Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Things That Get in the Way of Reading

So, I love reading.  I have tons of books I want to read.  I could literally spend every single minute reading and still never read all the books.  

this picture is my heaven

But, life gets in the way.  

Sometimes I get frustrated at the things that take me away from my reading and sometimes I lean into them, realizing that those are the actual parts of my life.  Seems obvious but it's not for me.

What's taking me away from reading?  Here they are, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

The Good

Family.  I have to put down my book and hang out with the kids, listen to their stories, and help them with their homework.  I get to have date night with my husband and look into his eyes instead of reading more pages.  This reason for putting my books aside is the most obvious and best.
doing homework with the kids led me to find this little gem

Dog.  We have a big dog and she needs attention and walks.  Often, I sit on the couch and read while she sits on my feet, keeping them warm.  But, it's important for me to close the book and go walk.  These walks keep me from my books but they also keep me healthy and happy and they are totally worth it.

this girl needs to walk

Writing.  It's hard to sit down and actually write but I always feel better after.  I tell myself "good writers are good readers" and try to skip it in favor of my TBR stack.  But writing is important for my brain and I need space for it.  

The Bad

Cleaning.  Sometimes I ignore it because we all know it will always be there.  However, there are days that we are all out of clean clothes or the dishes have piled up and I have to face the music or we will be eating dinner with our hands.  This is necessary but not wonderful. 

Driving.  This season finds me driving here and there and everywhere.  The driving is exhausting and a means to an end.  I used to listen to books in the car but it got too complicated with kids in tow: they hated my books, I was worried about sexy scenes or bad words, and car time is often the time when the kids WANT to talk.

school pick up lines are my jam

TV.  TV isn't really bad.  But it's not really good or ugly either.  I'll just file it here.  At night I see people posting about reading until late into the night but I just can't hang.  There is nothing I love more than falling asleep with the TV on.  After a long day, when I get into my bed it's only minutes before I am out for the night.  And I just love my shows!

The Ugly

Dealing with teens.  I'm separating this from family.  Because it can be ugly.  Ugly but necessary.  Much of my interaction with my teens requires thought and discussion.  I like to run away and hide from problems and I often run to books.  Instead of picking up a book, I have to force myself to spend hours talking and figuring things out.

this quote was my phone wallpaper for months because I need this reminder.  it's good for littles and bigs

My Phone.  I spend far too much time on my phone these days.  Just checking in on facebook, instagram, and twitter.  And then, what's the weather tomorrow?  Let me check.  Oh, my email too.  Hmm, maybe I need to review my calendar for the next five days to see if I have anything important on the horizon.  Wait, did I respond to that text from my friend...UGH.  I can spend so much time on my phone instead of reading.  This one is ugly because it is unnecessary.  I could just set aside 20 minutes a day to devote to social media but instead I review it many times and then realize I could have been reading instead of watching those insta-stories...

so many books, so little time

What keeps you from reading?  Anything on my list resonate with you?  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thoughts on a Scandal

Yesterday I finished Young Jane Young.  

the fall colors of the cover made it feel seasonally appropriate

I highly recommend it.

Gabrielle Zevin did something magical with this book.  It's an issues book.  It definitely looks at how society views scandal and women and politics.  But it never feels like an issues book.  It feels real and honest.  You are not told what to think, you get to decide.  It was fun to read and inventive.

The story centers on a Monica Lewinsky-like scandal but it's told out of order and from different perspectives.  Aviva is an intern for an up-and-coming congressman and they have an affair.  It comes out and the congressman and Aviva cope in very different ways. 

We live in a world where everything is always up for discussion.  The mistakes people make no longer linger until the end of the news cycle, but are permanently searchable on the internet.  This is a new phenomenon.  Young Jane Young explores the repercussions of such a world.  Is it ok that people are forced to change their names in order to outrun a controversy?  How do I contribute to this situation?  Can it be changed?   These are the big questions I thought about while reading this.

But I also thought about the families at the heart of the novel.  I got to peek into the world of Boca Raton, Florida and see how two Jewish families dealt with the spotlight.  I LOVED reading the voices of Aviva's mother and grandmother.  I want to go to their homes and have a cup of tea right now.  Families and secrets and love were just as big of themes as the other issues and maybe that helped keep the book balanced.  

My favorite quote from this book was "When your mother is worrying about something, it means that you won't have to."  It's one of those lines that is just dripping with truth.  

Have you read this?  Do you want to?

I picked up Anne Bogel's book Reading People and Emily of New Moon to start.  I still have two or three other books going but it makes sense to finish one book and start two, right?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Life with Teens

I have two teens in my house right now.  Teens are all that you've heard and more.  The drama is more.  The funny is more.  The heartache is more.  The joie de vivre is more.  

There are some things about mothering teens that terrify me and keep me up at night.  But, when it comes to books, having teens is so much fun.  They teach me about myself and my own hang ups and we have real conversations about something that's not a major situation.  It's one of the fun parts of being a mom.  

reading a book one of my teens recommended this summer

We live in an age of Harry Potter.  And I love Harry Potter.  I read them each when they were first released and have two complete sets.  I've started collecting the illustrated versions.  Everyone has read them and it's very trendy for your elementary school kid to be toting around a book or two. 

One of my teens did not want to read them.  I kept offering them and asking.  She kept refusing.  I finally stopped asking.  She's seen every movie but says the books just aren't for her.  

It took me a minute, but I came to terms with that and have respected her ability to determine what she likes and doesn't like.  She is teaching me about not finishing books I don't like and being happy with a book that's a guilty pleasure.  

alan bradley books are my favorite fun books

This past summer both of my girls went through a kind of reading slump.  At first, I was like, "Oh my gosh, they will never survive college, they will never read again, something terrible has happened!"  

Then, I realized that I do the same thing when I went through a stressful August.  It's ok because it's temporary.  Sometimes you need to rely on netflix or give your brain a break or do a different hobby for a bit.  They are back to reading this fall and we chat about the books we read and give each other recommendations.  

My second had to read a book for her book club at school and was upset because it dealt with sickness and death.  We had a lovely moment when my first and I were explaining that it can be hard to read books like that but it can also help you and make you stronger and more empathetic.  

Sometimes the world seems to be ending with boys and homework and after school activities.  I don't always agree with fashion choices or word choices.  But, when we need to connect to each other and have a non-hostile conversation, we always come back to books.  

Who do you connect with over book talk?  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tuesday Truthday

Here are some things that are true for me right now...feel free to share your truths in the comments!

1.  I'm reading a book that I can't stand.  I have to read it but I dread it so much.  I put it off and then I have to read three chapters instead of one.  This afternoon, when I read those chapters, I will be grinding my teeth and clapping back at the author in my head the whole time.  👎😠

2.  It's COLD today!  I broke out my fuzzy vest--to wear in my house.  We don't like to turn the heat on until it's necessary.  It may be necessary tonight.

3.  I'm working on humility and grace in my personal life.  I heard grace described as assuming the best about a person/situation.  That is not something that comes naturally to me.

4.  My family is in a busy time and I kind of love it.  I have less anxiety when I am busy.  I fall asleep easier and sleep better when I work hard all day.  Sometimes, though, I could do without all the extra emotional outbursts that this season seems to create in my kids.  

5.  The dog is at daycare today and I feel free.  I love her dearly, don't get me wrong.  But she's not begging me for a walk, chewing a coaster, or putting her nose under my wrist while I type and it feels so lovely.  See you at 6, Ruby!

6.  I ordered books at my local independent bookstore and they are waiting for me.  Why haven't I rushed right over there to pick them up, you ask...see #4.  Also, because of #4 my free time for reading is limited and so bringing more books into this house seems unfair because I probably won't even read them for a while.  First world problem, or what?

7.  We're having pulled pork for dinner and I forgot to put it in the over when I got home from dropping the dog off.  Hopefully I'll remember after this post is done.

8.  This morning, at 4:50am I took the dog out.  It was super dark but the moon was AMAZING and the stars were so bright.  I looked up and it was like a gift, seeing the sky like that.  It made taking Ruby out that early a little easier. 

9.  I got a new planner and this makes me giddy.  

10.  I'm so close to finishing Young Jane Young (40 pages, and they are fast paced pages).  I love this--because I can't wait to pick another book to read.  But I also don't love this--because I'm enjoying the story so much.  Any suggestions for a book I should read next?  

Monday, November 6, 2017

Project: Mommy's Library

I am a bit of an organization freak.  

I love cleaning out and organizing spaces so much and fortunately my family provides many opportunities for this hobby. Having four people rummaging through all parts of my house at any given moment has afforded me countless chances to organize and reorganize.  

I've done the pantry about a million times.  I love getting in there and making it worse before I make it better.  And then, seeing their faces after I'm done, they vow to keep it neat, but we all know that will only last for a week, if I'm lucky.  

The best is cleaning out a kid's room when they're not there.  You get to go through all their treasures and see what's important to them and also all the things they've been hoarding.  You throw out the junk and tidy and straighten and maybe move some furniture and when they get home they are astonished and grateful.**

**Many people I talk to say this might be an invasion of privacy.  They ask if my kids hate it or if I think it may be a bit too presumptuous.  I say no.  My mom did it for me and the feeling of a clean slate is such a good one.  And, I think they're usually happy to get out of the chore.  They'll take a little invasion for the sake of a lot less work.  

Anyway, I decided to start a little project for me.  I've always dreamed of having a library.  We have an office in our house and someday I'd love to have built-in bookshelves lining the walls and cozy chairs in there.  

Books are my joy and buying books makes me so happy.  I write in my books and then they become special to me.  My husband loves books, my kids love books, we have a ton of books.  

is this too much too ask?

Maybe I got a little impatient (built-in bookshelves ain't cheap, ya'll!) and I decided, for the time being, to build a library in the basement.  

Some things you need to know about my basement:  it's not finished, there are tons of toys, boxes, etc, we have found a snake in there, and there is a king size mattress in the middle.  

Sounds ideal, huh?

I'm short on cash for bookshelves so we bought $30 bookshelves at Walmart.  I shoved them up against a wall and piled the books on the mattress.  

Then, I began sorting.  

I'm not organizing picture books.  No, that would be crazy...

I am organizing middle grade, YA, fiction, and nonfiction.  Nothing crazy about that. 😳

isn't it the cutest?

Last year I spent time volunteering in our elementary school media center every week.  It was great and I learned some tricks of the trade.  In my basement library I leave a little extra space on each shelf in case of additions.  Who are we kidding, of course there will be additions.  

I am alphabetizing my author last name in each of my "sections."  

It's a little neurotic (a little) but it's relaxing to me and I love going down there and looking at my progress and then shelving a few more.  

before I started alphabetizing...clearly this is a disaster. 
As I get older--and I'm not that old--I learn to be gentle with myself and love me.  So what if having a weird basement library with perfect organization is's who I am and I'm pretty great. 

Do you have any quirks that you're trying to embrace?  Feel free to share in comments...please share, it will make my little basement story seem less weird.  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

So, what are you reading?

At lunches and coffees and walks in the park, this is the question that all my mom friends and I ask each other.  We are looking for insight into what we're reading as moms but, it's also a springboard to discuss what our kids are reading.  

So, let's pretend that we're sitting in a coffee shop, at a small table, in chairs with no arms.  There are people bustling about and exposed brick, of course.  The rich smell of overpriced coffee is filling the air and Christmas music is playing softly in the background (this is real.  it happened to me this week).  

It's afternoon here and I've already had my fill of coffee so I'm drinking peppermint tea.  I need an afternoon treat, so I don't skimp and go right for the rustic apple torte.  Yum.  You get what you always get in the afternoon.

"So, what are you reading," you ask.  Your eyebrows raised, wondering if I will say a title you're familiar with or something completely new.  

"Young Jane Young," I say.  "It's great.  A book about a woman who is kind of a smaller scale Monica Lewinsky figure.  It looks at the way society views scandal and women and it's really well done.  The pacing is nice and the voices are authentic without being melodramatic.  It's super enjoyable."  

Maybe you've read it and we exchange commentary on it.  Or maybe you pull out your phone and add it to your reading list.

"What else?  What are the kids reading these days?"

"Oh, you know them (😉), they read everything.  My oldest is reading Frankenstein for school.  I don't think I read that until college!  She likes it, though.  I also got her into the Flavia deLuce series so she's got one of those going on the side always."

"My second just read Under a Painted Sky.  I had never heard of it, but she really enjoyed it.  Historical fiction is her jam."

"The third grader is reading the haunted library series and the  Babysitters club graphic novels.  I would have loved those when I was in elementary school."  

"The baby of the family looooooves Creepy Carrots and A Creepy Pair of  Underwear.  I'm trying to get him to read some Frog and Toad but he is resistant because he thinks they are boring."  

"My husband is working on The Essex Serpent, which I wanted to read months ago but didn't get to it.  He likes it but it's taking a while.  I think watching Stranger Things seems more critical at the moment."

We talk about our feelings about Stranger Things and then I ask you...

"So, what are you reading?"

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fall Books

This fall has been pretty good for my reading life so far...and, it's not over yet!

Here are the books I've read (also check me out on goodreads):

The Magician's Lie

I listened to this on audible.  Maybe that was a mistake.  I didn't love the narration and I'm getting really tired of recent releases having a lot of sexy scenes.  This is not my cup of tea, especially when I'm listening to it, without headphones, while making dinner, and my kids wander in.  No me gusta.

Also, it was kind of historical fiction and kind of magical realism, but I don't think it did either of those genres well.  

All that to say, it wasn't for me.  Have you read it?  Leave your thoughts in the comments please!

Turtles All The Way Down

I LOVED this one and didn't expect to.  I haven't been a big fan of Green's work, but he hit his stride with this novel.  In YA, sometimes the teens are just a little too whiney and slightly annoying.  In this book there was the perfect blend of sarcasm, angst, self doubt, self centeredness, and desire to do better that I think made for great teen characters.  They were dimensional and real.  

The synopsis talks about a mystery.  Don't go into this looking for mystery.  It's thin at best.  Be prepared to really enter the world of a few teens and see through their eyes.  Aza, the main character, struggles with OCD and the way Green writes her is raw and real.  

I couldn't stop thinking about this and finished it quick.  Is it on your radar?  What do you think of Green?

The Cruelest Month and A Fatal Grace

These two books are part of my new, happy place reading.  I recently discovered Louise Penny's series of mysteries that take place in Three Pines in Canada.  I finished the third installment and decided to take a break until December.  Pace myself, you know.  

The characters are a delight.  The mysteries are interesting and complex.  I don't love a ton of series, but this one is right up there with the Flavia deLuce mysteries.  

If you're looking for something to read on cold nights with a cup of tea nearby, you gotta look into these books.  Have you read this series?  I wanna hear about it...

Fierce Kingdom

I devoured this book.  There was no way I could put it down.  I'm a book of the month club member and this was a recent selection.  I put it off and then one day, I was like, "Hmmm, this one looks interesting, I like the carousel horses on the cover, let me start this."  After cracking open the book, I lost a day and a half while I read it in EVERY SINGLE SPARE MOMENT.  

A mom and her son are trapped in a zoo while a gunman is wreaking havoc on the place.  This resonated with me on so many levels.  It was terrifying but I could still sleep at night.  One of the things I loved about it was the subtle ways it looked at modern life and, especially, modern parenting.  The judgements we make, the way we do things, and how we make choices are all considered.  

I flew through this and can't wait to find another suspenseful novel like this one.  Do you like suspense?  Do you have any recommendations?

The Cottingley Secret

I read this for my book club.  It was so-so.  The writing was good and the historical bits were interesting.  

In England during the 20's two girls faked some photos of fairies and everyone believed them.  Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got in on the action.  

This novel looks at that story and weaves it into a modern story of a woman trying to get a grip on her life after her beloved grandfather dies.  

Not my favorite, but I definitely got into it and didn't mind picking it up.  Did you know about the fairies?  You should totally google the images.  

Real Friends
This is my only five star fall book so far.  I LOVED this middle grade graphic novel.  My daughter read it and was like, "Mom, you've got to read this."  I ignored it for a while but she kept insisting.  Finally, I read it last week.  

It was like the author got into my head and wrote down all my memories.  I grew up in a big family.  I had trouble with friends.  I doubted myself and felt insecure.  This book could be cathartic for adults or encouraging to kids who are experiencing the joy and pain that comes with friendship.

This is going to be a Christmas gift for all of my daughter's friends.  Have you read any books you're excited to give away?

The Woman on the Orient Express

Another audible book.  I liked the narration of this one a lot.  I listened to it while walking the dog.  

The novel tells a fictionalized version of Agatha Christie's trip on the Orient Express and her visit to Ur.  She meets two women on the train and they are all holding onto secrets that grieve them.  

The story and writing were good and it was fun googling the actual account of Christie's trip.

I read Murder on the Orient Express this summer and am super pumped about the movie that comes out in a few days.  Have you read any Christie?  


So, there you have it.  Those are the books I've finished so far.  Hopefully I get a few more in before winter hits.  

What have you read this fall?