changes.

New year, new blog!

I’ve been working on a brand-new blog–new layout, new content, new direction–so in the next week this will all change. Same address, new everything else.

Very excited. Happy new year!

read: remarkable creatures.

Remarkable Creatures

Read for book club, I was interested in “Remarkable Creatures” because the author, Tracy Chevalier, also wrote “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” To be honest, I haven’t read that book, but I did hear an interview on NPR with Chevalier, where she spoke about “Girl” and how the idea turned into a novel. That was interesting enough to make me want to read one of her novels.

This book was … ok. I think some people would really enjoy it, but it just wasn’t my type of book. Set in a beach town in the UK, Elizabeth Philpot and her two sisters move to a small cottage in Lyme Regis after a fourth sister gets married. Their brother doesn’t have enough left for dowry for these three, so they move to the country. It’s here that Elizabeth meets Mary Anning, a girl who was struck by lightening as a child. This is significant because Mary is skilled at spotting fossils on the beach–and many believe it’s because she was struck by lightening.

The book follows Elizabeth and Mary as Mary grows up, and how finding fossils changes both of their lives. Chevalier does a fantastic job of weaving real people and real events into a fictional story. There is a note at the back of the book about who and what was real versus what she created for the sake of story. That was almost more interesting to me.

The big reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I think other people might is that the story centers around Mary falling in love with the wrong man. This changes her relationship with Elizabeth, and leads to the big climax of the novel. I am not one for most love stories, and I don’t really enjoy books where women with successful, happy lives nearly lose everything because of a man. Yes, I realize this is appropriate for the era of the novel. Yes, I realize it happens in life. I just don’t like reading about it.

So, if that doesn’t bother you, it’s a good book. If you aren’t interested in love stories, this might not be the novel for you.

read: the solitude of prime numbers.

Prime Numbers

“The Solitude of Prime Numbers” is the debut novel of Italian writer Paolo Giordano. It’s wonderful. One of those books I finish and sigh, wishing I could write something as good.

There is no procrastination in this book. Giordano gets right into the meat of the story, introducing us first to Alice and then to Mattia. Both characters experience something traumatic early in life–and in chapters one and two, we witness the trauma firsthand. I was hooked immediately in this book, wanting to know how the early events affected the rest of Alice and Mattia’s lives.

The book jumps ahead in years, providing vignettes of important events as the characters grow into adults. Alice and Mattia find each other in high school, though it never struck me as a strong connection. Because the teaser on the back of the book reads in part, “Years later, a chance encounter reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface. But can two prime numbers ever find a way to be together?” I was intrigued about how these two would find their way to each other after high school.

Mattia moves out of the country to pursue his career, while Alice flounders a bit, eventually marrying a doctor she met while her mom was in the hospital.

The book easily kept me engaged until the end, even with a large break in the middle while I read 1Q84, which had shown up from the library after a long wait (I had to finish that one before the library due date, and was sad to put this book down).

My favorite part of this book? The ending felt real. It wasn’t necessarily happy or sad, but felt complete and in line with the characters. Giordano did an excellent job of creating believable, well-rounded characters, and creating a compelling plot. Overall, it was a book I didn’t want to stop reading.

read: 1Q84.

1Q84

My beat-up library copy … excuse me. Well-loved library copy.

This book is a monster at 925 pages, and every bit is fantastic. I haven’t loved a book this much in quite awhile. Haruki Murakami split 1Q84 into three different books, each a few months during the span of the story. You can buy box sets with the three divided out, but they really need to be read all at once—so you might as well get the giant book and feel that much more accomplished when reaching the end. (Spoilers below, you’ve been warned.)

Aomame is a woman who works at a health club as a personal trainer, but also moonlights as a kind of assassin for a wealthy client.

Tengo is a math teacher and aspiring novelist, who is pulled into a scheme by his editor friend.

The two knew each other as children in elementary school, where an encounter left them both wondering what happened to the other 20 years later.

Fuka-Eri ran away from a religious cult and wrote a story about her experience. Tengo rewrote the story at the request of his editor-friend, where it went on to win an award and become a best-seller.

Oh, and of course, it’s Murakami, so toss in a bunch of magical realism. Suddenly Aomame and Tengo find themselves in 1Q84, and need to make sense of their world, try and survive and try to find each other.

It’s amazing.

Chapters flip between the main characters, and something is always happening. For 925 pages. Themes crop up again and again among the characters, and random events occur, but nothing felt extremely random or out of place to me. If, however, you are not a fan of magical realism, this might be a difficult book to read.

The plot moves along, but there are also bigger things at work in the story. Religion, love, God, time … I’m writing this right after I finished the book, so I’m sure there is a lot more that will come to mind after it’s sat for awhile.

Murakami’s writing is incredibly matter-of-fact, almost like he’s reporting a story after interviewing those involved. He does, however, delve into descriptions, offering details on how each character looks, dresses and acts, as well as things happening around the characters wherever they are. The world he creates is very full and alive, and he does an excellent job of creating a movie with his descriptions.

While Tengo just lets life happen to him, Aomame takes control of her life. The two balance each other out, so it didn’t bother me that Tengo was a bit ho-hum about everything. Peppered in are other interesting characters. Even the minor ones are pretty complete. I don’t feel like anyone felt flat with the exception of one, but even that fits him exactly how it should.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you enjoy magical realism, Japanese literature or have liked Murakami’s other novels. Just relax, and let the novel take you where it will.

Oh—and there are Little People, and two moons in the sky. What’s not to love?

The Eccentric Habits Of 8 Classic Writers

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

People everywhere have odd working habits, but let’s face it: writers are weird. Below, some of history’s most lauded literary figures and their bizarre habits, sourced from Celia Blue Johnson’s Odd Type Writers.

dddd

For starters, there’s Friedrich Schiller, who could not work or live without a “bundle of rotten apples in his desk drawer.” Apparently it was the aroma, which motivated him to work.

It’s comforting, really, to learn that some of the greatest literary figures oscillated between the creative and the crazy—especially when it came to caffeine. Despite coffee being illegal at his school, Honoré de Balzac would smuggle it in anyway, often leading him into debt and, eventually, forcing him to confess. In the 1830s, he often left Paris for bits of time to go to the small town Saché, where he would stay at his friend Jean de Margonne’s house—a friend who also happened to…

View original 498 more words

on reading about writing.

dog in fenceI’ve walked past this hole in the fence for five years. This is the first time I actually saw the dog’s head poking through. And this has nothing to do with this post, I just think it’s a funny photo. (He was a very nice dog, I patted his nose when I walked past.)

I have a problem.

I don’t read any of the writing blogs I subscribe to.

Here’s the thing: My RSS reader has 20 different writing-specific blogs. I haven’t read most of them in more than three months. I’m not really sure why.

When I do start reading them, it’s always helpful, thought-provoking or inspirational content. I like the writing blogs I subscribe to. Flipping through the list, however, I just don’t often stop and read. I should, since it does help whatever I’m currently working on.

Theory 1: There aren’t enough photos. Apparently I’m a four-year-old, and like photos in my blog posts. Sometimes even on photo-heavy posts, I scroll through the images and don’t actually read anything. Maybe if I could get the blogs as a bound book …

Theory 2: It makes me feel guilty. If I’m reading about writing, it’s just serving to remind me that I’m avoiding writing. And I’m excellent at avoiding my current WIP. Of course, maybe a third of the things you find on a writing blog are tips for having success as a writer. Tip one? Develop a writing habit, and show up every day. Thanks, blog that I’m using to avoid writing for reminding me of said fact.

Theory 3: Blogs written by writers are usually rather well-written–which, depending on my mood, can either be encouraging or is completely deflating.

I’m undecided which theory is the most likely. Truthfully, it probably depends on the day. So I’m sorry to all the lovely people whose blogs I subscribe to but don’t read often enough. It’s not you, it’s me.

— (Any favorite writing-related blogs I should check out?) —

read: the orchardist.

The Orchardist

Oh boy. “The Orchardist,” by Amanda Coplin, was a book club pick, and judging from the long wait list to get it from the library, it’s really popular right now (at least in Seattle). I’m only lukewarm on this one.

It’s the story of Talmadge, a guy who has an orchard in Washington state. He came to the state with his mother and sister, but soon after arrival the children’s mother died. Then, when Talmadge and his sister were older, his sister goes out into the woods and disappears one day. Left alone, he works his orchard and really lives a pretty lonely life.

Then one day, two girls show up from the woods. Both are pregnant. Della and Jane, the two sisters, won’t come near Talmadge, but he feels the need to take care of them, and so leaves food on the porch for them to eat. Eventually they start to trust him, though they don’t really speak to him, and don’t live in the house with him. Talmadge enlists the help of his friend Caroline Middey, and they support the girls, then help them deliver their babies when the time comes.

Jane has one baby girl, Della has twins that don’t make it. Soon after this, a man from Jane and Della’s past returns, and the girls panic. Talmadge loses Jane in the ensuing events, and is left with Della, and Jane’s infant daughter.

The book then moves through Della growing older, and the scars she has from her horrible childhood; Angelene, Jane’s daughter, and her life growing up with Talmadge; and Talmadge himself, and his mission to raise Angelene and try to help Della.

The story is interesting, takes unexpected turns, and I think handles the emotions of the characters well. The descriptions in the book are lovely, and the characters are fully developed. For me, however, the problems with the book landed in technical details.

Coplin changes the point of view frequently, and often did it in the middle of paragraphs. It’s jarring–I found the POV shifts incredibly distracting and confusing. There was also a story line that drifted off into nothingness and was never resolved, despite it seemingly being really important to Talmadge at the start of the story. Again, distracting and confusing.

Overall, I finished this book and could only think, where was her editor? These were relatively simple things in the grand scheme of creating a novel. The hard parts were taken care of–pacing was good, plot was good, descriptions were good, characters were good. But it only takes those little things to totally ruin a book for me, and that’s the case with this one.

read: in cold blood.

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote‘s “In Cold Blood” was on my 2013 reading list, though I picked it up on sale and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for quite awhile. I considered it a must-read classic, which often means I buy a copy, then don’t get around to reading it in favor of the trendy, popular books. My reading life seems quite high school.

Confession: I watched “Capote” before I read this book. I’m not sure if I liked one more than the other. They were both great, and it probably doesn’t much matter what order they’re read/watched. But this is for the book so …

Loved this book. Truman Capote’s writing is incredible. I can’t believe the amount of information he had to sort through, organize and weave into a compelling story. It’s absolutely amazing. That alone is a reason to read the book. Word of warning, however: Even though you probably know what happens in the end, it still might not be the best book to read right before falling asleep. Spoiler (sort-of-not-really): The entire story revolves around the Clutter family, all of whom are is murdered in their home in the middle of the night. I tried reading it before bed and couldn’t fall asleep. So this became a strictly daytime book.

Capote follows not only the reaction in Holcomb, where the murders happened, but also the work of the police and Kansas Bureau of Investigation as well as the murderers. The full picture is painted, from a short history of the family to the backgrounds of the murderers. His research was so thorough–I wonder how much was left out.

I think the book is a good snapshot of small town America in the late ’50s, and actually a good snapshot of of small town America today, also. Some places don’t change very fast.

My one dislike is, I think, an indication of the time when the book was written, rather than a fault of Capote. The end of the book drags out, with Capote including histories of the other inmates in the jail–something I didn’t feel was necessary to increase my understanding of the story and actually detrimental to my enjoyment. I skimmed a lot of those pages. That said, I feel like it was far more common in the past to include longer conclusions (see the final Lord of the Rings book for an extremely popular example. Have you actually read those final pages? I never have. The ring is gone, the end.) than it is today. That’s it, however. Everything else was amazing. I’m in awe of what Capote did.

this.

Rock On Buddha

I like this site, and can get lost for hours, but nearly everything tagged writing is a favorite. Need a push, some inspiration, or someone to say what you’re thinking? Scroll through. And then keep writing.

I’m about halfway through my second draft of my novel. I figure I have about three more edits to go before it’s ready for the first round of readers. This is a slow process, people. But I’m not tired of these characters yet, so I’ll continue to slog.

“One does not ask if it’s worth it. We are people, there is no doubt, who exist solely insofar as we write, otherwise we don’t exist.”

Also, Buddha says rock on.