Category Archives: Community/Weekly Events

Long-Awaited Reads Month Update #1

Reading wise, January is off to a great start for me. I have not read this much in ages. Really, this past year I was lucky to make it through two books a month. But in January, the counter is now at six, including one which I started back in 2015. Even luckier, I have thoroughly enjoyed the books I have picked up thus far, even though not all of them have been as stunning as I had anticipated. Long-Awaited Reads Month, indeed:

Caddy's World Hilary McKayCaddy’s World by HIlary McKay

The Casson Family series deserves its own post really, but I know what I am usually like in these cases: I plan to write the post and then procrastinate endlessle. So instead, let me tell you why I love these books, this last book (because I do think this should be read last, though it is a prequel) included: the sense of family and comradeship despite difficulties, the acknowledgement of strains in family relationships but in a friendly manner, the book’s ability to acknowledge the good and bad in all people without judgement, the slight quirkiness of the whole Casson family, the utterly lovely characters which you grow to love throughout the series, and particularly Rose and Indigo, the attention paid to the different manners in which people engage with music and art as important forms of self-expression, and the general readability of course.

This one follows oldest-sister Caddy and her group of friends as they navigate confusing times in their lives. The focus is, of course, on Caddy who is trying to come to terms with the addition of Rose to the family. It is interesting to see how Caddy navigates the conflicted feelings about not wanting another baby in the house, but also being desparate for Rose to survive the complications stemming from her early birth. And this, of course, in the midst of her friends’ problems as well as the rearrangement of family dynamics at home. McKay does this wonderfully well, as always.

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is the latest book by E. Lockhart, the author who gave us the likes of the amazing  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the  lovely Ruby Oliver books. In it, we follow the recent years of Cady Sinclair and her family, and particularly the times directly before and after ‘the accident’. As we follow Cady puzzling together the truth of what happened during one of her family’s summer stays in Martha’s Vineyard, we are introduced to the world of the Sinclairs, a rich white family, and ‘the liars’, a group of four cousins and friends of which Cady is one.

We Were Liarsranked high on many of my favourite bloggers best-of list a few years ago, and so I could not wait to read it myself. But perhaps it was the hype.. because even though I enjoyed the book and definitely found it engaging, it failed to convince me that it was stellar. Perhaps it was that I saw most of the twist coming about half-way through, but generally that does not bother me so much. Or perhaps it was that the characters felt rather flat at times, which meant that instead of allowing room for the reader’s deconstruction of the character’s circumstances and behaviours, the book felt more focussed on plot-progress. This is not to say that you should not read the book. It is still a very good book, and I definitely felt lots of feelings while reading. Perhaps it is just that I had expected more? Sometimes these kinds of books hold up better when you read them at the time of their release and the initial enthousiasm about them, than they do a year or so later.

Jem and the HologramsJem and the Holograms: Showtime by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell

A graphic novel series about a girl band in the 80s, the protagonist of which is too shy to perform in front of an audience, so instead they use hologram “Jem” to be able to perform. While this story provides a lovely mix of music, friendship, love, and true human relationships between women instead of hollow stereotypical versions of it, plus “girly-girl” imagery mixed with serious issues without one undermining the other -and as such offers lots to love- I also did not feel as special a connection to it as I had anticipated. Perhaps it is the comic format? I notice that with both this one and Lumberjanes (which I personally enjoyed much more) I really love the story, the underlying ideas and messages, but I just cannot quite become as absorbed in them as I would in a regular fiction book? I don’t know.. this is a question I will have to puzzle out over time..

10 PM Question De GoldiThe 10 P.M. Question by Kate De Goldi

The 10 P.M. Question tells the story of 12-year-old Frankie and the monumentous changes brought to his life when he befriends the new girl at school, Sydney. While this book also explores a quircky family in which different persons have to address daily difficulties and strains, it’s tone is more serious than Hilary McKay’s. However, the books share the respectful tone at which personal and familial problems are addressed, nowhere reducing a problem or a person’s ability or inability to deal with it to a caricature. This, as well as its engaging characterisation and style, is what made De Goldi’s novel so particularly strong, for the subjects with which she deals are not small, eg. mental illness. And yet, the manner in which she addresses Frankie’s anxiety’s and his mom’s inability to leave the house, as well as the issues faced by other characters, simultaneously draw them out of the corner of mental illness which places it apart, but instead normalises it to a very realistic extinct. Additionally, there is something refreshing about reading a book about a boy’s self-doubt, when it is unfortunately so often only girl characters who are portrayed in this manner. I would definitely, then, recommend The 10 P.M. Question. It is utterly readable, enjoyable, and fun. To this is added the a humane and gentle understanding that is utterly admirable.

A Company of Swans IbbotsonA Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

This is typical Eva Ibbotson romance, but as always, it is good. Telling the story of Harriet Morton, who is raised by her father and aunt in a very protective, strict, and sober environment, but when given the chance runs away to follow her dream of performing in a ballet company while they tour the Amazon. While there are questions to pose about romantic interest Henry and his friendly colonial entrepeneurship versus that of his rivals, Ibbotson’s usual black-white portrayal of good vs. bad parents and innocent children, and the romantic imagery about the Amazon, I nonetheless enjoyed A Company of Swans immensely. Somehow, there is something about Ibbotson’s rose-coloured glasses that makes her books quite irresistable. Perhaps she leaves just enough room for realism and criticism to get away with it? I wonder.. Or perhaps it is simply that enjoying a work of fiction does not mean unapologetically condoning all of its portrayals? And yet, writing about Ibbotson’s romance novels always makes me wonder if she has a quality that allows us to jump a little too easily to the “oh, it was just lovely!” description instead of posing the more difficult questions, and if there is a danger in that. For it is true, I did wonder about some of the representations here, but mostly, I was too caught up in the fairytale to care.

I also, of course, read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but since I have already written about that here, I won’t repeat my thoughts.

Meanwhile, I have begun to read Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell. This one is another that falls into the “comfort reads” category for me, having so much enjoyed her High Rising in 2014. Reading it seems to be taking a little more time than the rush I felt in the previous 2 weeks. But who knows, maybe I will get to pick out another book before January is over.

What have you been reading in January thus far? Any books that stood out to you in particular?

Long-Awaited Reading for January

After Christmas, at least where I live, January and February offer cold and darkness without the joys of holidays to look forward to. As a remedy, Ana and I thought up the idea of a Long-Awaited Reads Month years ago. This year, we decided among the two of us to have another one in January – albeit a little late to turn this into a major event or to even announce it before now. But the idea was always simple, and so it shall remain:

LARM2016

During January, we will be reading those books that we expect will bring us comfort and joy. Generally, these tend to be books that have lingered on our shelves or wishlist for a while. You know, the ones you tend to save for a special occasion when you could use a book to cheer you up, to make you think, to make you feel, or whatever you require from a book to bring you comfort ang joy (I know for me, the month’s reading usually consists of a mixture of those).

You are more than welcome to join us. Actually, we would very much appreciate the company! You can say hi using the LARM hashtag on twitter or instagram, write up a reading list, or just quietly join in: it is up to you.

So what will I be reading? Well, I have to admit that I do not have a definite plan yet. However, I started January with finishing the last of the Casson Family books I had not read (Caddy’s World), and now I am reading We Were Liars alongside The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (New year’s resolutions and all that). After these, I will probably end up browsing my YA and fantasy shelves, as my go-to comfort books. But who knows, I might just end up picking up something like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

Happy New Year

I will be back in the new year with plans, posts, perhaps a 2015 in retrospect, and hopefully much more reading. For now, however, I wanted to wish you all a happy new year. I hope 2016 brings all of you joy and hope and anything else you may wish for.

Happy News, Again!

It has been 19 months since I made a similar announcement about “Happy News“. And here I am repeating the sentiment: Bas and I are very happy that I am pregnant again and that Pim will become a brother, probably sometime during the end of May:

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This also explains why I have been absent and have done very little reading since August. Aside from the general business of having one baby and trying to combine that with a full-time PhD, I have been suffering from nauseousness since September. This pregnancy, while still easy up to now, has been very different from when I was pregnant with Pim. Back then, I rarely felt nauseous and this time around I hardly functioned for the first 12 weeks. Luckily, I have had little complaints aside from that, and I feel rather wonderful right now (though admittedly a little bit more tired and more easily irritated — another difference: hormones are having much more effect this time around).

I am both incredibly happy and a tiny bit scared about having another child. We worry that it will be crazily busy, and I am sure it will be, but we are also very much looking forward to adding another member to our family.

More soon, but I just wanted to let you know since I have been struggling to keep quiet for quite some time now. (Also, just in case: facebook does not know yet, for those who are friends with me on there: please refrain from mentioning it on there a little while longer).

Happy Birthday, Pim!

I cannot quite believe I am writing that down, but if I look at the dates it is true: my little baby turned one year old on Monday.

We had a small celebration with his grandparents, aunt, and a few acquaintances on Monday, and expect a larger group of friends and family on Sunday (it will be so busy for out little one; we have our fingers crossed that he will actually catch some sleep..).

As always, I was busy trying to juggle work and decorations for the village festival (which seems to coincide with Pim’s birthday from now until who knows when) as well as preparing for his birthday. It wasn’t perfect, but I certainly tried:

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We decorated with lots of garlands and balloons (the picture doesn’t really capture it, since it only shows part of the room), that were all utterly fascinating to Pim. One of his current favourite pastimes is to point at objects, hear their name, and to be carried to them so he can briefly feel them — and so that is what he did with his birthday decorations. I also put up lots of pictures from the past year. Initially, I wanted to copy Michelle’s idea of putting up the number one in pictures, but I ended up simply putting a random collage of pictures on our glass doors in the living room and kitchen, because I couldn’t make a number work in our living room without damaging paint etc.. It still looks nice and really festive though, and I loved going through the pictures and revisiting some of these moments on the eve before Pim’s birthday, particularly as I haven’t been able to find the time to put together his actual photo book yet *blushes*.

I also made Pim a cake as well as a mock one for cake-smash purposes. The cake smash wasn’t a huge hit with Pim, but to be honest we had kind of expected it. He doesn’t really enjoy getting dirty and he is usually incredibly careful with things, and so instead of going for a full-on smash, he continued to carefully touch the cake with his fingertips, study his hands, and then frown a little as if he didn’t quite know what to make of this. Ah well, it made for some lovely pictures anyway. And it does capture his current personality remarkably well.

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And anyway, Pim did enjoy doing “Hip, Hip, Hooray” in front of the cake. Every time we use that line he looks around so happy and proud with his arms in the air. And it, of course, made us proud too. We hadn’t expected him to do it in front of a large “audience”, since he usually reserves his clapping, waving, hoorays, kisses, and cuddles (the words he seems to associate with actions) for a more intimate setting.

As seems to be the case for most babies, Pim had little interest in his gifts. We had a small slide wrapped in the living room when he entered, but he only wanted to point and stare at the decorations when he first entered the room. After a little while he also became interested in the slide (we thought), but it turned out he only wanted to touch the balloons we had taped to the present. The tearing noise of wrapping paper couldn’t even interest him, he was so overwhelmed by the general state of the room. However, once the present were unpacked, he loved them! We had puzzled over what to get Pim for weeks. He had already received the two things we were sure he would love a month prior from others: a wooden activity cube with Pim’s 3-month-favourite: a wire maze on top, and a ball track. Traditionally, babies receive a sandbox, but the summer is almost over and as I said, Pim doesn’t like to get dirty.. and so we hadn’t a clue what to get him until he suddenly became obsessed with the baby slide in the pool last week. Of course, he can’t really  use the slide as it is intended to be used yet but he loves it when we place him on top and let him mock-slide downwards. Also, it will be a nice addition to the still-being-renovated garden next year. Others also made quite a good judgement of toys Pim would enjoy, and we will continue to swap them up in the following months–year. He was particularly keen on the gift he received from my sister in America, which was extra nice given that she couldn’t be there.

Overall, I think the birthday went really well. I was, of course, a bit overwhelmed and emotional by the end of the day. Honestly, I wasn’t quite ready for the day to arrive and I also wasn’t quite ready for it to be over. I wish we could have celebrated Pim’s birthday all week. To make it last. Or to make the growing up so fast stop, perhaps? In that sense, I am glad we’ll be able to repeat the experience on Sunday.