Summer Reading Programs

While looking for a way to keep my 11 year old son reading during summer break, I came across a couple Summer Reading Programs that I thought I’d share.

1. Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

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This program allows your kids to track the books they read, get book recommendations and earn digital prizes. This year’s theme is “A magical summer of reading”.

However, it should be noted that this program also requires that they be registered by a teacher or librarian.

 

2. Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program

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I really like this one for two reasons.  The first being that they can earn a free book, and the second is that it requires that they log their thoughts about what they read.  They read 8 books, log what their favorite parts are and turn in their log for a free book at Barnes and Noble.  Yes for free books!!

 

3. Lifeway 2018 Summer Reading Quest

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Sadly I do not think we are able to participate in this one because we no longer live near a Lifeway (though I still get the emails)  This program allows your kids to earn a free book AND a free bible.  They will also provide them with the program journal to log their books, plus a bookmark and pencil for free!

 

I came across quite a few more programs but I was very impressed by these three in particular.  The others that I looked into didn’t really seem to have any incentive or at the very least, not one that would interest my son.  Well, that is all for today. Thank you for joining me! Happy reading!

A mid year recap of my least favorite books this year

Now that we are officially halfway through the year, I was thinking back over all the books I’ve read so far and there a few that I have very strong feelings about so I thought I’d share what some of my favorites and not so favorite books are. Part 1 is dedicated to my least favorite books and Part 2 is dedicated to my favorite books so far in 2018.

Let us begin with the Books I didn’t enjoy so much in the first half of 2018:

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I was a little let down by this book and I’m not quite sure why.  I had such high hopes for it because it was a multi generational historical fiction book with what I guess would be considered magical realism and/or supernatural elements.  It’s not a bad book and the writing was good, I guess I was just expecting more.

 

 

city of brass

This is another book I had high hopes for.  After reading The Golem and the Jinni I was super excited when I heard about this book on the All the Books podcast and ran and picked it up immediately.  I was severely let down by this one. The concept of this book was fascinating but I found most of the dialogue to be very juvenile (which is perfectly awesome when I’m expecting it) and though it was marketed as an adult book, I found that it felt much more like a YA novel.  I have nothing against YA and enjoy reading YA books WHEN I AM IN THE MOOD FOR THEM. But this had a lot of what my 11 year old would call “cringe-y” dialogue and plot.  I found the whole thing to be a little cheezy and overdone.  I really wanted to like this but I doubt I’ll read the next one.

 

abc murders

*Sigh* I hate to add this one to my non fave list because I feel like I am betraying my queen.  I am a definite Agatha Christie lover and have been doing a read through challenge of the Poirot books, but this one is not my cup of tea.  Part of why I love reading Agatha Christie is because of the cozy yet clever mysteries presented in her books and this one felt a little too much.  It was a little over the top for me.

 

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People aren’t kidding when they say this isn’t Jane Eyre.  Aside from the obvious “well duh, it’s a completely different book” it really is different.  I did not hate this book and I mostly enjoyed it because it still had that element of melancholy throughout, but I found it very slow to start and the ending was like getting hit by a bus.  I immediately said “WHATTTT????!!!!” and went online to see if I had interpreted it correctly.  I had, and I was very taken aback by this book’s ending.  Still worth the read though.

 

So that is all for my least favorite books this year.  Please let me know if you love or hate any of these books.  Maybe I am missing something! Stay tuned for my favorite books so far in 2018.

 

 

Annotating books: yay or nay?

If you are of the opinion that nothing should mar the pages of your precious books (and that’s a totally understandable point of view), than I would quit reading right now because some of these photos might upset you.

I re entered college a couple years ago and things are a lot different this time around. I have a very full time job, a husband and two kids. It wasn’t as easy to breeze through as it was when I was 18. Majoring in history, I have to keep track of tons and tons of names, dates, and places. I love to keep concise notes but I wanted to get more out of my text books. Because of my profession, I sometimes get grants for free ebook versions of my textbooks (which is great and many people wish for) but I missed the ease of flipping back and forth through paper pages, so I started buying the paper copies and started writing and marking the hell out of my textbooks. I began to get so much more out of my textbooks this way. My Historiography textbook is a good example of this and I am able to flip back through it for advice when working on a history paper.

 

 

Back in August when I started my Classics Book Club Challenge, I challenged myself to read many books that had frightened me in the past. I wanted to immerse myself in them and get all I could from the texts. So I thought to myself that if marking my textbooks was working so well, why not begin to mark my books as well? So that’s what I did. It has been going wonderfully so far. Over the last few months I have been honing my system so it has changed considerably from just post it notes and marking with asterisks. I now loosely color code things with highlighter and pen and take notes in my reading journal. I also still use plenty of post its to tab the books. Usually I will highlight or underline key characters’ first appearance in blue while highlighting pretty passages in pink. A good example of my more recent refined system can be seen here in my copy of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien which I am currently re reading. I thought it would be fitting to include this book as tomorrow March 25 is Tolkien Read Day.

Annotating in this way has helped me remember so many more of the names and places in Tolkien’s universe and it has worked nicely helping me know what to look for in my companion books The Heroes of Tolkien and The Guide to Tolkien’s World: A Bestiary, both by David Day. (It has not escaped me that not only am I a real life history dork, but I am also a fictional history dork 😉)

But while I am all about annotating books, I haven’t yet started marking up my pretty collectible copies of certain books.

I know a lot of people think it an evil sin to mark their books but I also know there’s a lot of you out there who DO mark their books. So I’m curious to see how many of you out there mark your books and how do you go about doing so? I like where I am now compared to a few months ago but I would be glad of any new tips. So let me know if you’re a marker or not! 🙂

See you next time!

A Dr Seuss birthday

It’s been two weeks since my last post and there has been a lot going on but we managed to include some bookish activities and lots of reading in that time frame. We started off with Read Across America Day, my birthday, Bella’s birthday, a milestone in 1000 Books Before Kindergarten and culminating today with my wedding anniversary.

It is no secret that Dr Seuss is well loved in our home so for Read Across America Day we went to a Dr Seuss celebration at our local bookstore and got some prizes and books for Bella. (My birthday was also spent at the bookstore where I purchased some books I will haul soon) It was also Isabella’s 2nd birthday and as her favorite story of all time is the Cat in the Hat, we celebrated Dr Seuss style.

I had some blue poster board and thought it would be fun to try and recreate her favorite book’s cover as a prop for her birthday.

I was also able to make a centerpiece with some pictures I printed off the internet and some pages out of her first copy of the book which she destroyed as a baby.

She absolutely refused to get into her party dress but loved the little Cat in the Hat hair clip I made so at least there’s that.

The party was a success and as we asked for books in lieu of cards, she received a nice new stack of books to add to her collection and all signed by people who love her.

Now that most of the festivities are over I will be back with some review posts and discussion posts. Thank you for joining us for our fun Dr Seuss parties. Happy reading!

Warning labels on books: A controversial discussion

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I’d been intending to discuss this topic in a future post and had been holding off due to the fact that some may consider it a bit controversial, but I came across a great post at Pages Unbound and it addressed a lot of the same topic.  So while it is fresh in my mind, I’d like to throw in my humble two cents.

If you are a reader of middle grade or young adult fiction, it will come as no surprise to you that these books, YA in particular, are featuring more and more mature content. And that’s great. Readers can find all kinds of stories to suit all tastes.

But here is my dilemma.

While I would never want to be Nazi book mom, and call for removing books from libraries or angrily snatch books from my kids’ hands, I struggle with how I should handle these kinds of books in regards to my oldest who is soon to be 11 years old. When I was his age I was reading Judy Blume books and the Boxcar children. He on the other hand has a lot more to choose from. I encourage reading in our household and I know he is capable of reading at a level beyond middle grade books… but I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with him reading about things like rape just yet. After all, though he’s almost 11, he is quite naive in regards to a lot of things. His reading level may be advancing quickly but he is still a little boy who thinks the word “butt” is funny. Not quite ready to fully understand things like sex trafficking and torture. Now I know the simple answer would be to just monitor what he reads, but that becomes a little difficult when I don’t know the content of every single book that’s out there and he is fast approaching the “target age” for most YA.

I recently read an article where college students at several different colleges had called for “trigger warning” labels to be placed on books that dealt with distressing content. And while I admit I was sort of dismissive of the idea, it has gotten me thinking. Would it be feasible for publishers to publish future books with a small label? Something along the lines of “contains graphic violence” or “contains sexual content”. I’m curious to know what other readers think of this.

Now my dilemma may resolve itself. I may just be worried about nothing. He may decide “ewww this book is weird” and decide not to read it of his own accord until he is ready (or ever). In which case I will have another few years before I deal with the same issue again with my daughter. I know that for myself, I was around 12 when I started looking for more mature things to read. And I found them. I turned out okay, but I also think I was a little more mature and more prepared to handle difficult content than my son is now.

So I am curious to know what other readers and other parents think?  How do you handle mature content in books with your kids, siblings, students etc?

You force your toddler to read?? In which Nicky rants… just a bit.

Not very long ago, someone said to me “Wow, she really DOES love books” (referring to my daughter Isabella) and I thought to myself “WTF did you think I was lying?”

For Christmas several of our relatives and friends asked what shows and tv characters she’s into so they could buy gifts and I was honestly stumped. She has never been interested in tv and to date has never sat through any toddler tv show (sometimes I envy those parents who can put The Wiggles on tv and sneak away to take a shower or make dinner). I suggested dogs (because she fangirls at any dogs she sees) and books. The response was a little depressing. I heard everything from “I don’t want to get her books…. I want to get something she’ll play with” to “You can’t give her books for Christmas!” And this really upset me because I know my children (nobody commented that I didn’t suggest books for Junior… it was only Bella) and I know that books are the one thing you can’t go wrong with her.

I know that while Junior is a casual reader, Bella is likely going to be a reader like me.

Not that I or any parent should have to explain ourselves but this is not me forcing books down the child’s throat. She is literally fascinated by stories and the pictures in her books. So I thought I would finish out with several reasons why I think she is going to be a reader so I can direct any more well meaning people to this post instead of wasting my breath.

  1. She loves the quality time during story time
  2. She sees that it is my main form of entertainment and she tries to emulate me
  3. Even when someone is not reading to her, she will often be sitting in her room flipping pages
  4. She sits through a whole story…and wants more
  5. She’s fascinated by bookshelves and is always pulling my books off my shelves and hers off hers
  6. She is not exposed to much television because only my son is really into tv
  7. While I am cooking she will usually bring me a book and command me to sit down and read it to her

Now by no means am I saying books are better or that my kid is some genius because she likes books. And I’m not saying that she doesn’t also play. I’m just trying to point out that it IS possible for kids to prefer books.

Oh and we received a ridiculous amount of toys from both sides of the family. I am so thankful we have family who are able to send anything at all but I can’t help thinking how much unnecessary money was spent. Only my dad and my husband’s stepmom followed my advice and sent only books while a couple of others sent books in lieu of cards which I suggested later. And while she occasionally will rock on her rocking horse or pretend to make food in her kitchen, a lot of the other toys sit largely neglected (and taking up space) and the ones she plays with religiously are the books she got. This just goes to show that parents always know their kids best.

If you have read to the end of my rant, I thank you. This was a lot rantier than I wanted it to be. Til next time.

2018 Reading Goals

Hello again! I thought I’d better discuss my 2018 Reading goals while we’re still in February before I blink and it’s suddenly November and I have no idea where I am or what I’ve done with my life all year.

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I am not the best at sticking to a TBR every month (but that is a post for another time).  The way that I get around this is by participating in challenges and by sticking to my yearly Goodreads goal.

Last year I didn’t have a specific TBR list that I confined myself to, instead I just set my goodreads goal to 30 books which would have been atleast two books a month.  I had wanted to set it higher but with a new baby AND going back to work, I was worried about stressing myself out so I set my initial goal to 30. One 18 book series later and I was only in April so I upped my goal to 50.  Long story short I ended up reading 92 books last year.

THIS year:

I am participating in the following challenges:

I must include:

  • 5-10 NonFiction
  • More contemporary fiction

Books I want to get to this year:

  • Don Quixote
  • The King’s Pearl
  • The Luminaries
  • Moby Dick
  • The Hercule Poirot books left in Project Poirot

For my unable-to-contain-myself-to-a-TBR list self, I think this is very doable and not too strict so as to make it a chore. My goal is simply to expand beyond my usual genres and to tackle books that may have intimidated me in the past.

I’d love to see what you think of this and hear what everyone else’s goals are. Thanks for stopping by!

1000 Books before Kindergarten

We recently moved and discovered that we had a library very close to the house which is of course, very awesome news. I had recently been there a few times by myself and got myself a new library card and I decided that I would bring Bella with me next time. While we were there, it came to my attention that our library is enrolled in the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. We had been doing a paper log version of this but our librarian informed us that it is a nationwide program and we could log books online and get little prizes for different milestones.

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First trip to our new library

So since Bella is showing every indication that she’s going to be a reader, I thought it would be fun to incorporate this with our paper log so we signed up with our library and started from scratch.

 

The goal is to not only create early readers, but to enjoy a positive family activity together every day.  A thousand books may seem like a lot of books, but in reality it is achievable within a few months.  Reading just 3 books a day with a child will bring you to 1000 within a year. Something I wasn’t aware of when I grabbed the paper logs from our old library is that repeating books totally counts.  I really wish I had known that earlier because there are days when Bella brings me the same book 5 and 6 times a night to read to her.  We would have been at goal last year. But that’s fine and we are loving every minute of story time.

Over the course of last week, we read and logged over 25 books and so she earned her first prize-(a library card holder and lanyard) which she was super excited about even though she doesn’t understand yet what it is.

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Mommy using Bella’s first prize to hold car keys

If you’ve read this far I thank you for joining me! Stay tuned for updates as we hit each milestone.

You can find out more about the program here. 

TBR or No TBR: in which we discover that Nicky sucks at TBRs and uses the word loose more than is necessary

Ahhh, the big debate- to follow a TBR list or not.

There are so many pros to reading through a TBR list.

Personally I consider a TBR list more of a loose set of “guidelines”

I’ll be honest, sticking to a strict TBR makes me feel very anxious.  I am a confessed mood reader all the way.  I like to have a general idea of what I’ll be reading soon-ish, but I tip my hat to all you strict TBRers.  I am the kind of reader who feels pulled towards certain books based on my mood. Sometimes this means I might have a stack of shiny new books that I can’t wait to get to and then I have a bad day and I pick up one of my old trusty standbys and re-read that instead.  LUCKILY, I have figured out a way to trick myself into sticking to a sort of TBR.  Challenges.  And of course my Goodreads goal.

The good thing about challenges is that many of them are loose rules or include loose suggestions or a loose theme of what to read. (I promise not to use the word “loose” any more in this post) But anyway, you get the idea. They don’t say, “you must read these specific titles”, it’s more of a “read a book in this category” sort of thing. For example, in my classics club challenge, I compiled a list of 60 titles and yes it is a sort of TBR, but I can read them based on my mood since I have so long to complete this challenge.  I can pick up one of the books on my list and decide I’m not in the mood for it and not come back to it for a couple months or more.  This gives me more flexibility and the ability to read based on how I’m feeling, while still sticking to a list.

Goodreads is an awesome tool for me.  I’ve had an account for years and just recently started figuring out how to change shelves around and updating settings to better suit my needs.  One of the things that I love about Goodreads is the ability to set up a yearly goal for myself.  I love to work towards a goal and I must seriously be the biggest dork in the world with how excited I get every time a book is completed towards my goal. I just tell myself I’d like to read atleast X amount of books in X genre this year and then I’m free to read whatever specific titles I want in each genre.

When I had my old blog, I was posting a TBR every month (when before I had never really stuck to one) and I found myself stressing over it.  There were times when I just wasn’t in the mood to read something and I forced myself to because it was on my TBR.  Reading is my happy place and it should never be stressful for me.  So my intention for this blog is to have a monthly TBR but not a concrete one.  I will give myself some choices for each month and let myself be the free little bird that I am inside.

If you prefer to stick to a TBR, first off I admire you, and secondly, I am genuinely curious as to how and why you prefer to do so. So please comment below!

Classics reading challenge

Back in August (when I still had my old blog) I joined The Classics Club with a goal to read at least 50 classics in 5 years.

I had already decided I wanted to include more of the classics in my reading and was thrilled when I came across their blog.

The rules are simple:

  • – choose 50+ classics
  • – list them at your blog
  • – choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
  • – e-mail the moderators of this blog (theclassicsclubblog@gmail.com) with your list link and information and it will be posted on the Members Page!
  • – write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list
  • – when you’ve written about every single title, let us know!

This seemed simple enough and indeed it has been so far. I’ve been enjoying it so much that since I joined on August 23rd 2017, I have read 9 of the books on my list. I am committed to the 50 on my original list but being so far ahead of schedule got me thinking that even if I were to read only one per month over the next 5 years I could read 60. So that is what I am doing. I am updating my list so that it now includes 60 books.

Start date: August 23, 2017

End date: August 23, 2022

My list:

  1. Don Quixote -Miguel de Cervantes
  2. The Pilgrim’s Progress -John Bunyan
  3. Lady Susan -Jane Austen*
  4. Persuasion -Jane Austen*
  5. Northanger Abbey -Jane Austen*
  6. Oliver Twist -Charles Dickens
  7. Jane Eyre -Charlotte Bronte*
  8. Villette -Charlotte Bronte
  9. Wuthering Heights -Emily Bronte
  10. Agnes Grey -Anne Bronte
  11. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall -Anne Bronte
  12. The Scarlett Letter -Nathaniel Hawthorne
  13. Moby Dick -Herman Melville (I have tried and failed with this one before)
  14. One Thousand and One Nights
  15. The Canterbury Tales -Geoffrey Chaucer
  16. Madame Bovary -Gustave Flaubert
  17. Crime and Punishment -Fyodor Dostoevesky*
  18. A Christmas Carol -Charles Dickens
  19. War and Peace -Leo Tolstoy*
  20. The Brothers Karamazov -Fyodor Dostoevesky
  21. The Portait of a Lady -Henry James
  22. MaryAnne -Daphne Du Maurier
  23. Passage to India -EM Forster
  24. A Study in Scarlet -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. Mythology -Edith Hamilton
  26. Alice in Wonderland- Lewis Carrol
  27. The Odyssey -Homer
  28. The Hunchback of Notre Dame -Victor Hugo
  29. The Tale of Genji -Lady Muraski
  30. Paradise Lost -John Milton
  31. The Epic of Gilgamesh
  32. The Little Prince -Antoine Saint Exupery
  33. Gone With the Wind -Margaret Mitchell*
  34. Frankenstein -Mary Shelley
  35. Oedipus Rex -Sophocles
  36. Vanity Fair -William Makepeace Thackeray*
  37. Kokoro -Natsume Soseki
  38. Utopia -Sir Thomas More
  39. The Mysteries of Udolpho -Ann Radcliffe
  40. The Picture of Dorian Gray -Oscar Wilde
  41. My Cousin Rachel -Daphne Du Maurier
  42. The Jungle Book -Rudyard Kipling
  43. Macbeth -William Shakespeare
  44. Hamlet -William Shakespeare
  45. The Age of Innocence -Edith Wharton
  46. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  47. Cranford- Elizabeth Gaskell
  48. Mrs Dalloway -Virginia Wolfe
  49. Wives and Daughters -Elizabeth Gaskell
  50. My Bondage and My Freedom -Frederick Douglass
  51. North and South -Elizabeth Gaskell
  52. Dracula -Bram Stoker*
  53. The Shuttle -Frances Hodgson Burnett
  54. A Little Princess -Francess Hodgson Burnett* (reading with my daughter Bella)
  55. Far From the Madding Crowd -Thomas Hardy
  56. The Divine Comedy -Dante Alighieri (plan on reading the three books separately)
  57. The Three Musketeers -Alexandre Dumas
  58. War of the Worlds -HG Wells
  59. The Diary of Anne Frank
  60. The Dumbhouse -John Burnside

An * denotes a reread

This list seems daunting when you look at it, but honestly, I am getting so much pleasure out of all the books I’ve been reading  (or at the very least, they have been thought provoking) and it is a 5 year goal so hopefully I can get to all of them.  And while I am committing to this list, I reserve the right to add to it as I find other titles that interest me.

So that’s it.  How does this challenge sound to you?