Top 10 Books to Read in 2016

I’m planning to read quite a few books this year and participate in several reading challenges, but the following books are the ones I absolutely CAN’T WAIT to read.

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    The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
    The sequel to the amazing The Fifth Season! Unfortunately The Obelisk Gate won’t be released until August. Booo.
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    A Traveler’s Gulide to Belonging by Rachel Ford

    The combination of a new dad losing his wife and traveling around India with his baby makes this book sound very compelling to me.
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    The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

    Oh, I love the idea for this book! Imagine traveling to another country to meet your penpal, only to discover she has just died, and then staying to open up a bookstore! I also love the title and cover.
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    Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

    As far as intriguing book covers and titles go, this one has really won me over. Plus, it takes place in Scandinavia 300 years ago and has a distinctly creepy vibe, so I’m definitely all in.
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    Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

    I’m excited to read several of Okorafor’s books this year, but the title and setting of this book in a futuristic and violent Africa has me particularly intrigued. Plus, there’s magic.
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    The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee

    I just have a good feeling about this book. The setting (Hong Kong, early 20th century), the themes (motherhood, marriage, race, friendship), and the favorable reviews all have me very excited about this book. AND it will be released tomorrow!
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    Wherever There is Light by Peter Golden

    Amazon describes this as “a sweeping, panoramic tale of twentieth-century America, chronicling the decades-long love affair between a Jewish immigrant and the granddaughter of a slave.” That kind of moving plot, the gorgeous cover, the focus on art/art history, the recurring themes of oppression and freedom- yeah, I can’t wait for this one.
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    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
     
    One of many books I have already read but plan to reread this year, this is the one I’m most excited about. Murakami is my all-time favorite author. Sure, some of his early stuff is really not very good, but Norwegian Wood, The Windup Bird Chronicle, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage…this guy can really write. 1Q84 is unusual for me, because unlike most of Murakami’s other books, I’ve only read it once. Probably because it is so long! But it is a really lovely story of love, parallel worlds, and (as always with Murakami) the darker underside of the world in which we live.
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    A Constellation fo Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
     
    Ok, I admit that I was won over immediately by the title and cover of this book. I’m a serious judger of books by their covers, I confess! But just look at it- it’s beautiful. Plus, it is a story of love and war in Chechnya, so it will likely be incredibly moving.
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    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
     
    I’m pretty sure I’m the last person left who still hasn’t read this book. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds beautiful and has (obviously) been very well received.

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

DSCN0354I really expected to love this book, because the concept is so cool: several Londons, with varying degrees of magic, and a mysterious traveler between the worlds. But, I think the book was only average in the end. The character development was shallow and not very believable. I found myself questioning whether any of the main characters would actually do certain things, and I realized about halfway through that I didn’t really care what happened. I mean, the worlds were interesting, and the prose itself was pretty good, but without interesting believable characters, the plot obviously suffers. It started to feel a bit contrived, which I’m guessing is because the best plots spring directly from interesting characters in interesting situations.

I really think V.E. Schwab could write something amazing. She’s clearly got good ideas and can write well- all that’s lacking are some complicated, interesting, believable, and likable characters.

If I were doing a star rating I’d go with 3 out of 5. It is a pretty good book, but certainly not great.

My Favorite Kids’ TV Shows

*that won’t make you lose your mind*

We try not to do too much screen time, but I’d say we generally do a little bit on most days. And then there are sick days when there’s way too much screen time, but whatever, the poor kid is sick, you know?

Anyway, it can be a real struggle to find TV shows for my kids that aren’t incredibly annoying or mind numbingly dumb. I could make a really long list of shows that make me want to pull my hair out, however much my kids like them, even when I can only hear the show in the background while making dinner.

Let’s focus on the positives though, because there are some good shows out there! So, in no particular order, my favorite TV shows for kids are…

1. Creative Galaxy- great if you’ve got Amazon Prime. This show inspired my kids to make their own board games! Enough said.
2. Tumbleleaf- another cute show on Amazon Prime. It is aimed at the younger crowd and has the cutest blue fox you’ve ever seen. My 6 year old loves it, and so does my 8 year old, though she pretends not to. Plus the theme song is really catchy.
3. Wild Kratts- this one is on Netflix and is one of the best, in my opinion. I can’t even do justice to how much my kids have learned about animals from this show. My 6 and 8 year olds both love it and have since they were 3 and 5.
4. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic- ok, so Pinkie Pie is REALLY annoying, but otherwise the show is cute and my kids love it. The world is pretty good for a kids’ fantasy world, the music is catchy, and it is also on Netflix. The biggest downside is how overpriced the toys are. I mean, it is seriously a rip off. Look for the ponies at thrift stores, seriously!
5. Magic School Bus- Also on Netflix, this show is educational and cracks up my kids.
6. Octonauts- this show is pretty darn adorable. That is all.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the new one)- Ok, I know. Lots of hardcore TMNT fans don’t like the new animation style, but I think it looks great! I also really love the theme song. The show itself is funny and entertaining and generally way better and less questionable than other superhero/ninja/good guy vs bad guy shows for kids.
8. Super Why- This show sometimes gets perilously close to annoying, but I’m going to cut it some slack because it has been a huge hit with each of my kids when they are in that awesome “just about to read” stage.
9. Little Bear- is it ok to include a show my kids no longer like? They loved it when they were 2 and 4, but mostly I just love it. It is such a quiet, peaceful, and sweet show (which may be why my kids are over it. Ha.)
10. Planet Earth- not specifically for kids, and my 6 year old sometimes gets bored, but my 8 year old has loved this since she was at least 6. And by that I mean that she will run to get a notebook to frantically take notes while watching! So yeah, it is a hit. Plus it is on Netflix now!

So maybe I’m cheating by including Planet Earth, but I couldn’t stop when I was so close to 10. That would have been ridiculous. Plus, I honestly can’t think of any other kids shows I like.

Have I forgotten any good ones?

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

I’m so glad I decided to participate in reading challenges this year. I’ve already discovered two great new books, and we’re less than two weeks into 2016!

This week I read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)  for the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge. Now, murder mysteries really aren’t my thing, and I got bored when I tried reading The Casual Vacancy (Rowling’s book between Harry Potter and The Cuckoo’s Calling) so my expectations were pretty low.

But….I loved it! Seriously. Rowling (Galbraith? Sorry, but I have a hard time taking pen names seriously) may have just won me over to a whole new genre. I definitely plan on reading the other Cormoran Strike books at the very least.

Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin are interesting, likable, and intriguing characters, and the plot is fast-paced and unpredictable. The characters and plot are complicated enough, that even when I was sure I had it all figured out (never mind that I reached several different conclusions throughout the book, every time as certain as the last) I was always surprised by some character being more complicated than I’d previously assumed.

The dialogue was great too. This was my second time listening to an audiobook, and it was really well done. The believable and entertaining dialogue made it a really fun listen. (Though I will point out that this definitely isn’t something you can listen to with kids around if you care about profanity!)

All in all, it was a great book, and it reminded me just how awesome J.K. Rowling is. (Again, though-  why the pen name? And why a guy’s name? I find it off-putting).

Books I Want to Read This Year

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemison
The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
Comeback Love by Peter Golden
Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda NgoziAdichie
Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji
The Secret Lives of People in Love: Stories by Simon Van Booy
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois by Sophie Perinot
13 Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
The Fifth Season by NK Jemison
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman
A Darker Side of Magic by Victoria Schwab
Wherever There is Light by Peter Golden
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St John Mandel
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
A Traveler’s Guide to Belonging by Rachel Ford
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
Children of the Stone by Sandra Tolan
The Kingdom of Gods by NK Jemisin
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedmen
The Martian by Andy Weir
Northanger Abbey by JaneAusten
Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Books to Reread
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Timebound by Rysa Walker
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Station Eleven by Emily St. John- Mandel
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

This Week

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This week, I’m…

reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

listening to this song by We Were Evergreen

watching hockey!

enjoying the new coconut flavored chai I bought on a whim

planning sewing and knitting projects for the next few months

knitting this hat for Miles in a bright sky blue

trying to take a photo of each of my kids every day (and not succeeding!)

struggling to get back into the homeschool swing of things after the holidays

feeling patient with myself- we’ll get there soon, I’m sure

hoping to convince my kids to try these black bean burgers

wishing chocolate was a health food

loving Alec’s long naps (a recent development)

thinking about my goals and plans for this blog

 

How’s your week going so far?