Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

In the rush of holiday madness, some years I forget to make my yearly roundup of favorites, inspired by Luisa's annual list. (Go read hers if nothing else than for the too-cute picture of her daughter ringing in new year.)


Top Books by Genre
Science Fiction: The Lost Gate, by Orson Scott Card
Paranormal: Dispirited, by Luisa Perkins

Mystery:
Acceptable Loss, by Anne Perry. (Wow. Just, wow.)
(Also: Didn't read much in this genre in 2012, but Anne Perry deserves a mention no matter what. Can't wait to hear her speak at the LDStorymakers conference in May!)

Young Adult:
Feedback, by Robison Wells (Even though I really read in in 2011, pre-publication)
After Hello, by Lisa Mangum
With a Name Like Love, by Tess Hilmo

Women's Fiction:
Handle with Care, by Jodi Piccoult (Didn't like the last chapter.)
Home Again, by Kristen Hannah
He's Gone, by Deb Caletti (An ARC. The book won't come out until May 2013. Look for it!)
Night on Moon Hill, by Tanya Parker Mills

Romance:
My Lucky Stars, by Michele Paige Holmes
Lady Outlaw, by Stacy Henrie

Non-Fiction:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
(Read this for the second set of Newport Ladies books. Fascinating.)

Top Movies
Dark Knight Rises
I downed a giant Diet Coke at the beginning and really had to go, but the movie wouldn't let me. That's saying something.

Skyfall 
I've seen my share of Bond movies, although I'm not a die-hard fan. This movie, to me, was everything a Bond movie should be, with the addition of stellar writing and character arcs.

Les Miserables
Totally lived up to the hype. I never expected Anne Hathaway to pull out such a gut-wrenching, real performance. I would have liked "Stars" to be about 5X more powerful, though, especially coming from an actor who has been nominated for 3 Oscars and owns a statue. That said, great movie. Can't remember the last time I cried this much in a theater.

Men in Black 3
Didn't expect this to be nearly as good as it was, following on the heels of a crappy MIB2. Delighted by the surprise of an awesome movie. They returned to their roots from the first one. So funny, and this one has heart, too.

Top Family Moments
Son getting his license, freeing up the mom taxi a bit.
Daughter (child #2) getting her permit, marking the beginning of training another driver.
Summer school to get ahead on credits for 2 kids.
Husband undergoing gastric bypass surgery. (Just a slight change in family life!)
Son embarking on his senior year, including final ACT testing, college applications, the school play, and more.
Daughter (Kid 2) becoming section leader in high-school band.
Daughter (Kid 3) testing (and passing!) to be on pointe in ballet and taking her dancing skills crazy high.
Daughter (Kid 2) opening her own piano studio and teaching students.
Youngest (Kid 4) Becoming a gymnast, entering team-level, and developing more muscles than is right for a 10-year-old. (She can beat any boy in her class at an arm wrestle, easy. I have to try to beat her.)
Watching Kid 3 work her tail off to overcome some major challenges as well as compete her heart out with her dance team.
Kid 4 counting down the days (literally, on a paper chain) until her best bud cousin Scott gets home from his mission (tonight!).

Top Career Moments
After a bit of publishing drought, having 2 novels come out within months of each other. (Okay, one hit shelves after the new year, but they're still only 5 months apart!)

Becoming part of Timeless Romance Anthologies, beginning with the Winter Collection. (The Spring Vacation Collection will be up for sale in about a month.)

Editing for some great clients and writers, including crit group friend, J. Scott Savage, with his next Farworld book.

Speaking at several conferences, including the League of Utah Writers Round-up, a goal of mine for about
15 years.

Watching Paige climb the bestseller list on Deseret Book's website, and then stay in the top 20 for months. (Also: writing Ilana, my next volume in The Newport Ladies Book Club.)

Top Personal Moments
After having a bunch of hair fall out, deciding to chop off my long (then stringy) hair. It hasn't been this short since infancy. A fun and long-overdue change. (And my hair is no longer falling out.)

Lost more weight from the freaky weight gain.

Made some minor progress in headache relief. Hoping for more improvement in 2013.

Had a great time teaching the 12-year-old Beehives at church and going to girls camp with my 2 older girls.

Got back into knitting more, my personal de-stresser.

Attended my 20-year high-school reunion. Time warp!

Exercised more than I had in years, and even ran a lot, something I never thought I'd do. However, I still say I hate running. But I love having run.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WNW: Christmas Edition #2

After doing a Holiday Edition (please read that one before addressing your Christmas cards and gifts!) and a Christmas Edition (read that one before thinking someone is sacrilegious for using "Xmas") for Word Nerd Wednesday (I like both of those!), I thought it appropriate to do another post before Christmas.

Once again, I'm going back to my linguistics roots with two of my favorite linguists, Dad and Dr. Oaks.

Christmas carols, and I'd bet, songs in general, have a way of retaining archaic terms and phrases. I'm going to talk about two specific carols, both of which I remember for their word nerdy qualities.


"The 12 Days of Christmas"
When my sisters and I were young, we'd make up versions of this song to go with other holidays: Easter or Halloween or maybe another theme altogether.

The song itself is rather odd, though: who gives presents of milk maids and several types of birds? The five golden rings make sense. The pipers piping, not so much.

I imagine there's some cool history to the song itself, but today we're looking at one word in the song, one that's been tweaked into something that makes even less sense than giving lords a leaping to your beloved.

On the fourth day of Christmas, what was given to "my true love"?

I'd be you'd answer that it was four calling birds, right? And just about every recording and written transcript of the song would agree.

Except that what the heck is a calling bird?

My child self imagined a bird that could talk back, maybe like the Mocking Jay in the Hunger Games series.

Turns out that calling bird isn't the original term. It's coaly bird. As in, a coal-colored. As in, a black bird.

Why a loved one would give black birds is a mystery right up there with the geese a laying, but at least a coal-colored bird is something identifiable, whereas a calling bird is not. (Thanks to Dad for this one!)


"Silent Night"
One day in my grammar and usage class in college (somewhere around Christmas of 1994 . . . ahem, yes I'm that old), Dr. Oaks asked if we completely understood the words in "Silent Night."

At first we all sort of stared at him with an "um, duh" look. Until he went line by line.
Silent night, holy night,
Okay, yeah. We got that.
All is calm, all is bright 
Easy. Next, please.
Round yon virgin
Wait, what? The other lines so far were clear statements or descriptions. What exactly is a "round yon virgin"?

It was a weird brain teaser for a second there as we pictured maybe Mary's roundness before giving birth or . . . whatever.

That's when Dr. Oaks pointed out that if we look at the punctuation, rather than the spot where everyone pauses to take a big breath, the full sentence makes sense. Which meant backing up a line:
All is calm, all is bright round yon virgin, mother and child.
Do you see the full meaning? That round yon virgin isn't a statement like the previous parts?

Maybe my class was the only group who hadn't really clued in, but it wasn't until then that I really got that the song said (in modern terms) that everything was calm and bright in the vicinity of Mary and her baby. (It helps to note that round is short for around, so it's a preposition, not an adjective).

Trouble is, carolers rarely sing the line in one breath, but rather as two separate thoughts, so the meaning is often lost with the lines broken up the way Dr. Oaks first read them to us.

Whenever I sing "Silent Night" now, I make a point of mentally carrying the music from bright to round without a breath so that at least I can picture the full meaning of the song, which is far more beautiful that I'd realized.

Remembering that day in class helps me think on that silent night and what it meant for all of us.

(Note: See Grammar Girl for a great post about more archaic grammar in carols.)