goodbye, 2015

Here we are at the end of the year again. I have had my least productive blogging year possibly ever. I am sorry, blog. I think this post will knock the last 2014 post off the front page, so that’s something. I have spent a lot of 2015 not on the internet, which has been good for me. I’ll be spending parts of 2016 offline as well, beginning with a very hermity writing January.

I started this year hibernating. I am ending it at home in New York, just back from a surprise trip to Hogwarts, about to hibernate again. In between I went to South Bend for circus shenanigans and Toronto again after too long away. I turned 37. We celebrated the first of hopefully many, many wedding anniversaries. I had a lot of cocktails with new friends and old friends. I learned how to make a proper carbonara. I added many, many bottles to my BPAL collection. I was a crossword puzzle clue.

I wrote a lot. I am well out of word soup phase and probably somewhere nearing the word cake phase, though not quite fully baked yet and there will be layers to carve and frost and a great many fussy bits to come. It’s almost a book. It’s thinking about it, really hard.

It was a more eventful year than it looks like through the lens of the internet. Much of what is going on in Erinland is still hidden behind curtains, waiting. Preparing. On one hand I feel badly about not being able to share and on the other I am trying to savor the quiet times because I know they are temporary. I am still trying to learn to balance living in my head which I need to do to write and living in the actual world with people and social media. The easiest way for me to manage is in extremes, and now is a mostly in my head time. Sooner or later the contents of my head will be properly captured in words and then put on paper so they can spill out into other people’s heads, which is magical but intimidating when it’s just me, just my head and just my thoughts, trying to keep them clear and finding the best ways to translate the spaces and people in my head into words. It’s difficult and then it’s easy and then it’s difficult again, like the optical illusions that shift depending on how you focus, though the image always stays the same.

In 2015 for the first time in a long time I started to feel like I’m getting to where I’m supposed to be. That there’s some forward momentum.

No stars in my hair this year. This year there are bees. It is time for new things. Time for changes.

new year's bees

No proper list of favorites this year, either. My favorite book I read out of an embarrassingly short list was Speak by Louisa Hall. I spent most of my non-writing story consuming time this year playing video games, mostly Dragon Age, mostly out of order (Inquisition, then Origins, then II, then the epilogue of Inquisition which made me cry and then laugh through my tears and I cannot even begin to explain how much I love that game). I liked a lot of tv, consumed mostly on Netflix: Black Mirror & Broadchurch & Sense 8 & competitive British baking. I really liked the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I didn’t go to many movies but I did just see the new Star Wars and really liked it, and I am not really a Star Wars person.

I’m going to try to read more in 2016.

Lots of good music this year, which made it difficult to choose a song of the year. If I wanted to be really honest my most-played track is the main theme from Dragon Age: Inquisition but since that’s not precisely a song I decided to be a bit more traditional. This artist & this album were very much exactly the right music at exactly the right time.

SóleyÆvintýr

Happy New Year.

I have a feeling 2016 is going to be an adventure.

I am trying not to say things like “this year flew by” or “where did 2014 go?” but I am thinking them, very hard.

I was sick a lot this year. I had my wisdom teeth removed. In a lot of ways this year was about taking better care of myself and I’m not sure how well I did so hopefully that will be a continuing theme for 2015.

I had a comparatively quiet year but it was filled with a lot of things. I have a new niece. I learned to play croquet. I met Tori Amos. I turned 36. I saw Macbeth & King Lear. I redesigned my website. I celebrated Margaret Atwood’s birthday with some of my favorite writer people. I got to be Quentin Coldwater. My go-to Manhattan bar closed. I went to Vermont and Toronto and I’m typing this in Florida. I wrote a lot but not as much as I would have liked. It’s not book-shaped. That’s okay.

Most importantly in 2014, I got married.

I’m looking forward to 2015. I’m not big on resolutions but I really like Chuck Wendig’s 2015 Resolution for Writers.

2014 Favorites

Books.

bookends

I had a low volume reading year. There are so many books I accumulated this year but didn’t get to. I read less when I’m writing & I didn’t read much when I was sick and when I sorted through what I did read the list of books I really loved was particularly short. Though I think that’s partially because they are books I really, really loved. (The short list pictured with new favorite bookends, holiday gift from my darling editor.)

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Stoner by John Williams

(Honorary not pictured mentions to The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld because it came out this year (I read it last year) and Get in Trouble by Kelly Link which I read this year but is not out until next year.)

Music.

Favorite new (or new-to-me) albums this year:

Lana Del Rey‘s Ultraviolence, Taylor Swift‘s 1989, Agnes Obel‘s Aventine, London Grammar‘s If You Wait, & Birdy‘s Fire Within.

Thought a lot about song of the year. Was tempted to go with Taylor’s “Shake It Off” for fun but went personal instead. (Someday, when I finish this book, this choice will make more sense.)

Movies/TV.

I didn’t see enough movies to warrant a movie section. I’m including it to make myself feel guilty and hopefully I’ll see more movies next year.

The only tv show we keep up with anymore week-to-week is Game of Thrones, which I am conflicted about but will probably watch week-to-week next season anyway. We also started watching all of Fringe which I never saw when it was on but is far more enjoyable than I’d expected, we have about a season and a half left. Also looking forward to more Orphan Black.

Games.

Of the video variety: I feel silly saying my favorite game of the year is Dragon Age: Inquisition because we literally only started playing it less than a month ago but I’m a little bit obsessed.

Of the tabletop variety: We started getting into tabletop games this year and by far my favorite is Pandemic.

Other media.

I am late on the Serial bandwagon but we binge-listened to the whole thing the other day and it is absolutely fascinating both on an investigation level and as a narrative.

 

(A minor resolution for next year: keep better track of books & such for end-of-year favorite list.)

2013 favorites: books

2013 favorite books

Favorite Books Read in 2013

In order, as pictured, from left to right and going down the typewriter-sitting pile:

NOS4A2 – Joe Hill.  I believe my Twitter-length review was “made me fear Christmas and children more than I did already” but the tiny pointed teeth only scratch the surface of this epic ride of a novel. I can’t remember the last time I read something that took supernatural elements and wove them into the real world so masterfully and believably. Also, perfect holiday gift.

The Rathbones – Janice Clarke. Has my name on the cover for good reason, I adored this book to little pieces. Myth wrapped in sea shanty and family history, so beautifully told. I cannot wait to see what Janice does next, though of course I am going to be incredibly patient.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson. I went on a Kate Atkinson bender last year so I was very much looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. It also didn’t hurt that I read it in February surrounded by snow while housesitting for my parents, perfect mood for it. If you haven’t read it yet, winter would be a great time to dive in.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. If I had a book to define my year it would be this one. Which I read early because Twitter is Magic and that of course led to more magic things. But beyond that, this lovely little book made me want to write again, in that magical way that I haven’t been feeling enough lately, and I got to thank Neil Gaiman for that personally.

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson – Mark Siegel. I’d seen this on many of last year’s best books lists and I was curious but I still didn’t expect it to be as surprising and wonderful as it is. Beautiful art, beautiful story. I’ve been using it as a gateway drug for anyone who tells me they’ve never read a graphic novel.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan. Had you told me at the outset that this book would make me cry I would not have believed you but it snuck up on me at the end. I have a thing for endings, and while this book was fantastic fun the whole way through the very last pages are perfection. Also it glows in the dark.

Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh. I have said it before, I will say it again: I am grateful to live in a world that has Allie Brosh in it. I’ve been a fan of her blog for years and her posts on depression (I & II) are brilliant and funny and wonderfully real. I am grateful to have her words and pictures in book form to live on my shelf so I can re-read them over and over even without electricity or batteries.

Jim Henson: The Biography – Brian Jay Jones. I don’t really read biographies. I’ve read a few for research but that’s about it. I picked this up on a whim and then couldn’t put it down. It reminded me how much I grew up on all things Henson and Muppets and how much of an influence on my creative self he was and how I forget that sometimes because it’s so deeply engrained. I don’t remember a time pre-Muppets. I’m pretty sure The Great Muppet Caper was the first movie I saw in the theatre and I made my dad stay through the credits so we were the only ones left when Gonzo takes a photo of the audience. This biography is wonderful and engaging and a fantastic peek behind the curtain.

Y: The Last Man – Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.  We went to Midtown Comics and started chatting with one of the booksellers (comicsellers? gurus?) who after he found out our tastes went on about all things Brian K. Vaughan. I got one volume of Y and then immediately had to read the rest of it. It’s epic and smart and surprising. I read a lot more Vaughan this  year but this one was my favorite, though I’m excited to see where Saga goes in the future. (Related: if anyone can tell me where I can find volume 4 of the deluxe editions of Ex Machina I’d appreciate it, I have all the others & I still don’t really understand why 4 is the elusive one.)

 

And a special bonus non-pictured tease because it was easily one of the very best things I’ve read this year, and possibly ever:

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld. Not out until March 2014, but oh, this book. It is exquisite. I won’t tell you too much since it’s not available yet but I read it months ago in manuscript form and I’m so glad it has a perfect cover and I cannot wait to tweet and shout and spread the word about it. It’s extraordinary, truly.

 

So those are the favorites of the year for 2013. I had an off-kilter reading year, got a lot of things read in the first half of the year and then fell off the reading wagon a bit. (December was eaten by The Goldfinch. Still not done with it yet.) But it was a year full of wonderful books and surprises and I hope next year will bring even more.

As of the end of this month we’ll have lived in NYC for one year. It is still strange to me to live in New York. I like it more than I thought I would, though I don’t think I will ever get truly used to it, no matter how long we stay.

The buzz of the people isn’t as overwhelming as it was at first. The sidewalks don’t seem as crowded. I don’t feel quite as lost once below the helpfully numbered gridded streets in Manhattan, though I still need to rely on my phone to help me navigate.

We will be here for at least another year, so I feel like this was the practice year of falling out of the cardboard boxes and acclimating to the wonderment. I’m ready for another tour through the seasons.

Here are a few of my favorite things about New York, punctuated with some of my favorite city photos from this year.

nyc photos - tree

Central Park. I know, it’s an easy choice but it’s also a marvel, to literally be in the middle of the city but to feel as if you’re somewhere else entirely.

The High Line. My other favorite oasis in the city, that feels like a river more than a park, you get swept along the lovely changing flow of it as you wander up or down. I love how it changes with the seasons, too. During the winter it had these lovely bare branches that faded from yellow to red that were just gorgeous.

nyc photos - high line

The Morgan Library & Museum. I didn’t even know about this beautiful space before we stumbled upon it and I’m so glad we did. Saw a wonderful exhibit of surrealist drawings earlier in the year, looking forward to seeing their current Edgar Allen Poe exhibit, too.

The McKittrick Hotel. Also known as the home of Sleep No More, (which I only actually saw once this year, we went for the Valentine’s Day Dance) the space itself has expanded to include Gallow Green, one of my favorite rooftops in the city, plus multiple live music spaces and now it even has a restaurant. I keep expecting the whole thing to just vanish into thin air one day, but for now I’m glad it’s there.

nyc photos - statue

Over the course of the year I have become convinced that the block of 10th Ave between 15th & 16th is food heaven, it already had Morimoto &  Chelsea Market and as if I needed confirmation for this belief, it is now home to the NYC incarnation of one of my Boston favorites, Toro.

But if I have to pick a single favorite restaurant in NYC, the one that I keep going back to over and over that’s always stellar that is also on that block, it is Colicchio & Sons. We end up in the tap room more often than the main dining room but they’re both absolutely wonderful. I went twice in one week in November because I had to have the roasted apple chowder again. Love the space, love the food, love the service. Wish they’d bring back the gluten-free bacon waffles for brunch, because I miss them, but I also love that the menu is constantly changing.

nyc photos - grand central

I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the cocktail bar options in the city and I have so many more to try but of the ones I’ve been to my favorite so far is Milk & Honey. Maybe it’s the hidden location, maybe it’s the space itself which is dark and deco and everything I love about a proper cocktail hideaway: quiet and atmospheric and sexy. But really it’s the cocktails themselves, since they don’t have a menu and you just tell them what you like and they run with it which makes everything surprising and magical. It is one of my very favorite places in the city. I kind of don’t want to tell you about it, that’s how much I love it.

I could go on and on but those are the major favorites. I’m sure next year’s version of the NYC favorites will have new discoveries and that’s one of the things I love about New York, there’s so much of it to explore.

There will be a few favorite things of 2013 posts this month, saving books for last and doing NYC favorites next week and this is… other stuff. Mostly media and cocktails. Let’s just call it entertainment favorites, maybe.

{Insert obligatory marveling over how fast this year went by here.}

These will all be very much Things I Liked Most in 2013. I am not making any decrees about Bests. A lot of them will not be 2013-specific beyond the fact that they were new-to-me this year.

 

Let’s start with TV, which I don’t watch that much of and hardly ever live but I do occasionally get hooked on a show and I had a few this year but the two I ate up like candy were The Killing & Person of Interest. I am not caught up completely with either, only up to beginning season 3 for both so I’m not even going to look up proper links.

The Killing has the most interesting detective pairing I think I’ve seen, they’re compelling to watch even when the storyline hits lulls.

Person of Interest just gets better and better and better as it goes along and I would have started watching earlier had they called it “Psychic Batman” which is basically what it is. Also, Michael Emerson in fabulous suits. (I already had a crush on Michael Emerson from LOST and the suits make it so much worse. Swoon.)

 

Movies. I had a minimal movie year, I hardly saw anything in the theatre. I did, however, see most of the things I saw in in theatres in fancy theatres that serve wine which was a bonus. Favorite in-theatre movie was probably The World’s End, which I probably enjoyed even more than Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz, though I love them both, too.

Favorite new-to-me, non-theatre movie was The Lady Vanishes, which is also quite possibly my new favorite Hitchcock. I’m a sucker for a train.

 

Music, recorded, new-to-me. Found a lot of good new music this year but my favorite new discovery was easily Houses. Especially since I literally only clicked on the album in iTunes because I liked the cover. I’d never heard of them, didn’t know what kind of music it would be and was unbelievably pleasantly surprised. So atmospheric and lovely.

Music, live. Not much live music for 2013, and Mumford & Sons would have been the best live show were it not for the really belligerent drunk guys next to us. But instead the favorite live music experience of 2013 happened completely unexpectedly at the McKittrick after having dinner at Gallow Green thanks to a wonderfully kind door guy who decided we were leaving too early and instead sent us down a dark hallway to watch Flight of the Conchords, who were brilliant, of course, and even more brilliant for being unexpected.

 

True confession time: 2013 is the year I admitted to myself I’ve turned into a gamer. I think it was somewhere around the time I was at my desk quoting the lemons speech from Portal 2 while sitting under this poster.

Very favorite out of lots of games for the year: Ni no Kuni which we picked up because Studio Ghibli was involved and it got good reviews and at first I wasn’t sure what I thought of it and then I got pretty much obsessed with it. Still not finished, though we’ve been playing pretty regularly for months. I’m going to miss it when it’s over.

(Also this year Adam & I played through all the two-player collaborative levels in Portal 2 together which was more fun than it had any right to be.)

 

Cocktail time.

So let’s start with components. Favorite new discovery has to go to Bluecoat Gin, which Chuck Wendig recommended & maybe two days after that I saw Daniel Handler recommend it in some cocktail-centric interview so I had to pick it up and it may very well be my new favorite gin. Also in new discoveries for 2013: Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, which is so lovely & versatile & also comes in a beautiful bottle.

Proper cocktail favorite of the year is the very old but new to me  The Last Word. Equal parts gin, lime, maraschino liqueur and green chartreuse. It’s lovely and balanced and interesting and it has a great name. I bought a bottle of green chartreuse so I could make them at home.

 

And that’s it for this round of 2013 things. Favorite new-to-me cocktail bar will, among other things, be covered in NYC favorites next week.

coffee table/books

This is my coffee table. My coffee table has not been this clear since before the book tour. I am far too pleased about the clearing of the coffee table, even though it quite possibly involved cluttering other tables not pictured.

I am having one of those days where I have a lot to do so I am procrastinating by cleaning off my coffee table and eating chocolate very seriously as though by treating the chocolate eating as something important it becomes a more productive activity.

Anyway, on to something somewhat productive, I have been meaning to do a post of my favorite books of 2011. Note that they are favorites and not bests. I shall break them in to categories.

 

Favorite book published in 2011. (This one is a tie.)

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I lived in this book for a good month, because it is three books and a total of nearly 1,000 pages. I had a very battered galley copy by the end and now my gorgeous hardcover is sitting next to it on the shelf. I was worried that I wouldn’t be satisfied with the ending after so much time and so many pages but  I really was. It’s hard to explain, it’s like 1984 but different. It’s surreal but in a realistic way. It’s a book to live in for a while, sometimes stopping and looking up at the sky to count the number of moons.

Habibi by Craig Thompson. This book is gorgeous. Gorgeous. It is a book to pet and “oooh” over before you even get to the story within it that is equally beautiful. The lines of Craig Thompson’s artwork make me weak in the knees and the lines of the art in this book are so fluid they almost seem to move, as though the ink has yet to dry and wants to stay in motion. Calling it a graphic novel doesn’t properly express what it is, it’s a work of art. Also, Craig himself is lovely and huggable. I know because I’ve hugged him and the fact that I have hugged the person who created this lovely thing amazes me.

Favorite book published in 2011 that I have not technically read. (Though it is on the aforementioned coffee table.)

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton. Okay, so I haven’t read the book but I have read and loved it in internet form (harkavagrant.com) so I know what kind of brilliance is contained within these pages. I have two book tour regrets and they both involve not meeting people despite being in meetable proximity, one of those people is Ron Charles and the other is Kate Beaton, I know she was at IFOA in Toronto at some point but our paths did not cross which is probably good because I might have fangirled all over her.

Favorite book I read in 2011 that was published in a year other than 2011.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This book had been on my to-read radar (hadn’t even made it to the to-read shelf) and when I was in Mississippi I happened to have enough time to browse books at Turnrow Book Company and found this lovely little edition that happened to be signed and since it was small enough to fit in my bag I had to get it. It then became travel reading and I loved it to bits, for a book that is so much about music it feels like music, soaring and heartbreaking, grand and intimate all at the same time.

Other favorites published in 2011 that I will not elaborate upon to save space:

The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Other favorite books read this year but published in years other than 2011:

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Every novel ever written by Dashiell Hammett.

That’s the list, though I didn’t read much that I disliked this year. Fables should have some sort of honorable mention even though I’m still working my way through, and I’ll be surprised if Angelmaker doesn’t make the list next year since I’ll be finishing it as 2011 turns into 2012. And now you probably have a better understanding of what I mean when I say my taste in books is eclectic.