The Best Books I Read In 2013

(As usual, please note, these are not necessarily the best books YOU read in 2013, or the best books some critic at Salon read in 2013, they’re the best books I read in 2013, and some of them weren’t published in 2013, so in no universe do I claim that it’s THE DEFINITIVE LIST OF THE BEST BOOKS WRITTEN IN 2013.  It’s just the Best Books I READ in 2013.  And that maybe you didn’t like. Or won’t like.  Or hated. Or will hate. Got it? Ok then.)

Also to be noted is that this year was BLEAK in the world of Elizabeth’s Literary Trials. Last year I had a difficult time narrowing a list to 13 books and I had a ton of runner ups.  This year I had a hard time finding 10 and I don’t really have any runner ups.  I don’t know if it’s because I read less or just because I was in a bad mood or what the deal was, but I did go through all the “Best Of” lists put out by everyone and I’d read almost all the books on those lists and nope.  Just nope. I mean, Night Film? ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT?

Hold on a minute, I have to pause to throw some random italics in here.

Whatever. Here’s my favorite books from this past year.

1. Blind Sight

blind sight

I loved this book.  I just loved it.  It was that book that connects with a place you’ve been in your life as if the author knows that place, and has been there, and then writes about it and somehow fixes it a little bit for you simply with the writing down of it. With the exception of a tiny thing at the end, which I did not love, it really was a favorite this year.  It just hit home for me. I really hope Meg Howrey keeps churning out books because I am a big fan.  (I just found out she’s half of the alter ego Magnus Flyte and wrote this book! Best news ever!)

2. Eleanor & Park

e&p

This book has my heart.  It was, for me, perfection. Tied for my favorite book of the year.

I still remember having this book on hold at the library for ages, before anyone was really talking about it, and even though I was excited to read it I assumed it’d be either of no consequence or terrible.  The author’s name was RAINBOW, for god’s sake.  And then I read it and it lodged somewhere in my soul like a shard of glass, and then everyone else read it and people talked about it everywhere, Twitter and blogs and I sent copies to people I love and then Rainbow Rowell wrote a new book and then all of a sudden our world had been changed.  By someone named Rainbow, and the books she wrote.  And man, I just love that.  Today is different than 364 days ago because of BOOKS.  Best.

3. The Interestings

interestings

This was one of those books that I wasn’t sure about until after I finished reading it and gave it some breathing room, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the more I thought about it the more I liked it.  It was no Prep, but it was definitely worth a read, and the characters were fantastic.

4. Me Before You

me before you

I could not love a book more than I loved this book.  I loved every single thing about it. I am sad that I’ve already read it so I can never read it again for the first time.  This is my other favorite book of the year.  Absolutely the best in every way.

5. Life After Life

life after life

I’ve told everyone I know to read this book, and no one hasn’t liked it.  It’s really just wonderful. Fascinating, interesting, spellbinding, all the good adjectives.

6. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Bookstore

mr penumbra

God, I thought this was just such a great book.  Funny and smart and clever and interesting and fun. Finally a fun book! And I loved it.

7. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

constellation of vital phenomena

I will remain bitter to the end of my days that this book did not win the National Book Award. This is my high faluting literary favorite book of the year.  Seriously, this book.  A tour de force. Not a fun book, but nevertheless, amazing.

8. Fangirl  

fangirl

The other Rainbow Rowell book of the year.  While it did not hold my heart in its hand the way E&P did, I still really really really liked it.  I think most people prefer one or the other, and E&P is the one I LOVED, but this was still a really good book. For me, it was not EXCEPTIONAL the way that E&P was, but it was still better than 9/10th’s of the other crap I read this year.

9.  Heft

heft

I have no idea why I had never heard of this book, it was published in January of 2012, but my neighbor loaned me the paperback and I looooooooved it.  So heartbreaking and wonderful.

10.  The Orchardist

the orchardist

This was the first good book I read in 2013 and so it earns a spot on the list just for that.  I think I would describe it as a bit of a hard read, it’s not endearing, I wouldn’t say.  But to me the writing was so impressive and the story so heartfelt that it was worth the work of reading it.  I never would have thought it was the kind of thing I would love but I found myself thinking “Damn. Now that’s a writer,” the entire time I was reading it.  It’s a long, quiet, strange book, but it’s also majestic, in its way.

Don’t forget to go enter my give away if you haven’t yet, and thank you for all the good book suggestions over there! Here’s hoping 2014 is the Year I Love All The Books.

Advertisements

Books I Read In November and December. And a Give Away!

So one of my goals after gazillions of dollars worth of therapy is to read less.  I think it’s a healthy goal.  I know it might seem counter intuitive to say this while the rest of the world is resolving to read more, but for me reading had become a weird thing I was doing to meet a quota. I was reading books I hated just so I could add them to a list.  And worse, I was using it as a retreat from my family.  I’d go into my little bedroom cave and ignore everyone while my husband did bedtime and wrangled two high strung children and then watched tv by himself.

My life needs to not be a retreat, and it needs to not be lived  just so I can put on my blog that I read so! many! books! aren’t I AMAZING? My life needs to be something I love.  This is the year I do less things I think I am supposed to do so I can do more things I love.  Reading will always be a huge part of my life but it needs to be not a box I am trying to check off for imaginary life points, and not an everyday retreat from the real world.

So I don’t know if I will continue on listing out what I read every month. I don’t even know if I will continue writing here.  I didn’t WANT to write this post but I felt like I wanted to finish out my year of books, so I did it, but I am not going to spend a lot of time in 2014 making myself write blog posts I don’t want to write.  I do have a lot of thoughts but they seem really personal. I am holding things close to the vest, it seems. I am changing, I think, for the better, but it’s a gritty, strange, unknown process.  Who knows what will emerge in the end. Anyway.

This is what I read in November and December.  It’s barely anything, go me.

128.  The Husband’s Secret

the husbands secret

I have no idea why I read this, since I didn’t like What Alice Forgot.  Spoiler Alert: I didn’t like this either.

129. The Secret Keeper

the secret keeper

I tried so hard to like this because Janssen loved it but it just didn’t do it for me.

130. Cupcake Decorating Lab

cupcake decorating lab

Meh.

131.  Warm Bodies

warm bodies

Oh wow.  I SUPER SUPER SUPER HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATED this book.  The rage, it is still strong.

132.  The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

unseemly education

Full disclosure, one of my Super Friends, Jennie, sent me the galley of this book, but regardless of that, I really really really really liked it.  I loved the main character and it was such a fresh read after all the derivative YAF crap I have read this year and even if my friend did not work for the publisher, I promise you, I would have liked it. In fact I was rather stressed that I would not like it because then WHAT WOULD I SAY but no worries. It’s good,  and I loved the twist at the end which I did not see coming although probably you are smarter than I am so I make no promises. If it had a weak spot it would be the love interest who I thought was slightly a drip, but still.  Totally recommend if you like Fantasy YAF.  AND if you leave me a  comment on this post telling me your favorite book you’ve read in the past two months you can win a copy of your very own, providing you live in Canada or the United States.  Yeah!

133.  Songs of Willow Frost

songs of willow frost

This was just SO boring.

134.  This Song Will Save Your Life

this song will save your life

I liked this, but I did not love it.  It was a quick entertaining read, but it had a lot of plot holes.  The title was the best part of the whole book.

135.  Something Like Normal

something like normal

I really enjoyed this book, actually.  It’s not perfection or anything but it’s a perfectly serviceable YAF romance. I loved the girl interest so that helped. It reminded me for some strange reason of Magic Mike, which I was a big fan of.

136.  Where the Stars Still Shine

where the stars still shine

After I read Something Like Normal I finally found Trish Doller’s new book at my library.  Spoiler Alert, it’s this book.  Anyway, this was also slightly on the idiotic side, even for YAF, but it was saved for me by the romance, which I loved, actually a lot like her first book.  She writes that sassy girl/cocky boy thing really really well.  I could see how it’s not for everyone but it pushed all my “super hot bad boy likes me” buttons.  Also, I read it in a night.  It’s no best book of the year but it worked.  I look forward to whatever else she writes.

So! If you want to win a copy of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, and you live in the US or Canada, just leave me a comment on this post by Friday January 3rd telling me your favorite book of the year.  My 2013 Best Books of the Year post should go up next week, as well, provided I don’t lose my mind between now and then after being trapped in the house with these two ankle biters for six days.  Funsies!

 

 

 

The New Christmas Plan

When Eli was about two or three, Christmas started to get really crappy for everyone involved, and I believe this was also the advent of my obsessive detailing of all that we needed to PLAN and DO and FOCUS on to make sure Christmas was ok.  Now we have applied $5K worth of therapy to my brain and I like to think of this year as the start of a new Christmas plan.

The thing I am learning, mostly, is that things change and that’s ok. Christmas doesn’t have to be exactly the same every year. It doesn’t have to be exactly the way your parents did it or the way you see it in the movies or the way it worked when your child was 2.  I do wish I would have realized when Eli was younger that NO ONE would remember any of that stuff, not him or me, but I also think that helped us to figure out how we like to do things now, when he will remember.

One thing we have retained is that we always have Christmas at our house. I want my kids to wake up to Christmas morning at their  own house. I want Santa to come HERE. I don’t want to spend our Christmas break shuttling all over the country and trying to jam my kids into someone else’s Christmas morning. I want the freedom to do our traditions just the way we want to do them.  So we stay here, and we miss our families, of course, and wish we could all be together, but we also love being at our house, with our tiny family, and having our own Christmas just the way we like it.

However, this year, we are trying some new things too.

We used to distribute presents over as much of a time span as possible because there was SO MUCH STUFF and Eli would get totally overwhelmed after three presents and leave the room on Christmas morning.  I do think that the “OMG ONLY GRANDCHILD SEND EVERY TOY EVER MADE” fervor has died down and Eli is also waaaaay more into presents now, so this year we are going to go back to opening all the presents on Christmas morning. We used to do family presents on Christmas Eve and Santa Presents on Christmas morning but last year to achieve that nice “what a lot of magical stuff there is under this tree!!!!” feeling I had to really stress and overbuy and even then my ungrateful child was a bit “that’s it?” So this we will bombard his skinny little person with everything at once and see how that goes.

I also took my Advent Calendar list into therapy one day and after my therapist nearly cried tears of laughter and asked if she could photocopy it and make it Exhibit A in the DSM under OCPD, she told me to cross off 75% of the things on the list, especially the things I didn’t think were fun, that I was just doing because I thought I had to for the kids.  And honestly, we don’t have time to do all those things this year anyway, now that Eli is in first grade.  We come home, have a snack, do homework, and then it’s time to start dinner and work our way towards bed.  So I crossed off A LOT of stuff and now we’ve got a few things we do on the weekend and we mostly ignore the Advent Calendar and there’s a nice flexibility that’s come back – we still went to get new ornaments but we did it when we had a spare couple of hours, not as dictated by a schedule.  And I didn’t make sugar cookies with the kids because it sucks and I am not sad about it, not one single bit. I made lots of cookies, by myself, and it was lovely.

My therapist also suggested that Christmas shouldn’t be JUST about kids.  That we should find some new traditions that are just for me and Erik, things like going out to a nice dinner to talk over December plans.  This is a work in progress because money is so tight this time of year and Erik had two work trips and it’s just doesn’t come naturally to me, but so far we have our Christmas Day Dim Sum and we have an NBA game two days before Christmas (we take Eli but not Katie), and next year I think we’ll do a joint shopping day and a joint cookie day, Erik can take the day off work and we’ll just hang out together.  SANS CHILDREN.

But so far this year for the first time in a long while I have really enjoyed Christmas.  There’s still the money stress and a slight desire to just get things over with, but I focused my energies on the things I love doing, like decorating my house, and I let go of some other things that were bogging me down. One of the things I had to let go was the $25 and Under Gift Guide I always used to do, and I felt so awful about it, but it was just so much work and aside from all the nice things that everyone always said about it, I didn’t get much back for it.  I don’t make any money of any kind from this blog and it was just too much work for not much return. I was really conflicted about this, but the first time I chucked a catalog in the recycling bin instead of forcing myself to sit down and comb through it for ideas, I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders.  So it was time.  It was time to let that go.

I also stopped opening the stuff other people send here! Aren’t you proud of me? I know not everything sent to us will be to my taste, and that’s fine.  And granted, I did buy almost all my Christmas gifts from Erik myself, because I hate surprises and it’s just easier that way.  But I finally finally, just this year, realized that Christmas isn’t about getting my needs met by other people. It’s just something people do to be nice.  It’s not my mother’s job to keep me in clothes that fit me or makeup that I want. That’s MY job.  Presents are just things that people send you to be nice, and if you don’t want them, then give them away or throw them out.  No big deal.

Anyway, I started this post as a way of telling you what the kids are getting, so ten million years later, here’s what my rotten spoiled children are being showered with on Christmas morning:

(First we open Santa presents and stockings, which show up on Christmas morning.  All the other presents are already under the tree, wrapped, and we open those next.  Sometimes after breakfast, depending on how hungry we are.)

Santa is bringing Eli:

A Spark Scooter (unwrapped, if you care about that sort of thing)

spark scooter

Angry Birds Jenga (wrapped)

angry birds jenga

A Glow Pet (wrapped)

Stamps and Envelopes, as per request

and 18 bottles of root beer.

rootbeer

In his stocking, also from Santa, he’s getting socks, play doh, a movie, a little lego guy, bath bubbles, soap (the boy loves his soap), bandaids, animal crackers, a book, a movie, a toothbrush and toothpaste, gum, red peppers, and a bike lock.

From me and Erik he is getting:

A “Grown Up Camera”

camera

a giant box of art supplies

slippers, a tie (he really wants this, for some odd reason), a sweater (he doesn’t want this but he needs it), gloves, and a wallet because he just started getting an allowance and he keeps all his money in a ziploc bag.

The most important thing to note is that in a well guarded secret, my brother is getting him an Xbox/Playstation/Wii variant and so he won’t care about any of this other stuff AT ALL.

*** Do we think this is enough presents? At first I thought he was being spoiled rotten and then I got worried this was a lot of clothes and it’s not enough stuff.  Feel free to tell me I’m a complete idiot with very spoiled children.

Katie is getting, from Santa:

A new bike

bike

and a “tiger for dad” because she’s obsessed with tigers now and she has diabolically started asking for presents for other people that she wants for herself.

tiger

In her stocking she’s getting basically the same assortment of stuff as Eli: paints, socks, animals crackers, tights, another little tiger, some terrible Ariel necklace, play doh, bath bubbles, toothpaste and toothbrush, gum, band aids, lip smackers, and a movie.

We had a really hard time figuring out what else to get her.  She has these very specific interests and I don’t want to fill up my house with crap, because I don’t have room for it and my kids don’t really play with it.  Although I am going to start a game shelf in my coat closet and that might help, traditionally games have had the pieces scattered all over my house and the pieces lost and the boxes crushed in mere minutes and then I just throw them out, so I am hoping having a high up shelf and having to ask to get the games down so you can play them one at a time and then clean them up and put them back will help.

Anyway, from me and Erik she is getting:

two dresses, two or three sweaters, some purple hair bows because purple is her favorite color and the other day when she asked for a purple  hair bow and I told her she didn’t have one I thought she was going to report me to CPS, an Ariel doll that goes in the bathtub because I just couldn’t give a Barbie to a three year old, gloves, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and a Tiger Costume and Tiger Legwarmers.

ariel  tiger costume

She’s also getting a glow pet from my neighbor, a new pair of Minnetonka Moccassins from my mom, and a zoo membership from my brother, so I think she’ll have a lovely Christmas.  In fact, hopefully we all will.

What I Wore Some Time Ago Before It Was Ridiculously Freezing Cold For One Million Days In A Row

I know I know it’s colder where you and you can’t even get out of your car you just have a tube that shoots you straight into the mall from your seat but I live in California and I do not accept this WEATHER NONSENSE.

Anyway. I am feeling totally uninspired lately. It’s cold and I just want to wear jeans and sweater and my dresses that I liked last winter seem boring and faded and blah.  Not really sure where my mojo went but I am guessing it will come back in May.  The sad thing that I don’t NEED new clothes, and I don’t have room for any more clothes, and I don’t want to spend any more money on clothes I don’t have room for and don’t need, but I’m still like “Oh, these same old tired things?” when I go to my closet every morning, and then I pull out my orange vest and my boots.  Whatever.  Life goes on.

DSC_0001-001

What a cute outfit. I should wear this more often. Too bad it’s negative one billion degrees. I keep meaning to pin all my most favorite outfits from the last six months to Pinterest and then just wear those, because otherwise I tend to forget the stuff I put together that I really liked, but it feels…douchey, pinning pictures of yourself.  Meh.

{ATL Boyfriend Cardigan, Forever 21 Tassel necklace, Old Navy Vintage V Neck tee, AE Artist Crops, Vince Camuto Booties of Glitter and Happiness (not their real name)}

DSC_0106-001

I bought this lumpy old Grandma sweater at Target. It’s not the most flattering. I don’t even care. It FEELS cute on and it’s the most warmest comfortable wonderful things and you can wear it with leggings and boots and a scarf and a down vest and bam! Done.

DSC_0155-001

See, this felt cute on, and then in this picture? Meh.  Literally the only thing I can get interested in lately are the same pair of jeans and a sweater and the same pair of fleece lined boots.

{Old Navy denim jacket, Lands End faux wrap dress that pills so I’m not recommending it, Hive and Honey booties, Target scarf}

You know what I really need? A pair of skinny black pants that I can wear with boots. I don’t want black jeans or black jeggings, and I tried on these ponte knit pants from the Gap and they were wretched. But I’d really like to have one other boot option besides skinny jeans or leggings, you know? Anyone got anything for me?

DSC_0200-001

I had to put this picture in because it’s just so ridiculous.

{Gap puffer vest, Gap Luxelight sweater, AE High Rise Super Skinnies, Frye Campus Boots}

DSC_0256-001

I also feel very meh about this.  I can’t put my finger on it but it just feels like I was trying to make something work that doesn’t.

DSC_0288-001

And again, this is not my favorite.  I blame the weather.  I have to wear jackets over all these dresses that do not look good that way.  It’s horrible, really.  Devastating.  Life ruining.

DSC_0341-001

Ok, this is liked.  I dithered over this Gap blazer but I’m so glad I bought it, I really love it.

{Gap Herringbone Campus Blazer, Amazon scarf, AE High Rise Super Skinnies, Bandolino boots}

DSC_0363-002

This is what I actually want to wear every day.  My ridiculous vest, a boring navy blue sweater, my skinny jeans, and some riding boots. Not very exciting but it’s warm and it looks put together and classic and it makes me happy. Sometimes when I’ve been drinking I add a scarf.

Will try and start taking pictures and posting regularly again. Sometimes you just don’t feel it and that’s ok, you know? You do what you gotta do to get by.

A Letter To My Younger Self

Dear Elizabeth At Any Age Prior to 37 and 1/3 Years:

Every single time EVER for the rest of your life? Absolutely every time you think to yourself: “WHAT is that SMELL?”, that smell is that you are burning something.

Love,

The Current You Who Just Ruined The Tea Kettle, Your Favorite Pot, and Your Cuisinart Stick Blender