Putting together my readathon book list

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Dewey’s Readathon is happening this coming Saturday, April 25, and I’m so excited because for the first time ever, I’ll be participating not just as a cheerleader but also as a reader!

In previous years, I could only participate by cheering because Dylan’s Saturday activities meant we spent the day going from here to there all around the city. This year, however, his activities are all concentrated in the one place, which means I’ll be able to get a lot of reading done while I’m waiting for him.

I won’t be able to read for the full 24 hours. But this is the first year I’ll have a good chunk of time to devote to reading, so I figured I might as well go for it. I do expect things to come up—my mom, for instance, will either still be in the hospital on Saturday or she’ll be in rehab, and I’ll probably be visiting her at some point during the day.

I hadn’t even thought about putting together a list of books for the readathon, but I’m seeing people blogging and tweeting about this, and I realized what a great idea it was.

I have far too many choices right now, so I have to narrow them down a bit. I was thinking it might be a good idea to develop my list like this:

  • reading a set number of pages from each of my readalong books. Which would be Cloud Atlas, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Dune.
  • short stories (Becca of I’m Lost in Books is going to be reading only short stories for the readathon, which sounds like such fun)
  • comics. Mainly from Marvel Unlimited, following a list of recommendations Memory sent me.
  • one middle grade novel
  • one fantasy novel
  • one mystery novel
  • one non-fiction book

That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? I figure I’ll put together a nice biggish list but the plan won’t be to read all of them, but just to have a nice selection so I won’t have trouble going from one book to another.

As for my readathon upates, Kim posted about the basics of using Storify to document your readathon which I want to try. Here’s her Fall 2014 Readathon post, in which she’s used Storify to post her updates.

Are you participating in the Readathon this year? Have you participated in previous years? Have any tips for me?

Some Sunday Random

I missed posting yesterday but with good reason—my mother fell while running for the bus and ended up fracturing her hip. I spent the evening at the hospital and this morning she went into surgery.

Fortunately my mother is very healthy; she’s physically active, meditates regularly and has an extremely busy schedule most days. She broke the ball in the joint of her hip, so that’s all they’re replacing—it’s not a full hip replacement. They expect her to be able to put some weight on it by tomorrow, so it sounds like recovery time should be fairly quick.

I think the hardest part of the process will be keeping her in bed to fully recuperate. She asked the orthopaedic surgeon if she’d be able to walk again. He said, “Of course.” So then she asked him, “What about running? Will I be able to run?” He looked at her and said, “Were you running before?” and she said, “Of course I was.”

Update: My mom’s doing well after the surgery, still a little sleepy but looking good. Thanks everyone, for all the well wishes!

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We’re also dealing with sick kitties too. Poor Hobbes went from his seasonal allergy which was causing him to scratch himself bloody to an upper respiratory inspection which is likely to be feline herpes syndrome. It’s quite a common condition in cats—many of them get the virus when they’re kittens and it tends to manifest when they’re stressed, which Hobbes has definitely been lately. The treatment consists of dosing him with the amino acid lysine.

We were hoping Creeper would be fine, but his eyes started running yesterday and today he sneezed a few times. So he’s on the lysine too—much easier with him as he’s the one who’s the big eater around here.

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So there’s going to be lots of recuperation going on around here! That’s been my weekend so far. How is your weekend going?

Review: Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag

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I first read about Strong Female Protagonist, by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, at Capricious Reader, but by the time I got my copy from the library, I’d forgotten what it was all about. So when I started reading it, I was more or less going into it blind.

Alison Green is a tier one biodynamic individual. She has super strength and is invincible. In her world, that makes her a superhero alongside other superheroes, fighting tier one biodynamic individuals who are supervillains. Fighting crime and beating the bad guys as Mega Girl is a whole lot of fun … until one day she comes up against her arch enemy, the mind-reading Menace, and discovers evidence of a conspiracy that puts all of her heroic feats into a new light. As Menace puts it, “Nobody thnks we can change the world, and they’re right.”

Is Menace right? Beating up the bad guys suddenly feels irrelevant to Alison. She has no clue what she’s doing, and it doesn’t make sense that people are looking to her for answers just because bullets can’t harm her and she’s strong enough to lift a car over her head. So Alison steps away from the business of being a superhero, enrols in college and tries to figure things out as best she can.

The only thing is, not everyone’s ready to let her forget her past. And in the meantime, Alison’s given up on saving the world. She wants to change it instead. But is such a thing even possible?

Strong Female Protagonist is a webcomic which found its way into print via a successful Kickstarter campaign. And I am so glad it did. I loved everything about Alison’s story: her struggles to live a somewhat normal life, the frustrations of living in a world that even her powers can’t truly save, the spotlight it shines on everyday heroism. Despite her powers, Alison is as human as everyone else, uncertain of what’s going on, unsure of how—and if—she can change things.

In many ways, this is a graphic novel that grapples with a lot of heavy issues: Is it worth saving the world if saving the world means preserving it the way it is? What is the worth of a tortuous self-sacrifice that saves individual lives but won’t make the world a better place? Can a handful of moments make the difference between a superhero and a supervillain? And if it does, what does this say about our world? But at the same time, there are many, many fun moments. It’s a perfect blend.

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The other thing I enjoyed about Strong Female Protagonist? The notes from the author and the illustrator on the bottom of each page. Sometimes these notes add further explanation to a panel, other times they point out something in the art, and often they’re just a pure fun me-to-you wink and nudge from the author and/or illustrator.

If Mulligan and Ostertag decide to do another Kickstarter for the next volume? I’m definitely in! If you haven’t read this comic yet, you really must add it to your to-read list. And when you’re done, you can continue with the further adventures of Strong Female Protagonist online, where the webcomic is updated twice weekly.

Wednesday Inspiration: The First Post

I’ve promised myself, this is the year I get out of the rut of constantly doing non-creative things. I’ve been in this rut for way too long. I want to start living a more creative life. It turns out, though, it’s easy to make such big intentional statements (“I’m NOT going to do things like this anymore! Things are GOING TO CHANGE around here!”) but much harder to actually implement the changes I want.

One thing that I’ve been discovering over and over (because naturally I don’t learn the first time, and I tend to forget the second, third and fourth times) is the importance of finding inspiration. A creative life requires one to be inspired, but being inspired turns out to be a thing of habit.

Sure, occasionally I’ll wake up feeling inspired. But more often than not, if I don’t open myself up to inspiration, inspiration doesn’t find me.

This is the part I tend to forget. And when I forget this, I get morose. I take out that big intentional statement and think to myself, I’m going to fail. It’s simply not going to happen.

I was reminded of this again this morning when I opened an email and decided to click on a link, and then on another link which then lead me to this video:

The thing is, it was a rather lacklustre morning. Ever had one of those? Inspiration was nowhere in sight. Frankly, I didn’t really want to get out of bed. But for some reason I decided to watch this video—and I very rarely watch videos, because they take time, so I end up saving them to a watch later list and then never watching them.

And guess what? I got inspired. Sharon Ann Lee talks about designing your own success, and everything she said made so much sense. (Plus the part about growing up Asian, with Tiger Mom parents, was hilarious.) In the video there’s a wonderful graph of four quadrants that she’s made, and I saw so clearly the quadrant where I’ve resided for most of my life. The quadrant she calls “A More Devious Hell. Run Away”.

Um, yeah.

Anyway, watching this video really set the tone for a day that hadn’t looked like it was going to be such a great day. I was inspired and that changed everything.

And the long and short of it (well, okay, the long of it) is that I’ve decided I need to regularly remind myself to find my own inspiration. Finding inspiration can take so many forms, plus it’s fun to boot. And you know how labelling something as “fun” is almost like a death knell, right? So I need to motivate myself to keep remembering.

Which I’ll be doing in these Wednesday Inspiration posts from now on. (Finally! I get to the point of this post!) A way for me to remember to find inspiration, and a way for me to share the inspiration I find.

What inspires you? Books, movies, videos, articles, art, cooking, walking, exercising? Do you regularly open yourself up to inspiration?

Snapshot: April 14, 2015

Time: 3:44 pm

Feeling: Hot! It’s double digits out there today, which means it’s really hot inside (we’re in a condo apartment where all outside walls are windows).

Planning: I’m really pleased to report I’ve finally found a planner system that seems to be working for me. I ended up designing my own planner page using a spreadsheet. It’s great—has a time log/scheduling area that tracks from 6:00 am (not that I’ll ever get up that early but I can dream, right?) until 1:30 am. I could have made it go even later, but I’m trying to get to bed a little earlier so I’ve decided 1:30 am will be the latest (but I can change this if it doesn’t work—that’s the beauty of using your own planner template).

Planner.jpgMy planner, with printouts inside

Right now I’m using a combo time tracking/time scheduling technique that’s working really well for me. I only schedule in actual appointments but using the Passion Planner’s weekly pages I map out everything I want to accomplish each day which has made a huge difference. I can’t believe I never did this before. I would just keep everything in my head and while it worked in that I was never late meeting deadlines, it was also really stressful.

And now I am so aware of how much time I have each day to accomplish what needs to be done. Since the deadlines are now easy at the moment, it turns out I have a lot more time each day to work on my own personal things, like my writing, than I realized.

Reading: I’m currently reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The first few pages took some getting used to, but it’s not as tough going as I’d expected. I’m also reading Good Omens which I’m really enjoying. Not that these are two books you can compare, as it would be like comparing apples and oranges. But if I had to pick one, I know which I’d pick!

Listening: I have two audiobooks on the go right now. I’m about a third of the way through David Rosenfelt’s Leader of the Pack, the tenth book in the Andy Carpenter series. It’s a fun, light read. I started this series in audio last year and have been slowly but surely working my way through them.

I’m also listening to Motive, the latest in the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman. It’s been a long time since I last read an Alex Delaware book in print form. I think I’ve listened to the audio versions since around book 14 or 15. I really enjoy John Rubinstein’s narration, particularly the way he does Milo’s voice. I always know it’s Milo!

Writing: I’m struggling with the revisions for Waverley. It’s just overwhelming how much work needs to be done. At times I feel like I haven’t really told the story I want to tell. I started a writing journal yesterday and I’m hoping I’ll be able to use it to tackle the revisions.

Working: My deadlines are nice and steady both this week and next. I’m now consulting my planner for everything and seeing where a potential deadline might cause stress. When I see this happening, before I say yes I’ll talk with the editors about setting a different deadline and they usually have no problems, so that’s been good.

Creating: I got my first colouring book for adults! Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book arrived the other day. I couldn’t resist going out to Staples and stocking up on some supplies:

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Looking forward to: I’ve got a lunch date with my older son tomorrow, shopping with my daughter on Friday and lunch with two of my friends on Sunday. My social calendar isn’t usually that full!

The unexpected benefits of a reading goal

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It appears there are unexpected benefits to having a reading goal. This is the first year I’ve actually set a “books read” goal (mine is 96 books) and while having the goal alone is quite motivating, there’ve been some interesting side effects.

I’m slower to DNF. Yes, it’s true. I used to be one of those “I’ll give you ten, okay, maybe 15 pages but that’s about it” readers. Now, though, if I’ve invested the half an hour or whatever it took for me to get through those first fifteen pages, I find I’m reluctant to put down a book unless I’m absolutely sure I’m holding a real stinker. Which doesn’t actually happen very often at all.

I’m still a moody reader, but now my moods are “stickier”. So yes, I still have to be in a a certain type of mood to read a certain type of book. Which means I still get into a mood for mystery, or fantasy, or science fiction or non-fiction or memoir or whatever—but I find myself staying in that mood for longer. Often for long enough to finish whatever book I happen to be reading. And if not (I like to have three or four books on the go at any given time) then it seems like I switch to a mood that’s right for another one of the books I have on the go. Quite handy.

As for that “not in the mood for reading” mood. And so far this year (knock wood) I haven’t encountered the “not in the mood for reading” mood. Which has been very nice indeed (although I’m not so sure I can credit this to my having a reading goal this year. But maybe I can.)

I have a lot more “Incoming!” books. Once upon a time I would semi-regularly post an “Incoming!” post, where I’d list the latest books that crossed the MsBookish threshold. It’s hard to write those posts, though, when you’re only seeing a trickle of new titles every now and then. But now that I’m reading regularly and consistently, I find I’m constantly on the lookout for more books. And when that happens, more books arrive. (Perhaps this is the Avalanche Theory of Reading More?)

I have a lot more to blog about. Reading more books means I have a lot of bookish stuff on my mind, which means I have a lot more bookish ideas for posts. Which is a good thing, since I’m also committing this year to 365 days of blogging.

Have you encountered any of these benefits of having a reading goal?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Readalongs

I’m SO glad I’ve discovered how much fun it is to read a book in the company of others. Fun because reading is still a very solitary thing (which I also love) but when you’re doing a readalong, it’s like being able to take a trip down the hall to the office water cooler (aka Twitter, Facebook and blog posts) for a quick chat, but with an added bonus: you certainly won’t be discussing the weather!

I’m joining in on three readalongs this month and next, with a fourth one coming in June. (One of the readalongs, alas, I’m already behind on (as in, just got the book haven’t read a thing yet, and it’s been a go for twelve days already now), so maybe I shouldn’t actually say I’m joining in on that one …)

So, first up:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Readalong

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I’m really really excited about this one—you can read all about it on Jill’s blog. Murakami is top on my list of “authors I want to read but oh my God they’re a bit on the intimidating side aren’t they?” and I’m going to need all the hand-holding I can get. (Strange Library doesn’t really count, because it’s more of a novella, plus it has lots of illustrations so it felt a little like reading a graphic novel or maybe a picture book for grown-ups. Although length probably doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Murakami, now that I think about it, because I’ve also read two Murakami short stories and let me just say, one of them flew right over my head. As in whoosh. I fared a little bit better with the other one.)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also made it to the Guardian’s list of “most disturbing novels” and after reading why it made it to the list I know there will definitely be some scenes I’ll be reading with eyes half-closed while quickly turning the pages. Because I’m squirmish like that. (My spell check is telling me that’s not a word and I should be using squeamish but squirmish feels right to me.) I have a feeling Jill is the perfect person to be reading a squirmish novel with …

So do come join us if you’re in the mood for tackling Murakami! It’s an informal readalong that runs from April 15 to May 31, so there’s lots and lots of time to read the book. The hashtag for this one is #windmeup.

And then some science fiction:

The Dune Readalong

Starting April 19, Suey, Jenni and Kami are holding a Dune readalong. I have had Dune, by Frank Herbert, on my to-read list for a very long time now. I can remember when I was a kid seeing my mom read it.

We used to have these weekly reading sessions where my sisters and I would all pile onto her bed with her, each of us with our own book, happily reading together. My mom doesn’t read fiction any more now, but when I was growing up she was a huge mystery, thrillers and SF reader. I grew up with Agatha Christie, John Le Carré, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov scattered all over the house. So I do come by my genre leanings honestly (maybe it’s even hereditary!).

And I had to smile because this cover that Suey posted with the sign-up post:

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is the very same cover of the copy of Dune that I remember my mom reading! I love that she picked this cover instead of the one that graces the more modern edition.

There will also be three Twitter chats, which sound like they’ll be fun. The Twitter hashtag for this one is #DuneRAL. If Dune‘s been on your to-read list, too, I hope you’ll join in!

The one I missed (but maybe not):

Cloud Atlas Readalong

This is the one I’ve kind of dropped the ball on—it started back on April 1—but I’m still hoping to start Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell this month, and maybe even join in some of the discussion posts. Cloud Atlas is another one of those “I’m kind of intimated by this” books, although unlike Haruki Murakami, it’s not the author himself I find intimidating, just the book. I know this because I also want to read The Bone Clocks and I’m not intimidated by the idea of reading that one at all.

(Can you all tell, by the way, this is my year for reading outside my comfort zone?)

Hosted by Katie and April, the sign-up post is here, and the Twitter hashtag is #CloudAtlasAlong.

And coming in June …

The Misery readalong, hosted by Care! This is definitely going to be my year for reading Stephen King. I love the guy but I’ve really only read his earlier novels, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

I haven’t read Misery yet so this will be a first-time read for me. Haven’t seen the movie, either, although I always picture Kathy Bates when I think of the movie. It promises to be a fun, informal readalong. The hashtag for this one is #MiseryRAL. And you really need to pop over to Care’s post to see the really scary looking Stephen King picture she’s posted.

Saturday Random: birthdays, Hayley’s mood reel, cats and cones

Is it just me, or are the days just flying by? I can’t believe it’s Saturday already. It’s the book-reading demon‘s birthday today, so we’re celebrating with dinner out. Despite his new reading habits, he’s not getting bookish gifts this year—I’m not very good about remembering things like birthdays or anniversaries (both mine and other people’s), and didn’t realize until Wednesday that his birthday was on the weekend. So it was a mad dash to find some time to do some gift shopping, once with Dylan and then once by myself. No time for a leisurely browse through the bookstore, either physically or online. He’s getting clothes and cooking magazines instead.

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My daughter Hayley is the producer and director of photography (DOP) of the short film JOY, which will be premiering at the RUFF (Ryerson University Film Festival) on May 1. This year RUFF will be screening at Ryerson Theatre, a larger venue that also screens TIFF films. Very exciting stuff!

This is the mood reel for JOY. (A mood reel is created before the actual film is made, to “suggest the feel and sensibility of a film“. Yes, I had to google this.)

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It is such a sad sight to behold whenever one of our cats has to wear the so-called “cone of shame”. Both of them get so depressed when they have to wear the cone, and I can’t blame them, as they lose their ability to perceive through their whiskers, which they count on a lot for day-to-day kitty navigation through the world.

Unfortunately though, I’m not the only one coming down with the itchies around here. Hobbes began scratching at both his ears last week (vet says it’s allergies from the seasonal change in weather—apparently he sees a lot of this among pets at this time of the year. Another who knew? thing for me). The resulting sores ended up getting infected, so now he’s on antibiotics and steroids. We had to put the cone on him the first day to stop him from scratching more.

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This is him looking down sadly at me the whole time I was working on Thursday night. He never sits facing that direction on normal days, but of course he had to remind me how sad he was. When he wasn’t moping around on the back of my office chair, that is.

Luckily he’s healing up quickly. We put the nasty cone back in the cupboard, where hopefully it won’t be needed again.

How’s your Saturday going?

Wanting to read more middle grade novels … and A Game of Thrones

I know, I know, two totally different things. But for some reason, they’ve become interconnected in my mind. When I start thinking about what I’d like to start reading more of, I think, middle grade novels! And then for some funny reason, I head straight from there to A Game of Thrones. And then back to middle grade novels again. A very strange but now comfortable cycle.

A few years ago, I bought this from Costco:

Game of Thrones boxed set (Actually, it was the boxed set without A Dance with Dragons …) I was listening to A Game of Thrones in audio at the time, and realized it was going to be too gory for me to continue it in audio (because it’s impossible to listen with your ears half-closed, the way you can skim through the brutal bits with your eyes half-opened). But for some reason I’ve just never gotten back to the series, even though I had been so enthralled by what I’d heard so far in the audiobook. (I’d gotten as far as Bran’s fall.) I say “for some reason” but it’s mostly because I suspect the books are a lot like potato chips—you can’t consume just one or two.

So these books stare at me every day from their place on my TBR shelves. I need to just bite the bullet and start reading them. Amazon tells me, though, that all five books combined total 5,216 pages. That’s a lot of pages. A lot of reading time.

Anyway, swinging back to the whole middle grade novel thing, I really need to start reading more middle grade novels. I used to read them all the time, but in the past few years I haven’t added very many new titles to my TBR.

So to honour this yearning of mine, I recently made a list of middle grade reads to add to my TBR (I know. As if I needed to add more, right?). Here they are, in no particular order:

So that’s my list so far. Do you have any suggestions for good middle grade fantasies or mysteries?