January saw the beginning of my second semester as a professor at Michigan State, except this time, instead of only teaching first-year writing, I also got to teach an editing and publishing class in professional writing. However, the real news this month was that I had my first ever short story accepted for publication. When I found out, I called my dad at work and left a message with the front office asking him to call me back, and when he did, I was near tears on the phone. He said later his first thought was that something horrible had happened, so when I told him I was going to be published, his reaction was, “Oh, is that all?”
Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, by Ben Hamper
This was a book I meant to finish before the end of 2011 (I was up until midnight reading it), but I just ran out of time. I think, however, that I would have been able to move through it more quickly had I enjoyed it more. It’s a good book. I can recognize that. And it was really interesting to see the sort of invisible work that goes into our fancy (and not so fancy) cars. Still, this book wasn’t quite my style.
The Subversive Copy Editor, by Carol Fisher Saller
This was a book I assigned in my editing and publishing class. Usually class books don’t make my list because I don’t make the students read the whole thing, and so I end up only skimming sections I know they’re going to skip. This book I did end up giving to my students in full, however, and I would have read the entire thing even if I hadn’t. The book is written by the same woman who writes the FAQ page on the Chicago Manual of Style’s website, and it’s just as awesomely hilarious. My one complaint is that I prefer the spelling copyeditor to copy editor.
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
I think I started this book back over the summer, but the delay in my finishing it really had very little to do with the story itself. Yes, I did think some parts could have been put into summary, or could have moved at a faster pace, but I felt connected to the characters, and I really found myself cheering for them. I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, which is rumored to be coming out later this year.
Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins
This is the first book in Suzanne Collins’ middle grade series, and while I enjoyed it, I found it too predictable. It’s really quite good for its audience, but it’s probably not a series I’ll return to unless I’m one day reading it to a child.
In February, my maternal grandmother passed away—while my parents were on a Caribbean cruise. I had to call them on the boat and have them come home. No one has died in my family before (not since my great grandmother when I was still too young to really remember), so it was, essentially, a new experience for me. What I’ll always remember, though, was standing outside the door to my grandmother’s room, listening while my aunts and cousins sang hymns to her until she died. I think that’s how she would have wanted it.
The Girl Who Was on Fire, edited by Leah Wilson
This is a collection of essays about the Hunger Games series. Books like this tend to be uneven in nature, and this was, but it was much better than others I’ve read. Some of the essays were just fantastic, and while I disagreed strongly with others, I could still see where they were coming from. If you’re a Hunger Games fan, this is worth a read.
The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan
I tend to read this book, the first Wheel of Time book, ever year or so, but this read marked the beginning of my final incomplete reread. In preparation for the final book coming out in early 2013, I decided to try to get one last reread in, and of the thirteen books of the series that were out at the time, this one is probably my favorite. I found this book originally in seventh grade, and while I didn’t understand it all at the time, something about it still hooked me. Now, fifteen years later, it still has an almost magical hold on me.
Ayiti, by Roxane Gay
I absolutely loved this collection by Roxane Gay, the same woman who accepted my short story at PANK. I moved awkwardly through this collection, sometimes tearing through it, other times forcing myself to slow down to try to savor it.
March started with a trip to Chicago for the 2012 AWP conference. I hadn’t been able to make it in 2011 (financial reasons), and I won’t make it again this year, 2013 (also for financial reasons), but in 2012, everything fell into place. Our panel was accepted, and I got to wear the fancy badge for Fourth Genre. I really loved my time sitting at the table and talking to writers, and our panel went well. Unfortunately I had to miss a few panels I really wanted to see (migraine), but I did get to attend a pretty awesome meeting. I also met with Sam, my grad school advisor, and he gave me some advice on how to get better networked in the writing community. That meant that I ended the month by taking on a volunteer position with the Lit Pub, helping them with their Twitter and Facebook pages. Finally, I had my fourth (and hopefully final) ankle surgery this month, after spending a few extra days in Chicago to hang out with Donna.
Oh, the Hunger Games movie also came out this month (my sister and I went to the midnight showing), and the MSU basketball team lost in the NCAA tournament in a truly embarrassing fashion—both on the same day.
Cataclysm Baby, by Matt Bell
I think I really bugged the girl at the Mud Luscious Press table, because I knew they were going to have some copies, and I kept stopping by every few minutes, determined to get one. I did, and I read it that evening. Matt Bell is probably one of my favorite authors, and, like his other work, this book did not disappoint. It’s a baby names book for the end of the world, and that’s really all you need to know.
In My Father’s House, by John Hodgen
This was another AWP acquisition. I found one of EWU’s poetry professors and asked for a recommendation for a beginning poetry reader. He chose well when he recommended this book, though there were enough typesetting and/or editorial errors to provide a bit too much distraction.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
I reread this in preparation of the Hunger Games movie coming out. I still adore this book series.
The Great Hunt, by Robert Jordan
Another one of my favorite books in the Wheel of Time series. This is the second book.
Zia, by Scott O’Dell
I really didn’t enjoy this book, but I didn’t really expect to after having Island of the Blue Dolphins feel flat to me. I think the O’Dell books are too episodic for me.
Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld
The final book in this steampunk trilogy, Goliath had a bit of the sequel slump issue (strangely, more so than did the second book in the series), but I still enjoyed it. The two main characters considered to shine for me, though Deryn was closer to my heart, as I found Aleks a bit whiny at times.
In April, I moved out of my parents’ basement and into a two bedroom place out in Mason. It took a bit of time for me to get used to after living with my parents for almost two years, but it was a good switch, overall. A few days before I moved, my parents adopted a new dog, too. His name is Leo and he’s a rat terrier from a rat terrier rescue.
Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
Still awesome. Unlike some fans, I have a hard time choosing my favorite book of this trilogy.
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
I am now officially in the camp of people who do not like Wicked, and after having it be my favorite book for years, this is more than a little bit disappointing. Maguire as an author just tends to be too quirky for me, and it often feels as if the quirk exists solely for quirkiness’ sake.
Honolulu, by Alan Brennert
My mom gave me this book after she finished it. I was hesitant to read it at first. Since my mom tends to not enjoy things I love, I’ve sort of taken that to mean I also won’t enjoy the things she likes. That turned out to not be the case. I did like this book. I didn’t love it, but I did really like it. And now my mom and I have started our own two-person book club. Turns out we do have mostly similar tastes, as long as I keep my “high literary” books away.
May was a good month, generally speaking. I had two weeks off between my spring and summer classes, and I used that time to relax. May also marked the end of my coaching career, though I would run the tryouts in June. It was fun, but also frustrating, and the long drive combined with lack of pay made it untenable.
Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery
This book was okay. I liked the idea, and I liked that it had characters from Elegance of the Hedgehog, but it didn’t shine for me like that book did. Still, I enjoyed it well enough.
Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe, by Nathan Bransford
These books (this is the second in a series) are just fun. They’re middle grade, but unlike the Suzanne Collins book I read in January, these books keep me more on my toes. I also really like the author—you know, as much as one can having only read a blog.
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter
This was a reread for me (I reread the whole series so far in 2012), and I still really love this book. I picked it up a few years back on a whim (this is another book I discovered through blogs), and I found it so funny and engaging that I went out and bought the rest of the books in the series.
The Folding Star and Other Poems, by Jacek Gutorow
I got this book randomly. Matt Bell had an offer where you paid for a box/shipping and he would send you random books from his overly stuffed bookshelves. This was one of four items I received. It’s poetry in translation (from Polish, if I recall correctly), and it’s probably the most enjoyable collection of poetry I’ve ever read. Apparently I do best when other people choose books for me.
The Dragon Reborn, by Robert Jordan
The third book in the Wheel of Time series.
June was another good month. My dad took my sister and me to Washington, DC, for an extended weekend. I went there once as a kid, but I was too young to really appreciate anything. This time was much more interesting. Equally exciting was Missy’s birthday dinner at the Melting Pot. I’m sure more happened, but I’m too focused on melted cheese right now.
Slammerkin, by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue is another author I’m coming to really love. This book wasn’t as good, for me, as Room was, and it was a challenge to be in the head of such an unlikeable (yet not unsympathetic) character. I doubt I’ll ever reread this novel, but it has certainly stuck with me.
This Is Not Your City, by Caitlin Horrocks
I’ve found in Caitlin Horrocks a writer I aspire to be like. Other writers have work ethics, levels of success, etc., that I like, but for the first time ever, when reading this book, I came across a line and though, hey, I could have written that line. As in, I recognize my style in her writing. It was only one line out of thousands, but it was a great feeling. And this was a great story collection.
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
This was another reread. I still really like these books (I’m hoping to reread books two and three this year), but they don’t have that same punch for me they did the first time around.
The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan
The fourth book in the Wheel of Time series.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
After hearing there was going to be a movie made from this book, and that it was going to have Emma Watson in it, I decided to give this book another try. When I first read it years ago, I couldn’t stand it (and I’ve never been a bit fan of epistolary novels), but this time around, I fell in love.
July marked the end of my summer teaching. However, I also spent over a week this month incredibly sick with food poisoning. Beyond those two things (and doing a bit of freelance work), not much happened. One (small) cool thing, though, was that I got to watch the Fourth of July fireworks with my dad at his hanger in Mason. That meant no crowds and a great view.
The Fires of Heaven, by Robert Jordan
The fifth book in the Wheel of Time series.
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
This was apparently the year when I was either reading huge fantasy novels or short story collections. This was the latter, obviously, and it was another great one. Jhumpa Lahiri writes in a style that is so different from my own, and I really feel as if she’s a writer I learn a lot from, because while it may be different, her style is still one I’m interested in.
Hood, by Emma Donoghue
I loved this book, about a woman dealing with her lover’s death, but also with the time they spent together (because you find out her lover wasn’t the nicest woman at times). Like Slammerkin, this didn’t live up to Room for me, but it was still really darn good.
August was a whirlwind of a month. I was in full prep mode for fall semester (and indeed, fall semester started at the very end of the month), but I was also planning a trip to Disney World with my mom and sister. We went the week after my ten year high school reunion (which was a disappointment even considering my low expectations). Together, we girls spent one week at Disney, riding rides, seeing cool shows, eating delicious food, and hanging out with my cousin Erin. We even spent a day at Universal (mostly for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter), and half of a day at one of the water parks (at which I ended up having to go to the first aid station after an unfortunately incident in the wave pool). I was happy to go along, but I wasn’t super excited, but as soon as we got there, I changed my mind. Even now, months later, I still have Disney fever and can’t wait to go back.
Finally, my parents adopted a kitten this month. His name is Seamus.
Lord of Chaos, by Robert Jordan
The sixth book in the Wheel of Time series.
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, by Ally Carter
The sequel to I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, this is the second book in the Gallagher Girls series, and it stayed, for me, almost as strong as the first. I really like this series; it’s so much fun to read.
Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover, by Ally Carter
The third book in the Gallagher Girls series, this one introduces what is really the main line of tension in the coming books, but it also marked the spot in the series where I started to enjoy the books slightly less (only four out of five stars from here on).
Only the Good Spy Young, by Ally Carter
The fourth book in the Gallagher Girls series.
Out of Sight, Out of Time, by Ally Carter
The fifth and planned penultimate book in the Gallagher Girls series.
September marked the month that put classes in full swing. I taught two sections of a grammar and style class and one section of the first-year writing course. This is also the month when I found out that HR had misinformed me and that I did, in fact, have the opportunity to get health insurance. So nice to know!
September was also the month of my 28th birthday. I love my birthdays. My family went out to dinner at Tony Sacco’s the night before and then I met some friends at the bar next door for drinks. The next morning I received some Harry Potter Lego sets as gifts, which meant I spent my 28th birthday acting like a six year old. The sad thing, though, was that my birthday was the day of our loss to Notre Dame, which really marked the turning point in our season. Still, tailgating was fun, and my mom made me funfetti cupcakes.
Crown of Swords, by Robert Jordan
The seventh book in the Wheel of Time series.
Girls to the Rescue, by Bruce Lansky
I loved this book as a kid (it’s a book of fairy tales where girls do the saving and are generally awesome), and it was fun to read again. September was actually marked by my reading a lot of books I hadn’t read in twenty years or so, since one of my Day Zero goals was to reread ten books from my childhood.
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I didn’t like this book, which surprised me, because I do remember liking the whole series as a girl. Apparently I really liked episodic books back then.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
This book was okay on its reread. I did still like it, but I couldn’t help but see all of the issues with how the world worked (the math just doesn’t add up!). Still, it was enjoyable enough.
In October, I was offered a fourth class since one of my colleagues was going to take a leave of absence. So at the end of the month, I stepped in and took over a visual rhetoric class. This meant that I didn’t really do much either this month or next. I continued to attend football games on the weekends (we got worse, not better, it seemed), and that was about it.
Path of Daggers, by Robert Jordan
The eighth book in the Wheel of Time series.
Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan
The ninth book in the Wheel of Time series.
November was insane for me, with my four classes. Thanksgiving was a welcome break, and I made sure to actually take a few days off (I have the bad habit of not taking time for myself). Still, despite getting a breather, November marked the fourth month of the worst case of writers block I’ve ever had, and at this point I was getting desperate. I could sit down and make myself write, but I hated everything that came out.
Crossroads of Twilight, by Robert Jordan
The tenth book in the Wheel of Time series.
Winter of Fire, by Sherryl Jordan
One of my favorite books as a child, this story is set in our world at an unknown but distant point in the future. The story centers on Elsha, a young slave girl who is chosen to be handmaid to the most powerful man in the world. It’s about inequality, and finding your own worth, and so many other wonderful things. And there’s also apparently a sex scene that I read right past as a kid.
The Language of Rain and Wind, by John Krumberger
My aunt gave me this book of poems, which was written by her brother. I didn’t love it, since I haven’t yet met a poetry collection I loved, but I did like it. I didn’t feel as if the poems all went over my head, and I enjoyed quite a few of them.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Apparently episodic writing was just a thing when I was growing up. I kept waiting for a sustained plot arc, but then the book ended.
December was a good month. The semester came to a satisfying close, and then I had genuine time off work, not just a few hours here and there. My family made an effort to celebrate a bit more this year, and so we had some really good days. Seamus, who turned nine months old on Christmas day, thought the holidays were really awesome, though, because of the Christmas tree (Molly ate some of the lights off it too, but that’s a different story). MSU won their bowl game and I had a quiet New Years Eve.
Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan
The eleventh book in the Wheel of Time series.
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This is the first book that my mom and I decided to read together. This story is about a girl leaving the foster system at eighteen and trying to make a life for herself. There were some problems with withholding and tension, but on the whole, I really liked this book.
The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The twelfth book in the Wheel of Time series.
Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book. I picked it up right before bed and kept telling myself that I’d only read one more chapter. Except, next thing I knew, I finished the whole thing. It’s a short book, true, but it did pull me along.
Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart
This was the second book my mom and I read together, and this one prompted a whole lot of discussion. At first I was a little turned off by the raunchy beginning (it did seem a little overdone to me), but in the end, I really enjoyed this book—both on a pure story level, but also on the political/social level.
Birds of a Lesser Paradise, by Megan Mayhew Bergman
It’s hard for me to say anything coherent about this story collection other than that I liked it. For some reason, it bothers me an almost unreasonable amount when bad things happen to animals (or to a relationship a person has with animals), and so I often couldn’t read more than one or two of these stories at a time. But I think that’s really a mark of how well the author pulled me in to each of these stories.