Readerly Rambles: 13 July 2015

readerly rambles

What I read: First off I was a terrible #24in48 participant, sorta. I knew I wouldn’t be able to read for that long, but I did think I would pop onto Twitter or blitz through some graphic novels. I did reach my goal of completing A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I read during Persy’s naps on Saturday and Sunday and stayed up way past my bedtime last night to finish (went to bed at 12:15am and woke at 4am… thank goodness for coffee). OH MY GAWD THAT BOOK WAS PERFECTION. Review forthcoming, but let me say that I wept during the last 40 pages.

What I’m reading: I had intended on picking up Emma today, but I’m just too tired to read. Shirley Jackson Reading Week began today, but my participation will have to wait because… well, I’m sure you know… tomorrow is the release day for To Set a Watchman.

What’s Up Next: The Harper Lee book is first, of course, and then it is back to regular programing. A wee bit of Austen, a sprinkle of Victorian Fairy Tales, and a heaping cup of Shirley Jackson.

My sleep deprivation is preventing me from writing coherently. I’ll just leave you with this image that describes my weekend and – most likely – the next few days all thanks to books.

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Readerly Rambles: 9 July 2015

readerly rambles
I am truly feeling a need to jump start my reading. I’m in a lag. My current read is phenomenal, The Children’s Book by A S Byatt, but it is a chunkster. It hasn’t proven great for the tiny pockets of reading I find each day. Work and kids mean that I have to relish in the 10 and 15 minute blocks of reading time just as much as a three hour long reading bender. This book draws me in and has a slow build. I just end up getting cranky when I have to put it down.
Nothing revitalizes my reading like making huge plans, drawing up mega lists of books and then start reading with wild abandon. Below are a few bookish events I’ll be participating in or, at the very least, I am planning on participating in (who knows where my whims will take me).
First off this weekend is the start of the 24 in 48 readathon. The goal is to read for 24 hours within a 48 hour time period. You all know I’m a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater so I’m going to go for reading for 12 hours during the event. It will be a huge uptick in my reading seeing as I think I read for 12 minutes last weekend. At the very least I hope to polish off The Children’s Book this weekend.
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Next is the Shirley Jackson Reading week running from July 13th – July 18th. I’ll be reading The Bird’s Nest, listening to We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and possibly picking up one of Jackson’s memoirs.
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A really great event that I’m not participating in is the Socratic Salon’s Alice in Wonderland discussion. The only reason I’m not participating is because I’ve decided I must purchase a beautiful copy and I’m on a book buying ban until September. I will be reading this in the autumn, but not right now. Their button for the event is so beautiful that I think everyone else should participated. Now.
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Since I am itching to re-read a classic, I’ll be jumping on to a long-term Emma reading event. I can manage five chapters a week, right?
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Let me know if you’re participating in any of the above events and throw some reading event recommendations my way. Happy Reading!

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

alljoyA few year’s ago I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and it was a formative experience in shaping, or reshaping, how I thought about who I am and how I function in the world. I closed the book and thought, “I’m okay.” All the words I would use to describe me before reading Cain’s book: anxious, stumbling, isolating, WEIRD… were out the window. I was simply different.

*sigh of relief*

I had a similar experience in reading Jennifer Senior’s All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. This is not a parenting self-help book. There are no tricks for organizing your time or decluttering toys. Absent are tactical maneuvers for getting more sleep, helping your child gain independence, or communicating with teens. This is a book about how modern parenting impacts parents: those humans tasked with raising younger humans.

Senior starts with infants and then works up through the teen years. She discusses the unique demands modern parents face including a lack of support and changes in society’s perception of childhood. In each chapter she details the lack of fun in parenting: decreased sex, sleep impairment, busyness, difficulties of the age group, etc. Senior also discusses the joys of parenting: hugs, a day at the water park, exploring the world with the eyes of a child, and feeling connected and invested in the world.

Truly the crux of the book is “the days are long, but the years are short.” The last chapter was my favorite as it talked about joy and how joy is so impacted by memory. What frustrates and complicates in the moment will pass, what remains is the “joy” found in the moment. For example, one father talked about watching cartoons at 3am while his child was sick. At the time that was probably tiring and stressful, but the joy he remembers is spending time with his child and making his child feel better.

My favorite aspect of the book was when Senior discusses giving yourself permission to dislike aspects of caring for another person. Often parents feel pressure to love every single second of “caring” for their kids and by caring I mean all the tantrums, snot, and poop that comes with it (for teens just replace snot and poop with messy rooms and door slamming). When parents allow themselves to dislike the task, but commit to doing what needs to be done they are eliminating a pressure to be constantly “on” that often results in feeling guilty and false. Case in point: last week Persy Jane took off her poopy diaper and dropped it in the hallway on her way to take it to Sam, she stepped in it, freaked out, Atticus stepped in it, freaked out and Sam cleaned two pairs of poopy feet and the hall carpet. He hated the poo (the smell, the mess, the screaming), but by the time I arrived home from work he was laughing. The look on Persy’s face, the kindness of her big brother trying to help and making it worse, the serious face they both had when I came home and they told me about the incident. In the moment stinky, stressful chaos; in our memory silly, sweet kids.

When I finished All Joy and No Fun I had the same reaction from reading Cain’s book: “I’m okay.” Bemoaning the lack of sleep, steeling myself for a night up with sick kids, longing to have my body be my own… it is completely fine and doesn’t mean I’m an awful mom. You parents know what I’m talking about, that creeping, insidious guilt we feel when we get time to ourselves or wish for a night off. That tiny voice that tells you that parenting has no room for ambivalence, it tells you this is the one monumental task that requires constant and consuming adoration. Not true, parenting isn’t all fun: it is loud, messy, complicated, and a changes constantly (all three of my kids have different personalities and require me to mother in different ways) . It isn’t all fun, but it is joyous. My most fulfilling moments are with my little Wild Things and I hold my time with them as precious.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 21 June 2015

Finished: 05 July 2015

Pages: 320

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Kindle

Stars: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Reading Victorian Fairy Tales: Introduction

victalesOxford University Press kindly sent me a beautiful, hardcover copy of Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton in exchange for an honest review. I cannot wait to dig into this beautiful book!

My bookish friends will assure you that there are two literary things I love above all else, the Victorians and Fairy Tales. My love for the Victorians is not restricted to the Victorians proper. Give me an amazing novel set in the Victorian era or a book with the length and depth of a Victorian novel (I’m looking at you, Eleanor Catton) and I’m a happy bookworm. My love for fairy tales began early with an obsession for Andrew Lang’s many-hued collections of fairy tales. I was the child who hated Disney’s The Little Mermaid because the mermaid did not tragically turn to suicidal sea foam at the end. Grimm, Lang, Perrault, Anderson… I love them all. My senior creative thesis in college was a collection of poorly written fairy tale poems inspired by Anne Sexton’s Transformations and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. As you can guess, the combination of Victorians and fairy tales is enough to turn me into a simpering fan girl. This may explain why I adore Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell  and my obsession with my current read, A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book as both books are set in Victorian times and brimming with fairy tale elements. The Victorians and fairy tales have one overarching theme in common: the uncanny combination of superficial beauty, magic, and atmospheric wonder laced and tinged with violence, sex, and the darker elements of humanity.

My goal is not race through the tales in Newton’s collection. Instead I’m endeavoring to read one a week and then review that fairy tale. I picked up the book on my lunch break and read the introduction. Actually, I skimmed the introduction. I tend to skim the introductory materials, read, and then follow-up with a more thorough reading of the introduction. That allows me to have an uninfluenced first impression and then deepen my understanding of my reading afterwards. My first gander at Newton’s introduction was enlightening. He discusses the origins of the Victorians’ love for fairy tales, controversy surrounding the fairy tales’ intended audience, and the business of writing fairy tales during this era. The introduction is followed-up with a note on text selection, a bibliography for further study and a chronology of the fairy tale from 1705 to the First World War.

Next week I’ll be reading the Prologue, which consists of two “original” fairy tales and then move on to the first Victorian fairy tale in the collection, Robert Southey’s The Three Bears.

Goodbye June, Hello July!

June was one big whoosh of stuff and then done. I cannot believe it is over. This month was filled to bursting with many good things and some moments of sadness and anger. I picked some random pictures from my phone to best express this month. Not pictured is my insane workload. June ended up my second busiest month of the fiscal year for ILL. Also not pictured, reporter-boyfriend trolling (long story), a secret project I cannot yet disclose, and a win for marriage equality. I ditched vegetarianism for now and I’m taking a break from organized religion. We finally got a mini-van that works well (another long story). I saw Jurassic World and it kicked ass.

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I did a fair amount of knitting in June. I added a skein to Sam’s scarf and whipped up three dishcloths.

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We learned that it is so hard to be little.

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I got rid of all my yucky or non-fitting clothes and made plans to dress better.

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The two little ones each had a bout of 24-hour stomach flu. Still, why not wear a flower in your hair?

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Atticus survived his first filling at the dentist. This is the before picture. The after is more tearstained.

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Pretty much done with racist bullshit. Got blasted on Instagram for the above photo.

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Father’s Day. Sam looks young for 62!

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I started wearing make-up again. It does make a difference to my self-confidence!

What will July hold? A BUNCH.  I have reading and knitting to do, but I also have some major decisions to make regarding my career and where we will be living when our lease is up in August. I will be prepping the kids for school (Hope will be in 10th grade and Atticus will be in Pre-K). I may take a week’s vacation to catch my breath. Let me know what you’re up to this month!

Favorite Books in 2015

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is to pick your top 10 reads of the year so far. I’ve read 27 books so fluminariesar and I feel like picking 10 doesn’t whittle the list down enough for me. Instead I’m listing my top five books of 2015 so far.

1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: I’m cheating a little by listing this here. Technically I started this book in December,but I finished it a few days into January. This is a top ten of all time favorite book and it rightfully earned the Man Booker prize in 2013. To say it is Dickensian in size and scope is an understatement; it is huge (832 pages), with an expansive cast of characters and the novel works backwards in time.It is also a page-turning thriller.

2. It was me all along by Andie Mitchell: This memoir is not a weight-loss memoir. The author conquered a binge eating disorder and lost weight only to realize she was still unhappy. Mitchell ended up swinging towards an different eating disorder that involved food anxiety and obsessive exercise. This memoir is about how she made peace with food.

3. We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: Another Man Booker contender, this book was on the shortlist in 2014. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot, but I will say this is one of the most “real” feeling portrayals of young woman in college balancing academics and family secrets. This one got me in the feels.

4. Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders by Cole Cohen: This memoir is a fascinating account of a woman living with a lemon-sized hole in her brain. A quick read, it made me think about those with “hidden illnesses” like anxiety, lupus, or PTSD and how difficult it is to seek help when folks tend to judge others on what is outwardly visible.

5. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl: I couldn’t decide if I should list this one. I devoured this book and it was certainly a page-turner, but I guessed some of the relationships and predicted some of the resolutions. The stuff I didn’t predict, didn’t get resolved in the novel. It just had a big ole question mark on it. Sorry for the vagueness, but it is a mystery! I will check out other books by Pessl and I do recommend this book, just go for the ride and don’t try to figure everything out.

There are no classics on my reading list. I had some five star classic reads, but those were Galsworthy novels and re-reads. I’m reading through my Virago Project list, but honestly those books haven’t blown my skirts up yet. Hummmm… I don’t know what to make of that.

I wonder what the next half of 2015 will hold?

Readerly Rambles: 29 June 2015

readerly rambles

July marks the halfway point for the year’s reading and I thought I might take a little time to analyze my reading so far this year. My reading progress in June has been a bit slow, but that’s mostly because I’ve immersed myself in a large novel and it is taking me longer to complete. This isn’t a complaint; The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt is so lush, vibrant, and weirdly uncomfortable. It will certainly be a fun review to write when I’m done.

I’ve read 27 books so far, which puts me a little bit ahead on my goal of 52 reads completed by the end of the year. Tomorrow I’ll talk about my favorite books of 2015 so far, but today I thought I’d mention my graphic novel reads.

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Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton: I adored this series of witty comics mostly about history and literature. I’m not Canadian, so I had to look up some names and events to get the “punchline.” The literary ones were the best; I was spewing coffee out my nose when I read the one about “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: WOW. On first glance you may think this is just silliness, but it is so profound. Each “story” in this collection is witty, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. I could see this as being a text in a class on memoir and graphic novels. Okay, just thought of a syllabus in my head. Graphic Novel Memoirs should totally be a thing if it isn’t already.

Fables #20: Camelot, Fairest #1: Wide Awake, and Fables: Wolves of the Heartland all by Bill Willingham: I’m nearly caught up with the Fables series, but I may be losing a bit of steam. I loved the first volume of Fairest and will being reading all the kick-ass volumes in this series. Wolves was a one-off from Fables and provided some more background on Bigby Wolf.

Up next for graphic novels: When about to dig into Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga series and I’m anticipating I’ll want to devour that. It also reminds me that I never finish Y: The Last Man even though I enjoyed the last few volumes. Then I’ll be seeking out some more girl-power from Ms. Marvel and may even pick up some Captain Marvel too. Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire is on down the list as well. I’m tempted to scrap all my plans and devour Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes and Nimona. 

Oh yeah… I also have a stack of comics from Free Comic Book day, I could probably knock those out in July.

I can’t even handle how many great things there are to read! Let me know where I should start in my big ole’ pile of graphic novels and increase my anxiety and through more recommendations my way. I’m a glutton for punishment.