Tag Archives: reading

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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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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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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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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August 2021 – What Are You Reading?

covers of the 6 magazines I read in August
The magazines I read this month!

I had a great start to August with reading.  I even managed to only read books that I own, which was great as that is one of my goals for the year.  But then the Canadian election was called, and I decided I need to put reading books in English aside until the election at the end of September.  Instead I’m going to be reading through the many issues of Maclean’s Magazine that I’ve been putting off reading for over a year (I started off with 13 and my brother says he has 2 or 3 more) in an attempt to be more informed prior to the election, so that’s going to keep me busy!

But I will continue reading books in French and Ukrainian as I go through all the Macleans back issues. 🙂

Nonfiction books:

  • Narrative Designer: Fabulator Ludus by Stephen E. Dinehart IV

Fiction books:

  • An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
  • Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire
  • Dungeon Desolation by Dakota Krout

I also read two local magazines (Northwest Nosh from 2019 and a copy of The Walleye from earlier this year) and 4 issues of Maclean’s.  I really hope I’ll be able to keep up my momentum with reading them in September!

I think my favourite book this month was An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire.  I really liked the idea of where Blind Michael, the master of the faerie Hunt, gets his new hunters and their steeds from.  I do wish the book had upped the horror factor a bit though.  The story revolves around a childhood bogeyman and the main character gets turned into a child – this just screamed horror, or at least a much darker vibe, a la Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

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

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My Current French Reading

As promised, today I wanted to look at the things I’m reading in French. 🙂

My French is a fair bit more advanced than my Ukrainian, so I’m able to read short stories for French learners fairly well. I’m a big fan of the books by Olly Richards (the first French book I finished was his Short Stories in French for Beginners). I’ve attempted to read French Short Stories for Beginners by Lingo Mastery a couple of times since last summer. The first time I had a hard time with the first story, so I put it aside in favour of the Olly Richards book. I’ve since made it through the first story and have attempted the second story a couple of times, but I still can’t really follow it. So I’ve put it aside once again and gone back to books by Olly Richards.

I ordered a copy of Short Stories in French for Intermediate Learners, as well as 101 Conversations in Intermediate French. 101 Conversations in Intermediate French came first, so I gave it a try. I was a little skeptical about the book because I thought the conversations were going to be just random conversations between random characters. But I was pleasantly surprised – the 101 conversations in the book are all conversations within a larger story! The book is basically a novel with all the description removed (there’s just a paragraph at the beginning of every conversation to give some context). I absolutely love it! I made it through the first three conversations with little trouble, able to follow the just of what’s going on, which was really exciting because it’s a book for intermediate learners, not beginners. I had a harder time with conversation 4 though because it deals with a lot of vocabulary I’m not familiar with (revolving around art crimes). I’ve read it a few times, and am following it a bit better, but I’ll still need to work on it a bit before moving on.

It was at this point that I decided to get the book 101 Conversations in Simple French. Some of the characters from the Intermediate book appear in the beginner book, and it sounded like conversation 4 revolves around what happened in the first book. So I decided to grab the first book on my Kindle to give it a quick read. That way I’ll know exactly what happened in the story (and hopefully pick up some of the words that are giving me trouble in the Intermediate book!) 101 Conversations in Simple French has been a super easy read for me – I’m on conversation 63 already, and have only needed to reread maybe two of the conversations so far to better understand them (everything else I just read once and moved on). It’s been a lot of fun because it really does feel like I’m just reading for pleasure and not having to work at it. 🙂

The other thing I did was purchase the audiobook versions of a lot of these books (the only one I haven’t bought is 101 Conversations in Simple French because I was planning on just reading it quickly). I’ve heard that if you read and listen at the same time, it will greatly help your listening comprehension in another language. I even bought the audiobook version of Short Stories in French for Beginners and started working my way back through that book while listening to it. I’ve made it about halfway through the book reading and listening, then started listening to some of the stories on my iPod while walking to work (I was super excited to discover that the file on my iPod had chapter selections! The file on my computer looked like one big 4 hour file with no chapter breaks). I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the audiobook version so much, so a big thank you to the narrator, Louis Bernard, for making them so engaging!

And that’s where I’m at with French. I’m hoping in the next week or two I’ll finish reading 101 Conversations in Simple French so I can get back to 101 Conversations in Intermediate French. I’ll probably work my way through that book before starting Short Stories in French for Intermediate Learners.

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My Current Ukrainian Reading

cover of Хто живе у Лісі - Who Lives in the Wood

Hey everyone, how’s it going? Today I thought I’d talk a bit about the Ukrainian books I’ve been reading lately: Хто живе у Лісі – Who Lives in the Wood? and Я Люблю Читати – Ukrainian Reading for Kids: Ukrainian–English. Both of these books are bilingual books written for kids. I found Хто живе у Лісі first and thought it was adorable, so I went looking for more books by Chatty Parrot and found Я Люблю Читати (along with another book of winter words that I haven’t really looked at yet because it’s summer).

a random page from Хто живе у Лісі
A Random Page from Хто живе у Лісі

I love how the story is laid out in Хто живе у Лісі. Every page talks about a different animal and the things they like to do; key words are in a different colour, so you can very easily understand what each word in the sentence means. I found it a great vocabulary booster for both new verbs and different animal names (I knew a few of them, like the word for “bird,” but have learned a whole bunch more thanks to this book!) Plus the pictures are just so darn cute! (And having the cute visual is helping me remember the different animals in Ukrainian!)

cover of Я Люблю Читати – Ukrainian Reading for Kids: Ukrainian–English.

Я Люблю Читати is a very generic title for a book with four bilingual fairy tales (I personally would have called the book something more like Я Люблю Казки – I Love Fairy Tales instead). The four fairy tales are the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, The Princess and the Pea, and the Ugly Duckling. So far I’ve just read the first two – I’ve read the Three Little Pigs several times, and have just read Hansel and Gretel once so far. I’m finding I’m now recognizing words better the more I read the tale. As a bonus, some of the animal words I learned in Хто живе у Лісі are in the Three Little Pigs, too!

random page from a book of Ukrainian Fairy Tales that I have
A random page from a book of Ukrainian Fairy Tales that I have

My hope is that these books, which are fairly easy, will help me build my vocabulary so I can eventually attempt to tackle another, harder book of fairy tales (I took one look at the pages of that book and felt a bit overwhelmed by it (take a look at this random page from that book, you can see it’s a *little* harder than the random page from Хто живе у Лісі). I’m also nearing the end of 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts (I think I have about 15 texts left to go), but that’s been a little slower going because the texts aren’t super engaging. They’re not really stories, but more like little passages of explanation. They’ve been helpful for vocabulary building though, and I’m really happy that the author, Yuliia Pozniak, made audio versions of all the texts so you can read and listen at the same time! But I wish they had been more like a series of dialogues rather than paragraphs of description.

Next time I’ll take a look at the French books I’m currently working with! 🙂

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