Literary Engineer
Because reading and writing are my only obsessions

Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Making life easier

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

A few weeks ago I talked about cleaning up my Kindle, including getting rid of stuff I’d gotten for free, but now know I’ll probably never read. And I did some organizing by creating several collections (folders).
 
-Kids stories
-Short stories/novellas (because when I want something short, it’s easy to find)
-Books on writing (it’s good to reference these every once in a while)
 
So proud of myself. But also kicking myself for not doing this long ago.
 
Now on to Goodreads. I look at reviews of course, but I haven’t used it much other than my to-read and read list. And really, I just add books to my to-read list, I don’t have them in any order.
 
But now I’ve realized I should be using GR to categorize books I want to read, because I so often forget what’s waiting to be read. So I set up a folder to show these to-read books
 
-Books I can get at the library, whether e-book or real.
-Short stories/novellas on my Kindle
-Novels on my Kindle
-Books (real) I own
 
This will help me better keep track of what’s available, because my to-read list includes many books that aren’t currently available to me. (Mostly because I’m not ready to buy them, cause you know… I got too many books waiting to be read and don’t need to buy more.)
 
So do you use the categories on Goodreads for more than just to-read and read lists? What categories have you set up?

Finding what I already had

Sunday, October 27th, 2013


First, I’d like to say thank you to YA Fusion. I won a copy of Ellen Hopkins new novel Smoke. I’ve read several of hers and really liked them, and I look forward to this one too.
 
So, for those who don’t know, I mostly read contemporary young adult. And I didn’t start reading it until a few years ago when I started writing it. Since then I’ve kinda fallen away from the classics, horrors and thrillers that I’d mostly read before that.
 
During the month of October, I hardly read anything, and finally jumped back into reading this last week. Christa Desir just released her new YA novel, Fault Line and I’d been waiting a long time to read it. It’s a powerful book, and I’d definitely recommend it. And it got me excited about reading again.
 
After finishing, I decided to go through my Kindle and clean up: remove books I won’t get to and do some other organizing. Since I have hundreds of books on the Kindle, and haven’t read probably ½ of them, I had a lot to go through.
 
And I found many interesting books I’d forgotten about. One is Night of Knives by Jon Evans:
 
Veronica Kelly came to Africa to start her life over. Still reeling from her divorce, she is grateful when a handsome stranger invites her to join a tour to visit gorillas in Uganda’s wild Impenetrable Forest. A trip that goes desperately wrong when their group is captured by brutal gunmen.
 Then one tourist is executed.
 And then another.
 This is no random kidnapping: their abduction is only the first move in a deadly strategic game. A game in which Veronica’s ex-husband is somehow involved. Now she must embark on a wild journey across Africa, to unveil a malignant conspiracy before it consumes entire nations – and thousands of lives…

 
The Congo. Deception. Murder. Doesn’t that sound cool? And I’ve got many others like that I discovered once again. I definitely need to go through my Kindle more often. Or maybe Goodreads. I mean, hello, I can rate my to-read books by number. Usually I just add books to my to-read list and then forget about them.
 
I really need to be more organized.
 
So if you’re a Kindle or a Nook reader, do you have way too many books waiting to be read? Do you forget what books you have and then get a nice surprise when looking for something new to read?

Is this just me?

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

 
So I have this little thing I do, and I’ve often wondered if it’s just me, but before I get to it, I’d better give the background.
 
(FYI: If you’re a speech therapist, please read this and tell me if you have any insight into this odd problem.)
 
Back when my son was little, I read him this book over and over—as usually happens with children. Thomas and the Big Big Bridge. One time I was reading the story to him, I realized there’s this line where I transposed one word. I didn’t skip it, but I moved it to another place in the sentence.
 
The next time I’m reading, I noticed I did the same thing again. And it happens again and again. Almost every time I read that sentence, I automatically moved that word.
 
Since I was reading aloud a lot, I noticed I did this in other books too. It’s like I move a word to another spot, where obviously it sounds/flows better. While I’m reading, I’m completely conscious of the fact I move words, but I’m not moving them on purpose. It just comes out of my mouth that way. (This might happen once per book on average.)
 

Image courtesy of Master isolated / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What is wrong with my brain? Is this why I hated reading aloud in high school? Do I have some weird dyslexic-type thing where people do this? Am I the only one?
 
Now I know I’m not really dyslexic cause I’ve always been a good reader/writer, and I loved English classes and generally did well in school.
 
And now that I’ve become a writer and have found I love critiquing, I’m starting to wonder if my brain is so smart and advanced that it’s automatically editing the text before it passes them along to my mouth. I mean, that makes perfect sense, right?
 
No, but seriously, it’s the weirdest thing, and I have no clue why it happens? Do you ever do this?
 

Is this just me?

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

 

Are you one of those people who get annoyed when you find grammatical errors in a novel? (Or novella, short story, newspaper/magazine article, children’s book… :) )
 
And do you get annoyed a lot? Or just a little?
 
I fall into the I-don’t-get-annoyed-much category, with the exception of if it’s a mistake that happens consistently throughout the book. But sometimes I get into a story that has style issues I don’t like. Of course that’s a totally personal thing, but I’m gonna talk about the ones I don’t like. Actually, I’ll only talk about one today because:
 
1. People tend to skim posts when they get too long
2. I want to drag this out into two posts cause it’s one less posting I have to create. :)
 
So have you seen any novels where the author didn’t use quotation marks?
 
A few years back I ready LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard. I loved the story and would still recommend it to others, but one thing about it frustrated me. Her lack of quotation marks. She used dialog tags, but still, sometimes it got confusing. In the end, it took away from the enjoyment of the book.
 
It was just weird. I’ve never read anything else by her, so I don’t know if she’s used that style a lot, or if LABOR DAY was the only one. But it is the only novel I’ve read with no quotation marks, and I’m sure there are others. It won’t stop me from read a book, but it will slow me down.
 
Have you ever read a book that didn’t use quotation marks in their dialogue?
Did it bother you?
Have you read LABOR DAY? (If you haven’t, you should.)
 

Goodbye Archie

Sunday, February 17th, 2013


 
Did you read Archie Comics when they were younger?


 
I did. Like all the time. Even into high school and college. I loved Archie, Betty and Veronica, Jughead, Reggie and the whole gang, and bought a lot of Archie Comics. Both the small book-like Digests and the typical comic book sized ones.
 
I had over 150 of the Digest sized comics. And maybe about 80 regular sized ones. I even got into buying 1st editions. Not really old ones, but the ones from the late 80s and early 90s.
 
The only annoying thing was, because I read them so often, I started to see stories repeated. And I felt ripped off because I was paying money for a story I’d already read.
 
So not long ago I put up my collection on Ebay. I’d looked into local comic book stores, but they were not interested. So Ebay was the place to go. Sold them in 3 lots. And was pretty stunned to make about $140 total. I was quite pleased.
 
I haven’t sold my full-sized Archies yet, but they’re next on my Ebay list.
 
I have a few other comics, Josie and the PussyCats, Richie Rich, even an Annie comic. They’re fun to look at, and even though I tend to be a saver, it was time to get rid of them.
 
So goodbye Archie. I’ll miss you, but not the space you took up.
 
Did you read any comics growing up? Or do you now?

Your name or mine

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

 
Not long ago I let a friend read The Proper Way to Say Goodbye. And her name is Chloe, just like my main character. That made me wonder, does it feel weird to read a story with a main character that has the same name as you.
 
I asked the real Chloe, and she said no, it didn’t feel weird to her.
 
But I’m wondering what other people think. Especially those with common names that show up in stories. Because mine does not.
 
I went to the Social Security Baby Names Wesite. I reference this site a lot when I’m trying to find character names. It’s great because you can look them up by popularity of any year. Of the top 1000 names. So if you need a name from an earlier decade, it’s easy to find them.
 
And big surprise, Suzi doesn’t even rate in the top 1000. Neither does Suzie or Suzy.
 
Susan actually rated pretty high my birth year. #27. But Susan isn’t my name, so it doesn’t count. Susie came in at 541. But still, it’s not my name.
 
So my point is, I don’t think I’ve ever ran across my exact name in a book. And I’m curious if it feels weird for you to read a story with your name.
 
And, have you found a story that has your first AND last name?
 
That would be pretty cool.
 

(Come back tomorrow for more name stuff with the Allow Me to Re-introduce Myself Bloghop.)

Literary Fiction versus Genre Fiction

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Did you know there is a big debate raging out there? Okay, maybe it’s not raging, but I’ve seen people on the internet arguing about what is better, literary fiction or genre fiction? For a while I was confused about what literary fiction means because even the experts can’t agree to a specific definition. But I think I got it now.

A simple way of looking at it is like this…

Literary fiction is like an education from Harvard. You think you’re better than everyone else because you read some 1000 page intellectual novel that nobody else gets. And you paid way too much money for that privilege.

Genre fiction is like a degree from a state college. Anybody can read it. Anybody can write it. And this book is really the same as that book, and that one, and that one.

Joking aside… this is how I see the difference.

Genre/popular/commercial fiction is more plot driven, more commercial, open to a broader audience.
It includes different genres (of course) like horror, romance, suspense, science fiction…
It is more for entertainment.

Literary fiction is more character driven and often appeals to a lesser audience.
It is more about the changes inside a character than what is happening to them on the outside.
It is more thought provoking.
It tends to be more descriptive and stylishly written.

I didn’t really know there were two different categories until I got into writing. A lot of book club books probably fall into literary fiction. Right now I’m reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton for our MOMS Club Book Club. I assume this book falls under the literary fiction category. It has long descriptions of places and things but I don’t mind it because it’s interesting. The story takes place in Australia and England over a long time period (1900, 1913, 1975, 2005). A woman is trying to figure out a family secret that her grandmother had been trying to uncover. It’s told from the perspective of at least 5-6 people and sometimes it gets confusing keeping track of ALL the names, but I like it so far.

But back to the literary versus genre fiction.

From a reader’s standpoint, I probably prefer genre fiction and read more of it. But from a writer’s standpoint, writing literary fiction would be much harder for me, so I admire it in one way. I don’t know that one is necessarily better than the other because it’s all about personal opinion. But I hope that at least now you understand the difference between the two.

Books I couldn’t finish

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

On my home page, it says, “Because reading and writing are my two obsessions.” Maybe I should have put writing first, since this blog is more about the writing end. But it sounded better that way I did it, so I’ll leave it. But time for a post on reading.

There are not many books I have started and not finished. I thought of posting this after I didn’t finish a book club book. Luckily my book club is very forgiving. It’s not the most serious book club because we all have young kids and try keep track of them as we talk, but the ladies are all fun.

So here’s my list of unfinished books (as an adult—I don’t remember the teen years).

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – Started in early 2000s – I know it’s a classic and it is on many required reading lists, but I didn’t like it. I got ¾ way through (and I had to force myself at that), but I couldn’t finish. I like war stories in general and I understand that there is no “normal” in war, but the main character was unrealistic to the point of absurdity. (This is how I remember it, as read probably 8-9 years ago.) I could/would possibly try this again sometime. We’ll see.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Started in early 2000s – Another classic. But seriously Ms. Woolf, those long sentences stopped me cold, including the one sentence that had 52 words—no exaggerating—and I didn’t make it past the first chapter. So sue me, I like period breaks every once in a while; maybe it’s poetic, but I didn’t like her style and it would take some convincing before I try read another Virginia Woolf novel.

King Lear by Shakespeare – Started in the early 2000s – Plays are okay to read, although not my favorite. But it was the Elizabethan English and the footnotes that got me—in my version half the pages were half footnotes and they seem important because sometimes they explain what the words. “I am so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to’t.” I wouldn’t have understood that “brazed” meant unashamed if the footnote hadn’t told me. I’ll probably try re-read someday because he is WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE after all and I still have the book. Maybe I should read it the first time and ignore the footnotes. Then re-read with footnotes. Good idea, but when would I find the time?

Notice the big jump in years due to lack of reading (children being the excuse)

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III – Started in 2010 – I don’t know why I quit this one. Maybe because I just had other better books to read. It still looks interesting so I’ll probably read it someday.

The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer – Started in 2011 – I finished 120 pages. And since my book club (who doesn’t mind if you don’t finish the book) filled me in on the rest of the non-story, I don’t feel the need to finish. I was bored by the lack of plot. 120 pages and I felt like almost nothing had happened.

That’s all I can think of right now. Generally I hate not finishing a book, so it takes a good reason to quit. I’m curious about what other people do. If they trudge through it no matter what, or if they give up right away.

Reading is important too

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

One of the things “they” say you should do to become a better writer is to read, read, read. And of course you should read in the genre for which you are writing. That means for me, young adult.

Last summer I started reading contemporary ya books and since then, I’ve read more books in one year than I had read the first six years of Lincoln’s life.

Seventy plus books in one year, 90% of which are young adult. Sounds impressive. But you have to remember that ya books are shorter than adult novels, on average, maybe 40,000 to 60,000 words. And when I get a small, squat book with large text, I know the word count is not high.

I’ve found that reading on the treadmill works great. Unless you like to run. But since I don’t, I can walk fast and read at the same time. So with 45 minutes of reading time a day, a typical book might take 3-5 days.

I am going to keep a list of what I’m reading, and probably refer to it in my posts. I won’t go back and write down all 70+ books, but I’ll start with the ones since I started blogging.

And if anyone needs any recommendations on ya books for their teens, I can surely give you some good ones. It might take me a few days to look over my list, but I could find exactly what you might want (in contemporary ya, once again).

I wish I had started keeping track of books I’ve read back in my teenage years. I have one good friend who is doing this now. Lyz from http://moderndayjane.areavoices.com/. She actually writes a little summary so she can remember easier what it is about. It’s a great idea, but I figured I don’t want to start now in my late thirties. If I had started way back when…

It would just be interesting to see what I was reading back in high school. Oh well.

What I’m reading: The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook
What I’m writing: a new story

Oh really

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

I generally won’t post funny things my kids say, I like to save that for Facebook. But I’m going to give Miranda a post since it relates to books.

As we were at the bmx park watching Lincoln ride his bike on the track, 4 year old Miranda says to me, “I know a lot about motorcycles. I have a whole collection of books in my room.”

This is a bit of a surprise to me. As the only book I can think of was Fish and Flips, which by the way is from my stash of beloved Sweet Pickles books. (Fish does daring tricks on her motorcycle.)

But a collection. Really?

As a good mom, I smiled and nodded.