What I Read in November

Apparently, I was in an eclectic mood again this month.

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  1. Another Man’s Moccasins & The Dark Horse, by Craig Johnson (Longmire 4 & 5) It’s the continuing chronicles of Walt Longmire.
  2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black This was a reread for me. It’s an excellent YA book about a town where fae folk live, and one day one of them breaks out of the glass coffin where he’s been imprisoned. Hazel has to solve the mystery before the monster from the forest kills all the townspeople.
  3. This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab This may be one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s about a town overrun by monsters, and how the daughter and son of the opposing factions meet and, after a failed kidnapping attempt, go on the run together. My only complaint about this book is that there’s a sequel, but it doesn’t come out until summer 2017. This can be read as a standalone book, but that’s not much consolation when you get to the last page.
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware This book got rave reviews, and lots of people loved it. But it just didn’t do it for me. I liked it, but I didn’t get caught up until about halfway through the book. It’s good, worth reading once, but I found the main character somewhat annoying.
  5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George This was a surprising hit with me. The main character runs a bookshop and is the book apothecary, dispensing books like medicine for what ails people. But the main character has a secret, that he’s been pining for a lost love for 20 years. And when he finally starts to process it, he ends up going on a journey and finding out he’s not the only one with secrets. An interesting, life affirming read. (Plus, I loved the idea of a book apothecary.)
  6. Infomocracy, by Malka Older A friend and I both started reading this book together, and we both hated it. To be fair, we both abandoned it about 10% in, so maybe it gets better. I’m not entirely sure what it was supposed to be about, but something about politics set in a future where everyone is wired in to information.
  7. I,Robot, by Isaac Asimov There’s a reason he’s considered one of the best science fiction writers of all time. Plus, he came up with the three laws. While the movie of the same name is quite a bit different from this book, there’s enough similarities that I can see how the book inspired the movie. I love all the robot psychology in the book. I can’t believe I’ve never read this before.

What’s the best book you read this month?

Why I Didn’t End Up Doing a Book Challenge This Year

img_7065In 2015, I did the reading challenge, and I enjoyed it.  There was a different theme every month, and I did about 10 months out of 12.  In 2016, I started the Read Harder challenge, and ticked a couple categories off.

And then I lost interest.

I ended up reading a book I didn’t like.  I tried and tried and tried to get through it, and I couldn’t.  As of this writing, I haven’t finished it, though I still want to.  It wasn’t that I hated the book; it was more that it had no discernible plot.

After putting that book aside, I thought about going back to the Read Harder challenge, but I’d lost my taste for it.  I realized that I have a lot of book lists I’m working on.  I have a classics list I’m working my way through, a book club, and a friend and I who choose books together.  That’s not including the fact that I read a lot of YA books to stay current on what’s being published (since I write YA) and reading books for fun.

While I liked the idea of the Read Harder challenge, in the end it just didn’t work for me.  I may look at the challenge for 2017, and if I like it, I’ll give it a try.  Or maybe I’ll look for a challenge that doesn’t have as many books on it, or fits with my tastes a little better.

I think I lost sight of the fact that the challenge was meant to be a game instead of a task. It became work, rather than a scavenger hunt. I love books that make me think or books that make me see the world differently. I love discovering books I wouldn’t have read on my own. But I don’t like taking it all to seriously, and that’s what I did for a little while.

What do you think of book challenges? Are you planning to join one for 2017?

My Best Is A Moving Target

img_6739I have a friend who doesn’t want to submit anything for publication that isn’t his “best work.”  I can understand the thinking there.  I’ve read enough published stories that are terrible, in need of more editing or someone to clarify the ideas, that I appreciate the sentiment.

At the same time, I recall reading a book by Dean Koontz years ago, and later learning that he hated it, was actually “ashamed” of it and wanted it to not be published anymore because it wasn’t very good (in his opinion).  I remember being puzzled, since I liked the book immensely.

It helped me understand that my best should always be a moving target.  This goes for writing, but also everything else in life.  Today I want to be a little bit more patient than I was yesterday.  Today I want to be a little more understanding than I was yesterday.  Tomorrow I’d like to be even more understanding.  And obviously, I’d like to tell a better story.

Of course, I want to do my best, but as I learn and grow, what my best is will change.  I’m not going to limit myself today because I hope that my best will be better tomorrow.  I also endeavor to value what was my best in the past, if it was really my best work then.

I look back at the person I was, the things I wrote, and I’m not that exactly person anymore.  That person didn’t have the experiences I’ve had today.

When I read stories I had published a few years ago, now, I can see the places they would have been made better through editing or different word choices.  Instead of feeling bad about that, it makes me feel good.  It’s a tangible reminder that I’ve grown and changed.  Isn’t that always better than standing still?

Judging Matters of Opinion

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Bet you never thought you’d see these two books pictured together!

I like the Walking Dead, Longmire, and Man in the High Castle.  I couldn’t care less about Game of Thrones.

I liked Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray, but I liked The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury better.

I see judgmental articles online all the time about what it means if someone likes “trashy” books like Twilight and 50 Shades.  I also see tons of response articles with people saying they won’t apologize for their taste.

Why is this so common?  Why is it such a thing for people to pass judgement on other people’s choice of entertainment?  What in particular does it say about me as a person that I can enjoy the entire spectrum of novels, all the way from the widely criticized to the highly revered?

In my opinion, the answer is not much.

What it says about me is that I have broad tastes and that I enjoy many things.  I enjoy things, not because I’m supposed to or they’re popular (or unpopular), but simply because they entertain me.  I’m all about relishing what entertains me, unapologetically.  I don’t feel the need to hide fondness for romance, or to brag about it when I’m reading classics.  Because while one might expand my knowledge and thinking, the other is something I like.  I don’t need reasons to enjoy something, just like I don’t need to explain why, for me, mint chocolate chip will always win over vanilla.

If you see me sitting at the coffee shop, and I’m reading a book that you consider awful, think about this: yesterday, I may have been reading a classic or difficult book.  And if I am reading that “difficult book” while I’m standing in line at the grocery store, don’t assume that says anything about me.  I’m likely to also have something by Nora Roberts in my purse.

I read a lot, and I don’t judge other people for any reading habits, other than when they say, “I like to read, but I don’t have time for it.”  If you don’t like to read and don’t do it, that’s cool.  But if you claim you don’t have time, I call shenanigans.  There’s always time for what you like.

Anyway, the point is that judging people based on their taste in entertainment is silly.  And if you weren’t sneaking peeks at what I’m reading, maybe you’d have time to finish that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table for the last six months.

Not that I’m judging.  ;)

 

Can’t We Agree To Disagree on This Election?

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This is the expression on my face when I watch other people take political discussions personally.

I have my own thoughts on the upcoming US Presidential election, and since this isn’t a political blog, I’m not going to talk about them.  What I did want to talk about was a trend that’s disturbing me among my Facebook friends.

Some people are posting support for one candidate or another in the upcoming elections, and responses to those posts have been varied.  But far more often, I’ve seen people posting opposition to one candidate or another.  Instead of saying, “I support A,” people are saying, “You shouldn’t support A.  They’re a (fill in derogatory term).”

Recently, one of my friends posted something like this, and one of the responses was that this election has been the most polarizing election they remember.  My friend, without a trace of irony, said something like, “Yeah, I’ve had to unfriend a number of people for their views.”

People… let’s agree to disagree on the candidates.  There are very few people (I’ve seen) who are offering unqualified support of either candidate.  Most people are choosing what they view as the lesser of two evils.  Why are we going to argue about that?  Supporting one candidate over another doesn’t mean you support racism, sexism, lying, conspiracy theories, or whatever it is the opposition says that candidate is all about.  Supporting one candidate over another means you have your reasons, and that’s all I need to know.

I have gotten into political debates/ discussions with some people.  But only in person, with people I feel safe voicing my opinions with.  In a public forum like Facebook, I think there’s too much room for misunderstanding and hard feelings.  It’s unlikely I’m going to change anyone’s mind about their choice, so in this particular case, I’m not going to try.

It’s easy and tempting to believe that others aren’t as informed or haven’t thought it through the way I have.  That’s probably not true though.  Others value some issues more than others, just as I do.  And we’re all different.

Let’s rise above the political candidates and stop the name calling.  Let’s stop getting angry with people because they disagree on our views.  If you must get into a political discussion, please be respectful of the other person’s views, even if you don’t agree with them.  Let’s thank others for the lively discussions that may ensue.  And above all, let’s be grateful that we live in a country where it’s okay to publicly criticize candidates, and that others can do so too.

In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury discusses how censorship started by certain interest groups demanding that things that offended them be taken out, until there was nothing left.  Let’s not encourage censorship by demeaning the opinions of others.

Let’s just agree to disagree.  And be grateful that we can.

The Friends I’ve Left Behind

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BFFs

I spent the first 24 years of my life in the same house.  I lived on campus during my first year of college, but I never really considered it home, and after that first year, I became a commuter.  I was never particularly adventurous.

Since then, I’ve moved four times and had seven jobs.  I’ve met a lot of people.  Most of them didn’t leave much of a mark on me.  I met them, maybe laughed with them, learned some things about them, and moved on.  They might give me a passing thought now and then, as I do them, but nothing more.

I sometimes talk about how Facebook and other social media have allowed us to disconnect in some ways, and I still believe that.  But I’ve also been able to connect with other people I’d lost touch with.  I stay connected with childhood friends and family.  Though I may not follow their daily lives, I can see how they’re doing and how they’re children are doing.  It’s a really nice thing that would have been difficult and unlikely in a pre-technology world.

There are a handful of people who’ve been important to me, who I’ve lost contact with for one reason or another.  There was a guy I worked with at Wal-mart, and we didn’t stay in touch when I moved to a different job.  There was a couple who my husband and I hung out with.  We moved out of that area abruptly and during a period of transition, lost touch.  I don’t remember their last names.

I think about them, and others, from time to time and wonder what’s happened to them, how they’re doing, and where they’ve been.  I’d love to reconnect with some of these people, just to know how they’re doing.

When I started moving on, leaving people behind, I didn’t think of it that way.  For the first two decades plus of my life, I’d stayed put, so I didn’t think about the effort it takes to stay connected.

I’m grateful for our connected world, but I’m also aware that real connections take effort.  And if someone is important, they’re worth the effort.  Sometimes people get left behind, and that’s okay too.

I’ve been the person that’s been left behind, and I have to remind myself that people don’t always do it on purpose.  There are a lot of reasons to lose touch with someone.

That’s why it’s so important to really enjoy the people I’m with, be in the moment with them, without cell phones or distractions.  If I lose touch with them, I’ll have had those great moments.  It’s okay to move on, to have different friends or different interests.

None of us stand still.  Or we shouldn’t, if we’re growing.

Have you had an experience of losing touch with a friend and wishing you could reconnect?

How My Former Bullies Are Doing Now

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Halloween 2015

We weren’t friends.  I knew her since elementary school because we rode the bus together.  I distinctly remember her bullying me a time or two.

In high school, she left me alone.  I don’t think we ever had a real conversation.

She friended me on Facebook, and I accepted.  Since then, she’s been open about her struggle with depression, which makes sense in light of my memories of her and what I know now about the link between depression and anger in kids.

A few years ago, I posted pictures of a Halloween party I had when I was 10 on Facebook.  Recently, this girl commented on the photo that she remembered the party and that she had such a good time.

I am positive that she was not there.

I have no doubt that she remembers being there.  It’s clear to me that she wants to belong, is seeking out positive memories to help her get through the day.  My first thought was to argue with her and let her know that she wasn’t there; I like to be “right” sometimes too.

But then I thought about it and wondered why I should spoil a good memory she has, even if she’s not correct.  She’s not a bully anymore.  She’s a person struggling to live her life as best as she can.  So, why should it matter to me if she has good memories of a party she wasn’t invited to?

I wasn’t a popular kid.  I was a weird kid, who was usually too buried in books or my own imagination to notice how not popular I was.  The only time I gave it much thought was when people picked on me.

It makes me wonder, if in some way, this girl wanted to be my friend.  Because honestly, I wouldn’t have noticed that either.  But whether she was someone who picked on me because she was unhappy, or someone who picked on me because she wanted me to notice her, it doesn’t much matter to me.  It’s all long since forgiven.

As a side note, I’ve had a few people who bullied me as a kid end up friending me on Facebook.  And I find it interesting that all of them struggle with depression.  They all talk about not wanting to be judged for their struggles.

Keep that in mind next time you hear about a kid who’s bullying someone else.  I know that most of us react that we want to slap that bully down and put them in their place.  But is that really the best approach for everyone involved?

I’m not scarred from the bullying that happened to me.  It also wasn’t that bad, overall.  Not compared to what you hear about nowadays.  And I didn’t have to deal with cyberbullying because it didn’t exist back then.  So I’m not saying that bullying can’t be quite bad and scarring.  But in my case, I believe that it made me stronger, less reactive.  I have thick skin, but I also try to be understanding of people who don’t.  Because I’ve been there.

Have you ever been bullied?  Have you reconnected with any of your bullies?  Did it change your thoughts about them in any way?