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Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

General UpdatesKristina Pino1 Comment

Every now and again, I think about the way life doesn't cooperate as this straight, narrow path to some goal. Growing up, I definitely thought I'd always be an artist, and go into some kind of artistic career and that would be my life. But as I got older, my path started to get wider, and eventually when I got into university, it started winding and squirreling around as I tried different things. For all my love of art and expressing myself creatively, my love of learning exposed me to other things that interested me just as much.

The phrase "Jack of all trades" is one I enjoy, but I don't like the weird "master of none" that comes after it sometimes. My life is a web of my various interests and competences, and I like it that way. But it doesn't mean I'm a master of exactly zero skills.

When I hear "master of none," I sit and think about what that's supposed to mean. That we have a finite capacity for learning? Maybe. But not all expertise take up the same amount of space, and I like that bit I read in a Sherlock story that when you reach your capacity, your new memories simply re-write or record over the old, musty ones that your brain deems unnecessary. And I reject the idea that having varied interests and hobbies and being capable at several things (or having several professions) would render someone incapable of honing a craft to mastery, which is something I've thought more about since reading Nick Offerman's excellent memoir. I do think everyone should have one, even private, special craft and make things with their hands. I also believe we have an obligation to ourselves to do things that make us happy, at least part of the time. And I know first-hand that our interests and goals change over time: my competition-level dancing skills as an older teen didn't result in a career path for me, either.

Everyone has amazing skills, whether they realize it as such or not. Some people can make anyone laugh, can write words that make you want to cry, can draw photo-realistically, can photograph surreal-y, can flip an omelet like a champ every time, can hold complicated yoga positions, can empty their minds of noise, can build canoes, can make eye contact and listen really, really well. Skills take time and intention. As a culture I think we value people taking one craft all the way to extreme mastery - and that's really cool. But I also think it's really cool when people are simply masters. An authority, but not The Grand Authority. Or maybe not so much: competent. Good enough. Enough to do the thing right, and happily move on to the next thing, having gained some knowledge, having gained an experience. Is there somehow less value when someone isn't trying to be a Super-Duper Grand-Master?

I'm not going to say "my life is at a crossroads," because I don't think it works that way for many people. It's more like a series of roundabouts and winding mountain roads (or forest paths if you prefer). Not stopped at a crossroads, but traveling in circles until we decide which exit to take, even if it's back where we came from. And we have to choose one (for now). Another path to the same destination might appear later after a winding trip through an awesome (or hey, not so awesome) new place. But with the right amount of time and intention, we can all get there in the end. "There" being where we were meant to go all along.

I'll be over here, enjoying the ride and learning as much as I can along the way.

January 2016 Reading Wrap-up

BooksKristina PinoComment

I'm tracking my reading for diversity (gender, orientation, language, ethnic, etc) as well as taking on Book Riot's 2016 Read Harder challenge, so in the spirit of that I thought I'd do a monthly little check-in here of what my progress looks like. If you're into that sort of thing, anyway.

Books read in January: 9

Creators of color: 5/14 (36%)
LGBT+ rep. in creators: 1/14 (7%)
LGBT+ rep. in books: 1/9 (11%)
Lady creators: 7/14 (50%)
Translated works: 0
Works in Spanish: 0

At a glance, it looks like I'm on target for gender and ethnic diversity, but not with LGBT+ (yet) or my translated works/Spanish language goals. The good news is, I'm not woefully behind, so I hope there'll be better numbers to show soon.

As for the Read Harder Challenge, I've completed 3 tasks so far. For "read out loud," I've put down An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston and Julie Maren, which I read in a classroom to young kids. I've read other books to kids, and it's always loads of fun, and I totally recommend it. For the "over 500 pages" read, I've selected The Marvels by Brian Selznick, which is delightful. I wrote about that for PANELS recently. And the third is "historical fiction before 1900" for which I selected The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua. I wrote about this already on this blog, but suffice it to say it's super informative while also being made up.

As always, you can keep up with what I'm reading (or most of it, anyhow, as I don't necessarily talk about every single book I read) on social media or in my bite-sized reviews/thoughts on this blog. Of course, I'm still looking for suggestions for reads I should pick up for the Read Harder Challenge and also for my LGBT+ diversity goal. Let me have 'em anywhere I can see 'em.

Also, I've got more pics of that sweet ThreeZero Tyrion you can browse, if you like.

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE & BABBAGE, and X: A NOVEL

Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua

This book, which comprises approximately 40% comics, 40% footnotes, and 20% straight up notes, copied letters/documents, and illustrated references, begins with a short biography of the lives and works of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, followed by an alternate history series of comics as if they had successfully build the first computer and continued to live long, healthy lives full of adventures and successfully solved mysteries. While the alternate history (named the Pocket Universe) is all in good fun and sort of made-up, many of the events and characters are absolutely grounded in real history, all of which is explained in footnotes and appendices. I've learned more about the era Lovelace and Babbage lived in and other pioneering writers, inventors, mathematicians, and scientists, especially ladies who are so often erased from this history, reading this "(mostly) true story of the first computer" than I ever did in history lessons. Give it a try. Read it slowly. Read all the footnotes. Super clever - appropriate for anyone into history, or computers, or math, or general nerdery.

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Don't be fooled by this book's classification of "novel." Though the authors take some liberties when it comes to the general antics and conversations depicted within, all the events, and most of the people, definitely happened or existed. Its subject is Malcolm X, specifically his adolescence, that turbulent period of his life leading up to his arrest and his years in prison before emerging as a human rights activist. If you've read Malcolm's autobiography then you're already aware of the events of the novel, but it's presented in an entirely different way. X: A Novel gives his story so much life, and incredible intimacy. You spend the entire book in his head - really, it's a powerful read. At the end, Shabazz goes a little bit into some historical background, things or people she left out for brevity, and outlines exactly the few, inconsequential things that are entirely made up. This book is so gripping and so important. Appropriate for high school and above.

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: FAIREST, GROUNDED, and AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES

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Fairest by Marissa Meyer

This book is a spin-off within the Lunar Chronicles series, which tells the backstory of its main villain, Levana. Where Cinder got its inspiration from Cinderella, Scarlet from Red Riding Hood, and Cress from Rapunzel, Fairest takes its inspiration from Snow White, a theme which is continued in the latest major installment of the series to date, Winter. Levana's story is an interesting one: she's totally twisted beyond repair, a ruthless leader, an expert strategist. But she's also hopelessly in love with someone who will never love her back, and she's more than a little bit vain. Great read for any fan of the series, especially if you, like me, love to get more information, backstories, and generally just like to play a little more in the universes that authors create for us. I wish more sci-fi and fantasy series authors wrote spin-off novels - even when they're as tragic as Levana's story.

Grounded by Megan Morrison

Grounded is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, blended with the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and a dash of The Wizard of Oz. Rapunzel is happy to stay up in her tower, and she fends off all the princes and otherwise curious folk who try to rescue her. That is, until the day Jack tricks her into climbing down, and she sets off on a journey. There's magic, and there are fairies, and this super old tree she's got to find in order to learn truths about herself and her Witch. There are a few things I rather liked about this book: Rapunzel keeps a firm grasp on her agency throughout the story, lending her own logic to the circumstances and situations she's in. Though some folk dismiss her as ignorant, her central character trait is her innocence, and the way other characters handle that says more about them than it does about her. I liked the way she stands up for herself and the resourcefulness with which she proves herself to others, too. This is a nice read for youngsters and I was also happy to note it's the first in a new series.

Β 

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I finally found a John Green book I truly love. If you've read another of his works and weren't sure you wanted to try again, try this one. We follow the story of Colin Singleton, who takes off on a road trip of self-discovery with his best friend Hassan following a break-up with one of the many Katherines he's dated. This isn't really a story about break-ups or loss or angst or whatever, it's really about relationships (and friendships) in general, and the funny way our brains work, and how any little thing can remind you of a person, or a place you've been to, or some other memory. The narrative meanders to and fro much in the same way our memories and experiences do, and the whole thing is just lovely.

As someone who appreciates linguistics and word play, I also loved all the tidbits and trivia I picked up from this book, such as this:

Just lovely.

2015 Reading Wrap-Up and 2016 Reading Goals

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recycle-love

My Half-Year Check-in was rather good in 2015, I was pleased with the status of my reading, even if the numbers were a little lower than I'd like. But that'll happen when you move across the Pacific and set up a new place, look for a job, and all of that. In the second half of 2015, I read much more.

In 2015 I read a grand total of 71 books. (cue fanfare)

I'm super pleased with this number, and I'm hoping to beat it in 2016, now that I'm settled and I don't plan on moving again in the next 12 months. Now, just to get things straight: I include comics trades and graphic novels (not issues) in my count. Some people might not like that, considering sometimes you can read those in an hour or three, but then again, so can you some novels. I also read a fair amount of middle grade and young adult, but I don't think I should count them separately. I love books of all shapes and sizes, and they all count.

Some vital book stats:

Women authors/creators: 54/71 (76%)
Authors/creators of color: 35/71 (49%)
Translated works: 25/71 (35%)
Works in Spanish: 0/5 (0%)

I'm not surprised by, but super happy about my lady author stat. I never felt like I had an issue reading too many male authors, but tracking it confirms that, so I'm glad there's proof that I didn't need this to be a stated goal. As for the creators of color stat, I'm also pleased to note it's much higher than I thought. My original goal, though I didn't spell it out, was to get a solid 35%, or roughly a third of my reading. But I got about half of my reading in by diverse authors, and that makes me incredibly happy. Finally, we've got translated works, which was a stated goal in my original post around this time last year, and I managed a third. This was helped along by reading a fair amount of manga, but I did also read works translated from French (by Marjane Satrapi), and a novel translated from Japanese (Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui).

Sadly, I didn't meet my goal of reading books in Spanish - not even a little bit. Maybe I should be a little less ambitious in 2016 and go for just one.

As for the Read Harder Challenge, I managed 18 of the tasks (out of 24). That's not too bad, either. The ones I missed were tasks I'll aim to work on in 2016: A book by an author from Africa, a book by or about someone from an indigenous culture, a microhistory, an NBA, Book Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade, a book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 (I ALMOST got this one with An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, but he would have actually written it just before he turned 65), and a collection of poetry. I know I stated my pick for that challenge early on in the year, but I actually never got around to it. I'm not sure what it is about poetry I find so challenging, but I'd like to get to the bottom of it soon.

In 2016, I'll be doing Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge again, but of course, there's a whole new set of tasks to work with. I'm excited to start tackling those. As I mentioned before, I'll keep the goal of reading in Spanish, but I'm scaling back to 1 book. I'm going to aim for the same number in diversity as last year (35% or higher), keep an eye on my works in translation stat, and I want to aim for 20% or higher in LGBT+ representation (either the author or main character). So you have an idea, in 2015, I think I only read two books by or about someone who identifies LGBT+ (I didn't research every creator, so the number might be higher, but it probably isn't). Those books were An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, and (edited - the book I originally listed here was incorrect. Here's the right one:) Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I do believe it's being adapted to film, which is very exciting as long as the adaptation stays true to the actual plot of the book, yanno.

It seems ambitious, but looking at last year's numbers, I think I'll be able to make it. The area I'm going to focus on more this year is LGBT+, where last year my main focus was ethnic/geographic diversity. It's changed my reading life for the better, and it can only keep going up from here. And if I have to drop a number for total books I want to read in 2016, I'll just say 75 or more, but that's not super important.

Feel free to recommend books for me to read, especially ones that fulfill tasks for the reading challenge, or my own goals. I'll be on Twitter, Instagram, and other places, ready to share this exciting year of reading with everyone.

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Task 6 - THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Diaz

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On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that β€œthe half-life of love is forever.”

I'm trying to catch up with my reading challenge progress here, so I'm posting this after I've already finished reading the book. I don't tend to read a lot of short story collections - I've only ever managed to finish a few in my adult life. I picked this one up because it felt like a no-pressure way to dip into Diaz's writing/storytelling style before maybe picking up a novel.

I enjoyed this collection overall. It appeals to me because I'm familiar with much of the cultural and social background the characters came from, I understand the language, and I've (mostly) gotten over my aversion to "unlikeable" (and/or unreliable) characters/narrators. Yunior is awful (though I did feel sad for him in the end), but the stories are wonderful. In the end, I love that the stories were connected in more ways than one. I think that's what sealed it for me, because I'm the type of person who prefers spinoffs over sequels. The story with this guy is clear from the beginning, but I love getting all the filler and background.

Mid-Year Check-in: My Reading Stats

Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

I talked about diversifying my reading and reading challenges and all of that, but now it's time to see how it's going with the walking. It's officially July, so I've tallied up the books I've read so far and checked out the vital stats. I've included: prose books, trade volumes (comics), graphic novels (also comics), and audiobooks in my count. I haven't been reading a lot-a lot, but that's what happens when work gets hectic and then you move (twice). Without further ado:

Total number of books: 22
Lady authors/creators: 16/22 (73%)
Authors/creators of color: 12/22 (55%)
Translated works: 10/22 (45%)
Works in Spanish: 0/5 (0% of my goal of 5)

I was getting a little worried, if I could be honest here, because I felt like my #fridayreads videos lately were looking pretty heavy on the white author dudes. But as it turns out, I've been well on track. Now, here are a few superlatives for you:

Most surprising: Four Nights With the Duke by Eloisa James. I didn't really know what to expect when I took a chance on romance, but I loved it.

Best find: Hellboy. Thanks to the local library, I just grabbed a bunch of random books and, surprise, surprise, I found something super rad.

Most Unputdownable: Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger. I delayed and delayed listening to this book, because there's only one left after this one, but alas - I couldn't stop listening once I hit play. (my review)

The Quiet Read: When Marnie Was There by Joan Robinson

Voices That Stuck With Me Most: White Teeth by Zadie Smith (I read this in print, btw)

Right! These are my mid-year stats. I'm pretty happy with them, and I'm looking forward to keeping track of the rest of this year's reads. Let me know how you're doing if you're also tracking your reading goals.

Friday Things: 06/26 - Feeling the Sadness in Your Joy

LinksKristina PinoComment

[Ahh, the weekend...]

Here's a look at 15 YA reads coming out next month. Some are intriguing - I may pick up a couple of them.

Great article by a new colleague of mine on Book Riot about the book Fangirl and how it impacted her life when things got tough. I have to agree - I love Levi in this story, and there's a commenter there who made an excellent point about how so many heroes are brooding, have some dark past, etc. while Levi is just.. Levi. Refreshing. Attractive.

7 Batman-inspired cocktails. I really want to try that Joker one.

Solid list of characteristics that'll make me want to follow an audiobook narrator's work (rather than the usual, following an author's work, etc). The only difference is I like little songs and diddies in between chapters, haha.

Why do all of Disney and Pixar's ladies have more or less the same face shape, while the men have hardcore face and nose shape diversity? Interesting and important criticism.

A look at what's going to go away from Netflix next month, as well as what'll be added.

This is a fantastic article about the movie Inside Out and the super important points it makes about sadness and joy. Fair warning though, it contains heavy spoilers for the film.

On Quirk Books: How to Plan Your Geeky Picnic.


[Have a wonderful weekend!]

Friday Things: 06/19 - Drawing Joy and The Secret Life of Pets

LinksKristina PinoComment

[Summer is awesome~ summer is awesome~]

The Secret Life of Pets isn't out for another year, but it already looks like something I must watch. Also yeah, this is how you do a teaser trailer. Looking at you, Zootopia.

Super rad collection of illustrations of various Disney animals as humans, based on factors like location and time, and it's lovely and diverse.

A little boy left his Hobbes plushie at an airport, and they were super cute about it.

I love the idea of a preschool combined with a home for the elderly.

Adult coloring books are my jam right now... I might have to grab that Skottie Young one, because I love his art.

How to draw Joy from Inside Out.

Love these photos of an artist interacting with some super realistic dog illustrations.

In case you need some affirmations and stuff for your life, here are some Disney inspirations "for your twenties."

There's a cool video series a dad is doing based on his conversations with his toddler daughter. He (a grown man) acts as her and a pal acts as him, and they recreate these conversations.

On Quirk Books: The Magical Art of Moving With Too Many Books.

On Panels: Comics Fetish: Volume 36.

And to round things off, here's a trailer for The Martian! So excited!

Cool toys I saw this week

ToysKristina PinoComment

I'm not sure whether this will be a regular thing, but there were some cool toy things that went up this week that I wanted to kind of gush about.

First it's gonna be Kotobukiya's ArtFX+ Alfred Pennyworth. More than anything, I'm just really happy this exists. It's a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, but there are orders up at Koto's online shop for non-attendees, too. I have some personal theories about Alfred and how he's a total badass, but I'll take the standard butler look for the statue, and I love the skeptical look on his face. Alfred ships out next month (or you can pick one up at SDCC).

Next is Mondo's First Hellboy statue, which comes in two versions. There's the black and white ink version, and the red colorway, based on the first sketch of the character. I really love the way the illustration translated into 3D, and it looks like these folks did some great work here. I've only just recently started reading Hellboy and learning about the character, so it's pretty nice timing to see such a rad statue in the works.

And last, but not least, it's a July release for Funko, who are actually dishing out loads of cool-looking figures these days. But I'm specifically looking at their World of Pop! Olaf. He's just too adorable. Seriously, the best thing that came out of Frozen was Olaf.

Yeah, I just wanted to talk about those figures. For 2/3 of those, it's the second time since I posted about them on Tomopop. Enjoy!