Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

Time: // 9:26 a.m., four hours after the readathon ended.

I didn’t stay up reading the whole time. I’m too pregnant to do that! I stayed up until hour 18, woke up around hour 22, read a bit more, then went back to bed. No readathon hangover for me thanks. As someone who has been going through a reading rut for such a long time, it felt good to get through book after book. I feel like maybe I’m getting my reading groove back.

Eating: // homemade waffles that Oliver, my 11 year-old made.

Drinking: // water

This week’s tbr (to-be read) list includes:

  • Citizen by Claudia Rankine for an upcoming Socratic Salon chat.
    Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 edited by Mary Roach
    Where We Were Kings by Christie Watson

Today: // I wish I could take it easy, but I can’t! I need to clean up around the house and do some homeschooling prep work for the week among other things. I am looking forward to dinner, which will be carne asada nachos. They’re my sister’s idea and I can’t wait to try them.

It’s time for me: // to start my day.

What have you been up to this past week? How are you spending your Sunday?

Rah Rah #Readathon

Rah Rah #Readathon

dewey1-1024x1024It’s here! Dewey’s Annual 24 Hour Readathon!

If you don’t know, Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon* has been going on for eight years now. A dear friend, Dewey, was the original host of the event before passing away. She was a sweet, generous, thoughtful, caring friend and blogger. There are so many people, (including myself,) that write about books because of her. There are authors (Neil Gaiman) and genres (fantasy/science fiction/graphic novels) that would probably still be at the bottom of my tbr list if it weren’t for Dewey.

While it’s not the same without Dewey here, (and it will never be,) I am so glad that Heather  and Andi  take on the gigantic task TWICE a year of hosting this event. You guys, along with your co-hosts, rock!

*For some people, this event means reading as much as they can for 24 hours straight. For others like myself, it means carving out 24 hours to enjoy doing something I love and engaging with fellow bookworms. How you choose to do the event is up to you, just remember to enjoy yourself and make new friends.

Here’s my game plan for the big day:

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Poetry
Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson
No Matter The Wreckage: Poems by Sarah Kay
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger

Graphic Novels
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
The Wicked + the Divine Vol.1 (re-read)
Lumberjanes Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson (re-read)
Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson
Plus a crapload of books on Scribd

Middle Grade
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. I’m listening to this on audio and reading it in print.

 

Opening Meme
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Southern California
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? All of them!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? This might sound crazy, but I’m looking forward to eating a Sloppy Joe.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’ve been blogging for eight years now, since the first read-a-thon. I’m currently seven months pregnant with my fourth child, a little girl. We’re homeschoolers which means I’m surrounded by projects, cookbooks, and tons of paperwork!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’ll actually participate. I have no idea what happened during the last ‘thon, but I barely read or cheerlead. Today, I’m doing both.
Happy reading!

1st Update

It’s the 4th hour of the readathon. So far:

  • I’ve finished one book, Ms. Marvel Vol. 2. I’m going to push this on my daughter. It’s so good.
  • I’ve had a small breakfast of sausages and eggs with coffee.
  • I’ve left comments on 23 blogs and several pictures on Instagram. I’ve also cheered a little on Twitter.

Next up: I have no idea. I do know that I owe my youngest a round of Uno and he wants me to build something with him using Legos. We’ll see what happens.

Hour 9 Update

Here’s what I’m currently reading on Scribd:

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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 edited by Mary Roach. I heard this was a fantastic collection of essays.

Currently eating: a firecracker popsicle. It’s probably better than putting my face in a plate of fudge brownies. Nom nom.

 

Hour 17 Update

I’m still reading! Can you believe it?! I got off of social media and started reading several hours ago. I just finished The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, my third book. I really enjoyed it. Next up? I have no idea. We’ll see.

How are you guys doing?

End of Event Meme:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? None. I just took everything in stride.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Graphic novels like Lumberjanes and The Wicked + The Divine are always great picks.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Not at all! I had a blast.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything. I have no complaints.
5. How many books did you read? I actually finished three books: The Wicked + The Divine (a re-read), The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, and Ms. Marvel Vol. 2. I started The Best American Science and Nature Writing edited by Mary Roach.
6. What were the names of the books you read? See above.
7. Which book did you enjoy most? I enjoyed them all.
8. Which did you enjoy least? The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple. I started reading it and decided to DNF it. I wasn’t in the mood for it.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn’t an official cheerleader, but I cheered about thirty blogs on and left comments on Instagram and Twitter. I don’t have any advice. Just have fun. Surprisingly, cheerleading can become pretty addictive.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I’ve been participating in Dewey’s Readathon since the beginning, so I’m not going anywhere. As usual, I’ll probably be a reader and cheerleader once again.

Sunday Salon: Happy Easter!

Sunday Salon: Happy Easter!

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Time: // 9:00 a.m.

The scene: // It’s a cold Easter morning as I sit at my desk, regretting the fact that I didn’t start cooking Easter dinner yesterday. I’m a big believer in cooking the day before, so I can just eat on a holiday. Now I have hours to go before the ham and everything else is done, which means I have to buy takeout.

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Reading: // After talking to Memory, Chris, and Sarah, I finally started a free trial with the reading app, Scribd. The app has a crapload of comics that my library doesn’t have and I didn’t necessarily want to pay for since I’ve never read them. Since the start of my trial a few days ago, I have been reading up a storm! I read the first seven issues of The Lumberjanes series and Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, a graphic novel. The app doesn’t feature the newest books, but I can use it to hit my reading goal of reading more diversely, trying out new comic series, and reading older books from my tbr list/pile. If you want to get a free two-month trial from Scribd, here’s the link: https://www.scribd.com/g/7271v

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Celebrating: // The fact that it’s Spring Break. For the next seven days I can do pretty much what I want to do, which means I am reading from the stack of books above and taking the kids to various places like the beach and local museums. I’m also going to relax and enjoy the start of my third trimester.

Now I’m off to: // relax and do some reading.

What are you up to today?

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

22318578The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Marie Kondo
Translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano
213 pages
Published in 2014 by Ten Speed Press
Source: I bought it

English artist William Morris once famously said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Marie Kondo’s book on decluttering has rewritten that quote stating that everything in your house should bring you joy and be useful. Emphasis on joy.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, author Marie Kondo, swears that if you follow her method on decluttering and tidying, you will never have to declutter your house again. Based on that claim alone, you can see why so many people have added this book to their to-be read lists. It’s why I decided to buy this book instead of waiting for my hold (number 151!) to come through at the library.

After years of helping clients declutter and clean their home, Kondo has developed a method, called The KonMari Method, which she gives in detail to readers. According to the author, there’s an order to decluttering: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and things of sentimental value. The whole time you declutter, she wants you to ask yourself if the item makes you happy. I agree. Pretty much every item of clothing I own makes me feel good when I wear it. If it doesn’t, it goes. Life is too short to wear clothes I feel self-conscious in.

I had a few problems with this book. First, it could be pretty repetitive. The author tells readers over and over again how not one client has rebounded yet after accepting her help. That’s great but I don’t need to read that fact in so many sections.

Another problem I encountered is when I started reading the section on organizing books. As a homeschooler and a bookworm, I own at least 1,000 books. After years of paring down my collection, I know that almost every book in my home is needed. Those that aren’t, like a few ARCS, are ones that I’m trying to read before the baby’s arrival in July.

First, the author believes that books are mainly for conveying information. What?! Don’t tell a bookworm that!! Books are just more than that. They teach, give comfort, and can offer meaning to the situations we go through in life. They’re not just paper and ink. Do I believe that a person can have too many books? Yes, I do. But I also believe that it’s not a bad thing to own a few unread books. If you haven’t touched certain shelves in years, (I’m looking at my little sisters), you should look long and hard at what you own. Suggesting that books and bookcases can go in the closet reminds me of the time my ex-boyfriend said the same thing. He’s an ex for a reason.

While Kondo will likely offer new advice to some readers, she mostly reminded me of what I already knew. Here’ the gist of it:

• Surround yourself with things that give you joy.
• Declutter your home in one go, (if you can), then tidy up. That way you don’t get distracted and later discouraged.
• Everything should have a place.

While I didn’t love the book, I would still recommend it. My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Want your own copy? Leave a comment stating that you want this book and I’ll send you my copy. U.S. readers only.

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 4:16 p.m. – Saturday afternoon

The scene: // Since California has decided to skip winter AND spring, it’s a hot summer day. The kids are outside enjoying themselves while I’m sitting at my desk and feeling a little bleh. Emotionally, I don’t feel all that great. I don’t know what’s going on.

Eating: // Nothing. I just finished my crockpot dinner of stewed steak with rice.

Drinking: // Water.

Reading: // Can you believed that I’ve read three books this past week and I’m now on my fourth?! That’s crazy. I haven’t read this much in probably a year. I finished The Life-Changing of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. My review will go up tomorrow. Also finished are The Sculptor by Scott McCloud and Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Effiel Tower by Greg Pizzoli.

I’m currently reading Blue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver. National Poetry Month is in a few days and I’m looking forward to diving into a few poetry collections. Also on my reading list for this week is The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple, a graphic novel, and Ironweed by William Kennedy. I was cleaning out my bookshelves when I came across Ironweed. I started reading it and the opening pages reeled me in.

Bloggiesta: // was a success. I didn’t participate in any of the chats or mini-challenges, but I was able to cross off pretty much everything on my to-do list.

Next up: // I think I’ll enjoy a brownie and a nice nap.

What are you up to?

Bloggiesta!

Bloggiesta!

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Bloggiesta’s finally here! If you don’t know, Bloggiesta is a yearly blogging event where bloggers come up with a to-do list for improving their sites while having fun with mini-challenges and Twitter or Google chats. For the first time ever, the event lasts for an entire week, perfect for bloggers like me who need all the time they can get.

Here’s my to-do list:
Back-up blog. Done.
• Comment on 20-25 blogs this week including a few new-to-me ones. So far, I’ve left comments on at least 10 blogs.
Change blog’s theme. Done. That was easy.
Read two books. You can’t review a book if you haven’t read it. I’m halfway done! I just finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
• Write two non-Sunday Salon posts.
• Come up with a list of possible topics.

It’s a small but do-able list. Now I’m off to get to work.

Are you participating in Bloggiesta?

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 7:36 a.m.

The scene: // Sitting in my living room with my son as he watches Steven Universe. I was trying to get some alone time to just read, but that’s okay. I love spending time with my soon-to-be second youngest.

Drinking: // coffee. It’s so good today.

Eating: // I’m thinking about making some donuts this morning even though I just made some on Friday. They are so good and I cut down on the prep time by letting the donuts rise for an hour instead of two hours.

Reading: // I’m still reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I’ve had a few disagreements when it comes to the author’s de-cluttering philosophy and I can see myself writing a post about this book later on this week.

Looking forward to: // Bloggiesta. I still don’t have a list yet, but I know reading, writing, blog commenting, and giving my blog a new look is part of my plan. There’s some of my list!

What are you up to today? Are you joining Bloggiesta?

It’s spring. What I’m looking forward to reading. . .

It’s spring. What I’m looking forward to reading. . .

I’m a winter person, but for some reason I am happy that spring is here. The new season is bringing a sense of renewal and the belief that better things are on the horizon. At least, it certainly feels that way.
Earlier this week, so many of my favorite bloggers posted a list of their spring TBR and it reminded me to make my own. Since spring ends in late June, I have plenty of time (fingers crossed) to read my list.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

18964642The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen. You guys, my girls are driving me nuts right now! I don’t know what’s going on. My sisters are 15 and my daughter is 13 and this sounds like a book that I need to read soon.

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I can’t help but read this book every spring.

22522686Fables vol. 21: Happily Ever After by Bill Willingham

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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

18693655A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley. I’m already reading this one.

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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Winner of this year’s Newbery Medal.

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Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life by Joan Chittister. Someone blogged about this book lately and I had to put it on hold.

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. A middle school graphic novel about roller derby?! Hell yes.

20613619Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry. This book has been on my tbr list for months, but is also out of print. Luckily, the book’s publisher, Drawn & Quarterly, says Syllabus will be back in stores at the end of the month.

 

So that’s my list. What are you reading this spring?

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:35 a.m.

The scene: // sitting at my kitchen table while being surrounded by books.

Drinking: // water and my first cup of coffee. I know that’s a little odd, but I wake up sometimes thirsty.

Eating: // nothing yet but I have a slice of carrot cake that I plan on finishing off.

It’s amazing to me how easy it can be sometimes to stop blogging. A lot has gone on since my last post. After recovering from the flu, I broke my tooth and spent almost a WEEK in excruciating pain before finally having it removed. Now that that’s over, life is pretty much back to normal. Thankfully.

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Reading: // I’m actually reading books! For the past couple of months, there hasn’t been a lot of books I’ve completed. More often, I started a book and then stopped for no apparent reason. It’s becoming a habit that I’m trying to get out of. I’m currently reading A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science Even if You Flunked Algebra by Barbara Oakley. According to the reviews on Goodreads, the title is pretty misleading. It’s not a book about excelling at math and science, but learning how to learn any subject. It’s filled with tips based on cognitive psychology and neuroscience. There’s even a course on Coursera that people can take as they read the book. Being the lifelong student, I decided to take the course and see if I can get the full effect of the book.

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I’m also reading Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin. I have three and a half months until my due date, but there’s no time like the present. It’s been years since I’ve last listened to an audiobook, but I’m actually listening to one now! The True Meaning of Smekday by Alex Rex has been on my TBR (to be read) list for years. Now that the movie adaptation, Home, is out in theaters, I decided to give the book a try. So far, I’m really enjoying the story of Gratuity Tuchi, a young girl who’s traveling to Florida after all Americans have been relocated there by an alien race. On the way there, she meets a rogue alien by the name of J. Lo and they start a strange friendship. Did I mention this is a middle school book? The wonderful Bahni Turpin is the narrator and as usual, she’s doing a fantastic job. My daughter and I are listening to it together which always feel good to do.

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Today I plan to: // catch up on my blog reading, reorganize my bookshelves, read, and plant some flowers. We’re having summer weather in SoCal this week with temperatures in the 90s today. Strangely enough, it was just raining a few days ago.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 8:18 a.m.

The scene: // sitting at my kitchen table listening to my tea kettle. The boys are watching TV and my daughter is off to a sleepover. It’s a cold winter morning and for once, I’m wishing that summer was here.

February: // has been one hell of a month. The kids and I spent most of this month in bed with the flu. I haven’t had the flu in years and every time I get it, I end up losing a massive amount of weight. I like being a curvy girl and the fact that I’m pregnant means that I now need to gain the lost weight and then some. Gaining weight has always been an uphill battle, but I’m determined to have as much of a healthy pregnancy as I can.

Having the flu also means not being able to blog, homeschool, or read most of the time. Now I feel like I need to catch up on everything and everyone. Luckily, the thought of catching up on so much isn’t overwhelming.

Thankful for: // the fact that all of us are feeling much better.

Reading: // not one thing. Any suggestions?

Missing: // each and every one of you. What have you been up to? How’s February turning out for you? What are you looking forward to doing?

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:54 a.m.

The scene: // Cuddling with my family on the couch while watching HGTV’s Flea Market Flip. The older kids are in the kitchen washing dishes and making pancakes. Love.

This week: // has gone by in a flash! When I look back on it, the kids and I got a lot accomplished school-wise, but that’s about it. I guess I should be grateful for that.

Currently reading: // not much. My reading has drastically slowed down, but it’s my fault. I found myself doing things like being on Facebook and Instagram instead of reading. I plan on changing that this week and focusing on things I love and make me grow.

I started reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles for Joy’s New Year’s Resolutions Read-along. The author talks about feeling resistance whenever you have something positive you need to do but will take time. I’m feeling that when it comes to de-cluttering, reading, and even taking walks. I’m going to continue reading to see what the author suggests when it comes to pushing through resistance. If you want to join the read-along, there’s still time. The War of Art is a short book.

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On my nightstand: // Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer. The graphic novel has been on many “best of 2014” lists last year. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin. Beyond Magenta tells the lives of transgendered teens in their own words. My daughter and Elisabeth read it and loved it, so it’s my turn to read it. Daphne’s Book by Mary Downing Hahn is a middle grade book I read in middle school and fell in love with. As an adult, I searched for an original copy of it and was lucky enough to find one. It’s the story of two girls, Daphne and Jessica, who have to come together for a school project. While Jessica’s life is pretty average, Daphne’s is anything but and she hides a serious secret. Readers who enjoyed Cynthia Voight’s The Tillerman Cycle will appreciate Daphne’s Book.

Promoting: // My Chunkster Challenge giveaway for Children of the Stone by Sandy Tolan. The giveaway is only open to Chunkster participants.

Now I’m off to: // eat pancakes then play Uno with the kids.

What are you up to today?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Time: // 8:08 a.m.

The scene: // It’s MLK Day, so the kids and I have the day off. That means I get to clean up the house, correct school work, celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday, and maybe buy some baby clothes for a little girl.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it, I’ve been on a reading roll lately thanks to my oldest. She started reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, which I’m now reading with her. I just started a few days ago and I’m now on the last book in the series.

Last week I read:

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit
Days of Blood & Sunlight by Laini Taylor
Sketch!: The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life by France Belleville-Van Stone
Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo

This week I’m reading:

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Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Art is Fundamental: Teaching the Elements and Principles of Art in Elementary School by Eileen Prince
Minnie & Moo: Hooves of Fire by Denys Cazet (read-along with my youngest, If you have kids in the lower elementary grades, Minnie and Moo is a hilarious series to check out.)
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (continuing)
Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too by Mona Brookes (Belle told me about this book last week and I had to grab a copy. I’ve always been interested in learning to draw and Belle swears it’ll teach me.)

What are you reading this week?

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 6:46 a.m.

The scene: // I woke up early this morning to get some me time in. The living room was nice and cozy as the coffee pot perked in the background. Not even five minutes after I came into the living room, all three kids came and joined me. Maybe I’ll go to Starbucks later for that me time.

Thoughts: // I didn’t read much this past week. When I look back on it, it seems like I didn’t have much time or energy. But I don’t think that’s true (at least about the time part). The kids and I had the week off from homeschooling and besides a few errands and appointments, there wasn’t much for us to do. Once again, it’s time for me to take stock of how I’m spending my free time and get back on track doing the things I enjoy and need to accomplish.

Promoting: // Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness recently wrote a post about Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. She’s not the first blogger to mention the book, but after reading her thoughts I think I need to read the book for myself.

Andi’s post at Estella’s Revenge, “The Slippery Slope of Diversity Tracking,” has a lot of readers thinking about what diversity means to them and how it’s tracked. Join in on the conversation.

Need some support when it comes to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions? Look no further than Joy’s New Year’s Resolutions Challenge. You can sign up any way you want either formally or in the comments. There’s also a read-along and giveaway of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

Now I’m off to get started with the rest of my day. What are you up to today?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey.

It’s a new year and I am determined to read more! Well every year I’m determined to read more, but this year is different. 2015 started off with me reading children’s books, but after reading Ms. Marvel last night, I feel energized.

This week I’m hoping to read:

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA). My daughter read this book a few weeks ago and cried her butt off. She’s been waiting for me to read it ever since.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp (YA). I’m on the fence with this one. We’ll see if I end up reading it.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. I bought this book two years ago and never finished reading it! It’s over 700 pages, so I don’t plan on finishing this week but I will get it done.

Children’s books

I’m determined to read more often to the kids. I don’t know what happened, but the kids and I don’t read together as often anymore. I’m hoping to change that with a few picture and chapter books.

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  • Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
  • Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo
  • Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
  • And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst

What are you reading this week?

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salonHappy New Year!!

Time: // 7:26 a.m.

The scene: // It’s a cold SoCal morning, so I’m bundled underneath covers on my couch. The boys are making pancakes and it’s a pretty quiet morning for the most part. Wait. I need to make another pot of coffee.

2015: // will definitely be the year of change for me. With the addition of a new baby in July (I’m expecting!), life is going to move at a faster pace. I’ve been wanting to move for years, but this year it has to happen. Living in SoCal, it’s hard to find affordable and roomy places in a decent neighborhood on a limited budget. You can easily find expensive places in shitty neighborhoods but who wants that? It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m determined to move before the baby comes.

Bookish Goals: // Last year I read 192 books, my lowest in years. Most of those books were picture books. This year I want to read 200 books, with half being adult books. 200 is a low number, but I’m being realistic. Once the baby comes in early July, I expect my reading to go out of the window.

Diversity: // I just knew I was going to read a ton of diverse books last year. I read a dismal 28 books by people of color. My favorite books of the year like An Untamed State, Brown Girl Dreaming, and Mr. Loverman were by and about people of color but that’s not enough. For 2015, I want to read 100 books by people of color, 50% of my reading. Compared to last year, this will be a challenge, but I think I can do it.

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TBR (To be read): // Meet my dreaded tbr bookcase. It’s not the only bookcase I have with unread books, but it has the most. My shelves are collecting dust so my last bookish goal of this year is to read 40 of my own books. That’s 3.3 books a month.

Now I’m off. What are your goals, reading and otherwise, for 2015?

Favorite Children’s Books of 2014

Favorite Children’s Books of 2014

With the 2015 just days away and my reading going so slowly, I figured it’s time to throw in the towel and post my list of this year’s favorite reads. I divided my long list into three posts: children’s fiction and nonfiction, young adult and middle school reads, and adult fiction and nonfiction.
Though I didn’t read as much as I usually do, I was really surprised as to how many fantastic books I read. The books on my lists are ones that I really enjoyed, would re-read, and would buy.

Since I rarely review children’s books, all links lead you to Goodreads for more information about each book.

Children’s Fiction

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The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo
Gravity by Jason Chen
Blizzard by John Rocco
Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

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Miss Brooks’ Story Nook by Barbara Bottner
The Monsterator by Keith Graves
Going Places by Peter H. Reynolds
Ben Rides On by Matt Davies

BestCollage 8
Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Camp Rex by Molly Idle

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The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
The Reader by Amy Hest
Off to Market by Elizabeth Dale
Mousterpiece by Jane Breskin Zalbin

Children’s Nonfiction

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The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant
Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris
Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock

BestCollage 11
Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock
Art From her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead

BestCollage 12
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Lady Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

What were some of your favorite children’s books this year?

Favorite Adult Reads of 2014

Favorite Adult Reads of 2014

With the 2015 just days away and my reading going so slowly, I figured it’s time to throw in the towel and post my list of this year’s favorite reads. I divided my long list into three posts: children’s fiction and nonfiction, young adult and middle school reads, and adult fiction and nonfiction.

Though I didn’t read as much as I usually do, I was really surprised as to how many fantastic books I read. The books on my lists are ones that I really enjoyed, would re-read, and would buy.

To find out more about each title, click the link which will take you to Goodreads or my review (if I wrote one).

BestCollageFables Vol. 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham
The Bees by Laline Paull
My Real Children by Jo Walton (review)
Rat Queens Vol. 1 by Kurtis Wiebe
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman (review)

BestCollage 2
Ruby by Cynthia Bond (review)
Chew Vol. 7 Bad Apples by John Layman
Chew Vol. 8 Family Recipes by John Layman
Saga Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughn
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

BestCollage 3An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay (review)
Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo (review)
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (review)
The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarksy (review)

Nonfiction

BestCollage 4
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (review)
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Baking With the Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro

BestCollage 5
L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi (review)
52 Drawing Lab For Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim
God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant (Review. This is usually deemed a children’s book, but adults will enjoy it more.)

What were your favorite adult reads of 2014?

Thoughts: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Thoughts: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

18659623Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll
208 pages
Published in 2014 by McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Source: Public Library

You guys have probably noticed that I haven’t posted a review in months. That’s because I haven’t read much in months. The things I have read, either weren’t worth posting about or I didn’t have anything to say. That’s changed with Emily Carroll’s Through The Woods.

Through the Woods is a collection of six eerie graphic short stories, perfect for a cold, dark, winter night. The first story, “Our Neighbor’s House” is about three sisters who are left alone after their father disappears during a hunting trip. The sisters are supposed to go to their neighbor’s house, but instead are visited by a mysterious man two nights in a row. The story’s ending left me feeling disturbed and with a case of the chills. Perfect.

“His Face All Red” is a creepy story about a man who purposely kills his brother as they chase down a monster. That isn’t a spoiler, readers learn about the killing within the first few lines. What is creepy is how the dead brother comes home a few days after his death as though nothing happened.

The stories could almost be mistaken as fairy tales but without the happy endings. There are castles and arraigned marriages, women in ball gowns and flapper hairstyles, while young girls in red cloaks walk by themselves through dark woods.

Carroll’s illustrations give the stories the right touch with just the right amount of colors.

Through the Woods is being advertised as young adult, but I recommend it to adult readers who love scary stories. It’s a book that you want on your shelf, so my rating is 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salonIt’s official. Christmas break is here and the kids and I have wrapped up our last week of homeschooling. That gives me plenty of time to start blogging again after my month-long break.

I can’t blame my break on just homeschooling. I went through the worst reading rut ever. Even though I was checking out books from the library, I couldn’t get myself to finish them. Months went by without me reading books.

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Then something happened. I wanted to try reading a book and picked up Helene Wrecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. Though the chunkster clocks in at almost 500 pages, I consumed the book in a day. The tome about a golem with no master who tries to fit in with the world around her and a thousands-year old jinni who was recently released from his flask, ended up being the perfect book to kick start my reading mojo.

18293427The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was next. I could see why so many bloggers fell in love with this story about a widowed bookseller, young daughter, and their small community. There were passages about books and reading that I wanted to highlight and who couldn’t help but fall in love with Maya? While I didn’t love the book, I did enjoy it.

A few months ago, SoHo Press sent me a huge stack of books from various genres including The 21416678Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison. I don’t read thrillers or crime fiction at all, but when you’re in a reading rut, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. A devoted wife and mother goes missing from a Mormon community in a small town in Utah. Most people in the community thinks the mother just walked away, but Linda Wallheim, wife to the community’s bishop thinks otherwise. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about the intricacies of a Mormon community. The details were enlightening and I found them to be universal in some ways. The story had its twists and turns with a satisfying ending.

My reading mojo isn’t totally back but it’s nice to be able to dive into a book. I plan on spending my holiday break trying to read, thinking about my goals for next year, and catching up on blog posts. I’ve missed you all and I know everyone have posted a “favorites” list or two lately.

What are you up to today?

Thanksgiving Menu 2014

Thanksgiving Menu 2014

Courtesy of PicMonkey
Courtesy of PicMonkey

This morning, I woke up thinking about my Thanksgiving menu. After scouring the internet and looking at Amanda’s post for inspiration, I have a rough idea on what I’m going to serve.

Thanksgiving Menu 2014

Main Dish
Ham with Cloves and Pineapples and Cornbread Dressing

Veggies
Asparagus
String Beans

Side Dishes
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy (for those that don’t eat mac and cheese)
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon (for those that don’t eat mashed potatoes)
Yams
Cranberry Sauce

Bread
Dinner Rolls

Desserts
Cinnamon Sour Cream Pound Cake
Pumpkin Pie (Care will be proud of me. I’ve never had pie before. It’s the texture guys.)

Drinks

I have no idea

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

November’s Happiness Project: Food and Gratitude

November’s Happiness Project: Food and Gratitude

Time: // 7:09 a.m. Monday morning

The scene: // my little sisters are getting ready for school, Spongebob Squarepants is playing in the background, and of course, I’m drinking my second cup of coffee. It’s so nice and chilly outside, a little more than 50 degrees.

Spending October de-cluttering and time management was helpful. I culled and rearranged, repeating the cycle as often as I needed to. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re much better.

One of the things I’m focusing on this month is eating better. After years of being a meat-and-potatoes kind of girl, it’s time for me to have a more rounded, more diverse diet. Thanks to my boyfriend, who loves cuisine from all over the world, I’ve been getting out of my eating comfort zone. I want to step out of that zone even more, so I’ve checked out a number of cookbooks to find inspiration and new meals to make.

hp1

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi. I reviewed this cookbook earlier this year and figured it was time to try some of the recipes out.

Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck

The World’s Best Spicy Food: Where to find it and How to Make It by Lonely Planet

Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-To-Make Salads You Don’t Have to be Vegan to Love by Terry Hope Romero

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The Adobo Road Cookbook: A Filipino Food Journey – From Food Blog, to Food Truck, and Beyond by Marvin Gapultos

The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen

Joy the Baker by Joy Wilson

Momfuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi (Because everyone needs sweets once in a while.)

Not pictured: Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes For People who Totally Love Food by Jessica Merchant

It may seem like a lot of cookbooks, but it’s really not. I’ve already started browsing through most of them for meal ideas and there are so many recipes that I can’t wait to try. You can expect me to post my results throughout November.

Be Grateful

There are so many things going on in my life that it’s easy to panic and get stressed out. Instead, I want to enjoy and acknowledge the good around me. Every night, I’m writing down a list of things I’m grateful for while privately participating in #100HappyDays. I may not take a picture every day, but it’s brought a smile to my face several times.

What do you have planned for November?

Nonfiction November: My list of potentials

Nonfiction November: My list of potentials

nonfiction_november_2014

It’s back! Lu (Regular Rumination) and Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), along with two new co-hosts are bringing back one of my favorite blogging events, Nonfiction November! I’ve been getting ready for this event for the past month. While a slim majority of the books in my stack are written by men, I tried to make my reads almost even when it came to including minorities either as the subject or author.

My stack of potential reads:

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Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist
Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson

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The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huag
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
Multiplication is For White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit
Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb

nn3
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
It’ll probably take me until December to read it all.

What are you planning on reading for Nonfiction November?

Sunday Salon: Week 3 of My Happiness Project

Sunday Salon: Week 3 of My Happiness Project

sunday salonTime: // 12:46 p.m. – Saturday afternoon

The scene: // The sun is out and shining. If you didn’t already know it, you wouldn’t think it was fall. It feels more like summer, but for once, I don’t mind. My mood matches the weather. Tomorrow morning, as this post appears on my blog, I should be at a local park that has plenty of acres to explore or at the beach with the kids.

As with any goal, there has been some hits and misses with my ongoing happiness project as I de-clutter and try to manage my time better. Here’s what I learned in the past two weeks:

It doesn’t matter where you keep your to-do list as long as you check it throughout the day! I’m a post-it/back of a bill/index card-writing kind of girl. Before, I would put my to-do lists on any piece of paper near me. I would also use that same piece of paper for a bookmark and wonder why I couldn’t find it later. So I decided to write my to-do lists in my journal, thinking that if I kept it in the same place, I would be able to find it. I was able to find my list but I never checked it! Talk about frustrating. For days I forgot to check my list, if I even remembered to write my list down! I didn’t use my journal very often to start with, so it wasn’t the best place for my list.

Now I use my phone to keep up with my to-do list and add an alarm so I get beeped during the day to check on my progress. That helps a lot. While we’re talking about alarms…

A kitchen timer is one of the best things you can use to help you achieve your goals. Whether I’m putting on the timer for 15 minutes as I straighten up a room or for an hour as I work on homework or my blog, hearing the ticking of the timer keeps me focused. That’s something my phone’s alarm can’t do.

Cull. Rearrange. Repeat. In the past three weeks, I have given away books, bed sheets, clothes, and anything else I thought I can live without. My space still felt small, so I started rearranging things. What a relief. My living room and bedroom function a lot better and I don’t have to look at piles of things. What couldn’t fit is gone.

De-cluttering and time management will always be an ongoing process. I didn’t realize that at first. I figured that once you understand how to manage your day or keep your living space livable, you don’t have to worry about it again. Wrong. It’s a daily process.

Be patient with yourself. Over the past few weeks, I had to deal with stubborn and smelly carpet stains, migraines, car troubles, and other unexpected things. It doesn’t matter how packed your day is, things come up. And they usually happen when you least expect them to. I’ve gotten pretty frustrated before I realized that I need to take a deep breath and realize that’s life. It doesn’t matter how early I wake up or how late I stay awake, I’m not about to run myself ragged to do the unexpected along with everything else. Asking for help or waiting until another day to do some things helps keep me sane.
I plan on spending the next week focusing on my de-cluttering and time management routine. While I’m doing that, I’m also figuring out what November’s goals will be. With NaNoWriMo and so many other writing projects going on during that time, writing may be the thing I focus on.

So tell me, what have you been up to? Have you figured out what you are going to accomplish in November?

Sunday Salon: Week 1 of My Happiness Project

Sunday Salon: Week 1 of My Happiness Project

At the beginning of October, I decided to spend the month de-cluttering and focusing on managing my time better. I’m pretty tired of my days going by in a blur with little to show for it, but an ever-growing to-do list. So last week I decided to go through my days and write down my observations about my daily life before I put a plan into gear.

Time Management

There’s too much to do and I’m only one person! There’s a million things that I need to do every day. From homeschooling to cleaning the house, making dinner to taking care of my kids, there’s always something that needs my attention.

I try to multitask. That’s a fail right there. Multitasking is something that you feel the need to do even if you can’t always do it well. I find myself trying to look up something online for one kid while helping another one with their work, and doing a third thing. I know I’m not giving any one thing my undivided attention and often it shows.

Multitasking leads me to being distracted. My attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter. It doesn’t help that I’m constantly running around with things to do and not enough time to do them. There’s 24 hours in a day and my son, Avram, often asks me if I wish there was more time.

Organization

I don’t have enough space. I live in a small two bedroom apartment, crammed with kids and books. I try to take advantage of every inch I have, but I’ve realized that I can scale down and cull our things, buy furniture to help make this space home, or just move. I’m at the point where every time I look around my place, I don’t feel peace. I see more tasks that I need to do.

I have too many things. I really don’t, but as I said above, I don’t have enough space. It makes what we own seem like too much though it’s not.

Our things are everywhere. As any bookworm knows, books never stay on shelves. They’re on nightstands, on the floor when you run out of shelf space, on the couch, and all over your desk. I can say the same thing about my pens and pencils, writing notebooks, Legos, and other objects.

Writing down what I observed this week was pretty eye opening. I’ve been having the same issues over and over again for years now and it’s time to change that.

Changes

Now that I understand some of my problems, it’s time to put a plan into place. Instead of lamenting about my small space, I’m going to work with what I have for now. I plan on culling things, organizing, and trying to give everything its own place. When it comes to time management, I’m going to cut things from my to-do list and cut out multitasking to see if it helps. We’ll see what happens.

What are you up to today? Do you have any time management or organization tips for me?

Sunday Salon: My plans for October

Sunday Salon: My plans for October

My daughter's vanilla birthday cake.
My daughter’s vanilla birthday cake.

Time: // 8:34 a.m.

The scene: // sitting in my living room with the kids, watching HellBoy 2. The kids and I decided to watch a scary movie every day in October. We missed two days but are planning to make them up. Next up is Super 8.

Yesterday, we celebrated my daughter’s thirteenth birthday with cake, ice cream, and Chinese food. There were several birthday parties going on in the neighborhood, so instead of hosting one more, we decided to go and enjoy everyone else’s. As a parent, I realize nothing makes you feel old like seeing your children get older.

Reading: // I seem to be on a non-fiction kick. Right now, I’m currently reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually WorksA True Story by Dan Harris. He’s one of the hosts of Good Morning America. I like his reporting style but didn’t know if I wanted to read a celebrity memoir. I figured if Harris learned something about being happier, maybe I should read the book. So far, I’m impress. Harris is very honest about how he was a chronic worrier, even when things were going well, and how being a war correspondent is like a drug.

Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life’s Riches is the author’s third self-help book. I’m about seventy pages in and I’m finding it inspiring.

A few months ago, Elizabeth of The Dirigible Plum recommended Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston. Once I finished reading her post, I bought a copy. Since then, the book has sat on my shelves unread. In Opening Minds, Johnston talks about the language adults use to help children become their best and get them out of a fixed mindset.

Planning: // a happiness project. Too often, it seems like there’s not enough time in the day. My days have started to blur together and it feels like I don’t have anything to show for it. I decided that I’ll spend October focusing on managing my time and de-cluttering my home. I plan on posting updates about my progress to help me stay focused.

So now I’m off to: // start my day. I have a house to clean, lessons to plan, and some jambalaya to cook.

What are your plans for October?

“Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” by Pablo Neruda

“Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” by Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Trans. W.S. Merwin
Poem XX from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924)

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson #diversiverse

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson #diversiverse

20660824brown girl dreaming
Jacqueline Woodson
338 pages
Published in August 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Source: Public Library

The first time I write my full name

Jacqueline Amanda Woodson

without anybody’s help
on a clean white page in my composition notebook,
I know

if I wanted to

I could write anything.

brown girl dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson’s wonderful and poetic memoir about her “very complicated and very rich” childhood. Shortly after her birth in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, Woodson’s family moves to South Carolina, her mother’s home state. The author and her two siblings live with their maternal grandparents for years as their mother travel back and forth to New York, trying to make a life for them. It’s there in the South that Saturday nights “smell of biscuits”, Jacqueline gets her hands dirty in her grandfather’s garden, and sit-ins are happening downtown. In New York, rainy days now mean staying in the house and being introduced to a new baby brother. Written in verse, brown girl dreaming is a book that both young readers and adults can enjoy.

There are many things that make brown girl dreaming so special that it’s hard to even write about it. Woodson has this wonderful way of writing from a child’s point of view. Readers see a young Jacqueline fall in love with stories even though she struggles with writing and is compared to a brilliant older sister by teachers. Thrown in with these moments are the huge events that were going on in the country like the end of segregation and what that meant as she and her grandmother shopped downtown, watching the Black Panther Party on TV from across the country, and the Vietnam War.

brown girl dreaming was just nominated for a National Book Award in Young Adult Literature, a nomination it rightly deserves. You won’t regret reading it, so buy this book, don’t borrow it. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:42 a.m.

The scene: // my living room is a mess! As I sit at my desk typing this post, behind me my son has poured thousands of Lego pieces on the floor. I better remember to walk around with shoes on for the next few hours.

Reading: // Black Swan, White Raven, an anthology of fairy tale retellings collected by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It’s a reread for me so I’m looking for a novel that will knock my socks off. Any recommendations?

Grateful for: // a lot of things. Last week was pretty hard to get through. Now, there’s a lot of change that I need to adjust to. I’m grateful that I’m not sad or upset but looking forward to the future.

Promoting: // Deb’s Week in Books post. If you’ve been going through reading slumps or blogging malaise, this is the post you should read.

Now I’m off to: // finish my cup of coffee and start correcting math books.

What are you up to today? What’s the last book that knocked your socks off? What are you grateful for?