#MustReadIn 2016 Update

My 'to read' list on Goodreads continues to outnumber (I swear it grows exponentially) the number of books I have actually read. If you feel half as overwhelmed by this as I do, then joining up with Carrie Gelson and the the #MustReadIn2017 crew might be just for you. 

Last year I committed to reading 36 titles. That list is here. Thirty six turned out to be the magic number for me! I finished all the books on my 2016 list! 

I loved nearly all the books I finished since the last update in September. The last three; Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi,  Always, Abigail by Nancy Cavanaugh, and The Real Boy by Anne Ursu were pure joy and a perfect reminder as to why I make these lists in the first place.

As I reflect on this year's list of books I realized that different titles wowed me for numerous reasons.

Some, like these next three, opened my eyes to seeing different world realities.


The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks has been on my list for years and I am so thankful I finally got around to reading it. His capacity to find and celebrate the humanity in everyone humbles me.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates just gobsmacked me. His writing, his message, and his historical perspective should be required reading for everyone in the Americas.

One Native Life by Richard Wagamese is a book that I savoured. I let myself read it in small bites to let his stories and advice about living through and surviving trauma, percolate and settle in.

Some were emotionally devastating.

While reading Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys I wept buckets. It is one of the finest war narratives I have ever read. It reveals to us the humanity of strangers against a backdrop of evil, with all the horror and brutality of war.

Others are examples of the finest middle grade fiction.


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones is such a joy filled book. It's also the book I have most recommended people purchase for younger family and friends. It made me want to go out and start farming chickens. (I'm thinking her next book, Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones just might make it onto my 2017 list)

Sheila Turnage's The Odds of Getting Even is another of the best of the best. "The Tupelo Landing novels are loaded with humor and mystery, and at the same time, imbued with universal truths. Life with all its joys and heartaches, is messy business. This, Turnage reveals to us, is what it means to be human."

Not only is Donna Gephart's Death by Toilet Paper exemplary middle grade fiction, it is the sweetest surprise from a book on this list this year. From the cover I expected a much sillier read. Instead I discovered sensitive, realistic characters dealing with complicated issues.

I read authors I knew nothing about. 

I now have a hard core literary crush on Jason Reynolds. Both When I Was the Greatest and All American Boys are remarkable reads. I ended up finishing three more of his books this year. I have never met a Jason Reynold's character I didn't love. I hope to have read everything he has ever written to date by the end of 2017.

One book I'm thankful I carried over from the previous year.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta was on my 2015 must read list. If you haven't read it, this is why books win the Printz award. The writing in this book is just gorgeous. The story is mythical and magical. I love the honesty and love between the characters: not just the romantic love, but the deep caring that characters have for each other. Her new book, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, might just make it onto my 2017 must read list.

Then there is the best new (to me) series.

While many of these books are part of a series, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is only one I feel compelled to read more of. I adore his motley crew of flawed characters. I adored this book so much that I purchased copies of it to hand out as gifts to three of my great nieces. 

And one book contains the fictional family I wish I had grown up in.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall was one in the Penderwick series I had overlooked. I wish my sons were young again so I could read these books to them. 

How did you all do?

#IMWAYR December 19, 2016

Hurrah! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

It was a busy week. Our house is decorated, some projects are completed and I listened to a lot of books while doing it. I'm almost listened out but have two 1/2 more projects, and wrapping to complete first.


5 stars
Little You by Richard Van Camp & Julie Flett (Illustrations)

I went shopping at Kidsbooks this morning and purchased two copies of this book for my grandbabies to come. It celebrates all the love and joy we feel for our children and all the love and joy they bring to us.


4 stars
Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff Narrated by Bruce Mann

I absolutely loved this book! While components of the original tale make themselves known, this story goes far beyond its beginnings. On the one hand it is more terrifying, but on the other it's filled with such sweet tenderness. There are lessons here about what's truly important in life and how to get along with others no matter how different we might first seem.

3.5 stars
Red: The True Story Of Red Riding Hood  by Liesl Shurtliff Narrated by Tara Sands

While I enjoyed this one, I didn't connect with the characters and their situation in the same way as I did with Jack. I must admit though, that I found snippets of myself in Goldie, the girl who talks too much. What I like most about the series is how Liesl Shurtliff plays with and interrupts our preconceived notions of good and evil.

4 stars
The Case Of The Missing Moonstone (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, #1) By Jordan Stratford Narrated by Nicola Barber

I have had this book on my list for a very long time. I am so thankful that it became available as an audiobook so I could listen to it while I am working on Christmas projects. That this historical mystery series celebrates two strong, intellectual girls who really lived (even if they were not actually children together) makes me delighted. I love all the historical details about the characters and their lives.
The series posits that Ada Lovelace, nee Byron, and Mary Shelley, nee Godwin, become friends while sharing a tutor. Together they form the Wallstonecraft Detective Agency, a secret constabulary. Their goal is to apprehend clever criminals. In this first case the girls have to figure out why a lady's maid confessed to a theft she did not do.

4 stars
The Case Of The Girl In Grey (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #2) By Jordan Stratford Narrated by Nicola Barber

I wasn't impressed at first by Ada and Mary's sisters showing up and wanting to join the detective agency. However they did eventually show that they had their own unique talents to contribute. This second novel has the girls trying to figure out what is amiss with a young girl's fiancé. Then there is another young woman who has fled from an insane asylum. What makes these books work for me is that they highlight history from a feminine perspective and at the same time are loaded with suspense and adventure. However, while I enjoy this series, I suspect that readers with less background knowledge might not get as much out of them. 

3.5 stars
A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern Narrated by Ashley Clements & Amanda Wallace
In spite of the fact that this book deals with traumatic event, it turned out to be rather sweet.
Belinda, a young girl with development disabilities is sexually assaulted. Emily is a thoughtful smart girl who witnesses the event, but doesn't act. The story is told from both their perspectives.
I am not an expert on developmental disabilities except to say that in my experience of students with them, they are all pretty much unique characters with unique challenges.
That's what I found here. I love that both these girls are complex, flawed characters. 
As their story progresses both of them learn about themselves and each other. The bit of romance is just right. I love that at the same time as the characters act out scenes from a play of Pride and Prejudice, the plot of that novel is played out in their own relationships.


5 stars
Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

There is so much to love here. The formatting of the book with gorgeous illustrations and chunks of text is a good start. I appreciated the lines of poetry and quotations from White's other writings. The section that shows White's different revisions as he worked towards the final beginning of Charlotte's Web provides an authentic lesson on writing for writers of all ages. 
After finishing this, I'm committed to to re-reading Charlotte's Web in 2017.
My thanks to Melissa Sweet for helping us understand and know this brilliant kindhearted man.  
I'll be unpacking this quote for some time, "To be free, in a planetary sense, is to feel you belong to the earth. To be free, in a social sense, is to feel at home in a democratic framework."

I'm listening to Goblins by Philip Reeve.


I have no idea really. I've got a couple more books from my must read in 2016 to get to and hope to find time for them.

#IMWAYR December 12, 2016

Hurrah! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

It is now official. 
Both of my son's partners are expecting babies. Sometime in June I will be a grandmother! I am a tad excited about this. If you have ideas for what to get as gifts (books or other stuff) for expecting parents, I am open for suggestions.

Otherwise, I have had a somewhat dismal reading week. What I finished was great, but I was busy. I helped out at my old school's book fair last week. That is how I managed to find time to read all the picture books. I had my niece and nephew over one night because of snow. Then my family got some serious baking in. We have made peanut butter balls, shortbread and peanut butter cornflake squares.


5 stars
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman Narrated by Martin Jarvis
What can I say. I adore Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. As I read this, I imagined how much fun these two had writing it.
Two children are born. Another, the antichrist, arrives at the hospital and his planned substitution goes awry.
Consequently his strategic upbringing is meted out to the wrong child. This really screws things up, as nothing takes. Meanwhile, the real antichrist grows up in a small village with loving parents and a cohort of close friends.
Considerable celestial and satanic energy have been put into preparing for Armageddon. As the time draws near, the armies of good and evil are ready and waiting for the antichrist to take over the world and destroy it.
But what if the main actor decides to change plans?
This novel is peopled by a delightful cast of characters, including The Gang of Them, a 'fussy angel and a fast living demon', witches and witch finders, and the four Horsemen of the apocalypse. I loved them all.


5 stars
The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation (The Princess in Black #4) by Shannon Hale Dean Hale & LeUyen Pham (Illustrations)

I was so happy to read this last week. After a strong beginning the series flagged a bit for me. This one takes me back to why I loved the first one so much. Poor Princess in Black, even while on vacation she can't get away from fighting monsters. At least she can count on Duff looking after things while she is away. Or can she?


4 stars
School's First Day of School by Adam Rex & Christian Robinson

This is a very sweet story about the first day of school from the schools perspective. It will be a delightful book to read to all children starting school, and everyone else who helps them navigate this great adventure.

5 stars
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

What a delightful read! This is no ordinary princess, and this is no ordinary pony. After an inauspicious beginning, together they will change the world. (I bought two copies of this for the little girls in my life)

4 stars
Little Red And The Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

What a delightful retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood. I laughed all the way through it. Red is a strong indomitable character who is sure the lion would rather eat donuts than people. These illustrations are gorgeous.

4 stars
Are Pirates Polite? By Corrine Demass, Artemis Roehrig & David Catrow (illustrations)

These raucous pirates show how it's possible to be rowdy and wild and have a good time, but still remember to use your manners. It's sweet. Catrow's images are delightful!

4 stars
Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman & Dan Yaccarino (Illustrations)

This book is loaded with charm and humour. A boy and a robot become unlikely friends. When the robot accidentally gets turned off the boy tries to fix it. When the boy goes to sleep, the robot ends up trying to fix the boy.

4 stars
The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat (an elephant and piggie like reading book)

Fun Fun Fun! And it's loaded with math. A group of group of four friends have to figure out how to share three cookies. How they managed to achieve this is hilarious.

3.5 stars
Fly Guys Ninja Christmas by Ted Arnold

Fly guy books never languished on the library shelf. I've never met a reluctant beginning reader who didn't love them. So I was excited at the book fair to see this Christmas book. It didn't disappoint. It is loaded with the same humor of the others as Fly Guy tries to protect his family from the stranger who arrives on Christmas Eve. I purchased a copy for one of my nephews.

3 stars
Groovy Joe: Ice Cream And Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin & Tom Lichtenheld

I wanted to love this book by Eric Litwin, author of the Pete the Cat books. Unfortunately it didn't quite work for me. It's got fun characters and a delightful message about sharing. Maybe if I listen to the song that goes along with it I would like it better.


I'm listening to Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff. It is fabulous!

I'm going to be busy finishing up sewing projects so I suspect I will be mostly listening to books. I've downloaded Red by Liesl Shurtliff and suspect that will be what I put on after Jack.