January Review and February Goals

We’re over a month into 2016 and I’m not quite on track with my reading goal! But I’m not worried because I have plenty of time to make up for it. I finished two books in January: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, edited by Philip Pullman.

Jane EyreI loved Jane Eyre. It wasn’t what I was expecting at first, with all the exposition about Jane’s childhood, so it took about a third of the book before I really got into it. Jane’s inner monologue is so beautifully written, and the relationship between her and Rochester was very sweet and charming. I’m looking forward to watching some movie and TV adaptations.

I also finished Philip Pullman’s retelling of the Brother Grimm’s fairy tales, which I actually started reading lastFairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm year. I had the book on my bedside table and on some nights would read a chapter, but it fell by the wayside and took me quite a while to get through them all! This was the first collection of Grimm tales I’ve read and I found them really entertaining. Fairy tales are such simple little things. They avoid all unnecessary descriptions, leaving just enough detail to tell the story and be done with it. If you want to gain a new appreciation for the art of storytelling, read the Brothers Grimm.

Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendAs for this month, I just finished reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. I’m a bit embarrassed because I should have read this book ages ago for work, but, well… the genre isn’t exactly my cup of tea and I put it off longer than I should have. BUT I’m happy to report that I thought the whole book was absolutely lovely! It’s such a sweet story filled with quirky, archetypal Midwestern characters, and who doesn’t love a book about books? Very meta.

I’m almost done with Beasts & Children by Amy Parker. I picked up a galley at Heartland Fall Forum and delved into it right away, but I found the subject matter so upsetting that, halfway through, I decided to hold off. But it really is superbly written and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it unread, so I’m pushing through!

The rest of February is sort of a question mark. I went to Anderson’s on Friday and bought A Little Life with plans to start in on it over the weekend—which I did. But now I’m realizing that I have a lot of reading to do for work this month, with sales conference coming up in March. As a result I’m not too sure I’ll have the time to dedicate myself to an absolutely heartbreaking 700-page novel, so unfortunately, Yanagihara may have to wait. Stay tuned for my February recap to find out what happens!

That’s all for now, my literary lovers!

xo stephanie


New Goals for a New Year

Happy New Year!

It’s been over nine months since my last post, so clearly I’ve had some trouble sticking to this blogging thing. I have a good excuse, though—I got a job! And in publishing, no less. Most of my mental energies in those first months of my employment were dedicated to adjusting to working a regular 9 to 5 (or rather, 8:30 to 5:30). Luckily, reading remained a constant in my life—but a lot of that reading was for work, and I’m pretty sure it’s a conflict of interest for me to review books for the publisher that pays my bills.

Sadly, I didn’t meet my 2015 reading goal of 50 books. I’m OK with that, because I knew it was a lofty goal, and one I set when I was free to read all day, every day. I managed to finish 30 books, though, and I know I can do even better this year. So it’s time to dust off this old blog and set some new goals for 2016!

My reading goal for 2016 has three parts:

1. Read 40 books.

I’ll admit that I didn’t read as much as I could have in 2015. Now that I’m settled in my job and I can anticipate approximately how much I’ll need to read for work each year, it’s time to dedicate myself to reading every night and every weekend, rather than browsing YouTube for hours. The Internet is my biggest distraction and time suck. I know the hardest part is getting started, but if you have any good tips for successfully putting away the devices and picking up a book instead, please leave them in the comments!

I haven’t decided how to count books from work. I do read a lot of our books for fun, but I want most of my reading material to be from other publishers. Each book will probably be considered on a case-by-case basis.

2. Complete Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

Last year, I tried to select books based on criteria from Popsugar’s Reading Challenge, which had 50 categories. Since I’m scaling down this year, Book Riot’s challenge is a perfect fit. This list is a great way to broaden my literary horizons while still leaving some room for me to read within my comfort zone. I’ll be keeping you updated on my selections throughout the year.

3. Read the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

This is something I attempted a couple times when I was younger, but never made it further than a few chapters into The Fellowship of the Ring. I think I just found the story too dense for my abilities at the time and as a result felt a bit incompetent. But I absolutely adore the films and I’m fascinated by the world and characters Tolkien created, so reading this series always been in the back of my mind. I’ve recently invested in some lovely editions of the three books, so those should be a big motivator. (I am personally of the opinion that a beautiful book is more enjoyable to read than an ugly one. Yeah, I judge books by their covers—so sue me.)

And that about covers it! I hope to be able to keep this thing updated throughout the year. I wasn’t very good about recording my thoughts on the books I read in 2015, and that makes me sad because I have a terrible memory and it would’ve been nice to look back. Since I don’t have a lot of spare time, I may try doing monthly roundups instead of reviews for every book I read. Ultimately, I want to keep my reading fun and stress-free! That’s the real goal, isn’t it?

Badass Feminism in Roxane Gay’s ‘Bad Feminist’

I openly embrace the label of bad feminist.z_feminist I do so because I am flawed and human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be. I have certain… interests and personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist. I cannot tell you how freeing it has been to accept this about myself.

I wish everyone would read this book. I’d quote the whole thing at you if I could—I practically did over at my tumblr. Reading these essays was like sitting down with my best friend and having casual but heartfelt discussions about the problematic nature of pop culture and politics, or like delving into a series of the best blog posts ever written about feminism and entertainment.

But I don’t want to put Gay on a “Feminist Pedestal,” a position she intentionally tries to avoid by preemptively labelling herself as a bad feminist: “People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. I regularly fuck it up. Consider me already knocked off.”

Continue reading “Badass Feminism in Roxane Gay’s ‘Bad Feminist’”

‘Peter Pan’ Reminded Me That Some of Our Most Powerful Stories Come From Children’s Literature

All children, except one, grow up.1412306050

I don’t know where or when I bought (received?) my copy of Peter Pan; I don’t even know when it was published because there’s no year on the edition notice. It’s been on my shelf for years and years and I’ve never read it, despite my adoration for the 1953 animated Disney film and the 1991 movie Hook, starring the late, great Robin Williams.

And in spite of my love for those films, I wasn’t really expecting to love the book. I just figured I should read it because it’s spawned countless stage productions, TV shows, films, comics, and even other books, so obviously the story’s made quite a lasting cultural impact. Perhaps I was just underestimating it because it’s a children’s book—ignorant, I know.

I’ll never make that mistake again, because—surprise!—I totally loved Peter Pan. Continue reading “‘Peter Pan’ Reminded Me That Some of Our Most Powerful Stories Come From Children’s Literature”

Review: ‘The House on Mango Street’ by Sandra Cisneros

We didn’t always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can’t remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there’d be one more of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six—Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my sister Nenny and me.

In the interest of saving time, let me just start by art8502wideasaying that I loved this book. The House on Mango Street came to me at the perfect time. After Into the Wild, I was feeling distracted; I didn’t think I could focus on a long, sprawling novel like I’d planned. So I picked this little novella off my shelf because it’s short—but that’s not why I loved it. Well, that’s part of it, but it’s more complicated.

The House on Mango Street is about Esperanza, the narrator, a young Mexican-American girl growing up in Chicago. Snippets of her life are revealed to us through vignettes—short chapters of one to four pages. They’re sort of like diary entries, and Cisneros’ succinct writing style and use of imagery make the vignettes beautifully poetic. Prose poetry, I guess you would call it.

Continue reading “Review: ‘The House on Mango Street’ by Sandra Cisneros”