Time: // 5: 43 a.m. Tuesday morning. Everyone is asleep and the house is so quiet. It’s such a rare thing to experience.

The scene: // I’ve been trying for the past two days to write a post, but to no avail. Two of the kids have been sick with various things, I had a killer migraine, and there were countless errands and chores to do around the house. Now that all of that is out the way, I can sit here quietly and gather my thoughts.

This weekend: // my city had their first annual Beach Streets event, where they closed down a major street to cars and opened it up to bikes, pedestrians, skateboards. . . almost anything that moved. I took my kids and sisters to this fun event that lasted most of the day. It’s funny how the idea of closing down a street to let people walk and ride could be so much fun. It was one of the best events my city has ever hosted.

Last week I read: // a ton of children’s books and Syllabus by Lynda Barry. The thing I’ve come to understand about Barry is that in each work of hers, there’s always a question that she needs to explore. In Syllabus she brings together several questions that she’s had about art and images, but also how can keeping a daily notebook help us transfer the things we think about, that are inside us to something more solid on paper and to others.

The book’s form is so unique. It’s like a composition notebook with so much color and images on each page. There’s also a lot of inspiration to be found. I don’t think I’m going to buy a copy of Syllabus, but I can see why so many people want to. My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Next up is: // a ton of books! There’s so much that I want to read. My boys are reluctant readers, so I’m trying to find fantastic middle grade books that I can share with the two of them this summer. This week I’m trying to read and finish:

Monday Collage

Monday Collage2

  • Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger
  • The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste. It has such a creepy cover and it has to do with creatures from Carribean fairy tales.
    How often can a reader say that?
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I’m probably one of the few people who haven’t read this book yet. If you haven’t picked up the Lumberjanes yet, you need to change that.
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

I’m looking forward to reading all five books this week. Most of them have already been named a favorite book of the year by various sources I follow. And it’s only June!

Thinking about: // The Worst Kind of Groundhog Day: Let’s Talk (Again) About Diversity in Publishing by Roxanne Gay. Just.Read.It.

Now I’m off to: // enjoy my coffee.

How’s your Tuesday morning going? What are you looking forward to today?

homeschooling, reading, Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:04 a.m.

The scene: // As usual, I’m sitting at my desk in the living room. I spend a lot of time at this spot, doing research, reading, or just watching my kids play outside.

Drinking: // coffee.


Reading: // Syllabus by Lynda Barry. I started it earlier in the week and though it’s a short book, I’m taking my time reading it. Barry has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a few years now and Syllabus is about some of her past classes. The book includes syllabi, assignments, and is done in that typical Barry style: composition book-like pages and filled with images. I can see why Joy enjoyed this book so much.

Thinking about: // the power of storytelling. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Avid readers love stories and there are some themes we gravitate to, while ignoring others. Stories have the power to change us and give us words to experiences that we ourselves couldn’t voice.

With my daughter starting high school next year, I have the opportunity to create her English class. Previous classes offered for homeschooled high schoolers have been pretty bland, filled exclusively with busywork, books that were written at least forty years ago, and all the authors are white. Nope. That’s not for us.

So I’m starting from scratch: going over standards while figuring out what we should explore from themes to books, documentaries to podcasts. It’s scary, yet exciting at the same time. It also means that I have a ton of reading ahead like old favorites such as To Kill a Mockingbird, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Persepolis, American Born Chinese, and more. I have my work cut out for me.

Enjoying: // my last few weeks of pregnancy! I have four weeks left and it’s exciting, though I hope time flies by. I can’t wait to meet my baby girl.

Now I’m off to: // figure out what’s for breakfast. These kids aren’t going to feed themselves (though they’re old enough to).

What are you up to today?


Looking forward to May

Usually, I’m the type of person who changes the calendar on days before the month ends, always eager for a new start. Nowadays, all the months look the same as I count down until my July due date. For May, I’m celebrating my mom’s birthday and the end of the homeschooling year. I’m also steadily trying to shrink my physical tbr (to be read) stack.

Surprisingly, I’ve read a ton of books last month. 21 books to be exact. My favorites were:

Lumberjanes Vols. 1-9 by Noelle Stevenson (comics)
A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson (nonfiction)
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (middle grade)
Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why by Willow G. Wilson (comics)

Now that May’s here, I scoured my tbr shelves and found the following books to tackle:


Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (for next week’s Socratic Salon discussion)
Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson (fiction)
The Best American Essays 2011 by Edwidge Danticat (I started this collection years ago and never finished it.)
When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (fiction)
The Voice of the River by Melanie Rae Thon (fiction)
For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu (fiction)
Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) by Michael Goodwin (graphic nonfiction)
Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein (nonfiction)
The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell (nonfiction)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction)

Some of these reads are pretty heavy, but I’m hoping that I can get through them all by the end of the month. I’m already in the middle of Economix and Citizen and both are really good reads with post-its sticking out.

What are you looking forward to reading in May? Do you make a monthly tbr list?

summer reading

2014 Summer Reading List

Embed from Getty Images

The school year officially ended last Friday and since then, my days have been filled with watching the kids spend time being outside, playing Uno with the kids, and vegging out on the couch. According to a family friend, my family is glowing. It wasn’t until I heard the words, that I realized she’s right. There’s no notes to take, reading logs to type up, or textbooks to check. It feels good.

While the kids are making plans on how to spend their summer (building huge Lego sets, swimming, and starting their own blogs), I’m making plans too. I’ve posted my bucket list so now I get to share my summer reading list. Sometimes I think one of the best parts of reading books is making lists about the books we want to read.

  • Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
  • Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Trokia by Adam Pelzman
  • The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (may read this one with my daughter)


  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (essays)
  • Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (essays)
  • Among Others by Jo Walton
  • Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking by Sarah Elton (future cooking classes with the kids)
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones


  • Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Ariana Huffington
  • Love by Toni Morrison (reread)
  • The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My list will probably change from week to week as I add and subtract things so you can always see the most updated list on Pinterest. It seems like a lot of books but I have plenty of time on my hands. I’ve already started reading The Iliad. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying it.

What are you reading this summer?

education, nonfiction, psychology, reviews

Review: Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham

My copy from the library. Do you see all the post-its?

Why Don’t Students Like School? : A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How the Mind Works and What It Means For the Classroom

 Daniel T. Willingham

180 pages

Published in March 2009 by Jossey-Bass

Source: Public Library

In Why Don’t Students Like School?, psychologist Daniel T. Willingham shares with readers nine principles of cognitive science that can be applied to classrooms everywhere. From why thinking is hard for all of us – kids and adults alike – to the importance of repetition and motivation, to debunking the theory of multiple intelligences, Willingham’s book is one that should be in the hands of educators, parents, and administrators everywhere.

In each chapter, the author focuses on one of the principles and shares with readers the research behind the principle and gives examples. At the end of each chapter, there’s a summary and ways to implicate the research into the classroom.

One of the best chapters has to do with factual knowledge and critical thinking skills. Willingham argues that for students to critically think about a subject, they have to have background knowledge. That knowledge allows student to hold more information which means they can comprehend more. It also makes students better readers. The whole thing is a cycle.

It’s also why it’s important for parents to start early with their kids by reading to them. If a child doesn’t have the same background information as their classmates, they’re always going to play catch up, but they will always be behind.

Another one of the book’s principles has to do with intelligence being malleable. What’s just as important is a person’s mindset about intelligence. Intelligence can be changed through hard work but a person has to believe that they can get smarter. When a person believes they can become smarter, they seek out challenging opportunities that help them become that way. If a person believes intelligence is fixed, challenging opportunities are avoided as a way not to fail.

There is so much to learn and while I enjoyed reading this book, I had a few issues. This book is less than 180 pages and it is dense. There’s so much information coming at readers. It’s a book you have to work at but it’s well worth it. There’s also illustrations in each chapter to help with the examples given. Towards the end of the book, the illustrations became a distraction and weren’t needed.

If you’re an adult who’s interested in bringing out the best learning experiences for children, you can’t go wrong by reading this book. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


February Wrap-Up and Memoir March

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward

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

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

What are your plans for March?

fiction, historical fiction, reviews

Review: The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart

17841897The Visionist

Rachel Urquhart

352 pages

Published in January 2013 by Little, Brown and Co.

Source: Publishers

It had been but a few hours since her father had threatened them. Had he come at Mama with a shovel? Crept in and dropped a fieldstone so close to Ben as he sat on the floor that his fingers had near been crushed? Was this the night he’d swiped at them all with a broken bottle and left a gash the length of a hare’s ear on Mama’s arm? Polly often found it difficult to separate his rages one from the next.

It’s Massachusetts, 1842 and fifteen-year old Polly Kimball accidently sets fire to her family’s farm, killing her father. To escape from whatever fate awaits her, Polly and her younger brother Ben are sent by their mother to live in the Shaker community, City of Hope. It’s not long after Polly’s arrival that she finds a kindred soul in Sister Charity, a young Shaker outsider with mysterious marks covering her body. For the first time ever, Polly thinks that she might find the peace that she has always been looking for. But what the girl doesn’t know is that Simon Pryor, a fire inspector, is searching for her and other survivors of the Kimball farm fire. The Visionist is Rachel Urquhart’s superb debut about love, faith, and hope even after so much has been lost.

Guys, The Visionist came out of nowhere and just made my end-of-the-year reading so much better.

I’m not someone who normally reads historical fiction. And the novel’s beginning was kind of slow, but there was something so authentic about this story that I had to continue reading.

The novel’s title comes from the time period the book is set in. This was a time of change for Shaker communities as many Shaker girls across the Northeast were receiving mystical visions. It’s not long after Polly’s arrival to the City of Hope, that she too has visions. When Polly becomes a Visionist, Sister Charity is willing to sacrifice everything in her belief of Polly’s goodness. But not all believe in Polly’s visions or her goodness. As holy as some Shakers think they are, there are a few who have their own selfish motives.

While reading the novel, I felt as though I was transported back into the 1840s. I heard of Quakers and even of Shaker furniture, but Shakers themselves? Nope. The details that went into this novel were numerous. Readers learned of the Shakers ways which include rules about when girls should start covering their hair, to the separation of males and females, to exactly how one should eat their food. There is a rule for everything.

Though the Shaker ways seem strange to Polly, they’re a welcome change from her previous life. Growing up, fear played a bigger role in her life than love.  Even her mother won’t protect her from her alcoholic father’s rages. Now that he’s gone, memories of Polly’s father still haunts her. It’s almost as though he’s still alive.

I found The Visionist to be an engrossing read. The characters were honest and flawed, the Shaker community was interesting to read about, and the writing had passages that were just beautiful. I hope Urquhart writes a sequel to the book. I would love to learn of Polly’s fate. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

fiction, reading

My first read of 2014

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

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

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


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

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

What is your first read of 2014 going to be?

fiction, reading

The Goldfinch Read-along

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

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

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

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

reading, Sunday Salon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your reading goals for 2014? 


2014 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

Sunday Salon

sunday salonGood morning! Breakfast has been made and now I finally have time to write a post. Last week was been a whirlwind. It seems like there was so much to do and just not enough time. Between homeschooling, studying for classes (biopsychology and library cataloging), and taking care of the house, I need all the extra time I can find.

Last week I didn’t finish a single adult book. I’m almost looking back at that in rhodes harlemdisbelief. Not one book? I’m still reading the same books that I’ve been reading for the past 2-3 weeks: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, Harlem is Nowhere by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and Quiet by Susan Cain. I’m going to try my best to finish at least Harlem is Nowhere and Quiet this week.

Just in case you forgot, next Monday my read-in discussion of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones starts. The discussion will go on all week. There’s still time to get a copy and start reading. Silver Sparrow is a page-turner, so you can finish it in a few days.

The March selection for the Chunkster Challenge’s Chunky Book Club is Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time. This book has been on my reading list since its publication. The discussion starts March 15th and will go on for the rest of the month.

I’m off. I still have some homework to get through before going to the bookstore later on today. It’s a $1 bookstore so let’s hope I don’t buy my weight in books.  What are you reading today?

Sunday Salon

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.


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.


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.

jones tayari


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

Sunday Salon: 2013 African American Read-In

sunday salonWe have more than a week before February gets here but it’s still plenty of time to figure out what to read for The 2013 National African American Read-In. It’s a yearly event that’s been going on for the past twenty four years and is hosted by the Black Caucus of NCTE and NCTE itself. Throughout the month of February, people all over the country get together to discuss and celebrate books written by African Americans.

Last year’s online read-in here on 1330v was a lot of fun. I think the event is a great tradition and so I’m hoping you guys will join me once again this year.

I found seven very different books that I think would appeal to a wide range of people. Below is a list of the books along with a small description of each one along with links for more information.

danticat brother

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat.  Non-fiction/memoir. 2007 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Family memoir about the author’s complicated childhood in Haiti and America while reflecting on the lives of her father and his older brother and her relationship with the two. The memoir’s first line: “I found out I was pregnant the same day that my father’s rapid weight loss and chronic shortness of breath were positively diagnosed as end-stage pulmonary fibrosis”.

jones tayari

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. Fiction. Silver Sparrow is a book that once you read it, you need to discuss it with someone right away. You’ll probably start talking about it before you even finish it. I know I did. Dana Yarboro is the secret child of James Witherspoon, a bigamist who keeps Dana and her mother hidden in plain view while he spends most of his time with his “first” family. Told from the viewpoint of both daughters, Silver Sparrow is a page-turner that leaves readers wanting to pick up everything Jones has published.

lavalle devil

The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle – Fiction/ fantasy. When Pepper finds himself locked up in a mental institution, accused of a crime that he doesn’t remember committing, he’s knows he’s in trouble. Things go from bad to worse when a strange creature visits his room and nearly kills him. Can this creature be stopped?


Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer – Fiction/short stories. ZZ Packer is an author whose work has been on my reading list forever and with good reason. Her short story, “Brownies” has been anthologized in magazines and books for years. After reading “Brownies” for myself, I knew this was an author who deserves all the attention she receives.


How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston. Non-fiction/Humor. What it is: a hilarious, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking look back on the author’s life growing up in D.C. and what being black (and white) means to not only the author but a number of people he interviews. Part guidebook/memoir/mediation, How To be Black is a book you can easily re-read over and over again. M from Buried in Print wrote a review of this.


The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen. Non-fiction. In the past year when I’ve read books about farming in the United States, Will Allen’s name has popped up numerous times. Allen, the son of sharecroppers, cashed in his retirement fund to start farming. In The Good Food Revolution, Allen writes about his journey from corporate America to farming and how the need for good healthy food affects us all.


A Woman Like Me by Bettye LaVette. Non-fiction, memoir. I had no idea who Bettye LaVette was until I saw her on the news last year. LaVette is a singer who was a part of the Motown scene decades ago but only recently became famous. Her memoir is a no-holds-barred account of her life that includes sex, drugs, and plenty of music.

Note: You can vote for up to three books. I’m closing the poll next Saturday, January 27th and will announce the top pick next Sunday. The book discussion will go on Monday, February 25th. Probably with the exception of A Woman Like Me, you should be able to find every book I’ve listed at your local library. I hope you decide to vote and join in next month’s discussion.

It's Monday

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.

Last week I read:


The Crane Wife by Sumiko Yagawa (fairy tale)

Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman by Esmé Raji Codell (children’s non-fiction)

Seven Fathers by Ashley Ramsden (fairy tale)

Little White Duck: A childhood in China by Na Liu and Andrés Vera Martinez (children’s non-fiction)

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel (middle grade graphic novel)

Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas (children’s fiction)

The Three Bully Goats by Leslie Kimmelman (fairy tale retelling)

Fabulous Fishes by Susan Stockdale (children’s fiction)

Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Dennis Brindell (middle grade/YA non-fiction)

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim (children’s non-fiction)

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child by Linda Dobson (non-fiction)

Usborne the Children’s Book of Art by Rosie Dickins (children’s non-fiction)


Favorite Book(s) of the Week:


I was trying to narrow this down to just one book but I couldn’t. Little White Duck, The Crane Wife, and Seed by Seed were my favorite reads of the week.

Since one of my current reads, Far From the Tree, is a tome (900+ pages), last week I decided to read other books at the same time. The next thing I knew, I’m reading four books at a time and that doesn’t include all the children’s books.

I’m currently reading:


Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (non-fiction)

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Mysterious Tales of Japan by Rafe Martin (folklore)


Listening to:


The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huang (non-fiction)

What’s next:


It’ll probably be Howling’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I plan on reading it with my daughter soon. After seeing the movie trailers for Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, I think I’m going to add that to this week’s reading pile too.

What are you reading this week? 

reading, Sunday Salon

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?


Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

duhiggThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg

400 pages

Published in 2012 by Random House

Source: Public Library

We all have habits. Some habits are good, like putting our keys in the same place every day, while other habits like overeating, are ones we wish we could get rid of. It’s the beginning of the year and many of us are trying to swear off our worst habits. After reading The Power of Habit, I’ve learned that deciding not to indulge in bad habits isn’t enough. While you need to do a lot more, there is hope.

When I initially picked up The Power of Habit, I thought it was a self-help book. Fortunately, it’s even better than that. Journalist Charles Duhigg brings together some of the most known and current psychological data to illustrate how easy it is to create habits but how hard it can be to change them or get rid of them altogether.

Duhigg reveals that every habit has a loop: cue, routine, and reward. For example, I have a habit of turning my computer first thing every morning. It’s not the morning routine that I want to have. I would rather do something productive in those hours while everyone is still asleep. Cues can be anything: a time of day, being around particular people, or even an emotion. My cue is that it’s morning. My routine is turning on my computer and checking my email. My reward: I guess knowing what’s going on online. According to the experts that Duhigg has consulted, if you change your routine, often you can change the habit. So I’ve been spending the past two weeks trying to change my routine. Instead of turning on my computer, I’ve been reading instead. I’m not at the point where my new routine is habit, but I love the feeling of having read x amount of pages without trying to cram in reading later on when my day is busy.

People aren’t the only ones with bad habits. Companies have institutional habits that can help or hinder profits. Starbucks, the Aluminum Company of America, and Rhode Island Hospital are among some of the examples given by the author on how institutional habits are often only changed in times of crisis. The disturbing thing to me was that in these times of crisis, some innocent person dies. But even companies can change and when they do, everyone wins.

Included in the book is a huge section of notes, in case you wanted to look something up in more detail and an appendix to help you change those bad habits. I learned a lot reading The Power of Habit and realized change is possible. My rating: five out of five stars.

It's Monday, meme., reading

It’s Monday. What are you reading?

Photo courtesy of Blhphotography

It’s countdown to the first day of the semester on the 27th. I only realized last week that I don’t have many days of freedom left. Since then, I’ve been reading as much as I possibly can.  It’s funny how your reading mojo comes back when you’re determined to have it back!

Last week I read and reviewed American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Gardens and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. I also read The Spare Room by Helen Gardner, a present I received last Christmas from Deb (Readerbuzz), Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me by Harvey Pekar, The Hard Questions by Susan Piver, and Ichiro by Ryan Inzana. I enjoyed the whole stack but probably loved Ichiro more than the others since I finished it in the wee hours of this morning.

I’m currently reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian which is about the Armenian genocide. It’s an excellent read so far and I think it’s perfect timing after reading Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me and Ichiro, all three are about history and war. I’m about halfway done so now it’s time to start eyeing my stack of library books, ARCs, and books I own to see which ones I should try to squeeze in this week.

This week’s stack of possibilities:

Our Kind of People: A Continent’s Challenge, A Country’s Hope by Uzondinma Iweala is a book I received a few months ago for review. It’s about the AIDS crisis in Nigeria and those that are being affected by the disease.

The Distance between Us by Reyna Grande is the author’s coming-of-age tale about living with various relatives after her parents move to the United States from Mexico.

It by Stephen King. I’m a scaredy cat but I couldn’t help joining the It read-along with Jill (Fizzy Thoughts) and Christina (Reading Thru the Night), which goes on until October 14th.  Christina has been giving out clown noses to participants but I really think we’re going to need night-lights!

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Memory (Xicanti) and a few other bloggers have been raving about this book for months now. I have no idea what it’s about except that it’s about dragons.

What are you reading this week?

picture books, POC Challenge, poetry, Uncategorized

Book Review: Tan to Tamarind

Tan to Tamarind: Poems about the color brown
Written by: Malathi Michelle Iyengar
Illustrated by: Jamel Akib
Publisher:  Children’s Book Press
Pub Date: January 2009
32 pages

When I first read this book, I knew this would be the perfect book to kick-start National Poetry Month. Tan to Tamarind is a celebration of brown skin in shades from tan to tamarind, ocher to beige. There’s a small afterword by the author, where she explains why she wrote this book,

When I was a little girl in North Carolina, I hated waiting for the school bus. Every day at the bus stop a group of older kids would call me names and make fun of my brown skin, saying brown was a dirty, ugly color. I longed to trade in my brown complexion for peachy-pink. . . As I got older, though, I began discovering lots of wonderful stories and poems about the color brown, written by and about proud brown people. When I read their words, I didn’t feel ugly or dirty anymore. . .”

I read this book to my children who felt the poetry was easy to read and listen to. The book features so many shades of brown and also people and words from a few different cultures to illustrate that brown is everywhere. Each poem is just a few stanzas long, perfect for kids with short attention spans and aren’t used to poetry. The illustrations by Akib features masala tea, adobe buildings, fall leaves, and more. The illustrations complimented the author’s message of beauty.

I found this book at my library and I’m grateful that my librarian ordered it. Tan to Tamarind is a book that has a place in my personal library. It’s worth buying. I’m also going to look out for more books by the publisher, Children’s Book Press.

From Tan to Tamarind:


Milk-tea brown.
Spicy-sweet masala tea brown.

Tea leaves and cardamom,
ginger and clove.

Amma steeps them in hot-hot water,
adds lots of cream and sugar.

Sweet, milky brown.
Delicate, fragrant brown.

My milk-tea brown hands
hold a cup of spicy tan masala tea,
to sip on a golden-brown summer afternoon.

Other reviews:


Saturday read-a-thon

My reading this year has been dismal. I read one adult book in January and three more (I think) this month so far. I have a ton of  lovely books that I really want to read but haven’t been able to. So today Megan from Posey Sessions and I are doing a mini-read-a-thon this weekend. The goal isn’t to read as much as possible, but to dedicate more time to  reading.

Here’s what I plan on reading:

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor. I’ve read this before and just want to re-read the first short story in the collection, “Goblin Fruit”.

Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays by Eula Biss.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Taylor Brown

Ebony Rising: Short Fiction of the Greater Harlem Renaissance edited by Craig Gable. I want to read at least 10 more short stories before I post my review on Monday.

So I’m off to read. I might post updates throughout the day. We’ll see. What books are you looking forward to read this weekend?

Booking Through Thursday, meme., Uncategorized

Booking Through Thursday: Encouragment

Suggested by Barbara H:

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?

In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

Reading is my favorite thing to do. When I’m not reading, I’m talking about books and reading. I love being around books, sniffing new books. . .  Because reading is so important to me, I want it to be just as important to my kids.

A few years ago I started a bedtime reading club with my kids to get them to read more. I was already taking them to the library once a week and while it was helping, I wanted us to read more as a family. So I came up with the idea of a bedtime reading club and had the kids come up with a name for it. Some days we read before homework and bath time while other times afterward. The goal for us is to read every day.

Another great family tradition that I started was everyone had to go to the library together. Going to the library once a week and letting the kids pick almost whatever they want, encourages the kids to read. They pick up books by their favorite authors or old favorites to re-read. Yesterday my kids went to the library and checked out bags of books. Every child has their own library card and a maximum of 25 books can be checked out on each card. Even with five kids in the house, sometimes it feels like we need more library cards. The kids have different interests, so often we’re scrambling around to find various series such as Captain Underpants or any of the fairy books by Heather Meadows. We scramble around to find books by authors like Kevin Henkes, Jane Yolen, or Judy Finchler. It’s often tiring but well worth it when I see the kids all over the living room and reading their library loot. (Speaking of which, I’ll post what they checked out tomorrow.)

As a mom I’ve learned that if I want my kids to pick up “better” books, I need to bring those books home and read them in front of the kids. Laugh at all the funny parts, cry at the sad parts, and I’ll have them interested in what I’m reading. That’s how I’ve been able to get my kids to read a lot of great books such as Love that Dog by Sharon Creech and  Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Clearly. Right now we’re reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl. We read a chapter or two a day. Once we’re finished with the book, we’ll watch the movie. After Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we’ll read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

I don’t think I could ever accept any of my kids being non-readers. It’s one of those things as a parent you say it’s OK for other kids but not your own. Reading is so important that I don’t want any of my kids  to take it for granted. I don’t expect for reading to be any of the kids’ passions though I would love that. But to not read at all. . .

I don’t offer incentives for reading. I did at one time but no longer. It gets tiring, trying to get a child to read just for a prize. Now the kids all know that I expect them to read. No whining, no complaining. Coming up with family traditions like going to the library on a certain day every week or reading together, shows the kids how much I think reading is important. As a treat I sometimes take the kids on little outings to a local bookstore so they can pick out books they want.

So that’s my long answer for today’s Booking Through Thursday answer. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on how to get kids reading?


The Life and Times of a Book Addict

Two days into the BLOB game and I bought this:

Little by David Treuer

I have a great excuse! The latest CORA diversity roll call has been posted and the topic is books that  have changed the way you look at a person or culture different from you.  I read a great Sunday Salon post today over at Black Eyed Susan’s about David Treuer’s Little. Published in 1996 Little is about three generations of a family living on a Native American reservation in a small town called Poverty. In the post the book is described as,

It challenges you to rethink what you thought you knew or to question your ignorance. It tests your humanity.

I knew this was a book I really should read soon. My local library doesn’t have a copy and there was only one copy left at Powell’s, so I bought it. I know it’s going to be worth the 5 points I just added to my score.

Here’s my question to you: what was the last book you bought or checked out of the library because of a blogger’s recommendation?


Operation Teen Book Drop

Did you know that April 15, 2010 is Support Teen Literature Day? I didn’t. But I have heard of Operation Teen Book Drop, an effort by Readergirlz, GuysLitWire, and the YALSA to get teens, authors, and librarians to donate brand new YA books to teens in hospitals around the United States on that day. Operation TBD is back  for a third year and the organization, If I Can Read I Can Do Anything, is joining the effort to get books to teens on Native American reservations.

To celebrate the day all four organizations are trying to get as many books as possible donated. Librarians, YA authors, and teens are also invited to leave books in public places in their own communities for others to read.

For more information, click on any of the above links.


Sunday Salon: Biggest Loser of Books

Ever felt like you have too many books and not enough time to read them? It seems like every month I’m constantly adding more books to my shelves though I’m rarely reading what I own. With review copies coming in, plus I’m constantly going to the library, and with the occasional book binge, lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with all the books I have. Amy over at My Friend Amy came up with a great plan to read the growing piles of books: a point-based game called B.L.O.B. also known as Biggest Loser of Books.

The rules of the game:

  1. Every person starts out with zero points. For each addition book (except gifts) that come into your home during the game, you add points. In this game, points aren’t good.
  2. Impulse buys: 10 pts
  3. Considered buys: 5 pts
  4. Books from a swap site: 5 pts
  5. Review copies that were pitched to us: 3 pts
  6. Review copies that were requested: 5 pts
  7. Unsolicited: 0 pts
  8. Library books: 3 pts
  9. Gifts: 0 pts
  10. Con someone into buying you a book = 10 pts
  11. For every book we give away, we can take 2 pts off our score.
  12. Books requested/bought in January that show up in February don’t count.
  13. Books placed on hold in January that show up in February do count.
  14. Points also apply to audios, ebooks, and digital downloads.
  15. The person with the least amount of points win.

Throughout the month of February six bloggers will be participating in the game: Dawn (She is Too Fond of Books), Nicole (Linus’s Blanket), Amy, Candace (Beth Fish Reads), Jen (Devourer of Books), and myself. Nicole and I think we might need this game more than everyone else, so we’re playing B.L.O.B. until the end of March.

One of the great things about this game besides reading from the ever-growing TBR pile is that we’ve all agreed that for each point we add to our score, $1 will go to a charity of our choice. My charity of choice is

My Thoughts

My goal is to read at least 20 of my own books. January has been a horrible month reading-wise. So horrible that I haven’t bothered to update my “books read” page. I’m hoping February is much better. I do think this game is going to be very challenging since I won’t be able to check out books from the library without adding points to my score. Still I’m cannot wait to start!

A few books I’m looking forward to reading:

  • Big Machine by Victor LaValle
  • The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman
  • Gringolandia by Ly Miller-Lachman
  • Satchel by Larry Tye

My first read for B.L.O.B. is Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss. It’s a collection of essays I started reading Thursday. I’m really enjoying it so far. Don’t look for a review just yet. It’s a book I’m going to re-read before I review it.

So what are you reading today? Do you have any reading plans for February? Be sure to check out the other B.L.O.B. participants’ lists today and tomorrow.


Favorite Books of 2009 and Wrap-up Post

I read a huge number of books this year, so it was hard coming up with a list of my ten favorite reads of this year. Instead I came up with a list of twenty favorites. A lot of the books I read this year were forgettable, nothing special, just OK. But I did read some great books, books that made me laugh, cry, and start them over again. These were books that I felt the need to go out and buy once I finished them, so they could be physically near me. But before I tell you my favorite books, here’s my stats for this year.

Books read: 266

Adult: 62
MG: 11
YA: 27
Children’s: 166

Graphic novels: 37
Fiction: 241
Non-Fiction: 25

I think I should read more non-fiction next year.

Alcoholism, incest, lies, betrayal, and missing fathers is just a part of what makes up August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, August: Osage County is the tale of the Weston family days after the patriarch of the family, Beverly, disappears. This is family dysfunction at its very best. The Westons are people who have gone through so much and the revelation of secrets is too much for some family members to handle. This play definitely deserved the Pulitzer it was awarded.

The Rights of The Reader by Daniel Pennac (2008). Translated from the French by Sarah Adams. It’s hard to believe that this love song to reading is a sleeper in the United States. The Rights of the Reader was originally published in 1992 in France and didn’t find a publisher in the U.S. until a few years ago. Pennac shares with readers his experiences as a high school teacher, teaching children others thought would never come to love reading. He also illustrates beautifully how important reading is.  Included in the book is Pennac’s famous ten rights of the reader, which includes the right to not finish a book.

The Negro Speaks of River by Langston Hughes with illustrations by E.B. Lewis. As much as I love children’s books this is only one of two picture books that made my top 20 list. The Negro Speaks of Rivers is a famous poem written by Hughes in 1923. The illustrations by Lewis are so beautiful to look at, don’t be surprise if time just flies by as you take in every brushstroke.

Losing Everything by David Lozell Martin (2009). Losing Everything chronicles Martin’s childhood with a mentally ill mother and a brilliant but painfully shy father who was prone to fits of rage. The memoir also tells of Martin’s troubled marriages and also the day that he almost committed suicide. What sets Martin’s memoir apart from others is that it’s not a story told with self-pity. Martin is brutally honest about his affairs in his first marriage and his reaction to what may have just been flirtation between his wife and another man. The memoir ends with a few of the lessons that Martin has learned throughout his life.

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (2003). Lonnie Collins Motion also known as Locomotion is a young boy who  has lost his parents in a house fire. Separated from his younger sister, both kids are sent to foster homes where they rarely see each other. Writing poetry helps Lonnie grieve for his parents, for not always being able to see his little sister, for the life he lost when his parents died. It helps him keep going. I cried so many times throughout this book. I cried as a parent for this fictional child who has lost so much. Lonnie with his grief and also his joys comes across realistically. Woodson is a talented author. I won’t hesitate to read anything else by her.

Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl (2009). After the death of her mother, Reichl dives into the letters and diaries her mother left behind. It’s through these papers that Reichl learns so much about her mother’s life and who she was before she became a mother.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp. According to Tharp, creativity stems from the habits that we have in our everyday lives. Creativity is something that everyone needs, not just painters or poets or dancers. The Creative Habit is filled with examples and exercises that are enjoyable and helpful.

Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone. This is the Wonder Woman that every girl, no matter what age she is, needs to read about. The Wonder Woman who is strong, fearless, loyal but also merciful to her enemies. In The Circle the homeland of Wonder Woman is attacked by villains and though banned from ever going home, she searches for a way to save her village.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant (2008). Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This was a great picture book-biography to start my kids off with. The book details Williams love of nature and poetry as a child and how he grew up to be the physician/poet that he was. It’s the perfect book that teaches children that if you love something enough you will find a way to do it every day.

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks (2002). Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play is brilliant. Lincoln and Booth are brothers who were abandoned as teenagers by their parents. Now adults, Lincoln is an ex-card hustler who works in a carnival while younger brother Booth is still a street hustler, going from scheme to scheme to make money. There’s tension between the two brothers as they live together, dreaming of a life that doesn’t include struggling for money. This is the story about family tensions, sibling rivalry, violence, poverty, and so much more.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (2007). I don’t know how I found out about this book, but I am so glad I did. Prose tells readers why reading books carefully while becoming conscious of style, narration, characters, and more helps to get more out of what one is reading. She uses examples by Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, Anton Chekhov and more to get her points across. Reading this book is like taking a great literature class with no homework but the enjoyment of reading.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner. Winner of 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Angels is everything and deals with everything. When I write that, I mean it’s a tragedy and a comedy, it’s about AIDS, and being gay, and being yourself, it’s about justice, and mercy, religion, and so much more.

Touch Magic by Jane Yolen. This collection of essays was originally published in 1981 before being revised and new essays added and published in 2007. The cover of this collection calls it a call-to-arms for Yolen and I have to agree. Throughout the collection, Yolen convinces readers that myths and fairy tales are so important for children to know. They’re a part of our society’s fabric. She illustrates why fantasy as a genre helps people to loosen the armor around their minds and see people who look drastically different from themselves as having the same emotional needs and ties.

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (2001). Raymond Briggs takes the lives of his parents and turn it into a tribute to them. Ethel and Ernest Briggs were working class people who were married for almost fifty years. Throughout the story you see their relationship progress and the many changes that society goes through like such things as electricity in the home to the introduction of cars, WWII, to homosexuality.

Fables 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham. I have been a fan of the Fables series since I read the very first book last year around this time. With this series Willingham has taken fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Beauty, her husband the Beast, Bigby a.k.a The Big Bad Wolf, and others and placed them in modern-day New York. The result is a thoughtful and engaging series. Book ten is mostly the story of The Frog Prince, now named Flycatcher, and his overcoming his grief over the loss of his family hundreds of years before with the help of Sir Lancelot. There are many retellings of fairy tales and myths but not many are as bright as this series.

Thanks for reading this long post about my favorite reads.  Have a safe and happy new year.

A Year of Reading Deliberately

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

Library Loot


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



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



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?

reviews, Uncategorized

The Year the Swallows Came Early


The Year the Swallows Came Early (2009)
Kathryn Fitzmaurice
290 pages
Middle school fiction
2009 Cybils nominee


All Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson has ever wanted was to go to culinary school when she grows up. In the meantime, she spends her days learning new recipes, cooking for her parents, and sharing her dreams with her dad. But when her dad is arrested for spending the money in Groovy’s trust fund, her dreams are shattered.

I must’ve been in that room for a long time. I couldn’t say for sure because there’s no way to track time while trying to understand something completely different about a person you thought was someone else. Especially after years of me saying to people, Oh no, my daddy’s not like that. My daddy’s this, or my daddy’s that.

I’d gone around my whole life believing what he’d told me, like what he’d said was just how things were. Mama had said he’d taken the money, that he’d lost it on a bet, but it wasn’t until I saw his handwriting in the book that it seemed real to me. It wasn’t until I saw for myself all his different ways of trying to win money that I knew how much he’d been lying to me and Mama. (pg. 170)

Groovy isn’t the only one who has to deal with a troubled parent. Her best friend, Frankie, has to deal with the sudden reappearance of his mother who left more than a year ago. There are so many questions that need to be answered and so many things about their lives that’s changing. The only thing that is staying the same for the two kids is the yearly arrival of the sparrows to their small town of San Juan Capistrano, California.

My Thoughts

This was a great coming-of-age story about forgiveness, change, and love. Both Frankie and Groovy have to reflect and decide whether or not they’re going to forgive their parents or harbor that anger and let it change who they are and who they can be in the future. After her father’s arrest Groovy goes from being called “Groovy” to Eleanor when she realizes that she’s no longer the same person. Frankie tries to hold on to his anger instead of forgiving his mother for her disappearance.

Groovy is a great character, one of my favorites this year. She’s honest and insightful about the people around her. You couldn’t help but want to know more about her from the book’s great opening paragraph,

We lived in a perfect stucco house, just off the sparkly Pacific, with a lime tree in the backyard and pink and yellow roses gone wild around a picket fence. But that wasn’t enough to keep my daddy from going to jail the year I turned eleven. I told my best friend, Frankie, that it was hard to tell what something was like on the inside just by looking at the outside. And that our house was like one of those See’s candies with beautiful swirled chocolate on the outside, but sometimes hiding coconut flakes on the inside, all gritty and hard, like undercooked white rice.


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:


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


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


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


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?