Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Twitterature (July 2014 Edition)

If I've learned one thing about my reading style, it's I really can't make a to-read list that demands to be followed in any type of order. That doesn't mean I don't have to-read lists. It's quite the contrary, but I have to meander and follow my whims. Reading can never feel like homework and I can't follow reading rules.

Saving Francescsa // Melina Marchetta

After drinking two (!!) iced chai lattes last night that were regrettably not decaf, I stayed up much too late to finish this YA novel that's mostly been hibernating on my Kindle. Goodreads tells me that I started this book in March.

After Francesca's mother is suddenly stricken with acute depression, Francesca's life suddenly spins off its axis without her mother while attending her new school that has recently gone co-ed. Life is anything but smooth for Francesca and she has to learn to save herself. It's not nearly as YA-chick-lit-ish as the cover below suggests. This isn't even the cover that was on my Kindle edition, but I liked it better than the sad girl that graces my Kindle edition. This novel is solid, but it did take me a long time to read this. Obviously, it's put-down-able with some slow sections, but the novel finishes strong.

I thought I'd add the Kindle cover art after all. If you saw both of these covers, would you even consider they were for the same novel? What a different tone this black and white photograph sets.

Up at Butternut Lake // Mary McNear

Apparently, this is the first book in a planned trilogy. Why must everything be a trilogy these days? After reading it, the book wraps up nicely without any cliffhanging moments. Young widow, Allie Beckett arrives at her childhood cabin on Butternut Lake in Minnesota with a young son in tow. But wait. There's a hot single guy across the lake. It's time for this grieving widow to find love again. It's a gentle love story probably a little reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks and if you've read my blog, you know how I feel about him (I don't really enjoy his novels much). It's good and sweet and the supporting characters are interesting too. I listened to the audio version while working around the house.
Who can resist this cover art? I want to spend a summer on this lake.
What I picked up from the library today:

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality show Villain // Courtney Robertson

I rarely, if ever, watch The Bachelor and I definitely didn't see this season, but I'm totally interested. I know the show is heavily edited and the story line is crafted and is the furthest thing from reality. I want to see the other side of this show.

Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs // Mary Jane Hathaway
I'm always game for a little Austen-inspired fun.

Just started:

Surprise. I love movies based on books! The film adaptation arrives in theaters in August. It looks delightful.

That's it for me today. Check out more books at Modern Mrs Darcy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post

I've been thinking about my little blog space for a long time now. I started blogging in 2007 mostly to highlight family life and our home education adventures. I wrote about home life, our faith, books, and knitting. I wrote about knitting a lot. I wasn't super prolific here, but last year I logged only a paltry 16 posts. That was low even for me. This year, I wanted to return to this place renewed and ready to write more. I also found that I love writing about books. I love reviewing them. I love just talking about books.

What I discovered is that I wanted to talk about books and the reading life more. My oldest child will be starting his sophomore year in August and I'm no longer really homeschooling with the exception of teaching my five year old to read. Life changes quickly and my kids are get older. Luke isn't as excited to be featured on my blog anymore. I'm still heavily invested in the written word and the reading life. So, this year, I could tell that I was moving in a new direction which led me to reevaluate this space. I mean, I still want to write about family life and of course, knitting, but I do think in some ways, I've outgrown this particular blog. I'm thinking about a re-brand of sorts.

After last year's dismal blog post count, I'm not sure if I have any readers left. I never check that stuff. I just write. Anyhow, if I do have any readers, I'm thinking about moving to a new blog platform by the end of the summer. I want a brand new look infused with optimism and the love of words. Stay tuned....

             As for reading, I finished two books this week, but I'm only going to write about one.

I reviewed this book this week on Goodreads yesterday. I mentioned this book in my last post. It took me nearly 200 pages to get into this book. I almost abandoned it. There are eight main characters and not enough time to really get to know any of them really well. At Mount Washington High School, there is a tradition in which The List is posted the Monday before the Homecoming dance. Wielding a lot of power, despite being anonymous, the List simply lists both the ugliest and prettiest girls in each class. Can you even imagine this? I mean, high school is hard enough without some list chipping away at a girl's biggest insecurity, right? The thing is that the list has a huge impact on even those crowned the prettiest. Honestly, it isn't pretty and it turns out to be a curse either way. How can something that is so arbitrary and anonymous and subjective have so much power??

It took me a long time to keep all the girls straight, but once I did, the story picked up some momentum, but really it was the last line of the book that was the humdinger. I was left with lingering thoughts on the perception of beauty and its power especially in the microcosm of a high school. I'm still thinking about it.

I've been reading a lot of YA this year. I find it thought-provoking in ways I don't always expect. Even when I'm reading a re-telling of an Austen novel set in a contemporary high school, I find that it isn't just a silly diversion.

As for my kids' reading:

It's not really happening.

 Sam is reading The Hobbit, albeit very slowly. I don't care. I'm just happy he finally settled on a book. I took him to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 recently. Since Luke owned the collection of these books, I thought Sam might want to try out this series, but it didn't take long to discover that he wasn't really interested. It's more difficult to find books that Sam loves. I can tell that he's going to gravitate more towards graphic novels. At 9 (Sam's age), I could suggest almost anything to Luke and he'd try it, but now, Luke isn't really reading for pleasure right now (He's 14). I did tell him that Summer is the best time to sink into a good novel (or ten) since he's free from school work and other obligations, but so far, it's not happening. The last book he read was The Giver so we could go see the movie in August.

This is the first year that my kids have had an unenthusiastic reaction to the Summer reading program at the library. I decided not to push it. Reading should be fun and I have mixed feelings about rewarding kids for reading. Reading should be its own reward, right?

So, I'm trying really hard to be hands off about the reading. They live in a house with  tons of books and they go to the library regularly. They see me read at every opportunity. I won't worry that they won't turn into lifelong devoted readers just because they're not reading much this Summer. Okay, I'll only worry a little. ;)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What I'm Into (June 2014 Edition)

It's July 1 already! I definitely get all glass-half-empty about my Summer slipping away. I feel like I've only just settled into Summer and here we are in July already. We've relaxed our schedule considerably. I can tell that the kids are just relaxing into Summer as well. The first week or so, I could tell that they were having a hard time shaking off their school schedules. So, what have I been up to? Honestly, I've been doing a lot of the same things I always do! I've got my usual stack of books on my nightstand. This week, however is different. Both my husband and my oldest son Luke are in Arizona doing Missions work on a reservation. So, I'm on my own with my youngest four and I'm exhausted.

This is the week that we move the kids' rooms again. I've mentioned in several posts that my bedroom arrangement for the kids just didn't work. I couldn't bear shuffling the kids around during the school year despite how awful it was. So, this week, my mom helped me paint and move furniture all over the house. It's now official! The twins have been separated. Tess and James are now roomies and Sam and Liam are roomies. What was I thinking having 4 kids in one bedroom? I've moved Luke to the basement and he's the only one with his own bedroom.

Tess and James's new room. It has a fresh coat of paint. It's Benjamin Moore's Breath of Fresh Air, 2014 Color of the year (just in case you're interested!)

I've been thinking about this post from Modern Mrs Darcy for a while. It was just the post I needed to kick my butt into gear about getting serious about decorating my house and making it home. I've lived in my mountain home since the end of 2005 and even though we've put in some substantial work into this house, it's taken me forever to make the simplest of decorating decisions. Perfectionism is just fear. Perfectionism is just procrastination. Okay, I did have three more children once I moved into my house and of course, I just didn't make the house my priority although it bugged me every. single. day.

Today, I hung a picture on the wall. I know. That doesn't sound huge at all, but if you knew me, you'd know that I agonize over every decorating detail and I second guess my own taste. Today (okay, technically July and not June) I made a quick decision and I decided to just go with it. I put something on the wall and guess what? It's making me happy.

It's from Ikea.

In June, I've tried something new. I wanted to get more exercise and my good friend invited me to join her Zumba class. I learned that Zumba is crazy hard. Most of the ladies I've talked with in the class have told me that it took them about a year to really get it. Yikes! After a month of classes, I'm totally frustrated and yet, I totally refuse to give up! I think this could be fun. I don't think it's fun yet, but it could be and I will get this.

I stand in the back and I refuse to even look at myself in the mirror. I'm pretty sure that I'd be horrified of what I saw, but whatever! I'll keep dancing even if I look like Napoleon Dynamite!

I've got skills!
Reading: I'm still reading This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.  I totally dropped The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks. It's just dull even for Sparks. I'm reading another YA novel (I'm always reading something YA), The List by Siobhan Vivian. It's not dystopian, but it's still set in the harsh landscape of high school. I don't know how I feel about it yet. I'm having trouble keeping up with the large cast of characters. The List chronicles how eight girls react to being chosen either the prettiest or ugliest in each class. I can tell you that it isn't going to be pretty.
I downloaded the Hoopla app this week. Hoopla partners with your local library to offer movies, music, and audio books. Overdrive makes me crazy. So, It thought I'd try this app and I immediately found a book that sounded interesting. Just yesterday, I listened to nearly three hours of Up at Butternut Lake while working around the house. I didn't even realize that I was working so hard because I was enjoying this book.

I'm not really watching anything right now. I haven't really settled into any shows right now. I'd rather read at night. I did go see The Fault in Our Stars and it was really a great adaptation of the novel.

James on a Summer day
That's it for now. We'll see where July takes me. For now, I'm linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Reading: Twitterature (June 2014 Edition)

We've been slowly settling into Summer around here. The first week off from school I could tell that although the kids were mostly freed from obligations and routine, there was some slight agitation adjusting to the summer schedule. It's now mid-June already and we're just now starting to enjoy a little more relaxed schedule. It's the time for sitting on the deck late into the evening reading a good book. It's time for lemonade and strawberry shortcake. It's time for swimming and going out for ice cream at night.

I have some major house plans for the summer and I also have plans to shake up the kids' bedrooms again. Last year, I moved the four youngest into one big bedroom for a lot of reasons. We have a smallish house for seven people, but the biggest issue is the gender imbalance. I have four boys and one girl. My daughter, Tess didn't want to be alone in her own room anymore and I wanted my oldest son to have his own space as he was transitioning from homeschooling to being a high school freshman. I have three bedrooms for five kids and I really wanted to keep one of those rooms as a guest room. Well, I won't get to keep that guest room. Four kids in one room really didn't work out very well at all. It turns out that the twins just need to be separated. Tess and James are going to share a room and Sam and Liam are going to share as well. Luke, the lucky one, will continue to keep his own space. Moving kids around isn't easy. It's a super big pain, but I'm putting this chore off until early July!

I always get super ambitious about Summer reading as well. Honestly, I don't read any differently than I do during the rest of the year, but you know, Summer feels different. I always want to sink my teeth into a good beach read. I usually start to gravitate towards books with oceans and water and beaches on the cover. This year, though, I want to do this:

I heard about Reading Bingo on the Books on the Nightstand Podscast. They have their own Bingo Card.  It's going to be great fun. Doesn't a summer reading game sound delightful?

Well, I realized that most of what I have been reading is currently being adapted to the screen. There's something fun about reading the book knowing the movie version is coming to theaters.

If I stay// Gayle Forman


Life changes in an instant for Mia after a horrible car crash. An out of body experience helps her to decide her own fate. I'm not quite done with this one, but it seems I'm on a trend with dark and sad YA.

August:Osage County// Tracy Letts

Stifling claustrophobic family dysfunction. Deeply sad and tragic with flickering moments of dark humor. I saw the movie before I read the play. This is the first play I've read probably since high school.

The Best of Me// Nicholas Sparks


I can't find a movie poster for this one yet. So, I will settle for a movie still. Okay. Good grief. I'm SO not a fan of Nicholas Sparks. If you've read one of his novels, you've kind of read them all. I, however, find Sparks an easy audio book listen when I'm working around the house. This is one is no exception. It's generic even for Sparks.

This is Where I Leave You//Jonathan Tropper

I just started reading this one last night. I'm pretty sure I'm only reading it because both Tina Fey and Jason Bateman are starring in the film adaptation. It looks like more family dysfunction.

The Fault in Our Stars//John Green

I've read this one again recently in anticipation of the movie. I saw the movie last week and it's a truly faithful and wonderful adaption of Green's fine YA novel.

After reading the novel, I get to experience the story all over again at the movies. With popcorn!

 The Hurricane Sisters// Dorothea Benton Frank

Unlike the rest of the books I'm reading right now, The Hurricane Sisters doesn't seem to have a movie adaptation coming out anytime soon. I haven't actually  started this one yet, but I think this will qualify as my Summer beach read. It has does have the required beach on the cover!

Happy Summer Reading and do check out Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reads as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Carpe Diem

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

25 Years! It's been 25 years since Dead Poets Society was released in theaters. Actually, I'm a little overdue with this post. Dead Poets Society made its official theatrical debut on 9 June 1989. I was just about to finish my junior year in high school when I went to see this movie. This is the movie that made me fall in love with New England (even though it was filmed in Delaware. Is Delaware even considered part of New England?). I already loved prep school literature having read A Separate Peace in my sophomore year. I wanted Mr. Keating to teach at my high school. I wanted to be inspired like that. Those boys got an adventure in their English class and I craved that adventure into words too. I will always remember the film's tag line:
                       He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary.

I still watch DPS almost every year and I still find it very poignant even though, now that I'm 25 years older, I see some minor flaws in its theme and it's unnecessarily tragic and yet, Dead Poets Society still ranks in my top ten favorite movies. I am, however, still very disappointed to this day that DPS wasn't based on an actual novel. I was given a novelization of the screenplay as a consolation, but that only made me more disappointed that there was no novel to go read to experience the whole story all over again.

                               Well, it's time to seize the day and watch it again!

O, Captain! My Captain!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Drinking Diet Sprite alone

I went to see this movie last night and I have to say that Christian movies are getting better. Often, I find faith-based movies to be a little on the cheesy side. I mean, I still watch them, but I always feel that Christian movies feel like they aren't really real movies. Does that even make sense? That's not the case with Moms' Night Out. This movie is quietly adorable without being heavy-handed in the faith department. I mean, it's not too preachy, but I can tell that these film makers walk a fine line between balancing faith while also keeping it mostly light and fun.

 It's reminiscent of both Date Night (2010) and Adventures in Babysitting (1987) but Moms' Night Out suffers from a real lack of originality. Just watch the scene where Allyson almost loses it after the trendy restaurant doesn't have her reservation. I couldn't help but think about a similar scene in Date Night with with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. While the plot is a little forced in spots, Sarah Drew is delightful and I will always have a soft spot for Sean Astin from the Goonies (1985) and oh, yeah, Astin was also in The Lord of the Rings trilogy too!

Allyson, played by the perky and cute Sarah Drew, is a stressed out mom who desperately needs a night out. Her night away quickly goes awry. I've seen the criticism for this movie and I disagree that the underlying message is that things go wrong when moms leave the house. The thing is that things always get a little dicey whenever your main character is an unhappy stay-at-home-mom. Ultimately, Allyson comes to understand that her work is important and vital and that seems to make everything so much better for her. Did she not realize this before? Did she just need a little change of perspective? While I see that this movie honors mothers, it's a little simplistic for me. I mean, I live this life. I am Allyson (minus the cute bouncy red hair and cute clothes). I didn't expect this movie to have all the answers for a woman who chooses to stay home with small children, but then again, this movie is supposed to be light, funny, and even optimistic. Levity is in order here.

I did laugh out loud several times and that's worth a lot to me, but now I just want to watch Date Night again if only to hear stressed-out mom, Claire Foster (played by Tina Fey) lament how she just wants to drink a Diet Sprite alone. I think this is how Allyson feels in Moms' Night Out. 

Phil: You never fantasize about leaving me for another man?
Claire: No, never. No. Never. No, God, if anything, I fantasize sometimes about being alone.
Phil: What does that mean?
Claire: I don’t know. Just, there are times when I’ve just thought about, on my worst day, just, you know, leaving our house and going some place. Like checking into a hotel and just being in a quiet room by myself. Just sitting in a quiet air-conditioned room, sitting down, eating my lunch with no one touching me, drinking a Diet Sprite, by myself.

Ha! That line sounds so sad, but there are days that drinking a Diet Sprite alone sounds so good and I would never drink a Diet Sprite!

Being mommy is demanding and hard and sometimes plain old boring, but I never doubt for a second how important I am to the little people in my life and how worthwhile this choice is. Sometimes, you just need a little adventure to shake things up even if your plans all go wrong.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post

Ahh, May. You've brought a lot of Spring snow. Tess built a snowman on Monday. Yup. In May. That's Colorado for you. She was in full snow gear building a snowman on Monday. Sam left for school wearing snow pants. By the end of the Spring Storm, we had nearly two feet of snow. I'm weary of snow, but I've learned something living here in Colorado. The seasons are always late to arrive. Spring is really Winter here. The only consolation of snow in May is the warmer weather makes it melt faster. Tess's snow man started melting yesterday. I guess I better go outside and collect our wooden carrot nose and hat.

We're full throttle right now headed straight for the last day of school finish line. Sam spent largely the first half of May in rehearsal for his theatrical debut in The Aristocats! Paul and I also spent a good chunk of our time helping out backstage and guess what? We both found that we really love getting involved with children's musical theater. I believe in theater. I believe theater offers all kinds of new brain skills while also building confidence. I almost wish I could get out there and perform too. After a full weekend of four performances of The Aristocats where Sam played both an alley cat and Private Vichy, the dog, he was exhausted.

Luke is heavily involved in digital audio production classes at school. He's just about to finish his freshman year and I can tell that he's passionate about film making. One of his collaborative film projects got nominated for an award this week. His film didn't win, but I think it was a big boost just to be nominated! He's learning to use all kinds of film-making technology and he will earn some college film school credits in high school as well.

So, life is full, busy, crazy, frustrating, and well, good, especially when I fill every tiny moment with books. A sentence here, a sentence there...

So, onto the books:

So, after I finished reading Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo to Sam, we took a few days off for a read-aloud break. I mean, he was busy with theater anyway. Flora and Ulysses is the current Newberry Winner, but I was kind of disappointed. It's quirkiness feels forced. I usually love DiCamillo's novels, but this one was just okay. I think Sam felt the same way. Anyway, after scouring Luke's shelves, Sam really just wanted to read the next Harry Potter. (A friend of mine bought me a British edition with the above cover). I was kind of eager to re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban too.

I was also pondering J K Rowling's revelation that she thought Harry and Hermione should have ended up together. I know this is old news already, but as I'm reading these books again, I just don't see what Rowling sees. I can't really get into Rowling's head to understand her reasoning, but I see Hermione and Harry as just too similar in personality making them kind of a bland match. I suppose there's some Myers-Briggs philosophy that could be applied here, but there's something so delightful and wonderful about Hermione and Ron being so different from each other. They make a vibrant couple. I'm glad that Rowling made the choice she did even if she isn't ultimately happy with it.

 As I read through Azkaban again, I'm going to especially focus and hone in on Hermione and Ron. I suppose the story could have worked either way, but I loved seeing Ron's emotional transformation especially in the final book. It may have taken him a long time to figure out how incredibly awesome Hermione is, but we all knew he'd get there. What do you think?

Ok, I read a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction. I can't help it. I like seeing her stories unfold in modern circumstances. Dear Mr. Knightley is a little different. It isn't a re-telling a of any of Austen's novels. It's more of an homage to Jane. This was a quick read, but after I was done, I was ready for another YA Austen-inspired novel. I'm on the look out now.

Maybe this? It's Persuasion, but you know, set in high school. I love it already. It's a Summer read for sure.
Okay, I don't know anything about this one. I just heard some initial buzz on The Books on the Nightstand podcast. Of course, I'm instantly curious. This might just shoot to the top of my reading list.

As for my other kids' reading: Luke is reading The Giver so that we can see the movie this Summer. I'm also reading a lot of Fancy Nancy to Tess. The twins are quickly growing out of our vast collection of board books. Liam really likes this terrible Strawberry Shortcake book that he chose at the library. I can't wait to return it.

I'm on Goodreads all the time. You can follow me there as I review every book I read.

Happy weekend!