Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm not handling turning 29 well, despite the fact that we're two month in. The approaching big 3-0 is not sitting well with me. I just feel really, well, old. And I know some of you are rolling your eyes, and believe me, I get that. Thirty is not old. I'm just really attached to my twenties and have some things I'd like to get resolved before I creep into the decade that precedes middle age.

[10 months to live it up]

 2.  Speaking of age, I just saw that Kristen Bell is actually almost three years older than me. This news makes me incredibly happy, for some reason. I guess given her role on Veronica Mars and her lurking presence on Gossip Girl I assumed she was a lot younger. But she's not. Score.

3. Following literary agents on twitter is one of the most motivating things ever- they're constantly tweeting about contracts, edits, query letters, and all that jazz. As I read over my feed all I can think is "I want to be part of this!" And so I write blog posts about random tidbits of bullshit instead of anything substantial. Makes total sense.

4. Last week I wrote about people needing to calm the eff down in regards to healthifying baked goods. I'm now back to say that people need to calm the eff down regarding healthifying Super Bowl snacks. For Christ's sake, let people eat cheese and drink beer! Just leave them alone. No man wants Greek yogurt in his dip, okay?

5. I really don't give a crap if people care if I chew on my pens. They're mine. I go to the store, plop down some hard earned cash, and take them home or to work with me. They're mine to write with. And to bend the little plastic clippy things off. And to chew on. You know, for the record.

6. This year's yearbook may be the death of me. Our final deadlines are sneaking up far too fast and with a small staff we're scrambling a little bit. Everything will get done, and done well, but in the mean time I have to be thankful that I thrive off stress (at work, anyway).

7. My lack of ability to do this has become quite the source of frustration for me:

[Source: Lululemon]

I understand that most people can't do a tripod headstand, but I'm really having trouble comprehending why I can't. I have a fairly solid core and enough arm strength to hold your standard L-pose for days, but I can only get to the point where my arms are resting on my legs. I mean before, when I was terrified of breaking my neck, sure, but I thought I moved past that. Sometimes we know what to do and our bodies just fail us, I guess.

8. I bought two books the other day. I know. I know! But I was in a terrifically horrible mood and out of wine (this seems to be a trend...), so I exercised my credit card.  One of them is serious. One of them is ridiculous.

9. I'm a firm believer in a weekly playlist for the ride to work. It has to be upbeat and fun so that I'm read to go twenty-five minutes later. Each playlist gets a unique title (this week it's the "I < 3 Chomsky" playlist, last week is was "Apples are Awesome," and I think the prior week's was "Copacabana"). I'm currently listening to Lady Gaga, Tegan and Sara, Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harrris featuring Florence, and Dr Dre (seriously, is it just me, or do you too all the sudden smell phantom weed when "The Next Episode" comes on? No, I'm not lighting up on the way to work... or ever... kids, don't do drugs...).

[No shame, no shame. Also, the "< 3" is mocking; I hate that symbol]

 10. I have been thoroughly convinced that I need to watch The Girls (apparently I look like one of them?). My husband and I just started the first season and I'm totally sold.

January Reviews- It's Almost 2014

[We want these, yes? Source: Anthropologie Relevance: Minimal]
We're one-twelfth closer to 2014, folks! We're almost there! Jury's still out on whether or not 2013 is shaping up to be better than 2012. We'll see. 

While looking at my January reads it occurred to me that three of the five weren't really my picks, so to speak, but ones I read for either Penguin/Viking or Amazon Vine. Frankly, I don't really love that. My personal TBR pile is a beast and agreeing to take on books to review isn't helping the cause. On the other hand, who can refuse free books that have actual potential?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
384 pages
I already did a fairly extensive review here, but in a nutshell it's about a young, unemployed English woman who ends up working for a quadriplegic who has a death wish. 

Verdict: I thought I was going to hate it, that it would be too sentimental. It is, but in the right way. It was a nice surprise.

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
288 pages
I reread this (it had been about 12 years) for work and definitely have more of an appreciation of the novel this time around (I'm going to assume everyone has read it and spare you the blurb). I plan on doing a more extensive post on the difference between reading it as a teenager and teaching it as an adult here in a few weeks. 

Verdict: You have to at least once.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
304 pages
I wanted so, so desperately to fall head-over heals in love with this book. I was prepared to be enamored and make some room on my top ten list. Unfortunately, it was a little bit of a mess. The premise, a man who begins working at a 24-hour bookstore that is really just the front for a code-breaking secret society is pretty fantastic. The execution left something to be desired.

Verdict: With a heavy heart and teary eyes, I have to say no.

The Antagonist by Lynn Coady
304 pages
This short novel is about an ex-hockey player brute that realizes an old college buddy has turned his life into a novel. Understandably, he's pretty pissed and decides to write email after email to the author, while simultaneously crafting his own version of events. 

Verdict: Wasn't perfect, but it definitely had some really interesting parts (and is a fast read). Nothing kept pulling me back, though- it wasn't going to keep me up at night or prevent me from going to yoga. 

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr
352 pages
I already wrote about this here, but I have to say again it was a really great read. There were a few parts where I had to double-take, since the narrative isn't linear, but I prefer the occasional moments of challenge over boredom and ease any day.

Verdict: It's probably not for everyone; it's a little crass and the main character can be a bit frustrating ("get off the island, stop drinking, and get back to life!"), but I'd definitely recommend it. 

1,632 pages

Top Ten Tuesday- Frustration


Holy hell, I know a thing or seventy-five about frustration. But for the sake of my sanity let's just stick to characters tonight- The Broke and the Bookish ask us for the top ten most frustrating characters, which I think is an interesting concept. Sometimes I am fully aware that characters are deliberately frustrating, but I think that sometimes they're the result of poor writing. A mix of both: 

1. The Girls from The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett- I'm going to be honest- I found this memoir of three friends who abandon their lives and travel the world for a year frustrating because I felt like they held back. There had to be more drama! More sex! More scandal!

2. Ron Weasley from Harry Potter by JK Rowling- Stop being so whiny! Be cooler! Stop being okay with the side-kick role!

3. Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- Make up your damn mind! Pick a boy! Stop being so melodramatic!

4. Cheryl from Wild by Cheryl Strayed- Since this is a nonfiction book I guess I was frustrated with the both the main "character" and author. She made the stupidest decision sometimes! While it ended up okay, deciding to hike the PCT was even pretty reckless. Her choices as to what to include in the book too were a little off at times, as well. 

5. Gregor* from The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka- I'm sorry, but if I woke up as a mothereffing bug I'd be a little pissed. In fact, I would demand that someone help me out. But no, Gregor opts to chill at home. A mothereffing bug. 

6. Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien- Whiner to the max. You don't want people partying in your house and eating your food? Tell them to leave. You don't want to go on an epic adventure? Don't go. Not liking the wild? Use your ring and hightail it home. 

7. Golden Richards* from The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall- Sick of your life being problematic? Only marry one woman! We're trouble enough! And while you're at it, stop screwing around with additional women! Make better decisions, man.

8. Raskolnikov* from Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky- This is one of my favorite books, but seriously, don't murder people if you don't want to feel like shit later. And if you feel so guilty turn yourself in or figure out a way to get over it. 

9. Chris McCandless from Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer- Again, a real character, but I found his inability to adequately prepare for his trek extremely infuriating. You can still live off the land and get in touch with your inner chi by bringing a map, compass, and some cash. 

10. Sally Jay from The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy- Constant flip-flopping between "oh, I want to be so independent" and "please, men, buy thing for me, pay for my stuff." 

* I'm being dramatic. I understand the literary integrity, don't you worry.

A Potter Necklace

Remember that giveaway I had last month from Coryographies? Just wanted to share a quick peak and one of her awesome new designs featuring Harry Potter

[Little less than $50 on Etsy]

Ridiculously adorable.

By the Book- Thomas Keller's Blueberry Muffins

For those of you who don't "know me, know me," I feel guilty pretty easily. Guilty that I didn't walk to dogs, guilty that I forgot my reusable grocery bags at home, guilty I left work when the parking lot was still full, guilty that I drank two Diet Cokes in one day instead of the compromised one. And I'm not even Catholic! Anyway, lately I've been feeling increasingly guilty about ignoring all of my beautiful cookbooks, showering all of my attention on Pinterest instead. So in order to right my culinary wrongs, I've decided to try to use a recipe a week from an actual book. This week: Thomas Keller's Blueberry Muffins from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook by Sebastien Rouxel.

[Don't worry, I went grocery shopping and now have more than just wine and OJ to drink, although I'm not sure one needs anything more...]

I'm not going to copy the recipe (because I'll feel guilty), but it was one of the most basic ones in the book that didn't require special ingredients or equipment (I really wanted to make croissants, but I couldn't find a store that carried diastatic malt powder). For those of you don't know, Thomas Keller is the incredibly talented chef behind many restaurants including the famous (and crazy-expensive) French Laundry in Napa. He's not really a "throw A and B and C in a bowl, stir, and pop in the oven" kind of guy. I definitely learned a few things:

- Legit/European chefs measure in terms of grams; most of the conversions to standard US cooking measurements were there, but they were sometimes awkward (ex: 1/2 cup + 2 1/8 TBS flour).
- Almond flour is really effing expensive- thirteen bucks for a small bag at the "cheap" grocery store (for the streusel topping).
- Molasses, honey, and minimal granulated sugar make great sweeteners for muffins.
- Frozen blueberries added to the batter immediately before cooking reduces the typical blueberry "bleed" factor.
- Letting your batter "rest" overnight is really annoying, but worth it. Keller says that this allows the flour to soak up the wet ingredients better, making for a moister muffin. He was so very, very correct.
- I desperately want to go eat at the actual restaurant, Bouchon, at the Venetian in Vegas. I find nothing wrong with making the three and a half hour trip for the sole purpose of fine dining, but that's just me...

[The streusel topping, made from butter, two types of flour, and sugar, was perfect]

Giveaway Winnner

And we have a winner:

Please email me this weekend at with your address (I promise I won't start stalking you or toilet papering your house). Thanks for reading and entering!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm hosting a giveaway of Tiny Little Plastic Miracles- really great book. Enter here.

2. People should stop health-ifying recipes. Cookies, cakes, and brownies should be chalk-full of real butter, sugar (not agave), and chocolate. Stop substituting with Greek yogurt, for the love of God.

3. Everyone should go to a roller derby bout, a Lady Gaga concert, and see Zero Dark Thirty. Preferably in one weekend. 

[such a great show]
 4. Go 49ers! First it was the Giants, and then the Democrats in November- all my teams are winning.

5. I was pleased with all the mature, thoughtful responses I received on my Why I Don't Read YA post. I hesitated as to whether or not I should write it for a long time, since I know it's definitely the genre of choice for many right now. 

6. Speaking of YA, one question that arose while writing the above post was the difference between a bildungsroman and YA. I'd like to say that it's the intended audience, but I know that many YA writers know that full-fledged adults are now readers, so I'm not sure if that works. Food for thought.

7. I seriously loved Michelle Obama's eye rolling at the inauguration lunch. Sassy.

8. I need to learn how to make buttonholes on my sewing machine so that I can make pajama pants this weekend. My mom was supposed to teach me, but I guess I scared her off.

9. Yesterday was National Handwriting Day, which reminded me of the horrid elementary controversy as to whether or not we should take valuable time to teach little kids to write cursive. Eff cursive, that's what I say. How about learning to type?

10. Is it weird that I'm jealous of how my dog spends most of his day? 

"Sponsored" Review + Giveaway- Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

[Available from Viking, February 7, 2013]
In a hurry? I don't blame you. Scroll all the way down for the giveaway. 

Sometimes I'm a little hesitant to get too enthused when I receive a book to review- it's a little like when someone you barely know gives you a sweater for Christmas. I suppose it's an awkward "Why is this person picking things out for me? They barely know me!" sort of complex. 

That being said, I am happy to report that after reading Ron Currie Junior's upcoming Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles I didn't feel that way at all. In fact, this would absolutely be a book I would have bought myself. Who doesn't want to read a book about a writer who ends up faking his own suicide only to become ridiculously famous? Here's ten reasons why you too should read it:

1. He pokes fun at Nicholas Sparks- Sucker.

2. The diverse settings- A downtrodden tropical island, the East Coast, and the actual Mount Sinai (as in Egypt... not New York). 

3. The romance- Emma is the woman that stole Ron the narrator's heart (perhaps Ron the author, too) in middle school and hasn't let go. Their relationship is complicated and full of ups and downs. 

4. The sex- Speaking of Emma... Currie's sex scenes aren't awkward, but instead equally disturbing and hot (this does not mean I'd like to be punched in bed nor do I condone sexual violence, just to clarify).

5. The cover is pretty damn awesome- Note the upper right hand corner. The only thing real is Emma...

6. Gifts of teeth- Nothing says "I'm sorry" and "please call off the caballeros from beating the shit out of me" like the gift of your own teeth.

7. The father-son relationship- Throughout the novel Ron tells the story of his father's slow death from cancer, something that obviously rocked him to the very core. The emotion is just right; it's not sappy, just genuine. 

8. The robots- Did you know the singularity is near? It's going to happen, you guys. And when it does we're totally screwed... or are we?

9. The courtroom testimony- Probably my absolute favorite scene occurs towards the end when Ron is on trial. His depiction of what truth is in terms of novel writing is perfect. 

10. There's a Say Anything reference- Boom box lifting would have solved everything.

Random tidbits and jokes aside, this was a book about relationships, identity, truth, and despair. The format is different- each sort of train of thought, memory, or narrative section is told in short, unlabeled chapter of sorts that ends up making it an extremely fast read. The whole blurring of the narrator/author line is also worth careful examination.

Want to read it? Viking sent me an extra copy. In honor of the main character, tell me where you would go if you decided to fake your own death. Too morbid? Tell me what you're reading. Winners will be selected Saturday at noon. Few will enter... one will win....

Top Ten Tuesday- Underwater Hotels, Morocco, and the Central Valley

First off, a huge thanks to Kristin at Designer Blogs for my new look. Long overdue!

This week The Broke and the Bookish are asking us where we would like to see more books set. I know there are books that take place in each of the places below (especially those in their own language), I just don't know them.

1. Normal, blue-collar, workplace environments- I've frequently thought about writing a book about a group of people who work at, say, a grocery store or hair salon. The dynamics would be interesting to explore.

2. California's Central Valley- Obviously I'm a bit biased here, since that's where I grew up, but who doesn't get excited when they see their hometown mentioned in a book? It's such a different world from what people normally think when they consider California- it's more of a midwest feel.

3. Southern California (not including Los Angeles or the beach areas)- I hate that people assume that when you say you live in Southern California you're just a hop, skip, and a jump away from palm trees and the Pacific. It's not all fun in the sun, let me tell you that.

4. The Desert- Whenever I drive to Vegas I'm always intrigued by the tiny little towns (or even just random trailers) out in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There's something mysterious about desert life and the people that choose to seclude themselves in the heat and sand. 

5. Scandinavia- Other than The Millenium series, I'd like to find some great book set in Norway, Sweden, or Finland. Sometimes I think that because Scandinavia seems to have their shit together the rest of the world forgets about them.

[Source; Blue Lagoon Geothermal Pools, Iceland]
6. Iceland- I've heard it's amazing, but know very little besides the whole "Iceland is green and Greenland is icy" thing. I know they have some great geothermal pools and unique music, but that's about it. 

7. Dubai- I find the excessive riches of the city-state fascinating, in terms of what they do... and don't do with their wealth. 

8. An Underwater Hotel- How do they get down there? Do people ever spaz out? What happens if there's an earthquake/volcanic eruption/tsunamis? 

[source; El Minzah Hotel, Tangier]
9. Morocco- Something about Morocco seems a little rough, a little mysterious, and a little mystical. I would definitely read some quality Moroccan magical realism. 

10. Restaurants: I spent a few summers working in restaurants during college and know first-hand what can go on between the staff and customers. Now that I've learned to appreciate food and become interested in the actual management required of opening a new place, I'd love to see a well-written book look at it from both the food and personnel sides.

Know any great books set in the above locales? What setting would you like to see more of?

Blast from the Past

Last week my dad's cousin asked me if I'd like some books that belonged to my late great grandmother, and of course I said yes (as long as no on else wanted them, of course). They arrived the other day and it's been such a trip looking at them- they're by far the oldest thing I own. 

Two are cookbooks, The American Woman's Cookbook (copyright 1945) and the other the Blue Ribbon Cookbook (couldn't find a copyright, but there were notes dated 1948). 

The third was The Calling of Dan Matthews, by Harold Bell Wright (copyright 1909). I think what I loved most was the inscription- why don't people do that anymore? 

And then fourth, The Heath Reader (copyright 1903), a collection featuring authors such as Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

While I'm not one for antiquing or anything along those lines, I am excited to add these four books to my collection. It makes me wonder, a hundred or two hundred years from now, where my books will be (I think I'd like them incinerated and buried with me, actually). Not to mention the fact people a hundred years from now may not even own physical books. It's a little sad.

Why I Don't Read YA

There are a lot of popular things that I have chosen not to do over the years:

Ombre hair

The low carb diet 

Learn how to shuffle (dancing... not cards)

Disneyland Season Passes

Coach Bags

Carry around a small yappy dog in aforementioned Coach bag

And none of those things are necessarily bad things... they're just not for me. And I'm here today to tell you why I feel the exact same way about YA books. 

This is definitely not the popular route to take in blogging, or even the literary world, right now, but, as usual, I don't really care. And, right off the bat, let me tell you that I completely and totally understand why some people gravitate towards this genre. I mean, some people look really good with ombre hair, just not me. And Coach purses are great, well-made bags, I've just never found one that suits my tastes (I'm more of a Fossil girl myself). And the low carb diet is obviously a miracle worker, I just like cookies and pasta way too much.

And my opposition towards most YA books isn't derived from this up-and-coming camp that thinks they're corrupting today's youth. Let me tell you, today's youth is already pretty crazy- it makes no difference if they read about dystopias, vampires, love triangles, or other various situations that conjure teenage angst. In terms of appropriate content, again, they're making babies and getting caught with weed (or worse) the way it is. Does it cause depression or result in a lack of hope about the future of humanity? Not so much. Basically, today's youth will go through a hyper-emotional period of experimentation whether they read YA books or not.

My dislike partially comes from the fact that I feel like many of these books aren't challenging on a literary level. I've read The Hunger Games and The Age of Miracles (I don't care what anyone says, it's YA) and neither knocked my socks off. I've flipped through my students' books and looked at first chapters of others online and I'm just not overly impressed with the writing. Of course all books don't exactly have to be Pulitzer Prize candidates, but as a whole the dramatic, adjective-heavy, "I'm trying really hard to be _______" just doesn't work for me as a reader. Strike one.

Strike two: the subject matter. I know, I know, there's a plethora of topics that YA novels delve into, just like regular big kid books. But there's a lot of similarities and sub genres that simply aren't my taste. I generally don't do vampires, parallel worlds, wizards (unless their names rhyme with Shmarry Flotter), warewolves, zombies, fortune telling, or time travel. And then there's the teenage angst- the romance, the friendship issues, the family problems, the "I've made mistakes but I'm still a good person" plight, and just general "woe is me, no one understands me because I'm seventeen" nonsense. That being said, I do like coming of age stories, but not when they're being written to fit YA fiction, if that makes sense. For example, Catcher in the Rye; JD Salinger didn't write it with the intent of marketing it to teenagers with a boldly designed cover and aspirations of a series. It was authentic and genuine, he wasn't forcing it into a pre-labeled box.

Speaking of series writing- there are so many in YA! For the most part, I'm not a fan of  (JK Rowling and Laura Ingalls Wilder are exceptions). I don't like leaving a book on any sort of a cliff hanger; it's one thing to allow the reader to imagine the ending, but another to require that they read yet another book in order to obtain true closure. I know many would disagree with me, but I feel like series writing is a little gimmicky and sometimes seems like a total marketing strategy (and a very successful one). Plus, I have trouble with commitment- it's been years since I read the first book in The Millennium Series and have yet to return. 

As I read blogs and talk to people, I feel like YA fiction almost becomes an addiction, and I don't want to drink the Kool-Aid. So many pick up The Fault in Our Stars and BOOM! They've completely abandoned the classics and contemporary adult fiction. I guess it just makes me a little depressed that YA authors are the ones getting these impressive book deals when there are some truly talented adult authors with staying power that are overlooked because their novels may not sell as many copies. And that idea of staying power; my gut tells me that in ten years YA fiction isn't going to be nearly as popular as it is today.

Plus, I work with teenagers all damn day. I really, really don't want to go home and read books starring the hormonal little creatures I just got done hanging out with for seven hours. I see their drama and their growing pains front and center. I see the backstabbing, the drama caused by break ups, and the stress caused by familial problems all the time. On the more positive side, I witness the happiness of new relationships, the excitement over college acceptances, and the optimism that comes with a new job at Starbucks. I spend more time with young adults that I do regular adults; please don't make me read about them too. 

If you're a YA reader you've thought of at least twenty-seven reasons why I'm wrong and are starting to hate me. Good! You should be defensive about what you read. Knowing what we like is important too, though, and me saying I don't like YA is no different from someone else saying they're not into sci-fi, fantasy, or bodice-ripping romance novels. But I'm not completely opposed to the genre and have had my moments of intrigue when I've seen John Green books repeatedly. So, you YA lovers, convince me. I dare you.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. We have a pretty large tub in our master bath that everyone always "oohs and aahs" over but the truth is I've used it less than ten times since we've moved in. I get so bored waiting for it to fill up. And, a tiny part of me is worried about so much water on the second story. I've seen horror stories about leaks... and worse. 

2. This weekend just cannot come fast enough. I'm going to a roller derby match Saturday night with some friends, and then the Lady Gaga concert on Sunday night (seriously and willingly- do not ask how much we paid for our tickets, and no, my husband isn't going). Not to mention the fact that Monday is a holiday. 

3. I feel like all administrators/bosses should have suggestion boxes for their employees. That way I could suggest things like "the women's room needs toilet seat covers on a consistent basis" or "giving me three days notice for all day trainings is a little rough" or even "it would be cool if the out of class pass vests were capes instead of the ugliness we've currently got going on."

4. While I wasn't as enthusiastic about Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore as I thought, I loved one of the bars Robin Sloan created (or maybe it exists, who knows). There are classics at the tables and the patrons write notes during their visits. I love this, as long as people aren't assholes, anyway.

5. I have a thing for listening to female comedians read their own memoirs on Audible. More to come. I see the makings of a guilty pleasure.

6. A student greeted me on Monday, after our break, with, "I hated Catcher in the Rye and I thought it was boring and useless." Well then. While some students have caught on to the "I don't personally like it, I do see it's literary importance" this student has not. 99% of the time when students say things like this I reply with a nice smile and a "well, maybe you just don't understand it." And then I raise me eyebrows, shrug, and walk away. 


7. I made this salted caramel frosting and put it on brownies last weekend. Try it, you'll like it. If everyone ate these the world would be a much happier and even fatter place. 

Top Ten Tuesday- 2013 Debuts

First day back to work in twenty-four days: check. I'm sure tomorrow will be easier... On the bright side, I'm now dealing with something like 140 teenagers instead of a 165 or whatever it was. All I know is that during lunch we calculated how many days until summer break, and, let me tell you, it ain't pretty. I like my job, I like my job, I like my job.

Anyway, Top Ten Tuesday. The Broke and The Bookish are asking us to come up with our Top Ten Debuts for the year. Honestly, I don't know of ten first-time authors this year, so I'm taking some liberty with the post. Bear with me.

[guys, it's only $65,000- source]
1. The Land Rover diesel-electric hybrid- In my head I will one day be willing to triple my car payment for a Land Rover. I've always said that one of my stipulations will be that they'll have to come out with a hybrid, and apparently they've taken my desire to heart (thanks, guys). I'm not so happy about the redesign, but we're headed down the right path. 

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessl- She's been gone so long that this book is basically like a debut again, since she's going to have to basically remake her reputation.

3. 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake- Speaking of being gone so long... Six years! Apparently, like Land Rover, he too has taken my desire to heart. Thanks, JT.

4. Overalls- Fine, fine, one last "they're so old they're new" item. Overalls! Both Lucky and Harper's Bizarre say they're making a comeback for spring 2013. Fingers crossed. I super-duper love overalls. 

5. Idiopathy by Sam Byers- Well, well, well, another book makes the list. Set during a Mad Cow outbreak, this book is a satire but also about love and lonliness (is it just me or do the two always end up hand in hand?).

[the cover is snazzy]
6. The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma- I'm a sucker for books about people writing books, what can I say? This book has made it on quite a few lists for 2013, so I'm eager to see if it's worth the hype (ahem, Penguin people).

7. Ballistics by DW Wilson- Mostly, I'm just interested to see what kind of chops  the winner of the inaugural Man Booker Scholarship has got.

8. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan- This debut Irish author tells the story of 21 people effected by the recession in the Irish countryside. I'm really, really intrigued to see how he manages to handle the heft of that many unique voices. 

9. The 2013 [insert high school where I teach] Yearbook: I am so, so, so unbelievably tired of advising yearbook right now. I adore my staff, but January and February are really taxing with final deadlines. We've switched formats to something called chronological, and while it looks great it was a lot to take on. 

10. The Untitled Monkey on My Back by Me: Fine, I have no plans of publishing this year (or possibly ever), but it would be nice to finish it and let the four people I've carefully selected to read it have a go (everyone who knows me and reads this is repeating "not me, not me" while crossing their fingers).

Burnt Pockets

While I'm fairly decent as saving money, gift cards burn a quick hole in my pocket. And now that my birthday and Christmas are over I could finally cash them in:

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- I've meant to read this for, like, twelve years. I was thinking it might be interesting to read while I'm teaching Catcher in the Rye (or maybe not).

2. Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison- Only the STUPIDEST title ever! It has actually gotten really good reviews and, like running, sometimes I need some inspiration. Getting to class has been really easy while off, but I know I may need some motivation once work starts.

3. Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra- A Chilean novel about an earthquake that changes lives forever.

4. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple- I have heard nothing but great things about this book from sources I trust, plus the cover is pretty great. 

5. White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse- She had me at medical student. Don't worry, it gets much deeper than that, set in Africa during the Apartheid. 

I'm super glad I wasn't one of those suckers that said one of their resolutions was buying less books. As if. 

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. Oscar Nominations came out today, and while I'm definitely not the one with the knowledge or strong opinions in this household, I was happy that I've seen a few of the ones nominated (Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Silver Lining Playbook, Argo, Moonrise Kingdom, and then Zero Dark Thirty this wekend). I must admit to being pleased that The Hobbit barely made the list- take that Peter Jackson! That's what you get for trying to stretch one book into three super long movies.

[you should see this]

2. If I was rich I'd have my hair blown out every week [insert "not a blow job" joke here]. I guess technically I could afford it right now, but $40 a week on hair-related costs is probably not the best use of my hard earned cash. There's just something about a blow out that makes me happy...

3. Counting today, I only have four days left of winter break. Part of me feels like it's time to go back; when I spend too long curling my hair before meeting friends for lunch it's probably time to go back to work. When I bust out my three-year-old (but never before used) juicer to randomly make myself juice it's probably time to go back to work. When I say things to my husband like "the dogs and I were talking and.." it's probably time to go back to work. When I spend 90 minutes trying to pass one level on Lego Pirates of the Caribbean it's definitely time to go back to work (have we talked about how much I suck at video games?). You get my drift. The only problem is that I really truly despise waking up at 5:45 and being expected to be a nice human being for the following nine hours. 

4. Confession: our "book club" hasn't read a book together in a really long time. Basically we just sit around, talking and drinking, which is perfectly fine, and totally not cliche because we don't even pretend anymore.

 5. I'm this close to a blog redesign. A friend recently did hers and it looks great- I'm just being cheap (which is lame because it isn't that expensive at all). I think this might be a nice little test to determine whether or not I want to stay on this hosting site or not.

6. I really want to buy some garden wine barrel thingies (the technical term, I'm sure) to plant an herb garden and maybe some flowers this spring. Unfortunately, I really don't like getting my hands dirty (I was the kid who brought a washcloth to the dinner table because napkins didn't do a good enough job) and I'm afraid I'd slack off and the gardener would end up taking care of them. And then I'd feel bad.

7.  Click here for probably the best looking headboard ever. 

8. We watched the first episode of Downton Abbey the other night and I'm on the fence. So many characters. So many plot lines. All I know is that guy, the one with the bad leg, is probably going to go postal on all the other servants that have been being such dicks to him. Anyway, if I'm going to continue watching I should probably stop calling it "Downtown."

[so they say... source]

The People Sure Do Like Their Fantasy

I ran into "the top ten books read in the world," created by Jared Fanning, and thought that there was a good mix of expected and unexpected titles:

[Via Galley Cat via Visual News via Jared Fanning]
So, basically, we're a society of people obsessed with Jesus, Mao, wizards, magic, Southerners, vampires, Jews, and getting rich. In other words, people like fantasy, whether it be in straightforward terms of spells and dwarfs, or that in terms of living a different life, whether holier, wealthier, or of a different time period. Not one of these books is contemporary in the sense that it was placed in this world within the last fifty years. Interesting. 

If we are what we eat, then maybe we are what we read a little bit too. Personally, this is not quite a clear portrayal of how I'd like to be defined.  But apparently that's what "we" have been reading the last fifty years...

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Today I decided that after approximately 39 days I'd revisit the 50,038 word monstrosity that was my NaNoWriMo manuscript. It had been hanging over my head for weeks and I know that if there is any hope of moving forward with it I've got to become reacquainted with the project. I guess it's a bit like dating- you can't see everyone every day for a month and then expect them to stick around while you take months off. So today is important: it's either a booty call or a promise ring (seriously, who does that other than religious kids trying to justify premarital sex?).
[ring source]
My first thought, the one that has been bothering my since I ditched the bitch back on November 30, was the issue of length (size is always such an issue). Right now I'm hovering somewhere around 140 pages in terms of actual print/novel layout, and I feel like the natural end of the story is coming in the next twenty or thirty pages. I know that a lot of what I have written already will need to be expanded on, but I'm not sure how much space that will buy me. I wouldn't feel comfortable pursuing something that's less than 240 or 250 pages (that's just me). Realistically, I need to not worry about this, but I don't want the book to fall into novella territory (not that there are anything wrong with novellas).

Another problem I'm having is with the main character's ex-boyfriend (I promise, this is not a love story in any way) and his dog. He let's her have it when they break up, despite the fact that she's a terrible partner to him and, although unbeknownst to him, frequently engages in very casual sex with the janitor at her work. He needs to take Frieda (the dog) back. Or she needs to tell him that she died. Both are just too painful for me to write, but I know it's the right thing to do for the story. This, of course, really isn't a big issue, but I know as a reader the way I have it right now would bother me. I would write mean, snarky comments in my Amazon review that would tell the author that she needed to "grow a pair." 

I also know that I should read what I have so far, as a refresher. I didn't reread at all during November, since time was an issue. Part of me is tempted to continue down this "write all willy-nilly" path and plow through until I reach the end. Honestly, I don't want to. I know that it's a bit of a mess and I will naturally start editing, which I don't want to do until the end. 

I need to finish choosing character names. My main character and her siblings were easy; they were each named after a geographical location, since their father founded a travel empire of sorts. It's the other, lesser characters that trip me up. There's one character, whose purposefully generic, so I just put in a new generic name like "John," "Joe," or "Jim" every time I get to him because I can't remember which boring name I used last (my apologies if one of those are your name; but you got to admit, you're no Umeko or Quinby).

Characters are another issue- I feel like the story as a whole could benefit from a few more solid characters. This of course means additional work. I'd have to write them into what already exists and would have to develop their personalities, back stories, and importance. Again, this seems like a lot of work. 

At the end of the day the main question is whether or not this story has enough potential for me to spend time and energy continuing. I'm not at the point where I'm ready to share, so this is a decision I have to make on my own. Considering what I've already put into it I think I owe it to myself to continue. Like I said previously, I'd like to bust out a draft by the end of the school year (so the first week in June) and then spend the summer editing, getting feedback, and making next-step decisions. 

I'd like to say I'm going to actually go work on the Untitled Monkey on My Back, but I'm actually going to go stare out the window waiting for UPS to deliver the ARC of The Antagonist by Lynn Coady. But tomorrow it's totally going to happen.