Quotes from Books, II

Here’s another installment of Quotes from Books I’ve Read Recently (see the first set of quotes here). When I started this series (if two posts thus far can be called a series), I figured most if not all of the quotes I’d select would be from adult literary fiction, but in fact there are several from nonfiction and plenty from YA and children’s as well.

  1. If you see hooded figures in the Dog Park, no you didn’t. Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  2. …but they wanted someone to blame more than they wanted someone to explain.Uprooted, Naomi Novik
  3. If you think of doing something in New York City, you can be certain that at least two thousand other people have that same thought. And of the two thousand who do, about one thousand will be standing in line waiting to do it. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
  4. …the experience of reading is…our best vehicle to a transformed mind, and, literally and figuratively, to a changed brain….Reading changes our lives, and our lives change our reading. –Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf
  5. What no one sees is the personal and cultural influences that have brought them to their opinions.Our Babies, Ourselves, Meredith F. Small
  6. I believed in her like some people believe in Heaven.Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
  7. [My dad] taught [us] some Beatles songs and told us that whenever we saw [reporters] with cameras, we should just sing those songs. At the time, I thought it was just fun to sing really loud, but then I realized what an evil genius my dad is. To broadcast Beatles lyrics, you have to have the rights to the songs… –Emmy & Oliver, Robin Benway
  8. After enough time it fades and you’re grateful. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  9. “You have to believe it to see it.”Circus Mirandus, Cassie Beasley
  10. “There are no limits to the ways people you think you know can astonish you.”Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore

She Said, She Said: Quotes from Books

Here’s a Top Ten Tuesday feature from The Broke and the Bookish that I’m going to run with for weeks, months, quite possibly years: Quotes from Books I’ve Read Recently. As usual I read Linda’s Top Ten at Three Good Rats and got inspired. I write down quotes from nearly every book I read and keep them in my LibraryThing account, but I don’t often go back and look through them; here’s a great opportunity to do just that, at a time when saving time by recycling content is the perfect way to avoid complete radio silence on this blog (see: new baby in the house).

Here are ten quotes from books I’ve read recently. I chose these because they struck me as wise or poetic or true or funny, or all of the above.

  1. Every generation assumes that the way it does things is the way things are.Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter
  2. What she doesn’t know yet is that ending a relationship cannot be done in one conversation over one evening, that such extrication takes days and months and sometimes years.My Lover’s Lover, Maggie O’Farrell
  3. “Your relatives are famous betrayers,” Penny argues. “There was a time in the 1700s when they weren’t even allowed to sign contracts.”Carry On, Rainbow Rowell
  4. The minute hand of the clock was a terribly slow lever, pushing the hour hand imperceptibly forward.  George, Alex Gino
  5. Memory is strange – part movie, part dream. You can never know if what you remember is the essential thing or something else entirely, a grace note. The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, Ann Packer
  6. There were musicians who never looked up from their hands or their instruments, but she’d seen quartets of straight men gaze at each other like they were making love. -“Cross,” Music For Wartime, Rebecca Makkai
  7. The choices don’t stop….Life is choices, and they are relentless. No sooner have you made one choice than another is upon you. –Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  8. You could think of promises as a series of nets: some hold for a lifetime; others give way, surprisingly flimsy, in no time at all. –And the Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass
  9. It is fairly amazing that we don’t get poisoned more often.At Home, Bill Bryson
  10. “There are four things that lead to wisdom….four sentences…[:]I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.”-Still Life, Louise Penny

More to come, in reverse chronological order from when I read them. What’s your favorite quote from a book?


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Cover image of Carry OnSimon and Baz, Penelope and Agatha, the Insidious Humdrum, the Mage, and Watford – all born in Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fangirl – have their own story here. Simon’s origin story is similar to Harry Potter’s: he was an orphan living in the “Normal” world until age 11, when the Mage brings him to the Watford School to study magic. Now it’s Simon’s final year at Watford: the Mage has little time for him, and his roommate/enemy/suspected vampire Baz has not returned to school. The Insidious Humdrum still threatens the magical world, which is already divided between the traditional old families and the Mage’s revolutionary ideals.

Simon Snow is the main character, but Penny, Baz, and Agatha each get a turn to narrate, as does Lucy, whose identity (other than her name) isn’t immediately clear. Simon wants to enjoy his last year at Watford, but also to defeat the Humdrum once and for all; Penny (think Hermione with a rebel streak) is his (platonic) best friend and a talented magician whose parents are both professors; Agatha doesn’t want to be involved in dangerous adventures at all, and secretly prefers the Normal world, though she can’t admit it to her parents; and Baz, once he returns to Watford after an unexplained six-week absence, wants to decode the message his mother’s ghost left for him with Simon.

Carry On has plenty of pop culture references – the words “carry on” come from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” – partly due to the fact that magic, in Simon Snow’s world, is based almost entirely on words: the more often certain words are used in specific combinations, the more powerful of a spell they become. Shakespeare and nursery rhymes, therefore, are quite powerful; cliches and lyrics to pop songs may be powerful for a time, but lose their power when they fall out of fashion. I enjoyed this not-so-subtle reminder of the power of language, as well as Rowell’s hat-tips to other fantasy novels: there are obvious similarities to Harry Potter, of course, but there’s also something Philip Pullman-esque about the way that adults are willing to sacrifice children in service to the what they perceive as the greater good.

Fangirl‘s Cath would be happy with the way that Simon and Baz’s relationship evolves, but I won’t say more than that here. The way that Rowell weaves Baz’s mother’s death and his being a vampire into the plot, however, is quite clever. Carry On absolutely stands on its own as a fantasy novel that anyone can enjoy, and those who liked Fangirl will definitely want to read it. While I prefer Rowell’s realistic fiction (or in the case of Landline, mostly realistic fiction with the addition of a magic-fucking-phone), I thoroughly enjoyed Carry On.


Reading is not something extra. It’s something essential.

One thing about pregnancy is that, at some point, it becomes visible, and therefore public. I’ve heard lots of advice from friends, family, co-workers, and total strangers, most of it unsolicited, though not necessarily unwelcome.

One topic that comes up a fair amount is reading, and how much of it I will or won’t be able to do after the baby is born. I am either “optimistic” or “delusional” about this, depending who you ask. One parent of a four-year-old basically said to forget the whole idea, but another parent of two said, “If something is a priority, you make time for it.” Fewer things may be priorities, he allowed, but if something matters to you, you’ll find a way. Another friend who recently had a baby said she’s been able to read while nursing – a pretty significant chunk of time.

As Jennifer LaGarde just wrote (“Giving Yourself Permission to Read“), “Reading is not something extra. It’s something essential.” Even if I go from reading my usual ten(+/-) books a month down to five, that’s still a lot of reading – and those are just adult and YA books. I’m sure I will be reading a lot of picture books! (Most recently, I loved Mac Barnett’s Leo: A Ghost Story.)

Reading is essential not just for me, but for the baby. Early literacy can’t start too early! Here’s our shelf of board books from baby’s library, including gifts, yard sale and book sale acquisitions, hand-me-downs, and one or two new purchases I couldn’t resist:

Shelf of board books with bee lunchbox on top

Some are old favorites (Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss), some are newer favorites (Hug, the pigeon books by Mo Willems, Orange Pear Apple Bear), and some are brand-new discoveries like the That’s Not My… series, which have a tactile element like Pat the Bunny.

Shelf of board books

Not pictured because they’re already packed in the diaper bag for the hospital: Tana Hoban’s high-contrast Black on White and White on Black (popular with infants, we’ve heard) and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (popular with me).

Are you a parent or a children’s librarian? What are your (or your kids’) favorite board books or picture books?

Librarians are also detectives

We received three beautiful framed prints recently, and although they tickled something in the back of everyone’s brain, no one in the group of assembled family and friends was able to recognize them with certainty.

Three framed prints of color illustrations

Naturally I brought them to the library, certain that the librarians in the Children’s department would know. No one recognized them right away, and an image search on the Internet was also fruitless. I turned to Twitter, choosing a few tags (#librarylife, #librarians, #kidlit, #kidlitart) and also sending a tweet directly to Mel of Mel’s Desk, who kindly re-tweeted to her many followers, a good percentage of which must be children’s librarians.

Screenshot of a tweet: Children's librarians, please help. Recognize these illustrations?

In a matter of minutes, I had my answer: not The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson, but Get-A-Way and Hary Janos by Maud and Miska Petersham. According to WorldCat, this is “The story of a worn out toy horse and his friend, a wooden soldier doll, who travel to a land where old toys become new.” I requested it from WorldCat, since there isn’t a copy in my library system.

I’m glad that (a) I have an answer to my mystery, (b) the Internet can’t answer everything, and (c) librarians are awesome detectives.


LibraryReads October 2015 list

LibraryReadsLibraryReads is an initiative that was launched in September 2013 and has been going strong ever since. Simply put, LibraryReads is “The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love”; it’s a list of ten books compiled every month by library staff across the country. All library staff are eligible to vote and write reviews. I’ve seen presentations from the LibraryReads organizers at least twice (once at the Massachusetts Library Association conference in May 2015, once at BEA in May 2014), and have written occasional reviews for the books I’ve managed to read ahead of time, but this is the first time one of my reviews has been featured, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s for David Mitchell’s Slade House.

Cover image of Slade House“Every nine years, Slade House appears in a little alley in London, and every nine years, someone – or multiple someones – disappears into it, never to be seen again. Slade House is a lacuna, frozen in time, and its inhabitants need a new soul every nine years for their continued survival. Fans of The Bone Clocks will inhale this compact, six-part work that draws on Mitchell’s previously established mythology and, of course, reintroduces a familiar character or two. New readers, however, won’t be lost, as important pieces are explained to each new character who is drawn into Slade House. Literary fiction, fantasy, and a dose of horror combine here to make a deeply satisfying book.”

See all ten of October’s LibraryReads picks here. I’m also looking forward to After You by Jojo Moyes, The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks, and Welcome to Night Vale. October is always a good month for publishing!


Top Ten Tuesday: fantasy YA fantasy 101 syllabus

Yes, “fantasy” is in the title twice on purpose. Some people have fantasy sports teams, other people have fantasy syllabi for YA lit courses. Apparently. It’s another Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish: Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught YA Fantasy 101. I start my list with some “older” texts, defined as books I read (or could have read) when I was growing up, then continue with “newer” texts, published more recently. Nearly all of these are trilogies or series or have companion books, so I’ve added some standalone titles at the end.


Cover image of the Dell/Yearling edition of A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: misfit Meg Murry and her odd genius little brother, Charles Wallace; kindly, quirky Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which; the concept of tessering; CENTRAL Central Intelligence; a rescue mission…A Wrinkle in Time is one of the foundational texts of childhood.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: If you somehow missed this, you’ve probably gleaned what you need to know from cultural references already: the four Pevensie children travel through the back of a wardrobe and enter the magical kingdom of Narnia, where the White Witch reigns over a Christmas-less winter; the children help Aslan the lion save the kingdom, and are made kings and queens. Little details from this book (the lamp post; Turkish delight) have stuck with me, and I especially loved finding out the origin of the wardrobe in The Magician’s Nephew, though I felt some of the middle books in the set were dull. And of course there’s the religious aspect. But what would it be like to read The Magicians by Lev Grossman (see below) without having read Narnia first?

Cover image of The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: Lyra is one of the greatest female characters ever written: she’s fierce and courageous, loyal and a liar, a risk-taker who doesn’t give up, someone with a strong sense of right and wrong. But Pullman doesn’t stop with Lyra: there’s also Will, who shares many of Lyra’s qualities; the concept of daemons (a part of your soul that lives outside you in animal form) and multiple worlds; witches and gypsies and armored bears. The ending of the third book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, was the first – and still one of the only – ending I ever read that I would describe as heartbreaking.

Alanna by Tamora Pierce: A perfect quartet of books for growing young feminists. Alanna disguises herself as a boy to become a knight, but this doesn’t preclude romance later in the series – and birth control is addressed! I didn’t read these when I should have (13? 15?), but I devoured them as an adult.

Cover image of The Lion Tamer's DaughterThe Lion Tamer’s Daughter by Peter Dickinson: Twins, doubles, doppelgangers, magicians, and mirrors come up again and again in fantasy and fairy tale, but this tale of Melanie and Melly Perrault has stuck with me for years.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman: Not technically YA, but there’s no reason not to include it on this “syllabus.” Everyone is familiar with the movie (right?? If you’re not, go and watch it, and come back when you are), and the book is just as good except there’s more: every character’s back story, and lots of humor, especially in the parentheticals and footnotes. Timeless and perfect.


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: How was this not included on the Broke & Bookish list? Maybe it’s just assumed that everyone has read it already. Rowling’s world-building is superb, making readers long to enter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and she has created some incredibly kickass female characters, especially Prof. Minerva McGonagall, Hermione Granger, and Molly Weasley; Harry wouldn’t have lasted thirty seconds without these ladies on his side. There’s a good-vs.-evil faceoff in every book, but Rowling’s creativity never wanes.

Cover image of The MagiciansThe Magicians by Lev Grossman: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter should be prerequisites for this book, since Grossman draws so much from them, but he also creates something entirely original (and often quite dark; these are really adult books, ideal for more mature teens but not the twelve-year-old who just finished the Harry Potter books; also, main character Quentin is thirty in the third and final book, The Magician’s Land). Like the Pevensies, Quentin passes from the real world into the magical, but Brakebills is no Hogwarts, and Fillory is no Narnia.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: My favorite recent discovery, Graceling blends some of the best aspects from The Golden Compass and Alanna: world-building, a dangerous journey, and a fierce heroine – Katsa – who remains just as strong when she joins forces with another Graceling, Po.

Cover image of CoralineNeil Gaiman: It’s hard to decide on a starting point, but reading something by Neil Gaiman would definitely be a requirement for this syllabus – his short story-turned-picture book Instructions, his adult novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, his middle grade/YA books Coraline and The Graveyard Book, his older adult novels American Gods and Neverwhere, or one of his short story collections – the recent Trigger Warning was superb. He has a masterful grasp of myth and magic, and draws on this knowledge and understanding to create powerful, dark, creative works that seem timeless.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: The Raven Cycle is 3/4 complete as of this blog post, but I’m confident in Stiefvater’s imagination and skill. (For those who prefer a standalone, however, The Scorpio Races is fantastic: a tough young woman trying to keep her family together attempts to win prize money by capturing and riding one of the savage water horses in the annual – and frequently deadly – race on the beach on her small island of Thisby.) Like Gaiman, Stiefvater clearly knows her mythology and magic, and yet is able to write stories that have an echo of the familiar without being derivative in the slightest. She also has a thing for fast cars, if you happen to be into that.

Cover image of Queen of the TearlingThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: Ask me again in a year and this title/series may or may not sneak onto the list, but right now the first two books (the second is The Invasion of the Tearling) are fresh in my mind. Kelsea Ralaigh Glynn is the Tear Heir, but her kingdom is in shambles, and she doesn’t know the half of it. As soon as she begins to acquire information, though, she takes action; she reminds me of a less pensive Bitterblue (one of Cashore’s characters). Again, this is not technically YA: there is a lot of violence and rape, to the point where it’s been compared to Game of Thrones.

Extra credit for middle grade/YA standalone novels:

The Boggart by Susan Cooper: Cooper is better known for The Dark is Rising, but I read The Boggart and fell wholly in love with the mischievous magic worked by a homesick spirit.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu: Ursu tips her hat to the whole fantasy canon in this modern-day fairy tale in which the princess rescues the prince.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin: The afterlife is not an uncommon subject, but Zevin’s take on it is unique, sad, and sweet.