a Springtime reading update

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I’ve been doing that terrible thing I do where I read several books at once and take forever to finish any of them because I’m constantly switching between stories. At the moment, I’m having an affair with…

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Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

This epic tome of epic proportions is a spinoff of The Last of the Mohicans, though you don’t need to be familiar with the history of Hawkeye to appreciate this novel. It follows the life and times of Elizabeth Middleton, who arrives in New York from England to settle on her father’s estate, known as Paradise. She soon learns that her father has more planned for her than she realized when agreeing to join him and her brother in Paradise, but Mr. Middleton’s plans are foiled when Elizabeth meets Nathaniel Bonner, Hawkeye’s son who lives between two worlds. The novel is part love story, part adventure, and filled with historical detail and interesting characters.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

I actually finished this one! I downloaded Keeping the Castle while testing my library’s new 3m Cloud subscription (for which I was responsible and was dying to test it out before leaving), so it was really a random choice but a wonderful read nonetheless. The blurb on the digital copy likens it to I Capture the Castle, but while it has a similar theme (teen girl lives in a castle with her mad family), I would say that the similarities end there. Keeping the Castle is more Regency farce than coming of age novel. It’s a fun read for any Jane Austen fan, but the narrative bears more resemblance to the comedy in Bridget Jones than Dodie Smith’s classic.

Tanamera by Neol Barber

I only just started reading this one a few days ago and haven’t been able to make much headway yet, but it offers a fascinating account of life in Singapore in the early 20th century. I read it’s supposed to be loosely based on a true story, but don’t know enough about the history to comment on that. It reminds me a bit of Gone with the Wind, especially the account of privilege, balls, and life on the rubber plantations.

VB6 by Mark Bittman

I enjoy the occasional book about food and lifestyle, and VB6 intrigued me from the moment I first saw it for sale at Target. I finally got around to picking it up from my library and have been reading it in the mornings. I was curious to read his take on eating vegan before dinner, since this is something that I’ve been doing for a few years and have found it to be really effective for keeping my own health issues in check.


eat wild today and tomorrow

Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson

eatingwildSo the first book of the new year is really one that I started reading in November, but forgot at work when I went on break for the holidays and didn’t pick up again until last week. I was torn between coming in to pick it up and waiting to finish it, but my desire to stay away won out and I waited until I was back at the library to pick it up. Contrary to popular belief, librarians don’t spend all their time reading, so this took me longer to read than it would have otherwise because I was reading it in stolen snatches of time between meeting with students and working on project. I always have a smart go-to read when I’m at the desk for those rare moments when there’s no one around to ask for help with their research. Makes me look busy and studious 🙂

Eating on the Wild Side is one of my first forays into the world of food and nutrition writing. It’s full of information on making the most of your produce purchases by knowing which fruits and vegetables provide the greatest amount of nutrients and antioxidants, as well as how to prepare them to receive the full benefit of their bounty (ha! how’s that for a summary). Robinson also provides plenty of history and information for those wishing to grow their own produce (wish I had the space for that, I really do).

I learned so much while reading this book… seriously, I jotted nearly half a notepad full of notes on how to pick and identify different varieties of fruits and veggies, how to eat them, and how to store them. And I’ve already been applying these lessons while doing groceries and preparing meals. It’s strangely empowering to know what you’re eating. In addition to packing a lot of information into an approachable, readable book, Robinson includes summaries at the end of each chapter to highlight key points for future reference and provides variety charts for the fruits and veggies mentioned in each section (each section is divided by type of fruit or veggie).

Some of the neat factoids I learned:

  • You should prepare garlic (pressed, sliced, etc.) 15 minutes before cooking it to get the most antioxidant value

  • Limes should really be yellow when ripe, so choose a heavy one with a yellowish tinge for ripe juiciness

  • Pineapples, Bananas, and Papapayas don’t have much to offer nutrient-wise, but they’re still delish

  • Lettuce varieties with wide-open leaf structures (such as Bibb, but especially red varieties) have more antioxidants because they produce more phytonutrients to withstand the sun

  • Eat colorfully, but don’t forget cauliflower, even the white one is full of the good stuff

  • and lots more!

If you’re into learning about food and nutrition, this is a great introduction.

It’s a weakness…

So I checked out a book… It was a hold request, it would be wrong of me not to pick it up… Right? Yes, I think so. Good. All agreed.


On reading off the shelf in 2014

In light of my decision to join ROOT (Reading our own tomes) challenge on LibraryThing (and my sudden realization that my cameras have been sorely neglected since I became a smartphone toting idiot), I present the shelves to be read!

Seriously, I have to start taking pictures with a real camera again. It’s sad how few high quality pictures are in my 2013 folder. No more of that sorry business! There will be pictures in 2014! And books! And CLASSICS! Yes, I will get around to reading those this year as well.

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And books on the overflow shelf…
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I told myself I would get through at least 30 of the books on this shelf (I haven’t actually counted them, so 30 seems like a good, general number). Maybe I can read them all? Perhaps? Hmm?

I will also find time to paint that shelf and primp it up a bit. It was a hand-me-down that needs some loving care.

What I’ve been reading… another random mini-post

I’ve been reading plenty, but there is only so much time in a day and I’ve sacrificed book blogging for the sake of staying sane and not turning into a regimented oddball… So here is a mini-reaction post to keep the thrill alive.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Yes, I picked this one up after watching the show, and while it is vastly different from the sexed up dramady that is the Netflix original series, Piper Kerman’s memoir on her year spent in prison is incredibly sensitive to the reality of life in prison. She bears witness in a way that captures the stories of the women she meets without sensationalizing their experiences or victimizing them.

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Bridget is back! I’ve been a Bridget fan for years… confession, it was Bridget who turned me on to Jane Austen. For a fictional character, she’s had a huge influence on my idea of womanhood. I was so excited when I learned that the sequel was coming out and I was not disappointed. Bridget has grown, but she is still the Bridget I love–flawed, slightly neurotic, but always funny and real. Loved it 🙂

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I just had to read Attachments after reading Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. It was a bit slower than her other books, but still enjoyable and full of nostalgia.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
In my effort to read more nonfiction, I checked out Salt Sugar Fat and became hooked. Moss’s style is journalistic and very detailed… it’s a history of the best/worst foods that most of us grew up with (especially, if you were a 90s child… terrible things came out of the 90s).

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
I received an advance copy of NOS4A2 from William Morrow but I regret to say that I couldn’t get through it. I read about half of it but just could not relate to any of the characters and gave up when it started to seem like a task to continue reading. Just lost interest and didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. I really wanted to like Joe Hill, but I don’t 😦

Summer Reading, part 4

Summer is very nearly over. Just a few more weeks and students will be back and it will feel like all work and no play once again. I’ve managed to read (or try to read) most of the books on my self-appointed summer reading list, with the exception of the Kate Locke book… I’ve been distracted by library holds that arrived all at once. I’ll try to get to it before the summer ends.

My latest read was Among Others by Jo Walton, a story about magic, ethics, sci-fi, and growing up. It’s one of those books that starts slow but then sucks you in and doesn’t let go even after you’ve finished. I stayed up reading this one (and I’m a strict 8 hour sort of girl, I don’t stay up for any old book).


Of course, despite my best effort to be a responsible book keeper, I’ve gone out and acquired more books… It can’t be helped. I’ve been wanting to read these for ages and they were autographed, so I gave in.


I really only went to the shop for the pins… Talk about impulse buys.

Summer Reading, part 1

or book geek problems…

I love my library, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by the number of holds that I receive at the same time. Like the ones I received this week. I started Clockwork Princess, only to receive Beautiful Creatures a couple of days later… so I had to put CP on hold because BC is a no-renewals, high demand copy. Must read it now, or else! And it is awesome! I’m totally engrossed in the story and so glad I decided to give it a shot. I’m falling in love with YA again this summer.

Now, I’m almost through the book… my reading has slowed to a few stolen moments now that I’m so focused on writing… but now another of my long-time hold requests just came in! Must finish BC and start Bitterblue before I can get back to CP. ZOMG! It’s like a race to finish before my check out period is up.

And let’s not even talk about my getting back to GofT. A Storm of Swords is mocking me with its secrets.


Graphic Novels & Visual Literacy… in which I read frantically

It seems like ages since I’ve had something to blog about… concentrating on my writing has means that I’m reading less often, and what I am reading tends to be of the short and sweet variety, or the so well-known (ie. Game of Thrones) there’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said. I hope that makes sense.

For the most part, I’ve been reading for work. Several of us take turns organizing the semester read-along hosted by the university library, and this semester I selected Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive–which is absolutely brilliant and such a great way to introduce students to graphic novels–now, the kicker is that I am really really into the idea of teaching graphic novels at the university level, but I’m not faculty and I’m reluctant to take on a class (not because I wouldn’t enjoy, but because I don’t want to be dragged into the politics of teaching where I work), so my solution is to host a presentation on graphic novels and visual literacy. Because, not to toot my own horn, but I don’t think there’s anyone else who is really qualified to present on this topic at the university.

What I’m getting at is that I’ve been reading A LOT of graphic novels and books on teaching graphic novels, and they have been fantastic and engaging and incredibly thought-provoking, but in preparing for the presentation, I haven’t had much time to put my thoughts together into something like a cohesive blog post.

Some of the awesome graphic novels I’ve read for this project include:

Watchmen by Alan Moore – Watchmen is one of those stories that I heard so much about, I kind of felt like I’d already read it. It’s a classic and a must read for anyone interested in teaching graphic novels as a literary genre.

Epileptic by David B. – This is an English translation of a bestselling, autobiographical French graphic novel (Franco-Belgian graphic novels are the top-selling publications after American and Japanese graphic novels). This is the story of one family’s quest to understand and help a boy with a severe form of epilepsy. It’s trippy and disjointed, and very philosophical. The art and narrative styles really add to the sense of desperation felt by the writer.

Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – The first volume in what is definitely a sweeping Sci-Fi saga, this novel is the perfect blend of sex, blood, and mystery. Trust me. If you like anything on HBO, you’ll like Saga.

Blankets by Craig Thompson – Another autobiographical graphic novel. Blankets is beautiful. It’s a story of faith and family, love and growing up, and realizing that you can be the person you want to be. There is so much subtext in the panels, Thomspson’s art and text are perfect.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – A YA style ghost story about fitting in and one girl’s encounter with a not-so-friendly ghost. This is a great alternative to the traditional coming-of-age in high school story and a very creepy read à la Coraline.

Then there are the theory and pedagogy books… I won’t review these now, as I’m still delving into them, but here are some quotes to feed your mind and soul.

From Carter, J.B. (2007). Introduction–Carving a niche: Graphic novels in the English language arts classroom (pp.1-25). In J.B. Carter (Ed.), Building literacy connections with graphic novels: Page by page, panel by panel. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

“there is much more to these books than superheroes in leotards and capes” (p.2).

“a good education–one bound in experience and meaning making–is probably an education that has been enriched with a broad definition of art and culture” (p.3).

“artistic experiences are important in developing literacy and critical thinking skills” (p.7).

“An important benefit of graphic novels in that they present alternative views of culture, history and human life in general in accessible ways” (as cited in Carter, 2007, p. 8).

“there is one format that covers a variety of genres, addresses current and relevant issues for teens, stimulates young people’s imagination, and engages reluctant readers: graphic novels” (as cited in Carter, 2007, p.10)

From Hatfield, C. (2009). Defining comics in the classroom; or, the pros and cons of unfixability (pp. 19-27). In S.E. Tabachnik (Ed.), Teaching the graphic novel. New York, NY: Modern Language Association.

“In sequential art, the experience of reading text is combined with the experience, omnipresent today on the electronic screen, of viewing; and, in good sequential art, the lyricism of poetic word choice is combined with the lyricism of striking visual images to create a stunning, hypnotic form of poetry” (p.4).

“reading today has become a hybrid textual-visual experience” (p.4)