Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.

In Rock Needs River, Vanessa McGrady shares her journey from deciding she wants to be a mother, to adopting her daughter Grace, to eventually taking in Grace’s homeless birth parents. McGrady navigates the sometimes murky boundaries of open adoption in this debut memoir. The Stacks sat down with Vanessa McGrady to discuss her book and her experiences on Episode 45, which you can listen to for more context on the book.

McGrady is amazing at connecting with her reader, from nearly the first page I was with her. Rock Needs River is, if nothing else, totally readable. There is an openness and honesty with all that comes up, even the complicated stuff, like murky boundaries, family relationships, and entitlement. McGrady doesn’t fein modesty, nor does she shy away from sharing traits that aren’t always so desirable.

The biggest challenge in Rock Needs River is that much of it feels rushed or unexamined. No characters (aside from McGrady) seem fully developed, which leaves them challenging to connect with. The same is true of the main conflict in the book, Grace’s birth parents. Their situation is glossed over and unspecific. McGrady wants to help them (and is clearly generous in letting them move in), but she doesn’t really get into anything beyond her shock and her disappointment in them not getting back on track. This part of the book could have benefited from more interrogation and introspection. It is this lack of specificity that ultimately hurts the book.

McGrady finds the time to reflective on moments throughout Rock Needs River, but comes up short when she has to fit the pieces together and bring the bigger narrative into focus. The book is a quick and easy read, but I sometimes found that it wasn’t grounded. I would recommend this book to people looking to get a glimpse of what one story of open adoption is like, though I think it would be best to pair with other adoption stories for context and perspective.

Click here to hear Vanessa McGrady on The Stacks talking about Rock Needs River and more.

  • Hardcover: 182
  • PublisherLittle A (February 1, 2019)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy onRock Needs River Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

A Guide to Reading More and Achieving Your Reading Goals in 2019

I hear from so many people that they wish they read more. I think that no matter how much you read, you feel like you could be reading more, or reading better, or reading smarter, or reading more diverse, or reading more of what you already own. With so much amazing stuff to read in the world, it can feel like there is always more you could be reading.

Here is a little guide I’ve put together for how to make reading more a part of your life. This will really help if you’ve lost touch with reading and need to get back on track. I come back to many of these when I find myself in a reading slump throughout the year.

  • Set Clear Goals– Make sure your goal is quantifiable. Saying you want to “read more” is easy, but would you really be happy if you read one book more than last year? If yes, great! If not, what do you really mean? If you know you want to read 24 books, say that. Or say I want to read two books a month. Its important you get very clear on your goals so that you know when you’re achieving them.
  • Write Them Down– If you have a goal written down you’re more likely to achieve it. Journal, notes app, post-it, whatever it is, write it down.
  • Tell a Friend– I told my husband when I was planning on reading 12 books in a year. This way, he knew what I was up to when I opted for my book instead of TV time. It also held me accountable, and cheered me on. When I hit the goal we toasted with a little sparkling wine!
  • Pick Up Books You REALLY Want to Read– This is especially true if you’ve never been a big reader, or you just haven’t been that into it. Pick books that excite you, and ones you think you’ll love. If they’re not as good as you thought, put them down. Move on.
  • Put Books Down– Life is too short. Its ok. Not every book is for you. The next one might be the best book you ever read, but you won’t know that if you keep reading the book you’re not that into.
  • Keep a List of Books You Want to Read– I love Goodreads. Its a website that tracks the books I’ve read, want to read, and that I’m currently reading. Its free, and has a social component (if you’re into that friend me), plus you can write rate and review each book as you go. At the end of the year, they send you your reading year in review which is honestly, the best.
  • Create Your Reading Space-Find a place you like to read, and make it your reading spot. For starters (if you have the room) make reading the only thing you do in that space, weather it be a chair or a hammock or a corner of the couch. Get a snuggly blanket, a bright, but not-too harsh light, and a little side table. Now you’ve got a reading nook. Go there to read. Train your body to know that when you’re there, you read.
  • Schedule Reading Time– Decide how often you want to read and plug it in your calendar. Or you can commit to read reading 20 minutes each day. Either way get regular about your reading.
  • Prepare to Read– Make your tea, grab your snack, turn on (or off) your music, go to the bathroom. Make sure you’re ready to fully focus on your book before you get comfortable in your nook. You want to have eliminated all potential distractions so this can be reading time.
  • Get in the Zone (and off your phone)– Seriously. When its time for me to read, I turn my phone on airplane and/or Do Not Disturb mode. I set a timer, and I read. When the timer goes off, I give myself a chore to do, go on a walk, or get on with my day. But I treat my reading time with the same focus and respect I would any other task. Also, the timer will go off and wake me up if I’ve fallen asleep reading (which happens often, my reading set up is very comfy).
  • Talk to Your Reading Friends– Identify people in your life (or on #bookstagram) whose reading aligns with yours, and ask them for suggestions on what to read. They will not only help you find great books, but then you’ll have someone to talk to about all your reading. Its like a book club without the hassle. You can also read along with The Stacks Book Club and enjoy our TSBC episodes where we talk in depth about each book.
  • Track Your Progress– This allows you to know where you are in the process. Goodreads will do this for you too. In addition to Goodreads, I also have an excel spread sheet, where I enter all the books I’ve read, where I got the book, when they were published, the ethnicity of the author, their gender, and more. I also keep a note on my phone with all the books and page counts for the year, month by month. I’m intense, and I love to track things. You don’t have to be like me. But keeping track some way will help you stay focused through the year.
  • Celebrate Your Wins– If you notice you’re on track to hit your goal, celebrate that. Maybe buy a new book, or get a new mug. Maybe you just do a happy dance, or brag to your friend who you told about your goal. Or post about what you’re reading on your social media. However you do it, make sure you feel good about the reading you’re doing.
  • Have a Plan if You Fall Behind– If you look up and your reading isn’t going according to plan, change course. Can you update your goal for the last half of the year? Could you make up for lost time? How about add in some shorter books of poetry or a YA book to get you back on track? Don’t be afraid to modify your goals if you need to.
  • Don’t be Hard on Yourself-If you look up and you realize you’re not hitting your goals thats totally OK. Just reading is doing something good, and enjoy the time you spend with your books. The worst thing you can do is get frustrated and give up.
  • If All Else Fails, Read– Don’t complicate things, pick up your book and start reading, you’ve got this.

I hope that lists helps you get ready to read more in 2019.

Since I think I’ll need a little help achieving my own reading goals in 2019, I’ll share them all with you now.

  • Read 100 Books
  • At least 60% of my reading needs to be books by authors of color
  • At least 60% of my reading needs to be books by women or gender queer authors
  • At least 25% of my reading needs to be by non Black authors of color
  • Read at least 30 books that I already own at the start of 2019–I currently have 136 unread books in my house (#unreadshelfproject2019, #babygotbacklist)
  • Read at least 10 books by queer authors
  • Read at least three books in translation

Here are some other reading goals (many came from you all) not so much focused on overall quantity, and some tips to achieve them.
While the below goals are very general, I suggest you get specific with your own goals and write them down.

  • Read more books by women, or women of color, of queer authors, or any other specific demographic of author.
    • Tip: Pick a number of books, or a percentage of your reading you’re aiming for, and keep track as you go along. This way you’ll see your progress and be inspired by that.
  • Read better books.
    • Tip: figure out what “better” means to you, then follow people, authors, and publications that promote what you want to be reading. Also ask your friends (who you trust their reading taste) if they have other books like this. You might be shocked what books they come up with.
  • Read more nonfiction.
    • Tip: Follow me. I promise I have lots of nonfiction recommendations for you. Also, check out this past post about great nonfiction for fiction lovers, that I put together. Also check out our sponsor My Mentor Book Club for a nonfiction book subscription box (plus you get 50% your first month).
  • Be OK with not finishing a book.
    • Tip: Figure out what is making you not OK with putting a book down. You feel like you’ve wasted your time, you don’t know if you get credit for having read the book if you stop, you’re worried you might like it later on. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can solve it and start leaving books unfinished.
  • Read more books by independent publishers.
    • Tip: Make a list of the independent publishers you know and like, and start going to their site to find whats coming out soon, and check out their catalogs of backlisted books.
  • Read more of what you own.
    • Tip: Set a book budget and stick to it (either number of books or dollar amount). You can also alternate books you own with new books, or switch off monthly between new and owned.
  • Read more classics and backlist books (or any genre).
    • Tip: Set a minimum of what you want to read each month from this category. This way you can read a classic and still leave yourself room for whatever else you like to read.
  • Read the catalogue of an author, Year of Morrison anyone?
    • Tip: Make a plan and write it down. Decide if you’re reading chronologically or by mood, then plot how often you need to be reading books by your author and schedule it. I read a Shakespeare play a month for my #ShakeTheStacks Challenge and always know that Shakespeare is a part of my monthly TBR pile.

This is just a handful of goals and tips to achieve them. Lean on your book loving friends and family to hold you accountable and make sure you share your wins! I know 2019 is your year of reading. You got this.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Short Stacks 3: Best of 2018//Lauren Fanella

Its the last day of 2018, and we’re celebrating with our very own wrap up, New Year’s Eve show. We brought back friend of the pod, Lauren Fanella (who you might remember from episodes 15 and 16, where we talked about Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore). Lauren joins me to talk about each of our top five books from 2018, and the five books we’re most looking forward to in 2019. Get your TBR ready!

Connect with Lauren: Lauren’s Instagram|Lauren’s Twitter

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram|The Stacks Website|Facebook|Twitter|Subscribe|Patreon|Goodreads|Traci’s Instagram

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

Sponsors

Audible– to get your FREE audiobook download and FREE 30 day trial go to audibletrial.com/thestacks.

My Mentor Book Club – for 50% off your first month of new nonfiction from My Mentor Book Club go to mymentorbookclub.com/thestacks


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.