Keep Recommending Books

One of my favorite things about being a reader and a book blogger is the endless recommendation I receive. It seems that every way I turn I have someone telling me I should read such in such book. This can, at times, be overwhelming since my list only grows and rarely seems to shrink.

Nevertheless, I love it. I find it a great compliment to not only the book, but also to myself that someone went out of their way to recommend it to me. I love that they want me to read it, so we can discuss it.  They want to know my thoughts, and I find that to be a really great honor.

Obviously, I can’t read these as quickly as I would like, and I admittedly get distracted by new books that get added to my list, so I ask all my recommendators to have patience with me.  I know this is difficult.  But I would like them to know that I love the barrage of bookish info. Please don’t stop.

I would like to take a moment to thank all the people who tell me about great books. So thank you to my friend Adam for telling me about what sounds like an amazing book series by Jim Butcher. Thank you to the Editor, Kelsey and my friend Sarah for our-quasi book club and all the awesome book variety you provide. Thank you to my mother and aunt for always giving me solid reads.  A thank you to my husband for not only the great fantasy novel recommendations but the awesome dinner discussion about these wonderfully complex stories create.

And, a huge thank you to my friend Gail who has shipped books across the country for me to read. They seriously make my entire month.

Thank you to all the book bloggers who write and review books, so I can add more and more books to my ever-growing list.  Keep up the great work and everybody keep recommending and discussing.

I love books not only for their awesome stories, but also because they bring us together in really magical ways!

Until next time, happy reading!

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Writing High

In order to help get the writing ideas flowing this New Year, I decided that I would attempt to do morning pages three times a week, twice during the week and once on the weekends.

For those of you not familiar with morning pages, the concept is that when you wake up the first thing you do when you get out of bed is do a stream of conscious writing. I decided to do it for 15 minutes. Some people do a certain number of pages. The idea is that when you do this, it helps you clear out some thoughts and helps you potentially discover and stumble across new ideas.

Since I took New Year’s Eve off, I decided to get a bit of a jump on the year and did my first morning pages, then. I sat down at the dining room table and wrote for my 15 minutes. When I finished, I got on with my day.

On New Year’s Day, I got up and did the same thing. I sat down at the dining room table and wrote for my 15 minutes. I wanted to make sure I started the year off right.  I didn’t have any big revelations, but it felt good to write.

On January 2nd, my first day back to work, I decided to get up and do some morning pages because I knew I needed to see how stumbling out of bed at 5:30 AM and writing would go. The prior two days I had had the luxury of doing it whenever I woke up. I was unsure how I would fair if I had to force myself out of bed. I figured it was good practice.  So off I went, this time I went to my desk in my writing/art studio. I set the timer for 15 minutes and wrote through the sleep crusted eyes and gapping yawns. It felt good to get somethings out, and it felt good starting the day in a productive way.

The next morning, I decided since I had the time I would get up and do them again. This time I was amazed. I realized through writing that I was feeling pretty stressed and that taking up meditation would be a good idea. I also realized that I do great self-talk when I run to get me through the tough miles, but I don’t do very much self-talk to help me through the rough days.  When I had finished writing I felt invigorated. I ended up having an awesome day.

Naturally, this made me stoked to keep writing so on Friday I wrote my pages with real excitement.  I discovered during this session that I’ve been limiting myself in my writing. I’ve been doing so when I don’t have to be and perhaps I should explore these other options. I bounded out of my writing/art studio with joy.  I couldn’t believe how great I felt.

I admit that I don’t know how long this will last and in all likelihood some days might not produce such great results, but this idea has real merit and is helping me not only with writing but also my overall health and happiness.

Until next time, happy writing!

The Un-Rateable But Not Unreadable

There are books that are great, and I shout that everyone should read them because they are so incredible. Likewise, there are books that are bad, and I shout that everyone should stay away. If they don’t, they should consider themselves officially warned. Then there are books that are un-rateable, so to speak. They are un-rateable not because they are so good or so terrible.  They are because I honestly don’t know how I feel about them.

I recently finished reading Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, and it’s a pretty good example of an un-rateable book. I don’t really know what to make of it. I don’t know how I feel. The most accurate description of my emotion is befuddlement.  This tends to lead me to then feel mildly irritated because when I finished a book I want to move on to another story. However, it’s difficult to move on and let go of a story when my brain can’t categorize it as “good” or “bad”. I don’t like the ambiguity.

Circling the Sun kept my interest, but I didn’t fall in love with the characters and the tale was eventful but not action packed. It’s the story about a woman, Beryl who grew up and attempted to make her own way in colonial Africa.  This is the best summary I can give, but I feel it falls unbelievably short of all that happens in this story.

Nevertheless, books like this that leave me with a weird contorted expression on my face have to be admired in a way because they get me thinking. The story sticks with me in ways that others don’t. They gave me something to chew on one or the other. In this instance, I’m not sure what I’m chewing on but it’s something…different

I usually really dislike the confused feeling and used to view these books less favorably just because it didn’t leave me with solid feelings.  But these days since they’ve pushed my thinking and made me possibly wrestle with different emotions and thoughts.  I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Ultimately, they are still nearly impossible to accurately rate, but they provide a service, in a way, for their un-rateable-ness.  I’ve come to appreciate it. I originally gave Circling three stars on Goodreads but after a couple of weeks,  this feel too low and yet I admit that four still seems too high.  I guess I’ll just have to keep thinking. There are worse things.

Have you ever experienced an “un-rateable” book?

One Big Book

A couple of years ago, my husband, Scott, started listening to books on his commute to and from work.  He found this series called The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson. He thought they were really good, so he recommended them to me.

My mom was kind enough to get me the first book for Christmas. Like many fantasy books, it was a large book, but I really enjoyed it, so I asked for the second book the next year.

Again, she was kind enough to purchase it for my yearly box of books.  It was larger than the first but nothing I hadn’t taken on before. And similar to the first book, I thought it was great.

So naturally, I asked for the third book this Christmas and once again my mother obliged. And folks, I’m here to tell you for the first time in a really long time since a book’s sheer size has intimated me but this one sure does.

I’ve found the saying: “I like big books and I cannot lie,” amusing and fairly applicable to myself, but good lord this is a dozy, as my grandmother would say.

It is not technically the longest book I’ve read. I believe that prize is still held by Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo-unabridged. However, the physical copy I read was only about six or seven inches long and about 4.5 inches wide.

This currently behemoth is almost as thick as The Count and measures 9 inches long and 6 inches wide. It is unprecedented for me.  In fact, it might be larger than my copy of The complete Collection of William Shakespeare.

The good news is that I’ve been told the story is just as good as the other two and once I can get over its massive size, I’m sure I’ll rip through it at a fairly good clip.  The only drawback will be toting it around for the next few weeks.

I will admit that it did cross my mind: “Maybe electronic readers aren’t such a silly thing after all.”  But I need an upper body workout anyway.

Has any book’s size ever intimated you?

Until next time, happy reading!

Doing 2019 Write

Happy New Year, Everyone! I anticipated the New Year by drinking bubbly in my pjs with my hubby while watching Netflix and was in bed a little after 10 PM. I officially rang it in the next morning around 7:30 AM with a cup of joe.  It was marvelous!

Tis the season to look forward in 2019 and resolve to do some new things and perhaps things that we didn’t quite get around to last year. Every year I set a list of goals in various categories of my life such as: fitness, finances, career, hobbies, etc. I write them out and then hang them at my desk, so they can haunt me every day for the next year.

I also rat on myself to various individuals of what my goals are, so they can offer up some sort of accountability.  The Editor is made aware of my tapping and fitness goals.  While my husband hears my plans for my/our finances and personal development goals (This year’s big one is posture, so if you see me feel free to shout: “Sit up straight!”

Today you all get to hear of my writing/reading goals.  Last year, I didn’t set a reading goal, and I don’t really plan to this year especially given that six or seven of the books on my shelf are well over 700-pages.  Apparently, it’s going to be the year of big books.

However, I do have a goal of reading between 60 to 80 pages a day.  This kind of depends on the book at how much I can accomplish, but it’s a good goal- challenging but doable.

The writing goals I’ve set for this year are more important than ever.  They are because on December 31st, I was informed that the essay I send to an online magazine was rejected. I had expected as much, but I felt pretty down after receiving the e-mail.

Nevertheless, I need to keep moving on ahead. I’m doing morning pages three days a week to try to get ideas flowing.  This is just something I plan on doing for the month of January, but if it’s successful I will perhaps continue the practice.

The major goals of the year are:

  • Finish an adult short story. I started one a year or so ago. I feel that it has some potential, but I really need to buckle down and finish it and then go through that very painful process called editing.
  • I want to draft a children’s story. I have characters. I’ve had them lurking in my mind for years, but I just need to figure out what they are going to do.
  • And finally, I want to outline and draft six essays for publication. I’m greatly struggling with how I should write them. I’m not sure if personal essays are my thing, but I’m not sure what else to do.  If you have any ideas or writing advice, I’m all ears.
  • I will also continue to blog twice a week. This isn’t really a goal at this point.  It’s just a thing I do, but it certainly takes work.

Despite the minor setback the year ended on, I’m looking forward to 2019.  I’ve always felt particularly good in odd numbered years.  There are going to be a lot of good books to read, and I’m going to get a lot of good writing done.

Feel free to share your goals and resolution to help keep yourself on track!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

P.S. I’ve sat up straight this entire post #winning, but shout it out nonetheless, I’m bound to get distracted.

Book Brawl 2018- Part IV

Well, we have made it to the grand finale of this year’s book brawl.  All The Light We cannot See swept Q3, but will it be named this year’s supreme champion?  Let’s find out.  Here what went down in the final quarter of the year.

In October, I read six books:

  • The murder of Roger Ackroyd by: Agatha Christie
  • The Lost Painting by: Jonathan Harr
  • The Enchantress of Numbers by: Jennifer Chiaverini
  • Silver Chair by: C.S. Lewis
  • The Gatehouse by: Nelson DeMille
  • The Pirates! In Adventure with Ahab by: Gideon Defore

This was a motley crew of books.  I enjoyed The Lost Painting. It is a non-fiction tale of discovering a lost Caravaggio, for an art nerd like me it was fascinating. I also enjoyed Pirates and The Gatehouse.  These were very different reads, but both were interesting.  The Enchantress and Silver Chair we okay but not my top picks.

The clear winner for this month was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The queen of mystery really proves her status in this story. However, even though I loved this book I do believe that All the Light has to win the brawl, but if you like mysteries Ms. Christie is your gal.

In November, I read six books:

  • Lethal White by: Robert Galbraith
  • The Last Battle by: C.S. Lewis
  • Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
  • Six of Crows by: Leigh Bardugo
  • Our Chemical Hearts by: Krystal Sutherland
  • Neverwhere by: Neil Gaiman

This month was pretty good.  The only book I did not care for was The Last Battle It was a disappointing ending to the Chronicles of Narnia and the religious overtones became overbearingly strong.

Emily and Einstein, Our Chemical Hearts, and Neverwhere were overall good and enjoyable books, but each had an aspect that caused these books to go from great to just good. In Emily it was the concept of a asshole human redeeming himself as a dog. Our Chemical Hearts distills love in a way I’m not super crazy about. And Neverwhere was the best of Gaimen’s work I’ve read yet, but there were a few holes I wanted filled in.

Lethal White and Six of Crows are the stand out books of the month. I thoroughly enjoyed both and highly recommend them.  After much consideration, I would have to say that Six of Crows take the month. A fantasy heist is something new and different. I loved it.

A brawl between Six and All the Light is strange.  Six was fun, exciting, gripping everything I loved in a book, but All the Light was beautiful and possesses a quality I have yet to find words to describe and thus, All the Light Wins.

In December, I read/am reading six books:

  • Alone on the Wall by: Alex Honnold and David Roberts
  • A Christmas Carol and Other Writings by: Charles Dickens
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  • The Address by: Fiona Davis
  • The Deal of a Lifetime by: Fredrick Backman
  • Circling the Sun by: Paula McLain

Overall it was a pretty good month.  Alone was definitely a book for rock climbers, but for those into the sport quite interesting.  I enjoyed the Christmas Carol thoroughly, but could have easily skipped the other writings part.  The Deal of a Lifetime is a novella and honestly, I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s difficult to describe.

The Address started and ended strong the middle became a bit troublesome for me, but ultimately a good read.  I’m enjoying Circling the Sun but because I have yet to finish it, it won’t have much bearing in this choice.

The clear and ultimate winner for this month is The Bonfire of the Vanities. This is one heck of a book that is strikingly relevant to our modern times despite having been originally published in 1987. It’s a lengthy book, but intricately crafted.

In this final brawl, I am faced with the toughest decision, but I refuse to be lame and all it a draw, so I’ve done some serious mediating and decided that the winner of the Book Brawl in 2018 is….

All the Light We Cannot See

I just can’t get past the beauty and wonder of this book and so despite some remarkably stiff competition, it is this year’s champion.

Which book would win your “best book of the year award”?

Until next time, happy reading!

Book Brawl Part III- 2018

Welcome to the third installment of this year’s book brawl. Last we met, Rebecca had finally met its match as was ousted by The Alienist, but can it keep its title?  Let’s find out. Here’s what happened in Q3.

In July, I read eight books:

  • Cannibalism By: Bill Schutt
  • The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by: C.S. Lewis
  • The Bone Bed By: Patricia Cornwell
  • Valley of the Dolls By: Jacqueline Susann
  • My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry by: Fredrick Backman
  • Radium Girls By: Kate Moore
  • The Horse & His Boy By: C.S. Lewis
  • All the Light We Cannot See By: Anthony Doerr

This was a really stellar month. Cannibalism and Radium Girls were solid non-fiction reads.  The Lion is of course an awesome classic. The Horse & His Boy was also good, but not a favorite. And everyone can skip Bone Bed. The stand outs are Valley of the Dolls, Grandmother, and All the Light We Cannot See.  These are all very different reads, but for me the winner is All the Light We Cannot See. The critical acclaim is well deserved.

In a brawl between The Alienist and All the Light, it’s tough but at the end of the day the winner has to be All the Light We Cannot See.

In August, I also read eight books:

  • Little French Bistro By: Nina George
  • Prince Caspian By: C.S. Lewis
  • Mythology By: Edith Hamilton
  • Brave New World By: Aldous Huxley
  • Call Me by Your Name By: Andre Aciman
  • White Collar Girl By: Renee Rosen
  • Annihilation By: Jeff Vandermeer
  • Maisie Dobbs By: Jacqueline Winspear

This month is a bit more hit or miss.  In my opinion, you can skip Little French Bistro (The Little Paris Bookshop is a much better choice.) You can certainly skip Annihilation (See Razzies post). And Mythology was good for those interested in the topic.

I found Caspian and White Collar Girl to be thoroughly enjoyable. Call me by Your Name became a winner but not until the end for me. Brave New World was surprisingly gripping, but I believe that Maisie Dobbs has to win this round. An all-around good read.

It’s probably pretty clear that in a brawl between Maisie and All the Light, All the Light wins.  However, I think Maisie might be enjoyed by more people.

In September, I read five books:

  • American Gods By: Neil Gaiman
  • Standing in the Rainbow By Fannie Flagg
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader By: C.S. Lewis
  • Name of the Rose By Umberto Eco
  • Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Robert L. Stevenson

This was another month of good books. American Gods was probably my least favorite, but it still held my attention. Standing in the Rainbow was a delightful and light read. The Voyage is probably one of the more interesting books in the Narnia chronicles.

The two that really gripped me were Name of the Rose and Dr. Jekyll.  I struggle with who should take the prize.  The struggle did not center on which book should win, but rather could I name Dr. Jekyll the winner when it isn’t a full novel but only a novella.

In the end, I enjoyed the story too much to let a technicality such as that stand in the way. And furthermore, in a brawl between either Name or Jekyll with All the light would result in All the Light winning either way.

There you have it All the Light has swept Q3, tune in next Friday to see which book is named reigning champion.

Until then, happy reading!