Mini Persephone Readathon Challenges

 

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I’m participating in the Dwell in Possibility Winter 2020 Mini Persephone Readathon this weekend. I’m be reading Mariana by Monica Dickens.

This post is for a few of the optional challenges

Photogenic Persephones: Share a photo of your Persephone collection and/or your readathon TBR stack.

My collection minus my current read

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This #WhatToReadWed instead of recommeding one book I'm marking the #persephonereadathon by recommending @persephonebooks in general. Persephone reprints neglected books by mostly mid twentieth century female writers (there are some exceptions). . . . If you're like me and prefer physical book to ebooks, persephone titles are a treat. Each book has grey jacket (except for the persephone classics which have a reproduction of a painting on the cover) and a 'fabric' endpaper with matching bookmark. All titles also have an introduction or an afterward by a notable contemporary writer. . . . The books themselves include novels, memoirs, short stories, diaries, letters and more. . . . What's your #WhatToReadWed recommendation? . . . #books #bookstagram #bookrecommendations #persephonereadathon #persephonebooks #persephoneclassics #readmorewomen #bookbuzz #bookblog #bookcommunity #bookclub #bookishfeatures #readersofinstagram #readersofig #bookish #bookworm #bookster #bibliophile #booklover #carpelibrum #amreading #booklove #literature #readmorebooks #shelfie #womenwriters #prettybooks

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In Six Words: Describe your current Persephone read in 6 words.

education, coming of age (yes, I’m counting that as one word!), bildungsroman, witty, charming, nostalgic

Beautiful Endpapers: Post a photo of your current book’s endpapers/your favorite Persephone endpapers.

Some info about the endpaper for Mariana:

The endpaper is a voile dress fabric designed in 1933 when Mary would have been 18: brightly-coloured tulips are surrounded by swirls of green, white and blue, images of freedom and happiness that evoke the simplicity and beauty of an English country garden. X

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A Cup of Persephone: Post a pic of your Persephone read paired with a mug or cup of something delicious.

Mariana and tea (the tea got cut out of the shot a little, but I think it still counts!)

Quote This: Share a quote from your current read:

“But Mariana was wrong. You couldn’t die. You had to go on. When you were born, you were given a trust of individuality that you were bound to preserve. It was precious. The things that happened in your life, however closely connected with other people, developed and strengthened that individuality. You became a person.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Bookshelf Additions

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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January 21: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf

I decided to be pretty literal about this and go with the physical books placed on my actual shelf most recently.

51o77whsaml._ac_sr250230_1.Mariana by Monica Dickens– This is my latest addition to my slowly growing Persephone collection. I think I’m going to start it for the upcoming Persephone Readathon.

 

 

 

97801437861602.The Blue Rose By Kate Forsyth– My friend got me this for the holidays this year. She knows that I’m a big fan of Kate Forsyth, and this is her latest. I’m looking forward to starting it soon.

 

 

 

 

71j3hkayifl._ac_uy218_ml3_3. White As Snow by Tanith Lee- I found this in a secondhand store recently and I was excited because it’s been on my TBR for a while: it’s a combination of a Snow White retelling and Persephone/Demeter/Hades story. Lee is a really underappreciated writer IMO.

 

 

818e2qmhlhl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. A Beggar’s Kingdom by Paullina Simons– I won this in a goodreads giveaway, but then I realized that it’s the sequel toThe Tiger Catcher. Since I don’t have that one yet, I want to wait until I do, before I read the second one.

 

 

41nnbvwgaal-_ac_us218_5. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M Gilbert and Susan Gubar– This was another secondhand find. I used it a bit for several classes in college because it has some amazing criticism regarding female 19th century writers. I’d love to revisit it at several points as I read things now. It’s not really a book you read cover to cover in one sitting. It’s more a book you refer to and read a chapter here and there.

 

91aqq9rnmll._ac_uy218_ml3_6. The Visitors by Sally Beauman– Another secondhand shop find. I don’t know anything about this one. I just picked it up because it looked interesting. Hopefully it is.

 

 

 

81o0w3k8oyl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Panchinko by Min Jin Lee- I actually read this one already. It was about a Korean family living in Japan in the 20th century. It was really interesting in that it dealt with a historical time and place that I knew almost nothing about.

 

 

 

91cvrgq3trl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra– I got this from a secondhand shop too (they have paperbacks for $1 so I always figure, even if it turns out to be bad, what do I have to lose?) and it looked interesting so I decided to give it a shot.

 

 

51sfno9ygsl._ac_ul320_ml3_9. Lyrebird by Cecilia Ahern– This one was from a library sale. I got it because I’d enjoyed some of Ahern’s other work, and I enjoyed this one too. I featured it for #WhattoReadWed on my instagram.

 

 

81fviyckszl._ac_uy218_ml3_10. The Group by Mary McCarthy– I keep hearing about this book and reading about it. It’s been on my TBR for a while, so I decided to go for it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Discoveries of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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January 14: Bookish Discoveries I Made In 2019 (these could be books, authors, blogs, websites, apps, products, etc.)

  1. b1jda6eqis._sy300_Anthony Horowitz- I love a good mystery but it’s rare to find writers who do new, innovative things with the genre. Anthony Horowitz seems like an exception to the rule.  Whether it’s writing a two in one whodinnit (The Magpie Murders) or starting a new detective series featuring himself as a  rather dimwitted sidekick (The World is Murder, The Sentence is Death) Horowitz seems to be ready and willing to try something new.
  2. 81rfph30jl._ac_uy218_ml3_Her Royal Spyness- This series by Rhys Bowen is pure fluff, which is sometimes 100% necessary. It features Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, 34th in line for the British throne. In other words, she’s far enough from the throne to have absolutely no money, but close enough so that the queen often asks for favors. In the early 1930’s she’s takes up a new career as a (very) amateur sleuth. I’ve only read the first three in the series so far.

 

919qe25jntl._ac_uy218_ml3_81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_3.Madeline Miller- I discussed my response to these books a bit in this post and my Best of 2019 list.  I’m not usually a fan of Greek mythology and Classics, but  Madeline Miller’s writing is vivid and compelling,  and the the characters are so human (even when technically they aren’t!) that its hard not to become invested

 

81j8qbx0aal.sr160240_bg2432432434. Elizabeth Taylor- She’s not really a “new” author. She died in 1975. But I read several of her books in 2019, and I’m definitely a new fan! I’ve already read Blaming, Angel, and The Soul of Kindness. I look forward to reading more in 2020.

 

 

 

Well, actually this was more of a top four list. But those were my bookish discoveries last year.

On Relaxation

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Newsflash: Life is stressful.

While you’re all reeling from that stop the presses bulletin,  I’ll add that sometimes we make relaxation stressful.

Over the holiday season I saw a number of well intentioned posts on social media, urging me to take time for self-care, to cut people who cause stress out of my life, and be aware of the larger world. Depending on my mood when I read those posts, my reaction varied between nodding at the wisdom of the words, shaking my head at their cluelessness, and wanting to shout swears and hurl my device across the room.

Because on a busy day self-care is yet another thing that I have to “make time for.” Because the people who cause me stress are also the people who I love, who I care about, who support me. Because my awareness of the larger world is often what’s got me stressed out to begin with.

My point is that life is complicated. Getting overwhelmed is complicated. Decompressing is complicated. Often it can’t be reduced to the space of a tweet.

Lately, I’ve been stressed, and struggling to relax. My ways of relaxing vary but they often involve losing myself: in a TV show, in a book, in whatever I’m doing. Working out sometimes helps. Yoga can be helpful. But I often struggle between my urge to lose myself and forget about what’s stressing my out, and my need to feel productive. While a Netflix binge might take my mind off my stress, it’s limited in terms of what it accomplishes long term. I’m very aware of that, and it can make it that  much harder to lose myself, which in turn makes me more stressed.

I don’t have any great words of wisdom for this blog. I wish I did. I just wanted to say that we should try not to let well intentioned advice stress us out more than we already are. But I am curious as to how my readers relax. What helps you take the pressure off?

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 31: Favorite Books I Read In 2019

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– About eight years ago I read Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus, and loved it. It was one of those rare books that you can get lost in as you read. Since then I’ve had my eye out for her follow up and it was finally released. The Starless Sea isn’t an easy read, but its one to savor . Once again Morgenstern has created a novel that lets the reader live in it. Yes there is a (confusing at times) plot and characters, but much likeThe Night Circus,  it’s the setting that will stand out in my memory. This book is a vivid, dreamlike, haunting experience. I reviewed it a little in this post.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Educated by Tara Westover– Tara Westover was 17 the first time she sat in a classroom. Raised by fundamentalist parents on a mountain in Idaho, Westover was taught to distrust established schools, hospitals and government. She was ostensibly homeschooled, but in reality that stopped once she’d learned to read, write, and do basic math. She was encouraged to try to educate herself enough to get into college by her older brother, and brave enough to take the leap when another older brother became abusive enough to be a serious threat to her safety. But Bringham Young University, and later Harvard and Cambridge, were a world away from the life she’d lived under the thumb of a mentally ill father. Trying to adjust to the change, finding a way to relate to her family, and construct her reality as an adult was where Westover’s education was truly tested. This book is shocking, haunting and thought provoking.

919qe25jntl._ac_uy218_ml3_81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Circe and  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– I discussed my response to these books a bit in this post. I’m not usually a fan of Greek mythology and Classics, but  Madeline Miller’s writing is vivid and compelling,  and the the characters are so human (even when technically they aren’t!) that its hard not to become invested. I loved both of these books and couldn’t decide which to put on my “best” list.

81svkiih7kl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware– Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway has been living hand to mouth since her mother’s death three years ago. She’s barely getting by when she gets a letter from a lawyer saying that her grandmother has recently died and left her money. Hal knows it’s a mistake: her grandmother died years ago. But she’s also desperate. She heads to Mrs. Westway’s Cornwall mansion to try to claim the inheritance. But when she arrives she discovers a family that may be more closely connected to her than she realizes. The estate comes with a lot of secrets, that might give Hal the family she’s always wanted, or might get her killed. This books was reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Daphne DuMaurier. It’s perfect for a cold winter night.

61azp3snool-_ac_us218_5. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar– This book is historical fiction with fantasy gorgeously brushing the edges. When shipping merchant, Jonah Hancock learns that one of his ship’s was sold in exchange for a mermaid, he finds himself thrust into a new life. He travels from London’s seedy underbelly to the finest drawing rooms of high society. His new life brings him to Angelica Neal, a courtesan, who finds that her destiny is entwined with Jonah’s and his mermaid.

51i6ln7tmul-_ac_us218_6. The Library Book by Susan Orlean– In the book, Orlean explores a 1986 fire that almost destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, and may have been the result of arson. In the process, she also explores the city’s history, the library’s history and the importance of libraries in general. Reading this book gives an appreciation for libraries as community centers, educational institutions and one of the most uniquely democratic endeavors in the world. People often wonder if libraries still serve a purpose, or if they will one day be obsolete. Orlean’s book makes the case that they serve a vital and irreplaceable function every day.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_7.Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield- About ten years ago I read Diane Setterfield’s debut The Thirteenth Taleand was entranced. Once Upon A Riveris just as compelling but in it’s own way. Set in a pub by the Thames in the late 19th century, this book opens on a winter’s night when a badly injured, soaking wet man staggers into the pub, holding a little girl who appears to be dead. A local nurse saves his life and quickly realizes that the little girl is not dead (anymore?) but the girl is silent and the man can’t remember how they came to be in this situation and has no idea who the girl is. One local family thinks that she’s the daughter who was kidnapped years earlier. Another thinks she’s the long lost daughter of their prodigal son. A middle aged woman is inexplicably convinced that the 4 year old child is her sister… .

91hggynrxrl._ac_uy218_ml3_ 81b4caedtml._ac_uy218_ml3_8.The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katharine Arden– Once again I couldn’t choose between two contenders from the same author. But in this case both are from the same series. It’s rare that a series will start off well and just get better as it goes, but that’s exactly what happened with Arden’s Winternight trilogy. It started well with The Bear and the Nightingale but then Arden upped her game with the sequels!

81eiilgia0l._ac_uy218_ml3_9.I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’ Farrell– In seventeen essays O’Farrell recounts her life via near death experiences. These experiences range from the dramatic (a plane that almost crashed) to the more mundane (a stressful medical test) but each one prompted O’Farrell to reflect and evaluate her life. Naturally an eight year old O’Farrell in the hospital with Encephalitis perceives things very differently from a thirty-something O’Farrell experiencing a risky childbirth. While the subject matter is rather heavy, this book never feels it. O’Farrell’s writing is occasionally witty, often perceptive, and always beautiful.

61ime-a6gql._ac_uy218_ml3_10. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.

 

2020 New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s time for my annual New Year’s Resolutions post! Take a look back here to see how I did with last year’s resolutions.

  • Publish Frozen Heart. I plan/hope to publish it in late 2020 due to a wintery theme.  Also publish a few other pieces.
  • Volunteer to support Democratic candidate for president. I try to keep politics off my blog when I can, but I feel very strongly about this. While I like some of the current contenders more than others, I would rest easily if any one of them were president as opposed to what we have right now. I don’t know what will happen with the next election. But regardless of the outcome, at this time next year I want to feel like I did everything that I could to bring about something better.
  • Continue to be vocal about issues of importance, and call my reps regularly.
  • Be more social. Make more friends, and continue to make an effort to speak/see friends.

 

What are your new year’s resolutions?

Regardless of your goals, I hope that 2020 brings joy and good fortune to all my readers.

Evaluating Last Year’s Resolutions

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Every year I write down my New Year’s Resolutions to stay accountable. I find I’m more likely to keep them that way. In the week before the new year, I look at them and reflect on how I did, and what I’d like to change in the new year. So how did 2019 go?

  • Finish writing, and publish Frozen Heart. Also publish 1-2 other pieces during the year. Keep getting my work out there.

Well I finished writing it, and it’s in the editing process. I plan to publish it in 2020. There was a point in 2019 when I realized that I could rush the publishing process for Frozen Heart and get it out before the end of the year, or I could take it slower and and take care and pride in my work. It went into some thought about the kind of author I want to be. Do I want to compromise quality for quantity? At this point the answer is no.

I did publish an essay about self publishing in Unread Magazine and a short story called Snow Sister in Enchanted Conversation.

So overall, I’ll give myself a check mark on this one and I’ll put the publication ofFrozen Heart on my 2020 list.

  • Continue to be vocal about things that I feel are important. This means calling representatives, writing letters, protesting, donating to causes I think make a difference and anything else I can do.

I think that I’ve continued to do this in 2019. I call my representatives regularly and try to share resources so that others can do that too. I’ve attended protests, though they often frustrate me because I feel like they’re more a way for people to feel like they’re doing something and less about actually getting things done. I still don’t have a lot of money to donate but I use Charity Miles to contribute to causes that I feel are important and I try to educate others who may be in a similar position about ways they might want to contribute.

  • Try to spread happiness and positivity when possible. I feel like so much of what we’re faced with on a daily basis is bleak and hopeless. But I also think “seek and you shall find.” So I’m going to seek things that make me (and others) happy. I think just exposure to more positive things can break down the hopeless feeling that we can get.

Again, this is a work in progress. When I encounter something that others may enjoy I try to share it, so they know about it, but I also think that pushing positivity can be just as toxic as negativity if it’s done in the wrong spirit. So it’s something I’m figuring out.

  • Figure out my career path. It’s in flux at the moment and is fairly confusing!

Another work in progress. But I’ve made some strides here. I have a better sense of what I want and I’ve gotten some more experience in 2019. So hopefully that’ll lead me somewhere good in 2020!

  • Be more social. Don’t just fall into the staying inside and reading/writing/watching trap. Stay in communication more with people.

I’ve done this but it’s something I’d like to continue to work on in 2020.  I love my friends, but I’d also like to get to know more people in the next year. That way if someone isn’t available to do something I can have other options.

  • Don’t feel guilty for reading/writing/watching and staying in sometimes. In fact, don’t feel guilty about what I like/enjoy. Don’t apologize for liking, wanting, or consuming things that make me happy.

I think that I’m doing better with this. I don’t feel guilty if the things I like aren’t highbrow. Life is too short to worry about that! But I do sometimes feel guilty if I’m enjoying something silly when there are important/serious things happening in the world. I know there’s a balance to be found between enjoyment and engagement. I just don’t know if I’ve found it yet.

Stay tuned for my 2020 resolutions post!

 

 

 

I’m Dreaming of a Black & White Christmas

As much as I love our contemporary corny Holiday cinematic fare (and I do love it, as I discussed here) there is a soft spot in my heart for some of the Christmas films of yore. Do I like It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street? Of course. But it seems like some of my favorites are often overlooked. These are great flicks, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. They’re funny, sad, charming and full of heart.

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The Shop Around the Corner (belcourt.org)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940) This movie was later remade several times, as You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, and the Broadway musical, She Loves Me. The original film stars James Stewart as Alfred Kralik, a salesman in Budapest. He has been corresponding anonymously with a woman he met via an ad in the newspaper. When Klara Novik (Maureen Sullivan) comes into the store looking for work, Alfred tells her that they’re not hiring. Then his boss hires her a few minutes later.  The two coworkers disagree and argue constantly. Meanwhile, Alfred makes plans with his mystery pen pal to finally meet. See where this is going?

[Trailer][Streaming][DVD]

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Remember the Night (immortalephemera.com)

Remember The Night (1940) In this film, Lee Leander (played by Barbara Stanwyck) is arrested for shoplifting. Her trial begins just before Christmas, but the prosecutor, John Sargent (played by Fred MacMurry) doesn’t want a jury filled with the forgiving Christmas spirit or one that’s anxious to get home to their families, so he gets the proceedings postponed until after the holiday. He does feel guilty about that move so he posts Lee’s bail so that she can at least spend Christmas with her family.  As it turns out, they’re both headed in the same direction, so John ends up giving Lee a ride, and yes, they end up falling in love. It’s got a bit of comedy, a bit of drama and a lot of heart. Check it out if you want a warmhearted film.

[Trailer] [DVD]

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The  Man Who Came To Dinner (flickersintime.com)

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) While on a speaking tour in Ohio, arrogant radio personality, Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley),  is scheduled to dine with the prominent Stanley family. When he slips on the ice and breaks his hip, he must recover at the Stanley house over the holiday season, along with his assistant, Maggie (Bette Davis). He soon comes to dominate the lives of the Stanley family, and pretty much everyone else who enters their house. It’s a zany screwball comedy that’s great for a holiday laugh.

[Trailer][DVD]

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I’ll Be Seeing You (imdb.com)

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)  Mary (Ginger Rogers) is on an eight day furlough from prison so that she can spend Christmas with her aunt and uncle in Pine Hill. Zach (Joseph Cotten) is a soldier suffering from shell shock who has been given a ten day leave from the military hospital to re-acclimate him to every day life. They meet on the train to Pine Hill and hit it off, planning to meet up later. But the holiday will eventually be over. What happens when they tell one another the truth about who they are and where they come from?

[Trailer] [DVD]

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Christmas in Connecticut (hookedonhouses.net)

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Elizabeth (Barbara Stanwyck) is a successful expert of marriage, cooking and homemaking (sort of like a 1940’s Martha Stewart). When her publisher arranges for her to host a war hero at her Connecticut home for Christmas, it should be simple. Except that Elizabeth is actually single, can’t cook and lives in an apartment in New York City. But with a little help, a lot of planning, and perhaps a bit of luck, she might just pull it off… This is screwball comedy at it’s most charming.

[Trailer][Streaming][DVD]

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It Happened on Fifth Ave (scera.org)

It Happened on Fifth Ave (1947) Every Christmas,  Aloysius T. McKeever moves into a mansion on Fifth ave, while the owners are away for the winter. Every year he invites his fellow homeless friends, in from the cold. But this year, Mary O’Conner comes home from vacation unexpectedly after she has a fight with her boyfriend. Then her father, pretending to be homeless wrangles an invitation to spend Christmas in his own house! There’s lots of pretending and some mistaken identity but it’s all in good fun.

[Trailer][Streaming][DVD]

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Holiday Affair (yesweekley.com)

Holiday Affair (1949) Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) is a war widow who is working as a comparative shopper for a department store to support herself and her six year old son, Timmy. She buys an expensive toy train set, and Timmy is thrilled when he sneaks a peak and thinks it’s his Christmas present. When he learns that she bought it for work, he’s disappointed, but keeps a stiff upper lip. When Connie returns the train the next day, Steve (Robert Mitchum) a clerk at the store ID’s her as a comparative shopper and is about to report her to the store detective, when he learns that she’s a war widow with a child to support. Against his better judgement he keeps quiet and refunds her money. The gesture costs him his job, but he becomes acquainted with Connie and Timmy. This is a light romantic comedy, that doesn’t have any big twists, but it’s charming and emotionally satisfying.

[Trailer] [Streaming][DVD]

What’s your favorite holiday film fare? What do you think of these choices?

I wish all the best this season, whatever you may celebrate in December, and in life.

The Season For Giving

First of all, I don’t believe that giving is, or should be, seasonal. It should be a way of life. These are some resources that make it easier to make helping others a regular habit.

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  • Charity Miles– Walk, run, bike, dance, jump or crawl for a cause. This app tracks your exercise and donates to a charity of your choice for every mile. It uses corporate sponsorship to make donations, so it’s a way to improve your fitness and earn money for charity, even if you don’t have much extra money yourself.
  • Donate A Photo– For every photo you share, Johnson & Johnson gives $1 to a charity of your choice. You can donate 1 photo per day.
  • Buengo–  We all need to declutter. When you do, take a picture of something you no longer want/need, post it, and choose what cause you’d like to donate the proceeds to. When someone buys the item, they pay the app and the proceeds are donated directly to the cause. Charities can also post items for supporters to purchase.
  • One Today- This is pretty simple. Donate $1 or more per day to the charity of your choice. Google covers the transaction fee, so the charity receives all of the money. You can set up daily alerts so you remember to give, and get a receipt for tax purposes.
  • GiveTide– This makes giving really easy. You download the app, connect a debit or credit card, and each purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar. You can control how that’s done. For example, you can adjust the number of times per week that roundup happens, or arrange an auto-roundup at the end of the week.
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  • FreeRice– Basically this is a fun way to “waste” time with an online quiz, but for each question your get right, a donation is made through the World Food Program. While it’s unlikely to add up to huge amounts, every little but  helps, and it’s a way to help even when you’re broke.
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  • Turn your hobby into a way to help others. These organizations accept craft donations. So you can knit, crochet or quilt and help someone in need.
  • Give blood– OK, there’s something inherently icky about asking someone to give parts of themselves physically. But get over it. It’s quick, it’s free, and it directly saves lives. Most people only think to donate after a disaster, but it’s needed on a regular basis. It can take as little as ten minutes and the website tells you exactly what to expect.
  • Make a phone call. 5 Calls is a resource specifically for Americans (let me know if there are similar resources out there for other countries!) that allows people to call their representatives about issues that matter to them at home and around the world. It even provides scripts. Remember that your government should work for you.

What are some of your favorite ways to give back? Are there are resources that you know of that I missed? Remember that kindness also counts and it costs nothing. Be a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on when someone needs one. Give what you can, even if it isn’t money. Every bit of kindness given makes the world a better place. That’s something that we can all benefit from.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of the 2010s

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 10: Freebie

It’s a little late, but it’s still Tuesday!

I’ve been seeing a lot of “best of the decade” lists lately, so I figured that this week I’d share my top books of the last ten years.

91dwjhs08ml._ac_uy218_ml3_Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) I think that the first thing that really struck me about this book was the perspective: five year old Jack, a boy who has never left the small room where he and his mother are held captive, makes a unique voice. He doesn’t know anything different so he doesn’t fully understand how messed up his reality is. His mother keeps it that way for his own protection: why tell him about a world he may never see? But when he and his mother escape, his perspective changes. Donoghue’s mastery of Jack’s voice comes across as we begin to understand how Jack’s minuscule reality and limited experience has shaped the way he thinks, and how that grows as Jack’s world expands.

818ezr7u2al._ac_uy218_ml3_The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern(2011) I was actually torn between this book and Morgensern’s 2019 offering The Starless Sea, which I read recently and loved. However I went with this book because I think that it’s more accessible to casual readers than The Starless Sea, which is more dense. I also think that the vivid, descriptive, magical setting of The Night Circus lays a groundwork which The Starless Sea builds upon.  It’s a setting that dominates the plot and characterization.

 

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2013) In some ways it feels like this book, about being an African immigrant in America was written 100 years ago. It feels like racial tensions in America in the past decade have erupted in a way that make the Obama era seem like a distant dream. But that’s how it feels to me, as a while, native born citizen. In other words, I’m in a very privileged position in my country in many ways, and therefore I don’t experience it in the same way that someone who has a different position experiences it.  I think that this book made me aware of some of the ways that make privilege impacts my perception of events that might answer the “how did we get here?” question.

81v5wp2zeql._ac_uy218_All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) This novel set during WWII features two endearing protagonists; a blind French girl who must flee Nazi occupied Paris and a German boy who uses his skills building and fixing radios to help the Nazis find the Resistance. Even though these characters are from different countries and on different sides of the war, their stories are intrinsically interwoven.  When their paths cross it feels almost inevitable.

 

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghiara (2015)- This is a story of friendship over many years and the families that we create. It’s also a story of trauma and whether recovery is possible. When we meet Jude, he his is a young college grad with several close friends, a good job, and a traumatic past. As we come to know him and his friends, we see him grow into a successful attorney who maintains his friendships and develops new relationships. But he’s still haunted by his past. His struggle to overcome it, and doubts about whether that’s possible, are the bulk of this novel. It’s a struggle that isn’t always pretty. At time’s its downright brutal, but the struggle is still beautiful. The novel itself is long and at times difficult but I think one of the reasons it appeals to me is that it recalls a 19th century Bildungsroman.

81vn8opa4zl._ac_uy218_M Train by Patti Smith (2015)- I’ve seen Smith’s other memoir, Just Kids, on many similar lists. But I actually prefer this one. It’s less linear and more internal. We spend time not just in Smith’s life, but also in her dreams.Just Kids is a memoir of Smith’s youth in the 60’s and 70’s. M Train is a memoir of her life over the past decade or so. While Just Kids gives background that’s important to understanding the woman in M Train, I feel that this is the more mature work.

 

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)- I was actually torn between this and Miller’s other book Song of Achilles for this list, because they’re both beautiful works. But I went with this one because it feels somehow larger. Not larger as a physical book (they’re about the same size) but as a story and as a depiction of Miller’s world. But I highly recommend both books.

 

 

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_Educated by Tara Westover (2018)- Tara Westover was the daughter of mentally ill survivalists who was homeschooled (a process which ended once she learned to read and write) and later pushed herself to get into Brigham Young University, Harvard, and Cambridge. But her educational success doesn’t give her what she needs to understand her upbringing. Even after she earns her PHD, her understanding of her abusive childhood depended on learning to trust herself and her memory. I appreciated the fact that this book complicated the notion of “hard work = success”. Westover depicts success, and education, as a process rather than a fait accompli.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (2018) I was really excited to read this because I loved Setterfield’s previous novel The Thirteenth Tale. This was one of the rare highly anticipated novels that lives up to expectations. I think one of the reasons that it works for me is that it doesn’t try to give easy answers. It opens with a mystery and offers several possible conclusions but doesn’t tie itself down to any of them.