It’s been a while since I’ve read a whole book in a day. Growing up, it was a fairly frequent occurrence, but since adulthood, reading takes longer. I don’t have the time I used to, I guess. Studying literature in university distanced me from the act of reading for pleasure, and I sometimes wonder if I still feel the long term affects of such an education. I don’t always read books just because I enjoy them; I pick books that I feel I should read, books that will somehow stretch me, or add to my understanding of the world, or merely add to the books I’ve read from the canon.
Monthly Archives: January 2016
So many of my peers cite Tamora Pierce as one of the foundational authors of their youth. I can’t blame them. Pierce writes strong female characters stepping boldly off the path patriarchy has laid out for them. Her books have helped girls see themselves and their role in the world in a whole new way. Her contributions to young adult literature is undeniable.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a proper book review. In fact, the last one I wrote was full two years ago. I miss writing book reviews. They help me reflect on a book I’ve just read, to think about it critically and allow it to settle into my mind a little more fully. I don’t make New Years resolutions, but if I did, this would be it; to write a review for every book I read this year, all (hopefully) 20 of them.
I started January off by reading Grace Lin’s Where The Mountain Meets The Moon. Because Mark was off work for 10 days over Christmas, I found the time to sit, and cuddled for hours in my reading chair with this book. It was a delightful couple days of recharging for the start of a new year.
Where The Mountain Meets The Moon
By Grace Lin
Minli loves her life, but she can sense her mother’s dissatisfaction with the poverty they live in. In an effort to change their fortunes, she sets off on an adventure to find the Old Man on the Moon, a character who features prominently in the fairy tales her father tells her. The story jumps from Minli as she travels from her village to where the mountain meets the moon, to her parents as they struggle with the reality of their daughter’s disappearance, and to the world of fairy tales as Lin weaves the story of the Old Man on the Moon into Minli’s adventure.
As fairy tales generally are, this book was filled with strong moral lessons, lessons about gratitude, kindness, hospitality, adventure, and self-sacrifice. These lessons were incorporated beautifully, naturally, without being over-bearing. In all, it was the kind of story I can envision sharing with Isabel one day, when she has the attention span to sit still for a chapter or two.
This book is made all the more beautiful by the drawings that accompany the story. Lin created beautiful artwork to depict key scenes in the book. It was the first time I was pleased that I chose to read this through the convenience of my iPad, rather than uploading it to my Kobo. The images would have probably had an even higher impact with a proper paper copy, but I would have barely noticed them, and certainly not appreciated them on the black and white screen of my ereader.
I gave this book a full five out of five stars. I really have nothing bad to say about it, nothing critical at all! I definitely plan to add more of Lin’s work to my reading repertoire.
Next up? I’m halfway through my very first Tamora Pierce experience. She’s a writer that so many hold dear from their tween and teen years, but I have never before read anything she’s written, despite having loved fantasy as kid. So, I’m checking out what all the fuss about her is, and so far, so good.
What are reading these days? Do you have any reading goals for 2016?
At the beginning of school year back in September, I gave myself permission to read. On one hand, I was disappointed with the number of books I had read – a measly 6 at the end of the summer. I missed reading for pleasure so much. On the other hand, I’m in library school; while my heavy course load provides me with a myriad of excuses not to read, professionally, it’s a really really good idea for me to read and read consistently so I have a greater awareness of what’s out there and what people might like. However, keeping in mind that heavy course load, I narrowed my reading for the school year, focusing primarily on children’s and young adult novels. I need books that won’t require too much mental attention, while still being good. On top of that I want to make sure that, if I actually manage to find a job at the end of this semester, it won’t take me too long to figure out what’s good and wonderful in the world of kids and teens.
The books I did read this past year were pretty decent. I can’t decide on a favourite; there’s a tie between Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge and Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Both are fantasy: Cuckoo Song is contemporary, set in post-World War I Britain; The Queen of the Tearling is high fantasy – or possibly dystopian, depending on how you want to look at it – set in an incredible world that Johansen has poured a myriad of beautiful – and not so beautiful – details into.
On the bottom of my list of favourites sit two books that have so much undeserved hype surrounding them, so I’m sorry if you totally you disagree with my judgement. Paper Towns by John Green was good but it really wasn’t great. It was entertaining, but throughout, I felt like it took itself too seriously. I’ve heard that Green’s books are really formulaic, so I’m not sure I’ll trying another one. And then there was Divergent by Veronica Roth. Oh world. Why do you love this book so much? The world building is weak, so weak that I couldn’t appreciate the story itself. I know it’s supposed to be fantasy, but the idea that the world would decide that everyone should be sorted into categories based on their most dominant personality trait – of which only four exist – is beyond absurd, I just couldn’t. I will admit that it was an easy, light read, but it left me with such a bad taste in my mouth that I won’t be reading any of its sequels, and I’ll make no effort to see the movie. There are better page-turners out there.
So, now on to 2016. Over this last semester of school I hope to continue reading as much as I can, but I’m already looking forward to the remaining 8 months of the year. Knowing that I’m soon done with course assignments, I’ve set myself a goal of 20 books for the year, fiercely hoping that I’ll be able to surpass it. I won’t limit myself to YA completely, but I do love books that are targeted to children and teenagers, and I look forward to reading more. But, more importantly, I hope to fill my reading with a greater diversity of voices. During the course of my last semester of school, I became acutely and painfully aware of the lack of diversity in all things books – publishing, writing, and yes, librarianship. I don’t know how to help fix it except by listening listening listening, so I will fill my head with the words of women and men from different backgrounds than myself, people with disabilities, the young and old from socioeconomic positions that I am unfamiliar with. Words are for more than just entertainment: I want to be mindful of that this year in a way I have never been before.
Another year gone. I have little to say about 2015 and yet I feel like I may be missing a little retrospective in my life, that maybe looking back and reminding myself what happened this year might somehow be a good idea. The past year has felt like a limbo year, a half-assed year, a year of mediocrity. It has been a year of treading water, not always successfully, but here we are: 2016. Survival achieved.
January to April was consumed with my second semester of library school. We took those months day by day, assignment by assignment, play date by play date, daycare drop off by daycare drop off, pumping session by pumping session. In comparison to my first semester, that term of classes had felt so much easier. I was gentler on myself, I think, recognizing that I wasn’t going to be the student I had once been, and forgiving myself for it. Isabel and I had figured out our normal and I finished that semester excited for 5 months of time with my daughter before school would start up again.
I hardly remember those five summer months anymore. I know we celebrated her birthday in there somewhere, and I spent time training for my first half marathon. I know we spent sunny days in the backyard and at the park. We had play dates and made good friends. We had a good summer – don’t get me wrong. I would like to say I cherished and savoured each day. Instead, I learned the hard way that staying at home full time is chalk full of its own challenges. Just as I figured them out, my 5 months of stay-at-home motherhood came to an end and I jumped headlong into the hardest semester so far. Four months distant from those summer days, I hardly remember them, but for the few times I pulled out my camera to snap pictures of my growing baby.
My second year of my Masters of Library Science began in September. It’s different this year. When I started the program, Isabel was 2 months old. She didn’t start to crawl until I was nearly finished my second semester. She was easy: plop her on a play mat surrounded by toys while researching for my assignments, nurse until she fell asleep while doing the readings for class, wrangle her into a carrier and bounce while writing an essay. These days, she’s far more active, and in September, at 15 months, she hadn’t even begun to learn how to play independently. I worked during nap time, but my saving grace was one day of daycare when I didn’t have class, a day to research, write, and edit. Regardless, the semester was hard, and I regularly found myself overwhelmingly disappointed, working away important weekends, missing Isabel, missing Mark, losing myself in the depths of those assignments.
But, the semester ended. As far as I know, I did just fine, though I won’t get my marks back for a few more days. One more semester ahead. I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s just four months. I can do this. Once I finish school, 2016 will bring with it its own challenges. Will I be able to find a job? How will growing our family fit into this? Will I have struggled through my masters for nothing? We’ll see.