Monthly Archives: August 2013

Reading Out of Culture

My past couple of Monday posts have mentioned the All of a Kinds Family. It’s a series about a Jewish family of five sisters living in New York City at the turn off the twentieth century. Jewish celebrations and traditions are woven into the girls’ adventures. I read the series in fifth grade and vividly recalled the succoth shelter they built in their backyard.

At the same time, I finished Camy Tang’s Single Sashimi. The main character is of Chinese and Japanese descent. The youth group scenes at her Asian church were the best. Venus fits the type-A career woman archetype and at the same time blows it apart. I got to peek into the world of game development through the eyes of a 3D avatar and not a cardboard difficult executive type. Venus Chau was so much more than that and I loved her for it.

The other week, I read Jody Hedlund’s A Noble Groom. It was a similar experience into a culture I both know and don’t know, German immigrants. You can guess by my first name, they are part of my heritage, but I am so far removed from my ancestors, that I don’t know what part of Germany they lived in or why they left. By my calculations, my great-grandmother who died when I was 8 at the age of 99 was about the same age as the heroine’s daughter, Gretchen. Like the little girl with a really cool name, my great-grandmother was born in the United States. While I love German food from rot kraut to spaetzle and I’ve been to a German festival or two or more, I really don’t have an account of what it would have been like for my ancestors.

So what cultures have you learned about from reading fiction?

Come Monday

If you’re a Parrothead (Jimmy Buffett fan for the uninitiated), you will undoubtedly get my title. If not, that’s OK. This is an announcement that something had to give, and that’s my twice-weekly blog posts. Choosing between Friday and Monday, I picked the much maligned Monday hated equally by cubicle dwellers and fat orange cats. Hopefully, I’ll be your little bit of enjoyment as you prepare for another week.

Why the cutback? Because my awesome critique group The Scriblerians have launched our website. Our kickoff post written by Lisa Godfrees is a big one. An interview with Robert Treskillard about his book Merlin’s Blade and soon-to-be-released Merlin’s Shadow. So far, Merlin’s Blade is the best book I’ve read in 2013 and will likely keep that slot unless eclipsed by its sequel.

I will be a regular contributor to the Scriblerians. As with a pie, one piece is great but a whole one is better. I’ll be one of eight pieces of a really good pie. And like the pumpkin variety, it comes with a generous dose of whipped cream. In this case, the literary equivalent, a giveaway of a copy of Merlin’s Blade for anyone who subscribes to the Scriblerians.

No Blogging in Church

OK I’m not really blogging in church but I am writing this in the car on the way to church. The kids are back in school and this year’s schedule is reading friendly. It’s good for my day job too. I have a nice long uninterrupted day. When they get home, I get to be mom/taxi driver. I finished the All-of-Kind series and Ramona and Her Father. I’m also reading Merlin’s Blade. Taking advantage of my new schedule, I made good progress on The Count of Monte Christo. I have a sparkling and tidy home office to show for it.

The Gauntlet Has Been Thown – A New List to Conquer

I was perusing Facebook updates today when I saw this post from Grace Bridges at Splashdown Books – The Science Fiction Reading Challenge. Considering I hate, loathed, and despised science fiction or fantasy until my late twenties, I feared this list. However, with this blog in mind, my first thought was “OH YEAH, the challenge is ON!”

Talk about a complete change. In grade school, I avoided The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because the title itself or rather witches scared me. I was so afraid of witches, I was in middle school before I could watch the Wizard of Oz. Although as a Midwesterner that might have been from a fear of tornadoes. As a kid, I wanted stories based in reality. True confession. In fifth grade, I “fake read”, that is thumbed through and wrote down garbage answers for A Wrinkle in Time. I only chose it because, it looked like the next best book to Eight Cousins which was the only book on the list I would have read voluntarily. And I fake read that too.

Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with spec fiction, enough to actually write it. While the writing wouldn’t come until a couple of years ago, the seeds were planted when I read Frank Peretti’s books back in college.  Then came Harry Potter and our church’s production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe about the same time. At twenty-something, the White Witch wasn’t so scary. Well actually the witch was pretty frightening in a talented actress sort of way, but the story no longer had the power to give me nightmares. And I was enthralled with the Harry Potter story world.

Gradually, read all of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and others. Today, spec fiction stories automatically fly to the top of my TBR pile. Monday, I’ll weigh in on what I’m reading but let’s just say, I’m probably reading my favorite book of 2013 and it’s not a Victorian romance…

My baseline on the Science Fiction Reading challenge is a measly eight. Looking at the list, a number of them are fighting for a coveted slot at the top of my TBR pile. Ender’s Game will probably win since I really want to see the movie.

Confession of a Soccer Mom Blogger

In keeping with Friday’s post, I’m writing this post between my kids’ soccer picture times. As soon as pictures are done, it’s rushing to Bountiful Baskets for our bi-weekly produce pickup. A typical All-American Saturday with some combination of sports and errands.
This week I’ve mostly deviated from my BBC 100 Book Challenge.  I finished Jody Hedlund’s A Noble Groom and continued in the All of a Kind family series. I went online renew The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ramona and Her Father. OOPS, that was a no-go. I had an overdue book. What? I was sure is returned the book in question. After a quick search, I called the library. Sure enough, I had returned the book. It was a skinny picture book that had been missed. Whew! My mind is intact. As for the count of Monte Cristo, school is back in session, so expect a lot more progress as I catch up on housework. Scoring a downloadable version of Dani Pettrey’s Shattered from the county library definitely gave me a big boost in that department.

24 Hours Like Everyone Else – Finding Time in the Couch Cushions

You know the question I’m answering. How do you have time to read so many books?

If you’re a goal-oriented person and passionate about something, you’ve probably been asked that question too. And in the same two ways. I’ve gotten both the “you must be Supermom” way and the “you must woefully neglect your children” way. Guess what? I’m in the middle. I’m hardly super mom but I also manage to find time to play with my kids, fix dinner, have a reasonably clean home. I even teach Sunday school and make it to Zumba twice a week.

It’s a matter of finding time to do what you’re passionate about. And believe me, if anyone of my personal friends reads this, they’d laugh at me giving out time management advice. But I’m not. I’m explaining how I find time to read.

I work part time, so that is an advantage and I read fast although don’t always retain details. Other than that, I am like everyone else. Here’s how I find time. Some of these I’m going to expand into full blog posts including the one about how I’m using one of my kids as an accomplice.

1. I don’t watch much TV. I think I’ve watched 3 shows since Monday and that was while multitasking. I watch on Netflix so I automatically save 18 minutes per episode because there are no commercials. 42 vs. 60 minutes adds up.

2. I don’t shop for fun or go out to lunch unless it’s a lunch date with a friend or I’m already out. You will rarely see me running a single errand over what I have to do.

3. I gave up other hobbies. I love to knit and used to scrapbook. I’ll put those prints in albums one day but don’t expect stickers and hand stenciled letters. I have a tiny bit of a sock to finish, and I promised my son we’d make a scarf since his teacher taught him to knit last year.

4. I have a Kindle and a Google Nexus Tablet. I take them everywhere. I get 30 minutes of reading just riding in the car to and from church. Monday’s blog post was written on my tablet while my kids and husband watched Toy Story 3 at our local ice cream shop. I’d already seen it.

5. Audiobooks. This is a topic unto itself but I am a compulsive multitasker and audiobooks make housework fun!

6. I turn my Nexus to white on black letters and read in bed.

7. True confessions, I’m a bathroom reader.

8. My daughter likes Mommy to read to her. Can you say quality time for two?

9. I follow quite a few blogs but none that I read daily, I take two magazines but don’t always read them.

10. I gave up computer games. My Farmville farm is fallow. Occasionally I play Candy Crush Saga or Pet Rescue but I’d rather read.

How do you make time for the things you love?

God and a Dog

Last week my reading list was heavy on animal books. Not usually my favorite type of story, but these were a pleasure to read. Black Beauty is a classic tale told from the point of view of a horse. After reading it, I understand why it’s a childhood favorite for many kids. Because of Winn-Dixie is another. It’s less about a dog and more about being the new kid and fitting in.  I liked the subtle faith message too.

Relevant Magazine had an article last week challenging Christians to read more fiction. Something I don’t need to be told twice.
This is exactly why I’m doing the two challenges. It gives me an excuse to read books I may otherwise never pick up.
So where am I on the list? I finished Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and started both Ramona and Her Father and The Mouse and the Motorcycle (link is for paperback). I’m still reading Camy Tang’s Single Sashimi. My bedtime reading included All of a Kind Family and now Jody Hedlund’s A Noble Groom. None of those three are on either list but books I’m reading strictly for pleasure. I also made progress on my audiobook of The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m on part 19 of 119. Here’s a way to judge how good I am with housework. The more chapters I listened to, the more housework I did that week.

Baseline: It Isn’t Just a Street in Phoenix

Every project needs a baseline. Of the BBC’s 100 Book Challenge and the 101 Chapter Books to Read, how many had I read before I saw these lists?

I’d read 21 of the books from BBC’s 100 Book Challenge list and 31 from the 101 Chapter Books list. This may be plus or minus one or two on these lists. For example, I’m almost certain I’ve read both Caddie Woodlawn and the Little Princess but because I can’t remember, I marked them as unread.

I started the BBC List about a year ago and the 101 Chapter Book list earlier this summer. I’ve made some great progress, so my totals are now 37 read from the BBC list and 39 from the Chapter Book list. In the next few weeks, I’ll write about how I’ve tackled the list and my thoughts on some of the stories.

So here are the lists again.

1. The BBC Book List Challenge.

2. The 101 Best Chapter Books for Kids

What is your baseline?

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