Bloganuary Day 18: What book is next on your reading list?

OK- so they have me talking about books…

Let’s start with what I recently finished:

  1. When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash
  2. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
  3. The Maid by Nita Prose (is that her real name- I mean really- an author named prose?)

What I’m reading now:

  1. Zen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno
  2. The Best of Me by David Sedaris
  3. The Home Edit Life: The Complete Guide to Organizing Absolutely everything at work, home and on the go by Clea Shearer
  4. The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson
  5. A Deadly Affair by Agatha Christie
  6. A Year of Positive Thinking: Daily Inspiration, Wisdom and Courage by Cyndie Spiegel
  7. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

WHAT’S NEXT:

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Mommy, Fix It

The Book: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

The Quote: What she remembered was the extraordinary, astonishing pain, and her fury with her Mother for not fixing it. She didn’t expect her dad or the doctors to fix it. She expected her mother to fix it.

Do we have higher expectations of Mother’s than anyone else?

Do we think that Mother’s can do the extraordinary? That Mother’s are omnipotent? That Mom’s just get it done?

Are daughters more apt to rely on Mom’s, with sons relying more on Dad’s- or does everyone reach out to their Mom’s?

I’m going to try to not butt my two cents in, and leave this open for the group:

Discuss

Gendered

Today we are going to dive into a quote I read in a book recently:

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

The Quote:

He groans. “God save me from self-obsessed, high maintenance bitches.”

“I don’t much like her,” I say, but please don’t call her a bitch.” I lean on the counter, not looking at him.”

“Why not?”

“Gendered insults are lazy.” I pause. “High maintenance is also gendered. obviously.”

Jackie Fraser

I completely agree that gendered insults are lazy. They are also judgmental and wrong at least half the time. And this goes to statements made against any sex…

But…

Is high maintenance a gendered statement?

When we use the term, what are we going for? What do we mean when we say high maintenance? Do we mean a Harry Met Sally thing? Are we talking about sandwiches with things on the side? Or is there something more?

But is being high maintenance really a thing that can be applied to women more often than men? I mean, my husband is WAY MORE high maintenance than I am…than my daughter is… I know just as many high main men as I do women…

Is this author just trying to jump on the women great/men suck bandstand? Is the author trying to be clever? Is the author trying to be pro women? Is the author so embarrassed that they are writing chick lit? Is the author trying to elevate their status to literary fiction? The whole book is lightweight trying desperately to be heavyweight…A regular maintenance reader can see that this book is full of itself…

Is high maintenance a gendered term? I don’t think so. Is it stupid to continually attribute things to men or women? Yes- I think that’s wrong.

But the real question here is simple: Am I wrong? Is the term high maintenance a gendered term?

Discuss

Anything Can Happen Friday: TBR

How long is your TBR (To Be Read)?

Pre-covid I had about ten books on my list- ten books that I 100% wanted to read.

During COVID that numbered ballooned up. I was reading so much more than normal, I was just throwing about everything onto that list. I didn’t want to fall short and not have a book in the cue. This was my particular form of neurosis: not having a list of books to read at the ready.

Three week ago I had 383 books on my TBR.

383.

Three hundred, Eighty, Three.

I knew that it was time to stop the madness. I know that I will never again have a year where I read hundreds of books. I know that next year I will probably hit somewhere in the 75-85 book range. And I know that I will just keep adding books to my TBR. I REALLY KNOW THAT THIS MANY BOOKS ON MY TBR WILL STRESS ME OUT.

So I began to do what I normally do when I find a situation spinning out of control: Make a plan.

  1. Get rid of books that I really don’t want to read.
  2. Determine a number of books on the list that seems reasonable.
  3. Figure out how many of each time of book should be on the list, with the realization that I will always be adding books because they are books and books are awesome.

The hardest thing about step was was dealing with Goodreads. After I would successfully take off a few books, I would begin to get LOAD ERROR message. This was frustrating and slowed me down as I shut and restarted the APP. But I was able to get from 383 to 200 rather easily.

But going below 200 has been, slightly, a challenge, because as it turns out, there really are 200 books I am fairly interested in reading.

However…

If I break it down, I am most likely to read 50 rom coms, cozy mysteries or light books. As I like to read before bed, I like something not too taxing. We all learned last week that I have little to no brain power after 4pm.

I am most likely to read six memoirs or essays, because books like this I read a chapter a day and it probably takes two months to read.

I occasionally need a psychological thriller, because sometimes you have to live vicariously through the actions of a fictional character. And who doesn’t like a twist? Four on the list sounds about right.

You know I love cheery self help books, but as with memoirs/essays, six is probably a good number.

No more than four non fiction of various ilk. I know myself, and reading a non fiction over a three months is about my speed.

I also like to have some fiction appropriate to book discussion available for my book clubs, though I’m probably choosing no more than five books for clubs.

This makes my maximum TBR 75 books.

So, with my reading habits in mind, I have gotten myself down to 155 books. 80 more to go.

I see on my TBR that I have SO MANY self help books. This is going to be my greatest challenge- getting that number down by looking for the ones that really aren’t going to interest me. I don’t like overly clinical books- they are way to dry for me. I prefer less psychological jargon and research studies, and more Rah Rah go team. I want to read a self help book and be happy- not read one and find ways to be sad, which is often my problem with this genre.

I also love a good organizing book- but my mind files that under self help and not non fiction, and I really don’t want to get into my brain and tell it that it’s classifying books incorrectly. My brain can’t handle criticism too well, especially when it’s coming from me.

So every day I try to take off two books. And if I add a book, I make myself take off five. I’m very hard on myself.

January 1 is my self imposed deadline to 75. I’m holding myself accountable by posting it. You are all free to mock me if I don’t get down to 75.

And now I’m off to take off two books…wish me luck.

My Month in Books: October

This is how I know I’m returning to what used to be: Five books in a month. That’s 2019 numbers.

BookAuthorHow I Heard About ItRating
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneLisa SeeTea Book Club1
Apples Never FallLiane MoriartyAuthor I’ve read before, 2
Out of LoveHazel HayesBarnes & Noble recommendation 3
The Last Painting of Sara de VosDominic SmithBuilding Book Club4
Salvage the BonesJesmyn WardCollege Book Club5
The listing is how well I liked a book personally, not a judge of how good a book is. The following one liners are numbered as the books appear above.
  1. Engaging look into a world I knew nothing about. Book has many facets and would be thought provoking book club choice.
  2. As you’re reading, you’re not quite sure about anything. If second guessing yourself is your game, then give this a try. I used to love Moriarty and then I thought her last three books were phoned in. This one makes it appear she’s getting back on her game, but not quite there yet.
  3. Unique way of looking at a love story- sort of backwards. Props to author for finding a different way to tell an old tale. Good if you want a realistic look at love.
  4. Told from a few different perspectives, some more intriguing than others. I found it hard to really get behind any of the characters. It’s historical fiction light. Good only if you have a real interest in art, yet don’t know much about art.
  5. I know that this won awards. I also know that I don’t care that it won awards. This is a book for someone who LOVES long, poetic descriptive passages that move the story along at a glacial pace. I felt its trying to compare itself to Greek tragedy to be tedious and not well placed. However, there were some in my book club that loved it. Not for readers who want a fast paced book.

It’s Nice

I don’t like lackluster words. In fact, when asked a question, I pretty much forbade my family from the use of the words boring, interesting and fine as acceptable answers when given without a qualifier. To me, these words lack substance and don’t really explain the way that you feel. While I sometimes use these words myself, I do try to avoid as often as possible. But of all the words that people use and I hate, the number one word on my list is:

NICE

How was the show? It was nice.

What’s your kids new significant other like? They’re nice.

How’s the food. It’s nice

What does the responder mean by any of these statements? And I don’t mean NICE said with any inflection or said as NOYCE, which is a common phrase these days…

I mean the actual word NICE.

So I looked up the etymology of the word NICE:

Thank you Oxford Languages for the following:

Latin origin- Nescire- definition- NOT KNOW

which evolved to:

Latin- nescius- IGNORANT

which evolved to:

Old French-nice- STUPID

Archaic Meaning- Fastidious or scrupulous

Is a word that took it’s meaning from stupid and ignorant really the word that you want to use to say something good about something else?

How was the show? Stupid. How’s the new girlfriend? Ignorant.

Obviously, the word nice has transformed itself over the years to mean:

Pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory

My first question is: If you actually mean to say pleasant, agreeable or satisfactory, why wouldn’t you use those much better words? When someone says pleasant, I can conjure up a mind picture. I know exactly what they mean. Same with satisfactory and agreeable. Word pictures.

Let’s think on this for a moment: If you said your son’s new person was “satisfactory” what does that actually mean about your possible future in law?

So when you say something is nice…what do you really mean? Pleasant, agreeable or satisfactory? See how NICE becomes a non descript word? When you refer to someone/something as nice, I don’t know if you mean pleasant or satisfactory- and there is a world of difference between those two word choices. The only thing I do know is that I probably won’t see a show, eat a meal or expect much of a person when they are labeled as NICE.

With the plethora of gorgeous and explicit words in our lexicon, why do we overuse the same tired words?

Have we gotten lazy while we are speaking?

Let’s revitalize our conversations and word choice…

After all, we don’t want to be ignorant or stupid…

Oops- I meant NICE…

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…