Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

********  UPDATED HOUR 16********
This will be my very first readathon with two kiddos. My infant was born in April and I have a toddler, so this should be interesting. This is my 16th readathon (see links below). Here's a link for more info about the Dewey Readathon. Today you can find me posting on Litsy and Instagram as @avidreader25 as well as here.

Reading Stats
Pages Read: 1,147
Currently Reading: At Large and At Small, The Bookshop, James Herriot's Treasures for Children
Books Finished: 5, Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, Jack of Fables Vol. 1, Cat & Nat's Mom Truths, Red at the Bone, and The Sandman Vol. 6
Snacks: Blueberry scone, yogurt pretzels, mushroom tarte (thanks Trader Joe's!), baked potato, chips and salsa

Introduction:
1) What part of the world are you reading from? Indianapolis, IN

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Dark chocolate almonds and yogurt covered pretzels and maybe a Starbucks flat white. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I've got a six-month-old baby, so I'm running on very little sleep. I'm also a Director of Communications and an editor of a magazine in my day job. 

5) If you participated in the last readathon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Last readathon I was pregnant and had a baby just a couple weeks later, so this readathon will feel very different. Less waddling around! 

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Red at the Bone
2. How many books have you read so far? 3
3. What book are you most looking forward to? Finishing Sandman
4. Have you had many interruptions? I have two little kids... so yes.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I was able to get away to a coffee shop by myself this morning. Perfect way to start the readathon!  



PAST READATHON POSTS:
April and October 2011 / April and October 2012 / April and October 2013 April 2014 / April and October 2015 /April and October 2016  /  April and October 2017 / April and October 2018. April 2019.


Photos by me.

The Little House on the Prairie Series

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

This year I decided to read the Little House on the Prairie series for the first time. My three-year-old daughter and I listened to all nine books over the course of the last seven months. I've loved every minute of it and I know we will both miss the series. Each day she asks if I can "Turn Laura on." while we drive or clean the house.

For some reason I thought the books would be boring. I have no idea why. Frontier life was incredibly hard and the Ingalls family was brave and determined. We follow them on their travels west from Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota to South Dakota. The forge rivers, survive blizzards and locust, and exist on almost nothing at times. Throughout all of it they have hope and faith and encourage each other.

This will be a reading experience I won't ever forget. This was the first series I read with my daughter and it was a wonderful one. I can't wait to read them again when my youngest daughter is old enough. Below are my brief thoughts on each of the books in the series.

The Little House in the Big Woods
I love the detailed descriptions of their life in Wisconsin. Hunting, household chores, dangerous animals in the woods, all told from a child’s point of view. Even simple life becomes fascinating. Cherry Jones narrates the books and she’s just perfect!

Farmer Boy
In this book we meet Almanzo and hear about his time as a child on his family’s farm. They raised sheep, planted crops, and learned about life. Each chapter covers a fun vignette, from a prize-winning pumpkin to a week without their parents at home, the adventures are sweet. I loved the scene where his father gives him money and encourages him to make a smart decision about how to spend it. It showed trust and gave Almanzo a responsibility that he did not squander.

The Little House on the Prairie
This series is such a delight. Each of their adventures and struggles is seen through the eyes of young Laura. I love the honesty and innocence that comes from that. I love her Pa's strength and character. Laura's parents are a team and despite their hardships, they never stop supporting and loving each other. This book covers their time in Indian country. There's a scene where they cross the river in their covered wagon that was particularly harrowing.

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Each book in the series is a blend of sweet moments and heartbreak. For every Christmas morning filled with joy, there is a blizzard, or leeches, wild fires, or a plague of grasshoppers. The things they survived are incredible. Yet despite the traumatic events in their lives, it’s often the relatable moments that are the most memorable. Going to school for the first time, longing for a fur cape on the church Christmas tree, snobby Nellie who picks on Laura, a small child who takes Laura‘s doll Charlotte, etc. You feel like you are experiencing each moment alongside the Ingalls family.

By the Shores of Silver Lake
This might be my favorite of the series so far. From the start of the book we know this is a time of change. Mary has gone blind from scarlet fever, the family rides a train for the first time, they move into a shanty in a railroad town, etc. I love Laura's adventurous spirit. Even when her path crosses with wolves, she's almost more concerned with their welfare than her own.

There are some intense parts in this book as well (SPOILERS). The death of their sweet dog Jack, the confrontation of Pa on payday by angry workers, the moment when the youngest Ingalls daughter, Grace, goes missing, and a scuffle when Pa fights to place his claim for their homestead plot. Life on the prairie was not for the faint of heart.

I'm continually impressed with Pa's moral compass and the way he treated his wife and daughters. Even though Ma is quiet, he looks to her before making big decisions. They do not allow themselves to go into debt or take charity, but when an opportunity presents itself, like the chance to stay in the surveyor's house for the winter, they aren't too prideful to take it. I've grown to love the Ingalls family.

The Long Winter
This one was intense! The small community where the Ingalls live is stranded in a seven month blizzard. No trains with supplies are coming and everyone is beginning to starve. I know I’ll remember the vivid picture of Pa twisting hay to make logs for the fire and the girls using the coffee grinder on the wheat. The scene where the students head from school into town in the midst of a blizzard was terrifying. I loved getting to know Almanzo better and seeing his braver.

Little Town on the Prairie
A lot of this book focused on Laura’s time in school. Thanks to Nellie, who somehow ended up moving to the same town as Laura, the teacher hates Laura. Luckily she has sweet friends who stand by her. Laura also gets her first job, sewing shirts in town. She and her parents are saving money to send Mary to college and she is thrilled to be able to do her part.

It’s important to note that Ma’s hatred of the Indians and a black face musical show are unfortunate parts of the book. I know that those things were accepted in that time. I’ve use them to open conversations about prejudice with my kiddo. No matter when it’s written, it’s still not ok.

These Happy Golden Years
Laura is now working as a teacher and making money for her family. It’s been such a joy to watch her grow up and it’s hard to believe she’s a woman now. Almanzo courts her with buggy rides and I loved watching her show her strength and fearless nature as she becomes more comfortable around him. Definitely one of my favorites in the series.

“The last time always seems sad, but it isn’t really. The end of one thing is only the beginning of another.”

The First Four Years
The final book in the series is very short and covers only a brief glimpse into Laura’s new life with Manly and her daughter Rose. Their struggles to get a successful crop, avoid storms, and survive blizzards makes this book a bit bleaker than the others. I missed scenes with Pa and Ma. The pace also felt rushed, like she was skimming over their lives. There were memorable scenes, like Rose’s birth, a visit from a group a Indians, etc. As always, her simple descriptions of their life were my favorite parts. The book feels a bit like an afterthought and I almost wish the series had ended with These Happy Golden Years.

*After doing a bit of research, I found that this final book was published almost 30 years after the rest of the series.


*Photos by me

Madeline Miller Talk

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

 This week I attended an author event and got a chance to meet Madeline Miller. She was brilliant. Funny, clever, engaging, the best-selling author knew how to speak to a crowd with ease. You could tell she’d taught for years and had the ability to make complicated discussions about women in Greek mythology feel relevant and accessible. I adored both of her books, Circe and The Song of Achilles, and can’t wait to see what she writes next. 
 I loved that she answered questions about her writing process and provided details about her research. She talked about how women are frequently made small in mythology and just used to further men’s stories. They are either the wife/mother/daughter of someone or they are a villain. It’s rare to find more meat to a female’s story.

She mentioned two poems, Ulysses by Tennyson and Penelope by Dorothy Parker (below) showing two very different views of their story. 

In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.
In Circe she gave voice to a character that was skated over in The Odyssey. She allowed her a messy life with complicated family relationships and a deep empathy toward humans. Miller shared that she directed Shakespeare’s plays in her free time and it took her five years to find each of her main characters’ voices while writing her novels. It was an incredible talk and one that gave an added depth to her work. 
One side note: this was my first night out after having my second kiddo. I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to make it. Sitting there in that beautiful amphitheater and feeling my brain hum as I listened to her fascinating talk gave me so much satisfaction. After you have kids you can often feel like you are missing a piece of yourself. You are exhausted and rarely have time for intellectually stimulating pursuits. I just want to say that it does get better. Making time for the things that are important to you is just crucial. It is NOT easy, but it is so rewarding.

*Photos property of Avid Reader's Musings

If I Should Have TWO Daughters

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

In April we welcomed our second daughter into the world. Grace Josephine was tiny, but strong! The name Josephine is in honor of Jo March. We are so happy and so sleep-deprived. 

If I Should Have a Daughter
By Sarah Kay

If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she's gonna call me Point B,
because that way she knows that no matter what happens,
at least she can always find her way to me.
And I'm going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands,
so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say,
"Oh, I know that like the back of my hand."
And she's going to learn that this life will hit you hard in the face,
wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach.
But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.
There is hurt here that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry.
So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn't coming,
I'll make sure she knows she doesn't have to wear the cape all by herself.
Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers,
your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I've tried.
"And, baby," I'll tell her, "don't keep your nose up in the air like that.
I know that trick; I've done it a million times.
You're just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house,
so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him.
Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place,
to see if you can change him."
But I know she will anyway, so instead I'll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby,
because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can't fix.
Okay, there's a few heartbreaks that chocolate can't fix.
But that's what the rain boots are for.
Because rain will wash away everything, if you let it.
I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that's the way my mom taught me.
That there'll be days like this.
♫ There'll be days like this, my momma said. ♫
When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises;
when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape;
when your boots will fill with rain,
and you'll be up to your knees in disappointment.
And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you.
Because there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.
You will put the wind in winsome, lose some.
You will put the star in starting over, and over.
And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive.
But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar.
It can crumble so easily,
but don't be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.
"Baby," I'll tell her, "remember, your momma is a worrier, and your poppa is a warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more."
Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things.
And always apologize when you've done something wrong.
But don't you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.
Your voice is small, but don't ever stop singing.
And when they finally hand you heartache,
when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street-corners of cynicism and defeat,
you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

********  UPDATED HOUR 23 ********
I made it to hour 16 and then fell asleep. 
I'm up reading a little more before the readathon ends. 
This will be my very last readathon while pregnant. Yay! Unfortunately I'm on bedrest this weekend. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and have had a few preterm labor scares so far. I will be putting my feet up and reading today, but might not be updating as frequently as I normally do. I'll also be helping my husband with my 3-year-old, so we'll see how this goes.

This is my 15th readathon (see links below). Here's a link for more info about the Dewey Readathon. Today you can find me posting on Litsy and Instagram as @avidreader25 as well as here.

Reading Stats
Pages Read: 885
Currently Reading: #IMomSoHard  
Books Finished: 6: Lift, The Night of the Iguana, If This Isn't Nice, What Is?, The Handmaid's Tale (graphic novel), Leaf by Niggle, and A Delicate Balance
Snacks Eaten: Cinnamon raisin English muffin, ice cream bar, chicken tacos

Introduction:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Indianapolis, IN

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The brand new graphic novel of The Handmaid's Tale and Lift by Kelly Corrigan. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I'm pregnant... so all of them! Definitely dark chocolate pretzels and maybe a Starbucks flat white. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! My second kiddo is due in exactly one month! I also love to travel, have been to 16 countries, and I review live theatre in the Midwest.

5) If you participated in the last readathon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I will be resting a lot more. Being pregnant means my energy level is a lot lower than normal.

Mini Challenges: 
1) Book and a Snack at The Book Monsters.

2) Literary Clue 

3) Book Cover Puzzle

Mid-Event Survey:
1) What are you reading right now? #IMomSoHard, I love the authors' web series and so I knew this one would be hilarious! 
2) How many books have you read so far?
Finished 4


3) What book are you most looking forward to?
I'm rereading the Harry Potter series right now and I'm on book 6. I'll dive back in that if I finish my current read.


4) Have you had many interruptions?
I have a toddler... so yes. 


5) What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How beautiful the weather had been! Lots of outdoor reading. 
 

PAST READATHON POSTS:
April and October 2011 / April and October 2012 / April and October 2013 April 2014 / April and October 2015 /April and October 2016  /  April and October 2017 / April and October 2018

Photos by me.

2019 First Quarter Reading

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The first three months of 2019 have been unusual for me for a couple reasons. I was asked to join a national committee that selects new plays to receive $40,000 in award money. As part of my role of the committee I read 26 plays, way more than I would normally read in a few months. 

The other thing that affected my reading is pregnancy. I'm pregnant with my second kiddo and a few preterm labor scares have led to partial bedrest, which has led to more reading. Fatigue, because of said pregnancy, has led me to reread old favorites instead of new books for most of the past month. Sometimes you just need comfort reads, so Jane Austen's Persuasion, The Night Circus, and the Harry Potter series have all made their way into my hands recently. 

I also managed to reorganize and streamline my home library (see above) before getting too far into this pregnancy. That was a huge goal of mine since the room also doubles as a play room. We got rid of a big bookcase (and lots of books!) and I'm continuing to prioritize reading and getting rid of my own books this year. 

Total Read: 62
Fiction: 27
Nonfiction: 9
Plays: 23
Graphic Novels: 3

My Favorites So Far: 
Where the Crawdads Sing: Loved this one. Set in the marshland of North Carolina, the story is part coming-of-age, part murder mystery, and part romance. From the age of 6, Kya raises herself almost completely alone in the marshes. Her love of nature and fear of the often cruel towns people isolated her. The writing is beautiful and characters like Jumpin’ and Tate give an added richness. The book is less about plot and more about Kya's journey. It reminded me of The Girl of the Limberlost.

Once Upon a River: An English pub, a bedraggled man, a storyteller, a photographer, a village nurse, a parson’s housekeeper, a couple whose toddler was kidnapped, a farmer with clever pigs, and a river; layer upon layer is added as the story unfolds. Though there seemed like a lot of disconnected threads at first, the author brings them together in the end. The characters are so well drawn. Armstrong the farmer and the nurse Rita were two of my favorites. I’d highly recommend taking time to sink in and enjoy this one. Its beautifully crafted and a wonderful yarn.

“The day had stretched her thin, to the point where she felt the boundary of herself dissolving into the atmosphere.”

Educated: This memoir has been so hyped over the past year, but it lived up to everything I heard. It reminded me of The Glass Castle, but the author's story is a unique one. She was raised by Mormon survivalists on a mountain in Idaho. I was so impressed with the way she tells her story. Despite shocking details and abuse, she's able to unfold a story that felt so visceral and real. It's easy to lose the humanity of the oppressors in a telling like that, but as a reader, I always felt that she didn't hate and resent her family in a way that would have been understandable. It's a heartbreaking story, but one that is beautifully written and so compelling.

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind."

I'd Rather Be Reading: I adored this! It was just like chatting with a good friend about our mutual love of books. Almost everything she said reminded me of my own bookish habits and struggles. She talks about falling in love with the library, rereading old favorites, and not pushing books on others just because you think they SHOULD read them. So many of the books she cites are my favorites as well. It was short and sweet and I know I’ll read it again.

“If my real life reminds me of something I’ve read in a book, I’m reading well and I’m probably living well.”

Kid Gloves: I’ve loved following Knisley’s career in her wonderful graphic memoirs. Since I’m currently pregnant, this one was particularly perfect timing. She blends historical facts about pregnancy and childbirth with her own difficult experience. She’s honest and open about her pain and doubt. Her birth experience might have been extreme, but her pregnancy and miscarriages are all too relatable. I loved it.

“I don’t feel good. Can I have some nachos, please?”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've also had a few really good books that haven't quite been "favorites" but were excellent. Those include: The Word is Murder, The Dreamers, Belles on Their Toes, The Sun Is Also a Star and The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce forever!)

I'm guessing the rest of the year will have a big dip in reading. That tends to happen when you have a newborn and are sleep deprived. So I'm pretty happy that this first quarter contained so many great books! 

Photos by me. 

New Orleans Literary Tourism

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In May 2018 I finally got to visit New Orleans. I'd been dying to explore it for years and was thrilled to get to take a short girls trip there. The city's literary history is rich and I had a few must see spots on my list. 
Faulkner Books was the one I was the most excited about. It's a perfect little bookstore located down a quiet side street near Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. William Faulkner lived in the home in 1925 and it is filled with gems from his life. After exploring the stacks for awhile I purchased a copy of Faulkner's "New Orleans Sketches" and the short story, "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin for myself and Mary Poppins for my daughter. Books are always my favorite souvenirs from a trip. 
In addition to an excellent selection of books, there are framed letters from famous writers like Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, and Tennessee Williams. There were first editions of Faulkner's books (including the ones above). They were locked in a glass case, but the man working there let me look at them. They were worth thousands! The bookstore was completely charming and I'm so glad we made it there.
The other literary highlight of the trip was the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. It's literally a carousel that rotates very slowly in the hotel lobby. It was a popular hangout for authors like Truman Capote, Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and others. We got there early enough to grab a seat on the carousel and I sipped on my sazerac while we slowly turned. I loved it! There's a display in the lobby featuring books and photos of the famous authors who have been guests at the hotel. 

All-in-all New Orleans was wonderful. Filled to the brim with delicious food, great music, a cemetery tour, and time to wander the unique streets. Highly recommended!

Henry VIII and Pericles

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Henry VIII
by William Shakespeare
★★★

Henry VIII is the final play in the histories series. Although it’s frequently challenged as being written solely by Shakespeare, I'm accepting it as part of the canon.  The histories begin, chronologically, with Richard II and take us all the way through the Wars of the Roses.

The plot covers the execution of Buckingham, the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the divorce of Henry VIII and Queen Katherine, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, the birth of Elizabeth, and more. The play itself is rarely produces and not well known, but  pieces of it will be familiar to anyone who has read Wolf Hall or The Other Boleyn Girl.

There's a lot crammed into this one, but a few of the characters truly shine. Your heart breaks for the neglected Katherine. She’s tossed aside by her husband of 20 years when someone younger catches his eye. She has some fantastic moments when she challenges Cardinal Wolsey.

“Y’ are meek and humble-mouth’d,
You sign your place and calling, in full seeming, with meekness and humility;
but your heart is cramm’d with arrogance, spleen, and pride.”

Buckingham is also a sympathetic character with some great speeches. Overall the play doesn't flow as well as many of his others. It's too scattered, too many moving pieces, but it's still got some beautiful language.

“Yet I am richer than my base accusers,
That never knew what truth meant.”

“Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
That it do singe yourself.”

“Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,

Thy God's, and truth's.”


Pericles, Prince of Tyre 
by William Shakespeare
★★★

In only a few minutes we’re in the midst of incest and attempted murder. There’s soap opera level drama from the start. There’s a storm at sea, shipwreck, a lost infant, lost wife, prostitutes, pirates, and so much more. Pericles escapes a dangerous situation, on the run for his life. He ends up in a new kingdom and falls in love with a princess there. In a plot straight out of The Tempest, Shakespeare has the princess’ father pretends to be against the pairing to encourage the two to fall even faster in love. There is a narrator who helps the reader navigate the many location and time changes in each act. Pericles’ lost wife plot is reminiscent of Winter’s Tale.

This is one of Shakespeare’s “romance” plays. Though the ending might be happy, the story is full of tragedy. Redemption doesn’t come until the characters are heartbroken by loss. The play is interesting, but it does feel like a pieced together effort that combines some of his better work. It was the very last of his plays that I read and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment that I've finally read ALL of his plays!

“Few love to hear the sins they love to act.”


“Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.”