Wednesday, October 19, 2016

book review: Spot 12 by Jenny Jaeckel

The basics: Spot 12 is Jenny Jaeckel's graphic memoir of her experience giving birth and the months following, when her daughter Asa was in intensive care. 

My thoughts: The premise of this book sounded right up my alley. Since I gave birth (26 months ago now), I've stayed interested in parents, particularly mothers, talking about the transition into parenthood. I was curious to see how Jaeckel's transition was similar and different given her daughter's health problems.

Unfortunately, I found Spot 12 to be more of journal than a memoir. The language was mostly simplistic and recounted events. I kept waiting for Jaeckel to offer more insight or hindsight, but it didn't happen. I was yearning for wisdom.

I think a few of Jaeckel's style choices contributed to the emotional disconnect I felt with Jaeckel's story. First, the memoir is entirely black and white and doesn't play much with the shape and size of cells. I prefer my comics to push the medium farther in terms of color and shape aesthetics. Second, the text rarely interplayed directly with the graphics. Too often, I found myself wondering why the images were there or why they were associated with that text. Lastly, Jaeckel chose to depict all the characters as animals and give them cutesy names. I found both distracting and at times confounding.

I'll be honest, Jaeckel and I look at the world very differently, and I wish she would have explored more of her choices and viewpoints to offer her perspective. She was against vaccination, but she glosses over it with a single sentence, which I found maddening. She references a family friend who "regularly visits the unknown" and claims to have talked to Asa. I'm willing to go on these journeys with an author, but I want more context and reflection to help make sense of them. I actually found the afterward to be the most interesting part of the book, as Jaeckel gives an update for this American release on where she and her family are now.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Length: 116 pages
Publication date: October 7, 2016
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours

Want to read for yourself? Buy Spot 12 from Amazon (no Kindle edition) or Barnes and NobleWant more? Visit all the stops on the tour (spoiler: lots of other people really liked it!), visit Jenny Jaeckel's website, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On reading guilt

I've been feeling guilty about my reading this year. I'm not reading as much as I was. I have bright spots, particularly when I travel for work and remember how much time in the day there is after a long day of work when I'm not playing with and taking care of a two-year old. This summer, I felt the shift as my reading became predominantly audiobooks, boosted by a nanny share that required a lot of driving (by Des Moines standards) two days a week. I realized I rarely picked up an actual book or my Kindle to read. I'd get back in the groove with one book, but then I'd lose my momentum again when I finished it.

When classes started, I found myself so stressed and intellectually exhausted that I often chose music in the car instead of my audiobook. I have been listening to the same audiobook since August 13th. I like it, but it is heavy, and I'm not always in the mood to listen to it. This weekend I finished a mystery by one of my favorite mystery writers. I started it August 9th, as I planned to read it on the flight from Shanghai to Dallas. I read a little on that flight, but mostly I watched tv. Recently, I went days without even opening my Kindle. I pick it up many times a day: I carry it up to bed each night, I bring it back down in the morning. I put it in my purse each day when I leave the house, and return it to the couch with me when I get home. But I don't read.

Lately I feel overstimulated. I'm really happy, but I don't have enough time to enjoy all the things I enjoy as much as I want to. I love my two-year-old, and even though part of me was dreading the terrible twos, they haven't hit yet. He has his moments of course, but I choose to focus on the amazement I have about all he is learning. His vocabulary is exploding. He knows his colors. He's learning numbers and letters. He's learning to put together phrases and rudimentary sentences. He's wonderful and exhausting, and I can't wait to see him when we're apart, and then I look forward to bedtime so I can have some 'me' time.

I love my job too. I'm in my sixth year there, and I love it even more each year, as I have the freedom to explore new ideas and ventures, and I keep morphing my job to include even more of the things I enjoy. I work in higher education, where a traditional work day is not a thing, particularly during the semesters. I bring home work with me. I answer emails from my phone at night. I cannot do my job the way I want to do it forty hours a week. And I'm okay with that because my job invigorates me, and I feel good about the work I do. I have a spouse who works a very different schedule than I do, which leads to a lot of solo parenting (for both of us.) I love the one-on-one time with Hawthorne, but it means there's less time for just me.

This morning I woke up before Hawthorne, and I decided to come downstairs and read a book instead of reading Facebook on my phone in bed. I finished a book last night, so I logged into Goodreads, determined to pick one (or more) of the books I'm currently reading, but likely haven't picked up in awhile, I saw that I've read 73 books so far this year. Something in my brain clicked, and I asked myself, "why are you feeling guilty about not reading again? 73 books by mid-October isn't terrible." It isn't. It's more than most of my friends (who aren't book bloggers) will read this year. It's down from the past two years, but when I look farther back (thanks, LibraryThing!), I see I read 94 books in 2013 and 2010, and only 83 in 2010. Am I reading as much as I think I should be? No. Am I reading as much as I want to be or as much as I think I should be? I'm not sure, and I think that's where the guilt comes in.

I don't think of myself as an ordinary reader. This blog has been such a big part of my life for the last nine and a half years. I've surrounded myself with super-readers, first here in the blogosphere, and then on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Snapchat and now Litsy. Reading has felt like a competitive sport many times over the years. At first, that was a good thing. This community made me read more, think more about what I read and why, and push myself to read more challenging books. At times, all this challenging has made reading feel like an obligation.

Lately I spend more time thinking about reading (or not reading) than actually reading. I love the way books take me to different times and places. I love the way books take me inside people's minds to help me better understand the world, other people, and make me more empathetic. I like to be pushed, but I also like to be entertained. My job is pushing me a lot right now. My child is pushing me right now. Parenting him takes more patience and intellectual energy than it used to. So I find myself gravitating more toward the entertainment side of reading. It's also why I often pick up the remote control after Hawthorne goes to bed. I grew up loving to read, but I also grew up watching a lot of television, and there is a lot of great television to watch too.

Because I'm reading less than I want to, or less than I'm used to, I find it makes picking which book to read or listen to next much more challenging. Every book I choose, means a certain number of others won't get read. It's as though I live in fear of choosing the wrong book and missing my next favorite book. Book guilt is exhausting. I don't have all the answers, but I do have one special challenge for myself. Each day, I will find fifteen minutes to read. Part of me can't believe I have to make this a challenge. Some days it won't be a challenge, and I hope it won't feel like one either. As a kid, I remember summer reading challenges and thinking, 'what's hard about that?'  This challenge isn't hard, but it is a shift of mindfulness. I'm off to start my challenge right now, as long as Hawthorne has at least fifteen more minutes of sleeping. If not, there's always lunch, or after work, or after he goes to bed.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!