Musings From A Bookmammal


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Musing Monday–Habits Of A Library Lover

Click here to play along!

click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week about using my local library:

25c41eed283bd7af84d8229e3ac38e03I love to read, but I’m not independently wealthy—so I depend on borrowing library books pretty regularly to keep up with everything I want to read. Don’t get me wrong—I buy A LOT of books—but there’s just no way that I’d be able to get my hands on all the new releases out there without the help of my local library. I check out eBooks and audiobooks fairly regularly and once in awhile I’ll borrow a DVD—but the main draw for me is the books!

I’m very lucky to live in a town with a great library system. My local branch isn’t too close to where I live—it’s kind of out of the way to make a special trip—but I tend to stop by on my way home from work most Thursday or Friday nights. I find it helps me keep track of when books are due if I try to check things out on the same day of the week—believe me, this is a lifesaver when you’ve got stacks of library books all over the house! My library really doesn’t have a firm limit on the number of books that you can have checked out at one times (I’ve asked!) and I think there’ve been times when I’ve had at least a dozen library books in hand. The loan period is three weeks and you can renew if no one else is on the hold list. Right now I’ve got nine books checked out:

Picture1(So far I’ve finished Small Mercies, which was a good family saga taking place on Staten Island, and I just started Early Warning, which is the second book in what will be a trilogy.Have you read any of these?)

Once in awhile I’ll stop at the library on a Saturday morning and I tend to get there right when the family story time session is ending. I absolutely LOVE seeing the little kids pour out of the events room clutching whatever craft they’ve made that day and racing towards the kids’ section!

One thing that’s changed about my library habits over the past few years is that I rarely go into the library to just browse anymore. I used to plan on staying a good hour whenever I’d go—I’d usually have a list of specific books I wanted to find, and then I’d wander the shelves and pick out books that just looked interesting. Nowadays I do it all online—I’ll put the books I want on hold, or get on the waiting list for titles that aren’t available, and then I’ll stop by for only as long as it takes to pick them up. And with automated self-check out machines, I rarely interact with any of the librarians. It’s definitely efficient, but sometimes I do miss just wandering the stacks and finding unexpected new books or old favorites.

2312973323371462Something I love about my library is their willingness to order just about any book that they don’t currently carry—not just get it through interlibrary loan, but actually order it and add it to their collection. The requestor is then automatically added as #1 on the hold list for the title when it comes in. Plus, if you’re a total book geek like me, you get the thrill of knowing that other people will now have the chance to borrow a book that you recommended! Last week I made these two purchase requests and both were approved, so I’m anxiously waiting for the emails that will let me know that they’ve arrived!

I’ve also gotten into the habit of putting myself on a ton of waiting lists. When I hear that a new book is coming out, I automatically check to see it my library has it on order–if they do, I get on that list! My waiting list is usually made up of dozens of titles, but right now there are only ten books on it. The one that I’m most excited about is Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman which will be released on July 14–I’m #38 on the list of nearly 200 (so far!).

How about you? What’s the library situation like in your area? Do you use your library regularly? Why or why not? Please share!

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Musing Mondays–Ten Bookish Questions

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

I adapted a couple of questionnaires I’ve seen recently into the ten bookish questions below. Ready? Here we go—feel free to play along!

credit Carol Marine

credit Carol Marine

1. How long did it take you to finish your last book?  Hold on while I check my Goodreads account . . . The last book I read was The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. I started it on April 21 and finished it this past Saturday, so that’s five days. By the way—it’s a pretty good book! If you’re into American history and/or the presidency and want a lighter yet interesting read, it’s a good pick.

2. How many times do you stare at your bookshelves each day? Well, I have bookshelves in every room of my house except the bathrooms, so it’s pretty hard to avoid looking at them! I will say that I view my books as comfort objects, so looking at my bookshelves is a very calming experience for me. Plus, I’ve always loved the patterns that the spines of books make on the shelf—kind of like a crazy quilt of books.

credit Michele Del Campo

credit Michele Del Campo

3. How many Goodreads friends/books do you have? I joined Goodreads in January 2014 (late to the party—I know!). As of today I have a total of 899 books listed. (Seriously? I can’t get one more on there to get to an even 900?) Here’s the breakdown: 416 books that were read before 2014, 137 read since I joined, 1 currently reading, and 345 on my TBR list. I have 17 Goodreads friends. If you want to compare books, just click on the Reading Challenge link at the upper right!

4. Do you ever quote books in public? I’m sure that I have, but I can’t remember any specific instances. However, I do have this freakish ability to remember very specific lines of dialogue or even short passages from books, and then I will obsess over trying to recall which book these lines are from. I can usually eventually come up with the correct title and then I have this enormous sense of relief! Does anyone else do this???

5. Do you ever re-read books? I used to be a HUGE re-reader! There are some books I’ve probably read a dozen times. Since I started book blogging I hardly re-read at all because great book recommendations just keep coming from my blogging buddies! I did just re-read To Kill A Mockingbird because I wanted to review it in advance of Harper Lee’s new novel to be released in July—and I’m so glad I made the time to do so! My thoughts about this re-reading are here if you’re interested.

credit John Lidzey

credit John Lidzey

6. Do you judge a book by its cover? I don’t think I’ve ever decided NOT to read a book because of its cover, but covers certainly can prompt me to pick up a book. And speaking of covers, has anyone else noticed the trend over the past year or so of novels featuring a cover shot of a closeup of the back of a woman’s head? What’s up with that?

7. Do you take pictures of your books before you read them? Ummm. . . is this a thing now? I don’t do this.

8. What are your biggest distractions from reading? No question—fiddling around on the internet. The internet is a blessing and a curse for booklovers! Plus, the hockey playoffs are going on right now and that is really cutting into my reading time. (Go Blackhawks!)

credit Onelio Marrero

credit Onelio Marrero

9. Where is your favorite place to buy books? As a former bookseller it pains me to say this, but I buy 90% of my books online these days. My absolute favorite online book site is Abebooks, where you can search for used books from booksellers all over the US and even the world. I’ve bought literally hundreds of used books through Abebooks over the years. I do like to go to my local B & N occasionally and just wander around and browse—although these days their book selection keeps getting smaller to make room for the ever-increasing selection of toys, puzzles, workbooks, blankets (?) etc. Case in point–the biography section at my local B & N is now one case of books—ONE CASE! It used to be an entire section! (OK—mini-rant is over)

10. Do you always have a book with you? Silly question–of course! I always have my kindle in my purse and I usually have a physical book with me as well. You never know when you’re going to be stuck in traffic at an extra-long stoplight!

How about you? Do we share any of the same answers? Feel free to borrow these questions for your own blog—if you do, leave your link in the comments and I’ll check out your responses!


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Monday Musings–My Favorite Fiction of 2014

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

Where did 2014 go? I can’t believe that today is the first day of the last month of the year. I’ve had a great reading year, and today I decided to reflect on my favorite fiction titles from the past eleven months (I’ve read a total 0f 98 books so far this year, and 43 of them have been fiction. My top nonfiction titles will get their own Monday Musing post later this month!).

The ten novels below are all books that stayed with me long after I finished the last page, and all are books that I recommended to others during the year. Ready? Here we go—in order of when I finished each title:

tell the wolves i'm homeI started Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt at least twice during 2013, but I never got beyond the first couple of chapters. For some reason I just couldn’t get into the story. But this novel continued to show up on “Best Of . . .” lists, so I decided to give it another try. I have no idea what made the difference, but this time I couldn’t put it down.

This novel is set during 1987. The main character is a 14-year old girl who, along with the rest of her family, is dealing with the recent death of her uncle from AIDS. She forms a secret friendship with her late uncle’s lover and, in doing so, learns to process her feelings of grief, while also starting to come to terms with her changing relationships with her parents and older sister.

This is really a beautiful book, and I can’t believe it took me so long to realize it. It captures the essence of the mid-to-late 1980s very well—and it vividly brings back the fear and ignorance that surrounded us during those early, frightening years of the AIDS crisis. It paints a great picture of those teen years when you’re trying to figure out where you fit in, or if you even want to fit in. It’s also a very moving story of working through loss. (Finished January 11, 2014)

sisterlandI liked Sisterland a lot more than I thought I would. I’d put off reading it because, although I’ve enjoyed other books by author Curtis Sittenfeld in the past, the subject matter of this book initially didn’t appeal to me. It’s billed as the story of two twin sisters who share a psychic ability–the ability to predict the future by listening to their special “senses”. I’m usually not into books dealing with any sort of paranormal activity (I guess I’m too much of a natural skeptic!) so I wasn’t in any rush to read this book. But once I decided to give it a try I found that this book is about so much more than psychic ability–it’s about family, loyalty, marriage, parenthood, betrayal, forgiving–and although the “senses” of the twin sisters do play a big role in the story, it wasn’t an overbearing plot point for me. (Finished February 11, 2014)

book of unknown americansI absolutely LOVED The Book Of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. It’s a novel about immigration, assimilation, staying true to your roots, family, unconditional love, friendship, and what we will endure to benefit those we care for. The story is told through multiple viewpoints, which is always a selling point for me, and I thought Henriquez did a great job of capturing the different voices of the characters throughout the book. I don’t understand why this book didn’t get more press—but this is one of those novels that I wanted to hand out to total strangers on street corners. (Finished June 12, 2014)

The Vacationers by Emma Straub was definitely one of this summer’s hot beach reads. Taking place over a two week period, this novel tells the story of an American family’s vacation to the island of Mallorca. The trip should be an escape from the tensions that are brewing at home in NYC, but the family finds that they can’t escape secrets, rivalries, and conflicts. The novel is made up of fourteen chapters—one for each day of the vacation—and the author does a great job of portraying the ebb and flow of the emotions of a close-knit group of people who are forced to spend most of each day together, and who find that they may not know each other as well as they assumed. I found this novel to be a relatively quick read, but also completely absorbing—and I just love the cover! (Finished July 18, 2014)

everything i never told youEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng takes place in Ohio in the 1970s and tells the story of a middle-class Chinese-American family, their relationships with each other, and how they cope with the sudden death of the middle daughter and the uncertainty regarding the cause of this death. This novel really recreates the time period well—a time when mixed marriages were an oddity and when racism was much more blatant in mid-America than it is today. Moving back and forth between the present and the past, and back and forth between the point of view of the five family members, this is a very moving story that makes the reader wonder how well we really know the ones we love. I was still thinking about the characters long after I finished the book– a sign of powerful writing. (Finished August 3, 2014)

still life with breadcrumbsAnna Quindlen is one of my “automatic authors”—I’ll read anything she writes. I adore her collections of essays—I often feel that she’s speaking directly to me–and her last novel, Every Last One, is one of the best books I’ve read in the past several years.

I really didn’t know much about the plot of this novel, and I think that’s the best way to go into it—part of the appeal of this book was that I really had no idea where the characters were headed. It tells the story of Rebecca Winter, a sixty-year-old photographer who experienced huge artistic success in her past. For various reasons, she decides to spend some time in a rental house in a small town near her NYC home-base. She forms relationships with her new neighbors and we also learn about her relationships with her elderly parents, her ex-husband, and her adult son.

It seems to me that Anna Quindlen found a new voice when crafting this novel—the narrative is unlike any of her others. The chapters—some only a few paragraphs or a page or two, many longer–move fluidly back and forth between the main characters and pivotal events. There was a lot of very subtle humor woven throughout, and I quickly decided that this was a book I really needed to savor in order to appreciate the writing. I felt invested in what happened to every character, and the dialogue rang true—which is always a deal-breaker for me. And when I got to the end, I immediately thought “I wonder what’s going to happen next!” (Finished August 16, 2014)

big little liesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty     The setting of this novel is an elementary school, and I usually enjoy reading novels taking place in any kind of academic setting—fortunately this book was no exception! At the beginning of the book we learn that a death has occurred during a school-sponsored event, but we don’t know who has died or what the circumstances were. As the book progresses we learn more and more about the parents involved, their children, and the secrets that are being kept from various family members and friends. Another great book covering the theme of how well we really know our friends and family. (Finished September 7, 2014)

paying guestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is an incredible novel. I found myself hiding away during my lunch hours at work to get in another chapter or two, and I even found myself reading at stoplights on a few occasions (I am NOT KIDDING!). I was completely immersed in the plot and the characters, and I found myself wondering over and over how Waters was going to resolve everything that was happening.

I completely agree with most other reviewers who say that it’s best not to share too much of the plot, so I’ll just say that this psychological thriller takes place in post WWI London. A young women and her widowed mother are forced to take in boarders (“paying guests”) for financial reasons, so they rent the upstairs of their home to a newly married couple . . . and drama and passion of all kinds ensues.

This novel weighs in at over 500 pages, but it seemed like a pretty quick read to me. I never felt bogged down with the plot or the characters, and the Waters did an excellent job of making me feel as though I was living the day-to-day life of a young women in early 1920s London. (Finished October 3, 2014)

 some luckThe premise of Some Luck by Jane Smiley was really intriguing to me—it’s the first book in what will be a trilogy spanning 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family. This first book takes place from 1920-1953, and each chapter covers one year. Every chapter also contains the points of view from several members of the family–the husband and wife, their children (from birth into adulthood), and a few members of their extended family. As the chapters—and the years—progress, we experience the ebb and flow of their everyday lives, including births, deaths, marriages, the Depression, WWII, and many other events. I loved this book and thought it was a wonderful “slice of life” novel. I also really enjoyed the “one chapter for every year” technique because not everything that was happening to the characters was fully revealed–sometimes I had to “connect the dots” between chapters to figure out what had happened since a particular character was featured.

If you’re into stories that include big cliffhangers and huge, dramatic plot points, this may not be to your taste—but if you like a book that puts you right there beside the characters, I highly recommend it. And as a bonus, I just found out that the second book of this trilogy—Early Warning—is due to be published in May 2015. I can’t wait! (Finished October 9, 2014)

florence gordonFlorence Gordon by Brian Morton is a novel that seems to have slipped under the radar. It’s about 75-year-old Florence Gordon who lives in present-day NYC. She’s an author and a feminist icon, she’s brutally blunt with family, friends, and strangers alike, and she’s contemplating writing her memoirs. The book begins when her adult son,  his wife,  and his  college-age daughter return to New York after several years away—and Florence finds that as much as she wants to remain in solitude with her work, she becomes involved in the activities and issues that are surrounding her son and his family.

Florence was such a fascinating character to me! During the first ten pages of the book she abruptly walks out of a surprise party thrown in her honor, informing her friends and family that she’d much rather be home working at her desk. How can you not want to know more about the kind of person who can pull that off? And what a talented author Brian Morton is to be able to completely capture the personality of his main character is such a few pages!

There are over 100 chapters in this book, and they range from less than one page to a dozen pages or more. At first I thought that this would be distracting and that the technique would interrupt the narrative, but I very quickly got into the rhythm of Morton’s writing. I was thoroughly invested in each of the main characters and in the day-to-day flow of their lives—and the way that Morton chose to end the book was not at all what I was expecting. (Finished October 19, 2014)

How about you? Have you read any of these? What’s on your favorite fiction list this year? Please share!


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Musing Monday–Used Or New?

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

TBR bookcaseThis is my TBR bookcase. I bought it about a month ago when my piles of unread, purchased books became hazardous stacks in a corner of my bedroom. There are 61 books here—6 of them were bought new, and 55 of them were bought used.

Most of my book purchases used to be new books. This was mainly because I worked in a big-box book store for seven years and enjoyed a very generous employee discount. But when I left that job ten years ago I quickly realized that I just couldn’t keep up the pace of my book buying habit if I was paying new book, non-employee-discount prices—so I started investigating ways to buy more used books.

I’ve always been a fan of used book sales—my local library has a huge one every June and I always pay the “First Look” fee to get in there on the very first evening of the sale. I also love going to actual used book stores, although there are very few in my area. These places are great for browsing and for finding unexpected treasures—but not so successful if you’re looking for a specific title. And now that I’ve been book blogging  for a little over a year, I find that my wish list of titles has exploded because my blogging buddies keep telling me about so many books that I just HAVE TO READ!

For the past ten years or so I’ve bought most of my used books online from independent used bookstores. I use Abebooks for this—it’s a sort of clearinghouse for used books where you can search thousands of used bookstores all across the US and even in Europe for a particular title. (Side note—I have absolutely no affiliation with Abebooks, but I’m a loyal customer and have bought hundreds of books through this site over the years.) I’ve found that I can often find a hardcover in great condition for much less than the price of a paperback—I usually pay less than $5 per book. Plus, you can link to Abebooks (and many other bookbuying sites) directly from Goodreads–very convenient, but very dangerous!

I do still buy some new books. There have been days when I’ve left work on my lunch hour to go to the bookstore to pick up a book on it’s release day because I JUST CAN’T WAIT! And I do still go to the  bookstore to just wander around and buy something that I’ve never heard of but that catches my eye. But used books have definitely become my preferred way to buy books. Unless I suddenly win the lottery, I don’t see this changing anytime soon!

How about you? Do you purchase most of your books new or used? Please share!


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Musing Mondays–Bookish Bingo!

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

Reading-Bingo-smallI saw this bingo card on kwizgiver’s blog a few weeks ago and thought I’d see how many squares I could fill in with books I’ve read so far this year. Ready? Here we go!

More than 500 pages: We Are Not Ourselves by Mathew Thomas weighs in at 640 pages. I read part of this as a library book and part on my kindle, so luckily I didn’t have to lug it around with me!

Forgotten classic: I haven’t read any classics this year—just about everything I’ve read this year was published in the last year or two.

Book that became a movie: I haven’t read anything this year that became a film—but I did read a book ABOUT the movie industry—Pictures Of A Revolution by Mark Harris.

some luckPublished this year: Some Luck by Jane Smiley—it was just published on October 7. It’s the first book in what will be a trilogy and I loved it!

Book with a number in the title: 1963: The Year Of The Revolution by Ariel Leve.

Author under 30: Katie Heaney is in her mid-twenties and wrote the memoir Never Have I Ever –I thought it was OK, but I’m about 25 years older than her intended audience.

relishBook with a non-human character: I don’t usually read books that have inanimate objects as main characters—but the graphic memoir Relish by Lucy Knisley had a lot of food and recipes in it, so I’m going to count it for this category!

Funny: I Work At A Public Library by Gina Sheridan is a collection of very short vignettes and quotes from library workers. If you’re a booklover, parts of this book are laugh-out-loud funny. One of my favorites—a library patron wants to know where to find autobiographies of dragons.

sisterlandFemale author: Curtis Sittenfeld sounds like a man, but SHE is the author of several novels including Sisterland, which is about adult twin sisters who grew up sharing psychic powers. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.

Mystery: Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty probably wouldn’t be considered a hard-core mystery, but the plot kept me guessing up until the end.

hiddenOne Word Title: Hidden by Catherine McKenzie was a great alternating point of view novel about a man (who dies in the first chapter), his wife, and a woman who may or may not have been his lover.

Short stories: Other People We Married by Emma Straub. I picked this up after I read her latest novel The Vacationers and was pleased to discover that several of that novel’s characters actually originally appeared in this short story collection!

9.16.14Set on a different continent: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was set just outside of London. I adored this book!

Nonfiction: I’ve read a ton of nonfiction this year—but one of the most memorable was Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune  by Bill Dedman. Proof that truth is often much stranger than fiction!

tell the wolves i'm homeFirst book by an author: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka. What a wonderful, thoughtful, moving book this is! I can’t wait to find out what Rifka writes next.

Book I heard about online: I probably heard about the majority of books I’m listing here from my blogging buddies! I can’t pick just one!

Best-seller: Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy was on the NYT bestsellers list for awhile.

burgess boysBased on a true story: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout is based on a hate crime.

Book from the bottom of my TBR pile: I finally got around to reading The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I liked it more than Landline, but not as much as Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.

Book your friend loves: I don’t get a lot of recommendations from friends—I’m usually the one who is recommending the books to them!

Book that scares you: I didn’t read anything that sticks out as being scary this year.

More than ten years old: I’ve hardly read any backlist this year (I’m actually working on a future post on this!) so I’ve got to leave this one blank.

Second book in a series: I used to read a lot of series books but I haven’t done so in ages.

vacationersBlue cover: The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I love this cover, and I loved the book!

So–my score is 19 out of 24 squares filled in–not too bad!

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Have you read any of my fill-ins? Please share!


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Musing Monday–Twenty Bookish Questions!

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

I’ve seen different versions of these questions floating around on various blogs over the past few months–and I picked 20 of them to answer today! Ready? Let’s go!

credit David Hettinger

1. What are you reading right now?   Some Luck by Jane Smiley—I haven’t read anything by Smiley in ages, but I did enjoy A Thousand Acres. I’ve got an ARC of her latest and am really enjoying it! It’s the first of a trilogy covering 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family—each chapter deals with one year. This first book begins in 1922 and ends in the mid-1950s.

2. What books do you have on request at the library? Right now I’m on the list for 25 library titles. The first thing I do when I hear about a new book is check to see if my library has it. If they do–I put myself on the list.

3. Do you have an e-reader? Yes—I got a Kindle about four years ago and I just pre-ordered the new Kindle Voyager. My first choice is always “real” books, but I do love my kindle for traveling and for borrowing ebooks from the library.

credit Michele Del Campo

4. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I’m usually reading more than one book at a time—right now I have one nonfiction and one novel going. I’m often also listening to an audiobook as well, but I don’t have one of those going right now.

5. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? YES! I am reading so many more new titles because I keep hearing about them from all my blogging buddies! I have tons of backlisted titles on my TBR list, but this year I’ve mainly been focusing on newly published books. I’m still trying to find a balance between reading new and backlist books.

6. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? OK—I know I’m in the minority here, but I really couldn’t stand We Were Liars. I listened to the audio book on my drive to and from work and when it was over I felt like throwing something through the windshield.

credit Monica Castanys

7. Favorite book you’ve read this year? Tough question—I think I’m going to save this answer for my Top 10 Books Of The Year list in December. It may take me that long to narrow it down—I’ve read a lot of wonderful books this year, and there’s still almost three months to go!

8. The most money you’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? I don’t know the answer to this—but I do remember that I received a $100 gift certificate to Borders from my parents when I finished my Masters degree—I hadn’t read anything for fun in so long and being able to go in there and get anything I wanted without even looking at prices was wonderful! That was about 20 years ago ( so $100 REALLY went a long way!) and I still remember how great it felt!

9. What is your policy on book lending? I only lend out books if asked—I don’t offer to lend because I think it puts the lendee in an awkward position if they really don’t want to read the book. I haven’t had any bad experiences (books being damaged, etc) with lending books in a really long time.

credit Andre Kohn

10. Favorite genre? I prefer contemporary, realistic fiction to any other genre, but I do read outside this favorite area—more often now that I’ve been book-blogging.

11. Favorite biography? I LOVE Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson—the fifth and final volume should be out in the next 2-3 years. The first four volumes are in a place of honor in a special spot on one of my bookcases. When the latest volume came out about a year ago I left work on my lunch break to go buy the hardcover the day it was released, because yes, I am that geeky!

12. Favorite reading snack Anything chocolate that can be eaten with one hand (leaving the other hand free for page-turning!).

13. Favorite Poet? Unfortunately I don’t read enough poetry to have a favorite poet.

credit Karin Jurick

credit Karin Jurick

14. How often have you returned books to the library unread? Often. I don’t view checking out books as any kind of contract. If I get to them, great—if I don’t, I can always check them out again at another time.

15. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? I LOVED the movie adaptation of Ordinary People by Judith Guest—it’s one of my favorite films. I’ve probably watched it at least ten times and there are certain scenes that make me cry every single time.

16. Most disappointing film adaptation? I remember going to see the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web when I was a kid and being really angry about it—there were scenes added that weren’t in the book and none of the characters voices matched with what was in my head. Plus—Charlotte sang in the movie and the “real Charlotte” would NEVER sing!

17. Name a book that made you angry. I remember being very angry when I read Randy Shilts’ And The Band Played On about the early years of the AIDS crisis. So much got in the way of containing, preventing, and educating in those days. It’s one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books, but I still remember how sad and furious I felt when I read it for the first time.

credit John Lidzey

credit John Lidzey

18. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? I REALLY wanted to like Landline by Rainbow Rowell (I adored Eleanor & Park, really, really liked Fangirl, and enjoyed Attachments) but I just couldn’t get past the gimmick that she used in the plot. As I was reading it I kept thinking, “Rainbow, you are too freaking talented to have to resort to stuff like this!” I finished it, but I just didn’t care for it.

19. Do you like to keep your books organized? YES! I don’t alphabetize, but I do shelve my books by theme/subject matter. Plus I have one bookcase devoted to books I haven’t read yet. I would NEVER come home from the bookstore and just put all the books in one spot—they need to be shelved with the rest of their “family”.

20. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I’m a keeper! I love being able to see the books that I’ve read and remember where I was when I read them, or recall what I enjoyed. I guess that’s why I have to keep buying bookcases . . .

How about you? Do we have any answers in common? Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments below–or borrow the whole thing and write your own post! If you do, leave a link in the comments so I can visit and read your answers!


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Musing Monday–Banned Books Week 2014

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

2014 banned books posterBanned Books Week is Sept. 21-27 this year, and banning/challenging books is a hot-button issue for many people. Here’s a brief description of the purpose of Banned Books Week from the ALA website:

“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, these books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”

So that’s the background. You can find lists of frequently challenged books here–as well as the reasons for the challenges.

Here’s my take:

I believe that parents ABSOLUTELY have the right–and the responsibility–to monitor and guide their children’s reading. This means different things to different people.

mom daughter readingSome parents raise their kids to be “free range readers”—kids who are encouraged to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Other parents set limits on the materials and subject matter that their kids are allowed to read—because of their child’s age/maturity, for philosophical, educational, religious, or moral reasons, or other factors.  And lots and lots of parents fall somewhere in between.

Part of parenting is knowing what your kids are doing–and to me, that includes being aware of the books they’re reading and putting limits and consequences in place that make sense for your family. And along with that, in my opinion, is helping your kids become responsible citizens by helping them learn to make smart reading choices. That’s about teaching kids to acknowledge new ideas that they encounter in books. It’s about helping kids evaluate what they read and understand that they may not always agree with it or believe that it’s true. And it’s about helping children learn to accept the existence of differing opinions and choices they read about without necessarily taking them on as their own.

Easy? Not by a long shot. But part of the responsibility of every parent is taking charge of raising their children in the manner that they see fit–whether or not they agree with or incorporate ideas such as the ones I’ve listed above.

The key words here are THEIR CHILDREN.

When parents try to control the books that can–and can’t–be found in public community libraries, public school libraries, and in public book stores, they’re trying to control the reading behaviors of ALL CHILDREN. By removing a book from public bookshelves, they’re taking away choices for all.  They are essentially trying to parent other parents’ children. And that, to me, is not OK.

To parents who have different ideas than my own about what THEIR KIDS can and can’t read, I say more power to you. Your house, your children—your rules.  I may not agree with you, but I will tirelessly defend your right to parent your kids in the way that’s right for you and your family. However–we should all expect that same respect in return. To the parents who want to enforce their own limits on the reading habits of children who are not members of their own family, I say hands off. End of story.

How about you? What are your thoughts? I’m interested in your feelings about this issue. Have you or your kids had any experiences with banned or challenged books? Please share!