Friday, April 13, 2018

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Listen up all you school librarians and parents of middle school age readers: This is a beautiful book for middle schoolers. It taught me so much about a culture of which I know very little. The world can be a scary place, and bad things can happen to those we love. Yet friends can help us through those tough times and even in finding solutions. It reminds me, yet again, why one of my favorite quotes is from Aesop: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Thanks to Nora, and Marie Miranda Cruz, I now know more about the cemetery culture/community in the Philippines.

I received my copy from Tor Books. Sorry it took me so long to write my thoughts. Nora is a great character for the target audience. There's a great balance of threat and positive resolution, while also tackling some issues that exist in many cultures.

Tags: tor, 2018-read, first-novel-or-book, taught-me-something, thought-provoking, kids-of-most-ages, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, advanced-reader-copy

From the publisher:
An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz's debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines' North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila's North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Thoughts on two books by Margaret Killjoy

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain #1)

I think I've found a new author to add to my favorites list. I'm not much of a traditional horror fan, but Killjoy didn't write a traditional horror story. For starters, the main character is homeless, queer, punk traveller, who comes to an anarchist squatter settlement in Freedom, Iowa, in search of answers as to why her best friend killed himself after leaving there. The semi-utopia she finds in Freedom has some deeper darkness below the surface: power struggles, magic, and a demonic bloodred deer with three antlers. All wrapped up in some pretty decent writing. Even better, there's a sequel. Yay!

The Barrow Will Send What it May (Danielle Cain #2)

After I devoured The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion I was really excited to read another novella by Margaret Killjoy, featuring the punk, queer, homeless, anarchist Danielle Cain, fresh on the road with companions from Freedom, Iowa. They're headed out into the world with the loose idea of fighting demons. Their journey takes them to a small town things are not exactly right. For starters, there are a couple of people who have returned from the dead, and occultists running the library. As with the first in this series, I really enjoyed Killjoy's style, and am hoping for more in this series.

I received both books courtesy of Tor Books, as part of a care package to to keep me from going stir crazy while healing from a broken patella. It made falling and breaking myself almost worth it.

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride is an amazing woman, a powerhouse in the fight for trans equality. Her own story is beautifully told in Tomorrow Will Be Different. Sarah is honest, forthright, and informative in recounting her journey to bring her from the gender identified at birth to her true gender as female. Because of her political activism, a passion from a young age that grew into a career, Sarah has also had the opportunity to support and fight for gender equality and supportive legislation in Washington DC, her home state of Delaware, and elsewhere in the US. Her fight for equality also brought Andy, a trans man into her life. Their time together was brief, cut short by cancer, but clearly these two remarkable people had something very special. And clearly, the work that the two of them each did to lay the foundations for a world where transgender individuals are safe, respected, supported, and truly equal is incredibly important. It is more than most of us do in a lifetime. Sarah did it before she turned 26. And she hasn't stopped.

Thank you, Sarah. I am in awe of your accomplishments. Thank you for sharing so beautifully the story of your journey and for allowing us to come along. You give me hope.

Thank you to blogging for books for sending me this copy. Sadly this program is ending, but at least I get to go out on a high note with this amazing memoir.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

There's a lot to really enjoy in this tale of storytelling, time-travel, and best of all, using your brain, and your heart to work things out. Having grown up with books that suddenly launch children into other realities-- ones where the writer is more focused on telling a story, with twists and turns than some of the constructs that commonly are buzzed about in books of the last decade or two (why does the phrase "world-building" come to mind?) I was quite content to sit back and be Kari Maaren's audience as she unrolled her story across the pages.  She gave me tools to unravel the mysteries, but I didn't realize that until well after she began to reveal the mechanics within the tale itself. And even then, I wasn't sure which way she'd take it, but was content to read on and enjoy the ride. 

My one criticism might be with the pacing of the story. I found the chapters quite long, with a lot happening, but no chance for me to necessarily stop and dwell upon that, as is afforded by a chapter break. Then toward the end, when the reader enters the final timeline (trying not to give spoilers here) the pace quickened dramatically. The pacing wasn't a true deterrent, because I obviously kept reading, but I can see that it could bother some folks who need a quicker pace throughout a story. I am also a bit embarrassed I didn't recognize the literary source of the title until it slapped me in the face. My English teacher just rolled over in her grave that this happened, and that I admitted it.

One nice thing about this book was how it dealt with the issues inherent with both siblings and step siblings. Way back in another lifetime, I did my post grad thesis on stepfamilies, and included a bibliography for professionals to recommend to blended families. I would have, without hesitation, included this book on the list.

Thank you to Diana Pho, at Tor Books, who sent me my copy of this book to read while recovering from a broken patella. With my leg unable to bear weight or bend, I had a lot of enforced reading time. Luckily, this book was part of my healing process.


From the publisher:
The unexpected can move in next door
Freddy wants desperately to not be noticed. She doesn't want to be seen as different or unusual, but her step-brother Roland gets attention because he's deaf, and her little sister Mel thinks she's a private detective. All Freddy wants to do is navigate high school with as little trouble as possible.
Then someone moves into the house on Grosvenor Street. Two extremely odd someones.

Cuerva Lachance and Josiah aren't . . . normal. When they move in next door, the house begins to exhibit some decidedly strange tendencies, like not obeying the laws of physics or reality. Just as Freddy thinks she's had enough of Josiah following her around, she's plunged into an adventure millennia in the making and discovers the truth about the new neighbors.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Rolling home

I've been meaning to write-- but I couldn't find the time, nor tone, nor words. I've been taking tumbles and spills of late, only one of major significance... until last month, when, almost a year to the day from my first blackout/fall, I fell again, and came away with the usually bruises and scrapes... and unfortunately, I broke myself, as well.

It's a small bone, that patella, but one that plays an important role. When it breaks, it needs to heal, but can't be casted, can't bear weight, and can't bend. And since my other knee, bruised enough that when people saw it, they blanched, was somewhat unreliable in holding up 120 pounds of bookczuk, plus a couple pounds for the leg brace/extender/cage the wounded leg is in, crutches for a primary means of locomotion was apparently out. So wheelchair, it is.

Keep in mind, I'm very comfortable around wheelchairs, both because my mother used one and from my years working with children in the Spina Bifida clinic. The one we have, while not exactly suited for a leg injury, is easily manageable. I appear to have inherited the wheelchair gene, and can maneuver in it quite well. I've MacGyvered a leg extension for the wounded limb, and jury-rigged the seat so that I'm sitting relatively evenly. Because I do use the crutches for short hops (ha!) and a cane holder attachment would cost $70, plus shipping and installation, I've figured out a solution for a way to carry the canes, and Mr Grabby, my reach extender stick for picking up stuff, with me. It's not particularly elegant, but it works.

Javaczuk has been a hero, taking over my share of household chores (and doing a better job) and cooking, too. Not exactly how he'd planned on spending the early days of retirement, but hey, I'm glad and grateful he's here.

The initial problems of pain and discomfort are lessening, as is my regular frustrations with my inability to do the things I want to do. I miss being able to sidle into my workspace and do my pysanky and other art, but most of all, I miss walking. Ambulating around Charleston is one of my greatest joys, particularly in the spring
Doing "lap art" because I can't get into my workspace #determinedartist
. The loss is almost visceral, eased a tad by the outings I take with Javaczuk, his walking, me rolling. I'm slowly working up strength in my arms as my leg withers from disuse. (The leg muscles will come back as soon as I'm allowed to exercise as I like.) But for now, for another month I'm into alternative ambulation, be it crutches for indoors and short distances, or the chair, which one of my JordanCon friends has christened "Wheels of Time."  I'm hoping to be fully ambulatory in time for the JordanCon art show, but if not, we'll do what we need to do to keep me moving.

Oddly enough, I've noted when I wheel in the chair that I get auditory memories of my mother. I'd forgotten how her hands wheeling the chair made a whispery sort of sound, or the clank of her ring as she wheeled. Even the sound putting up the footplate is evocative. It's a sound that I lived with for 40 years as she wheeled through life, making magic and memories wherever she went. And apparently, she's doing that still.
My mother, with her eldest grandson, circa 1991

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Eating from the Ground Up By Alana Chetnila

Really love this book— straightforwardl, simple, clean recipes. I feel like I can go straight from the farmers market to my kitchen, to my table! Even my simple cooking is best husband likes the recipes. Recipes are easy to follow and the photography is gorgeous. As an avid farmers market shopper, I know the best recipe suggestions come from the folks who sell the stuff. This book proves it.

Thank you to blogging for books and the publisher for sending a copy my way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul by Jenn Claiborne

I'm always a little put off by recipes from vegan chefs/cooks who go a long way to make things taste/resemble the foods they no longer eat, and use lots of seitan and TVP in the process. Happily this is not the case with this book. While there is some use of the aforementioned stuff, for the most part, the recipes are clean, simple and approachable for anyone. I was a little sad that I'd allergic to wheat, because some of the recipes that use it look marvelous, but I was too uncertain in the substitutions of flours to experiment.

Thank you Blogging for Books and the publisher for my copy.