Category Archives: resolutions

Not Quite Failing. Ish.

Remember how I was all about using this for accountability on my reading goals, how I was going to get regular content out of it all? *sigh* Yeah, me too. I blame the fumes of “thank goodness 2016 is over” for that youthful optimism.

The good news is that in spite of “blog regularly” being a fail, my own personal diversifying challenge is still holding up.

#ownvoices – I went the YA path for this one since my work YA/juvenile reading challenge was still underway, reading Diverse Energies, a collection of short dystopian stories with an emphasis on diversity in both authorship and setting. I went into it warily, not because short story collections are hit or miss (it’s a feature of the genre that I’m aware of), but because after the end of the Divergent trilogy, I threw the book across the room, lamented the hours I lost to it, and declared YA dystopian lit DEAD to me. Dead and buried. Deep as I could go. But this collection… well, it didn’t give me a hankering to read about another simplistically divided society with a (typically white) Chosen Teen to save it, but I enjoyed it, which is an acceptable enough outcome. Standout stories to me were the ones from Malinda Lo and Ken Liu, both very different in tone and content, but good enough to make me seek more of them out, and I went on to read Lo’s Ash per a friend’s recommendation and loved it, so hey, bonus points.

New or forthcoming – This title was a newly released one, Ellen Klages’ Passing Strangeone of Tor.com’s novella line. This story sucked me right in, but it wasn’t quite the story I expected. It opens with a compelling framework, that of an older woman retrieving a hidden and valuable painting from a hidden tunnel hearkening back to Prohibition days before quietly dying. And then we get to the heart of the story, which seems like a love story against the backdrop of 1940s San Francisco, following a core of several women, including Helen, the woman from the introduction and Haskel, the painter of the valuable work. There’s an initial whisper of a hint of magic, but it fades away, leaving a story that feels more like historical fiction as Haskel meets and falls in love with the lovely Emily, a singer from the local club, known, among other things, for being “a haven for women who loved each other could meet in public without fear or the shame of sidelong glances from ‘nice’ ladies.” Things are going lovely, for the most part, until someone from Haskel’s past shows up, and disaster threatens to unravel everything.

passing strangeAbout two thirds of the way through, I looked up from the book in surprise, wondering why it was classified as a fantasy since I hadn’t really seen much magic. Oh, it had been hinted at in a couple places, crept into the occasional conversation, usually contrasted against science in the process, both otherwise quietly unacknowledged. And then everything came together. I had been lost in the atmosphere and the air of forbiddenness foreshadowed in the reference to Prohibition in the introduction, that I had forgotten there was supposed to be magic. I’m not sure if that’s a matter of narrative unevenness, or simply a testament to the author’s compelling homage to San Francisco and the people who found sanctuary there. If you like immersive atmosphere in your fiction, give this one a try because it has that in spades, and if like me, that gorgeous cover piqued your interest, definitely pick it up because… I’m not going to spoil anything, but it’s a marvelous reveal when you realize what’s happening.

Different genre – I thought at first this might be a bit of a cheat to count Mixed Vegetablessince manga is really more of a form than a genre, but it’s really a story that isn’t in my typical wheelhouse to begin with, so we’ll count it. Look, I’m a reader of romance, and it’s my go-to when things get heavy and I want the assurance of a happy ending, but even then, I like a bit of angst burning in the background. So this story was, overall, much fluffier than I normally would gravitate toward, plus, well, cooking has generally been a chore to get through for me, not a creative process with its own merits, so the foodie angle of this romance was a tough sell to begin with. I tried a volume, and it was cute, but nothing that overwhelmingly drew me in. I’m not the reader for it, but the next time I see someone with an armful of romances and foodie-themed reads, I know the perfect thing to hand them.

And that was February in expanding my reading horizons. March was a near miss with a reading slump and crafting slump and, really, overall lapse in anything remotely resembling productivity, but I’ll have that post soon. Spoiler: even though I barely got any reading done (relative to my usual reading pace), I still managed to meet my goals, and I’ve got a theory on that I’ll talk a bit more about…

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(Maybe not actual bunnies)

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Project Intentional Reading: January Checkin

As I mentioned, my goals this year include monthly requirements intended to diversify my reading. January is done, and it was a resounding success.

#OwnVoices

The first category I dove into was #OwnVoices, that is, stories written about characters of some minority background, by authors of that background. January’s Own Voices read fulfilled both my own reading goal and a work challenge.if-i-was-your-girl

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a young adult novel following protagonist Amanda Hardy as she adjusts to a new school, makes friends, and falls in love. She’s also transgender. Now, I tend to like YA problem novels, filled with angst and feels… and this… wasn’t. It was a sweet story of friendship and first love that didn’t ignore the threats facing trans women, but it also didn’t focus on the angst. I was pleasantly surprised by this, heartened that a book like this exists for teens who may previously have not seen their experiences reflected in novels, or perhaps worse, only seen them cast in the light of tragedy.

 

 

New or Forthcoming

when-dimple-met-rishiBookRiot lists are dangerous for my to-read list, and this list of “Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books” made my to-read pile explode. From this list, I was able to get Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, courtesy of Eidelweiss. It doesn’t come out until May 30 of this year, but I can’t wait to squee over it with other readers when it does. The story deals with a topic that I haven’t seen much in YA lit—that of two Indian-American teens whose parents try to throw them together in an arranged marriage. Needless to say, this does not go over well with heroine Dimple, who faces uphill battle enough being taken seriously as an aspiring STEM professional without her overbearing mother focusing on her marriageability; Rishi is more open to the suggestion, old-fashioned and romantic without being conservative. The “arranged marriage” conceit may raise some eyebrows, but Dimple’s consternation at it will quickly draw in sympathy, and the day-to-day concerns of their shared summer program project are familiar ground for the genre. I did find myself wishing the secondary characters had been a bit better developed, but on the whole, this book left me smiling.

Non-typical Genre

true-gritOf all the categories, this one had me dragging my feet the worst, and really, it was my own fault, locking myself into what exact book it had to be. My library’s winter reading program theme this year is books-to-movies, so I decided to read Charles Portis’s True Grit for both the program and this category, since westerns are emphatically Not In My Wheelhouse. I’d started listening to the audio book a few years ago and got maybe halfway done, so this was going to be the year I did it, I vowed. And… it was pretty good. I don’t really like westerns, but I do love stories with fierce female protagonists, and Mattie Ross has moxie in spades. Her droll, driven voice made this revenge quest quite enjoyable, and I’m glad I got back around to it.

 

That was month one of my personal reading challenge done. February is well under way, though again, I find myself flying through #OwnVoices and New/Forthcoming categories and balking at atypical genre, so I think that area needs a bit more effort on my part.

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On reading challenges

Every year, I eyeball the various reading challenge lists that go around. They should absolutely be my catnip since I live a life surrounded by books. Fundamentally, I think they serve a valuable purpose in providing a structured framework for people who want to read outside their normal boundaries. And can I say, for the record, that Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge for 2017 is woke, and I love it?! But I’m not doing it, or any other pre-specified challenge this year. Not exactly.

I work in a library. I am surrounded by books every day, and to the lament of my to-read list, new books that I want to read constantly cross my path, so my to-reads are in a constant state of flux. I’m also notoriously stubborn, and the moment a task feels like homework, I’m checked out (yes, librarian pun intentional. You’re welcome). Because of these things, I’ve determined three flexible categories intended to serve my own specific needs.

With a to-read goal in 2017 of 110 books, averaging about 8 books a month, I have figured out that three “challenge” categories a month will give me structure, built-in-deadlines, and enough room to read whatever else crosses my path without feeling like my reading is dictated by external parameters.

  1. Read at least one book per month of #OwnVoices, because we need diverse books. I am uniquely positioned to signal boost great books or underappreciated books from underrepresented perspectives, but I’m not doing anyone any favors if I’m not aware of what’s out there. My Twitter feed is a great way to follow the conversation, but I can do so much more if I’ve read things and can sell them that way. I also want to be conscientious about how I talk  about these titles, too. I don’t want to fall into the trap of making diversity sound like something that should be consumed, like vegetables, because it’s good for you–I want to signal boost stories because they’re beautiful, heartpounding magical journeys with the strength of family love at the heart of it, or sweet YA stories of friendship and first romantic love.
  2. Read at least one new or forthcoming book a month. I actually did much better last year than I’ve done in the past, but this is also an area that needs conscientious work since it’s so easy to get caught up in, well, getting caught up with all the things that have already been published that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I was finally able to participate in LibraryReads‘ year-end best of list last year, and I’d like to do so again this year, with the hope of helping bring more attention to the speculative fiction that I adore. I also have a veritable cache of delicious books waiting on my Kindle from Netgalley and Eidelweiss, but e-books are a format that is not my primary way of consuming books, so I need a bit of a nudge there. This also includes reading more of the “it books” that take library hold lists by storm, just to better know what the fuss is about.
  3. Finally, I vow to read at least one book a month that is not in my usual reading genres because it’s important for a librarian to be widely read, and I tend to read deep in several genres without branching out much, left to my own devices. I’m trying to decide if it’s cheating to allow myself to use book club books for this category since they’re titles I’ve already committed to reading and what I choose for them is rarely what I would choose for myself. I think, in the spirit of this challenge, it would be cheating, but I’m leaving myself a little wiggle room in the event of the occasional hectic month.

And that’s what I’ve got. I’ve knocked out two categories this month already and the only thing holding me back from the third is waiting for my library’s adult winter reading challenge to start since the book I want to read is on theme but can’t be read before January 15. I’m going to try and do end-of-month reading wrap-ups, both to keep me accountable and, honestly, to have ready-made blog content. Here goes, 2017.

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Belated Thoughts on WorldCon

If there’s a phrase that encompasses my overall sense of self these days, I think it’s growing pains. I have a big-girl librarian degree now, but being a paraprofessional means I’m not technically using it. I’m happy enough in my current gig that I don’t have the frantic sense of needing to get to the next phase with a desperate hunger yet, but the occasional offhand comment about paras from peers further along the career track puts me right back in my place, whether the slight was intended or not. But this isn’t a post about imposter syndrome; it’s about finding other spaces to belong and grow.

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[Insert profound metaphor about growing where you’re planted here]


It’s a restless sort of place, this growing pains spot, and in the absence of the whole finish-the-MLIS life goal, I’m finally seeking out other ways to develop my skills and interests and hobbies. And I’ve realized there’s a synergy to some of them, a discovery I made watching a panel at WorldCon this year.

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Trying to remember how to blog

Well, I had bold words about not being stressed out about the end of grad school. Ha! Youthful optimism is not yet beyond me! It started off OK, and then comps hit, and all my best intentions of keeping up with blogging and reading and making pretty things went out the window as a very stressful semester wound down.

My to-read goal has fallen behind the nice healthy lead I built up.
My yarn stash exploded between retail-therapy yarny purchases and reduced crafting time.
My poor cats had to triple their efforts at obnoxiousness just to get my attention.
My laundry… sorta didn’t happen as frequently as it should have.
But… it’s done now. (The semester, I mean. Laundry still is a little behind.)
All those places where I refer to myself as an almost-librarian need to change; I’m not sure that’s sunk in yet. I’ve achieved the goal that’s dominated the last three years of my life. I don’t have the paper, but I do have the transcript, and that suffices for the moment.
So what’s next? New goals, of course. I’ve got a few.
First and foremost, now that the bulk of my learning isn’t coming from structured classes, I’m ready to start exploring things I’ve wanted to learn, like new fiber arts. It’s time to learn to spin, I think. If I’m feeling bold, it might even be time to figure out the mysteries of my sewing machine. It’s all up to me now.
Get back to my reviewing. I feel so rusty after a few months of barely having time to read, much less review. I’d also like to branch out and start doing more pre-publication reviews. To that end, I’ve invested in a device to help me accomplish this. Yeah, totally a professional investment >.>
I may be inordinately pleased that my Kindle case matches the knitted cozy a friend made me :).

My precious. First book I downloaded was Cat Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making because the end of grad school demands wit and whimsy as an antidote.

And, generally, get back to the things that got put on hold with school – the gym, crafting, blogging.
I gave myself permission to put those on the back burner, but it’s time to start cooking again. So here’s to a reboot of the blog.

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Obligatory retrospective post

Farewell, 2014. It’s been an interesting year with major life stresses but also good changes. And lots of reading.

For the first time since I outgrew picture books, I read 100 books in a year, no small feat since I went from working sixteen hours a week as a page to a full-time job as a clerk with grad school for extra… fun. My reading had a lot of the familiar staples of my leisure reading, and some new stuff too–popular materials I decided to read as personally-driven professional development, and historical romances, which have become my go-to reading “snack.” Somewhere in there, I’ll generate a list of my top 10, a feat easier done with a pool of 50 books. Confession: it’s probably going to be more like a top 13 or 14 shoehorned into 10 by virtue of lumping series installments together.

I did somewhat remember to blog here, once I found it again. I intended this blog to be about reading, library school, and crafting. I managed that first one, at least, so next year, I hope to bring it back into balance and get better at posting more regularly.

Library school was a mixed bag this year, with some amazing classes (Readers Advisory and Public Libraries – what I consider “dessert” courses) and some less so. On the upside, I survived cataloging (definitely a “vegetables” class), and life seems a lot less bleak without that hanging over my head. I thought it, combined with my not having had any face-to-face classes in a year and the decreased urgency that comes of gaining a full-time job in one’s career path, had killed all my fire for library school, but I’ve found myself looking forward to the fresh start of the spring semester, with a class on teen materials and one on literacy.

Crafting continues to be a regular part of my life. My 2013 resolution post had me planning to expand on my knitting skills, and I’m tickled to report that somewhere over half my projects at a given time are knitting lately. Another new/ongoing goal is to continue working from stash, a goal I started in on, ringing in the new year with winding yarn for a new project, mmmm, new project anticipation! With that, I’m off to craft. It took 2 1/2 hours of tussling with the tangles alone–I am not going to let that stop me.

Here’s to a 2015 filled with good books, good yarn, and further growth of my library career. Cheers!

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Scatter-brained much? Or, How I Lost My Blog

Ever have one of those days when you can’t find your keys? Or you set the coffee cup down on the car and almost forget it, driving off without it? Or walk out the door without the books you were planning to return to the library? Yeeeeeah, been there, done that. And then some.

I lost my blog. This blog, in fact. I knew it existed. I remembered creating it. I was pretty sure I had posted in it a couple of times or so. I knew it had “yarn” somewhere in the title, but flipping through my e-mail accounts and online accounts turned up nothing as it had no comments. So I did what comes naturally after a long search: I resigned myself to replacing the missing item, and lo, as soon as I went to create a new one, I found my WordPress login and the blog along with it.

Time to revive this thing. I’m in a readers advisory class this semester, and I plan to use this, along with my Goodreads account, to keep track of things as I read them and get more practice reviewing. And hopefully this time, I won’t lose the keys again.

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New Year’s Goals

Yarn-related goals:

  • Explore the possibilities of Tunisian crochet further.
  • Expand my knitting skills. This means actually learning how to purl because garter stitch is going to get boring after a while.
  • Work from stash for budget and space reasons, as well as to keep the furry orange menace from antagonizing my stash.
  • Make a fitted garment. Shawls are wonderful, but it’s time to attempt a cardigan again after that failed attempt a few years ago.
  • Finish up the slew of WIPs (works in progress). To make this more concrete in terms, all items in my Ravelry projects that were in-progress at the year’s beginning must be complete by Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Give more of my crochet time to charity, whether that’s preemie hats or cat beds or afghan squares.

Book and library-related goals:

  • Read at least 50 books this year.
  • Among them must be at least two classics. At present, I believe the contenders are Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend.
  • Expand reading into other genres, or at least, taste a sampling of the ones I’m less acquainted with, like thrillers, mysteries, and romance novels.
  • Read at least the first George R. R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire novel. If they’re as amazing as I’ve been led to believe, the rest will follow suit.
  • Read at least five books that have been sitting on my bookshelves but were never read. Good books will be kept, the rest sold back to Half Price Books.
  • Post reviews of my reading, here and perhaps as submissions to the library’s staff picks blog if I can work up the courage.
  • I love being a page, but it’s time to start applying to higher-level positions at the library. Ideally, this will result in the gaining of said position, but right now, I’m not getting anywhere without applying. Time to change that and at least gain some interviewing experience.

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