October Reads

I try to stay current on about 4 or 5 podcasts. And because Gooplet developed an intense passion for the Moana soundtrack over the summer, I have fallen hopelessly behind on all of them. Anytime a noise-making device was on, said device was blasting Moana (make waaaaay, make waaaaay). But. We’re slowly diversifying our tastes, and I’ve even managed to keep a couple podcasts on here and there during the background of our days.

Wonderful mix of Puffin Children's Classics and Puffin In Bloom.

(source)

The other day, it was a back episode of What Should I Read Next, and Anne said that she once heard that one of the worst things you can say about a book is “I liked it,” or, “I didn’t like it.” That’s not really what books are for, anyway. Books are for sharing glimpses into other worlds, in hopes that we come to see something, anything, in a new way.

Loved it.

Here’s what I read in October. I think I’m coming out of my slump.

Just Read:

Dear Fahrenheit 451, by Annie Spence – Such a fun book, which I wrote more about here.

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson – If I was still in a fifth grade classroom every day, there is no way two years would have gone by before I learned about this book. But two years went by, and I didn’t know about it until it started popping up across the Bookstagram feeds I follow. Such a fun story, and I’m sure a hit with elementary schoolers everywhere.

All’s Faire in Middle School, by Victoria Jamieson – This is the second graphic novel by the author of the book before, and is just as charming. I always roll my eyes when I see people posting pictures from the local Renaissance Faire, but this was such a sweet peek at what happens behind the scenes there.

Reading:

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – Oh, this one is beautiful. I find myself alternatively delighted and then frustrated with the narrator, but it’s like what I said above. This book is helping me trying to wrap my head around what life would be like on the waiting list for a heart transplant for a second time. And a quick story. As I sat down with this book–about the power of friendship–I started reading the description of the first friend, Joy. Hmmm, I thought, this Joy sounds a lot like my husband’s boss, Joy. Dear readers, one of the friends the author wrote about is my husband’s boss Joy. He’s always mentioned her utter dedication to friends and family, and there she was, on page nine of this book. What a small world, indeed.

Wild Things, by Bruce Handy – I’m not sure I love this book, but I’m going to keep reading it. The author is coming off as smug to me, but it’d be hard for me to put down any book on children’s literature.

Want to Read:

I don’t know! I’ve got my reading goal for 2018 already percolating in the back of my head, and I wonder if I’m going to spend the last 2 months of 2017 getting a jump-start on that, or if I’ll just see what strikes my fancy next. What have you been reading lately?

Books with Short Chapters

Dear readers, if you’ve been sitting around, wondering why a reading post didn’t go up on the 28th (because you know that’s when they go up, right?), I have to tell you the honest-to-goodness reason. I read nothing in September. Nada. That is so shameful for me. I cracked the cover of The Nightingale, which is on loan from a friend,* and I couldn’t get going with it. And here’s the thing. I’ve been in this too long enough to know it’s not the book in this case. It’s me. I have a dumb game I play on my phone at night while I watch Gilmore Girls. It’s such a mindless habit and I am in. Deep. It’s a hard cycle to break, the post-dinner mindless couch time. A first world problem of the highest order. Whenever I find myself in a reading rut, I reach for books with short chapters. Here’s what I’ve been working on lately.

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Read Bottom Up, by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham – I caught this on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Daily Kindle Deals email, and it sounded appealing. I checked out the reviews, and I liked the premise. I swear I read that the authors wrote this book exactly as it’s published – in real time email and text exchanges (though now I can’t find where I read it). It’s so light-hearted and fun; such a quick one to pick up and put down during small chunks of free time

One More Thing, by BJ Novak – Oh, how I love The Office, so I knew this would be a must read. This is BJ Novak’s collection of short stories, and while some fell flat for me, I was surprised at how funny I found some of the others.

Dear Fahrenheit 451, by Annie Spence – The author is a librarian, and she’s writing to her favorite, least favorite books, and everything in between. There’s a letter to Forever, because who doesn’t remember reading that book in a corner, mouth agape? There’s one to a cookbook about dieting for one (cracked me up), and her letter to the children’s section in the public library left me weeping in bed. It’s beautiful.

*I am the worst at reading books on loan from friends. AGOMYR, I know I have like 4 of your books right now, I promise I’ll read them soon! Maybe! Or just return them and buy copies for myself.

2017 Reading Challenge, an Update

Dear readers, when I went radio silent for what I thought was a month, but my dear sister-in-law told me was actually two (gasp), I failed to give you my annual mid-year reading update. I wouldn’t want to disappoint. Here is where I am with the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. Nothing is linked because dang, that takes a long time. But my guess is if you found the blog, you can figure out where to find these books.

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A book recommended by a librarian:

A book that’s been on your TBR list too long:

Confessions of a Slacker Wife, by Muffy Mead Ferro

A book of letters:

An audiobook:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling

A book written by a person of color:

The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas

A book with one of seasons in the title:

Summer Rental, by Mary Kay Andrews

A story within a story:

This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel

A book with multiple authors:

The Happiest Kids in the World, by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison

An espionage thriller:

A book with a cat on the cover:

A book written by an author who uses a pseudonym:

A best seller in a genre you don’t usually read:

A book about a person with disability:

A book involving travel:

My Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell

A book with a subtitle:

Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, by Mara Wilson

A book published in 2017:

Windfall, by Jennifer E. Smith

A book involving mythical creature:

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate (Imaginary friends are mythical, no?)

A book you’ve read before that always makes you smile:

A book about food:

The Wellness Project, by Phoebe Lapine

A book with career advice:

Deconstructing Penguins, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

A book written from a nonhuman perspective:

A steampunk novel:

A book with a red spine:

Saving Red, by Sonya Sones

A book set in the wilderness:

Orphan Island, by Laurel Snyder

A book you loved as a child:

A book written by an author from a country you’ve never visited:

A book with a title that’s a characters name:

Juniper, by Kelley and Thomas French

A book set during wartime:

The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

A book with an unreliable narrator:

You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott

A book with pictures:

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you:

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

A book about an interesting woman:

A book set in two time periods:

Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

A book with a month or day of the week in title:

Sabbath in the Suburbs, by Mary Ann McKibben Dana

A book set in a hotel:

Rose Harbor Inn, by Debbie Macomber

A book written by someone you admire:

A book becoming movie in 2017:

A book set around a holiday not Christmas:

The first book in series you haven’t read before:

A book you bought on trip:

A book recommended by an author you love:

A bestseller from 2016:

Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple

A book with a family member term in title:

The Mothers, by Britt Bennett

A book that takes place over a character’s life span:

A book about an immigrant or refugee:

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

A book from a genre/sub genre you’ve never heard of:

A book with an eccentric character:

A book that’s more than 800 pages:

A book you got from a used book sale:

The Island House, by Nancy Thayer

A book that’s been mentioned in another book:

A book about a difficult topic:

Columbine, by Dave Cullen

A book based on mythology:

Traveling with Pomegranates, by Sue and Ann Monk Kidd

See my plans about the challenge here.

Want to see the books I read that don’t fit into these categories? Let’s be friends on Goodreads.

 

The Best of Summer Reading

I brought all of these titles to the beach, and, as so often happens, I read almost none of them. I’m such a right-place at the right-time reader, and I can’t decide what to read until I’m finished with what’s in front of me. Here’s my book report for the summer. The best, and only the best, of what I read.

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For Kids and Young Adults

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate – Everyone loves her last one, The One and Only Ivan. I thought it was nice, but not amazing. Which is why it took me over a year to read Crenshaw. Mistake. This book is sweet without being cloying. It’s wonderful.

Orphan Island, by Laurel Snyder – Does anyone remember the book, Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink. I want to say it was someone’s favorite book in The Babysitters Club. So I read it in fourth grade, and tried to make myself like it, but I just couldn’t. This book is about an island of babies and big kids, and it’s marvelous. A little Lord of the Flies, too, but none of the craziness.

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon – Perfect light, frothy, YA read.

Windfall, by Jennifer E Smith – See above.

For Grown-Ups

The Wellness Project, by Phoebe Lapine – I love books like this because they make me stay on top of making healthy choices….for a couple of weeks. Most of what Phoebe did to lead a healthier lifestyle won’t come as a surprise (drink more water, anyone?), but again, these kinds of books always make me try harder to stay the course.

Summer Rental, by Mary Kay Andrews – My neighbor told me she was flying through this book, which is about a trio of high school girlfriends who rent a house in Nags Head for a month. I am a sucker for any book about friends staying in a beach house together, and this didn’t disappoint.

My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy – Pat Conroy is best known for his book, The Water is Wide, about his year teaching students on an island off the coast of South Carolina. I’ve got that bumped up much higher on my list after tackling this book. Some of the chapters were riveting (the chapter about Gone with the Wind was my favorite, and the one about the bookstore where he worked a close second), but by the end I was skimming and racing to finish.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville, by Amy Dickinson – Might be my favorite read of the summer, though not particularly a summer read. Amy spent most of her life raising her daughter alone, and this is her memoir about the town that shaped them. They spent time in DC as well, which was fun to read.

This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel – Lots of people have been talking about this one, and I was happy I read it. I wonder if I would have liked it as much if I wasn’t a parent. That’s where the title comes from – the idea that as a parent, making decisions as best you can, even though the consequences might not play themselves out for years to come, is how it always is.

 

Summer Reading, 2017

Dear readers, today I’m linking to my favorite summer reading guides, and highlighting a couple of titles from each. But what I really want to know is which books you’ve moved to the top of your list this summer. What should I be reading?

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Modern Mrs. Darcy

Every Wild Heart because it’s inspired by Delilah. Yes, soft-rock radio station nighttime host Delilah!

Windfall just came in for me at the library and I’m loving it so far. Frothy YA is just right for the start of summer.

When Dimple Met Rishi has popped up on a couple lists I’ve seen, and I like the premise.

Hello Sunshine, because I liked Eight Hundred Grapes.

Anything is Possible I read My Name is Lucy Barton so fast, I wonder if I’ll even pick up on the characters who carry over from that story? Should I reread Lucy Barton first?

Everyday Reading

Walkable City It seems like there are a whole host of books about urban design out there, and that this has Janssen’s stamp of approval means a lot to me.

A Mother’s Reckoning because I read Columbine, and everyone is talking about this one.I think it will be a great follow-up.

Dark Matter because I started it but got carried away with other things, and had to return it, but I liked the start.

Moon Over Manifest because it’s been on my list to read forever (I own a copy!), and it’s about time I get around to reading it.

May Reads

This month was shaping up to be a total dud. I had two weeks with the craziest schedule of commitments, and when all was said and done (plus a couple days of more Netflix than I’m comfortable admitting), I am so glad my New Year’s resolution is to read every day. My life felt out-of-whack, and I couldn’t figure out why my calendar had more wiggle room, but I still felt stressed and confused.

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I wasn’t reading.

Just Read:

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, by Jancee Dunn – This is the book that brought me out of that spell. I hate the title, and I don’t use that term lightly. I think a lot of people will glance at this book and think, “I don’t hate my husband and I have kids, so this isn’t the book for me.” And it IS! Or, it might be! For a lot more people than the small amount who would go so far as to use the word hate to describe their feelings for their spouse.

Confessions of a Slacker Wife, by Muffy Mead Ferro – This book had been lingering on my to-read list for years until I found a used copy and decided to pick it up just the other day. I assumed it was a novel, but no. A delightful collection of essays from a Wyoming-based writer. I love anyone who makes their ordinary life sound beautiful.

Also, this, this, this, and this, all largely forgettable.

Reading:

Confession of a Slacker Mom, by Muffy Mead Ferro – The volume I read is actually her second book, so I’m backtracking here to read the first.

Maeve’s Times, by Maeve Binchy – Wooden Nickels introduced me to Circle of Friends years and years and years ago, and oh, how I fell head over heels for Maeve. She writes these cozy novels, usually set in small towns in Ireland, and delightful is an apt description of almost all of them. If you read enough, you’ll find some of the same characters pop up here and there in other novels, which is like meeting old friends again. This is a collection of columns she wrote for the Irish Times, compiled over about 40 years. I’m reading them here and there when I have short bits of time.

Want to Read:

Pretty much anything frothy and light* for summer, especially this and this.

*It should be noted I have both Americanah and Cutting for Stone on loan from readers I respect and admire, but they might be on hold until our beach trip, during which I hope to have at least a couple of stretches of more than 30 minutes in which to fit my reading.

April Reads

Before we get into what I read in April (which, spoiler alert, was largely, meh), let’s highlight two great reading-related posts on other corners of the internet.

From GQ, How to Read a Whole Damn Book. I don’t do everything the author suggests, but I love the tone of the article. Just read a book. It’s not that hard. Stop Instagramming your book, stop trying to get to the end of something because you think you should, just read. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

And from Everyday Reading, Janssen picked 3 books she’ll read this summer, based on her readers’ suggestions. I loved Echo when I read it last spring, and I remember seeing Ali was reading Loving My Actual Life. I ordered it right away when it came back up here, and I can’t wait to start it.

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Now on to my meh month. March was full of great reads, and April left me feeling lackluster (except at the very end). Onward.

Just Read:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson – I didn’t agree with a lot of his views on how much people were or were not to blame in a lot of cases, which meant this one wasn’t my favorite. Also, I thought it already felt a little dated, which isn’t surprising in an ever-changing field of social media.

The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines, and some guy who interviewed them and transcribed it without his questions and called it this book – It’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. A fun, quick read.

The Happiest Kids in the World, by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison – On the plus side, I learned that it is acceptable to eat chocolate sprinkles on toast and call it breakfast. On the minus side, this book seems like it was cranked out quickly because we love books about ways other cultures get life right. I wish it was more in depth, and not so general.

Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes – Without a doubt the highlight of the month for me. It’s written for middle grade students, but I’d recommend it to anyone who was a student on September 11 as well.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood – I had to plow through this one, and as I only just finished it, I’m not entirely sure what I think yet. I liked it-ish? I assumed it would be more of a page-turner, and for me, it wasn’t. I am obviously someone who loves middle grade fiction, so maybe that’s why, but I do think The Giver is a better take on dystopian futures than this one. Excited to watch the Hulu series nonetheless.

Today Will be Different, by Maria Semple – I love her. I love her writing. I want to say that no one does frazzled suburban moms better than Maria Semple, but that claim, though true, would turn off 90% of potential readers. This isn’t a mommy-book, but it is. In the same way Bernadette wasn’t, but was. I don’t know how to write about Semple’s books other than to tell you that so much of what makes her so great is in how unique her writing is. She defies categorization and writes the snarkiest, driest literature I’ve ever read. Flat out loved this one, as will anyone else who often feels pulled in a zillion directions at once.

Reading:

At Home in the World, by Tsh Oxenreider – Always love hearing from Tsh. This one went on super-sale for Kindle, so I snagged it about a week ago.

My (Not So) Perfect Life, by Sophie Kinsella – She was one of the first chick lit authors who drew me back into reading in late high school and college.  I loved the Shop-a-holic books, but then her later stuff fell flat for me. This one has been fun, if formulaic, so far.

Want to Read:

Gracious, by Kelly Williams Brown – I loved Adulting, and this seems like it’s the kind of thing I love reading.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese – I’ve wanted to read this forever, and a friend just gifted me her copy, so it’s time.

March Reads

Color Outside the Lines: Delays, Bookshelves, and Cowhides

I’m obsessed with these chunky built-ins. (image)

Just Read:

Columbine, by Dave Cullen – I’m going to gush about this book longer than I have about others. It’s so good. I have a lot more questions, and I would have read 500 more pages if Cullen had written them. I was in high school when the murders at Columbine High School happened. I remember turning on the TV expecting Oprah (as any 15 year old would), and getting completely sucked in to the media coverage. Cullen was a journalist on site that day, and after years of extensive research, he gives us an incredibly detailed account of what really went on not only that day in April, but years before, and years after. Spoiler alert: the media got a lot of it wrong. As I read, I thought for sure the story of the Lutheran minister who helped one of the shooters’ parents hold a private memorial service for their son would be the story that stuck with me. And then I got to the first day of the following school year. Hundreds of parents and community members formed a human wall around the high school to protect the returning students from the media so they could have their own moment walking through the doors again. I was sobbing as I read. But that was one of the few parts that brought me to tears. This is good journalism, and while I’d love to get Cullen to answer about a million questions I still have, many as foll0w-ups to what he wrote, this book is worth reading.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas – Another one about a shooting, but this is a YA novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It debuted at number 1 on the YA best seller list, which is a giant deal. I ordered it the next day and gobbled it up. I feel about it the way I feel about Wonder, which is to say it is nowhere near flawlessly written, but it is a book that everyone should read. I’m still turning aspects of this one over in my head and I finished about two weeks ago.

Shrill, by Lindy West -I dont’ know. It’s a collection of essays, and there are some winners. But also losers. The first couple chapters had me laughing out loud, but sometimes I found her more whiny than she was making her point.

Hungry Heart, by Jennifer Weiner – Winner. Total winner. Another series of essays, almost all fantastic, from someone who is truly a grounded, and confident person. Loved it. Recommend it, even if you’re not into her chick lit. Though, she’ll tell you to stop looking down on chick lit!

The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney – A middle grade novel, written in verse, about a young girl escaping the horrors of Darfur. I enjoyed it, but I kept thinking, would my students?

Reading:

Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger – I have done a wonderful job staying on pace for 52 books this year, but a terrible job at consciously fitting them into the Pop Sugar categories. So I’m attacking this steampunk novel because it’s part of the challenge, and because it was just sitting on the YA shelf waiting for me to pick it up. It’s definitely different, and may serve as both my first and only steampunk novel, but I can commit to finishing.

Want to Read:

In The Great Green Room, by Amy Gary – because I have read Goodnight Moon infinity times (I love it, though, it never gets old to me).

So You’ve Been Publically Shamed, by Jon Ronson – because everyone on the internet raves about it.

February Reads

Guys. My New Year’s resolution was to read every day. I have read every day. It has undoubtedly been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There have been only 3 nights I’ve read a single page (That’s what I told myself. At least one page. Every day.) There have been a wealth of nights I have thought, “It’s just going to be a one-page night,” and I read so much more. Those people who say to start small when you’re trying to change a habit might be on to something there.

Ideal Bookshelf 974: Feminists

(Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf – Feminist Edition)

Just Read:

Find the Good, by Heather Lende – Short, sweet, and worth a quick read.

Deconstructing Penguins, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone – I had this on hold at the library for years, years! Not because a million people were waiting, but because there was one copy, and I’m assuming it got lost. I finally broke down and ordered it. While I didn’t agree with everything the authors taught or chose to read with their book clubs, there’s a lot of good here.

You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott – Total quick-read, page turner, in the unreliable narrator, and creepy situations genre that has taken the book-world by storm in the last couple of years. I thought it was (seriously racy) YA, but turns out, Megan Abbott is shelved in the adult sections of both the libraries I’ve visited. I swear Anne referred to it as YA in Episode 63, and I swear The Skimm called The Fever YA when they picked it as a Skimm read. Know that it follows both adult, and young adult characters, if that makes a difference in your selection.

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon – Classic YA. Completely predictable plot. So good anyway. Short chapters mean you can plow through it quickly.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – I love, love, love Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She is equally adept at writing for kids and grown ups. This is a grown up volume, and oh-man, does Amy have a was of noticing the little things that might otherwise slip by unnoticed.

Sabbath in the Suburbs, by Mary Ann McKibben Dana – The idea of sabbath is a fave of mine. This is written by an associate pastor at a church in Northern Virginia, about her family’s experiment with Sabbath and rest. Such a quick read, and I found myself highlighting lines on almost every page.

Reading:

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon – Consensus on my bookstagram feed is that this is the better of Yoon’s two books. Loving it so far.

Want to Read:

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood – I’ve never read it and I want to watch the series on Netflix. But, of course, gotta read the book first.

Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow – I have plans to go see it (again – love this show) in D.C. this spring and it’s about time I read the original story.

January Reads

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Just Read

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett – This was on so many people’s favorites for the year and I felt very meh about it.  If you asked, I’d tell you it was good, and to read it if you thought you might be interested already.  But I didn’t think the characters had much depth, and while I loved the idea of the church mothers as a chorus in the book, I didn’t think they were played up quite enough either.

Juniper, by Thomas and Kelley French – Oh my goodness gracious, this book.  I loved it.  I was nervous about reading it, having had Gooplet not too, too long ago, and indeed, I found myself SOBBING through parts of it.  But in the good, cathartic sobbing kind of way. The story is gripping, and I was surprised that I found the father’s side of it far more endearing. Highly recommend for anyone, but especially for anyone with a child.

Saving Red, by Sonya Sones – I’ve been reading her since her first book came out. This one was neither her worst nor her best, but it was a quick, mostly enjoyable YA read.

Reading

Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, and Audrey Vernick – It had been so long since I read middle grade fiction, and this one popped up on the Nerdy Book Club’s best of 2016* list.  On my next trip to the library, it was front and center on the new arrivals shelf.  I have impossibly high standards for middle grade fiction (seriously, impossible), and this one is good. I also love how it shows diverse characters without needing to be A BOOK ABOUT DIVERSE CHARACTERS.

Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon – I’ve seen this book mentioned in almost all of my favorite parenting and teaching reads (side note, those two genres of books almost always overlap), so I’ve always wanted to read it.  But here’s the thing.  It’s 706 pages!  So, with any luck, you’ll see it in my “Just Read” post by the end of the year.

Want to Read

Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk, because it got a ton of buzz this year, because it just picked up a Newbery Honor, and because it was originally intended as an adult book, and somehow ended up on middle grade shelves.  All in.
*It should be noted that 2016, the year when it wasn’t my job to read middle grade fiction anymore, looks like the best year for middle grade fiction in a long, long time.  I’m eager to read almost every book linked there.