Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Books, 2014

Here is my Best of 2014 list -- all of the books that earned five stars from me on Goodreads this year.  I put an asterisk next to ones that were re-reads for me.

*Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
*We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
*A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
The Days of Rondo by Evelyn Fairbanks
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
*No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
A Reader's Book of Days by Tom Nissley

More Than This by Patrick Ness
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling
Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles
*The Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan
*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
*Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
*A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Superfudge by Judy Blume
Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume
*Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
*Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
*The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Graphic novels/memoirs:
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen & Faith Erin Hicks
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

My Reading Year, 2014

I am just now taking a look at the reading goals I set for myself last year. Oh, my! I was terribly ambitious!

"I have set a goal on Goodreads again of reading 100 books in 2014." Well, I did this. Goodreads tells me I read 157 books. (Remember, this includes books I read with my kids, too.)

"I will read at least 25 shelf-sitters this year!" It looks like 80 of the books I read are sitting on my shelves. Some of them haven't been sitting there for long, though; I believe at least a third of them were acquired this year.

"Included in this goal is to read at least six of my Persephone books." I didn't read any of my Persephones this year. How did that happen??

"I will continue to read with my kids." Done! And will continue to do this!

"I will keep up with the reading for my online and IRL book clubs!" I've kept up with the reading for my IRL book club, and we are rethinking how we will do our online one.

"I will track my reading on Goodreads." Done!

"I hope to post much more on this blog." Although I haven't posted here often, it looks like this has been my best year yet. It helped to have a regular system for my posts (Nightstand and Books Read each week.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nightstand Photos, Summer 2014

June 30

July 7

July 14

July 21

July 28

August 4

August 11

August 18

August 25

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

What I've Been Reading, Summer 2014

I haven't posted since June! Why does it always seem like summer will be full of free time to do things like blogging? It's truly the opposite. I did keep up with my book photos, though. Here's the line-up of what I read, from June 23-August 31.

Week of June 23:
~ The Judy Blume Project is progressing, with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing on audio with the kids, and Are You There God? It's Me Margaret for me. (Check out my old editions from Scholastic book flyer purchases in elementary school.)
~ Enjoying the Maud Hart Lovelace nominees; this week, it was Patricia MacLachlan's Kindred Souls.
~ I really want to get through all of the Donna Leon mysteries. This week was #11: Willful Behavior.

Week of June 30:
~ Fudge! We love these books. Superfudge on audio this week.
~ Brunetti! #12: Uniform Justice.
~ MHL nominee! Another Patricia MacLachlan: Waiting for the Magic.
~ An old Skye favorite! Read aloud to Skye & Felix: Adam Gidwitz's A Tale Dark & Grimm. Started out as a bedtime book, but moved to a daytime read, as it is fantastically creepy.

Week of July 7:
~ More Fudge! This week: Fudge-a-Mania on audio with the kids.
~ Felix and I finally finished The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham. The author visited his school last spring. We both recommend.
~ Perfect cabin read, lent to me by my friend Jen at bibliotonic: The Vacationers by Emma Straub.

Week of July 14:
~ Another past favorite, shared now with Felix: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead.
~ A new Skye favorite: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang. (We got to meet him! Twice!)
~ A favorite writer's new book: Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses.
~ A book based on one of my favorite themes: mythology! (This time, Norse mythology.) Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, another MHL nominee.

Week of July 28: Yes, I missed a week, but I finished up double the books in the following week, including these three great graphic novels and one fantastic graphic memoir:
~ This One Summer (Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki)
~ Level Up (Gene Luen Yang & Thien Pham)
~ Monster on the Hill (Rob Harrell)
~ Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  (Roz Chast)

Week of July 28, continued:
~ The Sea of Monsters on audio with Felix. It was fun to read all five of these with Skye; I look forward to doing the same with Felix.
~ Brunetti #13: Doctored Evidence.
~ A quick bedtime read: Roald Dahl's The Twits. I guess he wasn't a great person, but his books never disappoint as read-alouds.

Week of August 4:
~ Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great on audio. I guess this is now known as one of Judy Blume's Fudge books, but he only appears in the beginning, I think. This is really a Sheila story.
~ 43 Old Cemetery Road #5: Hollywood, Dead Ahead by Kate Klise & M. Sarah Klise. We love these stories! Always fun to read them together.

Week of August 11:
~ Another from the Old Cemetery Road series: #6: Greetings from the Graveyard. How do they keep coming up with cute ideas for these?!
~ Then Again, Maybe I Won't. Thank goodness for Judy Blume!
~ Blood from a Stone, Brunetti #14.

Week of August 18: Four Books & a Movie
~ Before I Go to Sleep. Ugh & blech.
~ The Days of Rondo. Bittersweet & well-told.
~ It's Not the End of the World. Real & true.
~ Mom & Me & Mom. Surprising & lovely.
~ Amour. Quiet. Powerful.

Week of August 25: Must be the week before school starts. Felix read the first book (The 13-Story Treehouse); Skye was curious and read it, too; they went to the cabin, and my mom started reading Felix the second book (The 26-Story Treehouse), which ended up becoming our bedtime book, since the one we'd been trying hadn't been working for any of us. (You may see it later, if we decide to pick it up again.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nightstand, 6/23/14

Made a few adjustments in the nightstand stack, but several of last week's titles are still here.

Books Read, Week of 6/16/14

Not as many as last week, but still a good week of summer reading:

Vikings in the Attic by Eric Dregni for neighborhood book club. The author came to speak at our meeting, which was fantastic. I made orange Jell-O salad. :)

Iggie's House for what I'm calling my Judy Blume project. This was one of my favorites of hers when I was a kid, and it was so fun to revisit. I love the new cover (see link.)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan with the kids. This was our bedtime read-aloud, inspired by my eight-year-old nephew's birthday party theme. I wanted Felix to "get it," but wondered if he wasn't quite ready for this story. He loved it, and Skye & I enjoyed the re-read. We also listened to some of it on audio, and I thought it was nicely done.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nightstand, 6/16/14

More fun reading to come!

Books Read, Week of 6/9/14

Look at all the books I finished this week! From bottom row to top:

~ Three books about Jackie. I really enjoyed the section about her in Dreaming in French, so was inspired to find more. The biography for young people was a good place to start -- better than I thought it would be -- and One Special Summer was such a surprise and treat to find.

~ I am starting a Judy Blume project; I'd like to read all of her work, in the order she wrote it. Kids helped me get started by listening to her two books for youngest kids on audio.

~ Enjoyed the next Commissario Brunetti mystery by Donna Leon; I'm reading them in order.

~ Finished Jerry Spinelli's Hokey Pokey; impressed with his wordplay and want to finally read Maniac Magee.

~ So impressed with Breathing Room, one of this year's Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominees. Beautiful book.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nightstand, 6/9/14

First week of summer vacation! Big reading plans. Can't wait.

Books Read, Week of 6/2/14

Very good, excellent, and just for fun, in that order.

~ I love E. Lockhart. We Were Liars was very well done, but The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is still my favorite. And I love her Toys Go Out books (as Emily Jenkins.)

Sylvia & Aki is a book I'd love to read with students. Historical fiction that is so nicely told and relatable. Beautifully done.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: What can I say? It sort of works, in a weird way. And so much of Austen's words are left intact, that I couldn't help but keep reading. She's one of my favorites.

Nightstand, 6/2/14

And here's the first week of June. Much the same. It would be fun to see all of these photos side-by-side. Maybe I'll do that at the end of 2014.

Books Read, Week of 5/26/14

Two books finished this week:

The Littles Go Exploring was for the weekly book group at Felix's school. They enjoyed it, and as an end-of-year gift, I gave them each another Littles book. I'll miss those kids!

~ I read Tinkers for our neighborhood book club. Glad I did. It made for good discussion, and it's interesting to see which books are picked for the Pulitzer each year.

Nightstand, 5/26/14

I'm behind on these posts. Here's what it looked like the last week of May! More to come.

Books Read, Week of 5/19/14

Finished up several books this week:

~ Hooray! The first Warriors series (six books) is complete! Now, Felix can read any others he is interested in on his own.

~ I listened to Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson on audio. Skye had read it and loved it. I did, too -- so much that I also read the physical book as I listened.

~ Felix is loving Stick Dog. He met the author, Tom Watson, at school. I gave him this second book in the series as a congrats gift at his piano recital, and he insisted we read it together. Cute.

~ I was so impressed by Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian; I see why she won the Minnesota Book Award for Young People's Literature this year for her first novel. Evan was, to me, a modern-day Holden Caulfield.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

“When all else fails, give up and go to the library.”

~ Stephen King, 11/22/63

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

“Sarah wondered what it could be like, to live like this - life as a country dance, where everything is lovely, and graceful, and ordered, and every single turn is preordained, and not a foot may be set outside the measure. Not like Sarah's own out-in-all-weathers haul and trudge, the wind howling and blustery, the creeping flowers in the hedgerows, the sudden sunshine.”

~ Jo Baker, Longbourn

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nightstand, 5/19/14

Oops. How'd it get this big again?

Books Read, Week of 5/12/14

The kids and I finally finished Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. I thought it was okay, and they enjoyed it.

On the recommendations and raves from readers of the Morning News' Tournament of Books, I picked up Rene Denfeld's The Enchanted. By the middle, I was worried it was getting too icky for me, but I plowed through and made it to the end. I was glad I did -- I liked the second half much better -- but I wasn't as impressed as others were. The expectations problem?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

“I was beginning to understand something about normality. Normality wasn't normal. It couldn't be. If normality were normal, everybody could leave it alone. They could sit back and let normality manifest itself. But people--and especially doctors--had doubts about normality. They weren't sure normality was up the job. And so they felt inclined to give it a boost.”

~ Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

“And that phrase - 'sleeping like a baby.' Some blonde said it blithely on the subway the other day. I wanted to lie down next to her and scream for five hours in her ear.”

~ Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nightstand, 5/12/14

Oh, no! It's a leaning tower again! Ah, well. So many books...

Books Read, Week of 5/5/14

A classic I hadn't read before, and a new-to-me poet. Melancholy stuff, but excellent.

Friday, May 09, 2014

“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.”

~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

“I stretched out my hand towards the little bookshelf where I kept cookery and devotional books, the most comfortable bedside reading.”

~ Barbara Pym, Excellent Women

Monday, May 05, 2014

Nightstand, 5/5/14

Same pile as last week, less one. Perhaps next week will be the same.

Books Read, Week of 4/28/14

I finished two books this week:

Hideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill. A novel in verse; tells the story of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Hemphill did all kinds of research, and I love how she connects Mary Shelley's life experiences with the events and themes of her masterpiece. I read this for National Poetry Month and for our Teen Book Club, which met this weekend. (We read Frankenstein together last summer, and checked out novels in verse the last time we met.)

BookSpeak: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas. I read this one for our Kids Book Club, and because it's been on my shelf for about a year. I immediately wanted to share many of the poems with kids. It's perfect for celebrating the joy of books and poetry!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Nightstand, 4/28/14

I cleaned up and cleared off my nightstand today, and selected the books I want to focus on this week. I hope I can dip into all of them at some point.

Book Read, Week of 4/21/14

Just one book finished this week: Alice Munro's The Progress of Love. We had a great conversation about Munro and her short stories last night at the Excellent Women's Book Club. I liked these stories more after I was done with them and could think about them. Many of them are dark, and they all have lots of layers. The story is revealed slowly, and at first it's often even hard to tell who will be the main character and what they problem is, much less what insight they will have -- or not have. Several times, she changed the perspective, giving us glimpses of two or three characters' points-of-view.

They are dark, and often weird, but somehow real, and I want to read more.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nightstand, 4/21/14

Good stuff here! Lots to look forward to. Some were in the stack last week, and some are new. We'll see which one(s) I can finish up this week.

Books Read, Week of 4/14/14

I had read about the new book, Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain, around the time I was reading Lisa See's Dreams of Joy. Finally got it from the library. It's a nice introduction. I like the way Freedman uses the poetry carved into the walls of the barracks to tell the stories.

In honor of Camp NaNoWriMo this April, I re-read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. This was one of the first books I ever read on writing, and it took me right back to my college days. Her thoughts on writing are simple yet wise. I especially appreciated her comments on how to go about editing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nightstand, 4/14/14

Some new books here. Fun! I'll do my best to stay on track now and post tomorrow about what I read this week.

Books Read, Week of 4/7/14

This was an awesome week of reading! I'd been working on Americanah for awhile; I loved it. The book cover is really neat -- you can see it in the photo below, and in the link, but you can't feel it. The brown paper bag quality is nice. But I really like the paperback cover, too. Here's what I read this week:

I'd had Ten Poems to Change Your Life going for awhile, too, reading one poem each day. I liked some of the poems, but the essays to go along with them I could take or leave. Or, actually, leave. Makes me want to read more poetry, though.

After completing these two books, I jumped into a few short ones:

~ I came across Brushing Mom's Hair when looking for juvenile novels in verse for a library display celebrating National Poetry Month. It's a breast cancer story, told from the point-of-view of the survivor's daughter. It's lovely.

~ I was hoping I'd like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel better than I liked the actually novel, but no luck. I can see why some enjoy it, but I really just get a kick out of the gimmick involved rather than the story created around it. It takes itself too seriously for me, I think. Skye's friend lent this to her, and I think she's going to read it. It will be interesting to hear her thoughts.

~ I loved the way Dept. of Speculation was written, and I think I'll re-read it, as I know I missed a lot.  But it was so sad.

Nightstand, 4/7/14

Did some shifting of books this week. Removed some and added others. I guess I'm always doing that, aren't I? That top book stays the same, though, and now it seems I've got a bottom book that's always there. Bookends.

Books Read, Week of 3/31/14

Guess what? We read another Warriors Cats book! And immediately picked up the next one, which is the last in the (first) series. I had been reading these aloud to both Skye and Felix at bedtime, but about two-thirds of the way through this one, Skye had had enough. Too many innocent cats dying! (We joked that it was Divergent for cats.) So, Felix and I finished it up together, and we started a new bedtime book for the two of them. (Stay tuned to find out what it is!)

Nightstand, 3/31/14

After last week's small stack, this one is big again. Lots of good stuff here, including a couple of titles I purchased in Stevens Point, Wisconsin on our little spring break trip: I picked up NurtureShock at Book World, and the second "Call the Midwife" memoir, Shadows of the Workhouse, came from Kindred Spirit Books.

Books Read, Week of 3/24/14

I loved this book. Loved One Crazy Summer, too; this is its sequel. I hope Rita Williams-Garcia writes a third book about the Gaither sisters. "Surely do!" I listened to some of it on audio, but once I got two-thirds of the way through, I didn't have the patience to wait for my next car ride to see what was next. Glad to have my own copy. (Thanks again, Mom & Dad!)

I'm going to post Mac Barnett's judgment again, because what he says reflects how I feel about this book: "This novel is always nuanced and frequently, quietly, profound. Williams-Garcia has the grace to nod toward the truth instead of jabbing at it with an index finger."

Nightstand, 3/24/14

Here's my next nightstand post. Can you guess which one I finished this week? (Hint: I mentioned it in my last post.)

Books Read, Week of 3/17/14

I'm playing catch-up here. Funny that Easter Sunday is the quiet day that works for me to do this. It's not quiet! But perhaps quieter than usual...

Here's one view of the books I read this week:
And here's another view:

Those covers for Boxers & Saints are so beautiful that I have to show them both ways.

I was really looking forward to reading Midwinterblood, especially after it won this year's Michael L. Printz Award. It just sounds like my kind of book. I was excited to see it was in School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books, which made me pick it up sooner rather than later. And I got a copy from my parents for my birthday! It's a quick read, but I found it unsatisfying. Mac Barnett's judgment (it was up against P.S. Be Eleven) expresses many of my feelings -- although I'm not an expert in premodern Scandinavian literature, like he is, so I missed some of those things. (Cool author facts!) I love what he wrote about P.S. Be Eleven, also. Such a lovely book. But that's for me to tell you about later...

Now, I get to tell you about the lovely set of books, Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang.  Reading American Born Chinese several years ago (another Printz Award winner), I quickly became a fan of Yang's. This work is just as beautiful. Skye read them first, and insisted I pick them up immediately. I'm glad I did. I enjoyed this interview with the author, and you can read/see an excerpt from Boxers there, too.