Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I've been participating in a self-imposed Reading Challenge on Goodreads for several years now, but in 2015, I added another, more involved list. This one was making the rounds on Instagram at the beginning of the year, so I traced its origins to PopSugar and participated.

Out of 50 challenges, I completed (or didn't complete, in the case of "a book you started but never finished") 42 of them. I only used each book title to check off one challenge, even though a lot of them could have applied to multiple criteria. I'm pretty proud of myself because, though a lot of the books I read and THEN went back to check off items, I read some books just for the list. For example, I never would have read The Marvels (at the last minute!) if I didn't need to read a book over 500 pages. And not reading The Marvels would be an incredibly sad thing. So this list did push me to read beyond my usual interests, even if I didn't read "a classic romance" or "a book over 100 years old".

PopSugar has a new reading challenge up for 2016 - check it out, and let's challenge ourselves together!

My past Goodreads goals
2012: 125/120 - I went above and beyond, so I upped my goal for the next year!
2013: 92/125 - I was well below my goal. That's what I get for being smug and determined.
2014: 110/100 - I went a little bit above, but kept my goal in check for the next year. I learned my lesson.
2015: 141/100 - Well above my goal, which kind of amazes me because my course load was really heavy this year.
2016: ?/100 - sticking firm at 100 books for the year. Like I said, I learned my lesson! I'll be finishing up my MLS, leading library programs for people with disabilities, and reading to my son!

My son read 183 out of 100 books this year! For 2016, I'm raising his goal to 200 books. I need to practice reading aloud as much as I can anyway, and I think he'll have more interest in books (though he already loves them!) since he'll be turning 2.

Do you have any reading challenges or goals for 2016?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Favorite Adult Books of 2015

Just like my young adult post, my favorite adult books are just ones that I read this year, not ones that were published this year. My goal for 2016 is to read more current titles.

The Family Fang is a book about a family who performed a flash mob type of art before it was a sensation. As the children grow up, they get tired of the public hoaxes their parents conduct, and try to distance themselves from their past. When they fall on hard times, the adult children have no choice but to come back home, where their parents try to get them to participate in just one more act of public performance art. Kevin Wilson is an excellent writer, and though I didn't read it this year, I also highly recommend his collection of short stories, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth.

The Good Girl is a suspenseful book about a prominent judge's daughter being kidnapped. Because of the excellent suspense, I don't want to give too much away, but the twist at the end of this book is one of the most excellent I have ever read. And I say that as someone who was underwhelmed by Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and all the hype surrounding similar titles.

The Secrets of Midwives is told from the points of view of three generations of midwives: a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter. Despite having the same profession, the women are very different. When the daughter reveals that she is 30 weeks pregnant, other secrets start coming out. This book is very emotional, powerful, and well-written.

Five Days Left is a book about Mara, a woman with Huntington's disease, who wants to kill herself before the disease puts a strain on her family. She has five days left. Mara was adopted, and her daughter is adopted, so she spends a lot of time on a forum for nontraditional families. There, she befriends a man who is fostering a young boy. He wants to adopt the boy, but his pregnant wife is against the idea. He has five days left with the foster son he has grown to love. The concept of five days left creates a lot of suspense as the story is told, and it's interesting to see how the two different characters interact with each other.

Goodbye for Now is a book about how much living we do online, and how that can blur the lines of reality. I summarize this book, as well as Laurie Frankel's first novel, in a book tube video you can watch below.

Read them for yourself!
Wilson, Kevin. The Family Fang. New York: Ecco, 2011. Print.
Kubica, Mary. The Good Girl. Ontario, Canada: Harlequin MIRA, 2014. Print.
Hepworth, Sally. The Secrets of Midwives. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2015. Print.
Timmer, Julie Lawson. Five Days Left. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2014. Print.
Frankel, Laurie. Goodbye For Now. New York: Doubleday, 2012. Print.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Book Bonus!

Last week I posted a booktube video of three favorite Christmas books we'd been reading.

Then this week, several books I had on hold came in, so we had a new stack of Christmas books to read! Since Christmas is the season of giving, I wanted to share more of our favorites.

The Last Christmas Tree is a cute book about a scrawny tree that is constantly overlooked in favor of bigger trees. It's still in the lot on Christmas Eve, all alone...only a Christmas miracle can help the tree find a home. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and colorful, and the story is one that we will re-read each year.

Dinosaur vs. Santa is a fun book because my stepson loves dinosaurs, and we love the character from the other Dinosaur vs. books. The text in this book is simple, which leaves the bright, bold illustrations to tell a lot of the story. It's fun for kids to see what Dinosaur does in each picture to help move the story along.

The Gingerbread Pirates is about a boy and his mother who are making cookies for Santa. They make gingerbread men, but decide to decorate them as pirates - including a toothpick as a peg leg! After the boy goes to sleep, the gingerbread men come to life and try to avoid being eaten by Santa. The cookie illustrations in this book are really cute, and the story is sweet - no pun intended! I especially like this book because I reviewed another pirate Christmas book in my video: A Pirate's Night Before Christmas.

Little Robin's Christmas is another book we'll be reading each year. The animals are adorable, especially round Little Robin, who has seven sweater vests to wear the week before Christmas. When Little Robin goes out, he finds animals that seem to need a vest more than he does, so he keeps giving them away. The ending is really sweet and helps remind children that this is the season of giving, and that it's important to be kind.

I hope you enjoy reading these Christmas books as much as we have. Merry Christmas!

Read them for yourself!
Krensky, Stephen. The Last Christmas Tree. Illus. Pascal Campion. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print.
Shea, Bob. Dinosaur vs. Santa. New York: Disney Hyperion Books, 2012. Print.
Kladstrup, Kristin. The Gingerbread Pirates. Illus. Matt Tavares. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2009. Print.
Fearnley, Jan. Little Robin's Christmas. Waukesha, WI: Little Tiger Press, 1998. Print.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Favorite Young Adult Books of 2015

For favorite picture books, I recommended only books that were published this year. For favorite young adult books, I'm highlighting my five favorites, but... none of these books were published in 2015. None. I read books that were published this year, but I read a lot of books this year, so I decided to go with my gut and post raves about my favorites, with no publishing constraints. (Next year, I vow to be more timely with my reading list so I can pull exclusively from 2016 books. Funnily, this list has 4 books that were published in 2014, and one in 2013, so I'm not TOO dated.)

El Deafo is a graphic memoir by Cece Bell. In really cute, bright illustrations, she tells the story of how she had to get hearing aids at a young age, and how she coped with being different from everyone else. I love graphic memoirs and Bell has a great style.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is about twins who used to be best friends. Their mother wants them to attend a fancy art school, and when one twin is admitted and one isn't, it starts tearing them apart. The book is told in alternating chapters from each twin's point of view, across the span of three years. It's hard to summarize without giving the good stuff away, so let's just say there's a reason this book is an award-winner! I read and reviewed this for a class, and loved it so much I created a book trailer for it!

Girls Like Us is an amazing and emotional story about two teen girls with disabilities who graduate from high school and become roommates. They live with an old lady on the condition that they help her around the house. This book is so real and honest, and so moving. It was so good that I already want to re-read it; I think it'll stay on my list of all-time favorites.

Good Kings Bad Kings is another book with characters who have disabilities. The story is told from different points of view of teens living in the institution, as well as employees who work there. It's an interesting story, but due to the institutional setting, it's especially effective as a way to bring about change.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek is a memoir by Maya Van Wagenen, a girl who found an old popularity guide and decided to implement it in her modern middle school life. Her writing is easy to read, with touches of humor and emotion. I've previously reviewed this book on the blog after I read it for a class. I loved it so much, I even developed an "If You Liked..." display based off of it, so you can check out some of those book suggestions as well!

Read them for yourself!
Bell, Cece. El Deafo. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2014. Print.
Nelson, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. New York: Dial Books, 2014. Print.
Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2014. Print.
Nussbaum, Susan. Good Kings Bad Kings. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2013. Print.
Van Wagenen, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. New York: Dutton Books,
     2014. Print.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Favorite Picture Books of 2015

We're getting ready to wrap up 2015, and my son and I wanted to share some of our favorite pictures books that came out this year!

Imaginary Fred is a sweet book about how much imaginary friends can really mean to a child. After being forgotten and re-imagined by many children, Fred is worried he'll never find a true friend. The illustrations in the book are simple, but beautiful, true to Oliver Jeffers' style. Check out more about this book in my short review: A BOOK A MINUTE.

Red is a funny yet meaningful book about being true to yourself. Red is a blue crayon trapped in a red wrapper. Everyone treats him like he's red, yet every strawberry he draws looks like a strange blueberry. When he tries to mix with yellow to make orange, they get a very different result. My son loved this book for the colorful illustrations, and I loved the sly jokes slipped in with the colors' names.

The Day the Crayons Came Home is yet another book starring colorful crayons! This book is the follow-up to the wildly popular The Day the Crayons Quit, by the same author-illustrator duo. In the second installment, the crayons send postcards from destinations where they have been left behind. Pea Green Esteban is sure to charm readers of all ages. My son loved this book (again) for the color illustrations, I loved it because it was really witty, and the group of adults with disabilities I read it to loved guessing which color wrote what.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise is a book I've posted about before because I really love it. Hoot Owl is hungry for dinner, but he can't catch any food. He tries disguising himself as a carrot to catch a rabbit...will it work? This is another book I loved because the ending was so clever, it genuinely made me laugh out loud. My son seems to love the animals' big eyes and the repetitive rhyme of Hoot Owl's quest.

Edmund Unravels is a very cute story about Edmund, a ball of yarn who loves to explore. Edmund pushes his limits, going further and further and unraveling with each new exploration. The illustrations are bold and adorable, which pleased both my son and me!

Read them for yourself!
Colfer, Eoin. Imaginary Fred. Illus. Oliver Jeffers. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.
Hall, Michael. Red. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2015. Print.
Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Came Home. Illus. Oliver Jeffers. New York: Philomel Books, 2015. Print.
Taylor, Sean. Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. Illus. Jean Jullien. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. Print.
Kolb, Andrew. Edmund Unravels. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. Print.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Storytime

Today was the Christmas storytime for two classes from SRVS! I read Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry and Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Semibold and Vivian Walsh.

Mr. Willowy's Christmas Tree is a cute rhyming story about a too-tall tree that keeps getting trimmed down. The craft tied in with that book - we made Christmas ornaments to hang on our trees at home!

Clockwise from top left: Hard at work // The whole world // LaQuita's signature style is brightly colored stripes // I love how this one looks like a Christmas tree with a huge heart beside it!

We ended the session by reading Olive, the Other Reindeer. This is a really fun book about Olive, a puppy who is convinced she's a reindeer because the words to the famous Christmas carol tell her so: "Olive, the other reindeer!" This is a great book to read aloud because listeners can sing along with the well-known lyric. There was a lot of laughter when everyone realized how Olive had misheard the song! I think we can all relate to misunderstood lyrics...

I've also written about previous library programs for adults with disabilities.