Monday, September 30, 2019

Best Books (so far) 2019

It was a beautiful day today-the sun was shining and it felt warm even though the wind was a bit brisk. I can feel summer winding down and even though I Fall weather is lovely and I love a good sweater I always miss summer.  I'm a t-shirt and sandal kind of person and love being outside.

Fall weather does bring it's own joy with it as well. Sweaters, boots, beautiful leaves falling, and warm beverages-ohhh, and backyard fires. Good times!

Over the last few months I've read quite a few books from April-August and some of them you should definitely add to your reading lists.  I have two different lists; one with adult reads and one with children's literature.  They are all worth reading though whether you are young or older...

Adult Fiction:

Daisy Jones and the Six (2019) by Taylor Jenkins Reid - This was the book that made me jump head first into Book-of-the-month club! This read like it was real, so much so that I googled it to see how I'd missed this band.  Billy Dunne, Daisy Jones and the rest of the cast all make for memorable characters that stayed with me. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, baby! She's an author I want to read more of soon.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (2006) by Zora Neale Hurston - We picked this one as our "classic" for book club and I was so satisfied reading this excellent novel.  It felt like I was back struggling with the Joad (Grapes of Wrath) family in college.  Janie's life is a rough and joyous journey as she tries to stay independent and enjoy life along the way.

Normal People (2018) by Sally Rooney - This second novel was a very interesting tale of friendship and love between Marianne and Connell while in high school and at Trinity College in Dublin.  the characters are very memorable and the story was so intriguing. I also read Rooney's first book, Conversations with friends, and liked it as well.

The Kiss Quotient (2018) and The Bride Test (2019) by Helen Hoang - These two little books are w-a-y too sexy for most but oh, so good. They rate like 12 stars from me. Stella Lane and Khai Diep both resonated with me as characters on the spectrum struggling with their emotions.  Sexy and fantastic; Hoang is writing a 3rd and I can't wait! Also I did find both at my local library!

The story of Arthur Truluv (2017) by Elizabeth Berg - What a beautiful story of Arthur as he works through the death of his wife and learns to form a new family of sorts with a young and lost teenage girl and his bothersome and moody next door neighbor Lucille.  Family is truly what we make of it when we need it and Arthur opens up his heart to help those around him even though he still feels devastated. Thank you to Jen and Chris for passing this on to me this summer. I'm waiting for the second one to arrive.


Educated (2018) by Tara Westover - Amazing read! I was so intrigued by her family struggles and Tara's desire to rise above.  I was appalled at some of the problems she had to overcome from her own family but her own independence was even more breath-taking because of it.

The shortest way home; one mayor's challenge and a model for America's future (2019) by Pete Buttiegieg - Also an Amazing read!! Mayor Pete is a wonderful writer and his story flowed from his family life, his public life, and his road to love. I was already part of the #PeteWave but after this I feel like I know him personally. I'm totally rooting for him.

I am a fiction reader for the most part so the fact that I have not one but two excellent memoirs on my list is pretty amazing. Honorable mention would be The Saboteur (2017) by Paul Kix which tells the story of Robert de La Rochefoucald who was part of the French Resistance during WWII.  We read this for book club and I found out Kix has a podcast, Now that's a great story, and it is quite good! Not that I need another podcast b/c I can't keep up with what I have downloaded so far.

Young Adult and Children's lit:

On the come up (2019) by Angie Thomas - Her second novel focuses on 16-yo Bri as she strives to make it the rapper world; a world that her father was king of before his death. I have to admit Bri was a bit brazen for me yet I understood where her anger boiled and spilled over from as she deals with life in her neighborhood.  I look forward to what ever Angie brings forth in her 3rd novel.

The Novice (2015) by Taran Matharu - High fantasy and a fun escape book that a student recommended to me.  Fletcher and the other cast of characters in this magical world of summoners was easy to get lost in and I quickly read the second one as well, The Inquisition.  My friend Wyatt did give me the 3rd one a few weeks ago and it is still sitting on my desk. I have a stack to finish here before I'll be ready to bring it home.  

Gracefully, Grayson (2014) by Ami Polonsky - Grayson's story is an amazing journey of acceptance as she learns to accept who she is and share her true identity with her adopted family. Grayson's parents died years ago and she is being raised by his uncle.  As Grayson reads some old family letters she begins to understand that this is who she has always been. This is wonderfully written debut novel about friendship and acceptance. 

Amal Unbound (2018) by Aisha Saeed - Amal desires to be a teacher one day until an event in her small Pakistani village takes her dream away. When she gets angry at the local landowner for his rude behavior he teaches her about power as he forces her parents to send her to him as a servant. Amal's fierce independence never lets her accept her fate as she fights for a way to break free. I loved this story and hope to find more of her stories to come. 

Merci Suarez changes gears (2018) by Meg Medina - This is a feisty school story with Merci and her family struggling to make it through middle school as a scholarship student and as a sunshine buddy to the cute new boy, all while watching her beloved grandfather begin to suffer from bouts of confusion. 

Amina's Voice (2017) by Hena Khan - Amina is struggling with middle school as her best friend, Soojin begins to hang out with one of the popular (and unkind) girls.  It is so hard to figure out how to stay true to yourself but also fit in with the friend you love. Amina worries about her friendship and her strict uncle coming to stay with them which is already enough to handle when the mosque her family attends is vandalized.  When the community comes together for them Amina learns to understand how to be herself. 

Aru Shah and the end of time (2018) by Roshani Choksi - Aru totally stretches the truth to her classmates (and to herself, really) as she deals with her absent and busy mom and their life living in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art.  When three classmates stop by to accuse her of more lies she breaks a vow to her mother and she lights an ancient lamp to placate her classmates. When time is literally stopped she must unlock the mystery of her family's history in order to put life back in motion. I must make time to read the second book in this series. 

Walking with Miss Millie (2017) by Tamara Bundy - Alice is not happy that her mom has moved the family to the exact small town where her mother grew up just so they can take care of her aging grandmother. She misses her dad and her old life.  When she is forced to spend time with her grandmother's aging nieghbor Alice learns that life in a small town can be filled with all kinds of interesting characters. I liked the slower pace to this as Alice learns to navigate some life lessons. 

Ohhh. That's a lot of books. I hope you find something interesting to read from my list. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019


I've been into listening to podcasts for awhile. Our oldest daughter Kaylee works for Gimlet Media and had us listening to Reply All early on. Now she is the producer for Heavyweight hosted by Jonathan Goldstein who gets involved with a "heavy" situation; like one episode about Skye who was bullied  by her own group of friends in high school and she wants to find out why. The stories are good and I always feel completely drawn in.

I still listen to Heavyweight (their 4th season is about to drop) and I also listen to The Yarn hosted by Travis Jonker, an elementary librarian and Colby Sharp, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire. I love their banter and they interview some of my favorite authors like Kate DiCamillo.  I love Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert because he seems to be talking off the top of his head for most shows. I loved his interview with Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen.  I've listened to Goop's podcast and I spent several road trips listening to many episodes of Oprah's Super Soul Conversations which have the tendency to really move me to tears. I'm not very good at listening to audible books because I lose track of the story line as my mind wanders but podcasts seem to work. My commute is super short though so I have to fit them in at other opportunities like cleaning the house.

Because I listened to so many this summer I decided to make this happen in the library as well. I charged up a small handful of iPods and mini iPads that were gathering dust in my backroom after I'd received an official cart of kid-friendly iPads for student use. I downloaded about 15 kid-friendly podcasts and set up a table station with headphones, iPads, iPods and a charging cord. Students seem excited about it and rush to finish check out so they can get one of the iPods (which are popular b/c at first they thought they were phones). There are so many podcasts for kids out there that talk about books, science, stories, animals, travel adventures, and meditation activities; something for everyone!

Also major kudos to all the students willing to take a stand tomorrow and walk out of school for climate change!  Use your voice. Thanks to Greta Thunburg.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Happy Birthday Baby!

(Upside down in Maryland)
(In Virginia)
My youngest child turns 17 years old tomorrow!  I truly can't believe it. This is her senior year and after that she will fly the coop and I'll have to find new things to do with my time. I've been chasing after her for so many years I won't know what to do with myself.  I mean I will but it just feels so lonesome to contemplate.

(in Central Park)
She has always been full of positive energy with a quick laugh. She also can be brutally hard on herself especially when it comes to her dancing skills. She loves to be in motion, dancing, yet she pushes herself and still never feels like she gets to where she wants to be. I say let it go and enjoy the beauty that is you. She gets a little tired of my ability to spin everything to the positive saccharine. level. Each and every one of us has our quirks and at some point in our lives it's best just to play to your strengths and let go of what isn't working. I wish I could give her a boost of real confidence for her birthday gift so that she would truly believe in her abilities and help her move forward when things are rough. I think it has to do with developing resilience. We could all use a little dose of that right now in our world- that and patience. And those skills take time to develop...

Groovy Girl was a beautiful baby and she is a stunning young woman; I love snuggling with her at any time of the day.  She has always loved baking and creating in the kitchen and now her "concoctions" are delicious Indian dinners that we can devour together. She is thoughtful and insightful, a champion for all kinds of inclusive causes. 

(Look at her beautiful tiny face)

Happy birthday my dear little one!  You are greatly loved and appreciated.