Showing posts with label reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reading. Show all posts

30 Books to Add To Your TBR Pile in 2015 | My Reading Goal for the Year

Monday, April 6, 2015

*This post contains affiliate links

Last week I went to book club for the first time in months and realized how much I miss talking about books. It's not uncommon for most of us to have a notebook or the Notes app open on our phones all evening long, writing down titles other members recommend. I love finding new authors and my club members rarely disappoint.

I drove home thinking, "there's so many good books out there just waiting for me to find them!" Please tell me you feel the same so I don't feel like a complete fool.

Between book club, book podcasts, magazines, Facebook pages, Goodreads, Oyster, and my mom; my TBR list is so long it's bordering on ridiculous. But, since I don't think I'll be giving up reading anytime soon, I remain optimistic that I'll make my way through it eventually.

30 Book Suggestions to Add to Your TBR Pile

In 2013 I set a goal to read 40 books to take some of the sting out of turning 40. When I started this post it dawned on me I never published the update as to if I reached the goal or not (I did, barely). I'm cutting myself some slack and limiting this year's goal to 30. Before, I didn't allow any padding for books over 400 pages. Plus, because of the new Outlander series on Starz (which I LOVE!), I think I may be jumping back into those books.

Since putting it out in public will keep me accountable, here, in no particular order, are 30 books I'm hoping to get through this year.

1. The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
2. Mermaids in Paradise, Lydia Millet
3. Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
4. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
5. We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas
6. Station 11, Emily St. John Mandel
7. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
8. Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit
9. The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey
10. The Life We Bury, Allen Eskins
11. A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
12. This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper
13. Friendswood, Rene Steinke
14. I'll Have What She's Having, My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting, Rebecca Harrington
15. Look At Me, Jennifer Eagan
16. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
17. Landline, Rainbow Rowell
18. The Martian, Andy Weir
19. Yes, Please, Amy Poehler
20. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes
21. I Regret Nothing, Jen Lancaster
22. Zero to One, Notes on Startups, Peter Theil
23. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs
24. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters
25. Long Man, Amy Greene
26. Best to Laugh, Lorna Landvik,
27. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
28.  The Hypnotists Love Story, Liane Moriarty
29. A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler
30. The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud

Bonus book: I confess, while I was putting this post together, I read both The 5th Wave and the second book in the trilogy, The Infinite Sea. They were both really quick reads. If you enjoy YA dystopian/sci fi you'll enjoy these. But, be forewarned: the third in the series will not be out until spring of 2016. 

Should I decide to up my goal to 40, which of your recent 
reads should I add to the list? Follow my progress on Goodreads

Six Young Adult Books I Can't Wait to Read

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I'm not ashamed to admit how much I'm enjoying reading young adult and teen fiction. I think there's a creativity and story variety that isn't present in 'grown up' books.

Do you read the online op ed section, Room For Debate, from The New York Times? About a year ago, several writers weighed in on the topic of adults who read teen fiction. The opinions were predictably varied. I 100% agree with author Patricia McCormick's statement:
"Authors who write for young adults are taking creative risks -- with narrative structure, voice and social commentary -- that you just don’t see as often in the more rarefied world of adult fiction."
You said it, sister. Also, I have only given up on a young adult book once. I started The Book Thief and couldn't get into it, but I'm much more willing to give it a second chance than I would some of the grown up books I've tossed aside (I Know This Much is True, Slammerkin, Freedom, The Year We Left Home).

Plus, it's been a good way for Tyler and I to connect. We've read some of the same titles and he trusts my book suggestions more than he used to. I've got six young adults books on my never-gets-shorter Want To Read list. Three are conclusions to trilogies.

Six Young Adult Book Suggestions

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green (out now)
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (out now)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (out now)
Allegiant (from the Divergent series) by Veronica Roth (expected October 2013, last in trilogy)

I will say I liked Divergent more than Insurgent but both are good. Tyler is reading this with me so I'd say this series is good for ages 10 and up. I read both books before him just to be sure.

Reached (from the Matched series) by Ally Condie (out now, last in a trilogy)

Again, I liked the first book better than the second but I really want to know how all the plot lines wrap up. This is also good for 10 and up. I think Tyler would enjoy it if he could get past the romance. There is a love triangle and relationship between two characters with kissing but not intense kissing.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the conclusion to Daughter of Smoke & Bone (from the series of the same name) by Laini Taylor (out now)

Here's one where I liked both the first and second equally. I was all set to let Tyler get started on these until I got to the middle of the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight. There's a relationship with the lead characters and there's more descriptive intimacy than I think he's ready for. I'd say this is better for 15 and up.

Certainly some themes are better left to an adult audience but the young adult books I've read are something grown up books rarely are: fun. There's a difference between a quick, mindless read like the Sookie Stackhouse books and one that is really fun to read. It's rare that I've been so excited to sit down and read all day as I was on the Harry Potter release days.

Another Room for Debate contributor, Lev Grossman, also summed up my feelings about YA when he said:
"Bottom line, there's one thing that young adult novels rarely are, and that's boring. They're built to grab your attention and hold it. And I'm not as young as I once was. At my age, I don't have time to be bored.
Preach. There's room on my bookshelves for all kinds of reads. As long as young adult authors are creating such captivating reads, I'll be in line to buy them.

What are your thought on YA books? 
Leave your favorite title in the comments! 

*Affiliate links used, tablet image from

40 Books in 12 Months - I Can Do It!

Monday, April 22, 2013

So, I did something that may end up being really awesome or really dumb. I set a goal for myself to read 40 books by the end of December. I love to read so I'm pretty sure I can pull this off. I'm a little bit ahead of the pace Goodreads says I should be on.

Hopefully I'll remember to do at least short reviews of all the books here on the site, but if I don't you can always follow me on Goodreads to at least see my star ratings. I'm always on the lookout for new titles and authors to add to my To Be Read Pile. If you've come across anything good lately let me know!

See the titles I've read so far in my 2013 reading list

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Melanie has read 13 books toward her goal of 40 books.
Image from Google Images

2013 Reading List

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome to my reading list for 2013! I'm terrible at remembering to do reviews in part because I read really fast. I set a goal for myself to read 40 books this year and I'm on track to possibly go even higher. I'd love to know if you've read any of these titles and how you liked the book.

In mostly chronological order:

At Home With the Templetons - Monica McInerney
The Shoemaker's Wife - Adriana Trigiani
The Last Time I Saw You - Elizabeth Berg

Divergent - Veronica Roth
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott - Kelly O'Connor McNees
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty - Joshilyn Jackson
Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor 
When in Doubt Add Butter - Beth Harbison

Patty Jane's House of Curl - Lorna Landvik
Nearlyweds - Beth Kendrick
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
The View From Mount Joy - Lorna Landvik

The Panther - Nelson DeMille
The Lion - Nelson DeMille
Tall Pine Polka - Lorna Landvik

Notorious Nineteen - Janet Evanovich 

Tapestry of Fortunes - Elizabeth Berg
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld
Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris 
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown
The Engagements - Courtney J Sullivan

Reached - Ally Condie
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
The Tao of Martha - Jen Lancaster 
Where We Belong - Emily Giffin 

Life After Life - Jill McCorkle
Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson

Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella 
One Mississippi - Mark Childress

Summer Reading Lists for Kids | 8 Links To Get You Started

Monday, June 4, 2012

We feel very blessed that Tyler has embraced reading the way he has. He was one of the top readers in his grade and last week he got to go on a special FroYo date with his school principal and the other top readers. This morning before school, we talked about whether he wants to participate in the summer reading programs from our local library and Barnes and Noble. 

Since so many of our friends have been mentioning how hard it has been for them to get their kids to read, I asked if he'd be willing to help motivate some of his friends, too. So, we're going to ask if anyone wants to do a summer reading challenge. I haven't decided on a prize, but I think it will be along the lines of an afternoon at our local water park or mini golf course.

I tell our friends that, at first, I had to let Tyler choose the books he wanted to read even if the titles were things I thought were ridiculous like the Captain Underpants series. Then, once he decided he enjoyed reading, we started to suggest books for him. He seems to have found his genre, sci fi/fantasy, but he does read general fiction, too. Tyler trusts my tastes now (for the most part), though he did raise an eyebrow when I brought home A Wrinkle in Time.

To help our friends participate in the challenge, I spent all morning on Google searching for good book lists. Most of the lists are really long. I haven't looked through all of them but the few I did read have books across genres and of different lengths.

If you have an e-reader, check out a site I love, Pixel of Ink. They find several free Kindle books per day and have separate site just for kids and young adults.

Happy reading! 

8 Lists for Summer Reading for Kids

*My Pinterest board of books my 10-year old son likes has 3 links to book lists, including a list of suggestions for boys.

*This user generated list from Goodreads has over 5,000 titles in it!

*This list on's section on children's books has 12 links to reading lists for kids, tweens and teens (most links open as PDF's).

*The Salt Lake City Library created a list of 36 titles for boys.

*'s young adult choices listed from 1998-2012 (open as PDF's).

* has titles broken down by age range.

*A multicultural book list from Reading is Fundamental for grades K-5.

*26 young adult titles from the LA Times 2012 Summer Reading List

ETA: After I put this post up I spent some time going through my RSS feeds. Fellow blogger Kelly of Mocha Momma posted this book list for teens and adults a few days ago.

Books and Stuff

Thursday, April 5, 2012

This post isn't really "about" anything. I started three other posts about books and reading but they didn't have enough meat to stand on their own so I combined them into this random one. Do I know how to sell my blog, or what?

Are you tired of me talking about books? I hope not. I really, really love to read and so many in my circle do too. If I had to start from scratch with a blog, I would really consider one solely about books and coffee. Maybe I'd call it Good Books and A Cup O' Joe.

Or, I mentioned on Twitter that I'd love to work in the book section of Costco. I see people reading the covers of books I've read and sometimes I can't help but offer my opinion. I still feel it's my social obligation to tell everyone not to bother with the first 100 pages of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


Are you listening to podcasts? I am. I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. I recently found Books on the Nightstand and I really enjoy it. Part of me wishes I hadn't heard of their site because now my list of 'to be read' is beyond ridiculous. They posted a link to a fun little reading test from Staples. Take a look and see how fast you read. I'd love to know your score. 


I'm reading The Night Circus and I'm enjoying it. $10 says someone will try turning it into a movie. I think it could be visually stunning and have the most amazing costumes. If you listen to The Nerdist podcast, the book totally reminds of Neil Patrick Harris. I can't explain it, you'll have to take my word for it (or listen yourself, it's a great podcast though NSFW). Next I'm either going to re-read A Discovery of Witches (with book club) or read Roses by Leila Meacham. My mom read it and said it was great. It's 609 pages, so I hope she's right.


What podcasts are you listening to? Have you read anything I need to know about? Do you read books multiple times or just once?

4/11/12 Update:
So, I realized yesterday I forgot the real reason I started this post. I was going to let you in on a little secret. I found out about a great site for free and cheap Kindle books. It's called Pixel of Ink. They post several offers a day across different genres. I admit, I've never seen an offer for a well known author, but it's been a good way to discover some new authors. It's been easier for me to keep up with Pixel of Ink on Facebook than remember to check their site. Enjoy!

The Hunger Games and Matched | Dystopian Book Comparison

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If you've been around my blog for awhile, you can probably see the correlation between light content here and my reading consumption. After my last book reviews for Explosive Eighteen and If You Were Here, I decided I needed to read The Hunger Games again*. The timing worked out well because, while finishing the last few chapters, I got the email notification that another Dystopian book, Matched, was ready for me to download from the library.

Aside: Colleen of Classy Mommy told me about Matched over dinner at the Big Miracle press trip. I believe six of us went out that night. The conversation turned to books and all of us had our phones out, tapping away with each new title mentioned. It was wonderfully nerdy.

Reading the two series back to back was interesting. Both are young adult fiction, set in the future and have a ruling class system but that's about it for similarities. At least for the first books. There are hints of unrest in Matched so maybe the story will heat up. The Hunger Games is such a page turner. It's gripping and hard to put down. I think it's because the action starts off so quickly. The first book sets everything in motion and second two are the aftermath of Katniss' actions.

Matched was smooth and more of a story. I feel like this trilogy is going to be the reverse of The Hunger Games where it starts off slowly and then builds to a final climax. I haven't read any of the reviews or synopses of the other two books (Crossed and Reached) so I can't say for sure. In fact, I had no idea what Matched was about before I read it. I checked it out because it seems Colleen and I love the same books so I trusted her recommendation.

Imagine this society: people are classified by the skills they have and jobs they can do. Food is fuel. Your movements are tracked and recorded. Illness has been eradicated. Marriages are arranged. Days are structured and scheduled. Knowledge is limited and controlled by the government. Negativity is discouraged. Death is predetermined. This is the world Cassia, the heroine, lives in. And she's perfectly happy, until her grandfather shares a secret in the form of forbidden poetry. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas

Again, with the way Matched ends (and the book cover images) hints at events to come, I smell a revolution. Or at least an uprising. I've already put Crossed on hold at the library. Review to come, of course.

Are you reading young adult fiction and/or Dystopian fiction? What other titles should I look into (please don't say Twilight)? Other books Colleen suggested are Divergent by Veronica Roth and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

*I'm glad I read The Hunger Games again. Now the details are really fresh in my mind for the movie! *affiliate links used*

Explosive Eighteen, If You Were Here: Book Reviews

Monday, March 12, 2012

When I go to my local library, right off the bat I do two things: cruise through the used book store and check out the new releases section. Occasionally I get lucky and a book I've been wanting to read is on the New Releases shelf. I love it when I don't have to put a book on hold and wait for it to be available. Last week fate smiled and I was able to grab two titles on my Want To Read list; Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich and If You Were Here by Jenn Lancaster.

I think I said before I'm worried that the Stephanie Plum series is heading for Jump the Sharkville. The last few books felt as though they had lost their spark. Explosive Eighteen brought the spark back (see how I did that?). The plot wasn't vastly different than any of the previous books, (Stephanie, bad guys, Vinnie, Grandma Mazur and viewings and Ranger vs Morelli) though I liked the little twist in the beginning. I didn't see it coming and when it was explained, it definitely left room for more stuff to happen between the characters.

What won me over was the conversation Stephanie and Lula had about social media. Here's where my husband calls me a dork. Yes, having the characters talk about Facebook and Twitter brought me back to liking the series again. I would love to see Lula's Twitter stream. I'm hoping that the 18th book in the series is the start of a turn around and the books will be good again. It's hard to get that far in a series and not feel really invested. There's a bit of a cliffhanger so there is definitely room for things to get juicy.

If you've read any of Jenn Lancaster's memoirs, you know she's hilarious. I had no idea what If You Were Here was about and I didn't even bother to read to read the jacket. If Lancaster was ready to try fiction, I was ready to read it. It did not disappoint. The book started off well and chapter five pushed me over the edge in love with it. Her characters have my kind of sarcasm and humor and I laughed out loud in a few parts.

I don't want to reveal too much because I want everyone else to have the same combination "Yay!" and swoon moment that I did in the first pages of chapter five. But, the book is essentially about first time homebuyers Mia and Mac and their decision to completely remodel rather then buy a move in ready home. Anyone who has remodeled will sympathize with everything they go through.

I will say one thing: If you are in a book club, If You Were Here would make for a great theme-night book discussion. That's all I can say. I know it's cryptic, you'll just have to trust me.

Both of these books are my typical light, fast reads. If you have read either of these titles, what did you think?

*If someone starts Tweeting as Lula, you heard it here first. Affiliate links used.

A Soft Place to Land, Crunch Time | Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I haven't done a book review for 2012, but that's not because I haven't been reading. Back in late November, I started (re)reading the Outlander series because it was finally chosen as our book club selection. So I read the first and then couldn't resist continuing on with the next three*. Since the beginning of the year, I've also read A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White and Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson.

I've said before I like books that deal with the relationship between sisters. I'm sure it's because I've always wanted to have a sister. This book follows two sisters from childhood to adulthood as they deal with the after effects of a tragedy. It's not a sad or depressing book, which is good because it really could have been.

Ruthie and Julia are young when their parents die in plane crash (not a spoiler, this is on the back of the book). After their parents' will is read, the girls' lives go in two totally different directions. It sounds weird to say, but one thing I liked about this book is that it wasn't too long or too short. some books zip through the conflict and resolution and others drag it out for way too long.

Crunch Time is the 16th book featuring the murder mystery solving caterer, Goldy. I've been starting to worry that this series is jumping the shark. It's kind of to be expected since it has to be hard writing the same characters year after year and coming up with new situations. I continue to read them because I feel so invested, kind of like the 'number' and 'alphabet' books by Evanovich and Grafton, respectively.

I wanted to like this book more. I didn't dislike it, but I was hoping there might be a new spark to the series. It did end in a way that future books could make me enjoy the series the same way I did in its beginning. Let's hope. If you need some 'I don't want to think about what I'm reading' fluff, this is a series for you.

I started Dreams of Joy by Lisa See right after Crunch Time. Night Circus is next for book club so look for reviews of both soon.

What's on your bookshelf? 

You can talk books with me on Pinterest and Goodreads.

*My love for this series is almost fanatical. This was my ninth (maybe tenth) reading of Outlander. When we met to discuss the book, many members didn't enjoy it. My talking about the other books in the series swayed some to keep going. 

There are affiliate links in this post.

Getting Kids to Read Across Genres | Even More on Raising A Reader

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This is 2 of 2 in a series of posts sponsored by Buddig's Sandwich and a Story Sweepstakes.

My son has become an almost mini version of me when it comes to reading. He goes through books like fire, which I love. But he also stays up well past lights out and reads on the toilet (which I don't love). I can't really get mad at him for staying up until midnight since I have been known to pull some almost all nighters myself*. I will get mad about taking books into the bathroom though, because, eeewww.

Where we differ is his narrow focus on the types of books he reads. His feet are firmly planted in the Fantasy aisle of the library. That's not a bad thing, but I've been trying to tell him about all the books he's missing out on. Luckily, I think I found something that can help me inspire him to branch out.

I subscribe to the LA Times. Occasionally they have really nice special inserts within the Arts section. Last week they were highlighting children's literacy and recommended A Family of Readers: The Book Lovers Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature. I promptly checked it out of the library. So far, it's been a great resource.

I skipped almost half the book since the beginning is about reading to babies and toddlers. The later chapters deal with independent readers. The chapters are broken down into various genres, details what the particular genre has to offer kids (exposure to Greek mythology for example), books within that genre, books for boys and books for girls. I found this passage interesting:
But the real argument for reading fantasy is that, at its best, fantasy stretches the imagination, intellect and emotions in ways that enhance, rather than discourage, children's engagement with real life...

But it can also make abstract ideas concrete, inviting young readers to consider complex philosophical, theological and political questions in uniquely accessible ways.
Huh. Who knew Tyler was getting all of that from something like the Pendragon** series? I'm so glad I found this book, if not just for the index of recommendations. I also love the fact that so many books we read as kids are included. I've been telling Tyler that some of my favorites like A Wrinkle in Time, Old Yeller, Call of the Wild and the like are considered classics (and are still in print) for a reason. Now I have this book as backup.

What about you? Have you been able to get your kids to read across genres? Have yours read, and liked, any of the books from our youth?

*Most recently I've stayed up until the wee hours for Backyard Saints and A Discovery of Witches.
**Tyler is obsessed with this series!


This post is sponsored by Buddig and their Be A Reader sweepstakes. Buddig is nourishing children’s minds as a proud supporter of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and the national Be A Reader campaign. During the yearlong Be A Reader campaign, parents and their children are encouraged to create their own reading and literacy experiences wherever they may be. As a proud supporter of RIF, Buddig will provide a minimum of $100,000 through May 30, 2012 to help children across the nation discover the joy of reading. 

How to Enter: To enter the sweepstakes look for specially marked packages of Buddig lunchmeats and go to Enter your code and complete the entry form to enter the sweepstakes. 

Eligibility: The Buddig Make A Sandwich And A Story sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Timing: Sweepstakes begins on Aug. 15, 2011 at 12:00:01 a.m. Central Time (CT) and ends on Oct. 30, 2011 at 11:59:59 p.m. (CT). 

*Five Grand Prize winners will receive a Scholastic book library plus a Buddig backpack filled with school supplies (ARV $200). 
*400 First Prize winners will receive a Buddig backpack (ARV $13.00). 
*118 winners each week beginning on Aug. 22 will receive a free Scholastic book (ARV $10.00).  Limit: 5 entries per person/email address per day

What She Wants, Backseat Saints, Discovery of Witches: Book Reviews

Monday, September 19, 2011

'Book Addiction' photo (c) 2010, Emily Carlin - license: When my blog suffers, it's either because A) I'm so busy I'm overwhelmed, B) I'm on a break or C) I've been lucky enough to find some really good books. Last week's hiatus was due to B and C. I've read one good and two great books recently.

The Good: What She Wants by Cathy Kelly

I've read several of Kelly's books. I've enjoyed them all and this one was no exception. All her stories are about Ireland, family and relationships. This one came at a weird time because one of the characters is 'the other woman' and some people in my life are going through this. It was hard not to read the book from a place of anger and think of Izzie as 'that stupid, cheating beyotch.' Overall, I liked the book. Kelly's stories are always easy reads.

The Great: Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I have said before that Joshilyn Jackson is at the top of my Authors I Will Always Read list. I need to read her books with a highlighter because some of her sentences blow me away. Knowing that I was going to tell you about the book, you'd think I'd do exactly that. But I didn't so you'll have to take my word for it. I love the plot of this book and all the characters.

The main character, Rose, made an appearance in an earlier work, so of course I want to go back and read Gods in Alabama again with a fresh perspective on the character. I need to see a therapist to figure out why I have such a fascination with books set in the south. Maybe I need to go to the south. It must be some kind of sign. If you haven't read anything by Jackson, these two titles are a good place to start. I stayed up until the wee hours finishing Backyard Saints.

Entertainment Weekly is one of my favorite magazines. I was at the library and A Discovery of Witches was in the 'new' section. I remembered reading a great review in EW so I picked it up. LOVE. It has witches, vampires and demons but it's nothing like the Sookie Stackhouse books. For starters, this book is 500+ pages. It reads more like historical fiction or historical romance. I like the explanations of how demons, vampires and witches came to be in this book better than the Stackhouse books. It's not entirely fair to compare them, but I can't think of any other books recent books with witches and vampires. To say the ending is a cliffhanger is a bit of an understatement. I'm really happy it's part of a trilogy. I think I spent most of a Saturday reading this.

I'm always looking for suggestions, especially now that I'm enjoying digital books. What book kept you up all night recently?

Age Appropriate Books | More on Raising a Reader

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This post is sponsored by Buddig's Sandwich and a Story Sweepstakes.

I can't remember who I was chatting with on Facebook but the subject was books we read as kids that were totally inappropriate for our age, and someone mentioned Flowers in the Attic. I can't remember exactly how old I was when I read it, but I was definitely new to double digits. How I went from reading Sweet Valley High to that series I'm not sure but those books definitely aren't for younger eyes.

While Tyler is definitely not reading anything near that inappropriate, he has been reading books above his grade level which present some challenges. He started reading a new series, Pendragon by DJ MacHale. He loves it. He says it's one of the best series of books he's ever read. I didn't think I needed to check out the series to make sure it was OK for his age, but I guess I should have. Last night he told me again how much he likes the books but, "they sure do say the H and A words alot."


I mentioned it to Phil and he said it's part of the hazards of having a kid who reads so much (and isn't content with short stories anymore). Eventually, they're going to start coming across things with older themes. I'm not sure why Young Adult authors feel the need to use swear words in their books in the first place. Maybe I'm just getting old.

The language in the books presented a good opportunity for Tyler and I to have a conversation about things he's allowed to do and say versus what we consider 'grown up' language and behaviors. We told him we didn't mind him continuing to read books with the occasional bad word as long as he's not repeating them. This has also been a good lesson for me to investigate the books he's interested in a little before I let him read them. When we want to know if a movie is OK for Tyler to watch, we go to IMDB. I was looking for a similar service for books but couldn't find one.

I can only imagine we'll run into this type of situation again, especially since Tyler favors the Sci Fi/Fantasy genre. Tell me, how do handle this in your home? 


This post is sponsored by Buddig and their Be A Reader sweepstakes. Buddig is nourishing children’s minds as a proud supporter of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and the national Be A Reader campaign. During the yearlong Be A Reader campaign, parents and their children are encouraged to create their own reading and literacy experiences wherever they may be. As a proud supporter of RIF, Buddig will provide a minimum of $100,000 through May 30, 2012 to help children across the nation discover the joy of reading.

How to Enter: To enter the sweepstakes look for specially marked packages of Buddig lunchmeats and go to Enter your code and complete the entry form to enter the sweepstakes. 

Eligibility: The Buddig Make A Sandwich And A Story sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Timing: Sweepstakes begins on Aug. 15, 2011 at 12:00:01 a.m. Central Time (CT) and ends on Oct. 30, 2011 at 11:59:59 p.m. (CT). 

*Five Grand Prize winners will receive a Scholastic book library plus a Buddig backpack filled with school supplies (ARV $200). 
*400 First Prize winners will receive a Buddig backpack (ARV $13.00). 
*118 winners each week beginning on Aug. 22 will receive a free Scholastic book (ARV $10.00).  Limit: 5 entries per person/email address per day. 

Overdrive for iPad: Borrowing Library Books with an App

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tyler and I went to the library yesterday. I've been flying through the Sookie Stackhouse books and needed the next in the series. I noticed a news camera and reporter while I was using the computer. I asked which station he was from because I was going to be on the news myself that night. We chatted and he asked if he could use me in a sound bite. Me be on camera? Absolutely! I love being in front of the camera. It's the Leo in me.

The topic was libraries in the digital age and the new system for checking out books on your portable device. I figured I should give the system a try since I spoke about it! The app I'm using is called Overdrive and it's free in the iTunes store. 

To use the Overdrive app, you need to have an account on Adobe (for the EPUB files) as well as as access to the digital library system in your area. For San Diego, it's the Serra Digital Download Library. Once you download the app, it will walk you through setting up your account including choosing the libraries in your area, adding your library card number and registering with Adobe if you haven't already. 

iTunes iPad screen shot
Once you have your account, it's really easy to search for and check out books. I've got one book available and three titles on hold: Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg*, Dreams of Joy by Lisa See, Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris and Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich. Only the Berg title is avaialble now. Once the others are, I will get an email letting me know they're available for download. I love that, just like my regular online library account, the Serra system tells me what number I am in line for the checkout so I know how fast I have to read the books I have now.

Once a title is available for download, you authorize the app with your Adobe account ID. I downloaded the Berg book in just a few seconds and it will be available until August 9th. After that, unless I return it early, it disappears from my iPad. Since I installed the app only yesterday, I can't thoroughly review it but I have experienced some of the feedback in iTunes like the fact that you have to leave the app to search for books in a browser.

I've been wanting to try digital books and this is going to be a great way to dip my feet in. Between this lending system and the freebies that pop up on Amazon and Nook, I can still indulge my voracious habit and keep costs low. I still buy books every so often, but generally from the used books store. Combine the ebooks with the ones I buy, those I get from my mom and the ones I check out; my digital and physical book shelves will always be well stocked!

Have you gotten into the digital book revolution? Are you borrowing from your local library?

See the news piece on Fox 5 San Diego

*She's one of my favorite authors
ETA: you can also download Overdrive for your PC or Mac

Put Your Library on Your Smartphone | Works For Me Wednesday

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello, my name is Melanie and I'm an addict. A book addict. I know, I know. You're probably thinking there are worse things to be addicted to. I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is, I tend to buy the same book multiple times.

My library has a used book store. They're my dealers. I stop in every time I'm in the area. OK, sometimes when I'm not, too. I can get trade sized paperbacks for $2.50 at the most but I generally stick the $1 cart. How can I pass that up? I can't, that's how. But, I get so excited I can't remember if I have a title at home or not. I've probably spent about $15 buying repeat titles. $15 isn't alot in the grand scheme of things, but that's 15 books I haven't read, wasted.

When I came home with my second copy of Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakthrough, I got so mad at myself I knew I had to figure out something. I was going to write all my 'To Be Read' titles in the notebook I carry in purse, but this 2011. It took me a minute to figure out a solution, but I'm pleased with the results. 

There are 14 photos total

I took pictures of my book stash, put them in a folder on my computer and uploaded them into the photos section of my iPod. If I had a smartphone it would be a little easier, especially when I bring new books home. But, since I always have my iPod with me, for now the system is working. I scrolled through the pics the other day and they saved me from bringing home See Jane Date. Again.

I hope this Works For Me Wednesday trick helps my fellow 
literary addicts!

(Gently) Pushing Buttons

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm used to being the OBITR (Only Black In The Room). It happens all the time. Depending on the situation, occasionally I take my position very seriously and use it to raise awareness of an issue, challenge a perception or present another way of thinking. I feel as though I've been talking about race a lot lately, but it's been all around me in posts, books I've read and discussions I've had so it's been on my mind a lot. Most recently I had to educate my book club friends a little bit. [warning: book spoiler alerts]

The last title we read for book club was The Hunger Games. In the first part of the evening while we having dinner, almost everyone was talking about the books (most went on to read the other two right away). The comments were all about how much they loved the series and were excited to hear all the casting news for the movie. After dinner we talked about the current book, The Kitchen House.

All of us loved this book, too. It's set on a tobacco plantation in the south. The story is told through two narrators. One is Lavinia, an Irish indentured servant whose parents die on the trip over from Ireland. Her brother is sold to a different owner and she lives the first years of her life on the plantation with the slaves. The other narrator, Belle, is one of the slaves on the plantation. She works in the kitchen house and her connection to the plantation owner causes problems for everyone throughout most of the book. 

As the conversation went on, someone said they typically don't like to read books with a lot of tragedy and violence in them and said she was glad the author, Kathleen Grissom, didn't get too descriptive with the treatment of the slaves because she probably wouldn't have liked the book as much. Many others agreed.

Now, if you've read The Hunger Games series, you might be shaking your head. If you haven't read them, let me explain the premise: Every year, the ruling class of a post apocalyptic dystopian society, The Capitol, hosts The Hunger Games. The games are a punishment for the lower classes' previous attempted rebellion.  The Capitol creates an outdoor arena with all types of hazards and then forces 24 children chosen at random to fight to the death in the arena on live TV.

I had to take a moment because it struck me as odd. In The Hunger Games, half the contests die at each others' hands in the first few moment's of the games. Through the rest of the book there are poisonous plants, wasps whose venom either kills or brings on hallucinations, knives to the back, rocks to the skull and death by spear. And that's only in the first half of the first book!

So, reading about teenagers killing each other or dying violently as sport for the rich is fine, but slaves being whipped, burned or hung is just too much? As OBITR, I felt I needed to (gently) point out what I saw as a hypocrisy*. I said I was glad Grissom didn't try to clean up what happened to slaves. 

"I think it's sad authors have to dumb down the type of violence blacks experienced at the hands of their owners and make it more palatable in order for people to want to educate themselves about the time period."

Yep, I went there.

I can only presume the woman who made the original statement was thinking that Hunger Games is pure fiction, whereas The Kitchen House is fiction based in factual events. For the record she also said she couldn't watch Schindler's List for the same reason. I guess I just can't imagine avoiding certain topics because of their truth. In my mind, it's the truthfulness that leads to empathy. I'm not Jewish, but the little I know about the Holocaust made me want to learn more about the difference between Judaism and Catholicism. 

In my opinion, The Kitchen House isn't overly graphic. I think the events in the book are part of the characters' truth, and the truth is they were slaves on a plantation. Bad (beyond horrible) things happened to slaves on plantations. To ignore that, to leave it out of the story wouldn't have been an accurate representation of the south during that time.

My fellow book club members' response struck me as the literary equivalent of sticking her fingers in her ears. "La, la, la, la I can't hear you." Which everyone has a right to do.

My statement was well received. Not that I care about that too much but I don't want to make book club awkward. I enjoy my time there but don't want to be "that person" who turns every conversation into controversy. I can only hope I gave everyone something to think about. Omitting details or downplaying them doesn't make them any less true.

Do you feel the same way as my club member about the books you read? Is there such a thing as too real?

*Hypocrisy is probably too strong of a word but I couldn't think of better one. Photo from Google Images

Holly's Inbox, Scandal in the City : Book Review

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City

I checked out both books in the Holly's Inbox series at the same time. I finished the first book last week and the second, Scandal in the City, over the weekend.

The second book is just as cute as the first. The characters are the same but some of the relationships are explained a bit more. 

I didn't love the ending. It was a little too pie in the sky, but that's chick lit for you. This book is slightly shorter than the first book at 544 pages. I've heard rumors of a third but couldn't find confirmation anywhere. It makes sense, given where this one left off.

What have you finished recently? Anything I should know about?

Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The three books on top are mine from when I was little. They've been passed down from me, to my brother and then to Tyler. I'm saving them for my brother when he has kids of his own. My mom can still recite the first few pages of Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb because I made her read it so many times. 

Thank you, Dr. Suess for being so timeless. Thank you for helping me introduce my son to colors, counting and rhyme. Your books are a great way to get kids interested in reading and learning to love words. The lessons in The Lorax and Horton Hears a Who are just as relevant today as when you wrote them. Happy Birthday!

Bloodroot and Holly's Inbox: Book Reviews

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last week I finished two books I really enjoyed, Bloodroot by Amy Greene and Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham. Bloodroot only took me three days to finish. I heard about it the books section of one of my magazines. I loved it! I don't know why I'm fascinated with stories whose characters have 'the touch' or some other mystical power. Same with books set in the south (location was part of the reason I loved The Help, too). This book has childhood friendships, familial loyalty and a little bit of tragedy. It's set in Appalachia and spans almost 50 years. I was sucked in within the first few pages. 

Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries) Holly's Inbox Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City

Holly's Inbox is set in Britain. Every book that came out after Bridget Jone's has had some type of comparison. This is one is called Bridget Jones meets technology. The story is told entirely through emails between Holly, her friends, her family and co-workers. It's not a small book at 672 pages but since it's not all text, it reads really fast. It's cute and funny just as chick lit should be. I have the sequel but am only about 20 pages in. Interesting side note, Holly Denham is the character's name. The author is actually a man. 

Both these books would be good beach reads.

Oprah Let Me Down

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Book Addiction' photo (c) 2010, Emily Carlin - license:
For the past few weeks I've been juggling two books. One was our December/January book club selection and the other just because. Both are really meaty books, 600+ pages. Both are on Oprah's book lists. Both of them suck! 

I usually stick with a book. No matter how awful it is, I'll keep plugging away, especially if the book is something tons of other people talk about and love. Well, not this time. I waved the white book mark, threw in the proverbial towel. I took Freedom back to the library yesterday after about 250 pages. 

I didn't like the characters. I didn't like Franzen's writing style. I didn't care about the story. It was a giant snooze. I feel like a quitter but I have about 50 books in my 'to be read' and most of them look so good. I'd walk past them all on my way to bed knowing that one of them was going to knock my socks off and then open Freedom. I couldn't take it anymore. 

Then there's Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True. I'm about 360 pages into it. I was really looking forward to it because both Deb and Mary loved it. But it's soooooo depressing! Not that depressing is bad. I've read books with heavy themes before and still enjoyed them. But this? Whoa.

We already had our book club meeting so I know the ending. This one I'm going to stick with (I think) but only because I want to see how certain plot lines play out. I will say I enjoy the writing in this book much better than Freedom. I haven't read too may of Oprah's book club selections but I've liked all the titles I've read. Until now.

What books have you waved the white book mark on? Have you read Freedom or I Know This Much is True? What did you think?

Raising Kids Who Read: Parents Don't Give Up!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I've heard some parents say they can't get their kids to read or that their kids don't like reading. To that I say, why not try reading with them? I just had a whole classroom full of kids, sitting quietly at their desks, hanging onto my every word. I wonder how many of those kids' parents, the ones who think their children don't like books, would be surprised to see their child so engaged?
Books, books, books, books, books, books, and © 2008 Kenny Louie | more info (via: Wylio)

My son's teacher has made reading a priority in her classroom and I love it. She has a giant class library, the kids have assigned reading time and she's asked parents to volunteer to be Mystery Reader. That's what I did this afternoon. We parents give her five clues going from generic to specific that the kids use to guess who the Reader might be. She starts the clues on Monday and gives one a day. It keeps the kids excited, gives them something to look forward to and makes reading fun, the way it should be. 

It's true there's a lot more to distract kids than when we were younger, but reading is such a gift! I can't imagine not making as much of an effort as possible to give that gift to my child. The kids in Tyler's class today loved being read to! I took The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Treasury with me and read the Won't Pick Up Toys Cure. The kids laughed and I asked them questions.

When I finished the story they clapped and asked if I would come back again. "We love it when you're Mystery Reader!" "Will you bring Mrs. Piggle Wiggle again?" Talk about feeling like a rockstar! To paraphrase the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. And when one of Tyler's classmates hugged me on my way out? It totally burst. 

It makes me sad to think that, for some of those kids, the classroom might be their only exposure to be reading. Especially since they so obviously enjoy Mystery Reader Fridays. I'm sure I'll get a little flack for saying this, but I wonder how many parents who feel their kids aren't readers just gave up too soon?

There are so many options for reading besides 'traditional' books like digital books and ereaders, that there's plenty of opportunity to expose kids to reading. Maybe through these more 'techy' methods, there will be an increase in kids who learn to love reading. At least I hope so.

Are you kid readers? Do you have advice for parents who want their kids to read more?
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