Sunday Salon

I was chatting with my husband about how long it had been since we each had blogged (as one does). I was thinking it had been a month or maybe a month and a half. But come to find out? It’s been longer than two months already. Sigh. I have so many ideas for things I’d like to write about, but as I opened the blog today, to attempt to break the drought, none of them were flowing from the fingers. So we’ll try a more useless kind of unsticking, like so.

I’m reading a book that, I can hardly remember during the day. But once I get back into it each night, I enjoy it (or at least one of the two points of view). I’m about 100 pages in now, but I’m thinking I should maybe abandon it. I know we’ve talked about this before, but what’s your standard for quitting a book? I don’t usually regret the books I don’t finish, but I do sometimes get frustrated that I wasted time on a book I’ve finished. I have a draft about this, untouched for almost a year (honestly).

I want to write about my crafty pursuits (so much you haven’t seen). I want to write about picture books.

In my seemingly never-ending quest for good books for my almost 2-year-old that don’t annoy me, I rediscovered SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books list, posted it, and started keeping a record of those we’ve read, hoping to make it through all or most of them together. We still have a long ways to go, but that’s OK. How many of them have you read?

Related: Are there any books about Easter (the real thing) that have trains, even in the background? Because the boy is still quite train-obsessed.

I’ve been intending to post a round-up of train books, too. Some are awful, but there are some that are excellent. And some in between, of course.

And then I could share what I’ve been reading. Just because I haven’t blogged doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. If you’re curious, here’s the list of what I’ve read, to tide you over.

Today, I’m sick. We’ve had so much illness in the past month or so that I’m wondering if we’ll ever be healthy again. (And how are you supposed to get better when you can’t sleep, again? I’ve never figured out how that is supposed to work.)

The weather, however, is supposed to be fantastic today. The sun is out and the high is forecast to be in the 70s. After what feels like an interminable (if lacking in snow) winter, this is most welcome.

What’s going on in your world today? Hope your day is sunny!

Advertisements

Picture Books, round one

Last week I asked for recommendations for picture books with excellent writing (read: non-annoying when read aloud 2,763 times per day, every day). I started by asking about the Caldecott (which is an award for picture books, but actually for illustration of said picture books). And then just for recommendations. And they rolled in.

I had a couple being pulled for me at the library, so I had to go pick them up. While I was there, I browsed, with my head full of titles and authors I’d been hearing about (and looking up) all week. I came home with a big stack, and we’ve been reading them all weekend. Here’s the low down.

Freight Train by Donald Crews (author and illustrator) (Caldecott honor book)
A good transitional book, on the way up from board books. Very few words. Nice graphic illustrations. Bold colors. Although it’s been eclipsed the past two days by the newest train book to enter the house (which I’ll hopefully get around to telling you about reasonably soon).

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (author and illustrator)
I picked this one up because A’s already familiar with this character from a few board books. I think we’ve only read it once so far.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (author and illustrator) (Caldecott honor book)
I’ve heard so many great things about Willems’s books. This one for sure didn’t disappoint. Again, very few words. Images are black and white photographs overlaid with cartoonish people. My guy laughs at the baby talk [not someone talking to a baby in what is usually called baby talk, but the verbalizations of a pre-talking kiddo].

We Are in a Book!, an Elephant and Piggie book, by Mo Willems (author and illustrator)
I laughed and laughed on the first read-through. A very self-aware book. The illustrations are straightforward and clear. I think it might (the humor at least) be a bit over my kiddo’s head, though.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The rhyme and rhythm are fantastic, the story is grand. More words per page than A’s used to, but he’s bringing it to me repeatedly. Really a beautiful book. So much to see on every page, too.

Clifford’s First Snow Day by Norman Bridwell
Not annoying, but not particularly enchanting to this mama or toddler, either. I don’t think, when we’ve read this one, that A has ever asked to read it again right away once yet.

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett (author and illustrator) (This my library had in both board book and picture book format)
Lots of people highly recommended Jan Brett’s books. I’m not sure I understand the fandom, though (at least not yet). This is the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except Goldilocks is now Aloo-ki, who lives in an igloo, and the bears are now polar bears.

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (author and illustrator)
Quite simplistic. A likes the squirrel and the dog, though. One of those books that don’t have much of a plot. Very few words per page, and a short page count, too. Not annoying, though.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Caldecott honor book)
Enchanting. The narrative doesn’t have the rhyme and meter some of the others do, but the story is sweet and illustrations are adorable (especially if you’re a yarn lover, but even if you’re not).

So, the winners this round are:

  • Freight Train (although it’s a bit dull and repetitive for me)
  • Knuffle Bunny
  • The Snail and the Whale (a bit longer, though)
  • Extra Yarn

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you have any (more) recommendations for us?

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Best of Reading for 2013

I’m borrowing shamelessly from Trish at Love, Laughter & Insanity (who got it from Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner) so I didn’t have to come up with the questions, too. Just the answers will be enough blogging work for me these days, thank you very much.

2013 EOY book survey

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Lots of other great ones, but they pale in comparison to this one.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I wasn’t really all that underwhelmed by any books that I finished. Although Theodosia and the Serpent of Chaos was kind of annoying. And The Explanation of Everything was pretty disappointing, too, actually.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
Maybe Daystar by Kathy Tyers?

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2013?
Daystar, The Dragon’s Tooth, The Reluctant Prophet (not a 2013 read for me, though; does that count?), With a Name Like Love … And then there are the book club books; since I picked them, does that count?
:: How to Save a Life, Small Damages, Maisie Dobbs

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
• the ND Wilson one
• Robert Liparulo’s series that started with The 13th Tribe
• Also, started (but not really discovered this year): Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles books.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2013?
Harper Lee? Except my standard for declaring someone a favorite author generally includes having read more than one of their books. So. ND Wilson?

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Looks like I stayed mostly within my comfort zone for reading this year.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
The Doll / Dragon’s Tooth / Eleanor & Park

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:
Um, maybe Eleanor & Park, if I pick it for book club. I only very rarely reread, but I did more in 2013 than normal, by a lot. And that’s mostly because I picked them for book club and then needed to refresh my memory before the actual discussion.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Small Damages / How to Save a Life

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Well, it’s hard to say it’s not Maisie Dobbs, since I’ve read like 10 books starring her, but Sherlock Holmes might be a strong contender … Oh. Also Scout Finch, and Eleanor and Park.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Small Damages. How to Save a Life.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
TKAM? Me: Broken Record.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
I don’t really keep track of quotes.

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Man of Action is a standalone short story (87 pages); The Sign of the Four clocks in at 136 pages, according to what I can find.
Longest: Daystar (652 pages)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Eleanor and Park
Maisie Dobbs and James Compton

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You Read Previously
The Doll. Small Damages. Eleanor & Park.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
With a Name Like Love, I think.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
mystery/thriller

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Atticus Finch?

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
I’m not even sure I read any 2013 debuts.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Small Damages.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
The Dragon’s Tooth

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe?

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Into the Free. Daystar. With a Name Like Love.

And then looking forward…

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?
Jane Eyre
Count of Monte Cristo
Cloister Walk

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014?
The new Maisie Dobbs? Really want to get to Matthew Quick’s latest, too.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?
Actually blog, maybe? Continue clearing the TBR book case.

So what did I read in 2013? (links lead to posts)

1. The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson (2012)
2. The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello (2012)
3. To Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue (2012)
4. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (2013)
5. Doors Open by Ian Rankin (2010/2008)
6. The Missing File by DA Mishani (2013)
7. The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman (2008)
8. Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (2012)
9. Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach (2012) (ebook)
10. Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore (2012)
11. Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones (2012)
12. A Light in the Darkness by Heather Sutherlin (2012)
13. The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo (2012)
14. Daystar by Kathy Tyers (2012)
15. Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker (2012)
16. Freeheads by Kerry Nietz (2011)
17. Placebo by Steven James (2012)
18. Cake: Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin (2012)
19. With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo (2011)
20. Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan (2012)
21. Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart (2012)
22. Double Blind by Brandilyn Collins (2012)
23. The Dragon’s Tooth by ND Wilson (2011)
24. Caught by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2012) (ebook)
25. So Cold the River by Michael Koryta (2010)
26. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (2012) (ebook)
27. The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo (2013)
28. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by RL LaFevers (2007)
29. Still Midnight by Denise Mina (2009)
30. A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley (2011)
31. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887) (ebook)
32. The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina (2011)
33. Goodness and Mercy by Patti Hill (2013) (ebook)
34. A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell (2013)
35. The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890) (ebook)
36. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892) (ebook)
37. Sidekicked by John David Anderson (2013)
38. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
39. The Explanation of Everything by Lauren Grodstein (2013)
40. The Doll by Taylor Stevens (2013)
41. Small Damages by Beth Kephart (2012)
42. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
43. Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book by Nancy Rue (2010)
44. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (2011) (reread)
45. The Drowned Vault by ND Wilson (2012)
46. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1894) (ebook)
47. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (2003) (reread)
48. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (2001)
49. The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen (2002)
50. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902) (ebook)
51. Man of Action by Matt Bronleewe (2013) (ebook)

Quick Stats

Book Posts: 18 (44%) [not counting this post, oops]
E-books: 10 (20%)
Library Books: 4 (8%)
From the Shelf: 11 (21.5%)
Male/Female Ratio: 21:30 (41% : 59%)
Book Club: 3+
Fiction/Non-Fiction Ratio: 50:1 (98% : 2%)
Books Abandoned: 20

How was YOUR 2013 reading year? I’d love to hear what your favorite book of the year was.

Catching up on Sherlock reading

Long time no posts here, eh? I know, I know.

I’ve been reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books this year, spurred on by Mari. I posted about the first two books I read for the challenge way back in August. Since then I’ve read the next three, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

After the longer-form stories of the first two books (one story per short book), The Adventures was a bit disappointing in that the cases were all so brief, so quickly dispatched.

And then when I read Memoirs, I was convinced that I’d picked it up out of order (even though I’d attempted to check). But nope. It was in order of publication date. It had already been clear that the stories weren’t conveyed in chronological order, but this one was a bit jarring.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hound of the Baskervilles; it really is the most masterful of the stories, at least so far as I’ve read, so far.

Thanks for the nudge, Mari! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying these books, I plan to continue with them into the new year. Next up: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1905!

(I got these ebooks from Project Gutenberg.)

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Grandma

My grandma died this week, after two weeks in the hospital. She was 85. At her funeral, I gave the eulogy:

Whenever we were at Grandma’s house, I always woke to the smell of bacon. Was there ever a better scent to wake up to? (Especially when you’re too young to appreciate coffee — which she also had, but I didn’t yet drink.) She always fried up bacon (cooked to a crisp), and she always had Cocoa Puffs, which was a huge treat, particularly when you consider that Cheerios was considered a sugar cereal at home. Breakfast at Grandma’s was an event, and an elaborate one at that.

Mornings of bacon, eggs, and chocolate cereal morphed into afternoons around the big circular kitchen table, playing Mouse Trap or drawing. Maybe a nap by a sun-warmed window. Sometimes we went to count cows, traipsing through pastures in the Jeep, stopping to dig thistles whenever we saw one. Going out to the little house for this or that.

Amy Kramer was strong. Fiercely independent, forceful, protective.

She loved. We were greeted and bid farewell with a giant hug and a kiss. She cried as we drove away, through the gates. She gave of what she had. She often sent us home with multiple cottage cheese containers full of homemade butter.

She cared about documenting memories and marking occasions. Her camera was never far out of reach, even when cameras weren’t ubiquitous. And were expensive to operate. She sent cards for every holiday and non-holiday.

We didn’t live nearby. But when we were at the farm, she shared her life with us. She involved us in her life. We milked the cows. Used the separator. Washed the separator. We helped gather the eggs and feed the pigs. We worked in the garden (or played on the swing set), and she always showed us her flowers. We cooked all together, at the table and the large wood stove.

In some ways, she modeled a life many aspire to these days, reusing and repurposing anything that could be, living off what she had or what she could scratch from the earth. Hard work, but also rewarding.

Experts say smell is the most evocative of the five senses. While I don’t always agree, I think they might be right in this case. The soap in the bathroom. The wood stove. Coffee always percolating on said stove. Bacon every morning. The earth. Fresh milk. Well water drunk from metal tumblers.

We love you, Grandma. You will be missed.

Mini-reviews: Mysteries

Warning: Some of these reviews contain spoilers.

leaving everything most lovedLeaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (March 2013, Harper), 352 pages

I loved the color and spices of India that infused this novel, the tenth in the Maisie Dobbs series.

I felt a little manipulated by Winspear. I wondered if she was delaying a decision on Maisie’s relationship with James just to prolong the series (ugh!). On the one hand, I just want to see them together. I think they’ll work well, and I want to see that. But on the other, I think Maisie still acted within her very independent nature. So mostly I’m just sitting here wishing and hoping. And a little sad.

Another great installment in one of my favorite historical mystery series.

doors openDoors Open by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur (Little Brown), 2010), 368 pages

I’d heard lots of great things about Ian Rankin’s books, so I was glad to get the chance to pull this one from its lingering spot on the TBR shelf. Mostly, though, I was disappointed by this one. If I hadn’t heard such great things, I probably would have put it down mid-read (and I maybe should have abandoned it regardless).

I did enjoy the Edinburgh setting, though.

I plan to give Rankin another try, starting with book one of his Inspector Rebus series, Knots and Crosses.

missing fileThe Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Harper, March 2013), 304 pages

This is another one that didn’t really live up to my expectations. Again, I enjoyed the setting (Israel this time). But most of the book really plodded. The protagonist’s low self-esteem seemed to pervade the book. We have this supposedly great detective, who doesn’t do or learn anything really. It’s like he’s living in an allergy fog like those commercials, except we’re given no explanation for his inaction.

The twist at the end is pretty great, though, I thought. And how the main points are never really, truly, nailed down.

red herring without mustardA Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Bantam, 2011), 432 pages

This third Flavia de Luce mystery was the needed rebound after the sophomore slump that was The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (my review). Our precocious protag is back at it, and I quite enjoyed this one. I hope it’s not too long until I can return to the series (I think I’ve got books four and five on my shelves waiting patiently).

I received some of these books from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Board Book of the Week: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton

Books can be hard to talk about. And children’s books — especially ones with less than 20 pages — can be particularly tough, at least for me, so far. But I think I found a way to make this work.

I finally started taking A to the library. And when you go once, there’s a pretty strong pull to go back — the books have to be returned at some point, and the drive through drop box seems almost cruel when there’s so much fun to be had inside (there’s some seriously great play areas set up, let alone all the books).

I brought home a stack of books this week, as you do. Seven books last time, nine this time. Most I considered quickly but somewhat carefully, and a few I added to the pile after A pulled them off the shelves.

Some books I like, but he either doesn’t get or doesn’t have the patience for, or something. And others he insistently brings me over and over, but they make me want to gouge my eyes out. You know how it is.

This post highlights A’s hand’s down favorite, which is one I really appreciate, too. (Which is not to say *I’m* saying “again, again,” once he tires of it, but still.)

red truck

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (2008, Viking Penguin, board book) is a delightful book.

A likes:
• Pointing at all the trucks and making truck sounds.
• Also the “Vrooom,” “Sploosh,” and “Zoom” exclamations usually elicit big smiles.

Mama likes:
• The writing is clear and engaging, the perfect balance of fun and educational, no wording is awkward or annoying. There are rhymes, but it’s not over the top. There are just the right amount of words, too. I never have to read/recite at break-neck speeds to get all the words in before he turns the page.
• The illustrations are whimsical and clear, cheerful. The background recedes and yet remains fun. The colors are bright and mostly primary without being overtly so. The tow truck driver looks enough like a cross between Mario and Luigi to make me smile but still unique enough to be his own character.
• I like the text treatment, too. Colors and sizes vary some, but it’s still completely legible. And it’s not all caps. Also, there aren’t exclamation points on every. single. page. (Ahem.)

Maybe it’s just the perfect timing in terms of his attention span and vehicle fascination, but this book certainly hits the spot. I’ve enjoyed Hamilton’s YA books in the past (Tyger Tyger (my review) and In the Forests of the Night — ooh, looks like book 3 of that Goblin Wars series is out this week: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears) and I’ll definitely be looking for more of her children’s books now too.

For more on children’s books this week, check out Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

15 months

In the tunnel

In the tunnel

His hair is the color of corn silk. So soft and shiny, and with colors ranging from white to gold to strawberry. And he has a lot of it. It’s getting long in back, but it’s still not nearly covering his forehead. He has his daddy’s widow’s peak.

He understands so much of what we say! It’s awesome watching him act on what I’ve said and begin to communicate in ways I can understand, too.

He says Dad, dog, water, food, yeah, and book (and also the EC form of pee/potty), and there/that/this (and maybe Up?). He signs all of those (except potty) plus please, cat, milk, all done, and bed / lay down. He also waves goodbye.

When asked for a kiss, he’ll lean in to *be kissed* on the forehead. He also leans in to be hugged.

Looking in the toy box

Looking in the toy box

He gets very excited when he sees an animal (including a high-pitched squeal), but he often signs the wrong cat/dog for what he’s seeing (sometimes he even signs cat for Maisie) and basically every kind of animal will be in one of these categories (the bear in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is usually a dog, for example, and a gosling in some other book was a cat, I believe, as was the daddy long legs in The Fathers Are Coming Home).

He’s started to act out the books as I read them to him, sometimes — in Old Bear he did the climbing on each other and the jumping on the bed. In Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop he’s done several of the actions (clap, thump (which is really stomp), stretch, and he mimes jumping).

Early-morning-watching-the-ducks

When I say it’s time to change his diaper, he usually heads to the nursery to get it done, and he’ll go to his high chair when he’s hungry or when I tell him it’s time for lunch.

For the past few weeks he’s been insisting on being read to CONSTANTLY. The same book over and over, but also tons of different books. Even with a trip to the library and a few newly purchased books, I feel like my brain is melting. And not just from all the repetitious reading, but also because this means he’s requiring my attention basically ALL DAY, rather than happily playing by himself for quite a chunk of the day. He especially wants to be read to while nursing. And I’ve spent 20 minutes of him on the potty chair reading. He does pretty good with book handling these days — at least he’s not chewing on them or ripping the pages. We still mostly read board books, though. He does still get them bent backward at the spine or creased in cover or page.

He has successfully told me he needed to use the potty chair *and then actually gone* twice, once #2 and once #1. He asks other times, but we’re not catching anything those times (either we’re too slow or he’s telling us after he’s already gone or asking is just a ploy to get more concentrated reading time).

He was diagnosed with seasonal allergies last week. And he’s been working on his 2-year molars for more than a month now — although they’re still a long ways from coming in, as far as I can tell. Otherwise, he’s only lacking one eye tooth.

He still nurses at lot, although we’ve night weaned (so he doesn’t breastfeed once we’ve gone to sleep until ~6 a.m.).

He opened the lever door at the chiropractor’s office (handle there lower than the one at home). When he has keys, he uses them at a closed door to try to open it (doesn’t get it in the keyhole yet).

He’s definitely begun asserting his independence/will and will shove things/people out of his way and scream (to the extent of folded in half, face on the floor) when he doesn’t get his way.

He’s discovered a love for dipping his food.

He usually cries when Daddy leaves for work.

He loves being outside.

He has a few different car/truck noises, including vvvvvvvvvvv and ththththththththththththth. I’m pretty sure he also has some kind of barking noise, but it’s not completely clear yet.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.