Reading and writing in 2014

I am two weeks late for any sort of New Year’s post, but that’s just how I roll, it seems.

I made three official New Year’s resolutions (going on the theory that if I make several, I have a better chance of keeping/achieving at least one), and the one that I think will receive most of my energy is trying to finish writing a book-length story that I started at least 5-7 years ago. Like my knitting and sewing projects, I seem to pick it up and put it down, but I’m hoping to pick it up for good this year. That’s part of why I started this blog in the first place–to get back into a habit of writing–so now I’m just going to shift some of the time I would spend on blog posts over to working on the story. There will probably be less posting here because of that, but hey, since I’m not the most faithful blogger in the first place, you may not even notice!

An unofficial resolution that I make just about every year is to try to read the books that are sitting on my nightstand. It never happens. This is largely due to me getting distracted by other things to read, but sometimes I’ll put something on the nightstand that I know I should read but am not really in the mood for so it sits forever. Similarly, any book that I receive as a gift goes there, some of them eagerly and others not so much. I also had some ARCs that are way past the “advanced reading” stage, and so on. This year, to help somewhat with the nightstand phenomenon, I actually took everything off and only put back books that I really do want to read. A few (the ARCs!) have been marked for giving away (don’t worry, copyright people, I gave the ARC’s to my local library to use as teen event prizes or some such thing, NOT for sale in a thrift shop or library book sale), others just put on our regular shelf, and the ones that stay on the nightstand arranged in what I hope is a tempting manner:

The nightstand in all its glory.

The nightstand in all its glory.

First, we have the whole thing, which may look deceivingly empty and easy to get through. Note the Kindle on top, which creates its own problems. I have found that to actually read something on the Kindle, I kind of have to impulse buy (buy it when I want to read it right now only), because otherwise the book sits there without even a physical dust catcher to remind me that I need to sit down and read it.

shelf1Next, the first shelf, which includes space to stick whatever I’m currently reading on top of my diary and a few books-in-progress on the side. (Finding Calm in the Chaos is a devotional book, so it will probably stay there for most of the year as I try to use it every day).shelf2

The lower shelves are not arranged in any reading order, but by how the books best fit. I do try to put books I want to read sooner in the front with others in the back. People of the Book has been there (and I’ve been truly wanting to read it…just not tonight) for about 2 years. You can also see my French book-in-progress and some kids’ books my mom lent me that will go quickly when I finally pick them up. Relic is a Christmas gift YA book that I’m looking forward to.shelf3

The lowest shelf includes some of my cheating: I’m already about halfway through rereading Little Women, and the orange book on the side is the English translation of the French book (which I’ve still only been referring to after I read a given section in French first). Also, you may notice that there is both a print and audio copy of the same book on the right, so I will listen to that one for my next audiobook.

Judging by the first two weeks, my 2014 is already off to a busy start, and I know I’ll never finish everything I want to this year. But here’s to an optimistic late start, anyway!

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Something to tide you over…

Ok, I doubt anyone is just checking this blog everyday just to see the next post, but I do feel bad about not having posted in a good week and a half. I will try to get some more posts up in the next few days.

In the meantime, this posted on YALSA’s The Hub today (and was a large part of why no other blogging got done in the last week):

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2014/01/14/literary-knitters/

It was a fun chance to combine two interests in one project. While you’re there, you can check out the many other Hub posts, including a reading challenge for finalists of the William C. Morris Debut Award (for a first time YA author) and the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award. The ALA Youth Media award winners (including those from YALSA and ALSC–the latter include the famous Newbery and Caldecott awards)  for this year get announced on January 27, so stay tuned!

Advent 2013

Whew, it’s hard to believe it’s already Advent, and even harder to believe that Christmas is in just 3 weeks. It feels like Advent is short this year, but I looked up the earliest and latest start dates (November 27 and December 3, if you’re interested), so it’s really just average. It must be the whole “life going faster as you get older” effect.

I love Advent. I’ve always loved the feeling of anticipation that just fills the month of December, but I used to kind of lump Advent together with Christmas in my mind. Obviously, the two are linked, but it’s become more important to me to observe Advent separately before pulling out all the Christmas stops. Along with that, it’s become more important to celebrate the whole season of Christmas, right up through Epiphany. I know lots of people are ready to take their trees down on the 26th or, at the latest, on the 1st or 2nd, but I think continuing the Christmas celebration for all 12 days is one way to separate the Christian celebration of Christmas from the commercial one.

Along those lines, I’m also trying (once again) to recommit to prayer time and quiet time, and I’m using this resource: http://www.piercedhands.com/advent-boot-camp/. I’m not a huge fan of the name, nor am I Catholic (full disclosure), but I enjoy this blog and Advent seems a short enough chunk of time to reasonably manage setting aside extra time for prayer. And you never know, if a habit develops, all the better.

We will still be doing lots of fun Christmas preparations (we’ve already partially decorated and written letters to Santa, and we still have cookie baking, tree trimming and present shopping ahead of us), but now I’m going to sign off and try to get my quiet time in before school pick-up.

 

Shadows by Robin McKinley

I’ve been finished with Shadows for over a week, and I’m still trying to think about how to discuss it intelligently. Mostly, I just want to gush, so I guess I will do that first, and then try to make one or two intelligent comments to finish up.

Alright, gushing first: I have been a Robin McKinley fan since my mom handed me Beauty in 5th or 6th grade, and Beauty has remained my favorite of her books (with Spindle’s End a close second) ever since. I still have my original copy of Beauty and I probably reread it every few years.

I may have a new favorite Robin McKinley book. 

I’m a little surprised by this, because I can’t quite pinpoint why I like Shadows so much, but it was just a completely satisfying read for me. I don’t want to reread it again right now, but I feel like I will want to reread it again in the next year…and then who knows how many other times. I like that it has a more contemporary feel (another of her “alt-modern” books), but it’s a different contemporary world than either Dragonhaven or Sunshine. I like the different languages that play a part (Japanese and some invented languages) and that it deals with the issues of borders and safety and how people choose to deal with the dangerous stuff that the world throws at us, but it doesn’t preach about any of these topics. I like that the “evil stepfather” is presented as a way to introduce the story, but that Maggie (the main character) is willing to reconsider once she realizes that her stepfather is not evil, just magical. I also like the “critters” everywhere…I am not really a critter person (one cat is just right for me, thank you), but the critters are both endearing and normal, which helps draw you into Maggie’s world.

I also like that, while the ending of the book is a little ambiguous (you don’t know if and how all the big issues are going to be resolved), you know who is who in Maggie’s group of friends and family…I can take a lot of plot ambiguity if all the relationships I’m interested are nicely settled!

Ok, I still don’t have anything especially critical or not-gushing to say. Everyone can have some blind spots with their favorite authors, right? Maybe after I reread this 2 or 3 times, I’ll be able to look at it a little more critically, but in the meantime, I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes: fantasy, magic, dogs, Japanese, origami, hot chocolate, magical creatures, teenage protagonists, or romance. Oh, and anyone who hates math. You won’t be disappointed.

Guest Blogging!

I had my first ever public blog post published today at YALSA’s The Hub:

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2013/10/08/old-favorite-new-genre-exploring-fantasy-sub-genres-through-robin-mckinleys-work/

I’m hoping to get to blog their occasionally in the coming year…it will give me a good reason to continue trying to keep up with the YA lit world.

Incidentally, I finished Shadows this weekend and hope to get a review up in the next week.

Happy Tuesday!

New Book Excitement

Despite being a librarian and loving books, I’m not great at keeping up-to-date on new publications. Between that and a very tiring week, I was very excited, therefore, when this arrived on my doorstep on Thursday:

New book!

New book!

I had actually pre-ordered this with a birthday Amazon gift card back in March and, for once, an Amazon pre-order worked in my favor and the book arrived ON publication day. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and I’m already enjoying this one. Just one unexpectedly delightful detail: the heroine is training her dog to herd alpacas (yes, McKinley knits, and started about the time I started it again, which is one of the reasons I so enjoy her blog: http://robinmckinleysblog.com).

I’m not very far in:

Pages 32-33

Pages 32-33

Needless to say, my French reading project is on hold until I get the chance to finish this!