Regular Rumination

2011, welcome to my life.

Posted by in Blogging, Books, Life

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.  – Ellen Goodman

A couple of days ago, that seems like forever ago (it was last year after all), I reflected back on 2010 and now it is time to think ahead to 2011.  We are only 3 days in to the new year and I feel almost refreshed and renewed, with a plan for kick starting the new year as soon as I return home on Wednesday.   There are just a few things I want to write down now so I can remember them in December.  Sure, I suppose you could call them resolutions, but they are more just a loose plan.  These ideas are just a way to guide my life in the coming year, to remind myself what I really believe is important.

So I’m going to take the idea from that quote above by journalist Ellen Goodman.  This is not about finding flaws, but finding potential.  What do I have the potential to do in 2011?

1. Enjoy food. Let’s face it, resolving to lose weight or exercise is too easy to say and too hard to maintain.  And let’s face one other fact – I love food. I love to eat, and I love to cook, and I love to go out to eat.  What I need is more of a balance.  I need to enjoy my food and I need to be okay with the food decisions I make.  I want to eat less meat (but not give it up) and really enjoy in-season vegetables.  I want to have an intimate relationship with my food.  I’m going to be driving a lot and commuting this semester and I need to be excited about the food I have to take with me in my lunch box (that will be my lunch, dinner and breakfast box – I might need to invest in a cooler).

2. Enjoy movement.  Before I left for Spain and while I was in Spain, I was actively trying to exercise.  Since I got back, a series of colds and laziness has derailed that.  I noticed a huge difference in both my mood and the way I felt physically.  I’ve gotten sick more and I’ve just felt unbalanced.  I need to get back into exercising regularly, especially now that I know it’s something I really miss in my life when I’m not doing it.

3. Enjoy the world. I loved traveling to Spain this year, but I don’t know that I’m going to be able to do a big trip like that again for a while. So what can I do to check my travel bug for a while?  Read more world literature.  I will be attempting to read a book from every country in the world.  This is a lifelong goal, not just for this year.  There are plenty of countries I’ve never visited through literature – and why wouldn’t I?

4. Enjoy the past.  I told myself I was going to read more classics last year and I did not.  I still want to do this, so I will be making more of an effort to do so in 2011.

5. Enjoy art. Memory recently mentioned on Twitter that she was going to be reading a graphic novel a week.  I decided to jump on this bandwagon,  along with Vasilly.  It’s unofficial and not a commitment so much as an opportunity.  Especially when I will be in the middle of school, mostly reading novels for class, this will be a welcome relief.

6. Enjoy the books I own.  I own too many books that I’m not reading.  My goal is to balance this equation.  For every library book I read, I want to read 2 books that I own.  For every review copy?  Three.  If I don’t desperately love the book, I want to pass books on to new readers when I finish, either through my half.com store, through IRL friends or through passing them on to blog readers.

7. Enjoy the simple pleasures in life. I believe there is beauty everywhere and joy can be found in the smallest daily things.  This Christmas season was stressful and I’m happy to have it behind me.  I want to leave as many stresses as I can behind me and get rid of some of my anxieties.  Life is too short to be anxious and stressed out all the time.  Everything will be okay.

8. Enjoy the things I already enjoy. What I mean by this is not to forget everything about my life that is already amazing.  Like all the people in my life that I love.  How lucky I am in so many ways.  Remembering, always, that the good outweighs the bad, as long as you let it.

9. Enjoy saving. I’m going to try and set aside at least $50 a week into a savings account, possibly more if I have it.  I can smile to myself when I realize that means I will have almost $3000 in savings to start 2012.

10. Enjoy creativity.  I want to do all the little creative things that made my 2010 that much better.  I want to continue to crochet, especially by finishing my granny squares blanket, and learn to knit more than just one stitch.  I want to write more and hopefully that will become a reality.

11. Enjoy diversity. I have never been a one-kind-of-book reader. I like YA, I like literary fiction, I like comics, I like MG fiction, I like poetry, I like short stories.  If it is made of words, you can guarantee that I like some manifestation of it, somewhere.  The key is finding a balance here, as well.   I did a good job of this last year and want to continue.  People of all colors, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, nationalities, political persuasions and beliefs should be featured in what I read and I hope in2011 they will be.

12. Enjoy change.  Isn’t this always the hardest one?  Like last year, 2011 will be filled with changes.  It’s just that time in my life, right?  Even though there’s a lot of uncertainty about where 2011 will take me, I just need to embrace those changes and look forward to the exciting things they will bring to my life.

So happy 2011 everyone, I’m thrilled that 2010 is behind me and I am looking forward to everything 2011 will bring me!

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Looking back at 2010

Posted by in Books, Crafts, Life

One great thing about having a blog is that I can go back and look at my resolution post for New Years and see how I did.  So how did my 2010 compare to the great visions I had for it 12 months ago?  Let’s find out.  (I realize that this might be one of those posts that’s only interesting or useful for me.  I won’t be offended if you skip over it!)

I had 10 goals in 2010 (I’m so clever.):

1) Healthier equals happier. Yeah, I think I accomplished this.  Back in January 2010 I was the heaviest I’ve ever been in my whole life and even though I haven’t lost all that much weight, I’m slowly (oh so slowly) making this part of my life better.

2) Spending does not always equal happier. I need to do better with this one!  Since Spain I’ve been trying to build back up some savings.

3) Stress-free equals happier. I did pretty well managing my stress at the beginning of the year and over the summer, but this holiday season has been particularly stressful for whatever reason.  I try to remind myself every day not to let the little things stress me out, but I could be doing better (not that that needs to add another stress on my life).

4) Read more classics!  Read 15 classics published before 1970.  FAIL.  I read 3.

5) Use challenges as a way to focus reading, to read more books by women, by people of color, by authors from different countries. Well, even though I gave up all my challenges, I still did an excellent job.  Of all my reading, I had almost a 50/50 split between men and women and over 50% of my books were written by a POC author or featured a prominent POC character.  I do want to read more books in translation and from different countries in 2011.

6) Find more of a balance between the genres of fiction, non-fiction, recently published and older novels, YA and middle grade. This sort of happened organically.  I read a lot more non-fiction and a lot less YA this year, two things I wanted to accomplish.  (Not because I don’t love YA, but just because I wanted my reading to be more balanced.)  I also read more recently published novels.

7) Read more poetry & 8) Read more short stories. Both of these were failures.  I did read some poetry, but not enough in my book and I read barely any short stories.

9) Find more time in my life for things like crocheting and cooking healthy meals. Win!  I actually read a lot less books this year than last year and I’m totally okay with that, because I’ve been crocheting and cooking a lot.  I’m also on my way to finishing my first knitted scarf.

10) Write more. I’m going to do this.  Really, I am.  I didn’t in 2010, but… I will in 2011!

So…um… 4.5/10.  But this isn’t a numbers game – overall, 2010 was a great year and I’m so pleased with the goals I did accomplish.  Besides, I can’t be perfect. I have to have  some goals for 2011, right?

Enjoy your New Years Eve, kids.  Check back in 2011 for my new New Years Resolutions!

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2010, what a wonderful year!*

Posted by in Books, Life

*for reading that is!

2010 seems like the longest year of my life. When I look back to what I was reading at the beginning of the year, I can’t believe that that was still 2010.  You mean I only read Anne of Green Gables this year?!  I only just read and fell in love with Blankets in 2010? That wasn’t last year? Are you sure?

Blogging has had its share of ups and downs this year, but I’m pleased to be ending the year on a strong note, with only more hopes for more excellent reading and blogging in 2011.  Over the past few days I have gone back and reread a lot of my posts from the early days of Regular Rumination and I think that my little blog and I have really come into our own over the last few months.

In terms of reading, there have certainly been some hits and some misses, but for the most part, I would say that my reading of 2010 was great.  So here we are, the 2010 Regular Rumination Awards.  These are the books that struck me as particularly wonderful, that still stick with me all these months later, that I think you should be reading to make your 2011 as excellent a reading year as my 2010 was.

To avoid this just being a normal old top ten list, I’ve added made-up superlatives.

The book that was so good, I had to reread it immediately

Is anyone surprised by this choice?  When I read Blankets back on the 2 of January, I was blown away.  When I turned the last page, I went back and started it all over again.  I stayed up until the wee hours of the night rereading and reliving the relationship between Craig and Raina – in fact, I’m pretty sure I’d like to name a future daughter Raina.

What makes Blankets the best graphic novel I read this year?  The drawings absolutely took my breath away, but so did the story.  Thompson weaves together the story of his relationship with his brother and family with the story of his first love.  It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and changed the way I read graphic novels forever.  I can’t wait for Thompson’s newest, Habibi, to be released.

Honorable mention: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Best Precocious Child Narrator

This book was a total surprise.  I don’t even know how it came into my hands, other than the fact that we all know I’m enticed by a blue cover with adorable pictures on it.  What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most intelligent, endearing middle-grade fiction books I have ever read.  Bapu is Anu’s grandfather and one day, while they are out walking, he collapses.  What follows is Anu’s journey to find his grandfather again after he has passed away.  This book with simultaneously crush your heart and heal it again.  Anu has such great friends and such a great family and such wonderful insights that somehow never seem out of place coming from such a young person.  I want everyone to read this book, it is wonderful.  It deals with such heavy topics, but is also so funny.

Honorable Mention: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Most Underrated Book By A Book Blog Darling

This is a book that I don’t think I ever expected to end up on this list, but here it is: Flight by Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has had his fair share of coverage on a lot of book blogs, especially for his most recent foray into YA with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I loved that book, but this one is better.  Most critics didn’t like it, but I say, they are crazy.  This book is great.

Zits, our narrator, is a homeless and poor Indian boy who, in a fit of desperation, decides to blow up a bank.  Instead of dying when the bomb goes off, he is transported back in time to inhabit some famous historical figures.  Yes, the premise is different, but that is why I loved it so much.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  If I had one complaint it would be that this book is too short.  Probably one of the best compliments you can give a book, now that I think about it.

Honorable Mention: A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

Best Book Worth All the Hype

Look, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is my favorite book of 2010, BUT it is a book that I think is worth the hype it received.  Is Franzen the greatest American novelist? Um, no, but he is a great US novelist.  This book so perfectly captures a specific time in our history and has made me even more eager to pick up The Corrections, Franzen’s first novel.  Maybe that will make my list next year?

Honorable Mention: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Best Book I Want To Put in the Hand of Every Girl/Woman I Know

It was tough to choose between the two Robin Brande books I read this year, Fat Cat and Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, and while I thought Mena was such an amazing role model and the combination of religion and science in Freaks of Nature was brilliant, I had to pick Cat.  Maybe it’s because I saw a little bit (okay, a lot) of myself in Cat.  I wish Cat was real so we could be best friends.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I cannot wait for Brande’s next book, because I know it will be amazing.  It’s as simple as that.  Not enough people are reading these books.  Why aren’t you reading these books?  Hmmm?  Why?

Honorable Mention: Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande and Reading Women: How the Great Book of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal
Best Memoir in a Year Full of Excellent Memoirs

 

I read so many great memoirs this year that I didn’t even get a chance to review them all and going back to pick my favorite was difficult.  I finally decided on Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert because it’s just so unique and I learned so much.  Gilbert is a wild bird rehabber and her journey is just so interesting and full of humor.  I dare you to read Gilbert’s memoir and not be charmed.

Honorable mention: Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli

Biggest Disappointment

I don’t think Great House by Nicole Krauss is a bad book, but I had such high expectation for it and it floundered under those expectations.  I don’t know if that’s my fault or the fault of the book.  It was such an even book that it was even more disappointing.  There was real greatness here, but it was ruined (for me) by the inconsistencies.

Honorable Mention: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

But let’s end this on a happy note…

Favorite Classic of 2010

Mrs. Dalloway is beautiful and contains easily some of the most amazing writing… ever.  I would have quoted the entire book if I could have.  I’m so glad the Woolf In Winter readalong made me read it, because I loved it.

Honorable  Mention: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (a very close second!)

2010 was a great year for reading, but here’s to hoping 2011 is even better!  Happy New Year, everyone!  I’ll see you next year, lolol.

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A classic that truly feels timeless

Posted by in Books, review

“Oh, I’m so glad.  I know you and I are going to get along together fine.  It’s such a relief to talk when one wants to and not be told that children should be seen and not heard.  I’ve had that said to me a million times if I have once.  And people laugh at me because I use big words.  But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t  you?”  (15)

(more…)

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TSS – Putting the right foot foward

Posted by in Blogging, Books

It’s always wonderful when you can sit back and say, “I definitely started this year off the right way.”  I decided to read Anne of Green Gables as my first book of 2010 and I’m so glad I did.  It was beautiful and heartbreaking and amazing.  Everything everyone ever said it would be, but I just needed a shove to get to it.   Fortunately I have the rest of the series waiting for me when I return to school!  I also decided to read the graphic novel Blankets.  It absolutely blew me away.  I say a lot of times that a book makes me want to open it up and start reading it again right away.  Well, this time I actually did it.  I reread all 592 pages again.  I’ll be posting proper reviews of both Anne of Green Gables and Blankets this week, but I really can’t think of a better way to start off 2010.

I have a lot of books that I’m currently in the middle of, but I’m not quite sure which one I want to read today.  I think I might also do some crocheting, because I’m going to New York on Wednesday and I need something to keep me warm!  Maybe I’ll actually finish a pair of gloves!!

What are you reading today?

I’ll leave you with some images from Blankets, just so you can get a taste.

I’m so glad I read this book a second time.  I spent a little bit more time with each image and there were so many small things that I missed the first time.  There are genius parallels that I didn’t even notice when I read through it.  The ending informs the beginning, so you almost have to go back and reread.  Don’t worry, I’ll be talking about this one for a long time.

All images from Craig Thompson’s Blankets.

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Tying up loose ends

Posted by in Books, review

Come tonight at midnight, it will be a new year.  Time to start keeping track of my books in a new spreadsheet, time to officially begin reading challenges.  I have quite a few book reviews to write from books I read in 2009, but I’d like to keep all my 2009 reviews in 2009, so here goes!

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy reading Shiver as much as a I did.  This novel is as much atmospheric as anything; Stiefvater creates the cold, winter landscape beautifully and I loved the sparse prose.   There has been a lot of controversy around this book, though I’m not sure why.  I’m sure those who love Twilight, will love Shiver. Maybe they’ll even appreciate the more skilled writing and beautiful language, which is why I bought this book for my sister for Christmas.  The biggest complaints seem to be Grace’s lack of independence and a couple mentions of Grace’s parents.  It is really convenient that Grace’s parents are never around, but at least Stiefvater attempts to weave this into the story with Grace’s frustration with her parents absence.  After reading the complaints about Grace, I was very prepared to feel the same way, but I was surprised.  I thought Grace was very independent, not perfect, but sometimes I want to read a novel about an all-consuming passionate love.  Okay?  All in all, I thought Shiver was decent, if not perfect.  The plot could have used some cleaning up, the conflict was kind of boring to me.  But I know my sister (14) will love it, so that’s all that really matters.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier is an exercise in form that also doesn’t lose important characterization or plot.  Even though I knew the plot and the fact that Micah is a liar, I was still unprepared for the twists and turns this novel surprised me with.  I literally shouted out loud when certain things were revealed.  It seriously was nothing I was expecting, even though I’ve been following the novel since its release earlier this year.  I really appreciated that!  Highly recommended.  This was also a gift for my sister.  She read it in under 24 hours on Christmas day and really loved it as well.  Over at the blog Fledgling, Zetta Elliot compared this book to works by Octavia Butler and it seems really appropriate (and definitely a high complement) and I completely agree with it.  If that doesn’t get you reading this novel, I don’t know what will.

How to Ditch Your Fairy, also by Justine Larbalestier, was a very enjoyable novel that I gave to my younger sister for Christmas because I thought she would appreciate the sports aspect.  My favorite thing about this novel was the alternative reality that the book is set in.  Everyone goes to a special high school based on your talents.  For example, the main characters attend a sport school, where all of their classes are focused on sports: sport medicine, the economics of sports, the business of sports, the literature of sports.  It’s really a clever idea and one I wouldn’t mind seeing in the real world one day.  Some people even have fairies, though some people just call them luck.  Charlie has a parking fairy, so every car she rides in ends up with the best possible parking space, and she hates it. She hates it so much she hasn’t ridden in a car in weeks in an effort to get rid of her fairy.  In this alternative reality all skin colors, cultures and sexual orientations are normal, but it’s not necessarily a big deal in the book.  And it’s not necessarily a perfect world either, which is just as important.  Highly recommended!

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is beautiful.  There are no words in this story, instead it is told in a series of intricate, unbelievably lovely pictures.  It is the story of immigration, of entering a foreign world and trying to fit in there, told through a fantastic conceit.  Go get this one, you won’t regret it.  Savor it slowly and really appreciate its  beauty.

I loved loved loved this graphic novel.  Everything about it was beautiful.  Ehwa is a young girl who is slowly discovering what it means to be a woman and have a woman’s body.  Set in a timeless Korea, she lives with her widowed mother in their inn.  I can’t wait to read the next in the series because this was really wonderful.  There are so many wonderful scenes that I could have picked  to show you, but I love the melancholy nature of the drawing above.

Well now I’m all caught up and ready to start anew and fresh.  Anyone else trying to pick the perfect book to be their first read of  2010?  I think I’m going to read Anne of Green Gables.  Happy New Year everyone!

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Looking Back at 2009

Posted by in Blogging, Books, Life

2009 is on its way out and 2010 is about to usher itself into the world.  Things changed a lot in 2009, in the world and in my life and I know that the coming months and 2010 are only going to bring more changes.  One of the  biggest changes in my life was Regular Rumination and my introduction to the book blogging community was on December 28th, 2008, a date that is approaching quickly and I can hardly believe it.  It has been wonderfully enriching to get to know all of you by talking about books and I’m looking forward to another wonderful year!

It’s too early still to put up my favorite books, but there are a few that I know will already make my list.  The Things They Carried was the first novel I read in 2009 and I really can’t think of a better way to start off the year.  It’s not only the best book I’ve read this year, but one of the best books I’ve ever read.  To round off the year, in September I got to meet Mr. O’Brien and see him speak.  It was an incredibly moving experience and one I’m not likely to forget any time soon.

Book blogging brought Young Adult fiction back into my life and like reacquainted best friends who stay up all night catching up, I read a ton of it.  Some of my favorite finds were Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Patrick Ness, Justine Larbalestier, Suzanne Collins, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Olive Kitteridge was a beautiful novel that not only won the Pulitzer but completely won me over, too.  Like The Things They Carried, it has staying power, at least on my top ten list.  2666 might have changed the way I read and my focus of study for my master’s.  The Grapes of Wrath and Something Wicked This Way Comes are two classics I read this year that lived up to their praise and also changed me as a reader.  Even though City of Thieves isn’t perfect, it ended up being one of my funniest reads of the year that still has me chuckling when I just think about some of the jokes included.

Graphic novels were big for me, especially graphic memoirs and non-fiction like Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco and Stitches by David Small.  I made the commitment in 2009 to read more books by women and people of many different colors and nationalities; through that goal, I discovered two new favorite authors that I can’t wait to explore more: Tayari Jones and Octavia Butler.  I hope to make this an even bigger priority in 2010, with authors from around the globe.   Poetry made a comeback in my life and will only continue to become a bigger focus for next year.  I ditched all my challenges a couple months ago, but don’t worry, I’m making up for it in 2010.

Keep an eye out on my blog for a post that looks ahead to 2010 and as we get closer to the New Year, a final year end list that will be nearly impossible to put together.  Thanks everyone for making 2009 spectacular!

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