Posted in Fave Authors

Jason Reynolds

Two weeks ago I saw Jason Reynolds speak at a local high school. His talk was free to the public, who only had to submit their names for tickets as a means of making sure the auditorium didn’t reach capacity. A former coworker of mine put her name in for a few tickets, but was added to the wait list. She forgot all about the talk until she was notified at the last minute that she got off the wait list and tickets were available to her. She had an extra ticket so, knowing that I am a lover of all things book, she asked if I would like to go to the talk. When she asked, I had never even heard of Jason Reynolds. After some brief online research, I decided that he seemed interesting so I was all for it!

I found the general bits online: Jason Reynolds is an American author for young adult audiences (which kind of explained why I hadn’t heard of him yet). He writes novels and poetry and had some pretty hefty awards and accomplishments under his belt including receiving an NAACP Image Award, a Newbery Honor, and being a National Book Award finalist. He’s originally from the Washington D.C. area as well which is just an added fun fact since I live around there too.

I knew I was hooked when…

…he started his talk casual and comedic. He was so relaxed, weaving words that struck a balance between all the kids and adults in the room. We could all comprehend, relate, and laugh with him when he was talking. This is such a fine line that usually only the magic-makers of Disney, Pixar, and Spongebob can walk it (and even then not always on a consistent basis).

[Side note: I’m aware that it probably sounds like a downgrade to compare his speaking style and the all-inclusive way he weaves his word-magic to Spongebob Squarepants, but given that I’m comparing him to literally one of my favorite cartoons since its birth in 1999, I mean the comparison as a huge compliment! Obviously it is arguable that Jason Reynolds is slightly more important than Spongebob and I’ll give him that, but the edge he has on Spongebob is slight. SLIGHT! #sarcasm]

…he cited Queen Latifah as a major influence in his life. Listening to and reading her lyrics inspired him to start writing his own ‘Queen Latifah poems’. I don’t want to share too much on this talking point, I’d rather encourage people to hear him speak if they can, but when he thanked Queen Latifah I almost laughed out loud because I was so surprised.

When I was old enough to start buying my own music, one of the first CDs I purchased was Queen Latifah’s Order in the Court and I still have it! She’s been on TV since I was a little kid and always seems like such an interesting, strong woman who has this awesome presence that makes me check in to see what she’s working on next! Her energy is contagious to the point where if I look at a picture of Queen Latifah smiling, then suddenly I’m smiling too! I love Queen Latifah and thought ‘Well if Jason Reynolds knows how cool Queen Latifah is then he’s probably good people’.

Jason frequently mentions that Queen Latifah’s words were important to him because other literature didn’t speak to his experience of urban life growing up as a black child. He even swore off books until later in life when he finally read his first book, Black Boy by Richard Wright, cover to cover at 17 years old! I can never fully comprehend what that feels like, but I listened to what Jason said and heard his experience. For me, Queen Latifah is an amazing role-model for women and girls so I felt a flutter of excitement at having this indirect connection with Jason even if it was for different reasons!

[Another side note: Queen Latifah, if you ever read this I just want you to know that I also played Ursula in the Little Mermaid. I was 13 and the show was in the basement auditorium of my grade school, but I’m proud that you and I have this in common since you have also played Ursula on the stage! I think you would agree that you have to have a special personality to yell ‘…and don’t underestimate the importance of body language’ while maintaining character (especially at 13) so by that logic we’d probably be great friends!]

…he was serious but approachable and took such care with questions from children. By the end of his talk, the tone was quite serious. Jason’s books are based on a lot of personal experiences that are tough to live through for anyone, but especially tough for kids. Many children have to deal with poverty, violence, and death on a regular basis, but having a person like Jason stand up and say I’ve seen these things as well makes all the difference. His writing provides an outlet to so many kids who need someone to understand what they’re going through and what they’ve seen.

When Jason took questions from the audience he added a disclaimer for the adults in the room: Anyone should be allowed to ask anything. He didn’t want adults to keep their children from asking the tough questions that he would answer honestly. I listened to him give thoughtful answers to all types of questions ranging from sports and writing to bullying and depression. I think all kids want is for people to listen and take them seriously. Jason does that for everyone.

After the talk…

…I immediately checked out 7 of Jason’s books from the library.

Short stack of the Jason Reynolds books I checked out from my local library!

…I absorbed Ghost in 2 days and cried while reading it. (Book 1 in the Track Series)

…I finished Long Way Down in 1 day and am still thinking about it.

…I will read the rest of the Track Series (Patina, Sunny, Lu)

…I will read Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks and Stamped

…I will read Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

… I will read Black Boy by Richard Wright (The first book Jason read cover to cover).

…I will read everything Jason Reynolds has written and the books that inspire him.

…I will continue to recommend his books to everyone.

We can all empathize with his characters. We can all relate to at least one experience he shares in his work. We can all read these books and feel something. We can all read these books and learn something.

Posted in Life

New Year’s Resolutions

Quite some time has passed since my last post in November!

After the readathon, my husband and I worked our way through the holidays. We hosted Thanksgiving for the first time ever and had way too much delicious food, celebrated our one year marriage anniversary in December, and attended a friend’s wedding two days before traveling home for Christmas!

After all the excitement we just spent a fun night home by ourselves for New Year’s Eve and played some new boardgames we got as Christmas and anniversary presents. That night I decided I wanted to actually make some New Year’s Resolutions since I usually stick with ‘Keep not smoking’ as my typical resolution.

Resolutions For This Year:

  • Read/Listen to 52 books
  • Workout (Using SMART goals of course)
  • Finish an old crochet project

Last year was a busy year. Right after getting married at the end of 2018, our dog had a seizure, my husband’s mother passed away, and we totaled our car. And that was just the first few months. After that things slowed down and somehow picked up at the same time. I got a new job which is awesome and I love it, but I’m exhausted when I come home! With that, 3 choirs with weekly practices, and a weekly crochet group, I was finding little time for reading. I only ended up reading 12 books last year. TWELVE!

This year I’m using an app called Bookly to help me create and track reading goals. I like the way it creates infographics based on your reading speeds and how it can tell you how long you need to read each day to finish a book by your goal date. It has lovely ambient sounds in the app which are relaxing while reading. (Light Rain is my personal favorite). I like tracking my progress this way because, as a statistician, it’s kind of in my nature. Not to mention I still like to go on Goodreads and Litsy for fun! This is all helping me keep up with reading so far; I’m doing pretty well having finished 6 books, but I’m only 1 ahead of schedule according to Goodreads so I better pick up the pace!

Here’s an example of a Bookly Infographic:

Note the reading speed. Pretty slow, but that’s okay. I like taking my time with the good ones!

I’m not doing as well with working out. I decided to break my workout goals up into quarters to help me keep up with it and increase it over time.

Quarterly Workout Goals:

  • Q1 – 30 mins, 3 days per week
  • Q2 – 30 mins, 4 days per week
  • Q3 – 60 mins, 3 days per week
  • Q4 – 60 mins, 4 days per week

I wasn’t able to keep up with the Q1 goal in January, although I did workout more than I have in a while and was surprised to find I wasn’t as out of shape as I expected. I’m keeping up with my goal so far in February and having fun watching shows while mixing up treadmill, elliptical, and free weights.

I’ve been crocheting away as well, but my goals is to finish at least one of those old projects sitting in the closet! Right now I’m rotating 4 projects so that when I get bored with one I can just pick up the next which helps to maintain progress on all of them instead of giving up!

Current Crochet/Knit Projects:

  • Tessellation Blanket
  • Knitted Velvet Scarf
  • 63 Square Sampler Blanket
  • Kaleidoscope Blanket

These are all newer projects for me, but I have some that have been sitting in the closet for more than 5 years. Besides finishing these 4 projects, I MUST FINISH ONE OLD PROJECT OR DIE TRYING! (Apologies. That escalated quickly).

Welp, onward and upward! Here’s to 2020, a new year, and some new goals. I hope your year is filled with joy and laughter!

Posted in Readathons

Readathon Stats and Lists

The readathon ended about 2 weeks ago, but I never posted my follow up stats and fun lists. Here are some random lists of info I tracked!

BOOKISH INFO TRACKED

BooksAuthorsPages ReadPrev StartedFinished
Tales of Beedle the BardJK Rowling92YY
Eye of the WorldRobert Jordan127YN
The ShiningStephen King178YN
HPCoS: IllustratedJK Rowling41YN

APPROXIMATE ACTIVITY TIMES IN MINUTES

Time Reading840 minutes
Time Online300 minutes
Time Sleeping180 minutes
Time for Other Commitments120 minutes

OTHER FUN INFO TRACKED

Foods/Drinks I Enjoyed
Double Shot Espresso
Steak & Cheddar Microwave Burrito
3 Clausen Mini Kosher Dill Pickles
2 Turkey Clubs
1 Bowl Black Bean Soup
Herbal Hibiscus Tea – 6 oz
Water – 72 oz
Random Words I Enjoyed
Sagacity
Wily
Codicil
Juggernaut
Mayhap

Based on my random stats and lists, I could improve next time by spending less time online and more time reading! I also think using an app like Bookly or a bookmark that doubles as a timer could help me focus and become less distracted during my reading. I’m usually a very slow, easily distracted reader which shows in my pace of approximately one page every two minutes. Staying focused by using a timer to keep me in check might help me increase my pace. Finally, no more large meals! After the soup and sandwiches I tanked big time and, although they were delicious, I definitely should have spread them out.

I do lose a bit of time to tracking this random stuff, but it also helps me stay awake and interested in what I’m doing! Here’s to more readathons in the future and more random info tracking!

Posted in Readathons

End of 24 Hour Readathon and Closing Survey

So how’d I do? Let’s answer the closing survey questions to find out!

  • How would you assess your reading overall?
    • Not great, Bob! I did finish one book and read chunks of three other books, but I think I could’ve read more with a different strategy.
  • Did you have a strategy, and if so, did you stick to it?
    • So my strategy was that I didn’t have one. I figured any time I was getting tired, I would just check the internet and see what my fellow readathon-ers were doing. That was a terrible idea! I think I spent the same amount of time on the computer as I did reading! Next time, I will only allow myself to check the computer every four – six hours instead of whenever the heck I want. Also, as I mentioned in a comment on one of the hourly posts, big meals make me tired! After I ate a huge dinner at 6 PM it was a constant battle to stay awake for the next 14 hours! Perhaps I’ll stick with constant healthy snacking next year and see how that goes. In the end, I still feel okay about this readathon because it’s all good fun. I like the trial and error involved in figuring out my winning strategy and I like that, despite not reading for 24 hours straight, I read for longer than I have at any point in the last nine months! I started a book blog and actually kept up with it during the readathon too (Yes, this was part of the problem, but I’m glad that I tried it). Now that I know how fun and easy blogging about my favorite subject can be, I think I’ll stick with it! Here’s to more book posts and readathons in the future!
  • What was your favorite snack?
    • Although dinner totally dragged my reading down and made me super sleepy, I love hot soup when I’m freezing and no one can go wrong with a delicious turkey club. Not a snack, but the best thing I ate yesterday by far!

 I’ll break down how many pages/books, what foods I ate, and any other lists I kept track of during the readathon in another post. I can’t wait for the next readathon. Next time, I’ll prepare!

Posted in Readathons

End of Hour 16 (24 Hour Readathon)

Welp, I’m definitely spending way too much time on the computer trying to figure out this blogging thing. I thought technology was my friend. (Wow, if that sentence isn’t already taken I swear I’m posting that for the spooky sentence mini-challenge)

Here are some posts I participated in. I don’t know when. The hours, they’re blurry.

Reading Buddies

Halfway Done!

Where are you at?

No more computer! MOAR READING! 🚫💻

Posted in Readathons

Mid-Event Survey (24 Hour Readathon)

Answering the mid-event survey questions in an attempt to fight the head lolling:

  • What are you reading right now?
    • The Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • How many books have you read so far?
    • I’ve only completed 1 book so far, but I have sampled 4 books total
  • What book are you most looking forward to in the 2nd half of Readathon?
    • I have yet to pick up Lethal White which is still on my to do list, but I’m also feeling the itch to pick a book I haven’t read before off my shelves at random and just start reading. Perhaps I’ll try that soon!
  • Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
    • The interruptions are self-imposed to avoid falling asleep. Any time I’m feeling sleepy, I check the interwebs or take a walk around the house. Otherwise, my husband and doggos have left me to my own devices.
  • What surprises you most about the Readathon, so far?
    • I’m always surprised where and when my wall hits. Given how difficult I’ve found it is to put time aside for reading, I can’t believe how hard it is to stay focused today! To be fair, reading for a few hours each day is probably much healthier than 24 hour stints, but who cares? It’s fun!

In keeping with my theme from the beginning of the day, I’m reading another Harry Potter-related illustrated edition.

Hitting a wall in the middle of the readathon.
Hoping my fave pals in Harry Potter will help me get my second wind!

👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓⚡️👓

Posted in Readathons

End of Hour 8 (24 Hour Readathon)

Just past 4 PM here and I’ve been reading The Shining since my last post!
(Except when I took a break to chat with my husband and then watch some videos of piano visualizations. No, I don’t know why I’m into that right now and no, I definitely don’t know how long I was on YouTube 🙃)

Since I’m mood reading for this readathon, meaning I’m just following my heart ❤️ and jumping from book to book, I think I’ll stick with The Shining for a little while longer before switching to something else. I have this feeling something scary is just about to happen and I want to get to the good stuff!

Two posts from the Readathon team that I participated in during the past 4 hours:

Food! Glorious Food!

Like it, Love it, DNF it!

Wish me luck for this next round of reading fun!