Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

2016 was dominated by child rearing books for obvious reasons. And while I didn’t get through as many books this year as 2015, there were some standouts. 

Room by Emma Donoghue was a great listen. The voice acting was spectacular and made the experience memorable. Finishing up Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was bittersweet if only that there are no more adventures in the series to experience. New series Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson was slow getting into but I’m looking forward to listening to the last book in the trilogy. Ready Player One by Earnest Cline and Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski were other favorites. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern didn’t connect with me like I thought and The Haters by Jesse Andrews was a subject I was really excited about but went in a direction I didn’t quite want. 

Here’s the full reading/listening list for 2016. Any comments, questions, or recommendations are welcome. 

Books Read in 2016

 

1. Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant by Dr. Lewis Kirkham – Very useful and full of tips for dog training. How accurate it is has yet to be seen but it gives me hope. 3.5 stars. Audio.

2. Lights Out by Ted Koppel – Interesting following the investigators approach to a apocalypse-style situation where the electric grid is taken out by terrorists. Of all the roads Mr. Koppel investigates (preppers, Mormons, scientists, military), none of them give much hope in long term survival if our nation’s power goes out for an extended, or even short amount of time. Offers few solutions because there really aren’t any. 4 stars. Audio.

3. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – Not one of my favorite Hardy novels but the only one I’ve read so far with a happy ending. A romance story you know how it will turn out, even with Hardy’s penchant for tragedy. 4 stars. Audio.

4. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks – Descriptions and stories about the relationship between ailments and music. I enjoyed listening to descriptions of cases where music can be one of very few things that can stabilize a person or cut through their ailment where even loved ones cannot. Inspirational for any musician or one who puts a great importance on music. Can get technical with anatomy and medical phrases. 4 stars. Audio.

5. Witches’ Brew by Terry Brooks – One of the most enjoyable scenes in the Landover series so far involving characters from the fantasy world being transported to Seattle – Bumbershoot to be exact. A fun adventure, but not my favorite of the series. 3.5 stars. Audio.

6. The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD – An informative but scary view of children being raised in a society and family structure immersed in technology. Gives helpful hints about the amount of tech time an infant should have (zero) and also stories about the negative effects technology can have on older children’s higher functioning. Also, a teaching tool for parents and the importance tech should have in the family. Parents should NEVER choose a piece of technology over their child. 3.5 stars. Audio.

7. Indomitable by Terry Brooks – Better than his other short story about Allanon but still added very little to the universe of Shannara. About Jair adapting his magic into a more formidable weapon. 3 stars.

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – For whatever reason, I couldn’t really get into this one. The circus setting was fun and the idea of pitting two magical students against each other without them knowing whom the other was felt like a novel premise but I didn’t have much patience for it. Full of bright but uninteresting characters. The climax elevated the story but wasn’t enough to make me want to go back and read the parts I glazed over. 3 stars. Audio.

9. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman – One American reporter’s observations on the way the French raise their children from newborn to kindergartener. There were useful tips about feedings every four hours four times a day, the “pause” when a child cries, introducing them to different foods, and discipline. More statistics or doctor interviews/advice would make this book a virtual bible of French parenting but it loses points for not citing more studies. 3.5 stars. Audio.

10. Room by Emma Donoghue – A strange tale about a mother and child living in a room told from the boy’s perspective. Sad how the boy interprets things when all he has ever known has occurred within his four walls. Where the story went took me by surprise but there also wasn’t a big climax at the end so the fact that it was ending took me by surprise. Maybe it says something about me that I could follow with great ease this novel told from the perspective of a well-versed five-year-old. Oh well, I still enjoyed it. 4 stars. Audio.

11. Paladins of Shannara: The Weapons Master’s Choice by Terry Brooks – Like his other short stories, it could have been longer. That said, this short story feels more complete than his other short works. It helps it is about one of his most memorable characters Garet Jax and his willingness to help woman looking to save her village from a brutal warlock. A decent prelude to the full novel The Wishsong of Shannara. 3.5 stars.

12. Wolves of the Calla: The Dark Tower V by Stephen King – Another fine chapter of the Dark Tower series. A very western setting with fantastic elements thrown in and surprising characters surprise. This novel, maybe more than the previous novels in this series, stir my curiosity about some of his other novels. 3.5 stars. Audio.

13. Song of Susannah: The Dark Tower VI by Stephen King – Contains one of my favorite scenes, maybe in all fiction. Much of the novel is confusing in its complexity but still fun to read. 3.5 stars. Audio.

14. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – What I got out of this novel was that it isn’t a good idea to try to please everyone. You end up invisible, in a hole, isolated because you end up feeling apart from everyone. You will never do everything another person wants. You must live for yourself. The story follows a young black man as he navigates the racial tensions of early 70’s New York. The episodic nature of the story is read with glee by actor Joe Morton. 4 stars. Audio.

15. The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower VII by Stephen King – The conclusion to the epic series, this novel serves as a fitting end to the adventures of Roland. While the final confrontation with the multi-book villains feel anticlimactic, the end left me with an empty, frustrated feeling. The ending was as epic as I wanted as it resonated with me long after I finished. 4.5 stars. Audio.

16. Expecting Better by Emily Oster – A book meant to answer some common questions and concerns about pregnancy. Instead of relying on doctors and books, the author goes straight to the studies on each topic and lets the reader make their own decisions. I found it interesting and helpful for some things. I wish I would have read this sooner as it would have been useful to know about sushi or wine consumption early. Although several issues were addressed, there were numerous subjects that were not. 4 stars. Audio.

17. The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash – A treasure trove of information for expecting fathers. The book is set up by month, explains how you, the mother, and the child might be doing. And most of the time was pretty close. The information helped me get the upper hand on some discussions. A must for expectant fathers. 4.5 stars.

18. The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King – An 8th book in the Dark Tower series that takes place between books four and five, this novel is a story within a story within a story. As such, it doesn’t add much to the story of the Dark Tower but it would have fit nicely if I had read this in the chronological order it was intended. 3.5 stars. Audio.

19. The Gunslinger by Stephen King – A reread with new passages to go with the completion of the Dark Tower saga. Maybe the most dreamlike story of the series. 4 stars. Audio.

20. The Haters by Jesse Andrews – A book I probably really would’ve liked five, ten, fifteen years ago. Follows three friends as they try to get their fledgling band going. I wish there were more storylines about how they got gigs, wrote songs, etc. instead of the relationship issues. Still, a fun novel. 3.5 stars. Audio.

21. The Langoliers by Stephen King – Very similar to the TV movie from the nineties. In fact, I think most of the dialogue is the same, word for word. A solid short story. 3.5 stars. Audio.

22. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – The first book in the Mistborn trilogy. The magic was handled in a practical way that made the story seem to have higher stakes. The climax felt a bit manufactured and events seemed to happen out of nowhere but overall the novel was compelling – in its handling of magic, not the “let’s overthrow an oppressive dictatorship” plot. 3.5 stars. Audio.

23. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – Slow to start but I really got into the troubled and flawed characters and their relationships to each other. The story dissects their lives and choices, their past histories and why they do what they do. Engaging and while some events could be predicted, others seemed to happen out of nowhere. The literary machine in full effect here. 4.5 stars. Audio.

24. Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan – A decent intro to how to train dogs. I liked hearing about his background, how he was raised, how he came to America and got his start. He gives good advice in some areas but reading some reviews of this book made me question the validity of his advice. Also not as much actual advice – more stories as examples then anything. 3 stars. Audio.

25. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub – Similar in tone to King’s Dark Tower series but not as engaging. Maybe because I read those first. Or maybe because the storyline is very jumpy in places, possibly because of having two authors. 3 stars. Audio.

26. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin – Epic. Long. Not as engaging as some of the other novels in this series but there were some exciting developments like Bariston’s chapters and Cersei’s walk of atonement. Plenty of this novel, however, is lost to minor characters and others that end up adding very little to the overall story. 3.5 stars. Audio.

27. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – A really fun read for nerds, geeks, and gamers who grew up in the eighties and nineties. I couldn’t help but get giddy from the geek culture references. This definitely helps get over the somewhat cookie cutter plot. 4.5 stars. Audio.

28. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley – Fairly boring and took roughly half the novel for me to become interested. Reminds me of something from my college literature classes but less entertaining. 2 stars. Audio.

29. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – Gets off to a creaky start but it is engaging enough to be entertaining. Some predictable plot, mixed with some surprising twists, make for an overall fun novel. 3.5 stars. Audio.

30. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – Sentimental and corny but moving nonetheless. 4 stars.

31. Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski – Some of this dialog was hilarious! The reader helped with a fun and almost casual interpretation of the story told from the perspective of a boy on his journey to manhood. All centered around the way violence shapes his life. 4.5 stars. Audio.

32. Defenders of Shannara: The Sorcerer’s Daughter by Terry Brooks – Short but a decent finale to the Defenders trilogy. First Shannara book I listened to. Good characters but still lacked the element of exploration that define his earlier books. 4 stars. Audio.

33. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson – More political drama than the first Mistborn novel but better, more satisfying action. The battle finale and mythos finale were both great. 4 stars. Audio.

34. Based On A True Story by Norm MacDonald – Not really a memoir and not really a humor book, this one confused me. There were plenty of funny moments as I count myself as a fan of Norm, but the jokes would be lost on most people. Some were even lost on me. But it was entertaining as he read it himself. 3 stars. Audio.

35. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – A second reading for fun. The voice acting was great and the story was just as good as before. It’s the little details of this novel that really set it apart from the rest. 4 stars. Audio.

36. Under the Dome by Stephen King – A fun novel that feels like an experiment for the author as well as the characters. Meta. 3.5 stars. Audio.

Read Full Post »

2015 was a good year for catching up on books. I discovered the Overdrive app which, when connected to my library card, I can download a bevy of books, in eBook or audio versions. Since my job is fairly mindless (a drunk monkey could almost pull it off), I was able to enjoy books that I hadn’t gotten around to yet, was curious about, or was recommended to read.

As you can see from the list, I didn’t start keeping track of what I thought of each book until about halfway through. It’s just a way of recording my initial impressions.

I also wanted to address what I noticed about the list. Plenty of the entries were series that I hadn’t gotten around to yet (The Dark Tower series, the Landover novels, Game of Thrones), while others were old favorites (The Road, On Writing). I read/listened to a couple because they were favorites of some special people in my life (Redeeming Love, The Tale of Desperaux) and plenty of others I had little to no knowledge of before hand (Robopocalypse, Gamify, Death’s Apprentice, Never Let Me Go, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl). Most of these I didn’t care much for but the beauty of listening for me was that I could get through a book in far less time. The last thing I’ll mention are the new favorites (Vertical, Wild, Quiet, The Examined Life), which proved to me that listening to books can have just as much value as reading them.

Have any recommendations for 2016?? Leave a comment and let me know! I’m always open to trying a new book.

-A

Books I’ve read in 2015

1. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

2. Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

3. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

4. The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

5. Crap Kingdom by D. C. Pierson

6. Write Songs Right Now by Alex Forbes

7. The Wastelands by Stephen King

8. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

9. Magic Kingdom for Sale…Sold! by Terry Brooks

10. The Alamo by John Myers Myers

11. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

12. 10% Happier by Dan Harris

13. The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks

14. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

15. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo

16. When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

17. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

18. Wizard At Large by Terry Brooks

19. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

20. Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart by Lisa Rogak

21. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

22. The Tangle Box by Terry Brooks

23. Gamify by Brian Burke

24. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

25. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

26. The Defenders of Shannara: The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks-Solid storytelling but lacks the journey into the mysterious unknown that makes his other tales so compelling. Musician character and complex villain are the highlights. – 3.5 stars

27. The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz -Cases a therapist acquired over the course of his career. Many of the cases were relatable for me, which made the material very interesting to me. I might buy a copy, I liked it so much. – 5 stars

28. Death’s Apprentice by K. W. Jeter -A stygian tale that feels like a noir set in hell. Interesting ideas for some characters but others are basic and uninspired. Unclear where the settings are and how they connect with each other. Video game type action. – 2.5 stars

29. Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables by Various Authors -Didn’t really feel many of these stories and what ones I did start to like were ruined by poor endings that added nothing. – 1.5 stars

30. Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang -Read by the fast-talking but funny author. Plenty of street slang and personal values. Inspiring tale of finding oneself amidst family abuse, racism, and society (the bamboo ceiling). Interesting to see the changes made for the family sitcom of the same name. Highly enjoyable. 4.5 stars

31. Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman -An interesting look at the inside of a women’s prison, mostly because it explored the friendships and bonding between prisoners and didn’t get into the dangerous conflicts loaded into other prison stories. 4 stars

32. Wild by Cheryl Strayed -About a girl trying to find herself on a three month hike. A simple premise with heart-wrenching realizations and personal hurdles overcome. Deep and honest. Better then the film. Makes me want to take a similar trip. 5 stars

33. Goosebumps: Horrorland – The Scream of the Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine -A silly horror tale for tweens. An entertaining audio performance elevated the childish story. 2.5 stars

34. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy-Like Hardy’s other novels: a mix of interesting characters and societal pressures/rules that have tragic consequences. I like how he really enters the minds of each character so we know their sometimes strange reasoning for acting the way they do. 4.5 stars

35. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert -A more spiritual look at the creative process. Inspirational and supportive like others of its kind with some good stories to emphasize her points. Show appreciation for others without expecting anything back. A book to buy. 4.5 stars

36. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro -I liked how there were hints at a sci-fi element here but it was never the sole purpose of the story, which centered on the relationships between a girl and her two friends as they grew up together. I still knew what was happening so the reveal toward the end was not a big surprise – but maybe it wasn’t supposed to be. 3.5 stars

37. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon -A short and sweet book about borrowing from things you like to create your own art. Feels a bit for the fledgling artist/creator but has several good tips and reminders for the seasoned artist. I read it on my phone and took several screen shots to remind myself of some of these tips. A book to have around on your bookshelf. 4 stars

38. The Road by Cormac McCarthy -One of my favorites. The lengths the man goes to save the boy is awe inspiring and touching, all while trying to teach him the skills he needs to survive in such a harsh world. The religious overtones/reading is interesting but this is one of the few times where I don’t like that deeper reading. The relationship between the father and son is more than good enough for me. 5 stars

39. Quiet by Susan Cain -Examples and reasons for accepting an introverted lifestyle in a culture that exemplifies an extroverted personality. There are enough examples of most situations that the book feels balanced. I found the subject matter hitting me on a personal level as some of the stories used could have been taken from my own life, about what to do as well as what not to do. One of the main points I took away was how my introvertedness seemed to be treated as a problem rather than an accepted part of who I was. I’ll read this one again for sure. 5 stars

40. Paladins of Shannara: Allanon’s Quest by Terry Brooks -A short story set just before the events of The Sword of Shannara. Despite Brooks being one of my favorite authors, this felt clunky and added little to the Shannara world. It was fun reading about Allanon again though. 2 stars

41. Vertical by Rex Pickett-The sequel to Sideways (one of my favorite films) is just as good, if not better then the original. While the author seems to go out of his way to showcase a deep and extensive vocabulary, he also creates a fun and joyous world with strong and interesting characters. The same comic yet melancholy tone of the first novel returns here while exceeding both. I can identify with the lead character Miles the most but the other characters are so detailed and real that it was difficult to not enjoy them also. As riotous as some of the events in the novel are, the ending had me tearing up, and almost felt like it belonged in another novel. But it worked and I loved it. 5 stars

42. A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin -The fourth in A Song of Ice and Fire series, it didn’t have the excitement of the previous entries. The story was more plodding and built through character rather then action. Some of the more interesting characters were absent but others stepped up. Still, the focus on a new set of characters and new environment only partially related to the bigger story was difficult to get through. 4 stars

43. On Writing by Stephen King -Inspirational and practical. My second “reading”. The advice that really stuck for me writing daily at the same time, celebrate when the first draft is finished then move on to something else right away, come back to that first draft with fresh eyes – a few weeks after finishing, write the first draft behind closed doors, cut out stimulations from writing area. I like his advice and also the straightforward way he tells it. He is very relatable and realistic. 4 stars

44. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae -Didn’t like it. Maybe I was missing something by not knowing who the author was before reading. There were some awkward stories but not nearly enough to warrant the title. Many of the stories had little awkwardness in them and were instead examples of how she felt after the fact. I wanted more awkwardness! 2 stars

45. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury -Creepy in parts, humorous in others, a story about two boys, a father, fear, and growing up. And a really creepy carnival. A horror story with a deeper meaning. 3.5 stars

Read Full Post »

     There’s been a problem recently at work. A few months ago the company revamped the bathroom. Nothing huge, just a change.
Before, the urinals were automated. They had switched to the hands free model in an effort to save water as most people apparently needed to double flush their frothy brew and the company wanted to save money. So, the automated flushers were installed to deliver the exact amount of fresh water needed to eliminate the urine as well as refill the receptacle with water you would consider drinking during the apocalypse. The problem with the automated urinals was the sensors. They would go off when people hadn’t stepped away or even if they stood in front of it at a ten foot distance. I don’t know about my coworkers but I couldn’t deliver a ten foot stream on my best day. Maybe if I had a step stool and a steep drop in front of me…
   So with all that extra unsanctioned flushing, the urinals would overflow and make a mess in an already dirty as hell bathroom. The company was once again losing that sweet water profit while gaining a certain musty smell as urine soaked into the cracks of the tile floor. Needless to say, they switched back to the manual flushers.
    Now here’s where it gets gross. Imagine stepping up to one of these receptacles and instead of seeing a pleasant dollop of neutral water, there is a bubbling witch’s brew of steaming urine to gaze at. If you’re into that kind of thing, good on you, but for me and at least a few others I know, we find it disgusting. And try peeing in that without getting pee-body splash-back. 
    Why are we seeing this split pee soup? There’s some speculation that these non-flushers haven’t realized that the urinals are no longer automated but I doubt that. No one is blind. Some people just don’t want to flush because they don’t want to touch the germ invested handle.
    Look, I get it. Touching something in the bathroom that everyone has laid wiener covered hands on can be mildly disturbing if you think about it. Just thinking about the six degrees of penile contact brings to mind some people I would rather not have anything to do with. But leaving your waste water for the next person who needs to relieve themselves is selfish. It’s annoying. And gross. And after a few hours of stagnation, the smell is vomit inducing.
    I appreciate the fact that bathrooms are gross and touching anything in them can be creepier than anything in a David Lynch film but let’s work together on this. No one wants to see, smell, or feel another person’s piss water. So for the sake of all of us, take the half second to flush. All those germs will be gone from your person anyway because you’ll be washing your hands afterwards anyway right? Right? Blaaaaaaaaaaagggghh!!

Read Full Post »

20130807-121725.jpg

I’m approaching 20k words on my novel and it’s going pretty smooth. I have a good momentum and even being in the midst of a few projects and family visits, I have a clear view of where I’m going. Of course there are blurry spots. I’ve even written through a few.

But as I near one of my word count goals, the subject of editing has been whispering louder and louder in my ear. I know it’s a vital part of the writing process and very important if I ever want to have my novel published, or even read.

But when do I edit? Like I wrote, I have some momentum in developing the plot, characters and theme and would like to keep that going. It feels like beginning to edit at this point would be a huge wall to the momentum I’ve gained and I’m afraid of losing it permanently.

I’ve heard Stephen King finishes a complete manuscript and even moves on to something else before he begins to edit. I’ve heard others edit as they go. I’ve also heard people going back to edit every fifty thousand words, or twenty thousand words, or even every chapter.

All of these seem legit and workable depending on how the author works so I was wondering what fellow writers do, when they edit and any tricks or tips when they finally do edit.

Have any advice? Have any comments? I’d love to hear about it.

Read Full Post »