How to Get Out of a Reading Slump

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Slumps are grim. Reading slumps are even grimmer. They keep us from feeding our brains with thrilling stories, complex characters and their gripping journeys and developments. Essentially, reading slumps impede our minds from stocking up valuable information- from educating ourselves.

So YES, I detest reading slumps. And I’m currently in one.

As so often, I believe that I can self-diagnose my issue and I’m pretty sure that my reading slump runs back to finishing my master programme. Which, in theory is great news and yes, I am beyond happy that I can finally call myself “a literature graduate”. AND it also means that I can finally read whatever I fancy reading.

This is enormous for literature students. Only a few people understand that as a literature student reading becomes a chore. It, of course, depends on the assigned books, but if we have to read two literary fiction novels and three theoretical articles in four days, then no one should judge us for turning on Netflix at the end of the day instead of delving into Shakespeare “just for fun”. That being said, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the fact that I can finally read whatever and when I want to (Whenever, wherever, …). And thus, I identify my reading slump as a symptom of my graduation.

However, I still really enjoy reading and I don’t want to remain in that frustrating slump. Therefore, I brainstormed, researched and compiled five tips and tricks to get out of my slump and I hope that they will help you too.

1) Wake up earlier

I just heard my imaginery audience groan at this title. However, waking up earlier means that there are some extra minutes left for reading. It doesn’t need to be at five in the morning, but waking up fifteen minutes earlier to read five (or ten) pages will already help to reignite that passion for reading.

2) Read something out of your literary comfort zone…

If you’re an avid fiction reader, try out some non-fiction books and vice versa. Or explore new genres, such as fantasy, romance or horror literature. Most readers stick to one, two, maximum three genres- myself included. Yet, sometimes it’s fun to let in some new perspectives into your literary radar.

3) Calendar blocking

If I want to increase my productivity, I rely on calendar blocking. I basically fill in my entire day from 7am to 22pm to make sure that I don’t spend some valuable time on meaningless social media scrolling. Why not try to block some hours to get in that extra reading? If we treat it like a priority, it becomes a priority.

4) Reading dates

Do you have a bookworm friend, just like yourself? A fun way to get in more reading is to plan a book date together. Go to a cafe, order a large cappuccino, macchiato or tea and spend hours reading. You coud even plan in some breaks to exchange your book impressions- or even read the same book. Creativity has no limits.

5) Set yourself up for an exciting challenge

There are loads of book challenges out there. From one book a week, to seasonal to-read-lists, to “15 books everyone should read”. Sometimes it helps to set yourself up for a good old challenge. To give you an extra push, why not follow some of the amazing book bloggers, bookstagramers or booktubers out there? They have created their own reading challenges and templates which are lot of fun and easy to follow. And if following and sharing others isn’t your cup of tea, you can always create your own challenge.

There you have it! Five tips and tricks to get yourself out of a nasty reading slump!

I will certainly attempt to wake up earlier and squeeze in some extra reading minutes…

 

 

Is Harvey Weinstein today’s Bluebeard?

Is Harvey Weinstein today’s Bluebeard?

In the seventh episode of OUADT Podcast, Laury identifies the shocking links between Bluebeard and Hollywood’s perpetrator, Harvey Weinstein. It’s a fairy tale (or horror story) with a modern twist, as it were.

For those that are not familiar with the fairy tale, Laury kicks off the episode with a little narration of Bluebeard. A brief introduction to the fairy tale’s origins will follow and finally, she ends the episode with her personal “Bluebeardian” interpretation of Harvey Weinstein.

Links:

Blog: https://onceuponadifferenttime.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onceuponadifferenttime/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurySch12

Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

OUADT Rating: 5/5
OUADT recommends this book to:
Anyone who’s interested in fantastic creatures, even better if they are mermaid lovers. And to people who have an inclusive feminist mindset, not necessarily a subversive understanding of feminism (DISCLAIMER: book contains strong instances of patriarchy).

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I turned the last page and all I could say was “wow”. And that’s not even enough to capture what I felt after I finished the last sentence of The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill.

Summary: Deep beneath the cold, stormy sea, Gaia is a mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. Gaia longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice?

This book felt like a treat, even a reward, for myself. No, I’m serious. Today, I finished the pre-final draft of my master thesis on the feminist and transcultural complexity of the mermaid figure in different literary genres. And one of my findings was that mermaids have to use irrational means to break apart the phallogocentric order… I don’t want to bore you with my research but I just want to give you a taste of how exciting I was to read this re-writing of the little mermaid, which so neatly chimed in with one of my main interests in the mermaid figure: her objectification and suppression by men.

I really need to turn the novel inside out for criticsm, but I was slightly disappointed by the Sea Witch, called Ceto. I really enjoyed her unapologetic self-confidence and her exchanges with the little mermaid, but I found her character so intriguing that I wish it would have been explored a bit more.

If anything, this re-writing is filled with patriarchs. Firstly, there’s Gaia’s father who’s most satisfied when feared by his daughters. Then, there’s Gaia’s betrothed, Zale, who’s more than double her age, an overt sexist and a blood-thirsty tyrant. And lastly, there’s ungrateful Oliver, for whom Gaia sacrifies nearly everything. Most people argue that there are not enough nice men in the re-writing, and although I agree that the only two decent men are either side characters or dead, I don’t think that the gender disparity has been subverted.

O’Neill does not try to blame either gender; instead, her re-writing sheds light on different means of female suppression. From a distorted body image, to gay love, to female sexuality- the list of topics which O’Neill manages to bring in is impressively vast. And unfortunately, the limits of these topics go back to a white, patriarchal order.

Some readers don’t believe that the novel does justice to its feminist label because almost the entire narrative centres on Gaia’s suppression and patriarchal objectification. Again, I disagree. Feminism is not about subverting injustice; feminism begins when gender injustice is identified and brought to the fore. Also, we should keep in mind that this is a feminist reimagining of the little mermaid, and not a new feminist narrative. Accordingly, O’Neill infused the narrative with a feminist tone without completely deviating from Andersen’s original. Her poetics clearly show how wrongly the sea patriarch is treating his daughters. And for all the feminists craving great action, well there’s the ending (not going to say more at this point, #spoilerfree).

Apart from the feminist debate, the story is gripping and could easily be read in one sitting. The writing is light, but not simplistic, and sets the perfect tone for a fairy tale re-writing. Here’s one of my favourite passages:

I breathe in, and I can feel the notes trembling at the base of my throat, forming without any real effort. I open my mouth and the melody spills out, slithering through the water, turning everything it touches translucent.
The mer-folk look up at me, spellbound, the melody lacing us together as one. It has wound its way into their bodies, shivering through them. This is my gift, but unlike the much-admired symmetry of my face, this gift actually brings me joy.

Dear feminist critics, look at that last sentence. Isn’t it empowering to you?

Book details:
The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
Published in 2018 by SCHOLASTIC
Available on Amazon

My Summer Reading List 2018

My Summer Reading List 2018

In the 6th episode of OUADT Podcast, Laury takes you through her reading list for summer 2018. If you’re like her, in need of a good reading list and always up for a challenge, then this episode might be just right for you.

Links:

Link to the same blog post and the reading list: https://onceuponadifferenttime.com/2018/06/01/my-summer-reading-challenge/

Emma Watson’s book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179584-our-shared-shelf

Blog: https://onceuponadifferenttime.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onceuponadifferenttime/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurySch12

 

Thanks for listening!
Please leave a review on iTunes, it helps me so much to improve the show.

Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

OUADT Rating: 2/5
OUADT recommends this book to: hardcore Alice in Wonderland fans

after alice

I’ve never come across someone who didn’t like Alice in Wonderland. Be it the original book by Lewis Carroll or the 2010 film version, with Johnny Depp’s legendary performance as mat hatter, Alice’s adventures still hold a place of fascination. That’s why I was even more intrigued to stumble across this re-writing by Gregory Maguire who, if you didn’t know, is also the author of Wicked. Yet, when I started reading it, I realised that my expectations had been way too high.

Summary: When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But how did Victorian Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

Gregory Maguire turns his imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings- and understandings of old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sets out to visit Alice but arrives a moment too late. Tumbling down the rabbit hole herself, she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world.

I don’t want to downplay how hard it must be to re-write such an iconic work. The author has all of my due respect for his bravery- even though I was not convinced by the outcome.

It took me quite some time to get into the writing. I really struggled with the language which is quite dense. Some sentences were overloaded with references and boring descriptions, which did not help to build this child-like imaginative world. The plot alternates between Ada’s adventures in Wonderland and the families that she and Alice left behind in Victorian England. To my surprise, I was more interested in the Victorian part than in Maguire’s depiction of Wonderland. It was only in the second part of the novel that I started to enjoy reading about Wonderland and simultaneously, my interest for the Victorian world waned.

I think this reading can be more enjoyable if one keeps the first sentence of the blurb in mind: When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind.

Indeed, Maguire gives an insight into nineteenth century Britain, with a focus on the early influence of Charles Darwin, the discourse surrounding slavery and the socially imposed categories for women. As for the latter,  the novel introduces the reader to Alice’s older sister, Lydia, who’s herself struggling with her identity as a fifteen-year-old Victorian lady. Unfortunately, I wished her character had more depth, instead of representing a selfish and partly vain adolescent.

Nonetheless, I didn’t give up on the book because of two points.

Firstly, Maguire’s fascination with poetics really paid off in Ada’s playful conversation with the White Knight. Secondly, the innocent but deeply caring encounter between Ada and Siam broke my heart. The passages were so strong and I wish Maguire had spent more time on developing their relationship.

The realtionship between the three children (Ada, Siam and Alice) was the strongest and most compelling aspect to the book and it finally zoomed in on the fascinating mind of children- which is so essential to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Details:

After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Published in 2015 by HEADLINE
Available on Amazon

 

“And the third night…”: Why Things Come in Triplets in Fairytales

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There are loads of tropes and patterns in fairytales that make them not only dynamic but easy to remember and recount. One of these patterns is the number 3. In case you haven’t noticed, here are some examples from the Grimms’ collection:

  • Snow White’s evil stepmother pays her three visits until she succeeds in putting her into a long slumber
  • in Rumpelstiltskin, it takes the miller’s daughter three nights until she figures out Rumpelstiltskin’s name
  • Cinderella has not one but two evil step-sisters, forming a siblings’ triad

 And yet, why is the number three so important in fairytales?

  1. “The Power of Three” or “The Rule of Three”

There’s actually a name for the fantastical triad: “the power of three” or “the rule of three”. Essentially, the number three is a mnemonic technique for the narrator. Long before fairy tales were written down, they circulated from mouth to mouth. It was mainly the job of women to keep the tales alive and to pass them on to the younger generation. Without the help of print press and often without education, these women depended on their own memory. The recurring triad constellation in tales helped the female narrators to convey the stories in a catchy way but it also helped to make the tale more memorable- and thus ready to be recounted to the next generation.

The rule of three is used in many different ways: it applies to characters such as three siblings, but also to the passing of time. In the story’s arch, there’s typically a huge twist on the third night or on the third day. It also adds to the tone of the story, since three tries are more suspenseful than just one. According to this rule, two plus one is greater than three. That is to say, the number three helps to build contrasts.

The triad contrast works especially well for defining characters. Take for example the tale of “The Golden Bird”, in which the gardener has three sons: two of them are evil robbers and tricksters, but the third one is a virtuous, diligent young man. The same goes for “Cinderella”: Cinderella is a hard-working, tolerant girl, whereas her two step sisters are idle, spoilt and manipulative. So, the two plus one method makes the three of them stand out.

  1. “omne trium perfectim” (=everything that comes in threes is perfect)

If we believe what the Romans preached then “everything that comes in threes is perfect”. Following this statement, the number three eases the tension between twos. When 1 is Black and 2 is White, then 3 needs to be Grey. If you venture outside the fairy tale realm, it becomes shockingly obvious how deeply embedded our traditional world is in this triad symbolism. Father, Mother, Child; Morning, Noon, Evening; Harry, Hermione, Ron. Once you start looking for the triads, you’ll see them everywhere!

What’s more is that when fairy tales were written down, they often pertained to certain morals and ideals and often included a religious tone. In reference to the number three, the Christian Godhead trinity supports the centrality of the number, it holds a place of divinity and completeness. In the little mermaid, for instance, she firstly lives in the waters, secondly on land with her new pair of legs and thirdly, as an aerial daughter in the sky, bringing together a cosmological triad.

  1. Act of Persuasion

Besides creating a certain balance, the number three is also used to persuade. According to studies, manipulative discourse such as ads use three reasons to persuade potential customers. Four claims would however trigger scepticism and reduce the credibility of the product.

The same pattern of persuasion can be observed in fairy tales. Indeed, this act of persuading someone is often used to break spells and charms. In “The Frog Prince”, the frog must eat from the princess’s plate and sleep in her bed for three nights to be transformed back into a human.

However, at the same time, the number three is not the only significant number- especially studied from a more transcultural perspective. The numbers seven and twelve are equally important to storytelling. It’s important to remember that these numbers are indicators of culture, religion and storytelling technique.

So there you go: three reasons why the number three is crucial to fairy tales. See what I did there?

This blog post is also available as a podcast episode.

“And the third night…”: Why Things Come in Triplets in Fairy tales

“And the third night…”: Why Things Come in Triplets in Fairy tales

It’s neither on the first day, nor on the second but on the third day that she found out his name…

Waiting until the third night comes around, having granted three wishes or being the good one out of three siblings is something so natural to fairy tales that we almost forget to question why the number 3 plays such an important role in fairy tales.

In the fifth episode, Laury explores the meaning of the number three in fairy tales and why it’s better to list three examples, instead of four.

Links:

Blog: https://onceuponadifferenttime.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onceuponadifferenttime/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurySch12

 

Thanks for listening!
Please leave a review on iTunes, it helps me so much to improve the show.

 

My Summer Reading Challenge

Lately, I’ve been struggling to just pick up a book and immerse myself in its world. I think it has a lot to do with the amount of research and reading I have done for my master thesis. After a long day at the library, I often struggle to gather my concentration for another book. Let’s be real- binging some Netflix or YouTube is less demanding than reading.

Anyway, I don’t like that my reading habits have suffered so much under my uni work and therefore I decided to set up a fun reading challenge for the months to come. I’m pretty much a “challenge-accepted” girl and competition often gets me going (which is not always a good thing, I know).

Below is the reading challenge template I put together. If you find yourself in a reading funk too, then I hope I can help you out with this fun list and get you back to the pages!

summer reading challenge

For some categories, I already know which books I’m going to read:

  1. Fairytales
    I’m still working my way through the Brothers Grimm’s collection. Here are 7 fairy tales I chose: “The Golden Bird”, “Hans in Luck”, “Old Sultan”, “The Frog Prince”, “The Goose Girl”, “Tom Thumb” and “The Seven Ravens”.
    I’m also eager to finally read the original tale of “Beauty and the Beast”, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.
  2. Book about Travelling
    This has to be Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Confession time: saw the film before the book…)
  3. Fairytale re-writing
    I have two so far: After Alice by Gregory Maguire and The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill.
  4. Book adapted for TV show
    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: I started it but had to give it up again because of my thesis. And no, I haven’t watched the TV show (yet!).
  5. Books recommended by friends
    Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. My friend Leonie adored this and it has mermaid references…
    For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Elena, (if you read this), I will read it this summer!
  6. Greek myth re-telling
    Circe by Madeline Miller. I heard so many great things about this novel and I’m a Circe-fan- so it sounds like right down my alley!

    I still have to fill the blanks for the remaining categories, so stay tuned for a haul 😀 and I somehow need to plan which book I will read this month  (TBR June to come…).

Review: the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Writing a poetry review feels somewhat out of my comfort zone. From time to time, though, I really crave some verse. So with this post, I’m going to test the waters and do my first poetry review. Amanda Lovelace’s collection feels like a good start, especially since it is embedded in fairy tale tropes.

the princess saves herself in this one is a poetry collection dealing with quite heavy subject matter, including death, suicide, child abuse, bullying and cancer. The collection is divided into four parts: “the princess”, “the damsel”, “the queen” and “you”.

lovelace

Some poems in this book really struck me- for different reasons. Sometimes, I found myself reading lines over and over again and I really wanted to cherish them and have them imprinted somewhere in my mind. Yet, other poems did not speak to me at all and I suddenly found myself rushing down the page, in a haste to turn to the next one.

I was disappointed by the simplicity of this book. I believe that simple language is at the core of her writing, yet while it worked fantastically for some poems, it did not do much for others. There was sometimes a certain imbalance between the heaviness of the subject matter and the poetics used to express it. Also, even though the collection uses fairy tale figures- such as the princess and the damsel- I expected more nuanced fairy tale tropes. After reading certain poems, I was still searching for the fairy tale motif to seep through- in that sense, the fairy tale title of the collection might promise a bit more than can be found inside.

Nonetheless, some poems stood out because of their simplicity. I especially like the first poems in the “princess” category. In these poems, the fairy tale references came out the strongest and I liked the way Lovelace adapted them to her life experiences. Not many, but some of the significant tropes stretch through the entire collection and come back later in the book, making it one coherent piece.

I was also positively suprised by the pace of this collection. Unlike other poetry, I read it in one sitting and when I turned the last page, I really had the impression that I read a fairy tale. But there is no magic- it is realistic, plain and empowering for women and girls who are not blessed with a fairy godmother to get through hard times and yet, who manage to slay the dragons life presents them with.

Here is one of the poems that stayed with me for its plain language but resonating sweetness:

“if he was
my cup of tea,
then you are
my cup of coffee.

tea simply
isn’t enough
for me sometimes,

but coffee
can get me
through
anything.

-did i make you up?”

Freak shows, Fairytales and Alice Hoffman

Freak shows, Fairytales and Alice Hoffman

In today’s episode, Laury discusses the close ties between fairytales and freak shows. You might learn why and how both realms showcase those people who do not correspond to what we conceive as “normal”. Apart from Alice Hoffman’s novel, the episode will leave you with other freak show reading suggestions.

Blog: https://onceuponadifferenttime.com/2018/05/16/freakshows-and-fairy-tales/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onceuponadifferenttime/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurySch12

The books I mentioned:

Alice Hoffman, Museum of Extraordinary Things

Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

Sarah Water, Tipping the Velvet

Sarah Gruen, Water for Elephants