Thoughts on Love

What does love feel like to you?

sonoffortuneI found this description in Son of Fortune by Victoria McKernan:

“Aiden had almost starved to death once.  Love felt exactly the same, only the complete opposite.  Starvation had scraped out the center of his bones, numbed his hands and feet and shimmered his vision.  It conjured weird, distant music in the back of his brain, and made everything he touched feel oddly unreal.  The same symptoms seized him now, only the ache in his gut was a lump of silver.  The strings that fastened his heart in his chest had come undone, so the muscle skidded around with every beat.  His lungs could never get enough air, for the air contained the breaths she had exhaled.”

I have collected more thoughts and ideas about love from books and poems in a zine that is on sale for $0.99 for Valentine’s Day week.  Love… contains quotations from Kate DiCamillo, Rainer Maria Rilke, and everyone in between.  It may make a unique gift for someone special or a little treat for yourself.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

lovezine

P.S. Son of Fortune is the sequel to The Devil’s Paintbox.  Both are excellent historical novels for teens.  Recommended for readers who like adventure with just a touch of romance.

October Book Pick: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FANGIRLA “nerd power ballad.”  I really can’t do any better explaining this book than that New York Journal of Books did with that descriptor.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a love story about a girl who was too busy writing fan fiction to see love in front of her face.  No, wait.  That sounds too cheesy.  I’ll stick with “nerd power ballad.”

I guess I am a little bit of a nerd still, and I related to Cath as she fumbled her way through her first love.  It reminded me of being in college.  I was not a fangirl, but I did spend a lot of time in my dorm room writing endlessly.  I couldn’t help but cheer for Cath, and I can’t help but recommend her story.

Find it at your local library or at an indie bookstore.

Miss last month’s Book Pick? Check out Flora & Ulysses

Thursday 3: New Teen Fiction

Teen fiction is my preferred reading material, and I’ve been rather immersed in it in recent weeks as I prepped for a presentation at the Minnesota Educational Media Organization Conference in which realistic teen fiction was my responsibility. Here are a
few of my favorites from my part of the presentation.

  • Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon – It’s a novel set in hospice care, so be ready to cry. But it’s also pretty funny.
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider – This romance/coming-of-age novel reminded me a bit of Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas, which I loved.
  • Hostage Three by Nick Lake – I read this modern day pirate thriller in one sitting. It doesn’t come out until November, so add it to your library hold list now.

  • My apologies for the lack of links and pictures in this post. I am having some computer issues, and I used the WordPress app on my phone to write this post.

    Where are you from?

    I’m sticking with the theme from my last post and my new zine, Whereverland, for today’s Thursday Three post.  I have three books in which moving and/or exploring one’s roots plays a role.

    • Tlittlefishhe Language Inside by Holly Thompson – Emma spent most of her life as an American living in Japan–that’s home.  Now she’s back in the States re-orienting to the place her parents have always thought of as “home.”  Really beautiful teen novel in verse that explores connecting with people, places, and poetry.  Teacher/Librarian note: There’s a discussion guide here. (Teen Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
    • Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer – Ramsey Beyer captures her first year at art school in this graphic memoir.  She’s a blogger, zinester, and an artist, so I was obviously a little biased toward liking this book even before I started reading.  It’s a more innocent look at college–no parties or hangovers here–than you might find in other books, and Beyer’s sincerity and sweetness make this a cute coming of age book that zinesters and other creative sorts will enjoy.  (Teen/Adult Memoir – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
    • Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – This is an oldie, but it is not to be missed.  When Naomi’s mom returns and wants custody of Naomi (and not her brother who has a birth defect), Naomi explores her father’s side with a trip to Mexico.  That one sentence description hardly does the book justice.  It is a thoughtful look at identity and family.  A long-time favorite of mine.  (Children’s Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)

    Have you read anything that fits this theme?  What would you add?

    From Kissing to. . .

    Through the luck of the library hold list draw I went from reading an ARC of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan to a library copy of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.  I think I had tears in my eyes the entire time I read these books back to back.

    twoboysTwo Boys Kissing a a teen novel about a couple of gay teens trying to win the world record for the longest kiss.  In the hands of David Levithan, one of my personal favorite YA writers, the story becomes about more than winning a record or about making a statement about gay rights.  He uses an unusual narrator to tell a larger story.  Our storyteller is an omniscient view from the collective voice of gay men who have passed.  They watch the characters being so open with their sexuality and speak of their experiences before being out was okay, before AIDS was a thing.  It was very powerful, and it is easily one of my favorite books of the year.

    tellthewolvesimhomeThen I picked up Tell the Wolves I’m Home from the library.  I’d been waiting for the book for months, and it seemed serendipitous that it arrived in my hands when it did.  This book is set in the 1980′s, when AIDS was just beginning to be a thing.  June’s uncle whose relationship to the family is strained because he was gay has just died, and June is devastated.  She tries to understand the choices her family made.  But it’s hard to make sense of why we choose to cut off the ones we love the most when they make choices we don’t understand.

    I was reminded of these words from the collective narrator of Two Boys Kissing (quoted from ARC):

    “So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home.  So many of us had to leave.  But every single one of us wishes we hadn’t had to.  Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn’t had to leave the other one behind.  Every single one of us would have loved to have been loved unconditionally by our parents.”

    It’s gotten better for LGBT kids, I think.  I hope.  But I know that there are still some who have to deal with families who want nothing to do with them.  It breaks my heart to think about the people I know personally who are separated from their families for reasons like this.

    Stories like these make me hug my daughter tightly and promise to love her no matter what.  I hope she knows that she can make different choices than the ones I made without fear of losing us.  We will always act like her family.

    Find Two Boys Kissing at your library or buy it from an indie bookstore.  Then you’ll probably want to do the same for Tell the Wolves I’m Homelibrary or indie bookstore.

    My favorite books of 2013 (so far)

    We’re six months into 2013, and my running favorites list has already gotten long enough to share.  Here are the seven books I’ve loved so far this year:

    • howtoHow To by Julie Morstad  - This picture book is simple and nostalgic.  It is for anyone who wants to remember what being a kid was like.  I don’t know if it will have tons of kid appeal, but the Mindy appeal is through the roof.  (All ages)
    • The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers – Anyone who has a sibling and a heart will probably at least “aww” a little at this book.  It’s an easy-to-read graphic novel, and it’ll be available in English and in Spanish in September.  (Ages 5-8)
    • The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz – The Sleepwalkers will save you from your nightmares.  They are the superheroes of your dreams, but they are training in new heroes in this graphic novel.  So we get to watch the new Sleepwalkers take on scary-weird dream stuff of the night.  It’s all about empowering kids to face their fears, and I love it.  (Ages 7-10)
    • Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler – You remember this one from last week’s post, right?  (Teen)
    • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – This is the book that everyone in the library world has been talking about.  It took me a while to get it from the library because there was already a long list by the time I added my name to it.  I guess I kind of thought that it wouldn’t live up to the hype since I’d heard and read so many of my colleagues gushing about it.  I was wrong.  All the hype is deserved.  I adored this book. (Teen)
    • Relish by Lucy Knisley – I must recommend this book to all of my foodie friends, if not for the delightful coming-of-age food-related memoir stuff,  then for the visual recipes throughout.  Very cool.  (Teen/Adult)
    • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler – This is kind of an unusual novel.  It took me a bit to get into it, but once it grabbed my attention, it kept it.  A couple of reviews have advised readers to avoid spoilers on this one, so if you are the sort who likes to be surprised, don’t research too much.  Just give it a chance.  I think you’ll be surprised.  (Teen/Adult)

    What 2013 releases have you read and loved?  What are you looking forward to?

    June Book Pick: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

    rapturepracticeI wanted to read Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler as soon as I saw it.  I was also raised in a strict religion, and I figured I would relate to Hartzler’s memoir of his childhood in an evangelical family.  I imagined bonding with him over not being allowed to watch The Smurfs or read fantasy novels.  But Hartzler’s religious childhood put mine to shame.

    For example, in the religious community of my childhood R rated movies were taboo (even for adults) and PG-13 movies were subject to debate (for adults and definitely for teens).  For Hartzler?  No secular movies or television at all.  Movies, it turns out, were one of his first Big Rebellions.  There were many more rebellions along the way, as you might imagine.   Music.  Drinking.  Girls.

    But here is what really stood out to me about Rapture Practice: I didn’t finish the book hating Hartzler’s parents.   Yes, they made him destroy his secret collection of secular music, and they punished him for really ridiculous things.  But you can tell that Hartzler doesn’t hate them.  Actually, he said in this Kirkus article that the book is a love note to his parents.  It says, “To date, he’s unsure if his parents have read his book or ever will.”

    I started reading expecting to compare notes on what we weren’t allowed to do as teens.  Instead I found a thoughtful memoir about growing up and away from your family’s way of looking at the world.  I think most people will be able to relate to that.

    If I have anything bad to say about the book, it’s that it ended too soon.  It ends as Hartzler is just beginning to question his faith and confront his sexuality (spoiler: he’s gay).  I want that story too.

    The Kirkus review says, “A hilarious first-of-its-kind story that will surely inspire more.”

    I agree.  I feel inspired.  Perhaps I’ll share bits of my own story, which is odd by many standards though not quite as odd as Hartzler’s turned out to be.  I only hope I can do it with the tact and balance that Hartzler did.

     

    Miss last month’s Book Pick?  Check it out: Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

    May Book Pick: Formerly, Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

    formerlysharkgirlWhen I’m talking to people about my prosthetic arm, I am quick to point out that I was born this way and that I’ve been wearing a prosthesis since before I can remember.  Most people assume that there was some kind of accident and subsequent rehabilitation, and they often ask questions around that assumption.

    Then since I’m a children’s librarian by trade, people will bring up Izzy Willy Nilly–a book in which a teenage girl loses a leg in a car accident–and I try to differentiate my experience from this classic teen novel that tends to be a lot of people’s only context for limb deficiency.  Izzy’s situation in the book is just as different to me as it is to anyone else.  There isn’t as much in common as you might think.  I’ve said those sentences many times over the years.

    But, honestly… I’m kind of lying.  Well, let’s call it exaggerating.  I do have a few key commonalities with Izzy in that book and with Jane, the main character in my Book Pick for May, Formerly, Shark Girl.  Izzy, Jane, and I all live with a lot of assumptions about who we are and what our lives are like.  We are heroes or victims.  Inspirations or curiosities.  But we’d like to be more.

    This is an uplifting novel about the big life decisions that will appeal to fans of realistic teen fiction, especially if you like novels in verse.  But it’s also an opportunity to challenge your assumptions about people who look different.

    If you are curious about my story, you can check out Fake Arm 101 for answers to some frequently asked questions. You can also find more reading material on my list of books about various disability experiences.

    Did you miss last month’s Book Pick?  Check it out: The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure.

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

    April Book Pick: The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure

    Do you believe in fairies?  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did.  The man best known for creating the greatest fictional detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes, but he also wrote a book called The Coming of the Fairies.  Twin Cities writer Mary Losure came across The Coming of the Fairies book in a local independent book store and became intrigued with the story of the Cottingley Fairies featured in Doyle’s book.  Two young girls apparently photographed the fairies, and these photos were seen as proof of the existence of fairies by some.  A photograph is proof, right?  In the 1920′s, cameras were still a pretty new technology.  Not many people had the equipment to take a photo much less alter a negative to create a fake photo.  Still, it was hard for many people to believe.

    fairyringThe Fairy Ring by Mary Losure explores the story behind the photographs.  It is a fascinating piece of narrative nonfiction that looks at how a hoax might begin very innocently and spiral out of control quickly.  It is written for kids (middle school age, primarily), but I recommend this book even beyond that audience.  After all, we live in a world of fake photos and fake news and hoaxes of every sort.  Sometimes the fakes are easy to spot.  But sometimes they are much more difficult.  It might seem impossible to kids that these photos were ever taken as proof of fairies, but we’ve probably all been taken in by some online hoax at some point.  This is a book that will have you thinking about proof and asking yourself: Would I have believed?

    CottingleyFairies4

    Mary Losure’s newest book, for which I am on a library waiting list, is called Wild Boy.  It was recently featured of the Daily Circuit.

    Did you miss last month’s Book Pick?  Check it out: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

    The New Forever

    judyblumeFew writers can compare with Judy Blume.  Mostly because, it seems, few writers want to take on some of the subjects she was willing to write about–at least not for young people.  

    You will find some Judy Blume novel at the heart of some “growing up moments” for so many women.  You only have to read read Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume to see just how she influenced a generation with her fiction.

    A couple of the essays in Everything take on Forever… (a.k.a. The Sex Book), and Stacey Ballis describes it like this:

    Forever was the book that got passed reverentially from older sibling to younger, usually with key passages highlighted and essential page numbers listed in the back.  It was the book that we read aloud at slumber parties, whispered about in the back of the school bus, and was the single most likely item to be stolen from a sixth-grade desk.”

    foreverYes, the book’s notoriety among tweens and teens was related to the fact that it talks about sex.  But the book’s resonance went beyond the illicit content.  Ballis continues:

    “Judy Blume opened a door for me by simply depicting something real and not overly romanticized, which seemed to make it even more, well, romantic.”

    That’s what I was thinking about when the teen novel Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky landed on my desk at work.  The ARC had an eye -catching jacket that promised the kind of illicit content that made Forever what it was.  In case you can’t read it in the photo below, the jacket says:

    “Warning:

    Reading may produce the following side effects:

    Rosy cheeks

    Sweaty Palms

    Racing Heart”

    Snadowsky does make good on that promise.  There is sex in this book and plenty of it.  But what reminded me so strongly of Judy Blume was its lack of romance.  The sex in Anatomy of a Single Girl isn’t really about being erotic, despite what the warning might make you think.  It’s more clinical than sexy, and our narrator manages to be scientific and emotional.

    anatomyof

    The story began with Anatomy of a Boyfriend, which follows the same storyline as Forever.  Life goes on, of course, even after a break up.  And we get the second installment in Anatomy of a Single Girl.   I don’t know if Snadowsky’s books will have the influence and staying power of Judy Blume’s books, but they definitely add to the list of books that answer all the questions about sex and relationships that girls are often afraid to ask.  I think that’s a good thing.

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)