So, this week, in celebration of Banned Books Week, I read this book:
(Incidentally, it came from my own shelves. I bought it from a used book sale last summer. It’s one that I’ve always wanted to read but had never gotten around to it before. Mission accomplished!)
I didn’t write up a review; this book has been around long enough that the world probably doesn’t need yet another review of it. It’s definitely a product of its time and has a *lot* of racist and misogynistic remarks and references. I haven’t seen the movie; I thought the story line was interesting but predictable (though really, it ended in the only possible way that made sense), but it’s a good study of human nature and power.
BUT. With the completion of this book, I now have THIS:
Are you a fan of reading challenges? How are you doing this weird, weird year? This is the second year I’ve participated and finished my reading challenges of choice (though I made the decision to not do this year’s Book Riot Read Harder or the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge. The pandemic threw a *lot* of things off and made reading really difficult for a while). I like that it directs my reading and introduces me to new authors I might not have read without the challenge, to new subjects I may not have considered reading about without a prompt, to new formats (last year, I read poetry for the first time in years, and I’m still planning on reading more!). It does get a little frustrating sometimes when I would prefer to be taming the beast that is my TBR, but really, the trade-off is worth it.
Are you planning on taking part in challenges next year?
Happy reading, friends, no matter what shapes your book choices. 😊
Hello, hello, and welcome to Pandemic Month 478274983249372, or so it feels! I’ve been fairly terrible about blogging this month, and I apologize. My brain is just exhausted and it’s been difficult trying to cram in everything I need to get done every day, so some things are falling by the wayside- seriously, you should see my laundry pile. YIKES.
We’re still hanging in there at the Only-Very-Occasionally-At-The-Library Household (I’ve made, I think, three trips to the library this month? It’s been awesome). We had a socially distanced picnic with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew; we let the kids run around but only when they were wearing masks (which they do with no complaints, unlike so many of the adults I see on FB, seriously, wtf guys, my daughter was running far enough and long enough to get sweaty while wearing a mask, I think you can handle it for a ten minute errand to pick up Old Spice deodorant at Walmart…), and that was pretty much our highlight of the month!
6. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
7. I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir by Esther Safran Foer
8. Hostage by Guy Delisle
9. Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler’s War and Stalin’s Peace by Masha Gessen
10. Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares by Aarti Namdev Shahani
11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
12. Roomies by Christina Lauren
13. Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
14. Closer by Alexa Riley (no review; listened to the audiobook as I exercised. More on this below)
Many of the books I didn’t review fully were included in my mini-review post here. Somehow, when I was writing that post, Ester and Ruzya got left off, so let’s include that right now. Masha Gessen writes the story of her grandmothers surviving World War II and Stalin’s regime in Poland and Russia. It’s a bleak story starring two strong, determined women. I have a few other books by Ms. Gessen on my TBR and I’m looking forward to seeing how her storytelling style translates when it comes to less personal stories. Great book; difficult to read at times (more because of my mental exhaustion than anything).
Not a bad month for reading, all around. I’m finding I have a tougher time focusing on nonfiction right now; I’ve got what I’ve been referring to as ‘pandemic brain,’ where I’m just exhausted and can’t take in information quite as well. I’ve got an information-dense book going on right now that I began in the middle of the month, but I’ve had to cut it down to reading 25 pages a day and reading something lighter at night because I’m just too worn out. Such are these strange times, I guess.
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis REALLY irritated me. The ending was just… Have you read it? My husband was in the room as I read the last few pages aloud and even he was like, “WTF…” I don’t know how much of it my daughter really got, but we were super weirded out, and now we’re always joking about Susan, that nylon-wearing tart. SUCH a strange way to end a series, and my daughter and I are so glad to be done with it.
Five books marked off my reading challenge! Speaking of which…
Reading Challenge Updates
I’m close to being done! Check out these bad boys:
I’m currently reading a book recommended by Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, the podcast from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (plus I have another one on hold at the library!), so that’ll be checked off soon. I have a book by a journalist on hold as well; if it doesn’t come in after next month, I’ll maybe try to search for another one. And obviously I’m waiting to read a banned book, because Banned Books Week doesn’t come around until September. So, basically, lots of waiting going on around here. I’m glad to be mostly done with this, though I do miss the direction the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge gave me! 🙂
I’m holding off on the other challenges I was planning on participating in; my brain needs the break.
State of the Goodreads TBR
OY. 149 last month, 152 this month. Not a huge leap, but that’s because I knocked a few off of there this month, including Here We Are, Ester and Ruzya, How We Fight For Our Lives, and The Things a Brother Knows. I’m working on more, but I’ve strayed a few times because a lot of what’s on my TBR is heavier nonfiction and I simply cannot right this moment. Light and fluffy is winning.
Books I Acquired in July 2020
Bookish Things I Did in July 2020
I’ve made three (I think) library appointments so far. It’s been awesome having new books around for my daughter. We’re doing about 3 hours of school per day, and a huge chunk of that is us reading together or me reading to her. We finished up the Molly series of American Girl books and have moved on to Kit; Molly’s sacrifices as a child growing up during World War II, and Kit’s struggles during the Great Depression have helped my daughter understand about sacrifice and working together for the common good. They’re excellent examples of why we stay at home, and why we wear masks in the rare instances when we have to be out in public. Reading these stories really illustrates these concepts for my daughter, and I’m really enjoying reading them with her.
We’ve also been reading a lot of stories of people who fought against injustice and worked to improve life for people (mostly in the US right now, but not all). Malala Yousafzai, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Anderson, Lena Horne, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Soujourner Truth, Billie Jean King, Jane Addams, Florence Mills, John Lewis, Gordon Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rube Goldberg, Rosa Parks. There are *so* many interesting and beautifully illustrated biographies out there for kids, and I’m really enjoying using them to show my daughter what courage, dedication, sacrifice, and hard work look like.
I feel so fortunate that the library has at least partially opened again. 🙂
Current Podcast Love
I’m finishing catching up newer episodes of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’ve listened to a few different episodes of a few different writing podcasts, but haven’t fallen in love with any of them yet (I used to love Writing Excuses, but as I usually listen to podcasts as I’m falling asleep, I need something just a little bit calmer! They’re hilarious!). I’ll keep hunting until I find one that appeals to me.
I also discovered Read Me Romance, a podcast hosted by Alexa Riley and Tessa Bailey (Alexa Riley is a team, like Christina Lauren, so this is actually three people!). The hosts chat for the first 10-20 minutes of the podcast, and the rest is an audiobook chapter or two from a romance novella (sometimes written by the hosts, sometimes other people). I’ve been listening both as I’m falling asleep and when I’m exercising, and it’s fun. 🙂
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
Currently on hold.
Real Life Stuff
Oof. What a month. It wasn’t busy, but the weight of all of this *gestures broadly at everything* has really started to bear down on me. The amount of people not taking this virus seriously- how did so many people graduate high school, COLLEGE, EVEN, and lack a third-grade understanding of science and basic, BASIC civics education?!?!?!? HOW??? HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A FUNCTIONING SOCIETY WITH THESE PEOPLE? I have truly lost every last bit of patience on social media and I’m not afraid to let my ire out these days. NO, COVID-19 isn’t the sniffles. NO, you cannot have your tax dollars back when your child graduates high school and you (so you think) no longer use the services of the public school system. NO, there’s not a magic cure for cancer that scientists don’t want you to know (do you think scientists don’t die of cancer???). I seriously cannot with these people anymore.
Life goes on around here. I’m missing my family an awful lot these days, which adds to my frustration when people are out there being stupid- they’re being stupid and those of us taking this seriously are stuck staying away from our loved ones even longer. It’s like we’re being held hostage by the dumbest people out there, and it makes me angry and sad. I do my best to keep it together for my kids, though. My son is getting ready to start his classes with the community college- all online, thankfully; we’re referring to it as the University of the Holy Basement (the basement is where his computer is located). My daughter and I do school in the mornings; she has a video chat playdate with a friend’s daughter most afternoons. They play dolls and other various toys, and it’s so cute hearing them chatter to each other. She looks forward to it every day.
I’m writing or, I should say, I’m trying to write. I wrote about 6000 words this month, which is pretty good, putting my current WIP at just over 28,000 words. Some days even trying to come up with a single sentence is difficult and like swimming through a pit of mud; other days, I dash off a thousand words at a pop without think. Slow and steady wins the race, though. I’ll get there. 6000 words is awesome progress, being that I was stuck at 19,000 words for so. freaking. long!
So what happens in August?
My son will start college classes, fully remote. My daughter’s school will begin fully remote- which is excellent, because, as I told the school on the survey they sent out last month, if they didn’t have a fully remote option, we’d be pulling her and fully homeschooling until it was safe (I love and support our public schools, but I’m not risking my daughter’s life. I’m able to keep her home and school her at home, and thus she’d be one less kid in the stream. I absolutely feel like because I can keep her home, it’s my responsibility to society to keep her home). The school is apparently working on ways to get kids back in the building safely, but even then they said they’ll still be offering the option of remote learning, and we’ll take full advantage of that. I’m happy to do it completely myself, but it’ll be much easier to have the guidance of the school and she’ll have fewer gaps in her learning when it IS safe to go back (meaning, she’ll have learned the same things they have and stayed on the same track. Were I to homeschool her on my own, she may learn other things and not exactly what they have. It’d be the same thing as transferring from one school to another, if that makes sense!).
I also turn 40 this month. 😀 What a way to celebrate that milestone, amirite???
Anyway, hang in there, friends. If you’re outside the US, hopefully your country is handling the pandemic well and things are getting back to normal for you. If you’re in the US like me, well, hopefully you’re doing the best you can under such awful circumstances. You’re all in my heart. Be strong, be creative, fight against injustice wherever you see it, wear your mask, wash your hands, and keep socially distancing so we can get through this and I can see my mom and dad again. My kids miss their grandparents. Love to you all. Be safe, and have as lovely of an August as you can make it. ❤
Month Four of this pandemic in the US, can you believe it??? And things aren’t any better. They’re actually worse in a lot of places than when this first started. 😦
Life hasn’t changed much for us here at the Library household. We’re still living the quarantine lifestyle, not seeing friends or family except via video chat. If there’s an errand that needs to be run, one of us is in the store and out with no dawdling, no browsing, it’s just getting what we need and getting out. Masks are worn at all times when we’re in stores (fortunately, this went into effect here on May 1st and at least where I live, almost everyone is compliant. And I feel very, very grateful for this), and we sanitize our hands before removing them. We’re doing everything we can to stay safe, but all of this feels like one of those group projects in school where one or two of them members did nothing and everyone ended up with a bad grade because of it.
But really, our day-to-day life is okay. Reading with my daughter in the mornings, playing music with my son in the afternoons, walking with the family when it’s cool enough, reading in the evenings. It’s not a bad life. 🙂
11. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
12. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (review to come)
Another quiet month; it’s just how my reading is going to be until life settles down. Slow and steady. 🙂
I didn’t review Say Nothing because it’s so complex. It tells the story of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, something I knew very little about. This book is a wallop of information. It’s incredible, but it’s a lot to digest and took me almost a week to read. If you’re wanting to understand the Troubles, this is an excellent resource. I’ll need to read much more before I have a solid grip on this piece of history, though, which is why I didn’t feel comfortable doing a full write-up.
Nine books marked off my reading challenges, though! Speaking of which…
Reading Challenge Updates
I think I’m going to go ahead and complete the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge and call it good. Doing others would be a little too much this year, what with my reading slowing down so much, but I’m pleased that I’ve made so much progress on this one.
Here’s what that challenge looks like right now:
Two notes here:
First, when I went to look for a suggestion for ‘a book with an upside-down image on the cover, one of the suggestions was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. And since I read that back in February, you bet your behind I’m using that for this challenge!
Secondly, I realized that the prompt ‘A book set in the 1920s’ was cut off of my graphic (but not the paper I’m using to keep track with my reading binder), so I added that in at the bottom of the left hand ‘Advanced’ column.
Not looking too bad, eh? I’ve got four ebooks on hold from the library for this, although if a few take too long, I’ll probably end up picking something else, which is fine. I won’t be able to mark off the last box- Read a banned book during Banned Books Week- until September, but depending on how quickly my books come in, I may be able to tick off the rest of the books next month! Stay tuned…
State of the Goodreads TBR
Oof. 139 last month, 149 this month. That’s partly why I’m going to bow out of my other reading challenges. I’d like to get this down lower in order to keep it under control. A few years ago, it was up to 332 and I read almost 200 books from it and then tidied a few up out of there, and it was down in the 70’s, so once PopSugar is done, I’ll focus on reading more from my TBR. I’ve updated my library list based on my TBR, though, and twenty-eight of these books are available as ebooks from my library (with more than two pages total of books available through my library if we’re also including physical copies), so that’ll make this a little easier. 🙂
I went back and forth between a few different things and have settled on catching up on older new episodes of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. It’s like returning home to old friends. 🙂
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
Currently on hold.
Real Life Stuff
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what happened in the space of a month, as all the days kind of blur together! Especially now, when my kids are out of school and life is a little slower. My son sent in his application for our local community college, though we have no clue what classes will look like. My daughter is plugging along with The Magic Tree House and the Junie B. Jones series of books; she’s on #11 in The Magic Tree House and #11 in Junie B. Jones. We’re still going back and forth, each of us reading one page at a time, and I make her do some workbook pages as well to keep her learning and keep her mind occupied. It definitely helps! We also performed the dreaded chore of cleaning out her clothes on a really hot day when no one would have wanted to play outside. We ended up culling TWO huge garbage bags stuffed with clothing, and someone from Freecycle came and grabbed them off our porch that afternoon!
My son and I have been playing and singing music together in the afternoons, which has been fun. I play guitar and we sing together, and it’s been nice. He turned 18 this month, which was wild. No party, of course, but we celebrated with a key lime pie, which was delicious! I also took the old plastic coffee containers I’d been saving, spray painted them, poked some holes in the bottom, and planted flowers in there. I also filled up an old carved up tire left by the previous owner of the house with some potting soil and flowers. I’m not a flower person, but this is what happens when you’re stuck at home and can’t go anywhere! Let’s hope I don’t kill these things off.
That’s about it for this month! If these were normal times, the kids and I would have been gearing up to go on vacation to Virginia with my mother, but obviously that’s out for this year. It’s a bummer, but honestly, I’m more focused on keeping everyone safe and healthy, so really, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a disappointment but doesn’t register much more than a blip on my radar. We’ll also be missing out on the fourth of July parade we’ve enjoyed attending for years. Ah well. Such is life during a pandemic! We’re making our own fun at home, where it’s safe. 🙂
July offers more of the same, only with steamy, smoking hot weather. Our library has opened back up by appointment, which is encouraging. Ten appointments per hour, and you have one hour to browse the collection. I haven’t made an appointment yet, but I probably will soon. It’ll be strange to be back in there. Speaking of which, the best thing EVER happened:
WE’RE GETTING A NEW LIBRARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, a few years ago, there was a referendum on our voting ballot to fund a new library or an expansion of the old, and it was voted in. Our library began talks with our park district in order to figure out how to best use the allotted land, and the park district wouldn’t budge on anything or agree to anything, and to make a very long, very frustrating story short, the library moved ahead and has decided to purchase the site of an empty supermarket about two blocks from its current location. The grocery store is old and nowhere near up to code and so it’ll be razed and a new library will be built in its location. (The library building we have now is also old, out of date, not ADA-compliant, and the HVAC system needs replacing entirely, something that wouldn’t make sense financially, considering how old and leaky the building is. It would be upwards of 83 degrees in the building even with the air conditioning running in the summer, the back wall had water and mold damage, it was just a mess and they’ve been making do for ages. Building an entirely new building and thus not having to rent an interim space while they renovate the old building will actually save them money!)
CAN YOU TELL HOW EXCITED I AM???
Seriously something to look forward to in these strange times. It’ll be a while before they get going on this, but planning is underway and I couldn’t be happier!!!
That’s it for now. Stay safe and healthy, friends. If you’re in a high Covid-19 area, take care of yourselves and others. Wear your mask (mine has fish on it!) to protect yourself and your community, wash your hands, stand for justice wherever you go, and make your own fun at home so we can get through this together and come out stronger on the other side. Love to all of you, friends. ❤
Month three! Give it up for month three of Pandemic Lockdown! (Or, you know, whatever month it is where you’re at.)
We’re still managing just fine here at the Not-At-All-At-The-Library household. My daughter has completed kindergarten; my son has- literally- virtually graduated from high school. Heck of a way to end the beginning and end of my kids’ academic careers, but it’s something they’ll remember all their lives. Living through history is weird, man.
My state is beginning to reopen things- slowly and safely, fortunately. Masks are required everywhere, something for which I will be eternally grateful. We’ll be hanging out at home for much, much longer though: there’s still no vaccine, there’s no cure, and there’s not even an effective treatment. Our lives will look very different until science is able to get a handle on this, but that’s just something I’ve accepted.
Reading is still slow-going around here, but that’s just life with the kids (particularly my daughter) at home, and I’m okay with that as well. We’ll see if I get more reading done as we relax our school-at-home schedule a bit in the coming days.
9. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
10. 40-Love by Olivia Dade (review to come)
11. Replay by Ken Grimwood (review to come)
Slow month yet again! We’ve also been spending a lot of time in the yard (which has been neglected since…uh…basically since we moved here), lots of time taking walks, and I’ve been doing a lot of organizing and cleaning, so that eats into my time as well. I’m not worried. It’ll pick back up one day. 🙂
Reading Challenge Updates
Still swimming on this front. Slower than I’d like, but ever onward. I haven’t had to make any changes to my selections yet, what with the libraries being closed; so far, I’ve been able to get the books I wanted via ebook. Word has it that our library will be opening soon, most likely for curbside pickup at first, so we’ll see how that goes. A few of my reading challenge picks come from other libraries or will need to come via interlibrary loan, which won’t be happening for a while, so I may have to choose other books for those categories (more on this below). No biggie. 🙂
Here’s what the challenges I made progress on this month look like:
And the second page of BookRiot! (No change for the first page.)
Ahhh, I love when book challenges overlap, don’t you?
Seven books added! I’ll take it. If things go on long enough that I’m unable to access interlibrary loan, I may have to scrap BookRiot’s Read Harder challenge for the year- their prompts make tracking down books a little trickier and often require books my library doesn’t stock, but again, I’m okay with that. Nothing is normal this year.
State of the Goodreads TBR
Yup, it’s still there. My TBR still exists. Goodnight, friends.
Oh. You wanted the number, huh?
So last month the TBR stood at 124 books. Today? 139. Lotta sweet books headed my way when I can get to them- meaning, both physically get to them, and have time to get to them! I do need to go through and maybe clean it up a little; there are still some older books on there I need to make sure are still in line with my interests. We’ll see if I get to that!
Books I Acquired in May 2020
None! I think we grabbed another Magic Tree House book and a book on fairies from a Little Free Library, and my son received a book on music history from Amazon, but that’s about it.
Bookish Things I Did in May 2020
Zoom book club! For real. My library book club has moved to Zoom and will be there for the time being (read: until it’s safe to gather in large groups), so we all struggled to remember and then discuss a book we read in February. It was pretty entertaining, and it was nice seeing other people, especially the librarian who runs it. She has the best, most outgoing personality. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more sunshiny human being. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the rest: book selections have moved to Hoopla, and I don’t have a device new enough to access the app. Well, I could read it on my computer or phone, but neither of those options sound great to me, so I’ll just focus on my own reading for now. 🙂
Current Podcast Love
Listening to a few different things right now. I’ve listened to a bunch of episodes of Too Jewishwith Rabbi Sam Cohon and Friends, which I really enjoy (but the music tends to wake me up at night, so I listen to this when I walk or cook instead). I’ve listened to a bunch of episodes of Call Your Mother from Kveller, which I’ve been enjoying. I’ve listened to a few episodes of Brave, Not Perfect with Reshma Saujani (some episodes have been more interesting to me than others). And the other night, after seeing Rabbi Emily Cohen mention her podcast on Twitter, I began listening to Jew Too. Funny story about this- about the third or fourth night of turning this on, listening for a bit, then falling asleep, I woke up at 3:20 in the morning (I checked!). The podcast switched to the next episode and I was like, “Okay, cool, I’ll listen to help me fall back asleep.” And then they interviewed one of the rabbis who taught my (Re)Introduction to Judaism course!!! I was like, “HOLY CRAP I KNOW THAT VOICE!” SO wild to encounter that entirely unexpectedly! 🙂
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
Currently on hold.
Real Life Stuff
Phew, another lockdown month under our belts! Our state is slowly opening up, but I’m content to stay where I am at home. The virus is still out there and there’s no vaccine or cure, and I’m not willing to risk my life or my friends’ or family members’ lives for any kind of convenience. I make the bare minimum of trips that I need to, and the rest of the time, I’m home. My husband continues to work a reduced schedule, but they’ll be back to normal soon with everyone wearing masks all day. (If his ears start hurting, I’ll knit him one of those ear savers that are all over Pinterest. I made my daughter one after her doctor’s appointment; they whip up pretty quickly.)
My son has graduated from high school, and he’ll turn 18 this month. So bizarre to think that I’ve raised a human being all the way to adulthood. Such a strange way to end his high school career, but it can’t be helped, and it’ll make for good stories down the road. He’ll continue on at the local community college this fall, whether in person or online. My daughter is done with kindergarten and will go on to first grade, whatever that will look like! She’s had a hard time with kindergarten being done without really getting to say goodbye, but it is what it is, and we’re making the best of it.
My (Re)Introduction to Judaism class has completed! It was a fabulous experience, I miss it already, and I look forward to learning much more in the future. My TBR is so full of Jewish-themed books, but they’ll have to wait until interlibrary loan is up and running again. It’s okay, I’m patient. 🙂
The owl cam that we loved so much is done and over with. The baby owls flew off on their own and we were sad to see them go, but we learned so much watching them! I’m really looking forward to watching the cam all over again next year with a new crop of baby owls. We haven’t started watching anything new yet; I need some time to heal from saying goodbye to the owls- we all really got attached to those guys!
My daughter’s reading has SERIOUSLY taken off. We started The Magic Tree House series, which she enjoyed, and then I introduced her to Junie B. Jones, and that was it. After a few chapters of Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, my daughter recognized a kindred spirit (God help me) and has fallen in love. We use the back-and-forth method- she reads one page, I read one page- and together we’ve read seven Junie B.’s and four Magic Tree House books. Not bad for a kindergartner!
My son turns 18 in June, and we trunk-pick up my daughter’s school belongings this week, but that’s it on the calendar! I’m not scheduling anything for the time being until we see what life looks like once things start getting at least somewhat back to normal.
The US is basically chaos everywhere right now- chaos that exists because we’ve never dealt with our problems and have shoved it all under the rug and pretended it’s all fine. It’s not fine, it’s never been fine, and what you’re seeing now is a result of that. My town hasn’t been immune to this; we’ve had looting in the stores at the other end of town, and last night there were reports of gunshots close enough to us that I could walk there within about two minutes. My husband can’t physically get to work today because so many streets are closed in the city, so he’s working from home. We’re in firm support of the protesters; America has needed a wakeup call and to deal with its history of and current tolerance of racism- overt and institutionalized- for a very, very long time. Black lives matter, and I pray that this is the beginning of a conversation that never ends, because dealing with the problems you’ve created and perpetuated for hundreds of years should never, ever stop.
Stay safe, stay healthy, make good decisions about your health and life and safety whenever you go out, enjoy the warmer weather if you’re in the northern hemisphere like me, and stand for justice wherever you go. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re reading as we head into summer!
So March started and then went on and on and on and on, until we were all sure that we were experiencing some sort of bizarre time wizardry and the month actually had 243877234983289 days. And then April started and ended pretty much immediately, leaving us all blinking in deep confusion and wondering what happened. Jeremy Bearimy, anyone???
It’s been another month of weirdness, and we’ve got at least one more to go (and with good reason, because we’re in no shape ready to reopen anything). It’s frustrating and sad difficult to have life be so different, but it’s so, so necessary. The stories I hear from my healthcare worker friends are devastating. Stay home and stay safe, friends.
It’s been an interesting month for reading as well. I’m still only able to read mostly at night, so my reading has slowed so, so much. THAT’S definitely frustrating. I’m doing my best, though, and that’s all I can do right now.
Ehhh, not a great month in terms of numbers, but again, cutting myself all the slack here. I’m also homeschooling and dealing with my now 6 year-old’s big emotions regarding the loss of school, the ability to see her friends/play with other kids/go anywhere other than walks around the neighborhood, cooking, cleaning, helping my son learn to cook, gardening, reading for my class…life is busier than ever around here! We’re all doing the best we can.
Here’s what my reading challenges look like right now.
Although I didn’t get that much reading done this month, it almost all went to a challenge, so I’m happy with that!
State of the Goodreads TBR
So, when all of this is over, I’m basically just going to pack my stuff up and move in to the library. It’s the only way I’m going to tackle this TBR, folks.
Last month found me holding steady at 109 books, but thanks to some really great-looking books and a few really inconsiderate ‘awesome things to read when you’re stuck at home!!!1!!!!1’ lists, my Goodreads TBR has ballooned up to a hefty 124 books! (Remember once upon a time when it was down to 78? *weeps gently*) S’alright, though, it just means that someday in the future, I’ll be reading some seriously amazing things. 🙂
Books I Acquired in April 2020
None, with the exception of some Magic Tree House books we picked up from one of the Little Free Libraries during our neighborhood walks. 🙂 My daughter and I will start this series soon; right now, we’re working our way through some old copies of Patricia Reilly Giff’s Polk Street School Kids series, which are fun but occasionally dated, and the kids can be really mean to/about each other. They spark a lot of good conversation about proper behavior and how to treat our friends and neighbors, though!
Bookish Things I Did in April 2020
Uh…I read? At home?
That’s about it.
Current Podcast Love
So, I finished all the back episodes of Unorthodox! I’m trying to keep current on the latest episodes during my solo walks around the neighborhood; the neighbors get to see me laughing like a maniac and nodding along to the wisdom and wit of the hosts. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this show’s new Thursday episodes.
I’m not currently latched on to anything new in particular. Life has been so exhausting lately that instead of listening to a new podcast for ten to fifteen minutes before falling asleep, I begin listening and am out within a minute or two, and even when I wake up during the night, I’m back out within a minute. I’ve got friends who aren’t sleeping well at all, but I’ve been sleeping like the dead, it’s SO weird for me. We’ll see what I’m able to come up with next month, podcast-wise, if anything.
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
Currently on hold.
Real Life Stuff
Not entirely how I pictured my daughter’s 6th birthday, but we celebrated anyway! She was thrilled with her new pajamas, new unicorn shirt, and kids’ Kindle Fire (on which she is playing as I type this; that’s about the only way I can get any kind of work done! Although not always, as she narrates every. last. thing. she does on there…) She had a moment during the day where she wasn’t okay and cried on me for about two hours, poor kiddo, but I’m doing my best to keep things as normal as possible and fun for her, including starting a nature journal. She’s super into that and is really enjoying drawing pictures of the things she sees on our walks (aided by the PlantNet app, which helps us identify the wildflowers that have been popping up in neighborhood yards).
I had a rough day on what was supposed to be my son’s final choir concert. That really stank. Right now, he’s planning on going into choral music instruction in college, with the hopes of becoming a choir director, so if that works out, there will be more of his concerts to attend in the future. But what a bummer of a way to end high school. His school is planning on a virtual graduation, followed by a potential ceremony if it’s safe in July. We’ll go pick up (trunk pick up!) his cap and gown the first week of May. Speaking of which…
My son hadn’t had a haircut since NOVEMBER. He has wildly curly hair and has been in that teenage phase of wanting to see what happens when he lets his hair go. As I told him it would, his hair never got long, it just continued to get bushier and grow OUT and not down. He finally gave up on the last Saturday of April and said, “I’ve had enough. You can cut it.” I had no clippers, only scissors, but guys, he looks SO MUCH BETTER! You can actually see his handsome face again. No pictures, I’m respecting his privacy, but he just looks so nice right now. 🙂
My (Re)Introduction to Judaism class continues via Zoom! We only have three sessions left, which makes me so sad, this class is such a meaningful spot in my week. And along those lines… Right before Yom HaShoah, while searching for some schoolbooks in our basement, I found my husband’s copy of The Holocaust Chronicle by John K. Roth et al. It’s an enormous book, the subject is difficult, and my reading time has been reduced to smithereens, but I’m going to be tackling this little by little as part of my learning, because it’s so, so necessary.
The baby owls from the owl cam that I’ve been obsessing over all hatched, and they are RIDICULOUS, OMG. Who knew baby owls were this cute??? I can hardly stand their little floofy feathers and their goofy little faces. Check them out, and keep checking back if Mama is in the box covering them up. She leaves for longer periods of time now and it’s adorable to watch them bob and stumble around the nesting box on their own. I’m going to miss them so much when they’re big enough to fly off on their own!
The calendar is empty again for May, with the exception of a doctor check-up for my daughter. They still want the kids to come in for those, so she and I will be wearing the cloth masks my friend Meghan made for our family (THANK YOU, MEGHAN!!!!!) to attend that, and scrubbing our hands half to death afterwards. Otherwise, we’ll be here at home, learning, reading, walking the neighborhood, gardening, and generally hanging out. As people in lockdown do, in order to keep their friends, family, and neighbors safe and healthy. 🙂
Stay well, friends. Stay safe, stay healthy, take care of yourself and others. Be the kind of person you want others to be to you. Spread love and kindness, put yourself in others’ shoes, be mindful of how your actions affect those around you. It was kindness and love that got Bill Murray out of his Groundhog Day, and it’s the only way we’ll get through ours. Sending you all love from our lockdown hidey-hole!
Ahhhh, the library. Remember that place? Do you remember ANY places? We used to be able to go places, right?
What a weird, weird millennium this month has been. We started out quietly and have ended up with the majority of us isolated in our homes. To be honest, I saw this coming at the beginning of the month and began preparing accordingly, filling in the few gaps that remained in my pantry (with things like another 50lb bag of bread flour, two pounds of yeast, extra soy sauce, a bulk tub of peanut butter, etc. We’re also well-stocked with toilet paper, so there have been no worries there for us). I also managed a trip to the library the day before it closed, so I still have a stack of books to read- not that I’ve been doing a great job of reading. It’s hard to focus, hard to stop hitting refresh on my computer screen, and I’ve heard plenty of other reader friends say the same thing. So if you’re struggling to get through that stack of books, even though you suddenly find yourself with all the time in the world, you’re absolutely not alone.
Not a great month for reading, and an even worse month for reviewing, but I’m cutting myself ALL OF THE SLACK. Everyone is worried and anxious and scared at this time, and it’s not easy to focus. It took me an entire week to read His Hideous Heart; during normal times, I would’ve blown through that in two or three days. But it’s okay. I’m doing the best I can right now, and so are you.
Reading Challenge Updates
So, the good thing is that everything I have from the library, which is still like six or seven books, are from my reading challenge lists, so I’m still working on that for the time being. After that, though, these will have to be put on hold until things calm down enough for the libraries to re-open. Totally understandable. Fortunately, I’ve got PLENTY of reading material here at the house, along with access to ebooks through my library (some of which will work for my reading challenges!), so I won’t run out of things to read anytime soon.
Here’s what my reading challenges look like right now:
There’s a second page to this, but there’s been no change, it’s still blank, so I won’t post that. Nor will I post this year’s Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge, as there’s been no change to that.
I think I only read five challenge books this month, but that’s okay. This year is different in a lot of ways, and how I go about and complete these challenges is going to look different too. ALL THE SLACK-CUTTING GOES HERE.
State of the Goodreads TBR
Still at 109 books, so it’s holding steady from last month, which is good! I’m not particularly worried about it creeping up right now, though. If I find things I want to add and it makes me happy to add them, I’M ADDING THEM.
Books I Acquired in March 2020
None for me that I can remember, but we did buy a math workbook and a 300-page workbook of first grade material for my daughter. Does that count? 😀
Bookish Things I Did in March 2020
Before the world shut down, March wasn’t a terrible month. I went to a library program where a woman did a historical reenactment as Miep Gies, the woman who helped hide Anne Frank and her family. A few days later, I went back to the library (where they already had out a vat of hand sanitizer) for a program on the rock band Fleetwood Mac, which was SUPER fun and interesting! Everything after that, unfortunately, was cancelled, including Nicola Yoon’s visit, and my Judaism class’s Shabbat. Super bummer, but understandable.
Current Podcast Love
Still listening to and loving Unorthodox! I’m not having as much time to listen as I did before, though, since everyone is home and I don’t want to blast it in the kitchen as I cook…
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
Currently on hold until life goes back to normal.
Real Life Stuff
Phew. What a MONTH. And there will probably be more exactly like this, for a while.
The good parts: My husband’s job is perfectly fine and he’s considered essential (his research involves the mouse colonies at the lab, so he’s partially responsible for keeping the mice, which are the culmination of years of research and a LOT of money, alive), so things are okay for us there. He’s working a slightly reduced schedule and sometimes going in at weird times in the lab’s attempt to reduce the amount of people in the lab at any one time, but financially we have zero worries at this time, which makes us very, very fortunate.
The bummers: my son’s senior year. He’s doing mostly okay with this and is enjoying doing school online, but he’s pretty sad about missing all the senior year choir stuff, and I feel really, really sad about this for him. I’m going to miss all his last performances and all the things he’s worked so hard for, including the springtime a capella group. Odds are there will also be no prom (he’s not bothered by this, but I know a lot of other kids are) and no graduation, either. It’s a sad way to end his compulsory education.
My daughter’s kindergarten experience. She’s really missing her friends, her teacher, and the routine of school. We’re doing a full day of schoolwork most days- I homeschooled my son until he was in fourth grade and still have the vast majority of the books I used with him (I kept them specifically in case there was a time when the schools shut down, and boy are they coming in handy), so she’ll be doing well educationally whenever the schools are able to start back up again. We read the first two Molly books in the American Girl series, which led to a lot of really great conversations about rationing and sacrifice and having to make do with what you have (VERY timely right now!), and it helped my daughter to understand better what’s happening and why the grocery stores have empty shelves, and why we can’t afford to waste anything.
My back. UGH. YOU PICKED A FINE TIME TO LEAVE ME, LUCILLE. My back has been utter rubbish the past two weeks. I’ve iced, I’ve heated, I’ve stretched, and still I can’t move without at least wincing and sometimes moaning in pain. It’s come down to me messaging my doctor, and I’m now on a course of prednisone to try to get the swelling down in order to decrease my pain and give me a little better range of motion. Being stuck at home isn’t all that bad for me, but being in that kind of pain was a major downer. Fortunately, the prednisone is making a serious dent, for which I am ridiculously grateful.
My days look like this: wake up, drink coffee, brush teeth and switch from my nighttime sweatpants to my fancy daytime sweatpants, school the girl, lunch, school the girl, walk, clean the kitchen, cook dinner, eat dinner, shower, read, bed. Lather, rinse, repeat (and I’m not complaining; I’m guessing that a lot of your days look similar). I have to say I do envy parents of older kids, those parents who are able to kick back a little and throw whatever you want on TV and not have to worry it’s inappropriate for younger eyes, or who can work on other projects without having to be on Child Destruction Watch or Question Answering Duty every other second. (I seriously, SERIOUSLY feel for the parents who are attempting the impossible in simultaneously homeschooling/supervising schoolwork, working from home, and supervising smaller children. You guys have all my sympathies!) Basically, we’re all struggling in different ways here!
Two things that have been giving me a lot of enjoyment throughout this ordeal:
The Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl Cam. We’ve been keeping an eye on this girl since the second week of March. She’s beautiful. Her three eggs probably won’t start hatching until the end of the first week of April, possibly the second, but it’s fun checking in on her and seeing what she’s up to. We’ve caught her with a dead mouse, a squirrel leg, and an earthworm, and sometimes she sharpens her beak on the righthand side of the owl box. Hearing her hoot at other owls in the distance is also pretty wild.
2. The Cornell Lab FeederWatch Cam. These guys, and the waterfowl in the background, can get LOUD. This feeder is often really busy and it’s lovely to watch all the birds- and the stupid squirrels, who constantly try to jump on the platform and often miss, resulting in a huge cartoon-like crashing sound- come and go, and how they interact with each other. It does start to stress me out when the feeder gets low, though!
3. Cincinnati Zoo’s Home Safari. We’re a few behind, but the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens are putting on a ‘home safari’ for the kids stuck at home every day, featuring an appearance by one (or more) of their animals and an educational talk given by the animal’s keepers and handlers. My daughter and I are really enjoying these and look forward to the new ones.
4. Geography Now. Paul Barbato, aka Barby, runs a web series featuring every country (I’m not sure what letter he’s up to now; my daughter and I just finished with the E’s, as we’ve been at this series for a while). Each 10-15 minute video features a fast-paced explanation of a country’s history, demographics, culture, physical geography, and more. Younger kids will need the video paused often so that certain things can be explained to them, but older kids should get most of what he’s saying. We’re using this as part of our schoolwork in conjunction with The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World by Roz Hopkins, which I picked up years ago from a yard sale in hopes of teaching my daughter a little more about the world. The book is colorful and awesome, and we’re learning a lot about all the various different countries. Between the book, googling more of the stuff we find in the book (pictures of landmarks and geographical features, languages, music, etc), and viewing an episode of Geography Now, this takes up a good half hour for us every day, and it’s FUN!
My Introduction to Judaism class is still meeting online. While it’s not the same, it’s still a major uplift for me to learn and connect with my classmates. The synagogue is offering a lot of online meetings as well, and my daughter and I were able to connect for a preschool storytime the other morning, which was really nice for both of us.
So that’s about it! The calendar for April is wide open, with the exception of my daughter’s birthday at the end of the month. She already understands that there will be no party with family and friends, but that once this is done, we’ll both have a party and we’ll do something awesome together as a family to celebrate. It’s yet another bummer in a whole lot of bummers, but I’m glad she’s so accepting and understanding about this. If this had happened even last year, I don’t think she would have been mature enough to get it, so I’m deeply grateful for the growth she’s experienced this year.
Friends, you’re all in my thoughts and in my heart at this difficult time. Reach out- to me, to your friends, to your family, to each other, to members of your community. Being quarantined and isolated doesn’t have to mean being alone. We’re all in this together; we’re each one of us responsible for keeping each other healthy. Staying home and staying apart is difficult, but it’s necessary, and the sooner we all get indoors and stay there, the sooner this will all be over. But we can still meet up in chat rooms, on Zoom and Facetime and all the other awesome virtual places that make this time a little more bearable. Stay away from each other physically, but connect in other ways. This is a group effort here and we’ll get through it by working as a team. ❤ Please let me know in the comments how you’re doing.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay at home, and stay connected, friends. I wish you a safe, healthy, peaceful April.
Welcome to March! Winter and spring have been playing a bit of tug-of-war in these parts, with snow and icy winds on some days (although the monster snowstorm that had everyone freaking out ended up being a bust of about three inches total) and 50 degrees and rain on other days. I’ve been combating the cold by huddling under my heated blanket with my books on days I don’t have to be out of the house. It’s been nice!
That’s not to say I’ve had as much reading time as I would like- do we ever? Laundry and cooking and errands all still need to be done, kids need to be driven and picked up. I have a bunch of reading, both in the books we have for class and online articles, that I have to do for my class every week, so that takes up most of my Monday reading time. It’s been a busy but all-around pleasant month, I’d say.
14. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (no review, read as part of my own personal Read Harder Challenge)
15. Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) by Devri Walls (review to come, read as part of a blog tour)
Not a bad month, although I do miss the days where I was reading 20+ books a month! Some of the things I’ve been reading lately have taken more mental space, though, so I’ve been reading them more slowly and pausing to look up things I don’t understand or further delve into concepts that intrigue me. Basic Judaism by Milton Steinberg, for example, was only 170-some pages and a small-sized book at that, but he’s such an intelligent author that I had to reread things, look things up, pause to write down full paragraphs of things I wanted to remember, etc. Fiction of that length, I could normally blow through in a day, but this book took me several days. Six books ticked off of various reading challenges; it was a much slower month for that.
Reading Challenge Updates
Major slowdown this month! S’alright though, I’m not in a big hurry this year. I’ve been overwhelmed a little with class reading and the stack of library books I brought home last month (I still have three left!!!) and my outside reading for class, plus a book I need to read for an author talk coming up and another one I need to read for a blog tour, plus next month’s book club pick. Throw me a raft, I’m drowning here, people!!!
Here’s what my challenges look like right now.
Slowly but surely!
State of the Goodreads TBR
OY. 109 books, people. I’M DROWNING HERE. I’m dreaming of a deserted island, just me, a source of water, food, and shelter, and my TBR. No responsibilities, nothing to do, muscle atrophy no longer exists so I never have to get up and move around again, just endless time to read. Can you believe my TBR was at a cool 81 books a few months ago? *lolsob*
Books I Acquired in February 2020
NONE, thankfully! 😀
Bookish Things I Did in February 2020
It was a good month for bookish things! I heard author Andrew Solomon speak about mental health midmonth; if you’ve never read him before, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity is incredible (he has others that I really want to read as well). And our monthly library book discussion group discussed In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park. It was a lively discussion and we were all pretty horrified by the living situations there. I came to the group having read several other books on North Korea, whereas this was the first for most members.
I also attended a lecture by Dr. Ross Greene, psychologist and author of books like The Explosive Child. He had a lot of really poignant things to say about kids with challenging behaviors, so at some point, I’m going to read his books for further information.
Current Podcast Love
Still listening to Unorthodox (and loving it!) and probably will be for a few months more, at the rate I’m going. Once the weather warms up, I’ll listen to it while I walk, which might help. I have a list of things to listen to next, but who knows when that will be!
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
So I thought maybe last month I’d let this go for a bit, but I ended up grabbing the copy of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez that had been lingering on my shelf for like fifteen years at this point.
I should have let it linger longer.
Not a huge fan of this one. I didn’t consider it any kind of epic love story at all, just kind of…a guy with a bizarre lifelong obsession with a woman who couldn’t really have cared less. Also, the guy ended up being a weirdo creeper who was sleeping with the teenager he was supposed to be a guardian of when he was in his 70’s, and there was a lot of talk about bowels (like this example sentence: ‘But the decisiveness of her message shook him to his very marrow, and when he walked into the cool shadows of the drawing room he did not have time to think about the miracle he was experiencing because his intestines suddenly filled in an explosion of painful foam.’), and a mention of liking the scent of one’s own asparagus pee.
So, you know, you can totally see why it’s a classic…
That said, I’m marking it down as the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge prompt of a classic you didn’t read in school. Done!
Not sure what I’ll read next for this; maybe I’ll actually take this month off to play catch up…
Real Life Stuff
Busy month! We attended my son’s school play, The Foreigner, which was hilariously funny. I seriously had tears during a few of the scenes. Part of it was just knowing the kids, but mostly it was because they’re so talented and played their roles so very well. If you ever get a chance to see this play, DO IT. It’s fabulous.
It’s been a busy month for my daughter’s Daisy scout troop, with a lot of different events. She loves it so much, and I’m glad that she’s enjoying it and that her troop is so active. I’m so grateful to her troop leader; I don’t think I could do what she does, so I need to tell her how awesome she is. 🙂
I’m still loving every second of my Introduction to Judaism class. It’s all so moving and resonates with me deeply. I’m getting to know some of the other members in my class and I come home each week invigorated, inspired, and proud of myself for making this leap. I’m so glad I signed up for this. We have a class Shabbat dinner, followed by services, in mid-March and I’m REALLY looking forward to that!!!
March in general is already shaping up to be ridiculously busy. There’s a documentary I’m wanting to see (I missed the one in February due to weather). I’m going to see a presentation on Anne Frank at the library, along with a presentation on Fleetwood Mac. My daughter’s school is performing a musical, so that should be cute, and the school also has what’s known as Heritage Night, where the students and families can share their cultural background via food, music, presentations, etc. Author Nicola Yoon is coming to my area mid-month, there’s a local library book sale (because I totally need MORE books to read right now!), my son has a choir performance, and my library book discussion group will be discussing The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff. SHEESH. Can anyone figure out where I’ll squeeze in time to read???
Here’s to the coming of longer days and good health (begone, corona virus!) for everyone in March!!! How was your February?
Where I live, January has been cold, gray, and icy as heck. We got some snow, nothing massive, but enough that it got icy and crunchy really fast, and we’re still skating all over the place every time we step outside the front door. My driveway is an icy death trap and I live in fear each time I need to leave the house. My biggest fantasy these days involves winning the lottery (not that we play…) so I can install a heated driveway. Flip the switch to turn it on, leave it until everything is melted, turn it off. (Uh, there may need to be some sort of advanced drainage/water vacuum system in there as well, if we don’t want to be right back at the beginning once all that melted snow and ice refreeze.) A girl can dream, right?
It’s been a quiet month for reading around here; I’ve been busy getting a lot of house things in order and working on some other projects, so I haven’t had as much reading time as I would have liked. Let’s check that out, shall we?
What I Read in January 2020
1. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (no review, read out loud to my daughter)
15. Opera For Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck (no review, read as part of my own personal Read Harder challenge)
Not a bad month in terms of quality of books. Twelve of these fit prompts for the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge; one was an impulse grab off the New Books shelf; five were YA (there are a lot of great YA picks for reading challenges, and I definitely find myself reading more YA when I’m participating in various challenges); two memoirs; one historical fiction; four nonfiction (this is a really low number for me for nonfiction, but I like that reading challenges force me to read more fiction. I’d be happy reading nothing but nonfiction the rest of my life, but I’m striving to be more balanced here).
Reading Challenge Updates
And here we are! I’m deep into the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge; I like that I’m reading new authors, considering new subjects, visiting new places in a fictional sense. Here’s what my list looks like so far:
Twelve books knocked off this challenge! Just over one-fifth of the way done. I’m happy with that.
State of the Goodreads TBR
It’s not been a great month for my poor TBR. I’ve added so, so many books, what with my fellow bloggers always reading such interesting things, and all these “You’ll Quite Literally DIE If You Don’t Read These Specific Books Being Published In 2020” lists coming out, and award winners and nominees being announced. My TBR started the month at a respectable 81 books, but has since ballooned up to a much more daunting 102. YIKES. I like to keep it under 100, but right now, I’m engaging with a lot of books for reading challenges and for the class I’m taking, so I know it’s going to go up more before it goes down. Quick, everyone leave me alone and do all my housework for me and exercise for me so I can get some reading done!!!
Books I Acquired in January 2020
My daughter and I stopped by a local thrift store on what turned out to be half price day and came home with these books, a huge stack of children’s books, and two dresses for me for only seven dollars! (I wear mostly skirts and dresses and leggings these days, with the occasional yoga pants; jeans pull really badly at my right hip and increase my pain, so dressing this way is, for me, basically the fancier equivalent of sweatpants. Looking nice is merely a side effect!) The books are:
It was back to the Library Book Discussion Group with me this month! Besides the librarian, who’s a few years younger than me, I’m the youngest group member by about ten years, but I love it. This month, we read The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, about the actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr. I hadn’t known much about her before reading this, and the book led to some interesting discussion. The librarian also let us know that there’s a documentary about Hedy Lamarr on Netflix right now, titled Bombshell. I watched it this weekend while attacking some of my giant mending pile and it’s really interesting, if you’re into history and looking for something to watch.
Current Podcast Love
Still working my way through back episodes of Tablet Magazine’s Unorthodox; still loving it! I ended up having so many problems with my Podbean app shutting down and not playing stuff that I switched over to the Stitcher app. I don’t like that app as much as I liked how Podbean worked (when it worked), but it’ll do.
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
I’ve finally finished Opera For Dummies: A Reference for the Rest of Us by David Pogue and Scott Speck. The CD that came with the book ended up being so pitted and scratched that it wouldn’t play, but I used Youtube to view and listen to the performances, and they’re all quite lovely. I’d love to be able to attend an opera at some point, and I’m particularly intrigued by Don Giovanni, mostly because of the final scene. I don’t know that I’ll ever be one of those people with season tickets for the opera (mostly because $$$$), but I like knowing more about it. The book itself is a little dated and occasionally makes jokes that haven’t aged well (it was originally published in 1997 and so, in this world, the internet barely exists and you need to actually call the opera box office to buy tickets, which seems like such a quaint concept these days…), including some sexist, fatphobic, and homophobic jokes, so consider yourself warned.
And now that I’ve finished, I’m using Opera For Dummies as the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt about a book on a subject you know nothing about (see above graphic in the Reading Challenge section). I knew nothing about opera beforehand, and now I know random things like the stereotype of operas being full of women wearing horned helmets comes from a single opera (Wagner’s Die Walküre, part of the Ring Cycle group of operas), what recitative is, the definition of an aria, what surtitles are, and that you too can chat about opera in groups of opera fans on America Online- if you need help, pick up a copy of America Online For Dummies! (I did say the book was dated.)
I’ve got more to say on my personal Read Harder Challenge in a minute…
Real Life Stuff
The kids going back to school got interrupted with my daughter being sick not long after. Nothing serious, just a random virus that left her with a fever and feeling run down, but it definitely threw my schedule off (poor kiddo, she even put herself down for a nap. Normally, she’s climbing the walls, so if she’s voluntarily going to sleep, you know she doesn’t feel good. I’m anticipating more of this, because her best friend at school came back today after being absent for illness…).
I’ve been trying to keep the house up a little better- not that it was awful before, but I’ve been on a little bit of an organizing streak. I cleared off a shelf in one of my living room bookshelves so I can put my sewing basket and my mending there. It’s the shelf right across from my chair, so my mending is just sitting there, STARING AT ME, which is much better than being tucked away in the bedroom- which is where it used to live and how it grew to such a ridiculous height. I kept putting it off, but now that I’m looking at it all the time, I’m actually getting it done. I even pulled out my sewing machine and turned a pair of torn-up pants into shorts for my daughter and put a satin binding on a blanket for my son (the cheap binding it came with torn and frayed beyond repair in the wash). And I took a grease-stained shirt of my daughter’s and, instead of turning it into rags, covered up the stains with a few heart patches (and added a few extra hearts):
That took a looooooooong time to do, as I hand-stitched everything, but she was SO excited; she loves hearts, and this made her really happy. I also patched up an old bra, whose fabric between the side straps had basically shredded, by covering the straps with knit fabric. It worked; I’m wearing it today. 😀
My (Re)Introduction to Judaism course began and it’s so fascinating! It’s a pretty big group, I think about 40 people, and though we’ve only had one class so far, we had some pretty great discussions. I’ve got several books for the class and there’s a lot of suggestions of supplementary reading material, all of which I desperately want to read. I may bypass some of my previously planned personal Read Harder Challenge in order to fit some of this material in while I’m taking the class, so we’ll see. I’m very much looking forward to learning more most Sunday nights through May!
February is already shaping up to be busy. I’ll have three classes this month; my son’s school’s theater is putting on performances of The Foreigner, which we’re looking forward to seeing; my daughter’s elementary school will have a talent show, which I’m sure will be adorable. The author Andrew Solomon is coming to speak in my area again mid-month, so I’m looking forward to hearing him for the second time. There’s a local showing of the documentary Sky and Ground, about a Syrian-Kurdish family seeking asylum, that I’d like to go see, and my son has a choir performance. My Library Book Discussion group is reading nonfiction about North Korea this month, and my daughter has a Daisy Scout meeting and a tea party. I’m exhausted just looking at my calendar this month!!! I’m crossing my fingers I find ANY time to read…
I hope your January got you off to a wonderful, fresh start to the year, and that your February will be full of love, laughter, and excellent reading material. Read on, friends!
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020! That number sounds straight out of a science fiction novel or movie from when I was young, but here we are.
And if you’re reading this, congratulations on making it through another year. It’s been a tough one for so many reasons and I don’t know that it’s going to get easier, but you’re here and I’m glad. The book blogging community is pretty amazing at taking care of each other and being supportive, and I’m happy to be a part of it. Thanks for always being here, whether it’s to talk books, reading slumps, fandoms, or the absolute garbage that real life can be. Y’all rock. 🙂
December was ridiculously busy, but it’s that way every year. There are always a millionty things scheduled and still only 24 hours a day, some of which must be devoted to sleep, so I feel like so much of my time went to running errands and getting nothing else done! The kids go back to school in a week and I still feel like we’ve gotten so little downtime, but I think I just need to accept that’s how life is these days. At least there are always books for comfort, right?
Let’s get to recapping!
What I Read in December 2019
The Chai Factor by Farah Heron
2. Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson
3. Becoming Eve: My Journey From Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abba Chava Stein
4. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
5. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (no review, read as part of my own personal Read Harder program)
11. All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney (review to come)
12. Inheritence: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (review to come)
The first set of books has no links because, remember, I was playing catch-up and did a post full of mini-reviews. If you’re interested in seeing my quick takes of those books, go here and here.
Not the longest list I’ve ever had at the end of the month, if we’re going by numbers, but in terms of quality, I’m happy with it. There were a lot of great reads in there.
Reading Challenge Updates
The 2020 reading challenges are out! I spent a lovely Sunday poring over a bunch of them and making out lists of books that fit in with the challenge prompts (cross-referenced with what’s available from local libraries, of course, as well as what’s on my TBR lists). I’m definitely going to do Book Riot’s Read Harder 2020 Challenge, since I loved last year’s so much, and I’m also taking on PopSugar’s 2020 Reading Challenge! The PopSugar is significantly longer, but I’m not worried about that. I’ll be doing the two challenges concurrently, reading from what’s available at the library and crossing things off as I go along. And when I finish those two, I’ll probably do the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge, just for funsies. I’m feeling ambitious this year!
And we’re back up to 81 books on the TBR, but the five books I have checked out of the library are all on that list, so January may see that number decrease, but only if you people stop posting about such interesting books! *sobs*
Books I Acquired in December 2019
Christmas day was weirdly warm, so while my husband and daughter played at the park, my son and I went for a four mile walk, which included stopping by a Little Free Library. I dropped off two books and picked up two more: a copy of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (chosen solely because the heroine hails from Door County, Wisconsin, where we vacationed with my mother two summers ago), and Looking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois Lowry, who was one of my favorite childhood writers. My bookish friend in Michigan, with whom I trade books back and forth by mail, has that on her TBR list, so that’ll probably be off to her place once I read it. 🙂
Bookish Things I Did in December
The only thing I did this past month was help tear down my daughter’s school’s book fair. I was supposed to help set up as well, but that was during my three day migraine (actually less fun than it sounds; I ended up having to go to the doctor for stronger meds, and I came back from throwing up in the kitchen sink to find that my insurance company didn’t think I actually needed the anti-nausea drugs my doctor had prescribed, which was fun, because I was kind of scarily dehydrated at the time). My husband stayed home to take care of me and also went in my place to help set up the book fair, for which I’m extremely grateful. 🙂 Otherwise, it was a quiet month with no other bookish events.
Current Podcast Love
Still very much loving Tablet Magazine’s Unorthodox, which adds to my reading list exponentially, and which I also mentioned in my review for The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s informative, at times it’s sad and contemplative, and other times it’s joyful and life-affirming. I’ll be so sad once I’m through with all the back episodes, but I absolutely plan on keeping up with all the new ones as they come out.
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
1463 pages, DONE. WHEW!
I can’t say that this made me love Victor Hugo any more than I did before (which was bordering on not at all, if I’m being honest. The Hunchback of Notre Dame wasn’t exactly a favorite here either). His fifty page asides and ranting tangents are headache-inducing and meandering at best (dude either really liked the sound of his own voice or the clicky sound the typewriter made. I’m feeling generous, so maybe it was both…). Cosette has the personality of a dollar store mop, Marius is irritating in his ‘Woe is me, I’m soooooooo in love with this girl I saw like twice and if I can’t have her I’ll DIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’ (seriously, there’s nothing romantic about that, it’s just obsessive and weird, and it’s a testament to Cosette’s complete lack of personality that she didn’t run screaming), and while I did like Jean Valjean for the most part, by the end, his incessant need for self-sacrifice became tiresome. And what is with everyone giving speeches that last five or more pages as they lay dying??? Holy unrealistic, Batman! And, of course, let’s not forget Hugo’s weird overuse of the word ‘cloaca.’ Yeah. Ew.
But Gavroche. Gavroche was good. I loved him. Scrappy little dude. He was the best part of the novel. And the musical is, of course, stunning. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I saw a gorgeous production of it let’s-not-discuss-how-many-years-ago with my high school French club and adored it. There are stark differences between the novel and musical, though, but I have no problem with that and find that both can be enjoyed for what they are.
What’s next in my own personal Read Harder Challenge? Last year, I got a copy of Opera For Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck. I’ve always enjoyed classical music (we listen to a lot of a local classical station in the car these days and I actually recognized a piece my son’s school’s orchestra played at their last concert as something I’d heard on the radio, which made me feel pretty cool, as it wasn’t a super well-known piece), and I’ve loved the bits and pieces of operas that I’ve heard, but it’s not really a subject I know much about and I’ve always wanted to learn. The book, which I bought cheaply at a yard sale, came with the CD, so I think I’m going to go through it, maybe a chapter per day, and listen to the tracks on the CD as I go along. Let’s get some culture up in this place!
Real Life Stuff
Whew, what a month! Total whirlwind of activity. My daughter has now lost her two bottom front teeth and looks like a tiny late-season jack-o’-lantern. My son had multiple choir concerts this month, both for Concert Choir and Madrigals (yes, he wore the costume and looked fabulous, and is glad he doesn’t have to wear it again but is sad the Madrigal season is over. Crossing my fingers that he makes the spring a capella group!). We traveled four times to spend Christmas with family, and I was fortunate to spend time with my son when we went to see the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks, about Mister Rogers (I have ALL the Mister Rogers love, as evidenced by my writing about him in the past). Super sweet movie, and it was great to do something relaxing and fun with my son, as he’s usually out and about with friends. 🙂
January will be busy as usual. The kids go back to school on the 7th; my daughter’s Daisy Scout troop is visiting an animal shelter (if you hear squealing, it’ll be me, because ANIMALS!!!!). I’m going back to my local library’s reading group- SUPER excited about that! I got away from it last year due to a combination of illness and schedule conflicts, but I’m really looking forward to returning. And, something I’m even more excited about, I signed up for an Introduction to Judaism course at a local-ish congregation. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and this wasn’t too expensive and is within driving distance, plus it’s at a time when I can attend with little disruption to the family routine. All the right criteria, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. That starts at the end of January, and I could not possibly be more excited (it also includes a crash course in Hebrew, so I’m out-of-my-mind jazzed about that!!!). The course runs through May and I can’t wait!
2019 was an excellent year for reading for me. I’ve finished the year at 203 books, which is a pretty big number (my highest number of yearly reads was the year I reached, I believe, 254, but that was the year my son and I spent a LOT of time at the park, so I had a crapload of time to just sit and read), but more than that, it was a year of quality reads. I’ve really learned that it’s okay to put a book down, to walk away if it’s not doing it for me, even if it’s a book from my TBR list. I used to grit my teeth and force my way through it, but I’ve learned that that’s not necessary. Life’s too short to read books that aren’t right for you, and not every book is going to be right for you. I’ve read books this year that made me cry, that made me think, that made me laugh out loud and that added joy and changed the way I go about my life. I’ve deepened my understanding of certain subjects, deepened my empathy, grew as a person, read inside and outside my usual genres, and learned about myself. No matter how much I ask from books, they always give me more than I ever expected. It’s been a good year for reading.
May your 2020 be filled with love, light, laughter, peace, and the joy of reading excellent books. Happy New Year, friends. 🙂
As book bloggers, bookworms, and book lovers, there are so many things that cause us to pick up a book (or twenty): a gorgeous cover, a new title from a beloved author, that next book in the series we adore, a novel that features our favorite trope or a nonfiction title about a favorite subject, a recommendation from a friend or fellow book blogger, a title with an upcoming in-theaters film, the list goes on and on.
But we all know far too well that there are just as many things that cause us to throw the brakes and our reading comes to a screeching halt, most of the time unwillingly, and today, I want to talk about all the reasons why we might put those books down.
(I’m cringing even thinking about it, to be honest.)
Let’s do this!
This comes first, because I’ve dealt with this this year, and it was the cause of my longest period of not reading. Right now, my diagnosis stands at degenerative disc disease, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and spinal arthritis. There might be more, but digging for answers (and then the ensuing treatment for those answers) is prohibitively expensive here in the US, so right now, I’m letting it stand at that.
A massive chronic pain flareup, like the one I experienced in October this year, wreaks absolute havoc with reading time. On normal pain days (because there are no pain-free days!), reading helps me escape, but during an acute flare, the pain demands so much of my attention that trying to focus on anything is like trying to watch the television with a radio blasting behind you at full volume. Keeping your mind focused on the television- or your book- takes an exhausting amount of mental energy, a difficult feat when you’re already worn from being in pain all day.
So what’s a chronic pain sufferer to do? If you can stay awake for them, audiobooks might help here; I simply read a few chapters at a time, and then lost myself in a podcast until I fell asleep. Eventually the flare passes, but not having an end date in sight makes it tough…Hang in there, my fellow pain warriors!
This is probably the #1 reason that keeps us all from reading. Real life. School. Family. KIDS. Chores. Work. Places to go, people to see, things to do, all those obligations outside of the house that you just can’t weasel out of and end up spending the entire time there longing for your book and cozy reading chair.
These are rough times, my friends. While some situations can be audiobook-appropriate (work commutes, time spent maintaining the lawn or doing solo chores like running for groceries), if you’ve got small children that require constant supervision, you can’t always plug in and tune the world out. What’s a reader to do, beyond weeping in frustration?
Long stretches of uninterrupted reading time is obviously our ideal, but when life gets busy, the best you can do is to steal snatches of time here and there in order to get any reading done. Read on the kindle phone app while you’re waiting in line at the store. Read a paragraph here and there while you’re waiting for the noodles to boil during dinner prep. Read five minutes, a chapter, a PAGE, before you fall asleep at night.
This too shall pass-kind of the motto in regards to no-reading situations, amirite???- although never quickly enough for those who love nothing better than getting lost in a good book.
Social Mediaand Other Technological Timesucks
Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. NETFLIX, for pete’s sake.
“I’ll just go on and check a few posts, scroll for a few minutes, watch one episode, search for one thing,” we say to ourselves, that book we’ve been dying to get to nestled by our side, just waiting for us to pick it up and dive right in. “No biggie. Just a few minutes.”
Five hours later, we’re arguing with a racist grandmother from Sheboygan.
Social media and the glory that is Netflix are awesome for so many reasons. Connecting with people who share our interests, listening to voices that have been marginalized in the past but can now be amplified if we choose to do so (and we should!), learning fascinating new things (and, uh, sometimes things that aren’t entirely useful but still interesting, because we’ve all fallen down a rabbit hole of searching for one particular thing, like a certain Harry Potter spell, and coming up for air two hours later on a website about, say, medieval tool usage and its affect on modern day pop music),that movie we missed with friends, there are so many reasons to enjoy the many websites and apps that allow us to forge new connections with each other.
But unfortunately, these sites are also a MAJOR time suck, and when reading time is already at a minimum, blowing forty minutes scrolling through Twitter is a LOT of that reading time down the tubes.
It’s hard to stash the social media and back away from binge watching, and everyone’s method will look different- turn off your phone? Leave it in another room? Read away from the computer?- but the constant pull we all feel towards keeping up-to-date every single second is something every reader needs to learn to deal with.
Books That Don’t Do It For Us
It happens to the best of us. We grab our next great read off the shelf, one that’s come highly recommended or that we’ve been anticipating for ages, only to find…it’s not great.
It might even be awful.
It’s a terrible feeling of disappointment, occasionally of anger, maybe even a little grief in there if the book came from the desk of a favorite author (and especially if that author has written something at odds with our sense of morality). Whatever the reason, putting down a book you’d hoped to enjoy often leaves us with conflicting emotions.
But there’s no shame in DNF-ing; we’re all readers who are strong in our opinions and what we love in our books, and if something isn’t working for us, it’s always okay to put that book down and move on to the next one.
And there’s always a next one!
*cue ominous music*
…you find yourself in…
The Dreaded Reading Slump
We’ve all been there. We dive into our latest read, ready to get lost in its world, and…
It’s not grabbing us, and we *know* it’s not the book, we can tell the writing is tight, the plot is fast-paced, so we try another book…and another…and another.
MEH, MEH, MEH.
Our brain has quit, our bookworm has burrowed deep into a tight cocoon, and our reading mojo is out the door, leaving us desolate, desperate, and grasping for something, anything to do to fill the hours previously taken up by our most favorite of all hobbies. We don’t even FEEL like reading right now, and it’s a feeling completely alien to us as readers. WHO EVEN ARE WE WITHOUT BOOKS???
So many blog posts and articles have been written (great ones, too!) on how to avoid or pull oneself out of a reading slump. I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all remedy, and it may be that every slump is different and what works for this year’s slump may not work for next year’s. But reader friends, when you slump, you’re not alone, and you’re still part of this brilliant, beautiful community of book bloggers that we’ve all created (and that goes for being on posting hiatus as well!). We’re still here to support you, and who knows, maybe a fellow blogger’s post is what will strike a chord in you and get you excited about turning pages again!
And then there’s the scary one…
Have you ever walked by a book on a shelf and wished you HAD read that…but you’re too intimidated to actually read it?
This happens a lot with hefty nonfiction tomes and novels of classic literature, things we feel we should read but worry we won’t be able to get through. Maybe we expect the book to be too dry or the style too difficult. Maybe we worry we’re not smart enough to ‘get’ it. Remember all those times in school when we learned that the blue curtains in a novel symbolized the author’s depression and weren’t just blue curtains because the author liked the color blue, and we all sat there going, “…seriously? They can’t just be blue curtains?” Experiences like these prime us for a lifetime of literary self-doubt, and instead of deciding that books can be read on multiple levels, we think, “Well, this stuff clearly isn’t for people like me,” and we turn tail and run. And in doing so, who knows what life-changing books we might be missing out on?
How many books do you have on your shelves right now that you’re scared of?
This is a problem I’ve been tackling in my own life for years. When my son was young, I used to read out loud to him while he played, like his own personal audiobook, except instead of solely reading Dr. Seuss and Margaret Wise Brown, I’d read Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley while he drove toy cars around the living room. He was five when he started interrupting me to ask what a word meant or why a character did something so foolish (this was during a reading of Great Expectations); don’t ever underestimate how much a child can absorb! Reading aloud helped me to get through a large number of classics that I never would’ve felt smart enough to read silently on my own, and in doing so, I greatly increased my reading confidence.
My daughter was a little too screechy for me to do this (and believe me, I tried!), so now that she’s in school and things are a little quieter here, I’m tackling some harder books, reading a single chapter or a small number of pages per day. Because when it comes down to it, these books, the ones that have us shaking our heads and going, “I don’t think I can…”
They’re just words. Words on paper.
And we’re not going to let words scare us, are we? We’re book bloggers and book lovers. We’re a pretty fiesty, determined bunch. It’s time to face those fears head on and tell them, “You know what? I can do this. Getting those huge books read slowly is still getting them read. TAKE THAT, BOOK INTIMIDATION!”
Logic would hold that for people who love books so much, one might have to pry each and every book out of our cold, dead hands, but sometimes, our reader brains aren’t all that logical (case in point: how many of us have gleefully purchased a much longed-for book, only to have it collect dust on our shelves for years? *raises hand, waves it wildly*). There are times for all of us when our reading grinds to a complete stop, and while it’s often an uncomfortable situation, it’s absolutely normal.
We may be readers, but we’re a lot of other things, too, and that’s what makes us such an interesting bunch.