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What I’ve Been Reading

The library has inspired me lately.

Their latest post on their website is of 5-word book reviews of some of their favourite books. I simply love this idea of 5-word reviews. (Perhaps I’ll start using it in my Goodreads? Hmm.) I loathe long wordy, overly descriptive reviews that rehash the plot line and characters. Someone has already done the job of writing the book jacket description, no need to repeat it. As I’ve mentioned before, we have some witty librarians here whose recommendations I trust. So from the most recent post I have added a few to my to-read list, as most of them had already been checked out.

After reading that post I went back and read some older posts, to add more to my to-read list. On this post of Ockham Book Award finalists (also 5-word reviews, hooray!) I picked up Baby by Annaleese Jochems (“intense, disturbing tale about millennials”). Overall, not my favourite. The beginning caught me, but I kept waiting for it all to come together to mean something. Or to at least give me some insight into millennials. I went away thinking perhaps I didn’t want the insight, or that my Gen-X self (though I recently read I’ve been changed to ‘Xennial‘ – I even took the quiz) just can’t relate to the disconnected millennials. Because that is how I would describe this book – disconnected. Or maybe it’s that millennial characters are self-absorbed?  Slightly narcissistic? Anyway. The author shows promise and I think as she matures she could write some very good stuff.

As I wandered the non-fiction section searching for a few books on my list, a book set out on display caught my eye with an intriguing title – The Woman Who Wasn’t There by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo G. Guglielmo, Jr. This is an astonishing story of a woman who not only faked being a 9/11 survivor, but became a ‘celebrity’ of the survivors. While the story was interesting, I would have liked it to include more discussion of the psychology behind someone who could do such an unfathomable thing and perhaps more about the stories of the other people in it. It was ok.

A few books that gave me the creeps…

84K by Claire North – A dystopian story where crimes are assigned a money value to repay the debt to society and maintain a certain balance. While I can appreciate her unique style, it didn’t work for me. The storyline was good, the writing somewhat irritating.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay – I wanted this to be something bigger. I was turned off by the descriptions of gore and felt it was a generic story.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – another winner from Gillian Flynn, easy to read and easy to get absorbed in, as well as to be disturbed by people’s behaviour while somehow finding it relatable. Overall a good read that makes me want to watch the TV series.

After the creepy books I needed to lighten the atmosphere in my brain, so I picked up Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson. A quick humorous creative read in the trademark style of the author. It did the trick for restoring my mind to a lighter state of being.

From there I chose to read The Grand Hotel by Scott Kenemore. Another easy read, this one clever and enjoyable, containing many stories within the story. I will have to look for his Zombie series.

That catches us up on what I’ve read… feel free to comment any of your recommendations below!

Here’s my quiz result:

Xennial

You are a true xennial. Well done. You understand modern technology but are not so emotionally needy as to need constant validation from strangers you will never meet.

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What I’ve Been Reading

I have been ripping through books lately. I guess that’s what happens when you’re employed 15 hours a week and too broke to go anywhere besides the library, and it’s freezing cold middle of winter…. Life has been an odd chain of events over the last year and right now it’s in a state of flux, not sure if I’m coming or going or living a dream. Thus, I read.

In the past week I have polished off four books (my Goodreads challenge will be blown out of the stacks this year).

A new hot book, read by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker (do we care that she has a Goodreads account now? Does she actually read or is it a PR thing?), I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.

Overall, I enjoyed it. The story is of a woman who checks out of life for a year by sleeping through as much as possible with the help of a bonanza of pharmaceuticals. I relate to the melancholy, the what-is-the-point-of-it-all-ness, the exasperating exhaustion of other people. My melancholy lasts at most a couple of days at a time, not a whole year, let’s be thankful for that.

There was a portion about 1/3 to 1/2 through where I thought it was a bit repetitive, but the action picked up a bit after that (action may be a strong word – we are talking about a woman who virtually slept a year of her life away) to a satisfying finish. I appreciate a new voice, new perspective, and one I can relate to. I will be going back and reading Ottessa’s previous books and any she has coming out in future.

Disappearing in dystopian works is therapeutic to me, so I went back to David Mitchell. I read Cloud Atlas a couple years ago and thought it pure genius, then read a couple other books of his that I wasn’t that into. This week I picked up The Bone Clocks (loved it) AND  Slade House (yes, two books by the same author in one week! There must be a term for that).

It was a fortunate pairing, because the story of Slade House carries on with some of the characters and storyline from The Bone Clocks. Anyhow, both were thoroughly enjoyable, but I recommend reading The Bone Clocks first. It is another epic David Mitchell style novel, told through five different characters (much respect to you David, for your character development and ability to deliver diverse believable personalities across ages, sexes, and eras). Very enjoyable read. Slade House is a short book as far as David Mitchell novels go, full of imagination and general creepiness. David Mitchell transports the reader to other worlds. Fait accompli.

Finally, I delved into a bit of history and pulled out Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I found this last week on the Used Book For Sale cart at the library and paid a whole fifty cents for it. This was my first foray into Bradbury, and I have to say I was inspired by his ability to simply tell a fanciful story that was also somewhat terrifying. Creepy carnival characters will get me every time. His style will be one that may influence my writing in future.

So there you have it, no boring book reviews full of long quotes and excessive verbiage, just what I’ve been reading and what I thought. If you want to know the plot lines, look them up on Goodreads, or Amazon, or any other site that has already hashed that out for you.

Get off the device and pick up your book. Happy reading.

For the Love of Used Books

book smell.jpg

My sentiments exactly regarding old books. I recently went to the annual Founders Book Fair here in Nelson, a weeklong booklover’s must-do. Several hours perusing thousands of used books in a chilly barn (I was prepared this year – layers, fingerless gloves, no purse, just a pocketful of cash and a reusable bag – and a partner to carry said bag when it got too heavy) ranging in price from 50 cents to three dollars netted me another 40+ books to add to my collections for $43. I felt supremely satisfied and my only problem was how to organize my already-full shelves and what to read first. I accepted haphazard “organization” (I swear there is some method there!) and then cuddled up with a cup of tea and a new/old paperback. There is something a bit magical about old books, as they are a story themselves. Who owned this? What did it mean to them? Why did they part with it? Did they even read it, or was it merely occupying shelf space until they had a clear-out?

Two other things I love about old books: inscriptions and random bookmarks. Receipts have to be the most common bookmark, the best one I found was for a cartload of liquor from a store in England. Perhaps someone had a party and then when everyone left they took the last remaining bottle and a book and sighed in relief for solitude. Or perhaps that was merely their personal supply for the week as they  stayed in and hid from the outside world, reading and drinking (although the two only go together to a certain degree, usually that degree when the contents of the wine glass meet the pages of the book because someone has nodded off… not that I’ve ever done that of course, that wine stain was surely there before!).

Whenever I give a book as a gift I always inscribe a note to the receiver. A book is a personal gift and there had to be some thought in selecting that particular book for that particular person. Inside an anthology of quotes titled “Shakespeare on Love” I found this handwritten inside the cover:

“To Violet,
Merry Christmas 2006.
May God bless you.
Love Jayne xxx”

Was this a gift given to a friend who loves Shakespeare? Or was it from an admirer? And why was Violet able to part with it? Perhaps there was little meaning behind it and much misunderstanding about Violet’s taste for Shakespeare. Or for love quotes, for that matter. We will never know and can only speculate.

What about you? Do you share my love for used books or are you devoted to the new and untouched? And what treasures have you come across in books?

 

Spreading the Goodreads love

I am a huge fan of Goodreads. I use it to keep track of what I’ve read and find new recommendations, and to see what my friends read (I believe seeing someone’s reading list is a fairly intimate glance into their mind). I highly recommend it to all booklovers. I recently learned a few new tricks, including how to add a link to my local library. Now when I find a book I want to read, I can with one click see if it’s available at my library. How exciting!

So to anyone interested in Goodreads, or already signed up, here is the link to the article where I learned a few new things. I will say I am not generally a fan of BookRiot because their site is full of ads and not at all easy to read, so apologies for that, just do your best to focus on the content and ignore the flash and nonsense.

By the way feel free to add me as a Goodreads friend– let’s see what each other is reading!

http://bookriot.com/2015/09/15/11-ways-to-love-goodreads-even-more-2/

An Awesome List of Short-ish Books

A worthy list indeed; I may add all of these to my To Read list! I’m usually not interested in book reviewers. This is the first time I’ve come across Maureen Corrigan, and I think I’m a fan. From the way she writes it’s evident she is intelligent, a prolific reader and lover of books.

http://www.npr.org/2015/12/07/458461851/maureen-corrigans-best-books-of-2015-short-ish-books-that-pack-a-big-punch

No Schedules, 100 Notable Books and My Top Ten Books of 2015

Well. I’ve been away from my projects for awhile but life is just like that and I’ve decided I don’t have to make myself have a schedule that will only result in my feeling bad when I don’t adhere to it, because feeling bad for no good reason is something I try to avoid. I prefer to live in an undisciplined, do-as-I-please and take-it-or-leave-it style. Just had to get that off my chest.

As a result of being away from my projects, I have a head filled with things to get out into the world! I foresee a smattering of posts getting done today.

To start with, the title “100 Notable Books of 2015” really caught my eye. Oooh, how many have I read? I was admittedly a bit surprised to find that I have not read a single book that the New York Times editors deemed the most notable of the year (as a side note, 2015 is not over yet – poor authors who have not yet published and missed their chance). Needless to say I found a few to add to my To Read list so it was worth a look anyway.

However it inspired me to create my own list as a means to look back on what I’ve read this year. I set a goal to read 50 books and am currently on numbers 44, 45 and 46 so I reserve the right to change depending on what I have yet to read in the next 33 days. In no particular order (that would take me ages to decide) I present to you:

My 10 Favourite Books of 2015

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Worst Person Ever by Douglas Coupland

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Dog Stars by Peter

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St John Mandel

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is the Life by Alex Shearer

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons

The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty by Sebastian Barry

Cooked by Michael Pollan

There you have it. Apparently I was big on Fiction in 2015. What books are in your Top 10 of 2015?

Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that.

− John Green

hot drink plus book equals happiness
It doesn’t take much to make a book lover happy.

America’s Reading Habits

While idly browsing Pinterest, a venture that presents the risk of disappearing down a rabbit hole of randomness, I came across this infographic regarding America’s reading habits.

America's Reading Habits infographic from H&R Block
America’s Reading Habits infographic from H&R Block

I discovered that I read far more books than the average person; I suppose it shouldn’t have been that surprising, but I couldn’t help but think who are the people only reading 1-2 books in a whole year!? I’m currently on book #28 this year (having set a Goodreads Reading Challenge of 50 books for 2015, and currently slogging through the 800+ pages of The Luminaries). When selecting books to read I weigh how worthy of my time they might be, as I’m afraid there aren’t enough days in a lifetime to get through my To Read list; how much more agonizing would the decision be if you were only reading 1-2 a year? I hope these people have chosen well, though logically if they had read excellent books one would presume they would be spurred on to consume more than 1-2 in a whole entire year.

Briefly I’ll mention my dismay at how much of the book market is dominated by Amazon. Look at the number of books sold in the U.S. in 2013 (2,590,000,000 – a cheering number in itself – yay, people are reading!) and then look at the number of independent bookstores (1,917). Imagine for a moment the faces of independent bookstore owners if all of those 2 billion+ books had been bought in their stores.

Where do you find yourself stacking up? Please share your own insights in the comments.

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