Friday, December 31, 2021

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2021


In case you aren't familiar with Goodreads, it's an awesome site for book lovers:  book reviews, book lists, quizzes, challenges...all sorts of cool stuff.  

This year I challenged myself to read 50 books.  Don't get too impressed.  Working as a children's librarian, I tend to read a lot of middle grade novels and other books for older kids, which are generally a lot shorter than adult books (but not infantile fluff, as some snobs seem to think).  I also counted two audio books, five graphic novels, and two novels in verse, all of which take less time than most adult books.  But still, I'm proud of my success.

Some interesting stats:

Fiction was 74% (up a little from last year)

Of that, about 13% were science fiction or fantasy.  Exhalation, by Ted Chiang was the best.

About 19% were historical fiction or classics.  Tie for most memorable:  Soul Lanterns, by Shaw Kuzki, about the bombing of Hiroshima, and R.J. Palacio's Pájaro Blanco (White Dove) about a Jewish girl in hiding in WWII.   

I also read a strangely high number of contemporary books with some sort of speculative element.  My favorite was the wish-granting fish in an otherwise very realistic middle grade novel, The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner.  

Best novels of the year?     

-96 Miles, by J.L.Esplin.   A middle-grade novel about survival in the desert and the love between brothers. 

-Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech.  A fantastic middle-grade novel in verse from a boy who at first thinks poetry is stupid.  

-The Canyon's Edge, by Dusti Bowling.  A middle-grade novel in verse about survival in the desert and survival through tragedy. there a pattern here?

-The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennet, about identical twin sisters who choose very different paths.

Other favorites:  365 Days to Alaska, by Cathy Carr; How to Steal a Dog, by Barbara O'Connor; A Place at the Table, by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan; With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo; The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré.   


A staggering 54% were about animals.  Go figure.  My favorite?  Wicked Bugs, by Amy Stewart (I read the young reader's version, not realizing until  I'd checked it out).

Favorite non-animal book:  Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Arizona Sister Butterfly

A beautiful butterfly I spotted at Workman Creek in the mountains between Young, Arizona and Roosevelt Lake in September.  I think it's an Arizona sister butterfly.

You can even see its proboscis curled up!  

There were so many butterflies in the area.  It was a joy.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Very Hungry Caterpillar Before:

Very Hungry Caterpillar After:

All done!  

I took the second photo almost three hours later, on the way back from my hike.  It's the very same stalk, more flower.  The caterpillar is a beauty, but he's indeed a very hungry caterpillar.  Poor flower.   

Spotted in September at Workman's Creek in the mountains between Young, Arizona and Roosevelt Lake.


Thursday, December 9, 2021

An Osprey with a the Middle of Phoenix

It's a little hard to see, but the thing in that osprey's talons is a fish!

I'd been birdwatching at a water source in the middle of the Phoenix metro area when I saw what I believed to be an osprey flying around.  He started diving dramatically, often pulling up at the last minute,  sometimes splashing all the way into the water and coming up empty-clawed.  It was awesome to watch.  But I started wondering if maybe he was young and inexperienced, or maybe just not a great hunter.

Then he made a gentler dive and maneuvered as if to land on the water.  But he came up with a fish!

With the fish in his talons, he started flying around and around, like, "Okay, I got the fish.  Now what am I supposed to do with it????"  Finally he flew out of sight.  

I waited about five minutes, seeing if he'd come back.  No luck.  So I got on my bike and rode around to the other side of the ponds.  I was about to leave the area when I saw something on the banks.  It was the osprey!  Eating his fish!  

Here he is, craning his neck back to look at me:

There was a chain-link fence between us, which wasn't conducive to good picture-taking.  He was quite distant, so I figured I could sneak up to the fence and shoot through it, but I apparently scared him, and he flew off.  But not before I hurriedly snapped the picture above.

I wish I'd been a bit more sneaky or just stayed where I was so I could watch him longer (and not harass him).  But still...and awesome experience! 

Here's a better picture of an osprey on a different day at the same place:

They're now one of my favorite birds.  So beautiful and so fun to watch.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021

 NaNoWriMo Rebellion Complete (sort of)

This year, instead of writing a 50,000-word novel from scratch, as is the traditional goal of NaNoWriMo (National Novel WRiting Month), I dedicated the same amount of time to revising the first part and reworking/finishing the second part of a middle-grade novel I wrote during another NaNoWriMo.

I just finished the time/word count this evening.

I still need to write a few more scenes and revise the second part (which will, of course, require more revision of the first part).  But I'm pretty happy with how things have gone.