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!


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, 9/26/13: Old Favorites Edition

We’ve been getting a lot of old favorites out recently, so here they are:

Arthur's Audio Favorites, Volume 2Arthur’s Audio Favorites, Volume 2 by Marc Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of 6 Arthur books has been used for road trips with my kids at least twice now. The contents include Arthur Goes to Camp, Arthur’s Halloween, Arthur’s Baby, Arthur Meets the President, Arthur Babysits, and Arthur’s Family Vacation. Author Marc Brown reads the books, and he does a pretty convincing reading, with slight voice variations that still let the listeners know pretty easily who’s talking. There are also sound effects, and an introductory song to each book. Adults may find the song annoying, especially after the first book, but if you listen to it enough, it sort of drills into your head far enough that it’s not quite so bad–and my kids really liked it. On this latest trip, my son enjoyed checking out the print version of Arthur Meets the President and following along–and this led us to notice a few differences in the versions. The differences are just a few sentences added to make up for the lack of pictures to give clues to the action in the audio version. All in all, if you like Arthur, this is a well-done audio version of some favorites.

Charlotte's WebCharlotte’s Web by E.B. White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlotte’s Web is always a classic, and listening to the audio version definitely worked as the best way to get our family through it (I started reading it with my now-5-year-old a couple times, but we’d get sidetracked, and it was hard to read a whole chapter with younger sisters around). I especially enjoyed hearing E.B. White read it himself–it feels like time-traveling to get to hear a beloved, now-deceased author read his own work.

We're Going on a Bear HuntWe’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’ve listened to this one at storytime, but just finally checked it out. It’s really fun to read, but I think it will be even more fun when I memorize it and we can just act it out. Good pictures that are fun to look at, but it’s hard to act out while holding the book!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of AnythingThe Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We have checked this one out countless times…and I’m just now remembering to review it. A repetitive fall story, this has an air of spookiness, but it doesn’t have anything to really scare any but the most sensitive children (a scary pumpkin head says “Boo, boo!”). I like it for the definite fall feeling, my kids like to say or act the different things the pieces of clothing do, and I think the pictures are charming.

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