"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Friday, January 22, 2016

Inconsistencies in both Pro-Life & Pro-Choice Perspectives

This is a post that I've been mulling over for about a year. Today, as the anniversary of Roe v. Wade decision it seemed the appropriate time to finally pull my thoughts together.

I'm not going to hide the fact that I am pro-life. I have not come to this position without serious thought and consideration, particularly as I've grown older and have many friends who are pro-choice. I want it to be something I believe with purpose and reason, knowing the arguments of both sides and choosing based on my conscience as well as critical thought.

My goal with this post is to present 1 specific issue I have seen on each side. It is not to start a war, to speak with anger, or to try to get a rise out of anyone. I am speaking in very broad generalities here and I realize this. I am intentionally painting with a very broad brush in order to point out two particular things that have troubled me.

I'm going to start with a major source of hypocrisy I often see within many pro-life speakers and people.

In too many cases when they say they are pro-life, what they actually mean is that they are pro-birth or anti-abortion.

If we are truly to be people who are pro-life, then we must be concerned with more than just the birth of the baby. We need to be thinking about how we can support the mothers and fathers who find themselves expecting a baby when they are not ready, willing, or able to care for that child. We should be supporting single mothers or single fathers who decide to keep and care for their child. We should be offering mental and emotional support, not only to pregnant women, but to them and their families after the baby is born. We should be finding ways to offer financial help if it's needed.

We should be supporting organizations that offer women with complete information about their pregnancy care.

I'm also talking very specifically to people who call themselves followers of Christ. Condemning a woman for choosing abortion when we shun, ostracize, or even just gossip about a woman who finds herself pregnant in a less than ideal situation is neither useful nor fulfilling our supposed stand of being pro-life or followers of Christ. Is it any wonder our opponents find our position to be hypocritical at times?

To those who are pro-choice, there is one particular contradiction in behavior that has consistently concerned me.

As I noted above, I have many friends (both people I know in person and people I only know via social media) who are pro-choice. I have heard them present their views, I have seen them post link after link on Facebook or Twitter. I have read many of those links, I have listened to their perspectives.

I have also seen some of them go through pregnancies, both planned as well as unexpected.

I have never seen any of them talk about the "tissue" or the "fetus" they are carrying that will be a baby when it's born. They always talk about their baby and often add the gender once they've found out ("baby boy is antsy today") or the name if they reveal it before the birth.

I have no problem with this (obviously).
What concerns me in general with many people who identify themselves as pro-choice is the sense that we determine people-hood. We, as fallible humans, determine whether a life is a life or not. If we want the baby or decide to keep the baby, then it is, in fact, a baby, even before it is born. If the baby is unwanted, for whatever reason, then it is a fetus or a lump of tissue that can be disposed of.

This kind of situational perspective on life is problematic. And the question that always comes to my mind is how do we decide where to draw the line? When do we no longer have the right to decide who deserves to be considered a person?

Abortion is an extremely polarizing issue, and I understand that there are many complexities to arguments on both sides. I hope that, no matter where you stand on this issue, I've generated something for you to think about.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge - Completed!

I stumbled across the Popsugar Reading Challenge last year and thought that it looked like a fun way to read some things I might not otherwise seek out. I didn't really plan ahead too much, filling in categories with books I was reading anyway, but also keeping these categories in mind. Toward the end of the year, though, I took a good look at the categories that were left and found books on my shelves I hadn't read before and did some serious googling to find titles for a couple of the categories that weren't easily identifiable (like a book set in my home town or a book published the year I was born). I completed it and was pretty happy with the variety of books I read because of it.

Here are the categories and the books I read to fulfill them:

A book with more than 500 pages: The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Gubar - I was wokring on this for a paper I'm writing and this gave me additional impetus to finish it.
A classic romance: Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte - I wasn't entirely sure what "classic romance" was, but I found some GoodReads chats where people were discussing what they read for this category. I'd had this book sitting on my eReader and kept meaning to get to it, and I'm so glad this challenge made me read it now because I fell in love with Anne Bronte's books.
A book that became a movie: Coraline by Neil Gaiman - I haven't seen the movie yet, I'd been putting it off until after I read the book, and now I can watch it. I'm curious as to how they adapted this dark fairy tale.
A book published this year: The Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester - I had quite a few I could have picked for this category, but I really enjoyed this book, so it made the list.
A book with a number in the title: 3:16 The Numbers of Hope by Max Lucado - Another book that had been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to read it. I'm a fan of Lucado's style.
A book written by someone under 30: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - This category was hard to track down because most authors don't advertise their age. I basically looked at books I read and started googling authors that I knew were younger until I found one with an age listed.
A book with nonhuman characters: Squish: Brave New World by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm - Only the Holms could write such an engaging book about an amoeba. I love their writing style!
A funny book: Not That It Matters by A.A. Milne - I love Milne's work, especially his humorous essays, so when I discovered a stack of them at the library where I work I felt like I'd hit the mother lode. These are all just so fantastic.
A book by a female author: Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George - I was a little annoyed at this category, like reading a book by a woman was a big deal or something. Pretty much just picked one of the many, many books written by a female author that I read but didn't use in any of the other categories. Also wanted to highlight this series because adorableness abounds and you should read it.
A mystery or thriller: The Third Twin by CJ Omololu - Didn't read too many mysteries or thrillers this year, but when Omololu held a Twitter chat to promote this book and the chat was really fun and engaging and the book sounded intriguing I decided to check it out. Interesting twist on the twins switching places trope.
A book with a one-word title: Landline by Rainbow Rowell - Enjoyed it, but this is probably my least favorite of Rowell's books.
A book of short stories: A Medicine for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury - Bradbury's short fiction has its ups and downs for me. I really enjoy some of it and others, well, not so much. But I'm not a fan of short stories, so I was glad to find one that I found pretty entertaining.
A book set in a different country: The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman - This was a cute book set in England.
A nonfiction book: The Word of God and the Word of Man by Karl Barth - I stumbled across this while fielding a research question and became intrigued. Really liked this series of essays.
A popular author’s first book: The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett - This was both his first book and not his first book as it was an edited and expanded version of his first book, but I counted it because it was so cute.
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale - So very glad I got to this one. I loved this book a lot.
A book a friend recommended: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel - My sister really liked this book, so I was excited to read it. Also, Jon Klassen's illustrations are spot on as always.
A Pulitzer prize winning book: March by Geraldine Brooks - This has been on my TBR list for ages, so I was glad to have a reason to finally get to it. It wasn't a favorite, but it was interesting.
A book based on a true story: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi - Picked this one up on audio from my local library. I found it a lot more intriguing and interesting than I anticipated.
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne - I read this as part of my through the alphabet quest even though I didn't really have any burning desire to read it. Now I kind of wish it had been in print so I could give the book away. Not a fan.
A book your mom loves: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - After our book club read a Terry Pratchett book my mom has been picking up his books left and right. She recommended this as another book club read and I finally got to it. Hilarious.
A book that scares you: The Key to Midnight by Dean Koontz - I don't really get scared by books often - the only one I can think of that really gave me the creepy, heart thumpy book scare was Koontz's What the Night Knows. I had this book waiting on my shelf so I read it and, though it wasn't a horror book it is all about brainwashing and identity and not knowing who you really are, all concepts that creep me out, so I kept it for this, even though it didn't really "scare" me.
A book more than 100 years old: The Art of War by Sun Tzu - I'd read excerpts before and I'm glad I read the whole thing, but it was just kind of an, oh yeah I read that, type of book for me.
A book based entirely on its cover: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse - I really liked the cover on this. The content of the cover didn't thrill me as much, though.
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: Hope Leslie by Catharine Maria Sedgwick - This was sitting on my Currently Reading shelf, so reading it completed this challenge and part of my personal challenge as well.
A memoir: Bossypants by Tina Fey - This was highly entertaining.
A book you can finish in a day: Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius - This popped up as one of the publisher's free reads on their website. It's a modern high school retelling of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn that I'd had on my TBR list. It was a Saturday and I had no plans, so I sat down and read the whole thing in a couple of hours. Entertaining.
A book with antonyms in the title: Always Never Sometimes by Adi Alsaid - I actually picked up this ARC at BEA specifically because it had antonyms in the title. It was all right, but not a favorite.
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery - I reread this for the paper I'm working on that I will be presenting in PEI, so not only did I read it, but this year I finally get to visit this place!
A book that came out the year you were born: The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye - Not only did this come out the year I was born, but it's one of my favorite books of all time that I've really been wanting to reread. It's as wonderful as I remember it.
A book with bad reviews: We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler - This one had the lowest star rating out of the 400 odd books in my TBR GoodReads list. It's ... odd. Very Handler. Very ... weird.
A trilogy: The Arena Wars by Samantha Hoffman - I think I picked up the first book in this series as a free eBook and enjoyed it so much that I did what I rarely do and bought the second one. When I was looking at this list toward the end of the year I decided to buy the third book and finish off the trilogy.
A book from your childhood: The Giver by Lois Lowry - It's so interesting revisiting books you haven't read in years and years. I still liked it, but not as much as I remember liking it when I was younger.
A book with a love triangle: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle - I really like these books, even if the love triangle drove me a little batty.
A book set in the future: Armada by Ernest Cline - Love.
A book set in high school: Also Known As by Robin Benway - This book was so cute. Very happy I read it in my alphabetical challenge.
A book with a color in the title: The Blue Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang - Collected fairy tales; what more could you want?
A book that made you cry: Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall - Man, this book made me sob my eyeballs out. And laugh. And *sigh* these books are just perfection.
A book with magic: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross - A really inventive fairy tale retelling. I'll be looking up the rest of the series.
A graphic novel: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud - I found this interesting, though I wasn't as big a fan as I wanted to be.
A book by an author you’ve never read before: Strawberry Acres by Grace S. Richmond - I had a collection of Richmond's books sitting on my eReader. They were sweet and light. A perfect old-fashioned delight.
A book you own but have never read: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross - This was another book good for both this list and my personal clearing out of my Currently Reading list
A book that takes place in your hometown: Susquehanna by Harriet Segal - I had such a hard time with this one. I had 3 hometowns to choose from and finally ended up with the area where I currently live in order to find a book I could actually get ahold of. I wouldn't have sought this book out otherwise, but I did enjoy it.
A book that was originally written in a different language: Poetics of Reverie by Gaston Bachelard - Oh Bachelard. I'm such a fan.
A book set during Christmas: My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins - Collection of lovely holiday stories.
A book written by an author with your same initials: Space Cat by Ruthven Todd - Other than book set in my hometown, this was probably the category that caused me the most grief. In all of the books I own but haven't read (+2,000) and all the books on my GoodReads TBR list (+400) not a single one was written by someone with the initials RT. Not. A. Single. One. So I browsed the fiction and Juvenile section at the library where I work. Nada. YA section at the local library. 1 that really didn't look that interesting, though I kept it in mind in case I needed it. Finally found this one in the Young Readers section and I'm so glad I did because it's about a cat that goes to the moon and saves the astronaut. It was written before the moon missions and it's a really entertaining look at the speculation of what would be found on the moon as well as just an adorable story about a cat.
A play: Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare - Hate this play with a burning passion.
A banned book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - Hit this in my alphabetical challenge and really enjoyed it.
A book based on or turned into a TV show: Naked Heat by Richard Castle - I've owned this for a while and just never got around to reading it. It's like reading a fanfic of the show, so it cracks me up.
A book you started but never finished: The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls by Wendy Delsol - Another one on my GoodReads Currently Reading list that I cleared out. It was interesting, but not my cup of tea.

And that's the lot. I'm looking forward to diving into their 2016 challenge this year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016: A Review of a Year in Books

A few years ago, I came across a blog post where someone (I honestly have no idea who it was now, or I would link to it!) had kept track of what they read in Excel and used it to make little graphs to see stats on their reading for the year. I love that kind of stuff, so I bounced off their idea and created my own categories, just for my own curiosity.

I kept it up again this year, and decided to make my own graphs just to visually view the types of reading I had done over the course of 2015.

If you're curious, here they are!
Sort of an unspoken goal for me this year was to read more books by female authors than by male authors. This wasn't really a big goal, since I think a good story is a good story, no matter the gender of the author, but I was pleased to see I succeeded in my goal.
It's also interesting looking at the break down of the main character's gender. Some books (such as books of essays) don't have main characters, so those fall under the n/a and if a book has multiple viewpoints from both male and female perspectives I categorize them under "multiple" but overall it's a fairly balanced pie, with a definite leaning toward female main characters.

For this chart, standard means just the standard type of text format that most books are. Mostly I was curious about the other types of books I was reading.
And then of course, a look at the format in which I read them. I listen to audiobooks in my car, but didn't hit as many this year as I usually do. 13 of those were also from the Series of Unfortunate Events, so that accounts for most of the audiobooks I listened to this year.
 Although many books don't fit into hard and fast age ranges, they do tend to be marketed toward a particular age group. These are based on either where they tend to be sold in a bookstore, or my own perception (especially for the New Adult category).
This is the chart that intrigued me the most. I apologize for the fuzziness - I've tried a couple times, and can't seem to get it to render any more clearly. Anyway, I was shocked to see that I read more contemporary books than anything else this year, but looking back at the last couple of years I can see that, it's not that I read more contemporary (it's pretty equal with the last two years), but that I diversified in my other reading, spreading it out. These categories are also completely subjective to me, so a book I labeled as paranormal, someone else might have labeled fantasy. I just like creating fairly specific categories for myself. I also self-define some of them (such as magical realism, which I attached to books that had magical elements, but were set in a contemporary world).
Just out of curiosity, I like to see what different narrative styles I come across (a lot of non-fiction falls under the n/a category). The thing I found most intriguing this year, was how many books I read that had a mix of narrative styles, such as a book in both 1st and 3rd person.
 I still tend to rate books high, but I don't have a problem with that. I tend to round up (so if I give a book a 3.5, I'll make it a 4 star on GoodReads). But that also means that if I give a book 1 or 2 stars I really REALLY didn't like it.
 And finally, looking at page ranges. I read almost 52,000 words total (at least according to GoodReads and my own calculations), but this breaks it down for me a little more and I can see that I read quite a quantity of books with a fairly low page range. I don't think longer books are better, by any means, but I can see that a 50 page graphic novel will probably take less time to read than a 300 page novel. So it's just interesting to see it play out this way.

I can't say I'm planning on making any specific changes to my reading style based on these numbers, but I do find it really fascinating to look at my reading habits in a more graphic (pun intended) way :)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Bookish Resolutions: 2015 Review, 2016 Plans

2015 is over! I can't believe we're into a new year already.
Here's a look back at how I did on my resolutions for last year and a quick look at what I want to do in 2016.

1. Read 200 books in 2015:
I read 230 books and hit about 52,000 words, which was a little less than last year (even though I read more books), but close enough to make me satisfied.

2. Read 12 non-fiction books in 2015 (preferably 1 a month):
Topped this off at 19 for the year. Finished December strong with It's Too Late Now: The Autobiography of a Writer by A. A. Milne. Really pleased with myself for how well I did on this goal, since I have a tendency to stick with non-fiction. I have a couple of books slated already for next year that I'm really excited about.

3. Clear out my Currently Reading GoodReads shelf:

4. Read at least 2 print books I already own each month (with an eye to weeding):
In December I read Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, The Key to Midnight by Dean Koontz, and The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. I'll be weeding the Koontz book - enjoyed it, but don't need to keep it - so a successful month. Overall this year I read 38 books from my shelves and weeded 13 of them. I consider this goal a rousing success.

5. Read at least 2 eBooks I own each month:
In December I read A. W. Hartoin's A Fairy's Guide to Disaster, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, The Green Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang, the first volume of Batman by Bill Finger, The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Soul for Trouble by Crista McHugh, and Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey. I've eased into the B's in eBooks. Can't believe it took me an entire year to get through one letter of the alphabet. At that rate, I've got a good 25 years worth of books waiting for me just on my eReader. But, I read a lot of books I wouldn't have by doing it this way, many of which I thoroughly enjoyed! That means that over the course of 2015 I read 73 (though this did include a few short stories, novellas, and comic issues). I'm very pleased with the success of this goal as well.

For next year I've been thinking about what I would like to do and I've got the following goals in place:
  • Read 200 books in 2016 (at least 52,000 pages) - I'm keeping this the same, but adding a page count goal as well.
  • Read 12 non-fiction books (1 a month) - I think aiming for 12 works for me. I'd like to go above that, but I'm setting the goal at 1 a month.
  • Read at least 2 print books I already own each month (with an eye to weeding) - There were a couple of months where I barely squeaked by with this, so I'm keeping it at 2/month.
  • Read at least 2 eBooks I own each month - as I head into the B's maybe I can scoot through more than just one letter this year.
  • Read at least 1 book off my GoodReads TBR list - since I cleared out my Currently Reading list, I thought it would be good to attack the TBR list. The thing about my GoodReads TBR list, is that it doesn't include any books I own. I keep it strictly for books I read or hear about that I don't own. But the list keeps getting longer and longer, so I'd like to take a stab at trying to whittle it down just a little bit.
  • Read at least 2 academic articles each month (1 library related/1 literature related) - I read articles pretty regularly as part of my job, so I'm thinking of articles above and beyond those - things I've been curious about or that I just want to read more on. I figure if I add it as a goal, I'll have to force myself to go looking for things to read and will branch out a bit more.
So those are my goals. Any bookish plans you have for the next year? I'd love to hear about them!