On Turning Thirty – V.1

Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travellers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination.

I’ve come to a milestone, which means now i can take a gander backward at how far i’ve come, and also forward at how far i have yet to travel. Except that’s the tricky thing about life; you never know how much farther you have to go.

I think what i’ve done so far is pretty darn alright. I’ve made a lot of sensible choices, and i’m in a good comfortable place. In fact, i may be a little too sensible for my own good. I’ve never taken any big risks, and because of that i’ve never done anything terribly notable. There are just two things i regret so far, though: everything i’ve ever done and everything i’ve ever said. Just kidding. The two things are: not talking to people more, and not creating more. It’s true, you regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did.

I’m trying to find balance in my life right now. I have plenty of free time, and yet i feel like i never have enough. I can never get enough time to travel and read and create. I devote pathetically little time to creating, which is why i never write on this blog anymore. I’ve got to change that somehow. I keep deleting things from my life in an attempt to create more time: less facebook, less twitter, less sleeping (ha), less shopping, less going out. I’m even making a meager effort to cut back on my possessions, since more space and things just means more time organizing and cleaning. Yet my house is always dirty. And i never have time to create.

The number one reason for this problem is that i tend to fill whatever time i do manage to carve out with reading instead of creating. I set reading goals for myself on Goodreads and i earn my annual badge faithfully, and i absolutely can’t stand to read fewer books each year rather than more. So i’m up to 30 per year now, and i can’t bring myself to back off from that. If only i could read faster! I am trying, kind of, to learn.

I say “create” because it isn’t just writing that i’d like to do more of. There are all kinds of things that i wish i had time to create: stories and drawings and sewing and food and books. Making things with my hands is like a meditation for me, and i know that that’s an important thing that i should make time to do.

But aside from that dilemma, i’m in a good place. I’m healthy, happily married, financially comfortable, and i have good relationships with my family and friends. I’m happy right now. I was unhappy mere months ago – weeks, if we’re being honest – but i think i have a sort of backwards Seasonal Affective Disorder, where i feel the least happy when things are warming and sunnying up, and then i start to feel so much happier this time of year when things are starting to head in the direction of fall. It’s strange. But, it’s just my truth. I’m glad that i’ve gotten to a place where i can see that what i’m feeling on a given day has very little to do with the external world, and almost everything to do with the particular chemical cocktail going on in my brain. There are small things i can do to affect it, but not big ones. And it’s not quite so severe that i need the help of drugs to get by.

Thirty. What is it about thirty that makes people so uncomfortable? This is the age where people kiss youth goodbye, i think. We’re undoubtedly adults now. We’re on our own two feet. We’ve reached a point for which we set certain goals for ourselves, for whatever reason, and we’re forced to take note now of whether those goals have been met. I’ve watched slightly older friends of mine hang their heads upon turning 30 because they aren’t where they expected to be: they’re unmarried, they don’t have their dream job, they still haven’t gotten that terminal degree. Their names will never appear on a “Thirty Under Thirty” list now. And i told them that thirty is just a number, and that if you think about it, it’s only significant because humans have ten fingers and therefore chose a decimal system of numbering. If we had twelve, i mused, we might not assess these things until the age of thirty-six.

There are things i’m disappointed about, too. I haven’t created any of the things i wanted to create when i was younger: a book of poetry, an album, a piece of art worthy of a hipster’s dormitory wall. And i wish i were an easier person to have a relationship with, but that stuff runs so deep in my personality that regretting it is simply an act of self-loathing. I’m never going to throw my hands up and stop trying to be a better person, but being hard on myself about my shortcomings is only going to be counterproductive. God knows there are a hundred phone calls i should’ve made in my lifetime and didn’t, but all i can do now is let them go and try to make the next call.

As far as wanting to create something, i am going to. I can feel it. It might not ever reach the hands of more than a dozen people, but no matter. I will create for the sake of creating, just as soon as i figure out the right way to balance my time. Maybe i could cut back to 25 books per year, much as it pains me to do so. Or eight hours of sleep per night, even on the weekends. 🙂 I am a firm believer in unique biology, though, so i’m not making any promises on that one. I need more sleep than the average person, i swear. The internet says that is a thing, and i believe it.

My twenties were a lot of fun, and also really sad at times. I fell in love and got married, and that’s pretty hard to beat. I was laid off three times in as many years. I lost three of my four grandparents, and for a moment i felt the absolute terror of potentially losing my brother. I went to Europe twice, I honeymooned in Cancun, i made some friends that i know i’ll have for the rest of my life. But i think my thirties will actually be better. I may soon get to be an auntie to a little person who will live very nearby. And i think i’m going to get this balance thing figured out and start creating again. I’m probably going to travel to more amazing places, and deepen the relationships that already exist in my life. There will be rough times. I think a couple of the people i love will stumble, and i hope to be a source of strength for them. It’s statistically likely that i will live beyond the next decade. It’ll be interesting to see how the world changes. Things are warming up, and i fear for the planet but i think the political climate is actually improving very gradually, despite what all the clamoring on facebook might lead one to believe. I don’t care about it as much as my eighteen-year-old self would’ve wanted me to. But that’s true of a lot of things.

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2014 In Review: Life

Normally the Year In Review is the one Life blog post that i make sure to write before the end of each year. I like reflecting on the year and wrapping everything up in a neat little month-by-month post with pictures as visual aids. But this year i haven’t really felt the urge to write it yet. I did a horrible job of taking pictures outside of our Europe trip, for one thing, and for another i just haven’t felt terribly reflective this time around the block. For once, i spent December working to bring light to the darkest days of the year, and i spent New Year’s Eve sparkling and laughing with a heaping handful of some of my favorite people in the world rather than swallowing back tears, and i spent New Year’s Day starting work on a new story and a new read. I didn’t really pause to think a lot about 2014.

It was a really good year. It absolutely FLEW by, especially the first half. Nothing terribly bad happened—knock on wood. There was a moment when i had to step back and take a hard look at myself and decide to make an effort to be more empathetic, and that was actually really hard for me. But i think i’m improving, and it’s worth it. The year was mostly just a series of good things, which is all that a person can really ask for. There was a lot of Cards Against Humanity playing. That game… I don’t know.

JANUARY

NYE 2013 started off good but then it sucked and i cried and it’s not worth talking about. I’m over it. One of the goals that i set for 2014 was to try a local dance class, so in January, i did. I went to an adult hip-hop dance class, and i was one of two students in it. And thank goodness there weren’t more of us, because the studio was about the size of a shoebox. I didn’t go back, and i’m still keeping a wistful eye out for a dance class in Des Moines that i can join. I might have to break down and try Zumba instead.

FEBRUARY

In February we went to Baconfest, which involved 1. a very expensive ticket (which i shouldn’t complain about because they were gifted to us), 2. standing in line outside at the fairgrounds in frigid February for what felt like an hour, 3. standing in more, shorter lines inside to get very small but complimentary strips of bacon from different companies, and 4. paying more money for crazy bacon-infused foods of all sorts from the myriad restaurants in town. There was live music and a bacon queen and stuff. I was cranky, but it was pretty cool i guess. I wouldn’t pay to go back.

Our buddy Mike turned thirty so we went to Up-Down (the arcade bar) and El Bait Shop (the beer bar) with him and a bunch of friends. I think they continued on to other adventures, but we pooped out early because it’s getting hard to close the bars down these days. Mike seemed pretty happy, unlike some people who are also turning thirty right about now.

MARCH

I think it was in March that i had my gastroscopy and learned that my heartburn is sort of imaginary. In any case, there’s nothing wrong with my upper GI, so that was wonderful news. It was also in March that i made a road trip to the twin cities with Calee to see the Arcade Fire. We stayed with her fiancé’s family and they fed me stuff and let me use a bedroom in their lovely house for free, both of which are always hugely appreciated. Cards (Against Humanity) were played. Calee and i made a good team at IKEA, and i scored a couple of bookcases for $20 off. There may have been a little bit of a meltdown at one point, but eventually we managed to eat dinner and get our butts to the show and we weren’t even late. Dan Deacon sort of sucked, but the Arcade Fire was amazing. I ended up really glad i went.

APRIL

In April i joined Calee again for the Har Mar Superstar show at the new Social Club here in DSM. I really didn’t know what i was in for when i agreed to that show. Har Mar has been described as looking like Ron Jeremy, but i think he looks even a little skeezier. And he likes to take his top off and act all sexy while he sings. Excellent voice, but not so pleasing on the eyes. (Yes, i get that that’s supposed to be amusing and/or empowering, but for me it was just weird.) And Gloom Balloon was not my kind of show, either. Thank goodness for MAIDS. I enjoyed them quite a lot, and in fact that reminds me that i need to buy their album…

MAY

In May i took my mama to Ewing Park as a Mother’s Day date. The lilacs were in bloom and the place just smelled like heaven. It’s one of the best things about Des Moines. Later in the month, Nathan and i drove down to St. Louis for my brother’s birthday celebration. We did an epic vertical of The Abyss, a big imperial stout. It was interesting how a couple of the bottles somehow stood out; I think about three years old was the sweet spot, if i remember correctly. We played Cards Against Humanity. For the first time, but not the last, i didn’t win.

JUNE

In June Nathan and i went to see Electric Six at the Vaudeville Mews for the second time. It was worth staying up for. Later in the month we flew to Oregon for my sister’s wedding. Hanging out with my family at Eugene’s excellent beer spots was good fun. The coast was beautiful, as always. We even managed to catch a perfect sunset! I got to see my Dad’s new house, and got a huge surprise when he gave me an old popcorn tin full of my long-lost My Little Ponies. The wedding was really beautiful, and i wish i’d camped out at the Tipi village there like my sister had wanted me to.

Ponies!

Me and my sister
Me and Nathan
Wedding photos courtesy of Amanda Basteen

JULY

In July i went to 80/35 with my friend Emily again. The lineup this year was pretty disappointing, but we did get to see Best Coast and Surfer Blood, both of which were a lot of fun. The men joined us at the festival later in the evening, since i assumed there would be a fireworks show on the 4th like there was a few years back. Not the case. So, we got kind of screwed out of fireworks this year. I may end up sitting 80/35 out in 2015 unless they book someone i really want to see.

Later in the month our buddy Justin got married, and Nathan was a groomsman in the wedding. It was the kind of reception you could dance at—as long as you didn’t mind pretty bad music and a somewhat sweltering barn—and so of course i did just that. I wore a very shimmery dress and it was a lot of fun. We managed to take a six-person selfie with Nathan’s family (that doesn’t show my dress at all, sorry).

selfie

AUGUST

In August i suddenly decided that it was time for us to add a third car to our fleet, and so we found and brought home the 2009 Honda Fit (in Blackberry Pearl). It’s pretty cute and fuel-efficient, and it’s supposed to be very safe and reliable. I’m happy with it.

I had a low-key birthday party at which we played not Cards Against Humanity but Munchkin, and discovered that we liked the game a lot. On my actual birthday Nathan and i went to the Iowa State Fair again. We had somehow never had a peppermint ice cream sandwich from the Bauder’s Pharmacy cart, and when that was rectified it was a real epiphany. I also got a henna tattoo on my arm, and we watched a goat showing that was nearly as silly as we had hoped it would be.

Toward the end of the month we took a trip to Decorah on some rather confusing information about a beloved beer that turned out not to actually be there just yet. We made the most of it by going to see the eagles and venturing a very short way into a very interesting cave. I also bought a beautiful journal in the bookstore there that was used to document our Europe trip, so all was not in vain.

I went to see Future Islands by myself here in DSM, and i’m kind of glad i didn’t bring anyone because it was a strange show. There was a lot of pantomiming of eating things, and i don’t think i’ve ever seen anyone sweat so profusely. Good music, weird show.

SEPTEMBER

In September we went to Zombie Burger with some friends and family to celebrate Nathan’s 30th birthday! And then we hopped on a plane for Europe. I’ve told the first part of that story, and i might even tell the second half some day. For the record, Vienna was my favorite part. It’s an amazing city. Oktoberfest in Munich was good inebriated fun. I was proud of the amount i drank, and i didn’t even get sick! It’s like an enormous carnival, though, and there was no way i was getting on a carnival ride after all that. Still, it was fun to walk around and look at everything. And there was plenty of fun stuff to eat and shop for and take pictures of. It was a good time even for a lightweight like me.

OCTOBER

In October my alcohol tolerance was put to the test once again at Nathan’s exclusive birthday beer tasting party. What i had learned at Oktoberfest was to stuff myself with plenty of bready foods before drinking, and that method coupled with lots and lots of tap and bottled water was effective in getting me through all of the twentyish strong beers (which were each split many ways and spread out over many hours, but it was still a fair amount of alcohol for a single day). I tried them all! And once again did not get sick. Good job, me.

Jimmy Eat World just happened to play Des Moines on Calee’s 30th birthday, so obviously that’s how we celebrated it. They played the entire Futures album because it was ten years old, which is just weird. I remember when that album was brand new, when i was in college. Was that really a decade ago?

Unfortunately my employer had to lay off twenty percent of the payroll in October, but my job was spared. I’m really not confident that the company will last more than a couple more years, but the Powers That Be are, for whatever reason. So we’ll just have to see what happens. I’m not leaving yet, and if you’re curious as to why i’d be happy to tell you (it’s not interesting), but it’s not a very relevant thing to talk about here.

I ran outside not once but TWICE this fall! I usually like to take one run in the cemetery on the most perfectest day of the year, but there were a couple of days that were irresistibly pretty this October, so i doubled my usual achievement. (I run indoors a couple times a week, i just don’t much like running outside the way normal human beings do.)

I carved pumpkins at Emily’s house and i think went to a book club meeting at a member’s gorgeous backyard patio in Norwalk in October, and just generally walked around loving everything. I love October so much. Love love love.

Oh, and we went to a Halloween party dressed as Wayne & Garth from Wayne’s World. I was Wayne, wearing a hat that i puff-painted the WW logo onto very nicely, freehand, and Nathan was Garth. I fluffed up his long hair as best i could, but it’s so thick and heavy! It’s not fair.

NOVEMBER

In November i participated in NaNoWriMo again. And won! But i’m still hugely unsatisfied with the quality of my fiction writing. So in 2015 i’m going to try to write every single day, even if only a paragraph, and focus on quality instead. I just want to write a few good short stories, i don’t care about writing a novel right now. I don’t think i’ll be doing WriMo again unless i develop some mad new skills before then.

Thanksgiving was really nice, and then we went Bourbon County pillaging shopping on Black Friday. I’m not a big fan of getting up at like 5 a.m., but my husband does a lot for me, so i do this for him once or twice a year. Plus, it’s really excellent beer.

A friend of ours had a surprise 30th birthday party at Skate North, so we went rollerblading at an actual roller rink for the first time since about 8th grade. It was so much fun! If only it hadn’t been 100° in the place, and if only my feet hadn’t started blistering after an hour or so. I kind of want to go back really bad. I might have to copy the idea for my 30th, but who knows how hot it will be in there in August if it was that hot in November?

Skating party

DECEMBER

In December(ish?) my brother passed his licensure exam for psychology!! So he came up here to visit and let us help him celebrate. A couple of my cousins were also visiting, so we got together with a bunch of the in-towners and played—you guessed it!—Cards Against Humanity. Which is an extremely awkward game for family to play together, but it was fun anyway. We’re all pretty weird. My aunt Vicki cleaned the floor with all of us though, which sucked.

I finally got to host a book club discussion about The Night Circus! I went overboard, serving caramel corn and chocolate mice and mulled cider and cinnamon twists and red wine, and gifting each guest with a red rêveur scarf. I hung extra white Christmas lights up around the windows and played Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus playlist. I only ended up with four guests, but it was totally worth it. I love that book so much, and to be able to inspire a little bit of that love in each of them was awesome.

I got to see a couple of other dear, dear out-of-town friends this December. You know, i might be starting to love December, even if i still hate Christmas music…

Christmas (Eve/Christmas Day) was lovely. Christmas is always lovely, isn’t it? I really enjoy picking out gifts for people—even more than i like getting gifts, i think, although i got a lot of very thoughtfully-chosen gifts this year and i’m very thankful. My family and friends know me really well, and that makes me feel all kinds of loved. Christmas to me is all about family and light and showing a little bit of love, so that’s what i tried to do this year. It’s a joy to make the effort when it comes to Christmas.

Nathan finished up his beautiful bar in our basement just in time for our New Year’s Eve party. I love it, and i’m super proud of him. He put a lot of work into our bar, and i hope we get to use it for many years to come. The party was wonderful and there were so many people and so many conversations and tasty things to eat and drink, and all six or seven hours of it flew by in the blink of an eye just like our wedding did, even though there was a lot less dancing involved. Those of us who made it until midnight toasted with sparkling wine and popped those confetti cracker things and blew on noisemakers, and it was wonderful and a great mess to clean up the next morning, but totally worth it. A couple friends who crashed at our house even got us breakfast and helped clean up. We’re very lucky. There are a few of our friends who will sadly be leaving Iowa in the next couple of years, but for now i just feel connected and happy and very fortunate to have them so near.

NYE Me!

If 2015 is anything like 2014, it’ll be a wonderful year. I’ll turn thirty this year. Bring it on! It’s going to be great fun, and i anticipate that my thirties are going to probably be better than my twenties were. So, thank you to everyone who made 2014 great. I’m going to try to pay it back this year. Let’s make it another great one!

My 2014 Song of the Year award goes to Red Eyes by The War on Drugs. We were listening to it when midnight struck. I can’t get enough of it.

2014 Europe Trip, Part I

We recently took a trip to Europe, and we did so much in two mere weeks that the task of writing about it has been daunting. We visited three countries and seven cities, heard four or five different languages, tried dozens of different beers and foods and saw a million beautiful things. It was exhausting, but it was also really cool.

It was Nathan’s 30th birthday and his mom’s 50th this September, so what better way to celebrate a couple of milestone September birthdays than to travel to Oktoberfest? That was my idea, and i’m still surprised we went for it.

So first the four of us flew to Brussels together, where we stayed in an apartment for two nights. It had a great view of the Montgomery fountain and the Cinquantenaire. In Brussels we visited the Cantillon brewery and had several of their fabulous lambic beers, ate wonderful foods including pastries, waffles, mussels (of course), beef stew, Croatian food, coconut ice cream and other delectables, and saw the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis. Brussels is a bigger city than i’d realized, and there appeared to be much more to do there than we were even able to scratch the surface of in two days.

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Next Lillian and Tom headed to Germany while Nathan and I continued to explore Belgium. We drove to Ghent where we had what was probably the most frustrating day of our lives trying unsuccessfully to drive around to elusive eateries, but we made the best of it in the evening by exploring the astounding Gothic cathedrals there and having some good beer and food.

Bruges was our next stop. We found it to be relatively quiet and relaxed, and we had fun there touring the shops and the brewery and walking along the canals. We paid a few Euros to take a gander at a Michelangelo sculpture in a church there, and we had a good dinner of tapas at a place that we had to get to by sidling down an alleyway that was barely wider than ourselves.

We also visited some distant cousins of mine who live in Bruges. My Grandmother’s cousin and his kids & grandkids are a close-knit and very welcoming bunch, and it was fascinating to chat with them for a few hours about some of the differences in our cultures. Everyone we encountered in Europe spoke at least a little English, by the way, and many seemed to be quite fluent.

Poperinge was our next stop. We had originally planned to go there in order to visit the Westvleteren monastery (brewery), but it happened to be closed while we were there. Fortunately, however, there was a hops festival going on that only happens every three years. So that was odd luck on both counts. The whole town was decorated with hop vines, and the festival offered a lot of cheap beers and foods to try, including the famous Westvleteren 12 (which we found to be rather overrated). We also went to the De Struisse brewery, but it wasn’t much to see.

That was the first half of our trip, and i think i’ll stop there for now. Parte Deux will be about Austria and Germany, and i’m promising myself right now that i will write about it as soon as i can.

Tot de volgende keer…

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I always read the negative reviews of a book before i pick it up, and for this book they all said the same thing: the story drags and the love story is cheesy. But people said the same things about The Night Circus and i adored that book, so i went ahead and dove into A Discovery of Witches anyway, since its overall rating was so high on Goodreads. Unfortunately, those negative reviews were spot-on.

I like a good long, dense book with plenty of somewhat superfluous details and rich character development. But this book was just plain boring. There were two very brief, rather lame action scenes in the entire book. The bad guys are simply pathetic. They’re so disorganized and timid and dumb, it just doesn’t make any sense. All that happens in the—what, 500?—long pages of this book is brewing, in more than one sense of the word. They sit around and brew and drink tea endlessly, teasing out each other’s “secrets” and telling each other what to do and trying to figure out what the enemy is up to and staring at ancient books and pawing at each other and anticipating a war, and starting all over again doing exactly the same things the very next day, day after day after day for a month. They change locations a couple times, but it’s not enough to make the story interesting.

The story revolves around the couple of Diana and Matthew, a witch and a vampire, respectively. In the course of four weeks, this pair goes from strangers to enemies to quasi-friends to dating to married to talking about children to risking the fate of the planet for their relationship. And for the first half of that, i didn’t buy their chemistry at all. (I had to imagine them as Daenerys and Drogo in order to sell it to myself. No, i don’t watch GoT, i’ve just seen a couple of episodes.) Oh, but they never have sex. They just do a huge amount of making out.

They’re a lot like Edward and Bella, unfortunately. Apparently vampires are just dogmatic assholes by nature and can therefore be forgiven for it endlessly, even by supposedly intelligent, independent-minded women. There was one moment when i really should have put the book down, when Matthew was physically restraining Diana against her wishes and telling her that if she fought him or ran from him, he basically wouldn’t be responsible for killing her. RED. FLAG. He got somewhat better after that, but they continued with their power struggle and their mind-numbing Q&A sessions for the entire book. I read Twilight once, and that was quite enough of that stuff for me.

There were other little things that bothered me maybe more than they needed to. I don’t like that when a vampire turns a human into a vampire, the new vampire is the old one’s “child.” So, what if a vamp turned a human because they were romantic partners? You’d be in a relationship with your own kid?! Gross. All the “his son” and “his father” crap was annoying, especially when Matthew’s “son” then became Diana’s “son” too, after they became married. (Even though she was not aware that they’d become married until after the fact but was still cool with it, which was all kinds of stupid in and of itself.)

And i must say that Deborah Harkness’s fashion sense is absolutely atrocious. There were so many turtlenecks, yoga pants, and monochromatic outfits that it kind of made me want to puke.

I stuck with it because i was waiting for The Magician King and wanted to read something magical and fun, dammit. But i hardly even got that. The witches’ temperamental house was the one really cool part of this book—and by far the best character. I enjoyed the clever alchemical mystery stuff, and i can sort of appreciate the great amount of historical knowledge that went into this book, but unfortunately you have to be a historian to keep up with all of the references that the story is heavily peppered with. Most of the cool stuff went way over my head, and the book was just too long for me to be able to spend time looking things up. Diana’s powers are intriguing and they’re going to be awesome by the end of the series, i’m sure, but they’re painfully slow to develop. I can appreciate that to some extent—I mean, was Luke Skywalker any different?—but i’m not going to slog through all this other filler to get to the fun stuff in this series. It’s just not worth it; i’m cutting my losses now.

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Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Golem and the Jinni appeared on my to-read list sometime in recent months, having been recommended to me probably by Goodreads. It sounded interesting and it had a very high rating, so i thought i might read it some day. And then in a moment when i was trying to pick something to read, i noticed that my local library was going to be having a book discussion for this title in July. So i bought it, and the ebook happened to be on sale for two bucks, and i tore through all 500+ pages of it in a little over a week. The book discussion is tonight—i made it!

My reviews usually dive straight into whether or not i liked the characters in a book, because up until recently that has been my number-one criterion for reading enjoyment. However, I recently read an article in The New Yorker entitled “Would You Want To Be Friends With Humbert Humbert?” which really got me thinking about why i would require every book’s protagonist to be likeable. This particular line stuck with me: “If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities.”

As it happens, i did like the characters in this book quite a lot—not that i consider that to be of utmost importance anymore. I thought that the golem and the jinni were both somewhat frustrating and rather fun for completely opposite reasons, which of course is the crux of the story. I thought all of the supporting characters were well thought-out and fascinating as well, and i loved getting into their backstories and watching them intertwine with one another. There were close to a dozen characters who all played an important role in how the whole turn of events wound up, and it was all very neatly woven and played out. I was satisfied at the end, for reasons i would not have foreseen.

In fact, some of the things that usually satisfy me at the end of a book were missing from this one. We don’t know exactly where the characters are headed. We know that the two main characters have fallen in love, but they’ve never said it outright and never physically acted on it. Not even a kiss! And i wouldn’t say that the resolution of the main problem(s) was entirely satisfying, either. I had hoped for a more reassuring fate for each of them. And yet somehow, i’m not disappointed. The way things happened for each person involved was pretty interesting.

This story has a lot to do with issues of culture and immigration and religion and tradition, but nothing too harrowing happens in order to spotlight those things. Which is to say, i was glad to be able to observe and think about those issues without being suckerpunched by them, which is the way i feel a lot of literary fiction likes to handle things. Fantasy is usually a lot lighter than literary fiction, which is why at this stage in my life i prefer it. I’m sensitive. This was a nice blending of the two styles; a look at reality through a slightly fantastic lens. That’s an approach that i very much enjoy, and i hope i can find other well-researched fantastic historical/literary fiction novels.

I liked the historical tidbits about New York at the turn of the century. I liked pondering (and even getting confused by) the cultural differences. I loved the way the two fantastical creatures from two different cultures were crafted into these perfect opposites, and the way that each of them was an exaggeration of human nature. Their trysts in the city in the middle of the night were pure fun. Even their mundane mock-human lives were entertaining to read about. And the great ethical challenges they faced—to be or not to be?—were fascinatingly tragic, yet hopeful.

Helene Wecker’s writing is very neat and nice and well done. The whole book is well done. I definitely enjoyed this one, and i’m looking forward to seeing who else in the neighborhood enjoyed it, too.

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Goals for 2014

This. (Which i found here):

The real lesson is to look for and recognise as many [of] these little pleasures as you can! smile when you find one. Eventually you should find enough that each smile lasts until you find the next one and hey-presto; happiness.

Too often we look for what is wrong. Society trains us that way: it tells us that life is not good enough and that [in] all areas our mission is to ‘improve’ and how we should improve is to look for what we are doing wrong and fix it. This is often why we see the most successful in society are also the unhappiest – they are experts [in] focusing on the faults.

Live life. It’s a miracle that you’re here at all.

So this year i’m gonna chill a little bit on the goal-setting. Last year i did cut back on social media and i think that was a good choice, but i essentially failed all of my other goals. So this year there are just three tangible things i want to do:

1. Try a local dance class. There’s a very cheap adult hip-hop dance class down on the south side that i plan to get my butt to next week. I think it’ll be great fun and great exercise.

2. Learn a little German. I actually enjoy learning languages, and i want to learn some German before we go to Europe this September. I found a pretty decent website called Livemocha that i’ve already been doing some lessons on. Das ist gut!

3. Do NaNoWriMo again. One of these years i’m going to come up with a good story to write, i’m determined.

That’s it. There are other things i want to work on, of course, but it’s more important that i “follow my joy,” as they say, than try to fix what i think i’m doing wrong.

Happy new year!