October has a very interesting month for me – a lot of introspection, a lot of asking myself what I want to do with my life and future, and still a lot of uncertainty. Despite my hopes in my previous recap, I don’t quite know what my 2017 will look like. It’s been stressful and nervewacking, but I am soldiering on because, what else can you do?
For this recap, I’ve changed the Around the Blogosphere section a little bit – I’ll only be posting discussion posts – because don’t want this post to be too long and I want to talk about other things more. :)
Books read in October (and my thoughts in three words)
1. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (magical, positive representation!)
2. The Reader by Traci Chee (has potential, slow)
3. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (sad, raw, provocative)
4. The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine (imaginative but lacking)
5. Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee (action-packed, compelling futurism)
6. Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee (adorable, sweet, safe)
7. Still Alice by Lisa Genova (powerful, moving, honest)
Reviews and posts in October
1. REVIEW: Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie – Though it offers fascinating ideas about empathy, its lack of character development and needless emphasis on its contrived love triangle made this book an ultimately disappointing read.
2. REVIEW: Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee – I can confidently say that this is one of my favourite books of 2016. It has a Chinese/Viet protagonist with mixed identity and bi representation, and also explores heroism, friendship, and what it means to be great. Guys, it’s awesome.
3. REVIEW: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – I read this book for Latinx Heritage Month, and I enjoyed it! I loved the representation in this book, the positive bi and Latinx rep, the enigmatic and imaginative world, and its lovely exploration of family and identity.
4. BOOK RECS: It’s a Kind of Magic – I was in a mood for magic systems, so I recommended four books with unique and wonderfully crafted magic systems!
5. REVIEW: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson – A lovely story set during the California Gold Rush era that is part magical, part historical-fiction, and wholly about what it means to be brave. Note: I’ve added some links at the bottom of this review regarding the problematic rep of First Nations in the book. I highly encourage that you read the articles linked.
6. LET’S TALK ABOUT: ‘Issues’ Stories, Happy Stories, and Why We Need Both – I read a lot of ‘issues’ books growing up and it affected the way I perceived identity. I talk about my experience and necessity of books that explore ‘issues’, the importance of happy stories, and why we need both!
7. MINI-REVIEWS: My Adventure into Non-Fiction – I don’t often read non-fiction, but if you’re like me and want to traverse into the land of non-fiction, give the books I reviewed a go! All are fantastic.
8. REVIEW: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury – A gorgeous retelling through and through, The Forbidden Wish is a celebration of female friendships, love, magic, and wishes.
Thoughts on life: What my ‘health journey’ has taught me
(possible tw: for ED)
This won’t be easy for me to talk about but I feel like it’s necessary to talk about this.
Three years ago, I made the decision to start eating better and to exercise more consistently. I kept it up for a good two years. I became very invested in the whole fitness industry. I started doing weightlifting and HIIT cardio, started eating five small meals a day instead of three big meals, and started to develop good habits. I started this whole healthy eating/exercising regime because I wanted to make a positive change in my life. And it has brought on very positive changes: my self-esteem is healthy, my body is healthy, I feel the benefits of being fit and physically active, and there are days (though not every day) where I feel good about myself and how my body looks.
But, as with most people, regardless of why you start, aesthetic and a pervasive consciousness of how your body looks will inevitably enter the equation. And that’s what happened to me.
While I was physically healthy, I started to slip into a very unhealthy way of thinking. I started to compare myself to my fitness idols (which sounds ridiculous because they do their thing for a living), I started to become overly critical of my body’s flaws, I became unreasonably agitated when I couldn’t exercise, and I became impatient with muscle growth and my body. I’ve never counted macros or stuck to a rigid regime, I made good flexible eating decisions, but I found myself opting to not go out with friends because I was concerned about what I would eat. Was that healthy? Absolutely not.
My saving grace was when I was overseas earlier in the year. I had no access to weights so I told myself, it’s okay, I’m going on holiday, I can afford to not exercise for 2 weeks. So I didn’t. I ate anything and everything that I wanted and I did enjoy myself. Over the days of my holiday, I thought less and less about my exercise. I saw my aging family and started to think, deeply, about what was truly important to me. I came back with a fresh perspective, with a clear lens of what mattered to me. I broke away from the unhealthy mindset that I was stuck in.
This journey with health, as I’ve called it, isn’t over. I’m still growing, learning, and trying to find what is comfortable for me. There are days where I still struggle with it and feel myself slipping into the bad mindset, but it’s a process. I still encourage living a healthy lifestyle, but what is ‘healthy’ is different for everyone and I cannot tell someone what is good/healthy for them. I do not forget that exercising and healthier eating has helped me become a more confident person who is comfortable in my own body, but I don’t want to be someone who is obsessive and overly critical about my eating/exercise anymore. I am still lifting, but only when I want to. I am still eating well, choosing foods that nourish my body, and eating my small but frequent meals, but I won’t pass the opportunity to have dessert or poutine. What is comfortable and what is right for me will probably change as I change. I am okay with that.
What I have learned through all of this:
1. Self-esteem is a very relative and personal thing. An individual with a seemingly ‘perfect body’ can have body image issues. Body image issues and who they affect are indiscriminate. To tell someone that they shouldn’t have any body image problems because they have a certain body type, i.e. skinny, is grossly ignorant, invalidating, and harmful.
2. Body shaming any type of body is still body shaming; it is wrong and hurtful. In extension, mental illnesses associated with the body/eating can affect anyone with any body type.
3. It is okay to have the damn cookie. It is okay to eat all kinds of food. There are no ‘good foods’ and ‘bad foods’. Food is food. Do not demonize food. Food gives and sustains life. Do not demonize food.
4. Those 30 day crunch challenges will not give you abs after 30 days. (Consistency and effort are the two things that can, though.) On that note, abs are not an indicator of a healthy or happy individual.
5. And please, for the love of God, don’t drink those bloody protein-shakes-to-lose-weight things. They do not work, they will make you hungry, they will not fuel your body, you will not lose weight, you will only hurt your body. When you are hungry and your stomach is clawing at you to fill it with food, hunger is NOT a validation of your resilience and control. When you are hungry, EAT FOOD.
6. A lot of people in the fitness industry lie about or misrepresent their a) happiness and b) quality of health. A lot of people in the fitness industry sacrifice their body and mental health to look good. A lot of people in the fitness industry espouse and perpetuate very dangerous and harmful ways of thinking. This is not something to aspire to. This is wrong. Choose taking care of your body and your mental health every minute, every day, every time.
7. It is okay if you didn’t exercise today. Listen to your body. If you skipped a day, it is okay. If you don’t feel like exercising because you are tired, that’s okay. You will not lose anything. Have that break. You deserve it.
Joint Discussion posts: let’s be real, I failed
When I returned from my three month hiatus, I had this ambition to start a Joint Discussions feature, which I later renamed to Discusstopia. One of my goals with Read Think Ponder is to not only review my books honestly, but to also be real and honest with everything that I do. So:
The joint discussions feature failed. I failed.
I want to thank all the wonderful, wonderful people who were so enthusiastic about this feature and submitted their ideas to me. You guys are so, so great, and I’m so grateful that you guys wanted to write something with me. I am sorry that we started something and I didn’t pull through on my end. The feature’s failure is no fault of yours at all.
When I came back from my hiatus, I had all these grand aspirations for my blog. I wanted to start a feature that would be community-orientated, that would encourage discussion and bridge the gap between blogger/writer and reader. What I didn’t account for, and the responsibility of this is all on me, was that writing joint discussion posts required a lot of time on top of writing reviews, drawing art, commenting, blog-hopping (which I’m failing at too), and writing discussion posts. In hindsight, it’s a big DUH but I was blindsided by what I could start in the community.
I started to feel very overwhelmed and daunted by the task of writing the discussion posts. Another failure on my part was that I thought I could juggle writing six posts at once – which, yeah, was silly of me to think. After weeks of not touching the Google Docs, I knew I wouldn’t write it anymore.
I guess it’s one of those things: you try something new and for reasons within and beyond your control, it doesn’t work out. I have learned from this failure, I have a better idea of my limitations as a blogger, and I have learned to temper any ambitions I have with realistic expectations.
I have given permission to those who started writing the discussions with me to use the content we wrote together for their own personal use, so there’s a possibility you’ll see some great discussions from them! If they ever do pop up, I’ll be sure to highlight and share them. Also, Amy from Every Book You Need and More and I have agreed that we’ll be posting the discussion we wrote together because it’s almost finished! So keep and eye out for that. ❤
Diversity Spotlight Thursdays coming your way!
Starting November, I’ll be participating in Aimal’s blog meme Diversity Spotlight Thursdays! I have been reading a lot of books with diversity lately, and I want to share them all with you. I won’t be doing it weekly, but I’ll be doing it twice a month!
Renaming my Let’s Talk About feature… maybe?
I’ll probably change it to Discusstopia or something, but ah, we’ll see. This is not high on the to-do list but it is there!
Around the Blogosphere!
This month, I won’t be sharing any book reviews – sorry everyone! I’ve been terrible at blog reading and hopping lately (for reasons I hope to explain soon, but can’t just yet!) but I did find some wonderful discussion posts.
- #CritYourFaves Master Post – I want to highlight Aentee’s fantastic event where people critique and discuss problematic elements of their favourite books. There have been some wonderful discussions so far; check out the Twitter tag too!
- Let’s Talk About: Literature Too Foreign – This is a wonderful and absolutely necessary post written by Aimal. She discusses how we conceptualize ‘foreign-ness’ in literature, the expectations of how we write certain cultures and societies. It’s a powerful read, and I highly encourage you all to read it.
- The Illusion of Knowledge (Be Careful With What You Write) – Val offers an amazing, detailed, and cognitive psychology(!) explanation of why research and accurate representation is important in books. Guys, get on this post.
- The Value of Saying “Latinx” – Naz’s amazing post discusses why there’s value in saying ‘Latinx’, and also invites Latinx authors to share their thought and weigh in! An invaluable post that you should all read if you’re not familiar with the term!
- Let’s Talk: Blogging Burn Out? – As someone who is approaching burnout a little too fast, Lauren’s fantastic post hits a little close to home – a highly relatable post and a necessary for reminder for all of you out there!
- ARCS: Privilege, Pressure, or a Little Bit of Both? – I love Marie’s discussions and her latest one is really good. Her discussion around ARCs is a necessary discussion, one that has and will encourage more dialogue.
- To Some, Access to Books is a Luxury – If you’ve been on Twitter, you will know what this discussion addresses. Fadwa offers a well-rounded, eloquent, and thoughtful discussion on the topic. I highly recommend that you read it.
Well, if you’ve read all of this, then you’re a star. 🌟 (And if you didn’t, you’re still a star!) Thank you so much, again, for visiting my blog and reading! I anticipate November being a very eventful and busy month for me (I’ll find out what I’ll be doing in 2017 and I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo for the first time!), so I won’t be able to engage as much as I’d like – though I’ll do my best!
So friends, share with me:
- How was your October? Did you read/blog a lot this month?
- Did you discover any new favourite or superduper awesome books? (Tell me about them!)
- It’s almost the end of the year! Do you have holiday plans?