May 12, 2015

Reading Log - Second Week in May 2015

My 11 year old daughter hates to read. This is a great pity and sadness to me. I know she is reluctant about reading and struggles with it some. I also feel a slight rebellion or defiance in her. She enjoys saying she doesn't like to read because I own a bookstore. She cherishes that irony. On one hand I appreciate her understanding of irony. On the other hand I always think that if I present her with the RIGHT book that I can change her into a reader!

Recently she listened to the audiobook for The Inventor's Secret. It grabbed her RIGHT AWAY. Like I said, she is reluctant to read. I can get her to listen to audiobooks occasionally, but she usually tells me she is bored. I want her to read with her eyes, but I also like that she can enjoy stories outside of the struggles she might feel with reading. I know those struggles well. I am not now, nor have I ever been a particularly good reader. It is interesting how something that you aren't good at can become the thing you are really passionate about. Big books still feel daunting to me, small print and lack of white space will keep me from reading.

I decided to encourage my daughter in her reading (she has continued with the series) that I would give the book a try. I guess I miss judged her tasted because I was honestly SHOCKED at how good The Inventor's Secret was. It has everything I love in a children's book. Decent writing, interesting connections with history and art, and an addictive story line.  I finished the audio this weekend and am excited to read more books in the series. I have to admit I am hoping these books are THE ONES. The ones that turn her into more of a reader. On the other hand, I don't want to force reading on her and have her hate it for the rest of forever.

I am still working on reading Huntress by Malindo Lo. I am on page 177. I am reading slowly to pace my friend and we discuss it frequently. I am enjoying it a lot more than Ash, which I did not dislike, just found myself wanting more out of.

I am continuing to succeed at starting books and jumping from story to story. I am a little under halfway through Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee. I keep telling people that it is zero gravity MMA fighting on the moon. They are underwhelmed by the concept. I am enjoying it well enough. I enjoy MMA and whenever I read the book I get in the mood to watch a match. The writing is a little lack luster and the romance bores me. I am not sure if it feels forced or just not the type of storytelling I am in the mood for. Romance is fine, even welcomed. But there is a certain amount of sex appeal that is off putting to me. The idea that the main reason these characters exist is to be sexually attracted to each other.

I also recently started The Wrath and the Dawn. It only came out today. I have yet to decide if I love or hate the language. And I don't feel very motivated to stick with it, but I will read a little more of it before I put it aside.

I have pushed most of my research aside for the time being. I just haven't been in the mood to put effort or thought into it, since it takes a little extra brain power to really get the most out of it. Brain power has been majorly lacking the past few weeks,

Though I am listening to the audio of Gifts from the Sea and really enjoying it. I don't feel like I am really giving it the time it deserves, but I can't help feeling like I will go back to it again later. And I also hate the narration on the audiobook. But it is short and I am already halfway through it.

I was super excited for An Ember in the Ashes to come out, but now I think I am scared to read it.

Here is my real problem...

SIMON AND THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA.
It may have been so good that it has ruined me for all books. I want other books to catch me in the same way it did and they won't. But maybe I get points because I keep trying.

Soon to be read is also Bone Gap.

That is it for tonight! I made a second post. I am proud of myself. Here's to seeing me around her more often.


Apr 22, 2015

Reading Log - Fourth Week in April

One of the reason I miss updating my blog is that I enjoy going back and seeing what I was reading and if I liked it. Some of the books I have blogged about I still haven't finished. Some I never will.

Lately I have been working on really interesting mix of reading, especially driven by my personal research in dystopian literature and communal living.

Today I finished Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and it was basically amazing. It lost me in the last little bit, the moments just before the end. I am a little bummed out about this, but I think I will get over it soon and just go on loving the book. Hoping to try more books by this author soon. I "read" Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock via audiobook, and I just loved the narrator for it. I found out he is also the narrator for the audio of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Perks is one of those books I have been reading in a REALLY long time, this will be a good excuse to get back to it.

I am extremely good at starting books. Probably too good. I am not sure I ever felt any particular tie to a book I have started reading, the tie or obligation comes later. I switch from book to book until something sticks.

Earlier this week I also finished Girl on a Wire in audio format. It reminded me of how I hoped Like Water for Elephants would be, except I hated Like Water for Elephants and I didn't hate Girl on a Wire.

I am reading Huntress by Malinda Lo with my friend David. I talked him into reading Ash, which I found slightly disappointing. He felt similarly and we decided to read Huntress together. I am on page 22 and he somewhere in the mid 40s. We both think the writing and story is significantly better. I remember when I read Silver Phoenix and I wanted to read more books like it Cindy Pon suggested I read Huntress. I wanted to read Ash before though, and it took me over two and a half years to get to it.

Also on audio I have been intermittently listening to Area X. Area X is actually three books in one collection. I am enjoying it, but when I started reading it I was surprised, for some reason, that it had a female narrator. It is a pretty interesting book, and even though I like its use of flashbacks and backstory, I think it might move slightly too slowly for my taste. (Flashbacks are also really well done and enjoyable in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.)

This weekend I started a new research book even though I am in the middle of at least 7 already. It makes me happy that I am not actively going to school and just working on this research as a sort of personal project. I just started Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity by Phillip Wegner and it is basically everything I have ever wanted in a text. Some of the other research titles I have been working on are Utopias and Utopians: An Historical Dictionary. Scraps of the Untainted Sky, and The Palgrave Companion to North American Utopias. I have been working really hard to build my background knowledge on both actual communes and utopia projects and well known utopian fiction. I am not as well versed in these topics as I might like to be. Though even this small start I have made has been very helpful.

I have also been research children's literature. I am interested in both the general history of children's literature and how it is used in education. I have be working on Should We Burn Babar? as part of my exploration on this subject. I haven't finished the first essay yet, which discusses various issues that lie within the text of Babar. I mostly disagree with the author on the points they are making, but I am also extremely uniformed as it occurred to me I had never read Babar. Hope to fix that soon!

For several months I have been reading A Circle of Quiet in hopes of getting a little insight into L'Engle's writing and specifically any tidbits about A Wrinkle in Time. It is considered to be the first young adult dystopian novel. Recently an article came out about pages that were edited out of the text that have been of particular interest to me. A Circle of Quiet had less insight about A Wrinkle in Time than I had hope, but is overall very worthwhile and interesting.

Finally, tonight I started the audiobook of The Martian. I am enjoying it quiet a bit, but find that if I am not careful I will zone out when reading it.

It is so hard to pick books that I want to read or decide which books in my endless list deserve to be moved to the top of the list. It is not often that the deserving title is moved to the top. Usually I am driven more by convenience and mood than I am by quality. I can't help feeling a little like as I have gotten older I have settled for less artful books out of a desire for more mindless entertainment.

I hope that I can keep writing these general logs about what I have been reading and I what I want to be reading, they are part of what I miss the most when it comes to looking back on the content of this digital place.

Apr 16, 2015

Dystopian Wanderings

Dystopia has been defined and redefined as every generation discovers and rediscovers the power it can have as a fiction, as an informative device, as a life changing event. There are many simple way to understand dystopia, but none of them help to understand the scope of dystopia.

I pick up and put down dystopian research throughout my life. When I was 16 I read 1984 and Thomas More's Utopia and these two books changed my life. They sparked in me interest and excitement. I have been chasing that desire ever since.

I have also left and returned to blogging over the years. I have been stricken by the pressure to produce, but also by life getting in the way of things.

The way that life gets in the way is essential to many dystopian narrative, especially the real life ones we see more and more often on the news. We used to fear Big Brother, and now we know he is there, yet somehow fall under the illusion that we are safe because we are too busy to deal with it. Dystopian narratives have taught us the fallacy of safety. When one believes they have nothing to hide they have forgotten how the system works. They have forgotten the century of warnings.

I am attempting to return to my research and do a better job of keeping myself accountable. I have many online and paper notebooks filled with scrawled out half ideas. I want to give those ideas a home, without the pressure of perfection. I am going to allow my half formed ideas to surface into the light from now on. (I hope.) (I have made such declarations before.)

One thing I am hoping to accomplish is returning to young adult dystopian novels I have enjoyed in the past and reflecting on what I liked and why I might recommend them. Since my interest in this subject area started the market has only grown. It is easy to become disconnected with the quality titles that existed before The Hunger Games. Or the gems that released within the noise of the subsequent sub-genre boom. The issue of definition has always been a problem, but thanks to The Hunger Games, everyone has an idea of what a dystopia is. It may just be as simple as calling it a bad place.

With the growth in the popularity of this type of fiction the distinction between dystopian literature and novel with dystopian themes is essential. In the past, when there were limited texts and resources we often identified books with dystopian themes as examples of dystopian literature, but as the market has been flooded with more and more examples of books with dystopian themes it becomes mandatory to make the distinction.

Like all science fiction, dystopia is about the fear of the current political climate.  We think of dystopia as a warning of the future that may come, but it is really about the future that is already here. Memory is often a theme in dystopian literature, in part because we fear what will happen if we forget what has happened in the past. There are so many lessons to be learned by past mistakes. Without the ability to access them we will easily repeat them. 

Reality is always changing and so are things that we think of as immutable. Facts are what we call the theories of our age and while we can be quick to point out the mistakes of the past, we aren't willing to accept that we may be making some on our own.

Nov 16, 2014

Reading Slumps and Author Events

It happened again.

I am in the middle of yet another reading slump, this one came out of the middle of nowhere. I was reading a lot and enjoying the things I was working on and then BAM, no more interest in books anymore. It has been this way for about a month.

One of the best and easiest ways for me to get out of slump is prepping for an author event. Whether the event is in the store or outside of it, I like to have a connection with authors I will meeting. This past week had a lot of author meeting in it. And these authors have written some pretty enticing titles.

But no.

No reading inspiration was found.

I am still hopelessly slumped. I blame two people for this. Jessica Arnold and Joelle Charbonneau.

Jessica Arnold ruins my life with a good book.
Joelle's dystopian series ruined me for others.




















I like how a random internet search found them both pictured in a woody park, plotting against me. Not only do they give good plot, but they also give amazing hair.

Side note, Saturday night went to bed with purple hair, Sunday morning, woke up, showered, and no longer had purple hair. I knew the purple would fade but I was hoping it would last a few more washes than it did.
Me! With hair you can barely tell is purple.
The Looking Glass by Jessica Arnold is one of my favorite books that I have read in 2014. It may still be too early to call it, but I always think that I will have plenty of time to read as the year winds down and the holidays start happening and I never find time. I also really enjoyed Joelle's trilogy more than I have enjoyed any series in a really really really really long time. I really don't enjoy second books in a series, but Independent Study held up well on its own while still being a relevant part of the overarching story. One of the things that I liked the most about about Joelle's storytelling is anytime I thought she was going left, she would zag right and sometimes breaking my heart in the process.

Then sometimes you are working on a blog post and this songs comes out and dancing happens more than working through my writing block.

Yep, I am feeling a little bit of writing blocked as well as reading blocked. I set a goal to work on the blog more and I have horribly failed. I have been able to use the blog as a resource to remember and timeline past events. And I want to make sure I still have these records throughout my bookselling career as well. Time and energy are always factor. Attention might also be a factor.

One of the decisions I made when I bought the bookstore was that I would go to 4 events a year in lieu of more traditional pay. Every year I go to LTUE in February and the Vegas Valley Book Festival in the fall. It is really fun to go to the same events every year and see different authors, and the same authors, and fans, bloggers, friends. Every year is a chance to both renew old connections and make new ones.


Nov 14, 2014

Memory


Growing up my grandparents always had a picture of the last supper in their dinning room. It was there for every meal I shared with them. But every one of my aunts and uncles hated it. When they asked if there was anything I wanted from the house when they moved I asked for the framed print of the last supper.

My grandmother said that it was mine but that she wanted to keep it for a little longer. She moved from Connecticut to Texas she put it up in her dining room. And it was always there for every meal I shared with them.

One day I was visiting my grandparents in Texas. I happened to be searching random things on the internet. I looked up some paintings of Salvador Dali and noticed he had a version of the last supper that looked very similar to the picture on the wall. I ran into the dinning room and it looked the same. I pulled the picture off the wall and it had a little card on the back that said Salvador Dali. It felt like kismet. When I first asked for the picture I didn't know who Dali was, but when I was in Italy we went to a museum and he became my favorite artist. And this picture was only a print but it felt like it had always been meant for me.

I was 18 when I found out about the artist for the picture. My dad had been dead one year two months and four days. Even though I had just returned from Australia my life had so little meaning and so little direction.The picture remained on the wall in the dining room and time passed. I moved to Utah. I started to find and lose and find again meanings and joy and reasons for living life.

On my 21rst birthday I was living in a house with my best friend and boyfriend and a huge package arrived. I think I knew what it was the moment I saw it, but when I opened it my breath was still taken away. My picture was home with me. On the back, next to Salvador Dali's name in black marker it said, Happy 21st Birthday. It was the best birthday of my life.

That picture was the best gift I was ever given.


Apr 20, 2014

Fandom

The fact of the matter is, I don't think I am a particularly good fan.

There are the things I love: books, Cindy Pon, Frank Turner, Nathan Fillion, and food. But there is a limit to how much time I am willing to spend devoting time to things like waiting in line or aggressively stalking. Books and food respond well to aggressive stalking, Cindy Pon hasn't noticed yet, but for the others...I am not sure? Is it that I care about myself too much to be a good fan?

In the fall of 2013, Mr. X and I saw two Frank Turner shows back to back. One in Salt Lake City and one in Las Vegas. We kind of felt like we were pretty good fans, but after the show was over in Vegas we were talking to some other concert goers who were seeing 5 or 6 shows in a single tour. And I just thought to myself, I am not sure I care enough about ANYTHING to do that.

Maybe it is just part of being a grown up or being too self absorbed, but I can buy one Doctor Who shirt and feel satisfied. I can be half a season behind and still feel like I am a fan of the show.

Mr. X and I have seen Frank Turner 3 times in 6 months. We have driven 1418 miles to see him in concert in that same time span. And 2914 miles for all the Frank Turner shows we have ever been to. In June we will travel almost another 1000 miles to see him perform again. But when the show is over we don't wait in any parking lots or linger at any doors. We go home, or to our home for the night and continue on with our lives.

The last time we saw Frank Turner in Vegas we gave him two books we picked out from the store before he went on stage. We were lucky to catch him and chat with him without having to stand about and wait. When he put his arms around me in sincere thanks, I figured it would be the best moment we would ever have together.

In January I got my 3rd tattoo, inspired in part by Frank Turner lyrics. But I don't wait at the stage edge hoping to pocket a set list. As we watched him crowd serf at the end of the show in Flagstaff Mr. X lamented that we weren't closer to be a part of it. I reminded him that he hugged us. We didn't hug him. He hugged us and it would always be better.

Maybe a dinner or a lucky encounter at a bar could be better than that hug, but waiting in an alley for a door to open feels like it never will be better.
Bibliophile Exploring Dystopia | Speculative Fiction