What I’m Reading – November, 2016

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

A perfect vacation in my mind is one where I’m able to read and read and read. At the beginning of November, we went to Mexico to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. I cannot remember another vacation where I was actually finished all of the books I brought with me. This time, I even had to borrow one from the lending library there! It was bliss.

november-readsThe Stand by Stephen King – I finally finished reading this humongous book. According to my husband, it is a science fiction novel which is surprising because I don’t usually read science fiction. I started reading it on my friend Christie’s recommendation. Loved it. There were parts that dragged on a bit but in general, it was an amazing book. A classic representation of good versus evil written in the way that only Stephen King can write it.

Betrayed by Lindsey Harris – This true story was shocking and unthinkable although I certainly was able to figure out who was ruining this family’s life much sooner than the mother was. I did find the book to be predictable and was somewhat frustrated that the mother couldn’t figure out what was going on but I do know that it’s certainly easier to be on the outside looking in and thinking that it must have been obvious when so many involved did not see the truth so it must have been well hidden.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – I had heard this book was along the lines of Girl on the Train and Gone Girl in that it is twisty and relational which is what intrigued me. Considering that this is the first novel by Shari Lapena, I was impressed. While I didn’t find it as twisty as the other books it was likened to, I did find it an enjoyable read.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker – I know that there’s currently some controversy surrounding Jen Hatmaker and I have no intention on commenting on that. This book had been recommended to me and it was very thought-provoking.

At first, I’ll admit that I was really bothered by the chapters that seemed out of place in a serious book. There was a chapter making fun of certain fashion trends and I found that strange because it seemed judgmental in a book about showing love and grace. There were other chapters like that as well HOWEVER, after I decided to see them another way, I wasn’t bothered by them anymore. I decided to see them as commercials. Some of the topics in the book were quite heavy so these “commercials” were actually a nice way to infuse some humour and lighten the mood.

I dog-eared the book in many areas that I want to revisit and give more thought to. I already have plans that will increase the weight I put on relationships in my life based on things I read in the book.

Trafficked by Sophie Hayes – Wow. This is the kind of story that changes your paradigms. I will never think of prostitution or human trafficking the same way again. Trafficked is the true story of a girl from the UK, a smart, pretty, well spoken girl from a middle class family, who was trafficked by someone she knew, someone who was her best friend for 4 years. The terror she experienced defies words.

What I’m Reading – July, 2016

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I just love that I’m getting back to reading again. It’s like an old friend had moved away and is back in town. Part of what got me back into the habit of reading is joining a book club a few months ago.

This month was much busier than usual because I’m working on a new website for a product that I’ve been creating behind the scenes for many months but I was able to make some time for reading because of a camping trip that we went on.

We went camping to Nakusp, BC with my husband’s family, most of his brothers and sisters, their kids, their kids’ spouses, and their kids’ kids. Including us, there were 57 people there! It was pretty incredible. Below is a picture of most of us, taken by my niece Amy of Amy Amirault Photography.

Kostelyk campout 2016I’m not usually a camper. In fact, I don’t even like the outdoors, but I really enjoyed this time with family and I liked the slower pace. I spent some time reading on the beach and just visiting. There was also lots of time spent around the campfire or going for walks. It was such a nice change from the usual chaotic pace of our life.

My July Reads:

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

This was our book club selection for the month and to be honest, it wasn’t my favourite. I found it to be super predictable. I think that other people would probably enjoy this book but I have a harder time with light reading and this probably fits in that category.

Launch by Jeff Walker

As I mentioned earlier, I am about to launch a product that I’ve been working on for many months so on our long drive to camping, I listened to the audiobook of Launch. I found that the first 5 chapters were well, (how shall I put this?), quite self-serving for the author, but there was pure gold from chapter 6 on.

For anyone planning to launch a book, product or business, I would highly recommend this. I found that listening to it as opposed to reading it allowed me to take notes (Mark was driving obviously as it wouldn’t be safe to take notes and drive!).

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

I like John Grisham books. They aren’t my very favourite ever but I know that I’ll enjoy the read. It was sitting on my very tall pile of books to read. Knowing that I won’t have much time now that we are back from the lazy days of camping, I thought it would be a perfect choice. I’ve only just started it so I can’t say much for it yet but I’m sure it will be a quick read and it sounds interesting.

When I wrote last month’s reading recap, I was still waiting for my book club selection to arrive. It was Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I had read a bit about the author and the book ahead of time and knew I was going to like it. I LOVED it. It was the kind of book that challenges you to think about what you believe about certain things and why you believe them and to think about a section of our society that you probably don’t give a lot of thought to. It was challenging in the best ways and I’ve been recommending it to others.

You can check out what I read last month by clicking here: June, 2016 Reads.

What are you reading right now?

What I’m Reading – June, 2016

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I love reading and always used to have a book in my hand, but for a few years, reading took a back seat to writing and parenting and homeschooling. Even in my downtime, I wasn’t reading because my brain was too tired and TV took less effort. Recently, I rediscovered my love of books. I also joined a Book Club for the first time which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Here are my June reads:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I’ve been reading this aloud to the kids for a few months. It is taking awhile to get through as it is leading to such profound discussions. This morning, it led to a science lesson on how genetic diseases are passed down. Mostly, the discussions are about feelings, bullying, jealousy, choices, and our treatment of others.

Wonder is about a boy with facial deformities as well as medical issues. What I love about reading this book to the kids is that it is told from the perspective of many of the characters including the boy, his older sister, friends, a bully, and the sister’s friend. Since many of our kids have special needs and are also all the sibling of a special needs child, it has led to a lot of discussion and even some breakthroughs and healing. If you are parenting special needs kids (or even if you aren’t but want your kids to better understand what it would be like to be in their shoes), I highly recommend this as family reading.

The Stand by Stephen King

Stephen King is one of my favourite authors even though I can’t read his super scary stuff. One of my all-time favourite books is his The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. My friend Christie has been telling me to read The Stand for years. It’s her favourite book of all time. It’s a really long book (1,200 pages) and it’s one of those books that once you get into it, you can’t put it down. It was because of this book that I created this image to put on my Facebook page!

The house will have to fend for itself. I've got a book to finish reading!I’ve heard that when it comes to The Stand, you either love it or you hate it. I’m only a quarter of the way through it, but I can pretty much tell that I’m going to fall in that first camp. Stephen King is a master of character development.

The book begins with a plague and becomes about a battle between good and evil. I’m still in the early plague stages of the read and already, I’ve wondered if I’m coming down with a case of Blue myself as I got the sniffles within hours of starting to read it. Christie says that happens to her every time she reads it too!

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

This is the book my Book Club has chosen for this month. Mine hasn’t yet arrived but from reading the reviews, I know this is going to be a book I love. Many of the reviews reference To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my all-time favourite books and the story sounds like the type of book that I gravitate towards. I don’t know if I would have discovered it without it being selection in my Book Club, so I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity to read it.

I’ll let you know in July what I thought of it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish these this month as we have a lot going on (Jonah’s graduation, a niece’s wedding, Father’s Day, homeschool wrap-up, in addition to the usual chaos) but I hope to finish so that I can start on some new books for the summer.

What are you reading right now?

7 Tips for Reading to Older Children

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

One of the things I’m enjoying most about homeschooling right now is the time the kids and I spend together reading. Sometimes we relax on the couches in the living room while I read to them and other times it’s at the kitchen table or while they are in their desks in the homeschool room.

Reading to your kids doesn't have to end when they are old enough to read on their own. Reading to older kids strengthens bonds, increases curiosity, improves communication, and creates a lifelong love of learning.Last week, I made little tea sandwiches and I read at the table while they ate their sandwiches and sipped tea. I’ve found that the best way to make these read aloud sessions successful is to allow the kids to do other things quietly while I read.

tea sandwiches

My girls often knit, crochet or colour while I read and the boys usually colour or play with Lego. These quiet activities allow them to still listen to the story without getting restless.

Some people believe that reading aloud to their kids ends when their child starts reading on their own, but reading to my older kids has been a wonderful way to learn together, spend time together, facilitate discussions, and introduce them to some of my favourite childhood books. Reading to older children strengthens bonds, increases curiosity, improves communication, and creates a lifelong love of learning.

Tips for reading to older children:

  1. Let them have some say in the books you read. You may have an agenda for what books you want read in a month or a year, but allowing your child to have some input as to the order you read them in or to choose an additional book to add to the list will help them to feel involved and be more attentive.
  2. Use the books as conversation starters. Reading aloud is a wonderful way to bridge discussions on topics that you may not know how to bring up. As kids get older, you can choose material that leads into conversations about relationships, choices, religion, intimacy, addictions, abuse, and other relevant subjects.
  3. Allow the books to lead to other learning. If my kids have questions about something in a book we are reading, I will often set the book down and we will go to the computer and research the answer together. This helps bring alive what we are reading. Two recent examples: In Secrets in the Woods, we were immersed in a chapter about kingfishers, but the kids had never seen one and wondered what they looked like. Once we had seen several pictures of the birds online, they were much more engaged in the story. In The Saturdays, there was a reference to a painting done in the 1800s. We were not able to find such a painting or the artist, but it led to a lively debate about whether the painting was fictitious or not.
  4. Ensure that the reading time is a positive one. If you are demanding that your child sit up straight, pay perfect attention, not ask questions, and do long reports on each book read, your child is not likely to look forward to your reading time. If you are relaxed and the experience is positive, it will only further your child’s interest in books. Though we often read chapter books, we also read a few short picture books every week
  5. Create a relaxing environment. Sit under a tree on a blanket on a warm day, cuddle up in bed under the covers, pile on the couch, sip tea and eat scones, let your kids play quietly. When the weather is nice, we often read on the trampoline outside. I let them bring blankets and we all pile on and relax while we read. They also like sitting on the bean bag chair in the homeschool room while I read. I often let the kids quietly flip through picture books, draw, colour, or play with Lego while I read to them. This helps them to relax further.
  6. Use audio books some of the time. Audio books are a nice change. Once your kids are used to listening, they will enjoy the odd audio book and you will enjoy the break for your vocal cords! When you find a well done audio book, the listener is truly transported into the story. If they get used to being read to aloud, they will have more of an attention span for audiobooks which comes in especially handy on long road trips. We’ve listened to many good ones. The Ramona Quimby audio collection is great. So is The Silver Chair, the BBC version of the Wind in the Willows and so many others.
  7. Let them see your enthusiasm! Choose books that you love. Talk about the magic of being swept away to a distant land or time in history. Let your love of books shine through. It’s contagious!

reading tea partyBonus tip: Once in awhile, throw in a book that has a movie version or one that will soon be coming to the theatre or even one that a high school in your community is doing a live play version of. Watching the movie or going to see the play after you have finished watching the book is a great treat and it allows for further discussions on ways that the book differed from the movie or performance. We are reading The Jungle Book right now with plans to make a special day of going to see the new Disney movie when it opens in theatres in the Spring.

I also often plan an entire unit around a book including crafts, food, activities and sometimes, even a field trip. Here are some of the book activities that we have done:

The Secret Garden

The Black Book of Colours

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

The Kissing Hand

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Today, I Feel Silly


A Bad Case of Stripes

Fancy Nancy

Click, Clack Moo. Cows That Type

The read-alouds we’ve used lately:

If you are looking for fun or interesting activities to accompany your books, you may want to follow my Book Activities board on Pinterest.