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There’s no hiding my respect for the writing abilities of Ruta Sepetys. Every book she publishes is one to be cherished. And as much as I try to go slow, they always end too soon. 

Her first book was Between Shades of Gray, published in 2011 and seven years later, a movie was released based on the book though using a different name, Ashes in the Snow

I’ll say that I’m not an avid moviegoer. The last few movies I’ve seen in the theater were accompanying my young sons’ to LEGO movie releases and watching movies at home are often what’s available on streaming services while I’m working out. However, I made an exception for Ashes in the Snow when I discovered it was on Hoopla. In the two years since it’s release, I haven’t sought it out because I generally try not to watch the movies based on beloved books. Yet I’m not against it especially after a tweet by Angie Thomas years ago that compared a book to its movie as twins: genetic makeup may be the same but they are distinct and individual entities. 

Needless to say, I was finally ready to sit by myself in the dark and watch the movie based on Sepetys’ book directed by Marius Markevicius featuring Bel Powley as Lina with a bevy of superbly cast actors for the full character list. Five minutes in I knew that this movie would move me. And every last moment did because the cinematography captured the mood as well as Sepetys words do on the page. It’s pacing with plenty of quiet played against the starkness of the situation. The motifs reappeared at opportune moments. And the ending. I was breathless. 

But once I caught it, I texted a fellow book lover, Sepetys fan, and friend that she needed to watch it with her mother who was suffering from a bout of drought of Sepetys material. We’re all pre-orderers of her books and it’s been almost a year since the release of The Fountains of Silence rocked us to our core. 

For others who have seen it, what did you think?

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2020 in Authors, Miscellaneous, Young Adult

 

In celebration

Today is National Read a Book Day, but let’s be real, every day should be national read a book day. If you follow “national day” celebrations, it’s also coffee ice cream day. Ironically, yesterday I bought a half gallon of Stewarts’ cream and coffee fudge ice cream. So, I’m all set for this Labor Day weekend Sunday.

Today I’m finishing up the audiobook for The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky which is a second read (well, listen) because I’ll be joining a “Forever YA” book discussion and this is September’s book. The things you forget after five years!

When I take my reading outside with a drink (ice cream will be for later), I’ll also finish up The Brave by James Bird before diving in to Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts.

What are you reading on National Read a Book Day?

 

Books with a side of food appreciation

The other day I was with a friend who has a deep love for good food as do I. She chose a perfect place to go and we shared plates and mmm-ed our way through the brunch. Not only do I love the act of eating good food, I love reading about food too– fiction, nonfiction, essays, you name it. Here is a roundup of some recently-read favorites in no specific order. 

This quick nonfiction book is just a little different in that it’s not really about celebrating food, but instead broadening the horizons of what can be used as food because of the changing climate. Specifically how insects are good protein sources and some weeds are actually great on a sandwich. Right before Thanksgiving I was treated to an insect quesadilla by our AP Environmental teacher who does “Bugsgiving” before the break for students to try alternative protein sources in food. I had recently recommended he read Messner’s Chirp and he sent me down that delightful treat. Food.

I’ve already blogged about this book and Danyal’s love of cooking even when it means his parents disapproval is heartwarming and fierce. Cooking and/or baking is many things to many people: let it be a career or let it be a hobby, but no one should tell you not to pursue a passion you have and this YA book sends that message. 

While not really centered on food, Mila moving to the farm in order to tutor and find respite does have more than one foray into the appreciation of farm-fresh food and flowers which helps her heal. The family sells flowers and food at the farmer’s market each week and the farmhouse table in which all of the adopted kids, “employees”, and adults sit for meals is cozy and heartfelt in how sharing both the ritual of making food and breaking bread is a healing balm. 

I never knew I needed a tea pet to keep me company while sipping tea until I read Teatime Around the World. It shares rituals and cultural ways to prepare tea around the world with brightly colored scenes and sparing narrative. I learned more about my lifeblood: tea and new ways to prepare and enjoy it.

What happens when there’s a friendly (not so friendly) food competition in school as a way to get back at your ex? That’s half of the story of The Secret Recipe for Moving On. Ellie has just had a hard breakup with her boyfriend who has moved on, but she needs a reason to do just that and putting her energy into the misfit group she’s assigned in Home Ec is just the recipe. 

Two girls come together in a shared mission to get their mothers together and create the best dish to enter into a competition even when their initial meeting was tepid at best. Sarah and Elizabeth are from two different cultures and if they place their trust in each other, the best kind of dish can emerge. It’s about friendship and food with the most romantic and delightful title. 

This is only a handful. I love how food seeps into many stories be it picture books or ones for adult audiences. Do you have a recent favorite that references food?

 

Outstanding book of the month for August 2020

Ah yes, the waning days of summer. For educators especially I think the quote is something like “August is the Sunday of summer” or for me it can be adequately summed up (as everything can) with a frame from Calvin and Hobbes.

August was another full month of at least a book a day so there are many books to choose from. I’ve settled on My Life in France by Julia Child for several reasons. First, I was waiting for the right time to read it. I’m very much a mood reader: I keep multiple books stacked and ready and choose the next book based on what I’m feeling, not to check a box or meet a deadline. This book had been sitting on my shelf since about April.

When I began it, I was going slow, like savoring one of the most delectable meals which is how I know a book is good. But then, I found out that as I was getting closer to the end that that specific day, August 15th, was the anniversary of her birthday and I knew I needed to finish it. And finish it I did, with the gusto of a great flip of the pan to create an omelet.

Every sense is awakened when reading about Julia’s life in France where she discovered the verve for cooking and fell into the sweetest routine of life with her husband, Paul. Whether it was a mundane task or cooking for a party, it was a full sensory experience for her and she and her great nephew, Alex Prud’homme make it one for the reader in the book.

@ReadersBeAdvised on Instagram

I’ll close the post with the 10 thing I know after I finished the book (as I shared on Instagram):

  1. I would have liked to know Julia Child and tour France with her.
  2. Paul and Julia had something special (my undying affection for their Valentine’s Day card bubble bath picture!)
  3. I want to take a boat to a faraway place as the mode of transportation.
  4. Food really is magical and special.
  5. I must now read and watch everything related to Julia Child and try at least a few recipes from the book.
  6. Cooking and baking IS joy.
  7. “No one’s more important than people”.
  8. This book is a beautiful experience and I confess to tearing up simply from the connection to it on a cellular level.
  9. I love having a husband who loves good food adventures like Paul did with Julia.
  10. I want to name my house and my car and everything else like Pulia did.

Nothing beats a book that makes you make lists of its amazingness.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in Adult, Book of the Month, Nonfiction

 

Checking in

What are you doing with the last few weeks of summer?

What are you reading?

What are you drinking and eating or otherwise indulging in?

What new rituals have you added to your routine or are adapting for the fall season?

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2020 in Blogging, Librarian Life, Miscellaneous

 

My own hat & atelier, please

There were many years where I was the reader who wanted to keep books a secret: wanting to feel like they were written just for me to cherish when I fell in love with them. That changed when I became a high school librarian where I spend my days hawking books, in particular the ones I love because I know my students will fall in love with them too. Yet the feeling haunts me every now and then. I had a brief moment today when I finished the fifth volume of Witch Hat Atelier by mangaka Kamome Shirahama; I wanted to secret them away. But the cat’s out of the bag anyway, since a 2020 Eisner Award was bestowed for the series as the Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia. Plus, they’re just too good not to be talking about daily. I did today to a librarian colleague while we munched mochi waffles and had tea. Tomorrow I’ll probably convince my son’s to read them. 

I’ve got my pre-order for volumes six and seven, out in September and December respectively, I did that the day I ordered the first five volumes from my indie bookstore. I need them livening up my bookshelves, ready to re-read when I need an escape or pick-me-up or just to run my fingertips over the spines. What’s so special you ask? 

This magical series is about witches and spells. Coco wants to be a witch but she’s been told you’re born a witch, you can’t become one, that is until she meets Wizard Qifrey who brings her to his atelier after he sees her powers when she terrifyingly turns her mother to stone. She’s got powers she just didn’t know she had and were unleashed when she used a book from a man on the street given to her years before. Her apprenticeship with Qifrey thus begins where she will be studying alongside three other girls: Agott, Richeh, and Tetia. Their powers will be tested as they work hard to build their skills and keep free from danger while attaining mastery over the five tests. 

I was taken aback by the beauty of the artwork, the adorableness of Coco, the unique worldbuilding, and the strength of the individual characters for which each volume seems to highlight their individual struggles while still being an ensemble cast. It’s action and adventure but a battle of intelligence. There’s no need to find romance because it’s about teamwork. 

I didn’t need more than one volume to convince me that it would be a runaway hit. I literally put down the book and went about creating a construction paper hat for myself. But it might need to go a few steps further. I think I need a cape and adorable booties with glyphs on the bottom and my own atelier. 

The series is a must-read for beginning manga readers and seasoned ones because of the overwhelming strengths of individual elements and the delivery as a whole.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2020 in Cover Love, Manga, Upcoming Releases

 

A readathon in pictures

I’m a shameless promoter for the Dewey’s 24-hour readathon because it’s a welcome break from other life activities in order to spend time doing something I love. 

Here is my readathon in pictures and narrative:

I always end the readathon by thanking my husband for tolerating being ignored for generally all of the event or hearing the echo of an audiobook wherever I’m moving in the house. He built the fire for ambience on a beautiful summer night when I enjoyed my amaretto cocktail at the 8pm end time in celebration. 

I also high-five my two boys who are now middle schoolers who participate– both for about 8 hours of the 24 hours. They packed it in around 12:28am for bed which I wasn’t expecting since they were at a sleepover the night before. 

There was the midnight-ish snack which has become a readathon tradition, having a hand-packed pint or pre-packed pint of ice cream from Stewart’s, which is totally an upstate New York thing. I picked a seasonal hand-packed pint called Mango Dragon Fruit Sherbet and it was stellar. It was a perfect pick for a blast of summer in a cup. 

Which if you can see the book pictured with the ice cream, it lent itself to the hour 7 Instagram challenge of matching your book cover- I think I nailed it. While I didn’t post the picture until later for the hour 13 challenge, when I’m munching and reading a print book, here is my favorite recent gift: a book weight. This has saved my reading life in so many ways. 

Another tradition is my bathtub reading. I’m of the same mind as Sylvia Plath who is quoted as saying

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.

So a few book options came with me into the tub. I don’t have a fancy set up but I did throw in some bath salts. 

And even though the goal is 24 hours of reading, I also still have a household to keep running, so I spent a few of those hours still doing housework or cooking while listening to an audiobook. And I got my workout in too, which was a square on the BINGO card. I listened to The Feather Thief while hitting the elliptical. This audiobook is also another tradition for me for readathons, reading or listening to a book about animals, this one about a heist of bird feathers that is part of a larger ring of the illegal sales of banned bird species skins and feathers. While I did finish that one, I also rolled into the other audiobook about a girl growing up with her grandfather who was a beekeeper. 

I spent most of the day Saturday outdoors since the early morning thunder and lightning ushered in a cool but still warm weekend day where I also enjoyed some iced coffee. I don’t always drink coffee, but when I do, it’s iced

I take breaks throughout with my audiobook on, including eye breaks in general but also when I moderate a few hours of Goodreads discussions on the readathon page. In addition, I co-hosted hour 7’s post on their WordPress site. I love the connection to other readers and find it’s another way to do this and also show my appreciation for the organizers. 

Alas, I was getting close to the end and knew I had a blackout BINGO card which I shared along with my read stack when the clock struck 8pm. Needless to say, I slept well that night: a combination of sleep deprivation and a beautiful summertime fire.

Until October 24th, bookworms!

 

Where I’ll be

From 8pm tonight until 8pm tomorrow, I’ll be reading. With a community of readers built over the course of more than 10 years, the Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon was created by a woman whose last name was Dewey. She began it in 2007, but died in 2008 where a group of colleagues decided to continue to carry the torch.

While it has changed hands one more time, I don’t feel more at home than participating in this readathon held a few times each year. But the summer readathon is special in that it’ a “reverse readathon”– one that for me in upstate New York begins at 8pm Friday rather than the traditional 8am Saturday.

I’ll also be moderating a few Goodreads hourly discussions and one blog post via their WordPress site which will keep me busy while doing my reading in all it’s forms. I’ve got my stack, plus extras to substitute if needed especially to complete the BINGO board or a mini-challenge. I’ve only NOT gotten a blackout for BINGO once and I blame it on COVID.

Snacks and food is generally planned (and baked). Loose tea replenished. Audiobooks loaded. Let’s do this.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2020 in Miscellaneous

 

Outstanding book of the month for July 2020

What I have enjoyed about starting this post at the end of each month is that it forces me to review what I’ve read and refile my thoughts about them and also rank them– not picking the top seven or top three, but really picking one that stuck out.

Behold, July’s outstanding book…. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron.

There are plenty of fans of retellings out there and if you are one of them, then make sure this one is on your TBR. The book is built on strong, memorable characters and challenging society (in this fantasy novel and in real life). It’s hard to separate Sophia and Constance, one readers meet Constance. Both have their motivations, Constance several generations removed from the stepsisters of Cinderella’s story, but Sophia wants to challenge the status quo of this kingdom, lorded over by the prince. She sees her friends readying themselves for the ball where they will be selected by a man who can then do whatever he pleases with her. Not only does Sophia not want to marry, she doesn’t want a husband. Erin has been her love for quite some time but is reluctant to run away from the kingdom with Sophia and is instead resigned to a life similar to everyone else’s.

And it’s Sophia and Erin’s first ball, that is one of several scenes in the book that are memorable. The ballroom itself appears in climactic scenes in the story to anchor the fantasy that most readers have of the Cinderella narrative. And Bayron turns it on its head, especially when the united pair of Sophia and Constance along with the fairy godmother raise Cinderella from the dead in another scene. How else can you alter your view of the sparkling, glass-slippered Cinderella than to raid her tomb and use a potion to reinvigorate her for a few minutes? Just as your version of a fairy godmother changes when the girls go into the White Wood and find her too.

Because not all that glitters… and one of the memorable quotes is what Sophia knew in her gut from the start but is slowly revealed as she goes on her quest to take down the prince.

I think sometimes we make the mistake of thinking monsters are abhorrent aberrations, lurking in the darkest recesses, when the truth is far more disturbing. The most monstrous men are those who sit in plain sight, daring you to challenge them.

Yes, the entire book is that powerful with a few crazy happenings in between. The feminist perspective with intersectional characters and a challenge of stories we hold dear not only feels so right for 2020, but also for our teens.

If Bayron now decides to do some more retellings, I’ll be waiting over here with my cup of tea.

 

Wins

Yesterday my friend Stacey, a fellow school librarian, reader, presenter, and blogger with a sweet tooth wrote a post about some of her recent wins. Part celebration and part encouragement to keep on going when things seems so dim, she posed the question to readers about what wins they’ve had recently. Here are a few of mine.

Win #1

Reading a newly-graduated student’s published book after buying it from Amazon. Really, a published book and it was an atmospheric one-sitting read that I’ll be covering soon. This reminds us why we’re educators.

Win #2

I’ve continued my personal challenge to read a book a day since the last day of in-person instruction on Friday, March 13th. Beginning on the 14th, I’ve read at least a book a day and share the titles on Instagram. Where some have been unable to concentrate on reading during the pandemic, I have found comfort and routine in the completion of at least one book a day.

Win #3

Every summer, I run several professional book groups for staff at my high school to the point that it’s become part of the culture. Not only is completion rate high, but the camaraderie adds to summertime joyousness and we all get something out of it. Last week, one of the math teachers posted that if it wasn’t for these book groups, she wouldn’t be reading at all, so she was appreciative of the work I put in to crafting the groups and selecting the books each summer.

And I’ll ask you, what wins have you had recently?

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2020 in Librarian Life, Miscellaneous