Archive for ‘Reading’

January 2, 2010

reading, writing, and, uh, baby stuff

It’s 2010 now. My first wedding anniversary was technically yesterday, but I’ll just call it today, since it’s early in the morning and I can’t sleep anyway. This time last year I was in the airport, boarding a plane to Maui. This year I’m sitting at the computer with a baby in my belly, wishing I could take some decongestant. Alas.

1. Read a few books over the break.

The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Sea
Fuyumi Ono

12K is a (unfinished) series of Japanese fantasy novels upon which a fantastic anime by the same name is based.  This one is the third.  They’ve all three been grand, and perhaps the first was my favorite, but this one gives some glimpses into two of my favorite characters.  The books are very mythological in the way the story is told.  Sometimes the author takes you out of the story too much to explain yet another specific world-building aspect.  If I hadn’t seen the anime many times, I’d probably get confused more often than now.  Still, the books created one of my favorite anime ever, so I do appreciate them on that level.  Plus, the anime follows the books almost to the letter, which is a rare finding.

Odd and the Frost Giants
Neil Gaiman

I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman on multiple levels.  This is one of those books I can’t wait to read to my kid when he/she gets to be a bit older.  It’s a bit mature for too young of readers – issues of kidnapping, drinking, etc – but it reads similar to a fairy tale.  Not a book that will stand out in my mind when I think of Gaiman, but I believe it was a book written quickly in any case.

2. Writing

I’ve been itching to write again as I settle a bit more into this pregnancy thing.  I’m still waiting for the nausea to ease, but it doesn’t seem to be just yet.  (I just gagged while typing that.)  I’ve been so tired that I hardly even want to think.  But teaching starts up again in a week, and I’ll have to think to teach, so perhaps that will give me a nice jump start.

3.  Baby stuff

16 weeks as of yesterday (today).  Time is just flying by.  We have our 20ish-week ultrasound on the 25th of January, and that’s when we ought to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl.  I feel bad having to call the baby “it” and I’d like to start thinking about names!

As you can see, things got shorter and shorter.  I think my body can sleep again.  Ciao.

October 20, 2009

why you should boycott Walmart

Pimp My Novel put out a blog post about how Walmart is detrimental to the publishing industry.  You can now add books to the list of items Walmart is destroying.  Due to Walmart charging less for books (Amazon and Target are being forced to follow suit), bookstores are slowly going out of business.  It’s tough to sell a book in this economy, and even tougher when a large company is taking a loss when selling books in order to sell other items.  In the end, publishers will be forced to lower the prices of their books, which results in cutting costs by lowering quality.

Walmart tries to bully companies into finding ways to produce their goods cheaper.  Do you really want to buy something that was made cheaply in order to be able to sell it cheaply?  I would rather pay a few bucks extra to buy a toy that won’t poison my child.  And this bloated company is attempting to do the same thing to the publishing industry, where it’s difficult enough for an author to make a living.  Few authors actually make their advance in book sales; what will happen when Walmart picks and chooses which books get sold for $10?  Basically, they’ll have control over what gets sold. Period.

Walmart is a terribly company for many reasons – this is certainly just on top of a heap of crap they have created.  For instance, in my hometown of Florence, AL, Walmart has resulted in many other stores closing.  Luckily, here in Nashville we have plenty of other options, but people in Florence aren’t quite so lucky.  I’ve heard of worse circumstances in even smaller towns.

Really, I urge everyone I know to avoid shopping at Walmart.  Every company has its flaws, but Walmart’s problems affect many aspects of the entire country.  That’s how much of a giant it is.  If you want to keep your options open, support other businesses.

It may cost you 30 cents less for that box of cereal, but ask yourself how exactly Walmart managed to charge you 30 cents less.  What’s the true price of such low cost?

And besides, the publishing industry already has other issues working against it (such as e-readers); don’t add to the problem by supporting Walmart.  Support reading by seeking out other places to spend your money.

September 21, 2009

what I’m reading

A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson

This is the fifth or so time I’ve read this book all the way through.  I use it in my Developmental English classes so they have something to write about for their grammar essays.  I have to be in the right mindset to enjoy Bryson (typically, a patient one) but as a whole I really enjoy his writing.  This book in particular is more accessible than some of his others.  If you haven’t read anything of Bryson’s, it’s a good place to start.

However, it can be a bit heavy at times, as he loves to go off on tangents to describe trees or history or such.  My students either love it or hate it.

September 8, 2009

What I’m reading

The Dark Is Rising
Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising (this one in particular, though it’s part of a series) was one of those books that had a profound impact on me as a kid.  I’m rereading it for the first time in many years.  I love novels that can stand the test of time, meaning I can enjoy them as both a kid and an adult.  For all its faults, the Harry Potter series excels at this.  There’s a lot of suspense in the beginning of The Dark is Rising, so I’m eager to read the rest of it.

August 31, 2009

What I’m reading

I’m currently reading:

Scott Westerfeld

This book had quite the recommendation, so I decided to give it a shot.  When I was about halfway through, I found it to be very predictable.  Now that I’m nearing the end, I’ve been surprised a bit more and I’m getting a little intrigued to see what happens.  Since it’s YA, I suppose I’m not the target audience, but I find some of the best YA novels can translate across age groups.  I’m not sure yet if this series does that, but we’ll see.

August 29, 2009

What I’m reading

I’m currently reading:

Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris

This is my first foray into the Sookie Stackhouse books, having seen the first and (most of the) second seasons of True Blood.  I’m wildly enamoured with the TV series already, seeing it as a rather revolutionary concept in the wide world of vampires.

I’m about halfway through this book.  The writing style doesn’t sit completely right with me, sometimes a little too choppy and short with describing things.  Sometimes I think I might be confused if I didn’t already know the characters and plot.  However, Charlaine Harris also writes mysteries, so this could just be that point-of-view coming out.  I’m not a girl who partiularly craves mysteries – not in the sense of a pure mystery novel anyway – so this could just be a personal preference issue.

In any case, it just started getting good, so I’ll definitely finish it and pick up at least another one in the series.

August 26, 2009

what I’m reading

What I just finished reading:

Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert

The Eat part was great, the Pray love quickly turned repetitive and a little boring, and the Love part was fantastic!  I will definitely be picking up the sequel to this one.

August 26, 2009

Reading = Writing

If you want to write, I think the second most important thing you can do (beyond actually writing, that is) is read.  Read, read, read, readreadread.  Everything.

My daily reading generally consists of
1. a book/graphic novel of some sort
2. blogs (concerning food, writing, publishing, news, humor, and friends)
3. news sites, such as my local newspaper’s feed and
4. student essays (not necessarily a positive in my reading development, but it happens almost daily)
5. whatever else I stumble upon

If you feel like this list is way too much, try to shorten it just a bit.  Read a book every night before bed.  Pick a few writing/publishing blogs to follow.  Pick a news site to read religiously (two with differing points-of-view are better, if you can).

Reading boosts my writing life in so many different ways.

1. Reading inspires me.  Other mediums can often do the same (movies, TV shows, art) but reading a book, especially in my own genre, gives me such a jolt.  I think, I want to write something equally as awesome.  Or even greater.  I actually began writing because of what I was reading as a kid.  I wanted a really good story to read, so I figured I’d write my own.  Even bad writing can be inspirational: “If that got published, then maybe I can.”

2. Reading makes you think about writing.  You see the words on the page, the way they’re put together, the patterns they form.  The language of them flows in your head.  I’ll finish a book and have the language floating around for days afterward.  For some reason, my own writing style comes out so much stronger after I’ve read a bit with a very distinguished writing language.

3. Reading lets you know what’s hot.  I especially like to pick up a book off the New York Time’s Bestseller list every once in a while.  If people are buying it, that’s what they’re into.  Keeping in touch with current trends can make you feel like your book has a future.  For instance, fantasy and paranormal is in hot demand right now.  So is romance.  Write a paranormal romance and you’ll at least know you’re writing in a genre that’s selling.

4. Reading educates you.  It tells you about writing and the world.  If you need to have a scene where one of your characters blows up a truck holding jet fuel, what are you going to do?  You probably can’t test it yourself and Hollywood is no help, so you need to research it.  If you want to write about Nashville, TN, you need to 1) actually go there, and 2) read about it.

So yeah, reading is one of those things I could do for hours.  Finding a fantastic book to pour into is the greatest high I could ever get.

In honor of this post, I’ll start sliding in little notes about what I’m currently reading and how it’s going so far.

August 10, 2009

The Recession and Me

So, in fact, the recession seems to still be going on.  The music industry is still hurting and thus my husband’s job (though there have been a few positive things of note lately).  I never know how many hours I’ll be able to receive as an adjunct.  Luckily, everyone still needs to take English, but as an adjunct, I’m on the lower end of the pool for receiving classes.  Home sales in Nashville for last month are still down 11% from July 2008, but at least they are continuously going up month to month.

As an aspiring unpublished writer, it’s certainly disheartening to see that book sales are down 20%.  When you’re struggling to pay the mortgage and feed your family, you really don’t have the funds to spend $25 on a hardcover book.  Or even $8 on a mass market paperback.  I know I have been buying fewer books this year than I did last (for myself, at least.  I have bought at least four books for other people).

Pimp My Novel (yes that’s their name) is a fantastic blog all about what happens to your book after it gets accepted for publication. Today, they started a series of blog posts about the sales of various kinds of books, starting with fantasy.

So here is the good news:  fantasy book sales are up.  No, really.  Apparently, when people are down in the dumps, all they want is good escapist fiction.  Or bad escapist fiction.  In any case, this raises my hopes a little bit.  I mostly only write fantasy (except for a brief obsessed-with-aliens phase when I was between 13-16).  A few recent science fiction short stories don’t count – they’re really just to get unfinished ideas out of my head.

The reader in me is also thrilled with the news.  A higher interest in fantasy means more fantasy will be published.  I’m always looking for another great read.  Especially if it doesn’t concern vampires.

August 3, 2009

Beachy Keen – reading on vacay

Last week, NPR posted an article on a recent poll of theirs: Audience Picks: 100 Best Beach Books Ever. I thought it was a perfectly fine idea.  I love book recommendations; I don’t often pick up random books, so it helps if someone (especially someone with similar tastes) tells me it’s pretty good.

What readers should take from this article, well, besides the recommendations, is the fact that people have different ideas of what constitutes a “beach read.”  For me, a vacation to the beach means from sunup to sundown, I do nothing but sit on the beach (except for a slight break for lunch and maybe a nap).  My absolute favorite beach is Gulf Shores, AL with its miles of soft white sand, warm water and relative reclusiveness.  The ocean waves make the perfect backdrop for reading.  My #1 priority on a beach vacation is to read as much as possible while relaxing as much as possible.

For me, relaxing doesn’t mean reading books by Kurt Vonnegut (#68 and 69) or F. Scott Fitzgerald (#7).  (Really, #7?  The Great Gatsby is in the top ten for BEACH reading?)  I want adventure and romance.  I want fantasy and escapism.  I want all the fun stuff I might not have a chance to read otherwise.

For instance, for my honeymoon this past January, I read the last three books of the Twilight series.  I knew they’d probably be trash (the first one is by far the best), but I didn’t care.  They were fun!  I was on my honeymoon!  I also read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and House of Fog.  Those last two are probably more traditionally respectable.  I love love love reading literary books on the beach, but they have to have a quick pace.  I need to be able to skim them.

When I went to Gulf Shores last month, I read Her Majesty’s Dragon and its sequel, as well as two books I found in our condo, Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin and Sea Glass by Anita Shreve.  The last one was a particularly pleasant random find.

So I like a variety, but bonus points for romance and fantasy.

In any case, I know it all depends on people’s reading preferences.  If you love reading classics, then maybe you’ll read classics on the beach.

What perhaps stunned me a bit (those it really shouldn’t have) were the comments people left on the article.  It was as though this list downright offended them.

I just have to say it again…this list is so so bad…it’s almost as if people picked the books required for high-school reading and then the most popular books of the day as the best ever. Couldn’t NPR have been a bit more critical about this truly dismal and depressing list?

Wow this is terrible. Tolstoy doesn’t even enter the list until 40 and classic writers like Dostoyevski and Orwell aren’t even on it. Then, to top it off, Harry Potter is # 1? What the %$#%?!

Whilst there are some truely (sic) good books on this list, I think the list is generally half-baked. The majority of the books have been published in the last 30 years, with the greater part of this majority being published in the last 10 to 15 years.

Guess what, books have been written since the time of Gilgamesh, and just because there are more books being published now does not mean that the quality of these books has improved.

And my personal favorite.

The Catcher in the Rye and The Hobbit? On the beach? This list is ridiculous. I’m amazed. The Stranger didn’t crack the top 100. Dracula? Really? Why isn’t the Bible on this list? It seems just as innapropriate as some of these. Dune? Ok, now I know this is a joke. Good one, NPR listeners, good one. Nothing like Jaws to make you want to dive right in…..

Everyone has their own book preferences.  Most of the comments were complaining that so-and-so wasn’t on the list.  The wonderful thing about books is the fact that there is so much variety to be had.  But really, lay off other people’s preferences.  I’ve known plenty of book snobs – English majors are among the worst of them – but turning your nose up just limits your reading experience.

Jessica Faust over at BookEnds, LLC wrote a blog post concerning not feeling bad about writing in your genre of choice. More about that later, but the idea certainly applies here.