Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-buy Authors

toptentuesdayToday the readers at Top Ten Tuesday ask what authors I buy on sight. I decided to focus this list on my top female authors. If I find a book by one of these ladies I buy it. I also look to buying books recommended by these authors or novels that are compared to works by this group of women.

A picked five contemporary and five “classic” authors:

3

A S Byatt

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

5

Margaret Atwood

6

Sarah Waters

7

Helen Oyeyemi

8

Barbara Pym

Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch

10

Patricia Highsmith

11

Shirley Jackson

12

Sylvia Townsend Warner

Readerly Rambles: 17 August 2015

readerly rambles

What I read: I got a wild hair and decided to pick up some YA reads. I grabbed the first two books from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones and City of Ashes.

Typically I’m super hesitant to review YA books. I know I’m not the intended audience and I feel like adults can be a bit harsh on YA books. Of course I’m tired of the “love triangle” element and I could use less whining, but I live with a teen and I know that is normal for that age. I usually leave YA books mildly annoyed by the characters and wishing the plot had more depth. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the characters in these books and the plot was intelligent and fast-paced. It was a great reading experience!

The plot concerns a teen girl, Clary, who comes home one day to find her mother is gone, her home is ransacked and then she is attacked by a giant demon. Talk about a bad day. This kicks into gear an intense story involving Shadowhunters (angelic demon hunters covered in tattooed runes), demons, vampires, werewolves, and fairies. The first book had me gripped, but the second was a bit slow towards the end. I think it is because I read them back to back and the teen angst/love got a bit tiring.

The writing is lovely, the characters fresh, and there are many discussions about the importance of coffee, which is a plus in my mind. This series reminded me of Harry Potter in some parts. Not in a “coat-tail riding way,” but more in the way the characters were cast as diverse and complete “people.” It is skilful how Clare conveys her characters’ histories even when we don’t see the characters for very long. It really kept my emotions tied to the story. I wanted to see how these characters triumphed or failed. If a writer has me caring for more than the protagonist then you can consider me hooked (and I’m hooked). I’m going to wait a bit to pick up the third book, but this is certainly a series I will revisit.

~~~ Stats ~~~

City of Bone

Started: 07/26/2015

Finished: 07/29/2015

Pages: 485

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Library

Stars: 5 Stars

City of Ashes

Started: 08/04/2015

Finished: 08/14/2015

Pages: 453

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Library

Stars: 3 Stars

~~~~~~~~~~~

What I’m reading: Yesterday I started John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and I can honestly say that I’m embarrassed I didn’t read him sooner. His writing reminds me of Thomas Hardy’s novelsit must be the unflinching look at humanity in really beautiful prose that reminds me of Hardy. I’m a little over 50 pages in, but I cannot wait to sink into this book.

What’s up next: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I swear. I will really read it this time. I know it isn’t The Little Stranger. I think I’ve accepted that enough to move on and actually read the dang book. 

Other Bookish News: I had planned on doing Bout of Books, but this is the first week of faculty being on campus and I am so slammed at work. I have a feeling I will want to spend my evenings watching TV and crocheting rather than reading. I would really encourage you to take a look at Bout of Books, though! Lots of participants and great Twitter convos all week.

Happy Reading!

Blog Sprucing

Yesterday I wrote a general health update and discussed how I plan on blogging differently in the future. This weekend I was library “security” for a high school yearbook camp. Translation = lots of down time when students were in classes, which afforded me the ability to plan and jot down ideas. I thought I’d share what I accomplished in case any of you find it useful:

blognotebook

  1. I created a blog binder. I love the internet and computers, but I think better on paper. I made a blog binder out of a 1″ binder, some dividers and some super cute (AND FREE) printables from Enchanting Details. I also included a monthly calendar and some loose leaf notebook paper for ideas and notes. Flair pens are a must for blog planning, just sayin’.
  2. I developed a rotating schedule for the following post topics:
    1. Monday: Readerly Rambles
    2. Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday or List Love
    3. Wednesday: Works in Progress or What I’m Loving
    4. Thursday: Book Reviews, Thursday Thoughts, or A Day in the Life
    5. Friday: Fashion Friday or Weekend Cooking
    6. Saturday: Snapshot Saturday
    7. Sunday: Sunday Scribbles
  3.    I made some new images with PicMonkey for the “features” that didn’t have buttons; here are a few: WhatILove dayinthelife fashion friday
  4. Then I made templates. I created drafts with the general “look” I want and information I need for a post. Now I can copy and paste what I need and fill out the details. It should help with streamlining my posting and create a more uniform look. I also put notes in when I didn’t have an image (for example, that book covers go to the right on the post) and I loaded tags I knew I would use.
  5. Next I signed up for HootSuite and loaded my Twitter, Fig and Thistle Facebook page, and Instagram. I’m not really pleased with how Instagram loads, but it does make responding and keeping up with followers easier.
  6. The big thing for me was finding the time to blog. Now that school is in session I don’t have the hour or two in the afternoon for blogging. I leave straight from work and pick up the kids. I know for blogging to be successful I need to learn to blog in batches. I decided on Sundays and Wednesdays I would focus on blog content. My goal is to write 3 to 4 posts on Sundays and 2 to 3 posts on Wednesdays. I’m allowing myself the freedom to not feel like I need to just write for the week at hand. For example, I may do a large batch of book reviews and then stagger the publication out.
  7. To help prepare me for my writing days I printed off some blog content planning sheets (not showing as now I cannot find the link). I’m blocking off my 30 minute lunch breaks for outlining, sketching out ideas, and making a list of things to do for the posts (for example: take pictures of cooking, find the link to blah blah, etc…). I’ve tried to use my 30 minute lunch for reading, but everyone in the world stops by to talk and it doesn’t seem to matter where I hide and how much bitchy resting face I give. I can at least jot down ideas while I eat.

Let’s see if this works. If you are a blogger, let me know how you organize your writing. I’m always fascinated to learn how we all have different creative processes. I have some more blog sprucing ideas, but I’m saving those for September’s Bloggiesta (go sign-up now!).

All the Self Care and More!

This is an update to the petulant post from earlier this week. You can read that here. I’m feeling better and I think there are several reasons contributing to this lift of spirits:

  • I got my labs back from the doctor. I AM COMPLETELY HEALTHY. Blood pressure was 116/69 at my visit. Cholesterol? Healthy. Blood-Sugar? Excellent. Thyroid? Rockin. Diabetes? Nope, not even borderline. When I walked into the doctor’s office they immediately talked to me about diet drugs and maybe even surgery. Now? I don’t even qualify. I am a 35 year-old, 315 pound woman in excellent health. Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
  • Hummmm…. but I was feeling so tired, run down, and awful. What the hell was wrong? The only physical thing wrong was sleep deprivation. I need sleep and exercise. The exercise is to help with the sleep and has nothing to do with my weight.
  • It is strange to think of “being healthy” outside of weight loss. If I exercise, it isn’t to burn calories and slim down. It is because it releases endorphins and it helps with sleep. If I drink water it isn’t to stave off hunger… it is because I’m thirsty (fancy that). I’m still maintaining not binging, but that is entirely different from a diet. News flash, it doesn’t feel good to binge. Or rather it feels good and horrible at the same time. When I listen to my body I feel better. I can eat some Ginger Molasses Cookie ice cream and enjoy it. I can also eat an organic power greens salad topped with chicken, roasted butternut squash, and a honey dijon dressing and enjoy it. I don’t need to fix my body, I need to fix how my brain treats my body.
  • In other words, I’M PHYSICALLY FINE. I’m just going to need that mental health piece to catch up with the physical health.

You know what this means?

 

X ALL THE THINGS - All the Self Care!!!

 

Exercise and cutting down on coffee in the evening is key, as that will help with getting a proper amount of sleep at night. Regularly writing in my journal. Attending my therapy appointments. And I’m also making efforts to balance my time: time with Sam and the kids, time at work using my brain, time alone, and time with friends.

I want to take a minute to talk about time with friends.

My friends have been the ones to get me through this depression and anxiety. By friends I mean my IRL friends who I don’t see much, but reach out to talk via text or Facebook. I mean those acquaintances I’m friends with on Facebook who took the time to check on me and offer support. My knitting group. Dear God I love my knitting group. There was a time last week when I was either going to make a stupid decision to engage in harmful behavior or I was going to drive myself to the hospital. I sat crying in my van in a parking lot trying to figure out what to do. Then I had text messages from a dear friend from my knitting group asking where I was and expressing excitement over hot tea. I went to hang with my yarn buddies and felt so much better. The moms commiserating over Twitter. The wonderfully kind-hearted blog comments from all of you kindred spirits. It has made all the difference. A huge chunk of my self care plans involve spending more time with friends.

Sam is supportive, but Sam lives with me. He deals with the worst part of me. He has to take the kids to events when my social anxiety gets bad. He remains calm when I am enraged and panicked over something stupid like “vacuuming the floor wrong.” He keeps the house going when I cannot. His support is invaluable, but I don’t want to heap everything on him. Let me rant and cry over my perceived inadequacies with my friends and then go home calmer and sane. Maybe we will actually make it through this married and still friends.

Let’s recap. I’m healthy. I’m feeling better. I am going to take care of myself. I have great friends. Sam needs a medal.

On to blogging.

I’m also going to try writing less about my anxiety and depression on my blog and spend more time writing in my journal and talking about things with my friends and my therapist. I’m inspired in part by an article I read about Susan Cain quitting her job to write and she talks about over-sharing and encourages people to journal more. There is writing I want to do, but not right now and not in public. I tend to get far more hits on my intensely personal and highly maudlin posts. This makes me nervous, because it doesn’t reflect me. I find a lot of joy in my life even in tough times. Maybe by focusing on the joy I find in life I can make that joy even stronger? I’m not seeking to “fake it ’til I make it.” I’m seeking to think more before I write. When I do publish something personal it will be edited, proofed, polished, and left to rest for the space of several days before I hit publish. There will be realness, but not rawness.

Fig and Thistle will be changing. I plan on writing more and writing with more focus. I’ll write more about this tomorrow in a post, but I’ve spent most of the day restructuring my blog and drafting templates. I’m excited and this will give me a way to showcase how I am consciously choosing life and life to the fullest every damn day I’m on this planet.

Bless all you big, warm-hearted readers and friends.

The Panic Bird is Back

hi

As I type I’m slamming large mugs of decaf jasmine sleepy time tea. Forgive me if I slump over in a completely relaxed hump on top of my computer yielding a post of jibberish. I’m mostly hoping that this damn anxiety will shake. There is so much I want to being doing right now. I want to finish my current YA read and sink into East of Eden. Blogging and responding to comments and visiting other blog lovelies would be nice. I would most enjoy some sleep and by “some sleep” I mean a solid 12-hour chunk of restful slumber.

But I can’t sleep. Partly because of children and partly because I just stare with dry burning eyes at the ceiling each night waiting for sleep. I find little pockets of time to read and write and completely lack the energy to do it. And yes, I have cut back on coffee. I need some coffee because the two to four hours of sleep each night renders me useless and I have to keep trudging on. If you haven’t noticed, I have a touch of the clinical depression with a giant heap of generalized anxiety on top. Lovely. I’m reminding myself each day that I am one day closer to this spell being over, but it feels like I will feel like this forever. That’s a hopeless feeling. To know you have a good life but to be unable to decide it you want to cry or realizing you can’t cry because your heart and breath throttle your chest so hard. You bastard panic bird. I once listened to a TED talk where the speaker discussed anxiety as constantly having that feeling that you are about to fall. Yes. Falling. It sucks.

My depression and an anxiety haven’t been this severe for several years. Part of the contribution to my current state is from a million little things that add up to make a big, ugly landslide of mental illness. These things on their own wouldn’t be too bad, but things are just hitting me at a time when I feel a bit vulnerable.

I’ve gained 40 pounds in the past few months. That’s partly why I nixed vegetarianism; I thought maybe I needed to reassess my food intake (too much bread or cheese, maybe?). I started back to therapy to make sure my binge eating was under control and I have not binged since April as a result. I’m doing low-impact aerobics and swimming a few days a week. I’m back to logging food on the Weight Watcher app. I’m drinking less coffee and more water. Still… weight gain. I noticed my right ankle swelling to the point of painfulness, but if I stretch out on the floor with my foot above my head it goes away within ten minutes. I also have splotches on both feet. Off to the doctor I went and I’m still waiting for some test results. Oh, and my joints ache. I’ve lost three pounds in the past week, but mostly that is from the exercise and not eating for most of the day. That sounds worse than it is… I’m just not hungry until lunchtime. This gaining weight and feeling awful isn’t good for my self image, I feel like a fat fuck-up on most days.

I have a long list of other stuff to write, but I just can’t. Maybe the tea has kicked in? My kids are challenging right now, our Dolores Umbridge character at work is being especially Umbridg-y, and I’m just tired of noise.

All this to say…

I don’t know. What was I going to say. I had a point and now I’ve lost it. I can’t uncloud my thoughts long enough to figure out my point. I’m going to bed now. If you believe in God please pray I get some uninterrupted sleep. And if you don’t believe in God then send me a good wish or twelve.

Readerly Rambles: My August TBR and Choose my next book!

readerly ramblesI was feeling a bit overwhelmed with book choices and all the readalongs thrumming through the blogosphere. I decided it would be helpful if I organized my TBR by categories. Below you’ll see what I’ll be pulling from this month.

Young Adult: I’m already halfway done with Cassandra Clare’s second book in Mortal Instruments series, City of Ashes. I should finish this in the next day or two.

Contemporary: I’ve been striving to read more fiction published in the last five years. I’m finally going to read Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests (I know I’ve said that a dozen times, but this time I mean it).

Graphic Novel: Walk volumes 1 and 2 by John Lewis (this is the university’s first year read)

Non-Fiction: Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Series: This year I’m focusing on The Forsyte Chronicles by John Galsworthy. I’ll be reading The Silver Spoon next.

Short Story Collection: I will continue with the Victorian Fairy Tales Collections and adding a re-re-re-read of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.

Virago: I am woefully behind in my Virago challenge. I’ll be reading Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead to inch my way towards catching up.

Wildcard: I have a hankering for some historical fiction, so let’s throw The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks into the pile.

Last but not least, I really want to read a classic next. I’m stuck and cannot decided what to do. Pick my book for me and I will read it next. Which one should it be?

  1. Emma by Jane Austen (my least favorite Austen, but I read it over 10 years ago! I do have a lovely Penguin edition and I’ve had this book on the nightstand for months)
  2. The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson (I keep meaning to read this and I have no idea why I never actually pick it up. Also on the nightstand).
  3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (::whispers:: “I’ve never read Steinbeck”)
  4. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (devoured The Return of the Native in the winter of 2012 before Persy Jane was born. I haven’t picked out another Hardy novel and he is so spectacular)
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (I could re-read a favorite!)
  6. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (remember when I was going to read all the Barsetshire novels last year? Yeah… I need to get back on that).

So what will it be? Help me decide. I”m throwing this on social media too and whichever book gets the most votes by noon on Wednesday will be the one I read next. Thanks ahead of time for the help!