Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Wrap-Up

My Reading

Books read: 19.


The only one I finished this month was The Last Kids on Earth, which my son asked me to buy at his school book sale.  He really enjoyed it.  For a post-apocalyptic zombie story, it was light and funny.  I was a bit uncomfortable with Jack's emphasis on being a unloved foster kid, given my son's history, but he glossed over it.  Three stars.

I didn't really get going on new read-alouds in school, since the break was coming up.  I'll start anew in April.

Mildly Disappointing

Illuminae might not have been a disappointment had it not been built up so much in my mind.  As it is, the thing I came away most impressed with is how much work must have gone into it.  (Reminder: I'm supposed to be most impressed with the STORY itself.)

He Said, She Said is another example of inflated expectations.  Having heard Kwame Alexander speak and having read The Crossover, I expected a transcendent experience.  It's good, but not THAT good.  Still, I'd say I enjoyed it more than Illuminae, overall.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is more of the same.  I've loved some of Neal Gaiman's work, liked some of it, and been left cold by some of it.  I purposely went into this one blind, and, well, I liked it. But I didn't love it, which is what I was hoping for.

I consider myself a fantasy/sci fi fan, but I think I'm also really particular about my imaginary worlds.  


I picked up Not Funny Ha-ha: A Handbook for Something Hard, by Leah Hayes, at the library one day while browsing graphic novels.  It turns out to be a description of what happens when you decide to get an abortion.  It's non polemic, although pro-lifers would argue that any book that accepts the decision to have an abortion is pro-abortion.  I don't really want to open up a can of worms here, so I'll just say that it was intellectually interesting to realize how little I know about what would be entailed, and that the author's use of two fictional characters to follow through the process helped demystify it without boring the reader.

Been There, Done That: Writing Stories from Real Life was a really interesting book to discover this month, when I was writing daily.  Well known YA and MG authors shared a memory they have, then a short story inspired by that memory.  As in any collection, some were better than others, but seeing the variety of ways in which life inspired art was absolutely fascinating.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a memoir about having an earlier memoir adapted into a movie.  Miller describes himself as if he is just some Joe Schmoe schlumping around SE Portland, but as you can tell from my description, this is pretty cerebral stuff.  Where does the line between literal fact and literary truth blur?  What does it mean to "live a better story"?  It's the questions more than the answers that will stick in my mind.

I read three other graphic novels one afternoon.  Hark, A Vagrant! is really a comics collection more than a novel, and although several of the comics are very witty and fun, I prefer some plot.  The Alcoholic is pretty depressing and disturbing, and I'm not sure if where the lines blur between memoir and fiction.  Shoplifter was somewhere in between the other two--light, but with a plot.


Angry Management showcases why we should all adore Chris Crutcher.  These three novellas explore the lives of characters from other novels.  They are painful, hilarious, universal, personal and so goddamn beautiful it hurts.

We Were Here continues my Matt de la Peña obsession.  I bet Crutcher and de la Peña have a lot to talk about.  They grew up tough, but have worked with kids who raised themselves in hell.  Somehow they turn that into amazing works of literature that are full of empathy but devoid of pity.

Stumptown, Vol. 3: The Case of the Kind of Clubs, by Greg Rucka, is another random graphic novel find.  It's a private eye story set in Portland. Our private eye is a returned soldier who plays soccer in her free time.  The case revolves around the Timbers Army, our local soccer club's group of hardcore fans.  It was delightful.  Also features a fair amount of diversity, from her gay friend to her brother with Downs Syndrome to the generally down-and-out people she works with.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Finally read it.  Not nearly as twisty as Gone Girl, but it did have a character I cared about, so I guess it's a wash in terms of that comparison.

Ask the Passengers by A. S. King.  (Asking?)  Reviewed here.  Not my favorite of hers, but still strong.

March, Book One by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell.  Can't believe it took me so long to read this.  The good news is, I won't have to wait to read the next books.  I'm not sure about the audience of the book--it's meant perhaps for younger readers, but I think having some historical context for it makes it really resonate.

Best of:

I wasn't 100% blown away by any books this month, but the best of what I read were Still Life, Touch, and Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

I've been wanting to start Louise Penny's Quebec mystery series for years now and I finally did, and now I want the rest of the series in my hands NOW please and thank you.  There are moments of gorgeous writing, and she does this really interesting thing where she slides in and out of different points of view within the same scene.

Touch was delightfully weird, and also awesomely European.   A tiny bit reminiscent of Levithan's Every Day in its premise, but in a thriller package.

Drowned City is a heartbreaking graphic novel about when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and I think should be required reading.  I love how the author/illustrator lays it all out there, how he uses actual quotes in the dialogue sections, and how the illustrations capture the mood.  

Assorted Stats

Still no one or two star reviews, although now that I think of it, I DNF'ed a book my husband picked up at the library because he thought it looked like my kind of book.  He was right, it totally did.  But it wasn't.

My reading this month bumped up my "public library" stats to over 50% of all books acquired for my reading this year.  I read more books by men this month, but women still dominate.  My percentage of white authors is ever increasing--I need to do something about that for sure.  I did read more adult books this month, as well as more fantasies and more mysteries, although realistic/contemporary fiction still dominates.

My Writing

Well.  About that.  I took part this month in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  Most participants (all?!?) are teachers or former teachers.  Most (all?!?) teach writing or English or language arts or some such thing.  I wrote and posted every day.  Every day!  Part of the challenge is to also comment on a minimum of three blogs daily.  With about 200 participants on any given day, this meant a huge uptick in my numbers of pageviews (over 11,000 altogether now) and comments.  I know both will melt away when the month ends, but I also know I've found a few new blogs to follow, and hope I've gotten some new readers interested in my thoughts as well.

My most viewed post was called After the Birthday Party and shares what was nearly a huge parenting fail.  It also garnered the most comments, although commenting numbers are a little wonky.
I tried my hand at some (formulaic) poetry this month, and a memory written in third person.  It was inspiring, and fun, and I'm so glad I decided (on Feb. 29th) to participate.  Next month I'm doing the A-Z challenge, but I'm going to keep that book focused!  (And it gives Sundays off.  And I've written the first few already, so PHEW.)

I tried to keep up some bookish writing this month also.  Besides the review, I wrote discussion and list posts about the following:

Creating that quiz was a new challenge for myself; I'm not crazy about the format I found, but it was fun to try to make one.  I also experimented a tiny bit with Canva this month. I still can't figure out how to make graphics that show several book covers together.  

And my grand total?  This month I wrote (and published) a record-breaking 45 posts, counting this one.

Forty-five posts!  

That's a lot.  My previous all time high was 22 posts in July, when I am off school the entire month.


SPRING BREAK.  Also, conferences.  And I wrote a bunch.  That's pretty much it.


I did not collect links this month, but here are the blogs I started following during the Slice of Life challenge.


  1. What a great wrap up! I added a few titles to Goodreads. I also appreciate all your stats!

  2. Hey that's me up there! Thanks for the follow, but the pleasure was mine. I loved your reading blogs... I have to tell you, I wrote out a whole paragraph comment and it was deleted. That always happens to me on BlogSpot and Blogger. Makes me crazy! Anyways, I like your assessment of The Girl on the Train. Although I'm digging the movie casting more than I ever did GG... I'm glad you did the SOL challenge. I'm happy to have found your blog.

    1. Argh, I'm sorry about the comment getting eaten! Your support and enthusiasm have made my day repeatedly! Your writing style prods me to maybe take more risks as well; I tend to write pretty plainly.

  3. Wow, you read a lot of books. I felt the same way about The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I liked it, but it wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping. Happy April!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. I think we have rather similar tastes overall. Even when our views don't line up, you usually review books I have read or want to read.

  4. Wow! Forty-five posts is crazy! I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks due to vacation, so now I need to go catch up!! :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. I'm actually impressed that you took some time off, knowing how much you do in the blogosphere usually. I hope you enjoyed the break and come back refreshed and happy!

  5. At Thanksgiving I started playing around with Canva. I think you need to import the pictures (so save them first) and size and space them accordingly with a white or colored background.

  6. Wow you read a lot this month. 19 books & 45 blog posts, all with working and a family. I am impressed! Did not see any books that really caught my eye, but thanks for the wrap-up.

  7. Wow heaps read this month and it was great to hear your thoughts on all of the books! Good to hear there weren't many disappointing read for you this month.


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