Getting your book fix

I read like I breathe. I keep a book in my bag at all times. More often than not, I’m at the library two or three times a week. I’ve even relented and started keeping a few ebooks on my phone in case I’m caught without a book somewhere.

So you would think, right, that on long car trips or while I’m watching Scout at the park, audiobooks would be the thing to do. My husband loves audiobooks. My friends love audiobooks. Convenient book fix.

I can’t stand audiobooks.

It takes about twenty to forty seconds, depending on the narrator, for me to start twitching uncontrollably. They never read it the way I read it in my head. And they read so slow!! How do you ever get anywhere? And don’t even get me started on the voices. Oooohhhh, the voices. I have never met an audiobook voice that I could listen to for five minutes, let alone five hours. Not to mention that if there’s a crazy name introduced and I don’t know how it’s spelled, I spend five minutes trying to picture the spelling in my mind and miss everything that happens next. And you know, things just don’t stick in my mind when they come through my ears. I miss/forget all the important plot points and get completely befuddled when they turn up later in the audiobook. For me, audiobooks are just not the answer.

I’m curious, though–how many of you listen to audiobooks? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Tolerate ’em?

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Day 3, Quote 3

My final quote is sort of a nested quote. I first discovered it in Wonder by RJ Palacio, but the quote comes originally from JM Barrie:

“Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” (JM Barrie, The Little White Bird)

Friends, let’s all make this a new rule of our own lives. As dear Helen Burns says (yes, I’m cheating and including two quotes), “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity.” (Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre)

There’s far too much spite and hatred in the world, and it makes me cringe when I scan past pockets of vile antagonism in every corner of the Internet. Let’s do our part to make it stop by always trying to be a little kinder than is necessary.

For my final day, I’m tagging (another) Emily at A Cup of English Tea. (There are an awful lot of us Emilys around, aren’t there?) I love her blog name, and I love her blog posts even more! The challenge is to post one quote a day for three days, and to tag one blogger each day to participate.

Guys, I really really really love quotes, and this has been such a treat! Thanks again to my fabulous Phantom friend at Inkcouragement for tagging me!

Day 2, Quote 2

Next quote! This one comes from one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITES. Yes, that just got all-capped and bolded. I am shouting it from the rooftops. I can’t count how many times I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time, and I’m captivated every time. I have four pages of quotes from this book, but there is one that I have used over and over and over in my life.

It comes as Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry are fighting the power of IT, and Meg begins to recite the Declaration of Independence . . .

“We hold these truths to be self-evident!” she shouted, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” . . .

“But that’s exactly what we have on Camazotz. Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike.”

For a moment her brain reeled with confusion. Then came a moment of blazing truth. “No!” she cried triumphantly. “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, 146; emphasis added)

Love love love. I love Meg Murry in all her snaggle-toothed, impatient, good-hearted imperfection.

Today, I’m tagging Emily at For the Bookish. I love Emily’s posts–so fun and genuine! The challenge is to post one quote a day for three days, tagging another blogger each day to participate as well. Have fun!

Day 1, Quote 1

Guys, I love book quotes. I have a folder devoted to my favorite quotes from books I’ve read, and I reference it often. So I was practically giddy when PhantomWriter143 tagged me into the quote challenge I’ve seen floating around lately. The real challenge is that I want to just barf all of my quotes into a post, but I have to narrow it down to three–one a day for three days. And then I get to tag one other lucky blogger each day to participate as well. Thanks for the challenge, friend!

Today’s quote comes from a memoir of the fabulous Dick Van Dyke:

“I have also heard and read various accounts of why they liked me. My favorites? I wasn’t too good-looking, I walked a little funny, and I was basically kind of average and ordinary.

I guess my lack of perfection turned out to be a winning hand. Let that be a lesson for future generations.” (Dick Van Dyke, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business)

Don’t you just love that? There are so many days where I just feel like your everyday, run-of-the-mill odd duck. It’s nice to know that that very ordinariness played a key role in the success of Dick himself.

I’ll tag Julie Holmes over at Facets of a Muse for today. See you tomorrow for another quote!

New Old Reads

When I got my Kindle four years ago, I immediately downloaded about a billion free classics to read. I got around to a few of them, but e-reading doesn’t come easy to me, and the surge of classic literature faded.

Now that I’ve upgraded to a smart phone, however, I’ve realized that I can sneak three or four minutes at a time with those classics during all those pockets of time when I don’t have a book with me. Physical books are still my instrument of choice, of course, but it’s been really nice to have a bunch of books in my pocket at all times.

I started out with Alice in Wonderland and enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. I never cared much for the cartoon, and I thought the story would feel old and tired after all the retellings I’ve seen around; but Lewis Carroll has such an entertaining and inimitable style that I couldn’t help enjoying myself.

Next up was Pinocchio. Not sure why I read this one; I disliked the Disney movie as a child, and I’ve never had anyone recommend the original. And in the end, it was even worse than the Disney movie. It reminded me all too much of reading Max und Moritz–stupid boys being naughty and getting extravagantly fantastical punishments heaped upon their wicked heads. Not in my top ten of 2015.

I’m working on The Time Machine by HG Wells now. I read his Invisible Man in high school and loved it, and I’m thoroughly enjoying this one as well so far. He presents his stories so well that I believe his most unbelievable scenes are possible, and I have to keep reading to see what wild-yet-strangely-believable things are going to happen next.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading now?

Who doesn’t love free books?

IMG_1246Today, BumblesBooks is bringing one of you lucky readers a FREE BOOK! We’re giving away one signed copy of ERUPTION by Adrienne Quintana! Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Jace Vega has finally landed her dream job—working for Omnibus, an up-and-coming tech firm. But a mysterious message from her future self sets Jace and her old friend Corey racing to piece together clues before Omnibus destroys their future—and their past. This fast-paced thriller will keep you guessing till the very last page.

To enter, follow Adrienne on Facebook or on Twitter, then leave me a comment letting me know you’ve done it. You have one week! I’ll choose the winner next Monday, 27 July 2015.

And because it’s Monday and we must have our writing challenge, let’s make it Eruption-themed:

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Your character gets a message from his or her future self. What form does it take? What does it say?

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Okay, go enter for your chance to win a free book!

Learning from others’ mistakes

This post is partially an apology. A while ago, there was an ebook on sale that I had heard great things about. I bought it and told several people that they should get it while it was on sale.

I finally got around to reading it last weekend and I–am–mortified.

Now, I’m not in the business of shaming books or authors, so I’m not going to mention the name of the book here. Just know that if you bought a book on my recommendation and it was teeming with objectification of women and erratic plot zigzags and more loose ends than a frayed rope, I apologize deeply and sincerely.

The sad part is, I don’t think the author realized how horrifyingly offensive the portrayal of female characters was. Other parts of the books made feeble attempts at telling the reader the opposite message, but, my word. I’ve rarely had the misfortune to read a book where women were so thoroughly depicted as all breasts and no brains.

The good thing that came out of all this is that I’ve gone through each of the specific issues I had with the book and held those issues up to my own manuscripts. Doing that always makes me hypersensitive to things that might be misread or problems that I didn’t realize had crept in.

I don’t recommend picking up terrible books, but if you do get stuck with one, make it useful by ensuring that you don’t make the same mistakes in your own writing.

Thankfully, I had a couple of better books on hand to wash away the bad taste. How’s your reading been lately? Any good books I should read? Any bad books I should avoid?

The fading trauma of poetry

I loved all of my freshman creative writing class except for one section: poetry.

For the first week, I tried really, really hard to appreciate the poems we read and to remember the forms we talked about. But it was pure torture, and by the time I had to write 100 lines of poetry, I was desperate to get it over with as quickly as possible. Among the gems I composed were a free-verse poem about narwhals and a rondeau about the misery of finals week. Instant classics, I assure you.

This was not helped by that class where I was given twenty minutes to read and interpret five German poems and then present to the class. And two of the poems were Rilke, for heaven’s sake! I still can’t face Rilke without wanting to die.

But, Rilke aside, I have grown through the years to appreciate, even enjoy poetry beyond The Cremation of Sam McGee (although that remains a true favorite around the campfire). There are poems that are the perfect mixture of music and words, and those are the ones that have taken up residence in my heart and soul.

For example (with a few favorite lines—click the title to read the whole poem):

The Day is Done (Longfellow)

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

The House by the Side of the Road (Foss)

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

The Builders (Longfellow)

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

How do you feel about poetry? What are some of your favorites? Are you one of those daring souls who writes poetry?

Venturing into Graphic Novels

In the continuing spirit of trying new things, I decided it was time to try that genre I’ve avoided for a long time: graphic novels. The book that convinced me it was time to try was A Wrinkle in Time: the graphic novel, originally by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson.

Honestly, I probably shouldn’t have started out my graphic novel adventure with an adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time. That’s just setting it up for failure. BUT I will say that I enjoyed the illustrations much, much more than I expected. While Larson’s interpretation of the story was vastly different from my own, it was very beautifully drawn and expressed.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much of L’Engle’s incredible writing that you can fit into a graphic novel. While Larson did a good job of fitting in many of the good, powerful lines, there were still so many that were missing, and I was left completely unfulfilled. A graphic novel can’t hold a candle to the power of words.

That being said, I’m willing to try again. Like I said, it wasn’t totally fair to start out with an adaptation of an amazing book. So tell me—have you read any graphic novels? Which would you recommend?

Artistic chemical reactions

I lived in Berlin a few years ago and visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The first thing you see walking in are the words worked into the iron bars of the front gate:

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“Work makes you free.” A chilling statement at the entrance of a place where thousands of men, women, and children were worked to death, among other atrocities. Standing before that gate and feeling the hollow echoes of horrors past is not an experience easily forgotten.

So when Jennifer Nielsen revealed the cover of her new book, A Night Divided, it hit me hard. The words worked into the barbed wire reminded me starkly of the gate at Sachsenhausen, and it represented beautifully the pain and suffering that lingered on for decades after the war ended with a broken, impoverished land and divided families.

It made me think about art, about what it is that makes pictures or writing or theater or anything come to life. To some extent, it is the artist. It takes talent, hard work, dedication to create something that can touch a person.

But in the end, art is nothing without someone to appreciate it. Art takes on a life of its own when it comes in contact with the rest of the world. It’s like a chemical reaction. You start out with your created work, your masterpiece as you see it. But when it reacts with others’ experiences, memories, hopes, dreams, it bubbles and froths and turns into something beyond what you imagined.

Some are bothered by interpretations of their work that don’t match their own, but that’s the beauty of art. It’s not one set thing. It becomes something completely new every time another person experiences it.

So go forth and create–not just your own art, but your perspectives on others’. Whether you’re writing or reading, performing or watching, painting or admiring, you are a part of the art.