Tag Archives: Summer Reading Club

sunday salon/currently …one more day (98/99)

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I confess: I’m ready for this summer to end.  I mean, I would be happy to keep this weather; cool mornings, sunny and warm (but not too warm) low-humidity days and evenings with a slight chill are as perfect as it gets in Pittsburgh. All that can stay. But this has been a long summer in a challenging year with a lot of Really Hard Stuff.  I’m trying to focus on the good things about this summer, instead of the disappointments and the struggles and the hard stuff.

The Boy’s four-week camp program went well and he’s mentioned wanting to return next year. The Girl got a partial-scholarship for a week-long teen writing camp and also had the chance to do a painting camp, also for a week. She met one of her best friends, who lives out of state, for breakfast.  The Girl went to a sleepover (in a tent outdoors — a first for her) and she was invited to spend a day at the pool with that same friend.

The Girl and I met Judy Blume and we enjoyed a young adult author event with local writers Jonathan Auxier, Nick Courage and Siobhan Vivian. Our family spent a couple days back in Philadelphia (where I also attended the Mid-Atlantic MRKH Conference) and we enjoyed a fun get-together with the Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh casts from 2015 and 2016.

So, yeah. Some good things among the really, really hard.

In addition to one more day of summer, there’s also one day remaining of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project!  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m glad I did this (and I’m astounded that I stuck this out for the entire 99 days) but I am equally glad the end is here. I’m have some thoughts on this whole endeavor tomorrow or later this week.

Reading (Summer Reading Wrap-Up) …
Our library’s Summer Reading Program ended August 31 and my official tally was 21 books — which sounds impressive, but magazines also count. If one tallies only books, I’ve read eight. There’s a very good chance that I’ll hit nine by the end of tomorrow (because my personal Summer Reading Program goes from Memorial Day through Labor Day) and maybe I can find a short book to make it an even number. Here’s what I have so far, with one day to go:

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue, edited by Amy Ferris
Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub (published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/16/2016)
Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life, by Joan Chittister
Tales of An Accidental Genius, Stories by Simon Van Booy
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
Reliance, Illinois, by Mary Volmer
Bright, Precious Days, by Jay McInerney


Reading (Currently) …
Leave MeAround lunchtime on Saturday I started Leave Me by Gayle Forman and by dinnertime I’d finished more than 150 pages. (I had a few hours to read while The Girl was at a library program.)  It’s a fast read. I’m loving the Pittsburgh setting — and Forman clearly knows this town extremely well, right down to the location of specific stores and the names of local holiday craft fairs.  This one is a review book, and several others will be following it. (Another reason I’m glad 99 Days of Summer Blogging is finished … more time for reading, which I’ve missed.)

Hope you’re having a good weekend!



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The Sunday Salon: Summer Reading

The Sunday Salon

One of the things that I love about our library is its Summer Reading Club. For the most part, it’s the usual set-up for the kids: read a certain number of hours, be eligible for prizes (with fun activities interspersed throughout the summer months).

Betty is like me when it comes to summer reading. Each year, she sets her goal even higher than the year before – so much so, that sometimes she needs some reeling in. 

“This summer, I’m going to read 400 books,” she announced.

Now, Betty’s the type of 11 year old who, if she read a mere 399 books when her goal was 400, this would be a travesty. The world would need to stop on its axis and disintegrate. So, while I told her that 400 books would be awesome, I also had her crunch the numbers to learn that this translates into a minimum of 36 books per week, or at least 5 books per day.

She has since revised her goal down to a total of 200 books (or: 18 books per week, 2 books per day).

On the other hand we have Boo, who is ready to take a page from the Jaden Smith playbook and file for emancipation from me if I dare to suggest once more the notion of reading during the summer. He would happily spend the next 11 weeks reading the credits of his favorite TV shows. (To be fair, he also does a fair amount of video creation and story writing. But his reading and language arts skills need a big boost and I’m feeling that we’re past the “let him read what he wants” stage. He’s not on par with his reading, I’m afraid.)

So, we’re doing Summer Reading at the library. What I love about this is that our library also offers a Summer Reading Club for adults.

Yours may also. Many do. It’s just that this is the second full summer we’ve lived here and the idea of an adult summer reading club makes me feel like I’m 5 years old and back in the Free Library of Philadelphia checking out as many books as my mother and I can pile in her yellow Volkswagen Beetle for the drive home.

This is absolutely my thing. I could care less about the prizes. (Yeah, they give prizes to the grown-ups too!) In reality, all we do is track our books on the library’s website and submit (optional) reviews, which – hello! – is kind of what I already do here, but gimme another place to track and make lists of my books and I’m in!

My only problem is that I am freakin’ inundated with books and review deadlines right now. The Summer Reading Club’s theme this year is “Dig Into Reading” which feels rather appropriate. You should see the piles beside my bed. There’s no difference between my night table and a pallet of books at Costco.  I’m in the midst of reading The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, which is so damn good. Absolutely loving this, and it’s probably going to be among my favorites for 2013.

Big Book Summer Reading Challenge

Library summer reading programs not your thing? Then consider signing up for the 2013 Big Book Summer Challenge, hosted by Sue Jackson who writes the blog Book by Book.  This one is so easy, you guys. All you have to do is read one book of at least 400 pages this summer. One book!

Usually I’m overly ambitious (wonder where Miss “I’m Reading 400 Books This Summer” gets it from?) and I make a big ol’ list, but this year, there’s only one that I’m committing to definitively. That’s Andre Dubus III’s The Garden of Last Days. He has a new novel, Dirty Love, that comes out on September 30 which I’m reviewing for my new gig with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Before doing so, however, I want and need to catch up on his previous work. (Self-promotion alert: my first published – and paid – review was in the paper this week.)

What do you have on your summer reading list?

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The Sunday Salon: How to Feel 10 Years Old Again

Just call me Ponce de Leon (the Spanish explorer in search of the Fountain of Youth, for those who need a history refresher), for I have discovered the secret for instantly recapturing one’s youth and feeling 10 years old again!

And, just for you, my lovely blog readers, I’m going to share it with you today. Right now.

Here’s what you do:

1. Sign up for your local library’s adult Summer Reading Club program, which requires all of two things: read a book and write a review of said book. (Yeah, I’ve got this.)

2. Repeat as desired.

3. Do your best impression of a Valley Girl when the librarian calls you to say that you were the prize winner in this week’s random drawing of participants in the adult Summer Reading Club program. (“Omigod, thank you so much! Sure, I’ll be happy to come over to the library and pick up my prize!”)

Which was this:

A Pittsburgh Pirates cap (our local boys of summer), an oversized coffee mug (the best kind!), 3 energy bars (one of which has already been consumed by Betty), 2 packets of iced tea mixes, a notepad with the library’s logo on it, and a Yankee Candle Sampler in Sun and Sand scent.

For the adults, our Summer Reading program works by signing up, keeping track of our reading and writing reviews of our books read. That’s it. It started June 18 and goes until July 27. So far, I’ve read 3 books and am on my 4th. (I’m averaging 1-2 per week. Let’s just say that as far as my reading goes, being an Unemployed Statistic is a good thing.)

This week, I finished two books: Shout Her Lovely Name, a collection of short stories by Natalie Serber (which I mentioned in last Sunday’s Salon and which I’ll be reviewing for TLC Book Tours this coming Tuesday) and Next Stop: A Memoir of Family by Glen Finland. (The inside title page has a slightly different subtitle: A Son With Autism Grows Up.)

Both are accurate, as Finland opens her memoir by recounting the summer that she rode Washington D.C.’s Metro system with her 21 year old son David, in hopes that mastering the rails would lead David to his next stop in his life of getting a job and becoming independent. By telling her family’s story candidly and honestly, Next Stop focuses the reader’s attention on what happens when people with disabilities “age-out” of services and enter a world without jobs, accommodations, or the necessary supports to live independently. 

I liked Next Stop – the second half moreso than the first. While I found myself nodding in recognition in the beginning chapters, this seemed to cover much of the same ground of other “autism memoirs” I’ve read. Finland hits her stride after the midpoint of the book and I became fully invested in her emotional struggle to let go while also securing the necessary supports needed for David to live as independently as possible. 

On Friday, I started Lauren Groff’s newest novel Arcadia. I loved her short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds (see review here) and her novel The Monsters of Templeton, and so far, Arcadia is also winning me over with her rich prose. This is a very character-driven novel, set in a 1970s commune on 600 acres in western New York State. We see life in Arcadia from the perspective of Bit, one of its youngest members. What looks simple and idyllic is not quite so; the hippie lifestyle doesn’t quite agree with his mother, Hannah, who suffers from depression (or so it seems at the page 61 point that I’m up to now). This isn’t going over too well with the other members of the commune, to put it mildly. (They’ve just literally carried Hannah away.)

My 10 year old daughter Betty is also participating in the library’s kids Summer Reading Club. (No luck persuading Boo.) She’s also on book 4 (the awesome Lauren Myracle’s Thirteen) having read three of Rachel Renee Russell’s popular Dork Diaries series (Tales from a Not So Fabulous Life; Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl; Tales from a Not-So-Popular Pop Star). She has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon, so I’m keeping her home from summer camp in the morning and we’re planning a mini Read-a-Thon in the morning.

Speaking of Read-a-Thons of sorts, I’d be a bad book blogger if I didn’t mention this momentous date of July 1, which marks the midway point of our reading year. Whoooot! Bloggers all over the Internet are marking this occasion by celebrating (or lamenting) their reading goals and progress (or lack) thereof. I’ll be doing the same with a post tomorrow about how my many Reading Challenges are going. I signed up for a ridiculous number of 17 Reading Challenges this year. As crazy as that is, I’ve added an 18th to that (the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge).

I’m on track to finish about the same number of books I usually do in a typical year. Right now, Arcadia is my 30th book of the year, and 60 books (give or take) is slightly lower than my average. Again, my current status as an Unemployed Statistic might help propel that forward a bit, which would be nice.

I’ve also actually FINISHED one of those 18 reading challenges. I know. Go me. Stop by tomorrow to find out which one.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Big Book Summer Challenge

You know me and my weakness for Reading Challenges. For whatever reason, I am especially susceptible to the lure of Reading Challenges in the summer. It’s like I think I am under some delusion where I have all the time in the world to lounge about and read. Never mind the fact that I still have to find a job (which is a full time job), and I still have a house and a garden and kids to maintain.

Still, the Reading Challenges beckon … and here’s a new one being hosted by Sue over at Book by Book that I can’t quite resist.  It also coincides nicely with our library’s summer reading club program.

It’s the Big Book Summer Challenge:

The Details:

Hey, it’s summer, so we’ll keep this low-key and easy!

  • Anything over 400 pages qualifies as a big book.
  • The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend
  • Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal.
  • Choose from what’s on your shelves already or a big book you’ve been meaning to read for ages or anything that catches your eye in the library – whatever peaks your interest!
  • Write a post to kick things off – you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to Book by Book.
  • Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.

Here’s what I’m planning on reading:

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood
America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, by Gail Collins
When Everything Changed, by Gail Collins
Flesh and Blood, by Michael Cunningham
The Garden of Last Days, by Andre Dubus III
And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts

Along with the Summer Reading Program, a  few of these coincide nicely with the Chunkster Challenge (which I’ve only read one book for), as well as several others. All but And the Band Played On come from my own shelves, making them eligible for the Mt. TBR Challenge too.

It’s going to be a great summer!  Join us in the Big Book Summer Challenge?  (You know you want to!)

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: Father’s Day Edition

Happy Father’s Day to all who are celebrating!  I say to all who are celebrating because I know this can be a difficult day for some people. If you are missing a father or missing the chance to be a father, these Hallmark holidays can be loaded for bear, amiright?

It’s a low-key Father’s Day here. Last Saturday, The Husband took a tumble down the deck stairs and suffered a concussion, which has resulted in a week off from work for the last five days and a headache that is still present.  So, our gift to him is a day of rest and peace and quiet. So far, so good. Grocery shopping and gardening (if the rain holds off) is on the agenda for me, along with some resume-sending and reading.

As I mentioned in last week’s Salon, our library just got e-books available for borrowing. Bookish geek that I am, you KNOW I was right there at my laptop on the day that this service went live, checking out what they had to offer.

I must say, I am pleased with the selection. I’m NOT so pleased that I can’t renew them – meaning that, if you’re in the midst of the e-book and your time is up in a day, no renewal for you. You have to take your chances that nobody else will scoop it up when it automatically returns, and THEN you can check it out again. Otherwise, you have to put it on hold and it could be another two weeks before you can resume reading.

That’s the situation I may find myself in with my first library e-book: The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel, which I am really enjoying so far (but which I have today to finish). I loved Last Night in Montreal – but as I just re-read that review, I realize that there are more similarities to the two than I remembered. No matter. I still like The Lola Quartet and I’m not normally a mystery reader kind of girl, so this is a bit of a departure for me.

My audiobook this week wound up being a DNF.
Now, I was an English major in college, but the first CD of The Marriage Plot just made me feel completely and utterly stupid and that my degree was a waste. And this was not a week where I needed that. So … I tried reading the print version. No can do. This one has gotten mixed reviews on the blogs, with more than a few comparisons to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which I thought was just okay albeit overhyped. Given that, back to the library it went.

And yeah, I’ve tried Middlesex and – don’t hate me – but that was a DNF for me, too. Verdict? I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but I don’t think Jeffrey Eugenides is the author for me.

This week I finished the rather provocative With My Body by Nikki Gemmell. I’ll have more to say about this one on Thursday – which is my review date for TLC Book Tours, which sent me this one for review. One word for now: wow. This one was all over the map. The majority of this (like, 300 pages worth) is NOT an easy read and I was prepared to give it a negative review, if not declare it a DNF.

Then … Something Happened.

That’s all I’ll say about that, but suffice it to say, few books have had that effect on me. I’m still thinking about this several days later.

There are a few bookish things on tap for us this week. Summer Reading officially starts at our library tomorrow, which Betty is rather excited about. Our library also has a summer reading program for adults, where you submit reviews and can win prizes, so that will motivate me to actually write a review or two.

On Wednesday, YA author Siobhan Vivian (The List, Same Difference, Not That Kind of Girl, A Little Friendly Advice) will be appearing at our library. I’m planning to stop by and do a post for the blog. I’ve been hearing her name everywhere since I’ve been hearing that she’ll be appearing.

Hope you’re having a great Sunday, whether you’re celebrating Father’s Day or not.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: Father’s Day Edition

My husband is an incredible father.  There’s so much I could say about all that he does for us, but suffice it to say that I married an amazing guy who does five loads of laundry every single weekend (washing, folding, putting away), makes the kids breakfast every morning (on the weekends too) and deals with the entire morning routine of getting them out of the house, and handles the dropping off and picking up of the kids on most days. This isn’t new; he’s done the laundry for all of the 20 years we’ve been together and the stuff with the kids since Day One of their lives. Moreover, he does this through incredible pain – he’s had three herniated discs in his neck for nearly six years.

(I know.  I’m practically a kept woman. People wonder how I’m able to blog so much?  That’s how. I’m damn lucky, and I know it.)

Anyway, for this Father’s Day edition of The Sunday Salon, I give you this little funny reading-related story from this week. 

While we were at the library this week, Betty discovered the graphic novel collection and was delighted to find two of the The Baby-Sitters Club books on that shelf.  When we got home, the GRAPHIC NOVEL label on The Baby-Sitters Club book made The Husband momentarily apoplectic. 

“What the hell is she doing with something about babysitters that’s labeled a graphic novel?!” he said. When I showed him what they were, he asked when comic books became graphic novels.  Can’t say that I had much of an answer for him.  Still, it was pretty funny.  (Or maybe you just had to be there.)

Having never read any of The Baby-Sitters Club books myself (as Laura from I’m Booking It and I discussed over lunch at the Book Blogger Convention), I was curious to see if they were appropriate for an 8.5 year old so I read this version. Happily, they seem to be OK.  According to Barnes and Noble they have an age range of 9-12, and that’s generally what Betty reads.

Speaking of which, Betty’s doing really well with her summer reading.  Her goal is to read 200 books this summer.  She’s completed 10 this week.  She’s also nearly completed the measly summer reading project that is assigned for incoming 3rd graders, which is to read a whopping total of 10 hours for the entire summer. (Yeah, an hour a week … and they’re allowed to take a week off from reading, for VACATION, if you can imagine such a thing.)

In addition to reading The Baby-Sitters Club,  I also finished two other books. While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty was good enough, but I didn’t like it as much as her debut novel, The Center of Everything.  
My other finished book this week was Made for Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu.  I had the great opportunity to hear Archbishop Tutu as the keynote speaker during a conference I attended this past April and this book reminded me of how inspiring he was. It weaves together Archbishop Tutu’s experiences of living through apartheid and the Bible stories of Adam and Eve as well as the prodigal son in order to provide comfort in the face of life’s toughest questions. I’m not a highly religious person, but I liked this book. 
(Completing two books in one week is highly unusual for me unless we’re on vacation, which we’re not.)
Finally, there is my current read, Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris.  I don’t know why it took me this long to read this, but it is absolutely hilarious.  (Ferris is now my new literary crush.) Basically, this is “The Office” in novel form. It’s brilliantly written. There are a million characters, it seems, who work at this Chicago ad agency that is the epitome of office dysfunction but the genius of Ferris is that he makes each one of them so memorable – maybe because you know this person, or someone pretty close to that person. And the dialogue! He just nails it, and the result is a spectacular piece of writing that I am enjoying way too much.
Whether you’re celebrating Father’s Day today with a special father or remembering a special father who may not be here to celebrate (I’m doing both), I hope you’re reading something just as great this Sunday.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: What We’re Reading

Like many other bloggers, I’ve been participating in Bloggiesta this weekend.  It’s been a lot of fun discovering new (to me) bloggers, and I’m loving meeting some of you through the comments you’ve been leaving here.  Thanks so much for those!  I’ve also gotten some much-needed work done here on my blog. I’ve put about 12 hours of time into Bloggiesta thus far and while things still need tweaking (don’t they always?) I’m pretty happy with the changes I’ve made.  What do you think so far?

On the reading front this week, I’ve been spending some time this week in the world of young adults. I read Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism by Alison Piepmeier. Zines gained popularity in the early 1990s, and while I kind of missed the whole zine scene (I think I was born too early), this book was a fascinating and eye-opening look at a literary venue that I hadn’t fully appreciated before. What Alison does in her book is show her reader the importance of zines from a feminist standpoint and the “micropolitical” effects they have on their readers.

Laura Moriarty has become one of my favorite young adult authors. (I don’t know if she is technically supposed to be classified as a young adult author or what, but regardless … Ms. Moriarty writes about young adults in a way that even a 41-year-old mom of elementary school kids like me can relate to.)

I loved The Center of Everything (see my review here) and was thrilled to see her latest, While I’m Falling, on the New Books shelf at the library. It wasn’t in the teen section either, which was refreshing.

At first this seemed to get off to a slow start, and I was trying not to compare this to The Center of Everything, it has picked up speed.  There are similar themes in both novels – mother-daughter relationships as seen through the recognition of one’s parents’ mistakes and the uncertain path one walks while trying not to repeat history. I think this will be a fairly quick read.  I’m also listening to this on audio, too. Fans of Beth Kephart might enjoy Laura Moriarty’s novels.

Also on deck for this week is Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference, written by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu.  I was fortunate to hear Archbishop Tutu give one of the keynote addresses at a conference I attended in April, and his speech was incredibly powerful and inspiring.  He was also, surprisingly, delightfully funny and you got the sense that many of us in the audience were not quite expecting that.

Finally, school is out for the summer here, which means that we’re participating in our library’s Summer Reading Club program again.  Betty has set a goal of reading 200 books.  (They don’t have to set a goal – she’s just that kind of kid.  Wonder where she gets that from?) While we’re trying to encourage such ambitions, we don’t want her to get discouraged if she doesn’t reach that goal.  So far, it seems like books about girls and their horses are high on her preferred reading list.

For Boo, this is the summer of the biography.  That’s all he is interested in reading. He has a nice mix of books – everyone from Francis Scott Key to Christopher Reeve to Helen Keller – but seems partial to anything about boxers Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier.

This also means that we’re not exactly following the suggested reading list given to us for rising 3rd graders.  I’m going to try not to stress over this, since the list is not required, and focus on the fact that they are spending at least this summer-like weekend reading.

That’s what we’re reading this Sunday.  What about you?

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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