For the past couple of months I have been working as the project coordinator of the Ellery Yale Wood Collection of Children’s Books and Young Adult Literature. This collection is so great because it spans quite a wide time period. There are books from the the late 18th century through to the early 21st. I have run across all kinds of interesting books, from inscribed copies of Maurice Sendak’s works, to first editions of the His Dark Materials series, to books given as prizes in schools and Sunday schools throughout Britain.

While inventorying the collection I came across a book in the Garden Gang series. It was a cute little book, but it caught my interest because the entire series was written by a young girl.

You can learn more about the Ellery Yale Wood Collection of Children’s Books and Young Adult Literature here and read my post about the Garden Gang books here.

To see other fun and interesting things from the collection, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Poindextrix.

Those of you who follow me on instagram (and if you don’t you’re missing awesome book pics …and cat pics, but shush) know that I was super excited about Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I started reading it almost immediately after I finished Not That Kind of Girl. It was so weird going straight from Dunham’s book to this. Lena Dunham is quite the controversial and polarizing individual (perhaps more than she should be and I have loads of opines about that re: the media and public perception of/reaction to a woman being successful and owning her sexuality and poet at a relatively young age). Then there’s Amy Poehler, whom I love and everyone loves and if you don’t I may subject you to a rigorous background check to make sure you’re still a good person because how can you not be pro-Poehler?! But I digress…

Poehler writes about funny things and difficult things and sad things, all with honesty, grace, and humor. The book does occasionally feel a bit gimmickry, but not overwhelmingly so and since she is a comedian, I expect a little schtick.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book. It was a quick, fun, and funny read and it made me think about a few things — like how you should say “yes please” to anything that life throws at you. And for that I thank Amy Poehler. I may have read this in 2014, but it’s 2015 now, and having a “yes please” attitude going into the new year seems like a good idea.

Well, the New Year is upon us and with it comes every possible promise of personal betterment. I’e never been particularly keen on New Year’s resolutions, perhaps because I fear both commitment and failure, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is: the kind of resolutions I can get enthusiastic about are, unsurprisingly, reading-related.

I was 9 books shy of my 100-book goal for 2014, so I’m shooting for it once again in 2015. Additionally, I want to further diversify my reading. I read a good amount of women writers and writers of color as it is, but I want to make a more conscious effort to do so. I also want to read more in translation, as that is an area in which I am lacking.

For a very brief moment I entertained the idea of echoing my friend Elizabeth’s resolution to not buy any books. Yes. Any. With the idea that it forces one to read the tons of books already in one’s possession. But I’m all about attainable goals and, besides, it runs somewhat counter to my other goals for 2015, so instead I’m just going to try to read more of the books I already own. That’s a compromise, right?

I’m also going to continue tracking my reading and I hope to better organize my bookshelves. Those might not be reading goals, but they’re book related and reading-adjacent, so I’m including them.

So these are my 2015 resolutions. They are resolutions I believe I could keep, and that’s the beauty of it.

Do you have reading resolutions? Regular resolutions? Tell me all about ’em!

 

I recently read Fat Girl, Fairy Boy by Carol McConkie. In the interest of full disclosure I received a free e-pub copy of this book for review. It was officially released this past week via book-hub.com.

The blurb for Fat Girl, Fairy Boy immediately drew me in. The struggles of these two characters and how they find themselves and understand each other in the perfect way was something I hadn’t really seen before.

For that reason the first part of the book was a bit more aligned with my interests and expectations. The entire part in Central America was incredibly confusing for me. I don’t believe that was in the original description and it therefore caught me way off guard. Let’s just say that the book takes a drastic turn for which I was not fully prepared. I was invested in the characters and therefore invested in the outcome, but felt like it was kind of a bizarre direction. I got back into in the last third or so of the book.

There was significant character development in this book, it just happened differently from what I expected. I would have liked to see more of Frei and Robin’s journeys and earlier days together.

Even so, I think this was an amazing portrayal of human fortitude and strength and how people can find salvation in purpose in the wake of difficulty.

This book was a bit unusual for me in that I had to actually stop and evaluate whether I really enjoyed reading it. It was certainly engaging, and I did feel like it came to a mostly triumphant end.

Fat Girl, Fairy Boy isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you like strong storytelling, I say give it a shot. You can find out more about it at http://www.book-hub.com.

Review — Housekeeping

September 16, 2012

Back in August, my subway book was Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to review it. I guess other books and school and internships provide a veritable smorgasbord of decent excuses. All the same, I really enjoyed it and if I’m going to skip reviewing a book it really shouldn’t be that one.

When I visit book blogs I often end up adding books that I see reviewed to my list if they aren’t on it already, or bumping up books that have languished on the list for years to the top. If there’s even a chance that my words have the same effect on others, than Housekeeping needs to make an appearance.

The description from Goodreads:

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

I rarely quote copy from Goodreads or the back of the book, but Housekeeping calls for more than I can give.

It is about family and growing up and staying put. About loss and moving on and dysfunction and memory and so many other things. Yep — family, identity, women — Housekeeping has it all. The recurring themes of identity and femininity in the types of “housekeeping” are subtle and profound.

There’s a certain passivity to Ruthie as she matures that in other circumstances I might find perplexing, but in the greater scheme of this work — with its shifting tides of identity and questions of growing up and “out of” or “into” certain things — I think works.

Even writing this is making me want to re-read Housekeeping. It’s a book I imagine I’ll return to quite often in years to come.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

August 20, 2012

As you may have noticed, my blog has gone through a round of changes, but never fear! they are all on the surface. I decided to roll over the name/address from my old blog — Witless Witticisms — and keep Poindextrix as my username, so there you have it. The Poindextrix you know and tolerate love continues with a new look and a not-so-new name.

Think of it as recycling. I’m green and eco-conscious and whatnot.

Anyway, please note the change in the url if you decide to link to me.

On an almost related note, I’ve been tagged in blog tag and I was nominated for a blog award forever ago that I haven’t passed along. I really will get to both of those in the near future.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m the butt of some cosmic joke. Really though, we don’t need to get into that.

On Bees

August 12, 2012

“They work; but don’t you think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need — they make so much more than they can eat — they are so incessantly boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them — that don’t you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to have no holidays, because of the bees? And am I never to have change of air, because the bees don’t? Mr. Boffin, I think honey excellent at breakfast; but regarded in the light of my conventional schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.”

~Our Mutual Friend p.91

I love going through old quotes I’ve saved from books and coming across gems like this.

I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE Write-In Giveaway in which bloggers introduce an author’s work via a suggested sequence. I’ve chosen an author whose work continues to awe me in unfathomable ways.

I happened upon Geraldine Brooks entirely by accident. I’d heard the name, but hadn’t gotten around to actually investigating any of her writing because I had more pressing books on my list.

You know how people say not to judge a book by its cover? As book people, we know that’s a load of BS. How many times have you roamed through shelves and picked up something simply because you were drawn to the cover? Well, People of the Book has a gorgeous cover, and I was intrigued by the title, so I figured I’d give it a try. Thus began my love initiation.

People of the Book

People of the Book was the first of Brooks’s works that I read, but it has remained my favorite. I find that whenever a friend, family member, or unsuspecting stranger asks me for a book recommendation, People of the Book is invariably one of the first to spring to mind. Simply put: I love the story, the characters, and Brooks’s amazing ability to weave everything together. I love this book and if you don’t, we can’t be friends.

OK, we can probably still be friends, but I will judge your book choices. A lot.

At the book’s center is the Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare, illuminated Jewish text rescued from certain destruction during the Bosnian war. In the present day, Hanna Heath is a rare book expert tasked with analyzing and conserving the Haggadah. Brooks, through her masterful storytelling, takes the reader through different periods of the book’s “life,” revealing the origins of each clue (an insect wing, a salt crystal, a wine stain, a hair) that Hanna uncovers in her delicate inventory of the book and introducing readers to other people that have been instrumental in the creation and protection of the book.

March

Remember Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women? Remember how their father was absent, off ministering to the soldiers during the war? Ever wonder what life was like for him? Well,Brooks gives us a little peek inside.

Having just recently read this, I can say that the characterization of Mr. March is intriguing, especially in later chapters and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the forced cheerfulness of March’s letters home with much of the rest of his observations. I also thought the later chapters when Marmee’s point of view is added, often directly contradicting March’s stated perceptions in earlier chapters, was interesting.

You don’t have to have read Little Women to enjoy March. Some familiarity is helpful, but, again, not necessary. It has been ages since I’ve read it (as in, I think someone had to read it to me the last time), but I still managed to follow along.

Year of Wonders

An infected bolt of cloth carries the plague from London to an isolated English village. Thus begins the Year of Wonders for Anna Frith, previously a housemaid, now also a healer and somewhat of a heroine as the small village deals with deaths in every household and prayers seem to go unanswered while the community collapses around her.

This book is inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the hill country of England. Though the characters and individual events obviously come from her imagination, the foundation upon which this story is based just adds to its ability to hook you in as a reader.

Caleb’s Crossing

There is a very particular reason I have put this at the bottom of my list. It is not because I didn’t enjoy it or think it has less merit or anything like that. Far from it. It’s at the bottom of the list because I think readers will gain more and enjoy it the most having first read more of Geraldine Brooks’s work.

Brooks has a knack for finding some very interesting concept (i.e. the Sarajevo Haggadah, Mr. March, the town of Eyam) with limited information, doing exhaustive research, and then building an entire, rich story around it (making it all seem effortless on the page, I might add).

Caleb’s Crossing is no different in that regard, but Brooks has taken it a step further. The story is told, not through the eyes of Caleb, but through those of Bethia, an English girl he meets during their childhood and who, in many unseen ways, facilitates his “crossing.” Readers not used to Brooks’s style might be wary of a book in which the title character does not speak for himself and could therefore miss the finer points of her literary prowess. And so it is last, but certainly not least.

Is it just me or is social media kind of a black hole? I think my “geezer” is showing…

Allow me to explain:

I truly enjoy books. Everything about books. And furthermore, I enjoy writing about books. So there’s this blog. The next step, it seems, would be to take it to the next level and maybe try to convince someone to pay me to write about books. (I really want someone to pay me to read books, but since everyone assures me that that will never happen, I’ll just have to write as well). There are professional bloggers out there who make their blogs pay, but I am not tech-savvy enough for that (and that may really be the gist of this whole post — it’s hard to tell). So I turned to Book Riot because they’re, well, awesome, to see if I could beg them to let me work there and soak in the genius. The office only needs tech people (damn), BUT they are always looking for contributors.

I was extremely excited to learn this and immediately began drafting the most dreaded of documents (the cover letter) and considering what pieces of writing I would send to them. Then I noticed it: the seemingly innocuous request to send, along with a writing sample, “your Twitter username or Tumblr URL.”

I froze.

I don’t have a Twitter or a Tumblr account.

Well, that was somewhat easily remedied, and now, dear readers, you can follow me on Twitter @Poindextrix (just click the lovely little button on the sidebar).

I figured that I should have some tweets to my name before I submit anything though, and, frankly, I have no idea what writing samples to send. I’m tempted to simply send the blog link and let them have at it, but that seems 1) incredibly lazy and 2) perilous as some posts are definitely better-written than others.

But back to social media as a black hole. My meaning was two-fold.

In one sense, since joining Twitter, I have spent a truly baffling amount of time on it. I blame Neil Gaiman. The man is too interesting for his (or my) own good. Thus, I have been sucked into this new world of information and will pretty much never be able to free myself.

The other: in looking for other writing-related jobs online I am at a complete loss when it comes to some of the job requirements. I have been well-educated and if I’m being honest and throwing aside my self-deprecating and self-worth issues, I do think I am a reasonably intelligent human being. Based on the verbal scores of every standardized test I have ever taken, as well as my liberal arts and humanities-heavy education, I think it is fair to say I am at least a decent writer. And yet despite all this I appear to be entirely unqualified for all of these writing jobs due solely to social media. I am not naive. I realize jobs such as these are dynamic and require a broader skill set. But there is a reason I avoided the comp. sci. classes. I was a literature major. My “familiarity with HTML” extends no further than copying and pasting said code into my blog to get buttons to show up. That, coupled with my apparent lack of understanding of the internet and social media seems to make me unemployable.

I need to find a mom and pop book store and hunker down for the long haul…

I just finished Running for Mortals by John “The Penguin” Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield (yes, I know I’m supposed to be reading Infinite Jest and Mansfield Park — more on my book ADD at a later date).

It’s a really great book. Obviously I can’t recommend it to everybody ever because not everybody is looking to start running, but if you’re toying with the idea, I would definitely suggest picking this one up. These two make running seem approachable and, well, possible for the rest of humanity with more than 1% body fat and the usual scarring childhood gym memories.

My only real problem with the book is entirely personal and has to do with figuring out the program right for me. John and Jenny provide a bunch of tools throughout the book to help readers figure out just that, but I, being me, had to complicate things.

Had I read this book back when I bought it — some time in November 2011, I think — I would be completely new to running and able to accurately identify where I fit on the spectrum they lay out. But, being the overenthusiastic person I can sometimes be, I threw myself full-force into running and kind of forgot about the book and the training programs it offered. Fast forward however many months, one 5K and a few months of sitting on my butt. Now I don’t know where I fit in. I’m not entirely new to running, but I have been inactive for a while. I do want to run to lose weight, but I want to get other things out of it as well. I have a history of injuries, but they’re as under control as they can be. I have a chronic illness, but it’s under control. The book gives answers, but I’m a weird exception. I want to just call them up and lay it all out for so they can tell me what to do:

Hey, so basically my body decided to enact a coup against me. My doctors used drugs to brutally crush said coup. Now I’m working on picking up the pieces and trying to make friends with my body. Cue “can’t we all just get along” theme music.

And now you know more about me than you ever needed or wanted to. Ah, the magic of the internet!

Anyway, back to Running for Mortals. I think I’m the exception, not the rule. Most people will probably have very little difficulty figuring out which program to follow, and as far as I can tell, they’re all well laid out. They also provide strength training and flexibility exercises to incorporate into training and explain why all of it is important.

Running for Mortals is really just your comprehensive How-to running guide.

I’ve finally realized why I’m so glued to the Olympics: I generally missed the summer games as a child since I was usually at camp. Now I’m making up for lost time or something. In any case, I’m basically glued to my television during prime-time broadcasts and am trying to start running again, but I will be getting back to my regularly scheduled reading soon.

Is anyone else turning into an Olympics-zombie (despite the terrible coverage in the States), or is it just me? Also, a moment for the amazing-ness that is Jessica Ennis. I pretty much want her to come to New York and be my best friend/fitness fairy. Just saying. Is that weird? Probably.