The Month that Was: January

Another radio silence, I know.

This one was due to suffering from mastitis during the second half of January. It was horrible. I keep telling people that I think I preferred giving birth to the pain and general illness that comes with mastitis. Then again, at the end of labour you know you have a child to look forward to, so that probably takes the edge of the pain & Pim’s birth was relatively easy anyway. Nursing has not been that easy. And yet, I have difficulty saying goodbye to it. During mastitis you have to continue nursing or the infection will get worse and so you have no choice. And now that it is actually over I am still feeding. Despite all the issues I have had, I also really love these moments with Pim?

Reading wise, I didn’t really do much since I became ill. And so, January counts a lousy 4 books, only two of which I have written about thus far:

  1. Finding Violet Park – Jenny Valentine
  2. The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman
  3. The Night Fairy – Laura Amy Schlitz
  4. Vera – Elizabeth von Arnim

More annoyingly, I was in the middle of reading The Wonderful Adventures of Nils for the Children’s Book Project when I had to return it to the library. Hopefully, I can get it back again soon.

I also did not meet a few of the goals I set for reading in 2015. Perhaps February will be better?

I am currently reading the third book in the Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart, which I find highly enjoyable.

What was your January like? And what are you planning to read during February?

Library Loot: Jan 7 – 13

I cannot seem to visit a library and return empty-handed, this is what ended up on my library shelf in the past few weeks…

My most recent library loot..

Aya of Yopougon #2-6: Aya #1 was on my shelves already. I decided I wanted to continue the series and ordered the other ones from libraries around the province. I think these were published as 2 books in English: Aya: Life in Yop City & Aya: Love in Yop City. I read these over the Christmas holidays and will hopefully get around to posting about them soon.

Blue is the Warmest Colour: I came across this while browsing. A GLBT graphic novel, which I decided to pick up on a whim (and because I desperately need to read more diversely). Also read this during the Christmas holidays. Again, will hopefully review this soon.

Liesl & Po: Again, a random find. Having read two of Lauren Oliver’s YA books (with mixed results) I wanted to see how her writing for younger children is.

Three Pickled Herrings: Random find after random find, this seemed like it might be similar to Flavia de Luce for children? Of course, looking at it like that I can only be disappointed…

The New Religious Intolerance: I was going to read this for Nonfiction November but then my hold came in very late. Saw this mentioned on Amy’s blog, and having heard about Martha Nussbaum before but never having read her, I thought I’d give her a try. Have not picked this up yet though.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight: Another random find. Picked this up at the tiny English Children’s Books section (same for Three Pickled Herrings). And when I say tiny I mean tiny: there are about 20 books there. I remember seeing this mentioned at a fellow Dutch blogger (Paper Riot) and thought I could give it a go myself.

The Wee Free Men: I read and enjoyed A Hat Full of Sky in November and thought it might be good to read the previous title in the Tiffany Aching series as well. Still have to pick this up though.

Ruby Red: I see Kerstin Gier’s books mentioned everywhere in Dutch blogging circles. So I wanted to see whether I’d enjoy her books myself. Again, have yet to read this.

The Night Fairy: Basically, I picked up quite a few of the available English Children’s Books titles. This was another one. I quite enjoyed it. Review to follow soon.

Any thoughts you’d like to share on my library loot? Did you pick up anything at the library recently? 

librarylootbadgeLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Unlike many others, I did not see the promotional picture of two girls kissing for the release of The Sleeper and the Spindle. Instead, being so out of the loop with blogging and new books, I saw this title appear in the top 20 sold books on Bookdepository one day, and decided to buy it. “New Neil Gaiman and a fairy tale at that,” I thought, “I will probably like this”. Not having seen the promo, I was probably saved a lot of disappointment. Instead, I got what I expected: a fairy tale Neil Gaiman-style, with twists that I did not expect, and lovely illustrations by Chris Riddell to boot.

The Sleeper and the Spindle - Neil Gaiman // Illustrated by Chris Riddell // Bloomsbury, 2014

The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman // Illustrated by Chris Riddell // Bloomsbury, 2014

But sometimes, getting what you expected may not feel like enough. And I realise this sounds spoiled. And let’s be honest: it is. But for the first half of the book, it was a thought that flashed through my mind. We’ve come to expect great tales from Gaiman. And upon seeing that cover (WOW!) the idea of wonderful images might be taken for granted.

And so it took a while to realise exactly what joys The Sleeper and the Spindle provides.

Take this quote at the beginning, which plays with gender expectations and “the happily ever after” right there (before playing with it some more throughout the book):

It seemed both unlikely and extremely final. She wondered how she would feel to be a married woman. It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices. She would reign over her people. She would have children. Perhaps she would die in childbirth, perhaps she would die as an old woman, or in battle. But the path to her death, heartbeat by heartbeat, would be inevitable.

And then there’s the moment when realisation first hit (and yes, I am sloooow), that this were fairytales intertwined, with a lead that is Snow White an her dwarfs, mixed up in the tale of Sleeping Beauty. And I started to love the book a little more.

As we near the end I first realise that here’s a wonderful girl protagonist, who is allowed the possibility of a death in battle (see the quote above), and moreover, to make her own choices (there’s quite some gender role reversal when she tells the prince she will leave on a mission), and take such a large part in the action.

And then there is the very end. With a twist on traditional fairy tale expectations about beauty and age that I loooooved. And by then I cannot help but conclude that yes, I was spoiled to even think that getting what one expects of an author may not be enough.

I ended up really enjoying The Sleeper and the Spindle. But I do understand some of the disappointment out there. For this is not a LGTB take on a fairytale. The kiss itself is beautifully pictured but of very little importance in the story as a whole.

Reading Next: The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz (and still reading Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim).

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

I began my journey into the world of 1001 Children’s Books by selecting the very last title listed. Finding Violet Park had been lingering on my shelves for a few years, bought at a this-bookshop-is-bankrupt sale years before. I never quite knew whether I should read it or discard it, until I saw it listed here. Yay for persuading me to pick up a long-forgotten book from my TBR shelves.

Dutch version of Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine // Published in English by Harper Collins in 2007 (Also published as "Me, the Missing, and the Dead")

Dutch version of Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine // Published in English by Harper Collins in 2007 (Also published as “Me, the Missing, and the Dead”)

In Finding Violet Park Lucas Swain goes on a journey of self-discovery in which he comes to terms with his broken family and learns to face the imperfect nature of his missing father, after finding the abandoned urn of concert pianist Violet Park at a taxi stand.

I did not think Finding Violet Park was extraordinary. But it was a lovely read nonetheless. Lucas Swain is entirely realistic and easy to relate to. The style of the book is humorous. The short chapters ensured that I rushed through the book without feeling hurried or inattentive. There is a bit of suspension of disbelief required for the many coincidental relations between events and characters, but at the same time this might be explained by Lucas’ conviction that Violet Park wanted him to find her urn for a reason.

In short: I really enjoyed Finding Violet Park, and I am glad I did not toss the book out when I moved. At the same time, I find I have very little to say about it. (Hah, and here I thought I was going to get back to blogging full-swing).

Finding Violet Park counts towards the Children’s Books Project. It also counts as first book down (1/37) for my personal 2015 TBR challenge.

Currently reading: Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim.
Next up in the Children’s Books Challenge: The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf.

Introducing: The Children’s Books Project

Pim being born was the perfect excuse to finally purchase a copy of 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up:

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up // Universe Publishing, 2009

It’s a list. A list of children’s books. Arranged by ages 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+. Within these categories the books are listed by publication date. And so the list includes classics and recent titles. (That is, recent in 2009, because unlike the other 1001 books list, there have been no updates).

I could say I plan to read them all. In a way I am. But I know I am being unrealistic as I say it. However, I am more motivated to read through this list then the general fiction one that I have been staring at for years. I like books for children, though I have mostly focused on books for ages 8 and up before.

With Pim, there is an additional motivational factor. I want to be able to offer him a range of books to choose from, not just based on my own limited knowledge, or the books available in the local library.

So what I plan to do is the following: read books from the list provided in this book. Review them here. And revisit them once Pim is old enough to read them as well. Somewhere along the way, I plan to have posts devoted to Pim’s reading, probably titled “Pim’s corner”.

But of course, a list is limited. And I would also like to read more children’s books recommended by you. So please feel free to leave your suggestions.