Monday, January 6, 2014

Holiday Reading

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I love to read. When you take a break from reading books to review and your break involves reading something else, you know you're passionate about reading. It's important to talk about reading, to demonstrate that reading isn't just something you do for school but something you do for life. Here's a quick synopsis of my holiday reading.

The Canadian Children's Book Centre "box of goodies"

This year, I'm honoured to served on a Best Book for Kids and Teens committee. This is my first year on this review committee. I won't say what category I'm participating in, because "results of the committee voting will remain confidential until the publication has been printed and released by the CCBC to publishers and the industry as a whole" and I don't want to reveal anything I shouldn't. I've been on selection committees in the past and it's interesting to see how the process differs between organizations. I enjoy reading titles that I wouldn't usually read independently, as I've gone on record as saying that reading for selection committees are great professional development for library-types. (Actually, I just searched my blog and didn't see a place where I've recorded those words previously, so consider it said/re-said here.) While perusing my box of goodies for review, I read the Best Book for Kids and Teens magazines produced by the Canadian Children's Book Centre. I read about the newest installation in The Dead Kid Detective Agency series by Evan Munday and raced to buy it immediately.  Speaking of that title ...

The Forest of Reading 2014 nominees

I first heard of Evan Munday's books because the initial book in the series was a 2013 Silver Birch award nominee. As the primary adult responsible for running the Blue Spruce, Silver Birch, and Red Maple programs at my school, I have to read all the titles. I had already read quite a few in December, but over the holiday, I read Devil's Pass by Sigmund Brouwer, Yesterday's Dead by Pat Bourke, Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr, and The Hypontists by Gordon Korman. I think I only have two or three more titles to complete and then I've read them all. It hasn't been a chore - many of the books have been great to read. I saw that the Ontario Library Association wants readers of all ages to weigh in on their favourite book from the past twenty years of Silver Birch (Happy 20th Anniversary!) and I'd like to participate in this - except I'm not sure which book I'd vote for! I have so many favourite titles!

Charlaine Harris' Lily Bard mystery series

I really enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse series; after it ended (and FYI, I still refuse to watch True Blood because it deviates from the books and the books are better), I was interested in reading other novels Charlaine Harris wrote. I rather admire how she resists the temptation to return to a character when a story arc has been completed - fans begged her to write more Lily Bard stories but there remain just the original five novels. My husband gave me the last three books of the series and I've been plowing through them like crazy. When you read a book that you enjoy, do you savor a book or gorge? I have to admit that I'm the type to gorge and the Lily Bard books are short, which means I'm finishing them quickly, but I'll re-read them now that I own them. I was very upset to hear that Ms. Harris received a lot of hateful and venom-filled personal attacks because of how she decided to end the Sookie series. (I thought the finale made sense, and after all, she's the author so she gets to decide how it ends.) I even saw the over-the-top reaction in my own social network stream: someone I know expressed the wish to throat-punch the author because she was dissatisfied with the "what happened after" explanation for a character named Quinn. I was quite dismayed to see that level of vitriol - calm down! It's a fictional character! I guess this crazy over-reaction shows much much emotional investment readers have in the books they consume, but people need to rein in their extreme reactions.

Cracked articles

My husband introduced me to this humour website and although much of the language is NSFW (not suitable for work), many of the articles are interesting and insightful. Reading Cracked articles on the iPac while walking on the treadmill makes exercise tolerable. (Unfortunately, it doesn't make it more frequent for me. So much for that resolution.) I've learned quite a bit from reading Cracked, from obscure bits of history and popular culture to positive news and astute observations on life.

Christmas presents: Allegiant and Rediscover Catholicism

For Christmas, my daughter and I received the Divergent trilogy. We were only given one copy of the final book on purpose - it will be our new read-aloud text for the next few weeks, and having a single book means that no one will read ahead of the other. This continues a tradition that began with my husband and I early in our marriage, when we'd take turns reading chapters of the Harry Potter books together. I really enjoy sharing a book like this with my family members. Giving books can a tricky task because people have different tastes. There's something rewarding about taking a risk on a title for someone that they eventually like. My church took this gamble by distributing free copies of a book they thought might interest the congregation -  Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly. Like my CCBC box of treats, this wouldn't have necessarily been my first choice of book to read, but now that I own it, I've started to read it and it makes some convincing points. Books make good gifts - so thank you, authors like Veronica Roth, for the gift of your writing!

When it comes to authors, I noticed that, more so than ever before, authors and readers interact directly thanks to technology. Recently I just had to tell Kevin Sylvester how much I really enjoyed his latest Neil Flambe Capers book, Neil Flambe and the Tokyo Treasure (it's his best one yet and probably deserves a blog post all on its own) - and he replied! When I mentioned on Twitter that I had to immediately grab the latest Dead Kid book, author Evan Munday saw the tweet - and replied! When I expressed admiration online for The Seven series (an ambitious project involving seven different authors with a unifying theme), Eric Walters, writer and project coordinator, replied! I think this kind of author/reader "relationship" holds a lot of promise for nurturing the love of reading, especially in young people. Way back in 2009, I attended the National Reading Summit and I was concerned about the future of this endeavor. Five years later, in 2014, I'm actively involved with the Marketing Committeee of the National Reading Campaign and relieved and happy with the efforts the organization has made to create a country of readers. Reading matters. During a pre-New Year's Eve party, a friend of mine was upset to hear her daughter ask her why she was reading when she didn't have to - my friend was dismayed and alarmed that her child saw reading as only something you were forced to do at school. Hopefully the right book will find her, the positive modelling she's exposed to via her bibliophile mother, and activities led by groups such as the National Reading Campaign will filter down to her, and we won't hear as many of those type of questions ("why bother to read?") anymore.

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