Monday, April 29, 2013

All This Messing Around Has to Stop

It's that time again. That time when I start to think, "you know, I could be a better blogger." I usually ignore these kinds of feelings because they come pretty constantly about pretty much everything. I could be a better housekeeper, writer, parent, chocolate-chip cookie maker.

 Actually, that last one is a lie. I am an excellent chocolate-chip cookie maker. Really. They ruin my diet every week.

 Anyway. Today is Monday and even though I hate Mondays they do offer the opportunity to start a week right. Today, already (nobody point out it is almost two and "already" hardly applies) I've, um, eaten breakfast, fed the brood, taken D to swimming and done 30 minutes of cardio, fed them lunch (why? Why do they need to eat so much?), showered, gotten the terrible twins on the bus and eaten lunch myself. And I think other stuff.

And let's be honest, if I'm going to fit something else in I need to learn to be more organized. Things that take me, right now, 30 minutes need to take me 20. I need systems. I need plans. I need (*shudder*) to-do lists. 

But here's the problem. Whenever I decide to get organized in my house, or in my writing (hello outline, I'm looking at you) my brain explodes. And that is a hard thing to recover from. Honestly, all the little pieces flying and somehow the organizing is MORE complicated than the chaos. Which frankly can't be true.

The thing is, to get to the organized you have to wade through the chaos and that forces you to face it. To look at each little McDonald toy you've been shoving in a bin for five years and think "this has served its purpose and can be thrown away." Or you can throw the bin away. Both work. And facing all those little loose ends you've been ignoring take a level of mental honesty I am not really prepared for.

 You know how when you're revising a book you're supposed to kill your darlings? (sidebar: is this a quote from Stephen King or does it predate his writing book? Because it feels like something he should've said). I think cutting back is hard for the same reason. You clean up a little corner which only reveals how messy everything else is. So once again its Monday and I have good intentions to do better this week. And I'm going to tackle one of those little places, in my house and in my book, that is all kinds of cluttered with broken dollar store toys and ripped up books (so the hardest, right? How do you throw away a book? I have board books my oldest chewed on so they look like they were shelved in a hamster cage but you can still read them so I keep them).

I'm going to tackle my little corner and make it cleaner, neater, and more organized. And I'm not even going to roll my eyes when I do it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If there is anything cuter in the world than an eighteen-month-old, I don't know what it is.

And yet. They sure do keep you busy.

But because of that busy I've been listening to more books and I've got a new! (qualified) book recommendation for you.

I just finished listening to Dan Well's Partials. 

From Goodreads:

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out. Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them--connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

 Well. Sounds kind of amazing, right? I mean Kira is definitely a tough cookie. And you know what I liked best about her? She doesn't assume because smart people have been working on a problem for a long time that she won't be able to solve it. Isn't that important? I mean, so what if people who have more experience, are older and are wiser or whatever have been working on a problem. That doesn't mean the young whipper-snapper won't be the person to think of the solution. I don't mean that to sound snarky: it is really what I enjoyed about her. A specific kind of fearlessness.

 Unfortunately, Kira and I aren't bound to be BFFs (which is a word my boys just learned on the bus. They crack me up sometimes). Kira is a well-drawn character. At least, she should be. And maybe for some people she is. But there was something missing for me. That extra little bit of humanity or common experience that takes a character from interesting to living. So I leave this to you. If you like sci fi and post-apocalyptic novels, you will likely enjoy this. Dan Well's is clearly an excellent writer. And he attended my alma mater, so I like him for that too.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Books to Read: Wonder

You know how sometimes there are those survey question, where they ask if there was a book you've read which changed your outlook on life? I never know what to answer. Especially in terms of novels. I have read lots of books which challenged the way I thought, or opened my mind to new ideas. I remember being really affected by The Poisonwood Bible, for example.

But when I think about my everyday, my habits, I can't think of a book which has made a distinguishable impact. Until maybe now.

From Goodreads:

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Wow. There is a lot to love about this book. Is it perfect? Probably not. But Auggie's story, which is told not just from Auggie's point-of-view but also from others who are close to him, really struck a chord. And made me ask how I treat people. Do I shy away from people who are different? Am I just friendly enough? Do I not risk looking foolish myself to help and be a friend to others? And because I am asking those questions still, now, a week or a month later, I am going to give Wonder a perfect score.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Books to Read

So, I've been reading. Okay, mostly I've been listening. And let's be honest, audiobooks are a little different from regular books. I mean, I'll stick with a book where the pacing is a little slow or the characters aren't quite as gripping if I am also doing the dishes or gardening or (gasp) doing laundry. So audiobooks have an edge there, I'll be honest.

 But then sometimes I don't want someone else's voice in my head while I read. I listened to part of Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices books and I enjoyed reading it more, though the one I listened to, The Clockwork Prince, ended up being my favorite in the series. A series, by the way, you should read. Personally I liked the Infernal Devices much more than the Mortal Cup books.

 I've listened a lot lately, because four kids? Yes, that leads LOADS of time for cuddling up with a good book. And I also have a timeshare you might be interested in... Anyway, on to the recommendation.

 I really enjoyed Gail Carriger's  Etiquette and Espionage. From Goodreads: Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger's legions of fans have come to adore. I thought this was really cute. Sophronia is an excellent heroine. She's spunky and funny and relatable. Carriger has a well-nuanced world she built for the Parasol Protectorate series (which were also cute) and frankly its a world I really want to live in. Werewolves AND automatons? It took me a bit to get fully engaged but by the time this ended I was sad to see it go. I'm excited for the next book.