Month: December 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

My favorite books of 2013

To be honest, I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump these past couple weeks, so it’s particularly nice to take a look back on the books I’ve enjoyed this year and see that there were some really spectacular stories.

In order of when I read them:

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1) Eleanor & Park Code Name Verity Where'd You Go, Bernadette Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Olive Kitteridge Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2) The Secret Daughter Fangirl The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Interestingly, this group features several books with unconventional structures. BERNADETTE is told primarily through “found” documents — emails, court records, magazine articles, and passive-aggressive notes between neighbors. HYPERBOLE is an extension of the hilarious blog of the same name. FANGIRL includes snippets of fanfic for a book series that doesn’t even exist!

Maybe it’s a sign of our modern sensibilities creeping into our fiction?

Regardless, there’s one thing that I think will never change for me: My favorite stories are the ones that resonate with me emotionally. Make me cry, make me laugh, or best of all, make me do both.

(“Kiss me, Hardy! Kiss me quick!”)

What about y’all? What were your favorites books of the year?

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Just for fun

A belated #inktober doodle, based on a saying I saw on Tumblr.

A late #inktober #doodle.

Me and Andy in toy form.

Me and Andy in toy form! #whpselfportrait

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Stuff worth reading

“How to Give Up Writing and Your Dreams, in 1826 Daily Lessons” by Lori Rader-Day

In my experience, that dark moment — that black hour, if you’ll forgive me — isn’t a lightning strike. It’s a slow dwindling of your attention, one decision after another over a series of days, then weeks, then months. Even years. And these decisions aren’t even bad ones. You choose your loved ones, your job, your daily survival and comfort and enjoyment — until the small voice nagging that you should have written today stops saying a word.

We can’t cherry-pick the moments that got us where we are happy to be. We contain our successes, but also our failures.

“The Documented Life” by Sherry Turkle

When you get accustomed to a life of stops and starts, you get less accustomed to reflecting on where you are and what you are thinking.

These days, when people are alone, or feel a moment of boredom, they tend to reach for a device. In a movie theater, at a stop sign, at the checkout line at a supermarket and, yes, at a memorial service, reaching for a device becomes so natural that we start to forget that there is a reason, a good reason, to sit still with our thoughts: It does honor to what we are thinking about. It does honor to ourselves.

“On Feminism, Anti-Feminism, and the Things That Mystify Me” by Kelly Barnhill

I honestly can’t understand how we can be in this world and not be feminist. How can we just not notice inequality and injustice when it is staring us in the dang face? How can we not come up against the blindness of privilege and not want to change? How can we not desire to open our eyes? All social justice movements, in the end, work to remove shadows and blocks. We cannot see injustice if the limits of privilege block the view. If we remove the block we can see unfairness and we can change the world and make it better. Those blocks are removed through experience, through awareness-raising, and, probably most effectively, through story. Story matters.

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On relationships and songs

Recently a friend asked me, “What is the point of a relationship?”

He didn’t mean it in a negative or sarcastic way. He was genuinely curious.

As he pointed out, people in our society don’t really need a spouse to secure income, housing, or other basic needs. We have friends and family to act as our support networks. We can even make babies and raise kids on our own.

So, if not to provide, then what is the point of a relationship?

Of course I could only answer for myself, and I’m not an expert by any means. But for me, the “point” of a relationship is to have a partner. A teammate. Someone to help you navigate (and hopefully enjoy) the inevitable ups and downs of life.

A relationship gives you someone to celebrate your successes with — to make the good even better. Someone to share your letdowns with — to make the bad more bearable. Someone who will push you to grow, while also accepting you as you are. Someone who loves you at your worst, but inspires you to be your best.

And someone who makes you want to do all those things for them in return.

A few caveats/addendums:

  • Obviously this is idealized language. I don’t think any relationship looks or feels that perfect every single second. But hopefully at least some of those things are cemented into the foundation upon which a couple builds their daily life.
  • A significant other is not the only person who can fill these roles, and not everyone even wants a significant other.
  • A relationship doesn’t need to compete with friends or family. I think the best relationships tend to be complementary. (Which is not the same as complimentary — although that’s good too!)
  • There’s also the physical aspect of relationships, which family can’t provide and friends usually shouldn’t.

Q: What is the point of a relationship?

A: What is the point of a song?

There is no point. A song is its own reason. People will enjoy different aspects of a song, and people will enjoy different kinds of songs. There are all sorts of things you can point to — “It sounds nice.” “It makes me feel good.” “I relate to the lyrics.” — but at the end of the day, none of those things are the point.

A song is a song. You either like it or you don’t.

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Explaining the “significant editorial changes” to Twenty-Somewhere

Some people may have received a notification from Amazon about “significant editorial changes” to the Twenty-Somewhere Kindle book. Unfortunately that message is a bit misleading.

To clarify: I did update the ebook (almost a year ago) to take advantage of Amazon’s improvements in formatting. Mainly I wanted to add a usable Table of Contents for readers’ convenience. I also decided to include an Author’s Note and dedication at the beginning, in the hopes that more people would understand they were about to read a compiled web serial — not a novel — because several reviews mention the “strange” episodic format and screenplay vibe (even though the narrative style is mentioned in the product description).

Those are the “significant editorial changes” to which Amazon is referring. As far as the writing goes, everything is the same. I may have cleaned up a typo or two, but I’m not interested in revising the episodes into a “real” novel at this time.

I purposely didn’t ask Amazon to notify anyone about the changes, because anyone who had already read 20SW probably wouldn’t care, and anyone who had downloaded but not read 20SW probably wasn’t going to anyway. I was content knowing that new readers would get the updated version.

But then Amazon introduced Automatic Book Update.

Opt in for automatic book updates to receive new versions of your books when we have confirmed that improvements were made. In order to retain your notes, highlights, bookmarks and furthest reading locations, ensure that all your Kindle devices and reading apps have the “Annotation Back Up” setting turned on.

I activated the new feature on my own Kindle account, and I assumed that my copy of 20SW would get updated. It did not. Disappointed, I contacted Amazon and asked if 20SW was eligible and could be included in the Automatic Book Update program. They said they would look into it.

I still did not intend for anyone to be notified of the changes, but I guess that’s how Amazon decided to proceed. I assume it’s only for people who don’t have Automatic Book Update activated? Because instead of a message, I simply received (at long last) a fresh copy of 20SW in my Kindle library.

So that’s the story, and I’m sorry for any confusion or bother!

(Big thanks to Anthony for letting me know about this.)

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