Here’s what happened when I KonMari-d my life: Part 2

Get the whole story by reading part one first!

If you aren’t familiar with the KonMari method, it boils down to a few basic ideas which I’m sharing again:

  1. Finish discarding everything before you start tidying. Do it all at once, intensely and completely.
  2. Keep only those things which spark joy. Visualize the life you want after you tidy and instead of focusing on what to get rid of, focus on what you want to keep.
  3. Tidy by category, not by location. Go in order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental.
  4. Treasure who you are now and thank the possessions you are discarding for getting out there. I didin’t thank everything individually but as I let go of certain items I am trying to thank them for the purpose they served before moving on.
  5. Store like with like. This should be obvious but it’s been a game changer as I’ve started moving all of my clothing, shoes, etc. into designated spaces. In this vein I’d also add: put things back where they belong the moment you finish with them.
  6. Vertical storage is key. You can find things at a glance and everything is easier to get to.
  7. Follow your intuition. There’s no right answer for how much to keep or discard, focus on what you love and when you hit that sweet spot that’s “just right” you’ll know you have enough.
  8. Appreciate your possessions. This goes back to thanking that which you discard and also treating items with respect.

Last weekend I tackled part two in my KonMari project. It wasn’t easy . . .


Books:

KonMari has a couple of specific pieces of advice for dealing with books. Like everything else Kondo recommends putting everything on the floor in a pile and working from there so you can touch everything and really make the most of your joy meter.

I hate doing this for books because a couple of my shelves are incredibly precarious and I don’t like going up and down the step stool while watching the shelf wobble around. I was going to still try this method but wound up getting sidetracked when my mom decided to keep my company. (That was partly my own fault because I am still tweaking my jewelry storage and was in the middle of that when she came in.) I think the process still worked even without everything ending up off the shelves all at once.

Obviously the main factor is still finding the books that spark joy. Again, as I was being more attentive to the process it was fascinating to realize that I really could tell when a book did or did not spark joy. It was especially clear while going through my old picture books and classic editions I received from relatives. It turns out I don’t need every book Chris Van Allsburg wrote nor do I need a giant phonebook sized edition of A Little Princess. In talking through some of the books Mom and I both realized we don’t particularly like Andersen’s or Grimm’s fairy tales. Yet I had three copies of them on my shelves.

All told I sorted out about forty books to give away including some picture books, novels, and duplicate copies. I was able to move a lot books so that they authors and genres were grouped together. As with everything except my clothes (speaking of which I still have to tackle my sweaters) I am still tweaking the exact storage method. But I’m feeling a lot better about how many books I’m keeping.

I am also happy to say I didn’t have any issues except for a low moment when I went and rescued five books I had already set aside to give away. It happens.

According to KonMari, “sometime” can mean never when it comes to rereading books. I’m trying to keep this in mind but a lot of my books are from signings and author events so they also have sentimental value attached. I think the solution might be to go back and look at them again when it’s time for my sentimental item sweep.

Another KonMari tenet is that the best time to read a book is when you first encounter it. I didn’t always think this was true but I’m starting to see the light. I’m working on a multi-pronged system to read through the books I have in a timely manner and especially to read advance copies I have before the books come out. I used to be better at that, but I also used to receive fewer ARCs so I’m not going to stress too much.

Regardless of if you are going to read the books again or when you encounter them, you should only keep those which you truly love. I’ve realized part of this ties directly to having easy access to books (to remove them or not) which I don’t have because all of my shelves are in ridiculous spots. I don’t want to dedicate another weekend to the process (I have to start taking down Christmas decorations) but with a day’s distance I’m realizing there are still some books on my read shelves that I don’t truly love and can definitely part with. As for the books to read–I’m trying to search my heart and only keep those which I truly want to read for myself and not for the hype.

I will be blogging about the rest of my KonMari process as I get to it, so stay tuned!

The Disappearances: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“I realize with horror how much I want this part out of myself now–the part that chooses bitterness.”

With no other family, Aila and Miles are taken in by their dead mother’s best friend when their father is drafted. They’ve never met her and they don’t know much about Sterling, the small town where they will be residing. But Aila is sure it will be fine if not ideal for both of them until World War II ends and their father can return home.

Sterling is hiding more than her mother’s past–it’s hiding a terrible secret too. Every seven years something vanishes. It started with scent as everyone in Sterling lost their sense of smell. Then it was reflections. Dreams. And color. No one knows what will disappear next but it’s almost time for the next Disappearance.

Aila’s mother, Juliet, managed to break away from the curse when no one else could. A feat that always made Sterling suspicious. Now Aila is left to follow Juliet’s trail of literary clues as she works to save her new home before they lose everything in The Disappearances (2017) by Emily Bain Murphy.

The Disappearances is Murphy’s debut novel. Aila’s first person narration is interspersed with flashbacks moving toward 1942 (when Aila’s story starts) as they shed light on the origins of Sterling’s strange curse. This story is part historical fiction, part fantasy, and all tense mystery as Aila, with help from some new friends, tries to unearth Sterling’s secrets and bring the town back to normal.

This novel is atmospheric and eerie as Aila and readers realize that Sterling is hiding some dark secrets. While the characters fall short of calling it magic some of the workarounds Sterling has found for the Disappearances (so called remedies) are downright magical and very improbable. These fixes also come dangerously close to providing magical cures for what would otherwise be real-world matters which can often be problematic.

On the other hand my mother lost her sense of smell in 2013 because of a brain tumor that was removed from her olfactory nerves. It’s been one of the biggest adjustments for her and one of my biggest concerns when she’s home alone. The Disappearnces is the first book I’ve read where something similar was not only handled but handled well (even if it was ultimately the product of a curse and not surgical complications).

While The Disappearances starts strong with a sweeping mystery and fantastic cast of characters, the ultimate resolution of Sterling’s curse–though fitting with the literary motif throughout–takes the story in a bizarre direction that is jarring in the context of the story.

The Disappearances is a thoughtful and clever mystery. While aspects of the curse and its resolution felt underdeveloped or rushed, Aila’s contemplative narration and the novelty of Sterling more than make up for it. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and mysteries especially.

Possible Pairings: The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

The Hate U Give: A Rapid Fire Review

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

If I had to pick a defining book of 2017 it would be this one. Thomas’ debut novel has received numerous stars (more than I even knew existed). It has also been selected a finalist for both the National Book Award and The William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Thomas’s debut is one of several very timely and much needed books about social justice and specifically shining a light on the Black Lives Matter movement. It will also soon be a movie with Amandla Stenberg heading up a star-studded cast.

The book follows Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old black girl who is navigating life at her prestigious school populated with mostly white, mostly wealthy classmates and life at home in the poor neighborhood where she and her family has always lived. Starr doesn’t feel quite at home anywhere–a feeling that is compounded when Starr is driving home with her childhood friend Khalil when a police officer pulls them over and shoots Khalil without cause.

As the only witness, Starr knows she should testify. But she also knows doing so will put her under intense scrutiny from the media. And it might not even lead to justice for Khalil when so many similar cases have ended in acquittals for the officers. Starr’s choice will have lasting ramifications for herself, her family, and her community as she has to choose where her allegiances lie and speak up for what she believes in.

Thomas’s novel is evocative and gripping. It captures this moment in society perfectly and it highlights all of the things that still need to change with an indictment of the cultural biases and racism that brought us to this point and also with a note of optimism for the future. Narrated by Starr this novel has a great voice and fantastic dialog. Although the plot starts right away the story does have a tendency to meander (I will maintain forever that this book could have been edited down by at least a hundred pages) as the novel explores Starr’s family and home life as well as her life at school where she is constantly reminding herself that she has to put forward a very specific face among her classmates.

Heavy but hopeful and necessary. A must-read.

January 6 Week in Review: All the snow, all the plans.

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

 

A lot happened on the blog this week! You can read my rambling about the start of my KonMari project, catch my January reading tracker (do any of you read those? I have doubts!), see why I still love Fire and Hemlock so damn much, and maybe possibly join this virtual companion to the Mock Printz program my library does every year.

Off the blog it was a weird week. I went back to work on the second and then had a snow day on the fourth but it still felt like a long week. I’m weeding picture books which is always interesting but is giving me terrible allergies this time around (yay dust).

How are you coping with the snow and the cold? Were you hit with this bomb cyclone madness?

It won’t be bullet journaling but I have a plan for the things I want to track in an analog notebook this year. I also bought some notebooks and stationary accessories on sale. I’m excited for them to come. Hopefully soon.

What goals are you tracking this year? Are you a planner person?

I’ve decided to try to post every day this year on Instagram so if you aren’t following me there yet, now is a great time to start if you want to cheer me on.

Here’s my latest from Instagram:

If you you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my January reading tracker.

How was your week? What are you reading?

Let’s talk in the comments.

Let’s Talk About the Printz Award, my library’s Mock Printz, and how you can join in

Every year the American Library Association’s (ALA) division called YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has committees of dedicated librarians choosing the best of the best books in various categories for things called the Youth Media Awards. In YA literature, the biggest award is the Printz for outstanding overall books. Other awards include the Morris which is for best debut.

Speculation on what will and will not make the Printz cut is a hot topic in library circles and heavily debated since the official criteria leaves a lot up to interpretation. I spend a lot of time trying to guess contenders both for myself and for my job where I chair a committee that chooses shortlist titles for a systemwide Mock Printz.

This year, I thought it would be fun to get blog readers involved and try to do a Miss Print Mock Printz.

As a starting point here is the shortlist my committee came up with:

  • Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson
  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Spinning by Tillie Walden

Because of time constraints (we do the Mock Printz as a live two hour discussion) we only cover five or six books at most. This list is determined based on titles the committee enjoyed, books getting buzz and critical acclaim (starred reviews from publishers and the like), and general appeal. We also try to cover a variety of genres which is something the real Printz doesn’t have to do. Now, a few of my favorites of the year did not make the cut with our shortlist so to the above contenders I would add:

  • Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  • Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi

There could be other books I’ve read that are just as likely as contenders which I’m forgetting. There could be titles I’ve never read or even heard of that will get attention from the committee. It’s hard to say and they read much more widely than I would.

That said, I feel good about this list and comfortable predicting that at least some of them will be Printz contenders.

This year I’m feeling pretty on point with my pre-awards reading. I have read 4 of the 5 Morris finalists (still need to get to Devils Within from the titles there) and 2 of the 5 nonfiction award finalists (The 57 Bus and Vincent and Theo). These are the only two awards that give a shortlist before the award announcements at ALA’s midwinter conference. Knowing and having read so many of the titles in play this year I’m very excited to see how the awards shake out this year.

I’m going to post an update for this post after my library system has their Mock Printz with our winners and then I’ll do another follow up after the actual awards are announced.

Until then:

Have you read of the Youth Media Awards? Do you follow them? What books would you predict for the Printz award?

If you want to try to read some of the shortlist (including my four extra picks) you still have plenty of time to track them down at your library and I’d love to hear thoughts as you read them!

  1. Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson
  2. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
  3. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  4. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  6. Spinning by Tillie Walden
  7. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  8. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  9. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  10. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Fire and Hemlock: A (ReRead) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Polly Whittacker is nineteen and preparing to return to college after visiting her grandmother over break. She has a flatmate, a boyfriend, and all of the other things she would expect as a college student. It’s ordinary but it feels like enough.

That is until Polly stares at the picture that’s hung above her bed for as long as she can remember. Here, now, of course, Polly knows that “Fire and Hemlock” is just a photograph of some hay bails burning with a hemlock plant in the foreground. But when she was younger didn’t the picture used to have figures dancing and racing around the fire?

The more Polly remembers about the painting, the more she realizes that her memories of the past ten years aren’t quite right either. She has the ordinary set, the ones she always thought were true. But if she thinks back far enough and hard enough, Polly starts to remember another set of memories from a very different, very not ordinary life.

It all started nine years ago when Polly accidentally crashed a funeral and met an odd cellist named Thomas Lynn. Her friendship with Mr. Lynn took the form of fantastical letters, exchanged books, and one very odd visit to his flat in London. Those memories are easy to hold onto once they start to come back.

But something else happened the last time they met. Something worse. And now, here, Polly knows that she and Tom are inextricably tied together–maybe as friends and maybe as more. But Polly won’t have the chance to figure any of that out unless she can gather her memories and figure out not just how to get back to Tom but how to save him in Fire and Hemlock (1985) by Diana Wynne Jones.

Find it on Bookshop.

I originally reviewed Fire and Hemlock in 2007 just a few months after I started blogging when I first read the novel. Even a decade later I still think about Polly and Tom all the time and almost since the moment I finished it, this book has held a place as one of my most favorite books of all time.

I read this book again in 2017 and was thrilled to see that it absolutely stands up to closer readings. If you can, get your hands on the edition I like to above–it has one of the best covers this book has ever gotten, includes an introduction from Garth Nix, and features an essay Jones wrote about writing this novel–something she rarely talked about in interviews.

Fire and Hemlock is a retelling of Tam Lin, a meditation on what it means to be a hero, a sweeping romance, and one of the best fantasies you’ll ever read. I still haven’t read all of Jones’ novels, the thought of running out is a bit too depressing so I try to keep a few in my figurative back pocket. But if you have to pick just one to read, consider starting here.

Possible Pairings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Entwined by Heather Dixon, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Glass Casket by Templeman McCormick, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Angel Mage by Garth Nix, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

January 2018 Reading Tracker

You can also see what I read in 2017.

Books Read:

  1. My Plain Jane by Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand
  2. Exploring the Original West Village by Alfred Pommer and Eleanor Winters
  3. Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda
  4. Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen
  5. Say You’ll Remember by Katie McGarry
  6. Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles edited by Natalie C. Parker
  7. Warcross by Marie Lu
  8. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson
  9. The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

Books Bought:

  1. Everless by Sara Holland (shelflovecrate)
  2. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (gift card spend)
  3. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
  4. It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
  5. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

ARCs Received:

  1. The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (not requested)
  2. The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George (requested)
  3. The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando (requested)

Here’s my planned to read list:

January 1: Another year, another reading tracker. As part of my ongoing effort to really and truly KonMari my life I may soon be sorting my books again. This ties well with a goal to buy fewer and continue being discriminating in what I request from publishers.

January 5: I have a lot of thoughts on My Plain Jane but you’re all going to have to wait a long while to hear them.

January 19: I haven’t read as much as I usually do this month but I’m really hoping to at least knock out my last two books from my planned to read stack. We’ll see.