Tuesday, April 01, 2014

March 2014 Books

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn (library book) - Yeah, I have a lot of issues with this book.  If you are a person struggling with OCD, this book is not going to resemble anything like your life. It's more like "hoarding" and "running away from your problems" than OCD. Also, the main character just never learns anything. I think that this is the teacher in me, but the books is told, in part, by essays the character writes that her English teacher gives her feedback on. And the character is told the same damn thing over and over and over again and she never fixes any of those mistakes. It's maddening.  And there are other things (body issues, stereotypes, blah, blah, blah) that essentially make this book absolutely one of the worst I have read in quite a long time.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Kindle book) - This was a slow burn for me. For the first third of the book, I was not really feeling it, but then! Then!  I just couldn't put it down. Look, this isn't high brow Literature. You know how the book is going to end and that's just fine.  The journey to get there is funny and poignant and full of dumb human-like behavior.  Rainbow 4 Life.

Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb (Kindle book) -  It came to my attention that I had somehow missed an installment of the In Death series. How could this happen?  So I promptly ordered it on my Kindle (part of my $39.99 refund from Amazon - woot! woot!). Anyway, this one is incredibly violent and gory and I know I say it with every book, but I am pretty sure these books are getting worse and worse. I will, of course, continue to read them all.

Super Powereds Year 1 and Year 2 by Drew Hayes (Kindle books) - I really, really, really liked these books. They were apparently originally written on a web site, so the chapters are incredibly numerous and short, but I'm quite impressed with what Hayes can do in just a few pages. Anyway, I got the first book because it was free and then I shelled out money for the second book and am now trying to catch up to Year 3 on the author's web page. It's like The Magicians by Lev Grossman, but with nicer characters who have superpowers instead of magical abilities.  I don't know if these books are for everyone, but they are making me happy these days.

The Echo by Minette Walters (paperback book) -  This book was overly complicated. And British.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (library book) -  Eh. I think John Green writes solid books, but I'm not blown away by any of them. Plus, all these kids did was smoke and drink alcohol and that drives me bonkers. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A World Where I Don't Belong

We've watched the first three seasons of Breaking Bad and I'm pretty sure that's it for me. After every episode, my husband I argue over every stupid thing in the episode and every argument is based on my claim that the main character is a bad, evil man. He's not "complicated." He's not "conflicted." He's selfish, prideful, and does very bad things.  After every episode, I rail against Walter White destroying the fabric of society and my husband does his very best impression of a conservative talk show host, declaring my spin as overly simplistic while talking about defending family and being the breadwinner. When we turned off the last episode, I turned to my husband and said, "I would rather be dead broke than live a life in which my husband knowingly participated in the deaths of countless people." Walter White didn't start making meth because he had cancer and needed to pay for treatments. He was going to "break bad" before that diagnosis came and I refuse to let his illness be an excuse for horrible behavior.

I want my entertainment to be entertaining. I don't want want my free time to be spent grappling with scenarios about the saddest parts of living in modern America.  I don't want my free time to be used with arguing about the merits of an anti-hero, the rules of the social pact, or why Team Walt must be composed of sociopaths. 

Enter The Walking Dead. I love this show. Yes, there are definitely some pacing problems and the first couple of seasons had some serious issues in how it dealt with women, but here's the deal. This is not  a world I will ever inhabit.  As soon as the zombie/plague/nuclear/natural disaster apocalypse happens, I am taking myself out of the game.  I will be one of those people they're always finding on the show who has taken some pills, crawled into bed, and died peacefully while reading the fourth Harry Potter book.

So all of the seriously sticky ethical situations that the people in this world find themselves in are simply thought experiments for me.  If it's a zombie survival of the fittest, the social pact has changed and I no longer have to worry about whether or not I am aligning myself with a sociopath because the only folks left walk a fine line between morally reprehensible and morally ambiguous. This is not a world in which I live. And, while I clearly do not live in Walter White's world, I do live in a world in which I watch people die in slow increments because of alcohol and drugs. 

I know that I'm not articulating this well. I appreciate that Breaking Bad is a good show. It's well directed, decently paced, and the actors are amazing.  But on the rare nights where we get to sit down together on the couch for an hour, I have found myself hoping that watching another season of Breaking Bad does not get suggested.

Monday, March 03, 2014

February 2014 Books

It was a tough month. Generally speaking, all I read were trashy books I was able to download onto my Kindle for free. These are not the best quality books, of course.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - So I LOVED Eleanor and Park and I was nervous about reading another Rowell book because there was no way it could be as good.  Anyway, I think it's possible that I loved Fangirl even a smidge more than Eleanor and Park and now I'm one very small step away from wearing a Rainbow Rowell 4eva tshirt (that small step being I need to, you know, make the tshirt).  Words cannot describe how much I related to Cath, the main character in this book.  There was one sub-storyline I could have done without, but this is about as good as fiction gets in my world.  Everyone, go read both Eleanor and Park and Fangirl and be ready to make your own tshirt.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater -  In this, the second book of The Raven Cycle series, we tie up no plot lines, but create 348293048 new ones to follow. I didn't adore this one as much as I did The Raven Boys, but it's mostly because the world has now been built and I'm not entirely sure I like this world.  I will be reading more of the series, but I'm not as super excited as I was before. 

And that was it. I read some trashy books on my Kindle including Blitzing Emily and Rushing Amy both by Julie Brannagh, two perfectly acceptable romances with NFL players as our dashing white knights, and Finger Prints by Barbara Delinsky, a contemporary romantic novel I first read in high school and is sort of a "comfort" book for me when things are tough.

So since this list is not so much a "list" as one book everyone should read, let's recap some of my other favorite comfort reads. Below you will find the most reread books in my collection.

1) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling - Apparently other people have different favorite books in the HP series, but this one is mine. I love the introduction of other magical worlds and the book leads you down all sorts of issues with regards to international relations between the magical and Muggle worlds. Plus, Harry's not a prat yet in this book. Anyway, I've read all the books dozens of times, but this one is the one I read if I'm going to read them out of order.

2) Just Listen by Sarah Dessen- I will defend this book with my life. It doesn't hurt that Owen is dreamy. This book manages to fill all of my needs - solid story, great characters, and an ending that doesn't make me want to throw the book against the wall.

3) Where She Went by Gayle Forman -  This is the sequel to If I Stay, but it's so much better. I've read If I Stay once and that's enough for me. But when I reread this book, I always learn something new about Adam.  If I could just do away with the last twenty pages of this book, it would be perfect.

4) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - I've written about this book so frequently here that I feel like I need a special "Betty Smith" tag.  Francie and I are soul sisters.

5) Perfect by Judith McNaught - Admitting that I love the contemporary McNaught romances is totally just outing myself as having horrible taste. But I do.  I love the overly complicated plots, the emotionally unavailable hero, and the naive heroine who has just enough quirks to be not quite perfect, but almost perfect.  Do I love the last third of the book?  Absolutely not.  But it's a great journey.

6) Naked in Death by J.D. Robb - This is the first book in the In Death series and sometimes I like to go back to it to see what Eve was like when she was still badass and I didn't have to deal with Roarke and his domestic violence.

7)  Rock Me by Cherrie Lynn - I can't believe that I'm opening admitting this, but I've read this book dozens of times. It's just the right amount of absolute escapism for me. Most of my favorites are books I love because I relate just so much to the characters (see: all time obsession for Betty Smith and Francie Nolan), but I love this book so much because it's so far from my life that I can only imagine just how wonderful it would be. (Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye gets a runner up prize for most of the same reasons. It's delightfully delicious, but the idea of making out with some guy you've never seen might skeeve you out if you think about it too much.)

What are your comfort reads? Do you even have comfort reads or is that exclusively an NGS-type thing?  My husband has taken extra care to tell me how weird it is that I reread so many books, so I believe that it is possible that not so many of us just get too attached to characters and can't let go. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February Blues

There are some pretty obvious indicators of my mental health.
1) The length of my hair.
2) The number of accessories I am wearing.
3) How late the birthday card is.
4) The number of emails languishing in my inbox.
5) The last time I updated this space.

Let's look at each one of these in excruciating detail.

Hair:  My hair is best short. I have thin hair and the longer it is, the more it looks like I am going bald.  I like it chin length or even slightly shorter.  It only gets longer when I cannot bear the thought of both calling to set up a hair appointment (talking to someone on the phone? for fuck's sake, that's not what I DO) and driving to said hair appointment and dealing with the inevitable small talk (I'm sorry, hair stylist, but I do NOT want to talk to you at all).  Since my hair is currently tied up in a ponytail, I'm going to leave it to you to figure out what that means.

Accessories:  It is 12:19 pm and I am still sitting on my couch in my pajamas.  During, let's say, the middle of summer, you will find me wearing 30489203 bracelets, layered necklaces, fun shoelaces I have color coordinated to my shirt, and earrings in every single hole in my ears.  Right now I am barely dressed. 

Birthday cards: My best friend's birthday is Sunday. I know this right now.  But I have not yet shopped for a present nor looked for a card. She will probably get some sort of over the top package from me by the end of March. If she's lucky.  (Sorry, Torilla.  I promise you will get it someday.)  I just can't convince myself that typing "fun ankh necklace" into Etsy is worth what little energy I have to expend right now.

Emails:  I have two personal emails to two very dear friends from Minneapolis sitting there staring at me in my inbox.  What I should actually do is call those two very dear friends, but I'm nervous that as soon as either one of them answered the phone, I would just burst out into tears.  (Sorry, Natalie and Erica. I will get back to you. By end of the March. Maybe.)

Blog:  I have not written here in over three weeks.  The whining that is my stock in trade is even too much for me to handle at this moment.  I promise, you, loyal blog, I will update you more regularly.  Maybe in March. 

February is hard for me. I can't go outside.  The two days this month the thermometer got above freezing, I walked for hours and hours outside.  But now the temperature is, once again, approximately too fucking cold, and I sit inside, breathing cigarette smoke that is coming up from our downstairs neighbor's apartment, huddled over my laptop, imagining those days during the summer when I walked to pick up our CSA basket and would eat a fresh tomato while strolling home. The bare minimum of things I need to get done are not getting done.

I find myself ticking off the numbers of balls I have dropped each night in a recitation of "get yourself together, NGS," which only serves to remind me that I am not good enough right now.  I am not a good wife, a good friend, a good daughter, a good employee, a good cat friend, or a good blogger. I am simply not good enough.

The only saving grace is that this is the shortest month. I'm going to put my big girl pants on and call for that hair appointment right now.  And I'm going to workout, take a shower, and get dressed in clothes that require me to put on at least one accessory.  I'm going to get started on March a little early.

Monday, February 03, 2014

January 2013 Books

City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (library book) - I wanted to like this, but I'm clearly too big of a prude for it. One of the first scenes is a woman having sex with someone with whom she has never exchanged words.  I found the main character to be insufferable and the plot to be trite.

Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker (library book) - A really well-done, accessible history of the earliest blood transfusions. I had heard about this book when the author was on the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast and I really wanted to read it. My warning to you: it has some gross stuff in it.  Maybe don't read it when you're eating breakfast.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (library book) - This book gets rave reviews, but the plot is reallllly predictable.  Kid gets into a car accident, meets a girl whose brother is mysteriously not around anymore...I'll let you figure out why. Schneider takes 300 pages to get there.  I will admit, though, that the two main protagonists are really well done. I would give this book a solid 3.5/5 stars on the strength of the Ezra and Cassidy characters alone.  You rarely see young adult books with that kind of imperfectly perfect characterization.

Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card (library book) - Card writes good books.  I liked this one maybe even more than I liked Ender's Game.  I do wish Card wasn't such a weirdo, but he writes good books.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five by Five: Other People's Pets

Cat #1: Angel -All of these cats came from the same farm that Zelda came from.  My friends rescue litters of kittens and rehome them and keep a chosen few.  Angel, mistress of all things sweet and little and cuddly, will scratch your eyes out if you mess with her.
I may look innocent, but I'm planning to overthrow the human overlords.

Cat #2: Mouse - This picture gives you no perspective, but Mouse is HUGE. He is, I estimate, about twice the size of Zelda, who is not a little bit herself, but Mouse and Zelda do look a lot alike.  And that's where the similarities end. Mouse lets small children pick his massive self up and carry him around like a sack of flour.  He is the most tolerant of kitties I have ever met. 

Cat #3: Yzma - This cat is cross-eyed.  Also, I've only ever seen her like twice in my entire life because she only comes out of hiding when the small children aren't around and my friends have many small children.  She's also super soft.

Don't look me in the eyes.  Just pet me and tell me how beautiful I am.
Cat #4: Zelda - Ha ha. This one's mine. Don't be jealous.  She's a freak of nature.

I'm going to attack this camera lens!!!

 Not a Cat - Did I ever tell you about the time we bought two digital cameras to test and then we sent one back?  No, I did not. It was ridiculous and we felt silly doing it, but we walked around our neighborhood taking similar pictures so we could compare them scientific method-style. Dr. BB and I took pictures of one another running around (action shots, yo, like with small furry creatures and other people's children).  And this one makes laugh every time.

There is no snow yet. Oh, for the glory days of autumn.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reform: Tales from a Messy Inbox

While I was growing up, I lived in a house that was condemned. Not only was the foundation so weak that one good blustery wind could have knocked it over, but the amount of stuff piled up was so incredible that when our neighbors called CPS on my parents (oh, the neighborly relations have been chilly ever since), the social worker who met with me and my sister asked us if we knew where to find our toothbrushes.  Anyway, my parents built a new house so the foundation problem was fixed, but the stuff problem is still an issue - so much stuff and so few places to sit or walk. I visited my mother a couple of weeks ago so that means as soon as I got home, I started throwing away everything in our house that wasn't essential.  I am the anti-hoarder. I throw away important documents we need because, you know, papers gotta go.

The one place I tend to let things get out of control is my email.

I logged on to my school email Saturday morning and noticed that my inbox had over six hundred emails in it. I was...disturbed. The account it essentially a year old and I had never really taken the time to organize it.

My gmail account, the one I use primarily for my other job, had an inbox of just about equal length. And don't even get me started on my hotmail account, the one I use for personal stuff.

My system of multiple accounts drives my husband crazy.  Just consolidate them into one account, he has said so many times that it makes me want to stuff the words right back inside his mouth because I heard him the first 3204982930 times he has said it.  Anyway, I like this system of multiple accounts because I know what types of emails I can expect to get from each account and what types of action I will have to take with each account. 

It's no news to anyone that having a clean inbox makes you feel good, forces you to take quick action on situations that don't require much work on your part, and prevents important messages from getting buried in your inbox which means you don't forget to do those important things.   So this past weekend I spent more hours than you will ever know cleaning out my inboxes and making them look like this:

I will keep my inboxes to ten message or fewer. I will keep my inboxes to ten messages or fewer. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions. Maybe this one should be mine.  So I don't become a digital hoarder.
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