The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I don’t usually get around the the Newbery book… ever.  Oh, the shame in admitting!  It’s just so hard to get around to these things, what with all of the other things that I’m getting around to.  I picked this one up because the children’s librarian said she really liked it even though it was written in verse and I really like books in verse and figured I could pull it off in a day or two, which I did.

I’m glad I did.  I like it.  I didn’t like it at first, though.  At first I suffered through it because I don’t care for basketball and I didn’t really know what was going on simply because I didn’t have the terminology.  That being said, there is definitely a kind of person who would love this book because of the basketball and the format.

Josh, aka Filthy McNasty, and his twin brother, JB, are the stars of their middle school basketball team.  Their father played and made enough money doing so to support the family.  He’s a funny guy who likes jazz and donuts and, of course, basketball.  Their mother, on the other hand, is the vice principal at their school and is trying to reign in her husband’s eating and intense support at games.  Things are changing for Josh.  His brother gets a girlfriend and he finds himself feeling suddenly more alone than ever.  When he does something hateful to his brother, he must suffer the consequences while something even scarier is about to happen to his family.

This was well written, fun to read, and packed with humor and seriousness all in the same verse.  I’m having a hard time not mentioning any spoilers!

Tally Monday- April 27, 2015

Checked Out

  1. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Bought

  1. Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
  2. Teachings of Buddha by Jack Kornfield
  3. Pocket Zen Reader by Thomas Cleary

Read

  1. “Long Tom Lookout” by Nicole Cullen

TBR: 30

It’s not often that it happens but sometimes I do get reader’s block.  That’s pretty much what happened last week.  I don’t even know what happened.  I finished Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know.  I read a short story.  That was it.  I picked up The Hobbit again and I think that it proved to be the kiss of death.  This was my third attempt, including once on audio.  I seem to recall being dead to reading after the previous attempts too.

So, I put it aside and I moved on.  I did keep a digital copy checked out on my Kindle and I’ve been reading a page or two before bed.  I picked up my next book, the next one in the A-List series by Zoey Dean.  I was excited because I’ve been really enjoying those books.  They’re fast and frivolous and juicy.  However, one chapter in I realized that I was only hanging in there for one of the supporting characters.  I didn’t care about Anna, the protagonist, anymore.  Her problems seemed so forced and stupid.  Two books ago she was worrying about losing her virginity to the *right* guy and then she’s trying to think about having a one night stand and feeling bad about her inability to do so.  Her big sister is an alcoholic?  So what.  Been there, done that.  Quit trying to clean up everyone’s messes and live up to everyone’s bar.

So, obviously, I ditched that.

Then I picked up Crossover by Alexander which got the Newbery this year mostly because the children’s librarian was impressed with it (even though she swore never to like a book written in verse, her words) and I was promised that I could read it in two days, easily.  I think I can finish it today but if I’m going to be honest it’s not my thing.  It’s okay.  I like books in verse.  It’s just that I don’t really care for basketball.  I started reading it Friday and the reason it isn’t done is that there were much more pressing matters this weekend: suite tickets to a Tiger’s game, compliments of Hubby’s work, and a whole day of tacos and Game of Thrones.  Very pressing indeed.

This week I hope to get a lot of reading done (or a lot of Game of Thrones watching) and finish up the audio I’ve been listening to.  That should give me the boost I need.

Happy reading!

Top 20 Young Adult Books of hte Twentieth Century

The List*

  • The Outsiders- S. E. Hinton
  • Catcher in the Rye- J. D. Salinger
  • Go Ask Alice- Anonymous
  • Forever- Judy Blume
  • The Chocolate War- Robert Cormier
  • The Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank
  • To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
  • The Giver- Lois Lowry
  • Lord of the Flies- William Golding
  • Weetzie Bat- Francesca Lia Block
  • A Wrinkle in Time- Madelein L’Engle
  • Hatchet Gary- Paulsen
  • The Chosen- Chaim Potok
  • The Color Purple- Alice Walker
  • A Separate Peace- John Knowles
  • Seventeeth Summer- Maureen Daly
  • Maus- Art Spiegelman
  • The Hobbit- J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Pigman- Paul Zindel

*I used to use a website called Lists of Bests to track my lists but it no longer exists.  This is one of the lists that I was unable to find a source for, even though there are a lot of really close lists.

The Breakdown (Numerically)

Books I Read for a Class: 7
Books I’ve Reread: 7 (Not the same books, necessarily.)
Books I Didn’t Finish: 1

I Loved

Part of the reason that I started working on this list was because there were a lot of books that I LOVE on it.  Weetzie Bat, Go Ask Alice, The Chosen, A Separate Peace, The Giver, and To Kill a Mockingbird are all books that I have absolutely adored.  Weetzie Bat and The Giver are two of my favorite books of all time.  I’ve read them both a number of times.

I Didn’t Care For

Look, you guys, I never finished The Hobbit.  I seriously tried.  I tried reading it three times and I tried listening to it once and I seriously just don’t care enough to invest the time in it.  I wish that I had caught it when I was younger because I might have been able to stick it out.  I HATE Cather in the Rye.  I know everyone is in love with it and all of that but it’s not my cup of tea.  I wanted to smack Holden the whole time that I was reading.  Finally, I didn’t really care for Forever or Lord of the Flies.  I’m glad that I read them but I wouldn’t bother again.

Best Reading Experience

I had wonderful reading experiences that I will never forget with two of these books.  I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings while I was on the plane to Las Vegas.  I have very vivid memories of reading it while we took off and how it helped to keep me from freaking out on the long flight.  On the way home I had wine for that.  I read Seventeenth Summer before we figured out what was wrong with the air conditioning at my house.  I read most of it on a blanket underneath my trees in the ridiculous Michigan heat.  The weather was perfect for the book and it was one of the happiest weeks of my life.

Final Thoughts

This was actually a kind of disappointing list for me.  I liked a lot of the books but I expected more from the rest of the books.  On the other hand, I think that it is actually a great list for teens.  It has a ton of variety on it and I’m sure that there is something for everyone.

Tally Monday- April 20, 2015

Checked Out

  1. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (Audio)
  2. The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro
  3. No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
  4. Tall Cool One by Zoey Dean

Bought

None!

Read

  1. Blonde Ambition by Zoey Dean
  2. “The Indian Uprising” by Ann Beattie
  3. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  4. “The Night of the Satellite” by T.C. Boyle
  5. Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by 30– The editors of Glamour
  6. “After the Floor” by Peter Camron

TBR:

32

It’s been a weird week for me.  See, I did some great reading this week.  When I look at that list of things that I read, I can’t help thinking about how good all of the short stories were, even the ones that took me a little while to get into them.  Then there was Pigman which made me cry like a baby at my desk at work.  I’m still really enjoying the A-List series and 30 Things was the kind of book that I could just blow through and not realize that I was wasting my time until I was about 75% done.  It was a good week for reading.

But, then, it wasn’t.

I just wasn’t satisfied.  I don’t know what happened but one night last week I just started itching for Jane Austen.  I mean, a true and honest itch, the kind of itch that made me want to go back and read them all in publication order.  I wanted that kind of book.  I wanted to know about Mr. Darcy’s spruce beer and the gossip in the parlor.  So, while I was reading about teenagers making friends with a stranger older man, I was thinking about courtships and ballrooms.  I just couldn’t get past it.

Then, when I picked up my collection of short stories, no matter how much I was enjoying it, all I wanted was Alice Munro.  I’d moan and groan about how it wasn’t Munro and I never actually managed to get over it.

I’m not sure what to do about this.  I mean, I can’t very well just stop and read Austen or Munro, can I?  I have a pile to get through and I am trying just as hard as I can.

Currently, I’m trying The Hobbit again. At this point I’ve tried reading it and I’ve tried listening to it.  This is my last chance.  So far, 10 pages in, I’m enjoying it this time.  That’s promising.

Remember those couple of weeks when I bought book after book after book?  I’m trying not to buy another one this month.  Wish me luck!

Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30

I am only giving this book three stars because part of me feels that it’s the kind of thing one should come across when she’s, say, 25.  Also, the problem with books like this, books of advice, is that they are not the same for everyone.  And so, without further ado, I give you my own list of things I believe it’s good that I have and know now that I’m 30.

1. The knowledge that life goes on.  When I was 25, I thought that my life was destroyed by a hellacious breakup but going through it taught me that life goes on, even when you think it doesn’t.  It taught me that I can rely on myself.  When forming new relationships, I never think that I will die without someone anymore and this knowledge aided me in my time of grief as well.

2.  The ability to live alone.  On par with the book.  I never thought I could but the one year that I did was actually marvelous.

3. Books.  You need books to escape into and books to distract you and books to teach you things.

4. A sense of curiosity.  Learn things.  Think.  Grow.  There’s nothing like playing Trivial Pursuit with Google open.

5. A knowledge of what you like and what you don’t like.  Obviously, you can’t know everything because you’re still trying new things but I can tell you that I LOVE a lot of things that I thought I would never try at age 25 (sushi, Thai, Indian) and I still hate some stuff that I thought I might acquire a taste for (shrimp).

6. Clothes that speak to who you are.  There is nothing quite so comfortable for me as jeans, flip-flops, a tee, and a flannel.

7. Clothes that speak to who you want to be.  Every day this week I made a point to dress up just a little and it made me feel glowy and happy.  I WANT to be the girl with the big blue beaded necklace.

8. Friends that fit your high and low places.  When I am falling apart, I can call on the same people and know that they will be there.

9. A sense of where you have been but the knowledge that the past is the past.  You don’t have to be who you have always been or like the things you have always liked but it’s important not to forget how much you dug Limp Bizkit when you were 15 and to enjoy a blast from the past once in a while.

10. A sense of where you want to go.  I can tell you the things I want, even though I won’t here, and it’s important that I know that.

11. A firm foot in reality.  When I was 25, I would get so blasted that I would experience The Week of Shame, when memories of my Saturday night would roll up on me out of nowhere and I would be super embarrassed.  At 30 I try to never, ever lose myself like that.  I want to remember it all, even if it includes some embarrassment.

12.  A sense of whimsy.  I recently bought the cutest fabric for my throw cushions on the couch.  Blue with little foxes all dressed up.  Why?  Because it’s whimsical and it makes me happy and it’s MY couch.

13.  Someone you can trust to tell you when you are being an idiot.  Mom.  Bestie.  They will check me when I can’t.

14.  The ability to keep your head in your own game.  I would say that 50% of the time that I get sad, it’s because I am comparing.  I gently remind myself to keep my head in my own game and it always helps.  No, I don’t have a 2500 sq ft house on 10 acres but I can clean my whole house in an hour and my payment is a quarter of what it would be.

15.  Some things that you positively adore.  Last year I pinched my pennies for leather jacket that I love.  It cost 10 times what I had been paying for my winter coats but I didn’t care.  It was love at first sight and I have never regretted spending the money,

16. The “Never let anyone make you feel bad about driving that car” mentality.  When I bought my last car, the newest I had ever owned and a bit whimsical to boot, I felt really bad about it for a while but it made me so happy.  My father told me not to let anyone make me feel bad about the things I had and I have tried to live by that ever since.  Nobody knows what situation you are in but you.

17. Some firm opinions.  I have opinions that I hold onto strongly.  I spent years thinking about stuff and formulating my opinions.

18.  The willingness to listen to the other side and admit when you are wrong.  By the same coin, I never shut out another person’s opinion.  As long as the conversation is respectful, I will listen and participate.  If you start calling me a “femininazi” or talking about how my candidate is the “anti-Christ,” the conversation is no longer respectful and I will remove myself from it.

19.  The ability to walk away from drama.  Just like with number 18, if someone is creating drama and trying to pull me in, I just extract myself from it.

20. A few good routines.  I work out first thing in the morning.  I drink a cup of green or chamomile tea at night and use the time it takes the kettle to get going to brush my teeth and wash my face.  These are healthy habits and they are easy for me to follow.

21. Flexibility.  Look, sometimes things are not going to go as planned.  You’re not going to get everything done.  Let it go.  Move on.  Be flexible.

22.  Comfortable shoes.  No, seriously.  A few years ago, I was running around in the kind of heels that I needed to take a shot of whiskey to handle.  They hurt, even if they looked fabulous.  Now, I am willing to wear a two inch heel instead of a three because I can run and jump and actually make it through the day without dying or drinking.

23.  Music that will make you happy, no matter what.  It’s been a tumultuous year here but there are a couple of songs that I can throw on when I’m sobbing and be dancing and singing along by the end.

24.  A sense of smell.  This is one of those things that is all over the place.  You need a perfume that is you, no matter the cost.  You also need the ability to sniff out something bad in the fridge or exactly what candle you want.

25.  An idea of what your basics are.  People are always talking about the basics of building a wardrobe or the basics of every pantry or the basics of every skin care routine.  What works for you?  Mine are: jeans, cardigans, tanks, dresses, skirts.  Pasta, sauce, milk, cheese, bread, eggs, peanut butter.  Dove, St. Ives, BB cream, black eyeliner.

26.  Someplace sacred.  You need to have a place where you can go alone to think about things.  Mine is a particular cemetery.

27. A passion.  I am lucky.  My passion is books.  I work with them, relax with them, write on them, listen to them.

28.  A sense that you are doing good one way or another.  I think that I have a super important job.  I think that I do good for people every day.  I donate to charities and non profits.  I feel good about these things.

29.  The knowledge that money isn’t everything.  An old ditty that I used to play for piano lessons said, “Money can’t buy everything.  Money won’t make you a king.”  Don’t get hung up on it.

30.  Some solid foundations.  Life is crazy but I do have a career and a home and a family, a husband and cats to come home to, friends that I can rely on.  The foundation is key.

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Somewhere I have a list of 20 YA books that “you must read.”  I’m away from my file right now so I can’t tell you where it’s from, only that I found it on a list website I used to use that is now dead and gone.  This was one of the last two books I had to read on the list but I just kept putting it off.  I’m not really sure why.  All I can think of is that the only cover I have ever seen for this book was the yellow one with the scary pig thing on the cover and it kind of freaks me out.  My copy had two kids in front of an old house, looking serious.  These are not the kinds of covers that will get me excited about a book.  Plus, it’s been around forever, right?  Usually YA that has been around forever doesn’t grab me the way that I like my books to.

However, I was wrong about this.  I was so, so wrong about it.  I had this moment about a third of the way through when I thought, “This book is going to mean a lot to me and it is going to make me cry.”

Oh, I cried.  I cried shamelessly at my desk while taking a break at work but I wasn’t about to wait to finish it.

Now, keep in mind that this book was published in 1968.

John and Lorraine are friends with a group of troublemakers and they are troublemakers themselves.  John, it seems, just wants to be heard and be noticed.  He wants to be an actor when he grows up and he’s always lying and putting on a show.  Lorraine is in love with John, implied by the way she talks about how good looking he is and how his eyes are electric blue and they make her feel.  She wants to be a writer.  Both of them have imperfect home lives.  John’s parents are older and they are both uptight.  He doesn’t get on with his father anymore.  Lorraine’s mother is single and straggling to raise her but she is also mean to Lorraine, picking on her and strict with her and even, occasionally, hitting her.  Maybe their pranks are a way to get a little freedom.

They meet the Pigman through one of their pranks.  They take turns calling random numbers in the telephone book and try to keep the person on the line as long as they can.  When Lorraine pretends to be from a charity, the Pigman offers to donate $10 if they’ll come to pick it up.  The next day, after school, John and Lorraine go to the old man’s house and they end up sitting in his living room, drinking wine and talking.  It isn’t long before they are there everyday.  The Pigman listens to them and has fun with them and gives them the attention that neither of the teens are getting at home.  Soon enough, it all leads to disaster.

This was a seriously heart wrenching book for me and I couldn’t put it down.  I read 100 pages on the couch last night until I couldn’t hold my eyes open and I would have kept right on reading if I could have.

Tally Monday- April 13, 2015

Checked Out

  1. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (A)
  2. Blonde Ambition by Zoey Dean
  3. Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

Bought

  1. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
  2. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  5. Child of Demons by Mason Burgess
  6. Christine by Stephen King
  7. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Read

  1. An Idiot Girl’s Christmas by Laurie Notaro
  2. Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble by Nick Bruel
  3. Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer
  4. “A Death” by Stephen King
  5. “Charity” by Charles Baxter

TBR: 33

Over the past couple of years I have become a firm believer that there should be a bookshelf in every room.  Why have I not accomplished this yet?  In case you hadn’t guessed from my recent book addiction shopping sprees, my bookshelves are now beyond overflowing.  The closet is getting dangerously full again.  Since Christmas I’ve pretty much bought enough books to fill another whole shelf.  In other words, I have a problem.  But I’m fine with it so keep your McJudgypants to yourself.

In all fairness, there was a book sale at work this week and I have to walk through the book sale to get to my office which means that I am walking past the “Horror” section numerous times a day.  I have to glance at it and see if any of the missing Stephen King is there.  Then, if I find a paperback I want I look for another one so I can just pay with a single and not deal with coins floating around.  I’m incredibly practical like that.  Someone donated SO MUCH Atwood, you guys!  SO MUCH!  I couldn’t turn it down.  Then we started watching The Sopranos and I got the itch to reread The Godfather.  I may still have my original copy that I bought for my American Ethnic Literature class 12 years ago but I didn’t feel like looking.

Something interesting happened this weekend.  I was super excited to finally get around to reading a certain book about books that I had purchased years ago.  I picked it up and started reading, ready to immerse myself in literary theory and all of that.  At page 45 I went, “Wait a second.  I don’t agree with this guy AT ALL!  I can’t be that wrong.  I have an English degree… Wait.  This is a woman??”  I looked up the book series only to discover that it is a conservative series.  Now, I try not to be political on my blog so please do not be insulted by any of this but this woman was arguing that we learn literature through a liberal filter and that she shouldn’t be discussing, pretty much from what I understand, anything about the historical context of literature, as in where it fits in the culture.  Like, we should never apply a feminist filter to what we read.  We should never think of things like Marxism in a book.  It just seemed a bit off to me because literature is written with these things in mind and it is written with influence from the outside world.  It’s not just some dude in a box.  Also, there was a whole section about how Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is complete and utter trash and shouldn’t be taught. Ugh.

Anyway, I did a lot of reading this week and I’m not really sure how.  I enjoyed all of it.  There’s a chance that I’ll finish up another one today.

Happy reading, and if it’s unhappy, don’t finish it!