Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another Challenge For Me!

Full House Reading Challenge 2015
This challenge is clearly designed for me. I quote from The Book Date's creed for challenges:

the way I play it, I read the book and then see if there is a square I am able to mark off.  I love to do reading challenges, but I make it a priority to read what I like mostly, so my challenges serve my reading, not the other way round.


So that's how I'm going to do the Full House Reading Challenge, starting now.Full House Reading Challenge 2015

X O X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X O X X

Library Book:
My Top Book of 2015: The Danger
Heard About Online:
Set in Southern Hemisphere:
Published in 2015:
Novella:
Setting I Want To Visit:
Award Winner:
First of Series:
Keeper
Author Outside My Country:
Favorite Author:
FREE CHOICE:
Published 2000-2013:
Outstanding Hero/ine:
Won or Borrowed:
Set in Northern Hemisphere:
Debut Novel:
Pre-2000:
New (to me) Author:
2nd + Book in Series:
TBR Pile:
Published in 2014: Archangel's Shadows, Nalini Singh 2/24/15
Rare Type For Me:
I Love the Cover:

Monday, February 16, 2015

How To Take a Vacation

2a
Say you decided to take advantage of a school hiatus and retire with your family to an indoor water park for a few days. How many books would you bring with you?

I brought twenty six, plus my NOOK. And my phone. And the audio in the car. OBVIOUSLY I wasn't planning to read them all, but it's nice to have a selection, right? Right? And there was a lovely wide windowsill to serve as my library shelf.

My family seems to think I'm crazy, but I was hoping the internet would understand.

I'm still reading far too many books (24) but I still  have hopes to bring this down by April. (I didn't bring all the books with bookmarks in them, and I wasn't currently reading all the books I brought.)  I'm almost done catching up with my library books, and then I can read down the others and be human normal  sensible again.


So, what did I spend my time on this week?

Monday: Hawk (completed), The Jury, Reading and Learning to Read, Blood and Betrayal
Tuesday: The Jury, The American Heiress, Blood and Betrayal, Rob Roy, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, Ella Enchanted
Wednesday: Ella Enchanted (completed), The Danger, Spear of Summer Grass (abandoned), The American Heiress (abandoned),
Thursday: The DangerThe Edge - audio (started), Girls Like Us (started), Blood of Tyrants (started), Rob Roy, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age
Friday: The Edge, Girls Like Us (completed), Blood and Betrayal (completed), NERDS, Reading and Learning to Read, 
Saturday: Reading and Learning to ReadNERDS, Possession, Shadows and Dreams (started), Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, Blood of Tyrants
Sunday: Blood of TyrantsThe DangerSlow Reading in a Hurried Age, Possession, Tell the Wolves I'm Home

So I finished four books, and started another five.  Except that two of those were the same, so really I finished two books from my reading bag and replaced them, and added an audio book.  Also, I abandoned two books because I was only reading them for a book club and I skipped the meeting. One had not hooked me in the first hundred pages, and one only got about ten pages before I decided to bail.

Blood and Betrayal (The Emperor's Edge, #5)HawkThere were three fantasy books, although with extremely different takes on fantasy. Brust's books are witty, dark, and densely imaginative, with the feel of a real society solidly built around the characters. Buroker's books are lighter, with more laugh out loud moments but still with a solidly drawn setting and society around the rebel band we care about. I'm reading my way through both of these series, although I have a few books to go for Buroker and I've caught up with Brust. And finally, the juvenile Ella Enchanted gives a new take on the Cinderella tale, and one that my elementary school book club enjoyed and discussed energetically over cookies and lunch.

Ella EnchantedI like books that the kids are excited about -- although there wasn't a lot of disagreement, the kids had fun thinking about ways around the curse, or about what it meant to have a happy ending. It's true that this world didn't seem as three dimensional as the adult fare, but no one seemed to mind.

Girls Like UsI also finished another Cybils book, Girls Like Us, which was good but I didn't think was great. Maybe because I'm involved with special education kids I'm not the best audience? There wasn't a lot I learned about what being in special education means to kids, and the horrific revelations and plot developments seemed scripted and telegraphed far in advance. I'll put it on my high schooler's shelf, so maybe I can get his opinion as well.

The DangerThe EdgeMy car rides have been enriched by the audio version of Dick Francis's The Edge, which is my next friendly book club pick. Since I've read it before, I can relax into the British accent of the narrative. To confuse myself, I'm also rereading The Danger (optional book club extra: read all of Dick Francis's books), so I have to remember which protagonist is the rich spy for the horse racing world and which is the anti-terrorist expert helping a ransom victim.

Possession (Fallen Angels, #5)Slow Reading in a Hurried AgeI'm slowly reading through Slow Reading in a Hurried Age (appropriately) but I can't go too slowly because the library wants it back soon. But it's a good reminder of the human rewards of reading, and how it can refresh your soul and mind. And then in a spirit of rebellion I pick up Possession, which honestly doesn't benefit from any introspection or deeper thought at all.

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeBlood of Tyrants (Temeraire, #8)But I suspect Tell the Wolves I'm Home will. I'm hoping the next dragons-in-Napoleon-wars book will start grabbing me, but so far I keep putting it down. And the lesbian private eye with vampires book is disappointing shallow. Perhaps it's just as well I brought twenty spare books along, since I may be putting things down as quickly as I pick them up.

Shadows & Dreams (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator, #2)

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

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 3/81. Need to get some new ones from the library.
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 11/51. Girls Like Us gave me Texas.
  3. Award Winning Book Challenge: Can I count this page as a review? If so I have three.
  4. Alphabetically Inclined:  I J X Y Z still missing. Ella Enchanted gave me an E.
  5. TBR Challenge: 5 books, 17 library books.
  6. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  7. Reading My Library: Library temporarily closed, so on hiatus.

2014 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2013: 76/77.  One more to go! I'm still on it: Out of the Easy. Josie is about to do some dumb stuff so I've been avoiding her.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Social Butterfly Me

2a
I went to another convention this weekend -- Potlatch 2015. Another gathering of interesting people who like to read and talk about SF books. I admit that the presence of Ursula Le Guin's name on the membership list brought me in, and even though she wasn't actually there I had a good time.

Too bad it may have been the last Potlatch, at least for a while. I'm sorry I broke it!

I told several people about my book fast (no new books until April) and they sympathized but laughed at me anyway. I also mentioned marrying my brother, which is always fun. (I married him TO someone else, get your minds out of the interbreeding!)

I'm still reading far too many books (currently I have bookmarks in 23) but I have hopes to bring this down by April. That number is again trending in a lower direction. Also, the number of books out from the library is holding at twenty six, and that includes the ones I've finished and the ones I got for my kids to read. And the ones I recently got for various book clubs, of course, that being the only exemption to my NoNewBooks policy. Besides my Cybils exemption, of course. And any other exemption I find under my pillow.


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

Monday: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, The October Country, Shiver, Out of the Easy
Tuesday: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces (completed), The October Country, Reading and Learning to Read,  Out of the Easy, Shiver
Wednesday: Shiver (completed)Out of the Easy, The October Country, Reading and Learning to Read, The Jury
Thursday: The Shadow ThroneDecider (started, completed)
Friday: The Shadow Throne (completed)Out of the EasyThe Jury, The Danger (started)Reading and Learning to Read, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age
Saturday: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, The Danger, The Escape (completed), Hawk
Sunday: Hawk, The Danger, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, Out of the Easy, The Jury

So I finished five books, and started two.  My reading tower moved in the correct direction! It also pleased me that several of the books I finished are ones that have been lurking in my reading bag for quite a while, and I enjoyed actually finishing them. Also, I noticed that when going to conventions, I do look at what my book will say about me, and then shrug and bring along the romance anyway, partly because it's great for reading in short bursts.


Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)Gabi, a Girl in PiecesOut of the EasyI had three young adult books in the bag this week, and their relationship with sex was a huge differentiator. Gabi worried about it, her mom raged against it, her culture tried to use it as a measure of a girl's worth, and it was a huge sign of her growing maturity that she managed to treat it as a normal part of life, something she could make choices about but that didn't summarize her. In Shiver, the boy worried about being menacing, but the girl never once thought of sex as something that defined her morally. It was a way to express feelings, not a way to measure her status in society. And in Out of the Easy, Josie is so traumatized by her hooker mother that it will take a lot to get her to experiment in any way; her best friend/possible boy friend is also clearly gay so he won't be pushing her too hard to start. At least she has her motorcycle friend waiting for her to figure stuff out. It's hard to see how things will work out well for Josie, so I'm reading that one very slowly.

The DangerThe Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) The books I pick up in quiet moments while waiting for a panel to start or the shopping line to move were The Escape, a relaxing romance about a member of a seemingly anachronistic PTSD support group who each manage to find love after the Napoleonic wars. That description sounds condescending, but I'm enjoying Balogh's stories in this series; the characters are interesting, face unusual challenges (I like the blind man whose wife builds him a race course) and treat their lovers with respect and intelligence. This are no tragic misunderstandings, no real tensions, but a gentle ride as the characters manage to sort out their often complicated lives. After that one finished, I picked up Hawk, the latest Steven Brust, both because it was more likely to start conversations at an SF convention and because I really need to return it to my brother. HawkIt amused me by wrapping up a plot line I was getting tired of (or did it...) and also with Brust's usual character and plot-related arabesques.  And finally, in preparation of March's book club, I've started reading through my Dick Francis books. Sadly I seem to have misplaced the actual club pick, but I'm enjoying the others as I wait for it to turn up.

Reading and Learning to ReadSlow Reading in a Hurried AgeTwo books about reading are dovetailing neatly -- Slow Reading in a Hurried Age is a love song to contemplative relationships with books, looking at how to engage your reading in a true discussion that enriches you and brings out the best in the book. It's how to read like a grown up, although it amuses me when Mikics assumes that the internet is what distracts me from reading; more commonly it's other books. At the same time I'm slowly inching through Reading and Learning to Read, a teacher's textbook about bringing children to literacy. I'm slowly being converted from my phonics ways, because it turns out that most of the whole language stuff involves things that I consider crucial to a happy childhood anyway, and the idea that learning to read is more akin to learning a language makes sense on many levels. The two books are approaching the pleasures of literacy from opposite directions, but affirming the same values.

Finally, I finished The Shadow Throne, but it left me a bit cold. I never figured out an age for the new King -- his voice seems very young, but that makes all the romance (not to mention the torture) deeply creepy.

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

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 2/81. Finished and really recommend Gabi.
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 10/51. No change. 
  3. Award Winning Book Challenge: Still got nothing.
  4. Alphabetically Inclined: E I J X Y Z still missing. And since library books don't count, this isn't moving much.
  5. TBR Challenge: 4 books, 17 library books.
  6. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  7. Reading My Library: Library temporarily closed, so on hiatus.

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

Another challenge that I'm joining but not planning to really put effort into is Book Riots' #ReadHarder Challenge. They came up with a list of twenty four different kinds of books (two a month is I think the intention) with the idea that you read a bit outside your comfort zone. Since I'm all about challenges that get me to read interesting stuff, I'm in. I'm also hoping that I just accidentally read everything without having to think about it.

Book Riot seems to be involved with a social media internet thing called Twitter, into which I have barely dipped my toes. But if you are into that, they are tracking their challenge with the hashtag #ReadHarder. "Share your books, share your challenge plan, share your recommendations."

I will be tracking my challenge with the innovated method of moving items from the top list to the bottom as I complete them. Also, if I notice as I finish a book that it fits any of the categories, I shall scandalize my children by shouting HASHTAG and then making that cryptic sign with my hands. It's always funny.

Unfinished:
  1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
  2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
  3. collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)
  4. A book published by an indie press (does self published count?)
  5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
  6. A book that takes place in Asia
  7. A book by an author from Africa
  8. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans,Aboriginals, etc.)
  9. microhistory
  10. National Book AwardMan Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
  11. An audiobook
  12. A collection of poetry
  13. A book that someone else has recommended to you
  14. A book that was originally published in another language
  15. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind (Hi, have you met Panels?)
  16. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)
  17. A book published this year
Completed:
  1. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: Zero Day, David Baldacci 1/25/15
  2. YA novel: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, Isabel Quintero 2/3/15
  3. sci-fi novel: Across the Universe, Beth Revis 1/30/15
  4. A book published before 1850: The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens, 1/15/15
  5. romance novel: Escape, Mary Balogh 2/7/15
  6. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.): Ella Enchanted, Gail Levine 2/11/15
  7. self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”): Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, Mickos, 2/16/15

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday! What Have I Been Reading?

2a
I went to a favorite convention this weekend -- Foolscap 2015. It's a place for lovers of books and art, and I've converted my children into fans, so it's a family event now. I've acquired a new list of things I should be reading and I got to meet Ursula Vernon, author of many things, including the Dragonbreath series and several addictive podcasts.

I'm still reading far too many books (currently I have bookmarks in 27) but I have hopes to bring this down by April.

As usual at this time of year, I'm concentrating my reading on my library pile, choosing what to read by the due dates involved. This explains why I started some new things rather than continue to work down the books I'm already in the middle of. I've managed to avoid checking out new books though; I'm distracting myself by getting some CDs to listen to while folding laundry instead. This way I don't notice that I only have 26 books out from my library, and probably at least six of them are for the kids, not for me.


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

Monday: Reading and Learning to Read,  Across the Universe (started), NERDS, Out of the Easy, Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series (started)
Tuesday: Ardeur (completed),  NERDS, 
Wednesday: Reading and Learning to ReadAcross the UniverseLost Enchantment
Thursday: Across the Universe (complete), The October Country, Reading and Learning to Read
Friday: Escape (started),
Saturday: Escape, Out of the Easy, Gabi: A Girl in Pieces (started)
Sunday: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, Escape

So I started four books, and finished two.  My reading tower grew higher. Oops.

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)Most of what I read this week was coming of age stories. The YA books make this explicit; in Across the Universe there is a little awakening as well as various unfolding of truths to mark the two teenagers' growth in maturity. They are forced to more their viewpoint outward, to encompass their entire world, small as is. Cloning and suppressing drugs also focus attention on identity, a key value for emerging adolescents.

Out of the EasyGabi, a Girl in PiecesMy first Cybils of the year, Gabi: A Girl in Pieces also traces the last year of Gabi's high school career, in America formally the last year of adolescence before adulthood is granted (albeit provisionally if you move on to the grey space college). Although the book avoids a sense of checking issues of a list, Gabi gets to confront many of the burning issues of modern times -- drug addiction, teen pregnancy, coming out, date rape, first dates, slut shaming, birth control and abortion (Gabi doesn't personally run through this check list, but her friends and family provide a wider range of experiences for her). I am hoping my kids' senior year is less eventful. The last Cybils of last year also shows a girl trying for college, although the situation of Out of the Easy's protagonist seems even more constrained and hopeless.

The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3)Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter SeriesMy more cheerful reads were Escape, a romance that I am confident will end in a HEA, and Ardeur, a collection of 14 essays on Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books with introductions by her. I always enjoy literary essays on pop culture (maybe I should become a high school English teacher!) and I enjoy Mary Balogh's characters and setting as I relax into that genre's guarantee of everything working out for my favorite people.

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

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 1/81. Got two from the library, but they aren't due yet. Only a few pages left of Gabi
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 10/51. So far so good!
  3. Award Winning Book Challenge: I got nothing.
  4. Alphabetically Inclined: E I J X Y Z still missing. And since library books don't count, this isn't moving much.
  5. TBR Challenge: 2 books, 14 library books.
  6. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  7. 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 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)
Silver Inky Award Winner 2010: Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater
Newberry Honor 1997:  Ella Enchanted, Levine
Schneider Family Award  (Teen) 2015: Girls Like Us, Gail Giles

Completed Books:


Monday, January 26, 2015

Whittling Down the Library Pile

2a
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