Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Vacation Reads (What's on My Nightstand)

I started my summer break with a reading bang.  As things got busier in July, it slowed down a bit. As we head into our last few weeks of summer vacation, and have an upcoming driving vacation, I'm looking at what I'm hoping to get to in August.

Personal Reading:

I've been striving to keep some personal balance in my reading, and one of the ways I've wanted to do that is to use my Kindle more (for review reading when possible, but also personal reading). Several of my review titles are on my Kindle this month.

I also am trying to read a personal non-review book every couple of months.  I have to put The Book Which Must Not Be Named, because I've promised to read it so many times and haven't, but let's just say it's on my list, because Amanda has been rereading the series, so perhaps it will be a double-bang for your buck book if I bring it along and we both read it.

Another area that I have tried to beef up is my Christian non-fiction.  I downloaded Tim Challies' The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion to my Kindle when it first came out, and I would definitely at least like to get started on that this month.

Review Books:

Cold Case is a YA mystery by Julia Platt Leonard which is supposed to be a great adult read as well. Amanda and I are both hoping to get to it soon.

I loved Gwendolen Gross' novel, The Other Mother (linked to my review from long ago), and occasionally I would check amazon to see if/when she had a book coming out. I happened to check up on her again and saw that she had just published The Orphan Sister. I was happy to get a review copy in my hands quickly and can't wait to dig in!

I am in the middle of One Day by David Nicholls, in preparation for a conference call I will be on with him soon. He also worked on the movie, which is coming soon (If you have any questions, please let me know!) So far, it's an interesting way to tell the story of two people. I'm stumbling a bit over the British-ness of it (for some reason, British lit makes my brain work overtime).

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by Jojo Moyes is also in progress (on my Kindle). It's excellent so far, and coincidentally also set in London (but it's easy to imagine it's America, so my brain doesn't hurt when I'm reading it).

Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn is also on my Kindle. I can't wait to see if I can inspire my kids with the tips and tools I know she will provide. Look out for a giveaway on August 3 at 5 Minutes for Books.

The fourth Tuesday of each month, you can join the book-lovers at 5 Minutes for Books for What's on Your Nightstand. Post what you are reading, or find out what they are reading if you are looking for some ideas!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

En Route

At the gate, before boarding our flight. I look around and this is what I see entertaining my fellow passengers-to-be:
  • a few newspapers
  • 3 "real books," (including Amanda)
  • 4 ereaders (1 Nook, and 3 Kindles, including mine)
  • 3 phones
  • 1 gaming device (Kyle)
  • 1 skein of yarn
  • a lucky soul poring over a map of Italy with her traveling companion
At the gate for our connecting flight, now listed 20 minutes late, which gives us just a bit more time to grab lunch.  They are looking for volunteers to take a flight that will get in 4 hours later, in exchange for a $200 voucher. My kids are good travelers, but another 4 hours in the airport might kill us all, and we have friends waiting for us, so I'm not tempted. 

Our substitute plane has arrived at the gate, but we've been "downgraded." They were already overbooked, and now they have even fewer seats. They aggressively recruit more volunteers, now offering $400 vouchers, and dinner vouchers for the airport to take a flight that will leave 6 hours later. This tempts me. $1200 would almost buy our Christmas airline tickets, but that would get us in at 11pm, assuming the flight arrives on time. We would have to get our rental car still, and wouldn't see our friends that night, and even this enticement is not worth it.  I don't regret turning it down.

Eventually they get the volunteers, an hour later and after a lot of announcements on the PA, reminiscent of a teacher scolding "I know that you know who stole my stapler. Everyone will be punished until someone returns it, and you are losing recess time until someone comes forwards."  We board the plane, getting our reassigned seats according to the new plane configuration. Luckily we have two together, and one single two rows up. Amanda and Kyle beg to be together, and I don't mind the opportunity to sit alone for 2 1/2 hours.

Half an hour into the flight, we hit turbulence. There are lots of children around me -- a girl of 9 in front of me, a 6-year-old boy across the aisle, a 3-year-old (posing as a free 23 month old lap baby without a ticket) in the seat behind them, and of course my own 2 rows back. With each new bump, the children laugh! Instead of feeling like a skipping stone as it sometimes does, this feels like that fun stomach drop you get when you quickly go into a dip on the road or on a roller coaster and the children are euphoric. The moms and I exchange happy smiles, since this is a much better reaction than fear.

We land two hours later than we were supposed to, but the eternal optimist justifies the delay.  If we had landed at 5:00pm, our drive might have been doubled, taking an hour or even more with the rush hour delay. Leaving the airport a little after 7:00pm, our trip took less than 40 minutes, arriving only 20 minutes later than my "worst case scenario" of traffic.

Our reunion with dear friends has been sweet and easy.

More to come. . . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July Kids' Picks

We are still all absorbed in summer reading. Yay!  Here's what my kids have picked for the month. Be sure to read other recommendations over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Amanda's (12 1/2) been revisiting some of her old favorites, including Harry Potter, as well as finishing up the Clique series that I mentioned in last month's post.

With my emerging bookworm Kyle (age 7), every discovery is a new one. Last month I asked about some series recommendations, and we actually found some he likes:

  • The brand new My Weirder School series from Dan Gutman (linked to my review), that has convinced him to go back and read some of the other series about these school kids.
  • We stumbled upon the Roscoe Riley Rules series in the library at the end of last month. There are 7 books in all, and Kyle zipped through 4 of them. He's taken a little bit of a break, but he's enjoyed those. Amanda read one in the car one day when she ran out of books, and she gave it her seal of approval as well. 

    Kyle says they are funny.

    Amanda says they remind her of Junie B. Jones, because he's always in trouble, but she said they didn't seem disrespectful like those are.

I've reviewed a LOT of kids' books over at 5 Minutes for Books this month. Check them out for more summer reading ideas.

For young teens and older tweens:
For independent readers (7 - 10):
Picture books:

Friday, July 08, 2011

Forget the kids -- go see ZOOKEEPER yourself

I like Kevin James, so I was pretty sure that I'd like Zookeeper, though I had my doubts about the target audience when I saw the preview. I assume that they are calling this a "Family movie."  The whole premise is that he got dumped 5 years ago, never got over her, and now she's back, and he thinks he might have a second chance.  However, she leads him to believe that she'll only be interested if he quits his unglamorous (in her opinion) job. The animals don't want to lose the best zookeeper they've ever had, so they surprise him when they tell him what to do.

I was invited to a screening yesterday, and even though Kyle thought the commercials were funny, I didn't think that the plot was Kyle-appropriate.  I took Amanda (12 1/2) instead.

She was happy to have an outing with me (even more so because we got cupcakes before the movie), but when I asked her if she would have wanted to see it anyway, she said "It has talking animals, Mom!" But then I gave her my lecture about how enjoying a movie involves suspension of disbelief.

And in fact, we both laughed and enjoyed the sweet romantic comedy.

But I'm really quite glad that I didn't take Kyle. Aside from the fact that the storyline just isn't age-appropriate, there were several things that I just don't need my 7-year-old repeating.  For example, since the animals are "experts at mating" they give him advice. This advice includes the bears coaching him on how to walk and swagger and telling him to "lead with his pudding cup."  The wolf tells him to mark his territory (yes, with pee), and the monkey says he just throws poop at girls.  This wasn't just in one scene. These tactics were referred to a few times.

This kind of all for one marketing (to kids of all ages from 3 on up, and aiming to appeal to adults as well) is one thing that bugs me about kids' movies (see my whole list of beefs at 5 Minutes for Mom), but as a movie for adults or tweens/teens, I like it. 

If you like romantic comedies with some silly Kevin James/Adam Sandler (one of the producers) type humor, and can suspend your disbelief, I can recommend Zookeeper.  I wasn't sorry that my middle school daughter was with me, but it's not the kind of movie I'd take Kyle to, although he probably would have enjoyed it.  I will say that adults made up the majority in this pre-release screening audience, and there were lots of laughs.

They don't make these kinds of PG movies much anymore. It's a shame that a movie that is targeted to adults has to ramp the crude humor or language up even more.  I recently said the same thing about Monte Carlo, which I reviewed on 5 Minutes for Mom, and I can also recommend, either for a girls' night out or for a mothers and daughters.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Wonderful Books to Read-Aloud

 I love to read books to and with my kids. I really do. It usually ends up being much easier to read with them (the same book at different times) than to read to them, but no matter the age, you can't beat a read-aloud. Instead of talking about what parts I liked or my child liked, I can see it. I can hear them laugh, they see me grin.

We've done pretty well this summer.

Amanda and I read Nerd Camp, which was funny with heart (something Amanda and I enjoy in a read-aloud).

I was able to revisit my beloved Penderwicks, this time with Kyle. They were just as I remembered them! (actually mature responsible boy-struck Rosalind was a bit younger than I remembered her, but I digress).  Within the first couple of pages, I realized why this was going to be a perfect read-aloud. The language is beautiful, but the characters are so easily voiced and identified (Skye is impulsive and sort of brash, Jane is over-the-top dramatic, Rosalind the mature voice of reason, and Batty has the babyish voice). Hearing Kyle crack up at Birdsall's clever use of language showed me how good his reading comprehension in (and how well he's paying attention, which his distracted behavior belies). When I first reviewed it after Amanda and I read it, I said that it would be a great read-aloud for boys and girls ages 7 up through the teen years, and I'm glad that this proved true.

There are several read-alouds on my What's on Your Nightstand post for this month, and I'd really like to read them, but I forgot something very important.

We've watched the first 2 Narnia movies this year, and I figured that Kyle might enjoy the books (and might be able to read them independently). So I decided that this summer when Carrie at Reading to Know held her annual Narnia challenge, that I'd join in.  It officially starts today, July 1. I don't know if she'll kick me out if I admit that I picked it up at the library on Wednesday and we've already read quite a few chapters. We are both loving it. I've read to Kyle while he's eating lunch. He finishes eating, I finish the chapter and close the book, and he says, "You can read another one."

We got our copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia from the library, but the Kindle version shows the delightful edition we are reading from. It's nicely old fashioned, but the pages are slick and bright and easy on my old eyes. There are also a few pen and ink drawings throughout.

It's such a wonderful story -- told as a story. Kyle and I keep chuckling over the fact that the children never shut the door of the wardrobe behind them because all sensible people know you never shut yourself inside a wardrobe.

I read this book once in college (with perhaps a chip on my shoulder), but didn't really "get" it. When I saw the movie this year, I finally started to understand it's appeal, but now that I'm reading it aloud, I see why this is such a wonderful story to share.

My goal for July is to finish this read-aloud with Kyle and either encourage him to read Prince Caspian on his own or read it aloud as well. We might try to watch the 3rd movie too (even though I know Carrie hated it).