Saturday, February 10, 2024

Read-at-Home Mom Report: January 2024 Wrap-Up

January Favorites



In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
My book club picked this for January, and I re-read it and took notes and everything only for book club to be canceled due to illnesses among the members. So now it's the book for our February meeting. I loved it the first time I read it, but I loved it even more the second time. 

Rosie and the Dreamboat by Sally Thorne
The Exception to the Rule by Christina Lauren 
These two short stories from the Improbable Meet Cute series were the best of the bunch by far. I have never been able to get into any of Sally Thorne's books, but this story was adorable. The Christina Lauren story wasn't 100% clean, but I loved the epistolary format and slow burn trope. 

Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America by Steven L. Kellmeyer 
I loved this not so much for its indictment of the failures of many Catholic schools, but for its unapologetic statement that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that religious ed. programs and similar roadblocks rob parents of the task that only they can properly accomplish by virtue of the graces of the sacrament of marriage. 



Dungeons and Drama by Kristy Boyce
This is exactly what a YA romance should be. I loved all the characters, even the parents, and the gaming store setting. 

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
This introduction to the Lord Peter Wimsey series was delightful. I especially loved the dialogue. I can't wait to read more from this series.   

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
The Poems of T. S. Eliot: Read by Jeremy Irons
I read Four Quartets aloud to myself and then listened to Jeremy Irons read all of Eliot's poetry. I didn't understand a lot of it, but I loved it anyway. 


Read-Aloud and Homeschool Books

  • The Animals' Christmas by Anne Thaxter Eaton (4 stars)
  • The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson (4 stars)


Sequels and Series Books

  • Summer Lightning (Blandings Castle Book 4) by P.G. Wodehouse (4 stars)
  • Mercy Watson is Missing! (Tales from Deckawoo Drive Book 7) by Kate DiCamillo (4 stars)
  • Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1) by Robert Galbraith (4 stars)
  • The Civil Prisoners (Warstowe Saga Book 2) by Meriol Trevor (4 stars)
  • Worst Wingman Ever (The Improbable Meet-Cute Book 2) by Abby Jimenez (3 stars)
  • Drop, Cover, and Hold On (The Improbable Meet-Cute Book 4) by Jasmine Guillory (4 stars)
  • With Any Luck (The Improbable Meet-Cute Book 5) by Ashley Poston (2 stars)
  • Royal Valentine (The Improbable Meet-Cute Book 6) by Sariah Wilson (3 stars)
  • Retying the Knot (The Fab Forties Book 1) by Liwen Ho (4 stars)
  • Head Over Stilettos (The Fab Forties Book 2) by Liwen Ho (4 stars)
  • Death in the Spotlight (Murder Most Unladylike Book 7) by Robin Stevens (3 stars)


Stand-alone Books

  • A Christmas Resolution by Anne Perry (3 stars)
  • The Getaway List by Emma Lord (4 stars)
  • That Wintry Feeling by Debbie Macomber (2 stars)
  • Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson (3 stars)
  • The Relaxed Home School: A Family Production by Mary Hood (3 stars)
  • A Winter in New York by Josie Silver (4 stars)
  • Antigone by Sophocles (5 stars)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (5 stars)
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (2 stars)
  • Daniel Boone by James Daughtery (5 stars)


DNF

  • A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy 
  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope 


Family Reading Lists


M. (girl, 10 years, 2 months)

  • The Five Sons of King Pandu: The Story of the Mahabh├írata by Elizabeth Seeger
  • The Ramayana, adapted from the English translation of Hari Prasad Shastri by Elizabeth Seeger 


C. (girl, 8 years, 4 months) 

  • Isaac Newton by John Hudson Tyler
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
  • The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson 
  • Daniel Boone by John Mason Brown. 
  • Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry 


E. (girl, 6 years, 3 months)

  • In the Grip of Winter by Colin Dann


R. and A. (boy and girl, 3 years, 10 months)

  • Mercy Watson series (mostly R., on audio)
  • Bink and Gollie series (mostly R., on audio)
  • Frances series (both)
  • Rag (R., for reading practice)
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (both)


My husband 

  • Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Benson Boy by Ivan Southall 
  • Foster by Claire Keegan



Monday, January 15, 2024

Homeschool Update: November & December 2023

Group Activities


Geography/Art 

From The Complete Book of Marvels by Richard Halliburton, Dad read these sections, and the girls watched accompanying videos: 

  • Fort Jefferson, Coral Outpost [video]
  • Popocatepetl, Smoking Crater [video]
  • Chichen Itza, Mayan Capital [video]
  • Christophe's Citadel [video]
  • Panama Canal, Mammoth Ditch [video]
  • Machu Picchu, Inca Fortress [video]
  • Iguazu Falls [video]
  • Rio de Janeiro, Glittering City [video]
  • Gibraltar, Rocky Sentry [video]


Latin 

We continued our lessons in Getting Started with Latin: Beginning Latin for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age by William E. Linney. 


Shakespeare 

We read Twelfth Night from Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield and watched the animated adaptation.  The girls each memorized a speech from the play. E. had Orsino's "If music be the food of love..." from Act 1 scene 1. C. had Olivia's "O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful" from Act 3 scene 1, and M. had Malvolio's "Daylight and champaign discovers not more" from Act 2 scene 5. 


Read-Alouds

Dad read aloud these historical fiction titles: 
  • "The Winged Cat,"  "The Prince and the Golden Ax," and "The Demon Pazuzu" by Deborah Nourse Lattimore
  • The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry 
  • A Song for Gilgamesh by Elizabeth Hodges 
  • Mara of Old Babylon by Elizabeth Witheridge 
I read aloud these titles: 
  • Mist on the Mountain by Caroline Flory 
  • Christmas, edited by Alice Dalgliesh
  • The Best Christmas by Lee Kingman 
  • The Lion in the Box by Marguerite deAngeli

Catechism

We did our regular lessons from the Catechism books in November, but in December, we focused mainly on Advent. We did the Jesse Tree and our morning Advent prayer service and in the evenings we lit the Advent wreath and prayed using Lisa Hendey's 5 Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath. We also attended the Greccio Living Nativity at the Shrine of St. Anthony, carols in the church at our parish, and Mass for the Immaculate Conception and Christmas Eve in addition to the Sundays of Advent. We also read Hanna's Christmas for St. Lucy Day and watched Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe on Formed, as well as the Christmas specials of Story Keepers, Brother Francis, and Benjamin Cello.

Poetry 

In November, we continued reading Poem Making by Myra Cohn Livingston. In December, we read Christmas poems from the Dalgliesh Christmas book in lieu of poetry lessons. 


Science 

C. and E. finished the animal sections of The Golden Treasury of Natural History, but I felt we needed further study. C. started working on the Classic Science student book by Scott McQuerry and E. started Animals: A Science Workbook for Ages 4 to 6. After a couple weeks, we weren't happy with E.'s book so I told her to stop and we started reading The First Book of Birds by Margaret Williamson together. My plan is to continue studying animals separately, then bring the two girls back together in February or March to study plants.

From Secrets of the Universe, M. and I read: The Law of Universal Gravitation, Conservation of Momentum, and Optics - the laws of Light. From Physics for Every Kid by Janice Van Cleave, she did experiments 39 (Balancing Act), 41 (Paper Flop), and 45 (Ramp) and wrote reports.


Health

In December, we had several health-related appointments. C. had a visit to the orthodontist. E. visited the optometrist and ended up with glasses. All 5 kids went to the dentist. 


History 

M. read The Ancient Egyptian World and staretd The Ancient South Asian World. She watched Great Courses lectures from History of Ancient Egypt and History of India as well as episodes of Ancient Lives and Story of India. Independently, she read The Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucile Morrison,  Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones. 

With Dad, C. read these sections from The World of Captain John Smith:  Indians and Thanksgiving (1621); Trouble in Bohemia; Of Kings and Brides; Massacres, Indian and White; Hugo Grotius; A Painter Goes to Paris (Rubens); Buckingham Finds a Bride for Charles; Enter Cardinal Richelieu; Broken Promises; La Rochelle and the Huguenots; New France Again; On the Way to China; Inside the Great Wall; Japan's Closing Door (1622); In and Out for Christian IV; John Winthrop of Groton Manor; Neighbors, New Amsterdam and Plymouth; Velazquez; Velazquez Sees Rome; Galileo's Final Visit to Rome; Gustav Adolf (d. 1632); Plans for Massachusetts; John Smith Is Not Invited; Governor Winthrop;  Pilgrims and Puritans; The Bell Tolls (1631)

They also read The Puritan Revolution by C. Walter Hodges, and The World of William Penn by Genevieve Foster, which includes these sections: 
  • William Penn, 1660-1684 
  • Three French Explorers (Marquette, Joliet, La Salle, 1672, 1682)
  • Louis XIV, 1643-1715
  • Two Moghul Emperors (Shah Jahan & Aurangzeb Alamgir, 1658-1707)
  • Sir Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley
  • William Penn, 1684-1699
  • James II
  • William and Mary, 1688
  • K'Ang-Hsi, 1662-1722
  • Peter the Great, 1682-1725
  • William Penn, 1699-1718
In A Child's History of the World by V.M. Hillyer, E and I read these chapters: 
  • Fairy-Tale Gods
  • A Fairy-Tale War
  • The King of the Jews
  • The People Who Made Our ABCs
  • Hard as Nails
  • The Crown of Leaves
  • A Bad Beginning 
We also read Life Long Ago: The Athenians by Leonard Weisgard, Archimedes Takes a Bath by Joan Lexua and The Iliad and The Odyssey by Jane Werner Watson. Independently, she read Lysis Goes to the Play by Caroline Dale Snedeker, The Spartan Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins, Our Little Athenian Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Darrow Cowles, and Our Little Spartan Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Darrow Cowles. 

English 

M. switched from Rex Barks to the Beginning book of Sentence Diagramming and continued with Vocabulary from Classical Roots A

C. continued with the Beginning book of Sentence Diagramming. 

E. switched from Grammarland to Treasures Grammar Practice Book Grade 1 

R. (age 3.5) worked with me in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading and practiced reading Dad and Sam.  

A. (also 3.5) is slowly working on learning letters.

Math

M. continued working in Challenging Word Problems 3. She finished all the review sections in Singapore Primary Mathematics 5B and 6A and moved on to the final book, 6B. She started Life of Fred: Decimals and Percent and worked on 7th grade math and algebra basics on Khan Academy. 

C. continued with Singapore Primary Mathematics 3B and Life of Fred: Farming. She moved into 4th grade math on Khan Academy. 

E. finished Singapore Primary Mathematics 1A and started 1B. She continued with Early Math on Khan Academy.  


Music

All three girls practiced piano and recorder. They sang carols at church and at the Greccio Living Nativity. 


Physical Education

When the weather is good, the girls have been running on the hill and playing on the playground. Indoors, they have done some exercise and dancing videos.  

Monday, January 8, 2024

2024 Reading and Writing Plans

Reading Plans

I'm not making any drastic changes to my reading life this year. I set my Goodreads goal to 200 books, but I won't be surprised if I exceed it, and I decided to stick with seasonal TBRs. 

I have just a few goals: 

  • Read at least one short story per week. I intended to read more short stories last year, and I did read a few anthologies, but I often found it tedious to stick with one theme or author for too long. By committing to one story per week, I can feel free to jump around between different collections and authors without worrying about finishing a book.
  • Read 30 minutes on Kindle app daily. I'm finding this somewhat difficult to get in every single day, but I'm still going to try to get into a routine for at least the weekdays. The true goal here is to read more books from Kindle Unlimited, Netgalley, and the books I own on Kindle. 
  • Read 40 books that I own in some format. Books from my physical TBR, Kindle TBR, and Audible library will all count toward this goal.
  •  Take notes on some books. The books I have in mind for this are the ones I read with the Close Reads and Literary Life podcasts as well as with my book club and any other classics or "serious" books I pick up.


Writing Plans 

When I first decided on this list, I didn't quite have a vision for how I wanted my writing life to look this year, but a week into the year, I have figured it out. This is the year for reclaiming the fun of writing. The past two years have mostly been about proving to myself that I can write fiction and submitting to a variety of places to see what I could get into. This year, I still have plans to submit, but only to things that I'm actually excited about. 

Here are my writing goals: 

  • Skip Flash Fiction Magic at least once a month. Since I first joined in April 2022, I have never missed an FFM prompt. I have decided to intentionally break that streak so that I don't feel endlessly compelled to keep it going.  I also want to feel free to skip multiple weeks if I'm devoting my writing time to another project. 
  • Submit to 4 Reedsy Prompts contests. I get the emails about this contest every week but have yet to ever write a story for any of the prompts. This year I'm aiming to do one per quarter, as long as there is a theme that interests me.  
  • Submit to Woman's World 15 times. I am determined to increase my chances of getting published in Woman's World by submitting more often. I think, without a lot of anthologies, and with less pressure to do FFM every week, this should be doable. 
  • Submit to one anthology. Right now, I'm leaning toward having this be another Dragon Soul Press anthology but that could change. 
  • Write a short story collection. I have an idea in mind for this, but I'm still working out the details. I'd like to start in February. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Read-at-Home Mom's Top 23 Books of 2023

It's that time of year again! In 2023, I read 294 books, and from those I have chosen a top 23 plus a bonus list of my favorite children's and teens books I read this year. Books that were published in 2023 are marked with *. 

My Writing Community 

This year, several of the friends I have made through Flash Fiction Magic on Instagram have published novels. Though these are not necessarily in my preferred genres, it was wonderful to be able to read their work and share my thoughts with them in real time. 



Unleashed* by Amber Kirkpatrick is a fantasy romance with a grumpy coffee-addicted hero, Fen, who lives in a futuristic world where some people have super powers and are persecuted (and sometimes killed) because of it. There is great Catholic representation in this book, and Fen is a beloved favorite character in my writing group who stole my heart right along with everyone else's. 

Glass Helix* by Katee Stein is a young adult dystopian romance also set in a fascinating futuristic world. I fell in love with Mae and Khai and I was completely invested in the world of the story from beginning to end. There is darkness in this book,  but also so much light and hope. 

Where Darkness Dwells* by Andrea Renae is the first book in a fantasy trilogy set in a world immersed in darkness. A variety of points of view give us glimpses into different aspects of this world, and there is something for every reader, including family dynamics, romance, and adventure. I'm excited for book two!

Favorite Nonfiction 

I didn't realize how much nonfiction I was enjoying this year until I sat down to make this list and found so many five-star ratings.



The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor is the best book I read this year, and probably in my top three books of all time. These letters about her writing, her friendships, and her faith are such a treasure, especially for a Catholic writer. I felt as though I was getting to know this beloved author intimately, and I wanted to highlight every single bit of writing advice. I will definitely be re-reading this at some point. 

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett has stuck with me for months. It's an essay collection, and the most memorable piece in it is the essay she writes about quarantining with a friend who had cancer during the pandemic. There is a lot of Covid-related stuff I can't stomach even nearly four years later, but this managed to capture both the personal and universal experience of 2020 and I don't think a more perfect piece of writing about that time period exists.

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman was a great nostalgic throwback to many of the fads and pop culture figures of my late childhood and teen years. It was interesting to view all these things with the benefit of hindsight and to look at how certain phenomena shaped the lives of people my age. 



It Was an Ugly Couch Anyway* by  Elizabeth Passarella is ostensibly the story of how the author and her husband nearly lost their minds trying to buy an apartment in New York City, but it's also just a memoir of New York City living that I really enjoyed. 

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers is a book I'll need to reread to get the full impact, but it's a beautiful, philosophical reflection on how we, creatures made by God, ought to create. I read this with the Literary Life podcast, and it has converted me to a full-time listener. 

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders is a college-level short story writing class in a single volume. I had a set of book darts on hand when I read this one, and I ran out and had to switch to post-its. There is so much valuable insight in every section, and I know I will want to revisit it. 



Times Three by Phyllis McGinley is a poetry collection by a 1950s housewife who enjoyed being a housewife. Her poems are very funny, and this collection is a Pulitzer winner. 

Finally, Credo* by Bishop Athanasius Schneider was a gift from my husband. It's a great explanation of the teachings of the Catholic faith explained in a no-nonsense and straightforward tone. 


Mysteries 

I feel like I didn't read that many mysteries this year at all, but these two were excellent. 



The Likeness by Tana French involves an undercover investigation, which I always love. 

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is told entirely in documents and I was so pleased with myself because I figured out one aspect of the story before the characters did. 


Romance 

I wrote a lot of romance this year, and I read a lot of romance to keep me in the right mindset. 



Yours Truly* by Abby Jimenez stood out because of its believable male protagonist whose introversion and social anxiety felt very real. 

The Road to Roswell* by Connie Willis is a hilarious sci-fi romance involving an alien and a road trip. It was delightful.  

Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other* by Bethany Turner is an enemies-to-lovers small-town romance with an important message about the price of fame. 



The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley* by Courtney Walsh features a quirky heroine who struggles to make friends but finds love when she begins to step out of her comfort zone. 

Arabella by Georgette Heyer is a Regency romance that made me laugh out loud with clever turns of phrase. 

Faking Christmas* by Kerry Winfrey is a hilarious and festive holiday romance that I loved almost as much as my favorite by this author, Very Sincerely Yours. 

Other Fiction 



The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty has stuck with me for months after reading it with Close Reads. I love the way Welty observes and comments upon human nature. 

Tom Lake* by Ann Patchett is a beautifully written family story set during the pandemic and involving a mother, her daughters, and stories of her past. The audiobook narration by Meryl Streep is impeccable. 



A Lot Like Christmas by Connie Willis is a wonderful collection of Christmas short stories that I will definitely revisit in future holiday seasons. 

The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion Volume 1 by Beth Brower is a delightful historical novel told in diary entries and the last book I read in 2023. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!


Top Ten Favorite Children's & YA Books  

  • Seven Percent of Ro Devereux* by Ellen O'Clover 
  • Borrow My Heart* by Kasie West 
  • Roland West, Loner by Theresa Linden 
  • ...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold 
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • Shadow of the Hawk by Geoffrey Trease 
  • The Labors of Hercules Beal* by Gary D. Schmidt 
  • My Family and Other Skaters* by Fiorella de Maria 
  • The Lost Library* by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead 
  • Squished* by Megan Wagner Lloyd 
Reading plans for the new year are coming in a day or two! 

Monday, January 1, 2024

Read-at-Home Mom Report: December 2023 Wrap-Up

December Favorites 

I'm late with this month's post, so I'm going to skip adding book covers or commentary so that I can get this done quickly and jump into a new year of reading! These were all five star reads: 

  • A Lot Like Christmas by Connie Willis 
  • The Appeal by Janice Hallett 
  • Credo by Bishop Athnasius Schneider 
  • Gifts: Visible & Invisible by Catholic Teen Books 
  • The Holiday Stand-In by Kortney Keisel 
  • The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers 
  • Date with Death by Julia Chapman
  • Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs by Eric Didriksen
  • 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie 
  • The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion Volume 1 by Beth Brower 
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church 


Read-Aloud and Homeschool Books

  • The Ancient Egyptian World by Eric H. Cline 
  • The Lion in the Box by Marguerite de Angeli 


Sequels and Series Books

  • Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit by P.G. Wodehouse (from The World of Jeeves)
  • The Christmas Appeal (The Appeal book 1.5) by Janice Hallett 
  • We Grant You a Merry Christmas (Save the Date short story sequel) by Morgan Matson 
  • Solo for the Season (Gift Wrapped Romance) by Martha Keyes 
  • Merry Kismet (Gift Wrapped Romance) by Anneka Walker 
  • Cabin Crush (Gift Wrapped Romance) by Kasey Stockton
  • The Clause in Christmas (Poppy Creek book 1) by Rachael Bloome
  • It Happened One Christmas Eve (Museum of Literature Romance Book 3) by Jenn McKinlay


Standalone Books

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • So This is Christmas by Tracy Andreen 
  • A Christmas Legacy by Anne Perry 
  • Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews
  • A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh 
  • Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow 
  • The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer 
  • The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson
  • The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson
  • Christmas in Winter Hill by Melody Carlson 
  • The Christmas Spirit by Debbie Macomber 
  • You Make It Feel Like Christmas by Toni Shiloh 
  • Starstruck by Amy Clipston
  • The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder  


DNF

  • My True Love Gave To Me: The Costa Family Christmas Romance Series Box Set by Ellie Hall 
  • Baggage Claim by Juliana Smith


Family Reading Lists


M. (girl, 10 years, 1 month)

  • Call of the Wild by Jack London 


C. (girl, 8 years, 3 months)

  • The Flight and Adventures of Charles ll by Charles Norman
  • Fire on the Wind by Geoffrey Trease
  • The King's Day by Aliki
  • William Penn, Quaker Hero by Hildegarde Dolson
  • The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Explorations of Pere Marquette by Jim Kjelgaard

E. (girl, 6 years, 2 months)

  • Lysis Goes to the Play by Caroline Dale Snedeker
  • The Spartan Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner 
  • Our Little Athenian Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Darrow Cowles
  • Our Little Spartan Cousin of Long Ago Julia Darrow Cowles
  • Archimedes Takes a Bath by Joan Lexau 

R. and A. (boy and girl, 3 years, 9 months)

  • Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Life (mostly R.)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss 
  • Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo 
  • The Kingfisher Young People's Book of Oceans
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss 
  • Oliver Elephant by Lou Peacock
  • The Lost Gift by Kallie George 


My husband

  • Mara of Old Babylon by Elizabeth P. Witheridge  
  • The Animals' Christmas by Anne Thaxter Eaton 
  • The Lion in the Box by Marguerite  de Angeli 
  • Christmas by Alice Dalgliesh 
  • The Flying Classroom by Erick Kastner  
  • Anson's Way by Gary D. Schmidt

2023 Reading in Review

Stats

This year, as has become the tradition, I tracked mainly novel-length books, with a handful of short stories and novellas thrown in (but no picture books). My Goodreads goal was originally set to 100, but I changed it to 200 fairly early on, and then read 294 books total. 

I read an average of 24 books per month. I read the most in April (36) and December (37) and the least in June (18) and August (18). 

I read 200 books written for adults, 27 written for teens, and 67 children's books. 

The adult books included: 15 literary fiction, 61 romance, 13 nonfiction, 23 mystery, 7 classics, 5 poetry collections, 1 play, 13 fantasy, 6 sci-fi, 8 historical fiction, 5 comics and graphic novels, 10 women's fiction, and 8 general fiction. 

Among these 294 books, there were: 

  • at least 197 audiobooks
  • 14 books from my Kindle library
  • 82 books from our home library 
  • 16 books from Netgalley 
  • 32 read-alouds 
  • 49 books from Hoopla 
  • 37 from Scribd/Everand 
  • 12 from Kindle Unlimited 
  • 15-rereads

The breakdown of star ratings was as follows: 

  • 5 stars: 102 books
  • 4 stars: 121 books
  • 3 stars: 62 books
  • 2 stars: 9 books
  • 1 star: 0 books 

I had 32 DNFs.


Goals Review 

My big goal for the year was to focus on writing first and reading second, and I think I did quite well with that. By giving myself permission to prioritize writing, I was able to put the work in on a longer short story without feeling guilty, and obviously my reading life has not suffered. 

I had originally planned to do more analog tracking of my books in 2023, but I only made it through half the year because the system I was using wasn't working for me. I have a new set-up established for 2024, and I think I will have more success.

Another goal I had for the year was to read more with my eyes. I can't tell whether I did this or not because I didn't come up with a method for tracking it. I did still listen to an awful lot of audiobooks so this may not have been a success. 

I also wanted to read short stories throughout 2023, but I didn't have a plan, so I didn't read as many as I could have. I will have a new short story goal in 2024. 

The other two reading goals I had were to use seasonal TBRs to choose some of my books, and that worked great, and to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church with the Catechism in a Year podcast, and I did that as well. 

At the start of the year, I did choose some reading challenges, but I decided two weeks to just abandon them and I have no regrets. 

In terms of writing, nothing went according to my plan, but it all turned out for the best. I did keep up with Flash Fiction Magic every single week without missing, and I submitted to Havok twice and Spark three times. But I did not write a long short story every quarter (I only wrote one, in the fall), and I determined this was not the season in which I want to write a novel, if I ever do. I have something new in the works for 2024 that I hope will go better. 

Favorite books of the year and 2024 goals are coming soon!

Sunday, December 3, 2023

7 New Picture Books for Christmas 2023

Advent is here, and I am excited about new Christmas children's books! I have received 7 Christmasy review copies this year. 

Two are in board book format. 


Be My Reindeer
by Jeffrey Burton and Anna Hurley asks who will pull Santa's sleigh. Dinosaurs? Kittens? Robots? Each turn of the page reveals the face of a newly suggested character, and antlers glued onto the back cover appear to grow from each one's head. The silliness is perfect for the toddler age group, and I would have loved this for holiday story times at the library. We are sort of growing beyond the board book stage here, so I think Saint Nicholas is bringing everyone picture books this year, but we'll be sure to pass our copy along.

In the Holly Jolly North Pole by Joel Stern and Nancy Leschnikoff is a rhyming pop-up book designed in landscape format so that the book has to be turned sideways to be read. It's a pretty generic peek into life in Santa's workshop, but the fun pop-ups and cartoonish figures will appeal to little ones all the same.

The rest of these are picture books.


Merry Christmas, Strega Nona
is a reprint of a 1986 Tomie dePaola favorite. During Advent, Strega Nona has so much to do to get ready for her annual feast, but while she depends on Big Anthony to help her, he schemes with the neighbors to find a way to give back to Strega Nona. I love that this book mentions the Advent wreath and Mass. I plan to give this one to my eight-year-old from St. Nicholas.

In We Disagree About This Tree housemates Bear and Mouse are getting along mostly fine until they get a Christmas tree. By turns,  they each decorate the tree the way they believe it should look, each irritating the other until the tree finally falls down. This book has a grammar error, in which a singular hypothetical referee that Bear believes would help mediate their disagreement is referred to as "they." The rhyme is also a little bit awkward in parts. Still, it's a funny odd-couple style story that will make kids laugh. St. Nicholas isn't bringing this one to anyone, I'll probably just sneak it into the stack at some point. 

The Christmas Doll by Amy Sparkes and Katie Hickey is based on an episode of a British television show I've never seen or heard of, The Repair Shop. Evie and great-grandma Sue bring an old doll named Lizzy to the Repair Shop. Great-grandma tells the history of the doll from her own childhood, and then the "Teddy Bear Ladies" restore her so that Evie can have the doll. It's a really sweet story, and my 6-year-old who shares the doll's name will receive this one from St. Nicholas. 



Dasher Can't Wait for Christmas by Matt Tavares is a sequel to Dasher from a few years ago. On the eve of  Christmas Eve, Dasher wanders off, takes flight and has a little adventure with a human friend, and then has the opportunity to bring gifts to that child on Christmas Eve. The appeal of this book is the beautiful use of light in the illustrations. It creates a similar magical feel to The Polar Express. My oldest daughter received Dasher when it was first released, so this one is going to her.

Finally, How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is a surprisingly sweet book from this duo. It explores all the various silly ways Santa might have of entering our homes on Christmas Eve. My 3-year-old daughter, who has been asking a lot of questions about how Santa gets into our house, will receive this one. 

Thank you to Candlewick Press and Simon & Schuster for the review copies!