Friday, January 29, 2016

What I've added to my TBR recently

No matter how many books are on my TBR list at the beginning of the year, I'm bound to add
must-reads continually throughout the year. Here are some of my recent fascinations.
First up, some Children's books...
 And some Fiction...

And my favorite: Nonfiction...

And lastly, some Poetry--I'm going to need a lot of it for my 1,000 Poems Challenge...

Have you read any of these?

What have you added to your TBR this month?


Monday, January 25, 2016

What I'm reading this week (1/25/16)

Nearly to the end of January already. So far the weather hasn't been that bad for the north. We had one heavy snowfall, then a few days of below zero temps, but there hasn't been much since. Not like the storm set to hit the east coast. Tell me, why don't they name winter storms in the north and heartland? I've always wondered that.


Last week, I finished:

I'm still not quite sure what I thought of Crossing to Safety. Why are my feelings so noncommittal? Would I have raved about it had I been in a different mood? I'm unsure. I enjoyed the writing, but there was something about it that just didn't bowl me over.

Likewise with My Kitchen Year. I hate to admit not really caring for anything by Ruth Reichl, but this one was just too much recipe book and not enough memoir. I don't feel like the story, the recipes, and the photos ever really came together.

Millie's Book was about what you'd expect from a presidential dog's memoir. It's very dated (mid-90s) which I found endearing, but others might think just too old.

This week, I continue with:


Doesn't look like I'll finish Eighty Days in January as Goodman is a bit longwinded. It's a nice adventure, and it's been surprisingly easy to keep track of the two women and their journeys even though one is going east-to-west and the other west-to-east. Goodman gives a fair amount of historical asides that are interesting (I learned how America got its time zones), but seem to be there to fill out the story.

Next, I'll begin:

I know you likely can't read the cover, but this is the beautiful Penguin clothbound edition of Jane Eyre. Since I finished my January reading list so early, I get a whole "free" week to settle into this classic. Finally.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What I'm reading this week (1/18/16)

This year is off to a good start, reading-wise. I've been saving up books for the new year for months, so I'm stacking the deck in my favor.

Last week, I finished:

In the Heart of the Sea is a great book if you're looking for an adventure story and can stomach the tragedy that often goes with one. As I read it, I wanted to see the movie more and more.

I tore through Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in about two days. Not only is it mostly dialogue, which makes it a quick read, but it's riveting. I had to know whodunit! Ten people are summoned to an island and confronted with their past indiscretions (murder via neglect in all cases), and then they die one by one...until there are none. Did I guess? No, of course not. But I enjoyed the mystery.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mary Oliver's new book of poems, Felicity. They're short and simple, and if you blink, you miss them. You have to be present to read them--perhaps more so than many collections. It's really quite a wonderful little book.

This weekend, I started:

I've been dying to know what makes Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety so good, so this weekend, I began reading it.

After reading Barbara Bush's memoir earlier this month, I was reminded that I owned a copy of Millie's Book, the book written by Mrs. Bush's dog, Millie. I thought now would be as good a time as any to read it.

This week, I'll continue with:

I'm sort of stalled in my reading of Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year. The book is divided into four sections based on the season, and I'm lagging in Winter. The structure of the book is sort of monotonous: a few paragraphs of memoir, then a recipe, over and over and over and over. The photos throughout are wonderful, but I have to force myself to pick the book up. A friend at work is reading it also, and she says it gets better.

And I continue my audio of Eighty Days. Goodman is a bit longwinded, and the story could have done with some good editing (it took nearly a third of the book for the two women to finally set off on their journey), but I still look forward to each installment.

What are you settling into this month?



Thursday, January 14, 2016

January 2016 Reading List

Just realized that in the crush of end-of-year and beginning-of-year posts, I forgot to post this. Better late than never, even if I am half-way through the list....

Happy New Year!
 The madness of December falls away. A fresh, clean slate awaits!
Plus, I can read all the books I've been saving for my 2016 challenges.
Here's what's on the list this month:

This not only fills the chunkster autobiography challenge, but also fills the books about presidents and first ladies challenge. I've been dying to tuck into this for months. I love a wise, straight-talking, witty woman, and no one fits that bill better than Barbara Bush.
I decided my winter reading should include several fiction choices to ward off the winter blues. I hoped stories would pull me in and take me away from the cold, wet, gloomy days of a northern January. I chose Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, considered one of her best mysteries.
I'll also read Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety. I know next to nothing about this book other than everyone who reads it likes it.

To reach my goal of reading 1,000 poems this year, I know I'll have to keep on it, so I'm beginning the year with Mary Oliver's new Felicity, which will likely win my vote for "best book cover" this year. 
And since In the Heart of the Sea is now a major motion picture, I decided to read the book version. I figured dull ole January needed an adventure story.


One of the books I've been looking most forward to reading soon is Ruth Reichl's memoir/cookbook My Kitchen Year. I'll read anything Reichl puts out, but I'm especially looking forward to this one.
And for a bit of fun, I'm reading (yes, for the first time) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from the Chronicles of Narnia series.

For my audiobook, I chose Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days. More adventure for January!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Catching up on Christmas Break

So. We're back. After being off work for two weeks, getting up at 5:40 AM last Monday morning was a tad rough, but the adjustment back to work has been otherwise smooth.
Over break, I did the usual Christmas stuff: tracked the last of my online purchases, hoping they'd make it here by Christmas Eve, wrapped piles and piles of presents, watched Christmas movies, etc. We had my stepson, daughter-in-law, grandson, and my stepson's mom over Christmas Eve as usual. We ordered pizza from Godfather's (it's a Butler thing--my husband used to manage a Godfather's in Nebraska), and generally had one of the best Christmases together we've ever had. I got to take loads of photos, everyone enjoyed their presents, and we had a nice time playing, talking, and eating together.
After everyone left, my husband and I opened our presents to each other (awkward to do when my husband's ex is over), and we both loved everything the other choose. I got three Life Is Good shirts as well as a sweatshirt, a couple red Pioneer Woman colanders, Erin Bate's Christmas CD, as stuffed Dachshund who's wearing a sweater and stocking cap (I love a good Doxie), and other miscellaneous treasures.
Christmas Day we headed to my mother's to have a quiet day with my brothers, nephews, and the cats.
And, of course, I read to my heart's content. I finished six books over break, five in 2015 and one in the new year. So I thought I'd give a little wrap-up here so they don't get completely lost in the shuffle. 
Leah Remini's Troublemaker is about her life in Hollywood (on TV, mostly) and in Scientology, which she eventually left. It's sort of a dark book, and she does swear a great deal. (She's much more like her "The King of Queens" character than I'd anticipated.) If you're looking for a dishy book on Scientology and Tom Cruise, this is for you.
Caroline Kennedy edited a book of poems that her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had loved best. It's a good collection of (mostly) American poetry, including poets from Robert Frost to Langston Hughes. I listened to the audio which was well-presented.
I had both of William Alexander's previous books, The $64 Tomato and 52 Loaves, but I've yet to read either of them. I'd added his newest, Flirting with French, to my 2016 book list, but ended up reading it early. It was a good book about learning French as well as language acquisition in general. I enjoyed the book, but I also thought it lacked direction. Most of these "project" books have a culminating event, but this one really didn't, so there was little to look forward to. Still, it was well-written.
Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project is one of my all-time favorite books. I was dying to re-read it this year, and the end of the year was a great time to do so. Rubin offers a good mix of research and application and is forthright about what worked and what didn't. She's oftentimes almost humorously practical, but her honesty makes her easy to relate to. If you're looking for a book to help you make/keep your new year's resolutions, try her books. 
I love The Pioneer Woman's recipes. I also love her show. I love her photography. I also adore her cheerfulness. I've enjoyed almost every recipe I've tried from her site and books. This one, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime, is no exception. I especially enjoyed the chapter on freezer meals where she presents easy-to-freeze recipes that can be used in multiple ways. There are a number of meatless options, and she uses a wide range of ingredients, but her food is never too weird like so many cookbooks these days. It's a hefty cookbook, with lots of things to try. I recommend it especially for families looking for new favorites.
I finished a re-read (audio) of another of my favorite books of all time, Coop, and this became my first book finished in 2016. I sincerely adore every word of this book. It's like Perry is describing my childhood and talking about my people. The book is about Perry's life as a farm boy, and now farm owner, who's trying to raise pigs, chickens, and two little girls. It's a great family book with Christian values and lots of humor.
And on to 2016!

Over break I finished my December book list early, so I was able to tuck into Barbara Bush: A Memoir. I've been dying to start it for months. It's a long book (about 550 pages) and a comprehensive account of her days as the Vice President's wife, then President's wife (as well as a bit on her early years and raising her children). It really is a wonderful book. Mrs. Bush comes across as generous, friendly, and witty. I recommend it highly.

This week, I began In the Heart of the Sea, about an 1800s whaleship tragedy, which is now a movie. I'm not terribly far into the book, but it's already action-packed. It's not necessarily my favorite subject, and I'm biased about any ship tragedy since reading the fabulous In the Kingdom of Ice, but I love reading about real-life adventure-tragedies for the writing alone.

I'm listening to another adventure story, Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days, about Lizzie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's race around the world in 80 days or less. It's a little slow-going at first, but now that the two women are on their way--one going west, one going east--it's really quite arresting. The book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I think I made a good decision choosing the audio version for this one.

I also finally got a chance to begin Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year about the year following the loss of her job when Gourmet magazine folded. It's full of recipes, but also part memoir. I have to admit I'll likely never try any of the recipes, but I'll read anything Reichl writes, esp. after last year's reading of Garlic and Sapphires, which I adored. Also, the photos throughout the book are gorgeous.

This weekend I finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, because it needed to be back at the library tomorrow. I admit, I had to force myself to pick it up each time, but when I did, I invariably got into it. And I ended up liking it fine, though I don't think it will ever be a favorite.

Whew! So that's an update of what I've been up to.

What are you all reading?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Reading & Blogging Goals

I’ve been working on these goals for months. I’m strange that way. It’s hard to get the correct balance of challenge and breadth and realistic-ness, but I think I’ve done it. This year, I plan to focus on reading classics and other books that are 30 years old or older (apparently, this is the barometer in some circles of "worthy reads"). Also, I’d like to read more from the library—since I work at one. And since I’ve rekindled my love of poetry and feel kind of lost if I’m not reading poetry pretty much all the time, I’ve put together an ambitious poetry-reading goal. And, since it’s an election year, I’ve created a goal for that too.


1. Finish reading the Bible (Jeremiah through Malachi).
Quite a while ago, I began reading the Bible by reading the Gospels. I more or less sped through the New Testament, but I found the Old Testament rough-going. In 2015 I got back on track and made it through Isaiah, which means I only have 16 books left to read—and most of them are short.   

2. Read Jane Eyre.
I’ve always felt guilty that I’ve not read it, so it’s time to remedy that.

3. Read or listen to Gone with the Wind.
Whew! Can I do it? I own it now on audio (if I can figure out how MP3 CDs work) and as a book, and I haven’t decided how I’ll read it. I think it would be great to listen to it this summer. 

4. Read or listen to Emma.
I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books but Emma.

5. Read Tarzan of the Apes.
This is one of my husband’s favorite books, and I’d like to read it for him.

6. Read Crossing to Safety.
It seems like this book is on everyone’s list of books read and enjoyed. It’s time I figure out what the fuss is about.

7. Read at least 10 books from the library.
I really like to own the books I read, but I also know I often finish a book and know I won’t keep it to reread it. As I get more acquainted with my reading tastes and habits, I’d like to get to the point where I know what to borrow and what to buy. I think these will be mostly children’s books, fiction, and some nonfiction I’m unsure if I’ll enjoy.

8. Read 10 books of 400 pages or more, including two biographies or autobiographies.
Last year I had a strict 400-page minimum, but this year I’m allowing anything from about 390 and up. I have so many options on my list. I know the two bio/autobios will be Barbara Bush: A Memoir and An Autobiography by Agatha Christie.

9. Read 5 children’s classics.
I had a lot of fun catching up on some children’s classics last year, so I’ve put this challenge on the list again. Some possibilities: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Anne of Avonlea, Farmer Boy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The House at Pooh Corner, and Harriet the Spy.

10. Read a book everyone else has.
This is another challenge from last year. I think I’ve decided to read Life of Pi.

11. Read 2 books to fill knowledge gaps.
I’ve decided to read Secrets of Mental Math and 50 Paintings You Should Know.

12. Read 2 books from genres out of my comfort zone.
I’ve decided to read Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal (comics) and The Best Short Stories of O. Henry (short stories).

13. Read 1,000 poems.
This is one of the only challenges I’m a little nervous about. One thousand poems is a lot considering the average single-author collection has less than 50 poems in it, but I have a lot of anthologies and loose poems saved up, so if I’m diligent, I should meet the goal. Tracking this one will be tricky, though!

14. In honor of election year, read 12 books about presidents, first ladies, the White House, presidential families, politics/politicians, American history, etc. (Begins Sept. 2015 and runs through Nov. 2016.)
I decided to begin this challenge last September, when I conceived of it, because the 2016 election was already ramping up. I’ve already read five books toward this goal: Gifted Hands, Killing Reagan, The Residence, Rosemary, and Mornings on Horseback. Some other titles I plan to tackle: Lady Bird and Lyndon, Barbara Bush, Killing Lincoln, Under This Roof, and Dead Presidents (due out in February).

15. Read at least 10 books over 30 years old.
I have a feeling this will be an easy goal, especially since so many of the children’s classics and books from other challenges will count. I really look forward to this challenge. Some possibilities: My Cousin Rachel, Endurance, West with the Night, And Then There Were None, I Captured the Castle, Frankenstein, and The Murder at the Vicarage.

16. Read 10 contemporary novels.
This is truly a challenge, because I often have to force myself to choose fiction, but I’ve compiled a list of books I think I’ll enjoy, among them: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce mystery 2), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Carrying Albert Home, and Delicious!

17. Read 2 “manly” books, not used for any other challenge.
I likely tend toward “girly” books, and I let my “guy” books sit on the shelves. For this challenge, I plan to read In the Heart of the Sea (now a movie) and Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.

18. Read 10 books from my 2015 TBR.
I had this challenge last year, and it was really effective in forcing me to clean up my TBR. I actually look forward to this challenge.

19. Read 5 books I’ve been courting awhile.
You have these lists too, right? Books you think you’d enjoy, but you are a little undecided. I forced myself last fall to make some decisions about those hanger-onners, and then made it a challenge to read some of those I chose. At the top of my list: Philomena, Deep Down Dark, Tiny Beautiful Things, Moonwalking with Einstein, and Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey.

20. Re-read at least 5 books.
One of my favorite parts about last year’s reading was my re-reading. I just loved going back to some of my favorites and revisiting them. There were a bunch I didn’t get to, so I carried them over to this year. Some possibilities: Tender at the Bone, Angela’s Ashes, The Latehomecomer, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

21. Read 10 books published in 2016.
This is one of those challenges I add because I know I’ll do it anyway!

22. Read 5 books from the Goodreads Top 100.*
I read quite a few things off this list last year, and used the list to guide my challenges for this year. I think I’ll finish: The Holy Bible; Jane Eyre; Gone with the Wind; And Then There Were None; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Life of Pi; and Frankenstein.

*The list has likely changed some since I captured it months ago.

23. Re-read a book within 12 months of its first reading.
I’ve always wanted to do this!

I think that will be about 60 books once you take overlap among the challenges into account.




1. Investigate audiobook options (iPod? Kindle?).
I currently listen to CDs on a portable CD player with an extension speaker. It works, but I have to do a lot of recharging, and some CDs are just too quiet to be heard this way. (I listen while in the shower and blow-drying my hair.) I’m not sure how to test an iPod or Kindle for this sort of issue, but I also know audio CDs won’t be around forever.

2. Create a poetry month feature.
This may or may not ever get done, because I can never come up with anything that doesn’t involve possible copyright infringement!

3. Try PicMonkey for blog images and to create a package of monthly images (months, monthly reading lists, monthly wrap ups, Top Ten, etc.).
This may or may not get done because I don’t have a lot of time to devote to this. I created one for December to try it out, but it took me forever. Once done, it will be great, but finding the hours to get it done may never happen.

4. Create a weekly or monthly feature.
I’ve been brainstorming for months (years?) about creating a weekly feature that is “me.” Nothing yet. But I’m going to at least try to answer a bookish question (or something) each week.

5. Do something in honor of election year.
See #14 above.

6. Collapse my blog reviews onto one page.
This has to be done. I know you all can’t find anything the way it is.

7. Memorize a poem.
I think I know which poem it will be, too.

8. Complete a favorite poems anthology.
Sigh. This has been a goal for years. So many questions to answer first.

9. Review books read in a post at the end of each month.
This should have been my #1 goal. I feel terribly guilty for the lack of reviews in 2015. I promise to do better in 2016 by at least writing a very short review of each book read.

10. Interlibrary Loan a book from another campus (or use the public library’s MORE service).
I’ve never used our campus Interlibrary Loan service or the one through the public library, so it’s time to learn how it works and try it out.

11. Read at least 50 picture books.
No sweat!

12. Read 100 books.
If I did it before, I can do it again!