Cheating on Paper

I’ve always had this thing about paper books. The way they feel in your hands, the way they smell, how they take up space. I swore I would never read books digitally….then got a Kindle less than a year after Matt got his. I swore I would never listen to audiobooks…and now I’ve fall for them, too.

See, I have a commute. Not a particularly long one. Thirty minutes to get there, maybe 40 to get back. But I also drive around to run errands or clear my head. I spent a lot more time in the car than I ever realized before I started to listen to audiobooks.

We’re lucky because our local library has a subscription to the Overdrive service where, just like normal library books, you can rent either Ebooks or audiobooks. As long as I can finish a given book before the 21 day limit, I’m good. They even support putting holds on popular books and have a great app you can download the books to and take them with you via phone/tablet. Go to the Overdrive site to see if your local library has a subscription or, you know, ask your librarian who would be happy to help you with something more specific than the usual “It has a green cover and is about a girl and her pet horse. I think it was written by a teenager.” sort of requests.

Having started listening to audiobooks just two months ago, I’ve already read through 9.5 books which I wouldn’t have read. Mostly memoirs and biographies but with a little humor thrown in. (You can see my list, thus far, in my BuJo post.)

Do you listen to audiobooks? In the car? At home? Somewhere else?

Book Roundup: Writing Books

It’s no secret that I love reading and writing, so why not combine the two together? I thought I’d take a few moments to share a little bit about two very different writing books I, well, devoured. I won’t use my usual format – first lines of writing books tend to be rather bland, ironically – but will keep it easy: a few favorite quotes that I underlined as I read (What? They are books I own.)

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Golderg

I must be honest, I didn’t just read this one for the first time, but read it again over the winter, when I wanted to write but could not focus on it for the life of me. It’s written as a series of essays, some are direct commandments/lessons, others are illustrative stories. Her laid-back attitude is present, throughout, never judging you too harshly.

  • “Through practice you actually do get better. You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing.”
  • “Often I look around the room as my students as they write and can tell which ones are really on and present at a given time in their writing. They are more intensely involved and their bodies are hanging loose.”
  • “You might have to be willing to write junk for five years, because we have accumulated it over many more than that and have been gladly avoiding it in ourselves.”
  • “(Making a list) makes you start noticing material for writing in your daily life, and your writing comes out of a relationship withy our life and its texture.”
  • “You can make up all kinds of friendly tricks. Just don’t get caught in the endless cycle of guilt, avoidance, and pressure. When it is your time to write, write.”
  • “Our tasks is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are…”
  • “Be specific. Don’t say ‘fruit.’ Tell what kind of fruit- ‘It is a pomegranate.’ Give things the dignity of their names.”
  • “Make a list of the stories you’ve told over and over. That’s a lot of writing to be done.”
  • “Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of the beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary.”
  • “If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food….Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it in?”
  • “After you have filled a whole notebook in writing practice (perhaps it took you a month), sit down and reread the entire notebook as though it weren’t yours.

On Writing by Stephen King

I must admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of his novels, but I’ve always admired his ability to create horror out of little details in an overall vague environment. Misery? Yeah, saw the movie in tenth grade and it still haunts me. Matt bought me a copy of his writing book for my birthday last year and it soon became my before-bed reading material, pen in hand. He’s very honest that he has no idea about how to write well, but that his good friend, who happens to be Amy Tan, convinced him to write a book about it, anyway.

  • “We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.”
  • “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginately, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all  you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position”
  • “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
  • “Build up your own toolbox then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.”
    • Related: “Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of the toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. One of the really bad things you can do to your writing it to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pent in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”
  • “Paragraphs are almost as importance for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent….When composing it’s best not to think too much about where paragraphs begin and end; the trick is to let nature take its course. If you don’t like it later on, fix it then.”
  • “While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writing, and while it is equally impossible to make a great write out of a good writer, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”
  • “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot.”
    • “Every book you pick up has it’s own lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to reach than the good ones.”
    • “I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.”
  • “Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work.”
  • “Know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling the story…good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.”
  • “The first draft – the All-Story Draft – should be written with no help (or interference) from anyone else.”
  • “All novels are really letters aimed at one person.”

Tell Me

What books on your craft, be it writing or something else entirely, inspire or teach you?

Recent Reads

Despite the lack of finished book posts, I have been reading books here and there the last few months.

  • Matched series by Ally Condie (Amazon link): One of my beloved dystopian future YA series. Premise is that you are matched with someone else in the Society (ominous name, no?) at age 15 then are expected to marry them. Your Match is determined by a fancy computer. When Cassia receives words she’s never heard from her dying grandfather, she starts to figure out that, perhaps, the Society isn’t as grand as it appear. There’s even a long triangle which is written decently enough to not be annoying to an adult reader. Keeps you on the edge of your seat well enough for awhile, but those knowledgeable of the genre can see the end coming before the third book starts.
  • The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc (Amazon link): Hot, steamy summer in small town Louisiana in the mid-60s. Should Sissy give up her marriage and family to pursue Parker, her high school boyfriend who just came back into town? Sissy manipulates everyone around her constantly, but does she wind up on top or crushed in the end? This isn’t exactly high literature but it’s amusing enough, especially for the $3 I paid for it in the sale bin at Barnes and Noble.
  • Ready Player One (Amazon link): Yep, dystopian future again. In this one, most people live their lives inside the Oasis, a next-generation virtual reality. When the creator of the Oasis dies and leaves a series of riddles which lead to winning his fortune, everyone starts searching for it. Five years later, not one of the three stages has been solved. But that’s about to change. I really enjoyed this book, especially all of the references to 80s culture.

Book Review: Outlander

What’s the title? Who wrote it?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

How’d you read it?

Why are you reading this book?
I saw a few folks writing about either the book or the TV show so it got on my radar that way. Then I saw the physical book for sale at Costco but told myself I had plenty of other books to read. I caved three days later, when I had finished my last book and didn’t find anything on my bookshelf and/or Kindle very exciting.

What is the first line?
People disappear all the time. Ask any policeman. Better yet, ask a journalist. Disappearances are bread- and- butter to journalists.

Describe the book in haiku form:
ring of stone. magic.
she’s English, saved bysome  Scots
one is hunk named Jamie

What will you do with it now?
keep for reference
xxx keep and loan out to friends/recommend they download xxx
keep to read again & again & again
throw it away/delete from the Kindle

Anything else you’d like to say?
She gets sent back and time and does remarkably well for herself, despite the fact all she knows about that time period if from her husband’s rambling. The romance is corny but not too much it’s distracting.

(This is book 2 of the 15 I want to read this year.)

Book Review: Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy

Why are you reading this book?
I saw it at the library and the title intrigued me. I didn’t even read the synopsis until we were in the car, leaving the library.

What is the first line?
“Sex isn’t everything,” my mother says lightly from the kitchen of my new condo.

Describe the book in haiku form:
struggling to find
a life between Mormon and not
she makes her own rules

What will you do with it now?
keep for reference
xxx keep and loan out to friends/recommend they download xxx
keep to read again & again & again
throw it away/delete from the Kindle

Anything else you’d like to say?
I read a good number of memoirs and they often feel so shallow or only focus on one tiny part of someone’s life. This book focuses on everything the author dealt with, trying to balance the teachings of the Mormon church and what she believed herself. Also, her writing is just funny enough that you’re not always bogged down in he overall serious tone of the story.

(This is the first of the 15 books to be read this next year. Up next, most likely, is Outlander, as I really enjoyed reading the sample last night.)

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine – A book review

(My thanks to the lovely Maggie for the whole idea of organizing a book review in this way. I tried to find out if it was her original idea or she swiped it from elsewhere but no dice. Either way, credit goes to her for inspiring me! Her reviews from 2014 are here. She reads quite a lot so there’s always new reviews up.)

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne (official book site here)

Why are you reading this book?
I downloaded the Simon and Schuster 2013 Fiction Sampler, desperate for something to read after finishing Hollow City, and this one of the books that had an excerpt included there. The premise was so different than everything I’d been reading lately and I love unusual storytellers.

What is the first line?
“I hit the remote control next to the bed and turned on the lights to play The Secret Land of Zenon.”

Describe the book in haiku form:

pop star at crossroads

mother manager, dad gone

normal life or fame?

What will you do with it now?
keep for reference
keep and loan out to friends/recommend they download
keep to read again & again & again
throw it away/delete from the Kindle

Anything else you’d like to say?

The book was amusing enough but it seemed like it just sort of ended. Jonny’s big decision comes too quickly and you don’t get to see the repercussions because it’s the end of the book. The details of manipulating the media and backstage life are interesting but there wasn’t as much depth as I had hoped for. But Jonny is only 11; how much depth did any of us have at 11?