Reading Challenge Cheater Pants

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Every year I set a reading goal on Goodreads, and for the last 2 years it’s been to read 100 books. A year ago I went way over my goal, but man was this year a struggle. Let’s see if you can figure out how I “cheated” in 2014.

JANUARY (7): Takedown Twenty (Evanovich); Divergent (Roth); Reality Boy (King); Who Asked You? (McMillan); Cross My Heart (Patterson); Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom (Richardson); The Goldfinch (Tartt)

FEBRUARY (6): Sycamore Row (Grisham); Strategies that Work (Harvey); Paper Covers Rock (Hubbard); Gone (Patterson); Insurgent (Roth); Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Cohn & Levithan)

MARCH (8): The Magician’s Assistant (Patchett); Lie (Bock); The Impossible Knife of Memory (Anderson); Beautiful Day (Hilderbrand); Promises to Keep (Green); Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Coerr); Tangerine (Bloor); The Silver Star (Walls)

APRIL (7): Morning (Thayer); The Tragedy Paper (LaBan); Private L.A. (Patterson); The Theory of Everything (Johnson); Allegiant (Roth); There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (Sachar); Hate List (Brown)

MAY (5): Roomies (Zarr); The Suitors (David-Weill); Life, After (Littman); Fangirl (Rowell); The Rules of Survival (Werlin)

JUNE (15): Flora and Ulysses (DiCamillo); Sign Language (Ackley); OCD Love Story (Haydu); This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Patchett); Unlucky 13 (Patterson); Learning a New Land (Suarez-Orozco); This Star Won’t Go Out (Earl); Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners (Echevarria); Hidden Girl (Hall); A Wedding in December (Shreve); Living with Jackie Chan (Knowles); Top Secret Twenty-One (Evanovich); Jumping Off Swings (Knowles); The Chosen One (Williams); Go Ask Alice (Sparks)

JULY (7): Virtuosity (Rodriguez); Joey Pigza Loses Control (Gantos); Charm and Strange (Kuehn); Bunheads (Flack); What They Found: Love on 145th Street (Myers); Teen Idol (Cabot); The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Lockhart)

AUGUST (11): The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Hoffman); Chestnut Street (Binchy); October Mourning (Newman); Tilt (Hopkins); Uses for Boys (Scheidt); Big Little Lies (Moriarty); When You Reach Me (Stead); The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Black); Octavian Nothing (Anderson); Cracked Up to Be (Summers); If I Stay (Forman)

SEPTEMBER (4): Jemima J (Green); Wild Roses (Caletti); Savvy (Law); Suicide Notes (Ford)

OCTOBER (5): Four (Roth); Burn (Patterson); Margot (Cantor); Leaving Home (Picoult); Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking (Frankweiler)

NOVEMBER (5): Leaving Time (Picoult); The Vacationers (Straub); Atlantia (Condie); Yes Please (Poehler); Dark Places (Flynn)

DECEMBER (20): After (Efaw); The One and Only Ivan (Applegate); The Extreme Internet Searcher’s Handbook (Hock); Gray Mountain (Grisham); Private India (Patterson); Hope to Die (Patterson); The Last Exit to Normal (Harmon); Eggs (Spinelli); Still Life with Breadcrumbs (Quindlen); China Dolls (See); Zoe Letting Go (Price); Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour (Matson); Boy (Dahl); Vacation Under the Volcano (Osborne); Amelia’s Family Ties (Moss); Captain Underpants #7 (Pilkey); Heart to Heart with Mallory (Friedman); Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (O’Brien); Sophie the Daredevil (Bergen); The Young Gymnast (Jackman)

So… notice anything about December? Yes, I read a lot in June, but December’s pattern is interesting. I read *6* of them on December 31st. And do you see how the quality declines? I go from reading books by authors like Lisa See and Anna Quindlen down to… Magic Tree House books and Captain Underpants. Not that there’s anything wrong with those books. And, I always give myself permission to read middle grade books and the occasional upper elementary book if it’s highly recommended.

But I *had* to get to my goal. Even though, as my lovely husband pointed out, it was an artificial goal set by me, that no one would ever know about. Still, it had to be done. It’s shameful not to read at least 100 books, right? Right.

So, I did it. And I already put up my goal for 2015: 100 more books.

What about you? Are you as… anal freakish weird awesome as me?

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Teen Reader Lisa

For one of my library classes (Children’s/YA Literature), we needed to write a reflection of ourselves as teen readers. Here’s mine:

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I’m having a hard time remembering what I read as a teen. I know I did all my reading for school very conscientiously. For a while I was obsessed with Anna Karenina; I thought Anna’s suicide was the most romantic gesture ever. My AP English teacher let us choose an author to study for the last quarter, and I read three Jane Austen novels, which I still enjoy today. Other than school reading, I read a combination of light teenage series books, sad novels, adult author binges, and ‘forbidden’ books.

I read a lot of fluff, the equivalent of the soap operas I watched faithfully in high school. I read all the Sweet Valley High books by Francine Pascal (plus some ghostwriters). Jessica and Elizabeth were fascinating to me; they were identical twins but so different. In retrospect, the characters were fairly stereotypical, but at the time I identified with sweet Elizabeth and admired/was horrified by Jessica. I know there are Sweet Valley Twins books for younger children; I’m sure I would’ve loved those, too.

Sad/emotional books really caught my eye too. Starting with Bridge to Terabithia, I was drawn to the stories where a sibling, parent, or friend dies, or the main character is a terrible situation. I remember A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), The Pinballs (Betsy Byars), and Too Young to Die (Lurlene McDaniel). I couldn’t relate to those books; nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened to me. But I got to see what it was like to be those characters, from a safe distance of course.

Like a lot of teens and adults, I latched onto certain authors and read most everything they wrote. I worked as a public library page in high school, doing the adult shelving, and I got to see everything that went out and in. (I also may—or may not—have read on the job.) I read through Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, Sue Grafton, Nancy Thayer, and other authors I can’t remember.  The books gave me a sense of what everyday adult life was like, and what kinds of issues adults faced. Not sure how realistic this education was, though, considering Steel and Collins!

I will admit to the occasional dirty reading. I began with the fairly innocent Judy Blume books (Margaret gets her period! Deenie has a special place that she touches! Katherine has sex for the first time!) They seem so tame now compared to so many YA books, but at the time I felt like I was reading something exciting and forbidden. Then there was The Joy of Sex, occasionally found on the shelves of houses where I babysat; I studied those line drawings and tried to make sense of it all.  I remember discovering Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books. Not only were they erotic novels (which was amazing in itself, because I didn’t know those existed!), but they were chock full of BDSM (an early Fifty Shades, but with princes and princesses). I sure got an education with those books! You can bet those books were well-hidden.

When I look back now, I wish I’d had a specifically Young Adult section like we have at libraries now. We had some older books in the children’s room, and some books in the adult sections with teen characters. But if there were a YA section then, I’d have been glued to it. I’m glued to it as an adult anyway.

Reading List, 2013

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I’m proud of myself for reading so many books this year. My goal was 100, and I read 132! Some of the extra reading was because I was unemployed for a while – a silver lining, I guess. I’m organizing the books by the ratings I gave them on Goodreads. So, here we go – the five star books I read this year, in no particular order (R= reread):

Stars: *****

Eleanor and Park (Rowell); The Book Thief (Zusak, R); Wonder (Palacio); State of Wonder (Patchett); The Storyteller (Picoult); Because I Am Furniture (Chaltas);  Out of the Easy (Sepetys); Crank (Hopkins); Because of Mr. Terupt (Buyea); Butter (Lange)

Stars: ****

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Meaning of the Universe (Saenz); Mad About the Boy (Fielding); Reconstructing Amelia (McCreight); The Great Gilly Hopkins (Paterson); Spectacle (McCullagh); How to be a Writer in the E-Age (And Not Lose Your E-Sanity) (Hyde); Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns (Weisberger); Sisterland (Sittenfeld); Parallel Visions (Rainfield); Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) (Park);  The Third Wheel: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7 (Kinney); Tapestry of Fortune (Berg); 12th of Never (Women’s Murder Club) (Patterson); Reference Sources andResources forYoung People (Harper); Summerland (Hilderbrand); Anybody Out There? (Keyes); The Mystery of Mercy Close (Keyes); And the Mountains Echoed (Hosseini); The Engagements (Sullivan); The Devotion of Suspect X (Higashino); Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Lin); Family Pictures (Green); What Ever Happened to Janie? (Cooney); Code Name Verity (Wein); Prom (Anderson); The Higher Power of Lucky (Patron); Glass (Hopkins); Define Normal (Peters); Notorious Nineteen (Evanovich); Fade to Black (Flinn); Just One Day (Forman); Perfect Escape (Brown); The Casual Vacancy (Rowling); Sahara Special (Codell)

Stars: ***

Confessions: The Private School Murders (Patterson); Starry River of the Sky (Lin); No Talking (Clements); The Cuckoo’s Calling (Galbraith); W is for Wasted (Grafton); Chocolate Fever (R, Smith); Rhymes with Witches (Myracle); The Opposite of Hallelujah (Jarzab); Clementine (Pennypacker); Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators (Booth); Audrey, Wait! (Benway); Traitor in the Shipyard: A Caroline Mystery (Ernst); The Sixty-Eight Rooms (Malone); The Best Little Girl in the World (Levenkron); The Heist (Evanovich); Murder on the Orient Express (Christie); 21 Proms (Levithan); Daddy’s Gone A Hunting (Clark); Scarlet (Meyer); Inferno (Brown); The Interestings (Wolitzer); Swamplandia! (Russell); The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Gladwell); The Silver Linings Playbook (Quick); Noah’s Compass (Tyler); Such a Pretty Face (Lamb); Vegan, Virgin, Valentine (Mackler); 17 & Gone (Suma); Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Strayed); Collateral (Hopkins); Private Berlin (Pattrson); The Mother-Daughter Book Club (Frederick); Boy Meets Boy (Levithan); The Moon and More (Dessen); Silver Girl (Hildenbrand); The Next Best Thing (Weiner); Merry Christmas, Alex Cross (Patterson);  The Marriage Bargain (Probst); Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories (Hall); On the Jellicoe Road (Marchetta)

Stars: **

The Lemonade War (Davies); Mistress (Patterson); Fallout (Hopkins); Thee Undertow (Baker); Eyes Wide Open (Dekker); Picture Perfect (R, Picoult)

Stars: *

None – guess I just didn’t keep reading anything I hated!

If you’re on Goodreads, which books got 5 stars from you?

What’s Up Wednesday

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 What I’m Reading: I just finished a fantastic book, “Butter,” by Erin Jade Lange. Butter is a 400-something pound high school boy who is lonely and miserable. Out of desperation, or for attention, he creates a website that counts down the days until New Year’s Eve, when he will eat himself to death online. His website gains him the attention of other students, and soon he has people to hang out with, and is starting to lose weight. He has to figure out if his friends are really friends, and whether or not he still plans his grand exit on New Year’s Eve. I liked this book because it was unique to be in the head of someone Butter’s size, and because it made me think about the big issues of bullying and suicide in a different way. I just realized that I totally sound like a book report, so onward.

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What I’m Writing: I’ve been working on my WIP, and it’s slow going, because I’m trying to transition into using my new iPad with its wireless keyboard. I’m writing in Pages right now, and it’s mostly fine, but the cut and paste feature is annoying me to death. I probably don’t know the right way to use it. But somehow yesterday I lost 4-5 polished paragraphs, and I ended up with my laptop and my iPad, retyping paragraphs from one to the other. When my dad and kids came home from miniature golfing, I had in front of me my phone, laptop, and iPad, all laid out. It was kind of embarrassing.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: My kids start school next week, and for the older one, it’s middle school. I think I’ve been desensitized to the whole idea from talking to other parents, but we’ll see what it’s like when it actually starts. My kid is confident and has a great head on her shoulders. I just don’t want anything to change that. I know she’s supposed to be moving on, and I won’t wish for her to be younger, but I just want her to hang onto her core even as she changes.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now: Ugh. I’m bad at this question. Is it cheating to say, nothing? Wait, I can do it. Since I only write at Starbucks, what inspires me right now is having a little bit of time to myself and enjoying my coffee. Is that enough for now?

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What’s Up Wednesday

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WHAT I’M READING:

Right now I’m reading Elin Hilderbrand’s Summerland. The premise of Summerland is that there’s been a fatal car accident on the night of high school graduation. Penny, a junior, was sober, but driving too fast, and dies in the crash. Her twin brother, Hobby, is in a coma. Demeter and Jake (Penny’s boyfriend), the other passengers, are unhurt, but scarred by the whole thing, emotionally. The characters also include their parents, particularly Zoe, the mother of the twins, and Jordan, Jake’s dad, who had been having an affair before the accident.

I’m about 2/3 through it, and I’m enjoying it so far. I don’t always like books written from multiple perspectives, but it works in this book. The only odd thing is that occasionally through the book (including the first chapter), there’s no clear person narrating. It’s almost like an anonymous person from Nantucket is narrating, or even as if the island itself is narrating. So far, I’m most interesting part for me is Zoe and Jordan’s relationship: what happens when your child survives, but the other child (who was driving) doesn’t? I love books with “what if” questions.

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WHAT I’M WRITING:

I’ve switched back to my first book, Outside In, for a while. I’m back to some revisions (again!), and right now I’m focusing on how clinically accurate my main character’s experiences in therapy are.

Since I’m obviously not a therapist, I’ve consulted 4-5 therapists/ social workers in the last week or two. I’d vetted my scenes with one therapist before, but I’m looking at my scenes with more people now, because I want to make sure I’m not writing inaccurate experiences. The current question is whether my character’s therapist should’ve been more concerned about suicidal risk. Of course I’m getting different answers from different people, but I’m figuring out what makes sense based on their parameters.

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO:

We leave for California on Sunday!

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It’s a family reunion of sorts: my grandmother lives in Modesto, CA. My family plus my parents are flying out, and meeting up with both of my aunts, my uncle, and all three of my cousins. I can’t believe that all of us are coming from so many different places (MA, HI, the Canary Islands…). My grandmother is 94, and it’s time to go see her again.

We’re also doing some sightseeing in San Francisco–I’ve done it before, but my kids haven’t ever explored the city.

WHAT’S INSPIRING ME RIGHT NOW:

Switching manuscripts is inspiring me right now. Although I’m so wrapped up in my second book, it’s been a breath of fresh air to go back to the first one. I heard someone say once that the first book you write is the “book of your heart.” This one is. It’s my baby, and the one that will probably always mean the most to me.

How’s your Wednesday going?

What’s Up Wednesday – on Thursday

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Ugh. So apparently it’s Thursday. But I’m going to do What’s Up Wednesday anyway, okay? It’s an easy way to blog. Did I mention that before?

What I’m Reading: I finished a book this morning, “Anybody Out There?” by Marian Keyes. It’s one of her books about the Walsh sisters (Claire, Maggie, Rachel, Anna, and Helen). I read the one about Helen earlier this week. It’s so much fun to read about the sisters from each other’s perspectives. The one I finished today was about Anna, but I was so curious to hear about Helen, who was completely fascinating in her book (“The Mystery of Mercy Close”) – a P.I. with a hard exterior and deep depression underneath (very interesting combination). In Anna’s book, she’s had a huge thing happen, but I can’t get say what it is because it’s a total spoiler!

What I’m Writing: I met with my critique group last week, so I’m working on their revision ideas for ch. 8 of “Marianna.” (I’m still compelled to mention that I don’t like my title.) I love their ideas. And I absolutely LOVE that they talk about my characters like they’re real. I also wrote two blog posts this week. I’d like to keep doing that, but we’ll see.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: My kids finally had their last day of school. My older one graduated from elementary school. It seems like such a trivial thing to me (back in the day, we never got to graduate from elementary school! We were lucky if we just got out at the end of the day! Uphill! Both ways!) but for her it was meaningful. She was one of the emcees, and did a great job speaking loudly and clearly. She was rather ungracious posing for pictures, but she’s 11, so…

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I hate this answer, especially when I look at other people’s blogs, but nothing. I’m still in the same funk I was last week, which is probably why I’ve done so little revision. I still want to do some writing prompts, and maybe if they’re in a nice pretty notebook that will inspire me.

Until next time…

An Ode to Audiobooks

This is me on my 40-minute commute.

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(Because, you know, I would NEVER be doing this:

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That would be wrong. And probably illegal.)

This is me on audiobooks:

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Ah, audiobooks. On my commutes (=no kids with me), I get bored with the radio, especially in the mornings when they jabber on and on about stupid stuff. And because apparently I’m NOT supposed to text on my phone while I drive, I’ve turned to audiobooks to make the driving more entertaining. And now I’m in love.

The advantages of audiobooks in the car:

-I can read/listen to more and more and more books! And of course my TBR pile is to the moon and back.

-I get drawn into the world of the story and forget that I’m on my way to work or kids. I’m surprised when I get there – it went by so fast! And I don’t want to turn it off.

-I stay awake.

-Someone reads to me. Ah, childhood all over again. Pass the juice and the blankie.

The disadvantages:

-The selection: I’m stuck with whatever the library has. But I’ve been re-reading/ re-listening to old favorites, everything from old Jodi Picoults to Jane Austen.

-The fines: I can never get through the CDs in 2 weeks, and I never remember to renew anything. But my theory is that I’m making frequent donations to the library.

-The narrators: So inconsistent. They can be so amazing (Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why) or so off-putting (Jodi Picoult’s Picture Perfect). I’m listening to Picture Perfect right now, and the narrator’s doing absolutely nothing for me.  But since I like the story, I’m sticking with it.

SO: What do you think? Do you listen to audiobooks, or do you just stare into space when you drive? Do you have favorites?