Summer is over, school has started, and Book of the Week is back in action!
This week I read The Backstagers by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh, and I ADORED it. Watch the video to find out why. If you’re interested in more Book of the Week videos, you can see the whole playlist here. And you can always check in on Goodreads to see what I’m reading at the moment.
So far this summer, I’ve read five books strictly for fun. After a rigorous year of grad work, I thought my brain deserved a little summer vacation of its own, so I’ve been choosing books that fall sqarely into my “compatible” category – a few Nora Roberts suspense/romances, and some realistic romantic fiction from Curtis Sittenfeld.
The Roberts Trio
I love a good crime drama. One of my favorite podcasts is My Favorite Murder, my favorite shows to have on in the background are all Investigation Discovery originals, and I’ve never met a Law & Order: SVU marathon I didn’t like. So when I was scrolling through Goodreads, Nora Roberts caught my eye as a likely fit for my “just for fun” reading selections. I didn’t PLAN to read three in a row, and I didn’t especially LOVE reading any of them, but these novels were a fun, silly way to pass a few weeks.
THE OBSESSION is about a strong, independent woman with an evil man in her past. She works to carve out a life for herself and separate her present from her sordid history. But the past always has a way of catching up to you, doesn’t it? Luckily, she finds the company of a good man and a good dog, and together, they find a way to a happy future.
RIVER’S END is about a strong, independent woman with an evil man in her past. She works to carve out a life for herself and separate her present from her sordid history. But the past always has a way of catching up to you, doesn’t it? Luckily, she finds the company of a good man and a good dog, and together, they find a way to a happy future.
And finally, THE LIAR is about a strong, independent woman with an evil man in her past. She works to carve out a life for herself and separate her present from her sordid history. But the past always has a way of catching up to you, doesn’t it? Luckily, she finds the company of a good man and a good dog, and together, they find a way to a happy future.
(It’s good that I’m so funny, isn’t it?)
Really, each of these was fine. I couldn’t keep myself from reading a few of the cheesier bits out loud to Josh, who is a very good sport. There definitely is a theme to the NR books I read – strong woman finds (and realizes she needs) a good (and slightly stronger) man. Strong woman is smart and knowledgeable, especially about the forest and home renovation/decoration. Strong woman finds herself in danger and is able to fend for herself, but is also very relieved to be ultimately rescued by aforementioned stronger man. Strong woman has (or is close to) a really good dog. Also, strong woman and strong man do not kiss; NR prefers to say “she took his mouth,” or “he took her mouth.” This is maybe my favorite quirk, because it reminds me of when my great uncles used to play “got your nose” with me at family gatherings.
I really did enjoy this one. I read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld earlier this year, and as a longtime fan of Mr. Darcy (typical), I really enjoyed her modernized retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
American Wife is romantic fiction inspired by the real-life courtship and relationship between George W. and Laura Bush. I didn’t know this when I borrowed it from the library, and I found myself thinking that the character Charlie must be inspired by GWB before I found that he really was – so good job by Curtis and good job by me, right? I loved the character of Alice, and Sittenfeld is really great at writing about falling in love. Her conversations and banter are clever and flirty, and her conflicts are realistic and often heartbreaking. American Wife wasn’t especially challenging or life-changing, but it was very very good, which is really all I’m asking for this summer.
Yesterday, I devoured Prep, another by Sittenfeld. The ingredients were there for me to really enjoy this one: main character who I could relate to, idyllic East Coast boarding school setting, quippy insults and pithy dialogue. And yet, I was left with just a “Meh” feeling when I finished the book late last night. The structure was disorienting; Sittenfeld plays with time in a way that was just a little too heavy-handed, and several times I got tripped up over where we were in the timeline of the story. This one was disappointing perhaps because of how much I enjoyed the other two I read by her; but I’m not giving up on Curtis. I think Prep was her first novel, so it makes sense that her style has evolved between then and now. She’s one of my favorites at the moment, and I’m really excited to read her collection of short stories coming out soon.
Most nights, I rock Julian to sleep. Usually he fights, arching his back, grabbing his pacifier and throwing it away, and screaming at the top of his little lungs until his face turns red. Sometimes I can get him to calm down if I hold him tight, put my face very close to his and give him kisses on the cheek.
This doesn’t always work, but some nights, it does. And on the nights that it does, after I have given him a few kisses, I can feel him using his little body to reach his face up closer to mine for a few more. That little stretch, his snuggles and reaching for kisses with his eyes closed…I know he’ll be too big soon. Sooner than I’d like. So I want to hang on to that feeling. There are so many little moments and habits that I know I’ll forget, but this one I’d like to remember.
My last grades have just been posted to Blackboard, and I can now officially say that I’m done with my first year of grad school. I’m six classes in toward my Masters in Library and Information Studies from the University of Alabama. This year, I learned about the foundation of what it is to be a librarian. I sharpened my research skills, learned all about the history of the organization of information, and practiced storytelling in many different forms. I learned about technology through the lens of a library professional. I cultivated my own personal management philosophy. I read until the words swam on the page (or screen). I wrote until I thought my brain would liquefy and ooze out of my ears. I managed to get all A’s. I very nearly ran myself ragged.
So how has it been, really? Really really?
It’s been hard. It’s been, hands down, the hardest year of my life. Along with my studies, I was still working full time and trying my best at being a functional wife and mom at home. I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety, I was tired all the time, and at no point did I feel like I was executing at 100% in any one area of my life. About halfway through the school year, I hit my breaking point. After honest conversations with my doctor, husband, family, and coworkers, I relaxed a little and realized…that’s just the way it goes. For now, my house will be a little messy. My hair will be a little flat. I’ll put on makeup in my office (if at all). We’ll eat out more than we should. I’ll miss an assignment or a few pages of reading once in a while. The world will continue to turn. Once I turned that corner and decided to forgive myself in advance for those inevitable shortcomings, things seemed to smooth out.
Here’s what the year looked like for me:
Julian was born on June 20. I went to Tuscaloosa for orientation on August 10. That’s a pretty long haul for a not-even-two-month-old. I was a nervous wreck from the time we reached our gate at the Charlotte airport to the time we got back home four days later. Anxiety was a struggle all year, but never more so than when I walked into a room full of my cohort members pushing a newborn in a stroller. I wanted to be as invisible as possible, but I felt like a big, unwelcome distraction that first day. Josh was with me to help with Julian, but we didn’t have any idea where he could spend the day on UA’s campus that would be close enough that I could get to Julian when I needed to, but far enough away that Josh and Julian weren’t a distraction to any of my classmates.
The program organizers knew that I would have Julian with me, but we didn’t have a solid plan in place when I walked in for registration, which seriously compounded my anxiety about the whole situation. Luckily, the amazing team of faculty and staff at UA saw our need for a “home base” and found a solution for us that put us at ease within a couple of hours. Josh and Julian made themselves comfortable just a couple of floors above us in a lounge area. I could dart upstairs on breaks, I didn’t have to miss any of the onboarding information, and I didn’t feel like I was drawing extra attention to myself because of the baby. When Julian did join us for bus rides and social events, my classmates could not have been more wonderful. I’m so glad I was able to attend in person with my cohort members — I’d say even the horror of newborn air travel was worth it.
My program is entirely online, but our classes are held synchronously over a sort of skype-classroom situation. We hear each others’ voices, we work in groups, and we get to have real time conversations about our studies. The nights are long and late, and there is certainly an impressive work load, but overall I have found the classes to be enjoyable and the professors to be downright delightful. It’s been nice to commiserate with each other when the core classes have gotten tedious or tough, and the more specialized classes have allowed us to branch out and explore our strengths as we learn from each other. I find that as our classes transition from the general core content to smaller groups and more specialized selections, I’m enjoying myself more and more.
As soon as we got back from orientation, I purchased an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to use as my all-in-one textbook and notes device. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that I would not have survived the semester without this tool.
When I can, I purchase my books as Kindle versions so that I can do my reading in the Kindle app. This makes my backpack much lighter each day, and it makes me much more likely to squeeze in my reading in any short spurts of downtime I may find. I also use the notes function in the app; the notes and the text are easily searchable, and you can turn your notes into flashcards for quick review.
For class notes, I use the Notability app along with the Apple Pencil. I have always been a big note-taker and doodler; I find that it helps me stay engaged, especially when the material gets a little dry or the night stretches past my bedtime. With Notability, I can mark up PDFs of articles, import slides from class presentations, and record audio notes to myself for annotating later. Notability also syncs up with my Google Drive, so I can work from any laptop or desktop I have access to, as well.
When it comes to actually writing my papers, I still prefer to organize on physical notecards, writing with color-coded pens. There are some itches technology just can’t scratch for this stationery-loving girl.
Pretty much all of my presentations are put together in Google Slides – again, I just can’t beat the accessibility from any internet-connected device. Canva is my go-to design tool; the website is robust and easy to use, and the iOS apps are convenient, too. All of my video presentations were edited in Final Cut Pro, which I already had a license for before I started this program.
Wrap it up
I know this has been a long-winded post, so if you’re still with me, you’re probably either a prospective grad student or my mom (hi, mom!). Before I went down to Tuscaloosa for my orientation, I did a LOT of Googling to try and get a sense of what to expect, and I came up dry. I mentioned in my Summer Plans video that I rely on the personal accounts of others a lot to ease my own nerves about new situations. Since I couldn’t find much about this particular situation, especially not from the perspective of a nervous new mom, I thought it might be helpful to share my own experience. If you find that you’re in those shoes and feeling a little unsure, I’d be happy to talk things out with you in more detail! Just leave a comment here or reach out on twitter. For now, I’m looking forward to a month of sunshine and relaxation before things ramp back up for year 2.
School’s out! Summer is really, truly, finally HERE! My June class is over, I don’t go back to work until August, and I’m ready to do something creative and productive with my summer time! Also, I’ve got a one-year-old (how is that possible?) who wakes me up every morning between 5:30 and 6:00 (how is this my kid?), so I’ve got time on my hands during those peak creative productive hours each day. My solution: I’m reviving the blog.
I’m really excited to get back to writing and creating! Book videos, life posts, health/wellness updates, and lots of miscellaneous content will be popping up in this space in the coming months. It’s gonna be great.
Shame. Shame. Shame. VEDA was a spectacular fail. I made it to Day 8 before I found myself tired, uninspired, quagmired…I think this year I learned my lesson that daily video deadlines are just not my style. I’ll happily leave it to the Amys and the Evelyns of the world – they’re doing an excellent job and seem to be enjoying it way more than I ever did.
Back to School I have officially signed on for a spot in the Fall 2016 Online MLIS Cohort at the University of Alabama! I’ve been itching to pursue my Masters degree for years, and I am SO excited to be back in school. The program is a great fit – well reviewed, ALA-accredited, fully online. The timing is, admittedly, a little tricky.
For one, I’m going to be hauling a husband and a newborn with me to orientation in August. Being the obsessive, Type-A google stalker that I am, I’ve been trying to find anyone on Twitter or in the blogosphere who has been through orientation recently and can give me the run down. For their part, the team at Alabama has been very accommodating with my questions (Hi, so excited to join the cohort, cool if I bring my baby to our orientation sessions? Kthxbye.). I’ve been assured that I will be able to feed the baby as needed, and I know we’ll make it work however we have to, but I’d feel much better if someone who has been through the program could give me an idea of what to expect. I’ll be sure to fully document my own experience so that future students in my shoes (unlikely though they may be) won’t have to recreate my own fruitless googling experience. I’ll be your google fruit, future MLIS students!
Beyond posts about the general life of a librarian/mom/grad student, it seems (from aforementioned googling) that I’ll need to have a blog set up for specific classes and projects. I set up a tumblr back when I was applying for my current librarian job, and I’ve converted that into a space for MLIS program-specific posts. So if you’re dying to read up on the nuts and bolts (and assigned posts) of library school, you can follow along at libraryand.tumblr.com.
Still Pregnant While I will be attending orientation with a bouncing baby boy in tow, that baby boy is still growing in my belly at this very moment. I’m 32 weeks along, measuring a little big, and really feeling the weight of the third trimester. I don’t sleep for longer than 2 or 3 hours at a time, I’ve got heartburn, none of my clothes fit, I can’t sit OR stand for very long. They tell you the second time around is different, and they’re right. Way less magical discovery of the miracle of life, way more cankles and ill-fitting pants and napping with your mouth wide open after work…basically just a beautiful, glowing vision of pregnant resplendence. Isn’t it magnificent?
I Miss This
I’ve been feeling really nostalgic about the days when I used to post regular photos and snippets from my life. So let them tell us blogging is dying – I think it’s fun, and I want to get back into the swing. I was looking through my flickr earlier today, and I’m so glad that I have those memories saved. I want to get back into that documentation habit, if only because it’s fun to scroll through and reminisce years down the line. You’re welcome, future Corley.
That’s all I have for now. The year is winding down at school, and I’m busy trying to prep for baby’s arrival, sleep when I can, sniff out fellow MLIS students-who-blog, and plan baby’s first cross-country excursion to Tuscaloosa in August.
Before you go, here’s a photo of vintage Corley enjoying a dinosaur during a work trip to NYC. Enjoy:
I’ve got a backlog of Book of the Week videos to vlog about, and Salt to the Sea was not my scheduled book for today…but once I finished it, I knew I needed to talk about it ASAP, so here we are.
We experienced a power outage at school this week, thanks to some strong weather in the area. With wifi down, we librarians had no choice but to find a spot of sunlight and do what we do best – read. By the end of the day, I was over halfway through Salt to the Sea and fully hooked. I had to leave at a VERY suspenseful part of the plot, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I thought about this book until I could get back to it the next day. I think you’ll be just as hooked if you pick this one up to read.
It felt good to record another video! I’ve been seeing the 25 Bookish Facts About Me videos going around, and I think I’ll probably record my own soon. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve watched, and the “quiz” format reminds me of the AIM profile I spent so much time curating when I was in middle school. If you’ve written or vlogged your own 25 facts, leave me a link!
I was heartbroken to hear about Harper Lee’s passing last week. To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book, and I think the wisdom left to us by Harper during her time here is a beautiful legacy. In her honor, I added a new quote to my office windows.
That’s all for this week. The plan is to be back next week with another video. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been reading, you can always check out my Goodreads page. As always, thanks for reading!
It’s been a while! Since I last posted, here’s what’s been going on:
I found out I’m pregnant! I’m due with a little boy in mid-June (perfect school timing, right?). I actually found out a couple of weeks before I went to Ohio for AASL – which should explain why I slept through all of the evening social activities and ordered the same meal for dinner three nights in a row. If you missed my AASL recap video, you can watch that here.
Winter break happened. Those two glorious weeks were full of family, food, and no work. Just the way it should be.
I came down with what can only be described as THE PLAGUE. It was horrible, it lasted forever, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I’m better now.
I ordered a bunch of the books from the 2015 Nerdies (thanks, Nerdy Book Club!) for our library. This blog is a great resource if you’re looking for a little inspiration in building your collection! I’m really looking forward to reading the books he lists in this post: Ten 2016 Books That I Think Are Pretty Great
Finally, at long last, I started filming Book of the Week again! You can check out the two most recent videos below:
I’m excited to be back in the swing of writing and recording for the new year. I’m hoping to continue to develop this blog into both a personal project and a professional sounding board – and I’m always open to suggestions!
In the moments after I finished Young Man With Camera by Emil Sher, I was pretty sure I didn’t like it. No justice? No moment of vindication? No settling of the score? What?! Incomplete, and therefore not satisfying.
After some reflection, though, I came around. Yes, the story ends on a dissonant chord, and I would have preferred that things line up harmoniously. But that’s not always life, is it? And while I did feel that the stakes in this book were a little (ok, astronomically) high compared to the typical middle-school social scene, I can appreciate that sometimes, the ending isn’t happy — or even really an ending at all.
I’m still adding people to my #AASL15 twitter list, so if you’re attending, be sure to drop me a line at @corleymay and I’ll make sure you’re included. I’m so exciting about meeting and learning from so many new people!