Monday, July 16, 2018

The RAHM Report for 7/16/18

Finished Reading


  • The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I really enjoyed this one. I think I should read more science fiction. I don't have the same problems with this genre as I do with fantasy.
  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Stina Neilsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I am having a great time re-reading these Sarah Dessen books. Since I won't get to all of them this summer, I've decided to focus on the ones set in Colby, and it has been fun seeing all the connections between the characters. My review of this book is on Goodreads
  • The Summer of Mrs. MacGregor by Betty Ren Wright ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I saw this book on Instagram and borrowed it from Open Library. It was interesting and different than I was expecting, and now I want to read more books by this author.  
  • The Animal, The Vegetable, and John D. Jones by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐⭐
    I loved the writing and the character development in this book, but the plot was very thin and predictable. It is set at the beach, though, so it was a good choice for a summer read.
  • Midnight Snacks Are Murder by Libby Klein ⭐⭐⭐
    I had a hard time getting into this cozy mystery to the point that I considered marking it DNF around the 40% mark. But things picked up a lot at the halfway mark, and I wound up reading the remaining 60% in less than two hours. I'll be reviewing this one on Goodreads and NetGalley.

Currently Reading


  • Decked by Carol Higgins Clark 8%
    I was just not in the mood for this book this week and didn't read a single page. I feel like it might be a good one to take to the pool if we take the girls this week. 
  • The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Allie Gallerani 22%
    I jumped right into another Sarah Dessen book literally 2 minutes after finishing Along for the Ride. I have enjoyed all the audiobook narrators I've heard so far, but I think Allie Gallerani is my favorite. She sounds exactly like I would expect Emaline to sound, and her voice still sounds normal even when I listen at 2x speed.
  • A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot 46%
    Book club is Thursday, so this book is the priority for the next couple of days. I'm enjoying it,  so unlike the last couple book club books, I am sure I will finish it. 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Monday, July 9, 2018

The RAHM Report for 7/9/18

What I Finished Reading


  • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis by Max Shulman ⭐⭐⭐
    I finally finished the last story in this collection this week. The stories were pleasant diversions and it was fun to see the inspiration for the sit-com, but the jokes are all very similar and after a while, they did get old. I don't feel the need to read anymore Max Shulman. 
  • One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This is my new favorite book. Jennifer Fulwiler's sense of humor really resonates with me and I related to her struggle to balance her interest in writing with the demands of a young, growing family. I both laughed and cried while reading and I think every Catholic mom should read this book.  (Also, the negative comments about natural family planning in the Goodreads reviews make me cringe. NFP Awareness Week is coming up, and apparently we need it!) 
  • So Done by Paula Chase (ARC) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This forthcoming middle grade novel is really excellent. I will have a review on the blog in August after my reviewing break is over.
  • Revolutionizing Education in America: The TOTIL Method by Doris Leclerc Ball ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    My husband read this and then suggested I read it quickly as well. The author focuses on time on task and the ability of students to learn mostly independently once they can read. It was interesting information to file away for future homeschooling use. 
  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Stina Neilsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I loved this book much more on the second reading. There was so much I didn't remember, including the amazing character development and the issues between Macy and her mom. 
  • The Happy Hollisters at Sea Gull Beach by Jerry West ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I started reading this aloud to my four-year-old in May, but we sort of forgot about it for a while. Finally, I sat her down and read her the last three chapters in one sitting so we could finish it out.  

What I'm Currently Reading


  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Rachel Botchan 50%
    I'm on a roll with these Sarah Dessen audiobooks. Because it has references to both Keeping the Moon and The Truth About Forever, which I just read, it wound up being the perfect follow-up to those even though I mostly just chose it because there were no holds on it at the library. 
  • A Mothers Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot 19%
    Book club is coming up a week from Thursday, so this book will be more of a priority as that gets closer. I really like it, but I don't want to finish too early and forget everything by the time the discussion takes place. 
  • The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein 18%
    The dialogue in this book is really great, and the story moves quickly. I hope to be able to devote enough time to it in the next couple of days that I can finish it.  
  • Decked by Carol Higgins Clark 8%
    This has been on my nightstand for months, and I finally picked it up over the weekend. It's decent so far.
  • Midnight Snacks Are Murder by Libby Klein (ARC) 6%
    I started this because I thought I was ready to dive right into another cozy after finishing Italian Iced But it turns out I need a bit of a palate cleanse. Hopefully I'll be more in the mood for it by the end of this week.

I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Monday, July 2, 2018

The RAHM Report for 7/2/18

What I Finished Reading


  • Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Stina Neilsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I so enjoyed revisiting this old favorite which I read when it first came out and had never re-read. Sarah Dessen will always be one of my favorite authors. The narrator was also perfect for the story.
  • Italian Iced by Kylie Logan (ARC) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This was a great cozy mystery: good writing, interesting characters, and a well-structured plot. My review is on Goodreads.
  • Why Can't I Be You? by Melissa Walker (ARC) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Melissa Walker's books are consistently great, and I really enjoyed this one. I'll be reviewing it on the blog, probably in August.
  • On the Fence by Kasie West, audiobook read by Shannon McManus ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    After I finished Keeping the Moon, I wanted another quick YA audiobook. This was a perfect choice, and now I want to listen to all of Kasie West's books.
  • The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This is my favorite Armand Gamache book so far. I'll post a review on Goodreads soon. 
  • The Sparrow Child by Meriol Trevor ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This book really picked up after about 75 pages, and was really good from there until the end. I'll be reviewing this one on the blog in August. 


What I'm Currently Reading


Seasons of Reading's month-long High Summer Read-a-thon started yesterday, and I was having trouble deciding what to read, so I started a bunch of different books to work on during this week to kick things off. Here they all are:
  • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis by Max Shulman 76%
    This one is a holdover from last week. I haven't quite gotten back into the mood for it, but when I do, it will be a quick finish.
  • One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler 46%
    Jennifer Fulwiler is an atheist-to-Catholic convert who writes about pursuing her personal dreams while also raising six kids. I saw her speak a while back, but I've been waiting for the book to go on sale for Kindle. It finally did this weekend, and I'm already halfway through it. It sounds like my book club might read it this fall, but I'm going to finish it now anyway.
  • So Done by Paula Chase (ARC) 24%
    I'm enjoying this story about middle school friendship set in a housing project. It's different from a lot of the friendship drama books out there and feels like it will be a very quick read.
  • A Mothers Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot 16%
    This is my book club book for July, and I'm loving it as much as the Fulwiler book. It's the exact kind of book I need to be reading as we prepare for our move. (One month to go!!!)
  • The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein 11%
    My husband is listening to the full cast audio recording of this 1952 science fiction novel, and I caught a snippet on our ride home from church on Sunday. I can't stand full cast audiobooks so I borrowed the book from OpenLibrary instead. I've only read one chapter, but I'm already fully invested. 
  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Stina Neilsen 6%
    This is my next Sarah Dessen audiobook. I didn't feel like re-reading Someone Like You or Dreamland, and This Lullaby had holds on it on Overdrive, so I just skipped ahead to this one. I read it for the first time back when I was in library school, so it's been 13-14 years, and nothing feels all that familiar so far.
  • Midnight Snacks Are Murder by Libby Klein (ARC) 2%
    I'm not sure if I will really get to this one this week. After just finishing two mysteries in a row, I need a bit of a break before diving into another one. 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Friday, June 29, 2018

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge: June 2018 Link-Up

This is the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge link-up post for June! Please share your reviews and posts about any "old school" books you have read this month in the comments. (Even if you haven't signed up for the challenge you're welcome to participate with anything you've posted about a book published in the decade of your birth or before.)

I reviewed one "old school" book this month:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mid-Year Goals and Challenge Check-In

This year is already half over! Here's how things are going with my reading and blogging goals and the challenges I'm participating in.

GOALS


Read fewer books. So far, so good. I'm mostly keeping up with my goal to read 500 books.  I am generally between 15 and 20 books behind, but nothing so terrible that I can't catch up. I am definitely glad I didn't set a goal of 800 again this year.

Review more books overall, but fewer books on the blog. I have definitely reviewed fewer books on the blog so far this year, and will in fact not be posting any blog reviews in July just to give myself time to catch up. I haven't tallied it up, but it does feel like I have posted more Goodreads reviews this year than in the past.

Review books in a more timely manner. I still have some room for improvement here, but it's gotten much better. I have really been making an effort to review ARCs as I read them and to decide right away if  I'm not going to review a given book. .

Branch out from book reviews. I'm still working on this. The Blog All About It challenge has been helping.

Post blog posts to Facebook regularly. Right after I set this goal, Facebook changed its algorithm and I pretty much abandoned my page. I post here and there, but there is nothing regular about the schedule. They just make it too hard to build up a meaningful following.

Host a #bookstagram challenge.  I'm doing this in July! Check out #picturebookpicnic, which will run from July 1-31 on my Instagram @mrskatiefitz.

Keep a bullet journal. This hasn't been successful in the way I intended, but I have enjoyed having one book to keep track of reading, tasks, packing lists, moving stuff, etc. I may start using it more after we move and start homeschooling.

Stop getting the news from social media.  I don't follow any news sources on social media anymore and it has been great. I get the major headlines here and there and occasionally look up more information if I feel the need. But otherwise, not knowing what the Internet at large thinks of every news story has been a huge relief and I waste much less time in "someone's wrong on the Internet" mode.


CHALLENGES

 

A to Z Challenge hosted by Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest I've read children's books for 20 letters. I have J, N, O, Q, V, and X left. I wish I could participate more in some of the mini-challenges and things, but there's just so much going on all the time that it's hard to keep track of.

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good BookFor this one, I'm focusing on adult books. So far, I've crossed off 17 letters, but still need to read books for K, N, Q, R, U, V, W, X, and Y.

Author Love Challenge hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because ReadingI've read 10 of the required 15 books, but if I'm truly going to complete the entire list of this author's books, I have 22 to go.

Blog All About It hosted by Herding Cats & Burning SoupI've blogged about all six topics so far. It's been nice to have some prompts to help me brainstorm new post ideas.

Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at MidnightI feel like I can't break into this community. I comment on posts at different times during the month, but I don't seem to get a lot of visits to my posts in return. I'm going to keep working at it over the summer.

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh my! and Barb @ Booker T's FarmMy goal is to reach the Inspector level, which is 26-35 books. As of today, I've just hit 26, so I could technically be finished, but I plan to keep counting.

Craving for Cozies hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good BookI've read 20 cozies. I'm shooting for at least 28, so I have several more to go.

Family Tree Reading Challenge hosted by Becky's Book Reviews. I've read books for the years 1933, 1982, 1985, 2015, and 2017. I'm still looking for books published in 1946, 1959, and 2013.

Library Love Challenge hosted by Angel's Guilty Pleasures and Brooke BlogsI've been making decent progress on this thanks to ebooks and audiobooks downloaded through Hoopla and Overdrive. I need to read 16 more library books to meet my goal.

Linz the Bookworm hosted by Linz the BookwormMy goal is just to finish level 1, but it sure is taking a long time. I have these categories left: A comedy or a satire book ; Read a book by Nora Roberts; A book on a best seller list

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge hosted here at Read-at-Home Mom. I've read 40 of the 52 "old school" books  I pledged to read, but I haven't reviewed them all as I had originally planned. There just is not enough time to review everything!

Writing Reviews Challenge hosted by Delighted ReaderI wanted to write 100 reviews this year, and I'm already up to 83.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Paging Through Picture Books: Seed School (2018); Do Re Mi (2017); My Favorite Things (2017); Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare (2018); Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (2017); Swim Bark Run (2018); How to Catch a Mermaid (2018)

Here are some reviews of some recently published and soon-to-be published picture books (and board books!), review copies of which I downloaded from Edelweiss. 

Seed School: Growing Up Amazing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Sakshi Mangal


This book follows a group of young seeds (including one acorn) as they prepare to bury themselves in soil and wait to grow. The illustrations are very charming, the scientific concepts are explained really well, and the jokes included in the text are mostly pretty funny. I read this aloud to my four-year-old and two-year-old and they were completely enamored of it, and asked a ton of questions. For the preschool and kindergarten audience, this is a great way to introduce concepts related to planting and growing seeds. 

Do Re Mi illustrated by Miriam Bos
My Favorite Things illustrated by Daniel Roode


My middle daughter (the two-year-old) loves books that can be sung, so I knew she would enjoy these Broadway Baby board books. I was really impressed myself by how well the illustrations brought the songs to life even for kids who don't yet know The Sound of Music. Of the two, Do Re Mi is my favorite, but both have wonderfully bright illustrations in bold colors and remain true to the spirit of the original songs without spoiling the movie. 



Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare edited by Marguerite Tassi, illustrated by Merce Lopez


My four-year-old recently memorized just a snippet from The Tempest ("Where the bee sucks, there suck I..."), so I shared this book with her, just reading the poetry aloud as she played on the floor. The selected passages are a good mix of the ones everybody knows ("Romeo, Romeo;" "To be or not to be;" "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" etc.) and some that would not necessarily be readily recognizable to the average casual reader. Most of the content went over her head, but I think the rhythm and cadence of the language was pleasing for her to hear. The illustrations are also well-done, and they match the mood and time period of each play and sonnet mentioned. I think this would be a nice introduction to Shakespeare for most kids, and even for adults!

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Joe Rhatigan, illustrated by Caroline Farias


This was a quirky take-off on the song in which some cats wish to visit a star they have nicknamed Twinkle., so they make plans to go to space. The concept felt a little too weird and silly for my taste, but my girls seemed to find it amusing, and they talked about it a bit at the dinner table the evening after we read it. For me, I think the story would have been more interesting had it not piggybacked on a favorite song, but instead just told the story without that gimmick. I probably wouldn't seek out others from this particular series.


Swim Bark Run by Brian & Pamela Boyle, illustrated by Beth Hughes


In this book, some dogs decide to participate in a triathlon similar to the one their owners are doing. That concept is already pretty thin, and this book doesn't do much with it. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, which did appeal to my girls initially,  but the "everyone gets a trophy" message didn't get far with my four-year-old, who said, "Mommy, they can't all win. That's silly." I also wasn't fond of the writing, which felt mostly flat and generic. 


How to Catch a Mermaid by Adam Wallace


I ordinarily avoid very commercial-looking picture books like this one, but my girls have been really interested in mermaids so I decided we'd give this book a try. Unfortunately, the rhyme scheme didn't quite work for me, and the focus was more on designing ways to capture the mermaid than on actually spending time with her. (I also thought it was weird for people to be trying to capture a creature that is at least half-human and looks like a person from the waist up. I feel weird thinking about the dignity of a mermaid, but it felt odd to me.) Good mermaid books are hard to find; alas, this book does not alleviate that difficulty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cozy Mystery Series to Make Your Stomach Growl

Though recipes in books are a major pet peeve for me, I do enjoy a good food-themed cozy mystery from time to time. Here are several of the cozy mystery series I enjoy that involve cooking and/or eating good food. (This post is in response to Blog All About It's June prompt of "growl.")

The Cat Who... series by Lilian Jackson Braun


While this series is not directly about food, its protagonist, Jim Qwilleran, does do a brief stint as a restaurant reporter in one of the early books. Later, when he moves to Moose County, Qwilleran dines at many interesting places, always bringing home some leftovers for his cats Koko and Yum Yum. Braun always includes detailed descriptions of these meals and the atmosphere in which they are eaten.

Noodle Shop Mysteries by Vivien Chien


Death by Dumpling, the first book of this series, was just published in March, and the second one, Dim Sum of All Fears, will be out this August. Main character Lana Lee is in her twenties, and she works at her family's noodle restaurant, which is part of a larger shopping center devoted to Asian cultures. In the first book, the murder victim is allegedly poisoned by a lunch ordered from the restaurant, but otherwise, the descriptions of food in this book will make you hungry for Chinese food.


The White House Chef Mysteries by Julie Hyzy


Olivia "Ollie" Paras is a chef at the White House in this series, which came to an end in 2016. In addition to compelling mysteries, this series includes fun details about working in the White House kitchen, catering to the needs of the First Family, and dating a secret service agent. The writing is consistently great as well.


Supper Club Mysteries by Ellery Adams


This series originally published under the pseudonym of J.B. Stanley focuses on five friends who form a supper club to help each other lose weight. The series has been rereleased in ebook and audiobook recently and a new title, Pasta Mortem, cowritten by Rosemary Stevens has just been published. The "flab five" enjoy a different type of food in each book, usually while trying to solve a murder that impacts the life of one of their own. 


Ethnic Eats series by Kylie Logan


There are three books in this series about a Hollywood personal chef turned small-town restaurateur. (Book 3, Italian Iced, will be out July 3rd.) I've only read the third book, but the writing is excellent and the plotting of the story is handled especially well. Like the Supper Club mysteries, these books focus on a different type of food each time so there is always something new to focus on.


Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny


These books are not quite cozies, but they are gentle enough to almost match the genre. They make this list because of all the delicious meals Gamache and others enjoy at Olivier's Bistro and at Clara's house. In fact, food plays such an important role in the series, that a while ago the publisher put out a Three Pines recipe book called The Nature of the Feast.