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June Reading Challenge from theUnreadShelf

I love the idea of a TBR Shelf reading challenge, and now that I’m listening to a lot of audiobooks and able to get to more of the books I’ve been dreaming of reading, I might actually be able to take part in something like this.

That’s the easy part. Now I have to decide what to read for it. I’m not really into travel writing though, so finding something in my TBR pile that is a “place you’d love to visit or a travel-themed story” isn’t that easy. When I first went into the Libby app to search travel nonfiction audiobooks the first thing that popped up was Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, proving even algorithms have a sense of humor. But I just read that a few weeks ago, so I can’t claim it for this challenge.

But now I don’t know, I’ve narrowed it down to a few, but I’m leaning towards John Banville’s “Time Pieces”, a memoir of his life in Dublin. I’ve been interested in reading Banville’s fiction, particularly his Benjamin Black series, so it jumped out at me. This book wasn’t on my TBR, but the author was, so that counts. Right?

Runners up include “The Lost City of Z” and “Murder on the Orient Express”, both very much travel and travel themed books I’ve been meaning to read, even if they are both very morbid stories. Originally I’d thought I could read “The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City” and travel to the Pan American Exposition of 1901 but that seemed to be playing a little loose with the rules. But it’s already on my loan shelf, so once I finish “Catch 22” it’s over to Dublin with John Banville for a few hours before heading into the spectacle and tragedy of 1901 in the Queen City.

Are you doing the UnreadShelf’s TBR Challenge, or any other reading challenge? What travel-themed books have you read or wanted to read?

Follow me on Goodreads to see if I actually read any of these books, and check out what else I’ve read.


Jesse Ball and a Book Once Begun

I’m so behind.  My bookshelf has gotten out of hand over the last few months… several months.. ok, two years.  Maybe three.

Night Passage, the first of Robert Parker’s ‘Jesse Stone’ books is among the oldest there (and since the Tom Selleck made-for-TV movies have gotten to the point Selleck is co-writing original stories, I need to knock this one off the list), as well as Geoffrey Girard’s Project Cain/Cain’s Blood. ( I have the two-in-one paperback advanced reader from my Barnes & Noble days, try not to be jealous)  Those are the ones hanging on since 2013.  Yeah, I know, that’s ridiculous, but these things just kind of pile up, it’s nobody’s fault.  Or it’s Netflix’s.  I did have ten seasons of Supernatural to catch up on, after all.

Jesse Ball's

But, before I get rid of the offending titles of ol’ aught thirteen, I need to finish reading Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun.  While there are always those authors whose list of titles grows without finding the time to step into their world (David Mitchell is at the top of the list victims of my best literary intentions), it’s equally important to stay on top of authors one has already started reading.

With the exception of James Patterson, who releases a new book every two weeks, this should be pretty easy to do.  And yet… I’m two novels and a novella behind on Jesse Ball.

I bought and started reading Silence Once Begun immediately upon its release but was distracted by Hugh Howey and Netflix and a miserable, unending Buffalo winter.  His next novel was released this past July, but I was a little preoccupied with being fired and forgot about buying A Cure for Suicide entirely.

Jesse Ball's novella,

It wasn’t until a week or so ago that someone on Goodreads added his new novella, “The Lesson“, to their ‘Want to Read’ list that I realized how behind I had become.

I’m making progress however, I’ve finished off five books in the last month, two of which I’d been picked away at for several months.  At this rate, there’s a good chance Silence, Jesse Stone, and Cain could all be knocked off my nightstand within a week or two….

Follow me on Goodreads for more reviews and to see what else I’m reading….


Book Nooks and Little Couches / a New Way to Raise Money for Your Classroom Through Donors Choose

Berenstain Bears bookcoversI always liked to read when I was little, had a great collection of Berenstain Bears books I’d go through over and over, and a nice pile of Encyclopedia Brown’s from my brother.  I think like any other little kid though, I enjoyed watching cartoons more, usually while jumping and climbing all over the couch like I was Spiderman.  Well, I still do that, but now I love to read, too.

In fact, I love it.  I need to read.  I have piled of books throughout my house, shelves loaded to bursting and piled to the ceiling on others; even old ones boxed up to donate.

I like to think of these books, more then I could read if I had months to spend on my couch, as my retirement savings.  History, biography, true crime, sci-fi, fantasy, comics, good fiction, bad fiction, James Patterson sell-out fiction.  Anything.  I’m going to keep piling them up.  One day I’m going to read them all.  Every single one.

I have Mrs. Hopkins to thank for this hoarders-esque love for books.

Top Secret by John GardnerMrs. Hopkins was my third grade teacher and actually the daughter of my second grade teacher.  It was a small school.  One Friday she gave me a book she thought I’d like.  The name of it was Top Secret, one of John Gardner’s lesser known kid’s books.  It was a good hardcover copy; brand new, spine unbroken, dust jacket still fresh.  Looking back, Mrs. Hopkins probably bought it herself.

You don’t think about books in your school or classroom libraries when you’re that age.  There’s no thought of where they came from.  It’s a library: those books are part of a library and that’s the most natural thing to a nine year old.  Those books are all meant to be there, and nothing should ever stop that from being a reality.

Now, years later, I’ve seen what schools and individual teachers go through to get the money for those books.  They struggle for each and every book’s spine that some little kid can pass their fingers over as they walk the length of a bookshelf for that one perfect story to lose themselves in.

I didn’t know if I’d even like this book.  Didn’t have any intention of spending my Friday night reading, either, just saying that.  I took it home with me, least I could do for Mrs. Hopkins.  She was pretty cool.

But that perfect story for a little kid to lose themselves in?  That was this one.  Fridays were always TV and pizza night, and we got pop with dinner.  That was a big deal.  Not this time, not this Friday night.  I spent the entire night laying on the couch, my feet buried under one of the cushions and I read that book from cover to cover.  Couldn’t put it down.  Haven’t put it down since.

I’ve seen teachers do a lot to put books in kids’ hands, from grants to cashing in cans, to paying for them straight out of their own pockets.  There’s countless ways they do it, and maybe you can say there’s never as many books or enough money, but they do it.

Donors ChooseJust like Mrs. Hopkins twenty years ago handed me a book that changed my life, a friend of mine is reaching out through a group called DonorsChoose to raise money for her own third grade classroom.  She wants to build a book nook with little kid couches and as many books as her students can read.

Check out the link, hopefully you can give a little to make this happen.  When you enter the code INSPIRE, DonorsChoose will match any gift you give.  Gifts of $50 or more gets you a pile of thank you notes from those little kids whose lives you helped change.

Take a look, share it, talk about it, inspire a teacher you know to reach out through organizations like this.

So thank you John Gardner for writing Top Secret.  Thank you Mrs. Hopkins for finding that book and handing it to me, for smiling and telling me, “I think you might like this.”  I did.  I’ve thought about that book and the impact it had on me every day.  And thank you Mrs. Clabeaux, for being part of a new generation of teachers that are finding ways to reach out to thousands of people so that you might change the lives of as many kids as possible.

Or even just one that twenty years later might remember a book you handed to him one Friday afternoon.


from Mrs. Clabeaux at 11pm October 23rd:

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU EVERYONE who donated to my project! I put my project up this morning at 10am and not even 12 hours later was I fully funded!!!!  ♥ We are getting $750 worth of brand new books and materials for our classroom library! You have no idea how much this means to me and my students! They will be so happy and motivated that there are so many people who care about their future! You truly have made a difference!!!
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