Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Year in Books

Back in February, when Snowmageddon hit, I decided to set a reading goal for myself of 35 books for the year of 2011. It didn’t seem like much – something I would blow through – and then sometime in June I realized I was something like four books behind and I thought, “Huh.”

Last night I apparently finished my reading goal for the year, just in time for finals. Some of them were fantastic, some of them were absolute crap, some of them were for school. Nonetheless, I read 35 books, amounting to over 13,000 pages.

And now, for your reading pleasure, here’s my year in books!


Thunderer Felix Gilman (review)
Soulless Gail Carriger
Sandman Slim Richard Kadrey (reviews for this and Soulless)
Halibut Rodeo Mark Lewandowski (review)


Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man Steve Harvey*
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer Jonathan L. Howard (review)


Kiss & Tell MariNaomi (review)


The Eye of the World Robert Jordan (review)
A Fistful of Fire Misti Wolanski (review)
At the Mountains of Madness H.P. Lovecraft (review)


The Gathering Dark Jeff Grubb
City of Bones Cassandra Clare (review)
The Goddess Test Aimee Carter (review)
Go the F*ck to Sleep Adam Mansbach


Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin (review)
Clash of Kings George R. R. Martin


Batman: The Long Halloween Jeff Loeb


The Country Wife William Wycherly
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller
Storm of Swords George R. R. Martin
Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
The Best American Poetry of 2010 (review)
The Taming of the Shrew William Shakespeare
Love in Excess Eliza Haywood
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Marjane Satrapi
Watchmen Alan Moore
Persepolis: The Story of a Return Marjane Satrapi

The Beggar’s Opera John Gay
PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2010
A Feast for Crows
George R. R. Martin (review)
Ghost Story Jim Butcher (review)
With the Light… Vol 1: Raising an Autistic Child Keiko Tobe

Dream Country Neil Gaiman

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks Ethan Gilsdorf

Why I Fail at Adulthood

There’s this weird thing that happens when you go away for college. You leave an awkward high-school graduate who doesn’t realize just how awkward she (or he is), and then somewhere between moving into your dorm for the first time and eventually putting on silly robes and a goofy hat for a three-hour ceremony that it’s really not worth it to attend (given that if you opt out they’ll just mail you your degree), you Become an Adult.

One of the horrors of adulthood, I’ve found, is this tricky thing called Small Talk. After your freshman year, your parents’ friends and other adults you knew Before College Happened will stop having conversations with you intended to figure out how you, specifically, are handling your transition to adulthood and will suddenly, without warning, expect you to participate in this ritual of chit-chat and scripted social encounters. You are never handed a pamphlet, a handbook, a cheat sheet, nor given so much as a heads-up or a gentle, reminding nudge in the ribs by a sympathetic elbow.

My sister, and several of the people I graduated high school with, seem to have handled this change pretty smoothly. I’ll be out with my sister and suddenly, in Kroger or Hobby Lobby or Qdoba, we’ll run into someone she knows. There will be hugging, and hellos, and other sort of greeting pleasantries. She’ll navigate through the brief, bare-bones conversation like an Olympic gymnast, and then we’re moving on, with her always sighing contentedly, “Oh, it was nice to see [that person] again.”

I, however, am never so lucky. I officially suck at small talk. Despite being one of the more socially adept members of the ISU Roleplayers Guild, which is partially why I’m the president, I cannot seem to grasp this concept of small talk. I dread going to church with my family, because there are without fail a half-dozen adults who will recognize me and descend on me like a flock of starving vultures.

Last night, as we were going into church for midnight Mass, I spotted the soccer coach from my high school. I’m very fond of this man, as I managed his team for two years, lettered doing so, and realized over the course of that time that he is really a wonderful man. I’ve seen him a handful of times since graduation, and am always glad to do so. Even after five years, he knows me and seems just as excited to see me as I am to see him.

Forgetting, however, my penchant for failing at socially-scripted conversation, I called out to him. The first parts were easy – hugs, “Merry Christmas!”, and the mutual asking of “How are you?” I can usually make it this far – but then something in my brain always fails. Here’s pretty much how last night worked:

Coach: Merry Christmas!
Me: Merry Christmas! How are you?
Coach: I’m great, I’m great. We [the soccer team] did really well this season. We lost in the semi-state finals. So close! I’m proud of them. How are you?
Me: Oh, I’m good. I’m back for a week and a half or so, then it’s back to Terrible Haute.
Coach: You look good!
Me: Thanks. I was sick for a long time back in November, finally getting back to my old self…

The italicized bit is where I noticed Coach starting to look around, and I realized, “Oh crap, I’ve screwed this up.” He eventually excused himself from the conversation, hugged me, said “Merry Christmas!” again, and then he was gone.

An hour later I realized, as usual, that what I should have said after “Thanks” was something along the lines of, “You, too!” Followed by some variation of “How’s your family?”, like, “How’s your wife?”, who was in a vehicle accident a couple of years ago, or “How are your girls?” to show that I remember that he has two daughters.

This may not seem like too terrible of an encounter to you, but to be honest, this example is one of the better ones. Half the time I crash and burn immediately after the “hello”s, because I’m trying to hard to remember just exactly who it is that’s talking to me, and there are only four times out of the year that there are seasonally-acceptable additional dialogue that can be inserted into the conversation, being “Merry Christmas!”, “Happy New Year!”, “Happy Thanksgiving!”, and “Happy Easter!”

Lamenting my social faux pas, I complained to my sister that what I needed was a note I could stick on my forehead anytime that I went out into public while visiting my hometown, a note that would say something like, “I am terrible at small talk and I likely don’t remember who you are, just move on and save us both the embarrassment.” My father suggested that I get through the rest of this vacation just responding to everything with “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy New Year!” This provided my sisters and me with a few moments of giggling as we imagined conversations where I responded every question or statement with “Merry Christmas!” and then ended making some sort of facial expression similar to this:


So far I’m liking that plan best. I may even use it year-round, and not just as Christmastime.

Things That Make Me Go “Squee~!”

Holy crap, you guys.

I do plan on writing a long blog post about the things Beth and I giggled about the entire time she, her brother, Techno Jesus, and I were at my roommate’s wedding on Sunday, but that will have to wait, because I am at my parents’ house for the next week or so and thoroughly exhausted and I’ve told the Wedding Story about four times since I got here, so I am temporarily Wedding Story’d out.

The bedbugs have returned to my apartment, and I was just inches from running away screaming from the premises. You have no idea. As it is, I may be able to get a fumigation arranged while I’m gone and quivering in the bug-less bed in the room I share with my sisters in my parents’ basement, so let’s cross our fingers.

Last night Techno Jesus and Chris of Binary Expletive and I went to go see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows last night. I wore my fancy corsetry. When Techno Jesus finally sends me the pictures, I will post them here for you to see. Let’s just say my waistline looked very Victorian and very fantastic, and was very confusing to the employees of Steak ‘n Shake at 1am after we saw the film. The film itself was pretty good – there were a few slow bits and a few bits that made me roll my eyes and wish we could just move on (the physical fight Watson and Sherlock have while the latter is in drag is not something I can imagine anyone being amused by due to its monumental stupidity), but they did a fantastic job with Moriarty, if nothing else. While the film did not grab me the way that the first one did, as far as second films go, it was really not all that bad.

On the subject of films, when I saw the trailer for this one, I immediately ran to my father’s room and asked him on a daddy-daughter date to go see it when it comes out in December 2012.

He said yes.

Because I don’t have much to say in this post, here’s a cleverly-worded book review!

PegasusPegasus by Robin McKinley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robin McKinley has never failed to enchant me with her work, and this book is no different. From the first time I picked up The Blue Sword in first grade, I have loved this woman and the way that she reinvents the way girls’ stories are told.

This is most definitely a YA book, but from page three I could not turn away or put it down. There is not much in the way of plot, if you consider plot to be “here is the definitive goal” and “here is the definitive conflict” and “here is the definitive villain.” A lot of it comes as a “slice of life” story, the main characters getting to know each other, while hints of a major conflict to come slowly but surely begin to form. You do not hit what I call the major conflict until the very end of the book, but since I’ve known before I picked it up that she was working on a sequel, my only qualm upon turning the last page was that I wanted to read that sequel now.

Pegasus is a lovely story that takes it’s time letting you get to know the history, the structure, and the people of the kingdom that McKinley created. What’s more, you get to know the main characters on such a deep level that you cannot help but know them as real people (or pegasi), and I almost didn’t care that there was no traditional conflict except for what was bubbling beneath the surface. I genuinely cared about the characters and wanted to see them succeed, be happy, interact. After the faith I’ve been losing in YA lit over the past few years, McKinley brought me back with this novel.

View all my reviews