Tag Archives: books

Reading Goals

I grew up the daughter to an avid reader and we spent a ton of time at the local library. We’d get a pile of books apiece, and the whole process is a memory I hold dearly. My sister and mom and I would spill out of the car and head into the library where we’d peruse the shelves for an hour or so. I’d spend time looking for picture books (and later chapter books) in the children’s area, then I’d play one of their two gaming computers if we had time, or I’d play with some of the toys and board games they had available. Sometimes I’d lay in the fiction shelves while my mom slowly shopped, not complaining, but rather enjoying the cavernous, dark secret feeling the shelves seemed to give me. We’d take our books to the front desk where we’d be checked out and I’d relax in the car while we drove the 15 minutes home, my only concern being the decision I had before me of which book to read first.

My mom would take my sister and I along with her to the school where she worked in the summers so she could set up her classroom and sometimes we’d be there in the mornings before school or afternoons after school. When she taught in a classroom I loved lounging in the reading area she had set up for her students, and I’d browse the shelves of books she had. The pickings got better when she became the librarian at the elementary school, and when she moved to become the librarian at the middle and high school I had even more to choose from.

When we’d run errands my mom, sister and I would always carry a book along with us. After the boring stuff was over my mom would sometimes treat us to lunch somewhere, and would ask if we’d rather have conversation or if we’d rather all read over our meals. We’d do both…. sometimes reading and sometimes talking about what we were reading.

In the summers any of us could be found around the yard or on the desk chilling out with a book, and in the winter we’d cuddle on the couches our on the floor with a blanket hovered over the registers in the floor, book in hand.

We’ve just always been readers. We were always reading, a book ever our sidekick. (cute, huh?)

When I got into college I just didn’t have as much time to read anymore, and after graduation I rediscovered the library when I applied for a position there again. I was living with Nate by then, and I’d bring home stacks of 8-10 books every few weeks. I applied for graduate school 6 months later and between that, planning our wedding, and buying and building our house, my reading tapered off. Then I started having kids and the reading tapered off even more.

In the past year or so I’ve picked up on my reading a little more, and it’s really satisfying. I’ve started participating in an online book club at work and have been taking advantage of my Goodreads list as well.

I do wish I read faster and had more time to read. It feels like I never finish a book in less than three weeks. I’ve been working on “A Game of Thrones” for the past three months. It is so good! I am listening to it on CD in my car, and I have the paperback on my nightstand and the eBook on my phone. I’m just about finish it… I’m 5 pages away from the end of the last chapter. Now I have to decide: do I start on book 2, knowing it will take me a long time to read it as well? Or do I take a break and focus on easier reads? I’m leaning towards starting it immediately, because I don’t know how I’d wait!

I think I’m going to make a reading goal next year to read 20 books. I’ll try to read each book club book and a few extras in between or overlapping. Wish me luck!

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Making My Own Fruit Leather

Well Saturday I ended up doing something I’d never done before… I made my own fruit roll ups!

In anticipation of planting time (it’s almost here! I think we might plant some stuff this weekend, in fact!) my library has purchased some new gardening, homesteading, and food preservation books. I picked up two of them last week, and got out several of the books from my personal library for Nate and I to peruse as we consider what to plant and how we’ll use our harvest. I love this part of the year! Anyway, I digress as usual…

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One of the books I got from the library was called DIY Pantry, and as I was flipping through it I saw a recipe for fruit roll ups. I scanned it, and noticed I had everything it called for, including 2 cups of fruit. At the end of the season last year I made raspberry jam and ended up with 2 cups of fresh raspberries that I knew we wouldn’t use. I froze them and have had them in the deep freezer ever since. I see them every now and again and wondered how I should use them… enter the DIY Pantry book!

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First I mixed all the ingredients together in my blender. The ingredients included 2 cups of fresh or frozen fruit, honey, yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Then I thinly spread the mixture on my parchment paper-lined dehydrator trays. My innovative husband cross-cut holes in the paper so the dehydrator’s motor could sit down properly between the trays.

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I left the dehydrator running for about 5 hours. The recipe suggests 4-8 hours, and I typically check my dehydrator right at the low-end of the time frame given, though I almost always end up having to keep the dehydrator on a bit longer. At 5 hours the fruit mixture wasn’t wet anymore and was just slightly tacky. I removed the sheets and tried to figure out how to cut them into sheets and roll them. While I was pondering I ate one whole sheet.

One. Whole. Sheet. It was so delicious.

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I ended up cutting the sheets into triangular rolls, basically just like slices of pizza. I tried rolling the papers up, but they didn’t stick because I took too long to “ponder” and the fruit leather cooled too much. Oh well. I just put all the slices into a sandwich baggie, and have been having them as snacks or for part of my lunch at work. I’ve had a few friends try and they all love it more than I thought anyone would.

Score one more for the dehydrator! Looks like I have another way to use fruit this summer in addition to canning jam. This was so easy and cheap, too. I’ll be reviewing The DIY Pantry by Kresha Faber after I try a few more of her recipes. So far I’m pretty sold on buying a copy for my personal library.

The Silver Star Gets A Gold Star From Me

I finished another book recently! I picked up Jeannette Walls’ book The Silver Star (though I was late to the game, as it was published nearly a year ago in June of 2013) because I’ve enjoyed her other books immensely. Despite the controversy that has surrounded The Glass Castle and the criticism it has received as potentially being a work of mostly fiction I frequently recommend it to people who come into the library looking for something different or entertaining. I enjoyed it and Half Broke Horses because they are just descriptive enough and have that unique element of balanced humor and seriousness.

Anyway, back to The Silver Star. The book takes place in the 1970s. Our narrator is 12 year old Bean (Jean) Holladay and the story centers mostly around her and her 15 year old half-sister Liz. At the beginning of the book the girls live with their easy come, easy go mother Charlotte Holladay, a singer/song-writer who conveniently abandons things that are tough or make her uncomfortable. Shortly into the story Charlotte does just that: she abandons the girls, promising to return after she’s had some solo time. When Charlotte hasn’t returned a few weeks later, the girls fear they’ll be found out and moved into foster care. Liz, always the problem-solver and definitely idolized by Bean, suggests they travel across the country to Byler, Virginia, where Uncle Tinsley still lives in the old Holladay mansion.

When the girls arrive in Byler things aren’t quite what they expected. They slowly, at first, form a relationship with Uncle Tinsley and then realize they’ll probably be staying in Byler for awhile. The girls make themselves at home, learning about the Holladay family’s history of owning the mill in Byler, meeting family, exploring, and going to the newly-integrated school. They decide to look for jobs and soon find it at a local family’s house, working for the mill’s foreman, Mr. Maddox. Though initially considered somewhat of an outcast, Bean embraces her new school and the friendships she makes there and with her father’s family. Liz, however, keeps her nose to the grindstone working for Mr. Maddox and begins withdrawing after being made fun of at school. Then something awful happens to her, and she becomes even more withdrawn, while Bean takes charge of the situation, at least as much as one can take charge.

The Silver Star is a coming of age story of two girls in a unique situation, in a classic southern town dealing with some classic issues and some unique ones. I absolutely adored some of the characters: Bean was, of course, my favorite, but Uncle Tinsley, Joe, Aunt Al, and Liz are all wonderful also. Bean’s innocent courage and curiosity remind me a lot of another famous literary character, Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird. Mr. Maddox also reminded me of a character from Harper Lee’s famous masterpiece, as did the atmosphere, storyline, and the storytelling. The Silver Star also many elements that were reminiscent of The Glass Castle, such as the abandonment, the strongman characters, the sibling relationships, and the coping skills, which isn’t surprising, consider they’re written by the same author.

I would probably give this book 4.5/5 stars; if I had just recently finished Jeannette Walls’ other books I might have been more disappointed, as I would definitely consider this book my least favorite (what a back-handed compliment). It was easy to read and possibly geared more toward young readers though it surely appeals to both a young adult and adult audience. While I wouldn’t say the book is fast-paced it does move along easily, but the first third of the book had some moments that were slow. The book has several miniature lessons and moments and characters that left me thinking. Though I didn’t like it as much as I liked either of Walls’ other books or To Kill A Mockingbird, it was a fantastic story that I may pick up again and have already suggested to others. I can’t wait to read more from Jeannette Walls, and am currently seeking a book that reads similarly.

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Inherit the Dead: a Decent Book for a Great Cause

About a month ago I was chilling at the desk at work when an older gentleman handed me an audiobook and said “My wife said this book was really good. I’d like to get the print version of it, if it’s in, so I can read it please.” I found it for him and told my long-time mentor/friend/coworker/first boss what the guy had said. We both decided to take the book home; she took home another copy of the book and I took the audiobook, since it’s pretty much the closest I can come to guaranteeing to finish a book these days. The book was Inherit the Dead, and on the cover it said “Twenty thrilling writers, one chilling mystery.” Normally I steer clear of books by multiple authors; I feel like these stories tend to be disjointed and just not very entertaining to me. I can’t stay interested, but then I typically struggle with adult mysteries anyway, unless they lean on the thriller/horror side of things. I ended up taking home and finishing and enjoying Inherit the Dead, however, much to my surprise.

Inherit the Dead, edited by Jonathan Santlofer, was crime writer Linda Fairchild’s idea. She endeavored to call attention to Safe Horizon through the combined talent of other crime/legal/mystery bestselling authors Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, CJ Box, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Mary Higgins Clark, Marcia Clark, Max Allan Collins, John Connolly, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Charlaine Harris, Val McDermid, SJ Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger, and Sarah Weinman. In 1978 Safe Horizon was founded in New York to “provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.” The organization helps over 250,000 victims of crime every year and is the largest provider of services for victims of domestic violence in America. If the book is to support a cause like this I decided I had to read it and review it. And if you know me, you know a few things: (1) I don’t have much time to read, and therefore don’t do much of it these days, (2) I haven’t reviewed a book in a long, long time, but (3) I love reviewing books. So this has to mean something, right?

The book is about Perry (Pericles) Christo, former cop, current private investigator, and his newest case. Perry has been hired by the wealthy and well-known Julia Drusilla, whose adult daughter Angelina Loki is missing. But things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem at the surface. Angelina is about to inherit a fortune, but only if she is around to claim it on her birthday, and Julia doesn’t hide the fact that she and Angelina have had a bad relationship for awhile. Angelina’s father, Norman Loki, is a stoner, drunk, and former/non-practicing lawyer who lives large and isn’t much help, changing his demeanor and his claims like Jekyll and Hyde. Angelina’s boyfriends, a player mechanic and a politician hiding his relationship with Angelina, offer some insight and lead Perry to new information in his hunt for the missing girl, while Angelina’s debutante friend merely tries to seduce the private investigator. The book follows PI Perry back and forth from dreary Manhattan to the Hamptons as he tries to find out why Angel is missing and whether or not it’s by her own will. Eventually the story peaks and Perry -and the reader- find out what really happened.

What this novel has going for it is unfortunately also working against it. Each author adds his or her own flavor to the smorgasbord. Heather Graham’s chapter fittingly revolves around Angelina’s sultry seductress friend, while Charlaine Harris’s portion involves a humorous confrontation between Perry and another character that totally reminds me of Harris’s well-known Sookie Stackhouse character. Each author’s chapter is uniquely them, and while they managed to seamlessly move from chapter to chapter there are some characterizations that just don’t sit right with me. Norman Loki, for example, seems to be all over the place, and not really in a good way. The difference in descriptive language and pace is interesting and works for the story, though. Each author definitely had their time to shine and make the story their own; at times I wondered if the book was ever going to end… It probably could’ve been trimmed down a bit. It was fun looking forward to each new chapter, not necessarily due to any of the story’s suspense, but because I couldn’t wait to see how the next author would play off those previous.

Overall I enjoyed Inherit the Dead. I love multi-author books that have a cause, and the superstar writers do a decent job of making this books a good one. While I won’t read it again I will likely suggest it to many of the library customers that come in. I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

Dogs & Boys & Dr. Seuss

I’m so spoiled. I took my car in for an oil change today and when I was finished the service people told me my parents had added it to their tab. My dad called later to tell me the owner talked to him and said I needed a few other things fixed. They’re making arrangements for me to drop my car off next week. I’m so glad my parents still help me with things. Tony Duh at Mooresville Auto and Tire Service/Goodyear is awesome. He remembers every car and he and his crew go to great lengths to satisfy their customers. Having both boys there was fun but exhausting, so we took it easy the rest of the day. While Atticus napped Trent and I wallowed around on the floor with Lucy and Fiesta. Those dogs are awesome with the boys.

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Fiesta is totally a party-animal. She’s always smiling (seriously) and bouncing around. She loves food and fun and is totally a kid-lover. If you play tug-of-war with her she will always play at your level of enthusiasm. With Atticus she tugs gently every few seconds and drops it so he can have it. With Trent she tugs harder. With Nate she tugs and growls ferociously and jumps. She’s so perfect.

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Lucy is calm and timid. She mostly just wants to cuddle and lay around. When she plays she acts like a cat or a fawn, prancing around lightly. She doesn’t care for toys but loves to run. She’s part beagle and part greyhound. She is a trickster though; leave something out and she will find it, though it may be a few days before you realize what’s happened. I know she enjoyed those croutons…

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These girls love all three boys, but they are crazy about Trent. He’s so passionate and I think they feel that. When he’s upset they cheer him up and when he’s happy and playful they’re ready to take him on. He says they’re his best friend dogs. He’s right.

This is our weekend to have Nick, yay! It’s also my weekend to work, boo. But it’s all good. Nick told me all about the books he’s about to read and showed me what he’s currently reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Just before Atticus’s bedtime Nick ran upstairs and grabbed a few Dr. Seuss books and proclaimed, “I’m going to read you some Dr. Seuss, guys, because it was just his birthday.”

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Atticus and Trent gathered around for a rousing edition of Green Eggs and Ham. It’s so interesting to hear how well he reads aloud compared to how he did when he first started reading. It’s hard to believe he’s a fourth grader. I asked him 2 weeks ago if they’d had them watch the puberty/sex ed videos yet. He said no, but he sucked his cheeks in. We’ve asked if he knows what sex is and he blushes, so yeah, he does. Awkward. But I just need to know so I know when to refrain from inappropriate jokes. I’m a horrible parent.