Posted in Joy: 2017 Word Meditation, Things I'm reading

Fangirl adventures

I recently finished The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry. Actually, “finished” is the wrong word. I devoured the third and fourth books, Messenger and Son, over the course of 4 days. Upon completing Son, I was in the frustrating position of having read something truly remarkable and yet having no one with which to talk about the plot. Not one person of my general acquaintance has read all four books in The Giver series. I found this odd, especially as I work with 20+ booksellers, of which a majority have read a plethora of young adult fiction. But then I discovered The Giver was published in 1993, much later than I had originally thought. Gathering Blue, book 2 in the series, wasn’t published until 2000, Messenger in 2004 and Son was only published 5 years ago in 2012. Well, no wonder my colleagues and friends hadn’t devoured this series in their adolescence. The series wasn’t completed until 5 years ago!

That being said, as soon as I finished Son, I had the satisfying emotions that accompanied my completion of The Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle and The Dark in Rising series by Susan Cooper (both have become “go-to” recommendations for my nieces, friends’ children and customers at work). If you have not read The Giver, you need to. End of discussion. But really, I want you to read it so that you’ll get hooked and read all 4 books so I have someone with which to talk about the fantastic series finale.

It was a bit before midnight when I finished Son, and I was so energized by what I had read that I was wired. I wrote my little review on Goodreads and came to the sad conclusion that I couldn’t immediately chat with someone about the book. So, I did what any normal bibliomanic would do, I stalked Lois Lowry on the internet, found her website and paragraphed a few emphatic, heartfelt sentiments to her via her website. Yeah, I’m not even embarrassed by how much of a fangirl move that was.

Because, get this, Lois Lowry wrote me back.

That’s right. The 80+ author of The Giver quartet took time to personally respond to a fangirl’s email. Mz. Lowry has so many better things to do with her time. I was NOT expecting a response. But, needless to say, my respect for this woman has now skyrocketed. And I would like to publicly state, if there is any way to make a person geek out EVEN MORE over a book, it’s to have that book’s author personally contact them.

And here’s what’s great, she was genuinely sweet. She responded to my specific words, (agreeing in my hopes for a particular character’s unwritten conclusion) and thanked me for reaching out to her, adding that it is always so special to her when readers are touched by what she has written. What a sweetheart.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to over here, just chatting it up with Lois Lowry (and reading amazing young adult fiction). My life is so glam.

Seriously, go read The Giver books. Do it right now! I want to know what you think of the Tradesmaster and Einar and Claire and Jonas and Kira and Matty and all the great characters in the series. And until one of you read Son, I will be waiting here…with baited breath.

Fangirl out.

Posted in Things I'm reading, Thoughts

The Children’s Blizzard

Every so often, I get an itch to read a true story that only a good historical non-fiction book can scratch. As I was pricing at work last week, this title crossed my path. The front cover reads “In three minutes the front subtracted eighteen degrees from the air’s temperature. Then evening gathered in, and temperatures kept dropping in the northwest gale. By morning on Friday, January 13, 1888, more than a hundred children lay dead on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie…”

For some reason, this book about a horrible natural disaster over 100 years ago drew me in. I devoured it in 3 days, learning all kinds of facts about frostbite and gangrene and historical meteorology. But what held my interest were the individual stories of families: teachers taking refuge in hay with children, brothers going out into the storm to find brothers, survivors, widows, mothers who lost children. A storm like that is imprinted on a family history.

Something in me wonders what it would be like to settle on the unforgiving prairie, and simultaneously, I am glad I can read about it from the comfort of 2016. And I’m intrigued at what it would feel like to go outside in the morning with the weather a balmy 20 degrees to have it drop to -40 later in the evening. We are so removed from what that would mean in our modern society with our heaters and electricity and urban condensing. In 1888, trains couldn’t move through snow, schoolhouse doors and roofs blew away and homesteaders miles away from their neighbors fed stoves with twisted straw to keep warm.

It seemed appropriate somehow to read about a crippling blizzard as Minnesota moves into a winter that is forecasted to bring us lots of snow. (We can only hope!) Reading about a blizzard when you could have one at any moment is much more engaging. 🙂

So, if you’re feeling the pull for historical narrative, or are curious, grab a warm cup of tea and a blanket while you check out The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin.

 

 

Posted in Things I'm reading

Stories

Just to answer a few assumed questions this post’s photo may bring:

“Yes, this IS a photo of the buy counter at my Half Price Books.”

“Why yes, we DO have a lot of books! It is summertime and people sell us a lot of books.”

“Yes, there ARE days that I am overwhelmed by this volume of material that needs to be priced and sorted and then shelved. But every once in a while, I stop and remember that I sell stories for a living. And that makes me really very happy.”

I’d like to talk to you about books today. 🙂 Yay! Books!

As a child, I read very quickly. My mom tells this story every once in a while to illustrate that point: the two of us were waiting in a doctor’s office. She had a book open on her lap that we were both silently reading. I asked her to turn the page so I could continue reading before she was done with the content herself.

I believe at this time, I was something ridiculous, like 5 years old.* Mom was amazed at how quickly I could read. As a girl, I frequently was lost in books, needing reminders to do silly things like eat dinner. Something about story captivated me. I couldn’t get enough. And so I’d move through series of books at a rapid pace, devouring stories, picking up new titles as soon as I’d finished with others.

As an adult, I’ve found fast reading to be a hindrance. Because I move quickly through books, I rarely recollect the plots unless the content is particularly exceptional. During a summer reading challenge in Ohio, during which I read 60 of Madeleine L’Engle’s young adult novels, I began to critique fast reading. If I couldn’t remember what I had read, what was the point? So, I began reviewing books on Goodreads as a way to remind myself what resonated with me about what I was reading.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site Goodreads, let me share with you how wonderful it is. Goodreads provides a place to keep track of books you have read, search for new reading material and socialize with others over books. It is a great resource for book clubs, and even offers free giveaways! You can set reading goals and follow authors. It will recommend titles based on how you review others. It is a great resource! I have been using it regularly (since 2009) to challenge myself in a multitude of areas.

I thought I’d start a little recurring section of my blog, in which I share with you books I’ve read recently that have stuck with me. Sure, you could just be my friend on Goodreads. Sure, you could read the books I review there. But how many of you will realistically do that? 🙂

Before we dive into the book I want to talk about today, you should be aware that I have a ranking system I use via Goodreads:**

  • 1 star: “I regret reading it and would never recommend it”.
  • 2 stars: “I didn’t particularly like it but it might be someone else’s style.”
  • 3 stars: “I enjoyed reading it and felt the plot was developed. Won’t read again.”
  • 4 stars: “Very enjoyable read, elements of it resonated with me. Solid plot. May pick up again. Would recommend.”
  • 5 stars: “Fabulous plot. Deeply resonates with me. Made me think about important things in a new way. Want to talk about aspects of it with everyone I know. Would read again. Highly recommend.”

In the 2016 calendar year, I set a goal for myself to read 50 books. This is actually a low number for me in case your reaction was “50 books!?!?! Are you insane!?!?!” Keep in mind that I work in a bookstore, have no children (i.e. lots of spare time), and I currently shelve in the children’s section. It would be very easy for me to meet my goal simply by reading what I shelve every day. I tell myself that children’s picture books can only count towards my reading goal if I review them. This way, I can’t “cheat” and finish my reading goal in a week by reading a bunch of Berenstain Bears books. 🙂

So, here’s a book I finished recently: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. At 504 pages it is certainly not a picture book. It’s a reimagined history of the Jewish exile from Jerusalem circa 70AD when Rome invades. I’m just now beginning to feel okay with the idea of historical fiction. For me, blending history and fiction is dangerous, especially since I have a vivid imagination and a particularly bad memory. I fear remembering the fiction, not the truth. And that possibility has kept me from reading many titles, especially religious fiction. (The Left Behind series, for example, does more harm than good. In my opinion.) But something happened to change my mind about historical fiction. In 2012, my fabulous book club in Ohio read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Strangely, reading the fictionalized story of Dinah didn’t give me any trouble. In fact, I was interested in the historical “what if?”.

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image courtesy of Amazon.com

Fast forward 4 years. Imagine me at that overloaded buy counter, and I pick up The Dovekeepers with its gorgeous cover. I am drawn to it. I flip open the cover to read the synopsis and set it aside for myself, thinking, “I can read historical fiction now. I want to read this book.” So I did this August, and I’m glad I did. Via Goodreads, I gave it 4 stars. The characters were exquisitely drawn and the historical reimagining was both well-researched and just plain interesting to read! The book follows 4 different women who are the dove keepers. Each is strong and overcomes her demons, which is something I personally love in a book. Give me character growth over drama ANY day. My favorite character was Shirah and I was rewarded with an entire section of the book told from her perspective. I would recommend this book to fans of The Red Tent. I would recommend for fans of historical or religious fiction. And I would recommend for fans of well-executed female characters in typically male-dominated historical narrative.

It was good to read something that kept me wanting to read again. Every time that happens, I feel like it was a worthy use of my time. What have you read recently?

 

 

 

*Mom, can you confirm the age I was in this story?

**yes, I’m a dork & take reviewing books a bit too seriously now