Monday, November 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton Paper Dolls - Yes, This Is Real Life

This may just be the single most exciting review experience I had this year.  I couldn't believe it was even a question when I got the email from Quirk asking me to review the Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset.  It's got pantsuits, it's got White House ghosts, it's got Republican Adversaries, it's got Supreme Court Justices, it's got it all.  You can click here to get all the details and specs, but basically all you should need to hear is Presidential Paperdolls.

The idea for the book tour was to set a scene and give it a creative caption, which I have done below.

Feminist dance party in the Oval Office with RBG, Oprah, the ghost of Nancy Reagan, lady secret service, and Bono (who we all know is a friend to the ladies).  Jeb Bush only wishes he were invited.

So I've been playing with this dolls all weekend and marveling at their hilarity, but Luke really kicked it up a notch last night when he ran into my room and said "Come see what Bill did!"

Bill knew I was stressed so he took it upon himself to clean and vacuum my living room.

Hill, Jeb, the ghost of George Washington, and Clarence Thomas made sure he didn't miss any spots.

Of course it's only fair that I make the dolls do something for Luke now, so while he was at work this morning, they got out all the Christmas decorations.

The Ghost of George Washington hanging our stockings by the chimney with care.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg putting some lights on the tree.

Hillary supervising the unpacking of the ornaments.

And good old Bill, providing some jazz carols to keep them all in the holiday spirit.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Quirk for sending me this playset and please go get one of your own.  Regardless of your political persuasion, this is just a blast to have on hand.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Announcing the 2016 Best of Extravaganza!

This is my very favorite time of the year to be a blogger!  I love giving recommendations and writing reviews all year long, but my heart just has this special love for list-making - and what better kind of lists to make than book-related lists!  Before the week of Christmas, I'll be posting Best of Lists for various genres three or four days a week.  I've got a lot of books to recommend (and a few to pan) and I'm hoping to get them posted in time that you can use them as a shopping guide if you're looking for gift recommendations.  I'll be starting my list posts on December 2 and going until I run out of genres!  I'd love for you to add any recommendations you've got to the comments section of each list!

If you've got something or someone specific in mind, shoot me an email or post in the comments - I'd love to give a personalized recommendation just for you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Forgiven by Terri Roberts and Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

From Goodreads:
On October 2, 2006, a gunman entered an Amish one-room schoolhouse, shooting ten girls, killing five, then finally taking his own life. This is his mother's story. Not only did she lose her precious son through suicide, but she also lost her understanding of him as an honorable man. It was a trauma that none should ever have to face.

But the biggest headlines came when her Amish neighbors did the unimaginable, reaching out to the family of the shooter with comfort and forgiveness. Today Terri lives in harmony with the Amish and has built lasting relationships beyond what anyone could have thought possible. From the grace that the Amish showed Terri's family from day one, to the visits and ongoing care Terri has given to the victims and their families, no one could have foreseen the love and friendship that have been forged from the fires of tragedy.
I knew this would be a sad story, but I didn't expect to bawl my eyes out through the entire thing.  It's so sad, but also so beautiful.  I feel like Roberts' story is just unparalleled.  I remember when this happened, but somehow I missed the coverage of the Amish response to the shooting, so I was unprepared for how supernaturally kind and forgiving they were to the Roberts family.  It's a beautiful portrait of grace and how God can empower us to go so far beyond what our human hearts feel capable of.  I highly recommend this one and will be buying several copies to give as gifts this Christmas.

Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn't want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals--church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

Centered around seven sacraments, Evans' quest takes readers through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.

A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, Searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.
Another one that will rip your heart right out - I also cried through the entirety of this book.  I follow Evans' blog and love her ideas and writing style, so I grabbed this one as soon as I had the chance.  I could so strongly identify with her choice to both leave church and return to church, as it's something I've also gone through in the last five years or so.  She has such beautiful and honest stories about the pain and beauty of being a part of the Church and what that means.  It's another that I'll be buying my own copy of as well as passing around to everyone I know.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Doing Life

From Goodreads:
Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. 
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.
Like every honest human being, the thought of death both terrifies and fascinates me.  I'm currently particularly interested in how weird Western culture is about death denial and the lengths we go to avoid facing death - our own or of our loved ones.  Although this book is largely focused around the author's experiences as a crematory worker, she also introduces other ways of dealing with the bodies of the deceased, including natural burial, which I found particularly interesting.  I highly recommend this from both a literary and informational point of view - it's a pleasure to read, fascinating, and the author is a talented writer who does a great job of connecting her experiences with larger picture views about death and dying.
 From Goodreads:
What does it mean to face a life prison sentence? What have "lifers" learned about life—from having taken a life? Photographer Howard Zehr has interviewed and made portraits of men and women in Pennsylvania prisons who are serving life sentences without possibility of parole. Readers see the prisoners as people, de-mystified. 
Just like I'm both fascinated and terrified by death, the thought of imprisonment completely captures me in a truly scary way.  These are all short interviews, a page or two in length, accompanied by photos of men and women who have been sentenced to life in prison.  Through the interviews, the author/photographer addresses the complicated issues of life without the possibility of parole as a sentence from the point of view of those who have committed the crimes.  It's an issue I've considered a lot lately, and I was fascinated to hear how the men and women who are facing that sentence talk about it.

I feel like, as in every other case, there are such good arguments for each position.  I was moved by many of the men and women who wanted to redeem themselves and make something of their lives.  I also noticed how frequently they used language that placed the blame on outside sources - they would refer to "the incident" or "what happened" rather than taking responsibility for their own actions.  The images are, of course, somewhat dated, but the book itself, and the issue of the sentence itself are still current and valuable for readers today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Choose Your Own Adventure Club (Adventure 6: Villains You Love to Hate)

Almost all of us fell in love with Erin Bow's villain Linay when we read Plain Kate for last year's FYA Book Club.  He's so perfectly conflicted and sympathetic but also a horrible person.  He was the inspiration for the Choose Your Own Adventure category "Villains you love to hate" and I think we came up with some great options.

Courtney and I both chose The Library At Mount Char.  I'm not sure that you could really consider any of the characters in the book anything other than villains, but they're also all, to some degree or another, sympathetic at some point.  Read my review (linked above) for more details.

Stephanie read The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, about a girl who becomes a "fixer" for high school students, like her older sister and guardian is a "fixer" for politicians.  Stephanie compared it to a combination of Scandal and Veronica Mars, which sounds pretty intriguing.  She loved it and highly recommend it.

Since we didn't read a huge variety of books this time, I thought I'd include Goodreads links to a few others I've read in the recent past with lovably horrible villains:

Next week I'll finally get caught up on these by posting our October choices for Classics.  What would you add to our list of books with villains you love to hate?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

YA Minis: The Weight of Feathers, Belzhar, and The Scorpion Rules

From Goodreads:
For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. 

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. 
A delightful Romeo and Juliet retelling featuring circus performers and magical realism.  There's really nothing here to dislike - it's light and fun and has just the right amount of magic.  It's not The Night Circus, let's go ahead and get that out of the way.  It's not an amazing piece of blow-your-mind writing, but it's adorable and sweet and romantic and was exactly what I needed after a string of dark realism and crime reads.  It had everything I enjoy most about the occasional dip into the YA romance pond - romance that isn't set in a high school, enough magic to make me forget that the characters are the same age as my younger students, and a plot that moves along quickly.

From Goodreads:
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
Oh dear.  This one was not a favorite.  The best thing I had to say about it is that it reads quickly.  I finished it in two sittings in less than a day and I wasn't bored.  I was annoyed though.  It's set at a boarding school for teens who have experienced trauma and yet there is almost no adult supervision.  Also, our main character is only able to overcome her trauma through romance, which is what led to her trauma in the first place.  Not the best portrayal of teens with issues, as finding someone to kiss doesn't generally cure mental illness.  The romance itself is less than satisfying - we're never really given a reason to help us understand why they would like each other, other than possession of the requisite boy/girl parts.  I don't think it's worth reading, but I will say that others in my book club felt differently, so it could just be me.

 From Goodreads:
The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.
Erin Bow.  I love her so much.  I haven't read a YA dystopia in ages, which may have been what allowed me to enjoy this one so much, but I think Bow's skill as a writer played a large role as well.  I think she did some really unique things with her characters, including what could have been a love triangle, but wound up being an honest depiction of how people would actually react in this kind of life and death situation.  I thought there was going to be a "Team Elian" situation for a bit, but the way she handles it is pretty great.  I also loved the villain, which is an area where Bow seems especially great at character development.  It was, for me, a refreshing take on a tired genre and I recommend giving it a try.

Thanks to NetGalley and my work library for providing me with copies of these titles.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mini-Reviews on a Theme (Rape Culture): Missoula and Asking for It

From Goodreads:
In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them...
Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken. 
Jon Krakauer is an automatic read for me, regardless of what he publishes.  That said, I was thrilled when his latest book took on a topic that's also of interest to me in general.  I work in a college setting and the issue of college rape is undeniable in our culture.  Krakauer examines a particular city and specific college, but he also brings to light the issue of why women don't report sexual assault on a nationwide scale as well.

For the most part, I think this book is a complete success.  Krakauer is obviously a skilled journalist and has done mountains of research into his subject.  I trust his reporting completely.  He manages to illuminate every aspect of the issue, from the way campus security works with police, to the police procedures for sexual assault investigation, to the trials themselves.  My one complaint is that I felt like the last quarter or so of the book was a bit repetitive.  In my opinion, it could have done with some editing and been a bit shorter, but my overall impression is that this is a book that needs to be read and is as readable as a novel, but obviously well-researched.

 From Goodreads:
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. Congressman Todd Akin’s “legitimate” gaffe. The alleged rape crew of Steubenville, Ohio. Sexual violence has been so prominent in recent years that the feminist term “rape culture” has finally entered the mainstream. But what, exactly, is it? And how do we change it? 

In Asking for It, Kate Harding answers those questions in the same blunt, bullshit-free voice that’s made her a powerhouse feminist blogger. Combining in-depth research with practical knowledge, Asking for Itmakes the case that twenty-first century America—where it’s estimated that out of every 100 rapes only 5 result in felony convictions—supports rapists more effectively than victims. Harding offers ideas and suggestions for addressing how we as a culture can take rape much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.
I expected to be blown away by Missoula, but this one really surprised me.  I didn't plan on reading the two at the same time, but it wound up working out that way.  If you're interested in figuring out exactly what rape culture is and how it affects women both on and off campuses, I might even suggest this one over Missoula.  Rather than focusing on a detailed account of a few specific cases, Asking for It covers the entire issue using stories from many different women across many situations.  It also addresses the issues women face on campus, but goes deeper into other places where women must face rape culture, particularly in media depictions and on the internet.  I sped through this one and plan to add it to my permanent collection because it's one that I think I would refer back to frequently.

Both of these books are certainly worth reading, particularly if you have any interaction with young women on either high school or college campuses.  Beyond that, I think both cover topics that are important to women of all ages and will be of interest to anyone who cares about the issues women face living in a rape culture.  I highly recommend both.

Thanks to my work library and to Netgalley for providing me with copies of these.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club (Adventure Five: Things in the Water)

I got way, way, way off course with posting these over the summer.  The CYOA Book Club still met and we still discussed lots of fun books, but I forgot to post about them.  So, I'll be posting one a week between now and December to try to get back on track.  Pretty images will be back in December, until then you'll have to make do with my grabs from Goodreads, because I've got SO MUCH BLOGGING to catch up on, I don't have time to make pictures.

Adventure Five's theme was, honestly, my favorite so far.  We read about things in the water - anything from beach vacations to sea monsters (obviously).  Sea monsters are my true love and any time I want a good genre read, particularly one with lots of gore and/or ridiculous plot elements, I turn to sea monsters.  So, obviously, that's where I went with this one.  I chose:

This one, featuring a Loch Ness monster in the US, gets a big, fat do not read.  It's really awful.  So awful that even as much as I love some cheesey horror I couldn't get on board with any part of it.  It's just terrible.  It's bad 90's YA.  Maybe the worst 90's YA.  Avoid.

So sad to have to write that this is another do not read.  It's about flesh-eating manta rays that evolve the capability for flight.  So they're flying sea monsters.  It sounds right up my alley, but unfortunately it was not enough horror and way too much attempt at poor character building through terrible dialogue.  Everyone tells each other EVERYTHING they ever think in stilted language.  There's way too much dialogue and not enough people being eaten.

And a third, which was actually completely enjoyable.  This one is about enormous squid who develop a taste for human flesh.  Lots of drama, lots of horror, traditional characters you'd expect from the genre - basically exactly what I wanted.  I listened to this one on audio and thought the narrator did a fine job.

I was the only one who chose the sea monster route in this set of books.  Courtney went with:
Mermaid style romance with an, ahem, adult-appropriate twist.  This is a series of interconnected stories about love and loss and comes pretty highly recommended, with the caveat that it is for grownup eyes only.

And Stephanie read:
This is about a college student who is one of only five survivors of a crash landing in the Great Lakes.  She's a competitive swimmer and is left with only a teammate and three young boys as they try to survive in the wilderness.  Stephanie gives it four stars and recommends it although the "reveal" ending was a bit anticlimactic for her.  

What books would you recommend on the theme of "things in the water"?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

From Hobb's website:
Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill–and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
Ever since the summer Luke and I binged on the Game of Thrones audio books four years ago, I've craved an epic fantasy series in the summer.  It's just the perfect time for me to really commit to something incredibly long with lots of characters and a complex magic system and all kinds of adventures.  This year, we decided to give the Farseer Trilogy a try.

I had low expectations based on the covers.  The covers I used for the image above aren't the same as the ones on the audiobook I listened to.  The audiobook covers are pretty rough.  That said, I was absolutely thrilled with the series.  It's dark, but not grimdark, and I felt like we really got to know the characters and the system of magic used in the series.  I like fantasy epics that don't skimp on characterization in favor of action, and Hobb certainly delivered in-depth characterization.

My one critique is that, as with much of epic fantasy, I felt like she could have used some heavier-handed editing.  Luke and I both noted how frequently she'd introduce a scene by saying something along the lines of "the day was uneventful" and then continue on to describe the uneventful day.  If it's uneventful and nothing interesting happens, please don't make us read about it for fifteen pages.  You can skip to the events, really.  That's what we're here for.  There's also a lot of repetitive description - Fitz, walking somewhere with Night Eyes (his wolf), thinking about Night Eyes, hunting things to eat, walking some more.  I probably could have cut at least a hundred pages out of each book and still gotten all of the characterization, setting, and plot without missing anything.

Other than the critique above, regarding parts of the book that were repetitive or unnecessary, I thoroughly enjoyed the series.  Each book took me a while to really get into, but once I was engrossed in the story I couldn't stop listening.  I stayed up late several nights trying to finish.  No better recommendation than that for any book!

If you're a fan of epic fantasy, this is an absolute must-read.  I fell in love with the characters and the world Hobb creates, and luckily for me, she has several more series featuring the same characters and set in the same world.  This is the starting place though - the first of her series you should read.  They're very well done and are perfect if you're looking for something long and intriguing with action and deeply constructed characters.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review: Between Gods by Alison Pick

From Goodreads:
Alison Pick was born in the 1970s and raised in a loving, supportive family, but as a teenager she made a discovery that changed her understanding of who she was for ever. She learned that her Pick grandparents, who had escaped from Czechoslovakia during WWII, were Jewish, and that most of this side of the family had died in concentration camps... 
Engaged to be married to her longterm boyfriend but in the grip of a crippling depression, Alison began to uncover her Jewish heritage, a quest which challenged all her assumptions about her faith, her future, and what it meant to raise a family. An unusual and gripping story, told with all the nuance and drama of a novel, this is a memoir illuminated with heartbreaking insight into the very real lives of the dead, and hard-won hope for all those who carry on after.
 This book is beautifully written.  Pick is a poet and her writing is reflective of that.  Her language is nuanced and lyrical but she doesn't come across as overly descriptive or flowery, which is important to me.  One of my sticking points in reviewing memoir is that the author show honesty and an attempt to reveal themselves, even if it's not always pretty.  I think Pick succeeds at that entirely.  She reveals both the good and the bad and doesn't ever seem to censor her story to portray herself or others in a more positive light.  Her thoughts and insights into her own emotional and spiritual states are beautifully portrayed and conveyed to the reader with style and emotion.

Entertainment Value
Religious conversion novels always draw me in.  I gravitate towards conversions to Christianity, since that's my own religion, but I enjoy any book that gives me insight into the reasons people choose the spiritual paths they choose.  So many aspects of this memoir in particular appealed to me. It taught me a lot about Judaism, which is the first thing I'm looking for in any religious memoir. First and foremost I want to know what they believe and why.

Secondly, it gave me some insight into a religion that isn't just based around what you choose to believe but about who you are ethnically.  At first I wondered how Pick could be so conflicted about Judaism and her identity.  In Christianity, the focus is so much on what you believe.  Do you or don't you?  Simple.  But as the book continued I felt like I really came to understand how much more complicated beliefs are when it's an issue not just of what you choose to believe in but of ethnicity and identification with race and a history of persecution.  I became much more sympathetic to Pick's struggle with who she really is as she learns more about Jewish history and what it means to be Jewish.

I definitely think this one is worth reading if you're a fan of memoir or have any interest in Christianity and Judaism or religions and conversion in general.  I'd also recommend it to those who are interested in the lasting effects of the Holocaust, even two or more generations removed from the events.

Thank you to TLC for having me on the tour!  Click here for a list of other review stops.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: The Monstrous, edited by Ellen Datlow

From Goodreads:
From the best horror editor in the business comes the quintessential horror anthology: The Monstrous. Take a terrifying journey with literary masters of suspense, visiting a place where the other is somehow one of us. These electrifying tales redefine monsters from mere things that go bump-in-the-night to inexplicable, deadly reflections of our day-to-day lives. Whether it's a seemingly-devoted teacher, an obsessive devotee of swans, or a diner full of evil creatures simply seeking oblivion, the monstrous is always there — and much closer than it appears.
It's a hodge-podge, as I'd expect with any anthology.  Some are better than others, but overall I'd say the collection leans towards very well done.  I've read several Datlow anthologies and have trust in her choices after having nothing but good experiences.  Some standouts in terms of writing quality included a story about a twisted kindergarten teacher by Peter Straub and one about some super creepy twins and a patient in a mental institution by Terry Dowling.

Entertainment Value
I love a good monster story and my only complaint here is that it didn't last long enough.  It's got a mix of monsters, from fantasy to horror to human beings at their worst, and it covers a wide range of fantasy and horror subgenres.  There's something for everyone, from the literary to the supernatural to dystopian futures.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and was thrilled to put it in my Little Free Library when I finished (back in mid-October) so that someone else could enjoy it before Halloween.  I wasn't surprised to see it snatched right up!  Another aspect that I look forward to enjoying in a completed copy in the future is an inclusion of original artwork before each story.

If you like horror, monster stories, or are looking for something to dip in and out of on chilly fall nights, this is a great selection.  I can't rave enough about Datlow and the authors included here.  As with any horror, it's got gore, horror, elements of the supernatural, cursing, and some sexuality, so avoid if you're squeamish or easily creeped out.  Or maybe I should say easily creeped out and don't enjoy it - I'm pretty easy to creep, but I love it!

Thanks to Jim and Tachyon Publications for sending me a copy to review!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I Read in October

Our October was full of ups and downs.  We started the month off going to a special service my church held for St. Francis' feast day - a Blessing of the Animals.  The dogs didn't get to go because of their issues interacting with men and other dogs, but Pompom got blessed and it was basically the cutest service I've ever been to.  I love that my church cares about pets and pet owners.  I also got to spend a weekend doing Theater Express with the Southern Literature Alliance.  Every year a travelling children's theater group presents a one hour literary performance (From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler this year) and fourth graders from the city are invited to come free.  I helped direct students on and off of buses and got coffee for the organizers.  It's always a joy to get to participate in their activities and they bring so many fun literary experiences to our city.

We also lost Chief, one of our Great Danes, this month.  I wrote about it before and won't rehash it here, but it's been sad and we miss him tons.  His brother, Dexter, doesn't seem to have noticed anything has changed.  We're chalking it up to how much he's loving all the extra attention he's been getting.  And he and Pompom are quickly becoming BFF. 

Pompom is getting bigger every day, but he's still a sweet little snuggler and my best book buddy.  We spend at least two hours every night doing this:

He's all about laying on my face and any time I'm in a reclining position I can count on him to make himself comfy somwhere on my face or neck.  He also still follows me from room to room in the house and plays in whatever space I'm in.  I know it's because he's still a baby, but I'm doing everything I can to encourage it.  There is NOTHING better than a good book and a soft little fluff ball purring in your ear.

I really failed at blogging this month.  I've been posting at least two to three times a week all year, but in the month of October I only posted seven times.  I always seem to have a slow spell in the fall, both in reading and in blogging, but I'm extra motivated as we come to the end of the year.  I feel like my blogging mojo is coming back and I hope to post enough mini-reviews in November to get caught up.  I may not have many more full reviews AND I'm getting ready for my month of favorites in December, but hopefully I'll be able to close out the year with a clean review slate.

Here's what I read in October:

The Secret ChordGeraldine Brooks
Dear Mister Essay Writer GuyDinty Moore
Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?Lisa Scottoline
UntwineEdwige Danticat
Post-Traumatic Church SyndromeReba Riley
The MonstrousEllen Datlow
We Have Always Lived in the CastleShirley Jackson
Pretty GirlsKarin Slaughter
Asking For ItKate Harding
ForgivenTerri Roberts
MissoulaJon Krakauer
The Shadow HeroGene Luen Yang
In a Dark Dark WoodRuth Ware
Best American Poetry 2015Sherman Alexie

Total books read in October: 14
Total books read in 2015: 174

Total pages read in October: 4101
Total pages read in 2015: 49,439

What did you read in October?