Saturday, May 12, 2018

The longest wait

Five months. The longest wait of my life.

Buying a house is something I've wanted to do for years. It was a new year's resolution more than once, but every time I started to move forward, I panicked and decided it could wait another year or two. #CommitmentIssues

But when the time was finally right, it happened fast. As in, less than a week after I started searching for reals, I signed a contract.

The way everything fell into place so perfectly and so quickly is a post for another day. Because this post is about waiting.

A theme I'm quite familiar with.

Since the townhouse I bought wasn't built yet, move-in day was still a ways out. And the combination of my excitement and complete readiness to move on with my life actually caused time to slow down. (You'll be reading about the effects this is having on global warming, the economy, politics, etc. soon.) Even as I write this, I'm not convinced my house will ever actually be ready, because by then time will have slowed down so much it will have stopped completely, leaving me stuck in the waiting period between two lives.

The slab of cement to the left of Jeremy is mine. Jeremy kind of looks like a giant in this picture.

Figuring out how to live in the present the past five months has been a challenge. There's a reason I needed a change; I no longer felt like I belonged in the YSA Midvale life. Being forced to stay put when I knew I had a ticket out just rubbed salt in the wound.

At first I resolved to make the most of my dwindling days in SLC, particularly my singles ward. I would magnify my calling I felt wholly unsuited for and make one final push to establish strong bonds where I was at. All so I could make the separation harder on myself. I joke, but I yearned to leave something behind as evidence that I had lived here.

And sometimes I succeeded at going out in my blaze of glory. But the closer May became—the month my house was supposed to be finished—the less motivated I was to engage in my current life at all. It's been so frustrating wanting to give up on singles wards once and for all but still needing to feel like I was contributing where I was at.

One of the ways I coped was by crocheting. I've crocheted three rugs so far to put in the bathrooms, the kitchen, maybe I'll do one in the library—the important thing is that it's allowed me to work toward my future in a small way while getting my mind off everything else.

Winter slowly turned into spring, and my house started to take shape. Even though the wait has been torture, it really has been fun to see my house at every stage of the building process. My favorite was when it was all just wood, because it took me back to the days when my childhood house was being built. I was only 4 at the time, but I remember scoping out the territory a few times. (The giant pile of dirt in the front yard was a memorable highlight.) And then years later when Dad was finishing the basement, my sisters and I spent a lot of time downstairs roller blading in and out of all the wooden pillars.

One of the three bedrooms. It's going to be so weird to have so much space.

So I was a little sad to see the wood covered up, but eventually you have to let your babies grow up.

Funny story: when a bunch of us went to tour our houses (I bought the townhouse next to Kimberly and Jeremy's), we had our houses mixed up. So when we were exclaiming over my spare rooms, we were actually walking through Avonlea's and Conrad's rooms. So I flipped this picture because I know it'll drive me crazy in the future seeing us waving at each other from the wrong directions.

And life resumed its snail pace. They built the roof, I started binge-watching one of my comfort shows, Once Upon a Time.

They installed the drywall, I got really into watching the Jazz in the playoffs (I've never been this excited and hopeful for the future of this team).

I was most distressed when I arrived to see the construction crew at my house, which meant I wouldn't be able to explore inside. :(

They started painting, I read my first Stephen King novel.

I did not get to pick the exterior color, so I was a little bummed to see we got tan instead of the blue/gray I was hoping for. But it does remind me a bit of the yellow house I grew up in.

Attempts were made to actually live life rather than just escape it, but I've been trying to close this chapter of my life for almost a year—I have very little left to give at this point. Just let me embrace my role as the spinster aunt already.

I'll lure my niece and nephews in with empty promises like "Someday, all of this could be yours."

The builders tell me they're on track to be finished by the end of May, but I'm having trouble feeling any excitement about this news. Because, like I said, time will have stopped by then.

This is what waiting does to you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My 8 most memorable Midvale moments

This is old news to some of you, but I bought a townhome! I've known since January that the Midvale chapter of my life was about to end, but with a five-month wait still ahead of me, I've tried to avoid thinking too much about the actual move itself. For reasons relating to my sanity.

I can't think of any wait that has felt this infernally long. Even the senioritis I felt for six months before college graduation was more endurable. But it's finally feeling close enough to get started on some closure activities.

First up (on the blog, anyway): memorializing my most monumental but mostly mundane Midvale moments.

1. Playing with fire

I couldn't have cared less about this perk when I moved in—my roommate and I actually put my 70-pound TV in front of it for a while—but my fireplace soon became my favorite toy and is the thing I will miss the most when I move. I went through a mourning period when winter started ebbing away and I had to come to terms with the fact that I soon wouldn't have a fireplace to plan my winter hobbies around. (For the air-quality enthusiasts, I only used my fireplace on "green" days, which wasn't nearly as much as I wanted to use it.) No more reading, watching TV, or crocheting next to the comforting glow and warmth of the fire. No more turning all the lights out just to watch the flickering flames. No more burning books I hate.

Apparently I'm not done mourning. Have another fireplace picture.

2. That time there was a geyser in my closet

You can get the low-down on that here. When I did the four-way walkthrough for my new house, "how do I shut the water off?" was at the top of my list of questions—because I'd rather avoid another flooding, thanks.

3. That time my car was a fridge

More details on that here. "Where's the breaker I flip if my fridge dies on me?" was the second question on my list at my house walkthrough. Which I think I've forgotten already, dang it.

4. That time I was stalked by a cat

I didn't mean for this to become a post full of self-promotion, but, here's the story about the cat. This stalking went on for about a month. When I casually mentioned this to the apartment managers, they didn't seem at all surprised because apparently this cat was stalking everyone in the area. That revelation made me feel significantly less special.

5. A month in the Stinkhole

After my roommate got married, I moved into a smaller, one-bedroom apartment. I only stayed there a month, the shortest amount of time I've lived anywhere. But the Stinkhole left an impression, that's for sure. So much so that after a few weeks I upgraded its nickname to the Pits of Mordor.

6. Santa can't get through the chimney, but pigeons can

This is a big story for me, so I'm really surprised I never blogged about it. Consider this your bonus story.

It was the Friday before Labor Day. The minute I got home from work my roommate confronted me with this news: "I think there's a bird stuck in our chimney." We huddled by the fireplace (which took some maneuvering, since my TV was still parked in front of it) where she kept saying "Did you hear that?" and I would pretend I did. Eventually she left to spend the weekend with her family, and I put in a Gilmore Girls DVD and tried to forget about the supposed bird.

Some time into my binge-watch session, a pigeon strutted out from behind my TV like it owned the place. I shrieked and fled to the kitchen. (That's my natural response whenever anyone rings the doorbell, too.) And I probably called my mom. After my heart rate had settled a bit, I grabbed my broom—my weapon/shield of choice—and reentered the living room to open the balcony door. It didn't take much coaxing to get the pigeon to move from its carpeted perch; as soon as it saw that flood of sunshine, it stretched its wings and launched itself to freedom. It was actually a rather poetic moment, setting that bird free so it could fly off into the sunset.

Probably one of the most exciting Friday nights I had in Midvale, which should tell you a lot about my life.

7. The death of a car

Before moving to Midvale, I had only ever had altercations with curbs and bushes; never once had I been in a car accident that involved another person. But then in a one-year span, I was in two car accidents, one of which was a block from my apartment and that totaled my car. #SaltLakeCountyDrivers

This is what happens when a senior citizen turns left in front of you when your light is green:

I was lucky, though. Usually when I think of someone's car getting totaled, I imagine horrific crashes on the freeway that involve blood and broken bones. I walked away with just a minor burn on my thumb from when the airbag went off and some wicked whiplash (the people in the other car were pretty shaken up, but uninjured). And that collision was probably the cause of the migraines I started having months later, but they seem to have stopped.

There are so many ways it could have been worse. Like, if I hadn't hit the brakes when I did, the driver of that mini SUV would have hit me directly, instead of me ramming into their rear passenger door. Not a fun scenario to think about. This accident was one of many times I felt like I was being watched over by angels during all those years living by myself.

8. The worst showers ever

I started with my favorite thing, so I'll end with my least favorite thing (aside from the noisy upstairs neighbors).

I love hot showers. And for most of my life they've been easy to come by, minus the times I was forced to take a shower right after certain family members (let's just say, early church was a trial for all of us). But when I moved to Royal Ridge, the hot showers I craved were no longer mine to claim. During year 1 the hot water lasted about 15 minutes, which wasn't too bad. But that window of time got shorter and shorter, so that now, in year 7, I can really only count on about 5 minutes of hot water.

I tell myself 5 minutes is still a million times better than no hot water at all, because dragging yourself out of bed a few hours earlier than you're ready just to be attacked by an icy jet of water is the absolute worst way to start your day.

And these wimpy water heaters have certainly made me a more economical showerer—it would take some real effort to stretch a shower out to 15 minutes now—so something good came out of it. But now whenever I spend time in a hotel or sleep over at my parents' house, the thing I am legit most excited about is a luxurious shower.

Getting those in my own house, every day? That would be the life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When the world becomes your playground

I wouldn't say that travel is one of my passions—maybe it would be if I was loaded and spoke all the languages—but I do have a desire to see as much of the world as I can with my own eyes (this includes the Shire/Rivendell, Narnia, and Hogwarts, in that order). Even if it's just so I can say "I've been there!" whenever said place turns up on TV or casual conversation. Even if I only spend a few hours there. This world is huge and interesting, and as much as I love going somewhere via the books I read and the movies I watch, sometimes you've just got experience something for yourself with all five senses.

I didn't travel much as a kid—we were very much a Lagoon and/or camping family—but that's changed in the past five years or so. I've come a long way since the days I would tell my dad "anywhere east of Utah" whenever he asked us where we wanted to go on our next vacation. A lot of my bucket list places have been checked off.

In the U.S., that is. Fortunately, the U.S. is big enough to keep sightseers busy for a while, but eventually you're going to want to expand your travel area. Plenty of things were stopping me from stepping outside U.S. borders, but the main thing was that I didn't have a passport. Money, language/cultural barriers, and lack of travel know-how don't matter if you don't have the golden ticket required to leave your home country.

With no real need to travel outside the country, I put getting a passport on the back burner. (That's me in a nutshell—avoid wasting effort on something until it becomes a relevant issue in your life.) But it made me sad sometimes knowing that I couldn't just hop on a plane and fly somewhere on a whim. (What if someone offered me an all-expense-paid trip to Europe one summer? If it happens in Gilmore Girls, it can happen in real life, right?) I would hear people talk about their exotic travels and wonder if I would ever get to do any of those things. Would I ever eat authentic Italian food, go on a cruise to the Bahamas, or see any of the sites from the books I've read? Until I hunkered down and took the steps necessary to secure a passport, I would always be somewhat limited in my dreams.

But then it finally happened—a family vacation was planned that would require a brief amount of time in Canada. Who cares if Canada is the least "foreign" country for a United States citizen to visit? I had the nudge I needed; the effort required to get a passport was now relevant to my plans for 2018. 

The process turned out to be much less of a hassle than I expected it to be, and, a few weeks ahead of schedule, my passport arrived in the mail.

As I held that little book in my hand, it was like the world opened itself up to me. I was no longer "stuck" inside one of the biggest countries in the world—I had what I needed to go anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted, whether it was a meticulously planned trip or something spur of the moment.

The world is now my playground, and I can't wait to start playing in it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

On reading a series that's already finished

Since the day I was old enough to read chapter books, I've been a series reader. I don't think I even started reading stand-alone novels outside of school regularly until after I graduated from college.

It started with the Boxcar Children books. I abandoned those early on because of a specific writing quirk that bugged me (a very early sign that I was meant to be an editor), and moved on to the Baby-Sitters' Club Little Sister books, then the "grown up" Baby-Sitters' Club. Then it was all the Mormon fiction I could find (Work and the Glory, Tennis Shoes, Children of the Promise, etc.), and eventually I wormed my way into fantasy.

For an avid reader, series are a special kind of refuge because you get to spend more time there. Which means more time to develop love for the worlds and characters and less time agonizing over what to read next.

But all of these series shared one drawback: none of them were finished (except the Narnia books, but I read them over several years, so it was like I had to wait for new books). The Baby-Sitters' Club managed to put out about a book a month for a while, but everything else required a much longer wait. It was years before I found out how the Steeds got to Utah. The Tennis Shoes adventures still aren't done. I can't fathom what it would be like to read all the Harry Potter books for the first time through without experiencing any of the years-long theorizing that happened between book releases. I've accepted that nothing I know about Brandon Sanderson will ever be final until the day he dies (hopefully at least 50 years from now). And the only reason I haven't read Patrick Rothfuss yet is because I don't want to join the angry horde of fans waiting impatiently for book 3.

It's a joy to always have a book to look forward to, it really is. But to be able to blow through an entire series with no pauses between books? It wasn't until recently that I realized I didn't know what that was like.

I've attempted many already-finished series, but haven't committed to most of them (several were written by authors whose first name is Terry—perhaps that's my problem?)—until my dad introduced me to the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. I finished the first book and moved right on to the next one. I finished another one and thought, "Man, it would have sucked to have to wait to see how that twist turned out." In the back of my mind I kept thinking I would take a break and catch up on some other books—because that's what I've been forced to do with every other series I've enjoyed—but I didn't need to. For once I didn't have to be patient. I didn't have to work hard to remember things. It was like binge-watching a show on Netflix, or eating two marshmallows right away without suffering any consequences.

I'm not about to jump aboard the "I'm never reading another series until it's completely finished!" train, but it has been a delight experiencing this particular reading pleasure. Two thumbs up, would recommend.

Head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book talk.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

6 things I love today

It's well documented that I think Valentine's Day is dumb. That it causes unnecessary stress and depression, that it does nothing that birthdays and anniversaries don't already do, that it's ridiculously cheesy and commercialized, and—most egregious—that it has the worst candy.

But in my old age, I don't have the energy to channel my annoyance for dumb holidays like I used to. It's easier to just roll your eyes and roll with it. (Just getting started on the puns, here; you've been warned.) I've made huge progress on Halloween—thanks to having adorable little people in my life again—so maybe it's time for me to embrace Valentine's Day and all its nauseating pink-and-red gushiness.

OK, maybe I'm not ready to go all in just yet. But I do love some things, so I'll give this celebrating-Valentine's-Day-with-some-sincerity experiment a try by acknowledging what I love today.

1. Punny Valentines

I've been collecting my favorite Valentine cards throughout the day. Some are new, some you've probably already seen before.

The look on Ron's face really takes this one to the next level.

This one's for you to use, Mom.

Some editing humor for you.

The next one's not a Valentine, but I do love Calvin and Hobbes, so...

2. Cookies and coworkers

Last year when HR came around to hand out cookies, I got skipped. When one of my coworkers found out, he said "Not on my watch!" and made made a beeline to Harmons. He came back 20-30 minutes later with a box of highly superior cookies. I shared with the rest of my department (saving plenty for myself, obviously), who were all outraged on my behalf, and the whole thing turned into an impromptu department party.

This year, I was not skipped. And to make sure I wasn't skipped, one of my coworkers had her eye on the HR lady the whole time she was in our aisle.

The lesson in all this: get yourself some coworkers who are deeply invested in making sure you receive baked goods.

3. Love songs

I'll just own it—I love love songs. I may or may not have a playlist ready for days like this.

4. The Olympics

I prefer the Summer Olympics, partly because there are no other sports competing for my attention at that time. But I've still been trying to catch a lot of the action of this year's Games. I love becoming a temporary expert on random sports, cheering on my country, and watching people live their dreams. There's nothing like it.

5. Pizza

At some point, pizza became my traditional Valentine's Day dinner. I believe it dates back as far as 2010, when Kin and I were both in college. We made pizza and watched Gilmore Girls. The perfect way to celebrate Galantine's Day, in my opinion.

Clearly I was in charge of the toppings. Those are all of my favorites right there, with none of the boring, overused toppings like pepperoni and sausage.

Tonight's pizza was barbecue chicken with bacon, onions, and something spicy. It was delicious for a frozen pizza, and I ate the entire thing by myself, thank you very much.

6. My family

But Valentine's Day isn't supposed to be about the love you have for things. (Although I do enjoy having things.) It's about the love you have for the significant people in your life. And there's no one more significant in my life than my family. These are the people who get me, my closest friends, the weirdos I enjoy hanging out with most. 

I think I've shared most of the family pictures I have already, so I'll just leave you with our family's most recent addition, nephew #4.

Conrad does not approve of this pink burp rag.

It gets even better when you zoom in.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

How Thomas S. Monson shaped my YSA years

There are a lot of ways to chronicle your life, from simply keeping track of ages and dates to lumping experiences into categories like "the middle school/junior high experiment" and "the years I lived in a cheap college apartment."

Leaders have a way of characterizing the time period they lead during as well, as we've seen in the many tributes to President Thomas S. Monson over the past week. I remember a little bit of the Benson and Hunter presidencies, but most of my life can be sorted into either the Hinckley years or the Monson years.

Gordon B. Hinckley was the prophet of my childhood, and is still my favorite general authority of my lifetime. His wit, wisdom, optimism, and down-to-earth work ethic was a backdrop to my life as I rode the crazy roller coaster of teenagehood and early college. "Forget yourself and go to work" repeated itself in my mind often, and the explosion of temples throughout the world was more of a guessing game of "where will we go next?" rather than the unprecedented miracle the generations above me saw it as. 

It was an exciting time to grow up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And every time I hear Pres. Hinckley's voice I feel safe in the way that being back in my childhood home makes me feel safe. 

But if anyone could replace this man as a leader, it would be Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of my YSA years. His influence on my life is right up there with Pres. Hinckley's, mainly because of his stories and charisma. I loved hearing him speak even when I was a kid who thought General Conference was something to be suffered through so I wouldn't have to put a dress on and go to church (a price I was more than willing to pay, might I add).

But the biggest impact he had on me personally can be summed up in one phrase: "find joy in the journey." 

Pres. Monson gave his "Finding Joy in the Journey" talk in October 2008, after being president of the church for less than a year. I remember appreciating it, but, like with most conference talks, I had mostly forgotten about it after a few weeks.

Months later, I was in the middle of a rough patch in college when I asked my dad for a blessing. I was tired of school, tired of college life, tired of singles wards. I longed for the day when marriage and/or graduation would put an end to it all.

But Dad's message to me wasn't how to get to the destination I sought; he merely reiterated Pres. Monson's admonition to find joy in the journey. That time, the message stuck. It's something that's been on my mind a lot as I've jumped onto the completely different roller coaster of young adulthood.

I wasn't always happy to obey, but looking back, it just might be the single most important ideal I strived to live by during the past decade. Everyone talks about Pres. Monson's ability to reach "the one," which could mean anything from dashing to a hospital to visit someone about to pass through this life to hopping on a plane to Germany to visit someone who needed attention. But even for those of us who didn't interact with him personally, he knew how to reach us.

For me, it was one conference talk. Well-spoken words can have just as much of an impact as an act of service. I had no idea at the time how much I would need that counsel, but it's subtly shaped the way I live my life during my young adult years.

Thanks for sharing everything you had with us, Pres. Monson. And for wiggling your ears.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 books: The year I reread everything

2017 wasn't a bad year, but it was a hard year. My 2017 book list reflects that. I didn't seek out a lot of challenging reading because real life was challenging enough. From my books I just needed guaranteed happy endings and/or a guaranteed escape into another world. Fantasy series fit the bill perfectly, which is why I did so much rereading this year.

A lot of readers don't believe in rereading. Which I get—reading all the books is already a hopeless goal, and rereading something only sets you back.

But rereading books is worth the sacrifice. Rereading has allowed me to reconnect with the books that made me an avid reader in the first place. And when the book is good, no two reading experiences are the same—good literature grows with you.

That being said, I still had more "first reads" than rereads this year. And I never did get around to reading Lord of the Rings again, despite best intentions. Next year.

But before I set a plan for 2018, let's talk about what I read in 2017.

Goal: 52 books

Books read: 78

Books I didn't finish: 11

Pages read: 29,969, which averages to 384 pages per book. I read a lot of chunksters this year. Three were over 1,000 pages (thanks, Brandon Sanderson), and 20 were over 500. If I had limited myself to more normal-sized books, I might have hit 100 books again. But where's the fun in that?


  • 5 stars: 20
  • 4 stars: 28
  • 3 stars: 27
  • 2 stars: 3
  • 1 star: 0

First reads: 56

Rereads: 22

Fiction: 59

Nonfiction: 19

Books by female authors: 50

Books by male authors: 23

Books by multiple authors: 5

Longest book: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, 1243 pages. Not the longest book I've ever read, but it's probably in the top five.

Shortest book: Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments by Jeffrey R. Holland, 37 pages. My bishop recommended this one a couple times, but I have to admit it's not my favorite Holland thing.

Favorite book, fiction (besides Harry Potter, obviously): Picking just one favorite book is a monumental challenge for any reader, but it gets easier when you find that special book that was written just for you. For me, that book is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. No other book has nailed what I want and need from a book like that one has.

But since The Snow Child was my top pick for 2015, I've picked a different book for 2017: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed this book the first time I read it, but I didn't love love it until I reread it this year. The Stormlight books are rich and complex, and it's just impossible to grasp everything the first time you read it. Since I was already familiar with the world and characters this time through, I was able to appreciate how masterful Sanderson's writing is. Catch things I missed the first time. He's waited his whole career to crank this series out, and that wait was worth it. This book, and the ones that follow it, wouldn't be what it is without the experience he gained from writing his other books, including Wheel of Time. Rereading this book was one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've ever had, and my love for these characters is very high.

Have I convinced you to give Brandon Sanderson a try yet? Good. Except, don't start with The Way of Kings. Read the Mistborn books first, or Elantris. And then you're going to want to read Warbreaker. Diving into Stormlight first might be overkill.

Favorite book, nonfiction: The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel. This book was fascinating. I have more than my fair share of days where I just don't want to interact with anyone, but this guy lived alone, in the woods, for 27 years. JUST BECAUSE HE FELT LIKE IT. I just can't get over how crazy and cool that is.

Favorite reread: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Of all the Harry Potter books, this is the one I tend to forget the most. Probably because of the horrendous movie adaptation. So I actually have moments where I can't remember what is going to happen next or that I haven't thought about since my last read—which is a tender mercy, if I'm being entirely honest. This book was once my least favorite of the series, but it climbs a spot in my favorites rankings every time I reread the series. Don't overlook this one; it's great.

Author challenge: After reading What Alice Forgot last year, I wanted to read the rest of Liane Moriarty's backlist. I ended up just reading two—Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret—both while traveling to/from Florida. They're perfect airplane books. Big Little Lies was my favorite of the two.

The great American novel (aka, the book that just begs to be read in a literature class): The Secret History by Donna Tartt. You want to discuss ethics and morality? This book has plenty of fodder for that discussion. Looking for complex characters who make questionable choices? This book has them in spades. Need some good writing? Look no further. Watching the events of this novel unfold is fascinating, disturbing, engrossing—I would have loved to discuss it with a class of pretentious English majors for a few weeks. I finished it almost a month ago and I still think about it a lot.

Best escape: I'm going to risk my reader's credibility a bit and go with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. This series does what it's supposed to do really well—gives you a compelling love story that's easy to get lost in. Sometimes it's just nice to indulge in an over-the-top romance. #TeamEdward

Funniest book: Any of the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling's humor is the first thing that endeared me to this series. Without it, I wouldn't be the fan I am today.

Saddest book: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This was a hard book for me. It's well written and everything, and I appreciated the insight it provides on Korean and Japanese lifestyle/culture, but it's just bleak. Nobody really gets to be happy much. I definitely wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it, but it's not a book I'll revisit.

Most intriguing premise: The Blinds by Adam Sterngergh. I don't read a lot of thrillers, but this one sounded too cool to pass over. It's about a town of criminals—only they've had their memories altered so they don't remember what they've done. Everyone still knows they're surrounded by people who have done horrible things, but it's hard to reconcile that fact with the nice old lady who runs the library, for instance. Lots of potential here, and the book mostly lived up to my expectations.

Book that changed my way of thinking: Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Readers of this blog know I'm an unapologetic introvert. If I have the option of doing something alone, I will, and I'm all the happier for it. However, this book makes a compelling case for banding together in tribes, and Junger's reasoning for why veterans have a hard time returning back to "normal" society or for why depression and anxiety seem to be more of a modern problem actually had me rethinking my "alone is better" mantra a bit.

Pleasant surprise: Be Frank with Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson. Books/movies featuring characters on the autistic spectrum have been pretty popular—and therefore controversial—of late. On the one hand, I get why people are annoyed. It's frustrating when someone tries to take a real challenge or life situation just to shoehorn in diversity or to feature a quirky character. But when it's done right, I love stories featuring characters with autism. I remember having a conversation once with my sisters years and years ago where we were lamenting the fact that we had never come across any characters—books, movies, any medium—that reminded us of our brother. Which is a shame, because my brother is one of the most unique people I know. It's not fair that others should have to miss out. Now, I am NOT insinuating in any way that everyone with autism is the same. I am merely glad that I can occasionally come across a book or TV show with a character that navigates the world a little differently, in a way that's uniquely familiar and relatable.

I probably should say something about the book now. . . . I loved it. Read it.

Biggest disappointment: Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull. I enjoyed the Fablehaven series quite a bit, but this first book in the follow-up series wasn't exactly enthralling. A bit of character growth over the original series would have made it a lot better for me, but, yeah, that's not really something middle grade novels aim to deliver.

Most in need of an editor: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. I adored The Shoemaker's Wife, but this book was not on that level at all. It might have been if there were a few more heavy rounds of editing to clean up the sloppy pacing and underdeveloped storylines and relationships. It always baffles me when an established author puts out a book with so many rookie flaws.

Bookish treasure: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Any avid reader can relate to the plight of wanting to read every book on the planet but having to balance that urge with meeting real-world responsibilities. The protagonist in this novel—a queen!—lives that life in this short satire, and it's delightful.

Book I'd like to see as a movie: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. If they ever finish making the Narnia movies, I want them to do this one last, and bring back all the original Pevensies. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Book I'd love to live in: Gonna have to go with Narnia again. Obviously I wouldn't turn down a chance to go to Hogwarts, but Narnia is more the type of place you go to when you want to relax, you know? Especially if it's early Narnia in The Magician's Nephew before all the wars start: peaceful, pretty, no need to rush through anything. Can I just retire right now?

Book I don't want to live in: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. I love reading about the worlds Sanderson creates, but I wouldn't want to live in any of them. Roshar, the world of the Stormlight Archive, is pretty much doomed in this book, what with the constant hurricane-level storms and threat to humanity's existence. It makes Earth look rather peaceful.

Favorite character: The main reason I love Sanderson is because of his characters. Kaladin is my favorite Stormlight character—and my favorite character of the year—despite how frustrating he can be. (Sometimes, I just want to smack him and send him to the corner for a time-out.) He and I have a lot of similarities, which is probably why my heart goes out to him. Watching him triumph is incredibly fun and satisfying.

Least favorite character: Sadeas, definitely (another Stormlight character). He's the snakiest snake that ever lived. Although *spoiler alert* Moash sucks too.

All the 2017 books (bolded a few more I loved but didn't talk about above):
  1. A Bestiary by Lily Hoang
  2. Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
  3. Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland by Cynthia Clampitt
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
  6. American Justice on Trial: People V. Newton by Lise Pearlman
  7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  9. Garage Criticism by Peter Babiak
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  11. Part of the Family: Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust by Jason Hensley
  12. Faithful by Alice Hoffman 
  13. Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments by Jeffrey R. Holland
  14. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  15. Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery
  16. Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery
  17. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  18. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  19. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
  20. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  21. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  22. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  23. Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull
  24. The Best American Essays: 2015 ed. Ariel Levy
  25. Girl in the Moon by Janet McNally
  26. Women of the Book of Mormon by Heather B. Moore
  27. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
  28. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
  29. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  30. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  31. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  32. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
  33. Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn
  34. Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn
  35. Divinity of Women by Heather B. Moore
  36. Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
  37. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
  38. The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
  39. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  40. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  41. Be Frank with Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson
  42. Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson
  43. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  44. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  45. Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  46. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  47. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  48. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  49. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  50. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  51. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  52. The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner
  53. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
  54.  Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
  55. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
  56. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  57. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  58. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
  59. The Changeling by Victor Lavalle
  60. Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
  61. Autumn by Ali Smith
  62. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
  63. Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
  64. The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller
  65. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  66. The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
  67. Beauty by Robin McKinley
  68. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
  69. 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories ed. Heidi Pitlor
  70. Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
  71. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  72. Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange
  73. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  74. Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
  75. Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
  76. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  77. Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn
  78. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Previous years:

If you need more books to consider, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy. Your TBR will explode.