Monday, November 12, 2018

The RAHM Report for 11/12/18

What I Finished Reading


  • Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This wasn't my favorite of the series, but it was interesting, and a quick read. I really enjoyed the interactions between Tempe's daughter and Ryan's daughter, and the change of pace introduced by the Hawaiian setting. 
  • Barking with the Big Dogs by Natalie Babbitt (ARC) ⭐⭐⭐
    I have a lot - both good and bad - to say about this book. I'm going to make reviewing it a priority this week. 
  • Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich, audiobook read by C.J. Critt ⭐⭐⭐
    I wanted a festive audiobook, and I'd never read any Evanovich. This was sometimes funny, but complete fluff.
  • All Alone by Clare Huchet Bishop ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This was our read-aloud this week. Except for the overly didactic last chapter, it's a wonderful book. 
  • The Spying Heart by Katherine Paterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I loved every one of the essays in this collection. This, and the book that precedes it, Gates of Excellence should be required reading for anyone who loves good children's books. 
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I won't pretend I understood this book, but I'm impressed by its many layers and I know there is much more to it than I got on this first reading. I'm planning to look up some articles and videos about it later this week. 


What I'm Currently Reading


  • Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell
    This book is really engaging, and I've been zipping right through it. I didn't feel like I got to know Kay Scarpetta very well in book one, but that is changing in book two. 
  • Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (ARC)
    I have been wary of this book because of the comparisons to Pippi Longstocking, but so far Astrid seems far less annoying than Pippi. 
  • Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
    I borrowed this from Hoopla as my book for the letter U in the Alphabet Soup challenge. I read the first paragraph, and I think I'll be able to get through the book in a couple of days. 
  • Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay, audiobook read by Karyn O'Bryant
    I've been wanting to read this book for a while, but none of my local libraries have the ebook, so I settled on the audiobook. So far, so good.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny
    I'm still making my way through my re-read of this book with the read-along group on Instagram. I'm several days behind because I had a proofreading set to finish this weekend but I'll catch up today and tomorrow.
As usual, I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Friday, November 9, 2018

The RAHK Report: New Books Edition, Fall 2018

My older two girls and I have been really enjoying the review copies we've received from publishers these past couple of months. Today, I finally want to share our thoughts on 10 of the books we were fortunate enough to find in our mailbox. (The 11th book, Sing a Song of Seasons is a lengthy poetry collection, so that one will get its own separate post.)

When I was getting ready to write this up, I corralled Little Miss Muffet (who will turn 5 this month) and Little Bo Peep (who just turned 3) into our home office and asked them to read the books with me and give them a rating of either one star (defined in simple preschool terms as "bad"), two stars ("just okay"), or three stars ("great," a pronouncement to which the girls just naturally added a thumbs up.) It was interesting to see where their ratings matched or differed from each other, and also how they corresponded with my Goodreads ratings.

There were five books to which both girls gave perfect marks of 3 out of 3 stars, so I'll start with those.

Heads and Tails by John Canty (10/23/18, Candlewick Press)
A series of illustrations and textual clues invites preschoolers to guess the names of animals based on their tails. This book is very straightforward and Little Miss Muffet guessed all the animals correctly on her first reading. Little Bo Peep had a bit of a harder time, which leads me to think that her age group is probably the best audience for the book. There are a couple of strange instances where the illustrator throws in a red herring tail and requires the reader to turn the page twice to find out which animal he really intends. Even on a third reading, these moments still felt awkward, so although I really loved the artwork, I gave the book 3 out 5 stars.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein (9/11/18, Candlewick Press)
My husband has instilled in my children a deep love for elephants, and I think this must be what drives them to ask for this book again and again. They don't know the fairy tales referenced in the book yet, and they have never had homework so the surprise humor of elephants must be the main draw. In any case, for me, this book fell really flat. (I gave it 2 stars out of 5.)  In a previous post, I mentioned that the story felt like it only had one joke, and it beat that joke to death. But I don't mind keeping it around for now, since the girls have latched onto it so heavily. I would like them to read the first book, though, because I do think it's the better of the two.

Ten Horse Farm by Robert Sabuda (4/10/18, Candlewick Press)
My kids are not especially big horse lovers, but they loved this book, and I did too. It is amazing the images that can be created simply using paper cut-outs, and we enjoyed every page, and especially the final spread where the reader needs to find all ten horses hidden around the pop-up barn. (For a sneak peek at the illustrations, check out the book trailer!) I'm also happy to say this book has held up really well to repeated handling. I don't let the baby around it because I know no pop-up book is durable enough to withstand a one-year-old, but allowing my older two to touch the book has not resulted in disaster so far! (My rating: 5 out of 5.)


Sleep, My Bunny by Rosemary Wells (11/13/18, Candlewick Press)
I have read this gentle rhyming bedtime story to all three girls, and while I think it is probably most appealing to the one-year-old, it has definitely made an impression on Miss Muffet and Bo Peep as well. They both love the endpapers, and Bo Peep mentioned that she likes how it shows the bunny doing all the same things in his daily routine that she does in hers. I was a little surprised to see them both give this book the highest rating, but they have been reading it together a lot so I guess I should have guessed. My rating for this book is 4 out of 5 stars.

There's A Dinosaur on the 13th Floor by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (10/2/18, Candlewick Press)
This silly story is about a musician who just wants to go sleep, but can't find a room at the Sharemore Hotel that isn't already occupied by an animal. As he and the  bellhop climb higher and higher in the building searching for a suitable bed, the animal residents get more and more ridiculous until finally he meets the occupant of the 13th floor, a dinosaur. This book has held up surprisingly well to multiple re-readings. Both girls have run hot and cold about it for a few weeks, but we are currently in a high-demand phase where there is a lot fighting for a turn with this book.

On the other five books, the girls disagreed, and occasionally so did I.

Oskar Can... by Britta Teckentrup (10/23/18, Prestel Junior)
Little Bo Peep, who was my intended audience when I requested this book, ended up disliking it immensely (1 star!). She did not seem to connect with Oskar at all, and when I said we were going to read this one, she actually wanted to leave the room! Her sisters, on the other hand, have both really taken to the book. Little Jumping Joan, the one-year-old read it with me a couple of times and she was thrilled by the pictures, pointing at everything in sight. Little Miss Muffet also loved it (3 stars!) and she has read it to her baby doll several times. She tells me that her baby doll, Robin, loves the cover, while Miss Muffet herself loves the pictures and all the things Oskar is able to do. I gave it two stars because I was expecting more of a story, but I could see pairing it with something like Titch for a story time.

Builders and Breakers by Steve Light (10/9/18, Candlewick Press)
This book has a simple text about construction and demolition and how builders and breakers work together to bring a set of blueprints to life. I really liked the artwork, and gave the book 4 out of 5 stars for its strong appeal to kids who love construction, all the details in the illustrations that are not mentioned in the text, and the interesting spin on a popular topic. Miss Muffet is a bit old at this stage for picture books with such minimal words, so she just gave it 2 stars, but Bo Peep found it completely engaging and gave it a big thumbs up (an enthusiastic 3 stars). I posted a review on Instagram as well, and was thrilled that Steve Light shared it!

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9/4/18, Candlewick Press)
I had reviewed this previously but I wanted to see what the girls had to say about it. I was expecting Miss Muffet to be the one who connected most with this one since the artwork and subject matter are both pretty abstract. But she only gave it 2 stars while Bo Peep, enamored of the colors in the illustrations, gave it 3. I think this is a book they will only appreciate more as they get older, so it will be staying on our shelves for years to come. 

Night Job by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9/11/18, Candlewick Press)
I also reviewed Night Job previously, but again wanted to see what the girls thought. Bo Peep has been really interested in this one from the start (and she gave it 3 stars), but Miss Muffet went from refusing to hear it at all to an "okay" 2-star rating. Miss Muffet did react strongly to the ending, which is a lovely dream sequence, but I think Bo Peep liked it for the same reason I would have as a kid: it shows the inner workings of an everyday place during its off hours.

City by Ingela P. Arrhenius (9/18/18, Candlewick Studio)
This is my favorite book in this post. It's enormous, filled with beautifully colorful illustrations of all aspects of a city. It reminds me of all the Richard Scarry word books, but with huge pictures instead of little ones. Even the endpapers are reminiscent of that format, as they identify each object and person who appears in the text with the correct label. Miss Muffet was just not that interested in this book, and she started out with a 1-star rating, then later asked me to increase it to 2. She said her baby doll didn't like the "unsafe things like the subway" but only because "she will never get to go there." Bo Peep didn't have much to say about why she did like it, but I think part of the reason for her 3-star rating is that there are so few words, she can enjoy the book independently without any interference from her parents or sister.

Finally, I just have to mention one more book that Little Miss Muffet has absolutely adored: My First Wild Activity Book, published by Silver Dolphin Press. It came out in the spring, but she didn't really look at it much until the week of our move in August when she needed to be kept busy for long stretches of time while we dealt with logistics. The book is organized really well, with sections for each of seven different habitats, and there are a variety of activities for exploring the animals that live in each one. I finally found where she has been keeping the book the other day, and I was so pleased to see it was almost complete and that she had done such a thorough job. There are still some activities left to do that require grown-up help, so it seems like we'll even get a bit more out of it yet. Miss Muffet is really big on activity books, and this one has been a favorite.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reading Through History: The Motoring Millers by Alberta Wilson Constant (1969)

In the second of three books about the Miller family of Gloriosa, Kansas, sisters Lou Emma and Maddie have automobiles on their minds. First, there is an automobile race coming to their town and one of the drivers will be staying with the girls, their professor father, and their stepmother, Miss Kate. Afterward, when their father is invited to a conference in Colorado, where his idol will also be in attendance, the girls find themselves whisked away on a family road trip in the family car, the Great Smith. The drive is anything but uneventful, as a variety of difficulties  thwart their path and bring to light at least one unexpected surprise.

The biggest surprise of this book was that I actually got to read a copy! None of the books in this trilogy (which also includes Those Miller Girls! (1965) and Does Anybody Care About Lou Emma Miller? (1979)) is particularly easy to find, and this one seems to be the least commonly available. Nevertheless, my academic librarian husband was able to track down a copy via inter-library loan and though I had to read them out of order, I have now completed the series.

While interesting to me as a fan of the series, however, The Motoring Millers, may be the weakest of the three books, at least in terms of plot. The first part of the story, involving the car race, starts off very slowly and isn't all that engaging. It gives the author an opportunity to insert some girl power into the book (one of the drivers in the race is a woman) and there is some exposition about the growing pains in the new stepfamily, but most of the interesting stuff happens in the second half of the book, during the roadtrip. The descriptions of what it was like to drive a car any distance in the early 1900s are fascinating, as are the details of how Kansas and Colorado looked in those days. Road trips are also always a great way for characters to work out issues in their relationships with others, and this storyline goes a long way toward bringing harmony to the Miller family.

Overall, this series is a worthwhile read with wholesome values, believable family dynamics and many wonderful details about day-to-day life 100 years ago. Though this second book had to go back to the library, I hope I'll be able to get it again when my daughters are old enough to relate to the Miller girls!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Best Backlist Middle Grade and YA Books I Originally Discovered Through Netgalley and Edelweiss

Today's Top Ten Tuesday theme is supposed to be Backlist Books I Want to Read, but I'm giving it a little twist. These are backlist middle grade and YA books that I have read, which were published between 2011 and 2017, and which I first read via NetGalley or Edelweiss back when they were new. If you missed them on the frontlist, now's the time to make up for lost time, especially since a lot of these are really affordable on Kindle. (Note: My Goodreads shelves show that I have read 281 Netgalley titles and 190 Edelweiss titles. If they make this list, they are beating out a lot of other books!)

Edelweiss

 

  • Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas (2014)
    Set during a shift at a grocery store on Christmas Eve, this YA novel follows Chloe, a type I diabetic, as she reports to work and attempts to fulfill the resolutions she has set for herself regarding her coworkers and her crush, Tyson. Though the cover doesn't make it clear enough, this is a great holiday read! Read my review.
  • Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb (2014)
    Flor loves her home on Moonpenny Island, but she goes through a tough time when both her best friend and her mom leave the island simultaneously, forcing her to seek new connections. Tricia Springstubb's writing is so beautiful; I'll read anything she publishes! Read my review. 
  • Murder is Bad Manners (2014)
    This series from the UK is among my very favorites. This book, in which Hazel Wong and her best friend, Daisy Wells, discover their first body and solve their first murder case, introduces the 1930s boarding school that the girls attend as well as the dramatic tension in Hazel and Daisy's friendship that drives the series as a whole. Adult cozy mystery lovers can enjoy this book as well as kids. Read my review. (Note: In the UK, the title of this book is Murder Most Unladylike.)
  • Mission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen Toilets by Mahtab Narsimhan (2016)
    When Dylan accompanies Rohit to visit family in Mumbai, he is glad to have a reason to be away from his parents and to pursue his photography hobby, but worried that Rohit's relatives will make good on their promise to move him to India permanently. This is a great buddy adventure, and a highly underrated novel. Read my review.
  • The Courage Test by James Preller (2016)
    In this funny father/son wilderness adventure, Will and his historian dad take a trip to retrace the steps of Lewis and Clark and explore a deeper relationship with one another. Read my review.


NetGalley

 

  • Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (2012)
    Originally published in Australia as Good Oil, this is another YA novel set in a grocery store. Fifteen-year-old Amelia enjoys working side-by-side with her older crush, Chris, who is 21. What she does not realize, however, is everything else Chris has going on in his life away from their job. This is possibly the best YA book I have read in the last ten years. Read my review. 
  • The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky (2013)
    This book was also originally published in Australia. It's the story of an afternoon in the 1960s on which a group of Sydney schoolgirls follow their teacher Miss Renshaw on a walk to a nearby garden and return to school unaccompanied later on, as Miss Renshaw has gone missing. With echoes of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, this is a beautifully written - and chilling - story. Read my review.
  • A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar (2013)
    Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Bijou Doucet moves to Brooklyn to live with her aunt and uncle. Alex Schrader, a boy at a school neighboring hers, takes an interest in Bijou but must carefully navigate the rules dictated by Bijou's family and culture about her spending time with a boy. Read my review.
  • Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck (2014)
    This agricultural-themed family story stars Diggy Lawson who spends a year raising a steer and coming to terms with the discovery that his father has another son he never knew about. Read my review.
  • Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach (2016)
    Geoff Herbach writes YA novels that are both funny and heartbreaking. This tale of an immature young man named Taco who suddenly finds himself on the verge of parenthood is a positive take on a topic that is often treated as a tragedy. There is something endearing about Taco's excitement for his unborn child to enter the world. Read my review.
Have you read any of these? Which other backlist MG and YA titles would you recommend? 

Monday, November 5, 2018

The RAHM Report for 11/5/18

What I Finished Reading


  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I gave this book five stars for the content because I think the advice is good, but for such a short book, it sure repeated itself a lot! 
  • Butchers Hill by Laura Lippmann ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I alternated between the ebook and audiobook and read this one in just a few days. Now that the main character has established herself as a private investigator, the series is getting much more interesting.
  • Deadly News by Jody Holford ⭐⭐⭐
    This is a solid first book in a new cozy mystery series involving a sleuth who works for a small-town newspaper. It was enjoyable, and I'll be curious to see where things go in the next book. 
  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I was searching for a book title that started with Z when I came across this one. I really enjoyed reading about the thought processes behind Bradbury's works, and I want to read more now! 
  • McMummy by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐⭐
    This was a quick spookyish read for Halloween, and reading it helped me finally reach my goal of reading 15 Betsy Byars books for the year.
  • Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett ⭐⭐⭐
    This was our Halloween read-aloud. It was okay, but not spectacular. 
  • From the Queen by Carolyn Hart  ⭐⭐
    I needed a book title with a Q in it for the Alphabet Soup challenge. This cozy mystery novella was available from the library through Hoopla, so I just read through it quickly, but it wasn't very memorable. 


What I'm Currently Reading


  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
    I was looking for a book with a title that started with V when I remembered that I have never read this. I read a few pages just to whet my appetite, and I think I'm going to like it. 
  • Barking with the Big Dogs by Natalie Babbitt
    This is an ARC of a collection of essays about children's books by the late Natalie Babbitt. So far, her arguments feel a little obvious, but I'm not that far along in the book at all yet. 
  • Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs
    I'm getting back into this series again in the hopes of reducing my pile of unread paperbacks. So far, it's good but not great.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny
    I'm re-reading this for an Instagram read-along. It's even better the second time! 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Autumn People by Ruth Arthur (1973)

Romilly Williams is the second person in her family tree with her name. The first, Romilly's great-grandmother, was known as Millie, and she vacationed on the island of Karasay just once as a young woman and never returned, owing to a strange and painful experience that cost her the love of her life and possibly a piece of her soul as well. The second Romilly has grown up hearing stories about Karasay from Millie's daughter, her Gran, who herself has always wondered about the reasons her mother never joined the family for their island vacations. When Gran and Romilly finally have the chance to visit Karasay, neither realizes the role Romilly will play in finally setting right the wrongs of Millie's past.

This novel is told in a very straightforward way, relating first Millie's point of view in the summer of 1901 and then Romilly's "present-day" (early 1970's) experiences. Though the storytelling is quite linear and ordinary, however, the events of the story are unusual and unsettling. What happens between Millie and a distant relative, Roger, incorporates elements of the supernatural, as does Romilly's journey of discovery toward what happened to Roger and how it affected her great-grandmother. Like When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (1967)The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope (1958), and Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder (2014), this novel shows how the past impacts the future, but also how the future might reach back through time and remedy the past. 

Though The Autumn People is not a Halloween story per se, the title and the involvement of ghosts in some segments of the plot make it an appropriate read for getting into the spirit of the holiday. There is probably not enough actual haunting in this book to please true fans of ghost stories, but for readers like me, who typically don't like to be scared too much, this novel is plenty troubling at points even if it is pretty clear from the outset that there will be a happy resolution.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The RAHM Report for 10/29/18

What I Finished Reading


  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I enjoyed this YA mystery novel which alternates between past and present happenings at a boarding school for gifted students that was the site of a murder many years ago. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but it does set us up nicely for the forthcoming sequel. 
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I picked this up on a whim and could not believe how much I loved it. My review is on Goodreads.
  • The Good Friends by Margery Bianco ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This was my most recent read-aloud with my big girls. I'll say more about it when I make my next Read-at-Home Kids Report post.
  • The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Compared with the first book, this one really wasn't scary. I liked it, though. Lewis, the main character, is as endearing as ever.
  • The Heavenly Tenants by William Maxwell, illustrated by Ilonka Karasz  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Somehow I had never heard of this 1947 Newbery Honor book until yesterday, but even though she story was weird, it was absolutely worth reading for the gorgeous illustrations! (The book is available free online - click to read.


  • Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe ⭐⭐⭐
    This was a quick and mostly enjoyable read. I'm probably done with this series for now because it gets old after a while, but reading this helped me finish the A to Z challenge! 
  • The X'ed-Out X-ray by Ron Roy ⭐⭐
    I got tired of hunting for an interesting book whose title started with X, and finally decided to just read this one. It was fine, but I could have lived without reading it too. 
  • The Traveling Bird by Robert Burch, illustrated by Susanne Suba ⭐⭐⭐
    This book has a really depressing ending, but I needed a book published in 1959 for the Family Tree challenge, and my kindergartner just read it, so I just picked it up and read it quickly too. It wasn't my favorite, but my daughter liked it. 
  • Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
     I intended to read one chapter of this book and ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. Katherine Paterson's writing just really resonates with me. 


What I'm Currently Reading

 


I'm hoping to do NaNoWriMo this next month along with a couple of buddy reads on Instagram, so I'm trying to wrap up my reading and start November with a completely clean slate. These are the books I hope to finish by the end of Wednesday: 

  • Butcher's Hill by Laura Lippman
    I'm listening to this third Tess Monaghan book on audio and reading the ebook in between listening sessions. I think it's the best one of the series so far.
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
    This is my Catholic book club's pick for November. It's really short, but takes a bit of concentration to follow. I'm enjoying it and highlighting a lot of quotes I think will be good to discuss.
  • Deadly News by Jody Holford
    I wanted to finish this ARC over the weekend, but didn't quite make it. It's a pretty run-of-the-mill and straightforward cozy mystery so far, but I'm enjoying getting to know some new characters.

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


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reading Through History: Queenie Peavy by Robert Burch (1966)

Queenie Peavy is living during the Great Depression, during which time her father is also incarcerated. Unable to cope with the way people treat her based on her father's bad behavior, Queenie acts out quite a lot, especially at school. Only when she decides to stop worrying about what others think can she start to reform herself into the kind of person others enjoy spending time with. 

Like this author's 1965 novel, D.J.'s Worst Enemy, this is a bit of a character-building story designed to show kids how to take responsibility for their own behavior and to begin acting properly because they want to and not just because someone else says they must.  While D.J.'s Worst Enemy felt somewhat boring to me, however, Queenie is such a well-developed character that I was completely engaged the entire time I was reading. Burch does a good job of bringing out Queenie's personality both through her own thoughts and dialogue and through the reactions of other characters. 

Enjoying Queenie so much made it very easy to swallow the moral of the story. Though I often dislike books with clear agendas, this one does a nice job of helping to provide character education for kids without preaching at them or sugarcoating childhood. In fact, I think this book provides a much-needed reality check for today's hyper-offended culture. Queenie learns that she can choose not to be offended by the words and deeds of others, and learning this frees her from feelings of constant anger and frustration. I hope my kids will be at least a little bit like Queenie in that respect.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The RAHM Report for 10/22/18

Read-a-thons


I was reading for three simultaneous read-a-thons over the course of this past week. The first was #FrightFall, which is a month-long scary-themed read-a-thon at Seasons of Reading. I'm not into horror, but I've been trying to read mostly mysteries. On Friday and Saturday, I joined #8inBoo, hosted by @25infive on Instagram. The goal was to read for 8 hours over two days. I made it to 6 hours. Saturday was also my first attempt at joining in for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. It's hard to accomplish anything when the time limit is 24 hours, you have three small children, and you can't just stay up all night, but I did enjoy jumping in and hopefully I'll try it again when it happens in April. 

What I Finished Reading

 

  • Disappearing Acts by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐⭐
  • King of Murder by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Black Tower by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    These three books are the last of the Herculeah Jones mysteries by Betsy Byars. The 7th and final book ended as though an 8th was expected, so that was a little disappointing, but overall I liked the series, and I enjoyed getting back into Byars after a break. I am planning to review the whole series soon.
  • X by Sue Grafton ⭐⭐⭐
    I had heard this book was disappointing, and though I tried to stay positive about it as I read it this weekend, the reviewers were mostly right. It wasn't bad, per se, but it was the weakest of the 24 I've read. I will take a few weeks off before diving into Y is for Yesterday. I'm sad for the end of the series, especially since it will forever remain unfinished, but I'm also excited to go back and reread some of the early ones after I'm done. 
  • Howliday Inn by James Howe ⭐⭐⭐
    I read Bunnicula aloud to my kids and realized I had never finished the series. Though I enjoyed this second book, it's a bit sophisticated for my kids just now, so I don't plan to share it with them until they're older, if ever.
  • Dead Over Heels by Charlaine Harris ⭐⭐
    I listened to half of this as an audiobook and read the other half in the ebook edition. It was a pretty weak mystery, and though I like Roe well enough, the other characters, especially her husband, get on my nerves. I'm still sticking with the series, but I hope it picks up a bit. 


What I'm Currently Reading

 

  • The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
    I fully intended to read this entire book this week, but the Sue Grafton book took me forever, and then I got sucked into a bunch of digital books. Once I sit down with it and focus, it will take me just a couple of hours.
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
    I am really enjoying the writing style in this book (I have always enjoyed Johnson) but I find myself reading it slowly because I don't want it to end too soon.
  • Deadly News by Jody Holford
    I started this ARC last weekend and then forgot about it. It's good, and I'm looking forward to it, and I'm not currently reading any other cozies, so I should be able to make it a bigger priority this week.
  • Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe
    I realize this is the fourth book of the Bunnicula series, not the third, but I've decided to skip ahead because I need a children's book beginning with letter N for a challenge, and I'm trying to wrap those up. 

Reading Challenge Progress


There are only ten weeks left in 2018, so I'm trying to really focus on finishing up my challenges. I have mostly stopped linking up because I am behind on writing reviews, but I still want to try to finish as many checklists as I can. Here's how things stand: 

  • For the A to Z Challenge, I have letters J, N, and X left.
  • For Alphabet Soup, I still need Q, U, V, Y, and Z.
  • I'm reading Betsy Byars books for the Author Love challenge, and I've read 14 of the required 15.
  • I signed up for the Inspector level (26-35 books) of the Cloak and Dagger challenge. I'm currently at 40 and might reach 50 or more by the end of the year. 
  • For Craving for Cozies, I aimed for the Famished level (11-30), but I've read 31 books and anticipate reading several more. 
  • For the Family Tree challenge, I'm still missing books published in 1946 and 1959. 
  • I've read 46 books for the Library Love challenge, surpassing my goal by 10. 
  • I wanted to complete level 1 of the Linz the Bookworm challenge, but I still need a comedy or satire book and a Nora Roberts book, and I don't think I'm going to get them done. 
  • My goal for the Old School Kidlit challenge was 52 books. I read my 53rd this week. 
  • For the Writing Reviews challenge, I planned to review 100 books. I stopped counting at 125. 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book Review: Lu by Jason Reynolds (2018)

Lu, the co-captain of the Defenders track team and runner of the 400 meter dash, has a lot of talent as an athlete and a lot of attitude to back it up. Often seen wearing gold chains and diamond earrings, Lu, whose parents got him into sports to help him feel confident in his albino skin, seems to have a surplus of self esteem. It's about to be a lot harder for Lu to maintain this "swagger," however, both because of family issues (his mom's expecting a new baby, and his dad is trying to make amends for the bad decisions of his own youth) and because Coach has challenged him to take on hurdles, which secretly scare him. 

After Ghost, which is the first and most memorable title in this series, Lu is the second best installment. Whereas Patina's voice took a while to establish itself, and Sunny's strange speech patterns kept him at a distance, Lu comes completely to life in the first few paragraphs of this book and remains so for the duration. The exchanges of dialogue with his parents and teammates, his ruminations about what it will be like to finally have a sibling, and his concerns over interactions with a former friend all give a well-rounded sense of Lu's personality, and the reader becomes completely invested in his well-being and success. The fact that Lu's father and Coach have a connected past also makes Lu the ideal narrator to conclude the series.

And speaking of ending the series, this book really brings everything full circle in a satisfying way. Though the story belongs to Lu from beginning to end, there are some moments with the entire team near the end of the book that bring the four-book arc to a very fitting resolution that shows not just how Lu has changed, but how the whole team has grown together as a unit over the course of the series. I'll miss reading new installments,  but the story of these characters absolutely feels complete, and I think Reynolds nailed the ending. (Thanks to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for the digital ARC!) 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (1973)

Lewis Barnavelt is an orphan, chubby and unpopular, who has come to live with his uncle Jonathan in a strange house in which the ticking noise of a mysterious hidden clock is ever-present. Lewis quickly learns that both Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman, who lives next door, practice witchcraft, and when he wants to impress his new friend Tarby he decides to perform a little magic himself. Unfortunately, Lewis's attempt to be cool for Tarby also results in the raising of a woman from the dead, a resurrection that creates many problems and dangers for Lewis, his uncle, and Mrs. Zimmerman.

I did a buddy-read of this book with three Instagram friends who were reading it in anticipation of the movie. Though I typically avoid books that might be scary in any way, I've been curious about Bellairs for a long time and this seemed like a good opportunity to get acquainted with his work. As it turned out, I was able to handle the scary content just fine, and I really liked and felt for Lewis as he struggled to fit into his new home and community. I think the fact that Lewis literally raised the dead for Tarby and Tarby still didn't really want to hang out with him is a great hyperbolic commentary on the ways kids sometimes feel compelled to impress the people who just don't want to be their friends, and it also validates the feelings of kids who feel like they just can't do anything right among their peers.

I had some reservations at first about the role of the occult in the story. As I mentioned when I reviewed The Amulet of Samarkand, I generally don't think it's a good idea to encourage kids, however subtly, to play at things like raising the dead. And thankfully, I think the point of view of this book is similar to mine. It is clearly dangerous for Lewis to have raised someone from the dead, and the results are nearly disastrous. Unlike The Amulet of Samarkand, this book does not glorify the occult; if anything, it warns away from meddling in the natural courses of life and death. There are also a few very brief Catholic references early in the book, including some Latin, that I enjoyed.

I mainly connect with books through their characters, and I found the characterizations in this book to be surprisingly believable and well done. I also enjoyed the writing style, even when the author was clearly trying to build up suspense to scare me. Even the ending, which felt a bit random and disorganized, worked for me, because Bellairs sold me on it. I hope to read books two and three in the series before the end of this year.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The RAHM Report for 10/15/18

What I Finished Reading


  • If the Coffin Fits by Lillian Bell (ARC) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Another solid entry in this cozy mystery series set at a funeral home.
  • Ivy and Bean One Big Happy Family by Annie Barrows ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I'm glad Ivy and Bean are back! This was a nice twist on the usual baby sibling storyline.
  • Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount ⭐⭐⭐
    This didn't translate all that well to the ebook format, but it would be a nice coffee table book. 
  • The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee, audiobook read by Marguerite Gavin ⭐⭐⭐
    This is a cozy story without the mystery. Sometimes it dragged, but I still enjoyed it. 
  • Thomas Alva Edison, Miracle Maker by Mervyn D. Kaufman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I read this aloud with my oldest daughter via OpenLibrary. It was just right for a young reader who is just getting into biographies.
  • The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis ⭐⭐⭐
    This was a fun Halloween-themed read with young teen supporting characters. I skipped books 2, 3, and 4 of the series to read this during the correct season, and it didn't feel like I had missed much.
  • Casilda of the Rising Moon by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This historical fiction novel based on the few facts known about the life of St. Casilda of Toledo was really enjoyable. (I would recommend it to Catholic families as an alternative to The Inquisitor's Tale.)

Did Not Finish

  • Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass
    It's not this book's fault that I decided not to finish. I just haven't been able to get in the mood for an academic text. 


What I'm Currently Reading


  • X by Sue Grafton 17%
    I am alternating reading my hardcover and listening to the audiobook via Overdrive. I'm sad to be so close to the end of the series! 
  • The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs 14%
    This is the sequel to The House with a Clock in its Walls, and so far, it's good!
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson 11%I like the voice in this YA mystery. It seems like it will be a quick read.
  • Deadly News by Jody Holford 3%I'm just starting this ARC, but I'm looking forward to a newspaper-related mystery. 

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


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Book Review: Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (2018)

Louisiana Elefante is perturbed, to say the least, when her granny wakes her up one morning and announces that the day of reckoning has arrived and they must leave their home in Florida at once. It's bad enough that Louisiana has to leave behind her friends, Raymie and Beverly, and not much better that Granny immediately has dental trouble and Louisiana has to drive her to a dentist. The worst, however, happens when Louisiana and Granny check into a hotel in a small Georgia town and everything Louisiana thought she knew about her life begins to unravel. All she wants to do is go home, but first Louisiana has to come to an understanding of where that really is.

I felt pretty lukewarm about Raymie Nightingale and two years later, I don't remember much about it. This companion novel, however, told in the strong first-person voice of Louisiana herself makes a much deeper impression. I was drawn into this story immediately, and I read the book eagerly from beginning to end in a single afternoon. The characters are believably endearing and flawed, and Granny's erratic behavior begs the reader to keep turning the pages. Though events of the story are sad, potential sorrow on the part of the reader is tempered by Louisiana's continually upbeat outlook and her willingness to rise to the occasion in even the most dismal of circumstances.

DiCamillo's writing - particularly the details she uses to demonstrate her characters' personalities and quirks - is at its best in this novel. Both of her last two novels, Flora & Ulysses and Raymie Nightingale, didn't really work for me, but to my surprise, this one is actually nearly on par with my favorite of her works, Because of Winn Dixie. (Thanks to Candlewick and NetGalley for the digital ARC!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Book Review: (George) by E.L. Konigsburg (1970)

Ben, a highly intelligent middle school boy who excels at Chemistry, has always had a great relationship with George, his "concentric twin" who lives inside him and often helps him with his schoolwork. Lately, though, Ben and George have begun to disagree about Ben's actions, particularly when it comes to Ben's sudden interest in gaining the approval of his classmates. When George stops speaking to him, Ben becomes concerned that he has lost him forever, but the adults in his life become more concerned about his mental health.

Though E.L. Konigsburg has been a favorite author of mine for years, I kept putting off reading this book because of its strange premise. When I finally decided to dive in, however, I quickly became enamored of the writing style and fell happily into the world of the story. The best way I can describe this book is to say that it's like A Beautiful Mind for middle schoolers. Is George real? Is he a manifestation of some mental illness? Would it be better or worse for Ben to lose George's voice inside of him? These are the questions this book asks readers to contemplate, and though Ben resolves his conflicts for himself, the overarching questions of the story are left open to the reader's interpretation.

This is the kind of book that will probably never have mass appeal, but which might be just the right thing for a highly intelligent kid who is struggling to choose an engaging book to read. Kids who like Konigsburg's more mainstream books (i.e. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or The View from Saturday) might be surprised by the strangeness of (George), but boys, especially, who are struggling socially in early adolescence will relate to Ben and his desire to obscure the truth hidden deep inside of him in order to fit in. Konigsburg had one of the most unique writing styles of any children's author, and this unusual book just proves that she can make a compelling story out of even the most unlikely of premises.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The RAHM Report for 10/8/18

As I suspected, as soon as I reduced my Goodreads goal, my desire to read came back with a vengeance. I had a very satisfying reading week!


What I Finished Reading


  • Watching the Detectives by Julie Mulhern 
    This was another quick and fun installment of this series. Ellison, the main character, makes me laugh.
  • Lu by Jason Reynolds (ARC) 
    This conclusion to the Track series is my favorite after the first book, Ghost. Review coming soon. 
  • The Babysitter's Club: Kristy's Big Day (graphic novel) by Gale Galligan 
    I haven't read all of the BSC graphic novels, but Kristy's Big Day was my favorite book as a kid, so I needed to read this one. I was annoyed that Mallory was around because she isn't in the club yet in the original book, but otherwise this was a really good adaptation that would have made nine-year-old me very happy. 
  • Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (ARC) 
    I felt sort of lukewarm about Raymie Nightingale, but this companion book was really excellent. Review to come. 
  • My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok 
    A couple of my friends and I are reading and discussing the Well Read Mom books this year. We missed September, so we're starting with this book, which is the pick for October. I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to discuss in a couple of weeks.  
  • The Autumn People by Ruth Arthur 
    This was a good creepy tale for this time of year. It was like a cross between The Haunting by Margaret Mahy and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. 
  • Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace 
    This was on my September TBR, so I'm a week late getting it done. I really liked the story and I know it would have really resonated with me as a teen. 


Did Not Finish

  • Naomis Too by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick (ARC)
    I liked the first book, but I got bogged down in the first chapter of this one by all the issues it seems to want to take on. I just wasn't in the mood for the book decided to pass. 


What I'm Currently Reading


  • If the Coffin Fits by Lillian Bell (ARC) 38%
    I'm trying to read mysteries this month because I'm participating in Seasons of Reading's Frightfall read-a-thon, and mysteries are about as scary as I get. It's taken me a while to get around to this ARC, but I'm enjoying it.
  • Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass 29%
    I didn't spend much time on this one this week, but I'm not giving up on it quite yet. 
  • The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee, audiobook read by Marguerite Gavin 25%
    This is my current audiobook. It's like a cozy mystery, except the plot is not a mystery, but instead focuses on saving a small-town library. 
  • Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount 17%
    I saw this on Instagram and found out the ebook was on Hoopla and checked it out. I just clicked through a few pages, but it will be quick to get through once I focus on it for a bit. 
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (not pictured)
    I'm re-reading this for a read-along at Castle Macabre. I may just skip around and not actually read straight through depending on how much time I have, so it doesn't really count as a current read.
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read by Diane W. Frankenstein (2009)

This handbook for reading with children provides everything parents and other caregivers need to know about reading aloud and discussing books with kids. In a brief front section, Frankenstein lays out her advice for selecting, owning, and reading aloud children's books. The next section, the longest of the book, presents profiles of 101 different titles. Each of these includes the book cover, a brief synopsis, a related quotation, an observation the author made, a "souvenir" concept or lesson to be taken from the book, a list of themes explored by the book, possible discussion questions, and a list of read-alikes. The final portion of the book provides more general questions across a variety of themes that can be used with any book that involves the given topics and a series of additional themed booklists across a variety of subjects.

Over the past few months, I have read several books about books: The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie, The Intentional Bookshelf by Samantha Munoz, Our Library by Phyllis Fenner, and The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. Unequivocally, Reading Together is the best of the bunch. Frankenstein has obvious experience suggesting books to a variety of families (not just her own), and she wastes no words in concisely and clearly explaining how best to evaluate books and share them with kids of all ages. The books for which she provides profiles are a varied collection, covering different topics, comprehension levels, developmental phases, cultures, and interests. She gives just the right amount of information about each book to inform parents about content, and to entice potential readers to select that book. The list is also curated. It's not simply a list of every book she has read; instead, it represents the books she truly recommends and which she has seen families enjoy. 

This book inspired me not just to ask my kids more questions about the books we read, but also to consider making profiles like the author's for books we love that she didn't include. It's just an all-around excellent, practical, well-informed manual with something to offer every adult who reads with kids. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Book Review: The Summer of Mrs. MacGregor by Betty Ren Wright (1986)

The Summer of Mrs. MacGregor is another 1980s Apple paperback I discovered on Instagram and read on Open Library. Caroline Cabot is twelve and feeling lonely and left out while her beautiful sister, Linda, who has a heart condition, is away receiving treatment in a hospital. Enter Lillina MacGregor. Though, at 17, she isn't much older than Caroline herself, Lillina claims to be married and a model in New York. She dresses very glamorously, and just by association, makes Caroline feel more confident and more interesting. As the summer passes by, however, it becomes clear that perhaps Lillina isn't telling the whole truth and that her beauty and sophistication mask a much more ordinary life than she would admit to having.

Though this particular novel is not a mystery, Betty Ren Wright did write a number of ghost stories and mysteries, and some aspects of this book reveal her preference for this genre. Lillina is presented as a mysterious character from the start, and there is a growing sense of suspense throughout the story as the reader begins to see some holes in Lillina's story. Lillina also makes the reader feel uncomfortable at times, as she is difficult to read and does not tell much of the truth. The question of the health of Caroline's sister also casts a somewhat dark pall over the story, contributing to an overall feeling of foreboding and worry.

With these mysterious elements, however, there is also a sense of empowerment as Caroline begins to see herself not just as Linda's sister, but as an interesting and valuable person in her own right. Though Lillina may not be what she pretends to be, the attention she bestows upon Caroline still brings about some very real changes in Caroline's perception of herself and her place in the world. Though Lillina is very much a real person, her impact on Caroline's life felt a lot like the way Anna's life is changed by the mysterious Marnie in When Marnie Was There. This book also felt a lot like some of Janet Taylor Lisle's writings, which often involve unlikely friendships with characters who have something mysterious and even sinister about them.

I was not expecting such depth and substance based on the cheesy cover of this book, but I was not disappointed to find that the book offers more than meets the eye.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The RAHK Report for 10/2/18

It has been a while since I've posted an update about the books my girls, the Read-at-Home Kids, are enjoying. As I've mentioned in a few of my Read-at-Home Mom report posts, my dad passed away in the middle of our move, and because of that, it took us a little while to get settled. We're finally getting into a good routine now, and we've started homeschooling kindergarten with our oldest, so it seems like a good time to share our latest reads.

Miss Muffet's Independent Reading


Little Miss Muffet (4 years, 10 months) is my kindergartner, and she has been going through chapter books like crazy. She read straight through the first three Betsy-Tacy books, Betsy-Tacy, Betsy, Tacy and Tib, and Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, and I decided to stop her before she read the fourth book, since I think that's where the subject matter starts to be appealing to a bit of an older audience. I explained that Betsy gets older in each book and that she should catch up to Betsy a little bit before she reads more. She also continues to be interested in The Boxcar Children series, and she often comes to the dinner table bursting to share the latest clues the Alden children have uncovered. She has finished the first seven titles of the series, and she has free access to all the original books written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. We also recently finished listening to the audiobook of Farmer Boy. We originally started it on one our trips to New York this summer, but kept repeating certain chapters, so it took us a while to actually complete the story. Miss Muffet loved it, and she speaks fondly of Almanzo all the time. The next few Little House books seem like they could wait until she is a little older, too, so in the meantime we have introduced one of the spin-off series. She has just started reading Little House in the Highlands by Melissa Wiley, which is book 1 in the series about Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother Martha. After two chapters, Miss Muffet has announced that this book deserves 100 stars. 

Homeschool Read-Alouds

 

In addition to all this independent reading, Miss Muffet has also been enjoying a lot of nonfiction read-alouds with me during her school day. We just finished Can't You Make them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz, which appealed to two of her main interests: the royal family and the American Revolution. Some days, we took turns reading a few pages, other days I just read to her, and we talked about it a little bit afterwards. She seems to really love biographies, so my plan is to alternate between history lessons based on My Backyard History Book and read-alouds of a similar level and format to this book. We've also been studying a bit of art history using How to Use Child-size Masterpieces for Art Appreciation, and she took such a liking to the Mona Lisa, that I went on Open Library and found Katie and the Mona Lisa by James Mayhew. She was disappointed that Mayhew's illustrations aren't of da Vinci quality, but otherwise, she enjoyed this more whimsical look at the painting. 

As we've started studying solids, liquids, and gases in science, we've read a few basic easy readers available on Open Library, and now we're reading through a book from our own collection, Solids, Liquids, and Gases by Jeanne Bendick. This book ties in nicely with our first science lesson of the year, which is about sorting things into categories, and it also had some good connections to a book we read as a fun math review, Let's Find Out About Addition.

Little Bo Peep's Favorites

 

Little Bo Peep (3 years) has been pretty resistant to doing much of any schoolwork, which is fine, since she doesn't really need a lot at this age. She has, however, become very attached to certain books. The one she likes most right now, and which I am asked to read over and over again, is All About Alfie by Shirley Hughes. This is a collection of four stories about preschooler Alfie and his baby sister Annie Rose, and Bo Peep just can't get enough of them. When she wakes up in the morning, she immediately looks for this book, and if she can't find it, she starts asking everyone to look for Alfie as though she has misplaced her best friend. When she's not carrying this book around the house, she is most likely paging through People by Peter Spier, the Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves, the Beatrix Potter books (which she calls "Beaterix Potter"), and/or Weekend with Wendell by Kevin Henkes. I've been trying to read to her before naptime whenever I can, but there are still a lot of times where she would prefer to look at books alone. Bo Peep also recently heard Owl Moon for the first time, and her reaction did not disappoint. That book is truly magic. 

Little Jumping Joan, Page Turner

 

Jumping Joan (11 mos.) has started really liking to have books in her playpen with her. She has been enjoying What a Wonderful World illustrated by Tim Hopgood as well as our newly acquired board book copy of The Babies on the Bus, which my mom bought to replace the hardcover copy the two older girls destroyed with their intense love. Jumping Joan will happily sit on my lap and listen to almost any book, but she also really loves to turn pages, so there is a delicate balancing act between having her enjoy the book and repeatedly losing our page as she bats it out of my hands. 

Family Read-Alouds


Our first lunchtime read-aloud in the new house was The Galloping Goat and Other Stories, which was Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's first book. (I reviewed this book several years ago - it's worth owning.)  It's a collection of short stories, each about a child living in a different country around the world. Miss Muffet loved the book, but Bo Peep only stayed to listen when she still had food on her plate. With Halloween around the corner, we're now reading Bunnicula, but Bo Peep is not all that into it so far. (Strangely, though, Jumping Joan smiled through the whole first chapter.) What Bo Peep did enjoy, though, is reading Stellaluna, which we did after I won an Instagram giveaway from Merry Makers Inc. and a stuffed Stellaluna turned up in our mailbox.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The RAHM Report for 10/1/18

After considering it all month, I made the decision this weekend to decrease my Goodreads challenge goal from 500 books to 400. One of my goals for the year was to read fewer books (I read 800 in 2017), and I set that goal specifically so that I would not be spending my time scrambling to find enough picture books to read in order to catch up after falling 30+ books behind on the challenge. As I looked back over my reading for the past several months, I realized there had been  several instances where I had already done this, and that I would probably need to do it at least once more in order to remain on track. Since I'd rather have time to focus on writing reviews in a timely manner (another of my goals), I decided to just take the pressure off and shave 100 books off my goal. I imagine I will surpass 400, but I didn't want the pressure of making it to 500 to force me into reading books that didn't really interest me. I feel a little bit like a cheater, but I also feel better about being 40-something books ahead of schedule instead of 30-something books behind.


What I Finished Reading


  • The Galloping Goat by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This is Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's very first book, a collection of short stories about kids around the world. This was a re-read for me, but this time I read it aloud to my older two girls. 
  • Charm City by Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I really like Tess Monaghan, the main character of this series. Living in Maryland, I especially enjoyed all the details about Baltimore geography, slang, and history that informed the story. I'm looking forward to continuing the series.
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I read about this book in I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel and decided to give it a try. It was sort of like an adult version of Wendy Mass's books in the Willow Falls series. Though I don't like fantasy, I do enjoy magical realism, and I plan to read more from this author.   
  • Shelved Under Murder by Victoria Gilbert, audiobook read by Coleen Marlo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I enjoyed this second book of the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series almost as much as the books in my favorite Library Lovers series. I especially like the main character, Amy, and her dancer boyfriend, Richard, as well as the way the arts played into the plot. The audiobook narrator was also very good.


What I'm Currently Reading


  • Watching the Detectives by Julie Mulhern 37%
    I only have this for one more day from Hoopla and I hate to use another of my 10 precious borrows to borrow it again, but I'm not sure I'll get it finished by tonight at midnight. I am enjoying it, though. These books are consistently very funny. 
  • Lu by Jason Reynolds 36%
    Part of the reason I didn't read more in Watching the Detectives is that I found out this was on Edelweiss, dropped everything, and read several chapters in one sitting. I love this series, and this fourth book has as strong a voice as the first one (my favorite), Ghost. I will finish this quickly the next time I sit down with it. 
  • Know and Tell by Karen Glass 12%
    I have not been in the mood for a dry academic book so I haven't read much in this one at all. I may end up not finishing it. 
  • My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok 6%
    My book club meeting for this is coming up on the 19th, so I will be allowing myself to get a bit more into it starting later this week. I'm trying to time is so that I finish just a few days before we meet so it's fresh in my mind. 
  • Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace 0%
    I did actually start this one night, but I was very tired and kept drifting off so I'll need to start over. It's the last Betsy-Tacy related book I have to read! 
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?