Popsugar reading update

I have a few more books to add to my last reading challenge update.

12. A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read
13. A book by or about a person who has a disability

For 13 – I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio I can see why this is a well loved book among the late elementary school age. With the shifting points of view, kids are likely to find someone who speaks to them.

For book 12 – Oh crud. I just noticed the bestseller designation. Not sure either book I read qualifies for that. Oh well. My first thought for this category was engineering textbook. My second was historical romance.I picked up Love’s Spirit by Elizabeth Mayette, a historical romance set during the Revolutionary War. I’m enjoying it more as a family saga. There are so many lives intertwined with the politics, that although the romance is present, to me it is not the main thrust of the story. I have about 50 pages to go, but I expect a good review. The research and eye for detail and accuracy show.

The other book I read at the same time was a cozy mystery, book 1 of the Trailer Park Princess series, The Middle Finger of Fate by Kim Hunt Harris.  It seemed like a campy, goofy series with a snarky heroine which is what I wanted. Turns out, it’s less camp and more Christian. I didn’t know there were Christian cozy mysteries, but now I do. It was okay, but I probably won’t read the rest. I suspect my reaction had more to do with my reader expectations going in and a sense it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

So there we go. I still have a lot of book categories to sort out.

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January project on hold

The last few years, I’ve made it a point to read overlooked or newer books that have few reviews on Goodreads and/or Amazon.  Not this year. I got myself looped into reading for a contest and sometime mid-January a pile of 6-8 books will appear on my doorstep and I will have about 4 weeks to read them. I’ll have to look for a different month to give out reviews to books in need.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to take the 2017 PopSugar Reading challenge. Some categories look easy – I do an audiobook a month so no worries there. Some look more challenging – I don’t usually buy books on a trip. But I’ll update my progress both here and on Goodreads.

I hope I don’t have as much time to read this year. As much as I love reading, I hope to get some writing done this year too.

Are you doing the PopSugar challenge? Let me know. We can share reading ideas.

Remembering Roger Ebert

I may not go often anymore, but I love the movies.  Once upon a time, I harbored the dream of going to film school. Not because I wanted to make them, although playing with fake blood would be a pretty good job description, but I wanted to be a film critic.  And not just any critic.  I wanted to be the female Roger Ebert.  Growing up in Chicago, Roger Ebert was as much a part of my movie going experience as an oversized soda and bucket of popcorn the size of which rivaled a bathtub.  Today I mourn the loss of a man who influenced me and millions of others with his belief that going to the movies should be fun.

Forgive my scattershot thoughts.  I am not the eloquent writer Ebert was.  I cannot knock out a beautifully written an  d thoughtful essay in five minutes – which is all the time I have before the kids wake up.  If you doubt his eloquence, get one of his wonderful essay books stat.  You won’t be disappointed unless you are some type of insane person who cannot appreciate wit, joy, and precisely chosen words.  Don’t judge his writing by watching “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” the Russ Meyer film he scripted.  Or go ahead.  Indulge and don’t feel guilty about it.  Ebert didn’t.

I will miss Ebert’s passion the most.  The man loved movies. Plain and simple.  His paring with the more classically trained movie critic Gene Siskel proved golden.  I loved them on “Sneak Previews” and continued following when the show morphed into” At the Movies.”  I loved how they argued, even when they ultimately agreed.  I loved that two people could look at the same thing, have completely different experiences, and yet often agree the movie earned two thumbs up or two thumbs down.

When I think about my personal Golden Age of going to the movies, that post movie breakdown was as integral to the movie experience as greasy popcorn butter.  Whether I went with to the movies with Mike, Amanda, Mom, Dad, Gabe, Marci, Eric, Genna, or a host of others, the post-film pow-wow and breakdown of what worked and what didn’t was part of the experience.  My husband doesn’t think of going to the movies as a particularly social experience.  I’ve been working with him and he’s improving, but he also didn’t grow up watching Siskel and Ebert.

For teaching me how to watch, enjoy, and discuss not just the movies, but the arts and more, I give Roger Ebert two thumbs up.  Thanks for the inspiration and I’ll see you “At the Movies.”

A shrub, a smile

I posted some time ago about my dismay regarding the hole in the ground or “fire pit” the neighbor kid dug partially on my property.  After contacting the fire department and expressing our concerns to them and to the neighbor, we got the kid and his friend to stop burning pallets – at least when we’re home – but the hole remains.

It is an ugly site to behold. The teens that hang out over there have destroyed the grass and with the wet winter plaguing our part of Virginia, I’ve spent the better part of the last two months gazing at a mud pit.  The view depressed me so much, I stopped opening the blinds.

But not anymore.  During a seventy-two hour rain free period, I snuck out and added a shrub.  My husband feared a border war, but I planted it well onto our property.  If it hangs over to theirs, they can trim away without destroying the trunk. The digging was hard and the hole flooded with water once I dug past eight inches. I don’t recommend digging on a breezy forty degree day normally, but my effort was worth it.

The rain returned and the back portion of the yard is more puddle than grass, but now when I look out, I see my shrub. I see peace and privacy. I smile.

Why I’m not voting on Tuesday

Yes folks, you heard it here first. On Tuesday, November 6th, I will not be voting in the presidential election. Wow, do you have a loud gasp. The candidates do not want to hear this.  As a white, suburban woman raising children in a swing state, I realize I am a highly coveted voter. The non-stop TV, radio and mail ads remind me how important my vote is. Frequent phone calls from the two major parties beseech me to vote on Tuesday. The truth of the matter is, I will not be going to vote on Tuesday, but my uterus will.

My uterus is a bossy little thing, but I’ve got a lot of respect it. After all, my uterus carried my two healthy children to term.  Our relationship has not always been easy, plagued by painful cramps and a cancer scare. We’re good now.  Except when it comes to politics.

It’s not that my uterus entirely disagrees with my desire to vote for the third-party candidate most closely aligned with my views, but my uterus is scared. My uterus fears that the uterus of the girl who once lived inside its protective walls will not enjoy the same privileges my uterus does in terms of fertility and health care. My uterus remembers how women of previous generations fought for access to control our fertility and for the right to vote.  My uterus shudders at the thought that some gray-haired men think a pregnancy from rape is either impossible or a gift from God.  My uterus wants to know how many children of rape those men have personally adopted. Come to think of it, so do I.

Come Tuesday, my uterus will take charge of my body and march us to the polling place. I’ll show my voter ID, and receive the voting instructions. A worker will lead me to the designated voting booth. But, do us both a favor, don’t look behind the curtain. My uterus will vote for the candidate who respects women.

Books for 7 to 9 yr olds

Some time back, a friend asked if I could recommend some books for a seven-year old boy.  I’m asked variations on this somewhat frequently so I finally decided to sit down and write out a list.  For this post, I’ll focus on series. I’m sure there will be more to come and these recommendations are in no particular order.  Most will appeal to both boys and girls, but not every child will enjoy each series below equally.

1. The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne – I have yet to meet a child who rejected this series in its entirety. There are nearly 50 books in the series so it can keep readers busy for a while.  Jack and Annie are siblings who find a magic tree house in the woods near their house.  The characters open a book they find in the house, say “I wish we could go there,” and are transported to the desired location. Before they can go home, they have to solve a puzzle and help either a person or animal. I like the message behind these books, even if as an adult reader, the writing style is a bit repetitive.  For kids just beginning with chapter books, the series offers mild thrills and the chance to learn about the structure of narrative – without even realizing it.

2. A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy – Three relatable kids, Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose solve mysteries in and around the town of Green Lawn.  My daughter and I loved the friendship presented in the books.  Sometimes the kids get mad with each other, but they find ways to resolve their differences in a peaceful way.  There are enough clues to help readers solve the mystery. Each book comes with a map and readers can use that to help solve the mystery too.  It’s nice to see map skills in use.  Also, I like the way the three kids teach each other.  If one uses a harder vocabulary word, or casually mentions a tougher physics or natural world concept, a second character will be a bit confused so the first speaker explains him or herself, or they will talk about what they learned in school and compare notes on what they each remembered.  Ron Roy has two other series – Calendar Mysteries geared toward the same age range and Capital Mysteries geared toward more confident readers.

3. Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton – These rodents both know how to spin a good yarn and get human kids excited about geography, science and the newspaper industry. Heavy illustrations support the text, giving it the feel of a graphic novel, but these are chapter books. My daughter prefers the Thea Sisters series, but the Geronimo Stilton is equally good, if not better. Also, there are a lot of bad puns and literally cheesy dialogue.  The phrases “Moldy mozzarella” and “Fabumous” have become household favorites.

4. Bad Kitty Series by Nick Bruel – For earlier readers, pick up wacky alphabet book Bad Kitty which runs through the alphabet four times and serves as an origin story for our anti-heroine. I love the series for featuring a not so lovable feline who gets her comeuppance in a humours way.  Again, there is a bit of a graphic novel feel, and the heavy illustrations make this a good step into chapter books. The author “breaks the wall” so to speak, inviting the reader to become the anonymous narrator who talks to Bad Kitty. Also clever, asides by Uncle Murray to explain more advanced concepts and the glossary.  Some readers may be put off by the “bad” language. Uncle Murray often refers to “that stupid cat” but  the reader is asked to laugh along with and at the bad examples they see on the page.  Bad Kitty for President is one of the best explanation of politics I’ve seen.

I’ll stop here for now.  What series or individual books do you recommend?  My daughter is always looking for new reads and my son is a few years away from needing some other suggestions.

Explaining Politics to Kids

My daughter is eight and my son is four and both are interested in the idea of electing a president.  I remember elections being, exciting when I was little, but also a little scary and very, very confusing.  Even a lot of adults struggle with the Electoral College, PACs and more. And this is why I am a huge fan of Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty for President.  {sorry there is no picture – my new computer is cranky about keyboard shortcuts}

Bad Kitty books have a hybrid comic book/chapter book vibe and are perfect for the 7-12 set, but even my son likes them.  In this brilliant addition to the Bad Kitty’s adventures, our anti-heroine decides to run for president of the neighborhood cat council.  Over the course of the book, the cats have a caucus, kiss babies, debate, run advertising, gather endorsements and cast ballots.  Although feline issues differ from ours, the cats divide themselves into two political parties, one representing the right side of the street and one for the left side and engage in a political battle royale that illustrates how the national government in D.C. is supposed to work.  Better yet, the Bruel also teaches kids how politics actually functions.

So go ahead, read, laugh and be enlightened.