Month: March 2013

31 Mar 2013

reading for fun

I have had some trouble figuring out what to write about here: what do I want to write, like to write, what should I be writing, what should I not be writing, etc. Just another regularly scheduled what-am-i-doing-with-my-life-what-does-it-all-mean?? crisis, I won’t bore you with the details.

But as I gazed vacantly into yet another empty white post box, I also realized that I haven’t been reading much that I want to tell y’all about. I’ve been reading, yes, reading quite a bit. A few books I’ve had strong feelings about, yes, but those strong feelings were… complicated. And the rest? Good fun, but nothing worth writing home about.

So here’s what I’ve been up to:

Reading Nonfiction

I went from The Happiness Project to Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat… from a straightforward, easy to read, but ultimately feel-goody memoir to a straightforward, easy to read, but ultimately depressing corporate exposé. I have said pretty much everything I could say about The Happiness Project, but I might need to write more about Salt Sugar Fat at some point. However, it’s one of those books that I could ramble on and on and on about until everyone who doesn’t have my food fixation falls down dead, so I need some time to stew on it. In the meantime, I suggest you don’t buy any Twinkies, Lunchables, Coke, sweetened yogurt, or anything with an ingredients label. You’ll be happy about it later.


Digital Books

Did I tell you my mama got me a Kindle Fire for my birthday? Well she did, and I’ve found the Kindle format much more compatible with Netgalley and Edelweiss than reading ePubs on my borrowed Nook. I’ve been trying to remember that reading advanced copies is not just a hobby & sport, but a way to get a feel for where trends are going, to dip into books I might not otherwise want to spend the time on. Nantucket Blue is one such ARC: it didn’t look great, but it looked readable. Aaaaand I found it readable, satisfyingly beachy, but not great. And of course my better nature is squashed when I spot THE LAST ALICE BOOK ON NETGALLEY (Edelweiss, my badddd). Holy cats… as promised, Always Alice (or Now I’ll Tell You Everything?? Why does this book have two titles?) takes Alice from college all the way through age 60, in 400 pages or less. In other words – it was a hot, hot mess, but a mess you couldn’t pay me to put down. I have so many emotions about this series. So. So. So many.


Filthy Books

So if it is a weekend day when you have nothing much to do except lay around in bed and read and nap, sometimes it is difficult to resist reading a book that is just a super-duper tawdry 50-Shades knock-off romance. That is happening. I read these two, and no I am not going to tell you what I thought about them.

Listening to Books

Ever since I made my “audiobooks inside the house” rule, I’ve really been digging on audiobooks again. Go figure. Monkey Mind was a good listen, although I’m not sure I would have had to patience to read through someone’s neuroses in such excruciating detail if I was reading in on paper. Where’d You Go, Bernadette was super fun and surprisingly easy to follow given it is mostly told in letters and emails and such. I was sad when it ended.

I may or may not have purchased little running belt with a pocket with not only running, but audiobook listening in mind.

But if you aren’t running, then it’s just a fanny pack. Guys, I bought a fanny pack, to serve my audiobook habit. I don’t know what this means, but it can’t be good.

29 Mar 2013

seven things for a friday

1. I got to leave my windowless office today to visit a branch library. It was the cutest little branch by the beach, and such a nice little children’s space – nice collection, nice layout, very neat and well-kept and inviting. A nice way to spend a Friday.

2. This morning I was 10 pages away from finishing The Dinner and 3 tracks away from finishing the last disc of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Both of these books are the kind of books where there are unreliable narrators and zillions of secrets being revealed in every chapter… so, I was feeling a little reading-tense. I finished The Dinner and found the concluding pages to be decidedly creepy but without any major additional surprises. I’ll let you know how Bernadette goes once I need to do the dishes or fold my laundry.

3. I think my next-up audio is Wonder. I’ve heard OMG BEST BOOK and eh, not that great, so I’m curious. 

4. A few days before Google Reader got axed, I deleted my massive stockpile of blog bookmarks. They were feeling oppressive, and I figured the ones I really wanted to read, I would remember. I added 15 back to my list so far. I’m happy with my decision.

5. I have 10 days to watch 30 episodes of Mad Men. Sooooo… I am watching a lot of Mad Men. I am thinking about Don and why he has so many girlfriends. Seriously, dude. Don’t you get exhausted? Don’t you want a break? You have a high-powered job and a steady-lady… you have children. Don’t you want to come home and like… lie down? Not pretend like you are in love with another lady, like a new vagina will save you from your internal pain? Come on, Don. I hope this series ends with Don at like, 80. I would like to see an 80-year-old Don.

6. If you are a fiction writer-type, you should check out John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. I’m only a few chapters in, but it’s pretty much what I’ve been looking for lately – straightforward but flexible instructions on building stories in an organic way. Much different than the other writing craft books on my shelf.

7. This is my second list-based post of the month. My apologies.

25 Mar 2013

home is where the rodents live

Me: This is getting ridiculous…

Him: I know. I had trouble crafting an adequate text message to [name of the Slum Lord to whom we sign away our rent money redacted]. How can you say, in a text message, that there hasn’t been a problem the whole time we’ve lived here, it’s just that for the last two weeks it’s been like, a freaking mouse circus in here.

Me: Um. You mean mouse circus like the upstairs neighbor from Coraline?

Him: Of COURSE! That is EXACTLY what I mean!


I’m just going to let y’all pretend like the mice in my apartment are as creepily hypnotizing as Mr. Bobo’s. Yes, yes, my place is just full of adorably jumping mice! It’s extra adorable when Peach catches them in her little mouth and carries them over to me to put on a little private jumping dance. Just darling. Pest control will be here on Tuesday; I will be so sorry to see them go.


24 Mar 2013

running in 2013

Some time in 2012, I wrote out a little monthly calendar to guide me through the next year. A page for each month, highlighting any holidays, vacations, or other notable events for the month. I set out some little goal deadlines for my New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote in some wedding planning stuff. The big things that I knew Must Happen.

I looked at a calendar of sunrises and sunsets, and March was the first month the sun would be up after 5 p.m so on my page for March, I wrote “Start Running.” So on March 1st, that is what I did.

Little did I know there would be two more snow storms in March 2013, but yes, I have been running. Perhaps not as much as I would like, but after a three month hiatus, my little Dailymile calendar is updating once again. It feels kind of bad-ass to run with snow still on the ground, although it does not feel bad-ass to run when there is unshoveled/melted snow on your running path. It feels like you are stupid because you did not stop and think that the gravel path through the woods would be impassable when there is still 3-4 inches of standing snow on the grass.

In the interest of easing back into the game, I have restarted my Couch to 5k efforts; I am on week three and life is still easy, except for when my phone decides to give me a visual alert rather than a audio alert telling me to stop running/walking and I end up running 7 minutes straight up a large hill. That is not easy.

I also got some new running shoes – some black and pink New Balance Minimus – which are like the TOMS of running shoes – thin little slippers that feel like nothing. So far, no complaints. I actually usually have a bit of foot pain when I adjust to new shoes, but not so much with these.

The boy has been running with me most of the time; once last week we ran into town, bought some bread at When Pigs Fly and a bottle of wine at Streetcar. That is a good run if I ever had one.

I just wanted to tell you that it’s time to run again and for the first time in my life I’m just kind of happy about it – I don’t have to drag myself out of the door or beat myself up over going or not going. I’m operating on the following principle – if you can run, you should run – and letting the rest of the details work themselves out.

It’s going well. It’s going well.

Except for the part where I dropped my automatically recharging T-Pass between the bread and the wine last weekend, it’s going well.

And the snowstorms.

Please tell me the snowstorms are over.

Other running posts:


22 Mar 2013

fiction madness

I am not reading any fiction right now. I am reading a really long and interesting nonfiction book about food and products that are not really food but we eat them anyway. I am re-reading The Happiness Project because I have mental issues and this book calms me down. I just started a new audiobook, but but but I’m not reading any paper fiction and it feels weird.

I have also put myself back in hold jail, so I must work with what I have. Here are my top contenders:

Caring is Creepy – snagged from the Alex Awards list. Am I in the mood for something dark and creepy and messed up?

No? Maybe a fun, award-winning animal book? The One and Only Ivan is sitting here, waiting for me, and did you guys know that each page is mostly white space? I am fond of a good book with a lot of white space on the page.

Or I could dig into my ever-growing pile of Advanced Readers. Can Lauren Graham write a book that is worth reading? I have the answer to this question in my purse – Someday, Someday Maybe – if only I could decide on what to read.

And last but not least, a new-ish YA that has captured my attention – The Tragedy Paper. The public asked that I buy it for the library, so I did. My Dearest Former Roommate read it and didn’t like it. So I should read it and form my own opinion?

I have all of these books at the ready, ready to read. Which one will it be? Well, here’s a helpful tournament bracket that will help me decide:

Just kidding. There is no way I am making a bracket of anything. I am just going to hem and haw uselessly for a few more days and then pick whatever book is closest to me in whatever part of my apartment I happen to be in.

20 Mar 2013

a little bit about writing

Last week was an unusually social one for me. On Thursday, I had dinner with a friend from college. We talked about every person who ever lived in our dorm – Larzelere Hall. Except maybe Andrew Dost. I don’t remember if he came up. But other than Mr. Dost, if you lived in Larzy, we spoke of you.

On Saturday, two of my Boston friends had a birthday party that was full of my favorite grad school friends that I never get to see any more. Of course, because this is an acceptable way to spend time drinking at a fancy bar, I spend the entire night talking with two different friends about writing.

I think about writing a lot, even when I’m not doing a lot of writing, so my second bar conversation wasn’t much of a surprise. But I don’t think about college very often, so Thursday’s conversation added a strange layer of context. I don’t know what the people of Larzelere Hall thought of me in college, but there were a certain number of people in that particular social circle who probably thought of me as A Person Who Writes. A Writer. I took Advanced Fiction Seminars, went to a weekly writing group, read my friend’s manuscripts, spent a summer writing a novel.

I don’t do any of that anymore. But I do think about it a lot. I can’t believe I wrote this post over a year ago because it still almost exactly how I feel about the topic.

And I do write, in fits and spurts, but something usually cracks before I can get too far. Either my idea of the story I’m writing starts to slip, or my mind does. I’m starting to worry that although I have just as much time as I will ever have in my life, I won’t be able to write anything because I’m just not the girl I was in college. Something’s cracked.

The problem is that even if I spend every day of the rest of my life sitting at a desk, staring at a blank Word document and weeping, I think I would still try. Even if I’m dooming myself to a life of misery, I just can’t imagine quitting. I can’t.

So I’m not sure where to go from here. Give it more time? Give it more focus? Cry more? Wait for some kind of divine shimmering light of an idea to arrive, to make everything in my mind click into place? Try a new routine? Try a new genre? Study more? Read more? Write more?

I have no idea, but something is still there, a bit of Writer simmering under my skin, and I just don’t think I’ll be happy unless I’m tending to that part of me.


16 Mar 2013

the best thing on the kidlitinternet right now

School Library Journal’s annual Battle of the Books is fun… but Roger Sutton’s Battle of the Battle of the Books Judges is genius.

As the BoB judges – all authors of YA or children’s books – make judgements between two books, Roger makes judgements about their judgement. Although I like the idea of Book Battles (or any brackets that are not basketball related, actually), I always find myself skimming through the judge’s (always lengthy) reports to get to the good stuff – the results.

After reading Roger’s commentary for a few weeks, I think I know why – these BoB judges aren’t making arguments, they don’t let the books talk to each other, they don’t actively judge. Extended book summary, followed by “Oh gosh, how does anyone possibly decide between such amazing books?” and then a quick decision at the end that seems at best, personal, at worst, random. Roger’s meta-tourney calls everyone out on such bullshit.

I am probably not done with this topic. Relentless book praise is boring and makes the children’s lit world seem like one big cheering squad and not a legitimate literary atmosphere. At the same time, needless, arbitrary book hate is also damaging – there is nothing more obnoxious than a One-Star Goodreads review whose rationale seems to be “Ugh, that character should have just done Blah, Blah, Blah I couldn’t stand it!” There are a million ways to be a bad representative of a book – I have my own bad habits, I’m sure – but that doesn’t mean we can’t all strive to do right for the books we love.

14 Mar 2013

it’s a mad, mad world

A few months ago, one of my coworkers started watching Mad Men for the first time. She was hooked after the first season, and I’ve made my love for this television program so clear that she comes into my office every few days to dish about whatever episode she’s just finished.

I’ve probably watched this show – from start to finish – at least three times. Maybe four. Each episode is so rich, so full of visual and contextual details that you might not notice in a single viewing. The jumps between seasons – even episodes – make you wonder what happened in the meantime. The story unfolds more as life than fiction, but if you watch enough times you can see arcs that span over multiple seasons – big, scary character arcs about what it means to be a man or a woman or a child.

But my favorite part of this show is how it plays with the idea of “historical fiction” – how we think about the past.  Much of the time, the show and the characters proceed as if they are putting on a show, the show of the 50s and 60s; they wear the appropriate costumes, make the politically incorrect jokes, they walk around as if they know they are Of The Time, even if that time is now past.XZ

But then, every few episodes, the facade drops. Two characters look at each other like they  just realized are children wearing adult clothing. Those moments, where everything is stripped down, are completely unsettling.

Also: I hate Pete, love Betty, throw things at the TV when after reforming for half a season, Don starts Pulling a Don, and John Slattery is probably by biggest Mad Men crush. Silver fox anyone?

So I decided that I might try to watch Mad Men again before the final season premieres in April. That is a lot of episodes in just a few days. I should probably make more ambitious goals, but damn I just love this show so much.

13 Mar 2013

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Astrid Jones is a lot of things. She is a senior in high school. She is a New Yorker whose parents moved her to Small Town Hell. She is the daughter less favored by a perfectionist mother.  She is no longer interested in learning trigonometry, but philosophy lights up something inside of her. She is the best friend to the Homecoming King and Queen, and the only one who knows they are both gay. She is a secret keeper, a sender of love into the universe, and oh, she might be gay.

Maybe. But why lean into a label if she’s not sure? Why not spare herself the consequences of coming out, when labels are bullshit anyway?

I read a lot of very positive reviews for A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers, but sometimes I feel like reviews hone in on one or two choice aspects of a book and hang the rest of the reading experience on those. This was a Coming Out Story, the reviews said. This is a story with King’s trademark Magical Realism.

I devoured this book in two day’s time, and I found it to be so much more than Coming Out and Magical Realism. The story does center on Astrid as she comes to terms with her other-ness in a very insular small town community – getting up the guts to live as herself in the world instead of keeping her identity precious and hidden. But the way King writes Astrid, it seems like sexuality is secondary to Astrid-as-a-Whole; it’s not just her weekly make-out sessions with the hot field hockey player she’s keeping to herself, it’s secrets about her friends and her family, about what she thinks about her mother and sister, her dreams and wishes. Similarly, the Magical Realism isn’t terribly magical. When Astrid sends her love up to airplane passengers overhead, and the narrative follows that love, giving you a glimpse of the life of a plane passenger, I didn’t read that as “magic” – I read it as part of that inner life that Astrid keeps to herself, that inner life that makes Astrid such a dynamic character.

Despite all that, I think you can tell that I liked this book a great deal. I liked it for being sharp and fast to read. I liked how the cast of characters around Astrid’s life in her small town were so richly developed, each one interesting, not a throw-away in sight. I liked how King made the We-Look-Perfect-But-Are-Deeply-Troubled Family trope feel entirely fresh. I liked how Astrid and her girlfriend have mismatched ideas about the pace of their sexual interactions, and instead of submitting Astrid pushes back; instead of fighting or breaking up, they have a rational conversation about it.

This one should have got a little more ALA love this year. Shame, shame. You should read it anyway.

10 Mar 2013


Have I mentioned that I can’t ever remember how old I am? I can’t. When there comes a time that I need to think of how old I am, I panic a little because I can’t remember if I’m the age I think I am, or the age I’m going to be. If he’s around, I’ll ask The Boy. “How old am I?” I ask. “How old are we?”

We are twenty-eight. Today, I am twenty-eight.

I’ve lost track of whether or not this feels like an “old” age or not. I am just now getting those grown-up things that real grown-ups get – a full-time job, modest financial security, a wedding and soon, a husband. It’s hard to feel “too old,” even though many folks achieve these things at 22, 23.

Also, I woke up today with a pimple. A pimple! I washed my face before bed like a diligent old-lady, and wake up with a pimple. The pimple of a 16-year-old, let me tell you.

I don’t know how old folks-who-might-still-be-young are supposed to celebrate their aging, but I just did it with food.

First, breakfast: out to the local cash-only dive for eggs, cheese, lox, sprouts, and avocado on an English muffin, with bites of The Boy’s corn bread French Toast on the side. And coffee.

Then, I made myself a birthday cake.

Then, some salmon & pasta & fancy Italian wine.

Then, Pitch Perfect, which is not a food, but who cares.

I am not that old, but I am really old; either way, it’s almost 10 p.m., so it is time for bed

 twenty seven | twenty six | twenty five | twenty four