Category Archives: Personal Life

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in My Reading Life

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

While I was coming up with this list, I tried to make everything fit the same sentence structure. It bothered me just a little bit that I had to break that pattern for one of my answers.

There are five genres I read less of these days and five I’ve started to spend much more time exploring.

I Read Less Poetry

I Read Less Horror

I Read Less Fantasy

I Read Less Romance

I Read Fewer Series and Long Works

 

I Read More Biographies

I Read More Hard Science Fiction

I Read More History

I Read More Hopeful Fiction, Scifi or Otherwise

I Read More Science

In general, I find that I’m becoming more interested in books that talk about real-life issues (even if the plots themselves are fictional) and have a faster-paced structure than what I read when I was in school. It’s also nice to find authors who take a hopeful but realistic approach to their topic, whatever that topic may be.

This isn’t to say that I dislike poetic passages or metaphors. A few of them sprinkled into a book are nice, but I’m not as thrilled about reading an entire novel’s worth of that sort of thing as I used to be.

5 Ways to Fit More Reading Time In

When I was growing up, I either already knew where the books were or quickly figured it out after visiting a new place for the first time. Sometimes this involved me grabbing a book from my grandparents’ personal library and hiding out underneath the piano to read and nibble on a few crackers while the adults talked.

Since my father was a pastor, this also occasionally meant that I’d sniff out the books in other people’s churches when we visited them. I remember wandering around a particularly large church one day and feeling quite satisfied with myself when one of the doors I opened revealed a small bookshelf in that room.

Immediately, I sat on the floor and read to my heart’s content. All of the books remained in that room, and I put them back neatly where I found them when I decided that enough time had passed for anyone to begin wondering why I’d been away from the service for so long.

That is to say, I have a lot of practice in squeezing reading time out of just about any experience. Here are a few of my favourite ways to get through just a few more pages out while doing ordinary things.

While Waiting

Lego people standing in a tidy queue while waiting to talk to someone who is sitting behind a desk. I read while sitting in waiting rooms, queued up in line, or seeing if a store clerk could find that one last pair of jeans in my size.

There’s something about having a good book to read that makes this time pass much faster.

It’s easier to forget how long you’ve been waiting when you’re in the middle of an exciting scene.

On Transit

Woman standing and waiting for a subway car to stopOne of the nicest things about taking buses, trains, planes, or other forms of mass transit is that you can have a short or long block of time to do all sorts of quiet things in your seat.

I can’t read physical pages while travelling due to how nauseated that would make me, but I can listen to an audio version of a story.

(And, yes, audiobooks totally count as reading).

During Exercise

Woman listening to headphones while resting from a runObviously, this is one of those cases where an audiobook is going to be much easier to “read” than a paperback or e-book.

I have seen people reading novels while using certain fitness machines, though, and I like the idea of killing two birds with one stone that way so long as you do it safely.

One of the things I’m hoping to do this winter is figuring out how to combine reading and exercise in some way. I’m not yet sure how I’ll accomplish that, but it seems like it would be an interesting goal to try to reach.  Audiobooks aren’t the sort of thing I can sit and listen to, but I’m thinking they might be more appealing if I’m doing something else while listening to them.

When You Can’t Sleep

Woman counting sheep in her mind while lying in bed. Outside, a flock of sheep are literally jumping over a fence. Every once in a while, I have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. When this happens, reading a book is a nice, quiet thing to do until my body decides to cooperate and go back to dreamland.

The stuff I choose to read at these late or early hours isn’t the same sort of material I’d read in the middle of the day.

Calm stories are good.

Poetry is soothing.

Action-packed thrillers are not so helpful for my overactive imagination at those hours. But to each their own on that topic!

Instead of…

Birds sitting on concrete statues on a foggy dayI’m going to leave it up to you to fill in the blank here. My answer to this question would be TV shows that I’ve lost interest in. While I understand if a show has the odd episode that doesn’t meet my expectations, I’m not the sort of person who will keep watching something that lost my enthusiasm one or more seasons ago.

There are too many other interesting things in this world to stick with stories that no longer grab my attention the way they did in their first episode or season.

How do you squeeze more reading time in?

My Best Halloween Memories

Jack-o-lantern with a light burning inside of it is sitting next to a wooden calendar that says October 31Occasionally, I wander away from the usual topics on this site to share personal stories from my life. Today is one of those days.

For about the first decade of my life, my family attended harvest festivals at local churches at the end of October and observed half-price candy day on November 1. (This a very special day that I highly recommend to people from any background who enjoy sugar and keeping their family dentist in business!)

Harvest Festivals

Harvest festivals happened indoors because our town was surrounded by mountains and that time of year could get fairly cold and snowy. These festivals included costumes, music, games like bobbing for apples, and copious amounts of sugar and chocolate. My young mind was never entirely sure how they were that much different from regular Halloween, but any excuse for sweets was music to my ear.

Hay, sheaves, and pumpkins artfully arranged to celebrate the harvest. The pumpkins are sitting next to the sheave and on top of the hay bale. When I was about seven, my family was surprised by Halloween. A few neighbourhood kids knocked on our door to say trick-or-treat one night. We had nothing sweet to give them at first until my dad remembered his small stash of strawberry bon-bons, a hard candy that has a red liquid centre in them.

A year or two later, we had a family friend who understood was the important of choosing the right sweets no matter what name you give to that sugary day at the end of October. I’m sure she had many other admirable personality traits, but almost everything I remember about her is somehow related to the delicious things she kept in her house.

I have a vague memory of visiting her house and getting a little more candy that was definitely only intended for Harvest Festival purposes. It skated just close enough to that other holiday that I felt like I’d gotten away with something. (My parents were in the room and approved of this gift, however).

Secular Halloween

Round tin can filled with halloween candy. My family started celebrating secular Halloween when I was eleven. By that time, we’d moved into a neighbourhood that was known for its generosity, so the streets were packed with families from other areas as well as from our own.

Trick-or-Treating on those nights was exciting. I wanted to run as fast as I could to every house to make sure I didn’t miss a single one.

We lived in Ohio then. Halloween night could be chilly, but it generally didn’t dip below freezing or include snowstorms. Wearing a jacket over your costume was usually sufficient, although I also tried to pick costumes that covered my whole body up. As in, picking something that required a skirt was not the smartest idea unless you had warm tights on underneath it!

Once I reluctantly realized I was too old to trick-or-treat, I reverted to celebrating half-price candy day once again.

Halloween as an Adult

Most of the places I lived in the United States were in rural locations or small towns. While Canada and the U.S. share a lot in common, moving to Toronto did include some surprises along the way.

I was looking forward to switching from receiving candy to giving it out, but it turns out that the apartment buildings here don’t have trick-or-treaters from what I’ve observed.

Luckily, there is always half-price candy day.

What are your favourite Halloween memories?

 

Why I Prefer E-Books Over Physical Books

It’s been years since I bought a hardback or paperback novel. Almost one hundred percent of the books I read are in e-book form for the following reasons. I thought this topic would make for an interesting post and possible jumping off point for a group discussion.

Allergies

Book covered in cobwebs and dustIt’s pretty difficult to keep physical books in pristine condition.

Wet pages can easily provide a nice home for mould or mildew to grow. Even a mildly damp environment can give books a musty smell after a while if no one notices and dries them out in time.

Being stored in a dusty place affects books, too, even if they’re eventually brushed off.

It’s hard to completely prevent these things from happening, especially in humid climates or in houses that are difficult to keep dry and clean for other reasons.

Since I’ve been an avid patron of public libraries since childhood, this is something that has cropped up for me even more often than it might have if I bought everything I read.  The idea of many people using the same book instead of everyone buying their own copy and maybe only reading it once appeals to me from both an environmental and minimalist perspective.

But there were multiple times when I reach the top of a huge waitlist for a title only to realize that the book the library sent to me was dusty, musty, beginning to mould, or otherwise was going to be an allergy issue for me.

E-books never have this problem. That’s a big part of the reason why I switched to borrowing them instead of physical books from the library.

Portability

Person facing away from the camera. There's an e-reader in one of their back jean pockets and they're attempting to put a novel into the other I’m not the sort of person who enjoys carrying around a purse, backpack, or bag. Most of the time, I try to leave home with only the items I can fit into my pockets.

There are very few books out there that will fit into a standard-sized pocket…especially since I’m a woman and nearly always buy my clothes in the women’s section of the store where designers have yet to realize that pockets can be practical instead of merely decorative. (But that is a rant for another day).

While I could technically carry around a few physical books, it’s so much nicer to have free hands and not have to keep track of anything extra when I’m out and about. This isn’t even to mention the fact that my cellphone can hold countless e-books without weighing any more than it would if I only had one or two of them downloaded onto it.

Convenience

Man holding a smartphone and looking down at itI find it much easier to keep track of a quote I want to save from a specific page when I read that story in electronic form.

When I was in college, I had a professor who spent a big chunk of our first day in class that semester talking about the importance of looking up unfamiliar terms instead of guessing their meanings.

Some of my previous teachers had encouraged us to infer the meaning based on context clues, so I’d slid into the habit of guessing what a word meant instead of being certain.

That professor changed this habit of mine for good. Even though I haven’t been her student for years, I still insist on looking up any word whose meaning I’m not 100% certain of.

My e-reader can do all of these things with a swipe of a finger. There is no pen or piece of paper required to take note of something I’ll want to remember for the future or look up a word I need a definition for.

When you add in the portability and lack of allergens factors, I can’t imagine reading books in any other way.

What format for books do you prefer? Why?

Autumn Worlds I’d Like to Visit

I’ve written about the winterspring, and summer worlds I’d like to visit, so today I’ll wrap up this series by talking about the autumn worlds I’d spend some time exploring if I could.

Some of these settings weren’t necessarily the safest places to visit, but I’m going to use my authority as the author of this post to decide I’d somehow be protected while I was there.  Let’s say I had a protection spell on me to ward off anyone or anything that had bad intentions.

Hill House

Anyone who has read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson or seen the Netflix series based on it knows why I needed that protection spell. This property was filled with malevolent spirits!

The architecture of the house would be what I’d like to see, though. I’ve loved old, stately homes for as long as I can remember, especially the ones that were built during or close to the nineteenth century.

Unlike the clean, sleek styles of most modern architecture, large homes from this era are filled with small details that are easy to miss. There might be carvings around a door frame or a gothic-like spire reaching for the heavens.

Yes, meeting the friendly ghosts would be cool, too, but discovering all of the hidden details of this mansion would be even more interesting.

St. Cloud’s Orphanage

This orphanage was where the main character of The Cider House Rules by John Irving was born and raised in the first half of the twentieth century. Life was hard for many folks then, but it was especially rough for children who didn’t have parents.

There was never enough money, time, or attention to go around…and yet the doctor who ran this orphanage did an excellent job of looking after the children in his care given the standards of his time.

He was passionate about finding homes for his charges as soon as he possibly could. When a home couldn’t be found for a child, he made their lives as comfortable as he could. I’d love to take a tour of this orphanage and see how things were run in that fictional universe a century ago.

Hundreds Hall

If you haven’t already noticed the pattern in this post, that is about to change. Hundreds Hall was the crumbling mansion that the main character in The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters visited in order to provide medical care for the people who lived there. Click here to read my review of the film based on it.

The cool thing about Hundreds Hall was that people were still living there. Yes, it was in need of a lot of repair work, but anyone who visited there would have heat, water, and even some basic food if they went into the kitchen and asked nicely for a snack.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have access to those things while on a ghost hunt than go somewhere that doesn’t have them. My goal while visiting this estate would not only involve admiring the architecture but hopefully catching a glimpse of the ghost that may have lived there, too.

Somehow seeing one ghost who may or may not even exist is a million more times exciting than seeing dozens of them hanging around everywhere like one would at Hill House.

Plumfield

There’s something about this boys school in Little Men by Louisa May Alcott that appeals to me quite a bit. Despite being set in a time and place when women and LGBT+ people had far fewer rights than we tend to have today, it would also probably be the safest place on this list for me to visit.

My fingers would be crossed that Jo would be an accepting host. I’d like to think we could bond over our shared love of writing and literature.

It would be amazing to see what life was really like in her home. Her school was not always the most structured learning environment, but her students did have a great deal of fun between – and sometimes right dab in the middle of – their chores and lessons.

So many of my favourite memories of this book happened during the autumn, so I can’t help but to think of it as an autumn story.

If there were a way to tell her about the future without disrupting the natural unfolding of historical events, I’d also love to give Jo a glimpse of what life was like nearly 200 years after her time.

What autumn worlds would you like to visit?

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