September 2012 Reading Theme Wrap-Up

15 10 2012

This was one of my favorite themes so far.  For the month of September, I asked my friends and family for reading suggestions.  I simply posted the question on Facebook, and within no time at all I had close to 30 suggestions.  Taking out the titles that I had already read, I ended up with a list of 22 titles.  Now, I wasn’t so successful at actually reading the books.  I’ve been pulled away from my themed reading quite a bit in the last few months due to having more reading that I have to do for work.  I only got to three of the suggested titles, but I still had fun doing it, and I enjoyed all three books quite a bit.  Plus, I now have 19 more titles to put on my To Be Read list!

The first suggested title I read was Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.  This was the first book I got to because it was one of the first titles suggested, and it was available through the library as an e-book, so I could start it right away on Labor Day even though the library was closed that day.  Gotta love that technology!  It was a fun read, with lots of references to pop culture.  It takes place in 1999-2000, which was just when I was getting out of college and starting out on my own, so it was fun to relive that time.  There’s an important plot line that has to do with the whole non-event that was Y2K.  I would almost categorize the book as chick lit, because the storyline primarily revolves around romantic relationships.  But, one of the main characters is actually male, so that reminded me a bit of Nick Hornby, too.  Overall, a really great book that I read all in one day.

The next two books I read while on vacation.  I had high hopes that I would get to more books, but vacations are a little different with a toddler than they were in my pre-mommy days.  I placed all the suggested titles in a hat, and my husband selected a few at random.  I think I took five or six books with me, but, oh well!

I switched gears completely from the somewhat light and fluffy Attachments with the next suggested title, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This fascinating nonfiction title was suggested by one of my former coworkers.  It recounts the story of Olympic track athlete and World War II prisoner of war Louis Zamperini.  After his bomber is shot down over the Pacific, Zamperini is captured by the Japanese and placed in one of their notoriously horrendous military prisons.  Few prisoners even survived the Japanese prisons, and those who did suffered horrible atrocities.  This was a gripping story of survival told by master storyteller Hillenbrand.

After Unbroken the next title drawn from the hat was Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan.  This title was suggested by my best friend Jennifer.  I was excited that one of her titles was chosen because I knew her suggestions would be good.  She knows me well, and even though I’m the librarian, she reads way more adult books than I do.  Prince of Thieves is a crime thriller about bank thieves in Boston in the late nineties.  It was a page-turner for sure.  The way that Hogan tells the story actually had me rooting for one of the thieves rather than the FBI agent trying to catch him.  The book was turned into the movie The Town by Ben Affleck, which I luckily didn’t watch until after reading the book.  Of course, the book was better.  I know they had to change and simplify many things for the movie, but I still spent the whole time saying to my husband, “That’s not what happened in the book.”  I did still enjoy the movie for what it was though.

So, that was it for my suggested reading.  I’m definitely going to work on some of the other titles in the future though!

If you’re interested, here’s the entire list of suggested titles:

  • Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere
  • The River of Doubt by  Candice Millard
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • The Road from Coorain by Jill Conway
  • Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett
  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
  • anything by Susan Shreve

September 2012 Reading Theme

17 09 2012

I’m pretty excited about this month’s theme – suggested titles.  When I originally came up with this theme back at the beginning of the year, I thought I might just pull titles from lists of suggested reading and maybe ask a few friends if they had suggestions.  But as time went on I changed my mind.  I was inspired by my friend Wendy who spent a year reading only books that were suggested by other people.  She had a very detailed plan for the different groups of people she would ask for suggestions – family, friends, and even complete strangers.  To follow her journey, look here.  My method was not so strategic, but it was definitely effective.

A few days ago I asked my friends on Facebook for suggestions, and in no time I had about 25 titles to choose from.  There were two or three that I had already read, but for the most part the titles were ones I had not read before.  So, I can’t wait to see how many of these titles I can get to.  I do have the added reading time of a week of vacation, so I may do pretty well.  This may be my favorite theme yet – yippee!

P.S. If anyone has any other titles they’d like to suggest, I’ll add them to the list!

August 2012 Reading Theme Wrap-Up

3 09 2012

For my reading focus last month I tried to plow through some of my To-Be-Read titles.  Two of the titles, I Do (But I Don’t) by Cara Lockwood and To Have and to Hold by Jane Green were on my physical TBR bookshelf at home.  So, yay!  Two more books that I’ve completed and can now take to the used bookstore!  Plus, I did enjoy reading them both, leftovers from July’s Chick Lit theme.

I was also able to check off another title from my Newbery reading, inching me a little closer to reading all the Newbery winners and honor books.  Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright was a quiet, realistic fiction read.  Well-written and pleasant, if not packed full of action.  The book now reads more as historical fiction, capturing a certain place in time in Depression-era America.  I listened to the audio version read by Joan Allen, which I quite enjoyed.

The bulk of the books came from my new children’s fiction TBR list.  I keep a running list of books stuck on my file cabinet at work of new children’s titles that I want to remember to read.  I generally tackle reading from this list on my lunch breaks, but I also end up taking especially good titles home because I want to finish them more quickly, or I end up listening to some on audio on my work commute.

First I read Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, another somewhat quiet read.  This title is a good, solid realistic fiction title that touches on topics such as domestic abuse, grief, and learning disabilities.  What is especially good about this book is the strength of its main character Foster to deal with the hardships in her life with determination and a love of cooking.  Reading about her yummy baking always managed to make my mouth water!

I listened to the audio version of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath.  This book is funny and full of clever writing, and I did like it.  It reminded me of Roald Dahl, with its talking animals and somewhat clueless adult characters, but I did often wonder if much of the humor was intended more for an adult audience than children.

I absolutely adored Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm, the sequel to Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf.  Like the first book, the entire story is told through the main character Ginny’s  “stuff” – emails, notes, pictures, receipts, and much more.  It’s such an inventive way to tell a story and really fun to read.  After I zipped through the first reading of the book, I went back to really spend time looking at each page more closely to find what I might have missed.

Last, but not least, I read Wildwood by Colin Meloy.  I’ve been wanting to read this one since I first read reviews of it, but its length made me put in on the backburner.  Finally, due to a road trip to visit family, I had the time to invest in it.  It’s another title to add to the list of great fantasy for young readers.  Meloy has created a new, fantastical world and filled it with memorable human and animal characters.  The book is full of action and ends with a huge battle that decides the fate of Wildwood.

One added goal for August was to start using Goodreads.  I did create a profile, and I’ve been using it to track my reading.  I still want to play around with it a bit more, but so far I do like it.  I think it will be a nice way to digitally keep track of both what I have read and what I want to read.  I’m not quite ready yet to get rid of my notebooks, but I might get there someday.

Great progress in August!  On to the next theme!

August 2012 Reading Theme

14 08 2012

For the month of August, I’m tackling my To Be Read pile – both the physical stack on my bookshelf and the long list of books I have written down in a notebook.  The stack of books on the bookshelf is only a very, very small portion of the books I own that I’ve been waiting to read.  But we’re still in transition between our former home and something more permanent here in Knoxville, so I only have a few books waiting to be read on the book shelf right now.  Everything else is in storage.

As for the notebook, well, there are literally hundreds of titles in there.  The notebook is a blank journal where I’ve written down titles over the years that I’d like to eventually read.  I have several award lists in there, as well as some “Best of” lists.  I also write down promising titles as I come across reviews or have them suggested to me.  I don’t think I’ll ever run out of titles on the list – I add them much more quickly than I check them off.  There is something so satisfying about marking out a title once I’ve read it though.  Which is why I think I’ve been hesitant to fully embrace one of the virtual bookshelves available.  I don’t even know if my Shelfari account still exists I stopped using it so long ago.  I did recently sign up for Goodreads though, and I think I’m going to give it a try.  With our move, I’ve really been trying to downsize and declutter, so getting my list online might be nice.  Plus, I think I would enjoy the social aspect of it – or maybe I’ll just be totally overwhelmed by all the “suggestions”!  We’ll see…

Here’s to tackling a few more titles this month!

July 2012 Theme Wrap-Up

12 08 2012

Well, I managed to read quite a bit last month due to work responsibilities – programs and book lists.  If you’re wondering about the abundance of Magic Tree House titles on my July Books of the Month list, I read extensively from this beginning chapter book series last month because we recently hosted a Magic Tree House party in the Children’s Room to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series.  I was also asked to put together a list of “back to school” titles for a piece on the local news, so I had to zip through a few books when deciding what to include on that list.  I hope to do posts on both the Magic Tree House party and back to school books soon.

Unfortunately,  I only managed to read a few chick lit titles for my July reading theme.  That’s okay though.  I enjoyed all three I managed to get to.  First I read Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes.  The focus of the book alternates between three different characters throughout.  I think because of the split focus it took me a little while to get into the book.  Just as I would start to get into one character’s experience, it would jump to another.  Eventually I really got into all of the characters’ stories and really enjoyed the book.  I had never read Irish author Keyes’ books before, and I’d like to read more.  Next I read the latest book from Sophie Kinsella, I’ve Got Your Number.  I was sucked into this one immediately.  Even though the final romantic coupling was a bit predictable, it was so much fun getting to that conclusion.  Last, I read I Do (But I Don’t) by Cara Lockwood (which I actually finished up early this month).  This one was slightly fluffier than the other two, but still really fun.  The plot is propelled by one misunderstanding after another, which grew tedious at times (I wanted to say to the characters, “Why don’t you just talk to each other?”), but that doesn’t mean I was able to put the book down!

So, a nice sampling of Irish, British, and American chick lit in July.  I wish I had been able to fit in more, but I’m glad I got to read what I did!

July 2012 Reading Theme

15 07 2012

Continuing on the lighter side of things for the summer, this month’s reading theme is “Chick Lit”.  Yes, I know some people find that term a bit derogatory, but it does get the idea across.  If you’d like, I’ll say that I’m reading fun novels that focus on women’s relationships and experiences.  I’m especially a fan of the British and Irish authors of this genre – Anna Maxted, Sophie Kinsella, Cecilia Ahern.  I’m looking forward to another month of light summer reads!

June 2012 Theme Wrap-Up

4 07 2012

I love, love, love the format of graphic novels.  Every genre of literature is available in graphic novel format, and with its combination of text and visual art, it’s such an interesting way to tell a story.  Of course humor quickly comes to mind when you think of graphic novels because of the comparison with comics.  Several of the children’s titles I read definitely fit into the humor category – the Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye and Flying Beaver Brothers series, for instance.  One title, Sidekicks, fit into both humor and the other well-known graphic novel genre – superheroes.  On the other end of the spectrum, graphic novels also lend themselves really well to horror.  I was so excited to finally dive into The Walking Dead books since I’m such a fan of the TV show.  Now that I’ve read further ahead in the story than the show has moved, I’m even more eager to see where the show goes when it returns in the fall.

Telling a true story through the graphic novel form can be incredibly powerful as well.  I read several biographies and memoirs over the course of the month that were quite moving.  Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness delves into the iconic singer’s dark side.  In Good Eggs, the author chronicles her fertility issues, while the author behind Smile details her adolescent woes with extreme orthodontia.  The Photographer and Vietnamerica both deal with countries at war, Afghanistan and Vietnam, respectively.  In Around the World, author and illustrator Matt Phelan covers the journeys of three historical figures as they traveled around the world using a variety of modes of travel.

I would also highly recommend the two collections that I read, Trickster and Nursery Rhyme Comics, because they allow the reader to sample a wide variety of illustration styles from some of the best artists around today.

Let’s see, what have I not covered yet…  The Exile totally made me want to finish Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series – so fun to see the artist’s interpretation of such well-loved characters.  I loved Level Up almost as much as Yang’s American Born Chinese – great ending that really brings the whole story together.  Ghostopolis provides such an imaginative look at the afterlife, both funny and touching at the same time.  Meanwhile could keep a child busy for hours with its Choose Your Own Adventure style.  Zita the Spacegirl was a fun sci-fi tale of friendship centered around a brave, clever heroine.  There wasn’t a single graphic novel on the list that I wouldn’t recommend!