I just finished creating a summer reading challenge for 2020 because my kids have ONE WEEK LEFT of distance learning before our summer break begins! Is anyone else baffled by how fast and how slow quarantine seems to go at the same exact time?
My kids are counting down the days and I’m trying to get a game plan put together so that we don’t spend the entire summer staring at YouTube and playing video games. As fun as that sounds.
I’m not sure what our summer will look like right now – our state is starting to whisper about opening things back up but we as a family are planning to continue hunkering as long as we can stand it. Summers past have involved a lot of trips to the library for free camps and checking in with their summer reading programs because one challenge is never enough for my voracious readers.
I’ve been making the kids summer reading challenges for a couple of years now to supplement the programs offered by the library and bookstores because those tend to only last us a couple of weeks at best.
Creating these challenges can be tough because my kids are already good readers, and I don’t want to make reading seem like a chore. I’m not going to make them count how many minutes they’ve been reading or how many pages. I don’t want to make a long list of categories that don’t line up with their interests – and often they read such vastly different types of books that I end up having to make multiple challenges – one for each kid.
Anyway – behold: this year’s summer reading challenge! I’ve been pretty into the BINGO format because it lets the kids aim low or high depending on their motivation and gives a fair amount of options. I’m pretty proud of this assortment of categories because I think it will appeal to both my 10 year old and my 14 year old. Wish me luck!
Feel free to save and print this to use with your own kids this summer.
Let me know how they like it!
When do your kids start summer break?
Here are a few challenges from summers past:2018, 2017 and 2016
The prompt for this week’s Top 5 Tuesday hosted by Bionic Bookworm is love stories or romances. This term can be applied to a lot of books and can mean different things to different people. From corset ripping to classic love stories and everything in between. Here are 5 of my very favorites.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | This is my Gold Standard. All love stories will be compared to P&P at the end of the day. This is the classic romance I will recommend to everyone. Runners up for classic romance are Anne of Green Gables and Gone With the Wind.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell | This is my favorite young adult nerdy girl love story. I literally turn into a fangirl over this story. If you like it, you’ll want to be reading all of Rowell’s other books and anything by John Green or Becky Albertalli.
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan | This book is a perfect combination of romance and wanderlust. It’s about picking up your life and starting over and has Scottish accents and bookish references for days. Colgan is a master at this genre so you can plunge her backlist for ages, then try Katherine Center for more love stories where the main character is figuring out her own life, too.
Cress by Marissa Meyer | If you are looking for a Rapunzel retelling set in a sci fi / fantasy dystopian setting (you know, like you do) then look no further! This is a couple of books into the Lunar Chronicles series that I recommend to anyone who will listen so if you haven’t read Cinder yet, start there. If you already know and love this one, then go read the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | This a perfect sweet YA love story, perfect for fans of To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han or Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. It also falls into the Wanderlust category and is also part of a semi-connected series.
One of the advantages to being stuck at home has been a fairly sizeable increase in reading time. With nowhere to be in the mornings, I’ve been letting myself stay up late reading most nights, flipping through my book club picks during the day (they’ve all been too heavy to read right before bed – a lesson I’ve learned over time about myself), reading books alongside the kids and listening to audio books while going for walks.
And don’t even get me started on all the progress I’m making in Animal Crossing.
Here’s what I’ve been reading this month and what I’m reading now as we approach May.
I read The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris after my teenager finished and recommended it. We’ve had the book for awhile and I think I was avoiding it because what are the odds that NPH is an amazing actor, singer, human being and a good author, too? Well I can tell you that NPH continues to never disappoint me. The book is like a mix of A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s got magic lessons and life lessons and you can almost hear Count Olaf narrating it in your head while you read it.
Katherine Center is quickly becoming a sure thing for me. Love stories that have depth and multiple story arcs and tackle heavy issues without ruining your night. Things You Save in a Fire takes place in the world of firefighting. I had more in common with the main character than I was expecting despite having no experience with fire fighters. I loved the Boston ambiance and quickly got caught up in this one. My only beef is that the main love interest was almost too good to be true.
I’ve been saying for awhile now that life in quarantine feels like the movie Groundhogs Day. So it seemed very timely to be reading Pretty in Punxutawney which takes on that very premise. The main character is doomed to repeat her first day at a new high school until she gets it right. Add in John Hughes references for days and a cast of characters that do not disappoint and you’ll see why I couldn’t put this one down. The premise may sound overdone but the story kept me guessing from beginning to end.
I just finished reading Lucky Caller by Emma Mills a couple nights ago and it’s another easy reading YA book. The main character is taking a high school class on running a radio station because apparently she goes to the coolest school ever. The class breaks off into groups to run a radio show and she ends up in a group with her old best friend / crush who she hasn’t really talked to for awhile. One of the other kids in the group was giving me major Azis Ansari vibes which was fun for me. I liked this one but also found myself frustrated with the characters and had a hard time controlling that enough to settle into the story sometimes.
Okay here are the books I’m currently reading / haven’t finished yet.
My book club discussed The Lying Game by Ruth Ware this month and I still haven’t finished it though I haven’t necessarily abandoned it either. It’s a kind of mystery thriller that switches tense frequently which can be hard for me. The book is fairly descriptive and moody and I was struggling to stay the course with it but I switched to the audio book a week before the meeting and it helped a lot. I still didn’t finish in time but I’m planning to continue listening when I’m out for walks.
My daughter and I decided to start a little mother daughter book club together where we read a chapter book and discuss in real time. So she’ll read a couple of chapters, pass me the book and then I’ll read said chapters and then we’ll discuss. She just finished reading the last few chapters and I’ve really enjoyed the process of discussing it this way. It doesn’t hurt that we’re reading one of my favorite BSC super specials, Starring the Baby-sitters Club! I loved this series when I was her age as well as Mary Martin’s Peter Pan so the whole book is nostalgia for days.
In May my book club will discuss Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng which was just turned into a series on Hulu. I’m only a couple of chapters in but it looks promising so far. Maybe I’ll finally finish a book in time for the meeting next month!
It’s time for Top 5 Tuesday hosted by Bionic Bookworm and we’ve finally made it to the last week of the alphabet challenge! Today’s post starts off wonky from the bat because there are 6 letters. Then it gets weirder because it’s comprised of the letters U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. I mean, really.
This week I chose books releasing in 2020 that I would like to read. Some have already been released and some come out later this year. All are something to look forward to which is a nice thing to have right about now.
Note: I chose a mix of book titles and author’s names to make my list and got even more creative than that for one letter.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener came out in January. Wiener is being described as the Joan Didion of start-up culture in this coming of age memoir in the Silicon Valley start up tech industry.
“In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial–left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.
Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.”
“Ever since she can remember, Vanessa has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.
After her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa sees death for the first time. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric Aunt Evelyn shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to California and bonjour to Paris. There, Vanessa learns more about herself and the root of her gifts and realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.”
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry came out earlier this month and Jenny Lawson is discussing it with her blog’s book club which is how I first heard about it. The Salem witch trials tie in was what caught my attention though.
“Set in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where the accusations began that led to the 1692 witch trials, We Ride Upon Sticks follows the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team, who will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. In chapters dense with 1980s iconography—from Heathers to “big hair”—Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.
Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship.“
The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry comes out next week and yes I’m aware how completely this book neither starts with the letter X and that the author’s name doesn’t either. Guys X was hard and after a couple of days searching, I settled for X appearing anywhere in the title and eventually found a book that met that criteria AND looked like a book I would even read! I call that a win. Here’s the description:
“Bridget Jones penned a diary; Roxy writes letters. Specifically: she writes letters to her hapless, rent-avoidant ex-boyfriend—and current roommate—Everett. This charming and funny twenty-something is under-employed (and under-romanced), and she’s decidedly fed up with the indignities she endures as a deli maid at Whole Foods (the original), and the dismaying speed at which her beloved Austin is becoming corporatized. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.
As her letters to Everett become less about overdue rent and more about the state of her life, Roxy realizes she’s ready to be the heroine of her own story. She decides to team up with her two best friends to save Austin—and rescue Roxy’s love life—in whatever way they can. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and find romance—and even creative inspiration—in the process?”
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli came out in February and I’m itching to read it. I loved The Upside of Unrequited and this one sounds easily as good.
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone) Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.”
Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman came out earlier this month and the cover caught my eye right away. The description sealed the deal and I quickly added the book to my Amazon wishlist and this post.
“Judy never intended to start wearing the dog. But when she stumbled across her son Teddy’s old baby sling during a halfhearted basement cleaning, something in her snapped. So: the dog went into the sling, Judy felt connected to another living being, and she’s repeated the process every day since.
Life hasn’t gone according to Judy’s plan. Her career as a children’s book author offered a glimpse of success before taking an embarrassing nose dive. Teddy, now a teenager, treats her with some combination of mortification and indifference. Her best friend is dying. And her husband, Gary, has become a pot-addled professional “snackologist” who she can’t afford to divorce. On top of it all, she has a painfully ironic job writing articles for a self-help website—a poor fit for someone seemingly incapable of helping herself.”
We did it! We finished the Alphabet Challenge and shared 26 books worthy of your TBR list!
It’s time for Top 5 Tuesday hosted by Bionic Bookworm and we’re still making our way through the alphabet challenge. For this week’s post I thought I’d share some favorite books from my childhood that hold up to the test of time (and one book that my kids love because there was bound to be a gap eventually). I’d recommend any of these for the bored tweens in your life that can only watch so much YouTube. Right?? Asking for a friend. 😉
I looooved this book as a kid and frankly I haven’t met anyone who didn’t. My kids read it for school and also loved it. Honestly I think I’m probably due for a reread.
“When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.
Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it?
Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.”
Thanks to the new movie, A Wrinkle in Time is gaining popularity again but the book is quite different from the movie and definitely worth a read if you haven’t gotten around to it.
“It was a dark and stormy night.
Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.”
You can’t mention amazing children’s books and not talk about Anne of Green Gables. It’s absolutely quintessential and worth all the hype. I didn’t read this one until I was an adult but my inner child loves it completely.
“As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination.”
I’m breaking the rules and mentioning two authors for the letter M because Childhood Jen probably read more of the Babysitter’s Club series than anything else in the entirety of my adolescence. I was 100% infatuated and tore my way through the 100+ book series at top speed. Despite my best efforts, I’ve only been able to hook my ten year old on the graphic novels which, to be fair, are pretty great.
Surprisingly I couldn’t come up with an author for the Letter N for this theme that I’ve read but I spotted Rascal by Sterling North and remembered that both my kids read and loved this one for school as well.
“Nothing’s surprising in the North household, not even Sterling’s new pet raccoon. Rascal is only a baby when Sterling brings him home, but soon the two are best friends, doing everything together–until the spring day when everything suddenly changes.”
“In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. — This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs.”
It’s midway through March and perhaps the strangest March I’ve ever witnessed. We got word Friday night that the schools will be closed until April 5 in response to this whole Kovid-19 situation. But why talk about that when we could talk about books instead?
I’m linking up with Anne’s Quick Lit series to share the books I’ve read in the past month. That’s actually a pretty short list for me. I’ve finished two books but I really enjoyed them both so that’s a pretty good success rate.
My book club read and discussed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman last month. This was my second attempt at reading the book, but I ended up really enjoying it this time. A few more chapters in and I finally got immersed enough to enjoy. I listened to the audio book at the recommendation of a friend and that also helped. The narrator’s accent was a delight. I will say that I did not love the big reveal at the end. It felt kind of forced and unsatisfying for me.
I also read I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. This was my nightstand read in between listening to the book club audio book during the day. The premise of this book is borderline insane but once I got over that it was a lot of fun. The banter and chemistry is great and there’s a whole subplot that borders on action adventure. A crazy, fluffy delight.
Right now I’m reading The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, which will be our next book club discussion at the end of the month. Although it looks like it might have to be a virtual group chat discussion the way things are going! What a crazy time! Reading a book centering around World Wars helps to put things in perspective though. 😉
This month’s Top 5 Tuesday is dedicated to the alphabet. You can interpret that how you like, according to our host The Bionic Bookworm.
This week we are focusing on the letters F, G, H, I and J. I decided to share five of my favorite books by an author with the last name beginning with those letters – specifically the ones that aren’t already blowing up our RSS feed every week.
Easy enough? Let’s get to it then.
Jasper Fforde is the king of complex stories in a story with wacky details and characters and word play that will make your head spin. If you haven’t read his amazing Thursday Next series yet, start with The Eyre Affair.
I know everyone loves Neil Gaiman, but a lot of people don’t seem to know about this amazing children’s chapter book. Fortunately, The Milk is a fantastic read aloud that our family read in one sitting. It all centers around a dad who went out for milk one morning but is delayed getting back for some pretty fantastical reasons. Laugh out loud funny.
I read The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman with my book club several years ago and was blown away by the story, the writing, the characters – just everything. From goodreads.com:
“In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived.”
My aunt was actually the one who turned me on to Eva Ibbotson, an amazing children’s book author with a flair for fantasy. This book, Island of the Aunts, is about a magical island that is home to creatures that would make Hagrid’s heart sing.
All’s Faire in Middle School is a graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson that centers around a girl who grows up in a family that works at Renaissance festivals who is starting middle school and finds the transition from home schooling to public school to be quite an adventure.
This month’s Top 5 Tuesday is dedicated to the alphabet. You can interpret that how you like, according to our host The Bionic Bookworm. This week we are focusing on the letters A-E. I thought I’d share a book that I already own but haven’t read yet by an author for each letter.
So here are the 5 books I own that I’m most excited to read by author’s with a last name starting with A, B, C, D, and E.
I loved The Upside of Unrequited and I’ve been meaning to read Albertalli’s other books. I have this one on Kindle. Leah on the Offbeat is about a drummer with a usually solid friend group that is going through tough times.
Anne’s newest book, Don’t Overthink It, just came out today and I’m so excited to read it. I love her blog, The Modern Mrs. Darcy, and this book kind of looks like it was written specifically for me.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages but haven’t gotten around to it. This is the author of the Selection series. The Siren is about a siren who falls in love with a human. It sounds sort of Little Mermaid inspired and you know I love a good retelling.
This is another book that has been on my radar for years. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George is about a magical castle that can rebuild itself. On Tuesdays it adds a new room, turret, or occasionally a new wing. When the king and queen are ambushed, it’s up to Celie to defend the castle.
Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw came in one of my Owl Crates and it’s a gorgeous book. Here’s the description from Amazon:
“Be careful of the dark, dark wood…
Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.”
It’s Wednesday so I thought I’d play along with this linkup again. WWW was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm and revived by Taking on a World of Words. This meme tries to answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
What did you finish recently reading?
I’m currently listening to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman on audio. My book club is discussing it at the end of the month. I’m liking it so much more the second time around. I DNFed it pretty quickly the first time around being completely unable to relate to the main character. A couple chapters in, I started to realize why and it was a game changer.
I have a couple of books waiting for me at the library that I’ll probably look into reading next. Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton and If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberly. I’ve also been sitting on The Library Book by Susan Orlean that actually looks really promising as well.
I last finished reading Friendship To The Max, book 2 of the Lumberjanes graphic novels. These are a fun quick read. Lots of girl power, fantasy, mythology and humor. This is summer camp like you’ve never seen before.