Made and Making: February 2015

I’m just doing cooking this month, although I did a few crafty things, because that’s how it is.

Sally Lunn bread: used white whole wheat flour which I suspect changed the texture; a pleasant bread with a nice flavor.
– I made a blood orange tart based on this recipe, but changed lots of things about it.
Cranberry Syrup: possibly I did not cook the syrup long enough, because there isn’t much of a cranberry flavor that I can detect. Still good and a very pleasant red.
– I also made a recipe called “Best Buttermilk Pancakes” which I have noted as being from Smitten Kitchen, but which I can’t find anywhere. They’re really good buttermilk pancakes, and next time I make them I will try adding fruit, etc.
Potato and Artichoke Tortilla: I kind of took the idea of this one and changed everything: didn’t preboil the potatoes, used fresh baby red peppers instead of roasted, did 1.5 times the recipe. The people I fed it to didn’t seem to mind.
Beef, Leek & Barley Soup: I made this for a friend, so I didn’t get to do more than taste it, but it’s an incredibly simple recipe and the little bit I had was delicious. I will definitely be making this one again.

From Home Made Winter:
– Rarebits with Pear & Blue Cheese: I halved the recipe and ate these for several meals. Delicious! I want to try a traditional rarebit too.
– Cheese Fondue from Stilton, Cream Cheese and Belegen (gouda): I ate this several times as fondue, which was rich & filling, and then used the leftovers as a cheese sauce for pasta.
– Pizza Bianca: I did caramelized onions, prosciutto and mozzarella, since I was completely unable to find the figs the recipe calls for. An excellent pizza.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines

top-ten-tuesday
This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

This topic was so hard. I started off with a list of 33 names. THIRTY-THREE. So you’ll have to forgive me for actually going to fifteen. It’s the best I can do.

wheel of the infinite perilous gard medair

Kate Sutton from The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope: Kate Sutton has been one of my favorite characters ever since I read The Perilous Gard for the first time. She’s stubborn and prickly, but also loyal and sensitive and entirely sympathetic.

Medair from the Medair Duology by Andrea K Höst: I have liked several of Höst’s main characters, but Mediar is definitely one of my favorites. She is out of her own time and has to face a series of almost impossible choices. It’s her strength in the face of this that I think I most appreciate.

Maskelle from Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells: Maskelle is older than many of the characters I have loved. She has history, and she brings the weight of her experience to the story. She’s also fantastic and awesome.

Ista from Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold: Ista’s journey in Paladin of Souls is one of my favorites ever.

Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: Sophie is one of those characters that I just instantly loved. If you describe her, she might sound a bit passive, but she’s really anything but.

Sorrows-Knot lost conspiracy strong poison
Laura Chant from The Changeover by Margaret Mahy: Laura is another character who is prickly and fierce and wholly endearing.

Tiffany Aching from the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett: I love Tiffany: her care for other people, her ambition and her limits on that ambition. I love how she is independent and fierce, and yet very connected to her community and the land.

Otter from Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow: I’m not wild about the Chosen One trope at this point, for many reasons, but I make an exception for Otter, who is brave and beautiful.

Hathin from The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge: I really love Hathin for a lot of reasons, one of which is that she’s not the Chosen One, and yet she’s a marvelous character.

Harriet Vane from Strong Poison, Gaudy Night, etc. by Dorothy Sayers: I would like to be Harriet, and not just because of Peter (though that…doesn’t hurt). I just love her, her strengths and her frailties. I love her stubbornness and her refusal to give Peter anything that’s not on her own terms. And her warmth and humor too.

uses for boys girls at the kingfisher cnv us pb 2
Taylor Markham from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: I love Jellicoe Road for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it always makes me cry. But the biggest reason of all is Taylor and her voice. This was one of the first contemporary YAs that I really loved, and it’s really because of Taylor and her journey.

Anna from Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt: Anna is a character I didn’t instantly love, but came to really value. And her story is one that’s really stayed with me ever since I read it.

Jo Hamilton from The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine: Jo is hard and fierce and stubborn and heart-breakingly alone. I loved her so much.

Julie and Maddie from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Well, they make a sensational team.

Betsy Ray from the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace: I have loved Anne Shirley and Jo March and many other classic heroines. But Betsy Ray is the one that I think of myself as most like; she’s the most human and everyday.

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Links from around the web: 2-20-15

There are so many rich, thoughtful posts that I’m going to link to in this edition. It’s felt to me like the last two weeks have had a sudden blossoming of great discussion in several different venues.

– Leila Roy wrote a fantastic post about book reviews and criticism (which I am not just saying because I’m quoted it in it) (!!). “As a reader, I love to read reviews in which it’s clear that the reviewer has thought deeply about the book. Not just in terms of the book on its own, but the book in terms of its place in its genre, the history of the genre, how it uses tropes and/or archetype characters, how it builds on what has come before.”

Kameron Hurley on Trigger Warnings and Neil Gaiman: “The problem with mainstreaming this kind of use of the term is that instead of saying, “Yes, trigger warnings are useful so let’s not continue to water it down” what you do when you title a rather typical short story collection “Trigger Warning” is that your work becomes part of the problem of breaking it down into meaninglessness and slapping it on any old thing as a marketing gimmick.” (via The Book Smugglers)

– Amy Koester’s post “Selection is Privilege” is fantastic and should be required reading for librarians everywhere. “The position that “because we don’t have X readers in my library, we don’t need X books” also denotes a fundamental lack of respect for the children we are supposed to be serving. It suggests that we think our young readers cannot handle, relate to, or be expected to understand an experience that does not mirror their own.” And then follow it up with Ellen Oh’s “A Message to the Gatekeepers“: “But this discussion is neither new nor surprising to any of us who have been in this fight for so long…We have long known that it is the adult biases and prejudices that trickle down into the children and become part of their learned behavior.”

– Kelly Jensen has a really powerful post at Book Riot about reading and depression: “Depression took me out of my reading life. Recognizing that — and getting help for it — has put me back in in ways I could never have imagined. Reading isn’t about powering through. It isn’t about disconnecting. Reading is about being a part of something.”

– Jonathan Franzen is being a jerk, and especially focusing on Jennifer Weiner. I have trouble taking Franzen seriously AT ALL, but Weiner’s response is pretty awesome: “Women writers – even the ones whose work Franzen disdains – have a platform, and a place at the table. Our voices are being heard, and the world — at least the tiny corner of it that cares about books, and book reviews — is changing.”

– We’re doing some weeding at work right now and this post is truth.

Raven Boys fanart. Oh, I love this Blue. And RONAN. (via RJ Anderson)

– Speaking of RJ Anderson, the cover for her upcoming mg book was revealed recently. It’s amazing and beautiful, and the snippet makes me EVEN MORE EXCITED for this book. (I was already pretty excited.) And then The Book Smugglers also featured the cover and excerpt for Frances Hardinge’s upcoming The Lie Tree, and I died of happiness.

Gorgeous Attolia fanart. Also, this is a wonderful post which really captures so much of how I feel about the Attolia fandom and the friends I’ve made from it.

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Library Displays: January-February 2015

bedtime

I wanted to take a look at some of the displays I’ve done in the children’s room recently. With the change in my job, some of my focus has moved away from displays, but I am still trying to do at least two a month. These are from the past two months.

Bedtime: This is always a popular topic and it seemed like January was a good time for snuggly stories about going to bed. I put together the banner above in Publisher, using some graphic elements and an Alison Jay illustration.

Creativity: I actually called this one “Make It” on the banner and tried to feature a number of different ideas of making–food, art, clothing, crafts, and other creative projects. We were very overdue for a non-fiction oriented display and I was pleased with how this one went.

Black History Month: This year and last I’ve been trying to make Black History Month displays that are creative and inspiring. Last year, with the focus on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I went with “Let Freedom Ring” and tried to feature some of the many different people who were involved in the 1960s civil rights movement. This year, I focused on both fiction and non-fiction books which were created by black writers and illustrators. It’s circulated pretty well! And I’m renewing my own commitment to be sure to include diverse books in all displays, not just the heritage months.

Sheep Tales: According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the sheep (or maybe goat? sources seem to disagree). I’m not doing a display directly based on that, but it did seem like an opportunity to pull out some of the picture books and non-fiction that feature sheep.

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The Reluctant Listener: Code Name Verity

reluctantlistener

Warning! Contains spoilers for Code Name Verity.

cnv usA few years ago, when I would have categorized myself as very much NOT an audiobook listener, I was tempted into listening to the audiobook for Code Name Verity. Because, well, Code Name Verity, plus several people I trust said it was very well done. And it was and is. I’ve just finished listening to it again, and cried buckets of tears as usual.

Part of the reason I’m often wary of audiobooks is that I tend to hear a narrator’s voice while reading, and if the audiobook narrator doesn’t match up with that imagined voice, the whole thing doesn’t work. (I stopped listening to a Dorothy Sayers audiobook after about two minutes because the voice for Lord Peter was just so very, VERY wrong.) In this case, the voice casting for both Julie and Maddie is wonderful; both narrators actually reflect where the characters come from, and both are excellent at narration. Morven Christie as Julie is especially–well, memorable doesn’t quite cut it. She makes Julie come alive. Clear and funny and then sometimes fraying into sorrow, anger, tiredness. Plus, she does all the accents and languages so well!

Which brings me to another point: the first time I listened to this audiobook, I had read CNV at least twice. I cried buckets of tears, of course. But the audiobook made me cry in several new places. I did not think at the time that this was possible. First, there’s the whole sequence with Georgia Penn, which somehow came so much more to life: that careful dance of words that both are enacting. “I am the soul of verity.” And then, that astonishing moment when Von Linden sings a snippet of Wagner; Christie somehow manages to sing as Julie quoting Von Linden and it’s one of the most eerie things I have ever heard. Audiobooks at their best give new depth to the familiar words, and that’s exactly what this one does.

Lucy Gaskell’s Maddie is also wonderful. Completely different than Julie, more emotional, less considered, her narration fits Maddie so well. She uses pauses, a little hitch of breath and it’s like she’s talking to you. But she’s also fierce, as Maddie is. When she talks about being Von Linden’s mortal enemy, I believe her utterly. And in the bridge scene and its aftermath, I completely believed her pain and sorrow and guilt and–is satisfaction the right word? Not exactly, but her knowledge that she hadn’t let Julie down.

This is still one of my favorite audiobooks ever, an astonishing and beautiful performance. They do make a sensational team.

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Recent Reading: Black, Bradshaw, Echols, Samatar

darkest part of the forestThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: This really should be its own post, if post length were an indication of how much I love a book. After not quite loving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (I know. I’m sorry.), I am happy to say that The Darkest Part of the Forest hit all the right notes for me. Siblings trying to save each other? Scary fairies? Fairy tale tropes being played with lovingly? Awesome characters? Yes to all of these things! I also appreciated that there’s diversity on several different fronts. But mostly I just loved Hazel and Jack and Ben and the horned prince. Lovely, lovely book.

sand reckonerThe Sand-Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw: A couple of people have said how much they liked this Bradshaw book, and having read it I can totally see why. It’s a little sadder than most of her others, a little less clear-cut in terms of good vs. bad. While I’m not enamored of the male genius figures in fiction right now, I will make an exception for Bradshaw’s Archimedes, because he’s so sensitively drawn. And we do see him from other perspectives which I think helps balance that trope out. This has some of Bradshaw’s more lovely writing too. While I doubt any book will ever be quite as beloved for me as The Beacon at Alexandria, this is definitely one I can see myself re-reading.

perfect couplePerfect Couple by Jennifer Echols: I really like Jennifer Echols. When I’m in a certain mood, she’s one of the authors I always reach for. Her books are light without being thoughtless and she often draws in some social commentary. Plus, I really enjoy her characters, who always read to me as actual teens, without losing any of the romance. Perfect Couple is the second book in her latest YA series, The Superlatives. Harper is a photographer; Brody is the school quarterback. They aren’t really alike at all. But when the school votes them “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” Harper starts to wonder if they’re more similar than she thought. One of the things I appreciate about Echols’s books is the variety of experience in her characters and Perfect Couple is no exception. While the conceit of the book may stretch the bounds of believability a tad, I really didn’t care. It’s a smart, well written teen romance, and just what I needed.

stranger in olondriaA Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar: I’ve been meaning to read Samatar’s debut since it came out two years ago. It’s a really engrossing book, which probably deserves more space than I can give it here. It’s about family and myth and home, about history and colonialism. But most of all it’s about books, and a relationship with books. Samatar’s language is dense and beautiful, with occasional moments of iridescent beauty. I thought for awhile about why it’s adult rather than YA, since I can easily read Jevick as in his late teens (I can’t remember how clearly his age is given). But in that nebulous “you’ll know it when you see it way,” it does seem quite clearly adult. I think there’s a lack of immediacy to the story–it’s so clearly Jevick looking back over his past–and that’s the closest I can come to saying what I mean. Regardless, it was a fascinating book, and I’m still mulling over it several days later.

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Picture Book Monday: February 2015

I seem to have read remarkably few picture books this month, so in addition to the one (1!) that I have noted, I’ve gone back to look at a few favorite picture books from last year which I didn’t discuss at the time.

once upon an alphabetthe new small personblue on blue

The New Small Person by Lauren Child: This is a great one for the slightly reluctant older sibling. Elmore Green’s worry about not being the most important person in his parents’ lives anymore would resonate a lot with many kids. I’d also like to note that it’s a nice example of not defaulting to white.

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson: I have noticed several books recently about a family with one child who doesn’t quite fit, and both this book and the next fall into the category. Gaston is a nice example of this, and I loved Christian Robinson’s illustrations, which are often hilarious.

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino: As much as I enjoyed Gaston, The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water is even better, imo. Merino’s illustrations are marvelous and I loved the story quite a bit. I’m not sure exactly why I like the one a little better, since they’re both very strong.

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers: Jeffers is one of those odd and lovely children’s book writers, who has an apparently endless invention. (His Stuck is my standard class visit read-aloud, and it is MARVELOUS.) Once Upon an Alphabet is a little older than some of his picture books–or at least it requires a slightly longer attention span. I loved the details and the way some of the stories loop back on each other.

Blue on Blue by Dianne White and Beth Krommes: When I was young, I loved Michael McCurdy’s illustrations, and Krommes’ charming scratchboard illustrations reminded me a lot of that. This is a nice sciencey picture book, with a nice rhythm to the text and a sense of wonder that I found very attractive.

Mr Bud Wears the Cone by Carter Goodrich: I have a weird soft spot for the Mr. Bud and Zorro books. I don’t know why, but I really enjoy them. This is another fun installment.

crocodilegastonmister bud

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