Tuesday Top Ten


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten books and/or authors that were gateways in my reading journey, ones that introduced me to a new genre, reinvigorated my interest in reading, somehow changed or affected my reading journey.

  1. Dystopian Books – The Giver by Lois Lowry – My first foray into dystopian novels, The Giver will always be my first and my favorite!
  2. Young Adult – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – It wasn’t my first YA book, but the first one that dealt so directly with difficult issues that matter to young adults, the first time I realized what great literature exists for teens.
  3. Stories told in a series of books – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling –  They’re everywhere!  Prior to this series, I don’t ever remember reading books where you needed to wait until the series was complete to be able to finish the story! I do love many of these series, I just have taken a vow not to start one until all of the books are released so I don’t have to wait so long between pieces of the story!
  4. Historical Non-Fiction – Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – Historical non-fiction has never really been my thing – I don’t want to read the equivalent of a high school social studies textbook – but this book proved that there was historical fiction out there that would tell me a story while teaching me about the past.
  5. Current Non-Fiction – Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Too much of current non-fiction is just someone trying to turn their opinions into fact or someone trying to catch the wave of popularity associated with the issue or personality of the day.  But this story grabbed my interest and held it, teaching me about the past and the present.
  6. Mysteries – Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene – Giving credit where credit is due, Nancy and the gang were my first introduction to the mystery genre, one that I still love today.
  7. Cozy Mysteries – Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton – My first cozy mystery series, there are still a number that I regularly read and enjoy – they are always a fun, quick escape!
  8. Detective Stories – Moe Prager series by Reed Farrel Coleman – Another part of the progression, the jump to grittier detective stories, this series continues to be a favorite.  It will be bittersweet when the last book comes out next month.
  9. Historical Fiction – A Good American by Alex George – I had not read historical fiction in a long time, didn’t really consider it a genre that I liked that well, until I read this and now I find myself reading all kinds of historical fiction!
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The book the reinvigorated and affirmed my love for the written word.  The funny thing?  I walked by it in the bookstore for months, picked it up and put it back down, before I finally decided to give it a try – and it is my favorite book.

2013 Reading Challenges

Since this is my first year as a blogger, and I started fairly early in the year, I decided to sign up for some of the reading challenges that are available on other blogs. There is so much out there to choose from, and I wish that I could do them all, but I decided to focus on a handful – something that I can accomplish but that will also challenge me. Luckily I can use the same book to fulfill multiple challenges! As I work through these challenges I will post my thoughts on my blog and will also include the list of books on this page.  Do you have any reading goals for this year?


Off the Shelf

The goal is to read as many books on your shelf as possible, those books that you haven’t started but that you had when 2013 started.  Since there are tons of books on my to-read pile that I’ve had for ages, this seemed like a good incentive to get me working my way through them!

I am choosing to participate at the Trying level, meaning that I am going to try to read 15 books that are sitting on my shelves right now!

What I’ve Read So Far:
Thomas Jefferson : The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout


The Classics

The challenge is to read classics (must have been published prior to 1980) this year.  There are no levels, but I am signing up to read 3 – they will probably mostly be rereads of great books that I read in high school or college that I have always wanted to read again.  It will be interesting to see what some “maturity” (ok – aging) will do to my perspectives.

What I’ve Read So Far:
Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
Call of the Wild by Jack London


Nerdy Non-Fiction – COMPLETE

The goal is to read more non-fiction books.  I largely read fiction (for a number of reasons I will probably carry on about at a later time), so this will be a great challenge for me.  I am signing up for the Geek level, with the goal of reading 4-6 non-fiction books in 2-3 different categories.

What I’ve Read So Far:
With or Without You by Domenica Ruta (Biography/Memoir)
Thomas Jefferson : The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (Biography/History)
The Thieves of Book Row by Travis McDade (American History/Crime)
I Am A Man by Joe Starita (American History)
Hothouse by Boris Kachka (Business/History)
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore (Biography/History)


Ireland Reading Challenge

Although I am Irish by marriage only, I love Irish authors and books that take place in Ireland, so this should be a fun challenge.  I am signing up for the Luck o’ the Irish level and will try to read 6 books for this challenge.

What I’ve Read So Far:
Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
Screwed by Eoin Colfer
City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan
The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern


Southern Literature – COMPLETE!

Maybe it’s living in a climate where the winter seems to last too long, but I devour books that are set in the south.  I am signing up for the Y’all come back now, y’hear! level with the goal of reading 4 books for this challenge.  Given what I have already read, I will probably end up reading more than that, but that was the highest challenge level available.

What I’ve Read So Far:
Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth
Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Dead, White, and Blue by Carolyn Hart
Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank


What’s in a Name 6 – COMPLETE!

This challenge just seemed like a lot of fun to me.  The goal is to read a book that has the following in its title (for a total of 6 books):

  1. Up or down (or equivalent): The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore
  2. Something you’d find in your kitchen: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
  3. Party or celebration : The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
  4. Fire (or equivalent): Inferno by Dan Brown
  5. An Emotion: City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan
  6. Lost or found (or equivalent): Loss of Innocence by Richard North Patterson
  • library

Library Books Reading Challenge – COMPLETE!

OK, so I signed up for this one because it will be pretty easy for me considering that I work in a library and most of what I read comes from the library.  The goal is to read books from your local library.  I am signing up for the Just Insert IV level with the goal of reading 50 books from the library.  I might have to add books to the list that I have read but not reviewed, but I am going to see if I can make it with just those I review…

What I’ve Read so Far (that I’ve blogged about):
1. Week in Winter  by Maeve Binchy
2. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
3. Uniform Justice by Donna Leon
4. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
5. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
6. The Bookseller by Mark Pryor
7. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge
8. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
9. Requiem by Lauren Oliver
10. Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs
11. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
13. Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth
14. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
15. The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee
16. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
17. One Shot by Lee Child
18. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
19. The Dinner by Herman Koch
20. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
21. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
22. Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman
23. Inferno by Dan Brown
24. Golden Egg by Donna Leon
25. Silken Prey by John Sandford
26. Dead, White, and Blue by Carolyn Hart
27. Screwed by Eoin Colfer
28. Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
29. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz
30. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
31. The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
32. Beautiful Day by Erin Hildebrand
33. Angora Alibi by Sally Goldenbaum
34. Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle
35. 12th of Never by James Patterson
36. Body in the Piazza by Katherine Hall Page
37. Close Knit Killer by Maggie Sefton
38. City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan
39. The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern
40. The Thieves of Book Row by Travis McDade
41. The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
42. Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews
43. Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver
44. Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
45. The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
46. Bombshell by Catherine Coulter
47. Never Go Back by Lee Child
48. The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
49. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
50. Storm Front by John Sandford
51. W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton
52. Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore
53. Hothouse by Boris Kachka
54. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore

With or Without You : A Memoir

with or withoutWith or Without You arrived this week, the next book in my Indiespensables subscription (complete with my extra gifts!  Just like Christmas all over again!).  Most of what I’ve been reading lately has been pretty light – this memoir definitely is not.  This has been a hard review for me to sit down and write, although thoughts of the book fill my head, getting them out in some organized fashion has not been simple.

Nikki (the author’s nickname) grows up in a trash-filled rundown house with her wild, unpredictable, and drug-addled mother, Kathi, in Danvers, Massachusetts, north of Boston.  The memoir travels through Nikki’s childhood and early adulthood, jumping around chronologically, and focuses largely on her relationship with her mother and her own struggles with addiction.

While the story is dark and oftentimes disturbing – Kathi provides Nikki with Oxycotin for her headaches at a young age, leaves her with a known pedophile, encourages her to get pregnant in high school, and gives her high-quality pot for Christmas – it is not as depressing as it sounds.  Ruta’s telling of her story layers caustic humor with love and the beginnings of forgiveness.  There are times when Kathi does try to be a good mother, although her methods may be unconventional – selling coke to pay for Nikki’s schooling, working three jobs to buy her outlandish Christmas gifts, doing whatever is necessary to ensure Nikki can go to dance lessons, French lessons, and the symphony.

In spite of the horrors Kathi subjects her daughter to, there are moments of affection and love and spunkiness and don’t-mess-with-us attitude that make you smile, laugh, and actually hope for Kathi’s redemption, and for her own sake, not just for Nikki’s.  As Nikki struggles with recovering from her own addiction she ultimately needs to cut her mother out of her life in a quest for sobriety and sanity.

Ultimately, this memoir is about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, filled with codependency, anger, hate, and love.  Ruta indicates that this book is largely a letter to her mother and the dedication heartbreakingly reads simply “To Her”.  The ending is real, not fiction, so there is no tidy resolution, just an ongoing struggle and the possibility of hope.

Title: With or Without You 
Author: Domenica Ruta
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir
Pages: 224
Publication: Spiegel & Grau, February 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

ImageI really need to start keeping a pad of paper next to me when I read.  It seems that whenever I finish a book there is always something I want to go back to, some quote or reference or thought, but it can be hard to find or the book is due back at the library or I am already on to the next book, and the thought is lost.  Why don’t I just keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I read?  I’m not sure.  I think it feels too much like work, like reading a book for some college course where I will need to be ready to answer questions later.  Taking notes in the middle of reading seems to somehow distract from the total absorption that I have come to know and love and associate with books.  And then there’s the extra paraphernalia required, the notebook, the pen, a place to set them down, the awkwardness of reaching for them and balancing them on my lap while not losing my place. I know, I know, taking notes while reading is much easier to do with e-books.  But while I gratefully own a Nook Tablet, and use it extensively whenever I travel, all of my reasons for preferring the real thing are a subject for another day and another rant…

The End of Your Life Book Club is due back at the library, tomorrow, but I am going to have to take the time today to skim back through it and capture a few things.  Mostly, all of the titles of the wonderful books that I want to add to my “to read” list (which is already impossibly long, not to mention my “to re-read list!).  The book tells the true story of the author and his mother and the relationship that they share through books.  His mother, Mary Anne, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and for the time they have remaining, they share books, their thoughts on books, and how they relate to life in the midst of chemotherapy appointments and hospice care.  Their conversations cover a wide-range of topics, both global and intensely personal, giving them the opportunity to know and understand one another more fully.

The ending is no surprise, and leaves you wishing you had been given the opportunity to know this amazing woman. She believed that “books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books… is the grandest entertainment, and is also how you take part in the human conversation…  books really do matter: they’re how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others… that books can be how we get closer to each other, and stay close, even in the case of a mother and son who were very close to each other to begin with, and even after one of them has died”.  I could not agree more.

I cannot count the number of times I have reached for the phone to call Dottie, my dear friend and mother-in-law, about tell her about something, anything, a book, a day at the library, something the kids have done, only to remember that she is gone.  And like the author, many times I tell her anyway…

Now back to the book to add to my “to read” list!

    Title: The End of Your Life Book Club
    Author: Will Schwalbe
    Genre: Non-Fiction
    Pages: 326
    Publication: Knopf, October 2012

And so it begins…

For awhile I’ve been contemplating of finding a way to share my thoughts on books: what I’m reading, quotes that inspire me, what’s happening in the world of libraries.  Today I woke up and decided I would try to put together this blog as a way of doing that.  I am sure it will take me a little while to work out the kinks, so please be patient and hang in there with me!

A little about me and why I am inspired to do this.  I received my BSEE from Clarkson University in 1995 and spent the next 16 years working in the engineering field.  Feeling unfulfilled by my career, in 2009 I announced to my husband that I was going to go back to school to get my degree in library science.  Why?  Definitely not for the power or the money!  😉  I have long felt that the power of the written word to entertain, inform, educate, and inspire is immeasurable.  To me, there is no greater purpose than to provide everyone with open and free access to books.  There are very few things that have the same capability to change people’s lives.  The greatest good that a community can provide for its citizens is to support a public library.

So began my journey.  For the next two years my family would provide unwavering support as I pursued my MLIS from Drexel University while continuing my engineering career.  In 2011 I received my degree and was fortunate enough to receive a position as the Director of the Sherrill-Kenwood Free Library in Sherrill, NY.  The destination was worth the journey and I now spend my days pursuing my passions.  This blog is my way of reaching out to an even wider audience, sharing what I love.

Why the name “Watching the Words”?  It is part of a quote from what is probably my most treasured book, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  For now, all I will say about the book is that if you have not read it, you should, immediately.

As for a brief summary about me personally, I live in Canastota, NY, a small town in upstate NY in an old farmhouse.  I share this life with my husband, Todd (still an engineer!), and our children William (16) and Madalyn (11).  Other members of our family include a cranky cat (Jo-Jo), our protector Nala (a German Shepherd), and our newest addition Hugo (a Pug puppy).  Our life here is chaotic, fun, and full.  We are truly blessed.