31 December 2013

Auld Lang Syne, the 2013 Edition

2012 was an emotional clusterfuck, but it brought me some serious Character Building moments, not to mention YOU, my beloved book blogging friends.

I love not camping.
My friend Jasmin chooses words every year to focus her ambitions, and I've been joining her in this endeavor since 2009. She's a very skilled knitter (and mother and friend), so usually our words have to do with our mutual textile obsession and are then expanded into the rest of our lives. 2012's emotional rollercoaster meant that I hadn't knitted for almost a year, so for 2013 I had just one word: Heal. I've done a lot of that, as well as a lot of growing. Now, in 2014, I'm ready for some new words, and those are: 

Do What Scares You. 

For textiles, this means tackling the projects I've avoided - sweaters because I'm afraid they won't fit, finishing big projects because what if they turn out awful? (they're never awful), trading/selling the stashed yarn I no longer have a taste for, and learning to spin with more regularity, intention, and control. 

In life, this means being bolder about my choices.

But it's still 2013 for 12 more hours! Did I do awesome stuff this year? Yes. I went to some swanky parties, moved into what promises to be an awesome living situation, traveled a bunch, got much better at my job, and lived pretty excellently. Is it time for a photo montage? I THINK SO. 
My mom and I honored her mother's passing appropriately.
Megs and I hung out TWICE! (Alice and KAO and I hung out too, but there are no pictures of us?!?)
My brothers and I (plus Heather!) visited my Grandma Alicia twice as well.
I spent quality Tweedle Hunting time withe the Best Nieces
And then there were the BOOKISH things! The formation of the GIF Admiration Society, two utterly delightful Minithons that led up to Dewey's 24-hour Readathon in October, and innumerable hilarious discussions about books, authors, shipping, and Life-in-General via gChat. ANOTHER MONTAGE:

Long live the Potteralong.
I kissed a handsome man.
Rainbow Rowell is adorable.

Let's do this, 2014.

30 December 2013

(On January 11) It Will Be That Time Again

It has been a YEAR since our first Minithon! Can you believe that? Obviously we're going to celebrate in accepted GIF Admiration Society style: with another Minithon.

Standard "rules" apply:

1) Books (and snacks) should have the theme of "mini." What does that mean to you? Be ready to tell us! The more of a stretch the better, especially since we're going to be reading all day and that's the only kind of stretching we're into.

2) Hashtag #minithon on Twitter, which none of us will be on because we will be reading, right? Right.

3) Plan for a starting, mid-thon, and wrap-up post. Unless we decide to bail on the mid-thon one because we were all ignoring "rule" #2 and napping because mini-snacks go down so easily.

So grab your mini-themed books, your threadbare excuses, and your mini-snacks; we're a go on Saturday January 11 at 8:00am*, Pacific time for eight WHOLE HOURS. Is there anything I've missed?
Sign up here!
*Megs and I are the only people in this glorious California time zone and most of you have been agitating for an earlier start time because you want us to be undercaffeinated, you selfish things. What time is good for you? [edit: starting at 8am since no one complained. Whew!]

27 December 2013

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon

So you all know I have A Thing about debut authors and how their books are generally... not so great. That's not to say that they won't get better, of course, and if your first novel is the best thing you ever produce and your name is neither Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell, I'm going to be pretty sad for you.

Maybe the thing that irritates me the most about these debuts is the superlatives that are used on the dust jackets. If someone's first work is stunning, gorgeous, groundbreaking, and phenomenal; where do they go from there? That's a lot of pressure! Especially when people are calling you the next JK Rowling because you're young, English, blonde, and (to be fair)  a pretty talented wordsmith at 23.

Correlation vs. causation, my dear Watson.

Now, don't get me wrong: The Bone Season is a grand ol' time and I not only enjoyed it thoroughly, I also look forward to reading more of Ms. Shannon's work while I weep in the corner about how I've done nothing with my life and young whippersnappers are published authors. But she's no JK, and The Bone Season is not "the next Harry Potter," so kindly ignore all that stupid hype.

The world Shannon has created is a kind of neo-Victorian clairvoyant Brave New World (although that's also one of my favorite books so y'know - also not the next Aldous Huxley, yadda yadda). It's got a whiff of Neverwhere about it, as well as some Soylent Green.

Paige is a clairvoyant in a London that diverged from ours around 200 years ago, when Edward VII went crazy at a dinner table, killed 5 people, and thus unleashed the clairvoyant curse on some of the population. The government operates as something of a junta, and most voyants have either joined the underground crime syndicate or sold out to the government for safety and work as terriers, sniffing out the illegal voyants. And of course Paige's strain of voyancy is special if not unique, and of course she doesn't know exactly how to use it. Clearly she needs a mentor.

You could just use honey, Mr. Miyagi, but whatevs.
There are twists and turns and Shannon does an excellent job of doling out information in just the right doses to intrigue her readers. There are some inconsistencies, and the pacing isn't super-refined. But I expect that she'll develop into a pretty phenomenal author if she can avoid the trap of writing novels in order to make movies, and it's all pretty engaging, especially if you threw it into you library request list without knowing anything about it except a vague feeling of "I heard this was good and maybe saw it on my goodreads feed."

7.5 out of 11 Ribbons for Dangling from in a Circus Act that No One Watches

02 December 2013

Missives from Mexico

Hellooooo! After seventeen only somewhat grueling hours of travel, I arrived in Cancun, Mexico, where my life was ROUGH, let me tell you.

So rough.

I had a bit of a family emergency in the days before I arrived and ended up taking a quick 4-day trip to rural Illinois, where my grandmother was suffering from septicemia (/shudder). Thank goodness we're not living in a post-antibiotic world... yet.

My brother and I are genetically incapable of taking a normal picture, but Grandma is doing fine! 

ANYWAY. I got home at 11:30pm on Monday and left again for work at 9am on Tuesday, so there wasn't a lot of time for the languid "what shall I take to read?" decisions I had been anticipating. So instead of making a decision, I just threw all of the library books I'd checked out to "test" into my suitcase and figured I'd sort it out when I got here:

It's moments like this that make me grateful that international flights often allow one free checked bag. No carrying 25# of books across four time zones for this girl! But I did manage to do quite a bit of knitting and listening to the third James Herriott book during my layovers, as well as to start and finish the utterly delightful The River of No Return by the Bee Ridgway.

Like Raych, I was somewhat disdainful of the idea that I could thoroughly enjoy a time travel book that didn't involve the plague or the Blitz. But this book was wonderful.

So, Nick is a lordling fighting for Wellington in Spain, and in the heat of battle gets jumped forward to 2003, where he is picked up by The Guild, whose job it is to monitor people who jump from one time into another. He spends 10 years settling in to rural Vermont on the Guild's dime, then gets a summons from his Alderwoman, who has some revelations for him.

Then there's Julia, who grew up (in 1815) with her craggy grandfather, the Earl of Dorchester. But he passes away, leaving her in the hands of his successor, who is a total dick and also probably nuts.

The Captain is pretty sure this is a terrible idea.
There are funny bits and surprising bits and a few naughty bits and the cover is gorgeous. Some of the characters that you think are for comic relief aren't, and the other way 'round. Ridgway leads the reader by the nose from one revelation to the next, and there were moments where I said, "HAH!" out loud in the airport or on the beach, then looked around furtively to see if anyone noticed.

A few people noticed.

The story spins out gorgeously. And it deals with cultural changes that we avid readers of historical fiction aren't always exposed to; I found myself thinking more carefully about my own assumptions and prejudices, and how they may seem absurd 200 years from now.

Good books make you think, regardless of what genre they get filed under.

I jumped straight from this to a Georgette Heyer and I'm disappointed in the Heyer because there's no time travel. That's how delightful this was.

10 out of 11 Secret Cupolas on Top of the Mansion

(Since I know you're all curious, I read 5.5 of the 12 books I took with me. /brushes off shoulders)