Friday, March 27, 2015

Favorites: February books

Fairy tale retellings are not always my cup of tea, but this one was so fresh and delightful while tackling heavy subjects (which, I think, is true to the original intent of fairy tales) that I loved it.

It also didn't hurt that it's a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, which has always been one of my favorites (and there are some GOOD retellings of this fairy tale out there!  I loved Heather Dixon's as well as the series by Jessica Day George).

Even better, it's set in 1920s jazz clubs.  This book tackles the time period with authenticity.  I have been steeped in the 20s for some time with my current manuscript, and it was delightful to find a book that draws the setting so well.  The attitudes towards women and minorities are spot on, the lingo is perfect, the details are rich and delightful, and altogether the world is the perfect backdrop for this story.

The twelve girls have an abusive/reclusive father, and the storyline develops as they burst their way free.  Again, it reminded me of the deeper stories being told in traditional fairy tales.  Great story.

I usually stick with YA recommendations for the blog, but I LOVED this.

I didn't think I could find a book on tidying up so inspiring--heaven knows, I've read enough of them! At first I worried that the book was going to be either too touchy-feely for my taste or just an ad for the author's Tokyo-based business.  But she does give many practical hints, and I love her because she recommends folding and hanging clothes the same way I do. (I feel peaceful when drawers and under-sinks and closets are organized.  The day we found out my son needed heart surgery, I came home and spent hours filing and organizing papers and junk drawers.)

Some insights I appreciated: "When you come across something that's hard to discard, consider carefully why you have that specific item in the first place. . . .If you bought it because you thought it looked cool in the shop, it has fulfilled the function of giving you a thrill when you bought it.  Then why did you never wear it?  Was it because you realized that it didn't suit you when you tried it on at home?  If so, and if you no longer buy clothes of the same style or color, it has fulfilled another important function--it has taught you what doesn't suit you.  In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, "Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you," or "Thank you for teaching me what doesn't suit me," and let it go.  Every object has a different role to play.  Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare.  It is the same with people.  Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover.  Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like.  But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.  When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life.  You'll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role.  By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order.  In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.  To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose."

About getting rid of gifts you didn't like:  "The true purpose of a gift is to be received.  Presents are not 'things' but a means for conveying someone's feelings.  When viewed from this perspective, you don't need to feel guilty for parting with a gift.  Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it."

"The amount of storage space you have in your room is actually just right.  I can't count how many times people have complained to me that they don't have enough room, but I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage.  The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want.  Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own.  This is the true magic of tidying."

About kids: "Of the many people I've met who are not good at tidying, most had parents who cleaned their rooms for them or they never had a space that they felt was their very own.  These people often store their clothes in their children's dresser and their books in their partner's bookcase.  But not having a space you can call your own is dangerous.  Everyone needs a sanctuary."                      

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#WriterRecharge Final Check-in

I'm a few days late, but that's the way I roll.  Here's how I did:

  • WRITE/REVISE – I want to finish my current WIP this month.  I wrote a solid chunk of it last November, and I've been plugging away every day since, but I have several sticky plot points that I keep dancing around instead of solving.  I'm not quite done with my WIP, but I have figured out some of the tricky parts that were worrying me.  I'm up to about 86,000 words.  I expect the first draft will probably balloon up to around 100,000, then shrink back down to 80,000 or so once I edit my first-draft ramblings.  Overall, I'm pleased with the progress I've made here this month.
  • READ/REREAD - I'd like to read something written in the seventeenth century, since that's when my WIP is set.  I do well with sideways inspiration like that.  I read a lot (A LOT) of these in college, and I think it's time to revisit some Moliere.  He wrote later in the century than when my book is set, but for court life, who is more fun?  I also ordered a book called The Travels of Olearius in Seventeenth-Century Russia that will be interesting to read (let's hope).  I read NOTHING set in the seventeenth century this month!  But my Travels of Olearius should be arriving towards the end of this week, and I'll get to work reading that.  I did read a lot of terrific books this month, but it was a bit of a break from YA.  I enjoy that break from time to time to enrich other areas of interest in my life (reading books along with my husband, reading about home organization or parenting, catching up on issues in my church, keeping up with my book clubs' choices, and diving into thick and meaty adult fiction).
  • STRETCH - I'm trying to be grateful this month instead of frustrated with how stuck I feel in certain areas of life.  Is it sad that gratitude is a stretch for me?  YES.  But here I go.  The book I read about tidying (review forthcoming) actually helped me focus on gratitude this month. I have a lot of wonderful things happening in my life, even if I haven't lost weight or made my fortune.
  • SELF - It's 68 degrees here today, and I am going for a bike ride!  Swimming and biking outside make me happy. I fit in several bike rides this month before winter belatedly hit.  I didn't miss any of my weight training sessions all month (an hour twice a week).  
  • CONNECT - I want to make more of an effort to reach out to my friends this month.  Now that my kids are in school, it's too easy for me to cocoon and text instead of meeting up.  This is an ongoing project for me.  I did attend the lunches and brunches I was invited to, and I had some nice chats with family on the phone, but I didn't initiate anything other than my little guy's birthday party.
  • FUN - We've booked dinner at a fancy-pants restaurant with some of our favorite couples at the end of the month for Denver's Restaurant Week!  We had a snafu with our reservation and ended up at a European fusion restaurant that mostly fused schnitzel, but the food was decent (the baked brie was out of this world) and the company was fantastic.  I am very grateful for so many good friends.  They bring a lot of joy and laughter into my life.