Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Reflections on a new year, and some books

It's the new year!  I know lots of people think it's silly to feel like anything really changes from one day to the next, but I always liked the idea of a new year and the possibilities it brings.

This post is going to be a hodgepodge, so bear with me.

I was thinking yesterday about what was happening one year ago on New Year's Eve.  I was at the end of a long two week wait.  It had been a really bad cycle and I had ovulated super late and was pretty sure we had missed our window.  We had already undergone all our testing and our RE had told us it wasn't impossible for us to get pregnant on our own, but that we would probably need help.  I had just finished finals for school and I think the stress just totally threw my body off.  So I had low expectations, but that morning when I woke up, I took my temperature and it had dropped, signaling Aunt Flo's imminent arrival.  And I was depressed. Jeeves and I had decided we would give it one more month before we started IUI.  In the afternoon, Phil videochatted me with his daughter to wish me a happy new year.  His daughter, at that point, was about 10 months old.  I know babies can be tough for some infertiles, but for me it's never been a problem.  Pregnancy announcements were a problem (and weirdly, I still get a twinge from them now, even when I'm expecting too), but once the baby is here, I usually roll with it.  But on that day it was tough to deal with another failed cycle and a cute baby via videochat.  I wondered if we'd ever be parents.

I had the whole year planned out - we'd try one last pass at getting pregnant on our own (spoiler alert: it didn't work), then we'd just get through the 3 IUIs which I was sure would not work, we'd take a month or two off from treatment, and we'd start IVF in July.  I figured by the fall we would know if this was going to work or if we should move onto adoption.  None of it went that way and I'm trying now to remember that when it comes to my body I should maybe not make any assumptions or long term plans.

A lot changed in a year, and even though we went through 4 IUIs and 2 miscarriages, on this New Year's Eve, I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant with our son.  I thought of the women who read my blog who had a rough 2013, failed cycles, failed pregnancies.  It doesn't mean much, but I hope and believe that by next New Year's Eve you'll be in the same spot I am now.


Dad is doing much better and has gained over five pounds since I took him to the hospital 10 days ago.  I didn't respond to the comments that some of you left me following my initial post about my frustration with my sister and the cleaning lady.  I just want to thank you and say that it was really comforting to hear that my reaction to all that stuff wasn't crazy.  I'm thankful for a lot of things in 2013, even though it was crummy year in many ways, and one of the things I am most thankful for is the new friends I have made.  Thank you thank you thank you.


Last year I decided not to set a New Year's resolution for myself, but instead a New Year's goal - to read 52 books over 2013.  And I did!  I actually got through 53 books (maybe more, actually, since I did not count any of the pregnancy books I read).  I actually feel like I could have done better, but I pooped out in December - I got stressed over the holidays and family stuff and had trouble focusing.  Anyway.  I had wanted to do a year end list of what I read this year, but I'm going to simplify it.  

My Top 5 Books of 2013 (in no particular order; these are books I read this year, not necessarily books that were published this year)

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (literary fiction)

Funny, poignant, insightful, short, not hoighty toighty.  This is the kind of award-winning book that I find easy to read.  It doesn't mean that I don't love wordy books (hey, I chose Wolf Hall and that book is damn wordy), but let's just say I feel like this is the kind of critical darling that would appeal to most everyone.  Billy is being celebrated as a hero for his bravery in battle, but as he puts it, it feels weird to be celebrated for the worst day of your life.  

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (historical fiction)

This books is not for everyone.  It's historical fiction about Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to Henry VIII when he was trying to divorce Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn.  It is not a page turner (although I did find it very readable).  This is the kind of book that will make you jealous of Mantel's literary skill.  Her writing is flawless, and I love how she creates a well-rounded, tough, and yet loving Thomas Cromwell, a historical figure who usually gets crapped upon in favor of Thomas More.  

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (urban fantasy)

I know, I know.  It's about vampires and you are so sick of vampires.  Trust me, Holly Black is sick of vampires too, so she turns the genre on its ear.  This book is at once a love letter to genre standards like Dracula and Ann Rice's books, and also wholly different.  It is scary, it is gothic, it has a tough, pragmatic heroine, and awesome world-building.  It's beautifully layered and constructed and it stayed with me long after I finished it.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (fantasy/historical fiction)

Chava is a golem, a mythical being made of clay and meant to serve a master.... until her master dies leaving her stranded in lower Manhattan in the last 1800s.  Ahmad is a jinni, a being born of fire freed from a lamp by a metal smith, but still imprisoned.  The two are complete opposites, but form a friendship due to their outsider status.  When I first read this book, I could not believe that it was Helene Wecker's debut.  It is so well written.  New York City at the turn of the century feels like a character in its own right.  And best of all, I love one of the central themes - that true friends love you as you are, but also encourage you to be the best version of yourself.  It also plays with themes of free will and community, which I very much enjoyed.  

The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu (science fiction/dystopia)

I cheated a little - this is three books, not just one.  But I read all three this year, and the latter two both came out in 2013.  People talk a lot about the Divergent trilogy, but they should be talking about Legend.  Unlike Divergent, which is a great series opener, followed by a middling second book and a total clunker of a finale, Legend gets better with each book.  It's dystopia, which has kind of been done to death, but the two main characters (who trade narration) keep it feeling fresh.  It's impossible not to compare Legend to The Hunger Games and Divergent.  So I will just say that I thought the final book of the Legend trilogy kicked Mockingjay and Allegiant's asses. This is how you end a trilogy.  This trilogy also features my favorite sci fi heroine, June Iparis.  She's kind of like Sherlock Holmes or Spock, but with a little more heart.  I loves me some Katniss, I really do, but if Katniss had had to face June in the Hunger Games, I'm pretty sure Katniss would have died before the middle of the book.  And it's not because June is big and tough (well, she is tough), but it's because she's so damn smart.  I also like that June is not instantly loveable (Day, her counterpart, is the immediately likeable character), she does some shitty things in book one, but her actions are always understandable and she learns from her mistakes and then fixes them instead of wallowing around in it.

Honorable Mentions

Written in Red by Anne Bishop (urban fantasy)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (epic fantasy)
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (science fiction)
Angelfall by Susan Ee (urban fantasy)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (YA/realistic fiction)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore (epic fantasy)
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (nonfiction)
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (fantasy)

I read plenty of other great books, and some disappointing ones, too.  I decided not to set a formal reading goal for myself this year, and I'll just do my best.


That's it for me.  I have a cold, and the only thing I can really take for it is saline spray and tea.  So I'm going to make some minestrone soup and see if that helps things out.  What about you, dear reader?  What was your favorite book that you read in 2013?  If you're not a reader, feel free to tell me your favorite TV show or movie of 2013.  Anything you're excited to read in 2014?


  1. My husband LOVED "Name of the Wind" and just got me to start reading it. I have the Hunger Games on deck after that, but then I am coming back to this list. After your homerun (that's two baseball metaphors in this comment! Yeesh!) with Scorpio Races, I will read anything you tell me to.

    Next NYE I hope to be a sleep-deprived new parent, and fall asleep at 8pm. Fingers crossed..

    1. Can't wait to hear what you think of Name of the Wind.... it's very classic epic fantasy in some ways, but very well written and characterized, I think. Readers advisory is so much fun - it's great to find the right book for the right person. For you, I knew that ocean + horses + small town/island vibe + plucky heroine = great book for Adi.

  2. Thanks for sharing your reflections on your planning for 2013. I think we all plan out exactly what we think is going to happen with fertility treatments, under the illusion that we have any control. It's sweet of you to continue to hope for the rest of us and that next new years we will join you in victory. Thanks for the book reviews! I'm adding them to my reading list. Glad your dad is doing better.

    1. So true about needing that illusion of control. I'm going to keep hoping for all of you till you're on the other side.

  3. Yay for books! I also read The Golem and the Jinni this year and really enjoyed it - I've already added your others to my kindle list, can't wait to decide what to read first.