Why You Should Read File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

soccer ball in a netIf you have a soccer player, then you know that Labor Day Weekend means tournaments. My family and I will travel across the state this weekend so two of our boys can play in the Virginia Cup.  Unfortunately, even though it’s the same tournament, the boys are playing in cities an hour apart.  Bah!  Thank goodness for helpful grandparents.

[BTW, if you want to learn about the origins of Labor Day, check out Dianne Salerni's post: The Surprising History Behind Labor Day.]

For me, a road trip requires a good audio book.  I prefer to listen to kid lit around little ears, and earlier this summer we tried File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket.  Michael Kindness and Amy Kingman, the podcasters over at Books on the Nightstand, recommended it.

The Premise

Suspicious Incidents presents itself as a top secret report from a covert organization.  In it, Lemony Snicket, a member of the “organization,” shares thirteen short stories of suspicious cases he solved in the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea.  Each story ends before the mystery is solved, but readers can find the solution for each case at the end of the book.

File UnderWhat I Liked

Snicket uses words with multiple meanings to create humor and irony, or just to have fun.  For example, one character says:

“Even something top-of-the-line bottoms out once in a while.”

The mini-mysteries include plenty of vocabulary building words.  My kids don’t pause to look words up, so I loved the added explanations.  For example, during a disagreement, Snicket’s supervisor accuses Snicket of being snide when he should be sensible.  Snicket explains:

Snide is a word which here means the kind of tone you use in an argument. Sensible is the tone you should use instead.

The phrase “a word which here means…” appears at least twice in every story.  The asides enlighten without ruining the narrative flow.

Finally, I enjoyed how the book encourages attention to detail and critical thinking.  After each story, I paused the audio book so my kids and I could discuss our ideas for solutions to the cases.

What I didn’t like

A different person reads each story, meaning Lemony Snicket has thirteen different voices. Some performers did a better job than others, and I found it odd to have the same character performed by different people.  I would have preferred different voices for the various quirky characters.

Since we listened via audio book, we couldn’t “flip” to the back to check the solution for each mystery.  Instead, we had to wait until the very end and listen to all the solutions at once.  It took a few weeks for us to finish the audio book, and by the time we heard the end, I had forgotten some of the beginnings.

Overall, I enjoyed this clever middle grade book, but I recommend it for reading in the old-fashioned, hard copy format, so that one can easily navigate back and forth between mysteries and solutions.

Can you recommend a good kidlit audio book for the last road trip of the summer?  How about a good mystery?

Thanks for stopping by!



Vocab for the Powerful: Redoubtable

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a meme for people interested in learning new vocabulary.  Visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion to find more words.

Things have been crazy at my house.  In the past week, my husband has scheduled knee surgery and was so ill he actually missed a day of work.  Then Sunday, my daughter fell 25 feet out of a tree.

Yes.  25 feet.

By amazing grace alone, she survived the fall with a mild concussion.  No broken bones, no major brain damage.  I am a lucky mother.

Anyway, all that to say I can’t remember where I came across my word for today, but I still want to share it.  I’ll make up a sentence, inspired by The Book Thief.

Rudy turned the corner and came face to face with his redoubtable instructor from the Hitler Youth League.

redoubtable \ri-‘daů-tǝ-bǝl\ adj from Anglo-French re- + duter to doubt; causing or deserving great fear or respect; very powerful, impressive

In Rudy’s case, the appropriate definition is “causing great fear.”  His instructor liked to beat him for insubordination.

Word Nerd Workout

The redoubtable tree that my daughter fell out of.

The “redoubtable” tree that my daughter fell out of.

Think of a character from books or your own life who you could describe as redoubtable.  Share the character and an adjective for redoubtable.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!




Why You Should Keep a List of Books You’ve Read

reading log

The library summer reading log

When my kids turned in their summer reading logs at the library, the girl helping us asked, “Do you want to keep your reading logs?”

I shrugged.  Frankly, I find reading logs cumbersome.  I make my kids fill them out every summer because I know it helps the library get funding.

But then the librarian said, “I have a list of every book I’ve read since the beginning of high school.  It’s a long list.”

Maybe it was the competitive side of me that perked up.  Or that controlling girl who likes to keep up with details.  But suddenly, a book list sounded appealing.

We kept the reading logs.

Three reasons why you should keep a list of the books you read

  1. Pride  Let’s be honest, if you love books and pride yourself on your ability to consume them, it’s nice to have a comprehensive list of every volume you’ve read.  You’d have a record of all the classics and “must reads” you’ve devoured.  For this mama who spends a lot of time doing things that have no material proof (parenting, laundry, dishes), a concrete list of accomplishments sounds lovely.
  2. Accountability  Having a list allows you to analyse your reading habits.  Maybe you read more science fiction than you realized.  Perhaps you’ve read fewer classics than you thought.  A record can help you fill in some voids (yes, that includes some non-fiction or biographies) or not – but at least you’d have a clear picture of your reading choices.
  3. Recommendations  If you’re a book nerd and other people know it, chances are they will ask you for reading suggestions.  If you keep a list and add a few notes for each entry or use a rating system, you’ll be better equipped to help people find good stuff to read.

Have I convinced you yet?  Hope so!  But now…

goodreads home scan circledHow should a reader set up a list of books read?

For the technology savvy, I recommend a Goodreads account.  Using the site, or the Goodreads mobile app, you can set up a “Books Read” shelf and enter your books by:

  • using your mobile device to scan the ISBN number on the back of printed books
  • downloading your Amazon purchases
  • using the Goodreads search function
  • adding books manually

Goodreads prompts users to rate and review every book entered.  This helps users to remember details about books.  Unfortunately, with Goodreads, as well as most social media sites, you don’t own your content. So if Goodreads ever shut down, your list would disappear.

Another option is a file on your computer.  You would always have it, especially if you save it in a cloud like Dropbox or a program like Evernote.  My friend Rachel has kept a running list of our book club reads for years.  Thank you, Rachel!  However, sometimes digital devices and files aren’t handy.

That leaves good old pen and paper.  You could buy a pretty notebook at Barnes and Noble and record your books.  You’d always have a hard copy with space for notes and ratings. However, if your friend asks you for a mystery recommendation at lunch, and your notebook is sitting at home on your nightstand, you’re outta luck.

I haven’t mentioned a color coding system… Oh, the possibilities!

How do you keep track of books you’ve read?  What is the benefit of doing so?

Thanks for sharing your ideas!


Tweetable: 3 reasons why you should keep a list of #books you’ve read via word nerd @juliatomiak  #amreading

Vocab from The Book Thief: Vociferous

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, the meme for book nerds who want to improve their vocabulary.  Visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for links to more challenging words.

This summer, Marcus Zusak has dominated my reading.  First, I enjoyed I Am the Messenger, a book many teens I know claim as “the best book I’ve ever read.”  Stay tuned for a review.

Now I’m reading The Book Thief,a novel about a girl who loves books but unfortunately lives in Germany in 1941 when the Nazis burned many volumes.  Zusak creates a unique spin on this World War II story with his poetic style and an unusual narrator (Death).

The Book Thief actually made my daughter cry.  She rarely gets emotional about books.  A wardrobe dilemma, maybe, but not books.

The Book ThiefSo I read with trepidation, because I frequently cry over books.  (Especially The Fault in Our Stars and The Time Traveler’s Wife).  I tried The Book Thief once before, in the dead of winter while I was postpartum.  I couldn’t finish it.  Too sad.  But now, I’ve promised my daughter I’ll read it so we can watch the movie together.

I’ve got tissues ready.

Besides giving me great imagery, Zusak also uses some fantastic vocab.  Here’s a sample:

He smiled loudest when the ring announcer listed his many achievements, which were all vociferously applauded by the adoring crowd.

Vociferous \vō-‘si-fə-rəs\ adj; from Latin vociferates, from voc/vox – voice + ferre to bear; marked by vehement, insistent outcry

Word Nerd Workout

Use vociferous in a sentence.  My example:

The teacher struggled to elevate her voice over the vociferous complaints of her students about the bathroom pass policy.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!


Spread the word on Twitter: Word nerd word from The Book Thief: vociferous = marked by insistent outcry via @juliatomiak 

Vocabulary from Sherlock: Ostensible

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday!  Do you ever come across words that you think you should know but don’t?  Wondrous words is the meme for you.  Visit meme hostess Kathy at Bermuda Onion to find links to tons of interesting vocabulary.

My entry this week comes from the T.V. show Sherlock.  My husband and I have recently discovered this series; it’s smart, fast paced, and the characters exchange brilliant quips. However, sometimes I have to pause and talk out the plot to make sure I’m following everything…

I can’t remember the exact quote from the show, but it was something like:

Hospitality is the ostensible reason for your visit, but I don’t buy it.

SherlockOstensible is one of those words I should know back from high school and the SATs.

ostensible \ä-‘sten-sə-bəl\ adj from Latin ostendere  meaning “in front of”, from ob- to show + tendere to stretch; intended for display; being such in appearance; plausible rather than demonstrably true

Aha!  I should have thought about the word ostentatious, which means showy.  Ostensible is all about appearances, not necessarily the truth.  (A perfect word for Sherlock.)

Word Nerd Workout

It’s back to school week here at our house; let’s get into academic mode.  Here’s an analogy for you to complete, which reviews a previous WWW word:

inchoate:imperfectly formed :: ostensible: ____________

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!


Spread the word on Twitter:

Tweet: Word Nerd Word: ostensible = intended for display. More at http://ctt.ec/Ze8v3+ #amreading #words

Vocab from Ann Voskamp: Carapace

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a meme for sharing new words learned while reading or just some old favorites.  Visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for more vocabulary boosters!

I’ve been slowly savoring Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts this summer.  Voskamp’s poetic and profound writing continues to amaze me, and I must absorb it in small doses.  Here’s a great example:

Do I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity?  A God who breaks through the carapace of this orb only now and then…

carapace \’ker-ə-pās\ noun; from the Spanish carapacho; a bony case or shield covering the back of an animal (like a turtle or crab); a protective, decorative or disguising shell (a carapace of silence around herself)

I’m guessing Mrs. Voskamp was using the second meaning.

1000 giftsWord Nerd Workout

Can you think of a synonym for carapace?  Everything that comes to my mind isn’t nearly as poetic, e.g. “shield”.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!


Tweetable: Word nerd word from @Ann Voskamp & #OneThousandGifts : carapace = a protective shell.