Friday, January 20, 2017

Reading Goals for 2017

Do you set reading goals for yourself at the beginning of a new year? Goodreads makes it easy to set a goal for the number annually, but what about types of books to read? There's a few different online challenges one can take part in, such as the Book Riot "Read Harder Challenge," which inspires you to read different types of books. But I like to be more personal. So here are my reading goals for the year ahead (in no particular order).

1. Read more children's books. 
Anytime I pick up a children's chapter book, I am impressed and delighted. The books have become much more sophisticated since I was their target audience, and I find them to be so fulfilling as well. On my list for this year: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, a book about a little boy and his imaginary friend, a giant cat, and how Crenshaw helps him through a tough time.

2. Read at least 12 YA books this year. 
I order the YA fiction for our library and it always sounds so good! I used to read a lot of it, but this last year I fell short of my goal of at least 12, so this year, I am making it a priority. Top of the list for these is: Exit, Pursued by Bear by E.K. Johnston, a book about how the community reacts in the wake of a teen's sexual assault at cheerleading camp, loosely based on Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale.

3. Maintain my pace reading audiobooks.
I've spoken here before about my audiobook habits, and I kept up a pretty good pace of at least one a month in 2016, so going forward, that's a continued goal. I already have to be in the car, why not listen to something good at the same time? For this, I'm looking forward to Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad, which won a bunch of audiobook awards last year. The book is supposed to be a new take on the massive exodus of slaves from their Southern binds.

4. Branch out my nonfiction reads.
I feel like I need to explore more topics in my nonfiction reading habits, so while this isn't a concrete goal, it's something I'm trying to keep in mind. I read the occasional nonfiction for my book clubs, but less for fun. For this, I'm going to start with Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, a book that discusses the early days of trade, slavery, and the importance of flavor.

5. Get back to reading more comics and graphic novels.
A couple of years ago I was all over this, reading a ton of them, but 2016 was not my best comics year. I really enjoy reading them, and they can be so different from one another. I just need to get back into the habit. Top of the list for this: March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. This is a three-part series of graphic novels detailing Congressman Lewis's experiences as a civil rights activist. The books have had a lot of accolades, and it's time I caught up!

6. Read a new-to-me classic. 
Last year, I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In 2015, I read Persuasion by Jane Austen. I'm hoping I can continue this trend and pick up something new. For 2017, I'm thinking Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, which, believe it or not, I've never read.

7. And finally, my number for the year is 100. 
I've hit this goal in the past, but last year fell a little short. So this year, I'm aiming for it again, in the hope that perhaps I'll surpass it and read over 100 books this year.

What are your reading goals for 2017?


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Books becoming Movies 2017

2017 is sure to be a promising year for movies, especially those inspired by books. Check out which books are being transformed into films in the coming months!

Live By Night by Dennis Lehane 1/13/17
This book takes us back to the Prohibition Era, to the dealings of gangsters, bootleggers, and corrupt cops. Joe is a gangster on the rise in this powerful book. Ben Affleck plays the lead in the film.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron  1/27/17
I'm sure by now you've seen the adorable previews for this film about a dog who is reborn as different dogs over many years. Bailey is a dog who lived a great life with his owner Ethan. When he died, he was reborn as a new dog, and so forth and so on. Throughout the whole story, Bailey is struggling with what his purpose is. It's much more than a dog story, and a good read for anyone who has ever asked themselves what their purpose is. The film stars Dennis Quaid.

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach 2/24/17
An historical fiction novel taking place in 1630s Amsterdam, surrounding a wealthy merchant and his beautiful young wife Sophia. This is in the midst of an obsession with tulips, an exotic new flower at the time. The couple have commissioned a portrait and while the painting is being created, a new passion blooms between Sophia and the artist. The author also wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. This film stars Alicia Vikander and Cara Delevingne.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver 3/3/17
This young adult novel surrounds a high school senior who has a wild day one February that results in her death. Except she wakes up the next morning to relive that day and has a chance to change things, but can she figure it all out? The movie stars Zoey Deutch.

The Shack by William P. Young 3/3/17
This bestselling novel surrounds a man whose daughter was abducted and murdered in a shack in Oregon. Flash forward four years, and he gets a letter he believes is from God directly, inviting him back the shack where she was killed. He goes back, finding something that changes him forever. Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington star in this film.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman 3/31/17
I'm excited to see this adaptation. This non-fiction book tells the story of the zookeepers for the Warsaw Zoo during the Nazi occupation. They did their best to care for the animals they had, and used their access to help save hundreds of people during the war. The film looks beautiful, with live animals and amazing scenery. It stars Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain.

Check back later in the year for more book-to-movie lists!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2016

At the end of the year we reflect upon our previous year's reading and choose our favorites. Curious about what we've loved the last few years? Follow these links (2015-1, 2015-2, 2014, 2013, 2012-1, 2012-2).
What was your favorite read this year?

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
If you’d asked me this question a couple of months ago my answer might have been different. But then I ended up picking up a copy of Neil Gaiman’s 1996 novel Neverwhere. This isn’t just the best book I’ve read this year. It’s the best book I’ve read in about the last ten years. It’s beautifully written with great characters and a compelling story. A regular guy gets in way over his head in the dark places beneath London, ending up in a quest that challenges everything he’s ever thought about himself and the world. Door is one of the most awesome female characters ever, and the story has a lot to say about courage, and tenacity, and the power of friendship in the face of adversity. For added joy, listen to the audiobook version (read by the author himself) and prepare to be carried away.
~John F.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The best book I read in 2016 was Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. I think I may have read it once before as a kid, but I got a new perspective of Montgomery's work after spending time on Prince Edward Island myself earlier this year. Anne is really one of the most charming characters in children's literature and it's no wonder Montgomery's series continues to delight readers of all ages to this day.
~Meredith T.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I read a lot of good books this year, but the one that will likely stick with me longer than any other is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which for reasons unknown somehow eluded me until this year. It is the heartrending tale of Amir, who seeks redemption for regrettable actions taken after the turmoil of Soviet invasion and Taliban rule disrupts his childhood in Afghanistan. What I appreciated most is the portrait the book paints of the Afghani people and their culture, which too often is sidelined by discussions of terrorism and the Taliban.
~Ariel J.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris 
To anyone on the outside, Jack and Grace have the perfect marriage. Jack is handsome and wealthy and Grace is a homemaker with beautiful clothes and a knack for throwing lavish dinner parties. But, why does Grace always cancel plans with friends at the last minute? Why is she never seen outside the house without Jack by her side? Is this really the perfect marriage, or is the relationship between Jack and Grace very different behind closed doors? Behind Closed Doors was not only the best book I read in 2016, it was also the scariest despite having very little violence. I recommend this for anyone looking for a true psychological thriller that will keep you reading way past your bedtime.
~Ragan S.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
So you've heard about the life of Hamilton, but how about Notorious RBG? My favorite book of this year was Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was one of my earliest reads of the year, and quite frankly everything kind of seemed like a letdown after it. Inspired by the tumblr blog of the same name, Notorious RBG celebrates the life and career of The Queen Supreme, Justice Ginsberg. She never took no for an answer and spent her whole life fighting for gender equality and civil rights while being an amazing mother and devoted wife. After finishing the book I felt as though I haven't accomplished enough as a woman and was letting Justice Ginsberg down. Clearly I needed to go fight for gender equality while getting into shape. ​By far the best parts of the book were the annotated excerpts of her world famous dissents. After all, you can't spell truth without Ruth!
~Marilyn W.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Year in Books--Historical Fiction

When I went to add my most recent read to my Goodreads account the other day, they presented me with the option of seeing "my year in books," which presented the 72 books I've logged into Goodreads this year. (That number is woefully small to me, but it's been a busy year!) Anyway, looking through this list, I realized I'd read a lot of historical fiction this year, more so than usual. So I decided to share my favorites of those books with you (in no particular order).

This book of the Lindbergh family, in particular Anne Lindbergh, covers their courtship, travels, marriage, and the notorious role they played in history. While heavy with historical facts, the book is also quite easy to connect to, humanizing these iconic historical figures. I hadn't known much about the Lindberghs prior to reading this novel, and afterward I fell down the rabbit hole of research. I think that's the mark of a good book. 

This book was not at all what I was expecting. I'm not sure what I'd been expecting, but I felt quite surprised by this one. The book is told from multiple perspectives of women during WWII, one in the U.S., one in Poland, and one in Germany. Their lives are vastly different (different ages, different lifestyles, extremely different experiences), yet they are wound together in this book. The book takes patience, since it covers a lot of ground in all three women's lives, but it pays off. It is inspired by real women, and the real events they experienced. Parts are graphic and gritty, but it is also uplifting. 

Okay, so this one is historical fiction, but it probably isn't historical fiction in the way you think of it. It's more of an historical mystery with many small mysteries all rolled into it. I'm including it here because I really liked this book, and I think the historical time periods add to the book in many ways. The book takes place in the early 1900s, the 1930s, the 1990s, and the early 2000s. It also has a few other years thrown in there, as it covers the lives of three women and explores their stories, which all in some way relate to the unsolved disappearance of a baby boy from his bedroom in 1933. It's an intimidating book because it throws a lot of red herrings at the reader, and also it's really lengthy, but very worth it when you reach the end and it all ties together.

WWII in Paris, a young architect is torn between working with the enemy (the only paying clients) and helping his fellow man. He is given the opportunity to design hideouts for Jews hiding in the city, a dangerous job, and has to make some tough calls about the man he is. The book had many more twists and turns than I was expecting, exploring a lot of rules of morality and ethics, while still finding humor and love in this terrifying time. 

One of the few children's books I got to read this year, Stella by Starlight suitably impressed me with its story of the 1930s south. The story about this little girl and her family living under Jim Crow Laws, navigating a mostly white community is scary, but also quite heartwarming. The sense of community, family, and friendship comes through the book in the midst of some sad truths. Please don't discount it because it says it's for kids. This book broke my fully grown-up heart. 

Those are my top five historical fictions from this year. Did you read mostly one genre this year? What were your favorites? 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Children’s Holiday Books for 2016

As we creep ever closer to the holidays, Miss Marilyn has some books that you can snuggle up with your little one to read this season. These aren't the traditional ones we all know and love, but by next year they may be on that list!

Harold is one of the best parts of Christmas. Santa’s heard the stories. He’s read his letters. But Santa isn’t sure that Harold actually exists. Some of Santa’s friends have told him that Harold isn’t real. So Santa comes up with a plan to find out if Harold really exists once and for all.


The Great Spruce by John Duvall
Alec loves all types of trees, but his absolute favorite is the great spruce. It was planted as a sapling by his grandfather years before Alec was even born. Each year, Alec and his grandpa would decorate the tree for Christmas with beautiful tinsel and bright lights. But one day, men from the city come to take the tree for their own Christmas celebration. Alec has to come up with a creative solution to save his favorite tree.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Maple and Willow love trees. And now it’s time for their first real Christmas Tree! The girls pick out the best tree and bring it home. But as soon as Maple gets close to the tree she starts sneezing! Oh no! What are the girls to do?

Shmelf works as one of Santa’s elves in the all-important list checking department. There are lots of good boys and girls on the list, but Shmelf notices that some names are missing. He sets off to investigate the missing names and discovers a wonderful holiday called Hanukkah that Jewish families celebrate each year.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman by Calliope Glass 
I’m a big fan of interactive picture books, and every little kid I know is a big fan of Disney’s Frozen. In this book readers help Elsa and Anna build Olaf by repeating different actions to make it snow. It’s a lot of fun to read with just one little one or a whole group!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TTT: Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Books to Buy Children

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

The holiday season is fast approaching, and if you are anything like me, you are already shopping. It can be difficult finding gifts for every special person in your life, especially the kids. There are so many toys and gadgets out there to choose from, but what better gift is there than books! So I have made a list of some of my favorite children’s books that I discovered in 2016 that would make great gifts for any of the little ones on your shopping list this year!

1. Moving Blocks by Yusuke Yonezu
This book was actually published in 2015 but it was included on the CCBC Choice 2016 list as a best-of-the-year picture book. It uses blocks to reveal things that move by asking the question, “What are you building? What can it be?” It is a board book format, perfect for little hands and the bright colored blocks create a fun visual.

2. Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarley
Preschoolers will love this book about three rowdy robots that are keeping up their little boy by asking for things like more oil and loosened fan belts.
3. ABC Dream by Kim Krans
This is a visually stunning book that dedicates each page to a letter of the alphabet. Beautiful watercolor and ink images show the letter itself, along with objects that begin with that letter. Children of all ages will enjoy the imagery in this book.

4. Can I Tell You A Secret? by Anna Kang 
I read this book for a story time over the summer and the kids loved it! It is a simple story about a frog who has a secret (spoiler alert…he can’t swim). I love picture books with characters that speak directly to the reader. This creates a fun interaction with the child.

5. Lion Lessons by Jon Agee
What does it take to become a lion? According to this book there are seven steps which include roaring and pouncing, but most importantly, looking out for your friends. This is a great book for children to act out.

6. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
This is a sweet book about the love parents have for their children and all of the things they hope for them to be. Having just had my first child last year, this book has been one of my favorites to read at bedtime.

7. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex
This is the perfect book for a child starting school. It is told from the point of view of the school building itself. It portrays all of the normal emotions that come along with starting school but with a fun twist.

8. The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell
“The Snurtch” is a scribbly monster that keeps getting Ruthie in trouble at school and she eventually learns that every child has their own personal Snurtch. This is a great book to introduce the concept of emotions to preschoolers and school age children.

9. The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
When Bear discovers his talent for playing piano, he is drawn towards the lights of the big city. Not only is this a beautifully illustrated book but it also has a great message for children about the importance of following your dreams and remembering your roots.

10. The Night Gardener by Terry Fan
Another beautifully illustrated book, The Night Gardener is about a little boy named William that discovers new topiaries popping up throughout his town. This whimsical book is perfect to read aloud before bedtime.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TTT: Children's Books I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic
I've been spending a lot of time with my nieces and nephews and various littles in my life lately, and this has caused me to do a lot of reading of children's books. Thus, I'd like to list the books I'm thankful for in that category. Books I'm glad to read over and over and over and over again (mostly of the board book variety).

Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Really anything Dr. Seuss is delightful to read aloud to children, but this one is a challenge for me as a reader as well as for the kids to follow along. It's a tongue-twister and I always find myself reading it quickly, thus heightening the fun.

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, illustrations by Cyd Moore
This is a family favorite, and one that I don't mind reading a lot of. The story of a little boy asking if his mother loves him no matter what is cute, and the different situations he imagines are fun. It's especially fun to ask toddlers and preschoolers if they'd like to eat a bug sandwich like the character in the story. If you enjoy the book Guess How Much I Love You, this is a similar read.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrations by Clement Hurd
It's a classic for a reason. It's a great bedtime read, saying goodnight to everything around them before drifting off to sleep.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
This book about a poor giraffe embarrassed to shake his groove thing is such a cute tale. It's all about being yourself, not worrying about others, and having fun. The giraffe needs to learn how to 1. dance and 2. not care what everyone thinks. The illustrations are adorable and the story is good for all ages.

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
I tend to give this book as a baby shower gift. It's such a sweet story about how the world changed when "you" were born.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This classic story is a fun read-aloud for preschoolers especially. It's also fun to joke about what a tummyache that caterpillar must have had.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
"If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk..." and so begins the tale of consequences. That mouse is quite demanding and causes a series of unpredictable events, ending up back at the cookies. The other books from this series are also fun reads.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
This is a classic, fun story about asking the zoo for a pet. It's fun to lift the flaps and see what crazy animal the zoo sends the main character. For older kids, they can guess before lifting the flap to discover the animal, and it ends happily. Just a cute, fun read.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Another story of unending parental love. This is a very sweet story. In my experience, the grown up reading the book appreciates it more than the child listening to it.

Baby Beluga by Raffi
This book must be sung. You have to sing the song while going through the pages. It's a requirement. If you don't know this delightful children's song, click here.

That's my list of books I'm thankful for this year (any of which would make great holiday gifts, by the way). What books are you thankful for?