2013 Literary Year In Review

Just in time for last-minute Christmas book-buying, it’s time again to take a look back at all the books I loved and loathed in 2013 (and I’ve got quite the backlog of reviews.) I did not get to read as much this year as I usually do, with school and my overseas teaching job keeping me on the run. I apologize for the repetitive answers.


1.Best Book You Read In 2013 by genre?

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going to Love More But Didn’t?

  •  Son by Lois Lowry

3. Most Surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth – I bought it based on a Twitter comment, and only had the vaguest idea of what to expect. What I got was nearly perfect.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

5. Best Series You Discovered in 2013?

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

  •  Kate Forsyth. It takes forever to get her books from England, but they are so completely worth the trouble.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

  • The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin – I don’t read a lot of contemporary literature because there’s usually a lot of grimy sex and crime and drugs and cursing and it all makes me very tired of the world. I had read Shopgirl and while it was fine, it didn’t have me seeking out Martin’s new work. Luck put a copy of this book in the dormitory I lived in while working in Germany.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

  •  I stayed up all night reading Bitter Greens. Like, ’til dawn.

9. Book you read in 2013 that you are most likely to re-read next year?

  • I will probably re-read The Dream Thieves just before the next book in the series comes out.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?












11. Most memorable character in 2013?

  • Just about everyone in Peter Pan, Daniel Pecan Cambridge.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

13. Book that  had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I already spent a lot of time thinking about food, but that book actually pushed me to make some philosophical decisions about where my food budget goes. Mr. ArmchairAuthor and I no longer go to McDonald’s even as a guilty pleasure, and though we have limited resources we spend a little extra for meat and dairy from grass-fed cows. Thankfully those things are readily available in our rural town, which lies in the valley where most of the country’s food is grown.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

  • Peter Pan. Seriously, I used to rent the stage play of Peter Pan from the library every other week (my mom was super sick of it), and I bought the live action film from 2003 and made all the girls in Germany watch it with me. Why did I wait so long to read that book?

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2013?Peter_Pan__Neverland_by_SetsunaMitzukai

  • “We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2013?

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it:

  • Peter Pan made me laugh so hard I was dying to share it with someone, Bitter Greens was beautiful and shocking in many scenes. The “final showdown” scene in The Dream Thieves was epic.

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2013.

  • Aristotle and Dante.

19. Favorite book you read in 2013 from an author you’ve read previously.

20. Best book you read in 2013 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else.

  • Bitter Greens. Maggie Stiefvater asked her Twitter followers to recommend read-alikes for her novels, and someone put this one forward. I read the synopsis, and the rest is history.

21. Genre you read the most from in 2013.

  • This year was a little more diverse than others, given the circumstances, but Fantasy remained a heavy hitter on my reading list.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013.

  • Call me crazy, but I don’t get crushes on fictional characters. Perhaps that makes me no fun, but it’s just the truth.

23. Best 2013 debut you read.

  • I don’t think I read any debuts.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013.

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2013.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2013.

27. Book you read in 2013 that you think got overlooked this year or when it came out.

28. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)

  • Though I did not post very many this year, I enjoyed putting together playlists for Mix-Tape Mondays. I have some ides for this meme in the new year that will take it away from just soundtracks for books (though I will still do that.)

29. Most popular bookish blog post of the year.

30. Book you’re most anticipating for 2014.download (1)

31. Series ending you are most anticipating in 2014.


NaNoWriMo 2013: Goodbye Girl

Dear NaNoWriMo,

I am breaking up with you. This isn’t a “he didn’t dump me, I dumped him” situation. I simply feel that we have outgrown each other. I won’t be hitting fifty thousand words in November, and I am more than okay with that.We’ve been going through the motions for a whole month, and that’s long enough.

I appreciate everything you did for me. Because of you, I can say that I have written two complete novels and am near completion on a third. I might never have found the motivation to undertake such a task without you. I learned things about myself and the craft of writing, and I met many new people in the time I spent with you.

You are too young for me NaNo, too young and too fast. You are courting younger writers behind my back, and while I am glad to see them getting opportunities and support, I am not getting what I need from our relationship. I need time to write with the quality and clarity I yearn to achieve. I want to write with other adults, who have life experience and are writing with purpose and direction. I am ready to write more than once a year, and if I don’t break up with you I know I will keep on saving up good ideas to use on you instead of writing them while they are fresh and exciting. I need support, motivation, and encouragement on at least a weekly basis, not one blinding month of tweets and e-mails and write-ins followed by eleven of darkness.

It’s for the best NaNo. You can get what you need, spreading your message far and wide. I will get what I need to write with depth. So long, and thanks for all the memories.


Skeggjold, no longer an ArmchairAuthor

NaNoWriMo 2013: Eye of the Tiger


Over the weekend I prepared to catch up by deep-cleaning my living room (like legit, I-dusted-the-blinds-and-windowsills clean) and having my husband deep clean the malware from my laptop. I did some great shower-thinking and talked out a couple plot concerns with said husband’s help. I even added a few new songs to the playlist to help me write the final scene: “Mad World” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Last night between five and midnight I knocked out just over five-thousand words, putting me at 24k. Six days to go and I have more than half of my word count left.

Why do I feel so optimistic about it?

NaNoWriMo 2013: Two-Thirds Past

images (1)

Inklings, I’m gonna be straight with you. I caught up after my sinus infection! Eighteen thousand and some-odd words. Then I didn’t write anything for two weeks. Then my super pregnant writing buddy informed me that I couldn’t give up because she needed to live vicariously through my writing! Then I wrote a new scene, out of sequence, on a steno pad and it was gorgeous and I loved it. Then I lost the steno pad.

Still suffering from a complete and total lack of motivation, despite liking my characters and what I’ve written and knowing the direction things should be headed.

Ten days left and my word count is still at 18k. Thanksgiving break just started, meaning I should not end each day completely wiped out by classroom observations and my own course load. Can I catch up?

Stay tuned.

NaNoWriMo: One-Third Gone

Oh dear, Inklings. I am so behind. I came down with a sinus infection back around day four and spent two days in bed (missing classes and a group meeting as well as my word count). It took me until today to get over the blinding headache, nausea, and light sensitivity. My WIP is stranded around 8.5k words and par for today is over 16k. 

What am I gonna do?!

Eat a lot of these:



Seriously, they’re off the chain. And write a lot of these: 


Which I hope are similarly off the chain. Of course I also have lesson plans to write, a presentation to prepare, and discussion questions to post for my classes. So who knows what will happen. Thankfully, tomorrow is


Wish me luck and hug the Veterans in your life and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get this train back on track. 

I have three days to hit my goal of raising $250 for The Office of Letters and Light. I’m halfway there, thanks to supportive readers and a re-tweet from Margaret Atwood herself. If you’d like to donate you can do so here.

NaNoWriMo 2013: And They’re Off!

It is the second day of National Novel Writer’s Month 2013 and it has finally occurred to me what I should have done in the run-up to November 1st so that I would be ready to write this tale. Obviously it did not occur to me, but I do have a year’s worth of thinking and two chapters to get me going (I did not count anything written before Nov. 1st in my word count).

Here are the books I should have read in October, but checked out on November 1st:


The one bit of preparation I did manage was putting together a playlist and a Pinterest to help me stay in the right mood:

And then there was the ice cave I visited this summer in Austria, by way of novel research:


Maybe I’m more prepared than I thought.

Not as prepared as I’d like, then? Of course, given my druthers I would be J.R.R. Tolkien levels of prepared. A lifetime worth of study pouring into my novels. Then I’d never write anything! Luckily there is NaNoWriMo to kick my butt into gear.

Seriously though, I was feeling so incredibly unmotivated this year. I am excited about my project and where it’s going, but I felt no drive to write it…or even get ready to write it. Not great considering that I am the Unofficial Co-ML of my region this year. So far I have hosted two write-ins, both with much larger turnouts than last year. That’s encouraging!

I am still raising money for the organization that makes NaNoWriMo possible, along with a classroom writing program for children and teens, in the hopes of making it to the Night of Writing Dangerously. If you would like to help me out, you can donate here

I’ll try to keep checking in throughout the month. How is your noveling going? It’s not too late to start!

Character Study: Don Draper and Walter White

I’ve heard a lot of bellyaching (and accusations) that America has no culture. Sure we do! We’ve got Disney and Pixar, the American Revolution, the Gettysburg Address, McDonalds and Wal-Mart, and absolutely everyone no matter from whence they are extracted has

The American Dream



What is it? Well you’re gonna pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get a job sweeping floors or frying potatoes and in a decade or so that hard work will pay off and you’ll move up and up into middle management where you can afford to buy your own house and keep your own spouse. There will be kids. There might even be a dog.

If you’re a real success, you just might get rich. You might become a legend. You’d be the best American Dreamer of all.

Let’s put aside all of the ways this dream might not be as attainable for some as for others, and look at the tall tales of two white men with more privilege than they can bear who are suffering at the hands of their American Dreams.

Don Draper and Walter White.


Don Draper, main character of Mad Men, was lacking privilege in only one way. He was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with good looks to spare, but he was also a dirt-poor orphan. To erase this blemish, this class-based scar that could prevent his attainment of the dream, he stole someone’s identity. Like you do. No big deal. Then he worked pretty darn hard, for awhile. Schemed his way into a flashy job with serious possibilities for upward mobility. He had learned of the dream and all its trappings at the altar of American advertising, so he scooped up the Cola-ad-wife and had two children with names approved by committee. He became Creative Director, he bought a Cadillac. He had everything, and so much of it.

And yet.


The poster boy for American Dreamers spent most of his time trying to run away from the picture-perfect life he’d created. Mistresses in the city, a drinking problem, flirting with the idea of becoming a kept man for a eurotrash princess years after having his offer to escape together spurned by Rachel Mencken. He lit match after match and watched his carefully crafted Dream incinerate until he lost the wife and the kids, burned through a second wife, became an embarrassment to his company, and began to see even his physical appeal fade. Don Draper thought he was too big to fail, but he was his own undoing.


As Don Draper‘s fulfilled but unfulfilling dreams crumbled to wreckage there rose another, the Baby Boomer Walter White. The white, middle-class man had a promising start, his first shot at glory in the form of a start-up in which he was partial owner. He had the benefit of starting halfway up the ladder, higher than Draper by far. While the start-up grew to fulfill all its potential, Walter opted out in a fit of pique on the ground floor. Instead he became a Chemistry teacher, growing bitter and small over the years nursing the feeling that he had been cheated. Until cancer hit and he was galvanized into action of his own behalf, taking another stab at the American Dream as a drug dealer, rationalized by his need for treatment and his family’s need for support should he pass.

heisenbergWalter White didn’t seem to see, or maybe value, that he had already attained the 1950s version of the dream: he had a comfortable house in the suburbs, a wife and son and a daughter on the way, a stable career, and the love and respect of his friends and family. He had it all, even if many would say he could have had more. He wanted more, like Don Draper, wanted it all. To be a legend. As America grew more hyperbolic and loud, Xtreme with exhortations to follow your passion and Just Do It, so had the Dream grown from stability to excess. So he went from drug dealer to drug lord, crafting a new identity much as Draper stole one from a dead engineer in a ditch. He killed, manipulated, poisoned, he called upon people to kill for him whom he did not fully understand.  Everyone he met suffered for their willingness to believe him, to show him compassion, to show him mercy. He had none.

The American Dream has turned ugly for these men, who found it within such easy reach. It is no longer the squeaky-clean promise of a chicken in every pot in exchange for a life of work and dedication. It is now the monkey on their backs, driving them to accumulate and advance. Do better than the other guy, no matter the cost. Have more. Be more. Crush all who would stand in your way and use their fallen bodies to lift yourself higher. King of the mountain. Top of the heap.

Thing is, as Walter and Don could tell you, it gets pretty lonely up there.