Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I was tagged for this TBR questionnaire by Eva @The Paperback Princess, my longest blogger friend and one of my favorite book blogs. Have to say, I was a little afraid to fill this out! The TBR pile can be a touchy and/or scary subject.

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Two ways. Books I own but haven't read I automatically consider TBR. Books I don't own and don't want to forget I keep in a list in the Notes section of my iPad.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or eBook?

Mostly print. I only have a few nonfiction and ARCs from publishers in ebook form.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

I keep a pile of books that I am really looking forward to by my bedside. I tend to stare at that stack often as I'm in and out of my room, watching TV, reading my current book. Usually by the time I'm ready to pick my next book, one in the stack has been "calling my name." If not, I look through my shelves until one catches my eye. Overall, it's a mood thing. I have to read what I'm in the mood for.

4. A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?

If you want to go off of all the books I own and never read, it would have to be Middlemarch, which I've owned since 1996, before I officially kept a TBR list.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?

The Monopolists, by Mary Pilon. I loved the game Monopoly when I was younger and would love to see what someone could do with it as the basis for a book!

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of it’s beautiful cover.

I'm not sure I have a choice here. Usually a book has to have a combination of intriguing cover art, title, and summary for me to be truly interested. Recommended by trusted readers is a bonus. I will rarely read a book based on only one of these things.

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading.

I own two volumes that total the complete writings of Sir Arthur Conan O'Doyle, but don't think I'll ever read them. I kept them because a friend was getting rid of them and they were nice volumes and classics. Seemed a nice addition to the collection and someone might read them in the future.

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for.

At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen. I really liked Water for Elephants, so when I saw this was coming out I knew I had to add it to the TBR.

9. A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you.

Up until a week or so ago it was Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple. But I did read it this month (review here), so I haven't looked through to see what it seems everyone else has read. The one I've been collecting reviews to read after I've read it is The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.

10. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, which has been praised everywhere I look! And of course the Outlander series. I bought the first three in good faith of all the recommendations.

11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read.

I'm feeling a stretch of nonfiction coming on as I've been reading some Mary Roach. So the next couple nonfiction selections will likely be Roach's Stiff; Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life and One Summer: America, 1927; and Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point.

12. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

This is the question I was dreading. Here are the results - no overlaps. On my iPad note list (books I don't own) there are 50, on my Kindle app I have 11, on my physical home bookshelves there are 227, and on my physical classroom bookshelves there are 32 books. For a grand total of a TBR of 320 books on the TBR list! Not realistic I suppose. Do I care? No.

Ahhh! That was crazy. So, instead of tagging anyone, I'm going to say snag this if you want to try it out.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Student Spotlight: Noah S.

Hey there everyone! It's been a month since we've had a Student Spotlight here on My Life in Books, but only because we've been so immersed in our recent reading.

In January, the 11th graders finished up our unit on the American Dream. Within this unit we read The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, and Death of a Salesman - all stories which concern themselves with the impossibility of the American Dream. Students were required to take two of the three stories and write an essay discussing what the authors are trying to teach readers about the American Dream.

Below we have Noah S who loves reading, heavy metal, and Monty Python. Noah will also be attending the YSU English Festival with me and a few other students in April, so you may hear from him here on the blog again.

Welcome Noah!

The American Dream in Famous Novels

            The consequences in pursuing the American Dream are a common moral standpoint illustrated by many authors. The greatest consequence in the process of reaching the American Dream often results in the death for the characters involved, such as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Both novels share this common theme and prove that the American Dream is not easily achieved.
            The extraordinary novel Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, expresses how hard many had to work just to get by in life. The novel takes place during the Great Depression, an era infamous for its ideological concepts of the American Dream. George and Lennie are the major characters whose dream is to move to a ranch of their own. However, Lennie, who is mentally disabled, accidentally gets in the way of that dream throughout the story. In the end, Lennie dies, which leaves George freer than ever to pursue his dream, although he doesn’t and we don’t know what happens to him afterward. The theme Steinbeck illustrates is that you have to make sacrifices in order to achieve a goal sometimes.
            Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, expresses the viewpoint of a supposed “madman,” Willy Loman, and how his dreams reflect upon him. Willy’s dream is to gain both popularity and money in his life. In order to achieve this dream, Willy lies to his family and to himself about his profits, cheats on his wife to gain favor with a buyer, and puts down all others not like himself. However, as the story progresses, Willy’s life of delusion slips him further into a nervous breakdown. Miller, like Steinbeck, demonstrates that one must make sacrifices in order to achieve a goal.
            As mentioned above, both authors imply that one must make sacrifices and difficult choices in order to achieve a goal. Both novels’ main characters share an arguably similar dream, however, Willy’s dreams are about making a lot of money and gaining popularity and respect. George and Lennie’s dream is much more realistic and less self-centered than Willy’s. Nonetheless, the characters in both novels possessed dreams that could only be made possible through hard decisions. Realistic or not, each, unfortunately, led to death.

         The perseverance of the American Dream in these novels is a common theme. People have to take chances and make sacrifices to chase a dream. Dreams need to be realistic, but even if they are, there can be consequences. Successful and unsuccessful dreams alike can work out for the good of everyone, which makes them worth trying.

Hope you enjoyed this month's Student Spotlight! Please leave any comments or discussion pieces below. We will check back and use it for further class discussions.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Talking about Antarctic explorers:

"Amundsen was the first to reach the Pole, but he did it by feeding dogs to dogs, which makes Amundsen the Michael Vick of polar explorers: you can like him, but keep it to yourself, or you'll end up getting into arguments with a bunch of fanatics." Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

Just thought that was a hilarious comparison!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Above: Brandon and I in 1998 after Matchbox 20 concert.
Below: In 2013, going to see the same band at the same arena!

I finally read a Rainbow Rowell book! (Pause for applause.)

Rowell has been one of those YA authors whose books have transcended the typical YA limits. Usually the mention of YA puts the book world in a tizzy, positively and negatively, but Rowell (like Ransom Riggs), seems to unify readers in a bubble of YA happiness. I liked YA usually to begin with, but it helps to know typical YA haters like Rowell's books.

Landline was indeed worth my time, though I felt a personal connection to the topic as well. Georgie McCool stays behind on a family holiday trip to see her in-laws in order to work on a career changing project. As her family drives away, she fears her marriage may be irreparable, but she isn't sure what to do. Later, trying to contact her husband Neal from her mother's landline, she discovers she is talking to the Neal she dated fifteen years ago. And so the book's premise lies in the question: What would you do if given a second chance at something? Hindsight is a powerful tool, but would you give up the good you've known to avoid the bad?

Start at the wedding picture to the left and follow around
to the center. Seventeen total years together in a few pics.
Having celebrated my fifteen year anniversary this past January (weirdly January 15, 2015 was my 15th anniversary), I've recently "looked back" to the people my husband and I were and who we've become individually and also as a couple. It's always a weird feeling and especially now as I feel we've hit a good number of years to look back upon.

Landline didn't hit me because Georgie McCool and I have endangered marriages in common, but simply because I wonder what I would do if I had the chance to act and speak differently to my young boyfriend/husband, knowing what I know now. What would I say and what would my motivation be for speaking? And would it change the future?

Either way, a good book is one that makes you think and entertains you at the same time. Looking forward to another Rainbow Rowell, which I already have waiting at my bedside.

What's your favorite Rowell book readers?

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places

I only recently read my first Mary Roach book, Gulp. I loved it and started looking through her other books. I noticed that one titled My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places is actually a compilation of short funny articles she wrote for Reader's Digest. Easy, two page anecdotes sound perfect any time. And once again, Mary Roach delivers.

Most of the stories are about Roach and her husband Ed and I found myself laughing out loud often. Roach's signature humor comes through and I couldn't help but see my husband and myself in some of her stories. I actually noted certain favorites for my husband to read.

Maybe it's a matter of having been married awhile that allows me to relate to Roach's stories in this collection, but some of my favorites are reenacted at my house regularly. Curious which topics? I knew you were. Here are a few, in my own words.

1. To Do or Not To Do: List making wives and the husbands who ignore them.

2. Picture Imperfect: Paying for satellite for sole access to one channel. In my house it's NFL and ESPN. My husband will say no, he watches other channels too, but I guarantee he would not miss the others if satellite were to mysteriously disappear. But the world would stop spinning without NFL Channel and ESPN.

3. Is That What You're Wearing?: One spouse dressed nicely while the other tries to reassure them both that sweats are completely acceptable. To be fair, my husband and I take turns on this one.

4. Can You Hear Me Now?: Marital selective hearing. Yelling/talking to each other while in separate rooms. While running noisy appliances like a blender or hair dryer. While brushing teeth. While the other is completely absorbed in something else. And to further complicate matters, every couple has a mumbler. I'll let you guess who that is in my house.

Yes, this is all the wonderful goodness that goes on in my house. And, as Roach seems to imply for herself, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Bring on my next Mary Roach book!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Carrie Snyder putting it out there again this week, from Girl Runner:

"You give what you have in you to give. You may have more in you than you know, and you can only know how much, exactly, by slamming head-on against the limits of toleration. This is easier done once you've accepted what needs to happen. Once you cease worrying about how you look, or who you might be, and you simply are." Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Finally read the much praised Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple. And I'll say right up front I enjoyed it. The main character, Bernadette Fox, married to a Microsoft guru, devotes her life to her daughter Bee. Her devotion is clear, although as the story progresses it is obvious something is not quite right for, or with, Bernadette. She is practically a recluse, whose house is in ruins and who is shunned in the parent groups of her daughter's swanky private school. She seems increasingly flustered, anxious, and maybe a little crazy. And then, she's gone.

The story of Bernadette speaks to anyone who has put off their true calling in life, whether by necessity or force. Some people were just meant to change the world in their own way and denial of this sends them into a downward spiral. So is the case with Bernadette. The hope is that it's never too late to pick up the dream again.

I know this is a short review, but it's an oft reviewed book as it is, so short and sweet seems the best plan. Just wanted to let it be known I've conquered one of the biggies on my TBR!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Gulp - My First Mary Roach


Mary Roach has been lauded by various types of readers in my life: the book lovers, the science teacher co-workers, the nonfiction readers, the casual readers, etc. Stiff was the original title that struck me...I mean, really, a book about the wonders of cadavers?! But, at the moment, I needed a convenient-to-carry book on my Kindle app and Gulp looked like the most interesting Roach book I had available. (I'm sure you'll be seeing Stiff on here soon enough.)

Gulp is about the alimentary canal, better known as the digestive system. From mouth to...errr...anus (rectum, butthole, poopshoot? Is there a good word to use for the bottom end?), Roach describes the workings of the entire system. Each organ involved is discussed and the medical views and discoveries over centuries laid out for examination.

And truly, there's a whole lot of examination. Roach takes part in various experiments and examinations, even getting an unsedated colonoscopy to see the inner workings of her own organs. The woman is either brave or crazy.

Truly, I never thought I'd want to read a book about the digestive system, but this one was interesting. I often found myself laughing, which prompted my husband or one of my kids to ask what I was laughing at. I'd start describing it, only to look up into widened eyes because the last thing they expected was an explanation of the workings of the...ummm...bottom end. And wouldn't you know, in the process of reading Gulp, I was able to answer three different Trivia Crack questions about the stomach and colon that I'd learned! That alone made it worth it!

Your favorite Mary Roach book? If you don't have one, you need to read more Mary Roach!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Quotes on friends and friendship struck me this past week...thought it was a weird coincidence, except I don't believe in coincidence. Here are a few I liked:




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February Firsts Guest Post

Hey everyone! It's February already and I'm kicking off the month participating in a fun guest post over at Book Bloggers Internatioanl. They are hosting a month of posts about reading firsts, called February Firsts. Having so many fond memories of reading, I just had to jump in. And bonus, as I wrote my post, I realized there were actually two firsts that happened at the same time!

So, head on over to Book Bloggers International and get the scoop on what 3rd grade me decided to do in the name of reading! Enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Girl Runner

Girl Runner, by Carrie Snyder
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: February 3, 2015
Category: Fiction
Source: I received this free ARC from Harper Collins Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

At first, I couldn't really say what attracted me to Girl Runner. Unlike others, it wasn't the retro cover. And I'm a little ashamed to say it wasn't necessarily the topic (the fictional main character Aganetha is among the first females to participate in the 1928 Olympics for the Canadian team). I think it was this small portion of the summary, which I've copied here from Amazon, that made me request it:

"Her remarkable story is colored by tragedy as well as joy, and in Girl Runner Carrie Snyder pulls back the layers of time to reveal how Aganetha’s amazing athleticism helped her escape from a family burdened by secrets and sorrow. However, as much as Aganetha tries, she cannot outrun her past or the social conventions of her time."

It's the life lived behind the scenes, so to speak, that draws me in. Famous this, famous that, I don't care so much about. I want to know who a person is, where do they come from, how has life shaped him/her? This is what makes a story because this makes humanity what it is.

And this is what Girl Runner delivers. Told as a flashback from the elderly Aganetha, the reader slowly pieces together the parts of Aggie's life, sorrows that led to victories, which in turn led to some of her lowest times. A complex mix of joy and sorrow that I felt, in the end, I had to decide which ruled her life.

There are other aspects to the story, such as the people who take her on the adventure that sparks her past to play before her eyes. Their intentions are not what they claim upon meeting Aggie and this adds some mystery, especially as the past and present begin to meet. While this is the catalyst for the entire past story to play out, the story being played out is what kept my attention the most...but like I said, it all connects eventually.

I don't usually rate books by "stars," but it seems easiest to give my stance that way this time. I give Girl Runner a solid three star rating. It was a good story.

What plot idea draws you to a story the most?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Found this quote looking through blank journals at Barnes and Noble. Loved it!

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. 
Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
 Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow." 

Mary Jean Irion