Monday, December 3, 2018

Summer Reading: Karen Made It Count

Intrepid Reader Karen had a great summer reading.

How great? Well, it looks like she consumed the entire Outlander series and immersed herself in cozy mysteries. 

Did you know "cozy mysteries" is a thing? I have been reading them for ages and just thought that was my author's pet name for her series. 

"Cozy mysteries" apparently involve cats saving humans from their own foolishness. (Maybe it's just me....) Well, I know my cats are exhausted each night after they keep me out of danger every day, even when I am at work — thanks to the Cat Networks.

At any rate, here is what Karen read this summer:

  1. Troublemaker 
  2. Outlander 
  3. Dragonfly in Amber 
  4. Voyager 
  5. Drums of Autumn 
  6. The Fiery Cross
  7. A Breath of Snow and Ashes 
  8. An Echo in the Bone
  9. Written in my Own Heart’s Blood 
  10. Murder in the Art Gallery 
  11. A Sip of Murder:A Japanese Tea Garden Mystery 
  12. Cream Puff Murder
  13. Gone with the Ghost 
  14. You’ve Got Tail
  15. The Secret of Seaside 
  16. Cruel Candy 
  17. Marigolds and Murder
  18. Wicked for Hire 
  19. Sweets and a Stabbing 
  20. Bakeries and Bones
  21. Horribly Haunted in Hillbilly Hollow 
  22. A Shot in the Bark
What an ambitious summer! Intrepid Reader Karen knows how to get some good books under her belt.

As a reward for a summer well-spent, Karen received a copy of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore — which you all might want to put on your holiday gift list. Just saying.

What did you read this summer? Did you discover a new author or genre? Let us know: comment below, or send me an email.

Have you plotted out your Winter Reads, or are you winging it and banking on a book bonanza for the holidays? Discuss!

And a special shout-out to the artist of this year's Summer Reading graphic: Beth Wilson and her DoodleCats!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Poetry Wednesday: Home


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

by Warsan Shire (British-Somali poet)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Summer Reading: Did You Make it Count?

Summer is officially over in the Northern Hemisphere, and I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, it means more time indoors curled up with books.

On the other hand, winter is coming.

But let's not focus on that just yet. Let's talk books.

I did not gobble them up like a glutton, as I have in years past. Instead, I read in fits and starts, trying out (and rejecting) title after title until I found one that fit. More often than not, I found YA novels helped smooth out the snags, and I was able to read steadily for a while before I floundered around for another book.

I am a firm believer in jettisoning books that don't work for the reader. Nothing against the book: my friend Carole has read books I have been unable to get into — but I'll try again. (And thank heavens for that, or I would have missed The Dinner and Less.)

So, without further ado, here is what I read during the 2018 summer reading program from May 25 to September 23:

  1. The Public Library📖
  2. The Book With No Pictures 📖
  3. The Useful Book 📲
  4. China Rich Girlfriend 📖
  5. Standard Deviation 📲
  6. The Plant Paradox 📲
  7. How a Mouse Saved the Royal Cat 📲
  8. Robert Kennedy Jr.’s American Heroes: Robert Smalls, the Boat Thief 📖
  9. Seven Miles to Freedom 📖
  10. Thunderstorm 📖
  11. An American Marriage 📖
  12. A Man Named Ove 📖
  13. Dear First Lady 📖
  14. What if Everybody Said That? 📲
  15. Quilt of States 📖
  16. Crazy Rich Asians 📖
  17. Frogs Are Funny! 📖
  18. Thrall 📖
  19. Dear Evan Hansen 🎧 📲
  20. The Devil’s Arithmetic  📲
  21. The Sun is Also a Star  📲
  22. Less  📲
  23. The Ideals Guide to Literary Places in the US 📖
  24. Cat Haiku 📖
  25. Differently Morphus 🎧
  26. The Emerald Circus 📖
  27. Pen & Ink Tattoos & the stories behind them 📖
  28. How to Relax  📲
  29. Marcelo in the Real World  📲

Upon reflection, I am surprised by the number of print books on my list. I felt like I spent more time on my Kindle than on the page.

I am pleased that 17 of the books listed above were library books. Oh, I didn't slow down on the number of books I purchased, but upped my library game. (Go Library!)

Some books I had in both print and E, but read in E because it was more convenient. Honestly, I liked having the option to highlight on the page and share the highlights in Goodreads — but holding a book in my hands feels great.

I have not finished an entire audiobook in months, but not because of the books I have chosen. Audiobooks are my gym companions, and they compete with podcasts and my need to unwind with Fluff 'n Trash™. (Pop Culture Happy Hour, I'm looking at you.) Plus, despite my treasure trove of audiobooks, most of the ones I listen to are library loans, and the loan expires before I finish the book. I may have to adjust my Audible membership to accommodate my TBR-Audio list, or spend more time at the gym. (Hey, do it for the books!)

Full disclosure: I did not finish one of these books. I found The Plant Paradox unreadable and mostly unintelligible. I feel about this book the same way I felt about The Case Against Sugar: it could have been an essay, or a series of magazine articles, rather than a full-blown book.

How did your summer reading fare? Tell us in the comments below, or email me. Check back next week for Intrepid Reader Karen's summer reading list!

And a special shout-out to the artists of this year's Summer Reading graphic: Beth Wilson and her DoodleCats!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Summer Reading, Continued...

I'm taking some time to catch up on my reading. If you can't decide what to read next, I have a few suggestions:

  • A Man Named Ove
  • The Sun is Also a Star
  • An American Marriage

What are some books you recommend? List them in the suggestions below!

See you in the autumn, and keep reading!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Summer Reading: Poking Along

Not to brag, but my reading is poking along at a speed that would get it run off the road in any country.

Just kidding. 

About the bragging part, that is. Seriously, I am putting along at an embarrassingly slow pace.

So far, in the nine weeks of summer reading, I've read a whopping 11 books.


Please note that last year, I read more than two dozen books. Granted, quite a few were graphic novels, but we established that such a fete is not "cheating" because the visual details in a graphic novel are intense and must be studied carefully.

I am mixing it up this summer. I just finished the book for Dear Evan Hansen, which required listening to the soundtrack as well as reading the story. It's more than dialogue. It's also stage direction. That &$%# ain't easy.

I am cutting myself some slack because the book I read immediately before that was The Devil's Arithmetic. I have to thank The New Yorker article on Holocaust books for children for that amazing discovery. 

Earlier this year, I read The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen, and trusted the author. I plan to trust the author again and again with a few of her other books. I'm looking forward to it in an enriching, challenging way. 

A have a few weighty reads to explore to in the upcoming weeks, such as The Divine Comedy, Norwegian Wood, and We Were Eight Years in Power.

I also have to schedule in a few books from authors that will be featured at this year's Fall for the Book festival, and catch up with the Kopp sisters.

How goes your summer reading? Have you hit any obstacles, or has it been smooth sailing in the summer sun? Do tell!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Summer Reading: What Karen is Reading This Summer

I hope your summer reading is coming along swimmingly. 

If you are in the areas on the globe experiencing record rains and/or record heat, hopefully you can spend extra time indoors and get more reading done.

Intrepid Reader Karen has planned her summer reading carefully, and I see at least one or two books from her list that dovetail with titles I find interesting. Who among us has not salivated over adventure tales or time-travel stories? I rest my case.

So, without further ado, here is Karen's reading list (also fondly referred to as TBR, or to be read, stack):

  1. Pope Francis’ Little Book of Compassion
  2. Troublemaker 
  3. Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story 
  4. Outlander series books 1-8
  5. The Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost 
  6. Beyond the Fortune Teller’s Tent
  7. Legend of the Jade Dragon 
  8. The Pocket Watch
  9. Holy Bible 
  10. Morna’s Legacy 
  11. The Ruby Red Trilogy 
  12. Dragon Bones
  13. Lost City of Z
  14. The Source 
  15. The Secret Scroll
  16. Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America 
  17. Elixir: A Teen-Genius Medical Thriller 

I adored the Ruby Red Trilogy, and I have been meaning to read The Lost City of Z for ages. I read only the first Outlander novel, so maybe it's time to see what's up with Claire and Jaimie. And, frankly, who doesn't love Jewel?

So, what's in your TBR pile? Join the club, and win a chance at a new book! Post your list in the comments below, or send it to me and I'll share with the class!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summer Reading: Getting the 'Pages' in This Summer

Summer is the perfect time to read. Even though summer days remain 24 hours, they feel longer, which is a delicious situation for readers. 

School is out, work very well could slow down, and summer vacations away from the distractions of life present ample opportunities to bury yourself in a book.

We can create opportunities to increase the amount of time we read with a few tweaks to our habits.

(By the way, feel free to apply these practices appropriately to other activities you'd like to spend more time doing.)

  • Put down the social media. Take the summer off of your personal social media use. Trust me, it will still be there when you get back — and chances are, it will be easier to use, less intrusive, and maybe even a little more civil. 
  • Can't step away from personal  social media use? First, see a professional about this issue, then set limits for social media use:
    • set a timer for only a few minutes, then stop when the timer goes off
    • only read social media in certain situations that limit your time
      • X number of stops on your train commute
      • on the potty (to which you needn't admit)
      • on your 15-minute breaks at work
      • via certain electronic devices only (when you can access your desktop computer, for example, or at home on your tablet)
  • For the record, "setting limits" includes this blog. Check in to see what's up and enjoy my delightful and entertaining posts, then get back to reading.
  • Turn off the television — or whatever you use for "screen time," including You Tube, Netflix, and Hulu. 
    • Too radical? Then try Appointment Television, watching it "live" on the broadcast channel, or on a schedule (The Crown at 7 p.m. only on Thursdays, for example).
  • Read aloud with a buddy, alternating chapters or voicing characters. This increases the time you spend with friends (in person or virtually) and you get your reading in!
  • Get your family in on this deal: listen to audiobooks on road trips — or be like my friend Carole who reads aloud as her family motors down the road together. (She is hardcore.)
  • Get a single copy of a book you want to read, and set a deadline to share it with a reading buddy.
  • Join your library summer reading program, so you double the incentive for reading a lot. And if your library doesn't offer incentives for adults, talk to your librarians to change that.
  • Visit your library regularly. Make a weekly date, or spend time there instead of at work when avoiding rush hour. Yes, this way is fraught with peril, snatching books to stack on your TBR pile, but how else can you find your next read if not at the library?
  • Talk you your friendly neighborhood librarian and get introduced to books you will willingly put before other forms of entertainment.

These are just a few ideas, and no doubt you know of others that have worked for you. So, tell us: how do you make ample time for reading? Post your suggestions below, or contact me directly and I'll share with the rest of the class!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Summer Reading: What's on My TBR 'List'

Summer reading is fraught with peril.

Choose the wrong books and you've wasted your summer reading bad books. Choose nothing at all, and you may read nothing.

Choose too many books and you could be paralyzed with fear at the tide of books you face, and the possibility that you may not finish. Choose only a handful of books and so many are left unread.

Choose books, then risk not reading those particular tomes because you stumbled across other books.

Okay, "peril" is a strong word — but you get my drift. With choice comes limitation, or responsibility, or paralysis. Or, in my case, failure.

Last year, I listed 45 books I wanted to read. Of the 26 books I read last summer, eight were on the original list. Some books have been on the list for years. Some books are pies in the sky. Some books will always be on my TBR shelf.

However, this year, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of rustling up gobs of books from my bookshelves, scouring my library and my wish lists, I simply looked at what was on my nightstand.

Well, "nightstand" isn't quite accurate: In March, my husband David installed the floating shelves my stepson Phil gave me for Christmas (pictured above). That has lightened the load on the nightstand itself, but I keep a few there anyway so I can reach them for reading in bed.

More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to prune the books teetering on my nightstand. There are two ways to look at TBR stacks: opportunity or oppression. By thinning the stack awaiting me for nighttime reading, I could see them as the former, and enjoy them more.

So, here are my Upstairs TBR Bedroom books, in no particular order:

  • Less
  • Small Great Things
  • The Divine Comedy
  • A Man Called Ove

  • Hamilton
  • The Book of the Unknown
  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
  • Being Mortal
  • Reading Dante
  • Standard Deviation
  • The Bear and the Nightingale
  • The Lilac Girls
  • The Fall of the House of Cabal
  • March (books 1, 2, 3)
  • Educated
  • We Were Eight Years in Power
  • The Keeper of Lost Things
  • 4 3 2 1
  • The Art of War Visualized

I have a few more books in the home library that I will include on this list — but only once I clear these books from my upstairs shelves.

This does not include the multitude of books on my Kindle and in Audible, which often (but not always) duplicate what I have on my shelves. Among those is:

  • Norse Mythology
  • Lady Cop Makes Trouble
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
  • Differently Morphous
  • The Power
  • Welcome to Night Vale

Some of these books intersect with those to be featured this autumn at Fall for the Book, and the serendipity makes me smile. Others that have not yet been read will be, if not this summer, then at least before the October festival.

Those sentiments — home library, multiple books on multiple platforms, attending a major book festival — are steeped in privilege, and trust me, I know full well the privilege of purchasing and reading books. I share my good fortune when I can, and I hope those folks whose share my good fortune also spread the love of books and reading.

So, in a nutshell, that is what I hope to read this summer. I have heard from another reader, Karen,  whose reading list we will see in the coming days  — and yes, for ideas as well as for support.

What's on your nightstand or bookshelves that you plan to read this summer? Share your summer reading list in the comments below, or send it to me and I will share it with our fellow book lovers!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Summer Reading: Getting with the Program

DoodleCats by Beth Wilson at www dot doodlecats dot com
Summer reading means hot days and humid nights reading any book you darn well please.

Reading with friends makes it even better — so get with the Program!

That's the whole reason for the Summer Reading Program: to gather friends, make new friends, and READ.

The Summer Reading Program lasts from the Friday before Memorial Day and the first weekend in autumn. In 2018, that is Friday, May 25 through Sunday, September 23. 

If you read the most of anyone in our program, I will give you a book. (I know, right?)

So, to get in on this sweet deal, what do you have to do? Not much. Contact me directly or leave a comment below. 

We programmers can tell each other what we are reading, what we plan to read, what we actually read, and what we would read if we had way more time.

What kind of books count? All kinds! Mix a few graphic novels in with non-graphic novels, catch up on your comics, toss in some audiobooks, and front-load the e-reader of your choice. (We are equal opportunity here at the Summer Reading Program: Nooks, Kindles, tablets, phablets — all are welcome.)

Kickstart your reading with a treat: go to your favorite book source and pick up that book you have been promising yourself you will read. 

Is it trashy? Good. 
Is it short? Excellent. 
Is the cover bright? Perfect! 
Is it the next in your beloved series? Go for it!

Once I figure out how to easily put my photos on my computer (long story), I will share my reading list — which consists of books that are literally hanging around my nightstand.

Even if you don't join the reading program, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!

And a special shout-out to the artists of this year's Summer Reading graphic: Beth Wilson and her DoodleCats!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Summer Reading: Join the Club!

I hope you had a good Memorial Day, stacking up your books on the nightstand or desk, putting them in order for —

Oh, maybe that was just me. 

Anyway, summer reading has begun, so join the club!

Summer reading means long days and humid nights reading any book you darned well choose. The club counts books read between the Friday before Memorial Day and the first weekend in autumn. This year, that is Friday, May 25 through Sunday, September 23.

I am still trying to decide what's on my reading list. After reviewing last year's list and realizing how many of those books remain in my TBR pile, I may skip the list and just wait for the Fall for the Book participant list. (Please note; I always welcome suggestions.)

Visit your library (public or private), your local bookstores and thrift shops, yard sales and online book suppliers, friends and family, and choose what books look like they need to be read this summer.

Join the Summer Reading Club and put yourself in the running for a new book. Read as much as you wish  — and if you read the most books during the club reading dates, you will win a book of your own. Seriously. I will give you a book.

To join the club, just send me an e-mail or leave a message below. Then, at the end of the summer reading period, send me n e-mail or include your reading list in a blog comment. If you read the most, congratulations! If not, you still are a winner because you spent your summer reading. And who knows, you may win a book anyway.

I've already had a few e-mails from eager readers, and I can't wait to read your list!

I make sure summer reading is beneficial to my community. I will  donate  to Main Street Child Development Center, and I will buy new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List

Hopefully, reading club members also will find a way to help their communities through their reading, or to help share the love of reading with their communities. It's not a requirement, of course, but it certainly is a worthy effort. It doesn't have to be financial support, either — think of what the community wants and needs. Every reader can determine what is within her or his power to bestow.

Even if you don't join the reading club, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!

Oh, and if you're like me and adore reading cat cartoons, check out Doodlecats. It's adorable!