Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

what does diverse mean exactly?

We loved this explanation from the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr: “We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.”

One thing I'm trying to more aware of is how I pick my books and who is writing them. It's pretty easy to fall into various reading ruts, but I want to get more out of my reading, especially since I plan to spend so much time reading. I read for comfort, so I want a ready stock of tried and true authors. I read to experience many lives, so I want a variety (a diversity!) of experiences that I won't have on my own. I read to inform myself, so I want a chance to understand people and issues that I don't know I don't know about. And I read for catharsis, so I want stuff that will blow the top of my head off, and that stuff could be anywhere.

Anyway, I'm signing up for the Dive Into Diversity Challenge 2015 hosted by Reading Wishes and Rather Be Reading. They suggest using lists such as Finding Diverse Lit.

As an experiment, I checked my last 20 completed books (as of March 24, 2015), and found that I skew towards female authors, although the characters are more mixed. Most but not all of the authors and characters are white Americans, but there are Europeans, Africans, and Australians in there. The books cover the LGBTQA part of LGBTQIA, and included characters of a variety of religions and cultural backgrounds. So I know I like different stuff, and I want to keep reading it.

In this challenge I think I'll try to check back each month and see what kind of things I'm missing. I'll update this post if I manage to post any further thoughts, but I think I'll start with looking at the religions of my characters. Rather Be Reading focussed on this in February, but since they haven't put out a new essay, I'll just jump on tardily. (Actually, they did, but it wasn't linked to the main one, and I'd rather do religion than economics right now, so I'm staying with my first choice. It's all about me, after all.)

So, my April diversity challenge will be religion -- is it important to the characters? Is it mainstream, for me or for them? What can I learn? What did I know that I was right about? What was wrong? What did I not know and not know that I did not know?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pre-Birthday and Post-Birthday Reading

Once again I've been avoiding my blog, for two very good reasons. One, since I'm trying to make this blog a chance for me to think about what I'm reading, avoiding thinking means avoiding this blog and I haven't felt very thinky lately.

Secondly, I've made an attempt to tie my reading to finishing tasks, which means that I haven't been reading much since I also haven't been finishing anything. But suddenly a wave of gumption swept through me and I finished my taxes, cleared out significant portions of my unpacked bedroom, moved some furniture into place, and got my colonoscopy. So now I feel all achievy, so I'll try being thinky as well. I've got three weeks worth of stuff to think about, so I can think a very little about a lot of things, and that shouldn't hurt too much, right?

If I finish this in time, I'll report in to Book Journey and Teach Mentor Texts about my grown-up and kidlit readings.

Can't We Talk about Somethi...I finished Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant and forgot to replace it with anything else for slow reading. I do like having a book dedicated to concentration and slow reading, so I'm going to nominate Dead Man Walking to replace it. I've even got a theme going here, moving from sickness (vaccines) to death to the death penalty.

Brendan Buckley's Universe ...The EdgeI had a lot of book club meetings -- my friends and I got together and had a good time eating pizza and talking about Dick Francis -- The Edge in particular but we allowed ourselves to wander about his entire collection. It was a good reminder of the enjoyment I get from a reliable, prolific, yet predictable author. I'll keep his books on hand for any reading slumps I find myself in.  Then my elementary book club discussed Sundee Frazier Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It, which was an interesting book about science, racism, and family. I thought that discussion went well, and the cookies were, as usual, delicious. For this club, I tend to write up short discussion questions and put them on paper tents on all the tables. I like re-using these questions with different books, and the kids have started noticing. "Which is More Dangerous -- City or Country?" has shown up in about five books this year, including this one.

Wonderful Alexander and the...Catwings (Catwings, #1)Then my family got together with another family to discuss Ursula Le Guin's Catwings. I promised my boys that they could order one sushi dish for each Catwings book they read, but then I ordered the giant family platter as my first pick so no one went hungry even if they only read the first one. Everyone thought the books had an old-timey feel, starting with the names (Thelma? James?), and we talked about what made a book a good read aloud, and what made a book good for all ages. And the fun of having your name in a book -- Xan was definitely predisposed towards Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings.

West of the MoonAnd of course I read this month's Sword and Laser Kids pick: West of the Moon.  I listened to it in the car with my older son on his way to school, and we both spent a lot of time yelling at the main character. If we were immigration officials, she would not make it onto America. As a former Texan, I have strong feelings about horse theft. As a decent person and a mom, I have even stronger feelings about attempted rape of a minor. So I wanted to spank her and rescue her.

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire, #8)DarkShip ThievesFortune's Pawn (Paradox, #1)I managed to finish Blood Tyrants, which ended with a imminent and depressing Russian winter sweeping down. I've read War and Peace, so I don't expect the next and final book in this series to start off happy. I'll probably read it eventually, since I have a completist kink. The other genre books I read were two science fiction romances for Vaginal Fantasy: Darkship Thieves and Fortune's Pawn. The latter was good enough that I want to finish the series -- I liked the main character, who was a powerful enough soldier that her strength and directness obscured how smart she was from most of her peers. I'm having more trouble finishing Darkship Thieves; it's an obvious homage to Friday (it's dedicated to Heinlein) which makes it both fun and occasionally infuriating. I'm still following my rule that I can put a book down the instant I don't want to turn the page, whether because I'm bored with the situation or uncomfortable with the direction things are going. I find I put it down a lot, but I don't want to send it back unfinished.
Weeping Willow
Mockingjay (The Hunger Game...I also read a lot of YA, almost all of it dystopian. I finished Weeping Willow, the only non-SF, although its setting of 50's era rural Virginia is almost as alien to me as any of the magic sporting dystopias such as Mockingjay, which I read after finally seeing the movie. I usually read the book first, but I thought I'd try reading the book in the middle, and I think it made things interesting. Xan was the only one who had read the book, and he approved of most of the changes made. I'm interested in seeing what they do in the final movie. I liked how young Katniss seemed -- she never wanted to be a savior, and if she kept her narrow focus more power to her. And I also appreciated how Katniss wasn't caught up in the love triangle -- neither boy ever really saw her, just their ideal of her.

While We Run (When We Wake,...Stranger (The Change, #1)I heard about Smith & Brown's The Stranger back in the Gay YA net kerphuffle a few years back, so I was glad to get a chance to read it. My kids had already grabbed it and approved, so I hustled to finish it before the library called it home. A solid read, good enough that I ran out and bought the sequel (even if I can't read it until my book fast finishes at the end of the month). I did think it would have been a tighter book with fewer viewpoints; I might have suggested dropping the ranger, who didn't seem as much of a stranger as the lost prince, the prospector, the engineer, or even the mayor's daughter. And then I had another good time reading Karen Healey's While We Run, a Cybils nominee, even though I still haven't managed to read the first book in this series. That will make it a hard sell for my son; maybe I shouldn't tell him? Both these books are good examples of how diversity in YA makes books stronger -- the different kinds of people make the world seem bigger and stakes more important.

SalvageDeath Sworn (Death Sworn, #1)I'm working on two other Cybils books as the library is mocking me with its ebook hold system -- jumping me from tenth in line to READY without any notice. So far both Salvage and Death Sworn are too grim to hold me for long; the last thing I want to read if I'm feeling down is a book where women are denied literacy or a school filled with suicidal assassin children in training. I don't want to abandon either, but so far I'll only spend about twenty minutes at a time in their worlds.

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 4/81. Started a fifth and a sixth.
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 16/51.  Barely on schedule, oops.
  3. Award Winning Book Challenge: Can I count this page as a review? If so I have five.
  4. Full House Challenge: 13/25
  5. Book Riot Read Harder: 10/24
  6. Alphabetically Inclined:  I J  V X Y Z still missing. 20/26
  7. TBR Challenge: 10 books, 25 library books.
  8. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  9. Reading My Library: Library temporarily closed, so on hiatus.

Reading Diary:
3/2 Monday: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant (started, completed), The Blood of Tyrants, The Jury, Weeping Willow
Tuesday: The Blood of Tyrants (completed), Weeping Willow, The Edge (audio)
Wednesday: Weeping Willow (completed), The Edge (audio)
Thursday: The Edge (audio, completed), The Stranger (started)
Friday: The Stranger, 
Saturday: The Stranger
Sunday: The Stranger (completed), Rob Roy, NERDS, Reading and Learning to Read, Darkship Thieves (started)
3/9 Monday: Darkship Thieves
Tuesday: Fortune's Pawn (started), Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It (started), Salvage (started), NERDS, 
Wednesday: Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It (completed), West of the Moon (started)
Thursday: Fortune's Pawn, While We Run (started),
Friday: Fortune's Pawn
Saturday: Fortune's Pawn
Sunday: Fortune's Pawn, Catwing, Catwings Return, Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, Jane On Her Own (four tiny books by Ursula Le Guin, for  family book club)
3/16 Monday: West of the Moon, Fortune's Pawn (completed),
Tuesday: West of the Moon, While We Run, Darkship Thieves
Wednesday: While We Run (completed),  Lost Enchantment, Reading and Learning to Read, West of the Moon, Darkship Thieves, Mockingjay (started)
Thursday: Mockingjay
Friday: Mockingjay, West of the Moon (completed), The October Country, Reading and Learning to Read, Salvage, Darkship Thieves, Salvage, Possession,
Saturday: Mockingjay (completed), The October Country, Reading and Learning to Read, Salvage, Darkship Thieves, Death Sworn (started)
Sunday: Darkship Thieves, The October Country, Salvage, Possession, Death Sworn, Life After Life

Started: Ten
Completed: Ten
Currently Reading: 22.

My new rule is that I have to finish two books before starting a new one. We'll see if that helps. I'd like my currently reading to be about ten, which includes all the books I'm inching through, audio books, emergency books on my phone, etc.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Recovering From the Cold of Self Pity

Last week I went out to dinner, lost my wallet, and caught a cold. Other than that it was a very pleasant evening! The wallet problem was fairly simple to fix; the last thing to replace will be my drivers license, which I plan to do tomorrow. (Why the last thing? I wanted to have my new glasses when I got it, and I had to get the credit cards to pay for the glasses.)

The cold wasn't actually not that bad, mostly a cough and a runny nose (so, two symptoms that maximized my germ factory and distribution capabilities), so I stayed home a lot. But on Monday and Tuesday, a sudden surge of self-pity also rose up and made me incapable of independent action. It was amazing how incapacitating it was.

I've had flu, so I know how it feels to be exhausted from turning your pillow over. But this was different -- all my energies went into feeling sorry for myself as I went through tissue box after tissue box. I didn't even feel that poorly. Is this what the stereotypical sufferer of Man Flu goes through? If so, my sympathy now runneth over. Luckily my nephew came over after school on Monday and brought me some water to drink. Having people care for you is the best cure for this terrible disease.

I'm now fully recovered, so I am ready to make an examiniation of my reading week. So, what did I spend my time on this week?

Monday: Life After Life, The October Country, Archangel's Shadows
Tuesday: Archangel's Shadows (completed), The October Country,  Reading and Learning to Read, Shadows and Dreams
Wednesday: Life After Life, Shadows & Dreams, The Edge (audio), On Immunity, The Jury
Thursday: Weeping Willow (started), The Edge (audio), Shadows & Dreams, On Immunity
Friday: How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You (started, completed), The Edge (audio), Weeping Willow, Shadows & Dreams (completed),
Saturday: Blood of Tyrants, The Edge (audio), On Immunity (completed)
Sunday: Blood of Tyrants, Weeping WillowThe Jury, Salvage (started),

And the report from last week, which included some vacation reading:

Monday: Tell the Wolves I'm HomeThe Edge (audio), The Danger, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age (completed), Anna of Byzantium, About That Night, Wildflowers, Inkheart, TinkerOn Immunity (started)
Tuesday: Tinker, The October Country, Possession
Wednesday: Life After Life (started), Shadows and Dreams, Blood of Tyrants, The October Country, Archangel's Shadows (started), Out of the Easy, On Immunity, The Edge (audio)
Thursday: The Edge (audio), Out of the Easy, The Danger, Life After Life, Blood of Tyrants
Friday: Out of the Easy (completed), Life After Life, The Danger (completed), The Edge (audio), Archangel's Shadows, On Immunity
Saturday: Life After Life, The October Country, Archangel's Shadows
Sunday: Life After Life, Archangel's Shadows, 

So I finished six books, and started another six.  But this week I expect to finish all the library books I started the year with, so I'll have a few weeks of reading my own books before I'm allowed to open the floodgates again.

On Immunity: An InoculationSlow Reading in a Hurried AgeI like reading books about reading. Slow Reading in a Hurried Age reminded me of the deeper joys of reading, of the chance to talk to minds across time and space. So I've tried to reserve some books for slow, careful reading, saving the lighter stuff for reading in grocery lines, waiting outside school events, blah blah blah. Both Eula Biss's On Immunity and Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant repaid this effort, Biss giving me insights into what could make otherwise responsible people deny their children their vaccinations. (They are still stupid, but I see how that stupidity can happen. It's not like I don't do dumb things myself.) And Chast's book made me both revisit my father's decline and death and hope for a more prepared time when I start down that rapidly sloping path.

Shadows & Dreams (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator, #2)Archangel's Shadows (Guild Hunter, #7)On a lighter note, during the day I enjoyed the latest Nalini Singh archangel paranormal, with her combat ready men and women dashing about being heroic, battling inner demons, and having hot sex. As one does. I couldn't quite get in the mind set of Alexis Hall's Shadows & Dreams  -- the concept of a lesbian P.I. dividing her time between mystery and her vampire royalty lover seemed fun, but Kate's dedication to being hard boiled made me lose respect for her intelligence.

Weeping WillowLife After LifeIt turns out that Weeping Willow takes place in Virginia, not West Virginia, so just as well I didn't stay up all night last year to finish it. It's a fine presentation of teen age life in the late fifties, but I'm squeamish about the incest parts. Kate Atkinson's Life After Life also puts me off with it's dedication to hitting every cliche plot possible (it can do this because of the restarting conceit). I preferred Jo Walton's My Real Children for the philosophy of it all.

Out of the EasyBlood of Tyrants (Temeraire, #8)I finally got far enough into the latest Temeraire book for traction, and thank goodness the amnesia plot didn't last the whole story. I suspect it's messing up my memory of the European wars of the early 1800s, though. I finally finished Out of the Easy last week, so I should go back and see what won the Cybils last year.  I won't look at this year's results until Christmas, of course!

The DangerThe Edge
I'm enjoying my Dick Francis books -- my current car audio and my complete pleasure read. And just to make myself feel productive, I polished off a small Christmas present, despite having my kids constantly pluck it from my lap to reread a few pages.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You

I'm off to sign up to see what everyone else is reading lately at bookjourney's and Teach Mentor Texts lists.

2015 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2014: 3/81. Started a fourth.
  2. Where Am I Reading?: 13/51. Reading a Virginia book.
  3. Award Winning Book Challenge: Can I count this page as a review? If so I have three.
  4. Full House Challenge: 4/25
  5. Book Riot Read Harder: 8/24
  6. Alphabetically Inclined:  I J X Y Z still missing. 
  7. TBR Challenge: 8 books, 21 library books.
  8. Best of the Best 2012: 52/25.  I am stalled.
  9. Reading My Library: Library temporarily closed, so on hiatus.