Saturday, January 2, 2021

2021 Back to the Classics and Chunkster

I really like the Back to the Classics and have decided it will be one of two I sign up for this year to help motivate me as I work through my Classics Club list. I'm not assigning any books, though I've gone ahead and categorized my remaining books where they fit. I'll link everything at the end of the year. I'm also signing up for the Chunkster Reading Challenge as most of these books are fairly hefty.

1. A 19th century classic: A Study In Scarlet

2. A 20th century classic: East of Eden, Endless Night

3. A classic by a woman author. Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Endless Night

4. A classic in translation: Don Quixote, Anna Karenina

5. A classic by BIPOC author: ???

6. A classic by a new-to-you author: Vanity Fair or Anna Karenina or Don Quixote

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author: East of Eden or Endless Night

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title: ???

9. A children's classic. Peter Pan

10. A humorous or satirical classic: Martin Chuzzlewit

11. A travel or adventure classic: ???

12. A classic play: A Winter's Tale

Friday, January 1, 2021

Looking Forward 2021

As I said in my post yesterday, I've been thinking about my reading and what I want out of it. I work in a children's library, and when I started this blog, I had been reading mainly children's literature. I wanted to start reading adult literature, but wasn't sure where to start so I joined a few book challenges and was using this blog to track progress and write reviews. 

For the last two years, I'm noticing that I haven't been as interested in my challenges and I'm not reading much children's literature at all. I've liked the challenges because they do help me grow as a reader. Reading outside my comfort zone has been fun in some ways. But at the same time, I tend to then get frustrated when I read something that doesn't "count" for a challenge, even if I'm enjoying reading it. Basically, I'm really good at starting off focused, and then I get distracted and look at all the pretty things. It's a problem. 

So this year I'm doing things a bit differently. With the exception of potentially two challenges, I'm not signing up for or making my own challenges. I'm just setting some goals. There are some challenges that I will be using to provide roadmaps, but I don't plan on signing up and counting books for them. So without further ado, my 2021 reading goals. 

Goal 1: Make progress on my Classics Club List

Technically five years is up in January 2022, but of the 11 books remaining on my list, six are over 500 pages long. Two clock in at close to 1,000. I don't see myself finishing by 2022. I also foresee needing some motivation because, while I always feel like I get a lot out of reading classics, sometimes it's a bit of work to get through them. I will vaguely follow the Back to the Classics challenge simply because it's a great motivator. There's also a chunkster reading challenge I found that could be a fantastic motivator as well. 

Goals 2 and 3: Read more children's books and read more diverse books. 

Professionally, I cannot overlook children's literature. At the very least, I need to keep up with what's out there. On top of that I really want to focus on diverse literature for kids. While I don't plan to sign up for challenges, there is a Reading Children's Books For Adults and a Diversity Reading Challenge that look like they could be a great road map if I need help there.

Goal 4: Read books I enjoy.

I really enjoy fantasy adjacent novels for just plain fun reading. There's a fantasy challenge that could be fun for a road map of discovering new fantasy because it's always fun discovering new stuff! But aside from that, I've really enjoyed trolling the New section on Goodreads and grabbing something from there. Almost every book I've read since September is from there, and I've enjoyed every one!

Goal 5: ETM Study

Recently I've been studying with a group called Education Through Music. Their way of teaching music has really resonated with me, and every time I attend a workshop, I come back with more ideas for deliberate, successful teaching both at my library and my private music studio. They have quite the book list to study regarding things like motivation, teaching practices, brain development, child development, and the like that are really fascinating. I always keep meaning to read them... but never do. 

As for my Mount To be Reads and DeLint novels and the like... I'm still going to keep those lists, but I'm not making them as much a priority at this point. 

I feel good about these goals. They give me some direction in my reading because some of my reading does need direction, but since they're goals rather than challenges to be participated in, I can move them aside for other things as desired. 

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Looking Back: A Wrap up of 2020 in Reading

What an interesting year it's been. I had signed up for a number of challenges at the beginning of the year with the caveat that I was going to use them more as guides to my reading as I wasn't sure what was going to happen due to being pregnant and due in May. 

The year started out all right. I decided the best way to tackle the challenges were to essentially cycle through with a focus of two books from the first challenge, then one book of all the others. I also decided to read Anna Karenina over six months by basically reading it for 20 minutes a day. And I did all right. I finished most of my first cycle by March 10th along with a couple of parenting books thrown in. On March 15th, our state issued Shelter-in-Place orders for Covid-19. Luckily I had my next "cycle" of books checked out, but it took a while to make my way through two of them. I managed my way through a third while in a stage of early baby days where the baby would only sleep while on me.

And then I didn't pick up another book until August at which point I basically threw all my lists out the window and focused on parenting books and new releases. It felt appropriate with 2020 being the dumpster fire that it was. 

I managed a grand total of 23 books this year. Not a strong suit by any means, but honestly, with how I felt about reading over much of the year, I'm pretty pleased with that. It has given me much to think about in my future reading and which directions I wish to take this blog but that's a post for the New Year. 

I hope everyone else had a more productive reading year than I did even as we all struggled with the challenges thrown at us and I hope for a much better 2021 for everyone!

    Tuesday, December 29, 2020

    Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

    Title: Plain Bad Heroines
    Author: Emily M. Danforth
    Pages:  617
    Finished: December 26, 2020

    First Sentence: It's a terrible story and one way to tell it is this: two girls in love and a fog of wasps cursed the place forever after.

    Summary: In 1902, two students at Brookhants School, Flo and Clara die in a swarm of yellow jackets. Over the next year, three more people mysteriously die in strange, almost supernatural ways. Cut to the current day, Merritt Emmons publishes a book about these events. A book that is now being made into a movie starring celebrity actor Harper Harper and Audrey Wells in the roles of Flora and Clara. But strange, unnatural things keep cropping up on set to the movie. 

    Thoughts: First and foremost, this is the latest in a long list of surreal novels I've read this year. The is a book where you have no idea where it's going until you get to the end. This is a book that should be enjoyed leisurely rather than read straight through. Unfortunately, it's written in a way that makes you want to read it straight through. 

    The story jumps back and forth between the Happenings at Brookhants in 1902 vs the movie making business in 2020. And and forth, it definitely take advantage of the stylistic choice of cliff hangers. Just as you are about to learn something on 2020, it's back to 1902 and Libbe Brookhants. Finally you get somewhere with her and it's forward to 2020 learning about Audrey. Oh good. We finally have something there and now it's late 1800s learning how Alex and Libbe ended up together.

    If you read the flyleaf of the book, you might think that Flo and Clara are going to be main characters in this novel. They're not. They're the catalyst to the story. Them and Mary MacLane.

    One thing that was really cool, this book had more queer representation than I've seen in any mainstream novel I've ever read. All the main characters are either bi or gay. Many of the side characters as well. There's one transgender person whose pronouns are them which is the first time I've actually seen that in a fiction book. No asexual representation, but I suspect that's due to the subject matter of the story. 

    The book surprised me. I had inklings of things that were coming, but the actual reveal in it all blindsided me. 

    This is one of those novels where I don't think a single character is perfect. Everyone is flawed in some way. Everyone is their own unique person. But then this is what people have been saying in media all the time about diversity. So yes, it was really wonderful to see actual characters rather than diversity points. 

    Also, it turns out Mary MacLane was a real person who did publish three books, the first of which took America by storm largely due to how open she was about herself and her feelings in a time when most people weren't. Particularly when those thoughts were the opposite of "good breeding."

    This is definitely an experience though. I don't know that one can walk out saying they have a favorite part or a favorite character. At least I don't. I did, however, really enjoy the tone and atmosphere of the novel. I'm glad to have finished out my year with this novel. (I just started another, but there is no way I'll finish it between now and Thursday.)

    Monday, December 28, 2020

    The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V. E. Schwab

    Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
    Author: V. E. Schwab
    Pages: 442
    Finished: November 19, 2020

    First Sentence: A girl is running for her life.

    Summary: France, 1714. Adeline LaRue wants to see far of places, live many experiences. Addie LaRue does not want to get married and end up stuck in her small village for the rest of her life. So, desperate on the night of her wedding, Addie makes a deal with a god. A deal that grants her immortality at the price of everyone forgetting her the minute they lose sight of her. It turns out it's much harder to get by when no one remembers you. And that's how things are for Addie for 300 years until one day, someone does remember her.

    Thoughts: So this is kind of the "it" book going around right now. As I was reading it, a coworker discussed it for our staff reviews, two friends posted about it on Facebook, and patrons brought it up. And to be honest, it's a pretty interesting book. Of course, any book regarding deals for souls and life or art invoke Faust, and of course this book couldn't escape mentioning that. But I still really enjoyed it.

    I appreciate that the main character, Addie, isn't infallible nor is she unlikeable. It seems that often when people write Strong Women, they are good at every skill, strong as a man, accomplished in most things, and friends with everyone. Or they go the opposite direction and are unsociable in a way that makes them hard to identify with. Addie feels like a regular person.. which is all we want in our Strong Women characters. Take note authors!

    I went back and forth on Henry. When we first met him, I was intrigued as to who this guy was. Like Addie, he felt desperate enough to make a deal. But even so, I didn't connect to him as well as I did to Addie. 

    Our other main player is Luc the not-devil. The god after dark. I appreciated that he was more complex than just evil... but he still was the antagonist and I don't like antagonists, no matter how much back story we get into them.

    One of my favorite aspects of the entire work was how Addie showed up in art. I liked the idea of the forgettable woman showing up in art all over the ages. It was such an interesting concept. 

    Honestly, even with this being the "it" book of the season, I really enjoyed it. It was the right level of fantasy grounded in realism. The characters felt real even in their wild lives. I feel like I could take another pass at it and slow down in the last 100 pages or so rather than busting through them at midnight... but this is a problem I have with all books I read that I enjoy. Definitely a worthwhile read. 

    Sunday, December 27, 2020

    Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

    *Note, I read this in October and never wrote a review. This review is based on impressions only.

    Title: Ormeshadow
    Author: Priya Sharma
    Pages: 165
    Finished: October 14, 2020

    First Sentence: The argument started a good twenty miles from Ormeshadow.

    Summary: After an event that causes some chilliness between Gideon's parents, he finds the whole family packed up and on their way to Ormeshadow Farm on the coast of Wales. There Gideon finds a family who doesn't welcome him, more mysteries, and stories of a dragon - his family's birthright. 

    Thoughts: I'm going to start right off and say this wasn't my cup of tea. It was booktalked in a continuing education course I took for work and at the end, the speaker mentioned it's a readalike to Naomi Novik's Uprooted which I read at the beginning of this year and adored. So I was really excited for a fantasy horror novel. 

    This was not that. It was more of a psychological horror novel. The reader spends their time guessing what the heck is going on and what is it that Gideon doesn't see. The reader also has to parse out is the dragon Gideon's father talks about actually real? And then we read through the abuse Gideon suffers. 

    In general I found the characters unlikeable and I think I must have missed subtext because things seemed to come quickly and at weird times. The writing style was atmospheric but I just didn't enjoy the subject matter. It did not strike me as similar to Uprooted in the slightest which is the whole reason I picked it up! That being said, for a fairly gentle horror novella, it was quick to breeze through.

    Friday, November 6, 2020

    A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

    Title: A Deadly Education
    Author: Naomi Novik
    Pages: 313
    Finished: October 18, 2020

    First Sentence: I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

    Summary: El (Galadriel) is a junior at the Scholomance, a terrifying magic school where it's easy to end up dead if you aren't careful and don't have people watching your back. And El... well, she has a hard time making friends because the school is determined that she is a malificare, a magic user who uses people's life force for destructive means. Except she refuses. And oh, by the way, the star pupil of the school has taken notice of her.

    Thoughts: OH MY GOD. It's like the adult's Harry Potter! OK, so El's a little hard to fall in with at first. She has an understandable chip on her shoulder... a similar chip to the one I had on my shoulder at her age. But more than a decade past it, I just want to shake her and tell her to get over it. Maybe I should reexamine these feelings before my own child becomes a teenager... Perhaps the other issue is of the three Novik books I've read, the main character has a similar attitude. Outsider with a chip on their shoulder. Perhaps it's because it's just a really common feeling to have. 

    The school sounds interesting and terrifying at the same time. Unlike Hogwarts, I have no desire to go there. But Novik does an admirable job building the world. Characters feel realistic. It's a quick read. 

    And yes, it feels like a mature Harry Potter in some ways. So it was not all that surprising when the author thanked someone in her acknowledgements for reminding her who this book is for and how she can't believe they're in their 30s.

    It was a quick read and I'm really glad I found it. Definitely looking forward to the next one.