January 2022 – What Are You Reading?

seven editions of the Walleye
Seven of the thirteen Walleye issues I read this month.

Here we are, the first What Are You Reading? post of 2022!

At the beginning of the month, I discovered that I had over a year’s worth (13!!!) of The Walleye, a local magazine, stashed and waiting to be read.  I knew I had a lot of Maclean’s as well, but the sheer number of The Walleye came as a real shock.  So I dedicated the month to clearing these up, while also spending some time reading books (it’s hard to read so many of the same magazine one after the other).  Now that I’m done with The Walleye, I’ll have to start tackling all the Maclean’s starting next month.  

Nonfiction books:

  • Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need by Margot Leitman

Fiction books:

  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Return of the Valkyries by Jason Aaron and Torunn GrØnbekk (graphic novel)
  • Star: Birth of a Dragon by Kelly Thompson (graphic novel)
  • Crossover Volume 1: Kids Love Chains by Danny Cates (graphic novel)

I think my favourite book this month was Long Story Short.  I wasn’t expecting it to be a book specifically about oral storytelling (I thought it was about written storytelling when I got it).  But it is a really engaging read, and I think very helpful for anyone who is not comfortable with making oral presentations (even though it’s more aimed at people on storytelling shows in front of an audience).  

In terms of fiction, I think I enjoyed the graphic novel Crossover the most.  A friend of mine recommended it to me, and I didn’t know what to expect.  The story took some crazy turns that I wasn’t expecting, and I’m looking forward to one day reading volume 2.

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

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Hello 2022!

Hi everyone, Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were good! While mine were once again quiet, they were great. I was able to spend some time with friends and family (albeit in smaller gatherings than in a non-pandemic year). I didn’t send Christmas cards like last year though – I don’t know what was going on, but I just felt so not-on-top of things this year, even though I was on top of all of my other holiday preparations.

I’m also very hopeful that 2022 will be a good year, and maybe even see the end of this pandemic. We shall see!

But now it’s time to reflect on my goals from last year, and set some new ones for the year ahead. For 2021, I set three goals: Read 25 Books I Own, Write a New Story, and work on some Language Learning (mostly reading various books). I’m not going to lie, I completely forgot about setting that last goal (and the whole list of books I wanted to read).

2021 list of books I read that I own
These are the books I own that I read – language books counted, too!

My book goal ended up interesting. I read more than 25 books this year (on Goodreads I read 30, although about three of those were graphic novels, so they don’t count towards my goal here). I read 16 books that I own (plus those three graphic novels). But all through the year, I found myself actually buying new books and reading those, which completely negated the point of this goal! (I think only 3 of those books were ones I’ve owned for more than one year). So I’m going to attempt to redo this goal in 2022 but without buying so many new books!

I didn’t end up writing a new story this year. 😦 I honestly wasn’t very creative at all during 2021. :/ A lot of that is because I was working on the editing project all summer, and when it paused during the fall, it took a long time before I felt even able to work on something more creative. But by the end of the year I was feeling better, and did some work on a very old story that for some reason I was feeling inspired to work on (the story I started working on during 2012’s Script Frenzy). I don’t remember where the idea came from, but I totally revamped the story (and it all clicked into place when I read the backgrounds of the original characters). I reread the original script (which I surprisingly really enjoyed, even though it was never finished), and started working on revamping the characters. As part of that, I also did some worldbuilding that I’m really happy with. I’m looking forward to continuing working on this story in the new year!

Finally, my language learning goal. I turned my Ukrainian Duolingo Tree to gold in January, so that was a very early win. 🙂 I haven’t finished the French tree yet. I actually have been going back and turning the tree to gold (I changed my thinking about turning the tree to gold – rather than quickly finishing lessons and moving on to something new, by taking the time to turn each lesson to gold, I find they’re staying with me a lot better!) I’ve almost turned everything up to checkpoint 4/the start of unit 5 gold, so that’s fantastic progress! (Before I went back to work on the tree in this way, I had made it to halfway between checkpoint 6/unit 7 and checkpoint 7, so I have about 2 full units to go until I’m back to where I was).

Of the books I wanted to read, I finished three from the list: Short Stories in French for Beginners, French Short Stories for Beginners and Intermediate Learners, and 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts. I also read 101 Conversations in Simple French, which was surprisingly super fun (it was pretty much all dialogues!) I’ve attempted French Short Stories for Beginners, but for some reason it’s really hard, so I’ll have to come back to it later. And rather than read Ukrainian Language: Texts in Ukrainian, I ended up starting First Ukrainian Reader for Beginners, which I’m really liking. It starts off with super simple texts, then gradually works up to longer and longer ones. It’s making me feel confident that I CAN read in Ukrainian (I still kind of panic when I see a full page text in Ukrainian, thinking “I can’t read this!!!”) Oh, and I’ve also read three Ukrainian kids books by Chatty Parrot (the two listed in this post, and one with winter words).

Oh, and I’m still somewhere in the middle of season 2 of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast. That’s been fairly slow going because more often than not I’m listening to music in Ukrainian instead when I walk to work.

One other thing with French – I started getting two hour lessons every week thanks to a local organization. These lessons are immersive – the teacher tries to explain everything in French, and only uses English is that fails. I’ve been doing those lessons for about two months now, and I’ve noticed my French oral comprehension has been skyrocketing as a result (which is super encouraging because that was my biggest problem area)! I still struggle with speaking, but that will come in time. 🙂

Something else that happened this year too: I’m now learning a bit of American sign language. This started during the fall. My sister-in-law was learning with her sister in a really low-key way (they just look at a video every week to learn a few more signs). I’ve been interested in learning because I have a family member who is hard of hearing (and who has a hard time hearing me in particular), but they’ve never been interested before when I’ve asked. When we were all talking about it, they agreed to learn, so I said yes, too! With the caveat that it’s language #3 for me, and won’t be getting as much attention as my other two. So now I know some very basic sign language as well!

So that’s been 2021 in a nutshell. Things didn’t go at all as planned, but that’s okay! I still was able to accomplish a bunch, and even some things I hadn’t planned at all. 🙂

And now it’s time to look ahead for 2022. We’re still in the pandemic, so it’s difficult to really know what the future brings. And some things (like the editing project, which is still ongoing) are outside of my control. So with those caveats, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this year:

  1. Read 25 novel-length books I _already_ own – Like last year, I want to challenge myself to read the books I own right now. These books can be either physical books or eBooks (I still have a lot on my Kindle, too!)
  2. Continue working on my story from Script Frenzy – I would love to have at least a first draft of whatever form this story takes by the end of 2022 (I’m currently thinking it should be a novel, but who knows – it started life as a screen play!)
  3. Work on a new story, too – I have ideas for another story that I’d like to flesh out, even if it doesn’t become a first draft by the end of the year.
  4. Language Learning Goals:
    1. Turn my Duolingo French Tree to gold up to what I’ve unlocked so far (I’ve currently unlocked up to the bubbles “Get Well” and “In Class” in Unit 7)
    2. Finish reading 101 Conversations in Intermediate French
    3. Finish reading First Ukrainian Reader for Beginners
    4. Choose and read another book in Ukrainian
    5. Choose and read another book in French
    6. Finish season 2 of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast
    7. Finish season 3 of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast

I don’t want to overwhelm myself with goals, so I’m only going to set these four. I also feel like I have a better feel for what I can accomplish in terms of language learning this year. If I have time for more French and Ukrainian books, then great, but if not, that’s okay too (especially since reading time in other languages competes with reading books in English).

So how about you? Have you set any goals for yourself this year? 🙂

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December 2021 – What Are You Reading?

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate, and a very Happy New Year!

This month, my reading really wasn’t going very well.  After finishing The Diary of a Young Girl, (and reading All About Anne, which filled in some of the history surrounding Anne Frank’s life), I intended to get back to reading Company Town.  But I wasn’t really enjoying it – I had just sort of started getting into it before stopping to read Anne Frank’s book for Remembrance Day, and couldn’t bring myself to go back to it afterwards (I firmly believe I would have finished it had I not stopped).  So I wasted a few weeks of thinking I should go back to it before I ultimately decided I wasn’t going to.  After finally making that decision, I started reading some graphic novels, which got me back into reading. 🙂

Nonfiction books:

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • All About Anne by Menno Metselaar and Piet van Ledden

Fiction books:

  • Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge (graphic novel)
  • Estranged: The Changeling King by Ethan M. Aldridge (graphic novel)
  • Oddball by Sarah Andersen (graphic novel)
  • Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry

I don’t even know where to start in terms of a “favourite” this month!  The Diary of a Young Girl really surprised me with how good it was.  The rest of my family has read it, but I hesitated because I thought it was going to be really depressing.  While the ending is (and the depressing part is more the afterword, not the end of the diary itself) it is a super good read!  It makes me so sad that we lost Frank during the war – what else would she have written had she lived???

Then I read Estranged, a super fun graphic novel about changelings.  When the faerie court is attacked, the human changeling (“the Childe”) escapes and seeks help from the only person he thinks can help him: the fae child who was swapped in his place!  It’s a fun read that I really, really enjoyed.

And then there was Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook.  Wow.  It reminds me a lot of Brom’s The Child Thief, which was an earlier super dark version of Peter Pan (which I also recommend, though I haven’t read it in years).  In this tale, Jamie (who we know of as Captain Hook) was the very first Lost Boy Peter brought to his island.  Through the events of the story, Jamie starts to see through Peter’s glamour, growing up and becoming the “villain” we know of today.  It’s an excellent read that I couldn’t put down. 🙂

So what have you read over the last month?  Did you have a favourite?

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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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