Reading Recap: July 2018

July has passed us by and it’s time for another reading recap!  This month, I wrapped up my summer grad school classes and dove into several of the titles that have been burning on my to-read list for months.  Overall, it was a really solid month of books!  I thoroughly enjoyed almost everything I read.

During June, I made a physical pile of books in my room I wanted to cover this summer.  I’d stare at them longingly before I went to sleep each night, waiting for classes to be done so I could read them.  When the time came, I was surprised that the first title I grabbed from the pile was The Great Gatsby.  It ended up being the perfect palate-cleanser as I transitioned into summer break.  The next title I picked up was Tomi Adeyemi’s debut, Children of Blood and Bone, one of my most highly-anticipated books of the year.  For my morning Christian nonfiction, I had the delight of reading Rachel Held Evans’ new book on the Bible.

After such a solid month of reading, I’ve been waffling a bit on what I should pick up next.  I’ve started three books in the past week and none have hooked me.  What books have you read recently?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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Poetry Talk: Sublimity by McKenna Hight

When a dear friend tells you they’ve encased their soul in paper, it is best to tread carefully.  Poetry is an intimate form of literature.  To translate your inner trials, triumphs, and longings into language and is a brave thing to do.  I deeply admire McKenna Hight’s courage in sharing her debut poetry collection, Sublimity, with the world.  It’s an act of hospitality I’m honored to receive.

Before proceeding, I’d like to say a few things about my relationship with the author.  Sometimes in life, you meet people and find instant kinship.  You may only be around each other for a few days, but that’s enough to form what will likely be a lifelong friendship.  McKenna, I think, is one of those people.  We met four months ago during my brief Spring Break stay at Rochester L’Abri.  She’s a writer from Atlanta and we bonded instantly over our mutual love for YA fantasy and Sarah J. Maas.  During our short time together, we had some really intense discussions about faith, struggles, and how we are to live.  Meeting McKenna was no accident and I value her friendship immensely.

As a blogger, bookstagrammer, librarian, and amateur book critic, it made complete sense to do a review of Sublimity.  I use the word “review” lightly.  This post is pretty long, as I get into some close reading, but that’s part of the fun.  While it’s definitely possible to critique a work of poetry by its structure and adherence to literary form, poetry is hard to pin down. So much of a poetic work is subjective.  Poetry is a conversation.  It’s about immersing yourself in the figurative language and gleaning whatever you can.  I don’t pretend to understand all of Hight’s poems.  I don’t think understanding is the point. There is no concrete meaning to poetry and there is space for a thousand interpretations.  Poetry is about the journey, so let’s journey together.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy of Sublimity, you can do so at this link.  Follow the author on Instagram @yawnsters.

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10 Years of Blogging

Ten years ago, I started my first blog.

As far as blogging origin stories go, mine isn’t that exciting.  A friend from a Harry Potter fan forum recommended the hobby and I followed her advice.  Clearly, this girl was onto something because while she and I lost touch years ago, I’m still here.

I don’t know if I’m very good at blogging.  Frankly, I’m not really interested in being good at blogging.  I couldn’t care less about statistics, follower counts, and publishing content on any kind of schedule.  Blogging, for me, isn’t about performance.  It’s something I do for myself.  I write because I love it and don’t want to stop.

Over the years, blogging has taken on a variety of forms and functions.  Keep Your Feet has been whatever I needed it to be at any given time.  During my final years of college, I talked a lot about transitioning from one stage of life to another and figuring out where to go next.  When I was solo-trekking across Europe, I wrote about my travels.  These days, you’re likely to find me gushing about whatever book I have recently fallen in love with.  I’ve written for a variety of reasons over the years: to process, to clarify, to share, to remember, and to grow.

I didn’t start my blogging journey on Keep Your Feet.  I’ve actually bounced around quite a bit.  When preparing to write this post, I did some sleuthing and can confirm that my original blog from 2008 still exists on the Internet.  As I read those initial posts penned by my fifteen-year-old self, I was a bit shocked to see how much I’ve grown.  My writing has shifted and changed as I have.

Since ten years feels like a significant milestone, I thought I’d share some nuggets of blogging wisdom I have acquired over the years.  This is by no means a conclusive list, nor do I claim special expertise.  However, the act of writing this post has helped me reflect on how and why I blog the way I do, which has been a fruitful line of inquiry.  Enjoy!

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Hitting Pause at L’Abri

I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I arrived at L’Abri.  For the past six months, I’ve been going so hard that I didn’t even notice that I’ve been functioning on empty for weeks.  As I neared the end of my summer classes, when I thought about how I wanted to celebrate reaching the halfway point of my master’s degree, the only place I could think of was L’Abri.  I’m drawn to this place in times of weariness; when the world is heavy, frustrating, and confusing.  Here, in this little refuge overlooking the city of Rochester, I always find peace and rest.  This weekend was no exception.

It’s been months since I’ve done any kind of life-update on my blog, so let me catch you up to speed on what’s been happening in Amelia-land.  First, let me show you where I’m writing.  Imagine yourself with me at this table, a mug of tea in hand, enjoying the golden hour as I ramble on.

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Reading Recap: June 2018

One of my motivations behind carefully recording my reading statistics this year is that I hoped to identify certain trends that emerge.  I’m into my seventh month of record-keeping and have started to notice some interesting things.

The most notable detail for me is that, even though I finished less books than May, I read almost 1,000 more pages.  It’s interesting to think about quantity vs. length.

Looking at this month’s finished titles, it has also become apparent that, when I am busy and stressed, I turn to old favorites.  Even when I’m exhausted and don’t have the energy to read, I don’t stop reading.  I just revisit what I’ve loved in the past.  As C.S. Lewis puts it, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”  Some books are just as good as I remember, some grow and change with me, and others lose their shine.

Do you ever reread books?  Do they get old or are you always noticing new things?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 8
  • Number of pages read: 3,974
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 4
  • Longest book: Cress by Marissa Meyer
  • Shortest book: I’m Still Here by Austin Channing-Brown
  • Highest ratings:
    • Paper Towns by John Green (5 stars)
    • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (4.75 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (2.5 stars)

Some notes on my stats:

  • Audiobooks are included in total page count.  It takes me longer to listen to a book than read it, so I count them
  • My ratings are on a 5-star system and are ridiculously subjective

If you want more information about each book, follow the links embedded in the titles.  That will bring you to the book’s Goodreads page.

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Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m frugal with my five-star ratings, but any book that can make me cry deserves all the stars.

When I first read The Book Thief at sixteen, I didn’t see what the fuss was all about.  It was good, but not great.  I liked the writing, the story, and enjoyed the characters well enough, but it didn’t make an impression.

This time around, the book absolutely wrecked me.

I picked it up for one of my summer grad school classes and it was love from page one.  I opted for the audiobook and soaked in every minute of my daily commute.  Zusak’s writing is incredible.  The characters are well-formed, with realistic development and motivations. The book’s themes about the power of words and the inconsistency of humanity are so well-implemented, I can’t get them out of my head.  It’s taken me a month to sit and write out this review because there’s just so much to think about.

Reading The Book Thief as an adult was also a very personal experience.  I’ve recently experienced several deaths and this book helped me grieve.  I finished the same day I learned one of my favorite library patrons had died and the last fifteen minutes of the audiobook had me sobbing uncontrollably on my way home from work.  I was a total traffic hazard.  For someone who doesn’t cry often, this kind reaction is noteworthy.  I haven’t connected with a story on this visceral a level like this in a long time.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you can’t look away from.  It’s the kind of story that haunts you for years after reading and keeps bringing you back for more.  It’s the kind of story that worms its way into your being.  It sounds strange, but I feel a more complete person after reading this book.

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Reading Recap: May 2018

Yay, another reading recap!

My main goal this month was to get through all the required books in the syllabus for my Young Adult lit class before term starts.  I’m happy to say that I succeeded with three days to spare!  Required novels dominated my pleasure reading this month.  Eight of the following books were for class.  There were some really great titles and I’m really looking forward to discussing Maus, Brown Girl Dreaming, and the book on the Romanovs with my classmates.

As for the books I picked up purely for fun… I was unimpressed with the newest Court of Thorns and Roses installment, but enjoyed being back in that world.  Naturally, rereading Cinder for my class launched another reread of the entire Lunar Chronicles series, which has been delightful.  For my morning cup-of-tea Christian nonfiction, both titles I finished this month were excellent.

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Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 11
  • Number of pages read: 2,949
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 2
  • Longest book: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Shortest book: Maus by Art Spiegleman
  • Highest ratings:
    • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4.75 stars)
    • Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Black Butler Vol. 1 by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

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Poetry Talk: Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello

A couple of months ago, my friend Tinu approached me about helping review and publicize her debut poetry collection.  I hadn’t heard from her since college and, while I was swamped with grad school work at the time, couldn’t say no.  What’s the point of having being involved in the online bookish community if you can’t use your platform to support the creative endeavors of your friends?

It’s been a long time coming, but a short break between grad school semesters has given me the chance to sit down with the collection and pull together some thoughts.  This is by no means a comprehensive review, but I hope you get a sense for what the poems are about.  I had so much fun digging into them.

I hope you enjoy my scattered thoughts!

You can buy your own copy of Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Be sure to add it to your reading list on Goodreads.

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Thoughts on Kindness

Kindness, I’m learning, is a powerful thing.

Working in a public library, people from all walks of life come through my door.  I love this because it gives me the opportunity to interact with people who are very different from me.  One of the joys of being a small town librarian is the ability to really build relationships with my patrons.  They aren’t just faces checking out books.  I call them by name, remember what books they like, and get to be part of their routines.

You find the most generous people in small towns.  My patrons, in particular, have shown great kindness to me over the past two years.  They know I have a long commute and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been offered a place to stay on winter nights when driving conditions are hazardous.  A year ago, a family who knew I love cats surprised me by bringing in their litter of kittens.  Having a kitten party in the library was pretty much a dream come true and I glowed the rest of the day.  Recently, one of my regulars attempted to recruit my help in tapping maple trees and boiling syrup.  He’s a prankster and, when I said no, gave me a hard time.  A week later, though, he gave me a jar of homemade syrup anyway.

These relationships are one of the things I love most about my job.

One of my goals, and something I work very hard at, is to treat each person who walks in the door with dignity and respect.  I want people to feel seen and known when they visit the library–they aren’t just another faceless consumer.  I want people to feel like they matter.

This is no easy task and, so often, I fail to live up to it.  When people show you incredible kindness, it is easy to be kind in return.  When people are friendly, responsible, capable, and don’t argue when you tell them they have late fines, it is easy to show them love.

But people are hard.  They’re messy, complicated, and difficult.

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Reading Recap: April 2018

Oh, April, thank goodness you are a thing of the past.

This month, I had my first true reading slump in years, which was frustrating.  A two-week bout of anxiety, a death in the family, and a misguided jump onto the hype-train that was Ready Player One took all the wind out of my sails.  I spent two weeks on a book that should have taken two days and I didn’t even like it.  What a huge waste!

When it only took three days to make it through the 600 page beast that is Obsidio, I knew I was back to normal.  After that, I cruised through the rest of the month.

Halfway through April, I received the syllabus for my summer class, Library Services for Young Adults.  My goal is to have all the required books finished by the time the semester starts.  (Yes, I am a crazy person.  Embrace it.)  I’ve already covered nearly half of the list and definitely think I can finish by the end of May.

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This post is part of my 2018 Reading Challenge.

Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 13
  • Number of pages read: 4, 098
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 3
  • Number of rereads: 4
  • Longest book: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Shortest book: The Separate Rose by Pablo Neruda
  • Highest ratings:
    • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5 stars)
    • Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4.5 stars)
    • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating:
    • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (1.5 stars)

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