Tag Archives: reading

15 Day Book Blogging Challenge|Days Ten & Nine

No one said they had to be consecutive days, right?


How Do You Choose Which Book to Read Next and Why Do You Blog About Books?

Choosing a book is a long and time-honored ritual. First, it involves me absolutely obsessing over a book. Usually, this is because the book had not yet been released and I’m cursed (blessed) with too many talented friends and acquaintances.

If the book HAS been released, I consult my bank account and determine if I can spend a another week’s gas allowance on books and get away with it.

Once I’m in the bookstore, I WANDER. I’ll head straight for the target book, cradle it, and proceed to examine its fellows for similarly worthy content.

Then I’ll spend another two hours looking at things before checking out.

Honestly, all of my recommendations lately have come from Twitter. I’ve gotten to talk to dozens of writers I’d never have met otherwise, and some (most) of their books sound amazing. I’ve recently started using GoodReads to keep up with all my wants. My list of books is so long, I often forget what I want. Especially with Barnes and Noble being less awesome about stocking things.

The other day I went in for The Madman’s Daughter and Born of Illusion.

I got Born of Illusion and Something Strange and Deadly because I kept looking at it on the shelf. So far, it’s wonderful.

And hey, I’m not really a book blogger. I blog about my book, my writing process, my life in the Query Trenches, but I don’t spend a lot of time reviewing other people’s books. I’m thinking I should start. I have a lot of super talented and amazing friends who write amazing books. Maybe I’ll make it a monthly thing, a Things I’m Into sort of post.

Is that something you guys would be interested in reading? What’s your book selection process?

Only five days to go!


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Why I Can’t Make Decisions When It Comes to Reading

I love reading. I don’t read as much as I have in past years, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. With all the books rapidly finding homes on my “bookshelf” (and by “bookshelf” I mean closet, cd rack, desk…), I find myself debating ebooks vs paperback. It’s kinda like an endless game of pros and cons, but without any real resolution.

Last Christmas I got a Nook, and don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s handy for travel (especially with the rising price of carry-on luggage), it’s compact, my pages don’t get wrinkled/bent/torn. The first eBook I bought was Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Which I know also own in hardback. I find I have the same choosing anxiety I have when in a bookstore. This anxiety is compounded by the one feature of eReaders that endlessly kills me: FORMATTING.

I find mysterious gaps between words, cut off sentences, missing bits… and I die a little. That’s not to say printed things aren’t without error, but the formatting on eReaders…

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Seriously, where is the rest of my sentence? And the first sentence at that. Yeah, I can totally figure out what the rest IS, but I don’t wanna. I want my pretty words. This is just annoying.

The other reason I’m not terribly fond of eReaders? People can’t see what I’m reading. There’s something I like about sitting with a book, cover bare, and having people see what I’m reading. With all the beautifully simplistic covers, I hate NOT having one to show off and admire and ardently daydream of one being my own.

Just look how pretty it is! It’s shiny in person.

How could you not want to show it off?

Truth is, if I like it enough, I buy it. eBooks don’t really save me money in the conventional way.  I love novellas and the ability to get and read things that aren’t printed, and Free Book Friday is rad, but there’s no choice to make. I want both. And I don’t have to choose.

I just can’t not buy printed copies. It’s engrained in me. I can’t use libraries because I have to give the books back. I frequent my local used bookshop, but sadly, they’re closing and there aren’t any independent shops in my town.

I’ve also been thinking about the WAY we consume art, but that’s a blog for next week. Or later this week.

I have books to read.



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Bookstores: Lost in the Pit of Everything I’ve Ever Wanted

It’s a well-known, or at least well-acknowledged fact–by me–that I should never, ever be allowed into a bookstore and left to my own devices. It’s like being lost in the most wonderful place in the world with no hope of leaving of my own free will. It’s not the finding process, it’s the selection.

So naturally, I sent out a call to Twitter and Facebook, and spent an hour texting Laura and Cat for suggestions. I really should keep a physical list of books to read. Or I need a bigger bank account so choosing is no longer such a challenge.

I walked through the fiction/sci-fi/mystery section and the young adult section, saw several books I’d made a mental note to read, saw others with gorgeous cover art and fun titles, lamented the lack of John Green books, lamented the “Teen Paranormal Romance” display, and then….a breath of fresh air.

Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice were lovingly displayed amongst newer titles in the Teen Fiction section. Encouraging youth to read the classics makes me happy.

And then I looked at the cover art.

They’ve been “Twilight”ed. Honestly, it’s a trend I really hate. The new DVD release of Buffy is the same way. Ok. I’ll let the photos slide. They’re pretty, and if companies use the marketing trickery to get kids to read more, fine.

It’s the tag lines.

Cellphone quality being what it is, I’ll tell you.

Pride and Prejudice: The Love That Started It All
Jane Eyre: Love Conquers All
Wuthering Heights: Love Never Dies

Cheesy. As. Fuck.

Also, how do you boil down brilliant novels to trite one-liners?

Faith in Humanity: steadily declining.

I left the youth section with Anna Dressed in Blood, cause homicidal ghosts! and the latest Kim Harrison book, my guilty pleasure read. I love me some Algaliarept. Victorian demons in everything.

What I find most interesting about my bookstore experiences is that while I want everything, I have this overwhelming sense dread when it comes to selecting books. Do I go with a book I safe in selecting, like the next one in the series? Do I risk picking up something based on looks? I do judge books by their covers, and believe me, the pretty ones are ridiculously tempting.

I think the major problem is my bank account. I usually go for the used bookstore: lower prices means more books, and if I don’t like them, no harm done. I guess it’s the sorrow of broke post-college students.

I’m going to watch Trick ‘r Treat (which I finally bought, and lo, now it’s on television!), speculate on Season Seven of Dexter and join darling Catherine for #writeclub.

With only 32 days left until Halloween, maybe I’ll pull something out of my sleeve to celebrate my favorite of holidays.

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#Weirdwins, Even When You Scare Your Friends

I am beyond excited about Paranorman. Not only is it stop-motion (be still my heart!), it’s about a weird kid who sees ghosts, is outcast by his classmates, and basically has to save the town. Awesome.

Laika and Focus Features have done an AMAZING job promoting Paranorman, from posting videos of the cast and crew talking about the making of and their own experiences being weird, to sending out 49 or so Blithe Hollow Cemetery boxes were the recipient can DIG UP their very own zombie. You can check out the trailer here.

The #weirdwins campaign has encouraged me to share some of my early childhood weirdness. I guess it’s no surprise that I was a strange kid. I was always a bookworm, I kept to myself, but it was middle school where the weirdness came in full force.

I was such a weird kid, at one point I managed to accidentally convince my friends I was schizophrenic.

I was 13 when I started reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and getting into the dark side of literature. I loved ghost stories, monsters, crime; all the things most kids my age avoided like the plague. I had the added curse of being born a writer and the middle school years brought the creative torrent down faster than I could handle. I had stories floating around in my head, characters popping in for chats, and I had no idea how to deal with it other than writing. When I couldn’t write, I talked.

And I talked in “voices.”

Kiss me twice, I’m Schizophrenic!

Unable to talk about the characters, I let them talk for me. In the cafeteria, they’d comment on the poor fare, or the latest class assignment. They were not strictly female characters either. I didn’t see anything wrong with talking about it. I was excited about the worlds in my mind and the stories I could write or had read and cherished.

I’m honestly surprised no one sent me to counselling.

It wasn’t until years later, when I could say, “Oh, I’m writer” and knew what it meant to create lives in my head and my friends understood that I was not–in fact–mentally ill that they told me they thought I had a serious mental disorder. Even at 23, this is a bit embarrassing.

Now the characters largely stay in my head, and I have other writer friends who understand and accept that sometimes, I just have to be someone else. We laugh. Like attracts like, weird attracts weird. I own my weirdness now, proudly and with reckless abandon. Growing up weird doesn’t make you an outcast; being afraid to be who your are does.

“You don’t become a hero by being normal.”

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Victorian Prostitutes and Stirring Tea with Not-spoons

After what feels like a marathon stretch, I have finally finished the 895-page beast that is Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White.

And I loved it.

The story focuses on Sugar, a 19-year-old prostitute seeking betterment from her position. Enter William Rackham, unwilling heir to a perfume business. Other members of the cast include Agnes, William’s crazy wife; Henry, his pious brother; Emmeline Fox, determined to restore fallen women; and a ragtag bunch of other characters from Sugar’s fellow whores to the more esteemed of English Society. Oh, and Bodley and Ashwell, but they can speak for themselves.

Ok, it was daunting. I’m not sure why I thought a nearly 900-page book would be a breeze. The writing style is definitely very different, with an outspoken narrator who likes to remind you you’re reading a novel, multiple points of view, complex and extremely detailed storylines, locations and characters, all mingled with the dirt and depravity of Victorian England.

I started this book in March. After climbing the first 400 pages, I had to rest. The narrative is almost overwhelming with how painstakingly Faber has crafted these scenarios. They are intimately described, and unravelled at such a pace it’s like watching a film. A long film. I had to take a break. I read a few other novels: Timeless by Gail Carriger (because I simply couldn’t wait once I’d purchased it), and the Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain (Heartsick, Sweetheart and Evil at Heart).

Half way through, I wasn’t endeared to this book. I wanted to push to finish it to say I’d done it. Then I got back into it, and this time, everything clicked. Having now completed the marathon (because once I picked it up, it was impossible for me to put it down), I can’t praise it highly enough. I even adore its abrupt ending, which completely leaves the fate of these characters hanging. The story the narrator told is over and now it’s time to move on. Whatever happens next is up in the air.

I’m proud that I made it. This will certainly be a book I revisit in the future after I’ve overcome the book hangover.

Right now, I’m enjoying a cup of tea, stirred with a bone folder because I was too engrossed to head back into the kitchen, and trying to figure out what to read next. I’m thinking Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

It also begs the question, dear reader, which book has dragged you through the wringer? Did you ever pick up something that was difficult to finish, but powered through to a satisfying end? Given you book hangover lately? Discuss.

Bonus points for including what a bone folder is and it’s use. 😉


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Input Mode: Reading and Researching as Procrastination

Remember how last writing-post I spoke about getting the creative juices flowing by dancing around and whatnot? Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. When I start feeling itchy about linking one chapter to the next, I stop and look at the story as a whole. Let’s say I’m trying to wire the spinal column (remember that whole body analogy from last week?). This is a critical part of the story, the substance, the binding holding it all together.

Spinal construction is definitely not as easy as it sounds.

When in doubt, I turn to research. I don’t actually make a habit of tried and true research, which to some is just shameful. In the same token, I’m not fond of actually labeling a time or a place as setting, so I guess I more or less skirt the rules. I prefer context clues over flat-out, “And today is Wednesday, March 13, 1937, in London, Canada.” I don’t even if March 13, 1937 was, in fact, a Wednesday. I looked; it was a Saturday. The things Ido commit to are lesser known, sometimes not even used facts, like what so-and-so would wear, the condition of mental hospitals from 1920-1950, the treatment and diagnosis for schizophrenia, if international phone calls could be made. Given that, you my dear reader, can probably guess the novel-thing is set somewhere between 1930 and 1950, or somewhere therein. I’m not even quite sure myself; I do know that when I started it in present day, it just didn’t pan out.

The other thing I do is read obsessively. But you do that anyway! Yes, I do, but I narrow my book selections to the vein I’m trying to work within. Chelsea Cain’s Gretchen Lowell series (Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart) were great. I’ve never really read detective fiction, and while my story isn’t quite detective fiction, it helped me hone into the mindset I’m trying to achieve. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which I was supposed to read for my thesis, is a wonder semi-autobiography of a schizophrenic girl and her experiences in therapy and reconnecting to the world.

It also means I get to do something other than stare at the file on my laptop, watching the cursor blink, waiting for me to start typing. I also feel less guilty. I used movies and television shows the same way. I’ve watched several episodes of Castle, studying the great twists in some cases and where it was a bit lacking in others. Also, Nathan Fillion is always awesome. Always.

I try to feed my mind as much as I can, from old mythologies on monsters to how not to get away with murder. In a way, I’m buying myself time with “research.” I also count flailing around my room to music as research. I’m taking the actor’s method of getting into character. Or that’s what I tell myself.

Bottom is the same: writing is damn hard work. It may get easier as you go along, but it’s never going to be easy. It’s a give and take process, and even though the first draft probably won’t be brilliant, it’s getting the story out that’s important. Revisions and edits can wait. If you need to pop in a zombie flick, do it. If you have the sudden, overwhelming urge to watch cartoons, do it; there’s probably a reason your mind brought it up.

Also, avoid reading articles about writing. If you’re like me, they only make things worse. I’m now petrified I’ve “let the steam out” of my novel-thing by telling someone the plot and that’s why I’ve been so… unproductive. Truth is, if I didn’t tell someone, I was worried it wouldn’t make sense. That’s what happened with the initial draft. No one helped me sort it out. I think I’m ok.

Now I just need to write.

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