Friday, January 3, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2013

I love Twitter for book recommendations. I rush over to my Amazon wish list and add new titles that keep popping up in my feed. I then click over to my local library's website and request the books I want to read because at the rate I read I cannot afford to keep buying books, at least not without giving up something else important... like Starbucks.

I saw that Modern Mrs. Darcy was doing a link up of favorite books for 2013 and decided to add my list to the pile. 

If you like great characters...

This year I discovered Rainbow Rowell, author of the critically acclaimed Eleanor and Park. I loved that book. While it is the story of two high schoolers and categorized as young adult, it is so beautifully written that it reminded me of White Oleander from years ago. The characters are sweet and messed up in all the ways that real life is. I read all of her books this year and enjoyed each in its own way. Rainbow Rowell's characters are richly drawn and are all people I would want to get to know better in real life.

If you like young adult reads...

I also discovered Gayle Forman this year and fell in love with her books. I read If I Stay first and that one has stayed with me ever since. With the book based in Portland, I felt an immediate kinship. The author's fluid movement between present and past amazed me. I fell in love with Mia, as did Adam,  and felt for her as she made a painful choice. Gayle Forman followed this book up with Where She Went, a sequel told from Adam's point of view.

If you liked Hunger Games...

by Veronica Roth

This book has many of the elements we loved in Hunger Games. A strong female character. A love interest. A dystopian world that teaches us about our own. Fast paced and with two more books to follow.

If you like historical fiction...

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

This book follows the story of two young women during World War II. They are separated when one of them is on board a flight that is shot down over France and is taken captive by the Nazis. This book does not shy away from the horrors of war or the trueness of friendship. It kept me reading to find out what happened next.

If you want to read a classic...

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn 
by Betty Smith

To be honest, I only picked this one up at the library because it was my book club's pick for November but I am so glad I did. I loved Francie Nolan and the family and cast of characters that surrounded her. Betty Smith painted life in Brooklyn during the early 1900s with such vivid detail with only her words that I often felt I was there. The stories at times were rough but the hope and resilience of the Nolan family were inspiring. I really loved this book and did not want it to end.

My list is almost exclusively fiction, partly because that is what I love to read but also because I often start nonfiction books I love but never finish and it is hard to recommend a book you have not finished because what if it takes some hideous turn. I want to get better about that in 2014 and have a stack of books I am planning to read. 

Here are a few in the stack to be read:

Product Details
by Nadia Bolz-Weber  

If you love Anne Lamott, I think you will enjoy this book. I started following the author @sarcasticluther on Twitter this year. I love her heart for people and her authenticity. I am only a few chapters in but I have already been touched to tears. 

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
by Stephen King

This book is always on the list of books writers must read. I have never read a Stephen King novel but in just the few short chapters I have read so far, I can see why people love his writing. It is vivid and graphic and all those things that make for great writing. It is interesting to see into his childhood. I love books that inform me as well as entertain me.

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women 
by Sarah Bessey

@sarahbessey was one of the first people I started following on Twitter. The grace with which she writes opens the door to the bigger conversations. I enjoy her writing style and the way she hits the deeper truths without hitting you over the head. 

What were some of your favorite reads of 2013?  What is on your list for 2014?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodbye 2013

I was not a fan of 2013.

For me, it was a year of letting go of dreams, or at least of being disappointed that the dreams I had were not going to come true in the time and format I wanted.

2012... that was a great year. We bought a place in the town we loved in California. I finished my first novel. I was teaching again and getting lots of encouraging feedback. It felt like my year, our year. But it ended with disappointing news from my husband's company - news that derailed our 2013 and changed the course of our lives.

2013 came with rejections and unemployment checks. It started with so many scary unknowns and ended with being unknown. Not that it was all bad. But it was hard to live through. It was hard to say goodbye. It was hard being so discouraged about my writing. It was hard being new. It was hard feeling alone, feeling lost, feeling like a failure.

I want to be one of the hopeful ones, the ones that claim the new year will be positive, full of promise. And truth is that I am an optimist. I know that moving and creating a new life and new friendships takes time. I know that I am really am blessed beyond measure. But I get scared too. I worry that maybe this time it won't happen. Maybe this time will be different and not in a good way. I worry that maybe things are turning darker, that maybe I am growing more distant, more isolated, more alone. I worry that I used up all my energy to get here, that I don't have much positivity left.

Today though, I am going to hope on new things because the alternative is too much. I am not ready to give up being an optimist yet.

So 2014 I have high hopes for you. Or at least I have hope for you.