Thursday, June 30, 2016

June in Review

My Reading

Books read: 13, but only because I'm counting all five volumes of the graphic novel/comics series Saga.  I expect my reading pace to pick up now that school is out.  


I finished reading The Girl I Used to Be to my seventh grade class that was crazy for read-alouds all year.  We all really liked it, but I'm afraid that the real-life premise was more engaging than the fictional resolution.

I'm also getting back into reading The Prisoner of Azkaban out loud with my kids.  

This is exactly what we look like when reading aloud.  Minus the sheep.  And I have two kids.  Who are 10 and 12.  And I have terrible posture.  And wear yoga pants with stained t-shirts.  But it's the general idea, for sure.  

Mildly Disappointing

I didn't know a lot about Relish: My Life in the Kitchen going in, but it was just kind of meh for me.  Not bad or anything.  I am pretty sure that if I were a foodie, I'd love it.  Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman had sections that were terrific, but the last half or so of the book got dull.  I'm not going to be renewing my Book of the Month Club subscription, because I really don't feel a need to own books that I can't share in my classroom, and I liked the first book they sent me far less than Shrill.  


 I started reading e-books on Riveted and flew through both Play me Backwards and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour.   They were both fun reads, pretty light without being dumb.


Saga (volumes 1-5) is a great time.  It's full of all sorts of stuff, from sex, which always kind of startles me in graphic novels, to explorations of colonialism and militarism, to family interconnections and interracial relationships (between a winged being and a horned being).  Can't wait for volume six!


The Living, by Matt de la Peña, is another book that balances sci fi adventure with human relationships and commentary about race and class in our society.  I just love the voices of de la Peña's teens, who sound like the actual teens I work with.  The Porcupine of Truth balances humor, heart, and social commentary really well also.  I guess that's kind of my thing.  

Wow, wow, wow!

Because You'll Never Meet Me is crazy inventive.  It's an epistolary novel, and the letters sent between the angry and pompous German boy and the optimistic and lovelorn American boy capture their differences beautifully.  It veers from unlikely-contemporary to straight up sci-fi in a way that's a little jarring, but otherwise I loved it.  

Assorted Stats

My reading of authors of color has increased to 25%.  I've read 36 books so far this year in which major characters were people of color, 16 in which major characters identified as GLBQT, 17 books in which major characters had mental illness, and 23 in which major characters lived in poverty.  The last one is subjective, of course, but the way I log it is if the character's actions are seriously driven or constrained by financial worries, then it counts.

My Writing

Did I mention I went to a writing retreat?  I may have, a few hundred times or so.  It wasn't a book blogging thing; most of us were working on creative nonfiction.  I got some work done that I was happy with, until I heard what everyone else had written, anyway.

This is my 15th post this month, fairly average for me.  I almost didn't do any TTT posts, because there were a lot about anticipated and favorite 2016 releases, and my reading doesn't really focus on the very newest releases.  Instead, I tried out a really interesting Diverse Books Tag and a fun Netflix and Books Tag.   But when I saw that yesterday's Freebie topic coincided with my first blogoversary, I was inspired to start off several days of celebrating with a TTT post about what I've gained and learned from this past year of blogging.   Stay tuned for the rest of the celebration posts this week, with a giveaway on Saturday!

I wrote a few posts that were about interacting with the blogging community.  I asked you to help me choose which books to bring home from my classroom library to read over the summer, then I shared the results.  I hosted my very first Rafflecopter/Giveaway, creating the scavenger hunt for the May edition of this monthly wrap-up round-up that Nicole hosts at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.  And I announced that I'm joining the Summer Commenting Challenge for July.

I posted one discussion post, about the format people prefer to read in, and one themed review post, about road trip books I've read recently.  The rest of my posts were Sunday Posts.

Not surprisingly, the most popular post was the May wrap-up (since the giveaway pushes people to at least skim those!), and the one with the most comments was the discussion post.


June is about three things: winding up the school year, celebrating birthdays, and transitioning into summer vacation.  This year, it was also about going on the writing retreat.  The end of the school year was, predictably, chaotic, fun, stressful, and all the other things that it usually is.  I'm changing rooms this year, so there was a lot of work to do in wrapping things up.  
Treats from students
Painfully accurate whiteboard graffiti

My son's birthday is early in the month, and my sisters and newphew have birthdays a week apart, and father's day falls in the middle of that.  My son took some friends to the local amusement park, but the other celebrations kind of slipped past me.  


Plus, yes, we were bottling wine, which involves several days of work as well as many more days of planning and wrapping up.  

My sister and my winemaker fill bottles.

You don't have to be old enough to drink in order to work the corker.

My friend brought her kids to play with my kids at the winery we were borrowing.

I feel like summer is off to a good start.  We've picked raspberries, made slime, laid out under the stars, used our fire pit for the first time in six years of owning it, and read in the hammock.  So far, so good!  


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ten Posts I'm Proud Of

I find myself worrying that the candle will set the balloon string on fire.

This is Part 2 of my Blogoversary Week posts.  

In my first year of blogging, I published 231 posts, which means I posted on 63% of the days.  Considering I was hoping to blog twice a week, I'm pretty dang happy with that.  Granted, the SOL challenge in March (blogging every single day) upped my stats, but overall, I think I was able to carve out enough time to blog without letting it take over my life.

My blog is not a review blog.  I write some reviews, but only if I finish a book full of thoughts I want to share.  Otherwise, writing a review feels like a chore.  A lot of my writing is personal response and attempts to initiate discussions.  I reflect on my reading life (and, frequently, my teaching life) and share stories from my decades of bookishness.

I tend to ramble.

One thing I've loved about this year of blogging is experimenting with different forms, finding out what works for me, and being inspired by challenges, link-ups, and my reading.  The following posts may or may not be any "better" than the other posts, but they are ones that were extremely engaging to write, and/or that pushed me to really think about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

Ten Posts I'm Proud Of

Only there are more than ten, because I cheated and grouped similar posts together.  My list; my rules.

  • Lifesavers is my most viewed post.  (I won't tell you how many views it got, because it's a little embarrassing how small my "biggest" is.  Okay fine, 136 views.)  It got that many hits because it was linked up at Modern Mrs. Darcy's blog, when she asked her readers to share what was "saving their lives" during the February doldrums.  
  • Adoration of My Library was a ton of fun to put together, and garnered an invitation to an behind-the-scenes tour that we have yet to take them up on.  #SummerGoals!
  • I did a TTT post on bookish memories that was also a good time.  
  • The geek teacher in me loved putting together British Mysteries 101 and Russia/USSR 101 for additional TTT posts.  
  • In September, new to my position as a reading teacher, I wrote two posts about Banned Book Week and discussing banned books with my students.  
  • I wrote about being One of Those People who pulls out a book in social situations.
  • I did a two-part series on Choosing to Read Books in a Digital Age.  Because of my upbringing and deeply ingrained prejudices around screen use, I really struggle with accepting how big of a role screens play in my life, so I wanted to explore that a little.  And yet, of course there are things I love about screens as well.
  • I usually skip review posts as a reader, and I don't write very many as a blogger.  The reviews I like are less summary-and-recommendation and more analysis-of-themes or personal-connections.  So it's obvious that the review posts I'm happiest with are ones that explore connections between several books, such as Toxic SiblingsApparently Small Towns Suck, and Apparently Road Trips are Life Changing.  
  • I really enjoyed participating in Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life challenge in March.  Writing daily was good discipline, and stretching beyond the borders of book blogging was also good for me.  Mid-way through, I put together a found poem about the experience based on what I'd written so far.
  • I crashed-and-burned on April's A-Z Blogging Challenge, but one of the last posts I got to was M, for Multiple Points of View.  I really enjoyed pulling together books to go in this category and reflecting on what did and didn't work for me.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sneaking in Another Summer Reading Binge

This is just a quick post to say that I just found out about the High Summer Read-a-Thon, hosted by Seasons of Reading, which takes place the week after the Make-Me-Read-It Read-a-Thon.  Or in case you're not keeping close track of my schedule, July 18-24th.

 I have a whole slew* of YA books I brought home from my classroom library to read, so I'm hoping to dedicate those two weeks to getting through the bulk of them.  Especially since the first week we will be at the beach with my husband's extended family for a reunion, which may or may not mean I have zero time for reading.

Besides, how can you not love a read-a-thon that list Guidelines because "I hate rules and I'm not overly stuffy about stuff."

* A slew = 25, I believe.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ten Things After One Year

What a lucky coincidence that this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is a freebie.  Today is the first anniversary of my blog, so I'm going to take this opportunity to launch my celebration with a few top tens that reflect back on my first year of doing this.  I had a huge long post put together with all of it, but decided it might be more palatable broken into chunks sliced up like a birthday cake.

Mmm, cake!  Actually, I think I'm going to make myself a cake today to celebrate!

Here's the agenda:

Today: Ten Experiences I Owe to Blogging
Tomorrow: Ten Posts I'm Proud of
Thursday: June wrap-up
Friday: My Ten (plus four) Favorite Books I Read This Year
Saturday: Ten Thank Yous and a Thank You Raffle

Ready to start the party?

Ten Experiences I Owe To Blogging

  • Using Canva to design graphics.  I have no Photoshop experience, know nothing about HTML, and was happy for a long time that I'd figured out how to save book covers from Goodreads then upload them onto the blog.  My Canva game is still shaky, but I can put words on a picture and make wonky collages, both of which make me disproportionally pleased with myself. 
  • Signing up for a writer's retreat.  There is no way I would have been able to justify this retreat to myself if I hadn't spent the previous ten months writing on a regular basis.  
  • Judging the YA category for the CYBILS awards.  This was a major thrill.  First, because it got me to read six really great books published in 2015.  Next, because it gave me a great group of people to discuss and analyze those books with.  And of course, because it's kind of a kick to be an official judge.  Made me feel like a Newbery Committee member.  
  • Designing a poll and a scavenger hunt.  You think I was proud of myself for figuring out Canva?  When I worked out how to make a swipe left/swipe right poll, I felt like I had conquered the 21st century.  (It was actually super easy--shhh.)  The scavenger hunt I put together for last month's Wrap-Up Round-Up Rafflecopter giveaway was a lot more challenging, but the satisfaction of finally getting it right (two days AFTER it went live) was enormous.
  • Inspiring my teaching.  It's hard for me to separate this blog from the new position I had this year as a reading teacher.  The lines of what was inspiring what became very blurred.  I went to author events both at conferences and with my students--but would I have pushed as hard to get to those events if I weren't part of this community?  Heck, would I have KNOWN about these events?  Doubtful.  I participated in the Slice of Life challenge.  I learned about books for my classroom library.  I read inspiring thoughts of teacher-reader-bloggers.  I thought hard about how to leverage my reading life to improve my students' reading lives.  
  • Participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  This was such a treat for me.  You don't even know.  I went into it expecting that my family wouldn't really cooperate and that I'd get maybe 12 hours of reading in 16 hours of participation.  I ended up with great snacks, great family support, and round-the-clock participation. So fun.
  • Dipping my toes into the Twitter pool.  I still don't tweet often, still haven't participated in a Twitter Chat, still don't get how to organize my Twitter Feed--BUT.  I did start following some really interesting people, and I did get some good information from Tweets I saw, and I did have a couple of fan-girl thrills when authors responded to me.  I'm 46, people.  This is challenging.  But who doesn't love a challenge?
  • Two-way communication with other bloggers.  I have had two blogs before this.  The first one was a Xanga blog that I used to record and share our experiences when my husband and I spent a year overseas.  It was just for family and friends.  The second was a blog I kept the first two years my kids were home, dealing with my challenges, excitement, and occasional misery as the adoptive parents of two school-aged kids.  That one did get a few comments from the outside world, and I read a bunch of adoption blogs back then too, and was a frequent commenter on some.  But I didn't really feel like any of the bloggers I loved had any idea who I was.  They were getting dozens of comments per post; why would my occasional comments stand out?  But now, although I'm pretty sure Cait couldn't pick me out of a crowd, I feel like I "know" a number of the bloggers whose blogs I read frequently.  It's a little weird to be trying to teach my kids about internet safety and then be all, "Oooh, I just got a package from Nicole!", but it's worth it for sure.
  • Giving me the book knowledge that helped me get a Book Love Foundation grant.  In March of 2015, I applied for this fantastic grant.  I wasn't too shocked to not get it, because the application form asked a bunch of questions that weren't applicable.  My Twitter handle?  My blog?  Huh?  Wasn't it enough to be a bookworm and a teacher?  I started poking around the internet to figure out more about these things, and quickly discovered book blogs.  A few months later, when I realized I kept leaving multi-paragraph comments, I decided--maybe I need my own forum.  In a gorgeously circular fashion, when I re-applied for the grant this year, AND GOT IT, Penny Kittle told me that part of what they liked was my obviously extensive knowledge about the latest YA and MG books.  Well, where do you think I got all this?  From this lovely community!  So, thanks for those 500 books, y'all.
  • Strengthening my voice.  I am not happy with every single aspect of my life.  There are some weird politics at work, I have one huge parenting issue I can't seem to get on top of, I am fifty pounds heavier than I was three years ago.  (I was going to add, "And my house is always a mess," but I just read this awesome thing Jane Smiley said, that she LIKED being surrounded by clutter, because she knew she could either have a clean house, or write, and clutter reminded her that she always chose to write.)  All that being said, I have been more deeply content this year, more joyful even, because of the writing I do here, the reading I do online and of books, the way my work life enriches and is enriched by my creative life.  I can't say this blog has saved my life, because things weren't that desperate.  But it has let me reclaim some part of myself that I didn't realize was missing.  *wipes tears*  


Diverse Books as a Reflection of and Entrance to Real Life

I've been collecting links to articles and blog posts about the importance of diverse voices in literature, lists of POC authors, discussions about what "diverse books" even means, etc.  As the list gets longer and longer, I decided I'd best share it before it gets completely out of control.

The focus of this collection is ethnic and racial diversity, with a small nod to LGBQT representation as well.  Later this summer I'm going to have a huge mental illness post or two as part of the Shattering Stigmas event.

There is always more to discover, and as your basic white, cis-gendered, straight, middle class suburban mom, I know I have to actively seek out different perspectives and keep reminding myself not to--is "white-splain" a thing?  I'm sure it's a thing.  A thing that I should avoid doing.

Discussions around #WNDB issues

I've written before about the windows and mirrors metaphor.  Growing up, a lot of what I read was a mirror--books about other white kids.  Of course, even those books were types of windows, as I got to live in New York City, or nineteenth century London, or with divorced parents.  As I continued to grow as a person and as a reader, I added works by Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Amy Tan, Sherman Alexie, Walter Mosley, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez--and I learned something of what it means to live in the US as a non-white person.  I read books by lesbian and gay authors and started to consider a view of sexuality beyond what I'd previously assumed was "normal."  When I got my MAT two decades ago, I remember writing an annotated bibliography of literature that helped shape my cultural  awareness.  The best way to start to see another's perspective is to have friends (plural!) from different backgrounds.  But the next best way is to read widely.  

Lists of Books Featuring Diversity 

As a teacher of mostly Latino students, first and second generation immigrants, I've seen many times the value of literature that offers mirrors for students who do not look like or live like I did as a kid.  When you are growing up in a culture that tells you in ways large and small that there is something not-right about who you are, to see someone who is like you represented on the page is incredibly powerful.  I seek out these voices for my classroom library, keeping in mind that I don't always know what my students need to see mirrored.  Cognitive differences, family structure, religion, sexuality, poverty, unencouraged talents, emotions and experiences they believe to be shameful--the wider the range of experiences and characters available to read about, the more kids who get a chance to recognize themselves in a book.

Some Key Posts from Read Diverse Books

This blog, along with Respiring Thoughts, has really pushed my thinking about what it means to read diverse books.  Written by a male (!) Latino (!!) with a passion for increasing his own understanding of other people as much as encouraging his readers to push themselves in their reading, this is a blog that I always learn something from.  Key posts include:

#Ownvoices is another concept I can really get behind.  Naz's post about white authors needing to stop writing protagonists of color got a bit of discussion about The Help going in the comments.  I never liked the book--it felt patronizing and Great White Savior-ish to me from the get-go.  Framing it this way, this it lacked the authority and power that comes from #ownvoices, really makes sense to me.  My small perspective into this is how frustrated I get with many representations of kids in foster care and adoptive families.  It becomes jarringly obvious to me which writers are writing from lived experience and which are not--even if that experience is not anything like my family's.  I mean, obviously we have to write from other points of view, or memoir would be the only art form available to us.  But the central locus of your narrative better come from a place of personal knowledge if you are writing about contemporary life (or, as suggested in one of the links above, you'd better at least be open to lots of feedback as you write from people who have the lived experience.)  

It's a journey, right?  And it's a journey that includes BOOKS, so in addition to being all serious and important and stuff, it's also a good time.  

In the comments, please leave the titles of books that made you go, "Wow, I'm not the only one!" and books that made you understand a completely new perspective.  And, y'know, your thoughts and responses.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sunday Post #7

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  It's "a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog."

I'm keeping this short and sweet, since the month-end report is coming up.

Reading This Week:

I only read two books this week, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and The Porcupine of Truth.  Both were good, but I thought Porcupine was better.  Porcupine was from the library--I was excited to see it, because it's part of the 2016 Youth Media Awards Challenge that Anne at My Head is Full of Books put together.  Amy & Roger was a free ebook from Riveted's summer celebration, and it was a quick, fun read.  I rarely read ebooks, but these are so accessible (and FREE) that I just clicked on my third of the summer.  

Blogging this week:

I did a bit better at blogging this week, which was encouraging.  I finally finished the very fun Netflix & Books tag, and after reading the two books above, I wrote a post about road trip books.  I also officially signed up for the Summer Comment Challenge for the month of July.  I declared a winner to the May wrap-up round-up scavenger hunt, and had fun picking up a few things for Silvara of Fantasy of the Silver Dragon.  

Life this week:

Far less craziness than previous weeks!  We bottled wine all day Sunday and Monday, we picked berries yesterday, and we got an application in to the county regarding some property we're trying to deal with.  One kid was at tennis camp most days, the other one finally got to make slime, something she'd been petitioning to do for about a month now.  It wasn't exactly a lazy week (as shown by only two books getting read), but it was calmer, which was great.  I also got to spend time with some friends during our bottling blitz, which is definitely the upside to being a small operation that relies on volunteer help.


Apparently, Road Trips are Life Changing

A while back, I wrote a post called Apparently, Small Towns Suck, because I'd just read three books in a short time period that all seemed to illustrate that point.  Last night I finished the second book in a row about road trips, and it was easy to think of the third book I'd read in past months that also followed a similar pattern.  So here we go, with my newly-dubbed Occasional Feature.

Road trips can definitely be a good time.  They can also be memorable, if the number of road trip experiences from my lifetime that crowded into my thoughts as I considered this theme are any indication.  But life-changing?  I guess anything can be life changing under the right circumstances, but I'm pretty sure that the percentage of literary road trips that alter the course of the participants' lives is much higher than that of real life.  Well, since 100% of literary road trips are life changing, it's not even a fair contest.  Why would an author write about a road trip that was merely a way of getting from, say, your sister's house in Iowa to your friend's wedding in Montana, as one I took in 1996 was.

Here, then, are three YA road trip novels, interspersed with a few of my own road trip memories.

Our books:

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid has an interesting structure.  The story is told from the point of view of four different characters around the country, all of whom encounter a girl named Leila as she drives through their towns on a cross-country road trip.  All are strongly affected by their encounter with Leila, and in the fifth section of the book, we finally get inside Leila's head and find out her goal and how much this trip has meant in her life as well.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson shows a guy and girl holding hands on the cover, so yeah, it's road trip romance.  It reminded me of the John Cusack movie from the 1980s, The Sure Thing in that you know from the very start how it's going to end up, but the fun is in getting there with two charming characters.

Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg is not set up to be a romance, since in the first few pages our narrator, Carson meets the stunningly beautiful Aisha--who promptly tells him she's a lesbian.   Still, their roadtrip inevitably leads to true (platonic) love and life changing events.

Messed up people go on road trips

Leila doesn't seem messed up, but when you get to the end of the book and find out her story, then you realize that yes, things are super weird in her life, and hitting the road was her response to that.  Amy starts her road trip with Roger alienated from her friends and her family, and heart broken over her father's recent death.  (Roger has his own hang-ups as well.)  And Carson is an emotionally numb guy who hides behind dumb jokes after a lifetime of absentee parenting, while Aisha just got kicked out of her house after coming out.  So yes.  To be worthy of a road trip, you must be messed up and in need of dealing with the problems you think you're running away from.

On that drive from Iowa to Montana (and on to Oregon, because my sister and brother-in-law were moving out here and couldn't drive their car AND a moving van), we camped one night in Wyoming, outside of Yellowstone.  My friend hadn't camped much, if at all, so I was the expert, setting up the tent and getting the camp stove going.  As we settled in to sleep, she got nervous about rustling sounds nearby.  "Don't worry," I told her, "there aren't any dangerous animals around here.  It's probably just a chipmunk or a bird."  Since I was the expert, this reassured her, and she promptly fell asleep--just as I realized, I wasn't at home on Mt. Hood, but JUST OUTSIDE OF YELLOWSTONE, where there probably WERE all sorts of predators.  So I got to spend the night worrying about the rustling sounds.

You meet interesting people while on road trips.

Let's Get Lost is all about the meeting-of-interesting-people thing.  Leila shows up in the lives of people just when they need her brand of courage and adventure.  She flirts with an amateur mechanic, picks up a runaway hitchhiker, rescues a kid who's prom night has gone all wrong, and winds up traipsing back and forth across the Canadian border with a girl who's trying to attend a wedding.  Amy mainly meets people Roger knows from college, including a girl who gifts her a new wardrobe and the eccentric, wealthy brother of Roger's recently-ex-girlfriend.  And when Carson and Aisha set off on a day trip to find out more about Carson's grandfather's desertion of his family decades earlier, they end up traveling half the country, staying on couches and in guest rooms of sweet elderly couples, not-so-judgemental Mormons, and an aging AIDS patient.  Me, I pretty much just talk to the person I'm traveling with.

When we were dating, my husband and I were on a camping trip/road trip in our own state.  In one small town, we knew there were some mineral hot springs, so we went down to check them out.  The other occupant was a long-haul trucker.  He has since been immortalized in two family jokes.  "It's swim-suit optional, you know," he told us, not quite leering.  Well, yes, and one option is to keep the suit on, right?  Later, he noticed my husband's lazy eye and barked, "You BLIND in that eye?"  

2/3 of all road trips lead through The Loneliest Highway in America, where you will panic about running out of gas, because you had NO IDEA this stretch of Nevada highway even existed.  Also, shoe tree.

Amy and Roger really struggle with this one.  Carson and Aisha are also taken aback to find themselves seeing signs warning that it's 100 miles until the next gas station.

A teacher friend and I took a road trip to Bryce Canyon years ago, then came back through Tahoe and Sonoma.  We were fully prepared to drive the long, lonely Nevada highways, although we joked that you needed a compass to tell which way to head if you'd pulled off the road, since there were no landmarks or landforms to give you a sense of familiarity if you accidentally headed out the wrong way.  Also, we saw the shoe tree.

You go on a road trip with one other person, of the opposite sex.  If you are both heterosexual, you will fall in love.

This is so obvious.  Why else would you go on a road trip?

Well, actually, only one of the books falls firmly into this.  Amy and Roger are inevitable, of course.  Leila travels alone (rebel!) but does meet back up with her lovelorn mechanic eventually.  And Carson and Aisha are not couple material, yet they are definitely male and female, and they definitely cross a divide between acquaintances to people who love each other during the course of their trip.  They even have a fall-asleep-holding-hands scene.  

In college, I helped drive a friend down to northern California at the start of her school year, since my school started later.  On the way back, when it was just her mom and me, the mom asked me if I thought her daughter was gay, because as far as she knew, she hadn't had any boyfriends, and because she was at a women's college.  This doesn't sound that disconcerting now, but nineteen year old me was mortified.  My other great memory from that trip is her mom telling me when we pulled up at my house, "I won't tell your parents how fast you drove if you don't tell my son how much junk food I ate."  Deal!

And of course,

Going on a road trip will change your life.

I can't really tell you too much about this without getting into spoiler territory, but yes, all five of our road-trippers experience epiphanies and growth and all that good stuff.  

I almost got kicked in the face by a pony on an Estonian island during a road trip the year we lived in Riga.  I stopped feeding it dandelions before it was done eating them.  So that's another running joke in the family, that now I DON'T want a pony.  

The verdict

I am glad I read all of these books, and I'm comfortable recommending them to others.  

The Porcupine of Truth is the weightiest of the books, dealing as it does with family secrets, public attitudes about homosexuality, religion, race, alcoholism, etc.  Carson is a very funny and engaging narrator, and I'd give the book a solid 4 stars.  

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is not as fluffy as it could be, and it's not fluffy in a bad way.  Still, it is fluffy.  3 stars.

Let's Get Lost has that interesting structure going for it, and the audacity of a single driver instead of a pair.  4 stars, maybe 3.5.  

(I have no idea why the red "save save save" thing keeps happening at the bottom of my posts.  Sorry about that.)


Comment Challenge--Summer, 2016

I feel like May and June got really busy and I've not had time to spend on blogging, commenting, or even reading.  This is frustrating for me!  So when I heard about the Summer 2016 Comment Challenge, while reading a post on The Literary Feline, I figured it would be a great way to pull myself back into a better pattern of interaction.

Basically, each month this summer, the fine people at FLYLéF and A Kernel of Nonsense are organizing pairs of bloggers who commit to commenting a certain number of times on each other's blogs during that month.  Simple enough, right?  Sadly, I am so disorganized that not only did I miss June, but I'm getting this post up too late to advertise the challenge for July, since the sign-ups are already over.  HOWEVER, if you're interested, you can still sign up for August!

They have 5-10 and 11-20 ranges, so you can commit as much or as little time as you have.  Being a bit nervous my first time out, I've signed up for 5-10 comments.  The purpose here is not to artificially pump up your commenting stats, but to really dive into someone else's blog and build a relationship with that person, so I'm excited to see who I'm paired with.

The August sign-ups open on July 1, so if you're interested, be sure to stop by one of the hosting blogs and get ready to participate!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Netflix and Books

I have been stealing tags lately--I think because the TTT topics haven't really grabbed me, but I want some fun format to work within.  I saw this one on the Novel Ink blog awhile back, and thought it looked like a good time.  I don't watch a ton of TV, so I didn't get all of the references as they were listed.  However, their directions said it was okay to substitute, so I did a lot of that. There are a few left that I actually don't know, but now my favorite shows are all represented.

The Office » Unlikeable character(s)
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon.  
I loved this multiple-point-of-view story.  It starts with a white man shooting a black teen.  Was the boy pulling a gun on him?  Or was he holding a Snickers bar?  Or both?  Some of the people we get to know are definitely unlikeable.  Others grow during the story, and some "good" characters get their weaknesses revealed.  

Friends » Your ship sank or didn’t happen
Sprout by Dale Peck.  
This one is hard to talk about without major spoilers, but I loved this book and hated the way my ship sank.

*Buffy The Vampire Slayer » Best cast of characters/friendships
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.  
I started reading this series while visiting a friend in San Fransisco in the mid 1990s.   Originally serialized in a newspaper, much like a Dickens novel, Maupin's story of young people rooming together at 28 Barbury Lane in the swinging '70s is full of life, humor, politics, and charm.  


The Biggest Loser » Hate that you love or guilty pleasure
Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I adored these books as a child, but find the casual racism disturbing as an adult.  Yes, I get that it's a product of the times.  Doesn't mean I have to like it.  

Supernatural » Long series you loved
Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.
Is five books "long"?  There are some much longer mystery series that I love too, but Shusterman's dystopian world is fascinating and the adventure is non-stop.  

Grey’s Anatomy » All the feels
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.
This one garnered the CYBILS YA prize for 2015.  Mental illness, friendship, romance, cliques, courage, covers a lot!  

*La Femme Nikita » Bad ending
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
"Bad" ending isn't quite the right term, but my middle schoolers all found the ending to be horrifyingly sad, and I don't disagree.  

*Lost » Favorite paranormal/fantasy
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
"Favorite" is another term I am uncomfortable with, but this is my most recent "favorite" fantasy novel.  

*Firefly » Left you wanting more
The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. 
There are two "untitled future books" on Goodreads in this series, and I dearly hope they will someday become reality.  


*Alias » Series that should have ended earlier
Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty
The first book or two were fun, then they got ridiculous.  How many books in a row can you manufacture reasons to keep the lovebirds apart?

*Veronica Mars » Should have had a spin-off
Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness
I love the short stories he wrote set in the same universe, and clearly, clearly there is room for more development of the premise, characters, and world.  

That 70’s Show » Set in a different time period
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
This book, set in the early twentieth century, has all the charm of classics like Anne of Green Gables, but with a modern sensibility that makes it less cringe-worthy (or preachy) than actual classics.

Orange is the New Black » Couldn’t stop reading
Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan
This is one of the first graphic novels I got into, and remains one of the only comic book series I've read.  In the first of ten volumes, Yorick and his pet monkey are the only two males left after a mysterious--something--causes every Y-chromosone carrying being to drop dead.  I stumbled across these randomly at the library, and then came back to check out the rest of the series.

*Master of None » Made you laugh out loud
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Hornby is always good for a laugh, but I remember this one in particular, because I started snort-laughing while reading it during a class's silent reading time, and of course the kids all wanted to know what was so funny.  Since it was a conversation between four strangers who'd all coincidentally gathered on the same rooftop on New Year's Eve to jump off and kill themselves, I was reluctant to explain.  

One Tree Hill » Favorite book boyfriend
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I'm not saying I'd want Sean Kendrick for myself, but oh, is he ever the best book boyfriend for Puck.  (Also, I have zero idea what One Tree Hill is.)    

*Sherlock » Favorite villain
Play Me Backwards by Adam Selzer
This was a hard one for me.  While I love a good anti-hero or conflicted good guy, outright villains only sell well on TV, where the actor's looks and charm can win me over.  Still, having just read a book in which a guy named Stan claims to be (and may actually be) actually Satan--he seemed like a good choice.


Modern Family » Best family or parents
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I really truly loved this book.  And one of the many fine things about it was how loving and wise the two sets of parents were.  SO rare in YA fiction.  

* These are shows I've actually watched in their entirety.