Tag Archives: books

The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Steir

15796717The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT

Debbie Steir

238 pages

Published in February 2014 by Harmony Books, an imprint of Harper

Source: Publisher

So here I was, five months in and back to square one: confused, confronting too many options, and feeling overwhelmed and borderline frantic.

I picked up Debbie Steir’s The Perfect Score after years of following her blog and reading about her journey to earn the perfect SAT score. Steir is not some teenager who’s trying to get into her dream college. She’s a middle-aged, divorced, single mother of two teens, who came up with the idea of taking the SAT in hopes of inspiring her son to start studying for the test. She didn’t take the SAT once. She took it seven times over the course of a year.

Steir is passionate, enthusiastic, and focused as she went through her year learning and testing. I love reading someone’s journey as they learned a new hobby or area of expertise.  Steir’s journey was no exception. She asked from help from friends, strangers online, and researched as much as she could. The author also combined her experiences with what she learned about the history of the SAT and tips that will help parents and students who have to take the test in the next few years. No stone was left unturned as she learned as much as possible, trying out various techniques from hiring tutors to trying Kumon to using the College Board blue books.

Halfway through this book, I stand to myself “This shit is crazy.” No seriously.

What I thought was crazy is the pressure that is put on high schoolers (and some middle schoolers) to get high scores to get into decent colleges. There were times that I needed to take a deep breath.  The author herself realizes that the key to doing well on the SATs is mastering math and English before time. Way before time. Mastering a subject means having a strong foundation first. This was something that not everyone has including Steir herself.

The author manages to inspire her son and learns a thing or two about herself in the end.

The Perfect Score is an eye-opening and engaging read that stands out among memoirs about an author’s “special” year. If you have a kid who will take the SATs in a few years, this is the book you need to read. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

2014 World Book Night Picks!!

In case you missed it, last night the organizers of the U.S. World Book Night announced the titles picked for next year’s event on April 23, 2014. If you don’t know, World Book Night has been going on for the past two years in the United States. On a given day in April, book givers from around the country give away free books to the public. Books are given away at libraries, parks, schools, anywhere they can think of.  My Twitter feed last night was lit up with excitement as each title was tweeted. The hashtag is #wbnbooks.

The 2014 titles are:

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (also available in large print)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brwon

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillian

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (also available in large print)

When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago (also available in Spanish as Cuando Era   Puertorriqueña)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye

The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1 by John Flanagan

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee

Wait till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan

Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Pontoon by Garrison Keillor

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

100 Best Loved Poems edited by Philip Smith

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

If you want to be a book giver for next year’s event, sign-ups started this morning and end on January 5, 2014. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your application in.

Which book are you excited to see on the list? 

Sunday Salon: Bookish Panic, Read-a-thons, and Read-Ins

sunday salonGood morning! It’s a rainy day here in Southern California, a perfect excuse to stay in the house and curl up with a book or two. On Friday, I realized that I only have ten days before the next semester starts. Talk about bookish panic. There are still so many books that I want to read, I realized that the only way for me to read them all is to have my own little read-a-thon. So that’s what I’m doing. From now until February 4th, I’m going to read as much as I possibly can.

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Yesterday I read The Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook by Shaun Tan. It was really nice to look at the creative process of an artist. Today I’m finishing up The Procrastination Equation: How To Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done by Piers Steel. I’m finding the book to be very insightful. A few weeks ago, Evelyn from Librarian’s Dreams recommended Carlos Maria Dominguez’s The House of Paper, a book about well, books. Evelyn pretty much recommended it to everyone she knows which piqued my interested in this otherwise unknown book.

savage firmin

If you’ve seen my profile so far this year on Goodreads, you would swear I’ve forgotten about the tbr challenges I’ve signed up for. Not exactly. I’ve been reading so many of the library books I’ve checked out back in 2012 or even books I’ve just bought instead. Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage will be my first official tbr read. So many bloggers have recommended this book about a rat that lives in a bookstore and learns to read.

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Two three more books that I’m hoping to read includes: Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt whose format I can only describe as a graphic novel hybrid, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers by Kwame Anthony Appiah after seeing him speak in the documentary Examined Life.

The results are in for next month’s African American Read-In!

poll results

Click to enlarge.

The winner is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

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Excerpt:

My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift-wrap counter at Davison’s downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had bought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she knew that something wasn’t right between a man and a woman when the gift was a blade. I said that maybe it means there was a kind of trust between them. I love my mother, but we tend to see things a little bit differently. The point is that James’s marriage was never hidden from us. James is what I call him. His other daughter, Chaurisse, the one who grew up in the house with him, she calls him Daddy, even now.

Isn’t that a great opening? The book discussion will start Monday, February 25th.  Now I’m off to read. What are you reading today?

Sunday Salon: What’s on my nightstand

sunday salonGood morning! Today is the last day of the kids’ holiday break and then it’s back to school tomorrow. It’s been fun having them at home all day but I know they’re looking forward to seeing their friends. Our break has been filled with trips to the park, trying new meals, baking, and just having fun.

solomonI’m currently reading a book that I’ve been dying to share with you guys. It’s called Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon.  It’s been sitting on my shelves for a weeks. It’s due back at the library on Tuesday so I’m trying to finish this 900+ tome by then. I don’t think I will since I’ve been marking passages on almost every page with post-its.

In Far From the Tree, Solomon interviews parents who face the challenge of raising children who have very different identities from their own. These are parents raising a child who is transgender or deaf, mentally or physically disabled, schizophrenic or gifted. The author explores the question of identity versus illness while examining how society views these identities and how that can affect how parents themselves view their own children.

I’m finding this to be a powerful and moving book. I think if you are a parent or may one day become one, you should read this.

“To look deep into your child’s eyes and see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then to develop a zealous attachment to every aspect of him, is to achieve parenthood’s self-regarding, yet unselfish, abandon. It is astonishing how often such mutuality had been realized – how frequently parents who had supposed that they couldn’t care for an exceptional child discover that they can. The parental predisposition to love prevails in the most harrowing of circumstances. There is more imagination in the world than one might think.”

The book trailer:

I’m off to try and make a dent in this book. What are you reading?

Banned Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

Lois Lowry

180 pages

Republished in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Company

Source: Public Library

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. . .

I had to review this book for Banned Books Week. The Giver is a book that I’ve read as a seventh-grader and loved. It’s one of those books that I push on my younger sisters, who are now seventh graders, in the way that only a crazed bookworm can. I haven’t read The Giver since middle school, so when I picked it up; I wondered if I would love it as much as I once did.

Within the first few paragraphs, readers realize that Jonas’s world is very different from our own. An airplane flies over the community Jonas lives in, frightening not only the young boy but every person around. Airplanes aren’t a part of their everyday lives. But then, things like choosing your spouse or occupation aren’t a part of that life either.

When Jonas turns twelve he, like all the other twelve year-olds, learns what their occupation will be for the rest of their lives. But Jonas is different. Instead of being chosen to be an engineer or teacher, he learns that he’s been selected to become the next Receiver of Memory. It’s a job of high honor but little power. Jonas is to receive the memories of others who lived generations ago. That way, those memories aren’t a burden to the rest of the community and no one else needs to experience anything but the most ordinary life. During his training, Jonas learns of war and love, happiness and hope. But can Jonas go back to living his life as it once was without these things?

I’m glad to say that The Giver is just as powerful to me now as it was when I was twelve. I was surprised about how much of this book came back to as I read. After Jonas receives the memory of war and sees his friends playing it as game, he freaks out. Of course his friends have no idea what war is but Jonas does, and it sinks in how there’s so much this group will never know. Lowry’s writing is simple and the story gives readers just enough details to understand Jonas and the community he lives in. I can’t wait to read the last three books in this series.

The Giver is #23 on the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of Banned and Challenged Books of 2000-2009. The book has been challenged (someone has asked it to be removed from library shelves) or banned several times since its publication. It’s always been by parents who don’t like the ambiguous ending or the community’s method of dealing with troubled people, the elderly, and infants who aren’t thriving.

If you haven’t read The Giver, I think you should. My rating: 5 out of 5.

Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

335 pages

Published in 2012 by Ballantine Books, a Random House imprint

Source: Publisher

For eight years I dreamed of fire. Trees ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like a hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Carolina and Indian jasmine, separation and attachment. They could not be confused.

Ever since she was abandoned at birth, Victoria Jones has been a ward of the state of California. Shuffled from one foster home to another, Victoria hasn’t found a home or a family to call her own. Life seems to change when she’s ten and is in the care of Elizabeth. The two are alike in many ways with no one to call family but each other. Nothing lasts forever; tragedy soon strikes and the two are separated. Now, Victoria is 18 and has aged out of the foster care system. She has no money, no job, and no place to live. All she has is the skills that Elizabeth taught her so long ago: the language of flowers, the Victorian notion that every flower has a meaning. But will this be enough to help Victoria lead a successful life and become a person who can love others?

This year, my reading has involved people and places that I normally don’t read about. With The Language of Flowers, I realized that I haven’t read many books that dealt with kids in the foster care system. It’s a system has taken a toll on Victoria. Readers learn about the many homes she’s been in from the foster dad who locks a young Victoria out of the house on a winter night to the foster mom who refuses to feed Victoria anything but frozen peas to teach her that “food isn’t comfort”. It’s heartbreaking as Diffenbaugh goes back and forth between Victoria’s past and present to show us how she became the person she is.

This isn’t just a story about heartbreak but possibilities. Redemption is possible even though it’s often pointed out though the book, that many of the kids who age out of the foster care system don’t get a happy ending. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon: A Year of Reading Deliberately

Last week I took an unofficial break from from blogging to focus on finals. With school basically over for the next four weeks, I can finally come back to reading and blogging.

Two weeks ago, Michelle from Galleymith, Jennifer from The Literate Housewife, Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog, and myself were all on Twitter discussing our reading plans for next year. Rebecca came up with the great name, A Year of Reading Deliberately. I had been thinking about my reading plans for a while before the discussion. This year a lot of the books I read were ‘blah’, nice but nothing I want to keep on my shelves or buy. They weren’t memorable. I would like to blame this on being a moody reader but I can’t. Thinking about my favorite reads of this year won’t be too hard because the favorites really stick out. Next year I want to read more challenging books. Books that I have ignored because of their pace or subject matter. I want to get out of my comfort zone and pick up books I probably wouldn’t have without it being required reading.

Next year reading deliberately means:

Diversity. I’ve read a few books written by authors of color this year but not enough. Last week I read Chameleon by Charles R. Smith Jr.  It’s the story of a young African American boy growing up and trying to decide his future. I would have missed this book if it wasn’t for Jodie over at Book Gazing.  Next year I want to read more books by authors of color, more GLBT titles, and also more books by non-American authors. I’ve signed up for the GLBT and Canadian Book challenges to help me reach that goal.

Re-reading. Remember picking up a book you’ve read before and reading it again? I do too but it’s been a while since I’ve re-read a book. There have been a lot of times this year where I want to re-read favorites but instead read something new. Next year I plan on diving into my favorite books like East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld, and others.

Project Fill-in-the Gaps. I started this project earlier this year to “fill in the gaps” of my reading of classics and contemporary fiction. Sad to say I haven’t worked on it much. I’m hoping to read at least twenty of the books on my list. It’s important to me to feel at least a little well-read. Some of the books on my list I’m taking off while others are going to be added on.

TBR Pile. I have a lot of unread books on my shelves right now and I’m not happy about it. Some of my books have been sitting on my shelves for a few years. I love my local library so I ended up reading library books more than the books I own. I want that to change, so next year I plan on using the library less.

Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. Earlier this week Rebecca over at Rebecca Reads wrote a post about being a selective reader. In it she says that she doesn’t know very much about any particular genre. She’s learning a little bit of every genre that’s important to her such as the classics. A few semesters ago I shared a class with a guy whose passion was mythology. He spent much of his time reading and re-reading Greek mythology and its re-tellings. I loved listening to him talk about it. It made  me want to read more mythology myself. So what I want is to be well-read in an area that I enjoy reading. So I’ve picked Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. This year I’ve read about ten plays that won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and enjoyed them all. I plan on reading as many as I can next year.

So this is what reading deliberately means to me. What does it mean to you? Are there any areas in your reading you would love to read more in? If you end up writing a post about reading deliberately, email me or comment below and I’ll add your link to this post.

Other thoughts on reading deliberately: A Literate Housewife * Nomadreader * Carrie * Care * Teresa (Shelf Love) * Trish (Hey Lady!) * Rebecca (Rebecca Reads) * Nicole (Linus’s Blanket) *

Do you make reading lists?

Two weeks ago I was on Twitter discussing book lists with a fellow blogger. She told me how at the beginning of October she had made a list of books she needed to read for the whole month. At the end of the month, she wanted to check the list to see how many books on it she read. It had me thinking. The only time I make a list for books is for challenges or to keep up with what I’ve already read. I also make lists for what I want to read for the week. Being a moody reader, I’m not the biggest follower of lists though I  do love making them. So now I’m thinking about making (and following) a list of books I need to read this month.

I have several books on my shelves besides my library loot that I would love to get to such as The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was Dewey‘s favorite book ever and before she passed,  I  promised her I would read it but never got around to it. After she was gone I wished I had read the book while she was still around. So this is the month that I plan on reading The Grapes of Wrath.

So here’s my question to you: do you make reading lists? If so, how far in time do you plan for? For a week or two or maybe a month ahead?

Library Loot

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Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Adams
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

 

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Distracted: the erosion of attention and the coming Dark Age by Maggie Jackson
Pip: The Story of Olive by Kim Kane
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

 

2

Once Upon A Time (She Said) by Jane Yolen
The Wild Things by Dave Eggers
Flight Vol 5 by Kazu Kibuishi

Old Loot

Sprout by Dale Peck
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Lone Ranger and Tonto fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Okay. So that’s my library loot for this week. What have you check out from the library lately?

It’s Monday, What Are you Reading?

Thanks to last weekend’s read-a-thon and the Cybils, last week was my best reading week in months! I read:

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August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
B.P.R.D. #2: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories
The Year of the Sparrows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

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Imogene’s Antler’s by David Small
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen

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Amulet 1: The Stonkeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi
Angels in America by Tony Kushner

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The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant

Not Shown:

The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen
Humpty, Dumpty Climbs Again by Dave Horowitz
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
Babymouse: Dragon Slayer by Jennifer L. Holm
Abigail Spells by Anna Alter
Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden byEdith Pattou

Right now I’m reading

Peter and Max by Bill Willingham
Hide Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Admissions by Jean Hanff Korelitz

This week I also plan on reading:

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry

What are you reading this week?

What My Children Are Reading, October 22, 2009

For the past couple of days my oldest son has been home sick because of multiple asthma attacks and a fever that won’t completely go away. Thankfully his attacks have been mild. One of the ways I’ve been entertaining him has been by reading to him. Luckily for me that before my son became sick, I went to our library and picked up some of this year’s Cybils nominees.

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The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Couseteau (2009) – Dan Yaccarino. This book reminded me of another Cybils-nominated biography from last year, A River of Words by Jen Bryant. I really enjoyed reading about Cousteau’s life and all the obstacles he overcame because the sea and its inhabitants were his passion.

jules

Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation (2009) Written by Jacqueline Jules. Illustrated by Jef Czekaj. Unite or Die is so unique. The book shows kids how the Constitution came into being. Everything from the illustrations to the text kept the kids interested in the story.

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Abigail Spells (2009) by Anna Alter. Out of all three books this one was my son’s favorite. Abigail is a bird who loves to spell. So when she finds out her school is hosting a spelling bee, she signs up expecting to win. But when she doesn’t her best friend George tries to show her winning is not everything.

What great books did you read to your kids this week?

Monday Memes

Musing Mondays (BIG)Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about the read-a-thon…

Are you planning on participating in the upcoming 24 Hour Read-a-thon (either as a reader or cheerleader)? Have you made any preparations for the event? And, veterans out there, any tips you’d like to share with the newbies?

I am definitely planning on participating in the read-a-thon. As usual I’m reading and cheerleading so things will be a little hectic for me on Saturday. I’ve already started making preparations by getting my read-a-thon stack ready. I have a few books still on their way but I cannot wait!

My tips for newbies:

  1. Make sure the books in your pile are light and fun to read.
  2. Graphic novels, short story collections, young adult reads, children’s fiction, plays, and even poetry are great additions to any read-a-thon stack.
  3. Make sure you have healthy snacks ready. You’ll hate to be running around on Saturday trying to fix a meal.
  4. Naps are your friend. Don’t feel guilty taking one. I plan on taking several.
  5. Clean your house, do the laundry, and any other household needs BEFORE Saturday.
  6. You don’t have to read or cheer for 24 hours. Do it for as long as you want. When you no longer want to, take a break. Don’t feel like going back, stop. The readathon is supposed to be fun.

It’s Monday, What are you Reading?

Last week I read:

  1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  2. Sea Change by Aimee Freedman

Right now I’m in the middle of:

  1. August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

This week I plan to read:

  1. The Transfigured Hart by Jane Yolen
  2. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
  3. B.P.R.D. #2: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories by Mike Mignola
  4. The Arrival  by Shaun Tan

Sunday Salon: Thoughts

24readathonRight now it’s early morning here in Southern California and the sun is not up yet. Sitting on my desk is a hot cup of coffee and today’s read, August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. I received it through PaperbackSwap for the read-a-thon but I’ve decided to read it now. Today will be spent visiting family, reading, and getting the kids ready for school tomorrow.

Last night on Twitter, Kailana stated that she’s only read 16 books so far this month. That made me check my calendar reading log to see how many books I’ve read this month. 3. That’s how many books I’ve read so far this month. Compare that to the 38 read in August or the 18 read in September, it makes October the worst reading month I’ve had in a long time. I’m hoping to get back into the reading groove by reading my butt off this week and during the read-a-thon.

If you’re on the fence about signing up for Dewey’s read-a-thon, you still have time. Even if you can’t participate for that many hours, it’s still a fun event to join. There’s games and prizes plus you find new blogging buddies too.

I have my strategy down for the big event. I have tons of short books and fast reads, waiting to be read. I’m planning a mini read-a-thon for my kids on Saturday to keep them busy. I also plan on snacking on fruits and quick foods so not to get bogged down cooking. At all. Pizza will probably be lunch and dinner on Saturday.

My goals:

To finish at least six books.
To cheer on each of the 200+ participants at least once.

To read the majority of the books in my pile even if it takes months

I don’t know which goal is going to be harder. I’ve already starting visiting participant’s read-a-thon pile posts to cheer them on a little. I have so many great books in my pile that I really want to read, so I’m going to try my best to read them before they’re due back at the library.  If you’re participating in the event, do you bother setting goals?

Last week’s reads

Last week I read two of October’s three read books: Sea Change by Aimee Freedman and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Both were engaging books. I reviewed Sea Change but not Catching Fire. There’s no point when all my review is going to say is: Go read it now! Catching Fire was a great book but I love Hunger Games more. Either way I will be buying book three when it’s published next year.

So that’s it for this post. Are you participating in next week’s read-a-thon? If so, what book are you really looking forward to reading?

Booking Through Thursday: Weeding

btt button

We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder…

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore?  SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

My Library

I’m almost constantly trying to par down my personal library. Just last night I was trying to figure out which books should get donated to the library. My personal library isn’t large, just under 400 books but I live in a small apartment so every inch of space counts. My bookshelves contains many books I haven’t read (of course) but also books I’ve read over and over again. I’m constantly going to thrift stores and adding new books to my shelves so I try to be selective in my buying that way I don’t have books overflowing.

When I do weed out books, I’m usually getting rid of books that have sat on my shelves for years without being read. I love my public library system, LBPL, so I’m constantly donating my books to them.  Their funding has been cut so now they have wishlists on Amazon for the first time ever. Now more than ever I feel the need to help them.  Books I know my library doesn’t need, I donate to my local thrift stores whose purpose is to help veterans. I also trade my books on Paperback Swap though I’m more likely to buy credits than post books.

Do you weed out books on your shelves? If so, do you have a system?

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman

friedmanSea Change (2009)
Aimee Friedman
320 pages
Young Adult
Rating: Re-read

Summary

Miranda Merchant is ready to spend her summer interning at a museum in New York. But when her maternal grandmother Isadora dies, Miranda has to push her plans back and she and her mother travels to Silkie Island to take of Isadora’s estate. While there Miranda finds a strange book at the Mariner, her grandmother’s summer home. The book tells of the legend of the merman who once lived off the coast of the island. These mermen look normal but it’s when they’re fully in the water that you can see their true form.

While on the island Miranda meets Leo, a gorgeous and mysterious native who seems to be everything Miranda needs. But something tells Miranda that Leo is hiding a secret. Does it have to do with the merman legend?

Thoughts

What a great story! I was originally planning on waiting for the read-a-thon to read Sea Change. Last night I glanced through the book and ended up spending the next two hours reading. Miranda is a great character. She’s an intelligent and shy teenager who’s not really into dating and boys. She just tries to stay focused on her passion,which is science, and keep out of trouble. It’s when she meets Leo and also T.J. another boy, that she starts to understand what chemistry between two people feels like.

Friedman’s description of Silkie Island is so believable. I felt as if I was there. You can picture the setting so well, whether it was the Mariner or Fisherman’s Village.

If you’re participating in the upcoming read-a-thon and looking for a short but well-written story, look no further than Sea Change, a light tale about teenage love.

Book Review: Crazy Beautiful

Crazy Beautiful (2009)
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
193 pages
Young Adult
Rating: Re-read

Instead of just giving you the regular book review format, I’m giving you five reasons why Crazy Beautiful is a great book and why I think you should give it a try.

Reasons why I love Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted:

1. Great characterization. The main characters, Lucius and Aurora, are a blast to read about. After losing his arms in an explosion of his own doing, Lucius and his family moves to a new town for a fresh start. Aurora Belle is also getting a new start in the same town with her father after losing her mother to cancer. The instant they see each other it feels as if they’ve always known each other. The problem: Lucius is deemed crazy by everyone except Aurora and her father while Aurora becomes the new addition to the popular crowd.

2. It’s about seeing the good in people, knowing who you are and being that person instead of what’s easier for others to deal with.

3. The story is so addictive that I read this book in one sitting. It’s not often that a book makes you drop everything you need to do and read it. The reader almost instantly starts to care about the characters. You want to know as much as possible about them.

4. The book is sparse, giving the reader only the details needed for the action to keep going.

5. This book has made Lauren Baratz-Logstead one of my newest favorite authors. I will definitely be checking out her other books.

Have you read this yet? If so, please let me know so I can link to you.

Jellaby by Kean Soo

Jellaby (2008)
by Kean Soo
145 pages
Rating: Reread

Why I picked this up:

I’ve read great reviews about Kean Soo’s Jellaby on many blogs and when I happened to see it at my local library, I grabbed it to bring it home.

Summary:

Portia Bennett is a young girl who’s still reeling from the disappearance of her dad a year before. One night she hears a noise outside her bedroom windows and investigates. She finds a monster whom she later names Jellaby and brings him home. She’s sure that Jellaby is lost and the only clue she has to where he’s really from is a picture of a door in a nearby city. With the help of a new friend, Jason, the three decide to go alone to this mysterious door.

My thoughts:

What a great book! Kean Soo is such a talented artist and writer. One of the characters, Jason, is a latchkey kid whose parents are never seen or heard from throughout the story. On one page when Portia and Jellaby are going home after leaving Jason’s house and you see the loneliness he feels from being left alone so often. This isn’t just a story about a monster but also about the grief that Portia still feels after her father’s disappearance, Jason’s loneliness, and the mystery of Jellaby’s origins. This is definitely a book I will be rereading.

It’s Monday, What are you reading?

Children’s books in blue

So far this month I’ve read:

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies
Jellaby by Kean Soon
The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Snow White by Paul Heins and Trina Schart Hyman
Chicken Little retold by Steven Kellog
The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg

Right now I’m in the middle of several books:

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folkore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen
The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 by Charles Bukowski
Black Swan, White Raven edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling
The Successful Child: What parents can do to help kids turn out well by William and Martha Sears
A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade by Christopher Benfey
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams

I’m almost finished with Touch Magic and Black Swan, White Raven. Look for reviews for both books next week. What are you reading this week?

I’m Back!

It’s amazing how much reading you can get done when you’re not online. My internet connection stopped working almost a month ago and I’ve only been online periodically ever since. To be honest, I suspected my connection was going to go on the fritz the week before it did. I had been online most of my waking hours with school, blogging, and twittering. I knew I needed an online vacation but I really didn’t want one. I didn’t think I could do it. So my connection decided it would give me the push that I needed.

At first it was hard being off of Twitter and my Google Reader so I decided to distract myself by reading. Isn’t that the point of being a book blogger anyway? All the great reading you can do in your spare time?

During my break I read so many great and not-so-great books. I abandoned books left and right without feeling guilty. I didn’t feel the need to take notes on the books I read though I did remember to write the titles down. Too bad I can’t find the yellow notebook that lists last month’s read.

Right after my break began, I continued the short story kick I was already on by picking up the special issue of The Atlantic. The special issue is on stands until the middle of October and is filled with great short stories by authors like Paul Theroux and Alexi Zentner. I haven’t finished reading the magazine but my favorite story so far is “PS” by Jill McCorkle, in which a woman writes to her former marriage counselor about all the things she couldn’t talk about when she was in therapy with her ex-husband. It’s funny, smart, and a definite re-read.

I also read a few more stories from The Best American Short Stories 2008 edited by Salman Rushdie. One of my favorite stories featured in the collection is “Man and Wife” by Katie Chase. It’s the story of a young girl whose family is a part of a cult and has to marry an older man. Usually when you think of a young girl marrying a grown man, you feel that it’s uncomfortable and wrong. This story doesn’t let you feel that. It’s hard to explain but the reader doesn’t feel comfortable with the marriage either.

We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle was up next. I love the first two stories in the collection, the title story and “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel” so much that I refuse to read the rest of the collection. What if they don’t live up to the brilliance of the first two stories? I even dipped into The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel, which I bought only because Eva at A Striped Armchair recommends the author to any reader who comes within a foot of her blog!

I’ve also been inspired by the recommendations of a lot of fellow bloggers. Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews and Kathy at The Brain Lair both have gushed over Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. I read it in one sitting and loved it. Marcelo is a fifteen-year-old boy who has a mysterious form of autism. His lawyer father insists that nothing is wrong with Marcelo and forces him to work at a law firm for the summer. Once there Marcelo starts to become part of the world around him and learns about the good and evil people are capable of. It’s a great coming-of-age story that deals with autism,  family, religion, love, and growing up. It’s definitely on my re-read list.

I discovered David Lozell Marin’s hilarious, brilliant, painfully truthfully, enlightening, uplifting memoir called Losing Everything. Martin chronicles his childhood growing up with a smart but painfully shy father who was prone to fits of rage and a mentally ill mother while living on  a rundown farm in the middle of nowhere. He also tells of his marriage to the love of his life, his divorce from her, and the night that he almost killed himself which reminded him of the night his father took his mother out into the woods in an attempt to kill her. It’s amazing that Martin is so aware of the terrors of his childhood and adult life and still is able to go toward the good that life offers. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a dark memoir at all. It’s too funny to be dark. Or really dark. What made me take this book home from the library is this paragraph:

This is going to piss off a lot of people. People who think I should be deeply ashamed about the gin I did drink and specifically apologetic to them for what I said while under its influence, who believe I should be just as sorry as I can possibly be for the way I behaved over the years while drinking gin. And I am. I’m sorry. Really, I am sorry. But let me plead my case for gin. (p. 73)

I refuse to give my copy back to the library until I’ve bought my own copy. I have too many post-its in the book to give it back right now.  If I could I would buy a copy of this book to every reader I ever encounter. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

I have a ton to write about when it comes to my blogging break, but I know that the attention span of bloggers is only so long when it’s not a book they’re reading. (Just joking. Maybe.)

So instead I just want to say how happy I am to be back from my break. I have missed my readers and my friends so much. You guys have no idea how much. While on my break, I wondered about what everyone was reading, how everyone was doing, what was going on in Bookland, what was everyone writing about. . . I wondered if Wordlily had finished packing or what library loot has everyone checked out. I wondered how Beth’s Sookie Challenge and Michelle’s Harry Potter Challenge are going, and what season of Supernatural was Amy on. S.Krishna should’ve returned from Oxford by now, and I know that Kathy and Drea have discovered some great YA fiction. What has Renay ranted about lately? How’s Molly doing after her own blogging break? I also wondered about Carl and Chris, Carrie and Heather, Nymeth and Kailana. I wondered about every single one of you guys.

I haven’t seen my Google Reader yet, but I bet I have at least two or three thousand posts to read. You know what? I don’t care. I’m going to try my best to read as many of your posts as I can. I’m so glad to be back.

So tell me, what books have you read and loved lately?

Sunday Salon: Short Works Sunday

sunday salon

This week my reading has been all over the place. Since last Sunday I’ve read essays, short stories, graphic novels, and children’s books but no novels. For the last couple of years I’ve been primarily a novel reader, forgoing short stories, poetry, and essays for longer works. Though I have many novels I need to read before they have to be returned to the library, I’m happy just picking up a book, opening up to an unread story or essay, and digging in. Because of this I’ve been on a plane with Barbara Kingsolver as she tried to fit reading short stories into her busy life in “What Good is a Story?”, watched a family sing during a family member’s execution in Margo Lanagan’s “Singing My Sister Down”, and listened as silence takes over a big city in Kevin Brockmeir’s “The Year of Silence”.

I’m falling in love again with short works.

So now I’m off to read more of the stories I’ve been missing. Below is a list of the collections I’ve been reading from. Take care and have a great week.

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Do you read short stories? Who are some of your favorite short story writers? What are some of your favorite collections?

What My Children Are Reading – July 16th

This is a meme started by Jill over at Well-Read Child. For some reason this week has been really laid back. I don’t think any of us over here has read as much as we wanted to except for my youngest Oli. Oli’s asthma has been acting up again, so he’s spent most of the week at home with me. Here are a few books the kids and I have been reading this week.

01

My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life (2009). Written by Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Diane Goode. The girls in my house love this book and I have to admit I do too. The main character, a little girl, swears her mother is trying to ruin her life by doing a number of embarrassing things like giving her a kiss in public and talking too loud. The main character then thinks of a plan to get rid of both of her parents. The ending is such a nice lesson for kids about how great our parents can be.

Gone with the Wand by Margie Palatini (2009). Written by Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Brain Ajhar. After Bernice, a fairy godmother, loses her magical powers, her best friend Edith the tooth fairy comes to the rescue. What ensues is a hilarious journey to help Bernice get her powers back. The first time I read this I laughed so hard, I had to stop reading for a second.

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02

Dog’s ABC: A Silly Story about the Alphabet (2000) by Emma Dodd
Dog’s Colorful Day: A Messy Story about Colors and Counting (2000) by Emma Dodd
Dog’s Noisy Day: A Story to Read Aloud (2002)by Emma Dodd

The Dog series by Emma Dodd is the series right now in our family. All the kids, ages 4-9, have read and re-read these three books. In Dog’s ABC, Dog goes through his neighborhood noticing the different creatures. It’s a great ABC book and my family loved the illustrations by Dodd. Dog’s Colorful Day is a story about colors and counting that’s easy and fun for kids to learn. Dog goes through his neighborhood getting dirty by adding a new color spot with each adventure he has.  Then Dog takes a tour of a farm in Dog’s Noisy Day, listening to all the sounds that different creatures make. My youngest enjoyed making the sounds along with each creature.

03

Frogs (2008) by Nic Bishop. The title is pretty self-explanatory. This book is all about frogs, telling readers how they reproduce, live, and the different species. I just this as a read aloud for the older kids and though most aren’t into reading about animals, they really enjoyed reading the book and looking at the great photos that the author took.

Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months (1996) by Maurice Sendak. Oli has read this book several times a day this week. A little boy loves chicken soup with rice so much that every month he does something different with it. Told in rhyme, readesr will love seeing what happens with every month.

What books are you and your children reading together this week?

Essay Review: What Good Is a Story?

kingsolver

“What Good is a Story?”
from the essay collection, Small Wonder (2002)
written by Barbara Kingsolver

I have always wondered why short stories aren’t popular in modern America. We are such busy folks, you’d think we’d jump at the chance to have our literary wisdom served in doses that fit between taking the trash to the curb and waiting for the carpool. We should favor the short story and adore the poem. But we don’t. Short-story collections rarely sell half as well as novels; they are never blockbusters. They are hardly ever even block-denters. . .

This is the start of “What Good Is a Story?”, an essay by Barbara Kingsolver, detailing the three months she spent in 2000 as a guest editor for The Best American Short Stories series. Kingsolver had to read  125 short stories before she could pick the twenty best ones. In her essay, Kingsolver explains those hectic three months, why she loves short stories, and what reading means to her.

On reading during this hectic time,

. . . all of us have to work reading into our busy lives. The best tales can stand up to the challenge-and if anything can, it should be the genre of short fiction. . . If we lived in silent white rooms with no emergencies. . .we probably wouldn’t need fiction to help us explain the inexplicable, the storms at sea and deaths of too-young friends.

On choosing the stories that she did,

With a pile of stories on my lap I sat with this question, early on, and tried to divine for myself why was it that I loved a piece of fiction when I did, and the answer came to me quite clearly; I love it for what it tells me about life. I love fiction, strangely enough, for how true it is. If it can tell me something I didn’t already know, or maybe suspected but never framed quite that way, or never  before had sock me so divinely in the solar plexus, that was a story worth the read.

I don’t know about you, but that is very true for me. I don’t want to read anything predictable or something that I already know. Many of the books I’ve read lately have uncovered to me lives I don’t usually think about. Reading this essay reminded why I picked up this book the very first time. I enjoy Kingsolver’s writing. It’s accessible and tells me something that I knew but couldn’t put into words myself about reading.

I won’t give you any more quotes but if you’ve enjoyed any of Kingsolver’s other works, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this amazing collection of essays. Or if you haven’t read Kingsolver before but enjoy a mixture of the personal and the political, this book may be for you.

Other books you may enjoy:
A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life by Nancy Peacock

Sunday Salon – Book Coveting Women Writers

Good morning. Right now the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky. With very little homework left to do, I plan on spending my day reading and writing posts. With so many books checked out from the library and so many of my own books piling up on my shelves, this week’s book coveting post focuses on the books I have and those written by women.

Fiction

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The Physick  Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I’ve heard so many great things about this book that I’m hoping to start reading it today. A historical thriller that goes back and forth between the Salem Trails and modern time. Witchcraft, family secrets, and more makes us this thriller.

First Light by Rebecca Stead. First Light is the story of Peter, a boy who join his parents on a trip to Greenland and Thea, a girl whose people live deep inside the article ice.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. I don’t read short story collections as often as I would like to, but I couldn’t ignore the praise that Packer’s debut collection has been receiving.

Nonfiction

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Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr.  I read The Liar’s Club by Karr a few years ago, rushed out and bought Sinners Welcome, but haven’t read more than a few poems. This volume of poetry chronicles Karr’s exploration of her faith.

Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite books. Filled with powerful and engaging essays, Kingsolver’s essays range from topics about September 11th, surviving rape, the power of indie bookstores, why short stories are great, and more. I’m currently re-reading these essays, trying to dissect them and see how Kingsolver puts one word after another to make beautiful sentences that make up powerful essays.

Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete by Alice Walker. Though best known for The Color Purple, it is this volume of poetry that I love the most. I first read this collection when I was  a teenager. Since then I’ve re-read this many times. One of my favorite poems is “Goodnight, Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning”.

Fiction

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Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd. I recently heard of Dowd while reading The Guardian. Dowd passed away in 2007, only three months after finishing Bog Child. She started writing at the age of 47 in 2003. All four of the books that she wrote has received rave reviews. Set in 1981, Fergus is helping his uncle with chores when he finds the body of a murdered child in the bog. It’s a coming-of-age story that’s won the 2009 Carnegie Medal award.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. After a kiss with a man who is not her partner, Irina McGovern, must make a decision to either give in to passion or stay in her safe relationship.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.  Ida Mae Jones is a girl who dreams of flying. When the United States Army forms the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Ida decides to use her light skin to pass as white. Colleen at Chasing Ray called this book, “a historical drama that grabs you at the throat and holds on tight”.

Now the morning is almost over and I’m off to read. Have you read any of these books? What books are you coveting?

Weekly Geeks: Where in the world have you been?

This week’s Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you “visited” in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven’t yet?

worldmap

It took me at least an hour to think of the many countries I’ve visited in books. Of course the United States was one of the easiest countries. To my surprise so was France, Chile, and Spain.  I  realized how little I’ve visited Asia and Africa. All together though I’ve been to 34 countries through my reading. A few of my favorite books from other countries are:

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A Man, a Woman, and a Man by Savyon Liebrecht. Fiction. Israel. I found this book years ago at my local library. When I tried to find it again last year, I was dismayed to find that my library no longer has it. Hamutal and Saul meet at the nursing home that their parents reside. Soon they start an adulterous affair and both fall in love. From what I remember of this book, it was the plot and the beautiful language that kept me reading.

The Killer’s Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux. Fiction, young adult. France. I don’t remember how I found this book but I’m glad I did. Angel Allegria is a killer on the run from the police. When he encounters the Poloverdos’ farmhouse, he kills both parents but spare their son Paolo. This is the start of an unlikely friendship between the two. I love the first sentence, “No one ever arrived here by chance”.

Blindness by Jose Saramago. Fiction. Portugal. I read Blindness years ago and feel in love with Saramago’s writing. Blindness is Saramgo’s exploration in what would happened if people suddenly went blind with no reason behind it. Lyrical but yet haunting, Blindness is a book I still think about.

Any suggestions for Africa?

Currently reading: Three Bags Full

swann

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story (2005)
Leonie Swann
Translated from the German by Anthea Bell
344 pages
Flying Dolphin Press

This is what I’m reading right now and it’s one of the funniest books of 2009 so far. When shepherd George Glenn is murdered, it’s his flock of sheep that comes to the rescue to try and find the killer. Three Bags Full is different from anything I’ve ever read. The sheep are great characters. There’s nineteen sheep in all and every one have a personality very different from the others. With Miss Maple, the smartest sheep, Mopple the Whale who can remember anything you tell him to and is always hungry, and Sir Ritchfield, the lead ram, the flock set off to try and understand humans and their ways while finding out who murdered George.

There are plenty of literary references such as Othello, the black ram with a mysterious past, Melmoth the Wanderer, and more. The reader figures out what happens along with the sheep and the sheep’s observations keeps the reader wanting more. I’ve spent most of my free time this week reading this book. I can’t believe this is Swann’s first and only book out right now.

Maple knew them all; she had seen the younger sheep grow up; she herself had grown up with the older sheep. When she was still a lamb the escapades of Ritchfield and his twin, Melmoth, had kept the flock all agog. It was so long since Ritchfield last mentioned him that Maple had thought he’d forgotten him. Now she felt uneasy. The air was perfect: a cool wind blew off the sea, the meadow was fragrant. All the same, the whole place suddenly smelled of death, new death and old, almost forgotten death. Maple began to graze.

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Good morning! Right now the sun is up, the birds are making a lot of noise, and I’m sitting at my desk drinking coffee. I decided to come up for air from my reading to write this post. I’m currently reading Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. It’s the story of Case Han, the daughter of Korean immigrants. She’s just graduated from Princeton and has no job and no idea what to do with her life. I’m almost a hundred pages into the book and I can tell you that this is the story about race, class, our desires, and reliving the past. This is Min Jin Lee’s debut novel and it’s a polished work of art.

I read three books this week but the sad thing is that I can only remember the last two: Mouseguard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen and Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. I have no idea what the first book was and I didn’t write the title down or add it to my Goodreads account. I’m behind in writing reviews (who isn’t?), so look out this week for a review about Beat the Reaper.

Here are a few article and blog links from last week that I think are great:

  • Ali over at Worducopia is the host of Diversity Roll call. Every two weeks there’s a new topic for her readers to post about. This is the last week for the Gay Pride Month topic. I plan on writing a post about many of my favorite books that have to do with GLBTQ issues.
  • The other day I was teasing Natasha over at Maw Books while we were on Twitter. She had just found out about the blog, Terrible Yellow Eyes. The blog is a collection of pieces by artists dedicated to and inspired by Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are. The pieces are beautiful and very touching.
  • One thing I really hate is when people underestimate the power of libraries. If it wasn’t for libraries, most of us wouldn’t have the access to books and other materials that we have now. I personally would be homeless  because of all the books I would have had to buy instead of checking out from my local library. As a library science student I’m understanding more how much libraries do for our society. Too bad Ohio governor, Ted Strickland refuses to listen. Strickland is proposing a 30% budget cut for Ohio public libraries. He’s already cut 20% from the library’s budget earlier this year. Now is not the time to reduced library funding. We’re in the middle of a recession and libraries across the country are seeing attendance hikes and Strickland doesn’t care. If the budget cuts go through, many of Ohio libraries will have to close. In support of your own public library whether you use it or not, are you a friend of your local  library? Friends of the Library memberships are as low as $25 a year and goes to furnish materials and support programs that our libraries host. For more information, go to your library’s website to see how you can help.
  • Amy over at My Friend Amy is having a book drive to get author Beth Kephart’s newest book, Nothing but Ghosts into the hands of more readers. Amy has not received a free book or even encouragement from Harper Teen, the publisher.  She’s just doing this in support of Kephart, one of her favorite authors. The goal is to get at least 200 books sold by Friday, July 3rd. Amy is also giving away prizes to readers who buy the book. Have you lent your support to the Nothing but Ghosts Book Drive yet?

So that’s it for today. Have a great week and happy reading.

Weekly Geeks 2009-23: Reading Challenges Or Why I’m Quitting Them

Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you’ve failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I’ve picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?

Yes it’s a long title and you’ve read right, I am quitting almost all of the reading challenges I’m signed up for. Before I get to why I’m quitting my reading challenges, let me tell you why I love reading challenges so much.

Some of the reasons why I love reading challenges

If it wasn’t for reading challenges, I wouldn’t have a blog. I think that’s probably true for many of us.  When I started blogging two years ago, it was because I found Wendy’s of Caribou’s Mom, Yahoo Group. Here was a group of readers dedicated to books, reading, and reading challenges. I didn’t know what a reading challenge was before I joined the group.

Reading challenges takes you out of your comfort zone. If you’re a reader of mostly American works and want something different, you can join the challenges Orbis Terrarum or  Lost in Translation and read 10 books in translations. Don’t read young adult books very often? J.Kaye hosts a Young Adult Challenge to get more people reading books from this genre. Think you read more than your fair share of books by and about heterosexuals? Amanda over at Tea Leaf has a great GLBT challenge.

Reading challenges show even the most eccentric reader new genres, books, and authors that they weren’t aware of. If it wasn’t for the many challenges I’ve signed up for in the last two years, I probably wouldn’t be reading fantasy or young adult fiction right now. It was the passion of so many bloggers that helped me to see what I’ve been missing, authors like Neil Gaiman and Markus Zusak and new favorite like Locomotion or the Fables series.

Another great thing that reading challenges do is bring the book blogging community closer together. You sign up for a challenge, make a list, and then visit other bloggers, many of whom you may not have heard of before. I’ve made so many blogging friends this way.

There is a but. . .

As great and addictive as reading challenges are, I rarely ever complete one. Usually I sign up for a challenge, spend hours coming up with a great list of books to read, and then forget about it. Suddenly the last day of the challenge is here and it’s too late for me to read whatever books I was going to read. I’ve tried to be flexible and keep my lists open to whatever I feel like reading so it doesn’t feel like required reading but I still don’t finish. So I end up feeling guilty about one more challenge that’s not completed.

Another thing that bothers me is the volume of posts I put up about the many challenges I’ve signed up for. I’m starting to feel like I’m clogging up my blog and my readers’  (all six of you) feedreaders by posting so many posts.

So instead, here’s a new plan. . .

I’m giving up almost every challenge I’ve signed up for this year. Though there’s nothing like the thrill of a new challenge, I’m going to pass. I want my reading to be free to go in any direction. I could do that with challenges but I’m not going to.

The only challenge that I plan on keeping is Project Fill-in-the-Gaps. I’m staying with this challenge because it’s a five-year plan and I really want to read more classics. One of the books I’m currently reading is The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer. I’m going to have a personal challenge to read the books that Bauer’s listed in The Well-Educated Mind and have no deadline.

So let me thank every blogger who’s hosted ever hosted a reading challenges. You guys have made our community a great place to be a part of.

What’s your take on reading challenges? Do you participate? If not, why?

It’s the Sunday Salon! What are you reading?

sunday salon

I know. I know. My title is wrong. It’s really supposed to say “It’s Monday” but because I have so many things I have to blog about this week,  I thought it was best if I blogged about what I plan on reading this week today. Last week was so hectic that I  only read one book, The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson, for the Nerds Heart YA tournament. You can count on Trish from Hey Lady and I writing our reviews this week. We already made a decision and passed it on to the next judge.

Because I only read one book last week, I really want to make up for it. The plan is to read between five and seven books this week.

This week I plan on reading

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Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. I read the funniest review of this book at Book Gazing and had to put this on hold at the library. Company of Liars is a novel set in during the Plague. The description kind of reminds me of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Thanks again to Kailana at The Written World for putting this on my radar. This week Heather at High and Hidden Place and I are reading this together. Then there will be a three-way chat with Kailana about it.

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen. I checked this out from the library months ago and really want to cross this off my list.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Nymeth, Kailana, Carrie, and many other bloggers have all stated that I’m missing out since I haven’t read this yet. The trailer for the movie pushed this up my TBR pile to the very top.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. This is leftover from the Once Upon a Time challenge.

I know that’s only five books but I’m a moody reader so I’m going to leave the rest of my choices open. So that’s what I’m reading this week. Have a great week.

What are you reading? Do you usually plan your reading ahead of time or let your mood dictate what books you read?

Library Loot June 12th Edition

I am two weeks behind in posting reviews and memes. Being a part of the Summer Reading Blitz has really helped me to read as many books as I want but doesn’t really help when it comes to writing reviews for those books. One of the great things about the challenge though is that I’ve been making the time to find and read some great books.

1

Who can I blame for these three books besides other bookworms? Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermesiter is a book  I saw on more than a dozen blogs earlier this  year. It wasn’t until I read Bauermeister earlier book, 500 Great Books by Women, that I made the decision to read it. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell is another book that I’ve read some great things about online. Guys Lit Wire called this book a “straight-ahead acceleration driven by betrayal, revenge, and violence”. I might drop everything else to read this now. Or maybe not. 2666 by Roberto Bolano is in huge demand at my library so I only have three weeks to read and finish it for Claire and Steph’s five-month read-a-long. Something tells me I’ll probably end up buying this book.

2

The Nerds Heart YA tournament has made fall in love even more with YA. So I checked out a boatload of books from the library to read. I learned about Sweethearts by Sara Zarr from Readergirlz when they dedicated their June issue to it. I can’t even tell you what Little Audrey by Ruth White is about. The cover jacket only tells the reader that it’s based on the author’s life and a “great trauma” happens to the White family. Love, war, and compassion are some of the themes that make up the Printz award-winning novel, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.

3

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I checked this book out weeks ago and returned it back to the library unread. After Kailana read it, she told me to check it back out, so now it’s on my shelves again. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one of the most banned books in the United States. Written in letter format to an unnamed person, the main character Charlie is one that many readers love. I picked up Skin Deep by E.M. Crane for the  beautiful cover without any idea what it’s about.

4

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides was recommended by both Bibliobrat and Beth, so that was all I needed to check it out. Am I the only one who haven’t watched the movie? Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden is another banned book. I read this when I was younger and loved it. Summer is a perfect time for rereading. Ann Hood’s memoir, Comfort, about the death of her young daughter is devastating but beautiful. It’s a book that leaves you in tears and with the prayer that you never go through the same thing. The Knitting Circle is the fictional account of what happened afterwards and about the healing power of knitting and the waves of grief.

6

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey was shortlisted this year for the Orange Prize. Jill at The Magic Lasso is once again hosting the Orange July challenge. The Wilderness is the tale of Jacob as he struggles to remember his past through the fog of Alzheimer’s that he has. I’ve read that The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen is probably the book of the year. A twelve-year-old genius hitchhikes from Divide, Montana to Washington, D.C. to accept an award from the Smithsonian. Family, fame, and loss are some of the themes that make this book special.

This is only a third of the great books I checked out from the library this week. Have you visited your local library lately? What have you checked out?