January 27, 2011

Best Books of 2010

As I delve into my reading list for 2011, I realize I never posted my favorite reads from 2010. I feel this is an oversight that should be rectified immediately.

by Lucy Christopher

A haunting, tortured, beautiful story about a girl who is kidnapped from the airport and taken to live in a remote Australian desert by a boy she comes to both love and hate. This is a special, rare read that stuck with me for weeks after finishing it.

The Dead-Tossed Waves
by Carrie Ryan

This is the second book in Ryan's 'zombie romance' series. While I didn't think I could ever get into a zombie story, hers are so well paced and well written that I wanted to unhinge my jaw and swallow them whole. I preferred this installment to her first because it combines several of my favorite things in fiction (love triangles, secret longing and thwarted dreams) and delivers them with breakneck speed.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
by Suzanna Clarke

I listened to this period/fantasy on audiobook - twice - and loved it. I'm a fan of dry, British, Jane Austen-style language and am also a fan of history and of magicians in general. All of those things combined? Awesome.

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman

Combine Harry Potter, A Separate Peace, and something else literary and angsty, and you have this fantastic fantasy for grown-ups. The main character, Quentin, is fun to follow around as he tries to figure out the key to magic and to the meaning of his life. A book to treasure.

by Maggie Stiefvater

I love this writer. Love. Her. This second book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series got some flack from avid lovers of her first, Shiver, but I loved it just as much. If anything, I thought this second book showed greater talent and a richer storyline. I loved getting the story from four perspectives, and that each character was raw and damaged in their own ways. Stiefvater has one of the most unique voices in YA fiction.

Bird by Bird
by Anne Lamott

A classic for anyone who wants to be a writer. I'm amazed it took me so many years to discover this.

Eat Pray Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was loath to read this book, as I don't tend to sway towards things labeled 'spiritual nonfiction', but this book came into my life right when I needed it. I think Gilbert is a brave and eloquent writer and that her journey has a lot to say about the importance of finding the balance in every woman's life.

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Beautiful. Go read it. Right now.

January 24, 2011

Job Hunting (Sucks)

I'm sure you've known someone (maybe more than a few someones) who has unexpectedly found themselves out of a job. If you don't, now you do.

Ah, the sweet, unfortunate nightmare of realizing that, despite your best intentions, you are without the luxury of waiting for the perfect job. Instead, you find yourself trolling the streets and the internet for (almost) anything that pays, because you're an adult with bills and a hungry book addiction to feed. Suddenly all those jobs you thought you'd left behind you forever start to look shinier than they've looked in many a year. You start adding things to your resume such as 'can juggle miscellaneous fruit, perfect for spicing up board room meetings' and 'comfortable dancing in ten-inch platform heels'. Some friends call this 'liberating' and 'a great transition time'. You try not to call this 'astoundingly depressing'.

Which is perhaps one of the reasons I fell in love with Michaela McGuire's book Apply Within. McGuire, a twenty-something writer living in Melbourne, takes us on an hilarious adventure through her eclectic resume, detailing the woes of temporary employment. She talks about her time overseeing private lap dances at a gentleman's club and chronicling a bank executives' stamp collection. Using her dry wit and deadpan humor, she details the absurdities of working for a politician who thinks a trip to a barbershop for a haircut counts as getting out into the community and the harrowing, soul-sucking silliness of trying to sell anything door-to-door.

McGuire, who seems like a smart, funny, and very capable human being, appears to take all of this indignity pretty well, which amazes and heartens me. She delights in the absurd situations she finds herself in and doesn't seem overly concerned about things like steady career progression - at least, not all of the time. That's the genius of her stories: she's taken something that most twenty-somethings fear (floating from one inane job to the next, never finding a place to belong) and turned it into fantastically funny prose. Her book gives me hope that good writers can always find a way to have the last laugh.

Apply Within took me back to all of those fantastically awful jobs I had through high school and college. These include:

1) Stuffing envelopes for a Republican I didn't like very much.
2) Painting curbs.
3) Shampooing old ladies' hair (don't even get me started on this one).
1) Waitressing at a restaurant where I had to both stare at large hunks of meat all day AND line dance every 45 minutes.

So what are your worst jobs ever?


are you hiring?

January 22, 2011

Resolutions 2011

I've been just a little slow in making new years resolutions this year. I usually start thinking about these things around my birthday, but Christmas heralded some really unfortunate, game-changing events that temporarily took away my will to live, let alone to make resolutions. But now that the Year From Hell is officially behind me, I'm game to start setting some new goals for the road ahead. I'm pretty passionate about that fact that goals are important, no more so than when your life has been turned upside-down and shaken.

So here are my resolutions for 2011:

1. Finish a polished, (hopefully) publishable novel #2 and shop it around to agents.
2. Develop a professional website and start marketing my freelance writing & editing services.
3. Participate in a half-marathon or mini-triathlon.
4. Write an adult fiction novel.
5. Find a place to nest and make it my own.
6. Do some work with kids (maybe coaching or tutoring).
7. Go somewhere I have never been before and write a travel article about it.
8. Help out wherever I can.*

* I was incredibly moved and inspired by my friends and family this year. They extended themselves in a million different ways to help me; their thoughtfulness really blew me away. I was so wrapped up in my own issues during the Brisbane floods that I don't feel like I helped out as much as I could have. I'm making a promise to myself this year that I will help those who need it where and when it is within my power to do so, whether they be family, friends or strangers.