December is the time for “Best of the Year” lists. And of course I usually check out the various book lists to see which titles are on them. Below is a list put out by Goodreads, as voted on by their readers. Not familiar with Goodreads? It’s the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Their mission is to help people find and share books they love. I like it because you can track the books you’re reading, have read, and want to read, but there are so many other things you can do including connect with groups, participate in trivia contests and giveaways, see what your friends are reading, and get personalized recommendations. If you love books, and you love lists, I recommend joining Goodreads (and don’t forget to become my ”friend” ).
Best books of 2013 according to Goodreads readers:
|Fiction||And the Mountains Echoed||Khaled Hosseini|
|Mystery & Thriller||Inferno||Dan Brown|
|Historical Fiction||Life after Life||Kate Atkinson|
|Fantasy||The Ocean at the End of the Lane||Neil Gaiman|
|Paranormal Fantasy||Cold Days||Jim Butcher|
|Science Fiction||MaddAddam||Margaret Atwood|
|Romance||Lover at Last||J.R. Ward|
|Horror||Doctor Sleep||Stephen King|
|Memoir & Autobiography||I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education & Was Shot by the Taliban||Malala Yousafzai|
|History & Biography||Jim Henson: The Biography||Brian Jay Jones|
|Nonfiction||The Autistic Brain||Temple Grandin|
|Food & Cookbooks||Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist||Tim Federle|
|Humor||Hyperbole and a Half||Allie Brosh|
|Graphic Novels & Comics||Beautiful Creatures||Kami Garcia|
|Poetry||The Fall of Arthur||J.R.R. Tolkien|
|Debut Goodreads Author||Tangled||Emma Chase|
|Young Adult Fiction||Eleanor & Park||Rainbow Rowell|
|Young Adult Fantasy||Allegiant||Veronica Roth|
|Middle Grades||The House of Hades||Rick Riordan|
|Picture Books||The Day the Crayons Quit||Drew Daywalt|
Check out the entire list at https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2013
While I was looking at UIU Counseling’s online resources page, I came across a WebMD article, “Home for the Holidays: Tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety & Stress“. Although it’s geared towards people suffering from depression, it has some helpful hints for everyone who finds the holidays a bit stressful. Here are some highlights from the article:
1. What causes holiday stress?
“First, ask yourself this: What about the holidays gets you down? Once you cut through the vague sense of dread about family gatherings and identify specific problems, you can deal with them directly. For many people, holiday stress is triggered by unhappy memories, toxic relatives, what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and lowered defenses.”
2. Controlling holiday stress
“Experts say that the holidays can make people feel out of control. We feel at the mercy of our relatives or steamrolled by the sheer force of family tradition. But you have a say. The key is to take some control over the holidays, instead of letting them control you. Example: You feel like you have to make the rum balls according to your grandmother’s recipe, even though you personally find them inedible. Do you really have to? Draw up a list of reasons why you engage in these holiday traditions, and then a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Just making a simple pro and con list will remind you that you do have a choice.”
3. Changing your outlook
“Challenge some of your assumptions. If you enjoyed the holidays differently this year, what would happen? The key is to be conscious about what you’re doing. This holiday season, don’t unthinkingly do things the same way just because that’s how you always do them. If the old holiday traditions aren’t working, if they’re not making you happy and they are causing holiday stress, it’s time to do something different.”
4. Tips for beating holiday stress
“Once you’ve taken a clear look at the holidays — about what works and what doesn’t — it’s time to make some changes. Focus on the holiday stresses that you can control. That includes making different plans and changing your responses to situations. Four don’ts for the holidays: 1) Don’t do the same old thing if it causes stress; 2) Don’t expect miracles if there’s a deep history of family conflict; 3) Don’t overdo it; and 4) Don’t worry about how things “should” be.”
You can find this complete article at:
Here’s hoping your holidays are filled with peace, joy, and fun!
What program or site do you use to create photo collages and/or edit pictures? I recently came across “Ribbet”, a free web-based progam. It is so simple and fast, there’s nothing to download, and many of the features are free. To try it out, I took last year’s Thanksgiving/Christmas “cousin picture” from Facebook, and added a snow frame & Santa hats. Fun & easy! It only took me a minute, but I could have made it even more awesome by changing the hue, sharpness, colors, etc. But I think this one turned out pretty cute!
Give Ribbet a try, or if there’s a different site you like better, please share!
- Comprehensive online photo editor with advanced effects
- Crop, resize, and rotate in real-time
- Thousands of special effects, from artsy to fun
- Astoundingly fast, right in your browser
- Awesome fonts, beautiful frames and fun stickers
- Pond-fulls of shapes from hand-picked designers
- Works on Mac, Windows, and Linux
- Online photo editing with no download required
I’m currently reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, author of Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, and Inferno. I have mixed feelings about it. I find Brown’s writing style disappointing; there is too much repetition (if I read “the ancient mysteries are just a myth” one more time I might scream, and I’m only halfway through! ), dialogue that doesn’t ring true (obviously he doesn’t believe in the method of reading aloud to see if it sounds like something a person might actually say), and the reader is constantly reminded of how dazzingly wealthy and intelligent these characters are (so intelligent in fact that they don’t even consider the possibility that a text message is NOT proof of someone’s well-being). As you can probably tell, there are lots of little things which annoy me about the book, BUT I am enjoying the storyline and the setting.
The Lost Symbol features Harvard professor and symbologist, Robert Langdon. It takes place in Washington, D.C., where we are taken on an insider’s tour of the hidden tunnels of buildings such as the U.S. Capitol, and the Library of Congress. As with his previous titles, mentions of artwork, architecture, documents, symbols, beliefs, and secret rituals make you want to learn more. There have been times while I’ve been reading his books that I’ve stopped in order to go research something, find additional information, or look at the artwork he refers to. I actually read the illustrated version of The DaVinci Code, and it was so nice to have pictures of the places he was referring to right there in front of you. Controversial as his books may be, I do love that they draw you in and make you want to learn more. And this one definitely makes me want to make a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit these sites in person!
If you’ve read any of Brown’s books or seen the movies, what did you think of them? Which was your favorite?
Because it’s that time of year, I’m “repurposing” an old blog post I wrote:
- A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks — Oh yes, Sparks is a master of melodramatic romances, but I cried buckets reading this one since it was soon after my 15-yr-old cousin had died from complications of cancer.
- Love You Forever by Robert Munsch — Even though this is a “children’s picture book” it’s really aimed more at parents. “I’ll like you for always, I’ll love you forever, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be“. Yes Ashley, no matter how old you are, you’ll always be our baby!
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls — The story of a boy and his dogs. Is there any more loyal creature in the world than a child’s dog? “Old Dan must have known he was dying. Just before he drew his last breath, he opened his eyes and looked at me. Then with one last sigh, and a feeble thump of his tail, his friendly gray eyes closed forever.” Jeezums, I couldn’t even type that without crying.
- Beat the Turtle Drum by Constance C. Greene — An unforgettable story about the friendship between two sisters and the summer when one of them dies unexpectedly. I can relate to a lot of the narrator’s comments: “It’s a good thing something takes over and clouds your mind when someone you love dies. It’s so awful, so unbelievably awful and terrible and everything bad, that people couldn’t manage otherwise, I think.” And “people say such dumb things when people die. They don’t realize how dumb they are. They say, ‘It was God’s will,’ like Miss Pemberthy. That’s enough to turn anyone against God. I myself don’t know if I’ll ever feel the same about Him. Maybe He had a very good reason for making Joss die, but I doubt it. I read a poem which says, ‘Death loves a shining mark,’ and I think Joss was the shining mark“.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott — Another obvious choice, considering it’s the story of the 4 March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. When I die, I would like a poem from this book read at my funeral, and also request that the song “For the Beauty of the Earth” from the Winona Ryder film version be played. Here is a snippet of the poem “My Beth”: “O my sister, passing from me, out of human care and strife, leave me, as a gift, those virtues which have beautified your life. Dear, bequeath me that great patience which has power to sustain a cheerful, uncomplaining spirit…..Hope and faith, born of my sorrow, guardian angels shall become, and the sister gone before me by their hands shall lead me home.”
Well, I’m off to find some tissues now!
Where has fall gone??? Though we may be at the tail-end of apple/pumpkin season, I wanted to share a few of my favorite fall books for kids:
Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
In this beautifully illustrated tale, Cat, Squirrel, and Duck discover the ups and downs of friendship and sharing, and what really makes pumpkin soup taste so good.
Pumpkin Pie Cake
- 29 ounces canned pumpkin
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 1 /2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 yellow cake mix
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- whipped cream (optional)
Mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle the dry cake mix over the entire pumpkin mixture in the pan. Be sure to use all of the cake mix. Then spoon 1 cup of melted butter over the dry cake mix. Sprinkle chopped nuts over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Let cool & enjoy with whipped cream on top!
What’s YOUR favorite fall recipe?
Today I read an article on the best and worst food for diabetics. But first, what exactly is diabetes?
Prediabetes A person with prediabetes has abnormally high blood sugar levels, but not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes A person with type 1 diabetes has an immune system that attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. With little or no insulin, glucose builds up in the blood because it can’t get inside the cells that need it. People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections or doses of insulin from an insulin pump to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile-onset diabetes (because it’s most often diagnosed in children and young adults) or insulin-dependent diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes A person with type 2 diabetes either produces too little insulin to regulate blood sugar, or his or her body’s cells become resistant to insulin and can’t use it properly. Sometimes, both problems occur. Type 2 diabetes often starts with insulin resistance. The resulting increase in blood sugar confuses the pancreas into thinking more insulin is needed. Eventually, the pancreas’ beta cells wear out from constant overproduction of insulin and can no longer make enough of it.
Gestational Diabetes In some people, diabetes develops for the first time during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes and occurs in about 7% of pregnant women. Most often, it’s a temporary condition that goes away after pregnancy, but in some women it can continue even after childbirth. Either way, gestational diabetes increases a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes up to 60% in the future.
So what are some foods that diabetics should include in their diets, and which ones should they avoid?
BEST (foods that help keep your blood sugar level on an even keel):
- Spinach & other leafy greens
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc.)
- Sardines (and other small, fatty, cold-water fish)
- Hummus (made from chick-peas, ground sesame seeds, and olive oil)
- Chia seeds
- Quinoa (a “super” whole grain)
- Whole grain pasta (in place of white pasta)
- Extra virgin olive oil
WORST (certain foods can send your blood sugar level on a roller coaster, with insulin rushing to keep up).:
- White rice
- White pasta
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fruit juice
- Energy bars (a single bar can carry a glycemic load over 49 (anything over 20 is considered “high”). That’s more than a king-size Snickers bar!)
- Low-fat sweetened yogurt (choose plain yogurt sweetened with real, whole fruit instead)
- Sports drinks & energy drinks
Information cited from: Health guides: Diabetes diet. (n.d.). In Sharecare. Retrieved October 16, 2013, from
Sep. 22-28 marks my favorite time of the literary year — Banned Books Week!
“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.” — ALA.org
What are some of the most banned/challenged books?
Here are the top 10 from 2000-2009:
1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
And the top 10 from 2012:
- Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
- Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
- And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
- Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
- The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
What’s the difference between a challenge and a banning?
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.
Are books really still being banned?
They sure are! Fortunately most of the time when someone “challenges” a book, it doesn’t progress to a full-fledged book-banning. That’s not always the case, though. In 2001 in Alamagordo, NM, The Lord of the Rings, along with other Tolkien novels, were actually burned since they were viewed as ”satanic”.
Why are books challenged or banned?
Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect others, especially children, from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The problem with this is that when a book is banned, not only are people restricting access to that information from their own children, but others as well. Thankfully in this country we have the right to read what we want to read, and events such as Banned Book Weeks to continue to keep citizens informed!
Today I just wanted to share some of the new kids’ books we have at the library:
Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One by Kate Duke — When Penelope asks her Aunt Isabel to tell her a story, Aunt Isabel agrees, but only if Penelope helps her. What develops is a wonderful collaboration between the two: they tell a story with all the required ingredients–a prince, a heroine, some villians, an adventure, and romance.
Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino — Doug is a robot. His parents want him to be smart, so each morning they plug him in and start the information download. After a morning spent scrolling through facts about the city, Doug suspects he could learn even more about the city by going outside and exploring it. And so Doug — unplugs!
An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer, illus. by Cathie Felstead — This is the story of the birth of an island, from the first red-hot glow of magma at the bottom of the ocean, to the flowing lava that hardens and builds up higher and higher until, finally, it breaks through the water’s surface. And then, life comes to the island. First come the small plants and animals, and later, people.
Max’s Words by Kate Banks, illus. by Boris Kulikov – Benjamin collects stamps. Kari collects coins. When their younger brother Max decides to collect words, one word leads to another until Max has a story worth telling. Now all he needs is pictures.
Press Here by Herve Tullet — Press the yellow dot on the cover of this book, follow the instructions within, and embark upon a magical journey! Each page of this surprising book instructs the reader to press the dots, shake the pages, tilt the book, and who knows what will happen next!
White Water by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein, illus. by Shadra Strickland — After tasting the warm, rusty water from the fountain designated for African Americans, a young boy questions why he cannot drink the cool, refreshing water from the ”Whites Only” fountain. Based on a true experience co-author Michael S. Bandy had as a boy.
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, illus. by Marc Brown — In this rollicking rhymed story, Molly the librarian introduces birds and beasts to this new something called reading, finding the perfect book for each animal. In no time she has them forsaking thier niches, their nests, and their nooks, going wild about wonderful books.
My daughter and I recently watched the movie “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”, based on the book of the same title. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised. There is something about the dry wit and self-deprecating humor of British films that we just love! So for today’s blog post I thought about other British comedies I’ve seen and loved. Actually, when I think about my favorite movies, several of them are on this list. Following are short synopses of the movies, and some of my favorite quotes from them:
4 Weddings & a Funeral — Over the course of five social occasions, a committed bachelor must consider the notion that he may have discovered love.
Charles: Ehm, look. Sorry, sorry. I just, ehm, well, this is a very stupid question and… , particularly in view of our recent shopping excursion, but I just wondered, by any chance, ehm, eh, I mean obviously not because I guess I’ve only slept with 9 people, but-but I-I just wondered… ehh. I really feel, ehh, in short, to recap it slightly in a clearer version, eh, the words of David Cassidy in fact, eh, while he was still with the Partridge family, eh, “I think I love you,” and eh, I-I just wondered by any chance you wouldn’t like to… Eh… Eh… No, no, no of course not… I’m an idiot, he’s not… Excellent, excellent, fantastic, eh, I was gonna say lovely to see you, sorry to disturb… Better get on…
Carrie: That was very romantic.
Charles: Well, I thought it over a lot, you know, I wanted to get it just right.
About a Boy — Based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel, it’s the story of a cynical, immature young man who is taught how to act like a grown-up by a little boy.
Will: I couldn’t possibly think of a worse godfather for Imogene. You know me. I’ll drop her at her christening. I’ll forget her birthdays until her 18th, when I’ll take her out and get her drunk and possibly, let’s face it, you know, try and shag her. I mean, seriously, it’s a very, very bad choice.
Couple: We know, I just thought you had hidden depths.
Will: No. No. You’ve always had that wrong. I really am this shallow.
Bridget Jones’s Diary — A British woman is determined to improve herself while she looks for love in a year in which she keeps a personal diary.
Mark Darcy: I like you, very much.
Bridget: Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother and… ah, the verbal diarrhea.
Mark Darcy: No, I like you very much. Just as you are.
Cold Comfort Farm — In England in the early 1930′s, 20 year old Flora Poste, recently orphaned and left with only 100 pounds a year, goes to stay with distant relatives on Cold Comfort Farm. Everyone on the gloomy farm is completely around the twist, but Flora tries to sort everything out.
Mrs. Smiling: In fact, when poetry is combined with ill-groomed hair and eccentric dress, it’s generally fatal. You’re very lucky, Elfine. He must have seen your finer points.
Love Actually — Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.
Daniel: Tell her that you love her.
Sam: No way! Anyway, they fly tonight.
Daniel: Even better! Sam, you’ve got nothin’ to lose, and you’ll always regret it if you don’t! I never told your mom enough. I should have told her everyday because she was perfect everyday. You’ve seen the films, kiddo. It ain’t over ’til its over.
Sam: Okay, Dad. Let’s do it. Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.
Notting Hill — The life of a simple bookshop owner changes when he meets the most famous film star in the world.
William: Is this your first film?
12-yr-old Actress: Well… actually it’s my 22nd!
William: Any favorites among the 22?
12-yr-old Actress: Working with Leonardo.
12-yr-old Actress: DiCaprio.
William: Of course. And is… is he your favorite Italian director?
Pirate Radio — About a band of rogue DJs that captivated Britain, playing the music that defined a generation and standing up to a government that wanted classical music, and nothing else, on the airwaves.
Quentin: Gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you prefer?
Thick Kevin: Good news.
Quentin: Okay. The good news is the engine has exploded and we’re all going to die.
Dave: Hello, Dr Dave, Radio Rock. How is that good news?
Quentin: I haven’t yet told you how we’re going to die. That’s the bad news.
Simon: How are we gonna die?
Quentin: We’re going to drown in the freezing waters of the North Sea.
Felicity: Dearie me.
Quentin: There is a huge hole in the side of the boat and in an unfortunate development, it transpires that the lifeboats are useless.
Thick Kevin: [to Angus] Actually, that’s quite good for you, isn’t it? ‘Cause you can’t swim, so you’ll die quicker.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen — A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.
Fred Jones: When things get tricky in my life, I talk to my fish.
Harriet Chetwode-Talbot: I just somehow wouldn’t associate you with having a tricky life.
Fred Jones: I feel a bit like I’ve been stuck for years. I’m genetically programmed to return to a dull pedestrian life.
Harriet Chetwode-Talbot: You should be happy, Fred.
Wild Target — A hitman tries to retire but a beautiful thief may change his plans.
Fabian: My name is Fabian, and I would like you to recommend to me someone who could paint something like this.
Fabian: Who did this?
Artist: [surprised] Rembrandt.
Fabian: Give me his address. Now.
Artist: He’s dead.
Fabian: Dead? When?
Artist: 300 years ago.