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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: housekeeping, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Poetry Friday -- My New Hero

"Time to Dust"

Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in cloathes a wantonnesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A careless shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, then when Art
Is too precise in every part.

Herrick is writing about those who are careless in dressing, but I am taking this poem to heart as a person who is careless in housekeeping, and Herrick is my new hero. Last weekend, I finally got around to dusting took five minutes to Swiffer a few key surfaces in the house. After reading Herrick, I quit beating myself up for the cobwebs, cat hair, and kitchen table clutter. I am choosing to "see a wilde civility," become bewitched, and find the wonderful imprecise Art of our home. (Also giving thanks that Mr. Mary Lee cares less than I do about a clean and tidy house!)

Michelle has the Poetry Friday roundup at Today's Little Ditty.

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2. What if we spent September re-reading our favorite books, like "Housekeeping"?

Readers of this blog (and of Handling the Truth) know how much a certain Alyson Hagy means to me—the quality of her work, her character, her mind. Not long ago she mentioned that she was re-reading Housekeeping, one of my very favorite novels of all time. Oh, I thought. And lifted my copy of the book from its shelf.

The extraordinary thing about re-reading a much-loved novel is realizing how brand new the novel can feel, even the fourth time around. For here I am this morning, turning the early pages of Marilynne Robinson's exquisite story, and thinking: How could I have forgotten this? Or this? And this? Yes, I remember the train and the lake, Sylvie and her flowers, the laundry being hung on the line. But I did not remember how swiftly and gracefully Nelson moves through genealogy and across landscape. There's that impeccable first line, "My name is Ruth." Then an indication of grandmother, sisters-in-law, a daughter, and Edmund Foster—all in seven lines. Then a sudden shift to place and to Edmund Foster's childhood home, described in great detail, "no more a human stronghold than a grave."

All this, and we haven't turned a page.


It's almost as if the novel has broken into tangents before it has even begun, and this (among so much) is what I didn't think about before (or maybe I forgot thinking about it before so that I read it as brand new)—how Housekeeping declares itself by means of a branching interiority right from the start.

Do I see that now because of something Alyson said in a note to me, or would I have seen it anyway, and is it because of the number of books that I have read between my third read of Housekeeping years ago and now, or because of my age, or because I am looking for something new in the stories I read?

I don't know, but I do wonder this: What if I decided to re-read my favorite two dozen books? What would I learn—about stories and about me?

What if we did?

A project to ponder, as September unfolds.

0 Comments on What if we spent September re-reading our favorite books, like "Housekeeping"? as of 9/3/2014 10:08:00 AM
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3. Reading Goals, Goodreads, and Re-discovering Joy

On Friday I posted about the books I've read in 2012 and mentioned I have only two reading goals for this upcoming year. Both are a result of some soul searching and a longing to nurture my reading life. Curious now? Here they are:

The Lucy Maude Montgomery Journals Read Along:
I first read these journals a decade ago and firmly believe they will be books I re-visit throughout my life. Already a number of you have told me via blog comments, email, or even Christmas card that you plan on reading along. Watch for details in the weeks ahead.

Forgo Goodreads and a public "Currently Reading" list for the year:
I love the opportunity to talk about books. Goodreads has been a wonderful place to both get recommendations and comment on friends' selections, but this, along with my easily accessible currently reading page, has left me exhausted, friends. I know few of you are so interested in my reading that you check in regularly to see what's going on, but just the thought that I've made this very special aspect of my life so public has drained me considerably. I've talked a bit about this here and here.

Part of being an author in the age of social media means maintaining a public persona. I'm finding that while I enjoy this, right now, I'd like to reclaim my reading as something private, something for me only. I will be beholden to no one this upcoming year and am already relishing what this will mean for me as a reader. I'm an introvert, remember? I crave privacy and am trying to intentionally build it in where I can.

This doesn't mean I won't blog about reading! I can't imagine never talking about books. There will be On My Nightstand posts, posts that highlight books in various ways, currently reading discussions on my May B. Facebook page. What you won't get is a blow-by-blow of everything I'm reading. That I'll keep in a journal I started and have faithfully kept since 2005. I'll continue to read your recommendations over at Goodreads. And I know I'll click over just to see the pretty covers in my own collection. But there will be no new postings there.

What are your reading goals for 2013?

6 Comments on Reading Goals, Goodreads, and Re-discovering Joy, last added: 12/31/2012
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4. The Salt God's Daughter/Ilie Ruby: Reflections

A few weeks ago, Jillian Cantor, a novelist and friend, mentioned Ilie Ruby and her new book The Salt God's Daughter to me in a Facebook message.  It was, Jillian said, one of the best books she'd read in a very long time, and she was rooting for it.  And so when Ilie herself wrote and offered me an early look at the book, I of course said yes.

I'm so happy that I did.

Readers of this blog know that I am a gigantic fan of Marilynne Robinson and Housekeeping—its vivid attention to place and details, its evocation of lonesomeness and ache in two sisters who lose their mother too soon.  With its lush and outrageously unexpected particulars (about the sea and sea lions, about the artificial waterfalls that disguise man-made drilling platforms, about all varieties of moons, about bougainvillea blooms, about the old hotel that becomes a home and salve), Ilie's book put me in a Housekeeping state of mind, as did her wonderful Ruthie, whose story this primarily is.  Ruthie is one of two sisters.  She and Dolly lose their mother—mercurial, poetic, forever vanishing—precipitously.  They are shuffled here to there, and in the process they grow wild.  They will be hurt, especially Ruthie, by the savage greed of others.

And then Ruthie meets the love of her life.

Ruthie's man is not like regular men, however.  He spends a lot of time at sea.  His textures are slightly different, and so are his eyes, and when Ruthie becomes pregnant with his child, the slight strangeness that has permeated these pages morphs into something tangibly odd, deliberately magical.  Enough so that those who one day meet Ruthie's daughter, Naida, begin to call her Frog Witch.

The Salt God's Daughter is ripe with tides and moons, the smell of ocean, the lingering sensation of pink petals and blue nights.  It's luxuriant writing, thoughtful, pleasingly moody, rustled through with wind.  Yet, no matter how surreal the story becomes, it offers real places, true landscapes, every day truth.  I share my favorite paragraph:
A good death could make everyone feel better about your life. When Saul Green died, Mrs. Green tied a light blue ribbon around the thin green trunk of the Sentry Palm in the courtyard.  Those who passed by it would recognize the symbol of gift, a sign that reminded you to notice the gifts all around you, mostly the ones that faded into the landscape of your life. Mr. Green considered himself exceptionally lucky and he told his wife every day.  This, she said, was the mark of a good marriage—when both partners considered themselves lucky because of the other.  But more, when they acted on the gratitude they felt  This had nothing to do with giving presents.  This had everything to do with the gift of awareness.  If you could do this, your partner would always feel as if your life together was a gift.

3 Comments on The Salt God's Daughter/Ilie Ruby: Reflections, last added: 6/28/2012
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5. Summer Reading 2012: Responses to a Questionnaire

Back in mid-April, while living those few glorious days beside the ocean's gentle roar, I was asked some questions about my hoped-for summer reading.  Two months have passed, and some of my predictions for myself have held true. Some predictions are still waiting to be fulfilled.  Some books were in fact what I hoped they would be.  Some (or, to be specific, one) severely disappointed.  

This beautiful girl lives, by the way, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  She's one of my teaching aides for the upcoming VAST Teacher Institute.

But here is who I was or thought I'd be, in mid-April, when contemplating these questions by the sea.

What are you reading this summer?

I have an exquisite pile of books waiting for me—Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, Katherine Boo’s BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, Adam Gopnik’s WINTER, Loren Eiseley’s ALL THE STRANGE HOURS, and the GRANTA BOOK OF THE IRISH SHORT STORY (edited by Anne Enright and including such gems as the Colum McCann class “Everything in This Country Must”).  I like to mix it up—new and old, memoir and fiction.

What was your favorite summer vacation?

Favorite is a hard word for me.  Love is easier.  I loved my family’s summers at the Jersey shore when I was a kid and my father taught me how to dig for the clams with our toes.  I loved Prague and Seville with my husband and son.  And last summer I fell head over heels for Berlin.  Anybody would.

What’s your favorite book about summer?

Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD isn’t about summer, per se.  But all of its most lush and important parts happen within and under the summer heat.

What was your favorite summer reading book as a kid?

How boring, how obvious, how true to admit that it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY that enchanted me, again and again, as I sat collecting sun on my face with a piece of tin.

What is your favorite beach read?

I never read on the beach.  I walk and look for dolphins.  I read at night, when my body is still.

What’s the last book you devoured on a long flight?

The last time I was on a long flight I re-read BOOK OF CLOUDS by Chloe Aridjis.  I was glad I did.  I took off from Heathrow.  I landed in Philadelphia.  And in between I’d lived Berlin.

What’s your go-to book to read when you know you only have a few uninterrupted moments of peace?

I read Gerald Stern’s poems.  They fix my migraines.

What’s a great book about discovery or travel to read on a long road trip over several days?

Steinbeck often works.

What would you re-read?

I will be re-reading Alyson Hagy’s BOLETO when it comes out in May from Graywolf.  I read it in galleys, my Christmas Day present to myself.  I was literally jumping off the cou

7 Comments on Summer Reading 2012: Responses to a Questionnaire, last added: 6/23/2012
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6. A Real New Coat of Paint

No sooner do I wish for more variety in Blogger's available templates than they create a new tool to do just that and stock it with quite a few fancy-looking options.  The result of my tinkering is before you, which for me is a feeling not unlike the experience of leaving the hairdresser's five minutes after getting a shorter-than-you-expected cut.  Good?  Bad?  Somewhere in between?

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7. Tuesday Morning Announcements

Three-day weekends always throw me off. There's a good chance that blogging's going to be light the next two weeks, with the exception of all the blogging that will go on next weekend for MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. Basically, I'm behind in my reviews and have a lot on my plate this week, reading-wise, so it will be all-reading, and just a little bit of reviewing.

Speaking off the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I am still asking people to sponsor my reading endeavors. I am raising money for Room to Read, which builds libraries and trains people to run them. They are trying to build 11,000 libraries in Asia and Africa by the end of 2010. I have a fundraising page here that you can donate to directly or if you want to wait to see how I do, or donate based on how much I read (books, pages, hours, number of pots of coffee I drink... you can do that, too!)

I'm looking forward to it! As always the number of books I plan to read is impossible, but it's nice to dream.

Which leads me to another "problem" (really, I can't complain. As a friend reminded me awhile ago, I have awesome problems.)

Thursday is the library's annual Teen Notables Discussion, where teen librarians and librarians with an interest in teen books get together to discuss about ten notable books that came out the year before. The reading list was announced a few months ago and you don't have to read *all* of the books on the list, even though I have every year, because well... I'm just like that. I have 3.5 books to go.

I also have several books that are overdue at the library and should really get returned, but I WANT TO READ THEM.

So, my reading's cut out for me.


Jacyln Moriarty's new book, The Ghosts Of Ashbury High comes out today and the UPS man is bringing it to my house AS WE SPEAK.

OH! Whatever shall I read?!!!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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8. A New Coat of Paint

I've made some much-needed changes to AtWQ's layout and functionality.  Not, as this post's title would suggest, to the extent of changing the template--I'd like to, but none of Blogger's other default templates are appealing (I don't even like the default version of my current template, which has a completely different color scheme) and I haven't got the HTML know-how (nor the visual sensibility

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9. Sunday Salon: The Snowed-in Spreadsheets!

During Bloggiesta, I mentioned one of my goals was updating my spreadsheets and many people asked how I used spreadsheets for blogging. Well... here you go!

(And if you think these are nerdy and anal, you should see the ones I use for work. Yes, I have multiple spreadsheets for storytime.) Basically, my entire life is lived off a spreadsheet.

Here's the basic blog spreadsheet:

This is where I keep track of books I need to blog about. This is not my list of books I've read (that's in a paper notebook.)

So the columns are date (done in month/year) that I read a book, title, if the review has been written, and notes. My notes column lists what date I've pre-scheduled a review for, if the book was for a challenge, or anything I want to remember when I write the blog post (but not the actual review. I have a paper notebook for things like that.)

I have a spreadsheet for review copies that I'm not going to show you because I'm horrified at how many have gone unread. Also, it's new, so it's not as useful yet. Basically, it goes pub date/title/notes (blog tour, unsolicited, promised review date/etc)/post date (which is 3 months after receiving or pub date, which ever is later, or if I have a promised post date because of a blog tour or something) The 3 months since receiving (ONLY if I asked for the book. It doesn't apply to unsolicited titles) was one of this year's "Be a better blogger" goals. As was "take fewer review copies." I also make liberal use of color coding, to highlight those books that should be read yesterday.

Then, there's the challenge spreadsheets...

Here's the one where I track all the challenges that don't come with a list. So, read 100 books from the library, or read 12 historical fiction titles, etc.

The name of the challenge is on top and then the column is highlighted to the number of books I have to read. If there are sub-categories within the challenge, the column will change colors. You can see this in the second column, which is the Marple/Poirot/Holmes challenge. 2 cells are the regular shade of peach, the next 2 are a bit darker, and the next 2 are orange to break up the detectives.

For challenges that come with a list, they each have their own sheet. This is the one for the Guardian Challenge:

The columns are: last name/first name/title/category/read/read for this challenge.

One I've read a book, it gets unhighlighted. A 1 in the 5th column is for all the books I've read off the list. A 1 in the 6th column is for the boo

4 Comments on Sunday Salon: The Snowed-in Spreadsheets!, last added: 2/7/2010
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10. Holiday Book Bonanza ‘09: Rupert Thomson

By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK

It has become a holiday tradition on the OUPblog to ask our favorite people about their favourite books. deathThis year we asked authors to participate (OUP authors and non-OUP authors). For the next two weeks we will be posting their responses which reflect a wide variety of tastes and interests, in fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. Check back daily for new books to add to your 2010 reading lists. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy next year check out all the great books we have discovered during past holiday seasons: 2006, 2007, 2008 (US), and 2008 (UK).

Rupert Thomson is a British novelist born in 1955. He is the author of eight novels including Death of a Murderer, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Costa Awards and by World Book Day for The Book to Talk About 2008. His next book is a memoir, due out in 2010. You can read the first chapter here.

There are some books that cast a spell over you. They stay with you long after you have turned the last page, making your life feel richer and more magical. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson is one of those books. I have known about it for some time – it was first published almost thirty years ago – but only got around to reading it this year, perhaps because Faber have just published a new paperback edition. For once, you can judge a book by its cover. The image of a single-track railway viaduct disappearing into the mist in a heavily wooded landscape does perfect justice to the poetic, haunting quality of Robinson’s prose. The novel is the tale of two sisters growing up in the care – if ‘care’ is the right word – of their disturbed aunt Sylvie, the sister of their dead mother, in the tiny, isolated town of Fingerbone in the far north-west of the United States. The narrator is the younger of the two sisters, Ruth, and she inhabits that eerie and yet utterly convincing space between the everyday and the extraordinary, demonstrating a child’s ability to adapt to anything, no matter how strange. And this novel is definitely strange: Sylvie makes her nieces eat their supper in the dark, and she sleeps on top of the covers with her shoes under her pillow. Though Housekeeping is, at one level, an investigation of madness, and the mystery of madness, and although its themes are loneliness, abandonment, and that infinitely human attempt, especially where children are involved, to make sense of the world in which they have found themselves, the writing is so beautiful, so subtle, and so wise that the book manages to be both heartbreaking and life-affirming.

Another book that has definitely cast a spell over me is 0 Comments on Holiday Book Bonanza ‘09: Rupert Thomson as of 1/1/1900

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11. Sunday Salon

Well, I joined The Sunday Salon. Kinda, I mean, I signed up with my info. It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile. Even though I'm not officially a member yet, I thought I'd do a post anyway, because I have several blog-related things that I'm thinking about and wanted to share, and it is Sunday, so I might as well, right? Right.

First off, in a non-blog related vein, I hope you had an excellent Thanksgiving, for my American friends who celebrate such things. I had oral surgery last Friday to fix a blocked saliva gland that resulted in 8 stitches, several of which are on the underside of my tongue. While it's not nearly as painful as it sounds like it should be (and the full description of events sounds rather painful) it does mean that I started eating solid food again... today. So my Thanksgiving involved Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream. And pumpkin pie filling. The rest of my week has involved me surviving on pudding, ice cream, jello, and apple sauce. Who knew that was a diet I would grow tired of really quickly? What is wrong with me?! But, given that today's breakfast involved toast (TOAST!) Dan's ordering me pizza for dinner. I think I could live off pizza. I've seriously considered making a pizza smoothie this week, because I missed it sooooooooooooooo much.

In the annals of geekdom: One thing I love about my neighborhood is that we can walk to a second-run movie theater that serves food! While you watch the movie! It's located by the local branch of our library, so last night, while walking to a late show, I made Dan and our friend Curtis detour so I could return a bunch of library books. Why yes, I do return my books at 10pm on a Saturday night!

In blogging news, this week will be Cybils week! Instead of only posting my Cybils reviews on Nonfiction Monday, I thought I'd post at least one a day this week. And probably the week after that, too, but I don't want to promise anything I won't be able to deliver on.

Are you excited for my birthday party next weekend? I AM!!!! Seriously guys, awesome prizes await. Dan's already tried to steal the Starbucks gift cards, but I told him to put them down and back away very slowly. Plus, I have a ton of cool things from Tartx, piles of books that need to no longer be in my house, and some bookmarks. And maybe some other things. And Dreadlock Girl is hosting a 24-hour Read-a-Thon that weekend!!! Maybe I'll do both? You can definitely do both!

Now, some new reading challenges that I've signed up for!

Marg from Reading Adventures is hosting a Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge. I loved Nation and read my first Discworld novel this fall, which I also loved. I want to read many, many more and was thinking of hosting a Terry Pratchett challenge myself, so I was happy to see that Marg beat me to it! I've signed up for the Death's Apprentice Level, which has me reading 10-12 books.

The Marple Poirot Holmes Challenge. Pretty simply, read 2 Miss Marple Mysteries, 2 Poirot Mysteries, and to Sherlock Holmes Mysteries in 2010. I've never read any of them, so why not give it a try?


2 Comments on Sunday Salon, last added: 12/3/2009
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12. Me and the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission has ruled about bloggers receiving product for manufacturers.

This includes book blogs receiving books from publishers and authors. The FTC seems to think that books are income and bloggers need to disclose where the book came from or give the book away. Also, if the blogger includes a link to a place like Amazon, then the review is an "advertisement" for the book and that needs to be disclosed. I have a lot of problems with this new policy but I'm not going to get in them here (mainly because right now my thought process is STUPID STUPID SO STUPID! Why is my government wasting time on this?! Especially in light of this article. It makes it painfully obvious that not only does the FTC not understand the way book blogging works, he also fundementally misunderstands how book reviewing in general works.)

So, just to keep things all above board, I'm making a few changes here at Biblio File.

Main points first:

1. If the book came from a publisher for this blog, I always disclose that, whether or not I keep the book. This is not a change in policy at all, I'm just reiterating it.

2. If I have a link to Amazon, and you click on that link and purchase anything then I get a percentage of the sale. How big of a percentage depends on how many items are purchased through my blog per month. I do this because as a blog reader, I want easy access to information about the book and maybe purchasing info if the book sounds good. It's also one of the easiest ways for people who enjoy my blog to support it. It's not a huge money maker for me, (in the summer of 2009, I made enough money to buy one CD.) Sometimes, if a book is not available through Amazon, I will link to another place to buy it. Usually, it will be The Book Depository. At this point, I have no affiliation with the Book Depository, except being a very satisfied customer. One again, not a change in policy at all, just a reiteration.

Other points:

In light of the FTC ruling, I will now be disclosing where EVERY book I read/review comes from. Here are the designations:

Own Copy: This is a book I (or Dan) own. We either purchased it ourselves, acquired it through something like BookMooch, or it was given to us as a present by friends or family (who are disinterested parties as far as publishing is concerned.)

Library Copy: A book I checked out from the library.

Borrowed Copy: This is a book that I borrowed from someone that isn't the library, such as a friend.

ARC/Copy provided by_____: An ARC or finished copy of a book provided by the author or publisher or another party for the express purpose of review in this blog OR in another medium, such as LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, which I am also a member of. If it says at my request that means I approached the sending party instead of them approaching me. (If a someone says "are you interested in any of these books" then they send me the books I request, that will not be labeled as "at my request." If an author says "I have X copies of my new book for book bloggers and I say "ooo! Me!" or if I write to a publisher and say "I would like to review X book if you have any copies available" then they'll be labled as "at my request.")

ARC/Copy provided by other: I often get ARCS or other review copies for reasons that have nothing to do with Biblio File. Usually, this involves the fact that I'm a Youth Services librarian in my day job. When I go to work conferences, sometimes publishers are there with ARCS to give to librarians. The YA Collection Development librarian in my system is very nice about lending ARCS that she gets because (a) I can't wait for the book or (b) she wants a second opinion. These things have nothing to do with this blog except for the fact I try to review everything I read, so it will appear here eventually.

Please let me know if you have any more questions, comments or ideas on how to comply with this ruling. I'm sure this will be updated at some point as we get used to it.

Written on 10/12/2009

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13. Challenge Update

Now comes the monthly post where I list all the reading challenges I'm participating in and how I'm doing...

TBR challenge, where I make a list of 12 books (and 12 backup) and read at least 12 by the end of the year. I've done 3.2:

Octavian Nothing II, Kingdom on the Waves
Frog Princess
High Fidelity

The .2 is part of Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out

For the 1% challenge, I need to read 13 books by March 31. I've done 2:

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

For the Buy Books Challenge, I need to buy and read 12 books by the end of the year.

I've purchased 39, read 12, and reviewed 7!

Turning Pages
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Forever Princess
Frog Princess
Dead is So Last Year
Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover
Living Dead Girl
Diamond Secret
Harry Potter Should Have Died
Fables: Dark Ages
Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

Also, I purchased a copy of Mao's Last Revolution but I read and reviewed that last year, so does it count? Does it not? I'm going to say no, just because I've purchased so many other things...

Along the same lines, I purchased Lonely Planet: Paris but I'm not going to review that.

For the Chunkster Challenge, I have to read 6 adult books of 450+ pages by November 15, 2009. I've done 1.4

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

That .4 is part of Atlas Shrugged and part of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out

There's the Fill in the Gaps challenge, where I came up with a list of 100 books and commit to finishing 75 of them within 5 years. 4.5 years in, I've done 7.2!

Julie of the Wolves
Whale Talk
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
The Dark is Rising
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Golden Compass

Once again, that .2 is Atlas Shrugged.

And then there's my own Guardian Challenge, which has me reading 10 books by February 1. I've done 3.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (which is filed under "comedy")
The Golden Compass (which is filed under "scifi/fantasy")
The Bottle Factory Outing (which is filed under "comedy" AND is a book I had never heard of before coming across it on this list.)

There's also my goal to read at least 50 of the books I owned but hadn't read as of January 1 by next January 1. I've done 15.4

Octavian Nothing II
Crazy Lady
Frog Princess
A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat
A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers
Glass Castle
High Fidelity
North of Beautiful
Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies
Rapunzel's Revenge
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party
Rouge of the North
Story of Sushi
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Whale Talk

Once again, .4 is part of Atlas Shrugged and part of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out.

Then there is me trying to finish Anita Silvey's 100 Best Books for Children, of which I had 26 left. I've read 4!

Millions of Cats
Julie of the Wolves
The Dark is Rising
Snowflake Bentley

There's the

Japanese Literature Challenge
so I have to read one book of Japanese literature by January 30.

Nothing yet.

The Random Reading Challenge has me taking my TBR pile (or a segment thereof) assigning a number to each book, and then using a random number generator to pick my next book. I have to read 12 this way by July 31. I've read 2! Both were chosen from a list that had all by TBR books that were ON HAND (so books that I own, review copies, and books that were currently checked out from the library.)

A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers
Rouge of the North

And there is my own China Challenge. I'm going to read 12 books and do 3 China-related activities between now and September 1, 2010.

Well... there's that .2 of Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

New since last month are Callapidder Day's Fall Into Reading Challenge, where I make a list of books I want to read before the end of the year. I've read 2.4!

Al Capone Shines my Shoes
Snowflake Bentley

We all know what that .4 is by now, right?

And, S. Krishna's Clear off Your Shelves Challenge, which sees me reading 38 books I own by the end of November. Cross your fingers for me.

Nothing yet, but it just started on Thursday.

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14. Before the End of the Year

Rosh Hashanah was last weekend and Yom Kippur starts tonight. School started (but not for me! Huzzah!) at the beginning of the month. With the beginning of this new year, I start thinking about what my goals are and what I want to do in the next year. I won't finalize them until the January, when the calendar year begins anew, but I start thinking in broad plans now.

And in this gap between the two New Years, I also start thinking about what I need to do to finish up last year's goals...

So, in that vein, I've decided to sign up for 2 more reading challenges. The first is S. Krishna's Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge. I'm aiming to read 10% of my unread books between now and November 30. That's 38 books.

The next is Callapidder Days's Fall into Reading Challenge. This one involves a list. I need to make a list of the books I want to read between now and December 20. The following list, while long, is by no means complete. I have a lot of required reading on the horizon with titles that haven't been announced yet. The titles here are

1. Books I currently have checked out from the library
2. Books I am currently reading (this might be cheating. I hope not.)
3. Books from other challenges that I told myself I'd read by the end of the year.
4. Other random things.

Al Capone Shines my Shoes
All the Broken Pieces
The Kind of Friends We Used to Be
Peace, Locomotion
City of Bones
Claudette Colvin: twice toward justice
The Eternal Smile
Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
Keena Ford and the Field Trip Mix-Up
Marcelo in the Real World
Piper Reed Gets a Job
The Princess Plot
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Stage Fright
Senator Joe McCarthy
Street Love
Chop Suey
Confetti Girl
Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
How to be Popular
Life as We Knew it
Lucy Long Ago
39 Clues: Maze of Bones
Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Queen of Babble
Nature of Jade
Queen of Babble in the Big City
Queen of Babble Gets Hitched
Ready or Not
The Roar
Written in Bone
Atlas Shrugged
Life and Death are Wearing me Out
The Host
Book of Lost Things
Life and Death in Shanghai
Hardboiled and Hardluck
Ballet Shoes
Cold Comfort Farm
Brideshead Revisited
Midnight Pearls
Adoration of Jenna Fox
Anatomy of a Boyfriend
Ballet Family
Ballet Family Again
Cathy's Key
A Certain Chemistry
Cybele's Secret
Everyday Life
Fire in the Blood
General Winston's Daughter
Girl From Golden Horn
Clockwork Orange
Oliver Twist
The Sound and the Fury
Brave New World
1 Judge Dee Mystery
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Color Purple
Mr. Grumpy's Outing
Swamp Angel
John Henry
Snowflake Bentley
Seven Blind Mice
Morning Girl
Stone Fox
Misty of Chincoteague
Grandfather's Journey
The Incredible Journey
Humbug Mountain
The People Could Fly
Rabbit Hill
The Great Fire
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Cricket in Times Square
Behind the Attic Wall
Out of the Dust
Johnny Tremain

I've also been putting some more work into The Reading Challenge Clearinghouse. There's now a twitter feed, and you can become a fan on Facebook, so I hope you'll fan us and follow us and get your challenge on...

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15. Atlas Shrugged

So, in my Challenge Update post, I mentioned I'm reading Atlas Shrugged.

Essentially, on Sunday, Dan dared me to do it. He said that if I read it and talked about it with him, he'd take me to one of my favorite restaurants. I think he was pretty surprised that I agreed right away!

You can follow our adventures as the aptly titled Dan and Jennie's Randian Adventure.

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16. Housekeeping and Challenges

I have 3 reading goals this month.

1. I totally forgot about the New Classics Challenge. It ends on the 31st and I haven't done any reading for it. I've been debating just failing on it, but 4 of my unread classics are also on the scary list of doom, so I'm going to at least try. This means I am trying to read and review the following books by the end of the month:

1. Wind up Bird Chronicle
2. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
3. Possession
4. Glass Castle
5. Bonfire of the Vanities
6. High Fidelity

2. I have to read all the MG/YA Non-fiction Cybils finalists. I have a stack already! (Technically, this isn't due at the end of the month, but we have to pick a winner by the 14th of February, so I want to have most, if not all read by the end of the month, so I have 2 weeks to ponder and discuss)

3. One of my goals this year is to have no more than 5 pleasure reading books checked out at a time. I won't tell you how many I have checked out right now, but let's just say it is WAY more than 5. I will give myself to the end of the month to read as many as possible. After that, all but 5 are going back to the library. (Ok, this goes until February 4th though, because I have the first few days of the month off and won't be at the library until the 4th to return my books. Ha!)

And... I've joined another challenge. This is an easy challenge.

My Friend Amy is challenging people to buy 1 book a month and read it. 3 books can be ones you've already owned. This is something that was going to happen anyway, so it's not really a "challenge" but it will be fun! You should join, too.

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17. The Year in Review

I'm pretty sure I'm not going to finish the book I'm currently reading (The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy) by midnight (but, well, you never know) so
here are this year's stats, and looking at last year's resolutions and how I did:

Last year's resolutions?
1. Blog at least 5 books a week for a total of 260, or to keep up with my reading habits. FAIL! I blogged 221
2. Read at least 20 nonfiction books. CHECK! I read 32
3. Read at least 50 books from the scary list. (See, this might be a little hard to pull off. We'll see.) FAIL! I read 16
4. Set a silly reading challenge every month. Started to do this, then FAIL!
5. Never have more than 5 pleasure reading materials checked out from the library at a time. I was pretty good at this until I checked out a bunch for the 48 reading challenge and went crazy again. FAIL!
6. Finish reading the rest of Silvey's top 100. FAIL!

Ah well. Here are this year's goals:

1. Blog at least 5 books a week for 260 total, or to keep up with reading habits, whichever is less.
2. Read at least 20 nonfiction books
3. Read at least 50 books from this year's scary list.
4. Never have more than 5 pleasure reading materials checked out from the library at a time.
5. Finish read the rest of Silvey's top 100. (This is only 26 books, 7 of which are picture books. I can do this! Listening totally counts.)
6. Never be more than a year behind on reviewing. I will catch up with 2006 books by the end of January

Anyway, this year's stats...

I read a whopping 251 books (up from last year's 219)

June was the busiest month for me, reading 49 thanks to 2 different read-a-thons and no school. School killed November and December, which were my slowest months with 7 each. (Ok, November was more NaNo than school.)

74 were children's books (based on where my library puts things), down from last year's 82
140 were YA, WAY UP from last year's 80
36 were adult, down from last year's 57
32 nonfiction, about the same as last year's 33
10 were under 100 pages (usually they don't "count" if they're under 100 unless I decide otherwise based on my gut feeling. Or if I'm spending a lot of time with it, such as reviewing or a Cybils book)
17 were graphic novels, down from last year's 32
6 were re-reads, about the same as last year's 8

All in all, a good year in books. Here are some of my favorites:

Favorite new-to-me authors:

Elizabeth Scott
Lenore Look
Meg Cabot

Favorite guilty pleasure series:

The Specialists Shannon Greenland
Twilight Stephenie Meyer

Favorite Fairy Tales with new Twists:

Sunlight and Shadow Cameron Dokey
Fables Vol. 10: The Good PrinceBill Willingham
The Storyteller's Daughter Cameron Dokey
The Night Dance Suzanne Weyn
The Swan Maiden Heather Tomlinson
Book of a Thousand Days Shannon Hale

Favorite Nonfiction

The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed Michael Meyer
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food Jennifer 8. Lee
Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud Shuyun Sun
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood Ibtisam Barakat
Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man Oliver August

Favorite Children's Books

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes Peggy Gifford

Favorite YA Books

Paper Towns John Green
Ten Cents a Dance Christine Fletcher
Audrey, Wait! Robin Benway
Girl Overboard Justina Chen Headley
Good Enough Paula Yoo
She's So Money Cherry Cheva
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Sherman Alexie
Freak Show James St. James
Before I Die Jenny Downham
Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale Holly Black
Kimmie66 Aaron Alexovitch

Favorite Adult Books

Mister Pip Lloyd Jones
The Bastard of Istanbul Elif Shafak

Favorite Authors that aren't new to me, but reinforced why I love them

Jaclyn Moriarty
Narinder Dhami


The Storyteller's Daughter Cameron Dokey
The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed Michael Meyer
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food Jennifer 8. Lee
Ten Cents a Dance Christine Fletcher
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Sherman Alexie
Mister Pip Lloyd Jones
Airhead Meg Cabot
Spell Book Of Listen Taylor Jaclyn Moriarty

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18. Returning to Normal

We're home. We have a computer, although not much of the data that formerly resided on it. We were resuming our regular, albeit new, routine for preschool, work, and music classes. And now, to throw a bit of excitement into our not very organized lives, J has been cast in another play, MacBeth this time, which is terrific since people have heard of it. He will be playing the Doctor (who knew?) and Murderer No. 3. I'm thinking perhaps Q does not need to see this one either...

Because our life will evidently not be busy enough, I'm trying out a new challenge.

I'm not unusual when I say that I hate cleaning. Who doesn't? Well, in the The New York Times I read about a recently married couple (Tess Taylor and Taylor Schreiner, there's no mention of the odd name combination, I hope he takes hers), who are described in a lovely piece about their romance and wedding. I quote, "They boiled water to wash dishes, discovering that they share an affinity for chores." That makes more sense in context, but my point is that they evidently like chores. That's just wrong. No one likes chores unless they don't have to do them. If there is a mutant gene that has created someone who likes housework, it is unfair of the universe to pair them up with the one lone other person who also likes housework. Spread that kind of goodness around some.

Back to my challenge.

I was cleaning the toilet yesterday and I got this idea. What if I cleaned the bathroom every single day?

Anyone who has ever been to my house has become aware of how much I loathe cleaning. Cleaning makes me mean. Even after I clean the house still feels unclean to me. If anyone ever said of my home the lovely adage, "It was untidy, but clean" I would weep with pleasure.

So why does this masochistic idea appeal to me?

When Q was a toddler, he took an aversion to bath time. He would scream and tantrum if we tried to wash him. Our solution was to integrate bath time into our daily bed time ritual, rather than every two or three days, figuring that familiarity would take the edge off his hatred. Now he reserves screaming to nights when we wash his hair.

If I clean the bathroom every single day, maybe I won't hate cleaning so much. It'll go faster, in theory, because the dirt will have had less time to accumulate. I recall at summer camp, we had daily chores, including cleaning the bathroom, and the grime simply never got as bad because we kept it under control on a daily basis.

I'm on day two of the cleaning every day challenge. I have cleaned the sink, the toilet, the floor. I'll spray the tub down after Q is done with his bath and then rinse it when I go to bed. (I hate scrubbing the tub and feel it makes far less impact than the chemicals do, so this also is my attempt to see if repeat application of tub cleaner might take off that semi-permanent layer of grime.)

If this works to reduce my cleaning stress and actually improve cleanliness, I'll consider what implications this has for the rest of my life. I mean, could I clean the kitchen floor every day? Could I vacuum every day?

And now for gratuitous cute photos of the kids:

Q and Excavator. I'm not sure if it's possible to see in this particular photo, but he's sitting on the edge of his construction site, which looks like a miniature rock quarry.

Noodle had been wandering around the kitchen repeating, "hot, hot, hot," which is Noodle speak for "I'm hungry, would you feed me already?" She tried to hint further by getting into her eating chair. But the eating chair had the tray attached, and you can see what the result was. Obviously she wasn't too distressed. This is fairly typical of the lass.

And here you can see that progress is being made on the bathroom. J is giving Q a tour of the developments. Actually, Q is saying things like, "I see you put up a new shelf." Very Seriously. Noodle is exhausted and just wants to sit in Daddy's lap.

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19. Goals

These are the things that are keeping me busy:

1. Dancing for joy at the fact all my grades have now been posted and, yes, it was a mad dash at the end, but not only did I pass the semester, I aced it. Boo-ya.

2. Reading as much as possible before the New Year.

3. Tallying 2007's reading statistics. (Well, getting ready to tally. I'm still making them.)

4. Thinking about my 2007 best-of lists and what will be on them.

5. Trying to figure out my New Year's resolutions--both in reading and in the other bit of my life. I do know it will involve graduating from my master's program and reading a bunch off this list.

In the meantime, I have set some silly month-by-month goals, starting with this month (which is almost over) that I have set for myself.

So, at the beginning of the month, I was to read all the books I had checked out from the library. I did manage to read a whopping 11 out of 32 (so far, I still have a few days.) I also wanted to blog all the unblogged books from 2006. I started with 15 and am down to 8!

So, progress is at least being made. Stay tuned to this space. More is a'coming.

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20. Confessions for 2007

Memo to my friends

Subject:  Confessions from 2007

I freely confess the following sins:

I rigged the calibration on my electronic bathroom scale to register 50% more body fat on the “visitor” setting.

I once picked up a smaller pile of poop at the dog park than the one my own dog made.

I have gotten buzzed on free samples of wine while my wife was shopping for groceries.

I often daydream of pitching in the major leagues.  Sometimes I fantasize about beaning people I don’t like with a nasty fastball.

Sometimes, when nobody is home, I will play Youtube videos of old jazz singers and pretend that I’m at a concert, but only when I’ve had a glass or two of port.

When I’ve had a bad day, I take a nap with the dogs and tell them that other people are wicked.

I tell myself that getting a tattoo is stupid because I never got the one I wanted when I had the chance.

I pray for bad things to happen, but it doesn’t count because I’m an atheist.

I like to run over plastic bottles with my truck tires.

I like teaching little kids to make vulgar noises.

I take long showers at the YMCA so I can save water at home.

I’ve thrown wildflower seeds down in other people’s yards when nobody was around.

I gave beer to the squirrels.

I threw snails over the fence and they hit the neighbor’s car.

I left a banana under my truck seat and forgot about it until I left the dogs in the truck while I went shopping.

I got mad at the dogs for finding the banana under the truck seat.

I bought a sandwich from a lady at a food stand because she was pretty.

I sometimes accept the senior discount at the thrift store even though I’m too young.

I make up vulgar lyrics to old songs and sing them in the shower.

At a convention, a woman took my business card, but left it on a table, so I tore hers in half when she left.

I tell each of my dogs that she is the one I love best.

When people give me credit for things I haven’t done, I correct them in such a way as to make myself seem honest and self-effacing.

I tell people I’ve never been out on a date, but it’s not true.  [I was on a date once.  My friend set me up with a woman who had given birth to a child three days before and had to give it up for adoption; she was on the verge of suicide.]

I have often wished drunk drivers would die, and never so much as on late-night rides home on my motorcycle, with one growing large in the rearview mirror. 

I secretly hope that people will like me.  I very secretly hope that some of them will love me.  On a much deeper level—but never mind.

I find much in common with people with whom I disagree.

I get embarrassed at sex scenes in movies.

I’m middle-aged and funny-looking.  Previously I was young and funny-looking.  I appreciate it when people say otherwise.

I am anti-abortion.  I would never think of having one.

There is a girl I love that I can’t seem to tell about my feelings.

I steal things from other people’s trash cans.

My secret desire is to own an anvil.

I wish I could weld.

About half my dreams are nightmares.  Most of these involve having to get out of bed.

I am still afraid of the dark.

I never see a weed in anybody’s yard but I think I should yank it out.

It gives me satisfaction to see bad people fail.

I wish I was still a probation officer, quite often.

I am utterly convinced that women are superior to men.

I wish I could live forever.

I suffer from excessive pride about exercise.  Today I did an hour on the rowing machine, by the way.

I’m fifty-one years old and cannot do long division on paper.

I have no idea why women wear makeup.

I have the same problem when they wear high heels.

If I were rich I would own a farm and a place for injured dogs.

I like earthquakes.

I like tornadoes, too.

I spend a good deal of time constructing alternate worlds in which I redesign many of the earth’s current features.  I have completely de-populated Long Island and turned it into a vast wildlife refuge; several west coast marinas have been converted into riparian habitats.  This is what I think about at boring meetings.

I don’t know how to work most of the features of my cell phone, and it doesn’t bother me.

My Christmas gift to myself was 200 toad eggs.  They should arrive in March.

I view adulthood as a sort of failure.

When I work in the garden, I pretend it is my job.

I wish I owned a sword, but it would be hell on the furniture.

My favorite music is silence.  Other than that I’ll take anything.

Sometimes I wonder if the government is paying my wife to stay married to me.  There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.

I think of seed catalogs the way most men think of Playboy.

I often have fantasies of owning my own orphanage, complete with hundreds of children.  I would assign each of them a dog or cat to raise.

I sometimes fantasize about having a home for lost animals.  I would assign each of them a small child to take care of.

When I see pictures of naked women, I imagine them wearing clothes.

When I see pictures of naked men, I wonder why women bother.

The reason I bought the toad eggs is so that I could raise an army to take over the world.

One of these confessions is a lie.  I think it is the one about the toads.  I really just want them to eat garden slugs.

So much for last year.

Michael McGrorty

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21. Hello 2008!

A bunch of Cybils short lists are up! More to come next week! Check 'em out!

This year I read...

219 books

That breaks down as:
82 Children's
80 YA
57 Adult (Woot!)

33 nonfiction
4 under 100 pages
32 graphic novels
18 required (that's really low!)
8 rereads

I read the least in May (13 books) July (12 books) November (13 books) and December (12 books.) Some of that is life, some based on the books I read (for instance, I read a lot of adult fiction in July, which takes me longer than children's fiction. In December I had 2 books around 500 pages...)

My best month was June with 28 books. If you take away the 9 that were read during the 48 hour challenge, that's still 19...

This is also a banner year because for the past 4 years one of my New Year's resolutions was to read at least 20 nonfiction books. This is the first year I actually succeeded! And how! 33!

One reading-related goal I almost met was to review at 5 books a week or enough to keep up with current reading--whichever was less. I didn't make it every week, but that totaled to 260 reviews this past year and I had... 258.

So, this year, I want to:
1. Blog at least 5 books a week for a total of 260, or to keep up with my reading habits.
2. Read at least 20 nonfiction books.
3. Read at least 50 books from the scary list. (See, this might be a little hard to pull off. We'll see.)
4. Set a silly reading challenge every month.
5. Never have more than 5 pleasure reading materials checked out from the library at a time.
6. Finish reading the rest of Silvey's top 100.

This month's challenge? Read all the review copies with deadlines looming, read my Cybils books once the nonfiction short list is announced I know what I'm supposed to be reading, and finish my library books. (Now down to 16) (This is a big chunk to chew, but I'm off school until the 28th)

In February, I will be reading all the books I have borrowed from other people.

BUT! Now for my favorites from 2007!

Top all-around picks:

The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth Shuyun Sun
Love in a Fallen City Eileen Chang
Alice In Sunderland Bryan Talbot
Kitchen Banana Yoshimoto
Un Lun Dun China Mieville
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers Xialu Guo
George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War Thomas B. Allen

Runners Up:

Kampung Boy and Town Boy Lat
Mao's Last Revolution Roderick Macfarquhar and Michael Schoenhals
The Pull of the Ocean Jean-Claude Mourlevat
This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood Hyok Kang
You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons - The World on One Cartoon a Day Mo Willems
The Invention of Hugo Cabret Brian Selznick
The Complete Persepolis Marjane Satrapi
Goodbye Tsugumi Banana Yoshimoto
Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters Annie Choi
Peony in Love: A Novel Lisa See
Train to Pakistan Khuswant Singh
Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War Thomas B. Allen
Wildwood Dancing Juliet Marillier
Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences Kitty Burns Florey

Long-Awaited Sequels That Didn't Disappoint:

I could go on and on and on and on and on about these books-- many were the strongest in the series, I felt. Most of them deserve to be on my all-around favs of the year, but there were so many, it got it's own category...

Once Upon a Crime (The Sisters Grimm, Book 4) and Magic and Other Misdemeanors (The Sisters Grimm, Book 5) Michael Buckley
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows J.K. Rowling
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels Jasper Fforde
Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb Kirsten Miller
Forever Rose Hilary McKay
Cupcake Rachel Cohn
Clarice Bean, Don't Look Now Lauren Child
Love Is a Many Trousered Thing (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson) Louise Rennison
Seeing Redd (The Looking Glass Wars)Frank Beddor
The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer Joseph Delaney
Fourth Comings Megan McCafferty

My Favorite New Authors:

Banana Yoshimoto
Thomas B. Allen

Favorite Children's Books:

The Green Glass Sea Ellen Klages
Clementine and The Talented Clementine Sara Pennypacker
Troll Bridge and Pay the Piper Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Millicent Min, Girl Genius Lisa Yee
The Last Dragon Silvana de Mari
Letters from Rapunzel Sara Lewis Holmes
Robot Dreams Sara Varon
Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians Brandon Sanderson

Favorite YA Books:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party M. T. Anderson
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Sold Patricia McCormick
Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal Mal Peet

Favorite New Guilty Please Series

Gossip Girl
Students Across the Seven Seas
Death Note

Old Favorites I was Delighted to Find I still Love:

Drina Jean Estoril
Charlotte Sometimes Penelope Farmer (the original)

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22. Fairy Tales! and a calendar of events

It's June! Glorious, busy June!

I am back from Iowa--it was beautiful and sunny and I ran into Kelly at the coffee shop and am happy, sleepy, and sunburned. It's fun to see that the people I went to college with are fundamentally the same. We're happier and better dressed, and can now afford MUCH better beer, but fundamentally we're the same. And it's awesome.

We have some fun events coming up here in blog-land. Events YOU can all play along with at home.

First off, Weekly Geeks has declared this week's geekery to be "catch up on reviews week" which I think is something we all need to do, right? So this week (until Friday) I'm aiming for 5 reviews a day. (Even though I am way more than 25 books behind-- I currently have 39 unblogged books, but given I have issues blogging 5 books a week, I'll aim for 5 a day. It's like vegetables. 5 a day!).

This weekend is MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. Go sign up for your chance to turn X-treme Reading into an X-treme sport. Also, take a vote in my sidebar for which books you'd like me to read!

AND! At the end of the month (June 28-29) is the 24 Hour Read-a-thon to benefit Reading is Fundamental. More information on the event and to sign up is here. And information on how to sponsor my reading extravaganza is here.

Anyway, let's get started on that 5-a-day business, ok?

Ever Gail Carson Levine

As far as I'm aware, this is an original tale. Olus is the Akkan God of the winds (part of a pantheon that reminds one of Greek or Roman mythology. At 17, he's the youngest of the Gods by a few hundred years and is lonely. He longs for a mortal friend, but fails in his attempts to make friends.

Kezi lives in the land of the Admat, and omnipotent, invisible God more similar to the religions of Abraham...

In his longing for friends, Olus has become a shepard and rents land from Kezi's father and falls hopelessly in love. However, Kezi is doomed to die. Not in the way that all mortals will die eventually, but she has been promised as a sacrifice to Admat and will die in 30 days.

Olus knows of ways one can become immortal, but Kezi would have to realize that there are other Gods than Admat, and she must become a herione and Olus must become her champion. Only then can they possibly save Kezi's life.

Told in short chapters of alternating viewpoints, this is a bit of a departure from such Levine classics as Ella Enchanted and Fairest but Levine knows how to tell a story. The language is more sparse than I'm used to and it lacks her usual humor, but Levine can paint a scene with a minimum number of words . I liked the illustrations used above the chapter numbers-- the numbering system looks like an ancient form of writing and it was fun to realize what was going on there. I think Levine fans will still love this. I also think it will really appeal to fans of Julius Lester's Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire.

Book of a Thousand Days Shannon Hale

Once again Hale turns to the Brothers Grimm for inspiration, this time, not Rapunzel as the tower suggests, but Maid Maleen.

Set in a land inspired by Ancient Mongolia, Dashti is mucker, a nomad, looked down on by the city dwellers. But she is also an orphan and must find work to survive and becomes the maid to Lady Saren, only to find that Saren is about to be locked up in a tower for seven years after refusing the match her father has made.

Dashti goes to the tower where it is dark and foreboding. Although they have been left enough food to last seven years, that's only if they can keep it from the rats. Lady Saren is spoiled and given to tantrums. She is also completely helpless. Lord Kasar, the dreaded fiance appears frequently to taunt the captives. But Khan Tegus, Lady Saren's true love also visits and brings small comforts in the form of a branch that smells of the outdoors and a cat to help with the rats.

Shannon Hale is still on the top of her game. She can paint a culture and a people with just a few sentences. This book is also illustrated, which is nice. I'm reading it in ARC form, so I think some illustrations are missing but the ones that are included are nice. Most are made to look like the illustrations Dashti herself has drawn in her diary, but there is high artistic quality.

There is much to the book besides the days in the tower, although there isn't much to the Grimm tale, and that's where Hale's magic lies-- when she takes the tale way beyond its original borders, while still staying true to the source material.

full disclosure: I got the ARC from the publisher last summer at ALA, but I would have read it anyway, I mean, it's SHANNON HALE!

The Swan Maiden Heather Tomlinson

Doucette has always been jealous of her older sisters. Beautiful and haughty, they're able to work magic, while she is plain and stuck at home learning how to be a chastelaine. Embroidery and running a household is nothing on her sisters who can fly.

But then she finds the swan skin her mother has hidden from her, the swan skin her mother would give Doucette's future husband in order to keep her from running.

But, the true story comes when Doucette falls in love with a shepherd boy. In order to gain the right to marry her, he must perform 3 impossible tasks. But that might not be enough to keep them together...

Doucette is a character that's easy to identify with, but more so. Not only are her sisters perfect and beautiful, which is bad enough, but dude! They can fly! And Doucette is always falling down and tearing her clothing and always left behind.

And then when she gets what she thinks she wants, it doesn't necessarily help.

A wonderful addition to the genre that should be read by everyone who likes Shannon Hale or Juliet Marillier, but will also appeal to those who aren't already converts to the new breed to fairy tale retellings or original tales that maintain that old timeless quality.

13 Comments on Fairy Tales! and a calendar of events, last added: 6/20/2008
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23. Weekly Geeks #12

I've been meaning to particpate in Weekly Geeks for well... quite a few weeks now. So, I'm jumping in today with both feet.

This week, Dewey tells us to...

1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you finish this week.

2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs. Most likely, people who will ask you questions will be people who have read one of the books or know something about it because they want to read it.

3. Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. I’ll probably turn mine into a sort of interview-review. Link to each blogger next to that blogger’s question(s).

4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!

Here are my books, listed by month in which I read them... some of these will also be reviewed shortly...

April 2007 (yes, I know!)

Book Crush, Nancy Pearl
Junie B. Jones: Dumb Bunny Barbara Parks
Yang the Youngest and his Terrible Ear Lesley Namioka
From a Crooked Rib Naruddin Farah
The Invention of Hugo Cabret Brian Selznick
Special Topics in Calamity Physics Marisha Pessl
Exit A Anthony Swofford
Midnight at the Dragon Cafe Judy Fong Bates
Name Me Nobody Lois Ann Yamanaka

May 2007

Chicks with Sticks: Knit 2 Together Elizabeth Lenard

June 2007

The Embroidered Couch Lu Tiancheng

July 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows J. K. Rowling

September 2007

Bad Boys Ahoy! Sylvia Day
Drina Dances in Paris Jean Estoril
Drina Dances in Madiera Jean Estoril
Drina Dances in Switzerland Jean Estoril
Drina Dances on Tour Jean Estoril
Drina Ballerina Jean Estoril
Ask For It Sylvia Day
Champagne Rules Susan Lyons

October 2007

Jack of Fables: Jack of Hearts Bill Willingham

January 2008

The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie Jaclyn Moriarty
The Spell Book of Listen Taylor Jaclyn Moriarty
Regarding the Bees Kate Klise

February 2008

Tithe Holly Black

April 2008

Shopgirl Steve Martin

June 2008

Fables: The Good Prince Bill Willingham

July 2008

Stop in the Name of Pants! Louise Rennison
Serve the People Yan Lianke
Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherford and the Other Remarkable Women in his Life Joseph E. Persico
Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution Moying Li

Ask Away!

23 Comments on Weekly Geeks #12, last added: 7/30/2008
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24. Announcements!

It's Cybils time again! And they need judges! Go volunteer!

Did you know that, this week, Author2Author is giving away a book a day? And that it's super easy to enter. Today's book is Meg Cabot's How to Be Popular

In other news... book reviews will be starting up again soon. I have a bunch written in my head.

0 Comments on Announcements! as of 8/27/2008 10:47:00 AM
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25. ACK!

Ok guys, I'm trying out some new things with my RSS feed, and somehow my feed got mixed in with another blogger blog with almost the same address. I hope I fixed it and I really apologize to Chinese Novel if I messed things up on their end.

Factoid of the day: Tushuguan is Chinese for library!

Anyway, let me know about wacky feed issues on my end.

3 Comments on ACK!, last added: 9/18/2008
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