Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Award Winning Book Club Challenge

IMG_8056I've always thought that an Awards Book Club would be wonderful. Every month you read a book that won an award, and by varying the awards, you could read a wide variety of books. Feeling all smart? Man Booker Prize, or the Pulitzer. Heck, read the nonfiction winner if you are full of brains. More relaxed? How about the Edgar winner for a good mystery, or the Hugo or Nebula for some SF, or the Newbery for a shorter read? And then have your holiday party with a Caldecott book or by watching an Academy Award winner movie instead of reading at all!

Sadly, it turns out that most people prefer to read books they like instead of reading something completely different every month. Go figure! So I've never found anyone interested in that book club. But I can come really close by joining in on the challenge hosted by Gathering Books: Award Winning Books Reading Challenge 2015!

Since one of the other challenges I try to make is to march through the Cybils Finalist list, I'm pretty much guaranteed to make it through the Bronze Level (10 or fewer), I'm start by aiming at the Silver Level (11-25 books). This is complicated by the need to actually REVIEW the books, which last year I did not excel, but this year I hope to do better, if you can count one to two sentences as a review.

I may have already read a few -- I'm finishing up the last of the 2013 Cybils YA books and if any of the last three won, I'll be ahead! But I'm not checking until I finish and make my own judgements. Also, I'm not sure, but I'm assuming the books have to win -- no Silver medal Newbery's. Although the page does say Newbery Medal/Honor, so maybe that's too strict?

There's also a hashtag, so maybe these books will prompt a few tweets out of me. More likely I will just annoyingly cross my fingers at my family and shout HASHTAG AWBREAD2015 as I try to get them to read something good.

Read But Not Reviewed Books:
(this will hopefully only rarely have entries)

Completed Books:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Whittling Down the Library Pile

I'm finding my new relaxed policy of reading to be very relaxing. I read a book until it gets stressful, at which point I put it down and read something else. No guilt allowed. I'm already have bookmarks in far more books than anyone would believe (26), so there is no pressure to ever finish anything!

I'm picking my books based mainly on their library due dates. I'd like to get my library stash down below ten books, and try to keep it there. That gives me room to have a few Cybils books, a few for other challenges, some stuff I want to read, and books I want my kids to read (or that they want to read, whichever). Currently I'm carrying about thirty three books out, so I have a ways to go towards this goal.

Clearly I'm still working had on the TBR dare, even if I haven't started addressing my personal piles of unread books. But those will be easier to see if I get these due dates out of my eyes.

This week I've mostly been finishing up the Cybils from last years, as well as reading some of the books I got to finish up the 50 States challenge. Reading them now should give me a leg on up that for 2015.

So, what did I spend my time on this week? Again I kept a diary, and noted when I started or finished something

What have I been reading? Funny I should ask that, because just this week I started keeping a reading diary!

Monday: Sex and Violence, The October CountryNot Quite a Husband, The American Heiress, Wide Open (completed), Reading and Learning To ReadThe Shadow Throne
Tuesday: Sex and Violence (completed), The Jury, Reading and Learning To Read, Not Quite a Husband
Wednesday: Capture the Flag (completed), The Jury, Reading and Learning to ReadRob Roy (started), Not Quite a Husband, 
Thursday: Rose Under Fire (completed)
Friday: NERDS, Reading and Learning to Read, Zero Day (started)
Saturday: Zero Day
Sunday: Zero Day (completed), NERDS, Reading and Learning to Read, Not Quite a Husband (completed)

So I started two books, and finished six.  That's progress on my currently reading tower!

I'm off to sign up to see what everyone else is reading lately at bookjourney's and Teach Mentor Texts lists.

Wide Open (Wide Open, #1)Zero Day (John Puller, #1)Sex & ViolenceThe main theme that interested me this week was family -- Wide Open was about a soldier returning from Afghanistan to deal with her sister's death. Was it suicide? Was it murder? The ghosts and magic bad guys were foils to help define her grief at lost chances as well as now impossible future reconciliations.  Sex and Violence followed a boy trying to define his self-identity and respect without a family to base them on, as his dad waited until late high school to attempt to provide any sense of connection. And the main back story for the touch character Puller comes from his senile general father and his incarcerated genius brother, both of whom he feels the weight of responsibility for.

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)
Not Quite a HusbandCapture the Flag (Capture the Flag, #1)Rose Under Fire was a powerful WWII book about an American flyer who spends the last year of war in a concentration camp. Elizabeth Wein does a wonderful job with friendships among women, both before and after the crucible of torture and starvation. Capture the Flag was a much lighter romp as several middle schoolers solve a mystery that includes climbing around in the jungle gym of an airport's luggage system. And Not Quite a Husband has the annoying misunderstanding that the HEA couple deeply love each other, something they somehow felt should be concealed under rudeness and indifference during their marriage. Neither seemed particularly likable, and although he was a bit nicer, he had no reason whatsoever for concealing his affection, so it was hard to cheer when they got back together (SPOILER!). I really felt the best possible ending would have been for them both to move on.

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 1/81. Got two from the library, but they aren't due yet.
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 8/51
  3. Alphabetically Inclined: E I J X Y Z still missing.
  4. TBR Challenge: 2 books, 12 library books
  5. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  6. Reading My Library: Library temporarily closed, so on hiatus.

2014 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2013: 76/77.  One more to go! I'm on it: Out of the Easy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Clearing the Shelves! (Well, the floor, anyway)

tbr dare 2014Although I haven't been doing much reading this year, I have dedicated myself to the TBR Double Dog Dare, which means that I only read books that I already have. The first month or so is devoted to my towering library stack, which I really hope to bring down to a reasonable ten-fifteen or so. Then I hope to have time to read enough to fit all my books onto my TBR book cases.

Maybe next year I can work on fixing the double-shelving problem. Never mind, that's too far off -- no need to be chattering about pipe dreams when I don't even know if I'll be able to move on from library books to my actual creaking TBR books.

I started this Dare when I saw it on a link to James Reads Books. Ever year he claims it's his last time running it, so this year I forgot to check but wanted to do it anyway because it's a good way to start my literary year. But it turns out he's got a new icon and everything!

I'm going to keep two lists, one of library books I finish and one of books that are MINE and that I finish.


  1. Wide Open, Deborah Coates (NOOK)
  2. The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens

LIBRARY BOOKS (all checked out before Dec 31, 2014):
  1. A SEAL Wolf Christmas, Terry Spear
  2. The Waking Dark, Robin Wasserman
  3. A Love That Multiplies, Michelle &Duggar
  4. The Given Sacrifice, S.M. Stirling
  5. Undercity, Catherine Asaro
  6. There's a Boy In the Girl's Bathroom, Louis Sacher
  7. Ambassador, William Alexander
  8. Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye, Wendolyn Van Draanen
  9. Capture the Flag, Kate Messner
  10. Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein
  11. Zero Day, David Baldacci
  12. Not Quite a Husband, Sherry Thomas
  13. Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Series, ed. Laurell K Hamilton
  14. Across the Universe, Beth Revis

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Year, New Resolutions

The beginning of the year is a good time for self assessment and goal making, right? I've self-assessed that I haven't been blogging much lately, and I think it's because I've been pretending that I don't exist. That makes it easier to do things like shirk my hosting responsibilities when I suddenly find myself in charge of Christmas in the year when I forgot to buy a tree.

But it turns out that I'm still here no matter how hard I shut my eyes, and that I like being able to look back and see what I've read lately. Since I've probably even driven away my family during my hiatus, I can now confide all my secrets to you, my private Library Chicken!

This year I decided it didn't matter if I didn't finish all my challenges, that just because I made a list didn't mean I had to finish it. In fact, my resolution for January is to let myself stop reading as soon as the going gets tough. So I'll pick up a book, and then if it gets emotionally thick, or somehow annoying, or just not what I want at that moment,  I just put it down and pick up something else! Tomorrow is another day! Que sera, sera! When the going gets tough, the tough are OUTTA HERE!

I'm also doing the TBR Dare, where I don't get new books from the library or the store, I just read what I've got. Honestly, it might take me until April just to clear off my library backlog, so that should work out. And I'm going to approach all of my challenges as ways of sorting my reading, not as markers of success.

What have I been reading? Funny I should ask that, because just this week I started keeping a reading diary!

Wednesday: The Given Sacrifice (completed), A SEAL Wolf Christmas, Pickwick Papers (completed),  A Love That Multiplies (started)
Thursday: A Love That Multiplies
Friday: A Love That Multiplies (completed), A SEAL Wolf Christmas, NERDS, The Waking Dark, Reading and Learning to Read, Wide Open
Saturday: The Waking Dark (completed), NERDS, Reading and Learning To Read, Lost Enchantment, A SEAL Wolf Christmas (completed)
Sunday: The October Country, Sex and Violence, Not Quite a Husband (started)American Heiress (started)Wide Open, The Shadow ThroneBlood & Betrayal (started)

So I started four books, and finished five. That's progress on my currently reading tower!

I'm off to sign up to see what everyone else is reading lately at bookjourney's and Teach Mentor Texts lists.

The Given Sacrifice (Emberverse, #10)There was a lot of religion in these books, starting with the Given Sacrifice, because almost all the characters believe completely in their faiths, and expect the people around them to also have religion. They also actively experience miracles, and have seen magic in their lives, so faith isn't always the right word -- belief is something that comes from tangible events, so disbelief in the supernatural would be irrational.

A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make it WorkA SEAL Wolf Christmas (Heart of the Wolf, #12)When I followed that with the biography of the Duggar family, who also put their religion in the center of their lives, it made for interesting contrasts. The Duggars also experience their faith as a tangible thing, going so far as to roll dice in a literal attempt to decipher what God is telling them. But they also disbelieve in everyone else's religion, feeling that those who believe in different religions are doing it wrong. This narrow world view found an echo in the romance book I read for the Vaginal Fantasy book club -- a major plot point in SEAL Wolf Christmas is that the main character doesn't celebrate Christmas. The other characters ponder this for a hundred pages and yet never consider that she might not be Christian. Of course, it turns out that they are right -- she DOES have a traumatic past (after being raped as a teen, she miscarried twins on Christmas Eve) but that gap astonished me. Oh well, it's not like romance protagonists are typically chosen for their brains.

I also thought a bit about missed opportunities; most classics are better when read as an adult, but I think I would have enjoyed Pickwick Papers much more in my twenties or thirties. Instead I found myself backing away from the humor as I would from a reddit threat. Even the tropes of Lost Enchantment are harder for me to swallow in my forties than they would have been in my thirties. Yes, my children, I am getting old.

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 1/81
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 6/51
  3. Alphabetically Inclined:
  4. TBR Challenge:
  5. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  6. Reading My Library: Library temporarily closed, so on hiatus.

2014 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2013: 74/77. I'd better finish so I can get started on next year.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fifty States of Reading! Where Am I Reading in 2015?

Where Are You Reading
Bookjourney is once again hosting her Where Am I Reading Challenge, and I find that I really enjoy tracking the geography of my reading. I'm definitely US centric, and there are some states that I rarely venture into (some of them are really small!). I like the push to read a bit outside my comfort zone.

Last year I didn't make it through all the states, although that may give me a tiny boost this year as I had the books to do it lined up, but ended up spending December with my family instead of holed inside the books I had left unread until the last minute.

I also like to track where I'm reading outside the US

So, once more into the breach I go! This year I'll try to read five books a month, so I have two months at the end to catch up. Of course, that was my plan last year, and it didn't pan out. But it worked the year before that! I've marked in red the states that escaped me in 2014, so I make sure not to skip them again.

Arkansas: A Love That Multiplies
California: Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye

Idaho: The Given Sacrifice
Kansas: The Waking Dead

Minnesota: Ambassador, Sex and Violence
New Hampshire:
New Jersey:

New Mexico:
New York:
North Carolina:
North Dakota:
Oregon: A SEAL Wolf Christmas
Rhode Island:
South Carolina:

South Dakota: Wide Open
West Virginia: Zero Day

Washington D.C.: Capture the Flag


create your own personalized map of the USA

Last year I made it to every continent except Antarctica, although by the skin of my teeth. This year I'm hoping to read at least two books from every continent, although North America is hard when I don't count my home country.

North America:

South America:

United Kingdom: Pickwick Papers
Germany: Rose Under Fire

India: Not Quite a Husband




Outer Space: Undercity, Across the Universe


Other: There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Cybils 2014 Challenge

Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-Lg Yay, the Cybils are here! Also known as my reading list for the year. This post will serve as my tracker, as I'll mark the ones I've already read (only one -- oops) and then the ones I read because of this list. And I'm going to reverse the order since it's much faster to read picture books than YA, as I found to my cost last year. Again, I'm trying to leave the links in place so if anyone wants to buy a book, a click from here should give the Cybils a few Amazon pennies.

I'm going to try not to look at the winners list until I finish the finalists, so I compare the thoughts of me and my committee to those of the real Cybilites. My committee consists of any available children I can get to read along with me, mostly the ones in my family.

Young Adult Fiction:

  1. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  2. Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
  3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  4. Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  5. When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Speculative Fiction Young Adults

The Winner's Curse
  1. Death Sworn by Leah Cypess
  2. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  3. Noggin by John Corey Whaley
  4. Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
  5. The Living by Matt De La Peña
  6. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
  7. While We Run by Karen Healey
Speculative Fiction Elementary and Middle Grades

  1. Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson
  2. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  3. Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
  4. The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell
  5. The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry
  6. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  7. The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter
  1. Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe
  2. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson
  3. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  4. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
  5. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
  6. The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
  7. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
Nonfiction For Early And Middle Grades

  1. Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman
  2. Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery
  3. Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
  4. Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Nonfiction – Grades Prek-4) (Junior Library Guild Selection) by Loree Griffin Burns
  5. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
  6. The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle
  7. When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca L. Johnson

Middle Grade Fiction:

  1. Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj
  2. All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
  3. Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
  4. Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
  5. Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford
  6. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  7. The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
Graphic Novels For Young Adults

  1. In Real Lifby Cory Doctorow
  2. Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
  3. The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, illustrated by Canaan White
  4. The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  5. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  6. To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful by Shane Koyczan
Graphic Novels For Elementary And Middle Grades

  1. Bad Machinery: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison
  2. Bird & Squirrel on Ice by James Burks
  3. El Deafo by Cece Bell
  4. Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner
  5. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier
  6. The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley
  7. Ballad by Blexbolex

Fiction Picture Books

  1. Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin
  2. Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood
  3. Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty
  4. Maple by Lori Nichols
  5. Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
  6. The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
  7. This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by Tom Licthenheld
Easy Readers

  1. Clara and Clem Under the Sea (Penguin Young Readers, L1) by Ethan Long
  2. Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
  3. Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare (Ready-to-Reads) by Melissa Wiley
  4. My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
  5. Okay, Andy! (Jump-Into-Chapters) by Maxwell Eaton
  6. Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway 
  7. Scholastic Reader Level 1: The Ice Cream Shop: A Steve and Wessley reader by Jennifer E. Morris
Early Chapter Book: