Books

Goodbye, February and Hello, March!

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February is such a busy blip of a month. I felt like it flew by too quickly. This was very much a month all about family. We spent so much time together, which is a good thing (for the most part).

Here’s a quick run down of what February looked like for me:

  • Persy turned two and Hope celebrated her 15th birthday. Big milestones for my girls!
  • Persy, Atticus, and I survived a major stomach bug at the beginning of the month.
  • I finished Atticus’s rainbow blanket, crocheted a baby blanket, embroidered two baby bibs, and started a knitted scarf for Sam.
  • All that making stuff meant a HUGE dip in my reading. I only read three books in February: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, Frost in May by Antonia White, and Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
  • Another factor in my reading dip was inclement weather. Tons of ice and really unimpressive snow. We had six days total of weather that left the kids out of school and cooped up in the apartment. I can stitch and knit while the kids are mucking about, but reading just didn’t happen.
  • I started co-leading an addiction recovery group at church. New territory. Super fun. Kinda intimidating.
  • I hosted my first AND LAST swap. I had planned on hosting a swap every other month, but after chasing down people to send gifts and relaying “yes they sent it” and “no they didn’t get it” messages for four weeks I can honestly say that I’m not doing it again.

I suppose instead of meh swap experience and a wee bit too much family time and that one pukey weekend February rocked. No really, it did. This was my least depressing February in a long time (why does February always seem sucky?)

On to March!

  • I am reclaiming my reading this month. Cedar Station’s March Madness is going to help get me there. I’m behind on posting my TBR picture, but I haven’t picked all my books up from the library yet. My goal is to read seven books this month. My TBR thus far: In Chancery by John Galsworthy, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, and French Milk by Lucy Knisley.
  • To help reclaim my reading I am bringing back my early morning reading ritual. I was up at 5:30 this morning reading and my goal is to start waking up at 5am to get in a solid reading hour.
  • I don’t have many events scheduled for this month. Sam is busy with school and it is the height of track season for Hope and planning things just isn’t working. The one exception is this weekend. Sam and I are going on a mini-trip to see Gogol Bordello. Hurrah for gypsy punk music!
  • As far as thread goes, I’d like to finish Sam’s scarf and start another embroidery project.

Alright March, let’s get this party started.

2014 End of the Year Book Survey

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Thanks to the Perpetual Page-Turner for creating and sharing this survey!

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Number Of Books You Read: 39
Number of Re-Reads: 3
Genre You Read The Most From: Literary Fiction

 best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (review forthcoming)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

The War of the Worlds by H G Wells (I didn’t think it would be so beautifully written and bad ass at the same time)

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (but I’m the only one who liked it)

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

Best series started — The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin.

Sequel and series ender would be Year of the Flood and Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

Anthony Trollope!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

War of the Worlds by H G Wells (I swear I’m not typically into scifi)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

none. I usually reread every five year. I make myself wait.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane OR White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

11. Most memorable character of 2014?

Miranda Silver from White is for Witching

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

The Luminaries  by Eleanor Catton

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

“It is harder for women, perhaps to be ‘one-pointed,’ much harder for them to clear space around whatever it is they want to do beyond household chores and family life. Their lives are fragmented… the cry not so much for a ‘a room of one’s own’ as time of one’s own. Conflict become acute, whatever it may be about, when there is no margin left on any day in which to try at least to resolve it.”
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest would be The Night Bookmobile  and longest goes to The Luminaries.

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

White is for Witching

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

The Luminaries

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The four co-worker/sort-of friends from Quartet in Autumn

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Maddaddam 

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Night Guest 

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Doctor Thorne from the Chronicles of Barsetshire series

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

Didn’t read one

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

The Luminaries is tied with The Game of Thrones

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The War of the Worlds

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Night Guest

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

White is for Witching

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Daily Rituals:How Artists Work  by Mason Currey (It was a sausage fest)


WINNERS OF 2014 — These are the best books I read in 2014 and I’m not including rereads.

  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
  • White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
  • Maddadam by Margaret Atwood

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1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?

I’m really looking forward to reading more Viragos, although I don’t think that is what this question had in mind

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

OMG Hilary Mantel, please tell me the third book in the Wolf Hall series will be out! Please?!

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

see above!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

Read 52 books

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Ummmm… Hilary Mantel…. yes, pleaseandthankyou

List Love: 2015 Book Goals

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is to list our 2015 book goals. I’ve actually been musing my goals for 2015 since November! I’ve divided my goals into sections.

Read, Baby, Read

I get really annoyed by folks who tell me that they wish they had “time” to read. I have a full-time job, three kids, volunteer responsibilities, and a host of other hobbies and yet I still find “time” to read. I’d like more time to read and I find that I’m beginning to struggle with reading classics. I love the classics, but I need at least twenty minutes or more to get immersed in a classic novel. It is easy for me to pick up graphic novels, short stories, and modern fiction and dip in for ten minutes or less, but I don’t like to feel rushed when reading Trollope, Dickens, or Austen. I want to focus on consciously making time to read in 2015. A continual reading goal is to make sure I savor and enjoy my reading and strive to read as much as possible, because a reading Amanda is a happy Amanda.

  • Change my schedule. I find that I’m so exhausted at night that I can only read for 15 minutes before falling asleep. My coworkers cannot seem to leave me alone on my lunch break. The afternoons and early evenings are filled with cooking, kids, and chores. I’ve decided to move my schedule back and wake up at 4 a.m. to read on the weekdays and 5 a.m. on the weekend. I’ve been trying this out for the past few days. I wake, brew a pot of coffee, and read in complete quiet for two hours. To maintain this schedule I will be moving my bed time back to 9:30/10pm. This means no caffeine after 5pm, showering before the kids go to bed, and turning my smart phone off by 9pm to let my brain get in sleep mode. This will also cut down on my habit of snacking at night.
  • Read 52 books. I only hit 40 this year, but I like to be foolishly optimistic.
  • Journal my thoughts. I always say I’m going to blog about each book I read, but that is silly. Talk about zapping the desire out of reading. I worry I won’t write my review well-enough and then I get writer’s block. I do like to write down my impressions and thoughts on what I read in a less formal way. I’ve established that once a week — or more — I’ll journal about what I’m reading and I’ll try to copy down some well-loved passages as well.
  • Reading log. Each year I spend some time reading through all of my old blog posts and my journals. I really love to see what I was reading during each “chapter” of my life. I’m squirreling away some pocket-money for a journal like this and I plan on writing down what I read each day. Just a quick note containing titles, authors, and page ranges. It will be really neat to see reading trends.
  • Complete my TBR reading challenge
  • Complete my Back to the Classics Challenge

Engaging in the Reading Community

Sometimes I forget, or lose sight, of the awesomeness of sharing my love of reading with readers and nonreaders alike. It is very easy for me to bury my nose in a books and become an antisocial hermit. I’m planning on remembering that engaging with other readers is richly rewarding and fuels my passion for books. Likewise, introducing the joy of books to other people gives me purpose and direction.

  • Participate in Readathons. Specifically Dewey’s 24-hour readathon in April and October. I really enjoyed helping in a larger capacity back in October and I look forward to what April will bring.
  • Host a bookish event. I already have some ideas on this and it will be happening in February. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement in the next few weeks.
  • Participate in three read-alongs. This could be blog read-alongs, a group read in GoodReads, or something, gasp, in real life.
  • Give books as gifts. Because books are awesome.

There we are! My top ten bookish goals. Let me know your goals for 2015 and let’s support our book buds!

#AMonthofFaves: An Introduction

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This month Estella’s Revenge, Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T are hosting a month of bookish – and sometimes not – favorites. Check out this intro post to learn more. The task for today is to introduce our reading year. How has this year “shaped up” and a basic snapshot of our year in reading.

If you look at straight up numbers my reading year has been dismal. My original GoodReads goal of reading 50 books was soon ditched for the far more realistic 40 books. Looks can be deceiving; although my numbers are low I have read so. many. chunksters. I’ve read five books well over 500 pages — Middlemarch, The Woman in White, Alias Grace, A Game of Thrones, and Doctor Thorne — and when I finish Framley Parsonage that will be six chunksters in the bag. I’ve also read ten classics which, if I make it to 40 books read and read the other classics on the docket for the month, will be about a third of my reading for the year.

I have to remember that my life is in a different season right now and it is not a reading intense series. This year we’ve endured two bouts of the kids having a stomach flu of lasting over the week, I’ve had strep throat four times, Sam switched jobs and ramped up his college courses, and we moved amidst less than ideal circumstances. Life has been busy.

I think I have successfully met my goal of making this year a year infused with the written word despite my low numbers. I wanted to write in addition to read and I’ve done that. Nanowrimo didn’t happen but I’ve written more letters, journaled with more depth, and my blog writing has been more consistent. Mischief managed.

I have decided that I am not an e-reader fan. While useful for traveling and late nights with the kids I find my attention wanders with e-readers and I don’t have the same rich reading experience. I’m certainly an old fashioned girl when it comes to books. Having said that I am no longer purchasing electronic books DESPITE the cheap-o deals. I use the app on my Android WAY more than my actual Kindle as it makes reading easier for when I am stuck. I always have my phone, but I don’t bother to carry the Kindle. Long live the printed word!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR, 12/21/14 – 03/19/15

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There are big plans for me to read, baby, read the end of this year. I have a significant amount of time off this December and a week and a half of that the kiddos will still be in daycare. Of course I will also be doing Christmas prep — shopping, baking, wrapping — but I plan on making reading a priority as well. That being said, before I begin my Top Ten Tuesday Winter TBR list, I think I should mention what I want to complete before December 21st.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (audiobook, in progress)
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (in progress)
  • The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James (in progress)
  • Mrs. DeWinter by Susan Hill
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

On to my Winter TBR!

  1. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  2. Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh
  3. Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
  4. The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden
  5. The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
  6. The Quick: A Novel by Lauren Owen
  7. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  8. The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey
  9. Frost in May by Antonia White
  10. In Chancery by John Galsworthy

I hope everyone has an awesome end of the reading year; let me know what you’re looking to read in 2015!

Readerly Rambles: Thankfully Reading

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Thanksgiving holiday is a busy for our family. Not busy busy, but more like cozy busy. On Wednesday I’m off work and that will be a buy groceries and clean the house day. Thursday I’ll be cooking and starting my Christmas Card list, Friday we decorate our tree, and on Saturday I’m having a girls day with Hope to see Mockingjay. Sunday will most likely be a day to regroup and prepare for the next week and I have to work a short shift at the library. The week after Thanksgiving is final exam week at the university and the library will be busy… crazy busy.

It would be nice to carve (no pun intended) a little time out to read. I’d love to say I’d read “this many pages” or complete “this many books” but I want to be practical. My goal — instead — will be a time goal. I’d like to spend five hours reading. I’ll set the stopwatch on my phone and track the time. I figure the only way I’m going to read is if I find snippets of time. I’m leaving this really open. It may be that I read “I am a Bunny” to Persy Jane five billion times. Or it may be that I get to cracking on some audio books,. All I know is that it would be nice for some reading to happen over the short break.

Details on Thankfully Reading are on Jenn’s blog and it runs from November 27th – November 30th. Let me know if you’ll be joining in!

Welcome to the Sausage Fest: A Review of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

readerly rambles

A few weeks ago the blogosphere was filled with posts bemoaning blog malaise. Folks were exhausted, bored, and frustrated with blogging. I made my peace with blogging several years ago, but I still struggle with self-doubt and feeling like I could always be doing more. I have so many ideas and very little time to write. Also, I need to be doing things to write about: reading, baking, crafting, going places. If I spend all my free time writing or blogging then I run out of material or resort to bored naval-gazing and no one wants that. How in heavens name do people find the time to create?

Enter Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This book is comprised of brief entries about the daily and creative habits of famous writers, artists, dancers, scientists and inventors. Gleaned from biographies, letters, and diaries this book offers an inspiring look at how people make the time to create. Some have firm schedules (W.H. Auden), others superstitions habits (Truman Capote), and still others are decidedly weird (Thomas Wolfe liked to diddle himself before writing…ewww). I started tabbing the book when I noticed three recurring things with many of the subjects: waking early, daily exercise, and coffee. The green tabs are exercise, yellow is coffee, and pink/purple represent waking early. Blue tabs are just my favorite interesting quirks and facts.

wpid-wp-1412600249026.jpgI certainly give this book five stars for how interesting it is and the level of research it must have taken to assemble the over 150 different “daily rituals” into one volume.

HOWEVER…

This book absolutely pissed me off and I haven’t sworn at a book in quite a long time. This book is a freaking sausage fest. There are over 150 creators profiled in this book and only 26 women are represented. What. the. f*ck? There are also very few people of color or from non-American/European countries and nearly everyone in the book is well-off. Thanks for letting me know how hard it is to be a white, privileged, American man and I am so glad you found the time to create.

You will see loads of women on the pages of Daily Rituals. They’re fixing bowls of cornflakes, reading aloud to frustrated authors, editing shit drafts, typing entire novels written on index cards (hello, Mrs. Nabokov), tending children, or simply working to pay the bills. The interesting nature of the entries was marred by the exclusiveness of the artists and creators featured.

Mr. Currey could have saved this book in one of two ways:

  1. My least favorite way would be to talk about it. I just re-read the introduction and he states he, “…tried to provide examples of how a variety of brilliant and successful people have confronted many of the same challenges [finding time to create]”. A simple paragraph recognizing the book was skewed towards men would have gone a long way. He could have talked about class, gender, and race — even briefly — and detailed how it was easier to find privileged or male examples in diaries, letters, and biographies.
  2. The best remedy would have been for Mr. Currey to work a bit harder and find more women, people of color, and working class examples. The stuff is out there if only one would look. I would have especially liked some mothers featured. I know that everyone doesn’t chose to be a mother, but out of the women represented I think less than five mentioned children or household duties.

For inclusiveness I give this book one star meaning the book averages about three stars. In his introduction Currey hopes “that readers will find it [the book] encouraging rather than depressing”. Alas, I left this book depressed at the short-sightedness of the work and angry it was a catalog of the “struggles” wealthy, white men face. Boo, freaking, hoo.