At least have some books…

I have a list of blog post topics on a Post-It note on my to-do list. Here are some things I have recently wanted to blog about:

  • Being called to the laity (instead of ordained ministry, like certain other members of the family…)
  • Ideas, or lack thereof, for Sunday school
  • Working on the YALSA Hub reading challenge
  • Life 9 months post-move
  • Thoughts about Lent this year
  • Guns and why I don’t like them

Obviously, I haven’t sat down to write any of these, and while I hope to get to at least some of them, it doesn’t seem likely in the next week, either. So here are some recent library books instead…

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary FriendThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We grabbed this from the library’s new award winner display, and I can see why it won. The pictures have a lovely bright and dark contrast, but the story is also fun and it just feels like a kid-friendly book all around. I hadn’t heard of it before it won this year’s Caldecott Medal (not surprisingly, for me), but my kids and I have all enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’ve had several reread requests.

The story follows an unnamed imaginary friend who, when he doesn’t get called up by a kid to be their friend, decides to go out into the real world and find his own friend. Sure enough, he finds both his friend and his name, and all live happily ever after.

Little OinkLittle Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the creators of Little Pea and Little Hoot comes a story about a pig who wants to be clean. This is a cute addition to the Rosenthal and Corace’s brand of creatures wanting to doing the opposite of what they are known for, and it’s again fun as a parent to read how Little Oink disagrees with his parents.

Fox's GardenFox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a gorgeous, wordless story about a fox finding shelter in the winter and a boy who helps her out. I can’t rave enough about the pictures–I could sit and look at them for a long, long time, except that my kids technically have dibs on the book.

Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the PageMr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This installment of the Mr. Putter and Tabby series takes the pair to the library to read for story time. They don’t know quite what to do when Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke decide to come, too, but the visit goes well for everyone except perhaps a couple of librarians who lost their food to Zeke. A sweet, fun (and librarian-pleasing) entry for the series.

Shhh!Shhh! by Valeri Gorbachev

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A sweet story about how an older brother quiets his toys down for his baby brother’s naptime–and revs them back up when the baby is awake! All three kids liked this, and it was simple but fun.

Five, Six, Seven, Nate!Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first audio book for the YALSA Hub challenge this year, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a continuation, and I haven’t read the first book (Better Nate Than Ever), but Five, Six, Seven, Nate definitely stands on its own. In it, eighth grader Nate Foster heads from a Pittsburgh suburb to Broadway as an ensemble member of “ET: The Musical” and experiences all the ups and downs of being a member of a real Broadway cast. The reader gets a real sense of the theater world and can easily sympathize with Nate’s difficulties. Although he spends a lot of time getting cut from numbers due to poor dance skills, Nate’s flair for learning lines, ability to make (and keep) friends, and passion for the theater carry him through. There’s even some romance.

Author Tim Federle also narrates, and he does a great job–I read on the back blurb that these books are based on his own experiences on Broadway, and you feel like he really identifies with Nate when he reads. He doesn’t quite do Jim Dale-style voices, but he does vary his voice enough (including some very well-done accents) that you can easily tell which character is talking. I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and the audio production of it.

The last is one of the ones I’m reading for the YALSA challenge, but the two I’m reading now (one in print, one on audio) are taking me longer to get through. In audio format, I just got extra time to listen on Five, Six, Seven, Nate because I took a solo trip down to NC. In print, I can tell that bad things are coming for the characters, and that always slows down my reading.

I did finish one of the books I’ve been wanting to read this year, and I can strongly recommend it as very funny and enjoyable (and not even geared just to knitters, like most of her other books):
The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I Gave Up OnThe Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I Gave Up On by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book took me a little while to get into. My first problem was that I bought it in Kindle format, and when the first chapter came up with the title “Thirteen,” I thought the Kindle had simply dropped me in at the wrong spot. Once I figured out that it was just the title of the first chapter, and finished it, I was hooked. While there isn’t as much knitting as in Pearl-McPhee’s other books, the humor is just as great. My personal favorite was the skunk chapter, which had me laughing so hard that I had to retell a modified version to my kids so they’d know what was so funny.

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2015 Reading Goals

Yep, I know that it is well into February. Still, it’s only the second day of the Hub Reading Challenge, so it seems like as good a time as any to share my reading goals for this year.

The first one is to complete the Hub challenge, which I didn’t do last year even when I was blogging for the Hub. This year seems like a good time to try to get some extra YA reading in, and I successfully finished the Nonfiction Challenge (which took place before the Youth Media Awards last week), so I only have to read or listen to 20 additional books to meet the challenge. Looking over the list of eligible books, I know that I want to include at least 2 or 3 audiobooks and 3 of the Alex award (adult books that appeal to teens) winners (especially since one of them is already on my nightstand, as you’ll see below).  I’ve got some others in mind, but I’m looking forward to reading a fairly broad selection between now and June.

My other chosen reads for the year are here:       IMG_2273

The are arranged into roughly three categories:

Books I’ve Had Sitting Around that I Want to Finally Read (or finish):

  1. Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles by Katherine Pancol (with English translation by it to check phrases I just don’t get). I’ve just discovered that this one has a movie adaptation (also in French), so that gives me added incentive to finish it.
  2. Becoming Human by Jean Vanier. One I’ve thought I should read for awhile and just haven’t.
  3. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. YA fiction that I just haven’t gotten to, and also one that gives me a chance to read a non-white perspective.
  4. The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball. An interesting memoir by a farmer who doesn’t start working in agriculture until her marriage–I bought this last year to read because it looked interesting, so I need to sit down and read it.
  5. Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity by Paul Griffiths. My “theology read” for the year–I started it at some point last year, and it was surprisingly easy to read, and it interests me.
  6. Wish You Were Here by Elizabeth Hudson. This is a collection of essays by the editor of Our State, which is the NC state magazine. I’ve been reading them in stolen moments, and I think they will be easy to finish in the same way.
  7. Incarnadine by Mary Szybist. Another purchase from last year, this one is poetry. I’ve liked some of the ones I’ve read, but I find this harder than some poetry books to read in snatches of time. I need to just sit down and finish the whole thing.

New Books or Books Recommended to Me:

  1. In this Mountain by Jan Karon. I’ve had several friends recommend the Jan Karon books to me over the years (I’m sure there’s no connection to my husband studying to be, and then becoming a pastor), and since a relative lent me this one, I figure I should go ahead and give them a try.
  2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is the one that’s on the Alex award list, and it was also one that a good friend, English teacher, and librarian said was the best book she read last year. I got it for my mom at Christmas, who nicely finished it quickly so I could borrow it back. All’s fair in book acquisition.
  3. Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout. Recommended by a friend at a library booksale last year. Who am I to say no?
  4. Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire. This is one I bought new this year. I’ve never read Wicked or any of his other works, but the ideas behind them interest me. Egg and Spoon is a retelling of Baba Yaga stories, which I don’t know real well, received several good reviews, and fits in with my wintertime interest in reading stories related to Russia.
  5. 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl. Not knowing anything about today’s theater world, I did not know that Sarah Ruhl was a famous playwright until I read some reviews of this book. But I’ve already started it, and it’s fabulous.
  6. The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking by Kate Payne. A Christmas gift that has so far been both fun and useful.

Kindle Books That Have Just Been Sitting There:

There are a bunch of these, but I decided to limit the list to five:

  1. The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. This is the one book I knew I would buy with Christmas gift cards before Christmas. The Yarn Harlot writes about more than yarn. It’s hilarious so far, as expected.
  2. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson. I’ve had several false starts of this one. It seems like it’s good (and I’ve heard rave reviews), but I keep getting pulled away to other things. No more!
  3. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Recommended by friends living in China.
  4. Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I added this to my “to read” list years back, never picked it up, bought it at a great Kindle sale, and still have never picked it up. Now I want to pick it up.
  5. Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict Over Gay Relationships. I’ve gotten pretty far in this one, and I like it a lot, and I just need to finish it.

Finally, there’s Harry Potter #5 on there. I am still working on rereading that series, and I have also been rereading (or re-listening to) several of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I’m sure I’ll still reread a bunch of books over the course of the year.

Still, I think this list will keep me busy but is doable if I give it enough attention. It’s always exciting to have a reading project ahead!

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Update 2/17/15: I forgot one book on my Kindle list: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, which I have an e-arc of to read. I’ve received several recommendations and definitely want to get to this one!

Library Books Enjoyed, 1/19/15

Still catching up from the end of 2014, this one includes some Christmas stories we enjoyed this year:

Awesome DawsonAwesome Dawson by Chris Gall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Chris Gall has pretty well sewn up being our six-year-old’s current “favorite author.” He specifically requested I get this from the library, because he’d seen it on the book jackets of other Chris Gall books, then spent most of the time we had it poring over it, and basically memorized it. His two younger sisters also thought it was great and deserved multiple rereads. I can’t say it’s my favorite, but I do think Mr. Gall knows his audience!

Dawson is an inventor, but he has to learn to harness his inventing powers for good…Dawson’s best friend, Mooey (a talking cow toy), was especially popular around here.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Jon Agee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one is awesome. It’s similar to another book we’ve loved, where different illustrators offer knock-knock jokes (and I need to check whether the two are from the same publisher), but in this one, each illustrator offers his or her own take on the age-old question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Because it relies so heavily on the illustrations, all three of my kids could soon read it to themselves, and they did–over and over.

I thought it was a cute book, but my favorite part was my six year old identifying all the illustrators and reciting the different books he knew them from–it warmed this librarian-mom’s heart!

I definitely recommend this to anyone with kids who are into jokes, and also anyone who is a fan of children’s book illustrations.

Captain Sky BlueCaptain Sky Blue by Richard Egielski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This unexpected Christmas adventure follows a favorite toy, Captain Sky Blue, when his plane suffers a weather run-in. It’s a little hard to describe, but it has lots of pilot talk (with a glossary at the front, thankfully!), lots of adventure, and a chance to save Christmas. We’ve enjoyed it a lot.

When Christmas CameWhen Christmas Came by Eileen Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute book about who shows up for a Christmas Eve service during a snowstorm. We especially liked the prominent place that the organist was given, although I wish there had been a choir rather than a “soloist.” Will be most enjoyed by other church-goers.

A Season of Gifts (A Long Way from Chicago, #3)A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can never resist Grandma Dowdel. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a couple years now, but I didn’t want to read it except near Christmas, and it always seemed to be checked out. Finally got a copy of the audio book this year, and at a nice, short 3 CD length, finished it quickly. As in A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, Grandma Dowdel (who’s getting quite old–it’s now 1958) continues to live her life without regard for what anyone else thinks, and usually so that everything is arranged to her satisfaction (whether strictly legal or not).

In this installment, though, it’s not one of her grandkids that she’s surprising and leaving speechless, but a neighbor kid, Bob Barnhart and his family. Bob’s dad is the new Methodist minister in town (another reason that I especially enjoyed the book), and the family has not exactly been warmly welcomed. But with some help from Mrs. Dowdel, they are able to settle in and deal with bullies, low church attendance, and a teenage older sister. Bob’s younger sister Ruth Ann’s attachment to Mrs. Dowdel is especially fun to watch.

An excellent quick read (or fun read-aloud) for Christmastime.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 1/5/15

It’s been a good two and half months since I posted some library books, so the next few book posts will be catching up with favorites from that time period…

Goatilocks and the Three BearsGoatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was awesome!! As expected, it’s a retelling of Goldilocks, but I wouldn’t have thought how brilliant a retelling with a goat could be.

What does Goatilocks do with the porridge that’s just right? She eats it! Of course, that’s how the story goes. But what does Goatilocks do with the chair that’s just right? She eats it! Because she’s a goat!

The story goes on, and it’s just as fun throughout…and we had repeated rereadings in our house.

Secret Pizza PartySecret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dragons Love Tacos still remains my favorite book from this author and illustrator duo, but I liked Secret Pizza Party a lot, too, and so did my kids. They especially like the part where you first whisper, and then yell “Secret Pizza Party!!” Anyone who feels affection toward raccoons should also read this (those with personal vendettas against the critters may want to skip it).

Little Owl LostLittle Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We LOVED this one. I had to read it over and over, and I didn’t even mind too much–and eventually the kids memorized it and read it over and over themselves.

Little Owl falls out of his nest, and a squirrel enthusiastically tries to help Little Owl find his mother, based on the owlet’s descriptions of his mother. Squirrel’s enthusiasm outweighs his competence, and he finds several other animals, but no Mother Owl. Luckily, the Frog that Squirrel finds when Little Owl mentions that his mother has big eyes has a bit more sense, and the family is reunited.

The pictures remind me a little of prints or wood cuts, and the colors are darker, but beautiful.

My kids especially liked telling me what animal Squirrel had found on each attempt.

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think I liked steampunk, and then I read Leviathan. I liked Leviathan, but thought I probably didn’t need to finish the trilogy, and then I picked up Behemoth. And Goliath has been just as fun and satisfying a read. I loved the continued adventures of the Leviathan’s crew, and particularly the intertwined stories of Deryn and Alek, but my favorite part in this case may be the dedication: “To everyone who loves a long-secret romance, revealed at last.”

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Library Books Enjoyed, 8/18/14: First Maryland edition

Our new library is the Harford County Library, and here are some recent picks that we’ve enjoyed from there:

Princesses Are Not Just PrettyPrincesses Are Not Just Pretty by Kate Lum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute story about three princesses who each WANT to be the prettiest, but eventually remember that they have more important things to do. My kids LOVED this one (and I have to say, I liked that one of the princesses was named Princess Libby), and now we need to seek out Lum’s other princess books.

My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new Gerald and Piggie!! Hooray! Gerald and Snake find out that Piggie and Brian Bat are hitting it off–and then they start to worry that their best friends won’t need them anymore. Another great installment by Willems.

Naughty Kitty. Adam StowerNaughty Kitty. Adam Stower by Adam Stower

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do have ONE gripe about this book, which is that the tiger who appears and gets Lily’s kitty in trouble shouldn’t be quite such a surprise to Lily, since she adopted him at the end of Silly Doggy. Still, Lily’s animal raising skills amused us just as much, if not more, in this new story as in the first, and this is one that I not only reread several times, but that my 6 and 4 year old quickly learned enough to reread by themselves. Cute, funny, and right on target to audience (they especially loved the line, “As for Mom’s carpet, I can’t even talk about that. It was revolting!”

And one adult book (and I was very impressed by how quickly I got this from the holds list):

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this second installment of the Cormoran Strike detective series (yes, I probably wouldn’t have read it if it weren’t written by J.K. Rowling; I have no shame about this). I think I like that it follows the basic hard-boiled detective and green partner pattern, and I love the character development between Strike and Robin, and I LOVE that (at least so far) it has not become a romance. I did tell a friend who is hoping they will get together that there’s still room for it to develop (not least because Robin’s fiancé Matthew seems even less likable in this novel), but I’m still holding out hope that it will just stay a detective-partner relationship.

I thought the murder mystery part was also well done (and that the whodunit was less of a cheat than the first book), but be aware that the murder in this volume is extremely gory and disturbing.

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Comfort reads

May apparently wasn’t much of a better month for posting than April, and I don’t think June will yield many posts, either. We are in the thick of moving preparations, and I only have time to write this post because I’m experiencing a very slow chat reference shift today.

In the midst of all the transition that seems to be hitting, I’ve been finding myself rereading a lot of old favorites before I packed them up. Even at the library today, I managed to pick up a new graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time to check out. With all this rereading, I thought I could share a few of my very favorite books that I will always come back to read one more time. There are lots of other books series I love and like to reread, but these are some of the ones I’ve read 10 or more times, that I come back to every few years, that I pull off the shelf just to read a favorite chapter when I’m feeling down. Not surprisingly, several of these are books I’ve been reading since I was a kid, but since I’ve stopped expecting to feel like a “real grown-up” anytime in the next 50 years, that doesn’t seem to bother me.

pride_and_prejudicePride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. This is the only actual “adult” book on the list, and I first read it my senior year of high school for English class. I wasn’t expecting anything super exciting from it (it was one of our last books for the year, and the others live in the range of “mostly interesting” to ” extremely depressing” in my memory), but a friend and I opened up my copy during math class and read the first line. It was ironic–it was funny! I continued to enjoy the story, and the fact that it was basically a romance did not hurt the book in my opinion at all. I also loved the use of letters in the story, particularly since my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I regularly wrote letters during the week just for the fun of getting mail from each other (we didn’t go to the same high school). I now routinely reread P&P every few years (and bits and pieces in between), usually in the spring. I’ve read 4 of Austen’s other books (I still need to read Northanger Abbey), and this one far and away remains my favorite.

Many Waters, by Madeleine L’Engle.

Yep, this is the edition I have, too.

Yep, this is the edition I have, too.

This is the book I still consider my all-time favorite. Granted, I have lots of favorites depending on the day and my mood, but I discovered this one sometime around fifth grade, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. Not one of L’Engle’s best known works, Many Waters stars Sandy and Dennys Murry, Meg’s younger twin brothers who are much more ordinary than either Meg or the youngest brother, Charles Wallace. Sandy and Dennys accidentally interrupt one of their scientist parents’ time-traveling experiments and blow themselves into the story of Noah and the Ark.

I just reread this from cover-to-cover for the first time in many years, and I was able to think a little more logically about why I love the book so much. It certainly has its faults–there is some serious repetition, some of the language is so sparsely lyrical that it almost doesn’t make sense, and L’Engle seems to sometimes confuse her characters in passages of dialogue, especially when the two twins are talking together. But even with all of this, I just love it. I love that L’Engle took a familiar story and wove a whole world under it, without changing any of the details from the Biblical text. I love that the women have more of a role in here. I like how she handled sex–it’s definitely there, but my 5th or 6th grade self missed a lot of the references to it, and it’s presented as something that’s important and great, but that has to be approached with care. And I like the twins themselves, how they are matter-of-fact, regular guys who manage to adopt to a fantastic time and place. They see lots of awful, evil things going on in the world, but they also see the good and don’t despair.

I know many people who just don’t think this one works, and maybe it’s just that I liked it when I first encountered it, but it works for me.

beautyBeauty and Spindle’s End, both by Robin McKinley. My first post for the Hub was all about Robin McKinley, so it’s not surprising that two of her books are here. My mom handed me Beauty sometime in late elementary or early middle school and told me I would love it, and I did, and still do. Going back to it, I can see that it’s a first novel (two of McKinley’s favorite things are books and horses, and both come in strongly here–plus, there are lots of elements about the Beast’s castle that are pure wish-fulfillment), but it’s still a beautiful and well-told story, gives a neat twist on the folktale, and has a great protagonist. Spindle’s End was published about 20 years after Beauty, but it has a similar fairy-tale “feel” to it. It’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and I especially enjoy that there are two protagonists (first, Katriona, then Rosie as she grows) and the strong role that female friendship plays.spindles_end

Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. I’m too old to have been one of the kids who “grew up with Harry,” and yet in many ways I feel like I did. I discovered the series in high school, and read the first three books all in one swoop. The 4th one came out the summer after I graduated high school, the 5th one while I was in college, the 6th after my first and only year of teaching, and the last one when I was half-way through library school. I may not have grown up with Harry, but he was there for a lot of milestones, and I still like to hang out with him, Ron, and Hermione frequently.

If I had to choose a favorite from the series, this would be it.

If I had to choose a favorite from the series, this would be it.

As I said, there are more, even more that should be on this list, but these make up the core of my go-to comfort reads. What are yours?