The other day we were walking up the stairs and he mentioned ever so casually that “Darkness Falls scared me too. I still think about every so often when I realize I’m standing in the dark.” And I was like *yay I’m not the only loser still deeply affected by a horror film about tooth fairies* and then I thought wait, how did I not know this until now? and THEN I realized: “Hey! You read my blog post!” which shouldn’t have been surprising because he always does read them. He’s just been so busy with school and applying for jobs and carefully not mentioning reading my blog because then I’ll ask if he’s read the most recent book chapter I’ve sent him and really passive aggressively mention something along the lines of “so much for reading a chapter a day, huh?” and he’ll feel guilty because he loves me but hates reading apparently, and I’ll feel guilty for feeling pleased that I made him feel guilty and it’s just a whole big thing.
Well, I’m a quarter of the way to completing my goal of reading 40 new books this year. I’m trying to expand my reading palette from the usual YA fiction I prefer, and I think my list so far reflects that I’ve at least dipped my toe in other waters. I’ve found a few real gems, a couple felt more like a trudge-through in parts, but my world has expanded regardless.
Without further ado, here are the first 10 books I read this year:
If I *have* to pick one, I’d say Grace and Fury is probably my favorite of those first ten books. Stay tuned for a full blog post about it. Wildcard was also incredibly satisfying–Marie Lu is one of my favorite authors, her stories never fail to fully engage me. I’d recommend checking out the first book in that series: Warcross before moving on to Wildcard, but definitely another excellent duology.
I don’t like butternut squash. Haven’t since I was a kid. I couldn’t even be tempted with the whole toasted-marshmallows-on-top trick that my mom tried to pull when it wasn’t even Thanksgiving just to make her kids eat some damn squash. There have been a (very) few exceptions–most notably, a butternut squash soup my sister-in-law made for Thanksgiving one year (which blew my mind and made me hesitantly approach the …gourd? going forward). I have a pretty decent recipe for maple-roasted squash, and I did try sneaking some into a mac’n’cheese dish once. I’m still not crazy about butternut squash and prefer to avoid it when possible.
The other day, my husband is listing out what he’s just picked up from the grocery store that we could make for dinner: “some more veggie burgers, tofu for that one dish, raviolis, soyrizo that you love…” and I’m thinking about the doctor’s appointment I have after work and how lovely it will be to get home and cook up those tasty ravs so fast.
I get home, and he’s telling me about his day and I’m like “time-out, lets get those raviolis cookin! What kind did you get? Butternut squash?”
My husband and I play a little game whenever we go to Trader Joe’s and look at their raviolis. He always says “butternut squash ravioli! you love that, right?” and I say some variation of *puke emoji* and tell him I’ll try literally any other ravioli “flavor” just not that one.
Guys, guess wtf kind of ravioli is in my fridge? Butternut-freakin-Squash Ravioli.
My husband’s exact words: “I thought you love butternut squash ravioli?? Whoops! I can’t ever remember whether you love it or hate it.”
To be fair, there are things I can’t remember for MYSELF that he has to remind me of. I do not like blood orange flavoring. Or mango salsa. Or pumpkin anything that isn’t bread or pie (or *maybe* beer–damn’t, that’s one of the things I need him to remember for me, do I love or hate pumpkin beer??). I love the IDEA of these things, which means I always forget I do not enjoy their actual tastes. So he can be forgiven for having a confusing food associated with me. There are a lot of them.
Oh yeah, all of that is to say, I tossed those ravs with some butter, oregano, pinch of salt, dash of turmeric, topped with fresh ground pepper and shaved Parmesan cheese and holy moly they were really freakin’ good! I’m adding this to my “I’m an adult now” palette, right alongside the stouts and porters I’ve been enjoying lately out of the blue.
As you know, I’ve been writing, and a big part of my writing process is music. I’ve been re-exploring old playlists as well as combing through my “Discover Weekly” options through Spotify to come up with another list of songs that have been on repeat in my head — even when Spotify is turned off. Several of these songs can relate to different scenes and characters I’m writing, some are just fun to blast in the car or dance to around the apartment (two, coincidentally, are my nephew’s favorite songs to ‘drop it low’ to — added to my playlist before I’d ever even seen his sweet 14-month-old-dance-moves but now will forever be favorites).
Once again, I don’t watch music videos, but I’ve provided links if interested. This time I’ve also starred the ones that might come with ‘parental advisory’ labels (meaning I’m advising you, Mom: there are swear words).
I just reread my post after we’d been in Saint Louis for a month and kept thinking how adorable it was/we were. So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and timid of our surroundings.
There is still SO much for us to do and explore and conquer, but damn have we gotten comfortable, too. We’ve found a neighborhood bar for football games in I-Tap, or Tom’s for trivia, awesome chicken tenders, and karaoke on the weekends. Oof, I’ll have to write a post (or several) about all the amazing food we’ve had.
I love Forest Park, even (especially?) the pathways that intimidated me at first, with the shadowed bridges and wooded trails. I have no fear wandering the park alone, or sending my husband to take his daily walks through the park or the neighborhood by himself. Sure, we’re aware of our surroundings, especially at night, but no more so than we were back in the DC area.
The Grove is also one of our favorite neighborhoods. It is home to my husband’s favorite sandwich spot: Gramophone (mention either the Grove or Gramophone to him and prepare to hear at length about the Alcatraz sandwich). It’s also the location of Urban Chestnut Brewery, which might be my favorite of the local breweries. I’ll probably put out a post about all the beer we’ve had since moving at some point, too.
My husband found his coffee shop in Kaldi’s Coffee in Demun — which is also his favorite residential neighborhood to wander through, enjoying the different houses. He’s also recently started using our French press to make coffee at home (that damn Crate & Barrel coffee maker gathering dust on the shelf in our front closet). With Whole Foods and Straubs Market each a block away, we’ve had no excuse not to cook at home most nights, and it’s encouraged us to try a lot of new recipes and cook with ingredients we just hadn’t before, like tofu and tilapia. Also, I’ve never been into seafood the way I have been here. It’s so weird, being landlocked, but the fish is flown in fresh daily to most places.
I could go on and on, and plan to be better at posting about our adventures and discoveries, but for now, let me just say: I freaking love Saint Louis. I love the Midwest, I love living in an urban setting with lush parks and nature steps away. Guys, there’s also NO TRAFFIC. It’s so easy to get to hiking trails, or the mall, or my office (20 min to go about the same miles), or Missouri wine country… There’s always some sort of festival or event going on, and most of the time it’s free. Seriously, everyone come visit. Or come stay. Six months in, and I’m not looking back.
My current WIP (that’s work-in-progress, Mom) is a historical fiction novel set during WWII. I’ve always been fascinated by that time: the beauty and the tragedy, the resiliency of the people and the fact that those generations can laugh after the horrors they witnessed.
My other stories have been completely imaginary, so it’s been refreshing having a number of sources to go to with questions rather than having to make everything up. The Internet is an amazing thing, with just a few clicks, I get more knowledge than I ever needed.
This is also a drawback.
Sometimes, I get too hung up on stupid tiny details that are only important for making the story authentic. My characters are going dancing in D.C.? Let me just Google what clubs might have been around in the early ’40s (spoiler alert: this was not as simple as it sounds. It took me days of research to scratch out a number of dance clubs my characters might have attended).
Wikipedia is helpful but not completely trustworthy. Its hyperlinked words make it too easy for me to wander, too. For example, my characters need a summer activity to be doing (or on their way to doing) when they run into another character (at which point, said activity no longer matters). Still, I can’t just say they’re eating ice cream at the waterfront. Today’s DC waterfront is nothing like 1940s DC waterfront (was there even much of a “waterfront”?). Google tells me the area I’m thinking of (now near the AMC Loews theater) used to be the site of the Georgetown incinerator. So…people probably weren’t hanging around where they were burning trash. So maybe they went to a museum. Or just hung around one of the monuments or memorials. The Wikipedia page for the National Monument takes me through the Lincoln Memorial page to the the Reflective Pool (not built yet in their time), to the Tidal Basin, to the WWII Memorial, to the grafitti “Kilroy was here” and the next thing I know, I’m reading about rationing in Great Britain during and after the war.
Also, my interest to know whatever I can about the ’40s is a drawback during quick-research time. In this example, I figure the Tidal Basin is probably a good area my characters could end up, so I leave the page open to read in a second, but first I want to continue reading about Marian Anderson’s epic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after she was not allowed to perform at the DAR (because she was African American). And in reading more about Anderson, I find out she was good friends with Albert Einstein. He was really big in the Civil Rights Movement (and referred to himself as a devout anti-racist). One thing leads to another and two hours later I’ve somehow ended up reading about the U.S.O. in World War II.
Now my brain is full to bursting will all this barely-necessary knowledge and I’ve completely forgotten what I originally set out to look up. Forget about the actual story I wanted to write around that little detail–it’s gone. I leave the story for the following day, only to wake up and find the blank I’ve literally drawn to remind myself I need a relevant detail, and the process starts all over.