Reading/Watching/Obsessing/Doing

It’s finally SUMMER. Oh, sweet summer! I’m done with school until August, and I’ve been whole-heartedly enjoying my “break” so far.

Let me tell you–I’ve been writing. A lot. But not for this blog, as you guys could confirm. I’ve been brimming with ideas for fiction, but I’ve been coming up short when it comes to this blog.

SO. Here’s a little post about what I’ve been up to since the end of the semester: what I’m reading, watching, obsessing over, and what I’ve been doing.

Reading

Since turning in my students’ final grades, I’ve been enjoying reading what I want to read. One of the best feelings in the world is the ability to choose your reading material and read at your pace, at your leisure. Ugh, I love it so much. I’ve read so much so far, at least for my natural pace–which is pretty slow for a lover of literature.

Since I”m trying to write literary fiction and mostly short stories, my goal this summer is to “catch up” and read as much literary fiction as possible. I finally made a Goodreads account, and HOLY MOLY I’M OBSESSED! I love the idea of tracking what I read and creating a “to-read” list! All in a handy dandy app! UGH! It’s so great.

My current reads are Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (who has quickly become one of my favorite authors–holy cow) and What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a short story collection. Both are so good. I will say, I enjoyed Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds a little more than Fates and Furies so far, but MAN can she write!

So far, both books are on their way to earning a five-star rating. If you’re interested, check out my Goodreads page.  

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Watching

So a book I was required to read this past semester was The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it for my seminar in fiction class, which focused on creating stories influenced by “landscape.” It was the first book we read, and it couldn’t exemplify the course’s objectives more perfectly.

I’m currently obsessed with Hulu’s adaptation; I paid 99 cents for a three-month trial of Hulu just to watch the entire series. I’m caught up, and each week I look forward to Wednesday so I can check in on Gilead. I love how they do a weekly release–it brings back those “good old days” vibes when we had to wait a WHOLE WEEK to find out what happened next.

If you haven’t already, watch this series. Read this book. You’ll be disturbed, but man, oh man will it make you think!

Obsessing

We have barn swallows building a news on our back porch, and I am completely obsessed with them. They are the prettiest birds, and, according to my extensive Google search, some cultures believe they bring good luck to the household.

My goodness, I love them so much. Their names are Bernard and Bianca. I’ll [maybe] keep you updated.

Doing

Writing. Reading. Writing some more. Running a tad. Working on projects. Reading submissions for my university’s lit journal. Enjoying every single second of summer and its sweetness.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re enjoying the warmer days, the sun, and, most importantly, your reading material. If you’re reading stuff you don’t like…STOP. Visit your library. Peruse its shelves. Fall in love with reading again.

Okay, that’s all. I’m off to watch my swallows build their nest. I love them, I love them, I LOVE them.

 

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Currently Reading: All Things Anne

Note: the following post contains a lot of random musings about everyone’s favorite imaginative redhead–I would like to emphasize the word “random.” Enjoy! 

I finally carved out the time to read (almost) the entire Anne of Green Gables series. FINALLY.

Took me long enough. I was inspired by Netflix’s adaptation of the beloved series–while it was grittier than the books, the series did capture Anne’s ability to survive life’s hardships through optimism.

Disclaimer: while I loooooooove reading and writing and all things literary (former English major and current creative writing grad student here), I’m the kind of girl who can read a whole lot and then fall into a year-long slump in which I can’t seem to find reading material I truly enjoy. It’s been one of those years, but I’m working on it.

Anne has helped me discover reading again; returning to her world is like taking the first sip of morning coffee, sleeping in on a weekday, or having nothing on a must-do list.

I just love her. I love her, I love her, I love her.

Anne is so plucky and ambitious, especially early on. I adore the third book in the series–she attends Redmond College and learns what it means to live on her own away from Green Gables (with a group of delightful “chums,” of course), and she finally opens her eyes and her heart to the boy who has always loved her. She becomes a young principal of an entire school in book four, and she continues to win the heart of every reluctant soul around her. She marries Gilbert in book five and establishes her quaint and Anne-ish “House of Dreams.”

I have to admit, I love Anne the most when she’s single, books one through four. I love how she grapples with the world’s challenges on her own, and I love the relationships she forms with others along the way. Anne has a way of connecting with the misunderstood among society, and audiences aren’t treated to those relationships too much after she is married. Most often those difficult, “kooky,” or tormented souls are her “kindred spirits.” I love that about her–she’s unafraid of going against the grain, and she can win almost any heart with her unconquerable spirit.

Anne still has a way with others when she’s married, but she’s certainly more confined–not necessarily by Gilbert or her children, but by society at that time. Even though she was a successful educator and loved the world of academia, she does as societal custom requires (at least for the era) when she enters the world of marriage. She keeps an impeccable house: she grows gardens, sews clothes, has and raises babies, and keeps the House of Dreams and Ingleside in tip-top shape. She’s the matriarch of her little home(s), and while I know she loves it, I miss her free-spirited Green Gables or Redmond days.

Anne begins to settle as she grows older, which is both admirable (why not be content with the life you have?) but also bittersweet. She forgoes her childhood dreams of successful novel authorship, settling for the few publications in ladies’ magazines and newspapers. Those are still a wonderful accomplishments, but I wish she could have done a little bit of everything–I believe Anne could write the next great Canadian novel and still be a fantastic wife and mother.

No matter. Anne still has my heart, and I aspire to embody her optimism and grace.  Revisiting Anne’s world has been so refreshing and so inspiring–L.M. Montgomery’s dreamy prose and Anne’s spirit is like a drink of cool water on a sweltering Prince Edward Island summer day.

Does P.E.I. ever even experience a good swelter? Probably not, but the effect of the Anne series on my soul is that of contentment and delight nonetheless.

What are you currently reading? I could use some suggestions for future library excursions.

As always, have a magical, imaginative, and zip-a-dee-do-dah day, my friends.

I’ve Learned “How To Be a Heroine”

I recently devoured one of my favorite books of the summer: How To Be a Heroine: Or, What I Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis.

Oh my goodness, how I loved this book!

It’s a mix of literary heroines, an autobiography, and a touch of feminism, all of which I love.  Ellis proves to be quite the heroine herself; we, as an audience, discover how she learns to stand on her own two feet and discover her own voice despite some pretty rough circumstances. She learns who she truly is, in spite of and because of the influences she encounters throughout her life.

Throughout her journey in life, she draws inspiration from some leading ladies in the literature I love. Some of these heroines include Anne of Green Gables, Scarlett O’ Hara, Jane Eyre, Franny Glass, and the Little Mermaid (the Hans Christian Anderson version). There are more where that came from, and I loved hearing what she loved/learned about each one–it’s amazing how two people (she and I) could admire many of the same literary heroines in similar, yet decidedly different, ways. That’s so cool, if you ask me; literary heroines are ours for interpreting. They are like gifts to the unsuspecting reader, relatable and inspiring characters that started out as ideas and a few scribbles on a piece of paper.

Isn’t writing just so incredibly cool?

I don’t want to give too much away about this book; I want you to pick it up from a local bookstore and hungrily devour each and every page. What’s also so amazing about this book is it makes you want to buy more and more books, a desire that I see no problem with.

I’ll leave you with this: I’ve learned how to be a heroine, and what’s incredible is that I am the author of my own story.

You are too. Now go and compose your best essay/short story/novel/novella/poem/haiku yet. You are a heroine, and you can do some pretty amazing things.

Happy reading, my friends.

The Importance of Imagination (Inspired by Anne Shirley)

I have just finished reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time. I’ve always been a bookworm, but I tended to avoid the really great classic children’s literature during my actual childhood. I’ve taken it upon myself to read some of the good stuff I might have missed.

Anne of Green Gables was first on my list, and I have completely fallen in love with it. Anne has cast her imaginative spell on me just as she charms her way into the hearts of the unsuspecting citizens of Avonlea, including her “kindred spirit” Matthew (my heart!) and strict, but malleable, Marilla. I just love the dreamy way Anne talks and her emotional involvement in the things she loves. I love her growth throughout the book and I love that she’s a romantic, imaginative girl who isn’t afraid to have ambitions, to be herself.

My momma has always compared me to little miss Anne Shirley of Green Gables. I can see why–I’m a tad dramatic, I’ve always used big words, and I’ve always kind of been an “out there” kid. I used to play “pretend” constantly. I remember practicing “dreamy” faces in the mirror because I wanted to match the descriptions of my favorite heroines in the books I read. I thought living in “olden times” (as I would call them) would be an absolute dream. This was before I realized that “olden times” had no indoor plumbing. Or air conditioning.

I was an imaginative little mess.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I miss the constant daydreaming of childhood. I daydream now, but my mind often wonders about my unknown future–I don’t often daydream about “lovely” things, about “romantic” things as Anne refers to them. I don’t often imagine fantastical things; I drift off into some other dimension still worrying about the realities in this dimension.

It’s time to bring back some childlike imagination,  to let my mind wander into an abyss of color, possibility, and glorious improbability. Sometimes thinking about things that overreach the realm of reality prepares the mind to deal with the realities we actually face.

I’m not sure if that makes sense. But it definitely feels right.

So. Let’s all take a hint from little Anne Shirley. Take some time today to space out and imagine lovely things. Let your creativity soar, and appreciate all the beautiful things this world has to offer, just like Anne.

And now, a few of my favorite quotes from this glorious classic, all spoken by Anne herself:

  • “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
  • “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it?”
  • “Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything, does it?”
  • And, my favorite: “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them–that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

I’m so glad I decided to revisit the neglected children’s classics of my childhood. Without the decision to do so, I would have never encountered such a lovely little book that encourages girls of all ages to exercise their imaginations and push beyond the limitations society sometimes creates. Anne’s imagination was her asset that aided her in so many areas of life; let’s all take the time to mimic Anne Shirley and drift off into the land of improbability in order to make our dreams an inevitable part of our future.

‘Tis the Season to be Reading

Christmas break is the time for reading–recreationally!

I love getting to actually choose what I get to read for almost an entire month! Of course, this Christmas break I plan to get ahead in my “The Novel” course next semester, but for right now I am enjoying reading whatever my little heart desires.

Some of the following books are in the “to be read” category, and some are in the “currently reading” category. Here are a few little reviews of the books I’ve read/am reading/about to read so far:

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Oh, this was good. If you like historical fiction sort of reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, you’ll like this. People of the Book holds a lot more literary merit, however, and it made me want to Google the Sarajevo Haggadah (an ancient illustrated Jewish book; illustrations are extremely rare in Jewish tradition) until the wee hours of the morning. I highly recommend this.

March by Geraldine Brooks

Because of People of the Book, I decided to check out another one by Brooks. March tells the story of the father absent in the beloved children’s classic, Little Women. I am actually  in the middle of listening to this book; it was the audio book of choice as I made my journey home yesterday. I really like it so far–it’s full of Civil War gore and poignant flashbacks in which Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson make an appearance. I also decided I really like Brook’s writing style–rich and full and beautiful; the language flows so nicely as I continue listening, and the narrator’s slight English accent makes it that much better.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I LOVED this book. Told from a dog’s perspective, this book is funny and heartbreaking and inspiring and just so so good. You’ll never look at a dog the same way again–I’m telling you, dogs know. They just do. Read this. It’s an easy read, and you’ll just want to hug and pet your dog for all they do for you.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

I recently finished all two seasons of The Carrie Diaries on Netflix, so of course I had to read the book. If you don’t know, The Carrie Diaries follows a young Carrie Bradshaw (pre- Sex and the City) as she navigates her senior year of high school. I’m only half-way through, and so far so good. It’s not mind-shattering or anything, but it is entertaining. The back cover of my copy simply says, “Carrie Bradshaw was a small-town girl who knew she wanted more…” Classic coming of age–can’t complain.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I literally just picked this up at the bookstore tonight, and I am so excited to start reading this. I’ve heard it’s a lot like Tina Fey’s Bossypants which I LOVED. What’s funny is I’m not particularly a huge fan of either–of course, I think they are so talented and good at what they do. I just can’t help but absolutely love the way they write. They’re just plain funny and they can convey this through their written word. That takes talent. Even the back cover made me laugh, and the hardcover under the flap: on the front it says the title, Yes Please. On the back, it says, “Thank you.” HA. It’s the little touches that make Fey and Poehler hilarious.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I only have read the first chapter or so, but I am determined to finish it. I’ve heard it’s great, and it’s written by a woman who bet her husband that she could write a better horror story than he could. You go, girl. Can’t wait to uncover the genius that is Frankenstein.

And that, my friends, is the tentative list of what I have read/ what I’ll be reading over break. Of course, I hope this list expands as Christmas comes and goes.

Happy reading, everyone.