Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mother Reader's 4th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge!


Love books? Looking for an excuse to blow off everything for 48 hours to indulge your reading jones?

Head on over to Mother Reader's place for the scoop on the 48 Hour Book Challenge! I've participated in the past three challenges and loved every gritty-eyed moment. This time, I'm out -- on a solo road trip during the designated challenge weekend - but I urge all you other book-devouring souls to get over to Mother Reader's blog NOW to sign up.

It's crazy fun, and this time around has new options for adult books, graphic novels, even reading book blogs - and an option to read for a terrifically worthy cause, too! There are cool winner prizes and random rockin' door prizes! (As if allowing yourself to read whatever you want for 2 full days isn't prize enough - sheesh!)

Go - what are you waiting for?!!! And hey, read 30 books for me!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Disconnecting From the Universal Umbilical Cord

With so many things in life, focus waxes and wanes.

And it seems that we've got ever increasing means to fill up even the tiniest slice of our time thanks to all of those innumerable, ever-populating technological gadgets. Between the Blackberry, the cell phone, the computer, Facebook, Twitter, the Blogosphere, YouTube, Hulu, the missed episode of Gray's Anatomy on ABC.Com it's a wonder we can focus at all.

Where does real life get sandwiched in?

And where does it leave reading?

I've thought a lot this past week about books. I love them. Talking about books and their power to enlighten and empower and engage and entertain is the one subject that lights up my entire soul.

Yet after another 14 hour day of reading screen after screen of digital imagery, the stress of that jittery amalgam of information creates a desire to just close my eyes and my mind to try to find a real sense of peace.

In the six months that I've been away from Midwestern Lodestar (and most of the other book blogs) I have read - I couldn't really live without it - but I just couldn't seem to move forward with the act of engaging in one more "remote" interaction by chatting it up in the vacuum of cyberspace.

I don't think I'm alone. Why else would there be a move to have face-to-face Kidlitosphere events? We are all connected 24/7 - but remotely, abstractly, distantly.

There are many who bemoan what they see as the imminent demise of the hands-on daily newspaper. Magazines become more and more photo and sound-bite oriented every day. The digital book reading devices continue to proliferate. Movies are watched on a 3 inch I-Pod screen. Will the current generation, who have lived in this connected but disconnected world their whole lives be the ones to finally and firmly reject the traditional concept of the book? Why do bits of Fahrenheit 451 come to mind more and more often?

I used to make it a mission to see all of the nominees for Best Picture before the Oscar broadcast each year. This year, for the first time in nearly a decade, I decided to resume that quest. And I saw them - all five - in a single day, all in actual movie theaters. Sure, there were annoying talkers and sticky floors and exorbitant prices - but the visceral experience of sharing the film with other physically present human beings was a heady thing. I found myself seeing another "live" film the following weekend - just to savor the "being there" moment of it again.

I feel that same pulse in a bookstore sometimes and often in a used bookstore. It's the devotion to reading - and to books - that is the current that draws people together in these spaces. I do not feel that in many libraries anymore. Too often, they have become the technological way stations for those who do not have access to the 24/7 connectors at home -- and the vast areas once filled with books are now a sea of computers at which sit completely isolated individuals pursuing the new dream of communicating with the world without ever really connecting with anyone in it.

Reading a fabulous picture book still feeds the spirit, but not in the way that reading a fabulous picture book with a group of children does. The connection, the moment, the common experience - we are losing these moments every day and in our headlong rush to stay connected 24/7, I wonder if we will notice before it's too late?

Stepping out of the information stream is jarring. Some nights I still see the random electronic flashing of all the digital screens I've absorbed into my retinas playing against my closed eyelids.

Even so, I do step out as a gift to myself.

I give myself the gift of connection and I take that great picture book in and do an adult story time at coffee break. I give myself a gift of time away from the universal umbilical cord and spend a day at the movie theater. Or perhaps I give myself one of the most precious gifts of all - the stress free delight of unbroken focus - and do nothing at all but lose myself in a book.

And sometimes, I also choose not to dilute that experience by uploading it straight back into the collective consciousness here at Lodestar.

-- ZG

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 36

No, it's not a new YA series, it's the number of consecutive 10+ hour days I have spent at work. And sadly, I fear the the number will go nowhere but up.

Nonetheless, I still make attempts to read the books that beckon from my "renewed-three-times-and-then-reserved-at-another-library-and-renewed-from-there-three times" pile.

Yeah, completely lunatic levels of optimism....

Did I mention I just completed Day 36?

But I am driven to post quickly tonight about Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES.

I did the agonizing "just one chapter" test of a bunch of my "for heaven's sake, just take it back - you owe money now!" titles and this one caught me.

Seriously - the last line of the first chapter? I dare you not to read on.

Even with my computer-screen addled eyes, I could not put it down until I finished last night.

It was just the thing for my mood: intrigue, cruel societal norms, plucky heroine, intriguing leading man, themes worth considering, death, survival, humor.... tons of good stuff!

And what's more - it quite obviously will spawn a sequel!

I know this is a really lousy review -- and this is a truly fine book that deserves a more fluent mind and pen than I can currently manage -- so look beyond all that to realize how seriously I am recommending it given my nearly out-of-body weariness.

Pick this one up - it's worth your time.

I've thought about it all day today.

-- ZG

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Book of the Summer

I've read quite a bit since the 48HBC - some good, some not so good. Have not been moved to share or comment on any of them until now, when I find myself honor-bound to throw a spotlight on my favorite book of Summer 2008:

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger.
This is one of those books that you read straight through and then wish like anything that you'd made yourself slow down so that it would have lasted longer.
It's also one of those books that are tough to describe succinctly.
It's about friendship and love and support and becoming what you were meant to be. It's about families and relationships and good humor and disappointment and sorrow. It's about opening your life to other hearts, other lives, other possibilities. It's about making a stand for something that matters, and for believing in something, and for doing whatever is within your power to make something better or make something whole and right again - even if it's for someone or something that does not directly affect you. It's about the flow of life between generations, nationalities, disabilities and sexual preferences. It's funny, heartwarming and stylistically entertaining. And yes, as promised on the cover, it is also about Love, Fenway Park and Mary Poppins --- but in wonderful twisty ways that are surprising, endearing and memorable.
I finished this at 3 AM Sunday morning and immediately ordered a copy for my bookshelf (it is definitely a keeper and a read-againer) and emailed Steve Kluger about my reaction to his novel. Cool soul that he is, he replied the same day.
Do not miss this one.
- ZG

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flood of Emotion

It's been a rough couple of weeks here in the Midwest.

The water rose and rose and rose some more, erasing familiar landmarks in a murky swirl. That surreal environment was haunting and unsettling and nearly unimagineable.

Little did we know that as the water took its leave, the indelible marks left on those same landmarks would be infinitely more unsettling and heartbreaking.

Many tears have been shed for the loss of homes, schools, churches, businesses, and countless untold precious treasures --and among those precious treasures are the books that made up the heart of my hometown library's collection.

All of you who love books and the power of words will know the utter sadness engendered by these photos released by the Cedar Rapids Library staff this week....

Consider sending a prayer and a smile and maybe a book or two their way.

-- ZG

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Finish Line

27 books
6479 pages
31 hours

It's a weird thing to do this challenge.
One book after the next.
Liberating and indulgent, sure.
But also gluttonous and shallow.

There's not time to savor the story a while.
Or to recall a particular passage or phrase.
Or to wipe away a tear.
Or to seek out someone to read a piece aloud to.

I want to talk more about all of the books I read for the challenge -
but now is not the time,
as time is up.

48 hours goes by very quickly.

Too many books, too little time.

- ZG

Sunday Books

Blue Like Friday
Siobhan Parkinson
A tender Irish tale about two pals on a crazy mission to break up a burgeoning relationship.
Go Big or Go Home
Will Hobbs
Ah, Will Hobbs, catapults, Crazy Horse, meteors, cave exploration, alien life forms, guard dogs, bison-leaping, coroner dreams - need I say more?
Hurricane: A Novel
Terry Trueman
Painful, poignant portrait of life in a small village after Hurricane Mitch. Hard and hopeful at once.
Meg Cabot
Meg takes on romantic rivalry in NYC among two related teen witches in this wicked tale.
Juliet's Moon
Ann Rinaldi
A look at the Civil War from the Southern side through the eyes of a young girl. Lots of history and historical figures that I knew little to nothing about...
Season of Ice
Diane Les Becquets
Cold, sad story of a father gone missing in the frozen lakes of northern Maine.
The Comeback Season
Jennifer E. Smith
The Cubs endless quest for the pennant, a dead-too-soon father, and a romance with a cancer-riddled teen boy make for a teary tale of hope and loss.
When the Black Girl Sings
Bil Wright
Nice story of an adopted black girl finding her voice - literally - in a very white world.

8 books, 1787 pages, 7.5 hours

- ZG

Saturday Books

Patrick Jones
Jones knows his conflicted male teen audience. Compelling story. Heavy ending.
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam
Cynthia Kadohata
Fascinating and heart-breaking. Enjoyed the end notes and photos that accompany the story.
Deep Down Popular
Phoebe Stone
Not in any way what I expected from this cover and title. So it took a bit to accept it.
Great Cape Rescue
Phyllis Shalant
I loved this tale of four misfits and a magical green towel. Really loved it.
Keeping Score
Linda Sue Park
This was my favorite of the three days' reading. Moving, inspiring and just a great read.
Me, the missing and the dead
Jenny Valentine
Love these imports and their odd phrases. Another surprise -- really liked this quirky tale of the missing and the dead. Great first scene.
Pretty Face
Mary Hogan
Every chubby girl's absolute wish-fulfillment book. Seriously. Dreamy stuff.
Smiles to Go
Jerry Spinelli
Family, friendships, danger, siblings, love and astronomy swirled in a satisfying mix.
Sweethearts: A Novel
Sara Zarr
Tender, sad, moving and heartbreaking tale of two hearts fused by the past.
The Chicken Dance
Jacques Couvillon
Not at all what I expected on this one, either. Afterward, I wasn't sure I liked it much.
Theodosia & the Serpents of Chaos
Robin La Fevers
Giddy fun with a curse-sensing girl protagonist, museums, ruins and ancient evils revived.
You Know Where to Find Me
Rachel Cohn
I was not in the right frame of mind for these moody, damaged characters.

12 books, 2982 pages, 14 hours and 10 minutes read

Might try for another before I stop -- but since I badly needed a cup of tea and it was already after midnight, it seemed like a good time to submit today's Books Read List.

- ZG