8.16.2017

Should Reading to My Kids Count Towards Tracking on Goodreads?

Recently, Book Riot had a post on whether to count audio books when tracking your reading. It seems crazy to me NOT to count them! To your brain, they are not 'cheating' and you are spending almost similar amount of time consuming a story. The same goes for re-reads in my opinion: you are taking that precious time to engage with the written word, that for sure counts as reading. 

I sometimes feel not quite guilty, but some small hesitation when I add children's books to my Goodreads 'read' pile. For example, graphic novels - I never counted re-reading A Wrinkle in Time in graphic novel form. And when I read The Amulet Series after my son finished them, I only counted it as one book in my tracking. Should I go back and add six more books read?? Raina Telgemeier writes the most amazingly heartfelt stories with her pictures and words: Smile and Ghosts are must reads. Since they only took me the time it would take to watch a movie, I hesitated adding them to my list. Yet I read We Should All Be Feminists in the same amount of time! It all seems to even out to the length of an average book at the end of the year (a respectable 341 pages per book last year) so I count my monthly Newberry book, occasional middle grade read or graphic novel. It evens out with all that time I spent reading The Queen of the Night, right?

In thinking about time spent reading, it got me thinking about ALL THE TIME spent reading to my kids. Does that count for anything? I mean, aside from the obvious benefits of bonding and building my kids vocabulary, empathy, education and all. I'm certainly not talking about counting Goodnight, Moon or the millionth reading of Madeline. However, my kids are at an age where I am reading books to them that have some heft. I am a huge advocate of reading to your kids until they go to college, if you can swing it (also corroborated by Connecting Boys with Books) and I am still going strong with my seven and ten year old. This year I've read every Roald Dahl book you can think of with the younger, and just finished The Goblet of Fire (when Rowling starts to get particularly loquacious) with the older. We read a new Harry Potter with him every summer, and oftentimes we're reading for more than a half an hour a night. The caveat: my husband and I take turns and do a quick catch up on what happened with each other between readings. When we read Flora and Ulysses with my ten year old, I wanted to add it to my Newberry list of books read. Yet I had that 'guilt' feeling of counting it since I didn't sit and read it the whole way through. At least it's one I easily sat down and read on my own in an evening or two. But half of Harry Potter? Does it count for anything? I'm genuinely curious if parents count any of these books. Perhaps this means I SHOULD go back and add those other Amulets...

Ultimately, it's about what my goals are - if I want to conquer a set number of pages per year, I suppose I could figure out a way to work that into my Goodreads challenge. But that doesn't seem like a goal I want to pursue. More than anything, I like to look at the breakdown of the books I read: how many new releases vs backlist, fiction vs nonfiction, or how many books written by women or POC. My yearly goal is somewhat arbitrary, in that I usually just aim for more books than the year prior. So, I'll probably just keep on with not counting the books I read to my kids, unless I take the time to read the other half or whole on my own, and continue to see it as one of my favorite things to do together. A practice that I hope doesn't end anytime soon.


8.07.2017

Monthly Meal Wrap Up - July

In keeping with my summer bucket list item of ramping down blog posts, it has been AWHILE since I talked menu plans. To be honest, I felt like the weekly format was getting a little stale. Even though I write it all down and plan weekly, so much is similar from week to week and not exactly noteworthy every seven days. Since I DO still like to refer back to new things we've tried and fun things we eat, I thought I'd switch it up and start doing a monthly wrap up. (Weekly menus are always available to scroll for ideas, though - which I do myself quite frequently!)

Speaking of the summer bucket list, the kids and I checked off blueberry picking and we made these delicious blueberry muffins from Smitten Kitchen, as well as many stacks of Sunday blueberry pancakes.

We've also done quite a bit of grilling and chilling, and made an old favorite that pre-dates the blog - so, a recipe we dug up from nearly six years ago!
Mmmmmm. Dry rubbed flank steak, with chimichurri sauce that we served with roasted potatoes and wilted spinach. The recipe is from a long ago show on the Food Network that has stood the test of time. Alas, The Hearty Boys has not.

My husband showed me this roasted cauliflower and quinoa recipe he found on NBCNews.com and said that it seemed so interesting (vinegar soaked raisins! Capers! Coconut Oil! Tumeric! Toasted garlic!) that we had to try it. 
It was fantastic: the flavors totally work and were ADDICTIVE. We served it with some simple grilled chicken, since this recipe is rather complex. In the future, we might just skip toasting the quinoa.

Also on the summer bucket list was to try a new summer cocktail and I did that RIGHT AWAY. This Gold Rush Cocktail from The Kitchen has been my go-to: bourbon, an easy honey syrup, lemon and mint.
We didn't do too much eating out this month, other than fun festival food like shaved ice at the Bellevue Arts Fair...
And I always stop for a Fisher Scone, which I did at the Kirkland Classic car show. 
However, we are heading out on a little road trip this week and my birthday date night got pushed back - so there may be a bit of restaurant recapping going on for August. 

I also thought it'd be fun to delve into more cookbooks (Can't get enough books! Alllll the books!) so I picked up a few from the library and will hopefully find some fun new recipes to share.





8.01.2017

Books I Read in July

Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
You can read my review here!

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Definitely a good pick for a summer read: a love triangle which predominantly takes place in a seaside community on Rhode Island. I did get a little infuriated with the main character's willful ignorance about the nefarious players in her life, and it was pretty easy to figure out the plot twist by at least halfway through. But, I didn't predict the wild and dramatic way it all came together in the end with the very real hurricane of 1938. Overall, it was a fun book - it read like Elin Hilderbrand decided to write a historical fiction novel.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
The story of two people who fall in love on the day of the 9/11 attacks drew me in immediately. As someone who was of a similar age at the time, and became engaged within a couple weeks after that fateful day, I could easily identify with their emotions. But... as the love triangle emerges, I became rather infuriated with main character's poor decision making on MANY LEVELS. It was one I wanted to throw across the room at the end for it's utterly un-redemptive qualities (I refrained, because it was from my beloved library). I won't put any spoilers here as to why, but I will on my Goodreads if you are so inclined!

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
I am realizing now that I have read a trio of love triangle stories in July! Must be a common beach read theme... Of the three, I enjoyed this novel the most. Taylor's descriptive writing of Florida and the sea are just lovely. It felt reminiscent of the show Bloodline, with the setting and complex family drama. The main character is also flawed, but she comes to right the mistakes she has made in her life by the end - a wry and unexpectedly bittersweet treat. I also thought that the narrative of shark preservation was enmeshed well into the story, and eye opening.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
My Newberry pick for the month did not disappoint, just as it hadn't when I read it nearly thirty years ago! I had forgotten the gist of the story, and it was wonderful to rediscover such a great character in Kit. Not only does Speare create such a fantastic visual contrast between Kit's home of Barbados and Connecticut, but she takes on really heavy issues that are still so very relevant today: slavery, religious persecution, and feminism. Absolutely a classic for all ages.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
When it comes to historical fiction, I'm a sucker for the dual timeline narrative and this one did not disappoint. It is set in present day and 1921 in Tulsa, the latter leading up to the massacre and burning of the black neighborhood Greeenwood. Rowan, a young black girl finds a skeleton in the cottage house floor that her parents are renovating one summer. Then the story bounces back and forth in time as the clues come together to solve the mystery of the body. I furiously turned the pages and waffled on who I thought it was, hoping for it to be certain characters and not others. At the same time, it was a well told coming of age story as Rowan learns about the past, while dealing with an unforeseen tragedy in the present.



7.20.2017

July Library Haul

I wonder if I was drawn to blue and yellow subconsciously for summer? It is a lovely coordinating stack, and more than I can handle in a month, as usual...

I feel as if I am the last of the book blogging/instagram community to read Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett. Thankfully, it was on the library Choice Read shelf, which means it's mine for at least three months
As usual, Anne Bogel is influencing my reading pile, having mentioned Sarah Addison Allen on her podcast several times. I had just finished Beartown and went on a spree of putting holds on books that might be lighter fare, and magical Southern fiction sounds like just the ticket with Garden Spells
I enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith's This is What Happy Looks Like, and heard great reviews of her latest: Windfall
I caved to the hype from The Skimm and the description of The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo. This is what I am currently reading and, as someone who was also a 'twentysomething' during 9/11, it is grabbing my heartstrings. 
The initial buzz on The Reminders by Val Emmich didn't grab me - singer and actor who wrote a book? Hmmm. But it's gaining momentum in gushing reviews, so I have my fingers crossed for a great heartwarming novel. 
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor (who I just realized is Sue Monk Kidd's daughter!) is the second book I'm checking off from my Summer Reading List
I just finished reading A Hundred Summers by Beartriz Williams and I'm so glad I finally read one of her books! More thoughts to come; for now I'd say that if you enjoy Elin Hilderbrand books, as well as historical fiction, you will enjoy her work.

Also in the queue...
NetGalley/ARCs:
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith 
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham 
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts or recommendations!

7.11.2017

Hum if You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais (Digital Galley Review)

Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
Publisher: Putnam Books
Description from the publisher: 
Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred...until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing. 

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection. 

Both main characters grabbed my heartstrings from the beginning of this novel, and never let go. I felt an immediate connection to young Robin as a tomboyish bookworm growing up in the 70s, and loses her parents at a very young age. (I suffered the loss of my father at a similar age, and there was much of Robin's psyche that resonated with me.) Her inner life was equal parts hilarious, infuriating, and heartbreaking. As a mother, I immediately identified with Beauty and her anguish as she does everything in her power to find her missing daughter. 

I am duly impressed with this debut and the author's ability to create such suspense, drop a few well timed plot twists, all while deftly weaving together plot lines. Some of action as the story came to a dramatic end felt a little far fetched, and the links between some of the peripheral characters were tenuous. However, it was a enthralling story of love, loss and strength in adversity. The ending was a little nebulous about the future of the characters, almost in a purposeful way, making me wonder if there will be a sequel. If so, I am ON BOARD.

Knowing little about apartheid in South Africa going into this book, I felt as though I learned more, as well as more about my own culture with the very obvious racial and political parallels to the United States. I found myself googling information about the Soweto uprising and, although it is hard to digest, it is important to bear witness to the history. This would be a perfect companion read with Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, which has been on my to-read for too long and is moving up in the queue, for sure.  

Many thanks to Putnam Books for an advance copy to review!

7.05.2017

Books I Read in June


All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The description I read about this being a mashup of Back to the Future and Dark Matter was spot on. I enjoyed the cheeky misfit protagonist in this book, and appreciated the lighter tone. Mastai also had some great observations about family and love; I like that this story wasn't 100% centered around a romance. However, it felt silly at times and got bogged down in some ridiculous science. Overall, though, a solid read.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
You can read my thoughts on this one here, but the short review: I did not care for it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
One of my favorites of the year so far, you can read my full review here.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
You can't go wrong with a book by Kate DiCamillo and I read this with my son recently, as well as on my own. When I end up grilling my husband about the parts I missed while he read with the kids, I know I need to add the book to my list. The story of Flora and the miraculous squirrel named Ulysses is full of heart, humor, beautiful nuance, a lovable cast of quirky characters and lilting poetry. Yes, the squirrel writes poetry. It's one you can't explain and just have to read. Additionally, it would also be a perfect read for kids who have experienced divorce.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Ooof. This was a gut wrenching story. Fair warning: not at ALL a light summer read! The first half moved slowly, and ominously, towards a terrible event while Backman set up the backstory for what seemed like a dozen pivotal characters. Juuust as it was starting to feel tedious, things moved at breakneck speed towards the conclusion of how the townspeople came to grips with their reality. It's full of triggers, so I'd do some research before reading if you think it might be necessary. Backman has a way with painting harsh realities, but the ending felt somewhat hopeful, despite the oft repeated revelation that 'we cannot protect our children.' 

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
This was my latest attempt in finding a good audiobook and I certainly thought it was worthwhile to hear it read by the author. The wry tone in her voice was so clear as she talked about her dad, and I enjoyed her almost imperceptible Southern accent. The story of Walls' childhood is a heartbreaking and eye opening tale of poverty and neglect. The portrait of her family, mostly her father, is beautifully written. I just wish that her life, and her siblings lives, in New York was more fleshed out. To me, the fish out of water story is much more compelling stuff. I sense that the film version may hone in on this more, and I'm glad I listened to the audiobook first. 

6.27.2017

Summer Bucket List (and my screen time philosophy)

School is out and we've already hit up two pools, two ice cream stores, two parks, the Y (complete with time on the rock wall), and the library, of course. Summer reading is in full swing! To that end, this weekend I purchased two tents for fifteen bucks each on Amazon and declared them summer reading nooks.

The rule is that they are for reading, writing, drawing or coloring only. It's basically my attempt at curbing electronics more, since I don't have terribly hard and fast rules about screen time. My philosophy is you can play with your devices if you've checked off the requisite daily tasks: your room is clean, a page from your math workbook is done, you have done some other activity for at least an hour, and it is after lunchtime. The only struggle is with the first two items which, ironically, take the least amount of time. Making them wait for screens until after lunch/other activity for an hour minimum is kind of a gimme, since we leave the house by 9:30 almost every morning to go to the Y for at least an hour or two before lunch. 
Today at the Y
On top of that, we usually go to the pool, beach or park afterward and don't end up at home until at least 3 o'clock. Once they've exhausted themselves out and about for the day like that, I have ZERO problems with them playing even two hours straight on the X Box or Kindles. But, that's just me, you do YOU. And, I gotta keep it real, I have caved to just requiring one hour of non-screen time in the tent prior to allowing the kids to play with devices in them. Oh well, I figure it's another screen free hour I wouldn't have gotten out of 'em otherwise and they are getting more fresh air...

And to break up the monotony of the daily trip to the Y, pool/park/beach, tent time - here's this year's aspirations:
  • Try one new hiking trail and also do the Big Four hike
  • Go bowling
  • Go to the movies
  • Play mini golf
  • Teach the kids the art of making friendship bracelets
  • Hit up a farmers market
  • Annual summer road trip (we're going to stay for a couple of nights near Mount Rainier this year)
  • Go blueberry picking and make blueberry dump cake
  • Make smores
  • Picnic at a new-to-us park
  • Visit Woodland Park Zoo (and hopefully see new baby giraffe!) as well as Point Defiance Zoo
  • Visit MoPop
  • Visit the Bellevue Art Museum
  • Visit Pike Place and the new waterfront market
  • Try a new restaurant
  • Make frosé
  • Make a new cocktail recipe
  • Take a blog break
As for that last task, I think I'm putting the weekly meal posts on the back burner for the summer. I've been feeling repetitive and I'm making an effort to NOT make an effort in the kitchen this summer! I will still be posting from time to time, definitely monthly and ARC book reviews. 
Yesterday at the pool, ahhhh.
Anything I should add to the bucket list? Do you have a summer to-do list? I'd love to see it in the comments! Happy summer y'all.