Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Monday 12/30! What Are You Reading?

Happy Almost New Year! It's hard to believe tomorrow is the last day of the year. We've been busy this past week, with Christmas preparations, then Christmas, and then traveling to visit family. But, we all received books for Christmas, so we've been reading a lot, too, especially during air travel. Here's what we have been reading this week:
  • I finished Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, book 3 in the Chaos Walking trilogy, on Christmas Eve and loved it! It was an excellent end to an outstanding series. I can't wait to read more from Ness.
  • In between books, I read a few more stories from David Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a unique collection of short stories about animals acting very human-like. I was driving my son crazy reading parts aloud to him while we waited in a doctor's office. C'mon, can you blame me? A stork mother who doesn't know what to say when her child asks where babies come from? That just begs to be shared - so clever and witty!
  • I am now reading a book my husband gave me for Christmas, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, a YA novel I have been wanting to read for a long time. So far, it's just as good as everyone had said.
  • I am listening to The Real Boy by Anne Ursu on audio. I am a big fan of Anne's novels, both adult and middle-grade fiction. My son and I loved her Cronus Chronicles trilogy. I had hoped to squeeze in one last audio book this year, but I think this will be my first audio book finished in the new year. It's excellent so far, but I don't have a lot of time to listen with my whole family around all the time.
  • My husband, Ken, is also reading a new Christmas gift (from me): Wool by Hugh Howey. Both of us have been wanting to read this acclaimed dystopian novel.
  • Jamie, 19, finished Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, volume one of The Riyria Revelations on his Kindle.
  • On the airplane, he read another book on his Kindle, Bloodlust: A Gladiator's Tale by C.P.D. Harris. From what I could see from my seat next to him, it was pretty gory, with lots of battles, but he enjoyed it. The Kindle is a great advancement for Jamie, since he is such an avid reader that on one trip when he was in middle school, we discovered he had stuffed a giant compendium of all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books/stories into his backpack and carried it through airports!
  • Now, Jamie is reading Project Cain by Geoffrey Girard, a recent teen/YA novel we received for review that also caught my eye.
Not much time for writing last week, but I did manage one review:

Review of The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa - highly recommended.

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

What are you and your family reading this week?     

Hope you have a fun New Year's Eve and a great start to the new year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 12/28

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and are preparing for a good New Year's celebration! It's been a whirlwind of activity for us, but we are enjoying lots of time with family.

Here are a couple of fun photos from our Christmas celebration:

My two sons on Christmas Eve - still not too old for us to read to them!

The "Before" shot - our living room all decked out

...And the "After" shot!

Since I so rarely appear in my photos, here I am (in red) playing Boggle with my son.

Enjoy this holiday week!

Fiction Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor

Both of my sons were assigned to read The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa for summer reading in high school, and they both enjoyed the slim novel. I have had it on my want-to-read shelves for a while now and finally found time to read it recently. I loved this warm, gentle story about creating family.

The Housekeeper, a woman with a 10-year old son, tells the story of being hired to take care of a math Professor whose short-term memory is limited to the past 80 minutes, ever since he experienced a traumatic brain injury. Under the circumstances, this proves to be an unusual job for her, unlike any other in her long experience of housekeeping. Given his limitations, the Professor often has difficulty connecting with other people, but he uses numbers as a bridge. For example, when he opens the door to the Housekeeper (who has become a stranger to him again overnight) each morning, he greets her with some sort of numerical question, as on her first day of work:
“’What’s your shoe size?’

This was the Professor’s first question, once I had announced myself as the new housekeeper. No bow, no greeting. If there is one ironclad rule in my profession, it’s that you always give the employer what he wants, and so I told him.

‘Twenty-four centimeters.’

‘There’s a sturdy number,’ he said. ‘It’s the factorial of four.’

He folded his arms, closed his eyes, and was silent for a moment.

‘What’s a factorial?’ I asked at last. I felt I should try to find out a bit more since it seemed to be connected to his interest in my shoe size.

‘The product of all the natural numbers from one to four is twenty-four,’ he said, without opening his eyes. ‘What’s your telephone number?’

He nodded, as if deeply impressed. ‘That’s the total number of primes between one and one hundred million.’

It wasn’t immediately clear to me why my phone number was so interesting, but his enthusiasm seemed genuine. And he wasn’t showing off; he struck me as straightforward and modest. It nearly convinced me that there was something special about my phone number and that I was somehow special for having it.”

I could have gone on quoting from the book for pages! I hope this gives you an idea of the warmth and cleverness of this novel and of the special relationship that begins to grow between the Housekeeper and the Professor, even at this very first meeting. Despite his lack of short-term memory, the Professor uses his vast knowledge of numbers and math not only to reach out to the Housekeeper but also to tutor her. When her son comes along for the first time, the Professor is delighted with him and immediately nicknames him Root because his flat head reminds him of the square root sign (of which he is exceptionally fond).

As the novel progresses, the relationships between these three characters slowly grow and expand. Despite the fact that none of the characters in this novel has a name (except for Root’s nickname), the reader comes to know them and care about them. There are little math lessons sprinkled in among the story, as the Professor shares his knowledge with the Housekeeper and her son; many of these mathematical details are fascinating and little known.

I absolutely loved this book and never wanted it to end. It is about three people who create a family of their own and about what it means to live constantly in the present (incidentally, the Professor’s affliction is not fictional; there are really people with this condition, as described in Oliver Sack’s book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain). The characters are warm and endearing, and the story is gentle yet engaging. I can see why this novel has become a modern classic and why it is required reading now for many students.

180 pages, Picador (St. Martin’s Press)


Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Monday 12/23! What Are You Reading?

Whew. Things have been super busy here, as I'm sure is true for most of you, too! We've been traveling so much that all of our Christmas preparations got put off until this weekend, so we put up our tree (after it spent two weeks in the garage!), decorated it, put up our outdoor lights, decorated the house, hung the wreath, finished shopping, began to wrap gifts, and began to write out cards (which I bought back in November!). Today, I finished the grocery shopping, and we will bake cookies. Like I said, whew!

We still enjoyed some good books last week, though, amid the holiday hubbub:
  • I am still reading Monsters of Men, the third and final book of the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, and it is just as fabulous as the first two books. I am near the end now and staying up much too late each night reading!
  • I FINALLY finished listening to Rotters by Daniel Kraus, a teen/YA novel. It was one of the strangest and most disturbing books I have ever read...and I used to read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz! It took me over two months to finish it. It's a good story but very dark.
  • I have just started listening to The Real Boy, a middle-grade novel by Anne Ursu (on my way home from the store this morning, after I finished Rotters). I'm only on chapter one but am enjoying it so far. Anne Ursu is a favorite author of mine.
  • My husband, Ken, finished World War Z by Max Brooks. Now we can watch the movie!
  • Ken also read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn this week. This is the third of Flynn's novels that he's read, and I think he liked this one best.
  • Jamie, 19, finished Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, Book 1 in The Broken Empire series. 
  • Now, Jamie is reading Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, volume one of The Riyria Revelations on his Kindle. He says it's very good - he's been reading a lot while he's home from school!
I actually managed quite a few blog posts last week, in an effort to catch up:

Top Ten New To Me Authors Read in 2013

Top Ten New To Me Kid/Teen/YA Authors Read in 2013

Review of When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Review of The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley

Summary of Books Read in November (better late than never!)

Weekend Cooking post, with several easy, tasty, and healthy weeknight recipes.

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

What are you and your family reading this week?    

My husband and two sons decorating the Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weekend Cooking 12/22

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

We had a busy week, but my college son was home, so I cooked some of his favorites for dinner.

We started the week with Shepherd's Pie, using an old recipe from Cooking Light from the early 90's (not online, unfortunately). This is my son's favorite kinds of food - basic meat and potatoes comfort food! We all enjoyed it.

Tuesday was a busy day, so I needed a super-quick meal. I made Penne with Sausage, White Beans & Spinach, one of my own creations. It is super simple and goes together in less than 20 minutes - see complete recipe below.

Thursday was even busier, so I decided to use the crockpot. I tried a new recipe from Cooking Light's Slow Cooker Tonight cookbook, Provençale Chicken Supper. It met my criteria for that night - just 1 instruction: "Add all ingredients to crockpot and turn on." I stuck to the recipe, except that I added several sliced carrots to the slow cooker to up the veggie content. My family loved it, though my son actually said it could use more veggies (that's what a mom likes to hear!). Best of all, I came home at 6 pm with dinner ready to eat!

Friday night, I made another family favorite that I have mentioned here many times before (because it really is one of our all-time favorite meals, so we eat it a lot): Red Beans & Rice, another of my own recipes (published in Family Fun magazine, February 2012). This one is literally a crowd-pleaser, so I made a double batch and served it Friday night when a couple of my son's college friends were over, and again Saturday night when one of my younger son's high school friends was here. This is one dish that no one in my family complains about when we have left-overs!

Hope you are enjoying some good food during this busy holiday season!

Pasta with Sausage, White Beans, and Spinach

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 16-oz. box whole wheat Penne pasta
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
12-oz. Package reduced-fat sausage, sliced (we like Trader Joe’s Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage)
1 can white cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag baby spinach, sliced
1 can petite diced tomatoes
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté onion and bell pepper until soft.  Add sausage, beans, and spinach.  Stir fry until spinach wilts.  Add tomatoes, stir, and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta and dump back into pot.  Add contents of skillet and mix thoroughly.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

  © 2013 Suzan L. Jackson  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 12/21

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Happy First Day of Winter! It is actually in the 60's here in Delaware today and supposed to hit the 70's tomorrow, but we've already had a couple of big snowstorms a couple of weeks ago - almost unheard of for December here! The snow cancelled school for days and stranded my husband and son out of town two weeks ago, but it did look pretty!

Our backyard covered in snow.

I love when the snow coats the tree branches.

The trees look like they've been painted white.

Blue sky begins to peek through after days of snow!

Our neighbor's snow-covered winterberry tree.

A snowy sunset.
Hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend, whatever the weather is where you are!

Books Read in November

Oh, yeah, I am just a little bit late with my monthly summary from November. Things have been crazy hectic here the past few weeks. We cut down our Christmas tree two weeks ago and just finally had time to bring it in from the garage last night! Better Late Than Never is pretty much my life motto.

November was a rough month for me in other ways, but it was a good reading month! Here's what I finished reading last month:

  • The Dream by Harry Bernstein, a memoir (Illinois)
  • Flyaway by Lucy Christopher, a middle-grade novel (Scotland)
  • The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley, a middle-grade/teen graphic novel memoir (Pennsylvania)

 Lots of variety last month: I read a memoir, an adult novel, two middle-grade novels, a teen/YA novel, and a graphic novel memoir. My favorite book of the month? They were all good, but Between Shades of Gray completely blew me away! It is an amazing, powerful novel.

Update on 2013 Reading Challenges:
I added no new states to my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge, but I did add two new countries: Lithuania and Scotland. That brings my totals up to 26 states and 13 countries. Two of the book were from my TBR shelves, bringing my total up to 18 for the 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.

What were your favorite books read in November? 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fiction Review: When the Emperor Was Divine

My high school son says he doesn’t like reading, but he raved about When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka when he read it for school last year. That is high praise, indeed, and I thoroughly enjoyed Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, so I wanted to read this novel about the Japanese-American internment during World War II for myself.

The slim novel focuses on one family in particular who live in Berkeley in the early 1940’s. They are a fairly typical American family for that time, with a working husband, a housewife who takes care of her family, a 10-year old daughter, a 7-year old son, and a family dog. But they are of Japanese descent, so their whole world changes in an instant on a beautiful spring day in 1942 when the Evacuation Orders show up, posted on every available surface in town.

The mother/wife reacts calmly, methodically packing up a few essentials in suitcases, wrapping up and storing valuables, burying the most valuable items in the backyard, and burning all family photos, letters, and even her wedding kimono – anything that shows a connection to Japan. It is a surreal series of scenes and hard to imagine experiencing, but she remains calm, telling her children they will be going on a trip the next day.

The children take this news in stride and tell her that their teachers already told them they’d be leaving. Their father isn’t coming with them; he was taken away from their home recently, grabbed by serious-looking men in suits while still in his bathrobe and slippers and taken to a prison for suspected crimes against the U.S. The mother and her two children go to the train station the next day and begin a long, dirty journey across the country to an arid salt plain in Utah.

The mother and two children live in a tiny room in a huge internment camp under horrible conditions for over three years, along with thousands of other Japanese-American families who had done nothing wrong. Even after the family returns home after the war ends, nothing is ever the same for them, and they are treated with suspicion by their old friends and neighbors.

No wonder this book affected my son so deeply. It was an awful event in American history that is often glossed over.  This novel is written much as The Buddha in the Attic, in very spare prose, and with no character names. However, The Buddha in the Attic (which was written later but covers the earlier period of history) uses collective pronouns like we and our to tell the story of a whole generation of Japanese “picture brides” brought to America in the early part of the 20th century, while When the Emperor Was Divine tells the story of a national event by focusing on a single family. It is a sparsely told yet emotionally powerful story that has stayed with me (and with my son) long after we finished reading.

144 pages, Anchor Books (a division of Random House)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Ten New To Me Authors Read in 2013

It's Tuesday and that means it's Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish. Head over there and check out all the top ten lists! Today's topic is Top Ten New To Me Authors Read in 2013. This was an easy list for me, since I read a lot of new-to-me authors this past year. In fact, I have a feeling that this list is going to end up overlapping quite a bit with my overall Best of 2013 list.

My Top Ten New To Me Authors Read in 2013:

Wow, my Best of 2013 list is going to be a tough one this year!  For many on this list, I don't know if these were their first books or if they've written others, but I would love to read more from any of these authors!

If you are interested in my Top Ten New To Me Authors of Kids/Teen/YA Books, head over to Great Books for Kids and Teens.

Which were your favorite new-to-you authors read this year?

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Monday 1216! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! Whew, what a whirlwind week I had last week! I spent all week making my annual DVD of family photos (videos and photo slideshows put to music on a DVD). Then, on Friday, my husband came home from a business trip, my older son finished his final exams at college, and the moment they were both back home, we packed up the truck and left for Connecticut! We had our holiday celebration with my family early this year, to accommodate everyone's schedule. It was great to see everyone, especially my wonderful niece and nephew! We got quite a bit of snow up there this weekend and had to dig out yesterday before we could drive home, but we enjoyed lots of great food and many laughs (except my husband who picked up a virus on his business trip).

So, it goes without saying that I had no time at all for blogs last week, other than my Monday posts, but we all enjoyed our books, as always:
  • I finished The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa, a book that both of my sons read for their high school English courses. I loved this warm, gentle story about a housekeeper and her 10-year old son who care for an aging mathematician whose short-term memory lasts only 80 minutes. 
  • After just one week, I gave up on my idea of reading lots of short books this month...when I realized I don't have any time to write reviews! So, I picked up the hefty Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, the third and final book in the Chaos Walking trilogy (and a great way to end the year!).
  • I am still listening to Rotters by Daniel Kraus on audio, a teen/YA novel about grave-robbing, bullying, and the meaning of family. It just keeps getting darker and more disturbing - I can't imagine how it will end, but I am determined to finish it before the end of the year!
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading World War Z by Max Brooks. He says it's an unusual book, written as a series of news clips from the future, rather than a story following certain characters.
  • Ken also finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on his iPhone during his travels last week. Now that our son is home for the holidays, we are planning to watch the movie adaptation since it is one of his favorite series.
  • Jamie, 19, is thrilled to have a break from school for a little while and have time for pleasure reading again. He finished the third and final book in the Night Angel trilogy, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, one of his favorite series.
  • Now, he is reading Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, Book 1 in The Broken Empire series. It must be good so far because he was up really late last night reading!
  • Craig, 15, finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon for his British Literature class.
  • Our whole family enjoyed a couple of audio books together in the car this weekend. First, we continued our family tradition of kicking off the holiday season with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens on audio. We have a bunch of different versions - this was a new(ish) unabridged recording narrated by Jim Dale (of Harry Potter audio book fame) and was excellent. It's such a hopeful, uplifting story - we were all grinning at the familiar happy ending.
  • Next, we listened to an audio book we have heard at least a half dozen times before! It is my sons' all-time favorite audio, Looking for Bobowicz by Daniel Pinkwater, a silly middle-grade novel that they have long outgrown, but all four of us still laugh out loud all the way through. It is a clever, funny story about a boy whose family moves to Hoboken, NJ, made even better because it is read by the author. Pinkwater nails what it is like to be a kid.
(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

What are you and your family reading this week?    

My sons (in front) with their cousins.

Monday, December 09, 2013

It's Monday 12/9! What Are You Reading?

The weeks are just flying by now! I was still very ill all last week, though starting to feel better now. I spent much of my week hustling to finish all my online shopping before the cyber week deals ended and putting together calendars and photo books on Snapfish. This week will be another hectic one - I need to start (and finish!) my annual photo DVD for our family (yes, I waited until the last minute again) and then we travel next weekend to visit family for an early Christmas celebration. Whew.

So, no time for visiting or posting much on blogs last week, but of course, we kept reading!
  • I finished When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, a historical novel about the Japanese-American internment during World War II. My son read it in school last year and liked it, and I enjoyed Otsuka's other novel, The Buddha in the Attic. Like that novel, this one features sparse and simple prose but is emotionally powerful.
  • I decided to go for the shortest books on my TBR shelves this month for a last-minute clear-out before the new year! So, next I read a teen/YA novel Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis, about a young man who enlists in the Army and suffers a brain injury in Iraq. He comes home with no memory of what happened or who he is, and his family and friends struggle with how to support him. It was very good.
  • Now I am reading - and thoroughly enjoying - another novel my sons both read it high school, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa. It is a warm, gentle story about a housekeeper and her young son who take care of a math professor whose short-term memory only lasts 80 minutes. Hey, I just realized that's two books with brain-damaged characters in a row.
  • I had to start another book (I never read two at a time!) when I left The Housekeeper and the Professor in the car this weekend, and my husband was out at nap time. I started Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris, a bizarre little book filled with stories about animals in human-like situations (out on a date, at the hairdresser's, etc.). It seems like a strange concept until you realize Sedaris has applied his considerable wit to these stories, which are rife with hilarious satire about humans. Very funny so far.
  • And, last but not least, I am still listening to Rotters by Danial Kraus on audio, a teen/YA novel about grave-robbing, bullying, and the meaning of family. It's good but very dark and disturbing.
  • My husband, Ken, is now reading World War Z by Max Brooks, which turned out to add a funny element to a scary situation yesterday. He and my son got trapped by a snow storm in Lancaster, PA, and couldn't get home. They finally got a hotel room (my son said when an Amish guy in a buggy asks if you need a push, it's time to get off the road!), but there was no food available, except for vending machine-type stuff. My husband told our son, "See? This is what it'll be like when there's a zombie apocalypse." That's one of his favorite lines lately!
  • My husband has also been reading City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on his iPhone.
  • My son, 15, is reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon for his British Literature class and really enjoying it, but he was very upset when a classmate spoiled the ending!
Just two posts last week (and it's a miracle that I managed those):

Review of Flyaway by Lucy Christopher, a middle-grade novel.

Weekend Cooking post, with 3 easy but flavorful weeknight dinner recipes.

(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

What are you and your family reading this week?   

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Weekend Cooking 12/8

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

I was still quite sick this week, plus very busy trying to get all my online shopping done before the cyber specials expired! But, with my husband's help (with both shopping and cooking), we were able to enjoy some very tasty meals this week. It goes without saying these were all super-easy, quick weeknight meals but packed with flavor. I enjoyed every one of these both for dinner and again with leftovers for lunch the next day:

We started the week off with an old favorite, Crispy Fish with Lemon-Dill Sauce and Sautéed Zucchini (when the recipe originally appeared in Cooking Light, it included a side dish of Sautéed Zucchini - just simple sliced zucchini sautéed in a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper). This is just a basic oven-baked cod, but the sauce - which is like a homemade tartar sauce - adds great flavor.

On Tuesday, we had a vegetarian dinner that I'd made once before, with Lentils with Carrots and Curried Cauliflower with Capers. My son complained about the lack of meat, but I noticed he ate every bite! The Lentils with Carrots goes together super fast, with about 5 minutes of prep time, and is ready in under 30 minutes. It's a deceptively simple recipe because the flavors of the finished dish are delicious. The Curried Cauliflower has become one of my all-time favorite dishes - ever! We love the roasted cauliflower as something different than our usual steamed version, and the lemon, caper, curry powder, and parsley combination that it is tossed with is full of flavor. My son complained that he doesn't like parsley, so I may add that at the table next time.

Wednesday's dinner went through several iterations before it made it to the table, but it turned out well in the end! I had thin-sliced chicken breasts in the freezer, so I planned to make Chicken Français. I started to make dinner and realized we had no eggs in the house! So, I switched my plan to Cider Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter-Pecan Rice (even though the recipe calls for regular chicken breasts, not the thin ones). I got halfway through the preparation, with the chicken already in the pan, and opened the fridge to find we were out of cider! Fortunately, my husband had bought extra and put it in our basement fridge, so he saved the day (and the dinner!). We all love this dinner. The chicken with the cider glaze is delicious, and the rice with the browned butter sounds simple but it is full of flavor. I'm not a big fan of rice as a side these days, but this combination is delicious together. And, this is another super-fast dinner; I served it with steamed broccoli on the side.

I have no idea what we'll be eating this week, so I need to take some time to plan today or tomorrow. I hope all of you have enjoyed some good food and cooking this week, too!

Monday, December 02, 2013

It's Monday 12/2! What Are You Reading?

I hope everyone here in the US had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends! We traveled to Rochester, NY - my hometown - for a whirlwind visit with all the branches of my family. My sons had a blast running around with their cousins all weekend, and I loved seeing everyone and catching up (my husband wasn't too thrilled with all the snow and 20 degree temperatures!).

I brought bags and bags of books with me to give to all my young cousins and kids of my cousins - some that my kids had outgrown and others that I received for review for Great Books for Kids and Teens. It was fun to see some of the kids get sooo excited when I handed over a bag of books for them. I just love to share books, especially with kids! I also had a wonderful time talking with my teen cousin about Between Shades of Gray and The Book Thief, two fabulous books that I recently sent her for her birthday - she is loving both of them!

So, here we are on Monday again - first Monday of December, last month of the year, and just 3 weeks until Christmas! So much to do. Even with all that running around and traveling last week, we still found time to read:
  • I finished Flyaway by Lucy Christopher, a middle-grade novel about a young girl named Isla whose father is obsessed with birds and especially the whooper swans that winter near their home each year. When Isla's father collapses while they are out looking for the swans, her world seems to fall apart. It was very good, and I passed it onto my cousin's 10-year old daughter as soon as I finished it this weekend!
  • I squeezed in a teen/YA graphic novel last week, The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley. I enjoyed it - it's actually a memoir, about how Gownley began drawing his own comics when he was just a teen.
  • This weekend, I started When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, a historical novel about the Japanese-American internment during World War II. My son read it in school last year and liked it, and I enjoyed Otsuka's other novel, The Buddha in the Attic, so I thought it was about time I got around to reading this one. It's excellent so far, and I can see why my son was so moved by it.
  • I am still listening to Rotters by Danial Kraus on audio, a teen/YA novel about grave-robbing, bullying, and the meaning of family. It's a long one, but I am on the last packet of discs now! It's good but very dark and sometimes disturbing.
  • And while we were driving home in the car yesterday, we stuck with our Thanksgiving tradition and began listening to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We have many audio versions of this holiday classic, but this was a new one, read by Jim Dale, and we are all enjoying it. We'll finish it on the way to my Mom's house in two weeks.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Rebel Heart by Moira Young, book 2 in the teen/YA post-apocalyptic Dust Lands trilogy that began with Blood Red Road. This one is on my list to read, too - he said it was very good.
  • Ken is now reading World War Z by Max Brooks, a novel he's been meaning to get to for a while now. It just came out on DVD, and he wanted to read the book before we watch it.
  • Even though Jamie, 19, was home from college for a few days, he still didn't have much reading time, with homework to do and cousins to hang out with! He is still reading the third and final book in the Night Angel trilogy, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks - he absolutely loves this series!
  • Craig, 15, is reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon for his British Literature class and enjoying it very much so far.
With our travels last week, I barely had time to squeeze in one blog post:

Review of The Dream by Harry Bernstein, follow-up to his first memoir, The Invisible Wall - both are excellent!

(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

What are you and your family reading this week?