Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's been 23 years...

...since the Rodney King verdict. It was my freshman year in college, and it was probably the first time in my life I felt like the world was a completely inexplicable place.

We're obviously still grappling with the same issues of social justice and privilege, but now we have to fight the filter bubble as well. 

Do we know what's going on? It seems to depend largely on who we followed, or friended, sometimes a while back.

Can you breathe or not? Do black lives matter, or not? I hate to think it comes down to algorithms, but it does. It's impossible to make a difference, even on a personal scale, if we don't know what's going on...

So I'm finding things even scarier this time around.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Best books of 2014

This year, my reading has been reactionary. That’s because, for the amazing Odyssey committee,  I’ve been listening to SO much children’s and YA lit.  While I’ve never before been so on top of the young people’s scene, it also makes me want to read some more grown-up stuff. So I’ll start with a sprinkling of young adult titles before I move on to what has made up most of my reading year…

My favorite young adult titles

Books as windows, ya'll...

Gabi, a girl in pieces by Isobel Quintano (2014) 
This debut in diary format is unflinching in telling the story of a southern Californian teen like nothing I’ve ever read before, except maybe Grace Dent’s Diary of a Chav.

Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass by Meg Medina (2013) 
This story is about everything – class, femininity, friendship, self-definition. It’s all told with a sense of humor and proportion, with super-endearing characters.

We were liars by e. lockhart (2014) 
Believe the hype...this was so good that I immediately, upon finishing, started over from the beginning. I still have some issue with the ridiculous privilege of Cadie and her kin, but echoes of King Lear cement it as a modern classic.

Some mysteries, by an Alabama author and a 1.5 American

So not Agatha...

The rented mule by Bobby Cole (2014) 
Cole manages to capture the New South in a way few have done. The landmarks and characters are familiar in the best possible way, and the writing is downright muscular.

The interpreter by Suki Kim (2003) 
I stumbled onto this one after reading Without you, there is no us (2014), Kim’s book about her experiences teaching in an English-language school for the children of the North Korean elite. It’s a fascinating exploration of the immigrant experience, family secrets and fallings-out, and Suzy is fantastically drawn.

Down memory road

It was a great year for memoirs...

How to build a girl by Caitlin Moran (2014) 
I just adore Caitlin Moran. Her Moranthology got me to read Life, the Keith Richards autobiography which gave me an entirely new appreciation of a band I've been listening to for 25 years. This is her first novel, heavily autobiographical, laugh-out-loud funny, and very resonant of the early 90s for those of a certain age.

Maggie and me by Damian Barr (2013) 
One boy’s exuberant coming of age, told through the metaphor of his love/hate relationship with Dame Thatcher, who is at once ruining his life and offering him a role model.

This boy by Alan Shepard (2013) 
Before the welfare state, life was so very different from today.  A heartfelt story about life in an almost-Dickensian austerity Britain, from the former Home Secretary.

Love, Nina by Nine Stibbe (2014) 
Another one for those of a certain age, this collection of letters from a nanny working for a bohemian literary London household conjures up perfect sense-memories of the 80s.

From the U.K., and Australia, too

Okay, my Anglophilia is showing, I think.

The little stranger by Sarah Waters (2009) 
I ripped through Waters’ work this year, but this excellent twisty ghost story for the rational is my favorite.

Thursdays in the park by Hilary Boyd (2012) 
Tripped upon this one in a Waterstone's in the West wonderful to see mature love portrayed so realistically, with palpable and explicable desire.

The house on fortune street by Margot Livesy (2008) 
The overlapping layers of lives of the individuals in Livesy’s novel are stunning.

The third wife by Lisa Jewell (2014) 
An intricate thriller with Jewell’s trademark individualistic characters, exploring crazy complex family relationships and the oblivious self-centeredness of middle aged men.

The one plus one by JoJo Moyes (2014) 
A slowly blossoming love story, told over the course of an ill-fated road trip, involving four idiosyncratic characters with foibles all their own. This may be my very favorite of the year.

The sopranos by Alan Warner (1999) 
Not David Chase, it’s schoolgirls on the loose before a choir competition in Edinburgh. These girls are shocking. There’s a follow-up, All the bright stars in the sky (2011), too. 

The last anniversary by Liane Moriarity (2006) 
Like everyone else stateside, I read The husband’s secret (2013) first, but this one is my favorite.  It also has a killer postscript. I want more Australian books. It’s terrific to read genre fiction from a different but not dissimilar culture. 

Compared with 2012 and 2013, it's been an overwhelmingly female, overwhelmingly British reading year...maybe I'll shake things up a bit in 2015. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Check out our new digs

Pretty swell, huh? The kids are already right at home...

Lots of fine-tuning to go, but what a space for inquiry! 

Monday, November 17, 2014


I have had more things to do than at the moment, but not quite the sensation of everything converging into one big due date. That would be Wednesday!

We started moving into the new library last week. We have to be out of our temporary space by Wednesday, but we're still operating full-bore *while* we move. It's sort of crazy-making.

November 1 was last day for 2015 Odyssey award submissions, so I've been listening like a madwoman, and probably will be until that award announcement at Midwinter. I also started listening to Serial over the weekend, and all I can say is that committee work has ruined me for NPR and radio reporting forever.

I didn't make the trek to the YALSA Lit Symposium in Austin this past weekend. It's the first one I've missed, but the airlines weren't being accommodating. But I 'm headed out Wednesday, to National Harbor outside D.C. for our USBBY board meeting Thursday and then to hang out until ALAN Monday and Tuesday. So, irony of ironies, I'll be moved into the new library, but not able to get things fine-tuned until after Thanksgiving...

Last weekend, I celebrated the end of the doctoral stuff with a little fire. I burned all my survey instruments. It was quite cathartic.

Meanwhile, I'm refreshing at the queue for the university reader pretty much all the time, since that's the very last thing before my degree posts and I get a raise! I'm number 109, but they've plowed through 20 or so in a couple of days, so I have hope that will happen soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Pebble: a year with wearble technology

Last year, I bought a Pebble watch. I liked the fact it worked with iOS as well as Android and was a Kickstarter project. At around $100, it seemed a bargain. Little did I know, I might had made a smartest decision re wearable technology.

The Pebble is open to developers. At first, I was all about the watch faces. I love the German language version in particular. There are apps which you can use to trigger your camera, compass application which tell you what direction you are headed in, a Magic 8 ball app for portents. You can use eight apps at a time.

With my Pebble, I became a total convert to the wristwatch. If I was waiting for a text or a call, I could put away my phone. My buzzing little wrist would alert me. You can get really granular with what triggers alerts on your phone, which then sends them to your wrist to make it work for you. There were some mis-steps -- the time I accidentally started playing Ella Fitzgerald when I was trying to check the time in the middle of a standardized test comes to mind. But it is amazing how liberating this tool, which has the potential to be a shackle, actually is in practice.

What everyone always wants to know: the fitness apps. A couple of years ago, everyone was about little digital bracelet pedometers. I have friends who are always checking their FitBits or Fuelbands. Frankly, I wasn't curious, and I only just downloaded the My Steps fitness app with the Apple announcements. I learned that I walk more than I thought I did, especially at home.

Several people have asked me if I'm going to buy the Apple watch. But I feel like I am charging this eink one all the time, and the battery predictions of the Apple are pretty dire at a quarter to a fifth the life per charge of my Pebble. It almost makes me want one of those Rolexes that winds itself from your wrist motions.