The Book That I Am In — Finish Line!

Believe it or not, summer is over!  At least for me it is…and for you in terms of my summer reading challenge!  I hope that even if you aren’t a prize winner that this encouraged you to get your read on this summer.  It certainly was a big motivator for me, even though I kind of fell off the wagon towards the end.

Here are the final rules:

  • You have until Midnight today (Monday, August 20) to finish up your reading.
  • Once you have your totals calculated to the nearest half of a book, please fill out this form.
  • Filling out the form is the ONLY valid way to submit your totals.  
  • Your totals must be submitted by Friday, August 24.  Totals submitted after that date will not count.
  • Feel free to share your totals in the comments, but remember that you have to fill out the form to be considered for a prize.
  • Winners will be announced on Monday, August 27th.

I had planned to share some recent reads with you, but a stupid car accident on Friday night has left me in pain and behind on my to-do list.  I promise to share books with you soon!

In the meantime, what was your favorite read this summer?

Monday Musings

I can’t believe that summer is almost over.  Today is the first day of my last week of break.  Summer just flew by!  I can’t really complain though.  I got to do quite a bit of reading & relaxing…and I got a ton of things done around the house.  My photos are organized, I made the girls a gorgeous baby book, I cleaned out/organized my closet, the girls’ closet, the linen closet, the bathroom cabinet, the mugs, and the DVDs, I got some decorating done, and I’m in the middle of planning a second birthday party.  Plus, I got to spend tons of time with my girls and Ted.  All in all, a good summer.

My hair is getting better!  Thanks to all of your advice, my hair isn’t a super-dry, sticky, gross mess anymore.  I changed shampoos, added a light spray conditioner, and even tried that Moroccan oil you are all addicted to.  It’s not perfect, but I feel like I’m on my way to better hair.  At the very least, it feels soft again, and that’s huge.  Next steps are to get it cut and to invest in some quality styling tools.  Favorite blow dryers, straighteners, and hot rollers?

I’ve been a little stressed out with the girls lately.  Evelyn has been super-clingy lately.  Like, hanging around my neck for hours at a time clingy.  I’ll be holding her and she’s still trying to get closer to me while screaming, “MAMA BIG HUG,” in my ear.  It’s…exhausting.  I’m hoping it’s just a phase and that it doesn’t get worse when I go back to work next week.  Oh, and Charlotte suddenly hates walking on the floor with bare feet.  Fun!

I’m signing the girls up for their first dance class, and today we are off to a dance store to get them fitted for shoes.  Cross your fingers we can find shoes that fit!  The smallest I could find online was a size 5.5, and they are barely in a size 5.  Dainty, dainty feet.

Yesterday, I bought purple skinny jeans.  I realize that many of you buy fun clothes all the time, but I am not a daring fashion person.  I buy sensible, cheap clothes.  I have an entire closet full of camis and cardigans…and I’m bored.  So, I’ve decided to break out of my shell a little bit and try some new things.  Hence, the purple skinny jeans.  But…what do I wear with them???

Don’t forget, this is the last week for my Summer Reading Challenge!  I admit that my reading has slowed a bit over the past few weeks, but I’m hoping to get at least one more book in before the 20th.

What I Did — TLC Book Tour

I received a copy of What I Did from the publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour.  All opinions in this review are my own.  Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity!

It’s not often that I read a book that I’m excited to tell everyone about, that I recommend to everyone asking for book recs, that I want to read again as soon as I’ve put it down.  It doesn’t happen often, but What I Did by Christopher Wakling is exactly that kind of book.

What I Did is told from the perspective of 6-year-old Billy, and in the vein of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Room, the voice is spectacularly done.  Wakling manages to capture the essence of being a 6-year-old boy obsessed with animals and still tell a cohesive, raw tale of family interactions.

“I also have to warn you that nobody is bad or good here, or rather everyone is a bit bad and a bit  good and the bad and good moluscules get mixed up against each other and produce terrible chemical reactions…

Did you know cheetahs cannot retract their claws?”

What happens to Billy and his family could happen to anyone.  If you thought a child was in danger, would you step in?  What if someone thought you were the danger?  Perhaps at the park you grabbed your child a little too roughly to keep them out of harm’s way.  Or you yelled a little too loudly.  What if someone saw you?  What if that someone made a call?

What I Did deals with exactly that kind of situation.  It’s what happens when a simple incident spirals out of control and the truth gets confused or misconstrued…especially the truth as told by a 6-year-old.  And since I hate when book reviews give too much away, I’ll stop there.

Seriously, though, add this one to your list.  It’s my new top book recommendation!

You can learn more about Christoper Wakling and What I Did on his website, by following him on twitter, or by checking out this Q&A with Wakling.  His blog also includes some great posts written by Billy.  Definitely worth checking out to get a taste of the character’s voice.

Anyone out there read this yet?  I’d love to discuss it with you!

Shadow Show — TLC Book Tour

I received a copy of Shadow Show from the publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour.  All opinions in this review are my own.  Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity!

Anthologies can be tricky to review, so let’s start out by saying what this anthology is not.  It’s not a quickly thrown together post-mortem tribute to Ray Bradbury.  It’s exactly the opposite.  Shadow Show, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, was conceived before Bradbury’s death and even includes an introduction from Bradbury himself.  It’s a wonderful tribute to Bradbury, full of more than two dozen stories by a truly talented cast of authors:  Dave Eggers, Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman, Margaret Atwood, Audrey Nieffenegger…I could go on and on.

How to describe Shadow Show?  Well, it’s a little bit sci-fi, a dash of horror, a pinch of dystopia, a tad disturbing, and a touch weird.  It’s beyond a fitting tribute to Ray Bradbury.  It’s magic.

Bradbury wrote that, “Beginning writers often err in thinking that if one magic trick is good, then sixteen magic tricks, running as a team, must be sixteen times better.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Good fantasy must be allowed to move casually upon the reader, in the air he breathes.  It must be woven into the story so as to be, at times, almost unrecognizable.”

The stories in Shadow Show are full of just this kind of magic.  They don’t scream sci-fi or horror.  Instead, much like Bradbury, they manage to defy genre fiction and just tell a damn good, albeit sometimes strange, tale.

Even with such fantastic stories to read, my favorite part of the book was that each author talked about their stories and the influence that Bradbury had on them as writers.  I felt like I got such a glimpse into who Bradbury was as a person, and I loved finding out that one of my favorite writers had influenced so many of my other favorite writers.

If you like Bradbury at all, or have every enjoyed the slightly strange, I highly recommend you read this anthology.  Sam Weller and Mort Castle have managed to put together not only a stellar collection of stories, but a truly beautiful tribute to one of the greatest writer’s of all time.

The Book That I Am In — Halfway There!

Believe it or not, we’ve reached the halfway point of my summer reading challenge!  Truthfully, we reached the halfway mark a couple days back, but my computer was being fixed & I was too lazy to post from my ipad.  Before I go any farther, let’s have a quick review of the rules…

  • Reading starts on June 5th and ends at the end of the day on August 19th.  Why?  That’s my official summer break.
  • No picture books can be included in your tally.  If I allowed pictures books, I’d have you all beat on day one after reading my girls Where is the Green Sheep? about 400 times.
  • You are on your honor to report your total number of books and pages read.
  • You can count books as half a book if you are in the middle of something currently, or only finish half a book before the end.  It’s on your honor to decide if you should count it as a whole book read or only a half.
  • Several people have asked about how to count pages for e-books. Ebook page totals can vary greatly based on the file format and font size.  So, I’m leaving this up to you, but I’m using the page total from the paper copy even if I read the ebooks just for consistency.  You can choose to use your ebook page totals or look up the paper copy page totals on Amazon/Goodreads.  Whatever you choose to do, please be consistent.

Next up, what about the prizes?  I’m still gathering ideas, but so far each prize package will include some fun nail polish and a Lush bath bomb.  What do nail polish and bath bombs have to do with reading?  Nothing!  Then again, neon shoelaces and DQ coupons never had much to do with reading either, but they were still great prizes.

So…what have I been reading?

  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore — I was halfway through this book when the challenge started, so this just counted as half a book for me.  It was…interesting.  There were a lot of things I could have liked about this book, but in the end it was just too strange and kind of a let down.  Has anyone else read it?  I’d love to discuss it, but I just can’t recommend it.
  • Anne of Green Gables — After the debacle that was Bruno Littlemore, I wanted to read something I knew I’d love, so I turned to Anne.  Anne of Green Gables remains one of my most favorite reads of all time.  If you haven’t read it, change that!
  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt — This has been on my to-read list for ages, and I finally got around to picking it up.  What a gem of a book!  Just an all-around good read.  Good writing, good characters, good story.
  • Divergent — This was my favorite read in 2011, and I had to re-read it again before reading Insurgent.  If you are even remotely interested in the YA dystopia genre, and even if you aren’t, I highly recommend this book!
  • Insurgent — Naturally, after I finished Divergent, I picked up Insurgent.  I heard that a lot of people were disappointed in this book, but I really enjoyed it.  Obviously, it doesn’t have that exciting newness that a first book in a trilogy does, but it was still great.  I can’t wait to finish this trilogy.
  • The Mists of Avalon — This summer has been a big re-reading summer for me, with The Mists of Avalon being my third re-read so far.  It’s a long read at almost 900 pages, but it’s one of my absolute favorite books.  Think King Arthur, but told from the point of view of the women.
  • Crossed — I enjoyed reading Matched earlier this year, so I was excited to read the next book in the trilogy.  Unfortunately, it was quite a let down.  Nothing happened.  It was just dull, dull, dull for me.  Oh well.

Those are the books I’ve completed so far giving me a total of 6.5 books and 3210 pages read.  I’m currently reading Shadow of Night and hope to be adding that to my total soon.

So, fess up!  How does your reading compare?  Leave your totals for books and pages in the comments along with your favorite thing you’ve read so far this summer.  I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!

The Book That I Am In — Summer Reading Challenge

Growing up, one of my favorite things about summer was participating in the summer reading program at the library.  I’d happily read a dozen Nancy Drew mysteries a week without a cheap reward, but what kid doesn’t like a chinese fingertrap and a coupon for Dairy Queen?  As an adult, I could participate in my library’s summer reading program, but the prizes really aren’t that exciting.  I thought it would be more fun to host a little summer reading challenge here on my blog!  So, here’s the deal…

You spend the summer reading to your heart’s content, and at the end of the summer I’ll award fabulous (to be determined) prizes to two lucky people:  the person who reads the most pages, and the person who reads the most books.  Easy, right?

Rules & Other FYI:

  • Reading starts on June 5th and ends at the end of the day on August 19th.  Why?  That’s my official summer break.
  • No picture books can be included in your tally.  If I allowed pictures books, I’d have you all beat on day one after reading my girls Where is the Green Sheep? about 400 times.
  • You are on your honor to report your total number of books and pages read.
  • You can count books as half a book if you are in the middle of something currently, or only finish half a book before the end.  It’s on your honor to decide if you should count it as a whole book read or only a half.
  • There is no official sign-up, but I’d love you to leave me a comment and let me know you are reading along.
  • Mid-July, I’ll ask everyone to report numbers so we can establish a leader board.
  • Please ignore the lameness of my button.  I realize it should have a border, but I’m too lazy to fix it right now.
  • I’ll be posting about what I’m reading, but I’d love some guest posts about what you are reading, so let me know!
  • Prizes are still to be determined, but that’s because I want to make them awesome.  They will definitely be more exciting than a plastic parachute man.

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Leave them below!  Otherwise…get your read on!

 

First They Killed My Father

I received a copy of First They Killed my Father by Loung Ung from the publisher to review as part of a TLC Book Tour.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to join this tour.

In my history classes we often studied world history in terms of ancient civilizations through the world wars.  Sometimes we made it as far as spending a day or two on the Vietnam war.  That’s an impressive amount of ground to cover in a year.  An impossible amount, really.  So, often things were left out.  The name Pol Pot was familiar to me, and I’d heard of the Khmer Rouge…but really these things meant practically nothing.  Until recently, I knew nothing about what was happening in Cambodia in the 1970s.

I am a huge fan of learning about history through personal memoir, so even though the title of the book was a fairly accurate sneak peek as to how horrifying this tale would be, my interest was peaked.

Loung Ung was lived a comfortable life in the capital of Cambodia until the age of five.  Then her world was torn apart when the Khmer Rouge invaded.  Loung and her family were forced to flee, and Loung spent the next five years of her life facing starvation, being trained as a child soldier, escaping attempted rape, and reeling from the murders of those she loved, including her parents.

The descriptions of Ung’s grief at the loss of her father touched me deeply.  As I am still dealing with my own loss, I felt Ung’s grief on a personal level and marveled at her beautiful, if sorrowful, writing.

As I said, I enjoy learning about history from personal memoirs.  In this case, what I learned was shocking, horrifying, depressing…and important.  It’s important for people like Loung Ung to continue to tell their stories.  Despite the horror and sadness we might feel while reading, it’s important for us to learn and remember.

First They Killed My Father ends with Ung leaving with brother for the United States, but leaving behind her other siblings.  When I got to the end, I was desperate to know what happened next.  Luckily, Ung has two additional books that I am very much interested in reading:

To learn more about Loung Ung, you can visit her website, follow her on twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

I always love having the opportunity to learn something from a book, and I hope that you will take the time listen to Ung’s story.

Are You A Survivor?

I received a copy of Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford from the publisher to review as part of a TLC Book Tour.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

I always love the chance to read and review new books, especially books that I might not pick up on my own.  So, I was excited to have the chance to review Survival Mom even if I was skeptical as to what the book could actually teach me.  I mean, I already know all about survival, right?  I survived infertility, a twin pregnancy, bed rest, the NICU, the insane thrush of death and full-time pumping…what’s left to survive.  Clearly, I am the survival mom.

Once I started reading, my ego quickly deflated and a touch of panic set in.  Suddenly, my attitude was more, “OMG I AM SO UNPREPARED MUST BUY FREEZE DRIED FOOD RIGHT NOW!”  Eventually, I managed to calm myself down.  Rational thinking returned…at least as rational as one can be while parenting twin toddlers.  But I’m at least coherent enough to tell you what I think about this book.

So…

  • Mom or not, this book is worth spending some time with.  It’s full of tips and ways to start preparing for any type of survival from natural disasters to job loss.
  • Some of the tips were a bit ridiculous.  I don’t see myself digging a hole in the backyard to use the bathroom…but I guess it’s nice that I have a reference tool on just how to do that should the need ever arise.  I’m probably not going to go learn how to shoot a gun because that’s just not my style, but I certainly appreciate learning how to make clean water.
  • I love that each chapter allows you to make your own plan and to take small steps to help get your family prepared.  You don’t have to run out and prep for ever possibly emergency, but you can take simple steps today to make yourself more prepared.
  • One thing I loved about this book was that it really got me thinking about what type of emergencies I needed to prepare for.  I don’t need to worry about hurricanes where I live, but extended power outages are a frequent occurrence…and I’m always scrambling to find ComEd’s phone number.  My family also needs to think about financial planning.  Ted has lost his job twice in the past 5 years, I’ve been on unpaid maternity leave, and a strike is looming in my district.  Thinking about what my savings account looks like is key for my family’s survival.

Overall, I think that this is a book you need to take with a grain of salt.  There is a lot of good information in here, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel completely unprepared.  Read the chapters that pertain to your life.  Think about what you need to be prepared for and make a plan to get prepared.  Take small steps and don’t get caught up in trying to do everything.  Definitely a great reference to have on hand.

You can get more survival tips from Lisa on her blog, twitter, and Facebook.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this tour!

January Reads

Yes, I realize we are halfway through February.  Being a mom sometimes means accepting that something that once took an hour can now take weeks to accomplish!

Anyhow…I started out my year with a reading boom!  I started and finished six books in the month of January.  SIX.  I’m a bit impressed with myself.  Here’s what I read…

The Dark Side Of Innocence by Terri Cheney — 3 stars.  This book was a pick for my book club at work, and I thought it was a great book club title.  A very honest and raw memoir of growing up bipolar.  It was a compelling read, but only earned 3 stars for me because the writing itself just didn’t do much for me.  Recommended for book clubs or if you enjoy a good mental health memoir.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling — 3 stars.  I really expected to love this book.  I liked it.  I enjoyed reading it.  It made me smile and giggle…but I didn’t love it.  I realize this will now make me the scourge of the internet.  A lot of people have compared it to Tina Fey’s book, so let’s go ahead and go there.  Bossypants made me laugh out loud.  I laughed so hard that I cried.  Kaling’s book made me smile and got a few tiny giggles.  Also?  Her constant talk about being fat irritated me.  Still, a worthwhile read.  Recommended if you need something light and fun to read and won’t be irritated by all the fat talk.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs — 3 stars.  First of all, this book is not nearly as creepy as the cover indicates that it might be.  Seriously, the cover creeps me out.  It’s not scary at all.  It’s…peculiar.  For the first 3/4 of this book, this was a 4 star book for me.  I loved the use of the vintage photographs to add visual interest to the story.  Sadly, I really feel like the whole thing fell apart during the last quarter of the book.  It felt rushed and predictable.  Recommended if you like juvenile fiction, enjoy supernaturalish mysteries, or just like a visually interesting book.

Matched by Ally Condie — 3 stars.  Definitely not my favorite of the YA dystopia genre, but still enjoyable. Overall, it felt like something I’d read before. Not super original, nothing surprising. Still, it was compelling enough for me to polish off in two days, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book. Recommended while you are waiting for Insurgent to come out.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgentstern — 5 stars.  I think I will be hard-pressed to find another book this year that tops this one.  I absolutely loved this book.  This was one of those books that I never wanted to end. It was beautifully written and the story was mesmerizing and enchanting. The writing was simply phenomenal. I loved the ways the stories intertwined, and the way the author brought the circus to life in my mind.  Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about this book.  Recommended for everyone.  Read it.  Now.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine — 5 stars.  Another phenomenal read.  I read it in a day.  I am completely blown away by the author’s portrayal of a young girl with Asperger’s syndrome.  As someone who works with children with special needs, this very much felt like a glimpse into their minds.  Simply an amazing character portrayal.  This book is worth the 2 hours it will take you to read.  Recommended if you have an interest in autism, enjoy juvenile fiction, or just want to read an impressive piece of writing.

What have you been reading lately?

How I Read

We are two weeks into 2012, and I’ve already finished 3 books this year and started a 4th.  My sometimes voracious reading habits seem to regularly beg the question, “How do you find the time to read?”  With a demanding job, a husband, two babies, and a host of other obligations, it’s not always easy.  I thought I’d share with you just how I manage to polish off as many books as I do.  Maybe it will inspire you to read more!

  • I’m a fast reader.  I realize that this doesn’t help you much.  It’s not a tip on how to read more.  I thought it was good to be honest and up front from the get go, though.  I’m a fast reader.  Always have been.
  • I read a lot of juvenile and young adult literature.  The fact of the matter is these types of books just read faster than most adult literature.  They also happen to be better written and more interesting than most adult literature, so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
  • I read (almost) every day.  Even if it’s just for 10 minutes at bed time or a few pages while I dry my hair, I make an effort to read every day.  It seems so simple, but it’s incredibly easy to fall out of the reading habit…even when you love reading.  Making time for it every day means that it’s just part of my routine.
  • I always have a book and a next book.  I’m always reading something, and I make sure to always have a book lined up.  I don’t necessarily know what my next book might be, but I have a stack of to-read books on my bookshelf, a lengthy holds list for e-books from the library, and if all else fails I’ll read Harry Potter.
  • I start a new book within 24 hours of finishing the previous book.  This kind of goes hand in hand with always having a next book, but I don’t let a day go by without diving into a new book.
  • I have an e-reader.  It’s a Kobo touch, and I love it.  I never thought I’d be an e-reader kind of girl because I adore paper books, but having an e-reader has been a lifesaver while trying to be a reader and a mother.  Having an e-reader means I can easily read while drying my hair.  It also means that I can check out and return books to the library without ever having to leave the house.
  • I read what I like.  I used to have this thing where I felt like I had to finish every book I started.  I got over it.  I read what I want to read.  This doesn’t mean that I never read anything I don’t like, but if I’m reading a book and I dread picking it up?  I simply start reading something else.  There are too many wonderful books out there to waste my time on something I don’t actually want to read.
  • My house is a mess.  Like anything, I make time for reading because I enjoy it.  I make it a priority.  This means that cleaning the kitchen is often not a priority, or that I don’t spend as much time blogging as I used to.  Instead, I get to read a lot of fantastic books and hope that people ignore my messy kitchen.

So, that’s how I manage to read as many books as I do.  Do you have reading goals for 2012?  How do you plan to meet them?