The Sunday Salon – A Happy Easter Wish and a New Reading Expirement

The Sunday Salon.comHappy Easter to everyone who celebrates it. I hope your day is filled with love, family, friends, and chocolate. My Easter will be kind of mellow as we have no family here and all of our best friends in the area do not celebrate. But Ben and I will got to mass shortly and then we will enjoy a relaxing day of reading and soda-drinking (we both gave it up and I am greatly anticipating a diet coke upon my return).

Moving on, I was chatting with Swapna on twitter the other day about book polygamy: reading more than one book at once. I mentioned that I have to work really hard at it because I often will focus on one book and ignore the others. Swapna replied that she has a very strict plan. Well I have taken her plan, modified it a little, and come up with my own new reading experiment.

Starting this weekend, I am going to read:

  • 50 pages in a classic;
  • 100 pages in a novel that’s been sitting around unread for awhile (or a slower novel);
  • 50 pages in a nonfiction book; and
  • an entire other book

in that order.

First up for this experiment are the following books:

Classic: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Novel that’s been sitting around: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Nonfiction: Blood Work by Holly Tucker
Other: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

I am hoping that this will allow me to read multiple books at a time and also make me a more well-rounded reader. I have every intention of reading more classics and non-fiction but I am never sure how to fit them into my reading. Now they have a place.

Do you like reading more than one book at a time (and how do you manage it?) Or are you a book monogamist?

The Sunday Salon [3.20.2011]

My Life

We are still enjoying beautiful March weather down here in Florida. I am trying to savor it before it gets crazy hot again. Thus, March weekends are full of visits to the beach, reading by the pool, and baseball games. It’s pretty awesome.

In other news, Jen from Devourer of Books convinced me to try the Game On Diet with her for Lent. We’re playing it a little modified and for 6 weeks instead of 4. I am not actually trying to lose weight but I am trying to get my body into a healthier state. For those who don’t know, the rules are basically:

  • 5 small meals a day which include a carb, a protein, and a fat (two meals have to include veggies)
  • 3 liters of water a day
  • 7 hours of sleep each night
  • 20 minutes of exercise each day
  • Develop one good habit and get rid of one bad habit

I’m doing alright with the meals but I am being a little flexible, especially where it comes to protein because I am rather limited in my options and I normally wouldn’t try to eat protein at every meal. The water was tough at first but I’m getting used to it. Sleep isn’t a real issue for me nor is exercise, although I normally exercise 4 days a week so I had to throw in some extra workouts. My bad habit is leaving clothes/shoes strewn about the apartment so I am putting them in their proper place immediately. My good habit is to read for 30 minutes every single day (I normally don’t read much during the week). I will probably let you all know how it’s going because it is consuming a lot of my life right now.

My Books

Given the slow speed at which I read, you’d think I’d be able to keep up on reviews. You would be mistaken. I am woefully behind. But as always, I hope and plan to catch up.

This week I finished The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (after you all told me I really had to) and The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (audio).

I am currently reading Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mutsuki Mockett (loving it) and listening to Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods.

You can expect (I make no promises but I shall try) reviews this week on Wither by Lauren deStephano, Picking Bones from Ash, and an undecided older book for Thursday.

That’s it from me this week. Enjoy your Sundays, everyone.

In Which My Mom Shares How I Became a Reader [Guest Post]

Today you are all in for a special treat. My mother is here at my books. my life. to share some memories of me as a young reader. My parents encouraged me to read at a very young age and I am forever grateful for that (I genuinely think the jump I had on the other kids in kindergarten kept me on the “advanced” track the rest of my time in school). So without further ado, my mom:

Some of my memories of Michelle as a young girl learning how to read

My first memories are of Michelle wanting to be read to every night before bedtime.  She would pick a book and we would sit in her bed and I would read her the book. Michelle also looked forward to going to the library for story hour and then picking out books to take home. Michelle had quite a collection of books at a very young age.[1]

I remember her kindergarten teacher[2] being impressed with her reading ability and interest in books at such a young age. [3] When she wanted an American girl doll it was based on the books that she read on the doll not on how the doll looked.[4]

I knew that Michelle would grow up to be an avid reader when she was very young because while most kids wanted a toy when they were being rewarded, for Michelle it was a book. That being said it was no surprise to me when she chose to be an attorney.[5] I am also very proud of the young adult that she has become.

Thank you, mom, for sharing your memories with my readers today. And thank you again for nurturing my love of reading.

What is your fondest memory of reading as a child?


[1] I also had quite the collection of clothes 😉

[2] Mrs. Beiber (no relation to Justin that I am aware of)

[3] That’s why I kept a nightlight long after most kids abandon theirs

[4] I had Molly. Molly was by far the least popular.

[5] If only I could read American Girl books in my old bedroom with my nightlight for a living

[6] I assume she means young adult in the I-am-an-adult-and-also–young-sense and not in the vampire-loving-emo sense

Catching Fire

When I finished Hunger Games last month I immediately went out and bought Catching Fire. I waited a little while before reading it because I hate reading all the published books in a series and then waiting for the next one (note to self: only read series in which all books are already published).  But once I started it, I finished it within 24 hours. And now, of course, I am anxiously awaiting the third book. To anyone who hasn’t started this series yet: It is amazing and you should read it immediately.

I started writing this review and then realized that I have nothing to say except that I LOVED Catching Fire. Even more than Hunger Games. It had a fantastic twist in the middle, ends in quite the cliffhanger, and characters develop in ways you wouldn’t expect. This book begins with a very fatalistic air but ends with hope. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

I am still undecided regarding the Team Peeta/Team Gale debate. Unlike Twilight (Team Jacob!) I like both of them and I think Katniss could be happy with either. If I had to pick, I think I lean toward Peeta but since the love story isn’t the main focus of the novels, it really doesn’t matter to me who she ends up with.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde is the fifth book in the Thursday Next series.  These books are ones that always take me a little while to get into but I consistently end up enjoying.  Like its predecessors, First Among Sequels is an entertaining read full of adventure, quirky humor, and word play.

This story takes us quite a few years into the future (giving us a 50-year-old female protagonist which is not really that common if you think about it).  Thursday still has her dual role at SpecOps and Jurisfiction and has added a third at Acme Carpets as yet another cover.  She is also involved in the illegal cheese market and a mother to 3 children (reading this made me tired).

When I first started reading this book, I felt that too many things were going on at once.  She is parenting a lazy teenager, being visited by ghosts, training new Jurisfiction cadets, purchasing illegal goods from Wales, and much more.  But once the story took off I relaxed and enjoyed it. I always like the stories that take place in the Book World best and this one was no exception.

One of the things that I love about this series is that reading is as popular in Thursday’s world as television is in ours.  However, in First Among Sequels, television has taken over and people are no longer reading.  I didn’t want her reality to become our reality.  I like the idea of a parallel universe where people care more about who Shakespeare really was than who the next American Idol will be.  But I must always remember that things are not always what they seem and there is an explanation (even if it is completely thought out) as to why things are the way they are in Fforde’s books.

I don’t want to discuss the plot any further because I don’t want to spoil anything for those who have yet to read the first four books.  If you are reading this post, I assume you love reading.  And these books are meant for those who love reading.  The first book in the series is The Eyre Affair and I highly recommend checking it out (it’s currently 50% off at The Book Depository).

Now that I am caught up on the Thursday Next series, I must start Fforde’s Nursery Crimes series.

Books: October 2009

Books Read:

Books Read October 2009(sorry the picture is a little fuzzy – I need a new camera)

  • Peony in Love by Lisa See (review)
  • Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (not pictured) (review)
  • Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace (review)
  • Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace (review)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (review)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart (review)

Books Acquired:

Books Acquired October 2009(again sorry the picture is a little fuzzy – I need a new camera)

  • Jeff in Venice, Death in Varnasi by Geoff Dyer
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Heaven to Betsy/Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
  • The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (not picture)

Six books in one month for me is pretty amazing, so thanks to the quick reads and the read-a-thon for that.  I really liked everything I read this month.  I may have bought a few more books than usual in October, but I got a bonus and part of it made its way to Barnes and Noble, so really it’s all justified (although a twitter conversation forced me to do the math and realize that I could read for about 10 years without buying any more books or using the library).

Big events in my reading life this month were (1) moving my blog from vox to wordpress and (2) the read-a-thon.  The move went very smoothly and I’m still transitioning old posts over.  I’m very happy with wordpress and I an enjoying the comments from non-vox users (my main complaint of vox).  I’m also glad that my vox friends are schlepping over here to continue reading.  As for the read-a-thon, I already expressed how much I enjoyed that event here.

I also completed my first reading challenge, the Maud Hart Lovelace challenge which you can read about here.

October seemed to be a pretty good reading month for everyone and I am hoping to keep it going in November.  Although the end of the month is looking a little busy for me and I’m going to Boston to see my dad for Thanksgiving so that’s some time I probably won’t read much.

Discovering Betsy-Tacy #5: Heaven to Betsy and Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge Wrap-up

Heaven to Betsy

Knowing she looked pretty now, feeling successful and gay, Betsy smiled.
“How do you like high school?” she asked.
“I like it.  Do you?”
“I think it’s just Heaven.”
“Heaven to Betsy!” he said.

When I first considered reading the Betsy-Tacy books, Emily told me that I had to at least get to Heaven to Betsy to make my decision about them even if it meant skipping earlier books to get there.  I didn’t skip any books, but I have been anxiously awaiting the high school books.  The Earlier books are fine, but definitely meant for young readers.  Emily was right.  Heaven to Betsy was simply wonderful and could be enjoyed by anyone.

Heaven to Betsy is the first of the older Betsy-Tacy books.  I got my hands on one of the new editions that bundles it with Betsy in Spite of Herself (which I’m itching to read but making myself finish some other books first).  In Heaven to Betsy, Betsy is just starting her first year of high school.  It opens with her away from home for the summer and feeling very homesick.  When she returns, she finds out her family is moving and she will no longer live across the street from Tacy.  Tib has moved back to Milwaukee by this time.  All of these changes put Betsy in a “mood.”  But this all changes when she starts making new friends and becomes very, very interested in boys.  All of her adventures as a teenager left me grinning from ear to ear as I read.

Reading about Betsy’s high school years really didn’t seem that different than my high school years.  Passing notes, talking on the phone, gossiping, and hanging out with friends.  “The Crowd” as Betsy’s group of friends was called was similar to the group I hang out with (including the swapping of affection).  Of course, my friends and I had an even less creative name and just referred to everyone as “The Group” which was sometimes broken down to “The Boys” and “The Girls.”  Betsy experiences her first crush, her first kiss (on the cheek), and her first heartache.  Growing up in 1900s Minnesota didn’t really seem that different than growing up in 1990s Michigan was for me.

The Rays are such an amazing family.  Mr. and Mrs. Ray have the kind of marriage that must make even happy couples jealous.  And what wonderful parents they are – always listening to their children and understanding their troubles.  When Betsy and Julia want to become Episcopalians, their Baptist parents see that they are serious and allow them to make that important decision.  This book also made me wish I had a sister.  Although I love him, my brother was no Julia.

The Rays home seems so cozy and inviting.  I want to have a home like that someday.  I love the idea of Sunday Night Lunch.  Anyone can stop by and Mr. Ray does the cooking.  A night for friends, family, and fun.  Go here to check out a real life Sunday Night Lunch.

At first, I was afraid that Tacy was getting left behind as Betsy experience high school, but throughout the book you can tell they are still close and the book ends with a touching scene of the two of them.

I can’t wait to keep reading these books.

Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge Wrap-up

By finishing Heaven to Betsy, I have completed the Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge (my first completed challenge ever!).  For this challenge, I read:

  • Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
  • Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
  • Heaven to Betsy

My favorite book was, of course, Heaven to Betsy, but I enjoyed them all.  Thanks to S. Mehrens of A Library is a Hospital of the Mind for hosting this challenge.  If you want to read other reviews,click here.

My Halloween Resolution

My last post notwithstanding, I have decided that I have been reading too many young adult novels lately.  I’m 26.  I’m married. I have a real job. Yet I keep reading books meant for teenage/pre-teen/even-younger-than-that girls.  Part of this is due to my Betsy-Tacy journey.  Part of this is due to my Post-War and Peace lack of attention for big books.  And partly is is just because some good young adult books have recently been released or discovered.

But I don’t want to read only YA books.  There are a lot of good grown-up books out there that I want to read.  So I’m instituting a new rule.  I need to keep at least a 1:1 ratio each month (starting in November of course).  For every YA book I read, I need to then read a non-YA book.  This will allow me to shift my focus back on some of the other books I want to be reading.

I also want my husband to respect me again. (I told him he would like this post and he asked if he was in it.  I said no and he said he likes when he is in my posts so this is me mentioning him).

But I do still have Catching Fire to read…and the Betsy-Tacys…and…

Shelf Discovery Challenge

When I first heard of Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick, I knew I had to get it.  And as soon as I got it, I knew I had to return to these books.  I’m actually a little young for a lot of the books in here.  The collection is really for children of the 60s and 70s (not me who wasn’t even able to read until the late 80s), but thanks to growing up in a small town and having access to only a small town library (it was actually an old house), I did end up reading a lot of these books.  And I would pretty much read anything I got my hands on.  I have often told the story of reading Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret in second grade and having no idea what a period was the entire time (it dawned on me years later what the book was actually about).

But I missed on on a few that I really should have read.  So when I saw the Shelf Discovery Challenge hosted by Booking Mama I knew I had to join.  I’m going to use this as an opportunity to read some of those books I missed out on as well as revisit some classics I haven’t seen in years.

The Challenge  (from Booking Mama):

The Shelf Discovery Challenge will run for six months (November 1, 2009 – April 30, 2010). To join me in this challenge, all you need to do is grab a copy of SHELF DISCOVERY and pick out what six books you want to read (of course, you can read more than six!) Then, after you read a book, just write a “book report” to share your thoughts with others!

And here are my six books (subject to change):

  1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  2. The Westing Game
  3. Jacob Have I Loved
  4. Bridge to Teribithia
  5. Island of the Blue Dolphins
  6. Little House on the Prairie

Wish me luck as I travel back into my childhood.

Discovering Betsy-Tacy #4: Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

This is the last of the younger Betsy-Tacy books, before Betsy grows up and goes to high-school and beyond.  Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are now 12 and they are starting to grow up.  They can go downtown on their own (hmm…wonder where the title came from) and they take an interest in the theater for the first time.

The book takes us through some more adventures with the trio and like Over the Big Hill, it is more of a fluid story than the first two books.  This was another Read-a-Thon book and it was really a great one for the evening hours.

My favorite thing about this book was all of the “modern conveniences” that are introduced.  The Rays get their first telephone (which I imagine to be a lot like my family getting it’s first computer when I was 10 or the internet when I was 14 or even that first car phone my dad had that came in a bag).  And best of all – there is a HORSELESS CARRIAGE!  And it can go 16 miles per hour!

I must say that I really enjoyed this one, but I am most excited for the later books.  I’ve started Heaven to Betsy and I’m just loving it.  Boys, clothes, gossip – all in 1906.