A New Year, a New Post

bird cage cane


2014 was a year of significant events: my oldest started high school, my husband and I both became department chairs, and we did a bunch of things to the house (new bathrooms!) that we’d been meaning to do for 14 years. Then, about two weeks ago, my father died in a car accident. So, quite a year. Still processing that last one, as you can imagine.

On the bookish front, I didn’t blog here as much as I wanted to, but I did start writing for Book Riot in May, which I’ve really enjoyed. I have said this every year for the past three, but I really want to blog more in 2015. It’s just a fun thing to do, and way more nourishing than idly scrolling through Twitter.



I also want to read more. Just more pages. I’ve been in a hospital-based book group since September (this month is a memoir, And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran),  and I signed up for Wendy’s TBR challenge (January’s book is a “short”. Think I’ll finish The Book Smugglers’ Retold, which I started last month).

I don’t think there was anything notable about my reading in 2014, except maybe that I had my first proper glom in a while. I listened to three Liane Moriarty books, and was so sad when I realized I only have only one left on audio with the “good” narrator (there are two others with the “bad” narrator which I plan to skip). I’m not going to recommend her books to you, however, because the two IRL people who read her books on my recommendation both hated them.

I finally finished The Grand Sophy on audio and found it so funny and enjoyed the heck out of it, but couldn’t love it because Sophy doesn’t change. Right now I’m listening to Inside Scientology, which is fascinating, if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m trying to get through Mary Karr’s Lit but I may just have to admit defeat. And after enjoying Gone Girl, I started listening to Flynn’s Dark Places but the characterization of the protagonist is so overwrought I keep giggling:

IT WAS MISERABLE, wet-bone March and I was lying in bed thinking about killing myself, a hobby of mine.

Flynn, Gillian. Dark Places: A Novel (Kindle Location 112). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The prose is just so, I don’t know, obvious:

My neighborhood doesn’t even have a name, it’s so forgotten. It’s called Over There That Way.

Flynn, Gillian. Dark Places: A Novel (Kindle Locations 144-145). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Maybe she’s spoofing other books and I’m not in on the joke.

41E4+fttDjLIn 2015, I plan on keeping a 1:3 ratio of diverse to nondiverse books. I’m in the middle of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle which is great, but feels so masculine to me after my typical steady diet of female authored books. I don’t usually keep track of what I read, but I’ll have to if I want to be consistent with this personal challenge. I briefly considered going back to Goodreads but then was reminded of how awful it can be there, so I’ll just use this space.

One thing I resolve not to do in 2015 is take any ARCs. I think I got about 7 ARCs in 2014 and actually read and blogged about 1 of them. Nothing quite guarantees that I won’t read a book like getting it from the publisher.

My progress on my current paper on the portrayal of nursing in Harlequin Medicals is steady but very very slow. Still, I’ve done most of the work and hope to have it sent off in a month or so. In 2014, Beeminder and Jo Van Every’s Meeting With Your Writing continued to be my main supports. I plan to attend PCA in April.

Following the lead of some fellow Book Rioters, I’ve been reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done and experimenting with Omnifocus.  If we hadn’t done so much to the house, I would never have tried it, but I ended up cleaning out everything and moving my office, so it feels like a good time to embark on a super confusing productivity system that will probably hone my nearly perfect ability to procrastinate. I am going to have a mind like water, goddammit.


Finally, I glommed Showtime’s The Affair, and really enjoyed it. Ruth Wilson is my favorite Jane Eyre and was also great in Luther. I think fiction readers will like it because not only is the main protagonist a novelist (he’s an obscure literary fic writer, while his father-in-law is a wildly successful commercial fic writer) but each episode is told first from his point of view and then from his lover’s point of view and they differ in interesting ways (he thinks she came on to him, but she sees him as the pursuer; he sees her as dressed much more provocatively than she recalls. In general they each see themselves as more vulnerable, and more honest). It’s very overtly about narrative and so well-acted. Here’s how the creator put it in a discussion of the season one finale:

All that matters, when you’re telling a memory play, which I’ve always maintained this is, is how each party remembers the incident and what that tells the audience about their respective character.

There are cheap and soapy elements, for sure, and I’m not 100% convinced that the divergent narratives will ever be reconciled in a satisfying way, but I think it’s well worth a try.




I’m getting offline now to read more of Tessa Dare’s latest.


I hope you had a good end to 2014 and a great start to the new year!

21 responses

  1. My deepest condolences, Jessica. I can’t imagine how breathtakingly devastating your dad’s sudden death makes you feel, but I’m thinking of you and your family.

    I’ve been sifting through a number of reader 2014 roundup posts and honestly, I wonder if we’ll ever get back to the place where the commercial aspects of the bookish world were less obtrusive, less self-involved and pushy. It sounds a trifle snobby, but I miss the “leadership,” so to speak, of the strong voices and long time advocates for the genre. It seems like as the romance community has fragmented, revolving more around authors or genres or publishers, the less variety and diversity we see/read/discuss. I do like that my fellow authors can now directly cultivate their niche, but we’ve lost something in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It has been quite a year for you: I hope you are getting some time over the holidays just to take care of you. I’ll see you (or, at least, hear you!) in MWYW this term! I’m excited that I’ve finally been able to sign up. I enjoyed your Book Riot posts a lot and always appreciate your blog posts too, so I’ll be glad if you do write more. I can’t imagine how you managed all the writing you did do, between bathroom renos and being chair. Good wishes for 2015.


    • Thanks Rohan. My teaching schedule actually conflicts with MWYW in the Spring (both days) but there’s a decent chance that by late Feb or March that will change and I can join back up. I’m so excited for you, I’m going to be living vicariously through your sabbatical!


  3. That must have been (and still is probably) so difficult. My sincerest condolences.

    Like you, I hope to read more and blog more in 2015. On that last count, it shouldn’t be so hard to top 2014 for me.


  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your father, Jessica. Losing a parent is so hard and I think it must be even more so when it’s sudden.

    One of the highlights of my year was spending time with you (and Ridley!) at Readercon.


  5. I’m so sorry for your loss, Jessica.

    I look forward to hearing about your experiences with GTD and Omnifocus. I remember looking at the latter years ago but it seemed like more than I needed, or not exactly what I needed, I can’t remember now. But doing an organizational system with other people definitely helps on the learning curve issue.

    I want to read more this year too! I ended 2014 on a good reading note and I hope to keep it going as long as I can. I find that mixing up my reading has helped get me through a couple of long romance slumps, as well as reminding me of the other genre and non-genre books I enjoy.


    • On GTD, I will let you know. It requires a number of behavioral changes that I’m still a bit resistant to (like, why do I have to lump personal and work tasks together?) but I am going to give it a go. With the new responsibilities of chairing I felt like an organizational wasteland last fall. Will let you know.


  6. I’m very sorry about your father, Jessica.

    You’ve actually piqued my interest when it comes to Liane Moriarty, though I’m not entirely sure how I’ll find them. It will be a library book in my attempt to try a new-to-me author, outside my usual genre. And you make The Affair sound fascinating though it’s not the kind of show I’m usually drawn to—I tend to gravitate towards Game of Thrones/Orphan Black/more fantastical shows.


    • If you try her, I would recommend Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret or What Alice Forgot. They are NOT romances, but they are centrally about marriage and each one ends on a positive/hopeful note for the main female characters (there are usually three, often friends or sisters. Moriarty is like Jodi Picoult in having a set framework).


  7. So sorry to hear of your father’s unexpected passing. Jo Van Every’s coaching has been great help for me – I would love to attempt the appointment with my writing activities but, alas, the schedule never gels properly.

    Tessa Dare’s latest? Envy. I was hoping to pick that up inexpensively at ARE’s half-price sale but that price didn’t extend to Canada. Boohoohoo!


  8. I was so sorry to hear about your father’s unexpected passing. My thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.

    It’s easy to lose sight of the fact, what with the various shenanigans that cropped up this year (oy!), but I had a really good year both personally and blogging/book related. Looking over my own “best of,” I was struck by the nice variety I had. Everything from medieval to m/m to inspirational to erotic romance! About the only thing I was missing was NA 😉 I hope to reach my 100 read goal again in 2015, and to keep my strong month of December going through the first of the year. Although I’ve been lazy since New Year’s and haven’t cracked a book open yet. Sigh.


    • Thanks Wendy. I didn’t read a ton but I read a lot of books that stayed with me. I’m so glad 2014 was good for you! (And I am definitely reading the Gregg)


  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. My deepest condolences to you and your family, Jessica.

    My year of reading was not satisfying at all with only a handful of books staying with me. I suspect that I have transitioned from a constant state of reading with the occasional slump to a state of slumping with an occasional read. I am hoping to reverse this in 2015 (though I have no idea how to do this).


    • Hey V! Nothing is forever, even intractable slumps. Maybe you should try what George Costanza in Seinfeld tried — doing the opposite of whatever his inclination was. So, if you feel like a sweet romance, go for hard boiled horror. Ok, maybe not. I hope your slumps ends, but in the meantime I hope you have other hobbies you can enjoy.


  10. Jessica, my deep condolences to you and your family, both for the tremendous loss and for the shock of it. My thoughts are with you (though I’m commenting over a week since your post….) as you grapple with being both a grieving child, and the parent of bereaved grandchildren.

    I wish you all the best for your reading and blogging in 2015! As one of my chief Romanceland inspirations, I’m happy to hear you’re planning to blog more. And I totally agree with you about Tessa Dare. I loved the meta fairytale she spun with her previous outing and now I know I’ll give this new one a go. I’m back online after a pretty long hiatus, and struggling to formulate my thoughts about a recent HistRom read. Hoping to get back to blogging on a semi regular basis this year.



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