Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups: Shelf Love + Book Buying

A new year, a new start, right? This year (like every year, it seems!) I'd like to read more of the books already on my shelves and do better about reading the new ones I buy in a timely manner. In 2016, I was doing fairly well until I really went down a rabbit hole with children's books. I learned a lot about children's lit listening to podcasts and doing various other research -- and our collection of picture books, classics, modern classics, middle grade, poetry, etc. etc. kind of exploded. And while I feel good about the types of books I bought, I think the time has come to cool it on the seeking out and get down to the reading.

I could use some more culling, especially of my "adult" books, but I really do think we have a pretty great "library" to read from now. Lots of it is way above my son's level, but there are just so many wonderful books I never experienced -- or don't remember! -- that I'd like to read and enjoy for myself as well. And there are plenty of unread books that are good for his level. So, onto the challenges...

Goal: My Shelves and I are Going Steady, 51+ books

I love this challenge and its positive spin on reading from our TBRs that focuses on the joy of books rather than the guilt of unread books. There will be quarterly discussions this year which is fantastic because as much as I love them, I never could quite keep up with monthly ones! I'm aiming for the highest level because I have a lot of unread children's books this time around. All books owned prior to January 1, 2017 count for this challenge.

And books purchased during 2017, count for this next challenge!

Host: Book Date
Goal: Maximizing Returns, 61-80%

As I've already mentioned, I bought a lot of children's books in 2016. Knowing the books will benefit someone other than just myself seems to weaken my resolve to cut back on book buying even more than it used to. But I'd really like to keep that in check this year. I very much hope to be in the higher end of my chosen percentage range and I'd be thrilled if I surpass it, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself! I often pick up Audible books when they run promotions I known I won't get to for a while, so those alone could really skew my stats and make 81% or more pretty unrealistic.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups: Children's Lit

For 2017, I'm cutting back on reading challenges even more than I did in 2016 (which was quite a bit!) There are two children's book challenges though that I couldn't pass up. First, there is Julie's Newbery (and Caldecott) Challenge which was a lot of fun this year. I mostly read Caldecott books in 2016, but there are plenty more I have not read yet. And I've been wanting to read more middle grade books lately, so perhaps I will tackle more Newberys in 2017 as well. With Caldecott Honor books now counting in the new year, I'm going to go all out and aim for the highest level.

Host: Julie @Smiling Shelves
Goal: Konisgburg level which requires 75+ points

Caldecott Honor & Medal books earn 1 point
Newbery Honor books earn 2 points
Newbery Medal books earn 3 points

* * * * *

The second kids' lit challenge I am joining is the 2017 Picture Book Challenge which couldn't be more perfect for me! Yes, I read picture books to my toddler son, but doing so has rekindled a love of these books for myself as well. I am always on the lookout for great picture books -- new and old -- and am repeatedly amazed by the depth, breadth, and sheer beauty of this "genre." I'm choosing the checklist option for this challenge which I think will be a great way to read a variety of picture books throughout the year.

Original artwork by Charles Haigh-Wood (1856-1927)

Host: Becky @Becky's Book Reviews
Goal: Complete Checklist (yes, all 102!)

1. An alphabet book 
2. A counting book 
3. Concept book: shapes or numbers or opposites or colors 
4. a book set on a farm or in the country 
5. a book set in the city or in an urban area 
6. a book set at the beach, in the ocean, or by a lake 
7. a book with human characters 
8. a book with animal characters 
9. a bedtime book 
10. a rhyming book 
11. a book celebrating art 
12. a book celebrating dance 
13. a book celebrating music 
14. a book celebrating family (parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.) 
15. a book about feelings, expressing feelings 
16. a book with a twist (unexpected) ending 
17. a book about pets (cats, dogs, fish) 
18. a book celebrating libraries or reading 
19. a book translated into English (originally published in another language/country)
20. Mother Goose related
21. a book about adoption
22. a book by Gail Gibbons
23. a book by Jon Scieszka
24. a book featured on Reading Rainbow
25. free choice
26. out of print
27. wordless picture book
28. a book by Margaret Wise Brown
29. a board book
30. a book about trains or planes 
31. a book about cars or trucks 
32. a book about starting school 
33. a book about friendship (sharing, caring, forgiving) 
34. a book about being ME, about being unique, special, loved, etc. 
35. a fairy tale 
36. a twisted (adapted) fairy tale 
37. a book about a holiday 
38. a new-to-you author 
39. a new-to-you illustrator 
40. a book about new experiences (dentist, doctor, sleepovers, movies, playing sports, learning to swim, etc.) 
41. a series book 
42. a book celebrating food (cooking, eating, trying new foods, eating healthy) 
43. a book published before 1950 
44. a book published in the 1950s 
45. a book published in the 1960s 
46. a book published in the 1970s 
47. a book published in the 1980s 
48. a book published in the 1990s 
49. a book published in the 2000s 
50. a book published 2010-2016 
51. a book published in 2017 
52. a book by Dr. Seuss 
53. a book by Mo Willems 
54. a book by Jan Thomas 
55. a book by Eric Carle 
56. a book by Laura Numeroff 
57. a book by Patricia Polacco 
58. a book by Jon Klassen 
59. a book by Beatrix Potter 
60. a book by Kevin Henkes 
61. a book written or illustrated by LeUyen Pham 
62. a Caldecott winner 
63. a Caldecott honor 
64. a picture book biography 
65. a nonfiction picture book 
66. a book from your childhood 
67. a book you discovered as an adult 
68. a book celebrating writing, being an author or illustrator 
69. a library book 
70. an audio book 
71. a book about dinosaurs OR dragons 
72. nonfiction book about animals (or animal) 
73. a challenged book OR a controversial book 
74. a book that makes you laugh 
75. a book that makes you cry 
76. hate the text, love the art 
77. love the text, hate the art 
78. a book with a great cover 
79. a book with an ugly cover 
80. a book about toys 
81. a book about weather 
82. a picture book for older readers 
83. a book of jokes, riddles, tongue-twisters 
84. a book about seasons 
85. a song 
86. a poetry book 
87. a book by a celebrity 
88. a book published in Australia 
89. a book published in the UK 
90. a book about science or math 
91. a book about history or historical event 
92. a book about sports 
93. a book about celebrating birthdays 
94. a book about a President or world leader 
95. a book about another country 
96. a book celebrating faith 
97. a pop-up book, or, a book with cut-outs or flaps or fold-outs 
98. a bilingual book 
99. a television series that has been adapted to a book 
100. a book that has been adapted to a television series 
101. an adaptation of a myth or legend 
102. a book about babies 

* * * * *

I've already been doing most of my (short) reviews over on Goodreads since stepping away from more formal reviews here on the blog, but I've also printed out the checklist to keep track with pen and paper. I'm thinking monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly progress posts here on the blog would be nice to share the titles I've been reading -- I'll have to see what works!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge Wrap-Ups

I'm working on plans for 2017, so that must mean it's time to wrap things up for 2016! These challenges all have some time left and while I may tack a few extra books on in the next week and a half, it won't really make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. I will, however, update this post with my final, final numbers after December 31st -- for my own information more than anything!

Goal: 300 365 books
Progress as of 12/20/16: 418 books
Final Total: 443 books
I upped my goal even more since the year's halfway mark. Including all books (picture books, etc.) is why my goal has been so high. At an average of a book a day though, I left 365 as my final goal even when I surpassed it with plenty of time left in the year.

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge
Goal: 51+ books I owned prior to 2016
Progress as of Dec 20th: 29 books I owned prior to 2016
Final Total: 30 books I owned prior to 2016
Not gonna make it! I'm actually only two books away from the next level, but there's not much chance of getting that far, forget all the way to 51! Looking forward to hitting the reset button and trying again in 2017.

Goal: 80-100% of books I buy in 2016
Progress as of Dec 20th: 25% of books I bought in 2016
Final Percentage: 29% of books I bought in 2016
Hopefully I didn't make any record-keeping errors for this one, but 25% sounds about right. I might be able to budge this one slightly in the next 11 days, but any significant jump is not likely. I'm really looking forward to doing better on this one next year. 

Goal: 60-74 points
Progress as of Dec 20th: 47 points
Final Total47 points
13 points is kind of a lot to make up, but this one feels so close! I have some Caldecott books on hold from the library we will likely read before the end of the year, so this one may see a bit of a bump before the official end of the year. (The list is super long, so titles only!)

1. Frog and Toad Together (2 pts)
2. The Crossover (3 pts)
3. Kitten's First Full Moon (1 pt)
4. The Little House (1 pt)
5. Jumanji (1 pt)
6. Where the Wild Things Are (1 pt)
7. Flora and Ulysses (3 pts)
8. Cinderella (1 pt)
9. Slyvester and the Magic Pebble (1 pt)
10. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (1 pt)
11. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (1 pt)
12. Golem (1 pt)
13. Finding Winnie (1 pt)
14. Tuesday (1 pt)
15. Last Stop on Market Street (3 pts)
16. Madeline's Rescue (1 pt)
17. The One and Only Ivan (3 pts)
18. Roller Girl (2 pts)
19. The Lion and the Mouse (1 pt)
20. This is Not My Hat (1 pt)
21. Locomotive (1 pt)
22. The House in the Night (1 pt)
23. A Sick Day for Amos McGee (1 pt)
24. A Ball for Daisy (1 pt)
25. Time of Wonder (1 pt)
26. My Friend Rabbit (1 pt)
27. The Three Pigs (1 pt)
28. The Hello, Goodbye Window (1 pt)
29.The Snowy Day (1 pt)
30. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (1 pt)
31. Officer Buckle and Gloria (1 pt)
32. Owl Moon (1 pt)
33. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1 pt)
34. Lon Po Po (1 pt)
35. Grandfather's Journey (1 pt)
36. Snowflake Bentley (1 pt)
37. Rapunzel (1 pt)
BONUS PICK: Reading the Art in Caldecott Books

Goal: 3-6 series
Progress as of Dec 20th: 6 series
Final Total6 series
I'm kind of shocked I completed my goal on this one! I included picture book series and graphic novel/comic series which certainly helped. And I counted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as completing that series as well. I don't know if others would count those, but for my own goals, I say they counted. I actually have the latest Lumberjanes out from the library right now, so I may even get up to 7 before the end of the year!

1. The Diviners series, by Libba Bray
2. Saga series, by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples
3. Journey trilogy, by Aaron Becker
4. Complete Peter Rabbit collection, by Beatrix Potter
5. Complete Curious George collection, by Margret & H.A. Rey
6. Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Goal: 6-9 banned or challenged books
Progress as of Dec 20th: 6 banned or challenged books
Final Total: 7 banned or challenged books
It's always nice to complete your own challenge, right? Especially since this was my last year hosting, I'm glad I ended on a high note. I may (finally) finish the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before the end of the year, so perhaps I will get an extra on this challenge as well.

1. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
2. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
3. Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
4. The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne
5. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling
7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

P.S. These are some strange books to be challenged, don't you think?!

P.P.S. Technically, I finished HP and the Chamber of Secrets on January 1st, but I'm counting it for 2016 because so little was left it seems like cheating to count it for 2017 -- and I've got to put it somewhere!

Goal: 10 uniquely formatted books
Progress as of Dec 20th: 8 uniquely formatted books
Final Total8 uniquely formatted books
Not quite going to make it on this one! I thoroughly enjoyed all the books I did read for this challenge and plan to read more of them in the future.

1. The Crossover, by Alexander Kwame
2. A Sky Full of Kindness, by Rob Ryan
3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
4. Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
5. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
6. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
7. Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo
8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, et al

Goal: Track my reading and donate to a different organization at least once per quarter
ProgressOn track!
I got a bit behind on tracking this one, but have since caught up. So far I've chosen St. Jude's Children's Research HospitalReading Is FundamentalFINCA, and Humanwire. November and December will get tallied and a final donation made after December officially ends.

* * * * *

 How did you do on your challenges or goals for 2016?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2017 Banned Books Challenge

It's that time of year again when all the 2017 reading challenges start popping up across the blogosphere. I hosted the Banned Books Challenge for the past four years, but my time for hosting has now come to an end. I am very happy to report that Book Dragon's Lair has graciously taken over though. So head on over to check out the 2017 challenge and sign up! 13 readers have already joined and I would like to wish her all the best as the new host.

Now hosted by Book Dragon's Lair!

I'd also like to take a minute to thank each and every person who has participated over the past four years or who has read along with any of the Banned Book Challenge stuff I have posted. When I decided to create a reading challenge, I didn't really know what I was doing and never imagined I would have so many fellow readers join me. So THANK YOU! The sign-up posts for 2014, 2015, and 2016 are my three all-time most viewed posts on this blog with 2015 leading the pack. That was the year Bustle featured my challenge (I mean, what?! I'm still amazed by that!) and while 2015 is long over, I STILL get traffic from that post on a regular basis. Whoever noticed this challenge on this tiny corner of the internet and thought it was worth sharing with other readers, thank you, too!

I am still an advocate for the freedom to read and I think that it is more important than ever to make sure that books aren't censored. Each person has the right to choose what they do or do not want to read for themselves and their own children, but they should not be able to make that decision for everyone else. And as this wonderful piece recently reminded me, many books are supposed to make us uncomfortable. So read on, my friends!

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book...” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books

Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books: A Guide to the Illustrations by Heidi K. Hammond & Gail D. Nordstrom
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Date: August 2014
Format: print
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Authors | Publisher

I am participating in Julie's Newbery/Caldecott Challenge this year and was looking to learn more about why certain books win these awards when I found Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books in my library system's catalog. I borrowed it at least three times and maxed out my renewals each time. Even though I have now read it in its entirety, I am seriously considering buying a copy to have as a reference. It seems to be an academic-type book though, so it is rather pricey for a paperback -- used or new -- so I'm holding out for now. I admit I am exceedingly enthusiastic about picture books these days, but regardless, I still feel like this is a real hidden gem of a book. Realistically, I imagine this book has mostly been used by librarians and teachers, but I think it could have wider appeal to parents if not for the price. Delving more deeply into picture books isn't for everyone, but I'm sure I'm not the only bookish parent who is more comfortable with understanding and appreciating text and wished to know more about the merits of award-winning illustration.

So what exactly will you find in this book? The introduction covers the Caldecott award criteria and the process of choosing the winners. The authors share their own experience serving on the 2011 Caldecott committee (without revealing anything confidential, of course). I know it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but it sure sounded like fun for anyone who loves picture books! The authors also explain how and why they wrote the book and how to use it. It is important to know it is not meant to be read alone, but rather to be read alongside the picture books themselves so you can examine the illustrations more closely as you learn more about them.

After the introduction, we move right into entries for 56 different Caldecott award books. The entries are presented alphabetically by title and include all of the Medal and Honor books for 2011-2014 plus selected titles from earlier years. It doesn't cover nearly all of the Caldecott titles going back to 1938, but there is enough here to give you a solid foundation for better understanding how the award works and what qualifies a book to receive it. I would love if the authors wrote a follow-up featuring additional Caldecott books, but I don't know how realistic that wish is!

Each entry lists the title, author, medal or honor status, year, style, and medium. Then there four sections: "analysis," "for further consideration," "illustrator note," and "sources consulted." Each entry is not long, but they are packed full of insights and observations about the book and its artwork. You can read the entry for The Invention of Hugo Cabret excerpted on the authors' website here to see an example.

My usual method was to read the picture book once, then read its entry while flipping back through the picture book and examining it more closely. I cannot even begin to count how many times I missed things in the illustrations. And while most of the time, I felt like my biggest takeaway was to just pay better attention already! -- there were many other cases where additional background information was provided that I never would have known without additional research. And as easy as it sounds to just pay better attention, many years of focusing primarily on the written words is a hard habit to break. The other thing this book was really good at was pointing out "threads" in the illustrations -- for example, a minor character or image that appears on every page. I am terrible at picking up that sort of thing on my own unless it is glaringly obvious. I am definitely not well-practiced in noticing more subtle things in picture book artwork.

There is a glossary which proved extremely useful as I encountered unfamiliar terms. There are also three different indexes so you can easily identify picture books by media and style as well as by title/author/illustrator. The "sources consulted" listed for each entry (in addition to the sources listed in one of the back appendixes) are proving to be a treasure trove of additional reading. I've started looking for some of them in my library system and plan to continue delving into the world of picture books. I have a feeling I've started down a bit of a rabbit hole here, but I'm definitely OK with that. Apologies to anyone who isn't so interested in picture books, but this "genre" is even more vast and more fascinating than I first imagined and I won't be leaving it any time soon!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Help a Bookworm Out! (Please?)

Hello fellow book lovers! I've been mulling something over and haven't come up with a solution, so I thought I'd write a quick post to ask for your advice. You see, I've gone a bit overboard with with the book buying (yes, again). On the one hand, I feel pretty good about what I've been adding to our home library -- mainly children's books of all kinds. On the other hand, I feel like I go down the rabbit hole of discovery, research, and deal-finding way too easily (and way too often) these days. Even my library browsing feels a little out of hand at times!

So I'm seriously thinking about some sort of book buying ban (or rules/limits) for 2017. I feel like an outright ban for a whole year is going to backfire. So I'm curious what sort of guidelines you've used in the past? Or suggestions of rules you think would be worth trying? I'm considering something along the lines of not allowing any new purchases unless I've read a certain number of books on my TBR. Or cutting myself off if I haven't read a certain percentage of any new books I buy in the new year. What do you guys think? I'm hoping for a solution that will encourage enjoyment of what we already have, which shouldn't be so hard, right? Thanks! :)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Current Children's Book Favorites

I always thought I would never tire of reading to my son, and for the most part that is still true. I know toddlers and little kids thrive on repetition, so I'm not surprised he gravitates toward the same books over and over. However, I must admit when we get to the fifth reading in a row, I very much do wish we could switch to something different! He does have many favorites though, so I really can't complain. I am so thankful my little boy enjoys stories, being read to, and (most of the time) snuggling up for this part of our day. So I thought I would share the most recent batch we -- sorry, he -- has on rotation.

Hippos Go Beserk! by Sandra Boynton
What's Wrong Little Pookie? by Sandra Boynton
One, Two, Three by Sandra Boynton
Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle & Jill McElmurry (Illus.)
I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak & Caroline Jayne Church (Illus.)
Zoom Buggy! by Claire Clark & Jay Jung (Illus.)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury (Illus.)
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, by Alice Schertle & Jill McElmurry (Illus.)
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury (Illus.)

Not pictured:
Five Little Ducks by Raffi and Jose Aruego & Ariane Dewey (Illus.)

The first photo was actually taken a month ago, so the second photo shows additions since then. A few in the second photo, he honestly didn't care for at first. It's amusing to see him reject a book (translation: shut it mid-sentence) only to warm up to it later. I'm stubborn about expanding his repertoire though. I know he is protesting for no other reason than because the story doesn't sound familiar, so I just keep trying. Sometimes I read new books when he is more sleepy and agreeable to letting me choose our story. Other times, I sit in the rocking chair and read aloud while he plays in the same room. And plenty of times, a "rejected" book has become a new favorite. So I always try to remember that when I excitedly crack open a new book, only to have him pull it away, shut it, or declare "no, no, no!"

* * * * *

If anyone has any children's book recommendations, I'd love to hear them! And I hope everyone celebrating had a lovely Thanksgiving :)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Some Halloween Reading

I love reading for the seasons and holidays, but must admit I'm much better at keeping on top of the calendar with children's books than my own "adult" books! With Halloween on Monday, I thought I'd share some books in our rotation lately:

Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree, by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Little Blue Truck's Halloween, by Alice Schertle & Jill McElmurry (Illus.)
Eek! Halloween!, by Sandra Boynton
Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin, by Mary Serfozo & Valeria Petrone (Illus.)

Not shown/returned to library:
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
Llama, Llama Trick or Treat, by Anna Dewdney
It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse!, by Laura Numeroff & Felicia Bond (Illus.)
Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat, by Eileen Christelow

The majority of these have been read more than once and quite a few have been read repeatedly. My son's favorites are definitely Little Blue Truck's Halloween and Eek! Halloween! For these (and other favorites), he brings them over to Mommy or Daddy and climbs into one of our laps to be read to. It's pretty much one of the cutest things I have ever seen. Little Blue Truck's Halloween is from the library, but I'm thinking we should get a copy for our Little Blue Truck collection based on his enthusiasm. I just picked up Little Blue Truck's Christmas when I saw it at Marshalls in preparation!

And just last night, I actually did start a spooky book of my own!

So far, I've read the intro and one of the fourteen stories (I skipped to the shortest one!) I love the idea of dipping in and out of this collection and it doesn't matter to me if I don't finish it by Monday (which I probably won't!) I don't read a lot of short stories, so I'm glad to be giving this a try and branching out a bit. Collections of stories, poems, or essays always seem like a good idea to have going alongside other longer works, but I never seem to get one started. Maybe this one will help me get the ball rolling. Thanks Jade for the recommendation!

* * * * *

Do you have any favorite Halloween or fall books?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October #ShelfLove Update

My last ShelfLove update was back in June, so I have a bit of catching up to do! From July through October, I averaged 2 books per month from my own shelves:
1. The Fiery Cross, by Diana Gabaldon (audio, re-read)
2. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (print)
3. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (print, re-read)
4. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick (print)
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Illustrated edition, by JK Rowling (special edition print, re-read)
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon (audio, re-read)
7. The Complete Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter (print/audio)
8. Lord John and the Private Matter, by Diana Gabaldon (audio, re-read)
July-October TOTAL:  8 book read from my shelves
2016 TOTAL: 28 books read from my shelves

That was a bit better than I thought, actually! You'll notice a few on my list are re-reads, which may be bending the rules a bit. I mostly read an alternate format (audio) of a book I already owned for many years or from a print copy I never got around to re-reading since purchasing it for my collection. So I figured in one way or another, it was still in the spirit of ShelfLove!

Next up, I should re-calculate my stats for Read the Books You Buy to see how I'm doing on reading books I added to my shelves during 2016. Between these two challenges, I am attempting to keep myself accountable in terms of reading more of what I have at home. I doubt I'll reach my goal of 80-100% on that one, but the higher I can bump my %, the better!

The October ShelfLove discussion topic is my bookish wishlist for Christmas and what I really wish for is to read more of what I already have! It shouldn't be so difficult, but I learn about so many great new (and new-to-me) books all the time that can be hard to pass up. The wheels are already turning trying to come up with a game plan for the new year. Wish me luck!

* * * * *

How has your 2016 reading been going?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reconsidering This Space

Hello? Anybody still there? It's been a while, I know! Well, if you've stuck around to see this post, know that I really appreciate the fact that you are here still sharing the bookish love. In the past several months, I've really only posted about challenges and reading events, but I've found I really do miss writing about other things. And most of all, I miss the little community in this corner of the internet. I read other blogs much more often than I post here, so I still get to be in on the fun, but they are all very inspiring and thought-provoking! I often find myself with ideas, but no time to get them typed out coherently. We all know that life happens (I have a toddler now! How did that happen so fast?!) and I'm glad for it. But I was thinking that maybe instead of trying to figure out how I can get this blog back to how it used to be, maybe I should reevaluate how I use this space. There is a reason I never closed up shop completely, and it's mainly the small community of readers and fellow bloggers who have somehow managed to connect here. So what's a girl to do going forward? The following are the answers I've come up with (so far!)

  • Reviews will be short and on Goodreads. For months (years actually!), I've actively resisted posting my thoughts on Goodreads when I mark a book as finished and give it a rating. I did this because I kept thinking "No, better not, this should be a review on the blog first." And how many of those actually became reviews? Hardly any! It's time to admit that most of my review-ish thoughts are best recorded when the book is fresh in my mind and that 95% of the time, I only have a few lines (maybe a paragraph) to share anyway. The other day, I just started doing this with picture books and it felt so great to get those thoughts down. And just like that, the (imagined) pressure of needing to have all review-ish thoughts specifically on the blog was gone. So if you want thoughts on specific books I've read, I'd love to be Goodreads friends -- if we aren't already :)
  • If I do have a lot to say about a specific book or my experience reading a book, genre, author, etc., those are the kinds of thoughts I will post here. I'm thinking things like my Reading Winnie-the-Pooh as an Adult which was my last "real" post -- four months ago! 
  • I want to write more about my reading life in general -- whether that is thoughts on audiobooks, the library, book collecting/organizing -- basically, anything reading-related that is not a review.
  • I want to write more about children's books and my experiences reading to my son. I think I shied away from this a bit without even realizing it. But children's books are a big part of my life now and I am finding so much joy in them. They may not be for all adult readers, but I am so very grateful to be able to explore this whole world of books that I never read myself or I don't remember reading, as well as revisiting the childhood favorites I do remember.
  • Come December/January when all the year-long reading challenges start popping up, I am going to be very, very picky about what I join. In 2016, I joined eight which was a major drop from prior years, but it's still too many to keep up with. Whatever I join, I want to realistically be able to keep up with my updates, be an active participant, and really use each challenge as a (fun) tool to focus my reading. Focusing my reading has always been a big reason I join challenges, but I can't focus on 8 (or more!) different goals if I am really honest with myself. 
  • Cutting back on challenges, I've also decided it's time to retire as host of the Banned Books Challenge. I was never the most active host anyway, so if any participants or interested bloggers are reading this and would like to take over for 2017, that would be wonderful!
Alright, I think those are all my thoughts for now! Thank you again to anyone who's stuck around. I look forward to putting these ideas into action and getting back in the blogging groove with a refreshed mindset.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reading Decathlon

A big thank you to Kay for inspiring me to join the Reading Decathlon hosted by Epic Reads. I recently learned about the 7 in 7 Readathon, but completely missed this year's edition. This decathalon is basically a 10 in 10 readathon, just without any set dates, so you can give it a go whenever you like! I just love the idea of reading a book a day as a challenge and having the freedom to choose a 10 day period that works best for me makes it even better. Yes, I have a toddler (Really! I do! When did that happen, by the way?!?!?) Yes, I'm super busy with work and life and all that jazz. BUT there are different levels including #ReadingForBronze which allows for any combination of short stories, novellas, graphic novels, novels, etc., etc. 

Full details here

Really, this is about giving my reading life a little boost. I've been very happy with my reading this summer, but I still get distracted and fritter away time on the internet or my phone that could be better spent. I have a HUGE stack of library books that fit this challenge perfectly plus plenty from my own shelves. I won't even post a list because I doubt I'd stick to it, but I'll make sure to check back in once I'm done. Right now I'm thinking a mix of graphic novels and children's/middle grade novels, but who knows, 10 days is a long time! 

My main goal here is to make better use of the free time I do have and try to turn that into a habit. And while reading is NOT about numbers, stats, or obligations for me, I know it will feel good to check so many books off my TBR in a such a short time frame. Anyone want to join me?

P.S. I will post something other than a reading challenge one of these days, I promise! I just can say when...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Make Me Read It Readathon: The Votes Are In!

More info/sign-up here or here.

Thank you everyone who voted! Here's a screenshot of the results for next week's readathon:

I will be packing the top 5 books to enjoy on vacation. Will I have time to read them all? I can't say for sure, but I can try! A 24 in 48 Readathon is also coming up July 23-24, so I just may carry over the rest of my list.

I wanted to start next week with a clean bookish slate, but I am a couple of chapters into The Rose & the Dagger and I know I will not be able to finish it before Saturday. I'm not quite sure what to do about that yet. Oh well, a bookish dilemma isn't really such a bad dilemma to have! Happy reading everyone :)

Monday, July 4, 2016

2016 Reading Challenges: Mid-Year Progress

The other day, I did my mid-year check-in for the #ShelfLove challenge, so I thought I would take a look at my progress (or lack thereof) for all of my 2016 challenges. I thought I joined less this year? Actually, I did join less, but there are still a lot. Oh boy. Next year, I really need to work on my definition of "a few." Here we go...

Goal: 300 books
Progress: 193 books
That's 44 ahead of schedule -- doing well! This does include all types of books -- picture books, novellas, stand-alone short stories, graphic novels, audiobooks, etc., etc., so I've actually upped my goal a couple times since the beginning of year.

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge
Goal: 51+ books I owned prior to 2016
Progress: 20 books I owned prior to 2016
Could be better, could be worse! Full update here.

Goal: 80-100% of books I buy in 2016
Progress: 32% of books I bought in 2016
Well, it could be worse. I do think I need to cut myself off and play catch up though. I haven't even read all the picture books I bought this year yet! Is it possible to be in a read-aloud slump? Thoughts for another day, perhaps. For the record, I did NOT include the following in my stats:
1. books bought as gifts
2. cookbooks
3. books I had read previously, but bought a copy for my collection
4. books in an alternate format (i.e. audiobooks, illustrated editions, etc. of books I already own)

Goal: 60-74 points
Progress: 24 points
I was churning through Caldecott Medal books with my son, but then we hit a bit of a slump. We've also read a lot of Caldecott Honor books which don't count!

Goal: 3-6 series
Progress: 0 series
I've read 11 books that are part of a series (including graphic novels), but I have not completely caught up on any one series yet. Technically I am caught up on the Lumberjanes trade editions, but two more volumes come out this year, so I won't call that series done yet.

Goal: 6-9 banned or challenged books
Progress: 4 banned or challenged books
Since this is my own challenge, I'm glad I'm making decent progress on it.

Goal: 10 uniquely formatted books
Progress: 5 uniquely formatted books
Half way there and these books are just so much fun. I don't think I will have a problem reading 5 more this year.
Goal: 12 old ARCs/review copies
Progress: none!
I'm jumping ship on this one! I loved the idea of this challenge that ran in 2015 (and a few years prior), but it never officially came back for 2016 as I hoped it would when I "signed up." Since I'm not getting anywhere with the goal I set for myself anyway, I'm just going to call it quits. I should probably just donate the remaining ARCs I have on my shelf anyway, to be honest.
Goal: Track my reading and donate to a different organization at least once per quarter
Progress: On track!
I've donated every two months and chosen St. Jude's Children's Research HospitalReading Is Fundamental, and FINCA so far.

Friday, July 1, 2016

June #ShelfLove Update

It's time for a Mid-Year Check-In! Oh boy. Well, it seems I am always overambitious at the beginning of the year. I have ALL THE GOOD INTENTIONS in January. I always think it will be incredibly simple to just read from my own shelves and not go overboard with buying new books and borrowing from the library. But then I learn about interesting new books. Or I hear rave reviews from trusted sources. Or I find a new author or genre I want to try. Or a favorite author publishes a new book. Or I walk into a bookstore or visit a book website... You get the idea -- there are so many scenarios where all those good intentions fly right out the window. I conveniently forget just how many unread books I have in my house already. It's a sort of blindspot of mine I suppose. There is good news though! So some updates:

1. So far I have read 20 books that were on my shelves prior to 2016. In 2015, I read a total of 20 from my shelves for the whole year, so I'm well ahead of last year's pace. My goal for 2016 is 51+ though, so I better get back to it!

2. There are 6 months left in 2016, so there is plenty of time left to rearrange my TBR and balance out my reading choices.

3. I also have the Read the Books You Buy challenge going, so if I read some of my more recent acquisitions (i.e. purchased during 2016, rather than prior to 2016), they may not count for ShelfLove, but they are still books from my own shelves. So, progress?

During June, I read one measly book from my own shelves:

The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh

June TOTAL:  1 book read from my shelves
2016 TOTAL: 20 books read from my shelves

* * * * *

How has your 2016 reading been going?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Make Me Read It Readathon: Sign-Up & Voting

Thanks to Kay over at It's a Book Life, I found out about this really fun readathon that just so happens to be taking place while I'm on vacation at the beach. There will be a lot of family wanting to take turns playing with the little man, so I'm thinking the timing is perfect. Plus, I am TERRIBLE at picking out books for travelling, so I can use all the help I can get! Here's how it works:

More info/sign-up here or here.
Look at the books you own, either physical, e-book or ones you've borrowed from the library and pick out a few you really want to read, or feel like you should read. It’s up to you how many you pick, personally I'd pick a few more than you expect to be able to read in a week. Example: if you think you’ll only read two, pick out five books or if you think you can read seven, pick out ten.

Make a list of these books on your blog, or make a video, or a Goodreads shelf or post a picture on Instagram—whatever is easiest for you. Then get friends, other bloggers/booktubers etc. to vote on which books you HAVE to read.

When the readathon comes along, you read the books in the order of most votes. For example, if one book gets 10 votes—you read that first, then the one that got 7 and so on. If there's a tie, then it's your preference. The goal is to read as many as possible.
The read-a-thon will take place from the 9th to the 16th of July in your timezone. You can start anytime you want on the 9th, so just fit it around whatever works for you! As for the voting, that’s up to you too!
* * * * *

I usually over-pack books for vacation because I am, 1. overambitious and 2. so unsure of where to start that I tend to bring an excess of options. I can pretty much guarantee I will not read more than 5 books on vacation, even considering the types I'm choosing for this event -- novels in verse, uniquely formatted books, middle grade -- i.e. quicker reads. So help a girl out and vote for up to 5 books from the choices below (titles link to Goodreads). Voting will end on July 6th and then I will simply pack up the top picks, thus eliminating the second-guessing and last minute agonizing over my shelves. THANK YOU fellow readers!

* * * * *


Thank you to everyone who voted!

* * * * *

P.S. I am not factoring audiobooks into this event. I am in the middle of Diana Gabaldon's The Fiery Cross and will soon be taking a break and switching over to Libba Bray's The Diviners for book club. Wherever I am at with these two, I plan to carry on during the readathon for travel hours and other times I am on the move or want to give my eyes a break.

(Updated: 7/7/2016)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

April/May #ShelfLove Update

These days, time to do anything that requires me to be sitting still is at a premium. I've been itching to blog more, but it's getting harder to even find time to read anything that is not an audiobook (reading on the move!) or a picture book (though I seriously love those too!) My little guy recently started walking, sorry I mean running, so he's been keeping me busier than ever. Since I have some rare time for an update, I thought I'd do a little catch-up for the past two months...

April's discussion topic was Libraries. In short? I freaking love my library. They have story-times for "tiny tots" up through school age, plus all sorts of other fun programs. I can take out stacks of picture books so I don't get bored to tears of the same old stories over and over again. And let's be honest, at just over 1 year old, I am enjoying these books more than my son is! Thanks to my library, I have expanded my reading repertoire and branched out into comics/graphic novels and audiobooks. And though I still like to buy books, I've culled a lot and I am trying to be much more deliberate about what I choose to add to our collection. The library is always there for me to try a new author or genre on a whim or learn more about a certain topic (like how to feed a toddler...) without defaulting to making a purchase. I also met my book club at the library! We do our own thing now, but I am grateful to have met some great bookish friends though my library.

May's discussion topic was Literary Dream Trips. Well, I had the most amazing opportunity a few years ago to visit Scotland, aka home of JK Rowling and the setting of Outlander. I don't think I could top that if I tried, but I would love to visit other smaller/local literary sites (houses of authors, etc.) or events someday. And I would also really love to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts -- maybe when the little guy is a bit older.

As for my progress with the #ShelfLove challenge? In April and May, I read the following books that were on my shelves prior to 2016:

The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski (had print, but switched to audio)
Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon (re-read; mostly on audio this time around)

April/May TOTAL: 2 books read from my shelves
2016 TOTAL: 19 books read from my shelves

It seems I read mostly from the library in April and May. See, I told you I love my library! But as we approach the halfway mark of 2016, I think it's a good time to reexamine my shelves and prioritize some books I've been meaning to get to for ages. Wish me luck!

* * * * *

How has your 2016 reading been going?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reading Winnie-the-Pooh as an Adult

As popular as Winnie the Pooh was when I was a kid, I never actually read any of the original stories until very recently. I remember Pooh cartoons and Pooh stickers (stickers were SUCH a thing with the girls when I was in grade school -- does anyone else remember this???) And if my parents ever read me any Pooh books, they were likely picture book adaptations.

So of all the books we received at our son's baby shower last year, I was most looking forward to reading the original Winnie-the-Pooh friends of ours gave us. And with such a beautiful edition to start our collection, I just couldn't resist adding The House at Pooh Corner as well as the two volumes of poetry When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I was a little amused to see two of the used copies I bought were actually inscribed because they looked like they were barely even opened, let alone read. I look forward to the day my son asks me who Rosie or Jack & Whitney are -- I don't know kid, but they were missing out on these books, I can tell you that much.

The Stories

Now, I knew Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner were not particularly short, but I was still surprised to realize they were each close to 200 pages. Both volumes are divided into 10 chapters, each of which is its own story. They are connected, but I think they could be read on their own as well. The writing style is sort of meandering which definitely took some getting used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed these stories once I got the hang of the dialogue. I struggled a bit reading them aloud, so it's good my son is a bit too young to notice! These are true classics that I know I will reread more than once. In fact, I've already listened to the first volume on audiobook. The professional narrator did a much better job than I did for sure! The Piglet noises were a little jarring, but the audio does bring the characters and stories to life. Between reading and listening, it is so clear to me now how the cartoon versions of these characters evolved from the source material.

The Poems

As for Milne's poetry, I didn't know much at all beforehand except that When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are part of the Pooh collection. Now having read them, I think that's actually a bit of a stretch. Pooh and Christopher Robin make a few appearances, but that's about it. The majority of the poems have nothing to do with Pooh and cover a variety of other topics. They were still enjoyable, but not quite what I was expecting. I think they will only improve with rereading because I'll know better what I'm getting myself into. Also, I know I have a tendency to rush through poetry, so I'm certain there is more to appreciate in these volumes than I absorbed the first time around.

Now that I have read these four, I'm on the fence about trying The Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. It is a companion volume written 80 years after The House at Pooh Corner by another author, but supposedly captures the style of the originals in a series of new adventures. If any Pooh aficionados have an opinion one way or the other, please let me know what you think! And of course, I'm intrigued by the Winnie the Pooh cookbook, but maybe I'll just see if the library has that one.

Classics Club #9-12

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Classic Children's Literature Event -- April 2016

Hosted by Simpler Pastimes

I have been on a major children's book kick lately. Combined with the fact that I revamped my Classics Club list to focus mostly on children's classics, I just couldn't pass up participating in this event!

There are no "children's classics" police for this challenge, but I'm going to try to stick with the suggested guidelines and read books at least 50 years old -- after all, that leaves plenty to choose from!

I would like to start off by reviewing A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books which I've already read. Next up, I should read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson since I picked it for the Classics Club's latest Spin. I'm also a few stories into The Complete Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter which I'm reading to my son -- I may not finish them all this month, but I'd definitely like to continue. If I have any additional reading time, I can choose from the (many) children's classics on my shelves:

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit
The Enchanted Castle, by E. Nesbit
Aesop's Fables, by Aesop
Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie
Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm (selected edition)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
Stuart Little, by E.B. White
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, by Howard Pyle
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg 
(that last one was published in 1967 -- I'll call that close enough!)