Category Archives: Shelfie

Shelfie: September 17-23, 2017: Sacrifices and Those Left Behind

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It’s been a weirder and more stressful week than even has become the usual for 2020.  I had been listening to a snippet of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text‘s 6th season with my housemate as we drove in the dark.  As we pulled into the driveway, I saw the first flash of lightning—far off I thought.  Within minutes (just as long as it took the kettle to boil), the rain began lashing the house.

Storms have been speaking to me more than usual lately.  I have always enjoyed the ionized air and whipping wind that JUST precedes a storm and enjoyed the petrichor.  Lately I’ve enjoyed the feel of the rain against my skin.  Not just the fine mists that the wind whips onto the porch, but the hard drops that sting.

I was on the porch with the wind flinging rain sideways beneath the overhang.

I was thinking of myself as a widow—a sailor’s wife, staring out at the sea in a storm and not knowing if my husband would return—you know, as sometimes you just settle into the minds of historical figures (Others do this too, right?).  I was thinking of sacrificed lives and deaths and the ones left behind.  I was thinking of who makes the sacrifices and who gets left behind.

And I was thinking about this story.  I don’t know why this one in particular; I haven’t read it since 2017.  I was thinking about it before I remembered that it was the next photo set in my shelfie list.

But having thought about it, because it is the next in the set, I feel I ought to present you a series of photos that I took during my last read of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5: The Last Olympian.

Spoilers obviously.

Shelfie: August 16, 2017: Triumphs

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Question: Have you had any personal triumphs lately?  In these grim times, I would absolutely love hearing about them!

The first full paragraph in this photo is such a triumphant moment.  The posting of this photo happens to coincide with my own very small triumph.  Today I was able to talk to a person about why I haven’t been getting any unemployment support despite qualifying and filing weekly.  It’s been a frustrating journey of flooded phone lines and overwhelmed Live Chat queues (usually there are more than 200 users ahead of me in the queue, and the chat locks you out after 20 minutes) and unanswered emails and voice mails.  It continues to be a frustrating journey because I got an email an hour before my appointment that I only saw after getting home that contradicts in part the information that I received in person.  And the resolution that I was offered was to wait for a phone call that may come at any time; no one can predict the timeline for this phone call.

I am posting it everywhere, but I say again, thank GOD for a fabulous support network.

 

SPOILERS FOR BOOK 7, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS!

 

Harry has a pretty good support network that he has built up over 7-17 years by the time of this scene.  Harry is able to pass on the last tasks to a friend, thinking that he himself would be unable to complete his quest.

I hope none of the requests I lay at the feet of my network are ever as horrifying.

The character growth shown in this scene is fantastic.

I wish I could be half as bold.

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Shelfie: August 9, 2017: Golden Light

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The light in this photo looks like late afternoon or sunset, aged, classic, but it’s really sunlight bouncing off of a Stanley Steemer truck parked on the street that lit the spines of our book stacks with gold.  I haven’t got anything philosophical or poetic to say about it, but I like the photo, and the circumstances make me laugh.  It’s just happy happenstances coming together to make a pleasing photo.

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Shelfie: July 22, 2017: In Over Our Heads

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This has been a hell of a week or two.  How fitting that the next photo in my shelfie album is from a time when I was dealing with a personal, medical emergency (then a broken humerus).

But that was no hell compared to this.

Unlike most of the world, it seems, I am still working at a store with the public.  The fear, the grief, the unknown, the added precautions, the stress of my coworkers and the public have all compounded—and we had a death in the family from covid-19, and I’ve had to deal with that ordinary grief while those around me discuss death and the statistics of dying as if the deaths are numbers.

I can’t write or edit the partial review that I had had ready.

So here instead is a photo of one of the most heart-twisting sentence fragments in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

SPOILERS!

(In this time of stress, I’ve turned again to Harry Potter.  I’m right now re-reading Chamber of Secrets.)

I hope you are all doing better than me.  I hope you are staying away from public places and staying safe.  Be well.  Be careful.  I won’t promise that we’ll make it through this whole and hale, because I already haven’t, and chances are that many of us will be affected in some way—and all those promises have been painful for me to hear and read this week.  But look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers said.  There’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for, as said Tolkien.  Or was that bold, brilliant speech the invention of the writers of the Lord of the Rings film scripts (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens)?

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Book Review: How to Confront Hate and Discrimination with A Tale of Magic

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Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and excerpt.TaleofMagic

Spoilers.  The one spoiler that is of the book’s ending instead of its beginning is in white.  Highlight between the stars to read.

I have never read any of Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories series though it has been recommended to me, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened this one to try to prepare for an event at the store. A Tale of Magic… is I think a prequel series to The Land of Stories. I began an ARC of the story in October and didn’t finish it until the very end of December, but I kept reading it past the event, and I finished it, which I can’t say of every book that I begin for an event. There seemed near the middle to be enough parallels between the story that I thought Colfer might be telling and the story that I am struggling to tell that I decided that I had to finish this one, even if the event was long over. (I managed just about 150 pages before the event.)

The book didn’t end up going quite the direction that I thought that it might.

In the Southern Kingdom we are introduced to Brystal Evergreen. Brystal is living beneath laws that are deeply misogynistic. Women are allowed only to pursue motherhood. They are banned from reading or even entering the library. But Brystal has brothers. She has studied law alongside them and reads novels that her younger brother sneaks to her. She manages briefly to hide a part-time job as the library’s nighttime maid, reading through the library’s offerings after close.

One book reveals to her the corruption of the government, the manipulation of laws for the purpose of consolidating the power of the government, and another reveals the existence of good magic, fairy magic instead of witchcraft.

I would actually have liked to have spent more time with Brystal’s family, the dynamics of which I found very interesting, while she slowly picks apart the prejudices that have built her world, but that wasn’t the story that Colfer wanted to tell.

Reading a passage from that second book reveals Brystal to be a fairy, and her magic lands her in a Correctional Center that is really a workhouse, from which she is rescued by a mysterious and obviously magical Madame Weatherberry, author of the book that landed her in such trouble.

The magical community is even more oppressed than women are in the Southern Kingdom. Magical peoples have been pushed to the dangerous In-Between, which is outside of the control of any of the four kingdoms and where resources are scarce for such a large population.

Madame Weatherberry begins a school for magic with the intention of training fairies to do good works for the non-magical inhabitants of the kingdoms and by so doing erase the prejudice and suppression that causes non-magical people now to hunt the magical.

That was the original thought of my own WIP’s protagonist, though recent years have made me more cynical. I wanted to see if Colfer was able to convince me that there was some good to be achieved through such a plan.

Then I thought that Colfer’s characters might begin to see as I have that “Stonewall was a riot!” and that only through revolution is revolutionary change achieved.

Neither was really the direction that the book went.

Instead Brystal * learns to leverage society’s fear of magic by leaving alive a greater threat that only she and her classmates are powerful enough to fight.   She and her classmates attack no one but neither do they perform good works across the kingdom.*

The writing was at times not subtle enough for me, perhaps a little didactic. I was not wholly on board with how easily Brystal accepts the leadership role into which she is thrust nor how adult she acts or how quickly the protagonists pass through their challenges.  The magic system was vague, but it worked, because I never felt that the magic was anything other than a stand-in for other inborn traits that lead to discrimination in our world.

Knowing some of Colfer’s biography, I felt it likely that magic was here a stand-in for an LGBTQIA+ identity, though there was no instance in this book of any romance—which itself is a welcome change.  This book touches too on the dangers of a culture of toxic masculinity with the character of Xanthous, the only masculine-presenting fairy that we meet.

I marked several poignant ideas from the novel, thoughts mostly on how to change the world and why the world is hateful and how to react to the hate in the world.

My ARC is 61 pages shorter than Goodreads advertises that the book is in the final print; I don’t know what was added or what other changes may have been made between the ARC that I read and the final print copy, though I know that mine lacked much of the artwork, most places where illustrations will appear merely held with the phrase “ATK.”

****

Colfer, Chris. A Tale of Magic…  Illus. Brandon Dorman.  New York: Little, Brown-Hachette, 2019.

This review is not endorsed by Chris Colfer, Brandon Dorman, Little, Brown and Company, or Hachette Book Group. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Shelfie: July 15, 2017: Spine Envy

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Since I was headed to the hairdresser for the first time in several years this day, and I was considering being bold and asking them about dye as well, and I was eyeing the spine of The Host for inspiration.  I have yet to be bold enough to ask anyone how much such a treat would cost—or to decide to so permanently alter my hair.

But this fun story is not the point of this post.  The point of this post is to warn you all that I am still swamped in holiday-time preparations, and I haven’t hardly even thought about the book reviews that need finishing.  I hope you can all be content with images of books for a little longer still.

Shelfie: July 13-14, 2017: Too Much Time and Not Enough

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I broke my humerus in a fall in July of 2017.  For a few days my view didn’t change as I basically didn’t move from the couch.  Luckily, my cat altered the view somewhat and the view involved lots of colorful spines of books, so at least my view wasn’t boring.  (Shown here is our poetry shelf and the beginning of the alphabet with anthologies stacked on top.)

While I was laid up, I took the time to return to Harry Potter, re-reading The Half-Blood Prince while I recovered.  Do you have books that you turn to when you’re in pain?  Or books that you have been meaning to return to but haven’t find the time?  I hope you do find the time, but I hope you don’t find the time in the same manner that I did.

This week I didn’t find time to finish, though I worked on several, any reviews for you.  I got wrapped up in hunting up gifts for my loved ones.  As we move into December, I wish you time to do everything that you wish to do, whatever it is you may wish to do.

Hopefully by next week, I’ll have something completed for you.

Book Review: Learning About Franco’s Spain in The Fountains of Silence

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Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, excerpt, teacher's guide, and author's bio.

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I read an ARC of Ruta Sepetys’ The Fountains of Silence for Barnes & Noble’s YA Book Club. It isn’t probably a book that I would have otherwise picked up. Although Sepetys’ books are well reviewed, hers is not a genre into which I often venture, and Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray both about persecuted characters in WWII seem too desperately tragic for me to find reading them enjoyable; I tend to favor literature that helps me to escape the tragedy of life over that that reminds me of the tragedy of the past, as much as I know that it is important to remember.

But it’s only since 2007 that I have found history past the 1600s or so interesting.

Besides hearing the name Franco and knowing him to have been a leader of Spain, I was and am woefully ignorant about this period of Spanish and world history.

I learned a little from this novel.

I won’t pretend that I learned a lot or that I learned enough.

The novel centers one family, now adults or older teenagers, whose parents have been killed in the civil war and who are now living in the slums of Madrid and getting by as best as they can do. The son of an American oil baron comes to stay at a hotel where one member of the family, Ana Torres Moreno, works. Daniel Matheson is an outsider in Texas high society because of his Spanish mother, and his father frowns on his aspiration to become a photographer. In Franco’s Spain, the press is censored. Daniel quickly gets in trouble with the Guardia Civil for photographing aspects of Spanish society that Franco would rather be kept silent and out of the world’s eye—and the novel untangles why that particular photo gets his film confiscated, what act is being perpetrated by the nuns.

Daniel and Ana bond over Daniel’s photography and Daniel’s kindness and dreams of a more free future. Ana opens his eyes to the darker side of the Franco’s Spain, but she cannot open them enough to believe herself able to make a relationship with him—not until after Franco’s death, when the two of them have pined for one another for nearly two decades despite having no contact with one another in that time.

This plot was… too tight for me, a very rare complaint from me, but I could not suspend my belief enough to think that the Morenas and the Mathesons would be so intricately woven together as Sepetys writes them. The writing itself was good, but I had some trouble with that aspect of the plot. On the one hand I am glad that the book did not end on the sorrow of Daniel’s departure from Spain. On the other hand, that first part of the novel that ended in heartbreak was the more believable end. I might have ended with Daniel and Christina arriving in Spain and being greeted by Nick, though that would not have centered the story on the plight of Spain as Sepetys intends I think to do. SPOILERS Or just don’t have Daniel and Ana fall back into one another’s arms so easily! That would have solved a lot. And having Christina be Ana’s stolen niece and the child over which Ana’s cousin Puri, also adopted, so dotes, her Clover…. It’s all just too much—too much convenience and coincidence.

A few positive details: I appreciated the detailed glossary of Spanish terms and phrases in the back of the book. I have seen books suffer from a lack of such a glossary, and while I didn’t need it in every instance, I was glad to be able to check so easily what I remembered of Spanish classes now almost two decades past.

Sepetys opens many chapters with firsthand sources—pieces of interviews with US officials, newspaper clippings, photographs—which lend legitimacy to her portrayal of Franco’s Spain. If only because it shows that she absolutely did her research and dug into archives for information.

This is an entertaining introduction to the plight of the Spanish people under Franco’s rule, but I personally enjoyed learning from it more than I enjoyed the story of it.

***

Sepetys, Ruta. The Fountains of Silence. Philomel-Penguin Random, 2019.

Intended audience: Ages 12+, Grades 7+.

This review is not endorsed by Ruta Sepetys, Philomel Books, or Penguin Random House. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

A question to my readers:  Do you think I should include a photo of the books’ text in my reviews if I have one?  Will that help you decide to read or skip a book?

Shelfie: July 5, 2017: Spotlight

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It’s been a while since I have needed to resort to posting a shelfie, but here I am.  This spotlight from a nearby lamp happens to highlight our anthologies and poetry shelves, where Shakespeare and a caryatid reign beside a slumbering lion.  Do you separate your books by style at all?  I just added a graphic novels corner as well.