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?

My Month in Books: July

As you can see, with life a bit more open, and let’s face it, I do more in the summer…my read books list is a little bit smaller than it has been…

TitleAuthorHow I Learned About BookRanking
The Hundred Years Of Lenni and MargotMarianne CroninWomen’s Day1
The Bad Muslim DiscountSyed M. MasoodBarnes and Noble Recommendations2
The Go BetweenL.P. HartleyCollege Book Club3
Girls With Bright FuturesTracy DobmeierReal Simple4
Before the Coffee Gets ColdToshikazu KawaguchiNot Sure5
Detransition, BabyTorrey PetersGoodreads Newsletter6
The Rib KingLadee HubbardReal Simple7

Here’s the quick wrap up:

  1. I LOVED Lenni and Margot and totally see it as one of my top books of the year
  2. I thought Bad Muslim was a pretty good
  3. I thought everything else on my list was fine- really neither good not bad, my personal rating system had them ranked virtually the same
  4. I can’t imagine a month for the rest of the year when I read more than eight books-
As you can see I finally made BINGO- I did stretch my own rules a bit though. Presently I am reading a book that contains walking tours of NYC- with history. Even though I have not read the whole book in depth- I’m counting it. If anyone out there is a purist- I can continue to use this card, but I’m also starting a new one because I don’t know when I will read any of the unused genres…

Reading and Writing and Writing and Reading

One of my blog friends (R. Douglas) made a comment to me a few months ago, and it really stood out. He said that he often wishes to write for readers instead of writing for writers…

I began to think about that. When I write my blog, I know that most of my audience are fellow bloggers- other people who put their thoughts into words and hit publish. When I write my blog I know that I am writing to writers…I also know that there is instant feedback…

What would happen if I wrote my blog and disconnected the comment section?

How would that change my writing?

When I was working on my book, I found it hard to tell a story.

I found it hard to write for readers.

I like a lot of dialogue. I don’t like description. I don’t like a lot of deep prose paragraphs…I don’t like doing the things that appeal to readers…

However, in my blog, I write to you as I speak. I may not be as blunt as I am in real life…(trust me: I am blunt in real life and I can’t hide my emotions), but you are getting 100% me…

Aside from my poor grammar and lack of editing skills, I like writing for writers…

But how do I bridge the gap from writing for writers to writing for readers?

As I work on a memoir (yup- jumping on that bandwagon) I find that I can use the style that I have cultivated in my blog- I don’t have to rely on the traditional aspects of writing- I can rely on my ability to put words on paper in my unique (I hope) way…

But will readers want to read that?

Cause let’s face it: if I write a book I want it to be read…

And I can’t write a book with a comment section that I can reply back to…

But…as I have a comment section, right here, right now…

What do you think is the difference between writing for writers and writing for readers? Or do you think writing is writing and an audience is an audience?

What are the things in books that most appeal to you?

Help a sister out and give me your opinions…

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…

Gratitude Saturday May 8

It’s my blogiversary!

Four years ago I started my blog!

Yay!

People often ask how I can write almost every day. The answer is simple: I love blogging. When I wake up I am excited to sit in front of my computer and pump out a few hundred words, even when I have no idea what I am going to write about, which, let’s face it, pretty much every day. I open my computer with a few scribbled notes that I probably wrote months before, or, like today, I just start writing and end up with long run on sentences. Who said I always have a plan?

Ha

I want to blog every day. I am excited to interact with everyone. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t write. Period. I pen a note that I’m taking a few days off (this gives me accountability in my head) and I chill until I get the urge to write again. If you don’t love sitting in front of some electronic device and blogging, you need to ask yourself why are you doing it. I once saw someone had named their blog something like “Why did I start this damn blog” and I wonder at that as a title- if your title says that you don’t want to blog, why are you doing it?

Blog because you love it. Any other reason is just not worth it. Unless of course it’s your job, but if it’s your job and you hate it, maybe you should consider another job maybe…

But anyway…

I am grateful for my blog

I am grateful for WordPress (most of the time anyway)

I am grateful for all those who choose to read me

I am grateful to all those who choose to randomly “like” my blog

I am grateful to those who choose to follow my blog

I am grateful for all those who comment!!!!

I am grateful for all the wonderful people who I have met on this journey! You inspire me!!

Thank you!

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