Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On My Shelf: Our Latest Picture Book Additions

Globes and Maps

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I'm a huge fan of libraries and normally don't buy books. However, I'm a bit the reverse when it comes to children's books. I really, really love buying new children's books as opposed to checking them out. There are several reasons for this:

1.) Kid's books from the library tend to gross me out a bit, especially the board books that have clearly been chewed on and slobbered over by some other germy kid.

2.) My boys are a bit hard on books. It's sad when they destroy books I've bought for them, but far less mortifying than having to return a ripped up picture book to the library and face the disapproving glare (and fines) from the librarians.

3.) Really good picture books are meant to be read over and over and over again. When it's a good book, six weeks is not long enough. After rechecking Chicka Chicka Boom Boom out for the umpteenth time, I knew it was just time to buy and keep that book on our shelf at home.

All that is to say that while I try to show restraint, when a gift-giving opportunity presents itself, I'm all about giving books to my boys (or passing my wish-list off to grandma so she can buy them books too). We've had a few really fun acquisitions since Christmas, so I'm sharing here some of our new favorite children's books that have found a home on our shelves.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Having "Enough" Time

I'm re-reading (well, re-skimming if I'm honest) Brene Brown's fabulous Daring Greatly for an upcoming book club, and I've been struck all over again by a message early on in the book about how we always seem to have a narrative of lack running through our minds all the time. We wake up in the morning thinking we did not get enough sleep. We go to bed at night feeling like we didn't have enough time to finish all the things we needed to do. We never have enough money or enough stuff or enough whatever.

For the past few years, I've been consciously trying to counteract that narrative in my life, especially when it comes to time. With the end of the semester rushing up on me and the attendant crush of term papers and final assignments and the added stress of completing my master's essay, it's very easy for me to feel like I'm too busy. Looking forward over the next month and a half, I just don't see how I'll have enough time to fit everything in, and it's a stressful feeling.

I know a lot of the popular advice right now about managing this problem of "busyness" is to just say no to to doing too much, cut out activities, and only focus on the core essentials. That is wonderful advice. There are lots of things I am saying no to (like TV, weeknight social activities, and a clean house).

But there are lots of good and wonderful things that I want in my life, things that I don't want to say no to, things that I don't ever want to be "too busy" for. If I've learned anything from past experience, it's that I DO have time for these good and wonderful things. If I plan and prioritize and mentally change the narrative in my head, I've found that I really do have time for all the best things. I just have to remind myself of that when the intimidatingly long to-do list is staring me down.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When the Movie is Better (Or At Least Really Good In Its Own Right)

Okay, so I'm in this Robin Hood class right now, and it's fantastic. We've spent a lot of time talking and thinking about adaptation theory, because there are a million and one versions of the Robin Hood story, and every single one of them is an "adaptation."

One random fact just for fun that you probably didn't know: there is no "original" Robin Hood story (or Robin Hood person for that matter, in case you were unsure he was fictional). There's a handful of medieval ballads (where Robin Hood is actually a commoner outlaw thief, not a nobleman fighting for justice), a couple of Early Modern plays (where Maid Marian is introduced for the first time), and a slew of novels, operas, films, TV shows, and whatever else over the centuries, but there is no true "original" Robin Hood. Every single Robin Hood is just an adaption of a different adaptation.

However, after watching and reading all these Robin Hood variations and thinking so much about adaptations, I've (naturally) been thinking about other adaptations of other stories. Specifically, the adaptation of books to movies.

Oh, there is no area in bookdom more fraught than the book to movie (or book to TV show, as the case may be) adaptation. Book fans tend to have strong opinions and visions about how characters look, or how scenes should be recreated on the big screen. And among us purists, the refrain is constant: the book is always better.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Book Blab: 2016 New Releases (Ep. 4 Show Notes)

We had another fun show last Friday on The Book Blab. If you missed it, you can watch below. Show notes and links at the end.

0:42 - Amy's new roof
1:12 - Topic of Episode 4: New book releases in 2016
2:12 - How Suzanne finds out about new releases
3:30 - The two situations where Suzanne stays on top of new releases
4:20 - How Amy finds out about new releases
5:30 - A few blogs that regularly feature new releases
6:40 - A good podcast for new releases
7:28 - Two instagram accounts
8:00 - Publishers Weekly 
8:45 - Goodreads
9:14 - Publishers' catalogs
10:20 - Children's literature vs. adult literature
11:24 - Some of the books we're looking forward to in 2016
  • 11:37 - Bands of Mourning (January 2016) by Brandon Sanderson
  • 13:22 - The Thank You Book (May 2016) and Nanette's Baguette (October 2016) by Mo Willems
  • 16:00 - Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood (April 2016) by Liesl Shurtliff
  • 18:08 - Raymie Nightingale (April 2016) by Kate DiCamillo
  • 19:48 - Firestorm (June 2016) by Katie Robison
  • 21:22 - It Ain't So Awful, Falafel (May 2016) by Firoozeh Dumas
  • 23:00 - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (July 2016) by Jack Thorne/J.K. Rowling
24:50 - Details on The Book Blab's first ever book club 
  • 25:34 - The book Suzanne chose for Amy to read
  • 26:57 - Amy's response
  • 28:20 - Details on Hoopla (a lending service through your local library) 
29:19 - Two book recommendations for spring reading
  • 30:15 - Suzanne's recommendation
  • 31:44 - Amy's recommendation
35:00 - Final wrap up

Links from the Show:
Blogs for new releases:
Two Instagram accounts:

More info on Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson 

Publishers Weekly article: "Mo Willems Busy, Busy Year" 

Suzanne's review of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Borrow the audiobook version of A Man Called Ove from Hoopla

Suzanne's review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Amy's review of Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Beautiful Books, Beautiful Art

Sondra Sherman Book Art Found Objects

So, I know there are some purists out there who consider books to be sacred objects. You know those people, the ones who don't allow highlighting or notes in the margins or heaven forbid (!) cracking the spine or bending a page!

And, cutting up a book for the sake of art? Unthinkable!

My love of books obviously begins with a love of reading. I think that's true for most book lovers. We love the physical books for the stories and the words they hold, and the two are so inherently mixed that it's hard to distinguish the one from the other.

But in the past year I've been thinking a lot about how my love for books as physical objects is actually separate from my love of the stories and words within them. There are two significant factors that helped me realize these were two separate loves.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Music to My Ears: The Transcendent Experience of Repetition

Can we just take a moment to talk about music?

I love music generally as much as the next person, but since having children, I've found myself listening to music a lot less. Like, almost never. Part of this is because from the moment he wakes up, to the moment he goes to bed, my oldest son rarely stops talking to me (I stopped listening to music in the car because I got tired of him shouting over the music to continue talking to me), and in those rare moments when he is not talking to me, I just want to bask in the beautiful sound of silence. Silence truly is one thing I would love more of in my life.

But last week I stumbled across a new-to-me composer (Ezio Bosso), and one of his songs took my breath away so hard that I haven't stopped listening to it since then. I play it on repeat while I'm getting ready for school, while I'm making dinner, while I do my homework, because every single time it continues to be just as breathtaking. I listen to it even while my son chatters away at me, and somehow it transcends even that.

This song got me thinking about other songs in my life that have provided this same feeling of transcendence, and I picked out three songs that I realized had some unique but related characteristics: they were long instrumental pieces oriented around a simple musical theme that repeats over and over while slowly building to an epic moment of brilliance. If you have the time and the solitude to give these songs a proper listen, I highly recommend closing your eyes, focusing on the repetitive melody, and thoroughly basking in the transcendent experience of the slow build.

But first, here's a short but fascinating piece on why repetition in music is so important. When I watched this a few weeks ago, it made me think of these experiences I've had with the songs below, and appreciate them all that much more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Books I Read In February

You guys, February was kind of a stellar month reading-wise. Five books! Shortest month of the year, but I managed to pack it in. (Well, I read most of my first one in January, but didn't finish it until Feb. 2, so it counts for February!) And there were a couple of real winners this month too, so without further ado, let's jump in.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - If you read my last post, you know I love this book. What I will say is that Backman is a manipulative writer. He knows exactly what he's doing, and how to push every single one of my emotional buttons. I spent most of the book laughing, but then all the sudden, almost without warning, he'd drop this real sucker-punch kick and I'd find the tears welling up. It was a roller coaster, and usually I don't enjoy having my emotions manipulated like that, but with this one I didn't mind a bit. I just loved Ove so much that I never wanted his story to end (and I can't remember the last book I read about a geriatric where I felt that way). I highly, highly recommend the audio version of this book, if just for the fact that you will learn how to pronounce his name correctly (Ooovah, two syllables, not one). It was a beautiful, beautiful story. (Content note: I believe there was some swearing, but if I remember correctly, it was mostly old man grumpy swearing, which is somehow not as bad to me as young people vulgar swearing, if you know what I mean by the difference there.)