Thursday, January 31, 2013

fool yourself into success

Surely I'm not the only one that does this.

No, not what Steinbeck recommends. I tend to do the opposite. I focus very intently on my goal (Must write 1,000 words per day. Must run 30+ minutes every other day.). So intently that often, instead of just writing something (even if it's only 250 words), I write nothing.

Maybe I'm busy that day or I'm feeling unimaginative or I give in to distractions. My goal intimidates me so much that instead of just trying (even if I don't make it to the word count), I abandon the activity and move on to something else. I toss away the day, labeling it fruitless before I've even sat down or written just one word.

The basic goal should always be just to write something every day. Too often I forget that. As long as you're striving toward your goal, you haven't failed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

memoirs of an imaginary friend

This is the story of Budo. 

Budo is the imaginary friend of a little boy named Max. He popped into existence when Max began believing in him, and he will only live as long as Max imagines him there. But Budo is very lucky—because Max is autistic, he needs Budo more than other children need their imaginary friends. Max is already 4-years-old and he spends most of his time keeping Max company and helping him with the daily tasks that come easily to other kids. The fact that Budo can only interact with and be seen by Max isn't a great detriment until one day, something awful happens. Then, it is up to Budo to save Max.

It's been a long time since I read a story that had me riveted. From the moment Budo becomes suspicious of Max's situation, I was hooked and desperate to know what had happened to Max. And then once I knew, I was desperate to figure out how Budo could possibly help him when he is (to everyone but Max) invisible and mute. Sometimes the writing was repetitive and I'm not a huge fan of the ending, but this was a wonderful book due to sheer imagination and storytelling ability. I was hooked!

TITLE: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
AUTHOR: Matthew Dicks
DATE FINISHED: 20 January 2013
VERDICT: 4/5 stars. Compelling and full of interesting ideas.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ttt: top ten settings i'd like to see more of

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Settings I'd Like to See More Of. And I've gotta say, it's one of my favorite topics in a while. I love historical settings, so I was very tempted to just name decades (1910s, 1930s, 1860s, etc.), but really, I love any historical setting. I'm not that picky as long as it's pre-1950. So I started thinking of places instead and before I knew it, I had a huge list on my hands. And I'm really excited about them too! Both as settings to look for when I'm trying to find new reads and as inspiration for my own stories.

Top Ten Settings I'd Like to See More Of

1. A Cruise Boat (Think Titanic). Preferably a boat between 1900 and 1940. Not required to sink, but I wouldn't mind if it did. Definitely must include some "fancy dress" scenes in the dining room. 

2. Olympic Village. I'm not interested in an autobiography of an Olympian. I want a fictional, behind-the-scenes, action-packed look at the athletes. Big rivalries and drama required. Maybe something mysterious, an act of sabotage . . . 

3. Versailles in the Reign of Marie Antoinette (Think Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette). Drama, romance, extravagant wealth. A ball with lots of dancing required. Preferably, there would be lots of watercolors inside to help you imagine the elaborate fashion, food, and decor.

4. A Train (Think Harry Potter's Hogwarts Express and Murder on the Orient Express). Again, preferably pre-1950. Must include carriages, fancy dining cars, and interesting scenery out the windows. 

5. Boarding School (Think Never Let Me Go, Old School, Prep, Madeline, A Little Princess, Harry Potter, etc.) From what I've seen so far, this is a very popular choice. As it should be! Boarding schools are so fascinating. The rules, the enclosure, the lack of parents (but the prominence of teachers). 

6. Airports (Think of the movie The Terminal). I've spent quite a lot of time in airports in the past couple years. Slept overnight a few times in the Athens Airport and once in Paris-Orly. I was sick of them after that, but I'll always be fascinated and excited by the idea of an airport. So many different people heading different ways, for tons of different reasons. All the busyness and the strange, exhausted people (I saw a lady freak out and start screaming in the Paris-Orly airport about how the French were pigs). Why has there not been a book about the world of an airport?

7. An Asylum (Think Fingersmith, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Preferably, the narrator would not in fact be crazy (or would be a strange kind of crazy . . . ). I'd love to see more books about those evil men who committed their wives because of "hysteria." Or about the homosexuals committed purely because of their sexual orientation. Such strange, awful periods in human history.

8. A Ski Lodge (Think Bloomability). I've never been to a ski lodge (nor have I been skiing), but I'd love to go someday, and I think it'd make the perfect setting for a story. The cold, the beautiful snow, sitting by the fire, the wilderness, accidents on the big slopes . . .

9. Summer Camp (Think The Parent Trap). I've also never been to a real summer camp. We went for a week in 5th grade (the best week of elementary school ever!) and I went to a daily Girl Scout camp several summers in my childhood, but I'm talking about the all summer long summer camps. Lakes, swimming, rowboats, campfires, archery, cabins. Perfect setting for some drama.

10. Christmastime in London (Think Bridget Jones's Diary, Love Actually, A Christmas Carol). I was going to go with just Christmas, but I really prefer to see Christmas scenes in big, urban settings. So New York would be great too (or Paris!), but London just seems like the perfect match for Christmas. 

PLEASE let me know, readers, if you know of any great books that fit my dream settings. I'm sure there are more out there than I know.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


You might have heard this is a story about a hermaphrodite, and it is, but it goes a lot further than that. Cal (born as Calliope) tells the story of how he discovered he was not female, as he had believed since birth, but intersex (he is male with some female traits). But to tell his story, he goes back all the way to Asia Minor in the early 1920s, because that is where his grandparents (Desdemona and Lefty) lived. After the burning of Smyrna, they move to Detroit, Michigan. The story spans 3 generations, describing in great detail the romances, occupations, finances, children, and various other stories of the Stephanides family. The past is important because it is through two cases of incest in Cal's family history that he is born intersex.

The story is beautifully written with lots of wonderful historical detail about Greek Turkey and Detroit in the 1920s. Some passages are written with great creativity and beauty. Eugenides is fantastic at finding innovative ways to describe situations we've all read about dozens of times. I also really loved reading the perspective of an intersex person, though I wish we'd gotten to hear more of Cal's feelings at vital points in the novel. 

That's one of my minor complaints. We go through hundreds of pages detailing Cal's grandparents' and parents' stories, but then we don't really get to hear how Cal makes the decision to take on a male identity (after being raised and thinking of himself as a female for 14 years). We also skip over all the in-between years (15 to whatever age Cal is during the present-day scenes in Berlin). I really wanted to hear more about those first years he began thinking of himself as a man.

But my main complaint is the length. This book is over 500 pages long and filled with extraneous detail. I would have chopped out about 200 of those pages. And if it were only 300 pages, I'd have definitely given it 4 stars instead of 3.

TITLE: Middlesex
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Eugenides
DATE FINISHED: 10 January 2013
VERDICT: 3/5 Mostly lovely but too long.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 reading goals

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013.

Normally, I don't like to make many reading plans. I enjoy striving for a yearly goal (50 books for 2013), but plotting out each title you hope to read seems against the point of it. If I assigned myself too many readings, I would ruin the fun of it. What I choose to read at any given point in time is very dependent on my mood and sporadic interests. That being said, I do want to make a few loose goals. If I make themfantastic. If not, well, there's no one around to dock my grade for it, is there? :-)


This year I hope to . . .

1. Read at least 10 nonfiction books. Some fun and some informative, because as a recent graduate, I still have that itch to learn in me and I'm not sure that it will ever go away. I don't feel productive unless I'm learning something new.

2. Read another book by Haruki Murakami. Because I really enjoyed Norwegian Wood and I can't wait to read another of his books, preferably one that exhibits more of his surrealistic style (or maybe the others are all like that? I'm not sure).

3. Read another book by Neil Gaiman. Because I loved his commencement speech last year and I've only gotten around to reading Coraline, which was great but clearly meant for children.

4. Read a book by Malcolm Gladwell. I started The Tipping Point last year, but due to library requests and due dates, I quit after twenty pages. Can't wait to get my hands on him again :)

5. Read some short stories by Amy Hempel. I've been meaning to do this a long time. She got rave reviews  from some of my favorite writing professors and classmates, but I never did get around to reading her work.

6. Don't finish bad books. This was a goal of mine last year too and for the most part, I stuck by it. It infuriates the list-maker/task-checker in me that wants to fully finish everything I start, but it felt great to set aside some books I just didn't like. And even better, it let me move on to books I truly enjoyed. Definitely want to keep this one up.

7. Conquer a few classics. Some of the classics are wonderful. Some are boring (or overrated). But no matter what, it feels so great when you finish a famous old tome. Forever after, you'll know what people (or characters on TV) are talking about when they reference it, and you'll be excited when the movie adaptation comes out (instead of feeling bad that you want to see it without reading it first). This year, I've got my eye on Emma, The Woman in White, and Anna Karenina. We'll see though. I make no promises. If it comes down to it, #6 (Don't Finish Bad Books) might outweigh this goal. (Not that they are bad, but they might be boring/overlong). 

8. Read more books about writing. They're the perfect nightstand companion. They inspire and they never need to be rushed.

9. Reread a favorite or two. Or at least skim through them. I have such a hard time rereading things. I always feel like I'm wasting time! Crazy, I know.

10. Buy more favorites. I've admitted before that I don't buy many books. I refuse to buy books I haven't read (unless they're on super sale or by a favorite author). However, I do love to own copies of my favorite books, and there are quite a few I'd like to add to my collection (The Age of Miracles, A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette, amongst others).

I'm most excited about #1-6, most intimidated by #7 (Anna Kareninaeek!), and most uncertain about #9. Numbers 8 and 10 will just be fun :-)

What are your reading goals this year? Do you have any recommendations for novels by Haruki Murakami or Neil Gaiman that I should have my eye on? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

resolutions for 2013

It's that time of year again! New Year's resolutions time.

Last year I fared well. Of my 12 resolutions, I succeeded in 9.5 of them. I read 30 pages every day. I read 30 books (actually, I read 50!). I submitted a short story to literary magazines and ate more yogurt. And I continued writing this blog—this time last year, it was still a blog about Greece. How far we've come!

I don't have quite so many goals this year, but I'm just as excited about starting them.

Mr. Fox is pretty excited too.


1. Read 50 books. Last year I shot for 30 and ended up at 50, so I think this year I'll just start with 50. This weekend I'll share some of the books I'm hoping to conquer in the coming year.

2. Run every other day. Twelve months ago I would never have imagined this possible, but last summer I (slowly, painfully, but successfully!) began running. This year, I just want to keep it up and hopefully improve my endurance and speed.

3. Eat (at least) a cup of veggies every single day. It sounds so easy, and yet . . .

4. Write 1,000 words every day. And hopefully, some days, a lot more than 1,000.

5. Finish my novel. If I stick to #4, this shouldn't be so hard.

6. Take 365 pictures, one each day. I love to take pictures, but I always seem to forget until those opportune moments. I'd like to take more pictures of everyday life, not just of holidays and events. And then at the end of the year, I can compile them into one photo album. My sister did this a few years ago and it turned out great.

* * * * *

So that's it. Six goals. Very do-able. And even if I don't succeed, I'll make more progress in the attempt than I would have otherwise. 

Do you have any New Year's resolutions? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

happy new year!

HERE'S TO 2013!

Thirteen is my favorite number (mostly because of my birthdayFebruary 13th), so I'm thrilled that 2013 is here! I'm confident that it's going to be a fantastic, fun, successful, and all-around lucky year. For me, and hopefully for all of you too :-)

Later this week, I'll share my resolutions for the year. I was never big on resolutions until last year and since that attempt went well, I'm continuing the tradition for 2013. I've got some big (but manageable) goals and I can't wait to share them with you.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's Eve!

Thank you (once again) for reading!


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