Reading Round-Up: Early 2018

Lately I’ve been reading a ton and not writing at all. Oops. Rather than do individual posts for the MANY books I’ve recently finished, I figured it was time for another reading round up.

The Good

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I grew up watching the 1980s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables all the time as a kid as it’s my mom’s favorite movie(s). When Anne with an E came out, I devoured it. Yet, I never actually read the books. When I saw an edition of the series with the most BEAUTIFUL covers from the indie bookstore I go to, I had to snap them up. I’ve only done the first book so far, but I love it so much. I’ll write a better post on the entire series later with pics of the covers, but I just needed to gush a bit. Oh Anne, how I love and relate to you.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Click image for source.

You may remember my loving post on Every Heart a Doorway from a few months ago, or you can check it out now. I finally got around to reading the sort-of-sequel, sort-of-prequel Down Among the Sticks and Bones. In this installment we get a closer look at the twins sisters Jack and Jill who were pretty major players in Every Heart a Doorway. Constrained by the rigid roles their parents put them in–Jacqueline forced to be a polite, pretty princess and Jillian stuck being a rough-and-tumble tomboy–the two find their door at age twelve. In the morbid and dangerous realm of The Moors, they are able to switch roles and live the lives they always envied in their twin.

Things I love in this book: LESBIAN ROMANCE!!!, neat-o observations of gender constructs/social roles, interesting look at how you can love your family but not really like them and how that can play out when the stakes are high, tense parent-child relationships, vampires that are actually dangerous (no more Twilight-syndrom, please and thank you. Vamps can be dangerous every once and a while), and so much more. Seriously, pick up this series. Continue reading

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Let’s talk about death, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things in the death industry! Let’s talk about death!

Image from Goodreads. Click for link.

We’re all going to die. And no, I’m not being hyperbolic or melodramatic. Everyone dies at some point. However, our culture puts a certain level of taboo on death, dying, and anything that has to do with the care of a body once it is no longer alive. I’ve always found that a bit ridiculous. Maybe it was my early introduction to death and corpses or maybe it’s my bizarre interest in death rituals, but a lot of how we deal with death in contemporary society seems pretty fucked up to me. Continue reading

Review: The Female of the Species

Content warning for discussion of rape, sexual assault, and murder.

click image for source

They say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but that couldn’t be truer than with The Female of the Species. The cover is bright green and has a variety of animals displayed, making it appear to be a light-heart-ed contemporary YA novel that has something to do with animals. It is not.

Don’t trust the published blurb that describes the plot of this book either. It makes The Female of the Species out to be a modern murder mystery. With a first line of “This is how I kill someone,” I can see how some people got a bit confused, but this isn’t some novel riding the true crime wave going through our culture right now.

So what is The Female of the Species? I’d say the best way to describe it is as a pointed look at sexual assault and rape, the effects that trauma has on not only the victim, but an entire community, and how one of the strongest bonds between women is often the fear of becoming a potential victim. Heavy stuff for a book with such a bright cover. Continue reading

Every Heart a Doorway: Wayward Children Book 1

Image from Goodreads. Click for Source.

Sometimes a book is gifted to you and it turns out to be exactly what you needed. I ended up with a copy of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire after a Christmas party with friends. My old roommate, Ella, bought it for me after reading it in her YA for Adults book club. I had never heard of it before, but now I’m obsessed with the series. Continue reading

Depression Hits Hard Today

I, dear internet, am feeling feeling fragile today.

It’s 2:00 in the afternoon as I write this, and all I’ve consumed is a banana, some crackers, and two cups of coffee. My appetite is gone, and even if I forced myself to eat, everything would taste bland and have trouble going down. Ice cream was even brought out and deemed unappetizing.

My mind can’t maintain it’s focus on anything. Not sewing. Not reading. Not gaming. Nothing. All I want to do is lie down and stare at the wall.

A deep need to cry is felt, but something is blocking my tear’s escape. It’s not sadness I feel, but hollowness. Emptiness.

I know I’ll be okay, and I just need to ride this out, but damn depression sure doesn’t pull its punches.

Reading in Review: 2017

I thought it would be fun to wrap up the year by looking at and analyzing what I read on a scale larger than the singular book reviews I tend to do. All in all, I read 42 books. It wasn’t quite my book-a-week goal, but considering I wrote a seventy-page thesis, applied to graduate schools and assistantships, graduated, and have been job hunting, I’d say the number is pretty damn respectable.

I think it is critical to consume diverse media. As expected from the word itself, diversity can look like a lot of different things. In particular, I want to look at the types of books I’m reading and who’s writing them. So here we go:

Book Type

Fiction: 27 books

YA: 13

Literary Fiction: 7

Short Story: 2

Hard to Categorize: 5

Nonfiction:14

Memoir: 6

Biography: 1

History: 3

Essays/Essay Collections: 2

Instructional: 2

Poetry: 1

Author’s Gender*

Women: 32

Men: 10

Multiple Authors/Mixed Gender: All books with multiple authors

ended up being by groups of men

Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming: none ūüė•

Race/Nationality*

Authors of Color: 10*

Further Breakdown: African American (3); Native/Indigenous (2); Chinese-Canadian (1); Pakistani (1); Latinx (1); Palestinian (1); Lebanese (1)

White Authors/Generally American/European: 32

Now let’s reflect:¬†Overall, I read mostly fiction, but my nonfiction consumption has been growing over the past few years. I never thought I would be into nonfiction, but lately I’ve been wanting to learn everything, and what better way than by reading? Plus, I’m really loving memoirs as of late. I think I’d like to get my fiction-to-nonfiction ration balanced out a bit more, but fiction is just as important and should not be skimped on either! I read a shockingly low amount of poetry this year, with only one collection completed. That must be rectified going forward. I doubt it will ever consume as much of my attention as fiction or nonfiction, but I do want to delve deeper into it. I also, surprisingly, did not read any plays/scripts this year. Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading some Shakespeare that isn’t a tragedy this year.

I overwhelmingly read female authors, and I’m totally okay with that. I read once that men fail to read female authors while women read male and female authors at about an even rate. I found this horrific because that means that female authors are getting the shaft while male authors are being read by everyone. Obviously that study was a long time ago and very cis-centric, but it’s still fascinating to me. I should look up some recent trends about that, because I’m a curious person.

That original article surmised that men find it difficult to relate to female protagonists while women are more adaptable. Is that really what’s going on? Who knows. Though, maybe if men read more female authors, we wouldn’t be having the painful sexual harassment discussions we’ve been having lately.

I didn’t read enough authors of color. Usually I take a class that really focuses on either transnational authors or American authors of color. I didn’t my last semester, so my numbers are a bit lower than I think they must have been the year prior, though I didn’t look into it so I can’t be sure.¬† I want to make a more conscience effort to read books by people who don’t look like me. It’s important, especially in today’s political climate here in the states. I think fiction is one of the best ways to try and understand what its like to be someone who isn’t you. We’ve always needed that extra empathy, but I think the divisiveness that has always existed in this country is screaming at us even louder than it has in the recent past.

This list is also not wholly accurate. I know that several identities are often lumped in with “White Americans or Europeans” nowadays. For example, I know there are several Jewish authors that I’ve read this year that live in America or Europe. I did not include that in the breakdown because I did all of this analysis all at once and long after reading most of my books. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to go through and start looking up the identities of authors I read months ago. If I included and identity as a subsection, I didn’t want to count one author and miss another with that same identity that I had read.

In the future, I’m planning on making a spreadsheet that I can update as I read the books. Then I can also really easily have the statistics and charts to go along with it. It will be more manageable for me to go in-depth if I do it as I go rather than all at once at the end. I’m a nerd, so I like that sort of thing. I think it will be fascinating to track how my reading changes and evolves over the years.

Do you make any kind of conscious decisions about who you read? Or do you just pick up what looks good, reading where your mood takes you? (Which is totally fine, btw) Have you ever tracked your reading like this? If so, tell me all about it!

 

*I tried my best to reasonably assume the gender identity of authors and hunt down the race and/or nationality of authors. I hope I did them justice, and any misunderstanding of their identity is an honest mistake for which I apologize. I also did not dig deeper and go into further less-visible identities, such as sexuality or a heritage that is less at the forefront of¬†an author’s public persona/super-duper easy to find. I plan on doing better in the future so I can better represent who I read.

 

Why I Started Quilting at 22

Quilting is not a hobby associated with youth. Rather, when one imagines a quilter they often picture a someone closer to retirement than their college graduation. So just why do I now spend my weekends at a quilt class or volunteering at the quilt museum rather than brunching with my friends as so many millennials are known to do? Well, dear friends, there are reasons aplenty.

My Mother

My mother has always been a sewer (sewist?). Growing up she made her own clothes rather than buying them. She made suits for her brothers in exchange for her first car. All of my Halloween costumes growing up were homemade–no store bought allowed. She even crafted the bridesmaids dresses for my sisters wedding! But that love of sewing was never passed on to me or my sister. She tried and tried, but we were stubborn. Whenever I sat down to try sewing a shirt or dress, it always led to frustration. The needle would break. I’d run out of thread. I cut the pattern wrong. Oh how I detested sewing. But a few years ago, my mom started quilting. While there are obviously many similarities between the two crafts, they really are completely different games in so many ways. After my childhood hatred for sewing, I had no plans on following in my¬† mother’s footsteps at the time, but I adored helping her pick out patterns and fabric. She made me a beautiful quilt that I use every night.

My Hometown’s Resources

While my hometown is small, coming in at around 5,000 people in the last census, we are mighty when it comes to quilting. The famed Marianne Fons of Fons and Porter¬†lives here. We have multiple stores that sell quilter’s cotton and other tools of the trade. We’ve got a quilt guild that has made and donated thousands of quilts to a local children’s hospital’s NICU, makes Quilts of Valor for veterans, and puts on a quilt show every year to show off what they’ve made. Recently an entire museum focused on quilts opened up on our town square.¬†We were even featured in the Iowa issue of Quiltfolk–a serial¬†focused on different states and communities of quilters.

On top of all of that, the quilters here love to teach others. A few teach in their homes, which is how my mom decided to learn. Our quilt store also holds a class almost every month, which is how I’m learning. It’s really handy to learn quilting from a professional quilter who also designs and sells his own patterns (yes his–a male quilter manages the quilt store I go to). Between him and the ladies who take his classes, I’ve learned tons of tips and tricks that I wouldn’t have gotten just from reading a book or quilting on my own. If I do say so myself, it’s helped me get pretty darn good at quilting in just a short amount of time.¬†

My Mental Health

It’s no secret that I’m not happy with where I’m at in my life right now. My plans were thrown into chaos a few months ago when I decided to put off grad-school and focus on paying off my current student debt before accruing any more. It was the right decision for me, but it was and is still hard. So now I’m job hunting. While job hunting is always difficult, the highs and lows are exacerbated by my depression and anxiety. After a few months of submitting applications and rarely leaving my house, I knew I needed something else to focus on. Since my mom already had all the tools needed and I was so well positioned to learn, I figured I might as well give quilting a go.

Honestly, having these projects has kept me from falling into pits of despair or having frequent anxiety attacks. You see, I tend to be a bit obsessive about things, both my hobbies and my anxieties. It was getting too in my head about this whole job thing. Books and video games, while great distractions, weren’t doing enough for me. I needed something constructive in my life.¬†Quilting fit that description for me.Being able to set goals and achieve them in one area of my life makes it easier to live with so much uncertainty of my job hunt. Plus, being able to wrap up in a blanket is very soothing when you’re anxious.¬†

The craft has done wonders for my mental health, and I’m not alone. There are lots of articles¬†(like this one) about how crafting (which quilting would be included in) helps your brain. Long story short, it increases your dopamine levels, and dopamine helps you feel relaxed. Crafting also helps fight the effects of aging on the brain. Though I don’t have to worry about that quite yet, it’s fascinating how the activity influences your brain.¬†

 

Now, if only I could find more millennials interested in quilting so that my community didn’t consist almost solely of women more than twice my age. Don’t get me wrong, I love those ladies, but I crave being able to share this craft with people closer to my own age too.