Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading 2013

Well, if you're interested in the past, here are lists from 2011 and 2012.

The List:

1  Return of the King - JRR Tolkien*
2  The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
3  Great House - Nicole Krauss
4  Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni  (nf)
5  The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
6  Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
7  Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald*
8  Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins*
9  Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins*
10  Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
11  Ender's Shadow - Orson Scott Card
12  London War Notes - Mollie Panter-Downes  (nf)
13  Speaker for the Dead -Orson Scott Card
14  Shadow of the Hegemon - Orson Scott Card
15  Shadow Puppets -Orson Scott Card
16  Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
17  The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
18  A body in the Library - Agatha Christie
19  Stardust - Neil Gaiman
20  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - JK Rowling
21  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling
22  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling
23  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -JK Rowling
24  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - JK Rowling
25  Lady in Waiting - Jackie Kendall  (nf)
26  The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
27  Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince - JK Rowling
28  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling
   29 The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse - Michael Gungor  (nf)

* indicates a re-read
(nf) indicates non-fiction

General trends:

// I read longer, though fewer books.  I set a goal of 40 books in 2013.  Don't think I'd conjectured the average length of each books would be 435 pages.  You can see below for one of my spiffy graphs.  This shows trends in average number of pages per book and per month over the last 3 years:

// I loooove sci-fi and fantasy [obvi].  I started 2013 by finishing off my re-visit to Middle Earth and another quick trip to District 12, but this only set the stage for journeys into the Enderverse, the Four Corners, Gaiman's Fairyland, and the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  I fully recognize I'm a late (very late) comer to Harry Potter, so I won't even bother "recommending" it, Neil Gaiman speaks for himself, but, a few words on the other two series.

I wrote a formal review of Ender's Game as part of my 31 days project, but here and here are thoughts I shared while reading the 1st book.  I can't recommend Ender's Game highly enough, but I'd also suggest it's parallel novel Ender's Shadow and direct sequel Speaker for the Dead (an anecdote of which I shared here).  I've forayed further into Shadow series, which is a fascinating political and psychological saga.  I'm hoping to finish the Ender Quartet, which I hear is highly philosophical.  Card's fiction is a thought-provoking delight.

As for the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, I did my best to give it a proper review hereName of the Wind, Rothfuss's incredible novel debut gripped me from it's earliest pages and once he sets up the frame narrative - there's no going back.  Both it and its sequel, Wise Man's Fear, are innovative fantasy while maintaining some of the familiar qualities I love most about series like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter (though intended for a more mature audience than either of those series).  I finished these two in August and yet still find myself wondering about the characters as if they were lost friends.  I eagerly await the 3rd and final installment!

All that said, I have enjoyed indulging more in my love for sci-fi, fantasy, and the wonderful spots where they blend.  It's saddening that these are so often relegated to niche literature in academia... but that's a thought for another post.  I have loved these literary journeys and I'm looking forward to a few more in 2014.

// I only just realized looking back at this list that I didn't read a single pre-1900's book this year.  Gatsby, published in 1925, is the earliest novel on the list.

My teenage self would be appalled.  My 23 year old self is rather thrilled.

// Another theme that emerged in my reading habits was learning more about WWII.  Not facts.  Stories.  It was the focus of London War Notes and The Book Thief, but it crept up in plenty of other books too.  London War Notes (passage here) was a heart-breaking and beautiful bi-weekly column written for the New Yorker by an American living in London throughout the war.  Interestingly, The Book Thief, though fictional, was a harrowing tale of "the other side" - how many Germans experienced the war.  As a side note, I think it would be very interesting to read The Book Thief in conjunction with The History of Love.  But these contrasting perspectives make it obvious how unnecessary and tragic the war was - not for one side or the other, but for humanity. 

As for 2014, I'm excited to announce that I'll be taking part of Jon Acuff's "Empty Shelf Project."  I've already cleared the decks and have some books in the wings - so look forward to filling it up! 

I thoroughly enjoyed my literary wanderings in 2013.  More than finding new friends, I found new parts of myself.  These stories lent me courage where I was running low, joy in some dark moments, and love - so much love - for other people.  I couldn't really ask for much more.

Have you read any of these?  What were some of the trends or highlights for your reading in 2013?


Advent is a time of waiting in the darkness, of preparing quietly and prayerfully in the tension of what is hoped for and what may be. Oftentimes, we don't even know what we are really hoping and waiting for, and even if we do, we are unsure as to whether it will come to be. For most of 2013, we lived in a consistent season of Advent, all of which was preparing for an even brighter celebration at the very end of the year.

- Via Relevant's "13 Lessons I Learned in 2013"

We have come through the darkest.  We nurtured our internal light throughout Advent.  Epiphany is upon us and it can only get lighter from here.

Cheers to 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

On despair

Lately I've been thinking on despair. Delightful, I know. But it keeps coming up.

Call it seasonal vitamin-D deficiency. Blame it on other circumstances in my life. Settle it as the result of too much melancholy viewing or reading. But, whatever the case, despair has been knocking on my door. 

I'm becoming convinced that despair is the greatest evil. Not the greatest sin - but the end-result & effect of sin. 

Despair is so much more than sadness. I've been thinking on the pinpoint moments in some of my favorite stories when despair enters the picture. 

It's when Peeta doesn't love Katniss. 
It's when Ron leaves Harry. 
Or John fails to find Sherlock's pulse. 
Rose gets separated from the Doctor. 
Frodo Baggins forgets the taste of strawberries. 

Failure. Rejection. Goodbyes. These are always the stories' worst moments. 

But the road to resurrection runs through the grave. 

The greatest stories - both in life & in fiction - force the protagonist to walk a mile or more with despair. I've run up against it a few times. We all have in different ways. 

But there are two conclusions I've come to regarding Despair. 

The first is my prayer in the midst of my despair or any loved one's is that I'd be faithful. A faithful friend. A faithful person. "Frodo wouldn't have got very far without Sam." In fact, according to Tolkien, Sam was the hero of Lord of the Rings… and I can see why. The greatest courage isn't in brandishing glittering swords, but in traversing pain our souls were never designed for. "For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point--and does not break."  - GK Chesterton.

The other conclusion is one I came to after talking with my dentist, truly great fellow. The thing is, if despair is the greatest evil, joy must be the greatest good. And I'm not speaking of anything akin to humanist happiness. Many classic philosophers got close to this truth, that joy was the aim, but they all lacked something. Until Christ, "for the joy set before Him, endured the cross," they had no response to despair, and no true reason for joy. But we have. 

My friend, Esther, shared with me today, "Hope is the ability to look the past & present squarely in the face and say, 'I know that my future will make beautiful and light these harsh and dark moments.'" That's what I'm holding onto. 

I look to the stories again and again, not for happy endings, but for hopeful ones. They serve to remind that the truest stories don't end in despair. "When the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer." Until then, "never cruel or cowardly; never give up, never give in." No, now is the time to take another step through the valley, trusting the mountain is still there. All we can do in the meantime is to hold onto the promises, to wait and to hope. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013: Opportunities

At the beginning of 2013,  the Lord spoke to me about how this year meant "opportunity."  And He was so right!

"Opportunity," however, is not all a rosy.  It involves a lot of variables.  There are risks to be taken.  There are often multiple opportunities vying for priority, and adulthood means having to pick a card and hope you picked right.  Opportunity is about risk with the chance of reward.

But when looking up "opportunity" in the dictionary, the word I found over and over was "favorable."  Opportunity is "a favorable, appropriate, or advantageous combination of circumstances; a chance or prospect."  Like a mountain concealed by clouds, I believe favor is still there, guiding me.  Even in silence.  Even in pain.  

This year I've learned that opportunity can come in all shapes and sizes.  In 2013, it looked like...

...going red.
...going short.
...less money in my savings account than I'd like.
...filling up journals and blog drafts faster than I could possibly process experiences.
...#refusetobeacog, etc. Generally raging against the machine, in search of something deeper.
...being moved to tears by a simple song lyric.
...belting out said song lyrics in a park with tens of thousands of others, led by Mumford & Co.
...sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing my guts out because of narrative and because, no matter how made up it is, it's true.
...having wonderful adventures with visiting friends.
...just doing "it."
...riotous run-ins with bus admirers.
...accepting titles I had always been afraid of [see, "writer"].
...writing in rounds.writing for release.
...opening up to someone, but him them pursuing someone else.
...meeting artists I'd been inspired by.
...cubicle parties and embracing dress-up more than ever before!
...facing people I've been afraid of fears.
...a lot of Baggins vs. Took inner wrestling.
...having my own bathroom for the first time in my life.
...walking through vineyards, through the streets of Nob Hill, and through countless bookshops.
...finding myself in one of those bookshops with news that blindsided me, rendering me unable to even buy a book - all of them hurt somehow.
...picnics by the lake with good friends.
...moving out with my best friend.
...bearing friends' dreams and burdens and hopes and joys. 
...waiting on the Lord
...new revelations on stewardship - body, soul, and spirit.
...road trips for record books. 
...a lot of Doctor Who.  all. the. feels!
...flexing the forgiveness muscle.
...flexing the humility-and-asking-forgiveness muscle.
...challenging myself to go beyond what I thought myself capable of.
...a lot of "self-induced" late nights.
...inconveniences.  "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered..."
...meeting lots of new fantastic(al) characters.
...learning that the Lord is the only one I can implicitly and whole-heartedly trust.

It's been one blaze of a year - peaks and valleys and everything in between.  But, as Sheldon Vanauken said, "If there were a choice – and he suspected there was – a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now, chose the heights and the depths."  

Here are to all the opportunities you & I have had this year, and here's to all the ones coming in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

First Lines - 2013

My friend Simon has a tradition of doing a "First Lines" post to capture the year.  In his words, "It's very simply - you copy across the first line of each month's first blog post, and a link to that post, as an intriguing overview of the year..."  Sounds fun.  Here I go:

January - "This year is a sealed envelope / With apprehensive hope / We brace for anything / I swear, I understand that nothing changes that / The past will be the past / But the future is brighter than any flashback."

February - Since I woke up this morning I've been inexplicably excited.

March - This weekend I had one of those great "Wow!  Not everyone thinks everyone thinks the same way I do (thank God!)" moments.

April - This weekend was glorious! Glorious!!

May - Seriously... this book is wrecking me!

June - Ours is NOT a blind faith.

July - I know I've just written about it, but I'm seeing this everywhere - aren't you?  It's a happenin' summer - and it's just begun!

August - August means ... Moving into my own place and starting a new season.

September - "Don't be afraid to change. You may lose something good, but you'll gain something better."

October - Currently listening to... a lot of Lorde.

November - So... the National Theatre of Great Britain celebrated their landmark 50th Anniversary tonight, bringing over 100 performers together for a live evening comprised of some of their most famous productions.

December - Some nights, you just have to stay up late watching Jennifer Lawrence interviews and appreciating all that is quirky and authentic.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Music Monday - Bleeding Out // The Lone Below

Came across this song and, when I think about 2014, this song joins my arsenal.  


 All in unison we sing, at times, been redeemed
We are all of the beauty, that has not been seen
We are full of the color, that’s never been dreamed...

 Breathing in, breathing out, it’s all in my mouth
Gives me hope that I’ll be, something worth bleeding out

Monday, December 16, 2013


Saw this trailer when I went to the cinema this weekend.  It moved me.  It reminded me that the peaks I glimpse when I look back are nothing compared to what lies beyond the valley I'm crossing.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

 - CS Lewis

We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments - these moments when we dared to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known - we count these moments as our proudest achievements.

But we lost all that.

And perhaps we've just forgotten that we are still pioneers.  That we've barely begun.  And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, as our destiny lies above us.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And some days, you just have to roll the melancholy music...

I will swallow my pride.
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye

And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls, and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
And this is a place where I don't feel alone

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday: Yoga

Tuesday: Dentist

Wednesday: Massage

Thursday: Date with Dad

Friday: Notions

Saturday: Eye exam

Trying to do a better job of taking care of body, spirit, & soul.  This week, we're making it happen.

Thanksgiving Highlights

[Wrote this up last week but never finished.]

Hello and Merry Christmas!!  It's December - it's past Thanksgiving - and that means the Christmas music I've been listening to for weeks is finally sanctioned. :)

But before we get to Christmas... a few high-points from our fall feast weekend!

//  My Thanksgiving break actually began Wednesday with a trip to the Doctor's, followed by a 4 and 1/2 hour nap.  I had been sick for a week leading up to that - mostly in bed - but trying to work, but my body was "improving" at a pathetic rate.  Thanks to modern medicine, I am on my way to rejoining the land of the living.

// The feast-day came and I headed over to my parents - first time "going home for the holidays."  I always lived at home - even through college.  So even though it takes less than 1 song to drive to my parents, it was exciting!  Here's me, setting off on my trek:

// Going home meant seeing my brother, Josiah, who goes to school over in Eastern Washington (and is about to graduate with his Master's in one week).  My aunt, uncle, and cousin also came over and thus commenced our 3rd or 4th annual Thanksgiving with them.  My aunt is a fellow English major and we can talk for days hours (I think our record is 9 hours straight).  Plus, she provides the turkey for the meat-eaters in my family.  "Recovering Vegetarian" means I still can't be expected to master certain meat dishes.  So, for the past few years, that means I get to load up on turkey, tofurkey, 2 types of stuffing, and of gravy.  Why do I still pile on the vegetarian fare?  Because it tastes like home.  It may not be the greatest (though, I love making a vegetarian, classic stuffing and my mom preps one killer tofurkey) but certain things are good just because they're familiar - yummy-by-association.  

// Amazing how so many hours of preparation can go into a meal that's over so quickly.  But I love it!  Compared to many previous civilizations, America has an alarmingly few "feast days."  We seem to find plenty of reasons to (over)eat - the Superbowl to 4th of July to a Saturday night "just because" - but days that are focused partly on a feast?  We don't have too many of those.  And I love the way God works: He tells his people to feast out of gratitude and faith, so we get blessed even in thanking Him.  [Random thoughts...]

// I was anti-Black Friday this year.  Did order a few things online, but didn't go anywhere!  I did, however, grab this fur collar later in the weekend.  Love it :)

// Apple cup with friends was awesome - go Dawgs!

// Saturday, my flatmate and I picked up our Christmas tree and other decor.  It's lovely to have a little place to decorate!

I hope your Christmas season is off to a fun and festive start :)

Reading: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

"We only live once... Or do we?"  
 - Walter Mitty

Before the film comes out at Christmas, take time to read the original short story by James Thurber (1947).

*By the way, trailers like this one make me think we really need a "Best Trailer" award at some award show or another.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thoughts for Thursday

So many random thoughts today:

\\  Last night in my dream, I relived my very first bee-sting experience (from age 4), but as the age I am now.  It was really weird.  It happened at a friends house 2-doors down from us.  In the dream I was over there but now they had a bee-infestation.  Anyway, I'm pretty sure my subconscious had been storing up some childhood video footage just for that little nightmare.  Been kinda weirded out by that all day.

\\  Recently came across this post and giggled to myself all over again.

\\  I'm preparing a "Books of 2013" post of epic proportions!  Ok, not quite, but I'm excited about it.  So excited that I created an excel spreadsheet tracking the last 3 years of books, and their length by page number.  I also included the results for average number of pages per book, pages per month, and books per month.  I might even whip up a graph!  (Ok, nerd-moment.  I just might be my father's daughter when it comes to excel...).  I will just say, though I fall short of my original goal for the year, I was encouraged by these stats.  See here for a recap of 2012 and my thoughts on reading at the beginning of 2013. 

\\  While reviewing my reading experiences of 2012, I realized that within a 2 week period that January: I finished Macbeth, Clarissa, King Lear, To the Lighthouse, and Sherlock died.  I'm really surprised I survived that.

\\ Also while sorting the book-list (and because of what I'm currently reading), I just have to say stage-whisper, "I flipping love fantasy."

\\  Final thought on books: this Buzzfeed list of how you can tell you're in a relationship with your books. [The answer is D. All of the Above.]  It's funny, I passed a guy on the bus the other day reading a book in the same series as the one I'm in and couldn't repress a quick smile.  I sat down a few seats away and pulled out my book.  He glanced over and smiled.  We both returned to our books. :)

\\  If you haven't already seen them, Buzzfeed has 30 new Sherlock S3 stills.  I have thoughts... but I'll save them for now. :)

\\  This review makes me even more excited to see Inside Llewyn Davis!  "...if only the universe could stop oppressing Llewyn and listen to him then it would hear how beautiful it’s oppression is making him."

\\  I'm packing tonight - which always makes me nervous.  But I'm extra nervous because I'm supposed to pack fancy-shmancy clothes......but we're heading somewhere with a weekend high of 18* and a low around 0*.  Yikes! Pray I don't die!

\\  Annnd, here is my current favorite Christmas song:

Have a great Friday and a happy weekend :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some nights, you just have to stay up late watching Jennifer Lawrence interviews and appreciating all that is quirky and authentic.