some good reads
Alright, so I found the perfect way to distract myself from my NaNo panic. After spending ALL day yesterday procrastinating by doing “research” into how to create perfect characters – everything from character charts, questionnaires, articles on character voice and how to write the opposite gender, … – I saw an update on “Princess” Monica’s blog where she raved about GoodReads and I caved in and signed up.
Now, I know you won’t believe this, but I really, honestly had not been a member there before. I hadn’t even checked it out. Yes, you’re allowed to laugh and no, I won’t hold it against you if you shake your head in disbelief and tut-tut disapprovingly. It’s justified.
I had been meaning to check out what it was all about forever, but it always landed at the bottom of the to-do list, plus, I don’t much like hypes and that’s what it felt like. But since I signed up last night, I have already acquired deep circles under my eyes, who in turn have gone red and swollen from staring at the screen so hard. My fingers on my mouse-hand are hurting from clicking on those teensy stars and I have landed myself with a new addiction. Hussa!
I’m also slowly starting to see why so many people are on there. True, so far all I’ve done is set up a basic profile and wreck my brain trying to think of all the books I’ve ever read and enthusiastically clicking ‘Want to Read’ on everything remotely interesting, but I can see that’s it’s a really good way of discovering new things to read. It’s also a really neat and specialized way of exchanging opinions about books and I think I’ll head over and check out the lists now, because I’ve been meaning to start reading some steampunk and I just don’t know where to start. I’m guessing the lists will be helpful there.
What’s your opinion on GoodReads? And what should I definitely try/look out for/experiment with? Any tips?
updating the blog, part 1 (or: the honour of receiving and the joy of passing on awards)
Alright. Today is the day. The day I have been putting off for weeks: the day when I work through a whole list of things to do on and for and about this blog.
But because there’s so much all at once, I’ll split it up into three parts. Part one is all about awards. Part two is introducing and reviewing and adding a number of wonderful blog links. Part three will ask a serious and important question to which I need your answers.
So, first things first:
Kate at read wear write kindly passed The Booker Award on to me – back in June, but I don’t believe there’s a best-by date on awards, is there? Kate has interesting book reviews on her blog, funny photos of Al, her traveling alpaca (yep, I knew that’d interest you – here you have the direct link!) and she’s a fellow writer and always has interesting links to share! Go and have a wander around her blog!
There are some rules to this one:
This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books, which includes reading or writing. Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. Listing more than five books is still within the rules. You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.
And then there’s the One Lovely Blog Award, to which I have been nominated twice by Patricia, from Patricia Awapara. Patricia is a writer who plunged fearlessly into the adventure of self-publication and writes in English, even though it’s not her first language (like me! do we get extra-glittery bonus points for that?) and she’s also a really great artist – go have a look at her paintings – I love the colours!
And also some rules for this one:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire
4. Leave a comment on each of these blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.
the conditions (or, books I LOVE)
So how to do this… I’m going to combine, alright? Here are seven books I love and why I love them (which is also saying something about myself, so that’s within the rules, right? Not that I care too much… 🙂 )
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I love Austen’s characterizations. The people in this book are alive every time I open it again (and I’ve read it upwards of a hundred times). I feel the embarrassment that Mrs. Bennet inflicts on her daughters, I get outraged at Wickham’s duplicty, I get all tingly from the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth… *sigh* I guess it’s something that Helen Fielding let her character Bridget Jones say about those two: in the same way that men choose football teams as representatives and feel the team’s successes and failures as their own personal successes and failures, so she, Bridget Jones, chose Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet as her own representatives of love, celebrating and enjoying their relationship as her own success.
I’m not particularly romantic, but I love it for the same reason.
2. all the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce
I’m talking the Song of the Lionness quartet, the Immortals quartet, the Protector of the Small quartet, the two books around Aly Cooper, the trilogy of Beka Cooper… all these books, I love with a fierce and reckless abandon. I’ve read each one … oh, I don’t know how many times, but it’s most definitely upwards of twenty, for each. I want to be all of her girl heroes at once, I want to live in Tortall, I want to travel around its world and I want to meet all of the people who inhabit this world. I think every girl should read these books. And all boys, too. Actually, everyone should. For me, Tortall feels like another country somewhere in the world, it’s that real. Much more real than some countries I don’t know much about. I become completely submerged in this world and in the people every time. No matter how often I’ve read them, once I open any one of them, I can’t stop reading till the end.
I love these books for how real the people feel to me.
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
One of the books that made me cry. Also one of the books that opened my eyes to my own ignorance. Also the book that made me fall in love with Hemingway’s writing. There is so much in there, and it’s so human. The human condition, I guess. It tells of gut-wrenching fear, of superhuman bravery, of deep and passionate love, of selfless compassion and of the cruelest kind of greed for power and revenge, and all the time without once using any of these words. He’s so serious, yet so unobtrusive about it all, so deep and important without once being obvious, instructive or philosophical. It’s most of all a story, an exciting story of a the struggles of a group of guerrilla fighters to sabotage a bridge and also a love story. Yet at the same time, between the lines, it tells of everything – the best and the worst that humanity is capable of.
I love this book for how it gets under your skin and stays there and never lets you go again and makes you feel as if you’ve held the world in your hands while you read it and when it’s done, how you have become a better, more compassionate, more empathetic person. And all of it just through the style of writing.
4. Bluebells on the Hill by Barbara McMahon
This is a romance. I used to read lots of romance, I don’t so much any more. This book, however, I love very much, mostly for the vivid and wonderful description of the area it’s set in, namely California’s Sierra Nevada. I read the book before ever being there and loved it and once I’d been there (years ago now, but still fresh in my memory), I loved it even more, because every time I read it, I can just see the tall pines, smell the tree-sap-saturated heat, listen to the creaks and groans of the wood expanding in the heat… It’s a daydream come alive. I also like the heroine, because I can relate to her on quite some levels – her love of solitude, her independence, her adventurous side.
I love this book because it brings to life a beautiful landscape and because it provides me, again and again, with wonderful daydreaming material.
5. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas
One of a series of novels chronicling the cases of Commissaire Adamsberg, a highly unusual policeman living and working in Paris (I don’t know the corresponding title in English – chief inspector?). I like all of the series, but this one was the first I read and I have a special soft spot for it because it has a very romantic vein running through it. I just like the way these books are written – they read much more like literary novels than like crime, even though they are plainly crime stories. This one is especially creepy, with blue chalk circles appearing all over Paris, painted around seemingly unimportant objects to be found on any city pavement, and Adamsberg is the only one who can feel the cruelty and the threat of violence running through them, of course he turns out to be right. He also makes friends with a formidable and beautiful lady who has an exotic job, a strange hobby and the weirdest tenants possible. It just feels so real, so gritty and yet so magical. It’s a book I can read again and again, without becoming tired of it.
I love this book for the dreamy, beautiful way it is written and for the loving and sharp attention to details that makes it feel so alive.
6. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
This is one of the most intense books I have ever read. Apart from the first chapter, which is a kind of introduction, the whole story takes place in one day and it takes the reader on a wild, painful, joyful, beautiful and horrible ride through the life of one man. Like Hemingway, Lowry is unobtrusive in descriptions of emotions or states of mind, but he manages, in a masterly and utterly breathtaking fashion, to put the interior into the exterior, meaning: everything going on inside is reflected in the landscape, both natural and man-made. Two volcanoes, of whom legend says they are lovers, tower over the whole area and the whole story, and plants can be as fleshy, glistening, threatening and dark as any man’s soul and the ravine running throughout the town takes on a significance and almost a life of its own. This books is disturbing and grandiose and and sweeping and detailed and it contains the most intense, the most heart-breaking, the most touching love letter I have ever read.
I love this book for its combination of the most gentle and passionate love and the most depressing, disheartening, desperate failure and loss and the way both are written into the very fabric of the setting.
7. The Unseen by Katherine Webb, The End of Everything by Megan Abbott, Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice
These three are books I’ve read in the past months and that have impressed me and touched me so much that despite having only read them once, I still think about them a lot and can still get caught up in their stories. The Unseen is a heartbreaking story of a girl’s desire to be free and independent, set at a time when women were anything but, and despite the desperate end being inevitable from the start, there are still surprises left. The End of Everything touched me quite a lot, and I wrote about it on here, how this book was eating me alive, and I haven’t changed my mind since. Orange Mint and Honey is a story that taught me quite a bit about music, even though I know quite a bit about music already anyway, and it also impressed me with the very unobvious way the story and the characters developed.
I loved all three of these books for themselves and for how they taught me about things I didn’t know before and for how they enriched my life.
And finally… the nominations!
Because a lot of the (personal) blogs I read are reading- or writing-related anyways, I’ll combine both awards, because these blogs are all about books and they are lovely. The nominees may choose to accept one or both or none. Fair deal?
So, in no particular order, I give you: *cue drumroll*
1. Emily from Emily’s Tea Leaves – I’m not sure if she has received either of them yet, because she’s not telling! 🙂 Emily writes about writing, has a romantic novel in the works, and has interesting author interviews and book reviews on her blog.
2. tsena from succumbing – She writes poetry. Poetry that keeps me going back to her blog. Poetry full of wonderful and direct images. And she has a great feeling for language.
3. Peggy from Peggy Isaacs – She makes me laugh. I envy her talent to capture really great pictures of really cool stuff like dragonflies and lizards. She’s a writer.
4. Zen from Zen Scribbles – I’ve lost track of which awards she has or hasn’t got yet, so I’m just putting her on this list and crossing my fingers that the one or the other might be new to her. She is a published author of a book I’m just about to start reading, she loves chocolate, and she writes about writing, reading, books and anything to do with literature or chocolate in the most engaging way (I almost always feel compelled to comment – I challenge you to read her posts and not want to comment!).
5. Arlene from Science and Story – Her blog is full of clever, insightful posts that I always enjoy reading. She’s a writer by profession and she has an extra side-blog, Wednesdy Book Review, just for book reviews – how devoted to reading is that?
6. Mieke at The Author-in-Training – I like her blog mainly for being inspirational and upbeat. The Sunday Inspiration photos are always worth a watch and a thought (or two or three) and the ‘note to self’ posts are special as well.
A big thank you to all these women – you make my days more colourful!