Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Monday 12/31! What Are You Reading?

Happy New Year's Eve! Do you have big plans for tonight? Fancy parties? Times Square? We bought our little New Year's Eve party pack at Target and will celebrate here in Oklahoma with my father-in-law. I love being in the Central Time zone for New Year's Eve, so we can watch the ball drop on TV and be in bed by 11:10!  So, that gives you an idea of our wild plans. At least we now celebrate at 11 - we used to celebrate at 8 pm for the kids! I've included a photo below of a happier time when both Grandma and Grandad were still with us.

Well, it may be New Year's Eve, but it is also Monday and that means it is What Are You Reading Day! Despite our very hectic holiday week, we have all been able to read quite a bit, thanks to travel time:
  • I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and it was just as good as everyone said it was!
  • To choose my final books of the year, I scoured the overflowing To-Be-Read shelves in my bedroom, trying to satisfy as many of my 2012 reading challenges as I could!  One of my personal challenges was to read 12 books from my TBR shelves, so I reluctantly ignored some of the newer books I got for Christmas. I started to read Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, which good friends have been recommending to me for years, but I quickly realized that it wasn't the first book in the series (the books can stand alone but I prefer to read them in order), so after 20 or so pages, I switched to The Bean Trees (the first book) by Barbara Kingsolver, which has also been languishing on my shelves for years! I loved, loved, loved this book and can't believe it took me so long to get to it!! Now I am dying to get back home, so I can go back to Pigs in Heaven.
  • I am now reading The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, a teen/YA novel that my older son has been telling me to read for years (see the pattern here?). It's an alternate history set out on the Western prairie in pioneer times where there are dragons and wooly rhinoceroses, along with the bison, and magic is used to keep people safe from the big creatures. It's kind of like Little House on the Prairie meets Harry Potter - I'm enjoying it so far.
  • My husband, Ken, just finished The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, another YA novel our son has been begging us to read. Ken absolutely loved it and can't wait to get home to read the rest of the trilogy!
  • Since that was the only book he brought on our trip, Ken is now reading a novel on his Kindle, West of Sheridan by Dean Ross, a post-apocalyptic story set in the West, near Yellowstone. It sounds interesting.
  • Jamie, 18, finally has some time to read, though games on the computer and his new Kindle Fire are distracting him! He finished City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series) and is now - finally - reading book 5, City of Lost Souls. He wanted to read this months ago, when it was first released, but first he re-read the rest of the series!
  • Craig, 14, is definitely distracted by all the games, TV shows, and movies on his new Kindle Fire!  He did download two books - much to my surprise - and has started reading Fast Track to Sailing by Steve Colgate.
I actually managed a few blog posts this week, once we arrived at my father-in-law's house. I posted a review of Time and Again by Jack Finney (which I loved) and a fun summary of the books we gave and received for Christmas.  I also wrote a Weekend Cooking post about the southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day, with my recipe for Hoppin' John. Check it out - there's still time to get your good luck for the new year! Finally, I posted some photos from a very cool display at my local library called The United States of YA - perfect if you need inspiration for the Where Are You Reading Challenge!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

YA Novels Across the US

I was surprised to walk in my local library last week and see this fabulous display, The United States of YA: read Your Way Across the USA:
(sorry for the glare - it was a shiny sign!)

It's a display showing a YA book set in every one of the 50 states! Isn't that great? This display appealed to me even more because for the past two years, I have participated in Book Journey's Where Are You Reading Challenge. If you are also enjoying this challenge and need to fit in another one or two states this week before the year ends (or want to participate next year!), here are some close-ups of the display (click on a photo to see it even larger) to help you fill out your Where Are You Reading checklist:

The past few weeks, I have been choosing my books based on trying to finish my 2012 reading challenges, including Where Are You Reading! I really enjoy tracking the settings of the books I read and plan to participate again in 2013, so this display will come in handy!

Have fun reading your way across the USA!

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Monday 12/24! What Are You Reading?

Busy, busy, busy holiday week!  No time for blogging. I probably shouldn't even by typing this, but I couldn't stand to miss a Monday post!  So, just a quick one, then back to wrapping gifts and cooking.
  • I finished reading Time and Again by Jack Finney, the last of my Christmas gift books from LAST Christmas!  I loved this novel about traveling back in time to 1882 NYC so much that it's characters are still with me days after I finished it - that's the sign of a great book!
  • Now I am FINALLY reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, one of the year's top YA (and adult) novels that I have been wanting to read for many months - fitting it in just before the end of the year!
  • My husband, Ken, finished Defending Jacob by William Landay last week and loved it! He said he can't tell me much about it without giving away surprises - I can't wait to read it!
  • Ken has now started The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - both he and I have been wanting to read this trilogy for a long time - our son says it is great!
  • Jamie, 18, is still re-reading City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series. He's been busy playing with his brother and cousins so hasn't had much reading time since coming home.
  • I am still listening to Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, a middle-grade audio book, though I don't have much time to listen with a house full of people!
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday 12/17! What Are You Reading?

I am waaaay behind today, but the whole week is going to be like this - not much time to squeeze in blogging this week.  My son and I made our trek to the Lyme doctor today (90 minutes away) - nice to have him feeling well enough to do the driving!  But that is just the beginning of a very busy week that will end with a large group of family members arriving for the weekend.

Good thing we have our books for a little downtime here and there:
  • I finished Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley, a very good middle-grade novel set in 1977 - you can read my review here.
  • With Christmas quickly approaching and new books on my wish list, I decided I better finish the books I got as gifts LAST Christmas! So, I am now reading Time and Again by Jack Finney, a classic time travel novel my husband gave me that I just never found time for. I love time travel plots and am enjoying it very much.
  • Last night, we read a new holiday picture book with our sons. Yes, they are 14 and 18 now, but they still enjoy our traditions of watching holiday movies and kids' specials and reading from our collection of holiday books together (see a list of our favorites). We read The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene. It's clever and funny, though quite a bit darker than our usual holiday fare! I will post a review this week.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, after I read it and raved about it. He enjoyed reading about the formation of the U.S. Forest Service and the suspenseful scenes of the Great Fire.
  • Ken is now reading one of his birthday gifts from October, Defending Jacob by William Landay, a novel he and I have both been wanting to read.
  • Jamie, 18, is home from college, with no responsibilities for a few glorious weeks! He is looking forward to enjoying some reading time and is currently re-reading City of Fallen Angels, book #4 in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series.
  • Craig, 14, is reading The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros for his freshman lit class. He says it is good so far but a little hard to follow because it doesn't follow a chronological order. I'm looking forward to reading this one when he is done!
I posted two new reviews last week: Middlemarch by George Eliot and Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley, a middle-grade novel.

I also posted a Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012 list (for grown-up books) and a similar list of new to me kids/teen/YA authors. And, in this season of Best Of lists, I posted a link to the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2012 and a discussion of BookPage's Best Children's Books of 2012 (and 2011 and 2010!).

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Middle-Grade Review: Greetings from Planet Earth

Barbara Kerley is the author of several award-winning picture books, but Greetings from Planet Earth is her first middle-grade novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this distinctive and engaging book and look forward to reading more from her in the future!

In 1977, Theo’s 12th birthday is bittersweet. His mom, grandma, and older sister celebrate with him and give him nice gifts, but his father is still missing. His dad joined the Army and went to Vietnam, but he never returned; it was years before Theo heard the term MIA because his mother never talks about his dad. But even knowing his dad is MIA still leaves Theo with a lot of questions about him because he barely remembers the father that left when Theo was 5 years old. No one ever wants to talk about him, but finally, Theo’s grandma begins to tell him about his dad.

At the same time, Theo’s mind is also occupied by his class project. Voyager 2 will leave Earth in the summer carrying golden records to bring greetings from earth into space. Theo’s class is making their own golden record, and Theo needs to figure out what his contribution will be. What is the most important thing about Earth? And its people? Theo considers and discards many ideas for his photo and recording, as he gradually learns more and more about his missing father.

Greetings from Planet Earth seamlessly blends light-hearted fun, facts about the moon, and introspective drama into a single, agreeable story. It captures the excitement of the early space era, along with the thoughtfulness of a young boy’s search for both his identity and his father. The characters are all real and likable, and the story moves along at a fast-pace and even has some surprises hiding along the way. It’s an excellent novel for middle-grade readers of both genders who enjoy realistic stories with some depth and heart.

243 pages, Scholastic


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BookPage's Best Children's Books of 2012

I enjoy reading BookPage each month (I pick it up at my local library) - that's where I get a lot of my ideas for my TBR list.

Here is their list of Best Children's Books of 2012.  I haven't read a single one of them yet!  I am always behind.  The Fault in Our Stars is on my shelf, though, waiting to be read...does that count? Actually, I do hope to read it before the end of the year.

Hey, I wonder if I've read any of their Best Children's Books of 2011?  Well, I did a little better - I've now read 2 books off the 2011 list: Wonderstruck and Okay for Now, both excellent and among the best books I read this year.  But that's still not very good after 2 years!

OK, one more try.  Here is BookPage's Best Children's Books of 2010.  I've read 6 of these!  So, I do get around to the best books eventually...I am just perpetually behind.

I guess I need to get busy in 2013 and read some of these!  How many of the Best Children's Books of 2012 (or 2011 or 2010) have you read?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012

It's Tuesday and this week's Top Ten list at The Broke and the Bookish sounded like one I could manage: Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012
Some of these were first-time authors; others very well-known authors I'd just never read before. I enjoyed all ten of these very much and would certainly be interested in reading another book by any of these authors.
How about you?

What new-to-you authors did YOU try in 2012?

(I focused this list in authors of kids/teen/YA books. For my list of new-to-me grown-up authors, check out my list at Book By Book).

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Monday 12/10! What Are You Reading?

Ahhhh...Monday morning and I am all alone in a quiet house.  We saw friends and had some fun on Saturday, but Sunday was a busy, exhausting day.  Ready to catch up today and start a new week!

I did have a satisfying reading week:
  • I finished The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan just moments before my book group meeting.  Unfortunately, I was too sick to go to the meeting and was very disappointed because I loved the book and was looking forward to discussing it.  Here's my review - I still want to discuss it so be sure to leave comments!
  • After that, I went back to my book-in-progress and...I FINISHED MIDDLEMARCH!  Woohoo!  Yes, it only took me a month, but I did finish this hefty classic...and enjoyed it very much.  Review to come this week.
  • My reading strategy for the rest of the month is to focus on beefing up my 2012 Reading Challenges (especially reading from my TBR shelves) and reading as many books as possible to wrap up the year!  I was also craving some kids/teen/YA reading after my month-long relationship with Middlemarch.  So I am now reading Greetings From Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley, a middle-grade novel about a 12-year old boy in 1977 who is obsessed with space travel...and with learning more about his father who was MIA in Vietnam.  It's great so far.
  • On audio, I went back to a middle-grade audio book I started many months ago and then set aside, Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis.  I picked it up where I left off and am enjoying it so far.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. 
  • Ken is now reading The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, after hearing how much I liked it!
  • I think both of our sons have been too busy with school work for much reading lately.
I finally found some time and energy to catch up on blogging last week.  I posted two reviews:  The Big Burn by Timothy Egan and The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg.  I also posted my November Reading Summary and two wish lists: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me and another Top Ten wish list for kids/teen/YA books. And finally, I posted my weekly Weekend Cooking post.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Middle-Grade Fiction: The View From Saturday

E.L. Konigsburg is well known for her award-winning children’s literature, having won two Newberry Medals for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and this novel, The View from Saturday.  We listened to the audio of From the Mixed-Up Files… together as a family, as well as another Konigsburg novel, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World.  Unfortunately, my teenage sons don’t like listening to audio books together anymore (sniff, sniff), but I enjoyed listening to this one on my own.

The View from Saturday is about a sixth-grade Academic Bowl team, but to my surprise, very little of the story is actually about the competition itself.  This novel is more of a character study, examining the lives of each of the four team members and how they came to know each other and become friends.  Ethan, who is very smart but rarely talks, feels like he lives in the shadow of his high-achieving older brother.  Nadia, with a halo of bright red hair, meets Ethan for the first time when her grandfather marries his grandmother down in Florida, and they both visit during the summer and end up saving turtles together.  Noah, by a strange accident, ends up acting as best man at the wedding of Ethan’s grandmother and Nadia’s grandfather.  The fourth and final Academic Bowl team member is Julian, who is new to the area, with an unusual and exotic background that makes him fodder for the school bullies.

The four of them begin to become friends when Julian invites them all to a tea party.  Their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, who has returned to teaching for the first time since an accident that left her in a wheelchair, isn’t entirely sure why she has chosen these four for her team, except that each one just seems to be the right choice at the right time.  The team is very successful together, as the opening scene of the Academic Bowl shows, but more importantly, the four kids become friends and each becomes more comfortable with who she or he is, through their experiences both in school and out.

This is essentially the story of outcasts finding their place in the world.  Each of the four kids – and their teacher – is a bit of a geek and feels out of place at the beginning, until they find each other and begin to bond.  It’s a warm story of unlikely friendship, with touches of gentle humor throughout.  I have to admit that my 14-year old son was right – he wouldn’t have enjoyed this book much, despite having been on his own middle school’s Academic Bowl team.  He just prefers more action and suspense in his books (when he reads at all!).  But kids who enjoy real-life stories of real-life kids overcoming obstacles and finding friends will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

Simon & Schuster Audio

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

I haven't had the time to participate in The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday meme in quite a while, but I couldn't resist this week's topic: the Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me.  I thought I would have trouble coming up with 10 because I already have so many books waiting to be read here, but I came up with so many that I needed two lists!  So check out Book By Book for my Top Ten wish list for grown-up books.  And here are my Top Ten choices for kids/teen/YA books:
  • Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead - because I loved When You Reach Me.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - because it sounds fascinating and I keep hearing rave reviews.
  • Son by Lois Lowry (and also Gathering Blue and Messenger) - because I really liked The Giver.
  • Every Day by David Levithan - because it sounds completely unique.
  • The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost - because I just read a review and it sounds great.
  • My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorheeve - because it is about an aspect of WWII I know little about (the kindertransport).
  • Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska by John Green - because he is one of the top authors in the world now, and I've only read 1 of his novels (and The Fault in Our Stars is already on my shelf witing!).
  • Safekeeping by Karen Hesse - because it sounds like a different, more introspective kind of post-apocalyptic novel.
  • Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus - because it looks at WWII from childrens' perspectives.
  • Ruins by Orson Scott Card - this one is kind of a cheat because we already have it, but I am dying to read this sequel to Pathfinder!
How about you?  What books do you want Santa to bring this year?

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Monday 12/3! What Are You Reading?

Whew...busy weekend!  I'm actually glad it's Monday, and I am alone in the quiet house.  I really need to do better at finding time for fun and relaxation on the weekends - I definitely have trouble letting go of the to-do list and just chilling.

We had a pretty good week, though a rough start.  I think we were all exposed to a virus during our Thanksgiving week visits, so my youngest son was home sick for several days last week.  Fortunately, it only affected my older son and I for a day each, though.  So, I felt like my week started on Thursday!  No wonder the weekend was so busy.

We did enjoy some reading time last week, though:
  • I am STILL reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, though I had to set it aside a few days ago....just temporarily!  I am less than 100 pages from the end now, and I do plan to finish it later this week.
  • Since my other book group meets this Wednesday, I decided I better start that book!  We are reading and discussing The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan. I bought this book for my brother-in-law last Christmas, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far.  We are huge National Park fans, so this book is right up my alley.
  • I finished the middle-grade audio book I was listening to, The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. I enjoyed it very much and will write a review this week.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading The Fifth Witness (a Lincoln Lawyer novel) by Michael Connelly and enjoying it.
  • Jamie, 18, is still reading City of Fallen Angels, book #4 in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series, I think...he seems very busy at college.  I'm sure he'll make up for it during his long winter break by reading non-stop!
  • Craig, 14, has been reading short stories for his freshman literature class, including classics like The Most Dangerous Game, The Gift of the Magi, and one of my favorites, A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury (the story that coined the phrase "The Butterfly Effect").
I posted one review last week: Rule Number Two, an excellent memoir by a psychologist who served in Iraq and is also a wife and mother.

I also posted a discussion of the Washington Post's Best Books of 2012 list and the New York Times' 25 Notable Children's Books of 2012 as well as my weekly Weekend Cooking post (I did a lot of cooking this week!)

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)