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July 28, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Reading Problems: Quitting on Them Books

Sometime last year, I came to a decision that’s changed my reading: I was going to let myself give up on books.

I’ve given up on books before. Three separate starts couldn’t get me through The Count of Monte Cristo, and I just could not handle the third Shopaholic book. But it was always with a lot of hemming, a lot of guilt. How could I leave this book unfinished? How could I abandon this story?

Here’s how. My Goodreads list of books to read is in the hundreds. And even that’s just the mountainous tip of the book pile. There are books that I forget to add, new novels that don’t make it to that list, and all the other books, kid’s lit and nonfiction, that I just pick up on a whim and begin. When I’m reading a book that I wasn’t in the right mood for, or that I honestly don’t like, I think of all those books that I could be reading, that I’d rather be reading.

So why don’t I just read those instead?

I have more books on my list than I could read in a lifetime. I shouldn’t feel obligated to waste more of that time than I have to.

Do you abandon books? Does it kill you inside, or are you fine with it? Or maybe I’m just spouting blasphemy as far as you’re concerned? Let me know, and tell me some books you’ve ditched!

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)Here are some recent ditches of mine, some because I just didn’t feel like it as much as I thought I would, others because I just could not enjoy myself, at all (you can guess what’s what!):

  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • Kafka by the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • Dodger by Terry Pratchett
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
July 19, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds

You might know I’m planning a Disney World trip this fall, so I’m excited that the Epcot Food and Wine Festival menu has been released. I’m done planning park days and dining reservations, so now I have something else to obsess over while I wait to plan Fast Passes!

Steven Universe had another Steven Bomb (five days of episodes) this week. Ugh, you guys, this show is so good, I can’t even. This is my face the whole time:

Steven Universe Pearl "Cry for Help"

A recent Stuff Mom Never Told You episode focused on Judy Blume and her books. It got me wanting to read her books again, so while I wait for my name to come up on the list for her new adult book In the Unlikely Event I’m reading some of her kids books. Some I’ve read before (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret) others I don’t think I ever got to (The Pain and the Great One). Maybe I’ll have some posts about them soon.

What got you excited this week?

July 14, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

I Started a New Blog!

I feel like I’ve said this before…

Anyway! Quick note for today. I decided to start a new blog, A Nerdy Foodie, also on WordPress. While this reading/writing blog has become a little bit about everything (I do talk about cartoons, and sometimes life problems) I wanted to put nerdy food thoughts in its own spot. I don’t know how often I’ll update over there, though likely sporadically, depending on how often I encounter food things I want to talk about. Maybe people will read it? I don’t know.

There’s nothing much on there now, just an about page and a hello, but check it out if you’re interested.

July 7, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

What I’m Listening To: Podcasts

A little while ago, being someone who suddenly decided to get into podcasts but sick of not having an easy way to find them built into my listening device, a.k.a. phone, I dug up an Android app — Podcast Addict — and started digging around. What started with me just wanting an easy way to listen to This American Life and some random nerdy stuff turned into a whole page of subscriptions that keeps growing. Here are three of my favorite things to listen to, in order of how they show up on my list.

Dear Hank & John. Hank and John Green, whose videos got me into Youtube, started their own podcast shortly after I began devouring them. It can be funny, but mostly it’s deep or just interesting, and it’s fun to listen to them go back and forth rather than in their separate videos.

Enchanted Tiki Talk. Three dudes talk about Disney World. I started to get into this one more over WDW Radio because they seem like only slightly older versions of me and my friends, and as much as they love Disney World they tend to take a realistic look at everything, which I appreciate. Also they talk about the food a lot, so yaaaaaay.

Stuff Mom Never Told You. This funny and infinitely fascinating feminist podcast has taught me about transgender and bisexual people, female carpenters, OCD, and dad bods (a day on the internet I totally missed). I don’t listen to every new episode, but I’ve gone back over a year through their catalogue to find some really interesting stuff I didn’t even know about.

Do you listen to Podcasts? What are your favorites? Any suggestions for a nerdy feminist lady who loves cartoons, comics, and food? Let me know!

June 23, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Animated Distractions: Pixar’s Inside Out (It’s Okay to be Sad!)

(Not too many spoilers, but maybe a couple, depending on how you look at things.)

This weekend, my husband and I went to see the new movie, Inside Out. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it: it’s a Pixar film, for one, and I was really intrigued by the topic they touched on. Emotions, and how they affect and control what we do.

There were some great themes in the film: family, growing up, and realizing that emotions are more complex than just Disgust or Fear. Wonderful — I loved all of it. But there’s one point that was clearly going to be one of the bigger, more obvious ones, and I couldn’t believe it when I figured it out. A few minutes into the film, Joy, who’s narrating, introduces the other emotions and what they do: Anger makes sure things are fair, Fear keeps Rile safe, and so on. Then she gets to Sadness. “I don’t know what she does,” Joy says. And I knew — Joy didn’t understand Sadness. Through the course of the movie, Joy was going to learn about Sadness.

This was a movie telling kids that it’s okay to be sad.

Freaking out.

Read more…

June 16, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Books on My Summer To-Be-Read List

It’s been some time since I wrote a blog post! Partly because I have things going on in my life (I’m moving! Agh!) and partly because I’ve been in that awful I-don’t-know-what-to-write quagmire. I figured I’d use a Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish to get me back in the swing of things. Today: books on my summer to be read list.

  • 23899174In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. Judy Blume has a new book! I haven’t read any of her adult books before, but I started getting into a Judy Blume kick last year and I have heard good things about this one, and also it’s Judy Blume so let’s just do it.
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I’m fully aware this has been on lists before, but I’ve actually started reading it! It’s a thousand pages, though, so it’s going to take a chunk of my summer to get through.
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. This is one of those fantasy novels that came out a while ago that I’ve meant to read, but never have.
  • Fairest by Stephanie Meyer. A bonus book in the Lunar Chronicles series. After reading the first three back to back, I’ll need this to tide me over until Winter comes out.
  • Drawn & 22752444Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels. A collection of comics and essays about comics. Margaret Atwood writes an essay about Kate Beaton! Wow.
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I liked Wives and Daughters. This is shorter than that, so probably good for a summer read.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab. I don’t know much about this except that people I know seem to like it, and the cover looks cool.
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. See above.
  • Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett. Night Watch!

No children’s books, I know…right now I can’t think of a specific one I want to read, but rest assured, I will spend plenty of time reading books for twelve-year-olds this summer. =D

What do you all plan to read?

May 6, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Moments in Editing: That Weird Period

That weird period, when you have just managed to finish a big overhaul in your story…

And now there’s a kind of break required to let things gel so you can go back with fresh eyes, with more inclination to snip or stretch or remold than keep it all the same, because what you just did was so hard and you don’t want to do it again…

But you also don’t know what to do while you wait to go back, so you keep staring at your computer, thinking there’s got to be something productive in your life…

Or at least you can catch up on those Netflix shows…

You can’t even think of a blog post to write to pass the time…

And then it’s noon, and you wonder where that morning vanished to, and you just want to have a big problem to tackle again.

April 29, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

I Went to the Hank Green Concert (How Nerds Drown Out My Cynicism)

This past weekend the Tour Because Awesome came to Cambridge, featuring Hank Green’s band Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers, along with Harry and the Potters, Driftless Pony Club, Rob Scallon and Andrew Huang. I dragged my friend Mrs. HP along and for four hours we sang to nerdy songs, danced, and drank Harry Potter-themed cocktails. A giant, carnival-prize-looking snake was thrown into the crowd when Harry and Potters sang about saving Ginny Weasley from the basilisk and it was bounced around like a beach ball.The encore consisted of the Ghostbusters theme and the songified version of Hank and John Green’s multi-video Batman argument. One guy rocked out so hard to the whole Driftless Pony Club set that Craig Benzine noticed, and he was a little bit my hero. I bought a poster, a T-shirt, and some CDs and got a $2 bill signed by Hank Green with a Hankler Fish on it that I will never, ever spend.

Four hours went by and I didn’t even notice until they said goodnight and I realized how massively dehydrated I was.

I had so much fun.

Terrible cell phone pic, go!

Terrible cell phone pic, go!

It has been a while since I’ve gone to such a purely nerdy event, where ages spanned from what must have been 8, to some people who were old enough to be the parents of the teenagers present, though I believe a good amount of them were there for themselves. Everyone was excited, jumping up and down, dancing to the songs, singing as loud as they could to the lyrics they either already knew or were being led through by the bands. It was joy and fun with people in Doctor Who dresses and Vlogbrother shirts and no one judged you for it.

It’s so easy, in my regular life, to be a little embarrassed about my usual enthusiasm for things, which can then turn into a kind of cynicism when people are not embarrassed to be thrilled. Usually, the people around you don’t get it, and you have to explain it, but you never do it right, and it all sounds funny when you put it in words. Yes, I lost sleep over a children’s book; yes, I have listened to a cartoon song a hundred times in the past month; you bet, I spent money on nerdy graphic T-shirts. But at a thing like that concert, where everyone understands, basically, why you do these things, why you get so excited — when you don’t feel like there’s a critical eye on you — it’s harder to get embarrassed. And when you’re not as embarrassed, it’s easier to let go of that critical, cynical thinking and just enjoy yourself, and enjoy everyone having a blast around you.

April 23, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Quick Look: “Here Comes Mud Season” by Sean Hurley

Driving to my job a couple Saturdays ago, I turned on NHPR and listened to Weekend Edition to get my through the last twists of the road, and a new story by Sean Hurley came up.

I’ve heard Sean Hurley on the radio before, and I’ve always liked his stories, and the way he reads them — such a deep, soothing voice, he sounds like a storyteller, like someone you want to listen to. Even so, his name never stuck in my head until this new essay, “Here Comes Mud Season”.
Muddy footpath - - 959135
I loved the tale, describing his son breaking the thin sheets of ice in the winter, followed by splashing through mud puddles when winter gives way to the “softness” of spring. I especially love his statement, that “This used to be my job.” It’s one of those things that every kid in four season part of the world does, a universal experience, but you don’t always think of it as such.

What really drew me in, trapped me, were his descriptions, some of them funny, some of them beautiful. One in particular grabbed me right in the chest, when he describes what everything looks like now that spring has begun:

My neighborhood looks like a wet cat waking up in an unmade bed.  Like we didn’t know it, but secretly we’ve been living on a planet made of damp paper bags.

The words drew a long, whispered “wow” out of my chest. They were perfect, making up one of the most correct descriptions of something I’ve ever heard. It’s exactly the way I want to write. Phrases like that, so different and exact, are what I reach for whenever I stare at one of my generic metaphors and try to make it something more.

That morning, sitting in my car, waiting for Hurley’s essay to end — even though I knew I should be going inside and preparing for the line of patrons at the door — not only reminded me of the damp beauty of the state I decided to live in, but also of everything I hope to be when I sit down at my desk with my notebook, and scribble, and cross out, and scribble again.

April 8, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

French Milk by Lucy Knisley: “Sometimes It’s Just Like This.”

Ever since I read Relish a couple years ago I’ve been a Lucy Knisley fan. A comic artist who loves travel and food? Sounds like a great person to me. I recently convinced* the library I work at to get her two newest travelogues, An Age of License and Displacement, and I loved them both, particularly the latter, where she battles with selfishness vs. selflessness as she cares for her aging grandparents on a cruise.

I realized, though, that I’d never read her first book and travelogue, French Milk, where she records a month-long trip to Paris with her mother just before her last semester of college. After some digging around to figure out if I could get it from the library, I had a copy sent to me.

You can definitely see a difference in quality between this one and her newest books. There’s more cohesiveness in her current books, a theme or problem she tries to piece together from her experiences. French Milk is a bit more “This happened and I felt this way, then that happened and I felt that way.” Which is fine, I was still engaged, but not as absorbed as when I first read Relish.

Then Knisley hits a point on her trip where she has a panic attack: she’s about to graduate from college, she doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her life, and she’s suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety and depression. And I felt for her.

The couple of years after I first graduated from my undergrad is still a time I look back on with regret. I was writing, but I didn’t seem to be moving forward with getting published** or even improving, I had no sense of community aside from the few college friends I stayed in touch with and my then-boyfriend, and they all lived a minimum of an hour away.*** I was working with the family business, which I did not want to do, but I could not think of what else I wanted or even COULD do for money otherwise. As far as I was concerned, especially during that time, those years were a wasteland, and I spent so much time being anxious, depressed, and crying because I could not stop hating my life.

I realize now, however, that this isn’t exactly abnormal. In your 20s your life takes a huge shift, and I can’t think of many things that really prepared me for it. Maybe getting into college, but that wasn’t something I was ever concerned wouldn’t happen: I got good grades, I was above average for most of the schools I was applying to, I was getting in SOMEWHERE. But getting a good job, having my own life, feeling satisfied with myself — I wasn’t sure about that.

While Knisley is in the middle of all of this, lying on her stomach with storm clouds over her head, she draws her mother, sitting beside her, hand on her back, giving this little piece of wisdom: “This is just what happens in your 20s. Sometimes it’s just like this.”

I never heard anything like that when I was going through my own crisis, I was never given a sense that feelings like this were normal and it was all right that I was going through this and processing it in this way. Not that words like this would have yanked me out of my funk — it doesn’t do so for Knisley, even though they were obviously important enough for her to give the words their own page — but I think hearing something like that would have made me feel less bad about feeling so bad. If that makes sense.

So, conclusion: French Milk is rougher than her other work, but even though I’ve never spent a month in Paris (what a lucky lady, right?) the raw emotions she was feeling at 22 are so close to the state I was in at that age, that I can’t help but love the book, and love her, and feel more connected with the world knowing it’s full of people who react to it like I do.


*”I think we should get this.” “Yeah, okay.” Some complex arguments there.

**Yeah, about that…

***The exception here is a high school buddy, but she was still in college during those two godawful years, so that was only helpful a few months.


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