Thursday, January 26, 2017

Favorite Books of 2016

I'm a little late to the party... but so what?

It's that time of year. For the past two months, everyone's been posting their "best of" lists and since I'm unoriginal and lazy, here I am, doing the same.

These books are listed in the order in which I read them.

  1. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare—the long-awaited latest installment in Clare’s cash cow franchise was as joy-inducing as her previous works, and I honestly don’t care if it’s a shameless market grab, I will keep forking over my money for these books.
  2. Boy Meets Depression by Kevin Breel—a wonderful memoir of male depression, this book nearly moved me to tears on at least five occasions. Quite a feat for such a short book.
  3. The White Princess by Philippa Gregory—Gregory’s plot work, as always, is masterful, and while I am not a fan of the Tudors, I found this book that transitioned me into their time period to be immensely enjoyable, as many of Gregory’s works are. 

  1. The Hidden Oracle: Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan—especially after the disappointment of Magnus Chase, this fresh voice and story from Rick Riordan was a wonderful read. Apollo’s voice leapt off the page.
  2. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstien—a non-fiction feminist work, this book was accessible and funny, and many of the facts and studies included are things I still quote. Interesting exploration of girlhood in the 21st century.
  3. The Amazing Spiderman: Learning to Crawl by Dan Slott—as one of my first forays into comic books, this was so enjoyable! I loved the characterization of Spiderman, and this somewhat different approach to the “origin story”.


  1. The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver—This apocalyptic ecominic disaster novel was one of the first “literary” fiction novels I ever read, and certainly the first one that actually kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat. Whenever I closed this book, I genuinely wanted to get back into it.
  2. Phantoms of the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, trans by Sian Reynolds—This book, originally written in French, is a memoir of a man who owns over 40,000 books! I’ll leave you with this quote: “As for the saying ‘a book lent is a book lost’, the solution is very simple: never lend a book, always give it away”.
  3. American Housewife by Helen Ellis—a great collection of witty short stories! I laughed often while reading this one.

Thank you all for checking out my list! What are some of your favorite books from 2016?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Setting Goals

It’s that time of year again. Half of your facebook is idealistic 20-year-olds proclaiming that this is the year they’ll lose those twenty pounds, and the other half are naysayers proclaiming resolutions are pointless since no one lives up to them anyway. Anyone leftover are probably parents or teachers commenting with words of encouragement or wisdom.

Of course we can set goals at any time of year, but there’s something about the new year, something about writing January 2nd, 2017 that makes you feel as though everything you couldn’t accomplish on December 30th, 2016, is now possible.

We set goals, obviously, to improve ourselves. Whether it’s reading more or working out or watching less youtube or becoming a better gardener, there is something we can all do to self-improve.

But we live in a culture that values complacency and contentment above challenges and self-improvement. In the past, I’ve fallen victim to that sort of thinking. For the last couple years, I’ve let myself fail at my goals and be happy with that. Last year, I said I wanted to blog more, and if I didn’t, I would be okay anyway.

Guess what happened? I hardly blogged at all.

This year, I’m not doing that. This year, I’m holding myself accountable, and I’m talking about my goals with other people in my life, and they’ll hold me accountable. And if, at this time next year, anything is still left undone, I will be disappointed with myself. I haven’t challenged myself with anything that I can’t do.

Image result for i think i can

You know what? I’m a fantastic writer, and Ive been doing myself a disservice by not blogging. So I will blog, once a week, and at the end of the year I’ll have 52 new blog posts up.

You know what? I have plenty of time in my day that I’m wasting on Netflix or youtube. There’s no reason that I can’t read 100 books, so I will.

You know what? After all that time has been reallocated to reading, there will still be time left I’m wasting. Even when it’s freezing out, there are stairs in my house, I can walk up and down them. There’s no reason I should spend 8 hours of my day sedentary.

You know what? There is plenty of food in my house. There’s no reason I should be eating less then 3 servings of vegetables each day.

This is why we set goals. First, we challenge ourselves to do the things we can do, but aren’t or won’t. And then we push further. There’s more satisfaction in challenge than contentment. At the end of the year, I’ll have something to show for this.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lost Books

Many readers have strong feelings about their books as physical objects—the slew of articles from the late 2000’s and early 2010’s about the pros and cons of ereaders vs physical books prove that.

The arguments for physical books generally center around the attachments people create with those physical objects—the smell of the pages, memories of how, where and when the object was acquired, whether the physical object holds notes or dog-ears or cracked spines or the weight of previous reads.

But what about when one loses that physical object? Recently, as I reorganized my shelves, I realized my ten-year-old copy of City of Bones was missing. I remembered lending it out to someone, but not who. I posted on facebook searching for it, but whoever I lent it to has not responded.

Some people would likely be enraged at the loss off such a valuable object—a couple years ago, I might have been. City of Bones is one my favorite books, and that copy contained a litany of notes and underlines from the many times I read it, as well as the key to my colored tabs for the entire series. Quite a loss.

And yet, even as I asked on facebook for the identity of whoever I had lent it to, I was peaceful. Even as others commented on the post, working themselves up on the loss of the book, I was surprisingly okay with it. That object, while precious to me, did not contain the joy it had given me. I contain the joy it had given to me. And the joy I have yet to take from the story—well, that will come from another copy. Another physical object, that might hold just as much or more meaning than the previous one had.

I find myself actually excited to encounter this new physical object. Will I buy it or will it be gifted to me? Will I borrow it, from a friend, or the library? Will I shell out an extra ten dollars or so to get the UK paperback, with the really pretty cover, or will come across it at secondhand bookstore and pick it up for two bucks? Will it be a new copy, or a used copy? Will that used copy contain the weight of its previous reads and readers, just like my lost copy, wherever it is now, does?

In this way, thinking about the lost book in this way, has allowed me to let it roll off my shoulders pretty easily, though I question how applicable this approach is. Would my reaction be the same if I lost my paperback copy of Divergent, or my Collector’s Edition of Divergent, both of which hold vale to me more as physical objects than receptacles of the story, which I am quite critical of? What if my copy of City of Bones had cost me 20 or more dollars? I’m pretty stingy, so I think I’d take issue. What if it had been a signed copy, or a copy given to me by a friend who’s now gone? How much value do certain objects hold?

I can’t be sure of the answer, or how I’ll react the next time I lose a book. But this experience, this particular way of approaching the loss of the book not as a loss of it’s story or a loss of it’s memories, but a loss of the object alone, has taught me a lot about how I regard books and stories and memories.

As for the saying "a book lent is a book lost", the solution is very simple: never lend a book, always give it away.
-Jacques Bonnet Phantoms on the Bookshelves

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

November TBR

It's that time again, when I tell you what I will attempt to read.

This month, I would like to finish Phantoms on the Bookshelves and In a Handful of Dust. I would also like to finish Great Again before November 8th, but we'll see how well that works out. I also need to finish American Housewife, which I started in August.

The only two book on this TBR that aren't 'finishing' are The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor, which I would like to read to give me inspiration for NaNoWriMo as I'm writing assorted Southern Gothic short stories, and Spiderman: Blue because I want to read more comics.

That's it for me, I'll talk to you next week!

Monica, out.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Weekend Reads

I’ll be reading quite a few books this weekend, and thought I’d note them here!

For school:

Runaway by Alice Munro—currently on page 48, I’m reading this book of short stories by the Nobel Prize winning author for my fiction class. It’s really good so far.

The Art of Intimacy by Stacy D’Erasmo—currently on page 27, I’m also reading this book for my fiction class—it’s a writing craft book, and so far had been pretty good. I need to finish this 123-page volume before Tuesday, so it’s top priority

 RunawayThe Art of Intimacy: The Space Between

For fun:

In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis—I’m on page 115 of this book, and it’s going pretty slowly, but also pretty good so far. In my memory, the first one is better though.

Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet—an anti-minimalism perspective on the value of collecting and keeping books, the author owns over 40,000! I’m currently on page 75, and REALLY enjoying this one.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez—I’m listening to this on audio. I’m almost an hour into this one, which is a total of about ten hours. I’m slowly dipping my toes back into the world of Audiobooks, and I haven’t had as awful of an experience as I had listening to A Darker Shade of Magic. Anyways, the story so far is really compelling, and the narration is pretty amazing.

 In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink, #2)Phantoms on the BookshelvesThe Book of Unknown Americans

So, that’s what I’ll be reading this weekend. Thanks for stopping by!

Monica, out.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Quarter 1 (Jan-Mar) Book Haul!

This is a list of all the books I got in the first three months of this year!

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carleson
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women by Kristine Carleson
Flirt + Cerulean Sins + Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton
The Martian by Andy Weir
House of Deer + The Method by Sasha Steenson

After Alice by Gregory MaGuire
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk
The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek
Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Bluest Eye + Beloved by Toni Morrison
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Trust Me by Romily Bernard
The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Walt Disney's Classic Storybook

That's it for me! All in all, I got 21 books, and I've already read 2 of them. See y'all soon in another post! :)

Monica, out.