Category Archives: reading

When My Eyes are Bigger Than My Stomach

Do you:

  • Ever have moments when you walk into the library and you want everything you see?*
  • Pick up book after book, taking them home though you know it might be awhile before you’re able to get to read them?
  • Look at those books longingly as they linger unread on your shelves?
  • Guiltily return your stack of books to the library unread and sometimes even late?

*Of course, this situation also applies to bookstores.

If you answered yes to two or more questions, then you have a case of your eyes being bigger than your reading stomach.

I have a case of this right now. There are so many books currently being published that sound amazing. I’ve been checking out stacks of books from the library, though the only way I will get to them is if I took a few weeks off from everything to just read.

For me, one of the side effects from this bookish condition is guilt. My bookshelves are stuffed with unread books and instead of trying to read what I own, I’m constantly picking up books that blogging friends have raved about. I often find new-to-me authors that way but my shelves are collecting dust.

While I think there’s no cure for having such a huge reading appetite, I’ll probably cut back on what I check out from the library for now. It would be nice to read some of the books I’ve own for a year or so.

What do you do when your reading eyes are bigger than your stomach? Do you just go with it or try to cut back on what you check out from the library or accept from publishers?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 8:28 am

The scene: // at my kitchen table, nursing a cold cup of coffee. After going to a late showing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night, I’ve had very little sleep.

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For two weeks: // I was unable to finish a book. I would start a book, only to put it down after a few pages. Life has been chaotic and hard lately. There are so many changes coming and I’m trying to brace myself. Yesterday, I needed something fairytale like and found it with Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, a modern-day retelling of the Snow Queen fairy tale. It was just what I needed. I finished the book in one day. Review coming soon (hopefully).

For homeschooling, I’m reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech with my youngest. I’m also diving into A Wrinkle in Time with my middle son.

Celebrating: //my blogiversary! I’ve been blogging for seven years now. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I may celebrate with a giveaway in a week or so.

Wishing: // I could stop time. I have so much to do today including homework, washing clothes, and a million other things. I need my weekend to be a little bit longer.

Promoting: // Jill’s (Rhapsody in Books) review of Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. Jill heard about Annihilation via Facebook, one of the few online places that I don’t see many book recommendations. What about you, do you get book recommendations on Facebook?

Now I’m off to: // start on my to-do list.

What are you up to this Sunday?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 8:08 am

The scene: // sitting in my living room, relaxing. It has been a long morning as I’ve been up since 4 am. I went for a sunrise stroll on the beach, ate breakfast at a local diner, and now I’m ready to go back to bed!

Currently reading: // Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham. I started this book last month but finally found the time to read it earlier this week. I’m only a few chapters in but this book is stuffed with information.

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I needed some fiction to read, so I started reading Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile.

Completing: // the last day of Bloggiesta. I’m more than halfway through with my to-do list. Now I just need to brainstorm some ideas for future posts.

Celebrating: // the fact that the Excel portion of my computer class is over with! Now my class will try to conquer Microsoft Access.

Thinking about: // two posts with similar ideas. Yesterday Shannon (River City Reading) shared what she read in March and how she hasn’t read any books that blows her “out of the water”. Andi (Estella’s Revenge) write a similar post this morning.

I had to check my own Goodreads account and see how many 5-star books I’ve read for this year. The number: 3. That’s not surprising. I’ve read some pretty good reads but not many amazing ones. Hmmm.

Sleep: // is calling my name so I’m off.

What was the last 5-star book that you’ve read?

Once Upon a Time VIII

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To be honest with you, this reading “challenge” is one of the reasons why I continue to blog. I’ve been blogging for seven years and I’ve joined this event almost every year. If I remember correctly, it was Dewey who got me to join (she also got me to read Neil Gaiman and graphic novels too). Reading events and challenges like Once Upon a Time, Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.), and Dewey’s Readathon always leave me feeling excited and breathless at their arrival.

Anyways. Here’s the details:

  • Once Upon a Time is an annual reading challenge hosted by Carl (Stainless Steel Droppings).
  • Readers can read from any of the four categories: Folklore, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, and Mythology.
  • It runs from March 21st – June 21st.
  • Participants pick how they want to participate from watching movies to reading short stories.
  • The only rule: have fun.

Since I can’t join a reading event of any kind without going overboard, I think I’ll join a quest or two.

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Rule: Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the four categories. It can be a combination or one book from each category. Readers decide.
My pile of books:

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  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
  • Half World by Hiromi Goto

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A reading event that includes watching movies or TV shows?! Hell yes! I do need some suggestions though.

So that’s what I’m going to read. What are you reading for Once Upon a Time VIII? You are going to join, right?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 6:52 a.m. Sunday

The scene: // sitting at my desk in the living room. The coffee pot is perking and the kids are asleep!! Yes! Spring break started for the kids yesterday and I’m have a four-day weekend filled with Excel sheets to create, a midterm to do, and books to read and review.

Eating and drinking: // coffee! We’re having waffles for breakfast.

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Currently reading: // The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith and Mr. Loverman by Bernandine Evaristo. I’m hoping to finish both within the next day or so.

Up next: // All the Bird, Singing by Evie Wyld and a host of children’s books

Blogging about: // a poem by e.e. cummings and a foodie memoir

Promoting: // as usual, bloggers all over the blogisphere are adding books to my tbr list

 Melissa’s (Feminist Texican) review of Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Jenny’s (Jenny’s Books/Reading the End) review of Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

Aarti’s (Booklust) review of Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The quotes that Lu (Reading Rumination) shared with readers make me want to read While Beauty Slept soon.

Last but not least, Laurie’s (Bay State Reader’s Advisory) thoughts on The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman had me rushing to my library’s website to put the book on hold.

Thankful for: // this nice spring weather we’re having. I’m a winter person but I can’t help but enjoy all the sunshine.

Now I’m off to: // get started on those Excel sheets.

How are you spending your day?

 

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8: 00 a.m. Damn Daylight Savings time. I’m exhausted. At least I have some coffee.

The scene: // Sitting in my living room, most of the kids are asleep. The sun is shining and there are some awesome clouds in the sky.

Listening to: // “Out of My League” by Fitz and the Tantrums. Thanks to Bryan for the suggestion. Thanks to everyone for their music suggestions last week.

Listing: // my Memoir March list of books. I finally figured out what I’m going to read this month.

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  • Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend by Bill Russell – audio
  • Around the House and In the Garden by Dominique Browning
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  • Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  • Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman – (Maybe I’ll finally get to this one)
  • Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge
  • The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (recommended by Olduvai)
  • The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
  • L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

I tried to pick some diverse reads, ranging from format (Woman Rebel and Maus are graphic novels) to experience.  I’m currently reading L.A. Son, a foodie memoir, and Out of the Woods. I’m really enjoying both of them.

Blogging about: // everything! I had one of those rare urges to write my ass off this week. I wrote graphic novels reviews, a review of The Perfect Score by Debbie Steir, and a wrap-up of my February reading.

Promoting: // Andi’s Book Nook guest post over on Relentless Reader. Since rearranging my apartment, I no longer have a book nook but it’s nice to look at everyone else’s.

Also promoting: // When the Universe Ain’t Talking by QuinnCreative. I’ve been in a rut for a while now and this post came at a perfect time.  It’s about when you have to wait for an answer from the Universe and you just.can’t.wait.

You should also read: // Buried in Print’s Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi.

Now I’m off to: // relax a bit before I spend the day doing homework.

What are you up to today? Any suggestions on how to get out of a rut?

February Wrap-Up and Memoir March

It’s ridiculous how fast this year is going by. I did read somewhere if there’s nothing new and different going on in your life, it seems like time is passing by fast. Do you guys think that’s true? Looking at my life, I’m not really doing anything different – yet. It’s just the usual with school for me and homeschooling for the kiddos. I need to change that.

In February I read a total of 16 books, a combination of children’s books, graphic novels, and exactly one book of fiction. Highlights include:

  • The Wizard by Jack Prelutsky (Thanks, Andi, for the recommendation.)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
  • Malcolm Little by Ilyash Shabazz
  • Light in the Darkness by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Off to the Market by Elizabeth Dale
  • Mousterpiece by Jane Breskin Zalben
  • The Tree Lady by Joseph H. Hopkins
  • Aphrodite by George O’Connor

Favorite children’s book: Malcolm Little by Ilyash Shabazz. The book is about Malcolm X’s childhood. It was a sweet read though a bit sad. I expect it to win some awards next year.

Favorite adult read: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. You can read my thoughts here.

Overall, February was a pretty good month with a lot of interesting reads especially with all the nonfiction picture books.

Looking forward

One of my goals for this year is to tackle my tbr mountain but I’ve been ignoring it. It’s so hard to read from your own stac k when there are so many shiny new library books to read.

Chris and Debi have decided that their reading theme for March will be Memoirs and I think joining in will be a good way to help me get some of my own books
read.  I haven’t made a list just yet but give me time.

What are your plans for March?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 8:02 p.m. Saturday night

The scene: // hanging out in my living room with the heater on and some pretty tulips on my table

4959061Currently Reading: // so many books right now. I think I’ll spend the next week trying to get through most of them. I set aside The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield to pick up Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham. Willingham is a psychologist who writes about how our minds work and how our theories about thinking can help or hinder kids in school. It’s really interesting.  I’m also rereading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan with one of my sons. Bryan read the series a few weeks ago and it made me want to read the first book again.

Setting aside last Sunday to dive into graphic novels felt great. I may have to do that every Sunday in February. Last Sunday I read Jane, the Fox, and Me by Franny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault along with A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown, and Aphrodite by George O’Connor.

Blogging about: // nothing. I haven’t had the time to write a post. Maybe I’ll review the books I mentioned above.

Promoting: // a few fantastic posts I read this week. M over at Buried in Print wrote about kidlit especially the books she read as a child and current children’s books.

Jenny (Reading the End) wrote another Stuff to Worry About Post about the plague that’s currently affecting starfish. It’s fascinating and pretty sad.

Bryan (Still Unfinished) wrote about his progress on his 2014 goals. It made me remember that not only have I lost my list of resolutions, I don’t remember what they are! At least I remember my word for this year: Leap.

As much as I like bookish posts, I love posts about happiness and gratitude even more. Iliana (Bookgirl) recently wrote about the things that make her happy. It doesn’t take much to make most people happy.

Last but not least is the latest issue of Bloggers Recommend which you can find here. The issue is the best looking one to date. It includes author interviews, excerpts of upcoming releases, and of course book blurbs.

Now I’m off to: // do homeworking, lesson planning, and of course make some waffles.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 7:29 am

The scene: // At my desk with my first cup of coffee, while listening to Gregory Porter’s album,  Be Good.

What’s going on:// I’m anticipating the chaos of this week. Today, I have to submit the kids’ grades to their charter school. When I decide to homeschool my kids (ages 8, 10, and 12), I didn’t think of grades (and still don’t really). Instead, I try to help the kids master the subjects they’re taking without the pressure of getting top grades. I need to finish up since today’s the deadline.

In case you missed my last post, February is Graphic Novels Month. There’s so many people participating and everyone’s welcome. I already finished my first comic: Aphrodite by George O’Connor. I hope I get through my stack this month, but there’s always March. The twitter hashtag is #comicsfebruary.

Between homeschooling and reading graphic novels, I have school myself. The first day of the spring semester starts tomorrow. Luckily one of my class websites opened up yesterday, so I’ve gotten a head start on this week’s homework and studying.

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Today’s plans: // include missing the Super Bowl to do some studying and reading for pleasure. Lu and I decided to have a mini comics readathon today. My stack includes A Matter of Time by Jeffrey Brown and Jane, the Fox, and Me by Franny Britt.

I’m not just reading comics this month so Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon is in today’s stack. Its subtitle: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements tells it all. A plus for this book is that it’s so readable. I wasn’t sure if a book about chemistry would be.

Now I’m off to: // make waffles, sausages, and eggs for breakfast. What are you up to today?

Graphic Novels Month

I’ve spent most of January waiting for February and now it’s here! Graphic Novels Month! It’s the brainchild of Debi and Chris. Last February, the two decided to just read graphic novels and it was a hit. They’re bringing it back again this month and I’m so excited to join them along with a few other readers.

Picture 793Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Explorer: The Lost Islands by Kazu Kibuishi

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Castle Waiting 2 by Linda Medley

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (The Olympians series) by George O’Connor

Jane, the fox & me by Franny Britt

Letting It Go by Miriam Katin

What it is by Lynda Barry

Picture This by Lynda Barry

That’s a pretty small stack compared to other participants (ha!), but it’s going to keep me busy. The only new-to-me authors in the stack are Franny Britt and Jeffrey Brown while Castle Waiting and What it is are both re-reads. I’m so excited. My first read will be Aphrodite by George O’Connor.

Are you joining Graphic Novels Month?

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 9.0 New Update

bout of booksIt’s here! The ninth Bout of Books read-a-thon! This will be my first time joining the event and I’m pretty excited. Here’s some info about the event:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

We’re almost a week into 2014 and I haven’t finished a book yet. This needs to change. Bout of Books would be the perfect way to help me jumpstart my reading.

My goals:

  • to finish the four books I’m currently reading.
  • to read every day. I need to get back into the habit of daily reading.

My Books:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I’m about halfway through.

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson (non-fiction)

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

You would think I would have finished one of these books by now. Instead, I’ve been doing things like watching Fringe and X-Files season six on Netflix and playing Just Dance 2014. Have some priorities, Vasilly. I would have taken a picture of my books but it’s 5:30 in the morning and no coffee in sight just yet. The pictures will come later, I promise.

Are you joining the Bout of Books event?

Tuesday morning update

hadfieldGuys, I’m starting to think I’m hopeless. I started another book instead of finishing one that I’ve already started reading. Actually, I started two books yesterday: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield and The Perfect Score Project by Debbie Stier. Both are pretty good so far. But today, I’m going to buckle down and read The Golden Day, one of the books on my stack. I have a few things to do outside the home today so I’m bringing it with me. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

Saturday morning update

You guys! I finished a book! Finally! Trying to do Bout-of-Books the same week that school has started back, hasn’t been a great idea but I’m making progress. I finished The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarksy. It was a quiet but good read. It’s been labeled as YA but it’s really an adult book. I’m write more about it next week. Now I’m on to continuing another book I’ve started: To The End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam. After multiple renewals, it’s due back at the library Tuesday.

If you’re doing Bout of Books, how’s your progress going?

My first read of 2014

first book of the year eventSheila over at A Book Journey asked readers which book will be their first read of the year. Read below to find out what I chose as my first read of 2014.

It’s almost a superstition to believe that the first book of the year can make or break your reading for the year. Almost. Last year, the first book I read was a children’s book. So were the next three or four books. The start of 2013 was a hectic time and I didn’t have the energy or interest to find anything long and/or engaging.

It’s a new year and things are pretty settled for now. So what should I pick? Do I chose something that’s been sitting on my shelves for ages? Maybe I should go with a library book? After a week or two of indecision, I picked up Ursula Dubosarsky’s slim book, The Golden Day, and read the first page,

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The year began with the hanging of one man and ended with the drowning of another. But every year people die and their ghosts roam in the public gardens, hiding behind the gray, dark statues like wild cats, their tiny footprints and secret breathing muffled by the sound of falling water in the fountains and the quiet ponds.

The Golden Day is about a classroom of girls who go on a field trip with their teacher but return without her. The teacher never returns and the girls are left wondering what happened. I’m in the middle of several books but I can’t wait to start reading this.

What is your first read of 2014 going to be?

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Favorite books of 2013

It’s that time where I get to share with everyone my favorite books of the year! So looking back at all the books I’ve read for 2013, it was a “meh” sort of year. There were some good books, some great ones, and a lot of “meh” reads, which is why overall my year wasn’t that great. As I write this (Sunday morning), I’ve read 249 books in all. By the time January hits, I’ll probably add two more books to that number.

Before I get to my favorite books of the year, here’s a few things about the list that surprised me.

1. Most of the books that made the list were published in 2013. That’s never happened before.

2. None of the books that made the list were books I owned. This is one more reason why I’m tackling my tbr mountain in 2014.

3. The oldest book on my list is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It was originally published in 1973.

4. The newest book on my list is The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart. It’s publication date is January 14, 2014. I found it such a good read that I had to add it to my list of favorites.

5. Every book that made my list is a book that I’m willing to buy. Pure and simple. If I’m not willing to buy it, I won’t give it five stars or add it to my list.

So enough of that, here’s my favorite books of 2013:

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bestof2013hbestof2013i.jpgThe last book is Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson.

Have you read any of these books? Which books made your “favorites” list of 2013?

The Goldfinch Read-along

tarttThings would have turned out better if she had lived. As it was, she died when I was a kid; and though everything that’s happened to me since then is thoroughly my own fault, still when I lost her I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.

Theo’s right; his life probably would have been much better if his mother had lived. So much wouldn’t have happened but yet much of it wasn’t his fault.

I usually don’t read books in which a child has lost their parent and life is drastically changed. As a single mother, it’s one of my worst fears and the story is usually heartbreaking. I forgot that detail (as big as it is), when I agreed to read The Goldfinch.

This post is a few days late and I’m still only halfway through Theo’s absorbing story. For those of you who are reading the book or have finished, what is your opinion of the book? What stands out? What do you love (or hate) about it? 

Sunday Salon: 2014 as The Year of Tackling My TBR Mountain

sunday salonWhen I look back at all the books I’ve read this year, I realize that only a handful were books of my own. Now that’s disappointing since I have so many unread books. Every year I say this but I mean it this year; it’s time for me to focus on my tbr pile.

Like many readers, my tbr pile is not a pile but more of a mountain, spanning across genres and years, collecting dust as I read books from the library and publishers. Granted, my stack has gotten smaller as I’ve given away hundreds of books (200+) this year, but there are still so many books unread.

I’ve started to realize that this quest to tackle my tbr mountain is a never-ending one. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. How many readers among us have read every single book on their shelves?  When I’m constantly ignoring the books I’ve spent money on, it’s a problem.

I’m declaring 2014 as The Year of the Tbr Mountain. I have over 600 books and probably 60-75% of these books are unread. Some are of these books are classics like The Iliad, Richard Wright’s Black Boy, and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Others are modern favorites like Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine and The Namesake by Jhumpi Lahiri. When am I ever going to get to these rich and seemingly deserving titles if I don’t make an effort to?

Some of you might be wondering what’s the big deal. Why not read whatever I want? I do and I still will but I’ve been feeling some guilt over the years about these books collecting dust. What usually happens is that time passes: months and years go by and I’ve forgotten why I was so excited to read these books. I end up giving them away to my local library or thrift store.

No more. With a few exceptions, I’m no longer accepting review copies. I still have a few arcs left that I plan on reading and reviewing at the beginning of the year along with a stack of library books that are too interesting to give back unread.

I’m excited about this goal and I’ve already started. If I can read at least one book from my shelf every week, I’m happy. Wish me luck.

What are your reading goals for 2014? 

2014 Chunkster Challenge

chunkster challenge 2014aChunkster Challenge

Hosted by me but on this blog

January 1 – December 31, 2014

A few days ago I mentioned that the Chunkster Challenge will be back in 2014. Even though I’m the host, this challenge is well, a challenge. Chunksters can be intimidating because of their size and the time needed to read them. So that made me think long and hard about the rules and there’s been some changes.

  • Audio books and e-books are now allowed. You want to listen to a chunkster on audio? Be my guest.
  • There won’t be any levels in 2014. It’s up to participants to decide how many chunksters they want to read.

If you want to know the other rules, go to next year’s sign-up page.

For the Chunkster Challenge, I’m trying to stick to my tbr pile. I need to tackle that sucker in 2014. I’m hoping to read a chunkster a month. I’m calling my reading pool the “pool of shame” since most of these books have been on my shelves for years people.

Learning to Lose by David Trueba

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  Every year I say I’m going to read this book and never do.

Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. If I can read a short story or two a week, I can finish this book in 2014.

oneillAmerican Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes edited by Molly O’Neill. Guys, it took me years to find this book at a reasonable price. I found it for a dollar years ago and never read it.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnman (nonfiction)

Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America by Enrique Krauze

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. Last year I went on and on about this book and never finished it.

Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance by Carla Kaplan

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Don’t Know Much about History by Kenneth C. Davis

The Street Sweeper by Eliot Perlman

What to Look For in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Canadia McWilliam

The Iliad by Homerlamb

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Jinni and the Golem by Helene Wrecker. I started this book a few weeks ago and didn’t finish.

Unless I have a spectacular reading year in 2014, there will be a few of these that I won’t get to. The ones I don’t read, I’m giving away.

Will you join the Chunkster Challenge?

DNF: The Color Master by Aimee Bender

benderThe Color Master

Aimee Bender

222 pages

Published in August  2013 by Doubleday

Source: Public Library

 

Andi, Andi, Andi. Remember when I saw The Color Master on NetGalley and had to tell you about it? Then you read it before me but didn’t love it? Yeah, me too.

Here’s the thing, Aimee Bender’s stories are often fantastical and strange and yet beautiful. Her previous novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, about a young girl trying to come to terms with her strange gift in a dysfunctional family, was beautiful and strange but also felt true. So the decision to read The Color Master was a no-brainer.

The Color Master ended up being an uneven collection of stories that I didn’t bother to finish. There were tales that were amazing and only Bender could have wrote. There were others that were regular and didn’t belong at all.

The book’s highlights:

“The Color Master” – This story is so simple and beautiful and just lovely. Bender takes inspiration from the fairy tale “Donkeyskin” to write a story about the color master who was able to make a dress the color of the moon. This story alone is worth the time it takes to put this book on hold at your local library, pick it up, take it home, and read. It’s that amazing. I photocopied this tale just so I can read it again and again and figure out how the author wrote it.

“The Red Ribbon” is the tale of a woman in a loveless marriage. Or rather, she doesn’t love her husband enough. The story doesn’t really fit the collection but it‘s humorous.

“Tiger Mending” – The story of two sisters, one a misfit and the other who does everything perfectly, as they travel to Malaysia to help mend tigers after they have been ripped to shreds.

“The Devouring” – You can also find this in Kate Bernheimer’s awesome short story anthology, XO Orpheus. A human woman marries an ogre who accidentally eats their children. What happens next is a reflective journey that includes a cake that refills itself and an invisibility cloak.

Since I didn’t finish this collection, I’m not going to rate it. Overall, I thought this collection was uneven and disappointing. As magical as the highlighted stories are, they can’t make up for the duds. I still plan on reading anything else Bender publishes.

My favorite line from the story, “The Devouring”:

…Loss did not pass from one person to another like a baton; it just formed a bigger and bigger pool of carriers. And, she thought, scratching the coarseness of the horse’s mane, it did not leave once lodged, did it, simply changed form and asked repeatedly for attention and care, as each year revealed a new knot to cry out and consider-smaller, sure, but never gone.

Sunday Salon: Favorite Books of Summer

sunday salonIt’s official. Fall is finally here. I love the need for scarves and cute boots, umbrellas and sweaters. The weather in SoCal has been pretty odd lately. Last night, dark clouds moved in and the air was pretty chilly. Only a few hours before, it was in the 80s. I may have to wait a little longer before I can wear a scarf.

I’ve been pretty much absent from my blog this summer but I did read a lot. Instead of trying to write a bunch of reviews, I decided to share some of my favorite books of summer. Overall, I read a total of 62 books in a variety of genres and formats. Clicking on the titles below will take you either to Goodreads or my review.

Non-fiction

lamott help

Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott. In Help Thanks Wow, Lamott writes about the words help, thanks, and wow are the only words she truly needs for prayer. Lamott’s humorous tone can be found throughout this short read.

lamott stitches

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, Repair by Anne Lamott. The follow-up to Help Thanks Wow, Stitches is quieter in tone than all of Lamott’s other non-fictional reads. Long-time fans of the author’s writing will find this short meditative book a nice addition to their library.

cummings

The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings. This hilarious read about a mother’s first year homeschooling her daughter isn’t for everyone.

delano

Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein by Marfe Ferguson Delano. This is a short biography of the physicist that both kids and their parents can enjoy.

cohen ignorance

I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance by Leah Hager Cohen

ottaviani feynman

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani

ottaviani

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Hicks

karbo julia

Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo. Karbo is back with the latest addition to her Kick Ass Women series. Karbos’ fans will love this book while new fans will rush out to pick up her backlist.

say tea

Tea with Milk by Allen Say. If you haven’t read anything by Say before, pick up all of his books. You can’t go wrong.

heiligman

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös by Deborah Heiligman. This is a short look at the life of Paul Erdos, a mathematician who loved numbers even as a young child.

Fiction

eddleman

Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman. This middle-grade debut novel set in a post-apocalyptic world surprised me with its brave heroine and unique setting.

danticat claire

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. The author’s writing is so poetic. I enjoyed this short read about a young girl who was leaving her father for a better life.

vaughan

Saga Vol. 2 by Brain K. Vaighan and Fiona Staples. The second volume of this fantastical series will leave fans longing for volume 3.

brown cinnamon and gunpowder

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. Blood-thirsty pirates, good food, and a captain who is more than what she appears to be.

You can find a list of all the books I read this summer here.

What were your favorite books of summer?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Fall hasn’t reached SoCal but the cold and flu season has arrived. Despite the whole family coming down with colds last week I still managed to get some reading done.

duprauLast week I read:

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrai (read-along with daughter)

The City of Ember: graphic novel adaptation by Dallas Middaugh

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman and Chip Kidd

Stitches: A Handbook for Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott

 

Reviews to come. Seriously.

erdrich round house

I’m still recovering from last week’s cold and virus but I’m hoping to read a few good books. This week’s reading pile includes:

Sula by Toni Morrison

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (for next week’s Banned Books Week)

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (re-read)

 

What are you reading this week?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonThe time: 4:09 am

In the past two weeks that I’ve been away from my blog, I’ve been doing a lot of non-bookish things. The kids and I have spent as much time as I can handle outside playing and riding everything from skateboards to scooters. There have been a couple of scrapped knees but it’s been fun. We’ve also baked everything from glazed orange pound cake to bread to last night’s brownies.

In between riding on things I have no business being on, baking, and meeting other homeschooling parents, I have read a few books.

SundaySalon collage

Leah Hager Cohen’s I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance and Doubt (Except When You Shouldn’t) found its way to my doorstep earlier this month. A slim volume of only 128 pages, it took a few days to read the author’s exploration of our fear of being ignorant and what happens when we go through such lengths to hide it. What resonated with me is the section about preventing ourselves from knowing something. Cohen uses the example of people who refuse to see cultural differences between themselves and others even when it would help them understand someone’s background more. She calls it “treating ignorance with ignorance”. I don’t think I’m going to write a full review on this book because I want to read it a few more times. I do recommend it though.

Before I read I Don’t Know, I was in immersed in a totally different genre with the middle grade book, Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddlemean. Sky Jumpers is the author’s debut novel. It’s set forty years after World War III in a world much different from our own. The main character is a headstrong young girl who pushes through her problems even when it seems like her flaws might hold her back. I can’t wait to get a hardback copy of this for my girls.

Speaking of my girls, I picked up a copy of The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker at the library a few days ago. I checked it out for myself since so many bloggers have raved about this tale of an unlikely friendship between a golem and a jinni in 1899 New York. My eleven-year-old has taken the book for herself so I can’t tell you anything about it just yet. My daughter is a reluctant reader of anything that’s not animé, so The Golem and the Jinni must be great if she’s reading this chunkster (486 pages) of a book and is not complaining about it. We’re having a mother-daughter book club featuring the book for the next few weeks.

I’m currently reading an e-galley of Karen Karbo’s latest book in The Kick Ass Women series, Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life. What I really like about Karbo’s biographies is that they’re more than biographies: they’re also social commentary filled with humor and passages you want to highlight. The book won’t be in stores until October 1st but I recommend putting it on your wish lists now.

My coffee is getting cold so it’s time to wrap this post up. What have you been up to lately? What books have you read or non-bookish things you’ve done?

Back to School Reading Challenge

Back-to-School-logoWhen I saw that the wonderful Joy from Joy’s Book Blog was hosting the Back-to-School Reading Challenge, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.

August and September are a favorite time of year for me — back to school season! I love the early apples, store displays of school supplies, and my first sighting of a big yellow school bus. I would love to send each of you a bouquet of sharpened pencils. My reading orientation turns from the purely pleasurable beach book to another kind of pleasure: learning something new. To give myself and others a little structure during this transition, I’m starting the Back to School Reading Challenge and Wednesday Book Club to run during the months of August and September.

No one fails at the Back to School Reading Challenge, so choose a level that works to challenge you but not so much it causes stress. Here are the levels:

Freshman: 1-2 books

Sophomore: 3-4 books

Junior: 5-6 books

Senior: 7-8 books

Read books on one topic or eight different ones or anything in between. Fiction is fine. I’ve learned a lot of history from novels set in other times and a lot about other cultures from novels set in other places. As long as you’re reading the book to learn something new, it counts for the Back to School Reading Challenge.

I love learning and it’s always nice to share what you learn with someone else. I’m signing up for the sophmore level and plan on reading books in two areas: education and social sciences.

My book list:

kaufman1. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto (almost finished)

2. Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman (already started)

3. The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life by Grace Llewellyn OR Guerilla Learning: How To Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver

4. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

5. Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Brief Insight by John Monaghan and Peter Just

6. Classic Readings in Cultural Anthropology: essays edited by Gary Ferraro (already started)

There’s also a read-along taking place of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed. Anyone can participate in the read-along. Plus, it’s a really good book.

Feel free to join us in the read-along or reading challenge. It’s not too late.

Bloggers Recommend – August 2013

Hey guys! I just wanted to let you all know that the latest edition of the Bloggers Recommend newsletter is out. If you don’t know, the monthly newsletter features recommendations of some of the best books being published in a given month. Next month’s newsletter features a variety of books from fiction and non-fiction to young adult reads. You can view the newsletter here. You can also subscribe to the newsletter.

 

High Summer Readathon and Just One Paragraph

high summer ratThe High Summer Read-a-thon officially started last night but I decided to wait until this morning to begin my stack of books. My reading isn’t going very well so hopefully this week-long read-a-thon is what I need to make a dent in ARCs and library books before August gets here. August is my birthday month and I want to spend it re-reading some of my favorite books. Below is my stack of potential reads for this week. You can click on the titles to learn more about them.

Print

Bleeder by Shelby Smoak. I picked this up last week at the library. In Bleeder, Smoak talks about his life as a hemophiliac and getting HIV as a child because of a tainted blood product that saved his life.

ottaviani feynman

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick. This is a reread of the life of Richard P. Feynman. He’s such a fascinating person to read about.

duprau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I think Carrie (Books and Movies) loved this one.

lanagan yellowcake

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan. I love Lanagan’s previous works so I can’t wait to read (and finish) this one.

graff

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. I’ve heard whispers about this book as a potential Newbery winner next year, so I’m adding it to my tbr list now.

tamaki

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. I’ve been waiting years for this book. Literally. No library in my area had it and graphic novels are expensive. Now that a local library has it, I can finally read it. I can’t wait.

otsuka

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka. I love The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka’s last novel, so I can’t wait to read this. I might even add Buddha to my stack too.

babbitt

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. I try to read this book every year in August because it’s a seasonal read and also because of the first sentence, “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” I love that line. But there’s nothing wrong with reading comfort reads now.

clark

How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark (ARC). I think this book is coming at a perfect time when so many people are writing online.

I doubt I will get this entire stack read but it’s nice to look at.

30Days30Posts1Paragraph_badge

The lovely Bryan (Still Unfinished) told me about an informal 30-day blogging challenge that starts today. It’s called Just One Paragraph and the challenge is just to post a paragraph every day for thirty days. It doesn’t matter what you post. I’m joining the challenge in hopes of getting my blogging mojo back.

So, will you join me for either event? What are you reading this week?

Just Finished: Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott

Saying and meaning “Thanks” leads to a crazy thought: What more can I give? We take the action first, by giving—and then the insight follows, that this fills us. Sin is not the adult bookstore on the corner. It is the hard heart, the lack of generosity, and all the isms, racism and sexism and so forth. But is there a crack where a ribbon of light might get in, might sneak past all the roadblocks and piles of stones, mental and emotional and cultural? 

We can’t will ourselves to be more generous and accepting. Most of us are more like the townspeople of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” than we are like the Dalai Lama. I know I am . And this is what hell is like.

It obviously behooves me to practice being receptive, open for the business of gratitude.”

-Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

I remember reading Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies years ago when my life was in tatters and loving it so hard that it was almost a physical ache. I still have my copy, which is a mess filled with highlighted passages and dog-eared pages. I later read her next two books on faith but Traveling Mercies has stayed my favorite until now.

In Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Anne Lamott explores the three prayers that help her appreciate life’s beauties and get through life’s griefs. (There’s actually a fourth prayer about not being such an ass. Hey, why not?) “Help” is for those times we feel like we need some assistance from a higher power, “thanks” to give gratitude, and “wow” for all those times when the beauty of life leaves us unable to say anything else.

Help Thanks Wow is a short book, only 102 pages, but Lamott packs so much in. As usual with Lamott, there’s plenty of humor and so many beautiful passages. I found this spiritual book to be a nice addition for Lamott fans and a great introduction for those new to her spiritual non-fiction.

lamott helpHelp Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

102 pages

Published in 2012 by Riverhead

Source: Public Library

Sunday Salon

sunday salonGood morning! The sun isn’t out yet and most of the kids are still asleep. Paradise! While the house is still nice and quiet, I thought it would be a good time to write a post. Did you remember to change your clocks forward an hour? I didn’t but luckily most of the clocks did it on their own.

Remember that huge pile of books that I wanted to read from last week? Luckily, Iozeki was able to read one book from that list, Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages. It was a good read but one that I didn’t finish. Now I’m in the middle of a number of books including A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It’s the tale of a young girl who’s writing down the life of her 104 year-old grandmother but also ends up writing about her own life too. There’s something about this book that is really special. I’m 80 pages in but I think I may have to re-read it before reviewing it.

Today is packed with things for me to do. This morning I’m curling up with A Tale for the Time Being. After that, I need to finish my homework and work on my homeschooling plan for the week. Spring is just around the corner and the kids have already picked out which seeds they want to grow (carrots and beans). I guess some seed-shopping is going on online today too.

Just a reminder, the Chunky Book Club’s discussion of The Map of Time starts this Friday and will continue for the rest of the month.

How’s your weekend going? Ever had a book that you needed to re-read before you wrote a post about it?

Thoughts: Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

jacksonLife Among the Savages

Shirley Jackson

241 pages

Originally published in 1943

Source: Bought it

Our house is old, and noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books . . .

 

When it comes to Shirley Jackson, who hasn’t read or heard of her classic short story, “The Lottery”, or her classic thriller The Haunting of Hill House? With Life Among the Savages, Jackson takes a drastic turn in subject and chronicles various bits and pieces of her life as a mother and wife. Whether its’ dealing with misbehaving kids, imaginary friends, spats with the neighbors, or buying an old house in a new town, readers are bound to laugh. Life Among the Savages is an excellent snapshot of life in the

Life Among the Savages has been sitting on my shelves unread for years. So it was great that it ended up being my Classics Spin pick. Shirley Jackson takes the mundane and makes it hilarious. There were moments when I laughed so hard, I almost cried. In the book, there’s the writer, her husband, their three kids, and fantastic cat, Ninki. Some of the things that Jackson describes in the book, reminds readers how long ago this was written (1940s), like the time when Jackson’s in labor and the nurse insists on putting down her occupation as housewife instead of writer. But other instances are universal like taking more than one child shopping on a busy day.

I really enjoyed this book but it’s a DNF (did not finish) because as hilarious as it was, I grew tired of the craziness of Jackson’s life. There’s almost no rest between all of the crazy antics of her kids and husband, which is what I needed. I may come back to this book one day but I doubt it. Life Among the Savages is a good book but it wasn’t enough to keep me reading.

Have you ever read this book before?

Sunday Salon: Looking back at February and March Reading Plans

sunday salonMarch is here and there’s so much I want to do. I’m joining several read-alongs and events including the #Estellagram bookish photo-a-day challenge. I’m new to Instagram and I have to admit I can see why it’s a little addicting. Below is my first picture for the challenge.

estellagram 1
Day 1: bookshelves

In February I read 15 books. That’s not a bad total but most were children’s books. Quiet by Susan Cain was my favorite book of February. You can find my review here. I’m hoping to read more this month.  Way more so below is what my bookstack for March looks like (thanks to Laura for letting me use her bookstack idea).

 march unread

Pictured:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I try to read this book every spring.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Possession by A.S. Byatt

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma (ARC)

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (ARC)

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz (I’m teaching myself math so I think reading this will help motivate me to do math everyday.)

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (I started reading this in December before being tempted by smaller books. The writing is lovely though.)

Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor by Hali Felt. I’ve wanted to read this book for months now. I was finally able to get my hands on it.

nickersonNot pictured:

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson. I’m almost finished with this.

Head Off & Split: Poems by Nikky Finney. I bought this book years ago when it won the National Book Award for Poetry. I’m trying to read a poem a day. That way, I’ll finish the book in no time.

Reflections on the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones.

Strands of Bronze and Gold: The Bluebeard Fairy Tale Retold by Jane Nickerson. (ARC)

Yes, I know. My bookstack this month is crazy but I think it’s possible for me to read 3-4 books a week. We’ll see.

If you’re still trying to figure out which bookish events you want to join in March, here’s my round-up post.

So what are your plans for March? What are you reading?

Silver Sparrow Read-In and Discussion Post

jones tayariToday’s the day! Welcome to my 2nd African American Read-In! This year’s pick is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.  Set in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1980’s, it’s the tale of James Witherspoon, a man who’s married to two very different women. Told from the viewpoint of James’ two daughters, readers see how James keep this life of lies going. Silver Sparrow was first published in 2011 and has been included on many best books of 2011 lists.

If you wrote a review of Silver Sparrow, please leave a link of it in the Mr. Linky below.

Feel free to discuss (or ignore) as many questions as you want to. A few of the questions came from Reading Group Guides.com while others are questions that I’ve wanted to ask.

  1. There is so much talk these days about fatherhood—contrasting the deadbeat dad with the Bill Cosby-type father. How do you evaluate James Witherspoon, who is both?
  2. Is Laverne’s life better or worse for having married James? What about Gwen? Does James love Laverne or Gwen? Does he love either one of them?
  3. Why do you think Raleigh is so loyal to James?
  4. Should Gwen have married Raleigh when she had the chance?
  5. Where you surprised to read about Gwen confronting Laverne?
  6. Did you have a favorite character? Did you have a least favorite? Which characters would you like to know more about?
  7. Were you surprised at the ending? Was it ever possible for this story to have a happy ending?
  8. Overall, what did you think of the book?

Looking forward to . . .February

January, with its sense of renewal, could be looked at as a boom or a bust for me. Forgive me for making this a list post, but I’m too drained at the moment to write actual paragraphs.

Highlights of January

  • I got into a rhythm with homeschooling.
  • I read a record amount of books in one month (34).
  • My favorite books of the month were The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel (adult non-fiction) and We March by Shane W. Evans (children’s book).
  • Participating in Joy’s New Year Resolutions Challenge.

Low Points of January

  • Being diagnosed with vertigo (an inner ear condition), and spending most of the month dizzy, tired, or both.
  • I failed the TBR Double Dare. I only read one book from my tbr pile and it was one that I just bought.
  • January Cure was a bust. I did realize what I want to do with my apartment now though.

LetterMo2013square-300x300Well enough of January. February is here and there’s so much to look forward to including:

  • LetterMo is here! Letter Mo is a yearly event held in February where participants write letters to friends, family, and even strangers, every day. Care, I’m looking at you. If you want a postcard or short letter from me this me, just email me at 1330v blog AT gmail DOT com.
  • The new semester starts tomorrow. I have early access to one of my classes so I’ve already started working on my assignments.
  • I plan to keep working on my New Year’s resolutions like buying new furniture for my apartment.
  • Reading! I have a fantastic stack of books to read from this month including Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan, The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell, and a few non-fiction reads.
  • The Quiet Read-along by Joy. Feel free to join in.
  • Of course, my own book discussion of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, which starts on the 25th.

What are you looking forward to this month?