Posted in Reading

Reading Equals Better Writing

december

I often get teased for using “big” words on Facebook and in every day conversation. It’s gotten to the point where it’s annoying and seems insulting. I don’t use “big” words to show my intelligence level or to belittle others. Maybe I have a more extensive vocabulary than some people, maybe, but if I do, it’s because I READ. I read a lot. Almost every time I read a new book, I run across a word that is new to me. I always look up words that I don’t know in a dictionary. I have an English degree and have almost completed my Master’s in Library and Information Science. Do you really think I can get degrees in these fields and not be exposed to a lot of words???

I ran across an article on Book Riot today written by college Composition professor, Jessi Lewis. She says that in her experience, her students that read books outside of assigned reading, or for fun, often have better writing skills than their peers who don’t. Lewis says, “…it often feels as though if they missed out on reading at certain points in their lives, it will take lots of catching up to get them back to that golden point of grammar-comfort.” This is true also of expanding your vocabulary. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

Lesson of the Day:  Pick up a book and read it.

 

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Posted in Reading

Adding a New Shelf

dnf

No matter how much I read or how much older and wiser (heheh) I get, I still hesitate to allow myself to DNF a book. It almost seems unfair to form an opinion about a book that I haven’t finished. How can you make an informed decision when you lack all the information? That being said, I do allow myself to DNF a book now and then. If an eBook’s formatting is so terrible that I can’t figure out what I’m reading, I DNF it. If a book doesn’t hold my attention, is not interesting, and I’m not getting anything from it, I DNF it. If a book has so many typos or the sentence structure and/or grammar is awful (and where are the editors here??) I DNF it. There are other reasons, but these are my main three. When I do this, I do not write a review for the book even if it’s a proof copy. I absolutely do believe that it’d be wrong of me to convey my thoughts and opinions on a book publicly without having completely finished a book. This is strictly my personal opinion for myself.

There are times, however, when I’m reading a book that I am enjoying but set it aside for one reason or another. Maybe a book that I’ve been waiting for has finally been released and I can’t resist reading it right away or sometimes life just gets in the way. On Goodreads, I usually leave these books on my “currently reading” shelf. Eventually, I’ll move them back to my “to read” shelf, but I don’t have any set amount of time for making that decision. It just seems as if I’m padding my numbers when I “say” I’m currently reading a book that I haven’t picked up in six months or however long.

I was watching Jean’s booktube channel, Jean’s Bookish Thoughts, the other day and she discussed this topic herself and said that she created a shelf just for these books. You know. Books that you’ve started, have set aside, but fully intend to pick up sometime in the future. I don’t know why I didn’t think to add this shelf to my Goodreads before. It will also be a good way for me to review these books every once in a while to see if I do, in fact, want to come back to them or maybe I should just add them to my box of books to trade at the used book store.

There’s nothing wrong with DNF’ing a book. There’s nothing wrong with setting a book aside in favor of another. There’s nothing wrong with reading ten books at one time. I just like to stay organized and I’m a visual person. Creating a shelf on Goodreads for books I’ve started and haven’t finished just makes good sense for me.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a similar shelf? Do you have a better or more creative solution?

Posted in Book Review, Reading

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

Title:  A Perilous Undertaking

Author:  Deanna Raybourn

Publisher:  Penguin Publishing Group

Pages:  352

Genre:  Mystery, historical fiction

Setting:  Victorian London

Source:    Net Galley

Blurb:

London, 1887. Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task—saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman’s noose in a week’s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer—a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia’s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime. From a Bohemian artists’ colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed….

From Me:

This book was so much fun. It is the second in a series and I haven’t read the first but I got along just fine. There were some references to a previous adventure, which made it obvious that you were missing something if you haven’t read the first book, but it didn’t detract from the story in the second.

Victorian England is one of my favorite historical settings for novels. Raybourn really plays that up and the tone of her writing is very Victorian. This is a mystery involving Veronica Speedwell, an amateur sleuth, and her friend and companion, Stoker. She is anything but your typical Victorian lady, being an independent adventuress. Veronica is so likeable that you just want her as your friend. Being in constant close quarters with her pal, Stoker who is something of an aristocratic pirate, doesn’t make her any less enviable. The humor between the two characters is fabulous and there’s just a hint of sexual tension between the two. The story is more about solving the mystery than it is about any sort of romance between Veronica and Stoker though.

I also enjoyed the scientific aspect of the novel. Veronica is a  lepidopterist or a butterfly hunter/collector and Stoker is natural historian and both are brilliant in their own respects. I thought that Raybourn played up the Victorian, sleuthing, and scientific aspects of the novel beautifully and it made for a well-rounded story.

One word of caution, a kind of side note here…Net Galley has listed the first book as a Teen/YA. Due to some graphic language and overt drug use, while pertinent to the story and appropriate to the Victorian era, I would think that this is a mislabling, especially considering they did not list the second book as YA. I don’t believe in censoring books but I do believe in parenting your own children. Do your own due diligence.

Posted in Book Review, Reading

Barefoot Beach by Toby Devens

Barefoot Beach

Title:  Barefoot Beach

Author:  Toby Devens

Publisher:  Penguin Publishing Group

Pages:  400

Genre:  Contemporary women’s fiction

Setting:  The beach, I think maybe in Maryland?

Source:    ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest review.

Blurb:

Spend a summer at the beach with this enchanting and emotional story about love, loss, and the powerful bonds of female friendship…
 
The beach house carried some kind of spell, concocted of—I don’t know—salt air, sea grass and Old Bay seasoning that over the years had permeated its walls and floorboards. Whatever it was, the place cast fabulous magic.

For Nora Farrell, Tuckahoe, Maryland, isn’t just a summer refuge, it’s home—where she married the love of her life, decided to have a child, and has remained connected with her two closest friends. Even now, long after her husband’s passing, Nora reunites with Margo and Emine every June….

But this year, challenges invade the friends’ retreat. Even as Nora delights in teaching at her dance studio, she is shaken by the possible loss of her beach house…and by a tentative new romance. While Margo directs a musical at the Driftwood Playhouse, she finds her marriage on rocky ground. And Em, who relishes running her family’s café, struggles to handle her rebellious daughter.

With their personal dramas reaching a fever pitch, the women will discover that it isn’t only the beach that brightens their lives. Their bond with one another provides the ultimate magic.

From Me:

I was set to thoroughly dislike this book even though I requested it from First to Read. I requested it because it is touted as being the perfect beach read and I was looking for something light and easy. Despite my initial misgivings, I actually enjoyed this novel.

Set in a beach town, we meet Nora. Nora’s lost her husband several years prior and has raised their son on her own. Now that he’s home from his first year in college, Nora returns for the summer to their beach house to while away the days with her two closest friends. Finally, maybe, she’s given herself permission to move on with her life.

This is very Lifetime movie-ish, but the women are likeable, strong, each in her own way, yet flawed. I enjoyed the story for what it is, a chick-lit, beach-read and would recommend it for anyone looking for a book to pop into their beach tote.

3 Hearts

Posted in Book Review, Reading

War & Turpentine: A Novel by Stefan Hertmans

War & Turpentine

Title:  War & Turpentine

Author:  Stefan Hertmans

Translator:  David McKay

Publisher:  Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Pages:  304

Genre:  Memoir, Historical, Biography

Setting:  Pre and Post WWI Belgium.

Source:    ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest review.

Release Date:  Aug 9, 2016

Blurb:

The life of Urbain Martien—artist, soldier, survivor of World War I—lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his story, the notebooks giving him the impetus to imagine his way into the locked chambers of Urbain’s memory. He vividly recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father’s work; dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this story, Urbain’s grandson straddles past and present, searching for a way to understand his own part in both. As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints an extraordinary portrait of one man’s life and reveals how that life echoed down through the generations.

(With black-and-white illustrations throughout.)

From Me:

This novel is a big ol’ WOW from me. Using his grandfather’s written memoirs, historical facts, stories from family, and his grandfather’s paintings, Hertmans recreates his grandfather’s life and in doing so, attempts to find his own place in his family’s history. We learn of Urbain’s early childhood, growing up poor in Ghent, and what leads him to become a soldier in the first World War. We follow Urbain through the utter horrors of the war, to falling in love, and finally marriage and settling down. Hertmans’ technique is nothing less than masterful. He deftly switches between telling his grandfather’s story in his own voice to having Urbain live his story during the war and throughout the entire telling, it reads like a novel. It draws you into the story of this seemingly ordinary man who is, in actuality, a complex, talented, romantic, war hero.

This is the first novel I’ve read, to my knowledge, that has been translated to English. The lyrical prose, the poetic descriptions, they are so brilliantly written that you can see the war-torn countryside, smell the nightmares of the trenches, and feel the heartache and loss experienced by Urbain. I have to wonder how much of that is McKay and how much is Hertmans or does it translate perfectly?

War & Turpentine will be released in its translated English on August 9, 2016. Do yourself a favor and preorder it.

5 Hearts

Posted in Reading

Reading Tastes and Finding Your Reading Soulmate

Bookish

I’ve had this topic bouncing around in my head for quite some time and decided to try and get it out where I can see it.

We all have different tastes in books. It’s like music or food or colors or TV shows. Have you ever stopped to think about how you like some books, hate others, and why? Is it the writing style? The genre? Your current mood? And then consider this:  Let’s say you have a friend with whom you have a lot in common. You like the same TV shows and you even painted your bedrooms the same shade of blue. Then you start comparing your bookshelves and discover quite a few of the same books on both. You both have a major crush on Neil Gaiman and read everything he’s ever written, including his Tumblr. But then you find out that your friend absolutely hates a book that you absolutely loved. How is that so? How can you have so many things that you both love, including quite a few books, but your bestie hates one of your favorite books? I can understand how two people love pizza but one likes mushrooms and one doesn’t. Or you both like jazz music but one likes pop too and the other likes classical. But if you both like the same authors, genres, and writing styles, how can one love a particular book and the other not?

This whole idea came to me when I was perusing a friend’s Goodreads account. We like a lot of the same books but she absolutely did not like one of my favorite series of books even though this series is of a genre that this person likes. Say it isn’t so!!!

Take it one step farther…Have you ever decided that you couldn’t be friends with someone because they didn’t like a book that you loved? I have, but it was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back. We had so little in common that when I found out she hated Eleanor and Park, I gave up on the friendship, lol.

What are your experiences with books and friendships?

Posted in Book Review, Reading

Still Here by Lara Vapnyar

Still Here

Title:  Still Here

Author:  Lara Vapnyar

Publisher:  Crown/Archetype

Pages:  320

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Setting:  Mostly NYC and a little bit in Moscow.

Source:    ARC from First to Read

Release Date:  Aug 2, 2016

Blurb:

In her warm, absorbing and keenly observed new novel, Lara Vapnyar follows the intertwined lives of four immigrants in New York City as they grapple with love and tumult, the challenges of a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.

Vica, Vadik, Sergey and Regina met in Russia in their school days, but remained in touch and now have very different American lives. Sergey cycles through jobs as an analyst, hoping his idea for an app will finally bring him success. His wife Vica, a medical technician struggling to keep her family afloat, hungers for a better life. Sergey’s former girlfriend Regina, once a famous translator is married to a wealthy startup owner, spends her days at home grieving over a recent loss. Sergey’s best friend Vadik, a programmer ever in search of perfection, keeps trying on different women and different neighborhoods, all while pining for the one who got away.

As Sergey develops his app—calling it “Virtual Grave,” a program to preserve a person’s online presence after death—a formidable debate begins in the group, spurring questions about the changing perception of death in the modern world and the future of our virtual selves. How do our online personas define us in our daily lives, and what will they say about us when we’re gone?

 

From Me:

This novel is pretty far outside of what I normally pick up to read. It took me a bit to figure this book out, but even so, I had a hard time putting it down.

The story is told from the different perspectives of each character, chapter to chapter. I’ve read books with this technique before and it usually serves to isolate the characters before drawing them together in some way. Not so with Still Here. Vapnyar cleverly tells the story of these people and how their lives are intertwined while giving the reader insights into each of their lives, how they think, and how they feel, and how each event in their lives are perceived differently. It really makes you think about how the people around you, your friends, family, significant other, etc., might see circumstances differently than you do. It also makes you care about the individuals in this novel and you cheer their victories and cringe when they screw up and you laugh with them too.

The most intriguing part of this novel is the social media/online aspect. Vapnyar almost makes this a character in the story. The different ways in which each character interacts online or how they remain apart from it altogether had me analyzing my own activities online and my judgement of others’ online presence. When in a crisis, these people were constantly asking, “Who can I talk to?” Sometimes, this decision was based on what their online friends were posting. Or not posting.

In the end, this novel is about relationships and what friends are and finding happiness in your life. I started out thinking I was going to hate the novel and the people in it, but I ended up binge-reading it and being sorry that I had to say goodbye to these people. Vapnyar gave it an almost Hemingway-esque ending, but I loved it.