2015 Books in Review

  
At my best count, I read around 85 books this year. I did a bad job of keeping track of them, which is something I want to work on in  2016. The number jumps to well over 100 if you count the re-reads of the year, but I think 80 or so new books in one year is pretty good. Here is my year in review:

Best Book: The Lake House by Kate Morton. I waited a long time and this book was truly worth the wait.

Worst Book: Paper Towns by John Green. This book built…and built…and built…then fell flat on it’s face.

Best New Writer: JR Ingrisano, who published Captain Jolly’s Do Over. 

Best Mystery/Thriller: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Creepy and incredibly engaging.

Best Chick Lit: Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella. Her books are always an easy, fluffy read when you need a mental break.

Best Twist Ending: Off the Page by Samantha Van Leer and Jodi Picoult. This was a fun YA sequel that answers the question, “what happens to the characters when the book is closed?”

Biggest Book Disappointment: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. You know how you feel on a cold January day? Like you’ll never be happy or warm again? This is how that book made me feel.

Book I’m Most Excited For in 2016: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. It is one of my life goals to finagle an early copy of his next book.

I hope you read some really great books this year, and I hope that your 2016 is full of amazing words. Thanks for making my words some of the ones you read this year!

 

 

 

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How Do You Vacation From Homeschool?

It’s Christmas week! It’s Christmas week! All over our town, school-aged kiddos slept in, got up and DID NOT put on their uniforms, and headed to the mall/museum/zoo to enjoy the first day of holiday break.

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I remember so well how special Christmas vacation was when I was little. It made the holidays feel real. It was my chance to watch bad day time TV and read FOR AS LONG AS I WANTED. My friends and I would go to the mall in the middle of the day, which felt decadent and a little bit naughty. You know the feeling, right?

So while this was going on all around us this morning, JC and I got up as usual. We had our morning routine (because holiday or no holiday, if you mess with my kid’s morning or night routine, our entire day falls apart). And then we…had a regular day. We read for as long as we wanted. He worked on his “novel” about Hoth, the ice planet from Star Wars (AKA he dictated to me and I typed as fast as I could). Nana came over and we went to the mall to finish up our shopping. We had lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. He’s currently drawing one AT-AT Walker after another in his “animation” notebook. It is essentially just another day for us. It was a fun, happy day, but it leaves me questioning: how do you have a vacation from project based homeschooling?

For the most part, we don’t follow a strict schedule. There are certainly parts our day that are more “school” than others, but the majority of the time we’re pretty free flowing. So how do I make “school breaks” special? Should I even have school breaks? I mean, for a 5-year-old, he has it pretty easy. And I’m certainly not going to stop him from working on something I would consider a homeschool project (even if it’s just considered “play” to him) while we’re technically on a break. But I find myself longing a little bit for that excited feeling of freedom, for both he and I. I don’t work a 9 to 5 job, so there’s no time off or Christmas party or holiday bonus. And he doesn’t school traditionally, so there’s nothing to break from.

This is one of these moments when I have to step back and think about the situation, long and hard. Why was it that I felt such freedom and happiness during Christmas break? It was the mental freedom from having to think and the physical freedom from being in school all day. When I look at it like that, I’m glad that JC doesn’t notice when we have a homeschool break. When I let go of something I have been conditioned to think (“school is out! I don’t have to learn anything!”) I realize that for my  kid, and my situation, I’m doing it right.

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I’m sure there will come a time when homeschool isn’t as fun as it is now. And we’ll take that break, and we’ll savor it. But for now, back to creating.

Holly Jolly Books for Kids 

  
I love Christmas. I love children’s books. So you can imagine how gleeful I get when Thanksgiving ends and I can pull out our holiday books, many of which I admit I owned before I had a kid. 

Here are our favorites this year:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: JC is obsessed with this book. We read it at least once a day. We listen to the audio book. We watch the movie. There is something so charming about the rhymes and rhythms of this book, and it packs such an important lesson into simple prose. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Oh, good grief: know how many times I’ve read this book so far this season? I don’t mind, though, because I love it. I love that Charlie Brown feels a little blue at the holidays–because I think we all do, sometimes. 

The Night Before Christmas: So, I might like this one a little more than JC, although he loves the description of Santa. I adore the language in this poem, especially this line: “as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly/ when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky”. It’s one of my favorite lines of literature ever. 

How Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas: This is a super cute addition to the series that puts dinosaurs in real life situations: how do they eat? Go to school? Say goodnight? All the books crack JC up, but especially this one.

Eloise at Christmastime: Lets be honest: if you read this book as a kid, you wanted to be Eloise just a little bit. It’s been a great launching pad for looking up pictures of New York City and talking about Christas traditions. 

What are you and your little one reading this season? Any suggestion? 


NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

Hi everyone! Sorry for the radio silence, but over Thanksgiving I hurt my right shoulder and lost all movement in my arm for a week. Talk about a nightmare for a writer! Since it’s no longer agony to type, I thought I’d bring everyone up to speed on how I fared during this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge.

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I made it to 35,000 words, 15,000 away from the goal number. But I’m not upset or disappointed for 2 reasons:

  1. I wrote every single day. Rear end in chair, pen in hands, keyboard clacking away. Some days, there were lots of words. Other days, there were very (very!) few words. But there were words.
  2. I came to the realization that as far as I’m concerned, a single month is not enough time for me to write a good, real, deep story. The 35,000 words I got down last month aren’t a cohesive novel. It’s perhaps the bones of one–but it was really me getting to know my main character. There’s a lot of internal dialogue. Since I started with a relatively new idea and only did minimal outlining, I’m not really surprised.

I really like to the idea of National Novel Writing Month. I think it helps a lot of people (like me!) sit down and focus. But when I consider some of my favorite contemporary authors–like Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, and Kate Morton–and the fact that it takes them years to research and write a book, I don’t feel so bad about my long process of “getting to know” my characters (not that what I managed to churn out last month is comparable to any of them, but you know what I mean).

I guess I should probably just admit to myself that the fast-paced, deadline-driven atmosphere of NaNoWriMo doesn’t really cater to my life situation or my personality…but I’ll probably try again next year anyway!

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Those are my results–how did you do?!?