Reading Intentionally

So its been a while.
Lets be honest. I’m never going to be very good at staying up to date, logging in regularly, or sticking to a plan. There are a lot of things I say I am going to do that I never get around to, or things that, if we are being completely honest, I wouldn’t keep up with if it wasn’t for friends (lovingly) finger wagging.
One thing I do regularly, out of both habit and as a necessity, is read. I like reading, I love reading, I down right need to read. It helps me escape, and cope with a world that righteously blows some times. Reading is not something that I will ever really need to be forced to do.
So while I have a litany of other resolutions I’d love to try my hand at this year, I’d like to make at least one that has a chance of succeeding. This year I want to read more intentionally. My book collection has almost doubled in the last 3 years, and I’m constantly trolling the various Value Villages in my city for new books to add. Some of my hunting has been intentional. There are two Canadian children/middle grade authors that I purchase on sight, and have multiple copies of their titles. I constantly keep my eyes open for titles I recognize from my childhood that I never hesitate to throw in my cart. But if I’m being honest with myself, a majority of the books I’m picking up are impulse buys. Books I’ve either heard about on BookTube, authors I’ve heard about but never read, or books with an awesome cover and half decent synopsis. Considering I’m really only spending $20 at a go and walk away with 3-6 books, I guess it’s really not too bad. The problem is how many of these books just sit on my shelves, looking beautiful and not getting read. I’m much more likely to pick a book from a most recent haul then I am to browse my own shelves.
This year I want to pull up my socks and give my books the respect they deserve.

To do this I’d like to challenge myself to the following:

5 Book Challenge
There is a 5 book challenge that has been floating around for a while in the blogger and BookTube community. It’s not particularly new or revolutionary but it’s really smart. The idea is that you have to read 5 books before you are allowed to purchase one new one. The rule does not apply to books given as gifts or books received for free, but I’m personally only going to allow gifts. This will still allow me the freedom to pick up the out of print titles I am hunting for, while ensuring I’m purchasing more responsibly.

img_20160520_190823EOG Book Club
The Edmonton Open Genre Book Club is going on 5 years strong this year, and I’m pretty dang proud of it. What started out as an excuse to talk books without having to force a particular title on people, has turned into a solid group of friends. Yes, we can find just about way to justify how your read fit the theme, but the idea is to have fun and get us reading. I’d say I read about 40% of the genres in a given year, but this year I’d like to commit to reading at least 80%. I could aim for 100%, but think of how awesome I will look if I over achieve?!

img_20160618_224130

Monthly TBR
Loads of people have TBR piles, I have TBR shelves. Heck, I could probably make a whole bookcase of TBR without breaking a sweat. The problem is I have very little documentation to just how big my current owned TBR is. I can look through my shelves and easily recognize titles I’ve never read before, but I don’t have a list telling me just exactly which books those are. I also dont ever have a plan when it comes to what I’m going to read. I might pick up something from a recent haul, or take a quick glance and see if anything tickles my fancy, but I’ve never sat down at the beginning of the month and said, “These are the books I’m going to read.”. This year I’d like to give this a shot. Even if I dont stick to my list precisely, I think I will be good to know that I have a plan. This year my reading goal is 70 books, which equals ~6 books per month (or 5.83333333). By the 1st, I’d like to have a rough list of 5 books (leaving one free for book club) to get through that month.

So it’s not a lot, but the idea is not to overload myself with so many goals that it becomes unrealistic. I think all three of these “challenges” will help me to read with greater intention, as well as help save my pocket-book and floor space.

Heres to a bright and literary new year, and (hopefully) many new blogs to come.

img_20160704_202857

 

 

EOG: Only The Good Read Young

I am a terrible leader! ūüėõ I have been harassing the rest of the members for the last week to hand over their blog posts for May and yet I just finished wrapping mine up an hour ago.

However I will say that our group verges on the point of being too epic to even be described! I was both pleased and apprehensive when our little band of 4 sprang to 6 with the addition of two fabulous new ladies to our group. Would they meld well with the rest of the group? Would they laugh at our stupid jokes? Thank goodness not half an hour in we were all cracking jokes and piping up and getting along just swimmingly!

One of the many many things I love about this book club is the freedom to say just about anything. We seem to have tackled a lot of books lately with real gritty or heart wrenching themes or plots, but have been lucky enough to have one book that is either so¬†ridiculous¬†or so different that we are able to grab something and turn it into a running joke. Last time around it was¬†Genghis and the¬†marvellous¬†poop sword, and this time it was Bumped and the¬†¬†crazy teen who slept with a boy who looks like Jesus so she could “feel God”.

In between the laughing and joking and eating the amazing vanilla cupcakes filled with lemon curd and lemon meringue buttercream frosting (I almost died from the numminess), we were actually able to delve deep into our books and find meaning in the mass of easy to read fiction.

Jenna dove into Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan and found a book that looked unflinchingly at LGBT teens and their struggle to come to terms with who they are, as well as big gay musicals.

Dana read White Cat by Holly Black filled with curse-workers whose very touch can change the essense of who you are and  how you think, it also gave us a good laugh over the term blow back, which were the consiquences of using their touch.

Amanda got a taste of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and was happy to finally encounter a strong female lead in today’s teen fiction, and I tried desperately not to give away all the juicy bits.

Christine read Bumped by Megan McCafferty and was enraged by its interesting premise and terrible¬†execution, but it did provide us with our joke book of the night and so many incredibly hilarious laughs. Read her review of this book and the last 3 EOG Book Club books over at her blog : Delusions of Grace –¬†Sex, tears and books thrown in anger

Andrea fell in love with¬†A Fault in Our Stars which was also by John Green as she found a¬†book that spoke to her on a very personal level and reminded each of us that no day is guaranteed. Check out her review over at: facelessmasses –¬†A Fault in Our Stars; or how to break a nerdfighter.

I read Insurgent by Veronica Roth which gave me a feisty young heroine in a world divided by personality types, and addressed suicide without glamorizing or trivializing. My review is hanging out over at: Where You Go I May Not Follow РInsurgent

We also have a couple people who are joining us long distance and are reading along:

Tawnie is out in Hong Kong right now and gave us a write up on Cinder by Marissa Meyer, nothing like a dystopian future fairytale to get the blood pumping. Take a look at her review over at: There is joy to be claimed in this life – Book Club May

All in all, May Book Club was another fantastic time of good friends and great books.
Looking forward to another Month.

Our Genre for June: Fantasy

 

Our List Thus Far

historical fiction
fairytales
biography
science fiction
fantasy
teen/young adult
memoirs
urban fantasy
romance
mystery
classics
chick lit
thrillers
true crime
self help
religious fiction
children’s literature
dystopian
foreign translated
non-fiction
conspiracy

Insurgent

This Month for EOG Book Club our genre was YA or Teen Lit. This gave me the opportunity to dive back into the rather entertaining Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I read the first book, aptly named Divergent shortly after it came out, and found myself enjoying it. Sadly that meant waiting nearly a year til I could get my hands on and sink my teeth into the next instalment.

As soon as I got it I popped off the dust jacket (I never read with them on, I’m always scared I am going to ruin it!!) and nested down with ¬†my new read. I was very confused! I read the opening chapter and found myself remembering nothing. I recognized one name, the setting of factions and the city, but otherwise found myself drowning in a sea of unfamiliar names. So I popped it on my shelf and picked up the first book for a quick reread before my glorious adventure onwards and ¬†upwards.

Ripping through a book a second time is pretty simple. You remember large chunks and have the option of skipping over parts that are familiar or rereading chunks that baffled you the first time with the benefit of whole book context. It took me til about the middle of the first book to start remembering who everyone was and how they all fit into the first chapter of the second book. The confusion only aided by the fact that several key characters change their names at one point or another. But I got the gist and was back on my way.

For those who have not read the first book let me give you a quick world builder: There is a city and the city is set up in a very particular way. People are catagorized into one of five groups depending on what they believe is the most important value:
-Abignation: selflessness
-Euridite: knowledge
-Dauntless: bravery
-Amnity: peace
– Candor: honesty
If for some reason you are unable to fit or function into any of the factions you are doomed to a life of the factionless, second rate citizens with few rights and no wealth. When children turn 16 they take a simulation exam to determine which faction they are most suited for and help them choose which faction to be a part of for the rest of their life, faction over family. Leaving your old faction means cutting all ties. When our lead character Tris goes for her test she finds that she has an aptitude for 3 factions and the ability to control the simulations. This labels her the danger and unspoken title of Divergent. And when she chooses to leave her life of selflessness for a world of danger, bravery and ruthlessness she finds theres more behind being Dauntless then she ever imagined.

Insurgent picks up quite literally right where Divergent left off. No great span of time has passed its only moments later. Tris and Four, she calls him Tobias which is his given name (and one of the reasons the first chapter threw me off) must escape the fallen Dauntless and Abignation districts of the city along with Four’s father Marcus, Tris’s brother Caleb and the ever hateful Peter. They flee with other Abignation to the Amnity compound and seek refuge from the power hungry Euridite. The book chronicles the movement of Tris and Four as they attempt to save what Abignation is left and muster the forces of Dauntless to retake their city.

I honestly cant say a whole lot more about plot without giving away some key events that really make or break the story, I will however give my thoughts on how it was done.

Veronica Roth does a spectacular and delicate job of handing suicide. We loose someone in the first book to suicide and in Dauntless they are exalted as a hero and truly Dauntless, for having been brave enough to take on the final adventure into the unknown. By so parading something we know to be so blatantly untrue she is able to tackle the idea without trivializing it and alienating people who might have had the same thoughts. She shows suicide as the tragedy it truly is and I applaud her for it. Suicide pops up again in the second book but we see it in another of its forms. Not as the overt taking of ones life, but as acting foolishly and recklessly with no regard for their own life, putting themselves purposely in harms way. It is all too common, but under recognized in a lot of cases. By highlighting it in the way she does, showing the danger and impact it has on others, Roth is again able to call out such behaviour for what it is without becoming preachy or condescending.

The idea that we are more then one dimensional is also tackled in the innovative idea of factions and separation of people for what is considered their key characteristics. This is most prevalent in the writing of the main character Tris, who has an aptitude for 3 different factions and gives her the label of divergent. But it can also be seen in all of the transfers as well. Al, while from Candor shows he can be brave by excepting to join a faction he has no desire for, as well as being selfless in his throwing fights so as not to hurt the other transfers. Christine who is also from Candor never looses her propensity to tell the truth, but her strength and desire for adventure pegs her as Dauntless. Even Peter, who we love to hate, shows signs of his Euridite past along side his violent Dauntless tendencies.

I also have two problems with the books thus far, but they create spoilers. So read beyond the cutline at your own risk.

For those who don’t and do read on, let me say this. The Divergent series has proven to be a very good series thus far. I have enjoyed it immensely. It is a YA title which I know is likely to throw people off but it really shouldn’t. Its not the next great American novel by any means, but it hits on some really important points that more then just teenagers need to hear. Its not quite brain candy with all the serious themes riddled throughout, but it is written in an easy to read style that will have you whipping through it in a couple of days.

This is my pretend cutline because WordPress won’t do it for me!

Warning Spoilers below!

.

.

.

.

.

.

______________________________________________

In the first book we learn through Tris’s fear landscape and just her general personality that she does not do intimacy well. Touching and physical affection is just not something that people in Abignation are taught or are generally exposed to. We get one brief and awkward scene of Tris and Four talking about it and it all seems to just disappear. Suddenly kissing and making out and touching half naked Four is no longer an issue. I get that the fear landscape helped her to face that fear, but it doesn’t make a fear go away. She goes from being shy and uneasy around Four to having zero qualms about getting all up in his grill and being super touchy. The transformation for me was far too fast ¬†and therefore left it feeling¬†unrealistic.

In the first book we see Tris kill Will (told you spoilers) during the simulation attack. ¬†She in reality had some choice about what she did, but in the absolute terror and adrenaline of the moment we have to give her some forgiveness for her actions, it was an extraordinary circumstance. The guilt of this carries on with her through the¬†entirety¬†of the the second book and it drives me a little bit bonkers. I understand that the timeline of the second book doesn’t cover much more then a month at most, and that the drama of killing your best friends boyfriend is going to linger. What makes me the most annoyed is how long she goes with it bottled up and not telling/lying to others about it. She buries it deeper and deeper until it entirely envelops her and stops her from doing what she needs to do, as well as alienating from absolutely everyone she loves when it finally does come out. I get that she is suffering, but she is portrayed and being a thinker and percieving things in situations, you’d think she would look at what she was doing and say to herself “Hey, this is only going to cause a TONNE of problems later, maybe I should just get it out quick and easy!”

The Story Of Beautiful Girl

For all I know this book is a book club phenomenon that has been love and adored by millions. But that is not how I found it, or grew to fall in love with it. I was simply racked for time to pick a Historical Fiction for The EOG Book Club, and couldn’t muster the energy to blow through a Jane Austen novel in a little over two weeks. This lead to me frantically wandering the newly created book section of my mothers local Wal-Mart. (There is only one very tiny book store in town that keeps bankers hours.)

I was about to give up after seeing nothing that peaked my interest, regency royal scandals are not my cup of tea, when I saw this beautiful little blue cover glowing brightly on the top shelf. I thought to myself, it will be too good to be true if this turns out to be historical fiction, but low and behold it was and I was very happy.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon is set in the early 70’s and leads right up to current day, taking place at the¬†School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, an institution where the disabled and mentally handicapped are dumped and taken care of only in the most basic way, and rarely even that.

The story follows 3 main characters:
Lynnie – a woman with developmental delays who is housed at the school who runs away with Homan after becoming pregnant due to the abuse of of the the grounds keepers.
Homan  РAn African American deaf-mute man sent to the School simply because no one is able to communicate with him. He falls in love with Lynnie, and after finding out about her pregnancy promises to free her from the school.
Martha РA little old woman with no children of her own living on her farm after the death of her husband. Lynnie and Homan turn up on her door step one night and trust her with hiding and caring for the new born baby after Lynnie is apprehended and Homan is lost to the night.

I was incredibly impressed with the writing style and how well the author was able to put across the thoughts and emotions of all the characters. She masterfully delves into the mind and speech of an African American man who grew up in the 50’s, and surmounts the awesome challenge of him having to describe words and people he has never heard of. She also delves into the mind and feelings of Lynnie with such delicacy and insight I wasn’t at all surprised when the author turned out to have grown up with a sister who had a disability.

Without giving too much away I want to say that this book is really amazing, a lot of really important themes were explored in interesting and engaging ways. All the characters were well fleshed out and believable, well all but one but we can gloss over her. And the setting was almost 3 dimensional. I would recommend this read to absolutely anyone, the themes are universal and there is not so much romance that it would turn a guy off reading it.

My only critique was the ending, I felt that it could have been handled way better then it was. It felt a little rushed, and really the only part of the book that didn’t feel¬†believable¬†to me. There are so many ways that the writer could have resolved the story and brought Lynnie’s daughter to the¬†realization¬†of who her family was, it may have made the book a few chapters longer but would have been well worth the extra time. Luckily the story seems to resolve its self before we get to this disconnected feeling last chapter, so it was easy to disregard it and let it end a chapter earlier.

EOG: Inappropriate Cupcakes and a Poop Sword

Good Afternoon everyone!

I hereby apologize (deargravyboat why are all my blogs starting like this lately) for the enormous gap in coverage! Feel free to throw all the pointy rocks and angry glances my way. They are deserved!

So this is going to be a mini update of both months I suppose! March which was Romance Month. And April which was Historical Fiction month.

March as you can expect was filled with all manner of hilarity as we dove into the terrifyingly wacky world of romance novels. Not a one of us was particularly impressed with our chosen topic but we knuckled down under the oppression and sprang forth with great enthusiasm. (That last part may or may not be true.) But truth is four of us procured books for the reading, put our time and energy into exploring these books and came together to talk about them. We were greatly blessed by the baking of man-bit and booby cupcakes by our dear Christine, and ate them henceforth. We then proceeded to crack jokes and laugh mercilessly at the genre.

Here is the break down of our opinions:
1 Reader – Couldn’t get passed the first 30 pages, as there was some pretty gross gaping chest wound sex. This saddened the reader as the premise of vampires that weren’t total sissies and had an awesome wicked sounding back story was rather enticing.
1 Reader – Was not particularly impressed or disappointed in her historical horse circus romance, involving a cock-blocking dog and a perfectly packaged ending. Was deemed an easy read that was good for zoning out.
2 Readers – Inexplicably fell in love with their books which turned out to be series which they both become deeply invested in. One was an urban fantasy which the reader used as a very handy motivational tool for weight loss. Loose weight buy the next book. The other a historical romance which the reader found had a surprising amount of detail and back story, then ran out to buy the whole series…

3 phrases to sum up March: inappropriate cupcakes,  jokes, laughter

April was a little more¬†contemplative¬†but did not fail in its ability to make us laugh like mad fools. We had a wide range of books this time around. Christine read Markus Zusacks’ The Book Thief¬†,¬†Dana read Genghis: Birth of an Empire by¬†Conn Iggulden, Andrea read the play The Normal Heart by¬†Larry Kramer and I read Rachel Simon’s ¬†The Story of Beautiful Girl.¬†

Our books all focused on different people groups in different eras, but this did not stop us from drawing parallels between our stories. The Story of Beautiful Girl, A Normal Heart and The Book Thief all touched on the social acceptance of ignoring and hiding the suffering of others based on a lack of understanding and acceptance. The Book Thief and A Normal Heart both highlighted the incredible damage that hate can create not just for the individuals but for the world.

Genghis gave us a¬†fascinating¬†look into one of history’s most recognizable¬†villains, which we learned had pretty good reasons for going crazy and killing people. Two words people… Poop sword… You want that to make sense read the book…. or show up at book club! ūüėÄ

Really book club is much more stimulating then this, and we got a chance to look into some really deep issues, share in the heartbreak of eachother’s stories and laugh at the¬†ridiculous¬†parts. We all ranted, and raved and got a lot off our chests and genuinely enjoyed each others company… and the cake…. damn fine rum cake.

For a look into Andrea’s two books check out her post at: Faceless Masses – White Horses and a dose of The Normal Heart

Christine in all her amazingness and madness has covered not only March and April but has tackled and written up her review for May as well! Check her out at: Sex, tears and books thrown in anger

Tawnie one of our distance members (<3) also chimed in with her fantastic April Review over at her blog: There Is Joy To Be Claimed In this Life – April

For a look into my April pick check out my post at: The Story Of Beautiful Girl

Our Genre for May: Teen/Young Adult Lit!

Our List Thus far

historical fiction
fairytales
biography
science fiction
fantasy
teen/young adult
memoirs
urban fantasy
romance
mystery
classics
chick lit
thrillers
true crime
self help
religious fiction
children’s literature
dystopian
foreign translated
non-fiction
conspiracy

Mine Until Midnight?!?!?!?!?

Damn this foolish heart!! Why could I not have lied and said our first genre was something interesting?!?! Something that was NOT romance?! Alas, I did not, and I will now suffer the consequences.

Luckily one of my lovely co-workers and¬†conceded¬†and is going to join the lovely EOG this month despite her protest against content. It was then decided that paying for our books was completely out of the question,¬†receipts to hide, books to burn, there could be no paper trail. Instead a quick pop into the staff room to raid our “library”. Oh the horror that was found upon the shelf. There was a pile of various romance novels, each with a varying degree of terror within their pages.

I picked up Mine Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas. The cover… terrible but not too quickly identifiable as a romance. Flipped to the back and got the following synopsis:

When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.
 
Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his “uncivilized” Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship–but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. But can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honored arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter‚Ķ.

Oh dear lord… Honestly? Really!? But I figured go broke or go home right? And I figured it cant be that bad, its not a¬†harlequin¬†right? I don’t see a bare chested man and his buxom maiden on the front cover, its got to be relatively safe, yeah no… Opened the little mini-cover (you know like when a book has almost two covers, and there is one underneath the other?) and this is what I found. Also, first word I spotted inside… buttock…

Its going to be a long read boys and girls!! But who knows, maybe deep, deep, DEEP down this book with have a little meat to it (teehee) and will be worth the hours off reluctant reading.

Much Love ‚̧

Edmonton Open Genre Book Club

Good very early morning everyone!! ūüėÄ

Let me tell you a quick story! I can’t find a book club that I like! End of story! lol That may sound kind of petty, but I did a bunch if poking around and couldn’t find something that I would like to be a part of. All the clubs were about picking a predetermined book, everyone reads it, you come together, talk about the book. Not a bad idea, I for one love talking about a beloved novel with another fan. But a pre-determined book that maybe one or none of the readers might like ¬†reminds me too much of an elementary school. Forced.

I read Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peel Pie Society and fell in love with their books discussions, everyone reading something different, coming together, boasting that their book is the best and trying to convince everyone else! It’s from this concept that I want to make a book club from, with one small tweak. I’d still like for everyone to read their own book, something they know will appeal to them, but within the confines of a chosen genre. That way we can all have a chance to boast and brag and read something we have a greater inclination to like in a genre we might not¬†necessarily¬†venture into.

The plan for now is to meet once a month, on a date to be decided by those fantastic friends on Facebook who are willing to ¬†join me on this crazy¬†endeavor. I would love to meet more often, and so would some of them, but life happens and not everyone has the time or¬†opportunity to meet more often or read more then one title. We’ve made up a small list of genres that we could think up at the time, and I’m sure it will be an ever changing and hopefully growing. Please chime in if there are some we’ve missed, I know there are. Also if you want to join us please fire off comment and feel free to join us!

I’d like it if my fellow book clubbers would put together a review, that way we can share our journey as we explore new¬†literary¬†horizons. I haven’t told them this yet… Surprise guys!! ūüėÄ Its by no means¬†necessary, but something I know I am going to do, let people know whats going on! ūüėÄ Choosing what we are reading was decided to be random luck of the draw, I numbered them 1 – 19 popped the numbers in a random number generator. Which means we are starting with romance, lol was not planning on this!! I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, this is probably on of my least favorite genres, but all is fair in love, war, and random number generators… ūüėõ

historical fiction
fairytales
biography
science fiction
fantasy
young adult
memoirs
urban fantasy
romance
mystery
classics
chick lit
thrillers
true crime
self help
religious fiction
children’s literature
dystopian
foreign traslated

Oh well! I will keep you all abreast to how things play out, and hopefully knock together a nice banner to go along with this section of the blog, Created a nice little sub-category to float around on the side, so it can be picked separately.