Five Years On

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POSSIBLY TMI ALERT, but I want to say it.

On Sunday I took a nearly four-mile hike by myself – it was a lovely, responsibility-free day, after a lot of rainy, busy weekends, and I suddenly found myself thinking of the Dish Trail in the foothills by Stanford University. It’s got some steep ups and downs, enough to get the breath panting and the sweat flowing, but not enough to be utterly miserable. Normally I kind of hate hiking, so I really can’t say why this suddenly jumped into my head as a good idea.

But I did it. I took my ipod and had my phone and my car keys in my pocket, and set my own pace. I rested when I wanted to and didn’t care how often other people passed me. It took me an hour and a half, and on some of those final downhill stretches, I felt the shakiness that comes from tired legs on steep downhills. My step count for the day was over 13,000.

Today I did half an hour of biking AND walked nearly 11,000 steps. I’m still sore and stiff from Sunday’s hike, and I know I’ll be stiff and sore tomorrow with today’s exertion on top of it. My normal daily step count these days tends to fall between 6 and 7 thousand, so these two days have been unusual for me.

You might be wondering why I’m bothering to post about this. One of my coworkers asked why I was still marveling over being sore today when the hike was two days ago.

I’ve been thinking about that. And you see, it’s because at some level I’m astonished that I’m able to do this.

Almost exactly five years ago, the pain and blood loss resulting from uterine fibroids smacked into me like a ton of bricks. I’d stuck to a diet for a month at that point. I’d lost twelve pounds. And suddenly even standing long enough to cook a simple meal started the bleeding and the pain again. Forget exercise. I was afraid to move.

Pain led to fear. Fear led to avoidance. Avoidance became habit. It’s been five years, and I’ve had two surgeries to remove fibroids in that time. I don’t think I ever believed that I wouldn’t get past them, but when I was in the middle of it, it was so hard to see when it would end. I got caught up in the final months of the pre-ACA health care system, when even having had a fibroid removed within the past year was grounds for automatic rejection when applying for coverage. I couldn’t figure out how to get the surgery I needed without going several thousands of dollars in debt. I stopped dancing. I started avoiding social events because I was embarrassed about my frequent need for the bathroom and the fact that I had to carry several pads with me whenever I left the house even for a couple hours. I grew lonelier and sank further into depression because of pain, fear, and isolation.

And now here I am. Heavier than I was before this started, yes. As out of shape as I was before, and possibly more so. Still trying to reconstruct a social life. But I’m employed. I’m deeply worried about the ACA, but for now I have health insurance. I’m in therapy and on an antidepressant. Hormonal birth control and regular checkups have stabilized things. I have faith it will never again get as bad as it was in 2012 and 2013.

And this week, on each of two of the heaviest days of this month’s period, I walked over 10,000 steps.

I talk about it because I’m grateful, and because it’s a fact in which I can finally see how far I’ve come.

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ARC Readathon

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I’ve been putting off making my new ARC list because I got so enthusiastic in my ARC acquisition during the recent ALA conference in Atlanta that I had to ship most of them home. Unfortunately, one of the boxes I sent appears to have either gone missing or been lost/stolen. I received a letter from the USPS earlier this week that included the shipping label and both of the places where my address had been written on the box, cut off from the cardboard – quite clearly tampered with. I’m doing what little I can to try and recover it, but I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about it, and I’m quite disappointed by the apparent loss of close to 20 books. Though of course I still have PLENTY to read… So here’s the list as it stands, including those left over from the last batch.

  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17) Inspired by some real events, and the sometimes epistolary, sometimes diary or memory format made for an interesting structure.
  • Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17) Too bad COLD CASE is off the air. This woulda made a good episode.
  • The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17) A realistic and compelling description of the stunned feeling that comes from a sudden death.
  • The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17) A different take on a WWII story, at least, but I’d give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  • She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)
  • The Body in the Wardrobe, by Katherine Hall Page A fun mystery. Part of a long-running series. If at some point I find myself needing something lightweight to read, maybe I’ll seek out more in the series.
  • My Husband’s Wife, by Jane Corry (releases 1/2017) A twisty turny dark story – darker than I expected, and more complicated than I expected as well. All shades of grey. Nobody’s really right and everyone’s kind of wrong.
  • Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee LOVED THIS. Follows multiple generations of a Korean family living under Japanese rule in the 20th century. Deals with different relationships to identity and to being “other.”
  • Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
  • On Second Thought, by Kristan Higgins (Releases Jan. 31, 2017)
  • Huck Out West, by Robert Coover (Releases Jan. 2017)
  • The Patriots, by Sana Krasikov (releases Jan. 24, 2017)
  • The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill (Releases Feb. 7, 2017)
  • Shadowbahn, by Steve Erickson (releases Feb. 2017)
  • A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline (Releases Feb. 2017)
  • Bone Box, by Faye Kellerman (releases Feb. 2017)
  • The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan (Releases Feb. 2017)
  • I See You, by Clare Mackintosh (releases Feb. 21, 2017)
  • The Fortunate Ones, by Ellen Umansky (releases Feb. 2017)
  • Setting Free the Kites, by Alex George (Releases Feb. 21, 2017)
  • We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour (releases Feb. 14, 2017)
  • Gilded Cage, by Vic James (releases Feb. 14, 2017)
  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel, by Heather O’Neill (releases Feb. 7, 2017)
  • The Underworld, by Kevin Canty (Releases March 2017)
  • In the Name of the Family, by Sarah Dunant (releases March 7, 2017)
  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach (Releases March 2017)
  • Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World, by Nell Stevens (releases March 14, 2017)
  • The Hollywood Daughter, by Kate Alcott (Release March 7, 2017)
  • The Wanderers, by Meg Howrey (releases March 14, 2017)
  • Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci, by Mike Lankford (releases March 2017)
  • The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance Into a Hopeful Future, by Joselin Linder (Releases March 2017)
  • The Tiger in the House, by Jacqueline Sheehan (Releases March 2017)
  • The Roanoke Girls, by Amy Engel (Releases March 2017)
  • The Gargoyle Hunters, by John Freeman Gill (releases March 2017)
  • A Crown of Wishes, by Roshani Chokshi (releases March 28, 2017)
  • The Ashes of London, by Andrew Taylor (releases March 28, 2017)
  • Sins of Empire, by Brian McClellan (releases March 7, 2017)
  • The Arrangement, by Sarah Dunn (releases March 21, 2017)
  • The Barrowfields, by Phillip Lewis (releases April 2017)
  • Music of the Ghosts, by Vaddey Ratner (releases April 2017)
  • The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck (releases April 4, 2017)
  • Unearthly Things, by Michelle Gagnon (releases April 2017)
  • The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton (releases April 4, 2017)
  • Toward a Secret Sky, by Heather Maclean (releases April 4, 2017)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman (releases May 9, 2017)
  • Confessions of a Domestic Failure, by Bunmi Laditan (releases May 2, 2017)
  • Standard Deviation, by Katherine Heiny (releases May 2017)
  • The Scribe of Siena, by Melodie Winawer (releases May 2017)
  • The Original Ginny Moon, by Benjamin Ludwig (releases May 2017)
  • Under a Sardinian Sky, by Sara Alexander (releases Spring 2017)
  • Chemistry, by Weike Wang (releases June 2017)
  • The Ultimatum, by Karen Robards (Releases June 1, 2017)
  • Lonesome Lies Before Us, by Don Lee (releases June 2017)
  • The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson (releases July 2017)
  • Devastation Road, by Jason Hewitt (releases July 3, 2017)
  • Grace, by Paul Lynch (releases July 11, 2017)
  • The Reluctant Queen (Queens of Renthia #2), by Sarah Beth Durst (Releases July 2017)
  • The Thing With Feathers, by McCall Hoyle (releases Sept. 5, 2017)

 

ARC Readathon Update

  • Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016) Meh. Predictable. Entertaining enough to finish, but full of pat, somewhat two-dimensional character types and predictable situations.
  • Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16) A meringue of a story. A little oversweet, kind of insubstantial, but if you’re in the right mood, it’s satisfying.
  • IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16) An interesting and rather unconventional take on the young black men in the poor neighborhood type of story.
  • The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016) First of a planned series of YA near-future science fiction. Stars a badass teenage girl.
  • Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16) Meh. Started, didn’t finish. Didn’t do it for me.
  • Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16) An excellent continuation of the Old Kingdom series. I really hope there’s a book six, because Nix HAD BETTER NOT LEAVE THE STORY THERE.
  • Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016) Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Decidedly odd.
  • The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016) An interesting concept, but the story dragged.
  • Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
    Another one I couldn’t put down. Based on a real woman’s life, and one of the best-written ARCs I’ve had yet.
  • A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16) Sweet, if rather pat.
  • Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
    Given as a gift to my brother.
  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  • Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  • The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  • The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)
  • The Daughters, by Adrienne Celt (left over from previous haul, released August 2015) Odd but compelling story about the multigenerational impact family can have and the power of stories and music.
  • Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  • She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)

Top Ten Books of 2016 (Elspeth Edition)

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One of the good things to come out of this year is that I seem to have finally recovered my enthusiasm for pleasure reading. Eight years of college education as a humanities/social sciences major meant that pretty much ALL my homework was reading, and consequently reading in my spare time was decidedly unappealing.

Then comes 2016 and two hours a day spent on the train for my commute. That’ll do it for anyone. I’m also getting good at napping on the train. Useful skills and all that.

Anyway, I joined Goodreads back in the spring, mostly to encourage the early glimmerings of this recovery, and according to it, I’ve read over 60 books this year. Not too shabby. And for once it looks like I’ve got a chance of actually finishing all the ARCs on my shelf before the next conference. Six books and one month to go.

So here I present, in no particular order, my top ten of the sixty-plus books I read this year.

  • The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
  • Euphoria, by Lily King
  • The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, by Paul Krueger
  • Je Suis La, by Clelie Avit
  • The World Before Us, by Aislinn Hunter
  • Bookburners, by Max Gladstone, et al.
  • Arcadia, by Iain Pears
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson
  • The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan

I heartily recommend them all. Go forth and read. What were some of your favorites of those you read this year? They don’t need to be new publications to count. Leave your comments below!

 

ARC Readathon Update

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Unrelated to anything, I’d just like to mention that this is post #300 on this blog. In case anyone was wondering.

  • Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016) Meh. Predictable. Entertaining enough to finish, but full of pat, somewhat two-dimensional character types and predictable situations.
  • Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16) A meringue of a story. A little oversweet, kind of insubstantial, but if you’re in the right mood, it’s satisfying.
  • IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16) An interesting and rather unconventional take on the young black men in the poor neighborhood type of story.
  • The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016) First of a planned series of YA near-future science fiction. Stars a badass teenage girl.
  • Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16) Meh. Started, didn’t finish. Didn’t do it for me.
  • Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16) An excellent continuation of the Old Kingdom series. I really hope there’s a book six, because Nix HAD BETTER NOT LEAVE THE STORY THERE.
  • Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016) Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
  • The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016) An interesting concept, but the story dragged.
  • Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
    Another one I couldn’t put down. Based on a real woman’s life, and one of the best-written ARCs I’ve had yet.
  • A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16)
  • Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
    Given as a gift to my brother.
  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  • Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  • The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  • The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)
  • The Daughters, by Adrienne Celt (left over from previous haul, released August 2015) Odd but compelling story about the multigenerational impact family can have and the power of stories and music.
  • Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  • She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)

Meditation

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Slow me down, Adonai.

Ease the pounding of my heart

By the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace

With a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amidst the confusion of my day,

The calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tension of my nerves

With the soothing music of the singing streams

That live in my memory.

Help me to know

The magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art

Of taking minute vacations of slowing down

to look at a flower;

to chat with an old friend or make a new one;

to pat a stray dog;

to watch a spider build a web;

to smile at a child;

or to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me each day

That the race is not always to the swift;

That there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward

Into the branches of the towering oak

And know that it grew great and strong

Because it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Adonai;

And inspire me to send my roots deep

Into the soil of life’s enduring values

That I may grow toward the stars

Of my greater destiny.

 

Machzor Mateh Naftali

Rosh Hashanah

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Let us ask ourselves hard questions
For this is the time for truth.

How much time did we waste
In the year that is now gone?

Did we fill our days with life
Or were they dull and empty?

Was there love inside our home
Or was the affectionate word left unsaid?

Was there a real companionship with our children
Or was there a living together and a growing apart?

Were we a help to our mates
Or did we take them for granted?

How was it with our friends:
Were we there when they needed us or not?

The kind deed: did we perform it or postpone it?
The unnecessary gibe: did we say it or hold it back?

Did we live by false values?
Did we deceive others?
Did we deceive ourselves?

Were we sensitive to the rights and feelings
Of those who worked for us?

Did we acquire only possessions
Or did we acquire new insights as well?

Did we fear what the crowd would say
And keep quiet when we should have spoken out?

Did we mind only our own business
Or did we feel the heartbreak of others?

Did we live right,
And if not,
Then have we learned, and will we change?

— An interpretation of Unetaneh Tokef by Jack Riemer

ARC Readathon Update

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  1. Delicious Foods, by James Hannahan
    Totally recommend. Gripping, moving, occasionally a little surreal, and does some mind-bending things with the narration.
  2. Sleepless in Manhattan, by Sarah Morgan
    A fun contemporary romance novel, the start of a set. May have to look up the others – Morgan created a compelling cast of characters.
  3. Anything for You, by Kristin Higgins
    Merely okay – kept reading, and got a few laughs, but mostly a rather predictable romance novel with predictable character types. Middle of a series.
  4. Paradise Lodge, by Nina Stibbe (releases 7/12/16)
    Persistently quirky, but amusing. Imagine the main character from Louise Rennison’s books having an actual brain, a conscience, and living on shaky financial ground in 1970s Leicester.
  5. I’m Still Here (Je Suis La), by Clelie Avit & translated by Lucy Foster (releases 8/23/16)
    LOVED THIS. Finished it in under two hours – couldn’t step away from it for long, and I was so engrossed while reading it on the train home that I almost missed my stop. Simple story, but breathtaking.
  6. The Thousandth Floor, by Katharine McGee (releases 8/30/16)
    It’s GOSSIP GIRL in the 22nd century. Seriously. If you like that show, you’ll like this. Apparently it’s already been optioned for television.
  7. Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff (releases 8/2/16)
    Enjoyed this tremendously. Has “feature film” written all over it, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’d love to see this interpreted onscreen.
  8. The Secrets She Kept, by Brenda Novak (releases 8/2016)
    Okay. Good enough to keep my interest, and they do well with the red herrings for the mystery part, but somehow it seems a little pat. But then, I’m used to Lord Peter Wimsey, so perhaps other mysteries pale in comparison.
  9. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (releases 9/2016  Apparently semi-autobiographical. Gripping and well-told. Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
  10. The Life She Wants, by Robyn Carr (releases 9/27/16)
    Meh. Not terribly engaged in this one.
  11. The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny O’Colgan (releases 9/2016)
    One of those books in which the end is a bit predictable, but the route to get there is not. Sweet and charming.
  12. Monticello, by Sally Cabot Gunning (releases 9/2016)
    Neither an easy nor a quick read, but an interesting one. Fascinating perspective on familiar historical events and people.
  13. The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst (releases 9/2016)
    THIS IS FABULOUS. Like fantasy? Forests? Magic? Strong women? READ THIS.
  14. Just Fine With Caroline, by Annie England Noblin (releases 10/2016)
  15. Winter Storms, by Elin Hilderbrand (releases 10/4/16)
  16. IQ, by Joe Ide (releases 10/18/16)
  17. The Rift: Uprising, by Amy S. Foster (releases 10/2016)
  18. Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (releases 10/4/16)
  19. Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (releases 10/11/16)
  20. Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (releases 10/2016) Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
  21. The Comet Seekers, by Helen Sedgwick (releases 10/2016)
  22. Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch (11/2016)
    Another one I couldn’t put down. Based on a real woman’s life, and one of the best-written ARCs I’ve had yet.
  23. A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay (releases 11/1/16)
  24. Butter: a Rich History, by Elena Khosrova (releases 11/15/16)
    Given as a gift to my brother.
  25. The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers (releases 1/10/17)
  26. Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (releases 1/17/17)
  27. The Young Widower’s Handbook, by Tom McAllister (releases 2/7/17)
  28. The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (releases 2/28/17)
  29. The Daughters, by Adrienne Celt (left over from previous haul, released August 2015)
  30. Words Without Music, by Philip Glass (left over from previous haul, released April 2015)
  31. She Came from Beyond!, by Nadine Darling (left over from previous haul, released October 2015)

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    Just SOME of the ARCs from ALA Annual 2016 in Orlando.

Birthday 

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Monday’s child is fair of face,

Tuesday’s child is full of grace,

Wednesday’s child is full of woe,

Thursday’s child has far to go,

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

Thirty years ago, September 16 was a Tuesday. I really must try to trip over air less frequently.