Reading Challenge 2.0: Why I’m Going Back to Square One

If you’re on Goodreads, you probably know the average Reading Challenge for 2018 is about 51 books in 12 months. I read 136 books in 92 days for last summer’s adult reading program with the library. So what was a realistic but stretch-worthy goal for 12 months?

I set my goal at 200 books for the year. I was cruising along pretty well, picking up steam. The “brass ring” was in sight – six months early.

Until today.

Let me explain. First the not so good news. Followed by the good news and some reading highlights thus far.

The Not-so-Good News:

I was closing in on my target goal of 200 books. I went to my Goodreads account today to add a few more completed titles to bring my total to 181. Suddenly, my reading progress vanished. Gone. Poof!

Has this happened to you?

Because not a single title entered over the past five-plus months remains in my Reading Challenge. Zip. Zero. Nada. I know the site was having trouble cataloging dates and updates. But zeroing out 181 books just like that?!

Well I’ll be et fer a tater.

I can’t possibly recreate the entire list from memory. (Yes, I reported the matter to Goodreads. No solution yet.)

The Good News:

Of course I’m discouraged. Not to mention a wee bit miffed. But I’m still reading. And while it’s not exactly cheery to have five+ months of titles wiped out due to “technical difficulties,” I’m going to keep reading. In fact, I’m aiming for another target. Think of it as Reading Challenge 2.0:

200 additional titles by the end of the year.

How does that sound? (Good thing I took a few screen shots awhile back, eh?)

Meanwhile, from some prior notes I jotted down, here are some highlights from my Reading Challenge 2018 (before The Great Poofery struck):

Most Whimsical or Disarmingly Charming:

What-the-Dickens, by Gregory Maguire.

A natural disaster, three kids, a 21 y.o. Language Arts cousin/babysitter. Skibbereens and a flying thing nsmed “Pepper” with lots of sass. Teeth. What’s not to love?

The Faerieground series, by Beth Bracken and Kay Fraser.

Twelve quick, enchanting reads about BFFs Soli and Lucy. One is far more than she seems at first glance, esp, when soneone’s made a wish inside the Willow Forest!

Most Interesting Biogs or Autobiogs:

New York to Paris – Charles A. Lindbergh.

Flying by instruments-only through fog at 1,500nft. over the Mid-Atlantic? Ay! Yi! Yi! Also white caps, porpoises, and “Which way is Ireland?”, the London-Paris runway and the Eiffel Tower.

Man O’ War – Walter Farley

Gripping Historical fiction about one of the greatest Thoroughbred champions to ever set hooves on a race track.

Creepiest

Look For Me By Moonlight.

Forget the silver stakes and garlic. Find an artist friend with a cliffside workshop and a hot stove! And whatever you do, don’t fall for some sweet-talking “30 something” dude in black who comes to stay at your Dad’d rustic, isolated inn in thd dead of winter!

172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad

After yeats of budget cuts and stalled space exploration, NASA is going back to the moon, this time with three teens aboard. Once they hit the lunar surface, everything goes sideways. And astronauts start dying. Will Mia, Midori or Antoine ever see earth again?

Most Intriguing or Surprising

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson

Hauntingly poignant and powerful, this intriguing story explores family relationships, bio/medical ethics, how far a parent might go to save a loved one, and what it means to be “human.” Earned a rare five-star rating from me.

Fairest – Marissa Meyer

A taut, compelling tale dripping with palace intrigue, rivalry and jealousy, misplaced love, blind ambition and utter corruption. Masterfully crafted. Couldn’t put it down!

Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundlin.

Finally. A “romance”” novel that isn’t a romp through the local garbage dump.

This uplifting, engaging story offers solid characters who are both winsome and flawed. They’re wholesome without being sappy. The clever “whodunit” plot has perfect pacing while the love story deftly combines faith, hope, tenacity, and integrity. Superb historical fiction plus plenty of surprising plot twists to keep you guessing!

Old Faves:

Just about anything by Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, and Scott O’Dell.

Note About My Reviews: I hold to the axiom: “The repeated use of profanity is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Hence, no book that uses same gets high marks from me. Ever. Far as I’m concerned, if an author can’t express him/herself without “turning the air blue,” then s/he is a lousy, lazy author. Period.

Now. Back to square one. And a new Reading Challenge.

How’s yours coming?

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A ‘Champion for the Ages’

“Inevitable.” Isn’t that a great word? Learned it from Mom the other day. As in, the 144st annual Run for the Roses is coming up on May 5. So debates about who was the Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time are… inevitable.

Or so I’m told.

A few other things I learned:

The “Run for the Roses” is also known as The Kentucky Derby. The Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May. It’s the first jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Why do I care about Thoroughbred racing? Well, I don’t. Not really. But Mom does!

She’s been reading a Walter Farley book about one of the greatest champions to ever set hooves on a race track: Man O’War. Along with legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Man O’War is a top contender for Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time honors.

Back to the Farley book.

Man O’War’s remarkable life unfolds through the eyes of fictional stable boy Danny Ryan. Mom says the story is nearly as powerful and compelling as the great Thoroughbred himself. I’m not sure what the means. But it sounds good.

Here’s Mom’s review of Farley’s Man O’ War.

So when Kentucky Derby time rolls around each May, the comparisons between Man O’ War and another great champion, Triple Crown Winner (1973) Secretariat, are inevitable. At least according to Mom. Which horse gets the nod for Horse of the Century? Depends on who you ask. And what day it is.

Both possessed blinding speed. Both ran challengers off their feet. Both broke records. Both have great stories.

So whether your vote for The Greatest goes to Secretariat or Man O-War, a few things are for sure:

1) May is the perfect month for awesome horse stories!

2) Any story by Walter Farley is a great story. Inevitably.

3) Churchill Downs promises another great Run for the Roses this Saturday. (“Run for the noses”? I always kinda thought that was when Mom calls me in for dinner. But I may be wrong about that.)

4) One of the finest athletes to ever set hooves on a race track, Man O’War remains a Champion for the Ages. Just like Walter Farley.

Is it dinner time yet?

Update – May 5: Congratulations to the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner, Justify!

How I Survived the Big Deluge

You know I’m not one to complain. I mean, I’m the World’s Greatest Optimist! I love everybody! I dance a furry jig whenever my humans come home. Even if they’ve only been gone ten minutes. It’s just so exciting to have them back!

But seriously. Someone needs to talk to the Big Dog in the Sky about this weather. I know the Pacific Northwest is wet. Dad emptied the rain gauge yesterday. “Nearly five inches in less than 48 hours!” he said. “On top of the five-plus inches we had the last coupla days before that!”

I’m not quite sure what it means. Except fewer walks. Less time outside. More running stairs and playing tug ‘o war or ball indoors with my peeps.

But you know me. I’m not one to complain.

Besides. I guess it’s better than being cooped up inside all day with nothing to do.

But when is spring going to show up???

Okay. Had to get that out. Let’s see. Where was I?

Oh yeah.

I guess buckets of rain aren’t all bad. Mom turns on the fireplace – I still haven’t figured that one out – and lets me on to her lap while she reads. I’m good as long as don’t knock over the lamp or try to steal her “hot apple cider.”

I’ve also learned a “reading” thing or two during the daily deluges. (“Deluge.” Isn’t that a great read? I learned it from Mom. Like, “Another deluge? Ugh!”)

Have you heard about the Survivor book series by Erin Hunter? Stories about a pack of Leashed Dogs trying to survive after their Longpaws vanish in the Big Growl.

Their reluctant leader is a big golden dog, Lucky. He’s a City Dog. Lucky escaped a city Trap House. He lives by his wits in the wild. He’s a Loner. But these Leashed Dogs don’t know anything about living on their own, without their Longpaws. I mean, who’s gonna play fetch with them? Who’ll fill their food bowls?

These Leashed Dogs get into all sorts of trouble! Especially when they cross into Pack Dog territory.

I’m liking these books! Especially that black and white herder farm dog, Mickey. He’s one sharp doggie. (Probably a cousin.) I figure, if these dogs can survive the Big Growl, I can survive the Big Deluge.

Like I said. I’m still keeping an eye out for spring. Wait. I think it’s starting to let up!

Later!

Books to Grow By

NARADA FALLS RAINBOW RESIZE

Books to Grow By:

Have you seen the list of Books Everyone Should Read that floated around Facebook awhile back? I read that list. IMHO, several of the titles were questionable and many books that should’ve been included weren’t. So I came up with my own list: Books to Grow By.

Classic, contemporary, and just for fun titles are included, plus some surprises. (Note: With apologies to high school English teachers everywhere, I simply cannot abide ‘stream of consciousness’ prose a la Faulkner, which is one reason The Sound and the Fury isn’t included. Ditto Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby.) You’ll also find evidence of my conviction that some of the finest literature ever written can be found in the Children’s Section. Selections appear in alpha order by title.

How many of these have you read? What are YOUR favorites?

Click here for the list. 🙂

What’s in Your Stocking?

Mom just called me in from the yard. ‘Bout time. That big yellow ball in the sky is starting to spread across the horizon like a giant egg yolk. Temperatures are dropping. The Powder Puff just sauntered past. Why that canine lets her owner deck her out in that green and red jacket + reindeer antlers, I’ll never know. 

Anyway, when Mom opened the porch door, I caught a whiff of Something Warm and Wonderful inside. She says, “Kimber, dinner! Come.” I don’t need to be called twice. No siree, Lassie! I bounded up the stairs and into the house like Rin Tin Tin after a bad guy. Sure enough. Something Warm and Wonderful was waiting for me.

A little later The Kid walks into the living room and turns on that squawk box thingy in the corner. It lights up. Sounds come out of it. Voices from people no one can see. These invisible people must be really small to live inside that box where they make their voices go up and down. They “sing” about telling it on the mountain. Angels fom the realms of glory. Letting heaven and nature sing. A little town of Bethlehem. Stuff like that.

I snuggle into the recliner with Mom for a little snooze. She says “Kimber, you’re really pushing the envelope for ‘lap dog.'” Is she suggesting I drop a few pounds? Maybe not. She always says that. Laughs. Then gives me the signal that it’s okay to join her. I have to wait for the signal. It may take  a bit. But it always comes. Especially on these cold winter nights. So I can’t complain. Besides. My stocking smells so good!

Tonight the family is watching lights wink and twinkle, among other things  They say the lights have “colors.” But they all look the same to me. Go figure. My peeps finished “putting up the tree” the other day. (I was only trying to help. Honest. Incidentally, “tinsel” looks way better than it tastes.)

The fam has settled in with steaming mugs of something I can’t have, apparently. That’s okay. Because Mom and Dad say the Best Gifts of  Christmas – faith, hope, love, joy and peace – can’t be found in red stockings. Or under the tree. But in the human heart. Like:


 

May the Best Gifts of Christmas be yours!

Just Wanted to Say “Thanks”!

Mom says it’s time to “count my blessings.” Not sure what that means exactly. But if it means I can swipe that last slice of roast turkey while everyone’s “counting,” I’m game! Besides. You know how moms are, right? 

Hope you enjoy our little video greeting from the Pacific Northwest. We’re calling it our “November Closeout Special.” Threw in a few scenes from some of our favorite places. Like Mount Rainier National Park. Not quite sure what “national park” means either. But it has great smells! Besides. You know how moms are.

If the video doesn’t play right, blame Mom, okay? You know how… oh, never mind!

Storytime and 1600+ Kinds of Beautiful  

Moms are a Special Kind of someone. Silent and strong. Mouthy and mushy. 1600+ kinds of beautiful. 

I know this is so because Mom says so.

Moms are sometimes sentimental. Like the other day. Mom, The Kid and me were walking home from the library. All of a sudden Mom gets all misty-eyed. Something about Fridays and Storytime at the library.

 “Do you remember how we used to walk over to the library every week for Storytime when you were a little kid?” she says to my brother. He’s the youngest. I have three other brothers older than him. “How did you get to be 18 so fast?”she asks.

The Kid smiles and says, “One day at a time.” 

They’re both lugging home a bag full of books. YA books. Adventure books. Science fiction/fantasy books. Biographies. Historical fiction. Authors like Kristin Cashore. Rick Yancey. Laini Taylor. Rick Riordan. Max Lucado.

I’m investigating recent evidence of a Lhasa Apso. They’re taking in the ‘fall colors.’ Tip-toeing down Memory Lane. Seems like 20 years of kids and weekly Storytimes at the library is a lot of ground to cover.

“I remember when you kind of lost interest in Storytime,” Mom says to The Kid. 

Still looking for that Lhasa Apso. Wait. Is that pizza I smell? With sausage?

“You were around six years old” recalls Mom.  “You wanted longer stories with more words. You wanted to roam the library shelves and select books yourself.”

“I still do” says The Kid. 

Besides the library, Mom read aloud to my bros every day. For at least an hour. More if it was a good story. Like Treasure Island. Swiss Family Robinson. The  Three Musketeers. The Count of Monte Cristo. A Tale of Two Cities or The Last of the Mohicans. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Make Way for Ducklings.

The whole family was practically on a first name basis with Jim Trelease.  Rarely went anywhere without his Read Aloud Handbook. Serious PAwesome!

I know this is so because a Mom says it is. That, and our house is crammed with books. All. Over. The. Place.

Anyway, The Kid still visits the library regularly. He loves that place. He loves books and reading. Maybe there’s something to this Storytime thing? And 1601 kinds of beautiful?

Do I smell pepperoni? 

Visit our sister site at: Hiker Babe. Making the most of your trail miles, one step at a time.

Steaks, Reads, & Rascals

My humans were doing the backyard barbecue thing the other day. Something about “summer’s last hurrah.”

They plopped four delicious “New York steaks” on the grill. Yes, four. Clearly that meant one each for Mom and Dad. One for The Kid. One for me. Right?

Rather than waiting for my hunk of happiness to fall off the grill, I figured I’d just hop right up and help myself. No sense standing on ceremony, right? So I didn’t.

Speaking of which, I thought “fall” was something you do. Apparently that’s not always the case. For example. Mom says “fall” is her favorite season. Something about leaves changing. “Crisp.” Curling up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. 

I get that. In fact, I know a couple good books that are just right for this “fall” thing: Winterdance: the Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod and Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers. Both are by Gary Paulsen  He’s a great adventure/outdoorsy writer. Also a pretty cool dog dude, according to Mom.

Winterdance is non-fiction. It was published in 1994. It’s the inspiration for the Disney movie, Snow Dogs. 

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers celebrates Gary’s lead dog and longtime companion, Cookie. “Paulsen takes readers inside the kennel as Cookie’s last litter of pups grow and learn to pull sleds across the snowy frontier.”

Sounds like a couple of good “hot cocoa” and “fall” books to me. Whatever that means.

Back to the steaks. Thick, delectable, delicious steaks. How was I supposed to know Uncle Jimmy is “coming over later”?

By the way. Just what, exactly, is a “little rascal”? Askin’ for a friend.


Steak photo credit

Turning a Corner  

It’s official. This blog is under New Management. Well, maybe “Management” isn’t the right word. Let me explain.

My name is Kimber. At least I think it’s Kimber. My humans – Mom, Dad, and four brothers, two of whom still live at home – sometimes use other names. Kimmi. Good girl. Hey Babe. 

Anyway, I was born on June 22, 2016. I’m a Golden Retriever/Black Lab/Border Collie mix. Mom says that means I’m super friendly, super smart, and super hyper. Whatever that means. I’m just me. 

Wait. Did the Powder Puff just saunter past? That’s what my humans sometimes call the neighbor’s dog. At least I think she’s a dog. It’s hard to tell under all that fur.

As I was saying, Mom says I’m a rescue dog. I’m not sure what that means either. But it sounds good when she says it. I joined my family in August of last year. We live on the Olympic Peninsula. We go on long walks and hikes, explore the Cascades, and play football, Frisbee and other games and activities when it’s not raining. It rains here a lot. Dad says that’s one reason why this place is called “The Evergreen State.”

Do I smell bacon?

False alarm. Beef jerky.

So, I guess you could say this blog is under new “dog-agement.” It will focus on adventures in writing, reading, and life in the rural hinterlands of western Washington. Narrated by me. Why me? Because Mom says I’m a “natural.” And that I’m way smarter than she is. I’m not sure what that means, either. But I like the way it sounds when she says it. 

See you again soon!