12.31.2014

Books! Books! Books! Titles #31-50 (kind of)

So, I made it, kind of.

I read and wrote annotations for 50 books this year. This is far more than I've ever read in a calendar year (more than double) and it felt great to read so many titles I've been long-meaning to read. But in all honesty, I don't know if 50 is the right number for me. I think 35 or 40 might be a more honest goal so that I can enjoy more of the books and not rush through so many. But I got myself to 50 by counting a few books I false-started or abandoned and by counting 10 of the many children's books I've read over and over and over to Kiara this year.

So, here they are, the last 20 titles and annotations. I'll probably write another post of my favorites of the year, and here is a link to my Goodreads page with all of the books I read this year...

Previous Books! Books! Books! posts:

Titles #1-10 Heavy on the AVI titles with some fiction, nonfiction and graphic novels.

Titles #11-20 My most eclectic mix.

Titles #21-30 Excavation, Shakespeare, and a novel in verse.

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonia Sones  This was my model novel for National Novel Writing Month so I reread it as I was drafting a memoir in verse of my own. Still good the second time around particularly the moments of memory that reveal relationships from before and how they shift through this family crisis.
Where She Went by Gayle Foreman  This continuation of the story from If I Stay takes on a different POV, the one of the rock star boyfriend. I liked the unfolding of the story, the playing with time that Foreman also utilized in If I Stay. I found myself once again tearing up toward the end so I guess it works!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart This beautifully rendered book had me plowing through pages, but the shallow three generations left me wondering if I really cared what would happen to them. Is it a flaw in the writing or in the actual characters themselves? I’m not sure, but the tragedy of reality and the silences surrounding truth are themes I’m quite familiar so it kept me turning the pages.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson This biography in verse follows Woodson’s early childhood from Ohio, through South Carolina, and ends up in Brooklyn. My favorite parts were seeing how she sizes herself up in comparison to her siblings and grew into an identity as a writer. It felt similar to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but updated for today’s young reader.

Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock This epistolary of the correspondence between two artists plays with reality and fantasy, sanity and insanity. The illustrations help the story unfold as well. A beautiful story with an ambiguous ending.

Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni Amazing how timely Giovanni’s poems remain so many years later. This winter, with widespread protests of police brutality and #blacklivesmatter, these poems remind me how constant these struggles have been in the black community. And food! Her poems make me hungry.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan This graphic novel reveals migration and immigration stories in ways that are both simplistic and infinitely complex. There is such fear and loss in these narratives and then there are glimmers of hands opening up new worlds and new beginnings.

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan Another graphic novel, this telling three tales, “The Red Tree,” “The Lost Thing,” and “The Rabbits.” I loved the use of text in this one in contrast to the wordlessness in The Arrival. The images drive the narrative and each story feels like an installation in a Shaun Tan exhibit. I could get lost in his images for hours if I let myself.

Abandoned Books or False Starts I intend to finish later…

NW by Zadie Smith Got into the second narrative voice but couldn’t keep momentum…

Landline by Rainbow Rowell Started but wasn’t ready for the story yet…

Tell Me The Truth About Love by W.H. Auden Lost myself in these poems…

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron Ugh. I couldn’t get past the pretentiousness of his voice…

Top Ten Children’s Books Read Repetitively with Kiara (my favorites, not necessarily hers, ones that I didn’t mind reading even after 20 reps.)

1.     The Story of Ferdinand by Leaf Munro A lovely book about a bull who simply wants to sit quietly and smell the flowers. I love that it teaches Kiara that she can be and do what she wants despite what those around her are doing.

2.     Almost An Animal Alphabet by Katie Veggers This is my favorite of the many alphabet books Kiara has in her collection. The animals are unique and the drawings are smart and teach me things (like the differences between the Asian and African elephants). S, N and O are a few of the pages I love in particular.

3.     The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter One of my childhood favorites, I’ve loved reading this with Kiara even if it’s only the first ten pages or so. I love when Kiara yells along with Mr. McGregor: “Stop, Thief!”

4.     The Three Little Cajun Pigs by Berthe Amos I can’t help but read this one with a little hint of a Cajun accent. There is a great cut-out of the big bad alligator, Monsour Cocodrie that huffs and puffs his way through the book and all the way into the gumbo pot.

5.     Bear Snores On By Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman Beautiful illustrations accompany thoughtful rhymes about a bear sleeping through a party in his very own lair.

6.     The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell and Jim Harris This Southwestern take on the three little pigs infuses Spanish vocabulary and features a magical coyote. These hairy little pigs somehow find a way to escape coyote and reveal the myth of coyote’s howl.

7.     Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski This beautifully rendered book about a little girl who just isn’t tired and doesn’t want to go to sleep was perfect for Kiara as she transitioned to her big girl bed. I love the unique animals depicted and how the girl mimics their sleeping habits.

8.     Mother Goose by Gyo Fujikawa My mom had this book in the house when I was growing up and she got it for Kiara before she was born. Kiara loves singing “Rock a Bye Baby,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Hush little Baby.” The drawings are lovely and Kiara could turn through this books for hours.  

9.     The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore It’s a good thing I had this one memorized from years ago which allows me to recite it quickly with just a glance at the pages. Even though Santa is not Kiara’s favorite, she loved reading this every single night of the holiday season.


10.  Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess Kiara fell in love with this book in Lincoln at the Okamoto’s house and caused a major meltdown on our drive back to Los Angeles. I couldn’t decide who was more annoying, Sam I Am or the one who claims to hate green eggs and ham, but love the rhyme and repetition just like Kiara does.

12.30.2014

2014 Year In Review

Well, I was feeling pretty ambitious last year when I set the goal to post here once a week. It's what all the successful bloggers say: you have to post quality content regularly.

Last year I was able to do it. I posted over 50 times but most were part of the 52 poems project I was doing.

Mom... 
But I'm not beating myself up up about only posting 20 times. It was a tough year full of change and new understandings of family and life and death.

Thanks to all of you for still reading along. I know I haven't been the most reliable, but your readership and feedback has helped me through some tough times this year.

So, here are the top three posts for 2014...

3: It has been a rough year to be an educator. Public education continues to be assaulted by a "reform movement" attempting to discredit and privatize our public schools. It's not all that different than it has been over the past ten years. But this year, with the rollout of national "Common Core" standards and their assessments, I have had to make more concessions than I'm comfortable with. Fortunately, many parents are beginning to voice their concerns over testing and standards. This post about opting out of testing was my third most popular this year. 

2: This post, Summer Stock, captures the time I'll most likely remember most about 2014 even though I hoped fall would help me forget. This post captures the end of the school year, the loss of my mom, and the summer that followed.

1. This year I turned forty and rather than the huge challenge I first considered (a solo run at the Pole, Pedal, Paddle) I set out to celebrate least forty times. Happy birthday to me and a huge thanks to all who helped me ring in #40, and for making it my most-read post this year so I get to feel the birthday love all over again. Forty is fine and fabulous and lots of other f words my baby-brain is currently withholding from me. Here is my top post of the year: Forty is Starting to Look Pretty Amazing...

12.07.2014

Four Week Countdown to the Close of 2014

The year is winding down, and it's amazing how much change a year can bring. I set some ambitious resolutions for 2014 and I've checked in with my progress a couple of times, once in April and again in July. I was behind then, but since then, well... in some ways the wheels came off. I still have four weeks left which makes me wonder, how close can I still get to these goals? 
I didn't set a goal for spending 
time with this girl... but we did. 

Writing Goal: Finish high school memoir draft of Notes from a High School Feminist (50,000 words) and revise YA novel: Rice Paper Superheroes. 

Progress: I finished the draft of the high school memoir: 52,000 words, but it still needs of a good deal of revision. I haven't revised Rice Paper Superheroes yet (boooo) but I did draft a new memoir in verse: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop (30,000 words) during NaNoWriMo last month.  

Reading Goal: Read and write short annotations for 50 books in the year. 

Progress: Aaaargh! I am stuck on number 32 which means I'd need to finish a book every couple of days in order to finish in time. Realistically, I think I could still get to 40. Wish me luck.  

Publishing Goal: Submit work at least once a month and publish one blog post per week. 

Progress: I have failed tremendously here. I've only published 24 blogs (I think this is 25...) and I haven't sent out work regularly. I think I might need to set a rule for myself that I can't work on new essays/drafts until I submit something and I should really submit once a week instead of once a month in order to get some momentum. Yes. That's what I'll do for these last four weeks.  

Fitness Goal: Run 500 miles in the year. 

Progress: I changed run to walk once I got pregnant so I'm at 417 right now. 83 miles in 4 weeks is possible...

So, grief played a role in some of my falling behind. Pregnancy played some as well and last time I was pregnant my mind turned to mush as did my muscles. So at least these goals helped that from happening again. And still, I'm close and we'll see just how much I can get done in these last four weeks of 2014.