February is the shortest month of the year, but it always manages to feel like one of the longest to me. It’s still unpleasantly cold and very gray, but all the holidays are over as is my vacation so it just feels like this never-ending blah month. One good thing about February is that since it’s not a great time to do outdoor activities, I spend a lot of time reading, writing, and catching up on shows. As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post.
What I’m Reading:
I read six books this month (hurray!) for a total of 11 so far this year not including the two manuscripts I read for friends which has me ahead of pace for my goal of 60 this year. Follow me on Goodreads to see more ratings and reviews.
Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner. I wanted to like this, but I just didn’t love it. Some parts of this book were so good and so helpful – especially parts about how most of life is lived in the middle – in the in-between of beginnings and endings. Winner writes about her divorce and the impact that had on her spiritual life. There were parts of this that were brilliant, but there were also parts where the author felt distant to me – writing about deeply personal experiences but somehow holding us at arms’ length, unable to see her real reactions, feelings, and motivations. I know others who have loved this book, but for me each chapter was hit-or-miss.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. This YA book had been recommended to me by many people and I finally read it this month. It’s precious. A love story for the ages, but with real characters in real and difficult situations. I was enchanted.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. This book was pretty highly recommended by a few people I know and also got pretty positive reviews from the critics, so maybe my hopes were too high, but for me it was only OK. Maisie Dobbs is a private detective living in post WWI London helping to solve mysteries and heal the wounds of many affected by the war. More than half of this book ends up being a prolonged flashback of Maisie’s life story. I think it would have been much more effective to include these as snippets throughout the book instead of stepping away from the present and spending 60% of the book on the past. I also felt no connection to Maisie herself – she’s this very generic heroine who always does the right thing and is beautiful and clever and kind and bland as white toast. I know this book is the beginning of a series, so other books in the series are probably more straightforward mysteries, but I really didn’t love it. It wasn’t a terrible book, I just didn’t think it was anything special and I found myself wishing for it to be over faster the whole time.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed is a good writer and honestly quite masterful at interweaving present action with flashbacks. My biggest qualms with this were, unfortunately, a distaste for her personality as conveyed in the book, which is the hard thing about memoirs. At the beginning of the book she is 26 years old and recently divorced and is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo to “find herself” or find inner-peace or something. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment and it made me want to hike. And she wrote movingly about the experience of losing her mother at age 22. But when she talked about her divorce, I just lost her a little bit. Maybe this is judgy of me, but the divorce was the product of her continually and repeatedly cheating on her husband and she’s pretty unapologetic about that. At the end she concludes that that’s what she needed to do. So I didn’t feel like the journey resulted in the kind of growth that I was expecting. I would like to see the movie though – I’ve heard Reese Witherspoon gives a great performance.
Looking for Alaska by John Green. This was my second John Green book and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but I still cared a lot about the characters. It’s a coming of age story that, like Green’s other books, deals with the usual sex, booze, and rebellion parts of adolescence, but also with grief, loss and the greater meaning of life in a tender and moving way.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I LOVED this book. This was published in 2014 and hubby read it a few months ago and recommended it to me. I don’t think I would have read it were it not for his recommendation/the fact that we owned it, but I am so glad I did. This made it to the honorable mentions of my all-time favorite literary fiction books. It tells the story of a Hollywood star and the people connected to him, sometimes only by a slender thread, before, during, and after the collapse of civilization. It’s eerie and post-apocalyptic, riveting and elegaic, moving and insightful. I really thought it was masterful.
What I’m Watching:
I watched the series finale of Parenthood with many tears. Such a great show. I’m all caught up on Nashville and our comedies – Mindy Project, New Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I watched the series finale of Parks and Recreation last night, which was bittersweet- it’s possibly my favorite comedy of life. We are a few episodes behind, but still greatly enjoying (slash agonizing over) the new season of Broadchurch. Oh. Em. Gee. The BBC knows how to do it. And we recently watched the pilot of Fresh Off the Boat and I think I’ll really enjoy it.
We saw The Imitation Game this month which was equal parts fantastic and depressing. I already knew the ending since it’s a biopic, but it’s such an amazing story up til then. We also re-watched Cloud Atlas at home which is one of my favorite movies – it absolutely fascinates me.
What I’m Eating:
Lots of delicious and horrible-for-you food while in Seoul including these things I shall dub, “Fatty Fries.” Because there’s nothing fattier deep fried potatoes topped with bacon and cheese and mayonnaise, haha. Worth wearing stretchy pants for a week? I think so.
In more healthy foods, I tried this recipe for stuffed zucchini recently and it was a winner. You can follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.
On the Internets:
If you read only one link here, let it be Addie Zierman’s post “3 Things We Need to Stop Saying to Youth Group Kids.” This is one of those posts I wish I’d written because it is so precisely how I feel.
If you need the reminder (and we all do) check out Shauna Niequist’s recent post – “You are Enough”
I’m not a mom and I still loved this piece from my friend Briana about falling in love with being a mom of two.
I adored this piece from Emily Mullas Wilson about Making Church a Place for All Kinds of Women.
If you want to know why I recommend books with cursing, sex, and violence, read this post by Modern Mrs. Darcy which explains it pretty perfectly.
If you want to see something fun, check out this version of the Uptown Funk music video with no music.
On the Blog:
I started a series of Friday Book Chats that I hope you’re enjoying. So far I’ve covered most-anticipated books, books I love to hate, movies that were better than their book, and my all-time favorite contemporary literary fiction books.
And in the faith-wrestling, life-pondering, contemplative posts I’ve written about celebrating eight years with my husband, about what’s saving my life right now, about my ongoing questions about the calling of motherhood, about the spiritual aspects of traveling, and about losing (and finding) prayer.
I am slowly plugging away at my book manuscript and hope to have a draft done by the time we leave Korea this summer. I also have another piece for Relevant being published sometime in the next few weeks – I’ll keep you posted.
If you haven’t yet, please “like” my writer page on Facebook to keep up with posts and discussions.
I think I’ve found my holy grail foundation and unfortunately, it’s a Korean brand so I’m probably going to have to stock up on it and bring a bunch home with me when I leave here, but I’m sure you can order it online from sellers on ebay.
I love makeup, but I don’t like to wear really heavy foundation that makes it look like you have a ton of makeup on. I need foundation because my skin is dull and uneven, but I want my skin to still look like skin in the end, so I often do a BB or CC cream. This foundation is the bomb.com though. It is the Clio Kill Cover Realest Wear foundation and I am in the shade 04 Ginger. It’s very liquidy, but it blends out very smoothly (I use my fingers and then my beauty blender). It gives light to medium coverage. My skin still looks like skin – it’s not cakey at all, but it covers everything I need covered. If there’s a way for you to get your hands on this, you should try it.
What I’ve Been Up To:
February is an odd month in the Korean year because it’s actually the end of the school year. After five weeks of winter vacation, students come back to school for the first 2 -2.5 weeks of February and finish classes, graduation ceremonies,etc. Then there is another 2 week break that is considered their “spring vacation.” This year it coincided with the Lunar New Year. On March 1st (or close to it) the new school year will begin. This means I had 2.5 weeks of classes at the beginning of February followed by 1.5 weeks of sitting at my desk doing nothing. Which is why I got so much writing done this month! We will have new schedules, new coteachers, and some new students, but Korea is very last-minute about everything so I probably won’t get my new schedule or new textbooks until after the school year has already started. This drives the planner in me nuts, but I’m trying to be cool.
We traveled to Seoul for the Lunar New Year and have otherwise been laying low, hanging out with friends and waiting to hear news about the MFA programs Jonathan applied to for the fall. I hope to have something official to report by the end of the month!