Monday, April 30, 2018

What I Read in March and April

You know how they say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?

Yeah, my March was not so much like that.

It came in like everything was peachy keen and went out like chaos was descending. Specifically, the end of March saw me having my right eye go randomly wonky.
Per BB, "Why are you 'tending to be a pirate, Mommy?"
I started having blurry vision on March 31. By April 3, when it was still blurry enough that reading was impossible, I started visiting doctors. After a whole bunch of people poked me the eyeball (among other delightful medical care), it was determined that I have optic neuritis. It goes away on its own, but sloooooooooooooooooooooowly, so I opted for the steroid treatment.

I kind of hoped the steroids would make me hulk out and rage smash the patriarchy all by my lonesome, but it just made me really wakeful.

In any case, my wonky eye made it impossible for me to read for most of April, which made me Ms. Crankypants McGee. I have often said I'd rather give up ice cream than reading, and this little foray into non-reading made it clear that I'm not kidding.

I also did not get a chance to update my reading for March, so I'm doing both March and April together today. There were only two books in April (one of which was an audio book). Sad trombone.

Thankfully, my sight is enough back to normal that I have been able to resume my normal reading schedule, which I have been doing while eating ice cream, because I now realize you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone! So without further ado, here are the books I read in March and April:

19. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

I have been trying to read more books by women of color, and science fiction in particular is an area where I'd like to expand my horizons. I read a lot of white guy space opera sci-fi in my teens, in part because those were the books my dad had on his shelves, and in part because I saw them as the canon of the genre. But there was a lot of misogyny (which I noticed at the time) and erasure of anyone who was not white (which I didn't).

When I read that Binti by Nnedi Okorafor won both the Nebula and Hugo award, I decided I needed to read it. Binti is the first person of her very insular Himba community to leave, not only the community, but the planet. She's been accepted into the prestigious Oomza University, and is the first of her people to ever be offered a place there. On the way, the ship Binti is taking along with dozens of other new students is attacked by the war-like Meduse.

I absolutely loved the character of Binti and the descriptions of her people's relationship with the earth (literally) was incredible. The Himba "bathe" in specially mixed dirt from their home to moisturize and protect their skin and hair. I also loved how Binti thought in mathematics.

The novella was a little too short for me. The story definitely got me thinking, but the ending felt abrupt. This is the first in a trilogy, so I hope that reading the next two will help flesh out the things that felt too rushed in this one.

Started: March 1, 2018
Finished: March 4, 2018

20. The Convent's Secret by C.J. Archer

You may remember that I did the literary equivalent of unhinging my jaw and swallowed the previous book in this series whole. Well, this book arrived on my Kindle on March 6, as promised, and I lost a day to reading it.

Here's the thing: I was under the distinct impression that this fifth book was the final book in the series. And while a major plot point was tied up at the end of this book, as the Kindle got closer and closer to 100% complete, I found myself wondering how in blazes Ms. Archer would finish the other loose ends in the 2% left in the book.

Here's how: THERE'S AT LEAST ONE MORE BOOK IN THE G-DDAMNED SERIES, DAMMIT! Don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying these books very much. If the next book were already published, I'd be saying "Goody gumdrops!" and clearing my schedule for another day of reading. But I have to wait who knows how long before book 6 drops, and I have no idea if that will signal the end of this series or if I will have to wait for book 7!

I can't handle this kind of waiting!

Started: March 6, 2018
Finished: March 6, 2018

21. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

This sweet little romance was my book club's selection for March. It was a fun read, although it had the problem that I often encounter in straight romance novels: there were side characters and sub-plots that I wished the author would spend more time on. I wanted to see more about the difficult-but-close relationship Alexa had with her sister. I wanted to know what happened to Drew's patient Jack.

I did love how the book dealt with issues of race. They were realistic and straightforward. Drew (who was white) was hardly perfect in recognizing how difficult racial issues might be for Alexa (who was black), but he did listen to her, believe her, and respond empathetically to her.

Started: March 7, 2018
Finished: March 10, 2018

22. There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

I really wanted to like this book. There was a lot to like.

It's kind of a literary version of the movie Scream, which was one of my favorites in high school.

Makani Young, the main character, is half black and half native Hawaiian, and it felt like Stephanie Perkins (who is white) did a good job of sensitively and accurately portraying race. (There is also a transgender character in the story, which also felt like it was handled well, although apparently there was some controversy over the ARC version of the book because it dead named the character.)

The love story at the center of the book (Perkins got her start as a YA romance novelist) is delightful.

But I was really frustrated by something Perkins did in this book. It's a slasher story, so there are a lot of people being murdered throughout the book. I don't have a problem with that--it's what I signed up for. My problem was with the fact that Perkins spent several pages before each murder giving deep back story to the person who was about to die.


It's a short cut that authors take to try to make the stakes higher for the reader. But readers don't know these characters who are about to die, and giving us back story about their 6 year old twin siblings sleeping upstairs and their college essays and their solo in the school musical does nothing to truly raise the stakes.

It also feels monumentally unfair to these characters. Now I know they're not real, but still--why create a fully formed character just to kill him or her off?

Started: March 13, 2018
Finished: March 16, 2018

23. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I am so annoyed at myself for not having read this book 25 years ago. I would have eaten this up with a spoon when I was 14 or 15, and it so clearly influenced so many of the haunted house books that I have loved over the years.

The only thing that makes me glad I didn't read this until now is the fact that I would have completely and utterly missed out on the homosexual undertones between Eleanor and Theodora, which still *mostly* passed me by as I read them now. (I recognize that what was strongly suggestive in 1959 is blink-and-you'll-miss-it tame in 2018, but I am also really dense when it comes to that kind of suggestion because I take things at face value. When Theodora describes the woman she lives with as her roommate, I believe her that it's her roommate.) Had I read this in my teens, I would have been completely oblivious to that aspect of the story, and my understanding of the novel would have been the poorer for it.

Started: March 19, 2018
Finished: March 21, 2018

24. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

There is a little library on the corner down the street from our house. LO and I pass it on the days we walk home from school, and I can never resist taking a look at what books are on offer there. On a Thursday in March, LO and I walked home from school and stopped to look at the books. LO noticed this one and asked if we could take it home.

I was surprised. He's very sensitive about death and he doesn't like scary stories. But when we got home, we sat down together and read this entire graphic novel in one sitting. It is so lovely. It offers a gentle introduction to Cystic Fibrosis and gives a lot of context to the Day of the Dead and offers a hopeful and sweet vision of what death means. LO and I both loved it.

Started: March 22, 2018
Finished: March 22, 2018

25. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

I don't remember where I read about this book, but I was delighted to learn that there was an illustrated book of incredible women. Each woman gets a brief autobiographical sketch in the form of a comic, and I learned about a number of women I did not know. Some of my favorites were

Katia Kraftt, a volcanologist who was fearless in her pursuit of knowledge about volcanoes and died (along with her husband and fellow volcano observer Maurice) in a pyroclastic flow in 1991.

Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace prize winner who led a women's peace movement to bring an end to Liberia's second civil war. She did this after leaving an abusive husband with four children in tow.

Christine Jorgensen, a trans woman who was the first person in the United States who was widely known for sex reassignment surgery. She became famous, and handled her notoriety with wit, grace, and candor.

Started: March 18, 2018
Finished: April 1, 2018

26. Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters

It's hard for me to believe that I never read this book. It's the second in the Vicky Bliss series, and Trojan Gold (the fourth book in the series) is one of my favorite books of all time. I've re-read it more times than I can count. Street of the Five Moons is the book in which Vicky first meets her lover, Sir John Smythe, and I am so surprised that I was never curious enough to read about their first meeting.

Sadly, reading this now made it clear that you can never go home again.

I love Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels. Her books (of which there are about 80) are probably the single greatest influence on my reading and writing. I have read nearly every single one of her books, and I have re-read and re-re-read (and so on) my favorites to the point where I have committed several of them pretty much to memory.

But Elizabeth Peters has a woman problem. Despite the author being a professed feminist, there is an undercurrent of misogyny in her books that I missed when I first consumed all of them as a teenager, but I cannot ignore when reading them as an adult.

The way it looks is that Vicky Bliss (or Amelia Peabody or D.J. Abbott or any of the other heroines) stands out in her field. She is brilliant and funny and under appreciated and underestimated. But Vicky (and Amelia and D.J.) seems to think she is in competition with every other woman. She never has a kind word to say about any other woman in the novel and is consistently cutting about other women's looks, intelligence, promiscuity, greed, age, educational attainment, etc.

In Street of the Five Moons, there are only two other women characters: an incredibly stupid and greedy young woman who is the mistress of a much older man, and a conniving "older" woman (she's described negatively as being over 40) who turns out to be a villain.

I know exactly where Peters's attitude comes from. Women of her day very often had to compete for a single spot made available for women. Peters herself was not able to get a job in academia in the 1950s after getting her PhD. because of sexism. Rather than rage against the unfair system that couldn't be changed, it's natural that one would start fighting with anyone else who might take your spot.

Between this and the fat shaming that so often appears in her books, I wish I knew how to compartmentalize all that I love about Peters's writing with these problematic attitudes.

Still, Sir John will always be my book boyfriend.

Started: April 20, 2018
Finished: April 26, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Like a Chair of Bowlies

Books are traditional for the first anniversary. Sarah’s gift to Jonathan is blank, although she has written a hidden message in lemon juice on every fifth page. Jonathan spends 20 minutes excavating the paperbacks and library books from beneath the couch and in between the Morris chair and the wall. He piles the discarded books in a tower before Sarah.

“Have you finished any of these?” he asks.

She laughs and puts them back in the furniture, and that night they make love on literature.

Avocados for the second anniversary—which is not to be confused with advocates for the 40th. Sarah and Jonathan make guacamole with a masher their mothers bought together for the occasion, although neither of them think there is enough cilantro in the finished product. Per tradition, no one calls or stops by on their avocado anniversary, so that they may enjoy themselves alone. They eat together, filling their bellies with green ripeness.

The third anniversary, stars, finds Sarah and Jonathan fighting. She cuts tiny gold star shapes out of pressed metal and hides them throughout their apartment. She meets him at the door with a brand new broom and a dustpan—another joint gift from their mothers—and invites him to sweep up the shower of stars from their home. Jonathan names a star for her. His understanding of tradition is not nearly as deep as hers.

By the fourth anniversary, ribbons, they have made up. Each proudly wears the other’s colored ribbon around their left ring finger that entire day, and strangers beam to see a couple so clearly in love.

There is some leeway in the tradition for the fifth anniversary, air. So Jonathan rents a moon bounce and sets it up on the sidewalk in front of their apartment. Sarah bounces and twirls and flips beside him in the air-filled castle, feeling both self-conscious and defiant as commuters watch them tumble. Her gift to him is more conventional: a jar of her expelled breaths, one for every day of their marriage. She presents it to him shyly, and is pleased when he places it on his night table.

Sarah is pregnant and ill on their sixth anniversary, and tells Jonathan he doesn’t have to give her the traditional tacos.

“What should I give you?” he asks her. He knows there is a trap in here somewhere. He has not forgotten how upset she got over his misinterpretation of the stars.

“I don’t know, nothing?” she hazards. Between the fetus and her stomach, her belly is always churning.

“I can’t do that,” Jonathan says. “How about a bowl that holds tacos?”

She thinks, but does not say, that bowls are for the fourteenth anniversary. She accepts the bowl he finds, and nestles it next to the jar of breaths in their bedroom.

They are sleep deprived new parents for their seventh anniversary, and just barely manage to exchange their gifts—profound revelations—before midnight.

Sarah tells Jonathan that perfection is an illusion.

Jonathan tells Sarah that the past and future do not exist.

More years pass. Eight, nine, ten. Oil, tea, education.

Twenty, a fear.

Thirty, a new identity.

Forty, advocates.

Fifty, forgiveness.

This piece was inspired by Like a Bowl in a China Shop by Hilary Leichter

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What I Read in February

The family that reads together...
My reading slowed down a little in February, as I hit one of my regular reading slumps. Still, I got through another five titles, meaning I've read 18 books thus far in 2018. Only 34 to go to reach my annual goal.

I'm kind of psyched that all 18 of these titles have been authored by women. I've been wondering if I could keep the streak going and read only books by women in 2018. I'm already trying to increase the number of women of color I read, so this might end up being my sub-goal.

14. The Apothecary's Poison by C.J. Archer

This was the continuation of the steampunky, Victorian, slow-burn romance series that I started in January. To say I've thoroughly enjoyed these would be an understatement. I'm nearly to the point of wanting to get a pocket watch to carry to be like India Steele, but I think that would be carrying enthusiasm a little too far.

Started: February 1, 2018
Finished: February 2, 2018

15. The Magician's Diary by C.J. Archer

This is the fourth book in the five-book series, and I basically swallowed this one whole. (What's the reading equivalent of unhinging your jaw? Because that's what I did with this book.)

While the solution to the mystery presented in this book was perfectly clear to any reader who has even a smattering of experience in reading mysteries, it was still an incredibly fun ride and offered some much-needed catharsis regarding one of the series-long villains.

Imagine my distress when I went to download the final book in the series, only to discover that it will not be published until March 6. I may have stamped my foot and shouted NOOOOOOOOO!!! to the heavens. Yes, it's only a month I had to wait, but dammit, I was INVESTED! (Also--everyone should not expect to hear from me next Tuesday.)

Started: February 2, 2018
Finished: February 3, 2018

16. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

My friend Kellie from my book club mentioned that Maureen Johnson is one of her favorite authors, so I decided to check her out.

In this book, Rory, the main character, arrives in London just as someone starts recreating the Jack the Ripper murders--on the specific anniversaries, which means folks can figure out when to expect the next one.

I really enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but it was one of those books that didn't necessarily hold up once you'd put it down. For one thing, I cared not at all about the love interest. He was really uninteresting, particularly since there were actual ghost hunters in the city. Those ghost hunters were the most fascinating characters, and they weren't introduced until late in the story. I know that this was the first in a series (and I may keep reading), but I wasn't so sure about this one. (Also, the villain seemed to have no motive whatsoever. The one he gives in his "I'm the big, badass villain" speech made sense at the time, but fell apart as soon as I thought about it.)

Started: February 8, 2018
Finished: February 11, 2018

17. City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte*

This book was really, really, really, really weird.

Really weird.

Now, it was the kind of madcap quirky that I love. Sarah, the protagonist, is obsessed with Beethoven and a book about a house with more windows on the outside than on the inside. She goes to Prague for the summer and is employed by Prince Max (an actual prince) while at the same time an American senator is trying to cover up some baaaaad shit she did in Prague 30 years before when she was a CIA agent and a 400-year-old dwarf is trying to figure out how to die. There's also a drug (in the form of Beethoven's toenails, and that is NOT a euphemism) that causes you to basically travel in time, a blind musical prodigy, and a hell portal.

This kind of thing is all kind of my jam. But the sex in the book was weirdly off-putting (and I'm really not a prude about that kind of thing). Sarah jumps Prince Max in a dark room, thinking he's someone else, then has no idea who she just banged when she leaves the room and finds the guy she thought she was with--and that guy turns out to be a turd. Then she and Max have a love story, and it just felt weird.

Also, the 400-year-old dwarf was the best character and he was not in the book nearly enough. (Is it sizeist that I imagine him as Peter Dinklage?)

Weird, weird book. There's a follow-up that I think I'm going to read, just to get more of the 400-year-old dwarf.

*Magnus Flyte is the pen name of a collaborators Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, so I have kept up the all-woman streak.

Started: February 12, 2018
Finished: February 15, 2018

18. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

This book was a little gift to me from past me. I vaguely remember hearing or reading about this book several months ago, so I put a hold on it at the library, then promptly forgot about it. When it showed up, I was super surprised.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book (since I didn't even remember putting a hold on it), but I was hoping for a little more "HUZZAH! Feminism!!" from it. Mary Beard is a Classics scholar who gave these essays as talks, and then adapted them into the (very slim) book. She gives historical and literary context to the ways in which women have always been punished for seeking or wielding power.

She also got me thinking deeply about the symbolism of Medusa. I have a poster up in my office featuring a snarling Medusa head, captioned with the phrase "Beauty must defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy." I love this poster, and I love the feminist interpretation of Medusa--unapologetically embracing the dick-shriveling power of our own ugliness. (And by ugliness, I mean everything from our physical appearance to the shrillness of our anger to our life-giving, unclean bodies to our refusal to submit).

But Beard made an important point about how Medusa is used to shame women and how problematic it can be as a symbol of female empowerment. (Apparently, there were posters during the 2016 election that imposed Lord Dampnut's face on the Perseus's head and Ms. Rodham Clinton's face on the dripping, severed head of Medusa).

This definitely has gotten me interested in reading more by Mary Beard, however.

Started: February 20, 2018
Finished: February 20, 2018

The Did-Not-Finish List

Part of the reason why I didn't have more books in February (and in general in my reading life) is that I'm a terrible book abandoner. I had one book in particular this month that I abandoned, that I intend to get back to when I can. 

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson was included in some list I found of great science fiction by women of color. I really loved the world Hopkinson built and was enjoying the book--but I made the mistake of reading a review somewhere that mentioned the main character (who is a child in the first part of the book) would experience incestuous rape. I have no doubt that Hopkinson handles it well--she's a phenomenal writer--but I just couldn't keep going.

LO keeps asking me if I'm reading this book, though, because he was with me when I picked it up from the library and he was really taken by the cover. He wanted to know all about the Robber Queen (the character above the child on the cover) and why Tan-Tan, the little girl, dresses up as her. 

I'm going to finish this book, so I can tell LO all about the Robber Queen.

What did you read in February?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What I Read in January

I have been a reading machine so far in 2018. While many who know me might claim I'm always a reading machine...
Exhibit A
In point of fact, I am an inveterate re-reader and much of my reading machinery is taken up with revisiting old friends who must get tired of me reading them.

2018, on the other hand, has been 4 1/2 weeks of reading new works non-stop. I have read, thus far in 2018, 13 books total. 

I can't tell if I've reached a new era of reading voracity, or if I'm just trying to escape the real world as often as I possibly can.

In either case, this does mean I'm very likely to actually meet my annual reading goal of 52 new books for the year. (I clocked in at 45 books in 2017, which was far closer to my goal than I thought I'd get.) So I figured I might as well do a monthly recap of my reading. I am pleased to say that all 13 of the books I've read so far have all been written by women authors. I am trying to increase my reading of both women writers and writers of color, and 8 of my January reads were by non-white authors (although 7 of the 8 were in the same series, so I'm not sure how much it counted).

On January 1st, I borrowed this book from Audible's Romance library. The first three minutes had me laughing so hard the kids told me to go in another room. Kyra Davis, like her character Sophie Katz, is both Jewish and African American, and she is quite funny in skewering some of the expectations our society has of her.

Also, this book made me feel a little old because it came out in 2005, but felt kind of dated. It took me a while to realize that a book written in 1985 would have felt dated by 1998, too, but I still felt sad to realize just how long ago 2005 was.

Started: January 1, 2018
Finished: January 3, 2018

While Sophie's mother is on the radio trying to tell the news anchor that her other daughter, Leah, is innocent of her husband's murder, she starts telling the greater San Francisco area what a looker her Leah is and how she just needs to meet a nice Jewish guy once the whole murder investigation thing dies down. I was howling with laughter.

Started: January 3, 2018
Finished: January 5, 2018

Started: January 5, 2018
Finished: January 7, 2018

This was my least favorite in the series, and part of it had to do with the treatment of a character who is revealed to be transgender. This book was published in 2009, and it's really clear that a lot has changed in 9 years. Sophie, the main character, refers to the transgendered character as a tranny, which in itself could be just a sign of the times. In fact, I believe the word transsexual is what's used, rather than transgender, because even our vocabulary has changed a great deal in less than a decade. But the fact of the character's gender identity is a little bit of a punch line (like when Ross mocked Chandler for kissing a guy in Friends in the 90s), even though one of my favorite characters of the series makes the point of saying that transgendered individuals are no different than anyone else.

Started: January 7, 2018
Finished: January 8, 2018

Started: January 8, 2018
Finished: January 9, 2018

I can't quite explain why, but I think this one was my favorite. Going to Vegas for a sex toy convention is always the best way to get over a breakup, don't you find?

Started: January 9, 2018
Finished: January 10, 2018

All I can say about this one is that the magical cupcake recipe--which seems to be able to calm anyone down--should have been included with this book.

Started: January 10, 2018
Finished: January 11, 2018

8. A Bachelor Establishment by Jodi Taylor, writing as Isabella Barclay

Apparently, Jodi Taylor is the author of a series of time travel novels, and Isabella Barclay is one of her characters within those novels. I went looking for a light palate cleanser after gorging myself on the Sophie Katz series, and came up with this. I love historical romances set in Victorian England, so this seemed like a perfect fit. It was just meh, however.

But--it did get me intrigued about Jodi Taylor's time travel books--enough that I requested and borrowed the first book, One Damned Thing After Another, from the library. Alas, I didn't finish it (or even start it, if I'm being honest) before the library fine enforcement squad sent a couple of goons to my email inbox. I'll get back to it eventually.

Started: January 11, 2018
Finished: January 13, 2018

9. Charming the Shrew by Laurin Wittig

(I'm a little embarrassed by this cover, but dammit, I'm going to do this right.) 
So this is the February selection for my Feminist Readers of Romance Fiction book club, and we all decided it was exactly the ridiculous story of Highland Scottish romance we needed. We giggled when we chose the book, and I have no doubt we'll giggle all through our meeting (at which I plan to serve shortbread, but not haggis, because there are limits).

I actually was a little annoyed by the fact that Catriona was constantly referred to as a shrew when she seemed perfectly gentle and ordinary to me. I'm guessing that this is proof that I'd be hanged as a witch in 15th century Scotland because nothing she did seem particularly shrewish, and I'm channeling my inner rage bitch 24/7 these days. See--even when I escape from 2018, I don't really escape.

Started: January 14, 2018
Finished: January 15, 2018

10. A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

I have been eagerly waiting for this book since May of last year, when I first discovered the Veronica Speedwell series, and swallowed the first two books whole. I have re-read and re-listened to the first two books multiple times, because it is just that delightful, and A Treacherous Curse did not disappoint. Veronica Speedwell is who I want to be when I grow up, and yes, I know she's (as of the time of her stories) younger than me and fictional and all of that. She gives absolutely zero fucks what anyone thinks of her, and she does it with style, humor, and butterflies.

I LOVE these books.

Why, yes, I did read it all on the day it came out, and yes, I did get a hardcover copy, a Kindle copy, *and* an Audible version. It's that good.

Started: January 16, 2018
Finished: January 16, 2018 (and now I have an interminable wait for book #4 to come out)

11. The Watchmaker's Daughter by C.J. Archer

This was recommended to me by Audible, which proves that I'm having some sort of emotional affair with an audiobook provider. An historical romance set in Victorian London with some steampunky magic type weirdness thrown in?  

Why you so good to me, Audible?

Started: January 17, 2018
Finished: January 20, 2018

12. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

I've never read A Handmaid's Tale, because I am pretty sure I can't handle it. Future Home is a similar dystopian future, wherein women's bodies become tools of the theocracy. Evolution has started reversing, and there's no sense of what kind of world is in store for the not-totally-human babies that women are birthing. Cedar, the main character, is already pregnant with a wanted and beloved child at the beginning of this novel, but those in power want to imprison her and take her baby, for the "good of humankind."

My friend Natalie asked me to read this book, and after I finished it, she described the feeling of reading it as being "hollowed out." She was right. I had such a book hangover, and I was left with these heartbreaking images from throughout the novel. It touched on my feeling lately that there really is no such thing as justice. The quote "the arc of the universe is long, and it bends toward justice" is just that--a quote. Something someone said once. We are swimming in chaos, and all we can do is be kind to one another and make the meaning we can.

This was not exactly an escape from 2018, considering how many of the concerns in Cedar's dystopia ring true in our world, but it was good to spend time here. It reminded me of the badassity of motherhood, the importance of kindness, and the randomness of it all, which is both blessing and curse. I'm sure I'll look back on this as one of the best books I read this year.

(Also: Louise Erdrich is Ojibwe, and reading this book helped me realize how little Native American literature I have read. I want to remedy that).

Started: January 21, 2018
Finished: January 25, 2018

13. The Mapmaker's Apprentice by C.J. Archer

This was the perfect end to the month. The second book in the series that begins with The Watchmaker's Daughter, this was another light and fun read that had me dreaming of gaslights and old-fashioned timepieces.

Started: January 26, 2018
Finished: January 28, 2018

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

13 Minutes to Midnight on September 13






Eventually, he'll be awake at 11:47 at night.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love (When I) Bomb

A Treatise on Perfectionism

My dear friend Erika wrote on Independence Day that she would be declaring independence from a bad habit that was not serving her or her family well. She asked us what we would each declare independence from, and I responded that I was letting go of perfection this year because I was tired of being paralyzed by perfectionism.

Another friend asked me how I was able to let go of perfectionism--which I honestly haven't really been able to shed. It's a work in progress. But this is basically how I, at the ripe young age of 38, am able to make some headway on a lifelong habit of perfection paralysis:

I struggle with perfectionism in my fiction writing for a few reasons:

1. I don't think I deserve to have a voice. Who am I to think I can write fiction?

2. What's in my head never matches up with what comes out on the page.

3. I am an avid consumer of other people's writing, and I notice when it's not perfect--so I worry that other readers will notice when mine is not perfect.

4. Every story that has ever been told has already been told, so what's the point in me writing mine?

5. The eventual heat death of the universe makes all human endeavors ultimately pointless. (I'm only partially joking about this one).

Here's how I am getting over each of these contributors to my perfectionism:

1. I learned that telegraph operators in WWII could be distinguished from each other by their "fist," which is their transmission style when typing out dots and dashes. I learned this years ago, and I've been coming back to this factoid over and over again, because it tells me that we are all unique individuals with unique styles, no matter how mundane the activity is. The fact that an operator's fist could be distinguished from all other operators' fists made me realize that I have a voice that is unlike anyone else's who has ever come before or will ever come again. (And this, my friends, is one of the reasons why I LOVE trivia. You never know what piece of trivia will inspire you).

Each one of these men has a distinct fist, which is as distinct as their voices.
2. I started drawing recently. I draw for fun and relaxation and just because it makes me feel good, so I don't struggle with perfectionism there. And because of that, I've become very comfortable with the fact that my drawing may not look like the object or artwork I'm copying, and that's okay. My drawings just need to look like themselves, and there really are "happy little accidents" a la Bob Ross when it comes to drawing. This has helped me let go of my need to have my head-novel match my page-novel.

Uncle Sam's rocket is falling of the edge of the page, and IT DOES NOT MATTER

Lady Justice's scales are not symmetrical or balanced, and IT DOES NOT MATTER
I also learned from drawing just to skip the shit I don't want to do. I was drawing a building across the street from my art class, and there was a column part that was going to be hard to draw, so I just didn't do it and it didn't matter. With my novel, there was a scene that had kept me from moving forward for 3 or 4 years because it was going to be boring and I didn't wanna do it, so I just skipped that bad boy and did some "time passed" magic to get to the next scene, which I did want to write.

3. I realized that noticing imperfections does not keep me from enjoying stories and good writing. Imperfections are going to happen, because we're human, and I should embrace my imperfect writing, because even Harper EFFING Lee had extensive editing to help her create TKAM. Also, I remembered that picking at imperfections is either the joyful and playful work of fans or the bitter resentment of critics, and I can handle either of those responses.

4. Just because every iteration of the human condition has been told doesn't mean that my story has been told with my voice (and fist), and the only way to tell it is to tell it.

5. The universe is going to end eventually anyway, so why NOT write my shitty novel if it makes me happy? (Not that I think my novel is shitty, although it might be--it's just I have some perspective about how I want to spend my limited time on this rock).

Finally, I've realized that I want to write partially for my boys. I want them to be able to hold a little piece of my soul when I'm gone, and the best way to do that is to do the work that is meaningful to me, which is writing.

And drawing bug-eyed people with maniacal grins.