Interview #89

The eighty-ninth author interview went live today on TBPL Off the Shelf! This time I interviewed Gloria Koster. We talk about the idea behind her first book, why she had Ruthie and her grandmother making latkes in her newest book, and her exciting new book coming out next year!  You can find the interview here.

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November 2021 – What Are You Reading?

This month was not a very good reading month for me.  I currently have two books on the go, Company Town by Madeline Ashby, which I started before Remembrance Day, and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, which I chose to read for Remembrance Day this year.  I’m really enjoying The Diary of a Young Girl, but I ended up on a bit of a video game kick lately (I’ve been playing a lot of Stardew Valley in French, which has been a lot of fun), and so haven’t finished it yet.  The other night when I was thinking about this post, I was a bit worried that I hadn’t read anything this month, but thankfully I actually did finish something before starting Company Town.

Nonfiction books:

Fiction books:

  • The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I absolutely loved The Rose Code by Kate Quinn! I didn’t know a whole lot about the Enigma Machines and Bletchley Park, so I wasn’t sure what I would think when I started.  But it was so fascinating!  As usual, she also had some fantastic characters whom I was rooting for all through the book.  I loved it, and really recommend it!

So what have you read over the last month?  I hope you’ve had a better reading month than I have! 🙂

Hopefully I’ll finish both The Diary of a Young Girl and Company Town soon!  And once I’m finished with Stardew Valley in French, I’ll have to start reading something in French, too.

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Interview #88

The eighty-eighth author interview went live today on TBPL Off the Shelf! This time I interviewed Ryan Dowd from Homelesslibrary.com. We talk about his new children’s book, how he started writing books, and what you can do to help your local shelter this holiday season.  You can find the interview here.

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October 2021 – What Are You Reading?

Last month, I mentioned putting aside Lean Out by Tara Henley so I could read Unreconciled by Jesse Wente.  Unfortunately, at the point that I put Lean Out down (about one quarter of the way in), I was losing interest in it, and after finishing Unreconciled, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I chose not to go back to Henley’s book.

Nonfiction books:

  • Unreconciled by Jesse Wente

Fiction books:

  • Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani
  • RWBY by Marguerite Bennett, illustrated by Mirka Andolfo (graphic novel)

Other Languages

  • 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts by Yuliia Pozniak

And some older magazines (two Chatelaines and a Family Circle).

As I already mentioned, I really enjoyed Unreconciled by Jesse Wente.  I wasn’t familiar with Wente at all prior to reading his book, so I was quite delighted by his humour.  While at times it is a bit difficult to read (it deals with hard subject matter regarding residential school survivors/their families/intergenerational trauma as well as the racism and slurs Indigenous people in Canada are subjected to), I found I couldn’t put it down.  It’s definitely something I recommend, especially to everyone living in Canada.

I also quite enjoyed Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani, which was a book of fairy tale retellings, often with a darker bend (they reminded me a lot of the original Grimms Fairy Tales). I love fairy tales, and retellings are often fun, so I was very pleased that this book didn’t disappoint.  (Full disclosure – I cried at the end of the Peter Pan retelling).

This was also the month that I finished my first book in Ukrainian!  I’m still very excited about that – if you want to see the video I made talking about it (I start out in Ukrainian too!), you can find it in my last post. 🙂

So what have you read over the last month?  What was your favourite book?

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Finished 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts!

Over the weekend, I finished reading 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts! As promised, I shot a short video where I attempted to speak in Ukrainian about finishing it. I didn’t get very far (and kind of repeated myself), but I was happy to see that my Ukrainian came together a little better than in previous videos (I was able to put sentences together a little more confidently).

Here’s the video if you’d like to check it out:

I neglected to mention in this take of the video that I read all of the texts at least two times each, plus listened to the audio version of the texts twice as well, so that is partially why it took so long to get through all 100 of them! (I also forgot about the book over the summer, so that’s also why it’s taken me so long!)

Since finishing it, I’ve had the audio versions of the texts playing while I’m cleaning and whatnot. At this point, I don’t understand every word, but I’m able to follow many of the texts, so that’s encouraging! The later ones are a bit harder, so I’ll have to work on them a bit more.

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Interiew #87!

The eighty-seventh author interview went live today on TBPL Off the Shelf! This time I interviewed the Thunder Bay Public Library’s Writer in Residence, Annette Pateman. We talk about her residency, what attracts her to poetry, and performing her work with percussion instruments.  You can find the interview here.

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Almost Done Reading 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts!

cover of 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts

I’m really excited – I only have a few texts left to read in 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts by Yulia Pozniak!

This book has been a real struggle to get through. I’d hoped to have it finished in the spring, but I lost momentum and it’s been lingering on since then. The problem is that the texts themselves aren’t super engaging. They’re almost all a paragraph made up of a few sentences (maybe about 4-6 for most of them) of just description. With the exception of text 6.8, which was a dialogue, they’re all the same, so it’s hard to read them one after the other. (I also ended up really sad after 6.8 because I thought maybe now there would be more dialogues, but that unfortunately wasn’t the case). It’s a shame, because the book is full of great vocabulary and I really like that it includes a link to the audio versions of all the texts, too. I’ve been listening to them as I read, which gives me more of a feel for how Ukrainian sounds when spoken (and has helped me with the pronunciation of different words, too).

As much as I’ve struggled with it though, I also feel like I should go back and reread it, just to help all the words stick in my head better. But I do want to move onto something else, so I’m thinking I’ll probably just keep it around and flip through it periodically (it will be good for days when my brain doesn’t want to do anything too intense, especially once my Ukrainian improves!) It’ll also be nice to focus more on the topic areas that interest me, rather than trying to read the whole book from cover to cover again (the book is made up of 10 texts in 10 different subject areas). I might also load some of the audio files onto my iPod just to see if I can follow them while I’m walking to work or doing housework. 🙂

Pozniak has a second book, Ukrainian Language Reader with Vocabulary and Audio: Pre-Intermediate Level. I wasn’t sure if I would pick it up, but found a preview that showed this book has dialogues like text 6.8 in 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts, so I decided to give it a shot, too. I’m debating between reading it next, or taking a leap into one of the Ukrainian books I’ve bought that are made for Native speakers (if I do that, it will be really slow going as I’ll probably have to look up a lot of words, particularly in the beginning). I’ll probably go with the next book by Pozniak, which will hopefully help prepare me a bit more for the native-level texts.

I’ll make another Ukrainian video when I’m done reading the book (and have hopefully decided what I’m going to read next in Ukrainian!) 🙂

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September 2021 – What Are You Reading?

picture of four Maclean's magazines
The first four Maclean’s I read this month

Last month I decided I was going to get myself caught up with Maclean’s magazines.  In August I read four, and just kept reading them into September.  But as I was finishing the October 2020 issue, the eighth issue I read in a row, I was in major need of a break.  It didn’t help that the issues I had just finished were all dealing with Covid-19 (which I honestly wasn’t able to read last year because I was not in a great place mentally due to the pandemic), Black Lives Matter, Indigenous injustices, the WE Scandal, and a shooting in the Maritimes (plus repeated requests for a public inquiry as a result) – all heavy and depressing things.  

At that point, I took a break to read a fiction book. That gave me the energy to read a few more issues of Macleans, though not as many as I originally planned to (I was hoping to get completely caught up with them before the election on September 20th). But I did manage to finish all of the 2020’s prior to the election, so that was something at least.

Going forward, I’m going to try to read an issue of Maclean’s, then a book (or two, depending on how well I’m doing mentally after each issue), in an attempt to get caught up with them (and hopefully keep more on top of them than I have been, too!)

Nonfiction books:

  •  none!

Fiction books:

  •  Dungeon Eternium by Dakota Krout

I also read six issues of Maclean’s Magazine.

I was really excited to fit in finishing Dakota Krout’s Divine Dungeon series this month, too. The friend who recommended it to me wants me to start another series set in that universe, but I’m going to go and read some other stuff before I come back to this world. 🙂

I put aside the nonfiction book I’m currently reading (Lean Out by Tara Henley), in favour of Unreconciled by Jesse Wente, which I decided to read for today, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation here in Canada. Unreconciled sounds really good (and was highly rated on Amazon), so I’m really looking forward to it.

So what have you read over the last month?  What was your favourite book?

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Writing Short Ukrainian Pieces

Over the weekend I had my first Ukrainian lesson in a few weeks (both me and my teacher have been busy over the last few weekends and hadn’t been able to connect). She asked me if I’d learned some vocabulary on art and theater like she had asked. Unfortunately I completely forgot! But it was okay, she said to just learn it for next time.

I struggle with learning vocabulary in Ukrainian A LOT. I find I have a hard time getting new words to stick (I think in part because they’re often so different from English, unlike French words). I tried using Anki flashcards for awhile, but I hated it. I’m pretty sure I made the flashcards wrong (I put only one word on each flashcard, rather than a phrase or sentence which would have been easier to learn). But I also felt like I was making the same mistakes with the same words day after day, which was frustrating. The flashcards I needed to review were also growing exponentially each day; after a few weeks I needed an hour + just for Anki reviews, which was completely unsustainable. And boring. I tried cutting back the new cards and reviews, but I still just hated the time I was spending with the app, so eventually I gave up with it.

So this time around, I thought, why not try writing a short story in Ukrainian incorporating the words I’m supposed to learn? My original intention was to create some sort of character and write about their adventures dealing with the art world. But when I actually sat down to write something, I found myself writing about my life. The list of words I’m supposed to learn is fairly long, so I broke it up and wrote a few short pieces on half of them (literature, music, and musical instruments – I’ll work on the other half of the list later this week). The first piece. on literature, was extremely short; it ended up being a paragraph about interviewing authors because that’s what the vocabulary seemed to most easily reflect. The second piece, which was around the same length, was a paragraph about me enjoying singing along (badly) to some songs by Скай. Then the third piece was about musical instruments. I started what I thought was going to be another short piece, but as I wrote it, it grew until it quadrupled in length (it’s still fairly short at four paragraphs, but much longer than the other pieces I wrote)! I ended up deciding to post it on Journaly, Robin McPherson’s Journaling platform for language learners (he’s a polyglot Youtuber I follow – I read his book a few months ago). I signed up for Journaly back in July, but this is the first thing I’ve posted anything on there. Hopefully I’ll get some feedback on my grammar soon (but there aren’t a lot of Ukrainian posts, so it may be a bit before anyone comments on it). 🙂

A day later I wrote another Ukrainian post on Journaly. I was working on the art and museum vocabulary from the list, so I decided to write about visiting the ROM and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. I wasn’t able to fit a couple of the words in though (specifically the words for “icon” and “guide,” as well as phrases for hiring a guide and asking how much an entrance ticket costs), so I’ll have to see if I can either learn them another way, or incorporate them into another story.

Full disclosure: to write these posts, I used Google Translate for help with some words and spelling. I also don’t have any nice pictures of musical instruments, so I snagged this one by Firmbee from Pixabay to use as the banner for the post. I do however have pictures from the ROM, so I used one of those for the second Journaly post. 🙂

While it’s only been a few days since I wrote these pieces, I’ve found that I’m able to recognize the words I set out to learn! I don’t think I can produce them yet on my own, but this is really promising! Hilariously, all of the words I am having trouble with are verbs I needed to tell the story (mainly in the longer piece about musical instruments). I’ll need to work on those as well. 🙂

I’d also like to add that this is two weeks after I was working really in-depth with Eileen’s Ukrainian cover of “The Dragonborn Comes” and I still know what the lyrics from the first two verses mean (I didn’t work on the last verse because in the original it’s in Dragon Tongue, not English). I’m even getting better at singing along with her, although I do still stumble in a few places.

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Interviews 83-86

Oh geeze, I’ve missed posting the author interviews I’ve done on TBPL Off the Shelf since April! So here’s a list of all four, including yesterday’s interview. 🙂

In May I interviewed Elle Andra-Warner about researching historical subjects, travel writing, and the most interesting facts she learned about the lighthouses of the North Short of Lake Superior.

In June I interviewed Eleanor Albanese about what drew her to fiction writing from theatre, how her fiction writing process differs from her theatre process, and the role of midwives in rural Northern Ontario a century ago.

In August I interviewed Roy Blomstrom about writing a wide variety of forms and genres, what drew him to science fiction for his newest novel, and writing a multiverse.

And this month I interviewed Martha Wells about where she got the idea for Murderbot, writing engaging AI characters, and her newest book, Fugitive Telemetry.

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