Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Reading Recap

{image: the Red Fairy Project}
I am filled with gratitude that I have summers to catch up on some extra reading. As a librarian I spend my school day surrounded by books, ordering books, previewing, books, talking about books and yet I don't always have a lot of spare time to read.

This summer's reading log has far more adult choices thanks to the new app Litsy on my phone. Do you Litsy?  Mostly adult books are discussed and shared and many sound unbelievable good. Thankful I've learned to cross check with my public library to request and check out. So now I'm addicted to Litsy and love getting recommendations for more reading. Find me @Peaceful_Reader.

I do still love Goodreads because it's a great place to keep track of all my reading + my reading journal (I must have a paper copy in case the Internet goes down).

Here are stats so far for this summer and for the year to date.

Number of books: summer = 22 / y-t-d = 41
Pages read: summer = 8,000 (nice round number) / y-t-d = 12,850

I read 8 adult fiction titles, 4 YA books, and 9 elementary fiction books + 1 graphic novel

All of the elementary books I read including the graphic novel were for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards.  I have about 7 more books to read this week/weekend before I score them all and send in my ratings.

My absolute favorite book this summer is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.  I'm happy that I read it and I share the love for it with every adult reader that I know. If you haven't please do. It is pain + joy wrapped together which is just what life is. Jude will forever stay with you.

Other favorites were: Mac Barnett's The Terrible Two (funny), Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (great storytelling), Ruta Septys' Salt to the Sea (amazing historical fiction), The Guest Room by Bohjalian (fiction yet brings the horrible truth of modern day slavery to us), Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly (unique twists) and always Alice Hoffman-her books are magical.

In order I read:

  1. The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage
  2. H2O by Virginia Bergin
  3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  4. Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly
  5. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
  6. Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
  7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy
  8. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
  9. Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris G.
  10. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett
  11. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  12. A little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  13. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  14. New Kid by Tim Green
  15. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  16. Audacity Jones by Kirby Larson
  17. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  18. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  19. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  20. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  21. Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen
  22. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamiesen
I have two more books I am set to finish this week; Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and Odd, Weird and Little by Patrick Jennings.  What did you read this summer?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back-to-Back adult novels

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (2016): 

Four Plumb siblings: Leo, Jack, Beatrice, and Melody fight over "The Nest", a small fortune left to them by their late father. Repercussions abound as the fortune never recovers after Leo makes a huge error in judgement and borrows money without sibling knowledge or consent. Each Plumb family member deals with this is a variety of ways and the fallout after is monumental.

I can relate to this story without the large inheritance. It seems my three brothers and I can't get along for 10 minutes anymore so this story hit close to home.  This story is better writing than ours with a very unique cast of characters.  Read this one if you like someone else's family drama.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian (2016): 

This tale revolves around a bachelor party gone extremely wrong from the get-go yet there is so much more to this story. Good guy big brother Richard Chapman agrees to host his brother Philip's bachelor party without understanding that Philip's friend Spencer has hired a service providing the entertainment. Richard's wife and daughter are off spending the night in Manhattan with his mother-in-law. Philip's friends have Richard's beautiful house to themselves and are immersed in full enjoyment when the party comes to a crashing halt.

Bohjalian built a truly interesting tale around a timely topic and shows us the harsh reality of the sex slave trade. I enjoyed the alternating point-of-view as Alexandra's character will move you.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Weekly Recipes 14

I love to cook in the summertime. The fresh flavors, the amazing produce, the tomatoes plucked right from the vines in my backyard, the craft cocktails to cool you down...it's all perfect.

(this into that)

I've made a few spectacular meals the last few weeks that you might like. I've cooked meals and I've done some canning.  My mother brought me 3 large boxes of tomatoes from her farm and I turned those rosy reds into about 24 jars of salsa.  She also brought me two buckets of fresh-scented basil that I churned into pistou (pesto w/out nuts).  I will love pulling that fresh green sauce out in the winter to enjoy with crackers or over pasta; bringing summer rushing right back. 

One of the meal's that I had fun planning was a vegan meal for my son's girlfriend, Heather, who is vegan. On One Green Planet I found a delicious recipe for Stir Fried Brussels Sprouts with Ginger and Curry leaves.  I love all those ingredients and luckily I knew Heather like brussels sprouts from a previous meal around our table. I was excited that I even had curry leaves on hand from other Thai meals. I love it when a rare ingredient like that is actually inside my cupboard already.  The stir-fry was good and pretty easy to put together. I would add more sauce next time, more tomato to keep it altogether.

Groovy Girl and I experimented to make an interesting vegan dessert: donuts!  Never made donuts before-why not give them a try right before a celebratory meal!  Yes, yes that's just what we did and for first-timers it turned out great.  Next time we will spray the nonstick pan first.  It was a fun recipe to try and they enjoyed eating them even though our second batch stuck mostly in the pan. Thankfully Tristan just poured almond milk over and ate them like cereal or in our family, just like chocolate cake. Here is our donut recipe and the sugar glaze we used for some while others we just sprinkled with a cinnamon mixture.  Groovy Girl loved helping me with this meal, especially the donuts, and I think I love that she may move into being a talented sous chef for me.

I had book club last week and we discussed Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things, which we loved. I had a large amount of bell-shaped yellow tomatoes from our garden and I used them to make these little mozzarella bites. I laid my tiny skewers on a bed of fresh greens and very peppery arugula and then drizzled a balsamic/olive oil mixture over the top. Getting to book club on time is always a major feat for me so no photo exists.  And we ate them all.  Love that.

Besides cooking I've finished my summer with voracious reading; I finished The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney and Chris Bohjalian's The Guest Room; both excellent reads.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Where does the summer go?

At this time of the month I begin to wonder what I did all summer? Where did the time go? In just one week I will be back in school.  I haven't blogged nearly enough over the summer. I didn't finish writing any of the 3-4 stories I'm invested in finishing.  I didn't get enough closets cleaned out.  It's like panic mode.  I'm not done with my summer homework...

On the other hand I've taken an awesome vacation to Asheville, NC where we floated down the French Broad River, ate at many wonderful places, listened to bluegrass at Isis, toured the Biltmore, and tried many of the local breweries. We accomplished a lot in the short time we were there.

I've cleaned out clutter-what feels like a constant life job-and helped Groovy Girl and Best Friend host a garage sale.  I've helped a friend out by nannying her three children while she works this summer so I've been able to take them to the water park, the beach, and the library just to name a few fun days. I have spent some mornings writing but it is few and far between. How do I set up a practice of writing on a real regular basis? This question has plagued me for years.  I don't even get enough blogging done.

I've just gotten back into a good rhythm of doing some yoga in the morning and when school begins again I need to be ready to seriously get up out of BED and continue this yoga practice to stay with what I've built this summer.

I've read a ton which has been an amazing journey. Many summers I just try to keep up with books for school and this year I was introduced to the app @Litsy (thanks to @Librarydady) which has raised my reading to a new level. @Litsy gives me many adult titles to look for and order from our public library. I picked up a few from my own piles at home also and one of them was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which is my favorite book this year now. I recommend it to anyone who loves good fiction and isn't concerned about 720 pages. It flies by.

It's been a good summer. I may never have a summer where I write every day. I have several stories that are important to me though so I'm going to have to find a way.  I did take time to play this summer. I've enjoyed time with Groovy Girl -a ninth grader this year. I did spend time in my beloved orange hammock.  I've spent time exploring nature, eating good summer food, picking tomatoes out of my garden, had frosty summertime drinks on the patio, and basked in the glory that is summer, my favorite season.

And in one week I need to be ready for school.

(Photos: Looking in at Lake Lure, Groovy Girl and me, The Biltmore, Prescott kiddos and me, former student Julia and I, Crosby walking)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 3

Today is a special day. I had a delicious breakfast prepared for me by husband and Groovy Girl. Grits, scrambled eggs, 9-grain toast with raspberry jam and fresh sliced peaches. This was a feast compared to my normal breakfast of sea salt cottage cheese mixed with flax seed oil so now I don't need to eat lunch.

My husband read me a whole list of other big moments on this day in history from on this day website and a few of them stood out so I'll share 3 with you.

1. Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt lands at Bordeaux, France completing a 5 year expedition to Latin America. (1804)

2. Adolf Hitler mergers the office of German Chancellor and President, declaring himself "Fuhrer". (1934)

3. The Beatles held their final performance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. (1963)

Tonight we have a fun gathering at a favorite watering hole on the Hill. It's a beautiful day out and I'm ready for an adventure. It's the simple things on a day like this; a phone call from my 21-year-old who is fishing in Colorado, a handmade birthday card from Groovy Girl, and tickets to John Hiatt at the Englert Theatre in October from my husband.

Several other famous people share this date with me: Rhett Booher, Carter Allen, John T. Scopes, Dennis the Menace, James MacGregor Burns, Tony Bennett, Martin Sheen, Martha Stewart, John Landis, Lucky Dube, Tom Brady, and Sonny Bill Williams.

Eat Cake!

Monday, August 1, 2016

August is here...(I wasn't really ready)

July was not a good blogging month for me. We were out of town for a long week, preparations for that trip, it just seemed like a short month with not a lot of free time. We were also in a whirl over my husband's production of Singin' in the rain. Let's just say it ain't easy making it rain on stage!  The play was fantastic and I'm glad it is over.

August, Oh August please be different. I need more days of reading in my lovely orange hammock. More days hanging with my soon-to-start-9th grade student. I need a few more pool days and hanging with friends days...

I did do a lot of reading in July. Vacation helped. Plus I participated in my first ever readathon-#24in48 sponsored by @Litsy. Just by chance I had that weekend free of children and husband so I literally sat around the house and read.

My July books:

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy (2013): Great. Total sci-fi, aliens, and a large space ship. Kept me totally enthralled and a little freaked out.

Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein (2016): So totally fun! I want to figure a way to make a library olympics to start off the new school year. The second book to Mr. Lemoncello's Library, a series filled with the love of reading.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett (2015): Great school humor. Pranksters at the elementary level as only Mac Barnett could create. Loved the two character Miles and Niles! Perfect for 8-12-year-old jokesters, pranksters, or anyone with a funny bone.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen (2009): July book club choice. Very interesting look at how we would handle a major crisis in the US. Centered on Black Mountain and Asheville, NC which was cool because I was right there while reading it. I didn't agree with his one-sided military viewpoint but definitely lots to think about.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015): AMAZING. You will feel many emotions as your read this 720 page book. I wrote more about it here. Cannot get Jude or Willem out of my mind. I want everyone I know to read this so I can discuss it with them.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (2015): Good basic story about Stella's father standing up for his right to vote and how the Klan doesn't appreciate that kind of thing. I liked the story but was unhappy with the ending. Too quick with no resolution; just another day.

New Kid by Tim Green (2014): This was suspensful but like Stella left me wanting for a much better ending. This kid should have stayed with his coach and stopped running with his dad.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (2016): Recently at Dragonfly Books in Decorah the owner talked me into buying this one. She simple said "It's the best book I've read this year." I thought so too. A simple yet complex story that shows how our prejudice often gets the better of some of us. Timely for today as well. I feel like this is a book I could read again.

I read a lot of elementary fiction this month. I'm trying to make it down my list of titles for Iowa Children's Choice Award choices for next year so I will be ready to vote.  If I added the book cover-it's one you should pick up and read.  Enjoy!