The Dreaded Reading Slump

Lovely library patrons, I must confess something absolutely atrocious. I have been in a reading slump. I can feel you clutching your pearls as you read those miserable words. As readers, we delight in the stories, the characters, and the magic of a book, but sometimes, our minds turn dreary and our attention spans rival that of a two-year old. Sometimes, we just don’t want to read.

This slump couldn’t have attacked at the worst possible time. With only a month left in 2018, I’m seeing my goal of reading 100 books for the year drifting further and further away. It’s a shameful thing, but I am determined to break this slump and return to the hours curled up with a world in my lap. Here are five tips to ease this burden if you find yourself sitting with the slump monster.

  1. Don’t Read.

How can I say such things?! Have I betrayed my clan of librarians and forever ruined our good name? No, because frankly, we’ve all been there. Reading should be fun. It’s a hobby, a leisure activity, and just like sometimes you get tired of sewing or scrapbooking, you can get tired of reading. It doesn’t mean the love of it has left. It’s just taking a vacation. So take a vacation too. Don’t force yourself to read. Binge watch that Netflix show, take walks with your family, start up a new exercise or just stare blankly at the wall. A part of you is telling yourself that you need something whether it’s rest or re-connection. Instead of pushing that away, listen to it and soon, you’ll find yourself craving a book.

  1. Make It Social

Reading is primarily a solo activity, and that can make isolating. To get out of a slump, try mixing it up by adding others to your experience. Join a book club (we have some awesome ones) or even read a book informally with a friend. I’m currently reading a book recommended by one of my good friends who heard about it through Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Once I finish it, we’ll meet up to discuss!

  1. Start Small

When the slump monster shows up, it’s not the time to bust out Anna Karenina. It’s the time to give your brain a little breather with a shorter work. Try reading a book that’s less than 100 pages or something light in content. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable for grown-ups to read middle grade and kid’s fiction! Also feel free to give poetry a try. There’s a pretty awesome collection of poetry books to download on Hoopla!

  1. Read a Favorite

Why visit something unknown when you could return to a world you know and love! A reading slump is the perfect time to revisit an old favorite story from childhood or your favorite book from a few years ago. You’ll gain something new from your current perspective, and it might be just the push you need to get you back on track.

  1. Mix It Up

Seeing your reading slump as an opportunity instead of an opposition can be a helpful shift. Try diving into a genre you would have never explored before or an author that you’ve heard a lot about but never given a chance. Also use this time to mix up the way that you consume stories. Download an audio book or give e-books a try. You might even want to read a play or script. It all counts, and it all can help in moving you forward.

 

No matter what you do, remember that reading slumps aren’t forever. A book will come along and re-spark your interest or time will pass and you’ll find yourself reaching out for a great story!

Can Shakespeare Make Sense?

We all know him, that 16th century bard with the weird hair and a penchant for killing off everybody in his plays. You’ve probably had to endure the musings of that Prince of Denmark or the fawning of the young lovers in a high school English class and perhaps you’ve even been dragged to a bloody production a time or two. You might have even encountered one of the countless adaptations while searching for something to watch on Netflix or seen one of his quotes on a museum wall, but for most of us, Shakespeare is fairly unreachable. As Mare Winningham, a well-known actress and decorated Shakespearean performer, once said:

“It’s practically in another language.”

Only in the last ten years have I really considered giving Shakespeare a chance, and even still, it’s required a scholarly mood. However, in the past month, I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how to actually enjoy, and dare I say, even adore Shakespeare.

It all started with a discovery on YouTube. One of my favorite actresses is Joanna Vanderham. I loved her performance in BBC’s The Paradise, and in a passing video search of her other works, I found this rehearsal video of Othello on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s channel. It’s so cool! Joanna plays Desdemona, and it showed her and another actress performing their characters with the director’s input. I’d never read Othello so I became instantly intrigued by the story, and this director’s take on it. After watching all of the rehearsal videos on YouTube, I found that I can actually watch this production online (and I don’t even have to leave my house!)

Antony Sher in RSC’s production of King Lear

Digital Theater is this really awesome streaming site that lets you watch many Royal Shakespeare Company productions. These shows are legit. They’re directed by esteemed professionals and performed by trained Shakespearean actors who live and breathe this stuff. One of the actors, Antony Sher, even writes books about his year in study of each character. So I rented Othello and was entirely engrossed. Shakespeare was coming to life for me just in seeing it actually come to life. I must confess, though, that at times I got lost so that’s where my next tool in this toolbox comes in.

SparkNotes has this website called No Fear Shakespeare, and it’s phenomenal. It’s basically a line by line translation of Shakespeare’s works, but the translations aren’t watered down. In fact, the translations sometimes are even beautiful in their own right. For the first time in all my reading of Shakespeare, I truly understood everything that was going on. I saw how devious Iago really was, why Cassio felt so ruined, and why Othello behaved erratically. Once I watched the RSC performance, I went back and read the entire play on the SparkNotes. I read Shakespeare’s lines first and then read the translations just to make sure I grasped it. I took my time with it instead of rushing through and losing meaning. I even kept a file for all of my favorite lines. By the end of Othello, I truly felt the story.

“To mourn a mischief that is past and gone

Is the next way to bring new mischief on.”

– Iago, Othello

So You Want To Actually Like Shakespeare?

Pick a play that you’re generally interested in. It could be something as popular as Romeo and Juliet or more lighthearted like Much Ado About Nothing or The Taming of the Shrew. Then I’d recommend reading a summary of the entire story.  Shakespeare isn’t about spoilers and surprises. It’s about feeling for the motivations of these characters and finding lines that are treasured gems so get a grasp of the basic plot first (and for some plays, that’s a feat in itself). Then if you can, I’d recommend renting a performance of it on Digital Theater (the prices are shown in pounds, but when you rent a show, it converts the price to dollars automatically). Watch it, have the No Fear Shakespeare tab open, and just revel in the performance, art direction, and style. After you’ve seen the play, I would then actually give reading the play on No Fear Shakespeare a chance. Read the original lines and use the translation for guidance. With the story having sunk into your soul a bit, you’ll find that lines jump out at you with so much more meaning.

This is definitely a different way of reading. It’s slower, more methodical, and requires a little time for your brain to settle into it, but I promise, if you give this a try with even one of Shakespeare’s plays, you’ll really feel different about it. For me, I’m planning King Lear next. Antony Sher’s  performance looks like a masterpiece.

Good luck, Shakespearean fellows!

 

Book Review: Still Star-Crossed

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

First line: In Fair Verona’s streets, the sun was hot.

Summary: Weeks after the tragic deaths of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, the city of Verona is deep in grief. The city seeks someone to blame and with tensions so high, Prince Escalus must do something to re-build trust and ignite hope. He turns to Juliet’s cousin (and Romeo’s first love), Rosaline, and Romeo’s kinsman, Benvolio, for help. By bringing these two together in matrimony and uniting the houses, Escalus believes the city of Verona will finally find peace. The only problem is that Rosaline and Benvolio can’t stand the sight of each other and blame the other for their loved one’s death. Set against Shakespeare’s brilliant backdrop and filled with infatuation, betrayal, and death, Still Star-Crossed answers the question we all have once the curtain closes on Romeo and Juliet’s story; what happens next?

Here I made this for you. ‘Twas finished weeks ago. I should have known better than to expect your attentions when you had no further need of me.” She thrust a scrap of cloth at him. “Here.”
He took it. It was a handkerchief, embroidered with the Montague crest. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Go choke on it.”

Highlights: This book is a must for any Shakespeare lover. Taub’s writing mirrors all the good points of Shakespearean language while still making it feel accessible. Our main characters, Rosaline and Benvolio, are exquisite. Rift with prejudice, flaws, and despairing grief, they feel so human and relatable while still capturing the reader’s attention with their gentleness. The betrayals in this story are also incredibly tantalizing as are the villains. Melinda Taub makes Shakespeare’s city of Verona feel so real. She includes little details (some of them references to other plays), and it’s fun to see Romeo and Juliet come to life in a new way.

Lowlights: Obviously if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare or Shakespearean dialogue, this might be a difficult read for you. Also, the betrayal in this story, while believable, was not particularly clever. I figured out who the traitors were about mid-way through. The story does also slow down a little in the middle of the book, and Rosaline’s affection for one particular character is annoying after a while, especially when this character betrays her trust. Overall, though, the flaws of this novel are flaws that any critic of Shakespeare would give one of his plays which shows how closely to Shakespeare Melinda Taub wrote this book.

FYI: This book was actually turned into a TV series on ABC that was executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. I haven’t watched the show yet, and it was canceled after only one season, but it might be worth checking out!

Go to Hogwarts and Read!

Most muggle students are in the thick of their first month of school, but I have recently been facing an academic feat of my own; taking my O.W.L.s. That’s right! I have been taking my Ordinary Wizarding Levels at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Well, maybe not actually taking them, but I’ve been participating in the Magical Read-a-thon created by Book Roast on YouTube, and it’s been both an exciting and challenging experience!

What is the Magical O.W.L.s Read-a-thon?

Here is Book Roast’s announcement video about the read-a-thon. Though the read-a-thon itself was hosted back in the spring, I’ve decided to jump into it on my own.

In a nutshell:

The Magical O.W.L.s Read-a-thon is a month-long challenge to successfully “sit and take exams” by reading a book based on each challenge inspired by a course one would take at Hogwarts.

Book Roast created this fancy Hogwarts letter which explains what each course’s challenge is and the grading score. To pass one’s O.W.L.s, a reader must complete five books from five different subjects (no doubling up!), but a reader could potentially finish 12 books if they so desired.

My Experience

In classic Hermione fashion, I set out to complete all 12 O.W.Ls for this challenge. I went through each subject and chose a book then created my own very official exam schedule to keep track of each challenge.

My exams started on August 5 and I have until September 5 to finish.  I’ve earned an O or Outstanding Score on my O.W.Ls after having finished eight books, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to meet my final goal of 12. The biggest challenge I found with this read-a-thon was actually locating books that met both the criteria of the course and my own personal criteria (currently interested, already on my TBR, and under 300 pages). I’ve also had to change the book that I chose a number of times because it either wasn’t a captivating read or I lost interest in reading the book in the first place. Overall, though, this challenge has been so much fun and is such a creative way to get some reading in.

If you are interesting in taking your O.W.Ls then go for it! Print off the course descriptions from Book Roast’s letter, choose your books, set a month-long beginning and end date, maybe design an official Hogwarts exam schedule of your own, and get to reading. If you manage to get through your O.W.Ls, then you can join me in taking the N.E.W.Ts

…but that’s for another blog post!!

Booktube-A-Thon 2018

From planning programs to signing up summer readers to a full week of editing our Moviecraft films, it has been one busy summer, and I have definitely been neglecting my reading. Goodreads tells me every time I log in that I am four books behind on my yearly reading goal. For shame! Now with summer winding down, I think it’s time to catch up on that goal, and what better way to tackle a lot of reading at once then with a read-a-thon! Luckily, the annual Booktube-A-Thon starts on Monday, and as Spongebob says

What is the Booktube-A-Thon?

According to the Booktube-A-Thon website,

“The BookTube-A-Thon is a week-long readathon hosted by Ariel Bissett! The first BookTube-A-Thon took place in 2013, co-hosted by Raeleen Lemay, and is now in its fifth year! It is the largest readathon on YouTube and an opportunity for the BookTube community to come together to celebrate reading by creating bookish content and reading lots of books!”

This year’s Booktube-A-Thon starts on Monday, July 30 to Sunday, August 5. It is a wonderful way to have fun with reading, push yourself to prioritize reading, and see all kinds of video and reading challenges on YouTube. Here is this year’s announcement video with all the details.

The best way to get ready for any read-a-thon is to plan a TBR (to be read) pile, and as with most week-long read-a-thons, there are seven challenges that readers are dared to complete. If you do, you get a super cool 2018 Booktube-A-Thon Certificate in your email!

My TBR Pile

Reading Challenges Announcement Video

Challenge 1: Let a coin toss decide your first read

So whether I’m lazy and didn’t want to pick two books or I’m courageous because I upped the risk, I actually had a random number generator pick my book instead! I made sure that all of my TBR books for the week were under 300 pages because I’m trying not to set myself up for failure.

I’m reading: The Count of Monte Cristo Manga by Alexandre Dumas, Crystal Silvermoon, and Nokman Poon

Challenge 2: Read a book about something you want to do

Fun fact about me: I’m a mermaid! No, really, I actually practice swimming in a mermaid tail. It’s so much fun and a really good workout. I’ve had this book on my Goodreads TBR for a while, and it’s just the right length. I want to be a mermaid and living in Kansas, I’m as landlocked as I can get.

I’m reading: A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids by Margot Datz

Challenge 3: Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

I wanted to pick a book that would be a quick-read and a movie that I readily had access to so I chose this one because the movie is on Hulu, and I’ve never watched a comic book to movie adaptation before.

I’m reading: I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Nimura

Challenge 4: Read a book with green on the cover

No matter the version of this book, it seems every one of them has green on the cover, and it’s a classic fantasy story that I’ve been wanting to try for a while.

I’m reading: Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

Challenge 5: Read a book while wearing the same hat the whole time

I’m not really a hat person, but I have a few hats crammed into my closet, specifically a black fedora that makes me feel super fancy. I used a random number generator again to pick this book.

I’m reading: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Challenge 6: Read a book with a beautiful spine

While straightening books in the middle grade section, I actually pulled this book of the shelf to look at it because the spine caught my eye so much. The illustrations on the cover are incredible, and I can only hope the book is just as awesome.

I’m reading: If the Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid

Challenge 7: Read seven books

This last challenge is a “freebie” and an encourager to get through seven books. Once again, I threw my number of Goodreads Want-to-Read books into a random number generator and out popped this book.

I’m reading: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

The last two read-a-thons that I attempted left me sleep-deprived and sick with a cold. Hopefully with a TBR that I’m really excited about and with a few books that should be quick reads, I’ll be able to get through the Booktube-A-Thon unscathed. If you’re up for the challenge and thinking of trying the Booktube-A-Thon, let me know in the comments and share your TBR pile!

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Sunshine Sisters

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

First Line: All those years when Ronni thought she was sick, all those years convinced that every mole was melanoma, every cough was lung cancer, every case of heartburn was an oncoming heart attack, after all those years, when the gods finally stopped taking care of her she wasn’t scared.

Summary: Ronni Sunshine is a London-born actress who made it to the B list in Hollywood during her prime. Now, years later, her life is coming to an end. Her last wish is to have her three estranged daughters return home to be with her in her final hours. Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy endured a rough childhood, taking second place to Ronni’s career, and now with their mother calling them home, they must face their insecurities, jealousies, and the reconciliation they secretly desire.

Highlights: This book is an excellent summer read! It’s dramatic, but not overwhelming, romantic, but not mushy, and full of juicy gossip, beach-side leisure, and even a little tears. The best element of this book are the characters; they are deep, complicated, and flawed. The relationships between them is so relatable, especially for readers who’ve experienced family drama. While the story isn’t the most groundbreaking, it’s easy to connect with and makes for a quick and enjoyable read.

Lowlights: The weaker parts of the novel are in the middle part of the story which slows down as we experience the sisters’ backstories. The book also gets convoluted at times as people come and go in the story. The story may also not be great for readers who enjoy a lot of action in the plot. Most of the events in the story center on the character’s development so it may read more slowly for a reader seeking a story with constant movement.

FYI: This book is great for lovers of Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, and authors Celest Ng and Lianne Moriarty. Also, note that this book does have a few steamy sections that would rival erotica, but there aren’t enough to qualify the book itself as a romance.

Mermaid Sightings at the Library

It seems like I’ve got a new obsession every month, and lately, I’ve been all about the mermaids. It makes sense, I suppose. The summer heat and humidity combined with the delights of vacations and the cooling, beckoning water is a perfect setting for a mermaid’s enchantment to take hold. From the incredible fluke and tail to the magic of underwater kingdoms to the ferociousness and predatory nature of the mythical sirens, mermaids captivate the imagination and thrill us with danger and intrigue. Besides swimming every chance I get and looking into the market for real mermaiding gear, I’ve been diving into some mermaid books, movies, and TV shows that I’d recommend to any mermaid lover.

Books:

The Mermaid by Christina Henry (Adult Fiction)

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

The Mermaid Collector by Erika Marks (Adult Fiction)

More than a century ago, lighthouse keeper Linus Harris left his beloved wife and waded into the ocean with three other men to reunite with their mermaid lovers. The mysterious Mermaid Mutiny of 1888 has become legend for the residents of Cradle Harbor, Maine, honored by the town’s Mermaid Festival every August, when wind chimes are hung from seaside porches to drown out the alluring sound of mermaid song. For thirty-five-year-old Tess Patterson, the legend is more than folklore; it’s proof of life’s magic.

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter (Young Adult)

Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.

Hannah: Daughters of the Sea by Kathryn Lasky (Young Adult)

Daughters of the Sea tells the story of 3 mermaid sisters who are separated at birth by a storm and go on to lead three very different lives. Book 1 is about Hannah, who spent her early days in an orphanage and is now a scullery maid in the house of rich, powerful family. She is irresistibly drawn to the sea and through a series of accidents and encounters discovers her true identity. Hannah realizes that she must keep the truth a secret but she also knows that soon she will have to make the choice – to be a creature of the land or the sea.

Wake by Amanda Hocking (Young Adult)

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (Middle Grade)

For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Emily Windsnap has lived on a boat. And, oddly enough, for just as long, her mother has seemed anxious to keep her away from the water. But when Mom finally agrees to let her take swimming lessons, Emily makes a startling discovery – about her own identity, the mysterious father she’s never met, and the thrilling possibilities and perils shimmering deep below the water’s surface.

Trouble at Trident Academy: Mermaid Tales Series by Debbie Dadey (Middle Grade)

Mermaids Shelly and Echo are excited to begin third grade at the prestigious Trident Academy, but snooty Pearl, jokester Rocky, brilliant Kiki, grumpy Mr. Fangtooth, and an argument over their first project challenge the best friends. Includes facts about marine plants and animals and words to the Mermaid Tales Song.

Mermaid Dreams by Mark Sperring (Picture Book)

At bedtime, Meriam tells her mother what it was like to spend a day as a mermaid at the beach.

Sofia the First: The Floating Palace by Cathy Hapka (Picture Book)

During her family vacation on a floating palace, Sofia befriends a mermaid, and through their friendship helps save the mermaid’s kingdom.

Recommended Movies and TV Shows

Aquamarine (2006)

This movie is perfect for summer! Following the story of two girls who befriend a mermaid, it’s charming, lighthearted, and perfect at capturing the whimsy of the mermaid myth.

Siren (2018, Freeform/Hulu)

This is my current TV favorite, and it takes the mermaid and siren stories to a whole new level. Claiming that the mermaid is a predatory, carnivorous creature that can take down sharks and humans alike, Siren is a dramatic telling of the creature Ryn as she emerges on land in search of her sister who has been taken by government researchers.

H20: Just Add Water (2006, Netflix)

This Australian TV show is perfect for K-4th graders who love adventure, a little friendly drama, and mermaid transformations. The show is a little cliché and cheesy at times, but strangely addictive for audiences seeking something lighthearted.

 

 

Whether you’re a mermaid fanatic like myself, have a young one who is into all things mermaid, or just want to dive into something summery and sensational, I recommend giving any of these books or films/TV shows a try.  Let me know what you think if you do or if you have any other mermaid recommendations of your own. Don’t forget to sign up for the summer reading program no matter what age you are and keep track of your mermaid reading so you can win some awesome prizes!

Hope you have a “splash” this summer!

Book Subscription Boxes

This blog post comes with a few warning labels.

WARNING: If you have a book-acquiring habit that leaves your wallet bare, your shelves stuffed, and your marriage in jeopardy, you may not want to read this post.

WARNING: If you are susceptible to buying bookish items such as Harry Potter merch, posters of book characters, and limited edition covers with stained pages, autographed book plates, and specially designed bookmarks, you may not want to read this post.

WARNING: If your To-Be-Read shelf is so tall that it’s endangering your children, pets, and the value of your home, you may not want to read this post.

Lately it’s been feeling like my birthday every month. It’s because I’ve joined some book subscription boxes. If you’re unfamiliar with subscription boxes, they are a monthly box that features various, usually exclusive, items surrounding a particular theme. There are so many subscription boxes out there with themes for everybody. Beauty boxes, survival boxes, boxes for your dog or cat, boxes for your kid, boxes for your marital status. CrateJoy is the leading search engine to connect you with all kinds of boxes, including book boxes.

After drooling over YouTube videos and Instagram posts, I finally decided to take the financial plunge and buy subscription boxes from two different companies, Owlcrate and Fairyloot. My life (and bank account) haven’t been the same!

Owlcrate

Owlcrate and Owlcrate Jr. are a US-based monthly subscription service that includes either a newly released YA novel or newly released middle grade novel along with other exclusive items from various shops and companies across the country. Owlcrate has a direct connection with US publishers and not only features an exclusive edition of a new release, but a signed edition with a letter from the author and other memorabilia.

Every month Owlcrate’s box has a new theme. This theme ranges in concept and the featured book’s genre. The February 2018 theme was Hidden Worlds, March 2018’s theme was Across the Galaxy, and April 2018’s theme is Shadows and Secrets. Owlcrate releases a teaser of the book and other items in the box so when you receive your crate, everything in the box is a surprise!

I’ve received candles, jewelry, scarves, bags, stickers, tea, coffee, mugs, prints, and even a giant wall tapestry from Owlcrate! Here are some posts of items in past boxes.

February 2018 – Hidden Worlds
March 2018 – Across the Galaxy

With shipping and handling, Owlcrate costs about $38 a month. Considering the price of a hardcover book along with handmade, custom items, I think this is a pretty good deal. Customer service is really friendly, and once you get your first Owlcrate, you can join a private Facebook group to connect with other readers.

Fairyloot

Fairyloot is very similar to Owlcrate, but the differences are that Fairyloot is a UK-based monthly subscription box that features only YA fantasy books. Whereas Owlcrate may include a contemporary, thriller, or mystery book, Fairyloot only features books and items inspired by the fantasy genre. The box includes an exclusive, signed edition of a newly released YA book, a letter from the author, and other awesome goodies. Monthly themes have included Oh So Regal, Ladies That Slay, and Villainous.

January 2018- Twisted Tales
March 2018- Memorable Moments

Fairyloot’s items are mostly European including the candles and food items. Most of the time this is really cool, but there was one item, a bag of hot chocolate mix, that I personally didn’t like the taste of.

Fairyloot’s greatest attribute is the design and quality of their author letters, bookmarks, and book plates. Their graphic designer is outstanding, and every print item in the box is a piece of art. Fairyloot also features some really grand items like tote bags, exclusive scarves, and fabric book covers.

Because of international shipping and customs, Fairyloot is more expensive and takes a little longer to receive. With shipping, Fairyloot is about $60 a month and usually arrives towards the end of the month.

Give to Others or Yourself!

These book subscription boxes shine as gifts. Whether for birthdays, holidays, Mother’s/ Father’s Day, or just as a friendly gesture, both Owlcrate and Fairyloot would be so magical to receive.

It’s also a great form of self-care and indulgence for yourself as a reader. The great thing about both boxes is that they reveal next month’s theme a few weeks before payment is due so you can decide if you’d like to skip that month’s box and save some money.

Owlcrate May 2018 Theme
Fairyloot May 2018 Theme

Whether one time or every month, I definitely recommend giving one of these boxes a try!

Yoga at the Library and Yoga FAQ

What is yoga? Why is everyone saying it’s so good for you? Can you even practice it despite (enter issue here – age, weight, injury, post-baby body, anxiety, etc.). And why would you do yoga at the library? These might be some possible questions flooding your mind if you’ve happened upon our poster or Facebook event. That’s right, patrons! We’re hosting yoga classes at the library! I’ve been practicing yoga for years and after earning my 200hr yoga teacher certification, I wanted to share yoga with you in a comfortable and non-competitive environment; the library!

What exactly is yoga anyway?

It’s a 5,000 year old practice based in India involving an eight-limb philosophy including a mindful and healing connection between the breath and body. More simply, it’s moving your body while staying aware of your breath. Yoga is a way to exercise and as with any exercise, you can adapt it to your needs. Yoga has a very deep and rich history with a lifestyle methodology attached to it, but you need to know exactly 0% of that if you just want to move your body, get rid of built-up toxins, release stress, and increase your strength and flexibility.

Yoga involves moving into various poses or asanas (the Sanskrit word meaning “comfortable seat”), and each pose targets a certain part of the body. Depending on the style of yoga, you may be holding the pose anywhere between 5 seconds or 5 minutes. No matter what pose you’re in, the most important element of yoga is maintaining a smooth, even inhale and exhale typically through the nose (though you can breathe through your mouth if sickness has you down).

What are the different styles of yoga?

Yoga is really unique in that there are multiple styles developed from various schools of thought, Indian gurus, and interests. The most common styles are Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power, Hot/Bikram, Yin, and Restorative.

Here’s a brief run-down for you:

Hatha – a slower, mindful practice where the pose is held for 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. Focus is on individual poses, alignment, and release of tension. Perfect style for beginners

Vinyasa – a class emphasizing flow between poses. Each pose moves into the next pose fluidly while matching the inhales and exhales of the breath. Great for detoxifying, raising heart rate, and re-focusing an anxious or stressed mind.

Ashtanga – a style of yoga developed by an Indian guru and follows a specific series of poses held for a count of 10-15 seconds. Lots of Sanskrit is spoken in class and many “pretzel” poses you see on Instagram are from advanced Ashtanga practitioners.

Power – a style developed by Baron Baptise involving a combo of Vinyasa and Bikram. PiYo or Pilates/Yoga takes a lot from Power Yoga and includes fast movements, cardio, ab work, and a comprehensive workout.

 

Baron Baptiste in a crow pose!

Hot/Bikram – Bikram yoga was really popular in America for a while and brought the Hot Yoga craze. Bikram yoga is a specific, copy written series of poses that only a trademarked studio can teach, but any studio can teach Hot Yoga just by cranking up their thermostat. Both Bikram and Hot Yoga are about keeping the room hot so your muscles can completely relax into the poses. It’s intense, but very cleansing!

Yin Yoga – Yin is all about tolerating discomfort. Poses are long-holding, typically for about 5 minutes, and by holding these poses, inter-connective tissues within the muscles are lengthened and stretched in a way that increases and maintains your flexibility and brings healing to aching muscles.

Restorative – this style is about alleviating discomfort. Restorative is relaxing, slow-moving, and incorporates props like bolsters, pillows, blankets, and blocks that allow your body to feel supported. This is a great style for injuries, mental health issues, and trauma.

Why is yoga good for me?

Any movement done for the body is good because it builds your fitness, eases the strain on your heart, and gets rid of unwanted things in the body, but yoga is specifically healing because unlike most exercise which puts the body in a state of stress, yoga aims to put the body in a state of acceptance and relief. Practicing yoga targets muscles in the body not to overwork them, but to release the tension they’re carrying. Poses squeeze then release the organs and the lymphatic system which allows the body to cleanse and detox so you have less aches and pains, less headaches, and less discomfort overall.

Yoga also is healing to the mind. Breathing deeply has been shown to reconnect neural pathways in the brain, lower blood pressure, and purge impurities in the lungs which cause chest tightness. A key component of yoga usually includes some form of meditation or relaxation (savasana) which gives quietness to the otherwise cacophonous mind. While there is a competitive nature to any exercise, yoga is always a practice. It isn’t about perfection or domination but just coming to your mat and doing the best you can with where you are in that moment.

What can I expect from the Yoga for Readers class?

For our first yoga class, I wanted to present something that would be relatable for most patrons, but also similar to any class you would experience at a yoga studio. Yoga for Readers is going to feature a combination of Hatha, Vinyasa, and Restorative styles and include poses that will target parts of the body which hold tension during reading. We’ll do some hip opening poses which are great for people who sit a lot or have lower back/sciatica pain. We’ll do some upper back and posture-strengthening poses to help with back tension, and we’ll go through a wrist sequence to help when you’ve been holding a book open or keeping an e-reader upright for a long time. We’ll round it all out with a fun and easy meditation that will call on your creativity and relax your mind. The class will be accessible and gentle enough for first-timers or those recovering from injuries, but I’ll feature more challenging variations for seasoned yogis or athletes who want to strengthen and tone.

Finally, who in the world am I and what makes me qualified to teach yoga?

Hi, I’m Alyssa! Yoga came into my life 16 years ago when I was an anxious kid looking for something to do. I practiced yoga from DVDs throughout high school and taught yoga workshops in college, but it wasn’t until about six years ago that I took my yoga practice more seriously. I took classes at Siva Yoga Studio in Wichita and practiced daily with teachers Erin Motz and SarahBethYoga to build a more confident and rounded practice. Last year I finally made the commitment to get certified and earned my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification with Adrian and Whitney Tartler at Siva Yoga Studio which allowed me to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200) with YogaAlliance.

Beyond my yoga experience, I also have a Masters in Social Work from Wichita State University and experience as a Licensed Masters-level Social Worker in the state of Kansas. This has provided me with a holistic understanding of yoga’s impact on an individual’s psychosocial development and guidance in offering trauma-sensitive and culturally competent services.

Yoga for Readers at the library

We’ve got two free Yoga for Readers classes scheduled for the month of April, and we’ll be offering more classes if there’s interest in the community. Consider this your personal invitation to attend one of our classes so you can relax your mind, strengthen your body, and enhance your creativity! Ages 13 and up are welcome (let me know if you have a child under 13 who would like to attend, and I’ll make sure to modify).

Yoga for Readers classes will be on Monday, April 2 and Monday, April 23 from 6:30pm to 7:30pm in the Community Room. Limited yoga mats available, but we encourage you to bring your own mat, towel, and water bottle. No registration required.

See you on the mat!

~Namaste~

 

What’s a Read-A-Thon (and How Can I Participate?)

 

Is your giant to-read pile stressing you out? Do you suffer from the terrible affliction of checking out or purchasing a stack of new books despite having a full shelf at home?! You are not alone, my friend, but there might be a way to tackle that mountain of materials. Take your reading to a new level, and challenge yourself with a read-a-thon!

A read-a-thon is a community-driven attempt to read books during a set amount of time. Read-a-thons can last for 24 hours, a few days, a week, a month, or even an entire year. They’re hosted on a social media site like YouTube, Twitter, Goodreads, or Tumblr and never cost or require sign-up. Read-a-thons also may have challenges, sprints, and even contests or giveaways. Participants interact through the internet platform, and some will even post a wrap-up blog or video to showcase their results.

Recently I posted about my experience with the Biannual Bibliothon, and I have taken to exploring online read-a-thons to decrease my ever-flowing TBR pile, prioritize reading, and push my speed. There are so many read-a-thons out there with themes as specified as your reading tastes. You can find a read-a-thon for Harry Potter, science fiction, fantasy, Young Adult literature, graphic novels, classics, and more.

A YouTube creator, LittleBookOwl, has developed an amazing calendar with links to individual read-a-thon websites. Not all read-a-thons have announced their 2018 dates, but many are already scheduled that you can follow.

LittleBookOwl also released a video covering read-a-thons and organized them based on their length.

Interested in participating? All you need to do is find a read-a-thon that interests you, do a little research using the calendar to find the start and end dates and any specific challenges, and you’re set!

Here are a few Read-A-Thon tips:

1. Plan Your Books

Whether it’s a week-long challenge or just 24 hours, definitely go into the read-a-thon with a plan of what you’re going to read. Many read-a-thons have specific challenges that can guide what books to choose so it helps to have an outline of those books and to make sure you have access to them.

2. Prioritize

The read-a-thon is an actual challenge. It forces you to put down your phone, log off Netflix, and actually get to reading. Even with cutting out social media, it still can be hard to find time to read, especially with work, school, or if you’re around children. Before the read-a-thon starts, look ahead to that week in your schedule and plan your reading time. Even if it’s twenty minutes in the day, that’s still a book being read!

3. Audiobooks

Reading doesn’t have to be just for your eyes. It can also be for your ears! Consider the time you spend in the car or bus, the time doing menial tasks like dishes or laundry, or the places you are where reading a book would be difficult. Use that time as listening time, and you’ll bust through a book without even realizing it!

Read-a-thons are an awesome way to connect with other readers and spice up your reading in a new way. The next read-a-thon I’m going to tackle is the week long Read-O-Rama challenge from March 3rd – 9th.

Feel free to join me! I’ll be posting my wrap-up next month to share all the craziness.