My Month in Books: September

TitleAuthorWhere I Heard About itRating
The Night She DisappearedLisa JewellGoodreads List/Read Author Before1
The Night HawksElly GriffithsAuthor I’ve read before2
The People we KeepAllison LarkinGoodreads List3
Golden GirlElin HilderbrandReal Simple/Read Author Before4
The Very Nice BoxLaura Blackett, Eve GleichmanBarnes & Noble Recommendation5
Tea Time for the Traditionally BuiltAlexander McCall SmithTea Book Club6
The Bookshop of Second ChanceJackie FraserSimply Luxurious Life7
The Forest of Vanishing StarsKristin HarmelReal Simple8
The Lying Life of AdultsElena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator)Building Book Club9
The Confessions of Frannie LangtonSara CollinsBarnes & Noble Recommendation10
The Books are listed as 1 being my favorite, and 10 being least favorite. Personal choice only- not a show of how good or bad a book is. Commentary below corresponds numerically
  1. Psychological thriller that is not too psychological and not too thrillery. Good if you just want to get involved in a story and turn pages. I enjoy the way Jewell writes.
  2. Big fan of the Ruth Galloway series. Not so cozy mystery about a woman who does not insinuate herself into a crime, nor happens upon dead bodies. This is 13 in a series- if you are going to read, start at the beginning
  3. If you need a lightish book about resilience- this is it. Probably OK for book clubs
  4. Beach read with a little more soul than usual. Not too heavy, but somewhat thought provoking
  5. Light read yet made me think. Good for fans of The Rosie Project
  6. I had never read any of the books in the series, so it took me a bit to understand the main character and what she does. Once I got the gist the book was enjoyable, but I think you need to read in order
  7. My main issue with this book was that the main character was sort of all over the place. While I get that people are multi faceted, none of the character’s actions make sense when you look at them from a distance. Couldn’t decide if I liked the main characters even though I think the intent was for the reader to root for them.
  8. Yet another book about WWII. True, the story is slightly different, but not so much that I would tell you that you need to read this book
  9. The language is beautiful, but not so beautiful to make up for lackluster story and unlikeable characters. The book is sort of like junk food- it feels pretty good when you are reading it, but then you realize that you got nothing out of it and it’s not satisfying
  10. Too wordy. Too much description. Took what could have been an interesting story and muddled it up.

Bad Writing

Writers and readers use the term all the time: bad writing.

But, what do we mean when we say “bad writing”?

I hate when people get basic facts about NYC wrong. I don’t like when they say an Avenue goes north, when it only goes south. I don’t like when they get the flavor of a neighborhood wrong. I don’t like it when it’s obvious the author has never stepped foot inside any of the five boroughs. The city is a living breathing thing- it’s practically a character. Make sure you understand NYC before you write about it.

I hate when authors say that someone got a scholarship to an Ivy League school. I get that the author is trying to say just how smart and special someone is. But the truth is, Ivies don’t give out athletic scholarships- it’s not their thing. And while these schools are need blind and will give you financial aid if you qualify, there really are almost no merit scholarships at these schools. Yes, there are grants and fellowships and other ways for a student to receive money for tuition. But to blindly say someone got a scholarship is a misnomer. Frankly, with acceptance rates below 5% for the Ivies, it’s enough to say that a kid got in.

I hate when numbers don’t add up. Like, you say someone got married in year Y, and then they talk about the age somewhere else, and the math is just wrong. I know. I can be a bit…ummm…what’s the word…anal about stuff like this.

Many of the things that take me out of a book are more about little niggling details. I figure if you are going to include these details, take the time to make sure that you are getting the facts straight. Some may not think this is bad writing, but it is for me.

Let’s see what else annoys me…

I hate when too many brand names are used to describe things. I get that sometimes saying a brand really puts you in a place. I just finished a book that talks about Hermes scarves. It’s really the only time that the author uses a specific brand, and she kinda sorta explains the cachet to someone who might not instantly understand the “importance” of a Hermes scarf. It’s a great way to use a brand to the advantage of the book. However, to say that someone was wearing Chanel, and Louboutin and drives a Mercedes and carried a Birkin… It just goes too far. I think after the first “name” is dropped, we get the idea that a character is flashy, or rich, or showy. We don’t need to list the name of every department from Saks…To me, to endlessly drop names is lazy writing. Lazy writing is bad writing.

But while we are on descriptions…

I hate over description. I hate when a paragraph is a laundry list of what a room looks like. I don’t need to “see” every piece of furniture in a room. I don’t need to have a complete 360 visual of the kitchen unless it’s totally germane to the plot, in say a mystery. Give me the details that matter. Leave out the fluff. Let the details come organically- it keeps with the flow of a passage. Don’t give me reason to daydream about something else when I am reading the book. Too much description takes me out of the story. I can switch on HGTV if I want to see a description of a house.

I hate when some detail is repeated too many times in a book. I recently read something that told about the kid’s phone four times. While this detail ended up being relevant to the conclusion, it got irritating to read it so many times. If a reader didn’t catch the reference after reading it once, then the author shouldn’t over explain it. Don’t treat the reader as if they are an idiot. More often than not, we get it.

Don’t include every societal issue out there in one book. I want to read books about all the social issues, but I don’t want to read them in the same book. Too many times lately authors have tried to force every single issue we face today into a 350 page novel. When you do this, you make each issue more trivial. Focus on one issue. Give justice to the one issue and do it well. Then write another book about another issue. Give that issue justice and write it well.

Try not to join the copycat bandwagon. After Gone Girl, it seemed that every book needed a “twist”. News flash, after the first one or two copy cat books, we all started to figure out the twist. Then we began not to care about the twist. Be original. Publishers- do you hear me? We like original…

Wow.

There’s really a lot I don’t like.

Shocking.

And maybe my peeves are not necessarily bad writing, but really bad storytelling.

But I really want to know, what irks you when you are reading a book? What are your bookish pet peeves?

Showing and Telling

I like to fancy myself a reader and a writer.

I read everyday.

I write every day.

But it took me 54+ years of reading and writing to realize that there are really two types of writers: There are story tellers and there are wordsmiths.

What’s the difference?

Well…

Everything.

and Nothing.

Presently I am reading a book called “The Go Between”. The plotline is very thin…there is one main thing going on, and it took about a third of the way in for the plotline to emerge. But the writing…poetic and lyrical. The sentence structure varies. The descriptions are unique. The only way the author keeps you guessing is by not knowing what literary device is being used next. We all know what’s going to happen to the main character and the sub characters…The author L.P. Hartley is a wordsmith.

I recently read a book “The Wife Upstairs”. This book is all plot. While the author tries to give us an updated Jane Eyre, there is really nothing outstanding about the writing. The words bring you from point A to point B. There is nothing lyrical about the language. There is nothing profound about the dialogue. There is little nuance- it’s an outline with a few trite descriptions thrown in…However, there is a more intricate plot. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, you might be in for some surprises along the way. Even if you have read it, you still might be in for a ride. The author, Rachel Hawkins, is a storyteller.

Is it better to be a wordsmith or a storyteller?

It really all depends.

Both types of authors are valuable in the writing landscape.

But wordsmiths, well, their books tend to win awards. Their books get praise in The New York Times Book Review. These books are more likely to become classics, or have a long shelf life. These are the types of books that some people buy and never read, but tell people they read them.

Story tellers are more likely to end up on bestseller lists and actually read. These are books that keep you intrigued with what is happening, not the way that it’s presented. These are the books that become movies or TV shows. These are the books fancy people swear they never read.

Which books do you tend to read most?

Do you love a good story? The unpredictable plot? The boy meets girl saga? Or do you long for brilliant use of words? Do you live for first person accounts of looking at a tree and talking about the color of the leaves?

Think of the books that you read: Are they telling a story, or are they just using language to create word pictures?

Pros and Cons of both?

Can you think of a book that excels in both story telling and language use? And don’t tell me Pride and Prejudice because that’s too easy (and some will argue it’s just a romance book and I don’t feel like refereeing that debate)

Discuss:

Give it One More Try

I loved the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. I also loved Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

But…

I didn’t love either of them when I started reading them. I didn’t understand what was happening, I wasn’t into the characters, etc.

For me, both of these books were worth the journey. If I knew people reading them, and those people thought they were iffy, I would tell them to stick it out one more chapter- it was worth it…

So the question is, how do you know when it’s time to give up on a book?

I am not one to quit on a book. I figure if I was intrigued enough to get the book, I owe the author the courtesy to see it through. The last book I didn’t finish was “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” and I’d say I tried to read that at least ten years ago. I completely understand why someone starts and does not finish a book. Time is way too valuable to partake in something you just don’t enjoy.

But how do you know at what point to quit a book?

Some books have a slow build: this is intentional. The author is laying out a framework and they’re trying not to rush. This is often the sign of a good writer. Pace is important in a book. That is the case in both the books that I mentioned. There is method to the writer’s madness as to what is revealed, when it’s revealed and how it’s revealed. There is a careful outline in play. To move too quickly would disrupt the balance…it would take away from the craft of writing.

How do you determine if the book is a slow build, or if it’s just a boring book?

So here’s the questions for today:

  1. What’s the last book you didn’t finish?
  2. Why didn’t you finish it?
  3. What makes you stop reading a book?
  4. How far do you get into a book before you put it away for good?
  5. Has there been a book that you were iffy about but ended up glad that you read it till the end?

My Month in Books- May 2021

Reading Reading Reading…

This is what I finished April 29-May 22

TITLEAUTHORHOW I HEARD ABOUT BOOKRATING
A Most Beautiful ThingArshay CooperBarnes and Noble Recommended List1
The Book of Ichigo IchieHector Garcia PuigcerverPersonal Browse in store2
The Good SisterSally HepworthGoodreads Newsletter3
The Paris LibraryJanet Skeslien Charlesnot sure4
Good CompanyCynthia D’Aprix SweeneyGood Housekeeping, Jenna Book Club, Real Simple5
The Final Revival of Opal and NevDawnie WaltonEntertainment Weekly, Real Simple6
The Opposite of ChanceMargaret HermesPersonal browse in store7
It Ends with UsColleen HooverGoodreads Newsletter8
This is the order in which I liked these books: it does not mean that the first one is great, or that the last one is bad. It’s just how much I needed these books this month.
brought to us by Chelsea Public Library

As you see, I did not get BINGO this month, but there are always more books to read…

Portrait of the Artist as Just an Artist

Should The Cosby Show still be on TV?

Do I have your attention?

What Bill Cosby did to women was despicable. It was wrong on all sorts of levels which is why he went to prison.

But his TV show, the one all about family values….should it be pushed aside to the bins?

Should the thousands of other people who worked on that show be forced to suffer in shame even thought they did nothing wrong?

Do we separate the artist from the art?

I have been struggling with this issue for awhile. There are many books, movies, music and art that I like and appreciate for their intrinsic value. It’s pretty to look at, or complex in its ideas. It makes me think or it inspires me. Is it wrong to look at a work of art and not contemplate who the artist is? Should we just get rid of all that intellectual property because of the person who made it?

So, I have decided to take a stand: I am going to separate art from the artist. I am going to enjoy a piece of work on its own merits. I am not going to look at the background of an artist.

My college book club is really focused on looking at the background of the authors of the books that we read. We spent the first ten minutes of the last book club hearing someone recite the bio of the author…

Why?

Can’t a book just be a book?

Shouldn’t a book stand on its own merits without knowing anything about the author? if you’re a scholar this could be very interesting. I understand many a thesis is based on looking into the life of an artist. But for the lay person? Should we need a reason for the art? Shouldn’t the art stand alone?

Does the authors bio really matter?

Does who the artist is really matter?

Should we separate art from the artist?

Discuss:

On a side note: Two of my blog friends wrote very thought provoking pieces yesterday. As they gave me much to think about, I thought that you might enjoy them as well:

http://theycallmetater.com/2021/05/03/free-speech-and-the-cheerleader/

https://bleuwater.me/2021/05/03/study-56-of-young-liberal-women/

My Month in Books- April

Nice weather +restrictions lifting= less reading

This is what I read from March 25- April 28

TitleAuthorHow I Heard About BookRating
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life InterruptedSuleika JaouadGoodreads List1
Homeland ElegiesAyad AkhtarNot Sure2
The Rules of MagicAlice HoffmanTea Book Club3
Your Fully Charged Life: A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with YayMeaghan B. MurphyGood Housekeeping4
One By OneRuth Warenot sure5
Early Morning RiserKatherine HeinyReal Simple6
Sorrow & BlissMeg MasonCollege Book Club7
Burnt SugarAvni DoshiCollege Book Club8
Anywhere For YouAbbie Greavesin store browse at Barnes and Noble9
We Begin at the EndChris WhitakerBarnes and Noble Book Club10
These are the order in which I liked these books. It does not mean the last one is bad or the first one is great. It’s just how much I liked them this month
This months Book Bingo is brought to us by brilliant-books.net. Once again I was lucky in my selections and I have attained BINGO!!

Lighten the Load

I love chick lit.

I make no apologies.

I do not plan on turning in my feminist card. If someone made me, I would gladly give up feminism in favor of chick lit.

I like a story of a plucky woman who has gone through some sort of adversity. I like how she screws up but all things come out at the end. I like a happy ending.

Now, this does not exclude me from reading other types of literature. I can do sad and depressing with the best of them. The books that fall under these categories are traditionally better for book clubs. What book club doesn’t like to bond over tears?

But back to chick lit…

There are two authors I’ve been reading for over 20 years. Let’s call them Jennifer Red and Jane Hotdog. In the beginning I loved these authors. I read everything they wrote as soon as it came out in paperback. Sometimes, I even sprung for the hardcover. I kept my copies of these books.

These authors spoke to me.

It was as if they were reading my mind.

And as the years went on, these authors changed up their books. They were no longer writing about plucky women making little errors, losing their way and then finding their way back. They began to write about deep subjects. Adultery. Depression. Drug abuse.

Fine.

Anyone can write about anything.

However…

In my opinion, maybe, just maybe, writing about these subjects wasn’t really great for these authors. Maybe these authors weren’t really cut out for heavier fiction. Maybe these heavier books weren’t quite as good as the other lighter fare. I no longer enjoy the works of these authors as much as I once did.

It takes a really good writer to write a good chick lit book. You have to make the characters real. You need to make the situations somewhat realistic. You need to have a good sense of humor. These are all skills…skills that should not be undervalued just because the book is not Booker Prize worthy…

Just like writing a weightier tome has its own individual skillset.

Writers of different genres are all talented: they are just talented in different ways.

We tend to undervalue light in favor of heavy.

I don’t know why. Can’t we have both, assuming they are done well?

I’d much rather have a well executed “light” book instead of a poorly executed “heavy” book…I want to read the best that any genre has to offer.

Food for thought:

  1. Do you think publishers/agents direct best selling authors to write things that are in vogue, even if it means changing genres?
  2. What genres do you prefer?
  3. Do you think chick lit is a waste of time?
  4. Have you ever had an author that you love disappoint you with their latest work?
  5. Anything else that I touched on in this post
  6. Do we undervalue light in favor of heavy

I made a comment yesterday that seemed to devalue reposting or reblogging an older post. Alas, this sentiment did not come out the way that I intended. I apologize to anyone that reposts or reblogs their work sometimes. Just because I don’t like doing it doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t. Keep on being you. Sorry for the inference!

LA

I Read…Therefore…

A few months ago Never Not Reading Posted asked if reading makes us better. Simply, is reading more valuable than say, watching TV. I thought this was a pretty interesting avenue to drive down so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Do we think that people who read a lot are smarter? Better educated? Erudite?

Or are people who spend their time doing other things just as smart?

I can argue that reading words off a page is active…you are pushing your brain more because you are deciphering the letters and words and sentences to make sense of what’s in front of you. To read means that you are paying attention to not only reading the words but understanding the meaning.

Do you engage your brain the same way by watching TV? By listening to a podcast?

How do you describe readers? What words would you use?

How do you describe non readers? What words would you use?

Prepandemic, I read about 5 books a month. During pandemic we all know that my reading was off the charts. I read because I enjoy reading, but it was also one of the few outlets that I had to keep engaged. With the warmer weather and more things opening in New York, I definitely can see that I’m reading less- I only finished one book last week…But with all my reading, did I become “better” or was I just less bored? If I had watched TV that whole time instead of reading, would that have changed the person I am now? Would I be better or worse or would nothing change?

Ok- what are your thoughts on readers versus the rest of the world?

Never Not Reading is on hiatus right now, but if she does return to blogging I will supply her information.

Highlights of the Week That Was

I slowly get back on my feet….the city slowly gets back on its feet…

Tea Book Club
Took a tea break at Barnes and Noble
Guess who got vaccinated?
Theater for the New City did a pop up showcase on Saturday outside their theater. This is the Pablo Band. Wonderful on so many levels.
Movie I watched at home- FYI- I thought it was convoluted
This is an Instagram that I just thought…why? Why do we feel the need to project the image that we don’t eat when we begin a relationship? Conversely, why do we feel the need to let ourselves go once we are in a relationship? Is this a topic that should be thrown off on an insta post? This idea may end up as a future post. Tell me if you think it is worth discussing.