Category Archives: Reading

Loving lately…


If you like the book reviews that have pop up here every once in a while, let me direct you to my other blog – Marleah Reads. There, I will post my book reviews, as well as give you the lowdown on the Stephen King Saga and the Dewey Challenge that I have undertaken. (I’m reading The Talisman right now and am way more into it than I expected.)

On that reading note, I love that Reading Rainbow on Kickstarter has reached THREE TIMES its goal and still has a month left to go. I wish I had an extra couple of thousand dollars so I could have a picnic with LeVar Burton.

Rage Against the Minivan has a great post about lifestyle blogs and brings it back down to earth.

Thanks to Elise for featuring these awesome engineer prints from Photojojo. I have a few places here at home where I could use these …

Funny Shade of Green wrote about how to repurpose a giant box into something useful and fun.

How About Orange may be going away (sniff), but here’s a post about Jessica’s gorgeous geometric fabric and a link to a pattern for an iPad case. Don’t forget to sign up for the Oscar Bingo mailing list while you’re there!


Hey, It’s Franklin

We’ve been reading a few Franklin books over here with Aoife. Right now on her shelf, we have Franklin’s New Friend and Franklin Rides a Bike. The age range is a bit beyond 2 years old, with Amazon putting them solidly in the 3-8 year old camp. However, Aoife loves pointing out various details in the illustrations and talking about the different animals. The words and phrases in the book are easy enough to modify to your child’s own level, and I was actually surprised to see that Aoife was perfectly willing to sit through the entirety of a somewhat longer picture book (even two times … and three times before bed).

Franklin 25th Anniversary

If you didn’t already know, Franklin is a young turtle who can do lots of things but learns even more as he goes through all the milestones of childhood. The Canadian series (that was something I learned when researching) has been adapted into two different TV series, one of which I’ve seen and with which I have been pretty satisfied.

The books handle those childhood milestones in a way that is balanced and reasonable, which means that kids can relate to them and even see proper behaviors modeled for them. Franklin makes mistakes, and he usually has to answer for them. Kids can relate to both the mistakes and the ways that Franklin overcomes them.

But here’s the real point of these thoughts. Every other animal in the Franklin universe simply goes by their animal name: Bear, Moose, Beaver, Fox. Why is Franklin the only character who has an actual name? What do they do when there is more than one of that animal? Bear 1 and Bear 2? Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear?

I can suspend belief when it comes to having predators and prey animals in the same classroom, sharing Tinkertoys and what-not. But why isn’t Franklin just called “Turtle”?

Is there another named character somewhere in the series that I’ve missed? Is this ever explained? Am I crazy for thinking about this every time I read to Aoife?

Bookshelf Hack and Poop

I can’t wait to see what search terms lead people to this post.

First, I have a little life hack that you may find helpful if, like me, you have things propped up on bookshelves and also have a plethora of rocks carefully selected by a toddler. You may remember my bookshelf. A couple of days ago, it got bumped and my priceless work of art fell behind it. If you’ve ever tried to move a bookshelf holding a few hundred books, it’s not all that fun. I wanted to not have to do it again, and I discovered an elegant yet simple solution: I grabbed one of the rocks collected by Aoife and slipped it behind the picture.



It’s unobtrusive and not readily visible, and it will prevent me from having to shimmy the bookshelf away from the wall and squeeze my arm into a space an inch wide. Super easy? Yes. Super awesome? Heck yeah!


Which brings me to the subject of poop. Not really, but Everyone Poops is one of Aoife’s new favorite books. We picked it up at the library mainly because we’re getting into the potty training phase and I thought it might be helpful to normalize the whole process. I remembered hearing about it when it first came out in the US in the early 90’s and just recalled the jokes I’d hear about it. Is a book about poop joke-worthy? Yeah, probably — and this one knows it. Is it also a great topic to talk about with your kids, that we probably wouldn’t want to talk about too much on our own? Of course!

Aoife loves this book — whether it’s the simple pictures, naming the animals, or just the fun of pointing out the poop on each page, we end up reading this one frequently. Reviewers evidently didn’t feel the same way. A review in Publishers Weekly stated that kids will likely enjoy the book, “but their parents may well not want to read to them about it.” To that I say — so? There are a lot of things I don’t want to read about to Aoife: bullying, poverty, sex, racism, and only using a purple crayon when maybe your favorite color is actually yellow. But to present an age-appropriate subject in an age-appropriate and, above all, interesting format is crucial for parents and children. 

I realize I’m complaining about reviews written over a decade ago, but they struck me as being written by non-parents, or worse — people without a sense of humor or wonder about the world. What does a whale’s poop look like? I’d honestly never thought about it, but by golly, you know I’ve Googled it since reading this book. (Psst — let me save you the trouble.)

Would you read about poop to your child? Do you consistently typo “poop” like “popp”?


Review: The Strain

The Strain
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The first half of this book was pretty gripping and kept me interested in what was going to happen next and how everything was going to pan out. I liked the idea that vampires are something to be feared, not loved, and yeah — these guys are scary. I felt that the second half got a little repetitive, and I was turned off by the idea that maybe there are more … “organized” vampires as was implied toward the end?

After completing the book, I’m left with more than a few unanswered questions — to be expected with the first book in a trilogy — but I don’t care enough to learn the answers. (Sorry, honey!) I think I like my “undead” creatures to be more mindless and less “secret society”.

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Review: Running Like a Girl

Running Like a Girl Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was never the athletic type, growing up. Team sports never appealed to me due to lack of coordination, lack of desire, lack of self esteem, just all around lacking-ness. During graduate school, I knew that I needed to do something to get (and then stay) fit, and I happened upon running. I didn’t have to go to the gym, I didn’t have to be around other people (it is no secret that I am an introvert), and I could go at my own pace. Turns out — I LOVE running.

Heminsley’s book is so relatable — I remember my first time shopping for running shoes, and it was remarkably similar to hers. I remember the feeling of completing my first full mile, and the sudden desire to run longer, farther, faster, better. I still get that feeling with each mile I complete. Heminsley writes honestly about the trials and challenges, but what comes across most is the sheer pleasure she gets from her runs. Her account of the London Marathon reignited my thoughts of running a marathon myself. In addition to the ups and downs of running, she includes a section answering common questions and giving realistic and actually helpful tips.

This book is not “a book about how to run, written by an expert runner” — it is a book about why a normal, everyday person would want to run and why you can (and maybe should) do it too.

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My Stylin’ Bookshelf

I’ve always been mystified by the styled photos of interiors I see in magazines, in blogs, and on Pinterest. “No one actually can live in a house that looks so perfect, right?” I would ask, and of course — the answer is no. They can’t. Images are styled for photographs and then things are moved back to where they were originally, a few dust bunnies reappear, and life goes on.

BUT. I love the look of those styled interiors. We all do, that’s why they exist. So the other night, I set to work styling my bookshelf. I don’t have a mantel, which is often the subject of those perfect images, but I do have a pretty happening bookshelf. It’s a focal point in the living room, and I try to spend a lot of time there. It too often falls victim to clutter — it’s just such a darn convenient place to set random things that need tending, and two weeks later I realize I have to dig it out. My hope is that styling the bookshelf will help prevent that from happening.



When styling interiors, I fully believe that it should remain useful and should include items that are meaningful to you. I’ve seen teen girls’ rooms styled with random books just because the cover’s color added a nice contrast. I’ve seen offices with stuff all over the desk because it looks cool. Are you really going to move your model Eiffel tower, three Reader’s Digest condensed books, and vintage typewriter every time you want to write a blog post?

With that in mind, I styled away. I’ve been inspired lately by the words over at The Nester – it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Let’s take a closer look …


I’ve got these two checked out from the library right now, and they are imperfectly marked with yellow sticky notes (you’ll see in a minute). I’m really excited to do some of the projects!


This fancy piece of modern art was made by … me! You’ll never guess how. Done guessing? I used shoe polish to make lines on canvas. This was a project where I didn’t even have to wait for naptime to do it. It took all of two minutes, plus a little bit of drying time. I really like the gradient effect, and I think it makes a great backdrop on my bookshelf.


Something a little more classic now — a print of a Monet painting. This was gifted to us several years ago, before we moved into this house, as a matter of fact. We were always waiting for the right frame or the right place to put it. Well, I found it. I need to learn that art is meant to be enjoyed, not boxed up somewhere waiting for the right time.


You were waiting for those sticky notes, right? Well, there they are. I just made this flowerpot at my library’s Crafternoon program, and I love how it turned out. I threw in a game of charades on sticks, made by Hallmark (and I think not made anymore), and stacked it on top of a few Moleskines (that I actually use!).


No area on display would be complete without a photo of our little darling. I love putting photos on wood blocks for an easy display idea. No frame required, and it adds a nice depth to a display. The rocks were added by the darling herself — she loves collecting rocks when we are out walking, and we needed a place to put them where she could check them out periodically. I think they add a nice touch. The collage on wood was made by Aoife, with a little help from me — I cut out shapes, she brushed on Mod Podge and stuck the shapes where she wanted them. When she was done, I added another coat of Mod Podge and called it good!


And finally, a collection of notebooks and writing inspiration. I’ve been trying to get back into writing poetry and fiction, but it’s been slow going. However, I did write a poem the other day that I felt really great about, so maybe it’s starting to trickle in.

So that’s my new and improved bookshelf. The lower shelves are mostly organized, but little hands love to pull random books out and flip through, so the organization doesn’t always stick.

What do you think of styled interiors? Would you ever use shoe polish in an art project? And how long do you think the cleanliness of this surface will last?

Review: Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior

Jo Frost's Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper BehaviorJo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior by Jo Frost
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jo Frost, of Supernanny fame, has written a down-to-earth book full of handy tips for a variety of situations that you’re guaranteed to run into if you have a toddler. I really enjoyed her take on discipline – it’s not punishment, it’s a sense of structure and routine for your child’s (and your) life. She covers five different areas of concern – sleep, food, social, early learning, and good behavior – with two chapters each: one outlining basic routines and ideas, and one in Q&A format that serves as an “SOS” guide for that topic. Frost also includes valuable chapters on tantrums, helping parents identify what may be triggering the tantrum and giving ideas about how those triggers can be avoided – or at least defused in the moment.

Frost keeps an encouraging and understanding tone throughout the book, which is nice for parents who read books about parenting and feel like they are doing nothing right. This book absolutely did not make me feel this way, so it gets bonus points for that.

Also a bonus, the book is very short and in very bite-size pieces, with handy boxes of need-to-know information. If you’re a busy parent (I’ve never met one who’s not), you can easily find the information you need RIGHT-THIS-MINUTE and then hit the rest later.

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