How I Do It

At last month’s book club, one of the women asked, “How do you find time to read so much?” It was a general question, but I was one who was able to give an answer. I actually get asked this a lot. I’m a pretty voracious reader, I know. I’ve got a bit of a reputation. So here is my answer (and yes, this is what I told my book club):

First of all, I’m kind of a fast reader. It is almost nothing for me to sit down a read a book in an afternoon. I have always been a fast reader and it just comes naturally to me. So I am able to read more in less time.

Second, I don’t sleep very much. Once every one else in the house is in bed, I jump at the chance to read or watch TV all by myself (this is also how I am able to watch so many shows on Netflix). I regularly go to bed after midnight. Or, if I’m in bed at a decent time, I’m in bed reading until 1 or 2 am. I keep thinking I need to put the book down and turn off the light, but I can’t stop. Thankfully I have a deep sleeper for a husband who doesn’t mind that little light on. Most of the time.

Lastly — and here’s the biggest reason I am able to read so much — My house is a mess. I mean, it’s a disaster. I don’t clean it like I should. There are parts of my house that are just plain gross (*cough*bathroom*cough) because I refuse to clean someone else’s obvious mess. When it comes down to it, I look at the dishes sitting next to the sink and I look at my book sitting on the table, and I would rather read my book. So I do. It’s not like I never clean. And I make my children do chores and I don’t go back and redo it because I’m reading. If it’s going to be redone, they should have to. When faced with a decision, I always pick reading my book over doing chores.

And now you know my dirty little secret. I will never have a perfectly clean house because I choose books over scrubbing walls.

Book Club

When we moved into our new house, we honestly had no idea what kind of street we moved on to. We hit the jackpot. Seriously! It’s so fun on our little street. And I’ll brag about life on the cul-de-sac another time. Tonight, however, I wanted to brag about how I decided to get out of my comfort zone a little so I could make friends.

Like I said, this is a fun street. The kids will all be out playing in the street and the moms stand in a driveway and talk. Or bring chairs to the end of the cul-de-sac and talk. I often feel like I have a hard time actually talking to other women without being awkward (I make a lot of self-deprecating jokes, thinking their funny, but in retrospect are probably just uncomfortable). I wanted to find a way to get to know the women on my street and be comfortable while doing so. I did find one thing in common: reading. We all like to read. 

So I started a book club. At first I started it for just our street, but I stated at the beginning that was just because I didn’t know anyone else, so feel free to invite other women. We have had four meetings now (and read three books: “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer, and “The Ladies Auxiliary” by Tova Mirvis… This month we are starting “Edenbrooke” by Julianne Donaldson) and while I had to miss the last one because of a fundraiser for my winter guard, I am having so. Much. FUN.

Book club is great because I get to read. I know this from past book clubs, too. Sometimes it’s something I’m really excited about reading and have wanted to read for a while. Sometimes it’s something I would never have picked up in the first place but end up loving (hello, “Ender’s Game”!). It’s just good to have something new to read. And then knowing your friends are reading it, too? Bonus! We get to talk about it! I love discussions at book club. We don’t always agree and we don’t all take the same things away from the book. That’s great because then we learn from each other, too. We get to see new perspectives and find out more about each other and our different backgrounds. And when it’s a book that we all just LOVE? Well, the discussion actually is kind of boring. It’s way more fun to have something that divides us a little bit.

And then there is the food. It’s not book club without food. Everyone makes such yummy food. You would think it would be a competition on who can come up with the yummiest treat, but that’s not it at all. There is no competition. Just excitement for the book, the discussion, and the food.

Most of all, I have enjoyed having a time where I can really get to know these other women on my street. Hang out with them without having to chase the toddler down the street at the same time or whatever. Just sit, eat, talk, joke… it’s my favorite night of the month. I’ll tell you a little secret: I’d do this without the books. The reading part is a bonus. I just like these women and I’m so glad I convinced myself to go for it. I was scared when I sent out the first message about starting the book club. I was scared people would laugh and think it’s stupid. I was scared no one would show up. But show up they did. And it’s growing. And no one thinks it’s stupid. And everyone talks about it all month long: “Have you gotten the book yet?” “How far into the book are you?” “I have to tell you about what I love so far…” It’s exciting to be just to be a part of things. 

Life is good on the cul-de-sac.

Reading To My Kids

I have been told that there are a few ways to make sure your kids are readers. 1. Read to them. 2. Encourage them to read on their own with books that interest them. 3. Let them see you, as a parent, reading on your own.

Ches and I are pretty big readers. I know I have a bit of a reputation for devouring books rather quickly (I’m a very fast reader) and I tend to read anything that is recommended to me. I love books! That’s not a secret.

I decided recently I needed to make a change in our bedtime routine. It’s too chaotic and getting the kids to settle down at bedtime was insane. Lots of yelling and screaming and crying (and that was just me!). I hated it. Ches was gone (as usual) one evening and I had had enough. I decided to try something new. I pulled a book off the bookshelf, had the kids get in their beds (all three boys share a room), and I started to read.

The first book we read was “Holes” by Louis Sachar. I’ve read it before and so has Aiden. We have all seen the movie and really enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe how much all three boys enjoyed not just the book, but having me read to them. They would snuggle into bed and look at me expectantly with smiles on their faces, ready for me to read. Normally it is difficult to get the boys to get in bed. They are playing or watching TV or whatever and just don’t want to go to bed. However, when I said, “Get in bed… I’m going to read ‘Holes’ tonight!” they would run to their room right away. When we finished the book, we borrowed the movie from a friend and had a special “Holes” viewing night.

What to read next? I decided to read something that every kid should probably read. Something that every person should probably read. A classic of literature. And something that I have never read myself. I chose J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”.

That’s right. I’ve never read it. Well, all the way through. I’ve tried to read it many times, but something about it… I don’t know. It’s just not my style or something. I’ve started the first Lord of the Rings, too, but again. Never made it far. It just doesn’t capture my attention or something. However, I absolutely love The Lord of the Rings movies, and since the first Hobbit movie comes out in December, I wanted to actually read the book first this time. What could be better than reading an adventure/fantasy book to my little boys?

They. Love. It. That’s right. They adore the story. They laugh. They get scared. They get excited. The Hobbit is a huge success. Also.. I love it! I’m enjoying the story just as much as they are! We’re about 2/3 of the way through and I’m excited to read to them just so I know what’s going to happen next. I can’t believe how much I am enjoying it! Ches teases me every so often for mispronouncing a name (seriously, Bofur? Looks like Bow-fur to me, not Bah-fur!), but I think he enjoys me reading one of his all-time favorite books to his sons, too.

And when I was in the hospital? The boys would not allow Ches to read to them. They just waned Mom. It’s now our thing, our ritual. Mom reads and the boys listen (and sometimes fall asleep) and we discuss a little bit and the entire family is excited for December so we can all see the movie together.

The best part? That calm period, right before bed. Where we are just hanging out. I hope these are memories they will cherish into adulthood. I am cherishing them now.

(And we’re starting to make suggestions to each other on what book we should read next. We have tons of ideas floating around. I’ll let you know what we decide!)

A Love Story

As much as I hate to admit it sometimes, I am a stereotypical girly-girl. I like reading chick-lit and watching rom-coms.  I put on makeup and do my hair just to make myself fell good. I get excited about new shoes. I paint my toenails. I will never, ever complain about getting flowers. I loooooove chocolate more than anything in the world. I love Mr. Darcy almost as much as I love chocolate.

This weekend I watched movies about two of the greatest, most well-known love stories. First, on Saturday, I watched the Baz Lurhman (MTV) version of Romeo + Juliet. Last night, I watched a Lost in Austen, a Pride and Prejudice movie with a twist. Aiden asked me today why I likeromance movies (he said “romance movies” with a slight sneer. I guess that’s appropriate coming from an 8 year old who still tends to think girls have cooties or something). I told him that I actually only like romance comedies, but in my head I was thinking, “Because deep down inside I’m just a mushy romantic!” I don’t think he’ll understand for quite some time.

Now, I have seen Romeo + Juliet before. It came out when I was a freshman in college. I still had a crush on Leonardo diCaprio (left over from watching him on “Growing Pains), and everyone at the time was telling me I looked just like Juliet. Claire Danes was pretty cute, so I took it as a compliment. I have seen several versions of Romeo and Juliet in both film and on stage. I have read lots of books that take the same theme of the star-crossed lovers. I have seen West Side Story too many times to count. I have read Romeo and Juliet several times, too. That does not make me an R&J expert, but it certainly gives me an unshakable opinion.

I hate Romeo and Juliet. I mean, I really, really hate Romeo and Juliet. It’s just ridiculous and depressing. I mean, we start off with a whiny Romeo who is soooo in love with Rosalind and he can’t shut up about her, until he sees Juliet at the party he crashed. Suddenly, Rosalind never existed and he is completely in love with this other 13 year old girl. That’s right. THIRTEEN. Even in Shakespeare’s day that was considered young, thank you very much. So the two teenagers are “in love” and secretly marry. Meanwhile, their friends and relatives (many of whom -*cough*Mercutio*cough – I love as characters) are fighting and killing each other off. Romeo is banished for being an idiot and killing Juliet’s cousin. Her family is devastated by this death, yet they decide to marry Juliet off  to Most Eligible Bachelor, Paris, right away. So she fakes her death. Romeo doesn’t get the memo, goes to her tomb, talks for probably 20 minutes, then commits suicide. Juliet wakes up from her fake death, sees a dead Romeo, and commits suicide. I always thought if Romeo talked for 2 more minutes (which wouldn’t have been a stretch by then), she would have just woken up and everything would end up fine. But know. He dies. She wakes up. She dies. Gag.

There are many things about the MTV version that I hate (so many things are just stinkin’ weird. And really? Drug use?? Could have done without that. ), but there are a few things that I actually love. As I may have mentioned, I love Mercutio. He is just a wonderful character. (I heard that Shakespeare had to kill him off because he was too strong of a character and was taking over, but the play was supposed to be all about Romeo and Juliet. Not Mercutio. I don’t know if any of that is true. I had a roommate tell me a professor speculated about it in her Shakespeare class. I like the theory, anyway.) I love how both Mercutio and Benvolio were portrayed in this version. Just strong, eclectic, complex characters. Not just Romeo’s buddies.

The main thing I love about this “new” version is the final death scene. In all previous versions I’ve seen, I hate how long and drawn out the scene is. I hate how straight-forward it is, too. Very dull. In the Baz Luhrmann version, Romeo is talking away, but is so overcome with grief that he doesn’t notice Juliet start to come out of her coma. It’s so slight… a finger twitch here, a flutter of the eyelashes there… but he is still going on and on and on about Juliet and death and… I don’t know. I tune him out now. Anyway, Juliet opens her eyes and sees her Romeo, smiles, then reaches up to caress his face. He drinks the poison just as she is reaching for him. And then there is this look. He sees that she is alive, and this look of complete horror quickly passes through his eyes and he realizes what he has done. And then Romeo dies. Juliet is confused, of course, and then comes the grief. It is the most heart-wrenching scene. It was done so absolutely perfect.

I still hate Romeo and Juliet. But I can forgive it for this one scene. Thank you, Baz Luhrmann.

Now, the other movie I saw is based off a romantic couple that I absolutely adore. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Yes, there is quite a bit of ridiculousness going on in Pride and Prejudice, but I love the wit of Jane Austen and the spunk of her characters. And yes, I love Mr. Darcy. I love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Someone needs to just buy me that version of P&P already. The wait on Netflix is too long.

Elizabeth Bennett can hold her own. That girl is strong and witty… I just love her and want to be her. Sure, she wants to get married, but she isn’t defined by it. She isn’t silly like her younger sisters, and she isn’t so complacent that she gets walked all over, like her older sister. Love her as much as I do, I just don’t admire Jane as much as Lizzy. Jane is a sweet girl, a pretty face, and all around kind… but she doesn’t have the depth that Elizabeth does. My opinion, of course.

The movie I watched yesterday is a cute, British flick called Lost in Austen. Amanda Price is a modern girl who isn’t really in love with her boyfriend and who just wants to read her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. And who can blame her? It really is a lovely book. Amanda knows the world of Pride and Prejudice more than her own, I think. She has read the book so many times and seen the movie almost as many times. She dreams of gentlemen and ladies with kind manners and genteel wit. One night, she finds Elizabeth Bennett in her bathroom. That’s right, Elizabeth Bennett from her favorite novel. Lizzy has discovered some kind of portal between her father’s house and Amanda’s bathroom. Next thing she knows, Amanda is living as a guest in the Bennett’s home as a “friend of Lizzy’s” and Elizabeth Bennett is living in modern times, at Amanda’s house. We don’t actually see any of our favorite heroine. This story is about Amanda Price, not Lizzy Bennett.

Poor Amanda. She is transported to the “beginning” of the story, and before she knows it, everyone is doing everything wrong! Bingley falls for her rather than Jane! She just got that all straightened out, when Jane marries Mr. Collins. Mr. Bingley becomes depressed and drinks too much. Mr. Darcy is, of course, his usual stoic, prideful self. He drives Amanda nuts with his attitudes. When Wickham shows up, Amanda spends so much time trying to get Lydia to stay away from him that Lydia runs off with Mr. Bingley instead! Amanda discovers that Wickham isn’t quite the rogue that Jane Austen made him out to be, and is actually quite helpful towards Amanda. Georgeanna Darcy has her own secret about her’s and Wickham’s previous relationship. And Caroline Bingley, while still a reprehensible human being, also carries a secret that Amanda muses Jane Austen couldn’t possibly have imagined. In the midst of the story getting completely messed up (no matter how hard Amanda tries to get it “right”), Amanda and Mr. Darcy fall in love.

If you are a fan of the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, there is one scene in Lost in Austen you will love. I literally laughed out loud. Ches looked at me funny (he wasn’t watching it with me). I really liked the movie. And now I really want to watch P&P again. The Colin Firth one, of course. (Seriously, someone needs to just buy me the DVD already!! Could you guys let Ches know that it would be a perfect 13th anniversary gift. Our anniversary is coming up in just a few weeks… you don’t have much time!)

When you think of the greatest romantic couples in history or literature or whatever, Romeo and Juliet and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett are two of the couples that often top the list. I guess this was my weekend of romance. I’ll take Darcy and Elizabeth over R&J any day. It just makes me happy. But when I need a good cry? I’ll watch that final death scene. I’m weird like that.

Just Some Random Thoughts…

Yesterday I got to take Parker to the Sea Life Aquarium for his preschool field trip. The Sea Life Aquarium is located in the Arizona Mills Mall, a very large mall not far from where we used to live. It is now a good half hour drive from our current home. After the adventures of the Aquarium, I decided to take Parker to the food court so he could have some lunch and (hopefully) fall asleep in the van on the way home. Then we could both get a little nap in.

Being that it is a mall, there are kiosks. I am a sucker when the vendors at kiosks stop me to show me whatever cool product they are hawking selling. So I got stopped by the woman with an exotic accent who wanted to buff my nails until they were super shiny and pretty (no need for nail polish!), then show me her sea salt rubs and body butter.

First of all, yes, my nails are very pretty. We’ll see if it really lasts a month. However, I am NOT spending $60 for a kit just to buff my nails. Seriously? I’ll put on clear nail polish that costs $1.50 from Wal-Greens first.

Second, the accent? So fake. You can’t even decide if you’re supposed to be French, Israeli, or Brazilian. So it switches constantly. Yes, you sound exotic and it’s supposed to make me trust you more, but I know it’s fake. Everyone knows you don’t have that accent. Someone ought to really stop this practice.

Third, yes, in fact I did like the sea salt scrub and it does seem to be helping the massive eczema on the palms of my hands. However, there is no way I would ever pay $80 for it when I can hop over to Bath and Body Works and get the same size tub for $10. Do I really look that stupid to you? And just because it says it’s made in Israel does NOT mean it actually comes from the Dead Sea. I don’t care where the salt comes from, anyway. It’s salt.

*****

I believe I have passed on my anxiety to my children. On the way to the school for the ceremony where Dallin received a certificate because he is a Cardinal of Character (he demonstrated the characteristic “fairness” in the classroom), all I could hear was bouncy Dallin saying, “I wonder what my award is. Will they call my name? Where will I sit? Will you all be in the audience? I hope you are in the audience. Do I get a paper? I can’t believe I get an award.” He repeated it constantly until the start of the ceremony.

He got a certificate and a t-shirt. The t-shirt says, “I’m a Cardinal of Character at Centennial Elementary.”

The whole way home he repeated, “I love my t-shirt. Do you have my certificate? I hope my t-shirt fits. I want to wear it tomorrow. Will my t-shirt fit me? It’s so cool.”

On the way to the Aquarium yesterday, Parker repeated, “Are we going on my field trip now? Are you driving fast enough? Can you drive faster? Is this the right way? Did you get lost? Are we closer yet? How much longer? Will I see fish? Are there sharks? Did you make a wrong turn? I don’t know if this is the right way. Can you go faster?” Seriously, repeated this the entire half hour.

Sigh.

*****

Can someone please show me where in the Bible it actually says that Jesus said “If you deny me I will deny you to my FATHER”? I hate that stupid post on Facebook. If I don’t repost am I saying I am ashamed of Jesus and I don’t get to go to Heaven now? Whatever. Reposting these things that say, “Let’s see how many believers are on Facebook!” or “I believe in Jesus. Do you?” is just lame. I don’t need to flaunt my faith in the face of all Facebook to know that I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I feel like posting, “OMG!! I totally ❤ Jesus!! Repost this!” just to see what people will do. Stupid, but it’s the same thing to me.

*****

I am in another “Biggest Loser” challenge. We’ve had two weigh ins and I have lost 5 lbs. I weigh in tomorrow. Hoping to have lost another 2 lbs this week. The best thing I’m doing for me this time is I have started using MyNetDiary, an online food diary. It helps me keep track of everything I’m eating, counts my calories, has a spot to enter how much exercise I do (and how many calories I have burned), and has handy dandy charts to help me know how much I should be consuming and burning each day in order to lose weight. It’s keeping me totally accountable and I love it. AND it’s free!!! I highly recommend it.

*****

I’m lonely. I have tons of friends (you guys), but you are all too far away. Someone move here, please. Seriously.

*****

My book club chose enough books to last us through July. I’m super excited about the books, and only one of them have I actually read before.

This month we are reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It has been on my “to read” list for forever because people are constantly telling me to try it. The love it. So I am excited to read it for that reason. However, it’s Sci Fi. I don’t enjoy Sci Fi and I don’t enjoy Fantasy (as a general rule). I try, but I just can’t get into it. So I was telling a girl in the book club that I was excited about reading it, but I said off handedly, “I won’t like it.” She then started to lecture me about having an open mind and being positive and I have to try the book anyway… ugh. I didn’t mean that I’m closing down to it! I didn’t mean I wasn’t going to even try to read it! I am!! It’s just not my style of book and I have tried and tried in the past to read these types of books with no success. I just don’t like it. Geez. Again, I am excited to read the book because it sounds interesting and it comes so highly recommended. But if I don’t like it, then I don’t like it. That’s my opinion. That’s my taste. So there.

*****

I love this weather. It’s been in the mid to upper 70’s all week. So beautiful! We take visitors, by the way. Any time. We have enough floor space for anyone who wants to partake in our sunshine.

Confessions of a Bookaholic

You all know how much I love to read. I talk about it enough, don’t I? Did you know that I also love (and I mean love) to see movies? If I could go to a movie every night of the week… well, maybe that’s still a bit much. But if I could go to a movie almost every night of the week, I could die happy. I love movies like I love books. They transport me to another world and another identity. I get completely involved in the movie. I like all kinds of movies, too. I like chick-flicks, dramas, comedies, indie films, foreign language films, action, fantasy, family, animated, musicals, adaptations, and any combination of these categories. Pretty much the only films I won’t watch are horror (I seriously get scared and can’t stomach it, no matter how “unscary” the film actually is).

I’ve discussed in the past how I love all different books. I will read anything and everything. I have a hard time not liking books, and when I don’t like something I’ve read it means that I really don’t like it. In fact, I end up hating it.

When my favorite books get made into a movie I hover between all-out excitement and all-out apprehension, bordering on complete horror. I know that some movies made from books are absolutely wonderful (such as The Lord of the Rings series, or Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth… yummy.) and some movies made from books are actually better than the book (Forest Gump), but most of the time the movie just never measures up to the book. I am usually able to keep the movie and the book in two separate compartments in my brain so I don’t end up hating the movie of a book I love and had high hopes for. Harry Potter is a perfect example of that.

I finally got to see Confessions of a Shopaholic yesterday (found it at the library, so I didn’t even have to rent it! Woot!). Sophie Kinsella is one of my favorite authors because her books are light, witty, and just all-around fun to read. Confessions of a Shopaholic was my first Kinsella book and I immediately fell in love with the main character, Becky Bloomwood. She is a flawed character, but still so lovable, funny, kind, silly, clutzy, and loyal to her family and friends. Pretty much the formula for every Kinsella main character. When I first saw the movie trailer for CoaS, I had those old, familiar feelings of apprehension and excitement. Becky Bloomwood would make such a lovely movie character! She has such funny things happen to her, how could you not love a movie about her? But, and here’s a big but from me, in the books she lives in London and is British (except for the second book where she briefly lives in New York) and in the movie she is American, living in New York. Being an anglophile… WHY?? No one changed Harry Potter into a surly American kid? No one changed Bridget Jones into an (actually fat) American girl. WHY did you movie execs have to mess with Becky?? (And isn’t it ironic that they cast a British actress to play this American character who should actually be British? It’s like both the actress and the character are putting on accents! Okay, maybe that’s just me.)

In the movie I was disappointed at how shallow and self-centered Becky appeared. By the end we finally saw the Becky I love from the book. But it took the entire movie. Sure, they kept in some of my favorite things (Suze and Tarquin; calling her nemesis “Alicia B*@$# Longlegs”; having such adorable, if slightly crazy, parents), but that fun, lovable feel from the book just wasn’t there. Nope. Won’t be seeing that movie again. I’ll certainly read the books again. But not see the movie. Chalk it up to another failed book to movie adaptation.

Next up, Aiden has asked me to take him to the new Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He’s reading the books now, and loving them. He loves the first two Narnia books. I just read online that a bit of the plot is being changed in this movie. Hopefully he won’t react like I do to movie adaptations.

It’s Oh, So Quiet

I love going walking late at night because when I come home everyone is asleep and the house is quiet and peaceful. Not that my kids aren’t peaceful. Okay, they aren’t. They are three loud, active, excitable, rambunctious kids. The house doesn’t feel much peace when everyone is awake and running around all crazy like. I love my kids and I love their noise (most of the time). But I also cherish quiet. Stillness. Peace.

After walking 3 or 4 miles, I need time to cool down. I’m wide awake and can’t get to sleep. I don’t like to turn on the TV this late and disturb the peace. So what do I do? Of course I spend a few moments catching up on Facebook (I am seriously addicted. Something has to change there!) but then I usually read. I read for far too long, until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore and I’m thinking about how early I have to get up to get the boys ready for school, but I still don’t want to put the book down.

I like books. I mean, I really like books. Even if I’m not nearly as invested in a particular story as I think I should be, I still manage to find enough about it that I tell myself how much I love the book. I very rarely give poor ratings to what I read on Goodreads because I really just enjoy being able to read something and being transported to another time or place.

I take my books too much to heart. I know I’ve been reading too much Maeve Binchey when I’m angry at my husband for no reason and think he’s going to cheat on me. (Love Maeve Binchey, but really… why does every main female character get cheated on by the main male character??) I know I’m reading too much Jane Austen when I start to refer to my husband as Mr. Chocolate Phoenix, not as Ches. I’m reading too much period literature when I find myself in awe of toilets, fresh clothing, and driving to pick my kids up from school. It’s good to have variety.

I went to the library today and finally found The Girl With The Pearl Earring. I’ve been hoping to find that one for months. I also got Austenland, by Shannon Hale because I love Shannon Hale, I want something just fun and enjoyable to read, and I’ve read it before and know I will have a good time. The third book I picked out is Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laura Viera Rigler. Yes, I picked it out for the title. I’m waiting for Water For Elephants, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, all of which a friend is loaning me. And I have Orange Is The New Black on hold at the library. It says I’m next in the queue. I think I’m pretty varied in the books I read. I like to change things up a bit so I don’t get stuck in a rut (like reading too much Maeve Binchey at once!). The last several books I read were Holes by Louis Sachar, some of the Confessions of a Shopaholic series, The Lady and The Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, Night by Eli Wiesel, and The Kite Runner. See? No rhyme or reason to what I read. I just like to read.

I love to read at night when there is no one trying to interrupt me. Sometimes I read in bed. Ches got me a little lamp for my nightstand so I can do just that. But I feel guilty when I’m still reading at 1 am and I know his alarm goes off at 5 am. So usually I just sit on the couch in the loft and read. Sometimes I sit on the comfy couch downstairs and read, but I can’t see a clock down there so then I’m really up until 1 or 2 am… and often later.

Tonight I got home and only the light above the dinner table was on. I came upstairs to find Aiden asleep on the couch in the loft. Parker is asleep in my bed, with Ches. I hate to disturb people, but I need my cool off, escape time. So maybe I’ll just head back downstairs and let everyone stay where they are. I have a date with Tracy Chevalier.

Great First Lines

I was roaming around ew.com this morning and came across a photo gallery titled “20 Classic Opening Lines in Books”. At first I just wanted to see how many of these books I’ve read and which books I have yet to read. Now I’m wondering more about the “classic” part of the title. Some of these are classic. A lot of these are too modern and may not ever be classic. It might be too early to tell. I have only read 7 of the 20 books (but I’ve seen the movie “A River Runs Through It”. Does that count?). I have read other books by a couple of the authors, just not the book on this list. I have no interest in reading some of the books based on the genre or on the other books by the same author.

What makes a good, “classic”, opening line? Is it just that it is supposed to grab you right away? Is it something quotable? What do you think?

After you have read EW’s list, you might want to check out the Bulwer Lytton contest winners. They hold a contest each year for the worst opening book lines. Of course they aren’t real books, but they are hilarious. The link for the winners is here.

And now, according to EW, the 20 Classic Opening Lines in Books:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
–PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1813), Jane Austen

Call me Ishmael.
–MOBY-DICK (1851), Herman Melville

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
–A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859), Charles Dickens

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
–ANNA KARENINA (1877), Leo Tolstoy

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.
–THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1885), by Mark Twain

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
–THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (1951), J.D. Salinger

It was a pleasure to burn.
–FAHRENHEIT 451 (1953), Ray Bradbury

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
–THE BELL JAR (1963), Sylvia Plath

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
–ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE (1967), Gabriel García Márquez

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
–FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1971), Hunter S. Thompson

A screaming comes across the sky.
–GRAVITY’S RAINBOW (1973), Thomas Pynchon

Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.
–HIGH-RISE (1977), J.G. Ballard

A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.
–A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES (1980), John Kennedy Toole

You better not never tell nobody but God.
–THE COLOR PURPLE (1981), Alice Walker

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
–NEUROMANCER (1984), William Gibson

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.
–A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT (1989), Norman Maclean

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
–MIDDLESEX (2002), Jeffrey Eugenides

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
–HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSPOHER’S STONE (1998), J.K. Rowling

They shoot the white girl first.
–PARADISE (1999), Toni Morrison

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
–THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, by Neil Gaiman (2008)

Children’s Literature

I got permission from my friend Debbie to share her notes and lists from the portion of the literature class that she taught. Debbie is amazing. She really knows her stuff. I enjoyed listening to her that night because everything she said I would have said. Anyway, her class was on learning to read and loving to read. Here’s her notes:

According to Sylvia Rimm, an American psychologist specializing in parenting, child development and learning, the 3 things that will help your children be successful in life are: Instill in them a love of learning, keep them reading, and create/maintain a good relationship with them.
Also, Thomas S. Monson says this in his talk “Hallmarks of a Happy Home,” Ensign, Oct 2001 “An essential part of our learning library will be good books.

Reading is one of the true pleasures of life. In our age of mass culture, when so much that we encounter is abridged, adapted, adulterated, shredded, and boiled down, it is mind-easing and mind-inspiring to sit down privately with a congenial book.

Young children also enjoy books and love to have their parents read to them.”

LEARN TO LOVE READING
If you come to understand what a vital role reading will play in your child’s life, this will come more easily. Deliberate things you can do are to read in front of them yourself, to read to them (or have them read to you), and to talk to them about their stories—all of them frequently! If they see your excitement, they won’t be able to resist. Also, don’t forget to build your own home library and to go to the library or book store together often!

Tips to success:
-Have them sit on your lap, back to belly.
-Involve as many of your five senses as possible when reading together (ex. sniff the air to smell the flowers in the book or listen to the wind blow). Touch and Feel books are fun for this.
-Be interactive (This will already be happening some as you use your 5 senses). Use fun, animated voices! Basically let your creativity flow and you will find both you and your child enjoying yourselves immensely.
-Discover what books your child enjoys. Have your child circle the books he/she is interested in on the Scholastic book order catalogs. You can use these as a library list or to build your own home library.
-Pull in other parts of their world by reading books about things that are familiar to their life (i.e. family events/characteristics, going to the park, Disney, potty training, etc.)
-for older kids, talk a lot to other parents and have your kids ask their friends for ideas of good books. Series are fun, and libraries are great resources! Ask librarians or consult their lists they already have put together. I like to encourage Newbery Honor books as well, to add a “classic” style in to what they already enjoy reading. Just google “Newbery books” for a list.

LEARN TO READ
While our brains are naturally capable of language development, reading requires a lot more training—especially learning to read English! While the Spanish language has 35 sounds and 38 ways to spell those sounds, English has 44 sounds and over 1,100 ways to spell them! It takes time and repetition for it all to sink in.

Pieces to the puzzle of learning to read include learning letters, letter sounds, sight words, single syllable words (like cat, mom, sun), then double syllable words, and finally moving on to more complex short words. It sounds complex, but by simply reading to your children you will already be teaching them a lot of it!

Our family has some fun ways to introduce them to the beginning stages of reading—I will just mention a few. To start, we have bath foam letters and numbers. They stick to foreheads and bath walls and are so fun! We just talk and learn while bathing. We also love The Letter Factory movie by Leapfrog ($10 at Target). It teaches the sounds of letters in a fun memorable way.

We love to start with books that are simple and colorful—like Happy Baby board books and other books that they want to read over and over. The familiarity helps boost their confidence to make them feel like they are already “reading”, and the memorization is great for brain development! From this point on, we try to read books that work on things like word families (cat, mat, hat, bat) and other simple ideas. Sometimes we throw in something that is not as fun like sight-word flashcards to help in an area they are not as strong in. Another great tool is to have your children read from the Book of Mormon. It has a lot of simple repetitive words and phrases—great for learning to read!

The key to all of it is not to force it. When it stops being fun, the learning stops too. Just remember to enjoy the process and the stories. Happy reading!

CHILDREN’S BOOK LISTS
For all children: Where the Sidewalk Ends

TODDLER/PRESCHOOL:
-Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald, 5 Little Monkeys (incorporates song and/or rhyme)
-From Head to Toe by Eric Carle (interactive)
-Any Disney book! (familiarity and repetition)
-Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault (fun ABC book)
-No, David! by David Shannon (most David Shannon books are great)
-Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
-Happy Baby board books (Things That Go or Words)
-“Step Into Reading” or “I Can Read” series (find any they are interested in—around $3.00 each at Wal-Mart. These series are automatically leveled for you which is nice!)
-Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
-Take Me Out of the Bathtub by Alan Katz (singing)
Any and all Dr. Suess books!
Go Away Big Green Monster
Silly Sally
Caps for Sale
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Goodnight Moon
Joseph had a little overcoat
Llama, llama, red pajama
Where There’s a Bear, There’s Trouble
The Unvalentine by Sam Beeson
The Very Busy Spider
Toby
Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton
Red Hat Green Hat
The Line-Up Book
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry , and the Big Hungry Bear (all-time favorite!)

A LITTLE OLDER (ages 5-8)
Junie B Jones books
Magic Tree House series
Rainbow Magic Fairies series
American Girl series
Magic School Bus series
Disney Fairies series
*library books are great for this stage as it the shortest stage of reading.
(Ask others for more ideas!)

OLDEST (8-12)
Maniac Magee
The Giver
Sara Plain and Tall
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Julie of the Wolves
Bud, Not Buddy
Holes
Where the Red Fern Grows
A Wrinkle in Time
Call of the Wild
Ender’s Game
Little Women
City of Ember
Earthquake Terror
Because of Winn Dixie
Chasing Vermeer
Riding Freedom
Poppy
The Watsons Go to Birmingham
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Jeremy Thatcher
Running Out of Time
My Side of the Mountain
Little House on the Prairie series
Anne of Green Gables series
Inkheart series
Leven Thumps series
Sister’s Grimm series
Mysterious Benedict Society series
Gregor the Overlander series
Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series
Eragon series
Percy Jackson series
Fablehaven series
Harry Potter series
Charlie Bone series
Guardians of Ga’Hoole series
Artemis Fowl series
Gatekeeper series
Alex Rider series
Looking Glass Wars series
books by Roald Dahl
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Books Books Books!!

For those of you who weren’t able to come to my church a couple weeks ago and attend the little class I taught on literature (ummm, I think that’s just about all of my readers, actually), I now give you the notes and book list!! The first half of the class was taught by another woman, Debbie, and it was all about children’s literature. She talked a lot about instilling a love of reading in young children and brought along a number of books from different age levels. She also sent out a book list, which I’ll include in another post.

For my part, I wanted to talk to two main groups of people: 1) Those who do not consider themselves readers, but perhaps would like to be and don’t really know how to get started; and 2) Those who are readers but are either stuck in a rut or just want some new books to read. So, here are the notes from my class, and my list of books and authors to follow. Keep in mind these are just the notes. Of course we talked a bit about each point (I hear I’m very funny) and this just gives you the main point. I hope this helps some of you.

Tips to Get You Reading

1. Don’t jump into big, classic books. Even people who love Jane Austen have difficulty reading her novels. Start with something lighter.
2. Do try a variety of genres. There is something out there for everyone: mystery, romance, adventure, true life, memoirs, fantasy, science fiction…
3. Read Young Adult. They don’t always deal with high school age kids. They have everything that a “regular” adult novel has and they tend to be more clean.
4. Read what is popular. There is a reason certain novels spend weeks at the top of a best seller list.
5. Don’t quit! Sometimes it takes a few chapters to really get hooked on a book. Give it more than 30 pages (some people recommend 50 to 100 pages) However…
6. Don’t be afraid to quit if you don’t like it! Sometimes after you have been plugging through a book it just feels like you are wasting your time. You don’t want to waste your time reading a book you’re going to regret. Also, if the material makes you uncomfortable, quit reading and don’t feel guilty about it.

Places To Look For New Books

1. Best sellers lists. You can find these in newspapers or in libraries. If it’s at the top of a best seller list, there’s a reason for it: people like it and are buying it! So go ahead and try it.
2. Goodreads. This website connects you with friends and strangers, has book lists, book reviews, book clubs… it’s an endless source! www.goodreads.com There are other book websites, too. www.weread.com is like goodreads. Facebook has an application called “Visual Bookshelf”. www.booktrib.com has book reviews, author interviews, and a weekly book giveaway. www.bookcrossing.com is kind of an anonymous book share community from around the world.
3. Movies. 99.9% of the time the book is SO much better than the movie!! If you liked the movie, I can almost guarantee you are going to love the book.
4. Join a book club. You will often be asked to read a book you might not have picked up otherwise. Also, the other members of your book club will have books you can borrow and always have suggestions for something good to read.
5. Judge a book by its cover. The cover art, the font, the title is all put on the book a certain way for a certain reason: to attract certain readers! If you like the look of a book, you may just like the story.

Now, as a reminder on this book list: These are MY favorite books and MY must-reads. I didn’t include some books that may be considered a “must-read” by other people because either I didn’t read it or I didn’t like it. (And that’s why I have a “My Friends’ Favorites” on the list. You guys may recognize these books and authors.) Here’s the list:

I Think Everyone Should Read These At Least Once (Sariah’s Favorites)
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis #
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams #
Memoirs of A Geisha – Arthur Golden
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Night – Elie Wiesel *+#
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortensen*+#
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield#
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins #
Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl * +
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society –Mary Ann Shaffer #
These Is My Words – Nancy E. Turner #
The Scarlet Pimpernel – Emmuska Orczy

*non fiction
+memoir
# Read this. Read this now.

My Favorite YA Books
Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Twilight Series – Stephenie Meyer
The Goose Girl – Shannon Hale #
The Hunger Game – Suzanne Collins
Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
Bridge to Terebithia – Katherine Patterson
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
The Secret Garden – Francis Hodgson Burnett
The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Elizabeth George Speare
Book of a Thousand Days – Shannon Hale
Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast – Robin McKinley

Chick Lit
Confessions of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella
Size 12 Is Not Fat – Meg Cabot
Austenland – Shannon Hale
The Actor and the Housewife – Shannon Hale
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
Circle of Friends – Maeve Binchey
Tara Road – Maeve Binchey

My Friends’ Highly Recommended Books
Water For Elephants – Sarah Gruen
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson *
The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
One For the Money (series) – Janet Evanovich
Anything by Lorna Landvik
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
*
Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell *

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel – Kate Morton
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Eragon (series) – Christopher Paolini
A Blistered Kind of Love – Angela Ballard *+
The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls +
To Kill A Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Jack Ryan series – Tom Clancy
Little House on the Prarie (series) – Laura Ingles Wilder
Drina Ballerina (series) – Jean Estoril
Prisoner of Tehran – Marina Nemat +
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley
Peace Like a River – Leif Enger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffengger
Where The Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (series) – Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables (series) – L.M. Montgomery
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

* non fiction
+ memoir

My Friends’ Highly Recommended Authors
Janet Evanovitch
Lorna Landvik
Victoria Holt
Catherine Crookson
Jan Karon
Michael Connelly
Jeffery Deaver
James Patterson
Dean Koontz
Steven King
Jane Austen
Mary Stewart
Helen McInnes
David Eddings
Terry Brooks
Terry Pratchett
Mary Higgins Clark
Joanne Fluke
John Grisham
Shannon Hale
Maeve Binchey
Anita Stansfield
Katherine Kurtz
Michelle Bell