End of the Year Wrap-Up

It’s not closure for this blog unless I do a year in review type of post, I suppose. I have read a few memorable books this year, I have learned quite a few memorable life lessons as well. This has been a roller-coaster of a year for me.

Things I’ve learned:

About life -

  • Parenting is tricky. It can be Saturday-New-York-Times-Crossword hard, but it is also the most wonderful thing I have ever done in my life.
  • I’ve learned who my real friends and support system are postpartum. Its funny & sad how quickly you learn which non-parent friends are child friendly and which friends don’t care about your child at all.
  • Meetup.com is a wonderful, wonderful creation. I love it for helping me meet new people who are in my situation.
  • I’ve learned to take chances, to be more assertive and to speak up for myself.
  • I’ve found a new job in a field that I love. I feel whole again as a children’s librarian for the public.
  • I’ll probably never learn how to sew. At least not until my little bookworm is in his first school play and I need to make a costume for him.
  • For the first time in years, I actually feel my age. For the longest time, I was always in the “25-years-old” mindset whenever anyone asked me my age. This year, I feel my age and I am going into this new decade of my life with more confidence and determination than ever.
  • Wouldn’t you know it, after I have a kid and am super busy in the evenings, there is now a weekly French meet-up near where I live. Rats. Why couldn’t you have started 2 years ago? Why didn’t I start one 2 years ago?!? Maybe I’ll go when the little one is older. Maybe I’ll take him with me and have him learn French in addition to English and Armenian. Hah.
  • I’ve learned that I’ll never learn my lesson. I’ve given up on this and my other WordPress blog. I’ve started a Tumblr Blog strictly for my professional purposes as a librarian. It’s mostly just for me to keep track of all the cool links and articles I read online about childhood literacy and the promotion of literacy in the library. I could have converted this blog towards that purpose, but the Tumblr layout is more efficient for my needs. Sorry WordPress…
  • I’ve started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer again and have begun to think that maybe Giles is subconsciously to blame for me going to library school.

About books -

  • I’ve learned to embrace non-fiction as my reading medium. It just feels more rewarding reading non-fiction than fiction.
  • I’ve learned that books aren’t as important as life experiences. I’d rather go out and explore the world around me, rather than read about it.
  • I’ve learned that I really don’t read other people’s book reviews. I just look for shiny, new titles to add to my reading list. I judge a book by its cover.
  • I would still rather watch a documentary than read a non-fiction book, so I’m not sure how to extrapolate that to how I feel about fiction…
  • My favorite books this year have been:(1) The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (2) The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair (3) Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina
  • I liked the books I read in 2012 more than the books I read in 2013. I really didn’t like anything I read in 2013. =/

An Ending

I’m about 2 months shy of the 6th anniversary of this blog. It started out humbly, as a page for me to ramble about books and other nonsense without cluttering my friends’ Livejournal feed. It somehow morphed into this larger than life book blog. It has introduced to an infinite amount of new books, to a whole community of avid readers and bibliophiles stabbing away at their to-be-read piles, only add 2 books for every one they finish. 

My life has taken a major detour from books this year when my son was born. Although I do still read, the enthusiasm I had for blogging has begun to wane. I find it harder and harder to sit down at a computer to actually write a blog post. The little one sleeps as I type this. That doesn’t happen often enough. Try as I might, I’ve had more filler posts than substantive ones throughout the year. Random lists and links have taken the place of discussions about books. I think its about time for me to hang up my hat and call it a night. I’ve spent 6 years cultivating a list of books that have marked my life in numerous ways. My reading styles have changed, my favorite authors have multiplied, and I have found my voice through this blog. But being a parent with a now walking 9.5 month old makes it harder to prioritize this blog. I’d rather sit and read to my child than type a review. I’d rather sit down to a nice dinner with my husband than write a review. You get my point. 

I may occasionally post something here, I do need a space to collect those wonderfully random things one finds on the Internet, but don’t expect to see anything regular. From here on out, I’ll just be updating my Goodreads profile with reading updates. Hope to see you there!

Upcoming reviews

I realize I’ve been a bit MIA here. Between my new job (yay Children’s librarian!) and parenting, there is precious little time to sit down and read a book that isn’t a picture book that isn’t Lets Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy or Goodnight Moon.

Well, 3 big things have happened in the last couple of weeks.

1. I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee (the most pathetically sad 1st World problem day of my life)

2. The baby bookworm started sleeping through the night! And going to sleep without a fight at his appropriate bedtime!

3. I finished 3 books in the last 2 weeks. 3! Granted, I started them all over 2 months ago, but still. Once I find the time and mental capacity to sit down and write a review, these are the books you’ll hear about:

Starbucked : a double tall tale of caffeine, commerce, and culture Starbucked by Taylor Clark  

My 2 cents: Although well written and informative, this book doesn’t really tell you anything about Starbucks that you haven’t already heard or surmised. The book is also a bit dated, what with the crazy number of changes having taken place at Starbucks since this printed. They sell Butterbeer now (what the what?) and for some idiotic reason, stopped selling decaffeinated coffee after 12pm (you just lost one regular customer Howard Schulz) and they bought out the beloved San Francisco chain Le Boulange and now all their pastries are back to tasting bland and gross, but at least they have spiffy names.

Where'd you go, Bernadette : a novel Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

My 2 cents: Hilarious and witty. It makes me want to live in Seattle and be friends with Bernadette griping about all the silly little things in life. The ending didn’t sit too well for me, but the entire book is really, really funny.

Getting to 50/50 : how working parents can have it all Getting to 50/50 How Working Parents Can Have it All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober

My 2 cents: This is like a call to arms for pregnant women contemplating how to balance the work life/parenting spheres in their life. It’s very informative, but very repetitive. Although despite its very, very, very strong insistence that women return to work after having their babies, the book’s audience is indeed the male population. Asking that men do their fair share of housework, and parenting and letting mom’s work and pursue their careers rather than put it on hold.

(the mini reviews here are in case I never get around to writing an actual well-thought-out review).

Brain Rules for Baby – John Medina

Brain rules for baby : how to raise a smart and happy child from zero to fiveBrain Rules for Baby by John Medina
Age: Adult
Format: Book
Source: Library
Publisher
ISBN:
Find this book at your local library

In this book, Medina offers up a scientific perspective on raising children and nurturing the minds of newborns and infants. His book follows and instructs parents on the best care for their babies, aged zero to five. Have gone through a number of lackluster parenting books both as a new parent and as a librarian, I can readily say that this is one of the better books out there. Medina’s points boil down to a couple major elements. His points, all scientifically backed by studies, are not all that much different from Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe. My inner Francophone feels justified.

Medina’s main points are:

  • Be authoritative.
  • Set your boundaries,
  • Set consequences for broken rules,
  • Stick to those consequences
  • Be empathetic to your child’s needs.

These are the elements that go into raising a well-rounded, well-nurtured child. Children thrive on routine and structure. Setting boundaries helps them feel safe. Being openly communicative with your child helps them feel involved and that goes a long way towards building a good relationship.

I have a small notebook full of notes from this title. Although I borrowed a library copy, I am tempted to purchase my own just to reread certain sections. I found this book to be well written, well-paced with just enough of the author’s own experiences to round out the science and studies for his explanations. This is a great book for parents of newborn children, especially those who are like me. Who want to push their children to their full potential, but don’t want to go overboard with it and turn into a tiger mom.

For What its Worth

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Weekend Cooking: Suffering Succotash by Stephanie Luvianovic

Suffering succotash : a picky eater's quest to understand why we hate the foods we hateSuffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate by Stephanie Lucianovic
Age: Adult
Format: Book
Source: Library
Publisher: Perigee Trade, 2012
ISBN: 9780399537509
Find this book at your local library

Former picky eater, and now foodie/chef Stephanie Lucianovic takes a humorous and in-depth look at why and how picky eaters are picky eaters. Part memoir, part science and part humor is how she makes her point that picky eaters aren’t just fussy, but have valid medical, psychological and physical reasons for their tastes and reactions to specific foods.

She examines taste buds, she goes to a genetics lab to examine her DNA, she speaks to food behavioral therapists, parents, friends, chefs, and children in the Bay Area and around the nation. Her work is lively, chatty and informative. I bet the audio cd would be a hoot to listen to if she narrates it. I’m also a little bit partial to this book because most of her research is done around the Bay Area. She lives in Menlo Park, and I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever brought her young son to the baby storytime I did there. Not that it has anything to do with the book, but that its a small world after all if she did. =p

This is a book that picky eaters and foodies can associate with. Although it is chock-full of research, and anecdotes, there isn’t much in the way of advice other than “try new food” and “don’t push foods onto kids, they’ll just hate them all the more.” She makes a good point that kids today are exposed to a wider variety of foods via farmer’s market not to mention the super yummy creations of Ella’s Kitchen for tiny tots.

We are all picky eaters in our way. As much as I love cinnamon buns, and crave them on a regular basis, I avoid eating them because I can’t stand the sticky sauce that is poured over it, same goes for most drenched finger foods (ie ribs). Too messy = not for me. My husband can’t stand anything pickled (cucumbers, pickles, etc). We love food, love to cook and consider ourselves foodie-wannabes, but we still have our hang-ups. Everyone does! As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your health, then its really no big deal is mine and the author’s stance.

So, what food have you avoided recently?

Reading for pleasure can improve a child’s performance at school.

The University of London’s Institute of Education Children has released a study showing that:

Children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers, according to new research from the Institute of Education (IOE).

Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown conducted the research, analyzing the reading behaviour of approximately 6,000 young people being followed by the 1970 British Cohort Study. “They looked at how often the teenagers read during childhood and their test results in maths, vocabulary and spelling at ages 5, 10 and 16.”

Apparently, the ages of 10 and 16 are the most important for cognitive development when it comes to reading for pleasure. Also, children who were read to regularly at the age of 5 performed better than teenagers (age 16) who were not read to.

Studies like these are encouraging for teachers and librarians. Particularly with September being National Library Card Month. What better incentive to sign you little one up for a library card than to encourage and foster a love of reading that will benefit them in so many ways.

 

Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading’, by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, is the latest paper to be published in the CLS Working Paper Series.

Rise of the Super Library

The BBC Radio 4 is airing a two part special about libraries titled, “Our Libraries: The Next Chapter”. Episode two of Our Libraries: The Next Chapter is on BBC Radio 4 at 11:00 BST on Wednesday 11th September. You can listen here.

According to a BBC architecture critic, there are 5 “super” library buildings around the world. I’ve been to one! Although, I must say I’m surprised Seattle trumped the Library of Congress.

The Buildings

1. Seattle Public Library, USA 2004
2. Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico 2007
3. Kanazawa Umimirai, Japan 2011
4. Spijkenisse Book Mountain, Netherlands 2012
5. Library of Birmingham, UK 2013

Seattle Central Library

BookVibe Recommends Books Based on Twitter Feed

This has the potential of being either really helpful, or the most bizarre collection of recommended titles a person could ever ask for.

BookVibe is a new book recommendation website created by its parent company, Parakweet. It will gather title information through your Twitter stream, although they are also in the midst of creating the ability for the program to dig through your Facebook feed as well.

BookVibe digs through your Twitter stream to show you books being discussed by your friends (the people you follow)…We compile this for you on one handy page and send out a weekly email digest highlighting books from your book stream.

I’d be tempted to try this out with my Twitter stream actually. I normally am a fan of the Goodreads instant recommendations feed, but lately, it feels like they’ve been slacking on their algorithms, because none of their recommendations match what I am looking for based on previously read titles.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, someday, maybe : a novelSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2013
ISBN: 9780345532749
Find this book at your local library

Franny Banks is an aspiring actress in New York. By day, she’s a waitress, and at night, she’s taking acting classes and preparing for auditions. This novel is what most can assume to be a semi-autobiographical account of Lauren Graham’s experiences as a struggling actress before becoming a household name with her role on Gilmore Girls.

Overall, I liked Someday, Someday, Maybe. Although I can’t really call it a great piece of literature. Everything about this book is cliche and predictable. But I connected to Franny (the only likeable character in this book) and I was cheering for her. Her character is flawed, insecure and very impressionable. At times it was annoying and I wished for some character development, with any of the characters really. Everyone is so two-dimensional and fit exactly into the stereotypes that we non-actors cast onto people in the media industry.

But I swear, I liked the book! Its a good quick summer read. Its a beach read. Light and fluffy with a decent sense of humor for some good chuckles. I particularly liked the doodles and small bits of comedy in Franny’s planner, used to signify the start of each chapter. Its definitely something fans of Gilmore Girls will appreciate. Its no coincidence that Franny shares a very, very similar sense of humor as Lorelei Gilmore. Amy Sherman-Palladino would be proud to see the character re-emerge as a struggling actress in New York.