BBAW Day 1: The five books of me

It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week over on The Estella Society and even though I don’t consider myself a book blogger their intro post caught my eye and I wanted to take a stab at it. How hard can choosing 5 books be? The (obvious) answer: VERY! I am almost incapable of choosing between books and when I do I feel almost unable to explain why I loved them so much. It’s one of the reasons I don’t consider myself a book blogger. Sure, I write about the books I’ve read but usually in general terms. I have thus far been too lazy to write the sort of blog posts I admire other bloggers for. And this is where I am trying to talk myself out of writing this post for fear of coming off as an ignorant wannabe.

Having said that here are 5 books I think are very me right now.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – This was the first Murakami book I read and I instantly fell in love with the prose. Granted, I read it in English and not the original Japanese but the translation really gave me the sense that it was true to the author’s voice. I plan on giving this one a reread soon.

Trading Rosemary by Octavia Cade – I read this book after watching a video by Books and Pieces on YouTube. The premise interested me and the fantasy/ sic-fi aspect of it especially. I was not disappointed. It is a very short read (you can read it in one sitting). The story takes place in a world where memories are currency. They are transferred into coins and traded. While the buyer can relive the experience through the memory the original is destroyed. Which memories are worth selling and losing forever?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – When I was younger I loved to read whatever was on a bestseller list and admittedly my reading horizons were very narrow. The Kite Runner was one of the first books that got me thinking about reading diversely.

Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older – By now it’s no secret that Older is one of my favorite authors and not just because of his books and his writing (both of which are amazing) but also because of his activism. I have learned a lot from his tweets about the publishing industry and writing in general. He’s an asset to the writing community. He calls out the issues of lack of representation and other nonsense such as the children’s book that depicted happy, smiling slaves. Half-Resurrection blues was the first book I read by him and I plan on reading anything else he writes.

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas – A place where you can travel into people’s minds, read their thoughts and even influence them. A special potion that allows you to enter this space. Quantum physics and Derrida. I stayed up late into the night to finish this book and it marked the end of a reading slump.

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Book Fridays: January Wrap-up

I managed to read 10 books in January which is a personal best. It’s a meaningless stat and I don’t place much value on it but I’m still excited to have accomplished that goal. Here is what I read in January along with some thoughts on each book.

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – I am working on reading the entire series and since my husband got me the set for Christmas I am well on my way to doing just that. With every book I read I realize just how good the film adaptations were. They stayed true to the books and even though changes were made it all still works. I especially love reading the book and getting all the information and nuances left out of the films. I can’t wait to continue my Potter journey soon! My rating: 4 stars
  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I heard about this book via booktube and picked it up from my library. I really loved the premise and found it to be an enjoyable read. It made me feel like I was in a world of fairy tales. The story centers around Agnieszka, a young girl chosen by an immortal wizard to apprentice with him. My rating: 4 stars
  3. Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older – Ever since I read Resurrection Blues last year I was eager to get back into the world that Older crafted. I was not disappointed with this latest installment in the Bone Street Rumba Series. I will be writing a separate post on this book. Suffice to say it’s filled with badass characters and diverse cast that kicks ass. My rating: 5 stars
  4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – After a friend recommended this book another friend seconded the rec and even sent me a copy as a gift! This book was a difficult read but a good one. It’s difficult because unlike fiction memoir gives us a glimpse into a person’s life. Real life. These awful things happened to real people. Real people made these shitty choices. Overall, it was a powerful read that will stay with me forever. My rating: 4 stars
  5. Low by Mary Elizabeth – My friend wrote and self-published this book and she very kindly shared an ARC with me. I cannot be unbiased about this so I will forgo a star rating on this one, haha. This book is possibly the best she’s written so far. So much growth in the writing style. The story is about Low, a bad boy criminal and Poesy his loving sidekick. They’re a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. If you’re looking for romance and thrills this might be the book for you.
  6. Negro: Este color que me queda bonito by Benito Masso – I picked up this book from El Candil in Ponce during my visit to Puerto Rico last year. One of my goals this year is to read more books in Spanish. I picked up this book because I was excited to hear from a black Puerto Rican about his experiences with racism. Puerto Rico is diverse but the fact remains that black puerto ricans are disadvantaged and oppressed by white puerto ricans. There is no Kumbaya on the island. Racism is rampant and insidious, however, I seldom see it addressed. I more often see people pretend it doesn’t exist. This memoir was poignant in that the author not only recounted his encounters with racism both on the island on on the U.S. mainland but he also detailed his journey of healing and talks openly about internalized racism. My rating: 5 stars
  7. The Martian by Andy Weir – I had been meaning to read this book last year but the wait list at my library was a mile long so I finally caved and bought a copy in December. Naturally, as soon as I bought it I was notified that a copy was on hold for me at the library. Go figure. Anyway, I was excited to read the book especially after watching the movie. I was not disappointed. The book was nothing short of thrilling. The end especially had me on edge even as I knew how it ended! Some changes were made and a lot of detail was left out of the movie. Both incarnations of this story are worth checking out. If you love space travel then I suspect reading about an astronaut stranded on Mars is right up your alley. My rating: 5 stars
  8. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – When I visited my parents last year I rummaged through the bookcase in my childhood bedroom and found a few books to take with me. This was one of them. I remember reading it and loving it. The idea of a magic garden that appears out of nowhere and that only Tom is privy to was very appealing to me. It still is. Reading children’s books as an adult is such a joy. I will continue to seek out kid lit. My rating: 4 stars
  9. Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn – I read this book for the first time during my freshman year of college. It was a required reading for my World Civ class. I remember being blown away by this book after my first reading but my second reading left me underwhelmed. I still think it’s an interesting book but something about it just didn’t resonate with me as much as it did the first time around. I was slightly disappointed but glad I read it all the same. The book is about a man who answers a classified ad that states: Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person. From here he embarks on a journey and so too does the reader. My rating: 3.5 stars
  10. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – A mysterious bookstore filled with strange books and a new clerk who is determined to figure out what’s going on. This book was a fun read. The ending was kind of underwhelming to me but overall I really enjoyed it. My rating: 4 stars

Conclusion:

I had a great reading month and I stuck to my #readmyowndamnbooks challenge! I did not purchase any books. Out of the 10 books I read 2 of them were library books, 1 was an ARC, 1 was a gift and the rest were books I already owned. My pile of books to be read is greatly reduced and after purging my shelves my house is a lot more organized.

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Book Fridays: Thoughts on reading

I have been doing a lot of reading this month and it feels good. I have momentum going and I don’t want to lose it. I’ve never been one to care about how many books I read and it wasn’t until two years ago that I started tracking my reading and participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Having said that, I just read 10 books this month and it’s a meaningless statistic that I am excited about. It’s the most I have ever read in a month.

This year I am participating in the #readmyowndamnbooks challenge and so far I am happy with my efforts. I did just purchase a book  but it’s not a novel! And so I am allowing it. If you’re curious, I picked up The Whole30 the 30-day guide to total health and food freedom by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. My husband and I are starting Whole30 on February 1st and while this will be my second Whole30 I found that the book is a worthwhile investment especially for the recipes and food plans.

Reading is something that I enjoy. I love to read and I can get lost in a book to the point where I will want to shirk my responsibilities. It’s difficult to pry myself away and do mundane things like tidy up, make dinner and put my son to bed BUT I do these things and jump back into reading. I can’t read when I am feeling anxious or stress which is why I often take week long breaks from reading. When my anxiety peaks I find myself consumed by it and the last thing I want is to tarnish my most beloved pastime. Currently, my anxiety is under control and my life has taken a turn for the better which is why I am taking full advantage of my good mental health.

Diego started preschool this month and this has given me two days a week where I have a period of about 7 hours to myself. I try to do as much as I can around the house. Everything is easier and gets done faster when Diego isn’t here to interrupt me! I do miss him but we are both getting some much needed time away from each other. At first I thought I would read during his absence but I have found it much more appealing to be productive. At the moment, I am decluttering and reorganizing closets and drawers. It’s messy work but the end result will hopefully keep us organized. That might not seem like it has anything to do with reading but to me it has everything to do with reading. I like to be relaxed when I am reading. Clutter and outstanding chores get in the way of this so being organized allows me to spend more time reading and less time cleaning up.

Those are all the random thoughts for the day. Next week I will wrap up my reading month and share some thoughts on the books I read in January.

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Book Fridays: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks

Last year I sorta lost steam with Book Fridays towards the end. I was reading faster than I was writing blog posts and I just felt like writing about the books I was reading had become a chore. So I took a break from doing that so that I could read in peace and regroup. I don’t consider myself a book reviewer but I suppose that any discussion of a book can be called a review of sorts. I am not sure what my approach will be this year but one thing I am definitely doing is participating in the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. The point of this challenge is pretty straight forward: read books you already own rather than buying more books to add to your TBR pile. I really like this idea, especially after shopping my own shelves last year and realizing I had a bad habit of buying books and not reading them. I don’t have a lot of books compared to some but I do have a nice little pile of them that I am going to get through this year.

Currently, I have 11 books on my nightstand and 1 book on my Kindle. I also have a few more on my bookshelf downstairs. There are no set rules in this challenge, you decide how you want to tackle your pile of books. Some people want to knock a certain number of books out before allowing themselves any new purchases. Others, like me, are going cold turkey: NO NEW BOOKS UNTIL…these books are read. It’s OK not to finish a book (life is too short to read books we aren’t into). I am not purchasing or borrowing books from the library until I’ve gotten through at least most of the books I have at home. I’m planning to be strict on zero purchases but a library book or two might happen.

These are the books I’ve already read/ plan to read in 2016.

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling read
  2. Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older read
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls currently reading
  4. Negro: Este Color Que Me Queda Bonito by Benito Massó Jr.
  5. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
  6. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn*
  7. The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
  8. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
  9. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce*
  10. Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke
  11. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
  12. The Zenith by Duon Thu Huong
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  14. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  16. The Queen by Tiffany Reisz

*denotes a re-read

I don’t plan to read these in any particular order. Once I finish a book I usually look at my TBR list and decide what I’m in the mood for. Most of the time I borrow books from the library but last year I discovered that Dollar Tree sells books and they’re not the kind of books I assumed they were (trash) so I loaded up on quite a few. I plan on writing about these Dollar Tree books soon.

How about you? Do you have a lot of books laying around? Consider reading your own damn books!

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I conquered

It’s been a while since I published a blog post here. I’ve written some posts but those have ended up in the drafts folder. Book Fridays is on hiatus until January. I have plenty of books to talk about! Tonight, I find myself in the mood to update my blog and so I am sitting at my dining table doing just that.

This year was both amazing and horrible for me. The horrible parts aren’t something I feel like sharing but I did want to share some of the amazing things I have accomplished this year.

I don’t make it a secret that I struggle with my mental health and have done for the past 7 years. I have anxiety disorder and panic attacks. For a while they restricted my life in ways most people don’t know about. Everyday things were struggles for me. Going to the store presented challenges, would I have a panic attack? Would I collapse? On and on went the what ifs. Going to new places triggered my anxiety, feeling lost in my own town had the same effect. In all it was just a drag and even though I did manage to do some things I knew that I wasn’t living my life to the fullest.

This summer I began to notice a change in my anxiety. My symptoms were less frequent and whenever I did start to panic I managed to squash it easily. I started building my confidence by challenging myself everyday to do something I thought I could not do. Here’s the thing about my anxiety, it often tells me I can’t do a lot of things. I started off small, going to the store on my own to pick up a couple of things and I slowly started adding stops to my outings.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing. There was a time I couldn’t manage to pick my husband up from the airport because the mere thought of the drive crippled me. This happened while I was making all kinds of progress and it almost set me back. It embarrasses me to an extent to share this but at the same time it doesn’t because what other people think about that doesn’t matter.

My biggest accomplishment came in November when I traveled to Puerto Rico to visit my parents for two weeks. I traveled alone with a 3 year old. It was THE goal I had set for myself years ago when overcoming my anxiety was nothing but a pipe dream. I did it. Was I anxious? Yes. Did I experience  a panic attack or two? Yes. I’m not cured and I never will be but I’ve managed to do things I’ve been unable to do and my anxiety came with me. It will always be with me but I am finally at a place where I feel in control of it.

As I write this and perhaps because I am writing about anxiety I am feeling very anxious (it’s probably why I don’t write about it as much). It’s a familiar feeling but no matter how familiar it’s always a noxious one. I sometimes find it difficult to discuss anxiety with people because for those who don’t experience it as a disorder understanding it can be difficult. For one thing anxiety doesn’t necessarily have a cause. Something can trigger those feelings for me but I cannot pinpoint why I have the disorder. We all feel nervous, stressed, and scared  now and then but living with anxiety for me means a constant pressure on my shoulders, a tightness in my chest and a feeling of dread. They are intense feelings that interfere with my life and how I live it.

Whenever I talk to people about my anxiety I get asked about medication. I am currently not taking any medication but I’ve always maintained that should I reach a point where I need it I will take it. I don’t believe it’s responsible to pat oneself on the back for not taking medication. The position that medication for mental illness is not needed is irresponsible and ill informed. I fully support medication. It really is the difference between life and death for lots of people. My decision to not take medication is mine alone and not a reflection on my position of the same.

Today I walked to a nearby park with my son. A year ago just thinking about walking there sent my heart racing. Today I spent two wonderful hours enjoying the slightly cooler Florida weather.

It was a good day.

Below are some photos from my trip to PR. See you next year!

 

I start with forgiveness

It’s been a while since I posted anything and instead of a Book Fridays post I wanted to take some time to sort through some thoughts and feelings I’ve been having. The past month has been challenging for me. My son is going through some phase wherein he is almost unbearable at times. He’s defiant, he refuses to use the potty, and bed time is a nightmare. I want to preface this by stating that I am not looking for advice. I understand the place where such advice comes from but I assure you that I have people and resources to turn to. Basically, if I want advice I ask for it. I am sharing this because I need to vent and because perhaps somebody out there is going through something similar and they need to know they are not alone. Whenever difficult things arise in our lives we tend to feel isolated. We always think that nobody else could possibly know what we are feeling. The truth is that we are never alone and most of our troubles have been experienced by others at some point.

Parenting is not easy. I know this. I think most people know this whether or not they have ever been around young children. It’s exhausting at times and very frustrating. Like anything we choose to do in life it has its highs and lows. There are days when my temper is hot and my fuse is short. I try to be self aware because I need to keep my emotions in check. It’s not always easy and there have been times when I’ve raised my voice or even yelled. There have been long days where I’ve been up until 3am because my son refuses to stay in his bed and after two hours of walking him back to his bed I give up and let him crawl into ours. I then wake up early to eat breakfast with my husband and because kids are evil Diego wakes up as soon as my husband is off to work and gleefully asks for something to eat. So much for catching forty winks.

At my lowest points I feel like a failure (something I’ve talked about before) and I start to question myself. It’s easy to shoulder blame. Diego isn’t potty trained because of me. Diego doesn’t sleep through the night in his own bed because of me. Diego makes a fuss about going to bed because of me. Logically, I know that kids often go through these periods of pushing boundaries and defying authority. I know that but I still sometimes feel like my worth as a person is tied to my success as a parent. I grade myself and award low marks.

In a few months this will all be nothing but a memory but right now it’s my life and it sucks. I know it will pass and I know this is not going to last forever. Knowing that offers little comfort to me. The frustrating thing about all of this is that I don’t know how long it will last. There is no schedule. Things change quickly and randomly.

What I have found helpful is to exercise forgiveness. I read a wonderful piece about writing by Daniel Jose Older that stated that you must start with forgiveness. I think it’s applicable to life in general. Start with forgiveness. I forgive myself for not being perfect, for falling short, for making mistakes, for being hard on myself. I forgive my son for being who he is, for inadvertently hurting me, driving me up the wall, robbing me of sleep, and making me eye that bottle of wine lustfully.

Whenever I demand too much for myself I fail. There are such things as unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves. When we don’t meet them we write ourselves off as failures. Why bother anymore, right? Whether it’s writing, doing laundry, sticking to Whole30 (I just did Whole30 and plan to write about my experience) or simply getting through a list of chores loving ourselves enough to forgive is paramount. Understanding that falling short isn’t a shortcoming. It means that we got out there and we tried. It means that we put forth some effort. Even if you only got as far as lacing up your shoes you still DID something.

Celebrating small victories has been the foundation of my journey to managing my anxiety and it’s something that I’ve applied to other areas of my life. I try to devote a few minutes each day to thinking about what I’m grateful for and to let myself feel and mull things over. These moments of introspection and self meditation are important to me. It helps me to process. Most of the time I do this quietly in the shower, or while laying in bed long after the house has become quiet. Tonight I am doing here in this blog post.

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Readathon: Debriefing

This past Saturday I participated in Dewey’s 24 hour readathon. I had an absolute blast and I am already looking forward to the next one in April 2016. I did a little bit of everything this time. I cheered, I hosted a mini challenge, and I read. I also socialized a lot.

Below are my answers to the closing survey.

Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 19 when I threw in the towel and went to sleep for a bit. 
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

You can’t go wrong with Harry Potter but in general, some easy books that aren’t too long are great to have in your stack. 
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I honestly don’t. I think it’s so well organized and executed already but I am excited to support and participate in any changes. 

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

It was really easy to cheer for blogs. I got through the list quite fast and I even had time to cheer on the rogue. 

How many books did you read?

I finished one book and started a second book but I didn’t start and finish a book during the readathon. 

What were the names of the books you read?

The Picture of Dorian Gray and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Which book did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed Dorian Gray I suppose haha

Which did you enjoy least?

Also Dorian Gray 😉
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I found it helpful to divide my day into activities. I cheered first thing, then I moved on to my mini challenge with some cheering peppered in and finally, I got some reading done at night. I think just taking it easy and having fun is important. Cheering shouldn’t be stressful. 

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I am definitely participating again! I will cheer, host a mini challenge and read. 

Readathon: Updates

I’m going to make this my update post since I figure that nobody wants to get a million alerts from me today. We are almost at hour 9 and so farI haven’t done much in the way of reading but I’ve been cheering and perusing the entries to my readathon kids challenge! I decided to extend the challenge until the end of the readathon so keep those pics coming. I love seeing all the kids reading, and children’s books being read.

I did not finish The Picture of Dorian Gray last night (I didn’t read at all) so that will be the first book I tackle when I finally get around to reading today. Once I finish that I will be diving into Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and if I manage to finish that today I’ll start on Percy Jackson and the Olympians The Lightning Thief. Not too lofty, right? I think I can get it done.

Hour 14

I still haven’t read a word today haha. I’ve been so into socializing, cheering and just living life but I’ve had a blast so far. Going to pick up Dorian Gray now. Hope to finish tonight so I can start Chamber of Secrets. 

  

Readathon Kids Challenge!

Welcome to HOUR FOUR! I am so thrilled to be hosting a mini challenge this readathon. My first readathon was in October of last year and I am so glad that I decided to participate. This community of readers welcomed me with open arms and I am only sorry I didn’t find it sooner. Celebrating books and reading is a wonderful thing and I love to be able to spread the excitement.

This is intended to be an Instagram challenge but if you don’t have an Instagram account and would like to participate you can do so via Twitter. I will be checking the hashtag on both Twitter & Insta.

The challenge:

Sharing our love of books with the next generation is fun. During the readathon you might find yourself in the company of future readers. Perhaps you’re pregnant and in the habit of reading to your bump, or maybe you have a new baby, toddler, sibling, niece, nephew etc. Maybe you don’t have any kids around you today but you are enjoying some children’s classics. Take a picture of your toddler’s readathon stack, or of your baby looking through a book. Kids and books, let your creativity lead you. Use props, recreate a book cover… Whatever you do make sure to use the hashtag #readathonkids 😀

The prizes:

  • A copy of a Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (must be resident of the US since I’ll be shipping you the book)
  • A $10 giftcard to Book Depository (open to international participants!)

I will be choosing two winners during hour 8 of the challenge which means you have 4 hours to participate. If you are a winner and under the age of 18 please get your parent/guardian’s permission before sharing your mailing address. Safety is important! If you have any questions leave them in the comments or contact me at the following:

Twitter: iron__gall 

Instagram: scandelis_d

I can’t wait to see your pics!

ETA I have decided to extend the challenge until the end of the readathon so keep those pics coming! I am loving looking through the hashtag 🙂 -Abby

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Readathon: Opening Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Florida, United States

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I’m doing Whole30 so I can’t have my favorite snack but I’m looking forward to snacking on pistachios and sunflower seeds. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I was born in Puerto Rico, lived in Botswana for 8 years, moved to New Orleans for college and then to Florida for grad school and I’ve been here ever since. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I’ll be hosting a challenge right here on my blog during hour 4 as well as cheering and reading! I’m doing a bit of everything this readathon and I’m SO excited!