Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This Post is Not a Priority

I've been busy for the past (almost) two months since my last post. Not zero-sleep, hair-standing-on-end busy. Just busy. I stumbled on an article, "Are You As Busy As You Think?" by Laura Vanderkam at WSJ via this post on A Cup of Jo last week, and I was struck by the same paragraph highlighted on A Cup of Jo:

Change your language. Instead of saying "I don't have time" try saying "it's not a priority," and see how that feels. Often, that's a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don't want to. But other things are harder. Try it: "I'm not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it's not a priority." "I don't go to the doctor because my health is not a priority." If these phrases don't sit well, that's the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don't like how we're spending an hour, we can choose differently.
I claim to not have time for many activities, but in reality, I do have some free time this semester. Not as much as I would like, of course, but I have time to go on walks and visit with friends and watch Ringer--which is getting so good--on Tuesday nights. Even if I don't always feel like it, I have time not to prioritize my homework above all other activities. But in the final rush of grad school application season--traveling across the country for interviews, waiting anxiously for admissions decisions, trying to make up my mind about where and what I want to study for the next two-three years--I cannot prioritize the blogosphere over my educational and professional future. Well, I could, but I don't think such a decision would be very wise.

Life is busy and full of amazing twists and turns right now--like being rejected by my safety schools and invited to interview at my pie-in-the-sky, never-going-to-get-in schools and receiving my first rejection letter from a literary journal (which is fantastic because a first rejection means a first submission)--and when it becomes a little less exciting, I will visit other blogs, because I miss you all. I will comment. I will post. But blogging is not a priority right now.

However, watching the method clean happy anthem for the zillionth time is. I love the soap-bubble balloons:


*Method DID NOT sponsor this post, and I am NOT recommending their products. I just like their video.

Until next time,

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Release Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 336


Source: Bought.
Image from Penguin.com
Summary:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.


Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. (From Penguin.com)

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The diction and characters in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars are as electric as the novel's bright blue book jacket. I finished reading this book a month ago*, and the funny, insightful Hazel and the adorably pretentious Augustus--who chooses his "'behaviors based on their metaphorical resonances'"--still burst in on my thoughts.

Hazel Grace Lancaster meets Augustus Waters at Cancer Kid Support Group. Hazel carries an oxygen tank everywhere she goes, because--in her words--her lungs "suck at being lungs." Hazel was diagnosed with incurable Stage IV thyroid cancer that had also spread to her lungs when she was thirteen. Miraculously, she's still alive at sixteen thanks to Phalanxifor, a fictional experimental drug that keeps the tumors in her lungs from growing. Phalanxifor grants Hazel some extra time, but no one knows how much. Augustus, on the other hand, is in remission from osteosarcoma that left him with a prosthetic leg. Augustus is long, lean, and hot. He invites Hazel to his house the afternoon they first meet, and she says yes.

The Fault in Our Stars is a love story: a beautiful, heartbreaking, luminous love story. While cancer plays a major role in the novel, Green never lets it consume the characters or the plot, showing that sick people are--above all--still people. At one point, Hazel remarks, "You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice." John Green makes the funny choice, too. The Fault in Our Stars is full of hilarious conversation and observations. And when I say hilarious, I mean so funny you want to roar with laughter and read the book out loud to everyone you meet. Or maybe that was just me.


Amidst all this humor, however, Green's characters face tragic, torturous situations. Life isn't fair in reality, and Green does not sugarcoat the reality of cancer. Hazel and Augustus are both forced to contemplate death more often and more seriously than average teenagers, and they are concerned with universal human desires to be remembered, to not truly die, to go on being people. The Fault in Our Stars asks readers to consider the definition of heroism and what it means to do something that matters.


The Fault in Our Stars is also a book about books. When Hazel goes to Augustus's house the afternoon she meets him, they talk about books. Augustus cajoles Hazel into revealing her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction, which exists only in the fictional world of Green's novel. August announces that he will read it, but adds, "'All I ask in exchange is that you read this brilliant and haunting novelization of my favorite video game.'" Green's characters display an appreciation for different types of fiction, and the novel comments on the place of stories in the face of life and death.

The Fault in Our Stars is one of the best books I have ever read, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy romance, humor, and pitch-perfect prose. I was working at the library the day my branch received our copy, and it was all I could do not to rave about this book to every customer who approached me with a reference question. So I will rave here: The Fault in Our Stars is funny, addictive, quotable, deep, and lovely. And I hope many, many people decide to read it.
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*I happened to pre-order the book from the company that accidentally shipped its pre-orders early . . .

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, and illustrated by Jim Kay

Release Date: September 15, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 224

Source: My local library.

Image from the author's website.
Summary:
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults. (From the author's website.)
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In Patrick Ness's novel A Monster Calls, the yew tree in the churchyard behind thirteen-year-old Conor's house comes walking. The yew tree monster begins showing up while Conor's mother is in the midst of taxing chemotherapy treatments. So yes, A Monster Calls is a Cancer Book. But it is also a story about stories; the monster approaches Conor because he wants to tell the boy stories. And the stories the monster tells have teeth. The first one begins like a fairy tale, but ends unconventionally. The monster is not interested in falsehoods and happy endings.

In between Conor's encounters with the monster, Conor lives the painful, awkward life of a child with a sick parent. Conor's teachers and classmates treat him differently because his mother has cancer. Regular social and school rules no longer apply to Conor, and the unreality and unfairness of it all frustrates him. To top it off, the monster wants Conor to tell a story, too. He wants Conor to tell the truth. And it isn't the truth I thought he would tell.

A Monster Calls is a lyrical, well-written novel that contains moments of dark humor, uncomfortable realism, and, of course, pain. The novel also contains illustrations by Jim Kay that add to the foreboding, sometimes gothic atmosphere of the novel without taking the visuals completely away from the reader's imagination. However, enjoyed is not a verb I would use to describe my experience as I read this novel. Nevertheless, I highly recommend A Monster Calls to anyone of any age who wishes to read a powerful book. A Monster Calls is marketed and shelved as a young adult novel, but I think I would have a hard time recommending the book to teens and especially children looking to read for fun. This novel requires readers to acknowledge their own mortality and--perhaps most terrifying--the mortality of the people they love and all the uncertainties inherent in life. And there is the fact that Ness built this novel out of characters and a premise developed by Siobhan Dowd, an author who died of cancer before she could write this book. Different readers will react differently to this information, which Ness presents in a note before beginning his tale. I can't hand this book to someone and promise that they will enjoy it. But I can promise that they will walk away with a new appreciation for life, truth, and the struggles we may all face.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Funny Library Montage



(From a link sent by the library director of the library system I work for.)

Cookie Monster's obsession with obtaining cookies from the librarian made me crack up, because library patrons have asked me for food. And money. And money for food. If only I could make this kind of stuff up.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Week in Pictures

The Sunset last Friday at Pacific Beach in San Diego, CA

Madame Hessel in the Boudoir, Rue de Naples, ca. 1935 by Edouard Vuillard--one of my favorite artists--at the San Diego Museum of Art

The view from the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego

Where the Keebler elves live. (A tree in Balboa Park)

Mirrors on the wall of my aunt and uncle's living room in San Diego
Young Girl in Front of a Window, 1930. By Suzanne Valadon. At the San Diego Museum of Art.

Flowers at Disney Land
This man rollerblades while dancing to music up and down the sidewalk at Pacific Beach.
Nom nom nom--a panda at the San Diego Zoo
Wenches for sale in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney Land
A pillow at the Disney Land Hotel. Really.
San Diego Zoo

My uncle's lamp collection in the spare bedroom

I returned yesterday from a weeklong visit to San Diego, CA to see my aunt and uncle. We also went to Disney Land and California Adventure, and January must be the time to go. There weren't many crowds, and most of the lines were only five minutes long. My dad and I rode 18 rides, and my mom and my aunt rode 17. (They wouldn't ride California Screamin', the roller coaster that goes upside down.) That's a new personal best for us :) The weather was--for the most part--sunny and perfect, and now I am back to chilly weather and piles of snow. Bookish posts coming soon.

Happy Friday,

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Joy of [Real] Books



(Via bookshelves of doom)

Another thing ebooks can't do.

I love books as objects as well as stories, but they do take up a lot of space. I recently had to weed out my personal library to make it fit into my bookshelves. The books I gave up went to a lovely used book shop--another thing ebooks can't do.

But. But but but. I did receive an e-reader for Christmas. I'm still deciding what I think about ebooks. I'm visiting family on the opposite side of the country next week, and I plan to leave all my hard copy books at home and only take the e-reader. (My carry-on bag will be the lightest it's ever been.)

We're also getting more questions about ebooks and e-readers than ever at the library. So many questions, in fact, that the city bought e-readers for library employees to experiment with at work, so that we can better explain and demonstrate how to access online library services to patrons. I've heard many patrons remark that they read more on their e-readers than they did without the devices. That's encouraging to hear: no matter how people read them, people are reading books.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Readers Advisory: "Me is not you"


From Liz B at Tea Cozy:


One of my pet peeves (I have so many I should run a zoo) is when that role isn’t recognized or is downplayed. Sometimes it’s “anyone who reads can do readers advisory,” so who needs librarians? That’s a bit like saying anyone who eats can cook. Reading is about “me,” what I want and enjoy in a story; readers advisory is about “you,” what you want and enjoy in a story. Me is not you.


Also, from "The Role of Reading" at Venn Librarian:

Look, Reader’s Advisory is one of the few school librarian skills that cannot be outsourced to others. Many (most?) English/Language Arts teachers aren’t really up on what’s New! Wonderful! in the world of ya or children’s literature. Not only that, those teachers rarely allow students to just read the book, they want analysis and thoughtfulness.

And sometimes readers just wanna have fun.

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