Things I Have Loved Recently

For a few reasons, the past month has been one that has felt like a roller coaster. Good things happen and then bad and in between, a whole lot of smooth and steady. I blog mostly on the weekends, so being out of town a lot makes it difficult, but I’m trying to be more organized. (When am I not trying to be more organized?) I thought I might tell you about a few things that I have loved recently, things that are making my days brighter and better, just because they exist. We all need a few of those, right?

Music

Concerts – I am going to see The xx in September. I am not sure I have listened to any other band or musician as much as The xx in the past few years. I think they are perfect and I haven’t been this excited for a show in a long time. I’ve heard they are amazing live.

Songs – “The Mother We Share” by CHVRCHES, “Pompeii” by Bastille, “Lightning Bolt” and “Note To Self” by Jake Bugg, “Believer” by American Authors, “Breezeblocks” by Alt J, “Faithful Heights” by NIght Beds, “Synesthesia” by Andrew MacMahon

Albums – Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

Movies

So, a few years ago, Michael and I were looking for something to do. How to Train Your Dragon was playing at our local $1 movie theater, so we took my little sister, thinking it would be a fun afternoon. Except I’m pretty sure I loved the movie more than my sister did. I’ve seen it a few times since then and every time I love it even more. It’s funny and beautifully drawn and heartwarming. Anyway, the trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 was released this week and I just keep watching it again and again. It’s everything I hoped it would be and more. Just so perfect!

ParaNorman – Did you tell me to watch this? Because if you did, I’m so sorry I ignored you. You haven’t seen ParaNorman yet? What are you waiting for?! I have a predisposition to love ghost stories, and awesome sidekicks who steal the show, and siblings, and autumn, and John Goodman, but honestly. If you like any of those things, or just a few of them, ParaNorman is on Netflix Instant and you are missing out by not watching this.

Television

Gravity Falls – After I watched ParaNorman and stalked the tumblr tags, I noticed a lot of comparisons to Gravity Falls. Michael and I have watched a few episodes now and it is hilarious. Mabel is the 12-year-old I wish I was. See all of the above things that I love (except for John Goodman) and you also have Gravity Falls.

I’m definitely missing the shows that I watched during the winter, especially Supernatural and Nashville. I also finished my first watch of Buffy and Game of Thrones S2, so I don’t really have a show that I’m watching whenever I have a spare 50 minutes. Do you have any suggestions? I prefer something that is available on Netflix Instant or Hulu+!

Books

Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I listened to this on audio and I loved it. I can’t wait to read the sequel! It always feels so good to get completely lost in a fantasy world that you buy into entirely and that’s how I felt about Shadow & Bone.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – One of my favorite listens this year was The Raven Boys and this book was my most-coveted galley at BEA. Thanks to the amazing Memory, I was able to get a copy. I’m reading it now and it is living up to everything, though I certainly miss having Will Patton read it to me. I will be downloading the audiobook as soon as it is available.

Tumblr

It’s true, I’ve been neglecting most other corners of the internet for tumblr, and I’ve been thinking a lot about why. I suppose there might be a whole post in here, but tumblr gives me a space to just love things. I do not need to comment on it, though I can if I want to. It’s just a space that is full of the things I love. Lately, that’s been exactly what I need. I don’t think it could ever sustain me as my only way of blogging or staying connected, it’s too specific for that, but as a tool to share the things I love and discover new things (like Gravity Falls, for example!), it’s just what the doctor ordered.

What have you loved lately?

Wrapping Up Graphic Novels February, Hello to March Food & Gardening!

Thanks to Debi, I spent February reading a lot of comics. You see, Debi is picking a theme for each month of reading and I liked the plan so much that I’m joining her. I know that Chris and Heather are reading, too. February was such a success, that I’m going to be participating in March’s theme, too, but more on that later.

Here are the comics I read in February:

  1. Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks
  2. Blue by Pat Grant
  3. Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  4. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  5. Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot
  6. The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra
  7. The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Deomakos, & Nate Powell
  8. Locke & Key Vol 1 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  9. The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
  10. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson
  11. Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canals and Juanjo Guarnido (finished in March)

I also read these other books:

  1. January First by Michael Schofield
  2. The Raven Boys  by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. One & The Same by Abigail Pogrebin
  4. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

So of all the comics I read, which ones do I wholeheartedly recommend? Well, certainly Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, and Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, which I just finished today and adored.

It was one of the best reading months I’ve had in a long time! As you can see, I did still read quite a few non-graphic novels during the month and I’d really like to start balancing out my reading a bit more. This has been a great year for me and non-fiction, and now comics, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Speaking of non-fiction, March is all about reading about nature and gardening. Michael and I are doing our first balcony garden this year and we’ve already started planting our seeds in starters in the apartment. We’re going to try and grow broccoli, hot peppers, tomatoes, and a lot of herbs. I also got a strawberry kit that goes in your windowsill. I have high hopes for all of them!

All of that is to say that I’m very interested in this month’s theme, too, so I’m going to keep on reading with Debi, Chris, and Heather! Here’s my list for this month:

march reading

 

  1. The Blueberry Years by Jim Minick
  2. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  3. Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan
  4. The Quarter-Acre Farm by Spring Warren

I have been meaning to read Animal Vegetable Miracle for a long time and I found the rest of these books by browsing the “books like” Animal Vegetable Miracle category on a few different sites. All but the Pollan will be available for me on Monday, so I’m excited to dig in (pun intended).

Thank you again, Debi, for coming up with such awesome themes and getting me to read things that normally would have taken a back burner! 2013 is already turning into one of my best reading years.

March Reading – Possession Readalong #readbyatt

byattIt’s officially March, which means two things: spring is almost here and the Possession readalong is here. Kim and I have been chatting about doing a readalong for Possession by AS Byatt for a few weeks now, because we have both tried to read this book on our own, but never made it through. I even convinced my book club to read it, but then I couldn’t go to the meeting that month!

This isn’t a very stressful readalong. You can feel free to join in on your blog or Twitter, using the hashtag  #readbyatt. (It was surprisingly difficult to come up with a short enough hashtag that made sense!) We’ll also post once week about the book. Here’s the schedule we came up with:

March 11: Chapters 1-6
March 18: Chapters 7-13
March 25: Chapters 14-19
April 1: Chapter 20-End

I know March 11 is soon, but we made the first section a little bit shorter, so you can hopefully  join in. As Kim mentioned in her post, we’re not doing official sign ups for this one, but we hope you’ll let us know in the comments (or on Twitter!) if you’re joining in.  If you’re like Kim and I and you’ve had Possession on your TBR for as long as we have, I hope you’ll be able to read along with us!

This week in…

reading.

You know what I needed after finally finishing Game of Thrones? Graphic Novels/Comics February! There is nothing like reading comics to boost your numbers self-esteem. It’s also just nice to give into the medium. I’ve two very long, involved fantasy novels the last two months and comics are the perfect change of pace. It’s also hard not to devour them. I try to savor each panel and make sure that I’m really paying attention. So far, my favorite comic has been Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks and Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Fair warning: don’t read Saga on a crowded subway train. People always read over your shoulder when you read comics, and occasionally remark on said comics, and that would have been an interesting conversation. I am going to do a full review of Saga, but I really loved it. I can’t wait until July for the next full installment. Anyone know where I can buy the monthly installments?

television


Starting sometime in the middle of 2012, I decided to start watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn’t really get into it, but would watch an episode here and there. Then something happened about halfway through season one (just like you said it would) and suddenly I was head-over-heels in love. Now I am halfway through season four and still so happy with the show. I just watched one of the best episodes, and possibly one of my favorite hours of television, “Hush” (S4, E10). The episode is almost completely silent, except for some excellent, atmospheric music, because the monster of the week has taken everyone’s voices. It’s perfect and funny and genuinely creepy. It’s an episode that I can see myself rewatching.

food.

It’s the superbowl! But not I’m not even sure I could tell you who is playing. (The Ravens? Right? But I couldn’t tell you who the other team is. I looked it up on Wikipedia and promptly forgot.) Superbowl Sunday is, for me, an eating holiday. I don’t watch the game and right now don’t host or attend any parties, but Michael and I cook yummy finger foods to snack on all day. On the menu for tomorrow? Homemade chex mix, which made our apartment smell like Christmas all day, How Sweet Eats blue cheese potato skins, and spinach artichoke dip.

family.

My sister is in town for the Fun. concert. I’m pretty jealous! We are getting lunch today before she heads home and I’m pretty excited about that! We’re trying a new restaurant near my office, which will hopefully be a possible new lunch place.

misc.

I feel like this week was really busy, but I can’t remember what I did. I worked for 6 days straight, but other than that, I can’t really remember what I did in the evenings. I guess it wasn’t very memorable! I have had a bad flair up of migraines lately, so I think I did a lot of going to bed early and relaxing, waiting for them to pass. I get aura migraines, which make it hard to see much of anything. They’re very inconvenient.

I’m excited to get home this afternoon and relax with a comic, a beer, and some delicious Superbowl food. It’s going to be a perfect afternoon, I can feel it. Enjoy your Sunday!

January 26 – Oh, my God! It’s January 26!

I’m not exactly sure how six days passed between my bookshelf post and this post, but do know that I was working on blog posts, just not ones that I wanted to publish immediately. I wanted them to sit. And that feels in the spirit of this project, so I am moving on. And I promise to never ever promise to write every day, because all I do is apologize a lot.

Until next month when I promise to write a review of a comic a day!

So, I thought I’d catch you up on what I’ve been doing this week.

1) I went to the Macy’s on 34th St. Holy crap that place is big. I asked a friend to go with me and she said, “No, that place is huge and people walk slow.” And I pffed a little bit and said suuuuuure, but yes, it is huge and people walk really slow. It’s bright and overwhelming, but also kind of pretty to look at. I don’t know that I would want to spend more than an hour there, which is what I did, but I looked for some shoes, picked something up for Michael, and went on home. If you’re ever at the Macy’s on 34th St and you need something to eat, Koreatown is literally right around the corner and there are some great, cheap Korean places that you should check out.

2) I want flat black slouchy ankle boots, but they aren’t in style anymore. I have looked everywhere. It used to be that you couldn’t go into a shoe store without seeing a dozen pairs of the same black slouchy flat boot, but apparently they aren’t in style anymore. If I had known this would happen, I would have bought a dozen pair. I had a pair and wore them out, then I bought another, but they are pretty much unwearable at this point too. I found a pair from Target that are somewhat similar, but they have a heel and they are fake leather. So, hopefully they work. I have to walk a mile to work (in the snow! uphill both ways!) and about half the time I have to stand on the subway for 40 minutes. So my shoes have to be comfortable and work appropriate, because I am the laziest and I don’t like walking to work in one pair of shoes and wearing another pair once I get there. This is why I wore my snow boots around the office every day this week. It was cold.

3) I read Game of ThronesI have been slowly plugging through this. I like reading long books, but I have to take breaks and read other books, which makes it go even slower. I just like to feel accomplished. I really like Game of Thrones and I am excited to start watching the show. I think I’ll be done before January is over at which point I’ll start reading comics!

4) I picked up a lot of comics at the library and I have more coming in on Monday! Ah! I’m so excited about this. I don’t know if I am going to be able to wait until February to start reading. I’ve started picking my way through Hark! A Vagrant, which is much larger than I thought it would be. I’m also ridiculously excited about Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

5) I discovered that I’m really interested in neo-noir as a genre. I’ve always known that I enjoyed it, but while I was writing up my review for The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (coming on Monday!), I realized just how much I want to go deeper into the genre. Anything that even has the tiniest of noir sensibilities is something that I am immediately drawn to. I mean, I grew up watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit – the genre has been part of my cultural landscape since I was a kid. This idea of a hardboiled detective, with his femme fatale, his cynicism and shady city streets has been familiar to me all along. An idea for a project is forming. I want to know more about the genre, I want to know more about the origins of the genre. I have to come up with a more detailed plan, but I want to be a noir expert.

6) I have one audiobook credit before I cancel my Audible membership. Suggestions??? I am horribly indecisive when it comes to this thing.

January 15 – Blog about someone else’s blog

There are a lot of things running through my head lately, but one of them recently was how much I miss being in school. I miss a lot of things about school and learning (NOT homework), but the thing I miss most is taking a topic and becoming something of an “expert” on it. Obviously not a real expert, but more knowledgeable than your average person because you’ve read dozens of articles and several books on the topic.

College made me this type of expert on the beat generation, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and environmental poetry in Latin America. I learned about psycholinguistics and the History of the Spanish Language and phonology. And I miss it.

So when Debi blogged about her year of themed reading, it immediately reminded me of this hyper focus that you get when you take a class in something. I absolutely love the idea of focusing all your reading energy into one goal for a short amount of time. The possibilities are endless! You can focus on an author and read their entire oeuvre. You could focus on a topic and get a lot of different opinions about it. You could focus on a genre or a theme or a time period. Endless.

I don’t know if I’m ready for a year of themed reading, but I’d like to take at least two months this year to focus on something that I want to know more about, whether it’s a time period in literature (I’m thinking 1920s-30s) or a specific author or linguistics. I’m going to think about this for a bit, but for now I’m going to cheer Debi on. Thank you for the wonderful idea!

(The more I think about it, though, the more I think I might have to join in Graphic Novels Month in February. Yes, Debi it does sound absolutely heavenly!)

January 14 – Reflect

We’re almost to the mid point of the month and I’ve realized that I’m running out of “new” things to do and post about. Today is Monday, for example, and I’ve gone to Masala Bhangra like I promised, but I already posted about that. I cooked some dinner. I read a little bit. I watched TV. I talked to a friend. There’s not much time left in the day after dance, dinner, and writing to add something else and I don’t want to this month to get overwhelming, right?

For today, I thought I would reflect on how this month has gone so far. You see, I started this project as a way to fight the post-holiday-blues. January, February and March are long, cold months when I often find myself frustrated and sad for reasons that seem to be purely seasonal. Spring helps and summer is wonderful and fall is my favorite and then it’s the holidays and afterward we do it all again.

So far, though, I haven’t felt those blues. I’ve had rough days, sure, but not that constant feeling of blah. I think it is at least partially because I have been doing things and I refuse to slow down, but I also think it is because I’ve been writing about my day at the end of it. I’m not even doing too many things that are different. They are mostly things that I did inconsistently, but making a commitment to be consistent. I went to the gym before this month, but I’m determined to make a schedule of it and keep it. I wrote before this month, but not regularly. So I can’t even really point to the addition of these things as the source.

Reflecting on what I’ve done during the day is helping me feel calm about it all. It’s helping me remember that I am making an effort to make each day matter. Even on the days I am lazy and don’t do much other than watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer or catch up on Downton Abbey, I do it because it’s what I need to recharge. Writing each day helps me figure out what exactly I did that day that was meaningful, what helped me stay on this road, and for that I’m grateful. Sometimes it also helps me figure out what didn’t work.

I used to journal quite regularly, but stopped after a while. I just lived through the day, why did I need to hash out the details again? Once I started blogging, I didn’t feel the need for that journal. My early days of blogging, though, read more like a personal journal for a public space. It’s clear that I should incorporate more of that into my blogging once I’m not blogging every day, but I don’t think this will become a purely personal blog. It’s still about the words: books, poems, stories, writing. But I want there to be a place for this in my life, whether it is a handwritten journal or a digital one.

The motto for this month has really been do anything, but do it meaningfully. Writing it down at the end of the day puts it into perspective. For that, I’m happy.

January 2 – Write 500 words every day

Right now, as you read this, I’m driving up the east coast back home from my Christmas vacation. This vacation felt like a whirlwind and I’m disappointed that it’s over. I could use another day of reading by the Christmas tree in my pajamas. Of course, since I’m going to spend 8 hours today in the car, I’m not entirely sure I’m going to complete this goal today, but it’s an important one.

I keep saying to myself that I want to write. I want to be able to call myself a writer. Without some consistent writing, though, I don’t feel like I deserve that label. 500 words is a manageable number. It’s a number I know I can accomplish. Unlike previous failed attempts, see every NaNoWriMo ever, I’m not going to be working on a specific project. Hopefully this will kick start some ideas!

So, the big question: do my daily blog posts count? They are comparably short blog posts, and I’m working on them in chunks. I’m going to try and reach the 500 words without counting blog posts, but in the spirit of keeping this a relatively stress-free endeavor, let’s say the blog posts can count if I need them to.

I have a few other writing goals, all of which will be helped out by writing 500 words a day. Like the every day blog post, the idea of this one is to make writing a habit. You see, I know that I want to write. I talk about writing all the time. But actually sitting down and doing it? I read and read advice on writing and they all say mostly the same thing: write even when you haven’t been hit by inspiration.

So, that’s what I’m going to do!

January 1 – Post Every Day

Happy New Year!

When I was coming up with goals for this month of doing things (clever name, I know), I wanted to come up with things that are simple, but meaningful. The goal isn’t to start something that I won’t finish, but instead to come up with things that will have a positive impact on my day to day life.

This blog means a lot to me and posting quality posts with some regularity is something that I need to work on. After a month of posting every day, I doubt I’ll be able to continue that kind of schedule, but hopefully it will become more like a habit than it is now.

Beyond making blogging a habit, I also want to reflect on all the things I do this month to see what works. It’s kind of like my own Happiness Project, without the research. I’m just blindly picking random things that I think will be fulfilling, stress-relieving, and happy-making.

 

 

4 years later

On December 28, 2008, I sat down at my computer and started this blog. I was home on winter break without a thing to read and, in my search for something new, I found a book blog. I knew that I had found my people.

It has been a whirlwind of a four years. You have been my companion through my college graduation, graduate school, a change in plans to work in publishing, and more moves than I can count. My life changed in a lot of ways over the last four years, but you have been there every step of the way. You’ve been there for me, even when I wasn’t the best blogger (like now). You’ve motivated me, you’ve encouraged me, and most of all, you’ve recommended books.

There are more books in my life because of you. There are more books that I might never have considered reading if it weren’t for you: every single of one of you who wakes up every day and thinks, “What book can I share with the world today?” There have been a lot of changes over the years, in my life and within book blogging as a whole, but I wouldn’t change anything about you.

Really, truly, thank you for listening. You have made me a better reader and a better writer. You’ve opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. But, most of all, you’ve been my friend. Thank you.

[image credit: flickr user Joccay, creative commons license]