K is for (Books About) Kindness #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for¬†the A to Z challenge.

When I did an Internet search to help me brainstorm what books are about kindness, I got lists upon lists of books for kids.

What? We don’t need to be kind anymore once we’re adults? I’d argue that it’s perhaps more important since our actions as adults are often more impactful than our actions as children.

Luckily, there are books out there that teach kindness without an overt lesson. And if you haven’t heard, reading literary fiction promotes empathy. Not that I needed an excuse to read, but I’ll take it!

Where The Heart Is, by Billie Letts (contemporary): You only saw the movie, you say? Fix that. The movie was good, but, say it with me, everyone, “The book was better.” ūüôā This is one of my all-time favorite books, for a myriad of reasons. One of those is the fact that for every awful person in the book, there are multiple kind people waiting to¬†help. I really believe the world is like that. It’s just that what we see is all the awful stuff that happens. When 17-year-old¬†Novalee Nation gets ditched by her loser boyfriend, she encounters a number of people who offer her simple kindness, and eventually become her family. It’s a lovely book, full of heartbreak, but also kindness and forgiveness.

The Silver Link, The Silken Tie, by Mildred Ames (YA science fiction/ fantasy): I am the only person I’ve ever met who’s read this book, and it is one of my favorites. Tim and Felice are both outcasts, and when they first meet, they bring out the worst in one another. An impulsive invitation throws them together, and they become friends. It’s not long before they realize that all their assumptions about one another are wrong, and they start treating one another with care and kindness. Not that this has anything to do with the theme of today’s blog, but this book also involves mind control and shared dreaming. It’s weird, in a good way.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (literary): I know that there are a lot of Rochester-haters out there, and to you, I say, “You’re wrong.” Rochester wasn’t a nice man, by any means, but he was kind to Jane. He treated her with care, and like an equal. Jane was abused by people growing up, yet she grew into someone who consistently treated people around her with kindness. There are many lessons in its pages. And yes, I know people take issue with the way Rochester treated his wife, but honestly, I’ve heard about asylums from back then, and she probably had it better in the attic.

What books about kindness have you enjoyed?

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Book Challenges- Week 12

This was another slow reading week for me. I was in Arizona, visiting family, and that makes it difficult for me to get anything read. Plus, I drive the 14 hours back and forth, which means the only reading I get done during the two days’ drive is on audiobook.

Popsugar Challenge

(11/50) No progress this week

While I Was Reading Challenge

(4/12) No progress this week

The Unread Shelf

Running Total: 3 No progress this week

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

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How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran¬†(YA contemporary): I both liked this book and didn’t. It’s sort of like a rock and roll memoir from a teenage writer’s perspective. There’s a lot of sex and drugs in it, which wasn’t really my thing. I love that it’s sex-positive. I loved the awkwardness of the main character. And I loved that she reinvents herself throughout the book, trying one thing, then another when that doesn’t work. The message is ultimately a great one and one that teenage girls need to hear. Even if I didn’t love all the details of the book, I liked it enough overall that I’d recommend it to some people, though it’s definitely not for everyone. (Though really, what book is?)

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All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood (narrated by Jorjeana Marie): Friends of mine who love audiobooks talk about what a different experience it is to listen to the book instead of reading it, so I decided to give it a go with this one. It’s no secret that this is one of my all-time favorite books. I had a long and boring drive, so I decided to give it a try. I loved it! Listening to it reminded me of all the reasons I love this book, but I also picked up on things I had missed in previous readings. The narrator was great, and this experience has inspired me to try rereading other favorites of mine on audio.

Abandoned

None this week.

2018 Running Total: 31

 

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

Book Challenges- Week 7

Popsugar Challenge

(7/50) No progress this week.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(3/12) 25%!

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I don’t normally like movie covers on books, but this one really appealed to me.

A book with a child narrator: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer: I really wanted to like this book, but I didn’t. I wasn’t into it the whole time I was reading it, but sometimes literary fiction has a good payoff, and this one promised an interesting mystery about a found key. I was hoping the mystery of the key would make this one worth my time, but it didn’t. The ending was so disappointing that I almost threw the book across the room. I didn’t hate it (there’s only one book I ever wanted to burn after reading it, and it wasn’t this one) but I didn’t like it either.

This book has three narrators: 9 year old Oskar (who doesn’t sound 9 by any stretch of the imagination), a man who doesn’t speak, and a woman who’s writing Oskar letters. The identity of the two other narrators are gradually revealed, but it felt unnecessary to hide them in the first place. Not to mention that they’re supposedly writing to Oskar, revealing things that are inappropriate for a child.

Lots of people loved it, including some reader friends of mine who often recommend and exchange books with me, but it just wasn’t my thing. At least it’s one less book on my shelf.

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It seemed appropriate…

A book with your favorite food in the title: Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch: ¬†This book is as sweet as the title suggests. It’s a YA romance about a teenage girl who just lost her mom. She’s sent to Italy to live with a “friend” of her mother’s, who may or may not be her father. As she reads her mother’s journal and starts to piece together who her father is, and why he hasn’t been in her life, she’s also falling in love with Italy and a friend who’s helping her get answers. This story was the perfect antidote to the aggravation that was EL&IC.

The Unread Shelf

Total: 1

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

Asylum, Sanctum, and Catacomb, by Madeleine Roux: I’m burned out on reading literary fiction, especially since I haven’t really been enjoying it. Sometimes it just happens that way. Since I write Young Adult horror, I thought it was time to catch up on some of the fiction I’ve missed.

I love creepy old mental hospitals as a setting, so Asylum seemed like the perfect read. And no, I didn’t know it was a series when I started it. These types of books read fast for me though, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

The first one was pretty good. Three kids go for this summer program at a small college. But because the dorm is being renovated, they have to stay in an old building on the grounds. It used to be a mental hospital, and part of it is locked up so no one can get in. Of course the kids are curious and go exploring. There’s a murder, the kids have nightmares, and they find out more about the history of the hospital. (Spoiler alert: it’s bad news.) This isn’t the best YA horror I’ve ever read, but it was fast and entertaining.

Sanctum continued the story when the kids come back to find out more about what happened over the summer, and they discover a secret cult meant to keep the secrets of the mental hospital. It stretched my belief at times, but I went with it, and it worked for me.

Catacomb… did not work for me. It felt very deus ex machina because it’s a completely different setting, yet once again, the kids stumble across a cult that wants to kill them. It had some cool concepts in it, and if it had been a completely different book with different characters outside this series, I would have liked it much more.

2018 Running Total: 18

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

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Book Challenges 2018- Week 6

Popsugar Challenge

(7/50) over 10%!

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A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner (2014)- The Opposite of¬†Loneliness, by Marina Keegan A friend of mine gave me this book ages ago, and I’ve been wanting to read it, but… well, you know the story of my TBR by now.

It’s a series of essays and short stories written by a young woman who died five days after her graduation from Yale. She wanted to be a writer. After she died, her parents and teachers got together and put this book together.

Some of the stories and essays are fantastic. I particularly liked the title essay. Some of the stories are bleak, and I didn’t enjoy those as much. I’m so impressed that such a young woman wrote such lovely stories though.

Probably the thing that had the most impact on me wasn’t anything in her stories; it was in the Forward, where her professor talks about how Marina kept a list of “Interesting Things,” and that’s part of where she got the idea for her stories. I’m glad she told me that because I would have been wondering. Some of the stories are weird (in a good way) and I would have wondered about a college student thinking of those things.

Overall, it was absolutely worth reading.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(1/12)

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A book you chose for the cover- Release, by Patrick Ness: I tackled this choice by going the the library, looking at the “New YA Fiction” shelf, and grabbing the first book that caught my eye. I like train tracks, and I loved that a boy seems to be dangling from them upside down. The cover has absolutely no relation to what the book is about, but that’s always the challenge, isn’t it?

This is two stories in one. There’s the contemporary story of Adam Thorn and one monumental day in his life, when pretty much everything that can change for him, does. It’s a story about love and loss and sex and family. It was a captivating story. Then there’s the secondary story, about a murdered girl who’s spirit latches on to a fairy queen. And if the spirit doesn’t learn how to let go, the world ends.

I understood all the symbolism and how the stories are meant to relate, but I found the fairy queen portion of the story boring. Generally I love fantastical elements, but this one felt thrown in, like the author didn’t want to leave a great contemporary story alone and added some fantasy just to have it. I read it all, just in case I actually ended up needing to know it for Adam’s story to make sense. I didn’t; I could have skipped it.

Overall I liked this book. I would have loved it if we stuck with Adam.

The Unread Shelf

Total: 1

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

None

2018 Running Total: 13

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

Should Fiction Be Safe?

In his book, Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman asked the question, “Should fiction be safe?”

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Now that trigger warnings have escaped the internet, he wondered if they’re going to move over into fiction.¬†He talked about reading books he wasn’t ready for, how they scared him and made him think. But that as an adult, he’s glad he read them when he did.

It made me ponder that question he asked. Should fiction be a safe place?

First, what is the purpose of reading? Entertainment? To increase empathy? To broaden one’s mind? To travel to places and times the reader has never been?

Second, what would be the purpose of a trigger warning in a book? In my mind, it would be to shield the reader from material that could cause potential emotional distress.

My Experiences Growing Up Reading Everything

Before I address the first and second point, I’d like to say that my parents weren’t readers, and as such, never told me I couldn’t read anything. I read Watchers (which has some explicit sex scenes) at 12. I read all of Thomas Harris’s and many of Stephen King’s books when I was a young teenager. I also read romances and middle grade books and young adult books and science fiction books… basically, if it was fiction, I read it.

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There were some books I wasn’t emotionally ready for. I skipped over sex scenes in books when I wasn’t interested. Some drug references went over my head. Violence in books sometimes made me afraid to go out at night. I remember reading a particularly graphic sex scene in a book about a serial killer. Though the violence was no problem, the sex grossed me out, and I abandoned the book.

I’m not a sex fiend or violent now. I’m an incurable optimist with a streak of dark humor. Nothing grosses me out, and very little bothers me. I have thick skin and lots of concern about the suffering of others.

Should I have been allowed to read anything? Well, my answer is yes. I like the way I turned out. ūüôā Maybe that permissive reading style isn’t right for everyone, but it worked for me.

I say all this so that when I talk about whether or not fiction should be safe, you understand my frame of reference. Everyone is going to have different experiences which shape them.

What is the Purpose of Reading?

To answer the first question, to me, fiction is all of those things. Sometimes I want a book purely for entertainment. When I do, I might look for a Nora Roberts/ JD Robb book. I might ask my friends for recommendations. I might go to Goodreads or just look on my ever-lengthening TBR or wishlist and look for something that seems light.

All books help to increase empathy and broaden one’s mind, but if I’m looking for something specific, I might go for something that explores a current issue from a fiction point of view, like The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, or something more classic, like Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

When I’m looking to travel, the Outlander series is a wonderful way to go.

What I’ve Learned From Books

When I read something that’s difficult, like The Hate U Give,¬†I’m pushed outside myself. I’m inside the head of a narrator and shown something different from the life I live. Those books are not “safe.” They test our empathy and proclaim, in no uncertain terms, “Bad things can happen to anyone.”

When I read a book like Watchers, by Dean Koontz it makes me consider what our moral responsibility is to the world around us, and what, as humans, is our place in this world.

When I read a book like You, by Caroline Kepnes, it makes me think about the information that I put on social media.

When I read a book like The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon, it makes me realize how privileged and lucky I really am. And how much little things I say and do can affect others in the world around me.

One of my best friends always says, “Everyone I come across has something to teach me. It’s my job to find the lesson.”

In the same way, every book I read has something to teach me. Am I paying attention?

Should Fiction Be Safe?

I would argue that it shouldn’t be.

There is no safe place. Not in the fiction world, not in the real world.

There is always going to be something that will scare me, but not someone else. Something that might not upset me, but might upset someone. I love books that distress me. That means that something resonated with me emotionally. Those are the books I think about and want to discuss. Even if I disagree. Maybe especially if I don’t agree.

Sometimes those books make me feel a little sick. Sometimes they creep into my dreams or make it hard to fall asleep. Sometimes they make the world seem like a scary place.

But they also make me feel fully alive.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood, got either 5 star ratings or 1 star ratings on Goodreads. Why? It’s a disturbing and belief-shaking book. It asks questions that aren’t okay in polite company.

I had absolutely no idea what the book was about going into it, and if I had, I probably wouldn’t have read it. Based on my beliefs, I would have said I wasn’t interested.

I am so thankful that I got a copy of the book without knowing anything about it ahead of time. It’s one of my all time favorite books. I love everything about it, but my favorite thing is that it made me question something I “knew” to be true. I had to re-evaluate my beliefs.

It is very easy to believe something. It’s not easy to evaluate those beliefs and allow for new information. That doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. But any belief worth having is worth critically thinking about all sides.

Really good books make that possible.

I never know ahead of time which books are going to shake my foundations. For me, that’s the fun of it.

So, my reader friend, I ask you: should fiction be safe?

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Released in Paperback Today!

Version 2With Banned Books Week taking place last week, it feels like perfect timing to have the paperback version of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things released today.

There aren’t many books I own in both paperback and hardback, but this is one of them.

I adore this book. It’s a book that presents a polarizing topic in a way I hadn’t thought of before. I love books that make me see reality in a new and different way. I don’t necessarily have to agree with the point of view; it just needs to be well thought out and show me something different.

As I said last week, literary fiction “analyzes the nature of reality.” I don’t always love literary fiction because it’s hard to tell an entertaining story with vibrant characters and still analyze reality.

But this book does that. It’s told in multiple points of view; I’m not even sure how many there are. But the point of the multiple points of view is to show different perspectives about what’s happening during the story.

What’s most interesting to me in this book is the things that are implied but left unsaid.

I know I’m being deliberately vague about what the book’s about, but I think that for anyone who hadn’t read it, it’s an experience best left to unfold. Because while I could tell you what the book is about, what it’s about on the surface isn’t really what the book is about.

If you’ve heard about it and have been putting off reading it, this week is a great time to start! Grab your paperback copy today!

And if you end up being a superfan like me, if you subscribe to her newsletter, Bryn Greenwood has released all the “deleted scenes” from the book. I’m hoping that one day she releases a book with all of them back in there, where they belong.

 

Can Genre Fiction Be As Life Changing As Literary Fiction?

IMG_8384Awhile back, I read The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. The concept is intriguing. A book apothecary recommends books to “cure” people of their ills. Of course, there’s more to the book than that, but that’s the part that’s relevant to this discussion. I looked up some of the books he recommended, and they sounded like literary fiction to me.

What is literary fiction? you ask.

Good question. According to Wikipedia (but this is essentially the answer I’ve seen everywhere):

Literary fiction comprises fictional works that hold literary merit; that is, they involve social commentary, or political criticism, or focus on the human condition. Literary fiction is deliberately written in dialogue with existing works, created with the above aims in mind and is focused more on themes than on plot, and it is common for literary fiction to be taught and discussed in schools and universities.

Literary fiction is usually contrasted with popular, commercial, or genre fiction. Some have described the difference between them in terms of analyzing reality (literary) rather than escaping reality (popular). The contrast between these two subsets of fiction is controversial among critics and scholars. Source: Wikipedia

So, in a nutshell, it’s about analysis vs. escape. I like some literary fiction. And I like lots and lots of genre fiction. I think that, in general, the analysis vs. escape definition fits.

So it got me to thinking if genre fiction ever crosses that line into analysis, and if genre fiction can be as life changing as literary fiction.

I would argue that it can. And in fact, I think young adult fiction tends to do a lot of that.

I realize this is a bold assertion. After all, there are pages and pages dedicated to either people saying “I love YA and won’t apologize for it” and “Adults should be ashamed of reading books made for kids.” Honestly, both sides of the argument are compelling.

But I think that YA is uniquely appropriate for analyzing reality. After all, before they learn that they don’t know everything, many teens are amateur philosophers, solving all the world’s problems. I don’t miss the arrogance and self-centeredness of that time (and I was), but I miss the¬†feeling of having all the answers. Teens are passionate about issues because they haven’t gotten to the point where they realize they don’t have time to be passionate about everything they care about. They don’t know how to pick their battles.

I’m not trying to say that all YA books analyze reality, or even reflect it in any meaningful way. But the ones that do can promote some good discussions and make me think about the nature of reality.

6 Genre Books That Explore Complex Issues

  1. This Savage Song/ Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: Discusses the nature of responsibility for one’s actions, and that actions have consequences. (genre: dystopian YA)
  2. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes: This was a controversial book because of the way it portrayed one of the main characters, Will. Will became quadriplegic because of an accident, and is also suicidal. While I understand the concerns associated with this book, I loved it because it explores the nature of self-determination, and an individual’s right to choose. (genre: romance)
  3. And The Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich: Explores the nature of grief and loss, and how our choices can imprison us (genre: YA horror)
  4. Six Months, Three Days, by Charlie Jane Anders: Explores the nature of choice and fate. (genre: science fiction novella)
  5. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven: The main characters struggle with suicidal ideation and depression, and this book looks at how that can manifest for different people, and that sometimes there are no good “reasons.” (genre: YA)
  6. The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis: Looks at themes of vigilante justice, self-protection, friendship, and how actions can have unexpected consequences. (genre: YA)

Have you ever had a genre book impact your life? What book would you “prescribe” to others?

 

Books I Read In 2014

On Spontaneous Saturdays, I post something on whatever topic comes to mind.

Berry Springs Park and Preserve Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Berry Springs Park and Preserve
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

In 2013, I started keeping track of the books I read. ¬†I did this partly because I was curious, and partly because I do read a lot of books. ¬†It got to the point that I couldn’t remember what books I’ve read and which I haven’t, so I thought that keeping a list was a good way to figure out if I’ve read a book before or not. ¬†It’s not terribly sophisticated; I just keep a Google docs list so that I can update it anywhere, and I also like to keep track of the amount of time it takes me to read something. ¬†Because I’m almost never without a book, people always asked me how much I read, and I used to tell them it was on average, 5 books a month. ¬†I can see now that I was very much underestimating that.

I started reading¬†87 books this year, and only didn’t finish two. ¬†One, I stopped reading, and the other, I’m still working on.

Forty of the books were rereads, and 6 of them were from the 100 Classic Books I’m working my way through.

My favorite new books from this year were The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, On Little Wings by Regina Sirois, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl,¬†¬†The Unfortunate Fairy Tale Books by Chanda Hahn, and¬†Every Ugly Word, Aimee L. Salter. ¬†Interestingly, I didn’t find any new books to go into my all time favorites list, but these are all good, and worth reading.

I tried to read more “smarter” books this year, in addition to the classics. ¬†I learned that while “smart” books might be good for my brain, I hate them. ¬†I’ll stick with the classics, which at least make me feel like I’m accomplishing something, and if nothing else, help me get some references made by other authors.

What was the best book you’ve read this year?

* This is a book I’ve read before.

+ This is a book I didn’t finish

# From my classics list

X This was a book recommended by my book club.

  1.  #1984, George Orwell (12/23/13- 1/4/14)
  2.  The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (1/5- 1/7)
  3.  Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (1/12)
  4.  *Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1/12- 1/18)
  5.  +The MELT Method (1/20-
  6.  *Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Amanda Grange (1/20)
  7.  *Christy, Maud Johnson (1/23-1/24)
  8.  *Starting from Square Two, by Karen Lissner (1/27- 1/30)
  9.  X Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon  (1/30- 2/22)
  10.  On Little Wings, by Regina Sirois (2/2- 2/3)
  11.  *Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (2/16-2/17)
  12.  Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman (2/22- 2/28)
  13.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2/28- 3/3)
  14.  *Black Dawn, LJ Smith (3/11)
  15.  *Witchlight, LJ Smith (3/11)
  16.  The Dogs of Christmas, W. Bruce Cameron (3/13- 3/14)
  17.  *The Chosen, LJ Smith (3/16)
  18.  Hollow City, Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (3/18- 3/25)
  19.  Doomed, Chuck Palahniuk (3/26- 4/5)
  20.  *Carolina Moon, Nora Roberts  (4/3-4/4)
  21.  *Genuine Lies, Nora Roberts (4/5-4/10)
  22.  *Red Dragon, Thomas Harris (4/11- 4/15)
  23.  Island of Fire (The Unwanteds 3), Lisa McCann (4/16-4/17)
  24.  *The Host, Stephanie Meyer, (4/18- 4/20)
  25. #*The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis (4/21-4/22)
  26.  *Hannibal, Thomas Harris (4/24-4/28)
  27.  *The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (4/30-5/2)
  28.  The Heartbreak Pill, Anjanette Delgado (5/4-5/12)
  29.  *Baby Island, Carol Ryrie Brink  (5/16)
  30.  X The Glimmer Palace, Beatrice Colin (5/18- 5/26)- boring, read like historical fiction
  31.  #The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman (5/28- 5/31)
  32.  *Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery (6/1-6/2)
  33.  *Anne of Avonlea, LM Montgomery (6/3-6/4)
  34.  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (6/5- 6/15)
  35.  The Cold Dish, Craig Johnson (6/6- 6/10)
  36.  The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace (6/17- 7/6)
  37.  *Blue Dahlia, Nora Roberts (6/24-6/25)
  38.  *Black Rose, Nora Roberts (6/25-6/26)
  39.  *Red Lily, Nora Roberts (6/26- 6/30)
  40.  *Jewels of the Sun, Nora Roberts (7/6- 7/7)
  41.  *Tears of the Moon, Nora Roberts (7/7- 7/8)
  42.  *Heart of the Sea, Nora Roberts (7/8- 7/10)
  43.  House of Leaves, Mark Danlewski (7/11- 8/ something)
  44.  *Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire (7/17- 7/19)
  45.  *Born in Ice, Nora Roberts (7/27-7/28)
  46.  *Born in Shame, Nora Roberts (7/28-7/29)
  47.  *Born in Fire, Nora Roberts (7/29-7/31)
  48.  *Sea Swept, Nora Roberts (8/1- 8/2)
  49.  *Rising Tides (8/2- 8/3)
  50.  *Inner Harbor, Nora Roberts (8/4)
  51.  Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl (8/5- 8/18)
  52.  Timebound, Rysa Walker (8/18- 8/22)
  53.  *Pride and Predjudice, Jane Austen (8/22- 8/28)
  54.  Four, Veronica Roth (8/28)
  55.  Unenchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 1), Chanda Hahn (8/28- 8/29)
  56.  X While I Was Gone, Sue Miller (8/29- 9/2)
  57.  Fairest (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 2), Chanda Hahn (9/2-9/3)
  58.  Fable (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 3), Chanda Hahn (9/3)
  59. X  The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship, Rachelle Friedman (9/4- 9/7)
  60.  *Walking Disaster, Jamie McGuire (9/8- 9/11)
  61.  Notes to Self, Avery Sawyer (9/11)- A girl with a head injury has to learn about herself and remember what happened the night of the fall.
  62. Broken Promises, Dawn Pendleton (9/13- 9/15), meh… poorly written, no conflict
  63. It Started With Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and I, Jane Congdon (9/15-  9/21)
  64. Broken Dreams, Dawn Pendleton (9/22)
  65. Broken Pieces, Dawn Pendleton (9/23- 9/24)
  66. Broken Valentine, Dawn Pendleton (9/24- 9/25)
  67. Every Ugly Word, Aimee L. Salter (9/25- 9/26) Young girl being bullied, Older Self, excellent.
  68. Kiss a Girl in the Rain, Nancy Warren (9/29-9/30)
  69. Iris in Bloom, Nancy Warren (9/30- 10/1)
  70. The Mad Tinker’s Daughter, JS Morin (10/2- 10/10)
  71. *Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (10/14- 10/15)
  72. Loving Lauren, Jill Sanders (10/24- 10/25)
  73. X The Light Between Oceans, ML Steadman (10/25- 10/29)
  74. Ghost in the Bedroom, MA Harper (10/30- 11/3)
  75. #Dracula, Bram Stoker (11/4- 11/11)
  76. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg (11/12)
  77. Reign, (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 4), Chanda Hahn (11/13)
  78. #The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (11/14 -11/15)
  79. X #A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway (11/16- 11/25)
  80. The Crying Lot of 49, Thomas Pynchon (11/28- 12/18)
  81. *Divergent, Veronica Roth (12/4)
  82. *Insurgent, Veronica Roth (12/5- 12/6)
  83. *Allegiant, Veronica Roth (12/6- 12/7)
  84. *Blood Brothers, Nora Roberts (12/10- 12/12)
  85. *The Hollow, Nora Roberts (12/12-12/14)
  86. *The Pagan Stone, Nora Roberts (12/14- 12/15)
  87. X +The Night Circus, Erin Morganstern (12/30- present)

“A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.”

~Author Unknown

G is for Greatness

Photo credit: Doree Weller

Photo credit: Doree Weller

I have a lot of different books, and enjoy reading a lot of different types of fiction. ¬†I might enjoy a book a lot, but that doesn’t mean that the author achieved any greatness. ¬†So what’s the difference between a book that achieves greatness and a book that I merely enjoy? ¬†Note: these are my opinions, and I don’t like literary fiction, so I’m only talking about genre fiction.

‚ÄúNothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.‚ÄĚ -Hebbel

1. ¬†It makes me feel, deeply. ¬†If a book achieves greatness, I’m probably laughing out loud in spots and/ or crying in others. ¬†It’s a book that makes me connect with my own humanity and the humanity of others.

2. ¬†It entertains. ¬†I know that some people think that entertainment is overrated, but I don’t. ¬†I don’t mean that there has to be juggling clowns, but just there’s a story. ¬†If there’s no plot, I’m not interested. ¬†It’s why I’m not a fan of literary fiction. ¬†Maybe The Red Pony by John Steinbeck is a classic, but it’s also BORING.

3. ¬†The language flows and there is a distinct style. ¬†This one probably is one of the most basic tenets of writing, but it’s important. ¬†Maybe most people won’t know why what they’re reading moves slow or even though something is interesting, it just doesn’t keep them reading, but the reason is probably the writing. ¬†Writers have distinct styles, like flavors. ¬†They use words in a certain way, and that certain way has a melody to it. ¬†A writer can be technically correct, and still not have that flow and distinct style, and I think it takes practice rather than teaching to learn it.

4. ¬†The writer is willing to take chances.¬† Great writers don’t just write the same stuff over and over again. ¬†They write the different and the unique. ¬†They write what they have to write, and not what others have told them. ¬†Dean Koontz talks about how early in his career, he was told that he needed to stick to one genre so that he didn’t confuse readers. ¬†He gave us more credit than that, and the result is some books that break the rules and that I’ll never forget.

5. ¬†They don’t give up. ¬†No matter what. ¬†Writing is hard work, and people who tell you it’s not have never sat facing a blank screen and then poured themselves out onto it. ¬†Even for writers who have achieved greatness, it usually takes getting through rejection after rejection after rejection. ¬†But a true writer has the words inside, and nothing can stop the flow. ¬†They might get discouraged or angry or depressed. ¬†But the words have to come out, so they keep writing and keep submitting.

There’s no recipe for how to achieve greatness, but every book I think qualifies has these qualities. ¬†What are your thoughts?

Swamplandia- A Review

imagesSwamplandia, by Karen Russell, was this month’s book club pick. ¬†I was skeptical about it from the start as it sounded more like literary fiction than genre fiction to me. ¬†By this, I mean that it sounded more like a book that makes you think than a book where anything actually happens. ¬†Don’t get me wrong; I love books that make me think, but I need plot too!

I gave up when I was about 100 pages in. ¬†I tried to convince myself “It’s a third of the way through the book. ¬†Just get through it!” ¬†It didn’t work. ¬†One of the other women in the club who finished (and loved) the book said it “got slow” in the middle but was “worth it.” ¬†I thought that if it got much more slow, it would be going backward.

It’s funny, but on Amazon, the star ratings are pretty evenly spread between 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. ¬†I’ve never seen that before in a book!

I wanted to like it, and I gave it more of a chance as a book club read than I would have if I were reading it on my own. ¬†Though in fairness, I never would have picked it up had it not been this month’s selection. ¬†I didn’t like it. ¬†It’s well written with interesting characters, but no plot to speak of, and no forward momentum. ¬†We’re thrust into the world of Swamplandia, and I didn’t care enough about anything in the book to keep reading. ¬†Unless you really love literary fiction (in which case, why are you reading my blog?), I’d suggested passing on this one.