surviving friend is walking around town and to her surprise, finds a Princess X sticker.

How did the sticker get there and who else knows about Princess X?  Follow along to find out.

Grownup Nonfiction

Tattoos on the Heart
Gregory Boyle
Father Boyle is executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and has spent his life working in the projects and with gang members.  This is a collection of stories about his experiences.  The stories are short, more like vignettes, and they are collected together in several themes.

I enjoyed this book, but I think Father Gregory is a probably a better in-person storyteller than an on-the-page writer.

smart smut

The Fifteenth Minute
Sarina Bowen
We continue on in the Ivy series, this time with Lianne, an actress famous for being a sort of female Harry Potter, and DJ, whose on a weird kind of probation and isn’t sure how long he will last at Harkness College.  This is a run-of-the-mill M/F love story.  That also deals with rape accusation.  While I think Bowen threads the needle somewhat well, it’s worth pointing out that rapes that go unreported are much more common than false accusations.

PDX Green Loop


I took this picture because I hadn’t heard anything about the Portland Green Loop.  It seems that it is a proposed 6-mile linear park that “invites residents, workers, and visitors to experience Portland’s Central City in an entirely new way. It will create active new spaces in the Central City that are comfortable to all Portlanders, and will offer everyone an opportunity to determine how their city, districts, and neighborhoods can retain and further grow their distinct qualities.”

Hmmm.  There’s a map on the website.

Will this ever come to pass?

Song of the month: August 2016

Bright Eyes “First Day of My Life”
This came about because it was the background to a book trailer (story trailer?) for one of the One Teen Story publications.  It’s one of those songs that captures one of those magic moments that changes everything.  It hits all the pleasure centers for me.

Cage the Elephant
Currently, this is a song that is playing on many of the radio stations I scroll through and I give a squeal when I come across it.  Unlike many songs, which I love for their lyrics first and music second, I love those arpeggio things that happen before the chorus.  The drummer has just the right amount of drag going on too.  Also, I appreciate it’s a song without a lot of lyrics (like many songs today) and yet it doesn’t feel repetitive.  Also, the singer’s range in this song is crazy big.  He runs from too low for my range at the beginning right up to too high for my range with those oo-ooo, oo-oo’s.

Note:  I have no time to watch these vidoes.  I have no comment on them, but I really liked the start of the Bright Eyes one. And  The Cage the Elephant one looks like it might tell a story!

Watching videos feels like one of those things I could do when I was teenager, but who has time now?


Three sentence movie reviews: Elvis & Nixon


This was one of those really enjoyable movies that crept up on me.  The premise is already amusing, so there was that, but both actors so embodied their characters that it was fun to sink into the drama.*  Insights into the pain and pleasures of being famous were plentiful also.

Cost: free via work-sponsored Netflix
Where watched: at home

*Kevin Spacey looks nothing like Nixon, but he had the man down.

poster from:

Three sentence movie reviews: River of Grass


I felt lucky to be able to watch this early Kelly Reichardt movie and found it very much keeping in the Reichardt style.  It did a good job of overturning all the Bonnie and Clyde cliches.  I also found the Florida setting interesting, as many of her movies are set in Oregon.

Cost: free via work-sponsored Netflix.
Where watched: at home.

poster from:

Hiking the Gorge: Larch Mountain

In which we attempt to go to Sherrad Point, but are thwarted by our hiking book’s directions.IMG_5938

In which we return to where we were and hike up to the picnic area, only to figure out where we went wrong.IMG_5939

Poor form!  Someone left a bottle of water for someone else to clean up.  We took it home and recycled it.  Shortly after this point, I tripped and full-body flopped to the ground.  My camera went flying, but thankfully tumbled onto soft needles and wasn’t damaged.  I put the camera away, so as to not court more danger.  So there are fewer photos of this trip.IMG_5940

Bridge timer photo.IMG_5941

Matt crosses the bridge.IMG_5942

We had just missed huckleberry season.IMG_5943

Abrupt change in trail elevation.

And we make it back to our starting position.  This was a fun hike and we saw few people.  We’ve made plans to go back in May or June as a lot of the hike runs along a creek.  In late August, the creek had run dry, so it would be fun to go back and compare.IMG_5946