Archive for ‘Talking books’

2017, January 6

My 2016 in books

In 2016, I challenged myself to read 20 books and made it to 23 instead. I have to admit, that includes both reading for fun and for work, but hey, at least sometimes I’m getting paid to read so I won’t complain!

At the end of 2015, I won an Amazon gift card at work, and promptly ordered a few books for myself, which my dear friend from London was so kind to bring with her when she visited her grandmother so I could make use of Amazon stores “free shipping in the UK” policies. I have to say, I haven’t finished reading half of those titles, but I am very happy to have them close by.

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I read in several genres, from murder mystery, romance, young adult, to poetry, recipes, instructional books, and even fairy tales and a comic book.

One book that I regret not finishing this year is the DOODLE ART HANDBOOK: The Non-Artist’s Guide in Creative Drawing by Lana Karr, Olga Dee,  especially because I would’ve liked to doodle more, and this book is wonderful for someone just starting out in that department.

The total page count only comes to 3521, with the longest book being The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press at 1026 pages.

My favorite reads of 2016 are actually series rather than single books this time around:

  • Banana Muffins & Mayhem, by Janel Gradowski – In June, I took part in Janel Gradowski’s book launch tour, and for this occasion I re-read the novels I finished before, and read the ones I haven’t from her culinary competition mystery book series.
    When I finished reading Banana Muffins & Mayhem, the fifth novel, I came to the conclusion that it was my favorite of the series. As much as I love the main character, Amy, I really loved getting a different POV from her best friend Carla in this novel. Reading the book coincided with a pretty complicated year in my life, and especially some of the advice given to Amy regarding life and family I have taken as my own silver lighting and put my worries aside for now.
  • These Are the Moments, by Jenny Bravo – I have to say, I fell in love with Jenny Bravo’s writing style! She writes with such ease, yet conveys such raw, complicated and powerful emotions through her characters, that I was drawn in from the very first sentence of each book.
    Although I loved every single one of the books, These Are the Moments was my favorite of the series so far. As the book’s description befittingly states, this young adult and new adult fiction novel dares to ask the questions: Do people ever really change? Do two people, who can never make it work, actually make it right? And most importantly, do they even want to?
    I actually read the Those Were the Days: A TATM Short Story (in a heartbeat!) first, which was free on Kindle (Amazon), and immediately bought the novel and also the novella Moments Like These: A TATM novella. I look forward to reading the newest novel in the series which I bought right after it was published in December, That Was the Year, and already can’t wait for the third novel!

Below is a print screen of all the titles I’ve read last year. Take a look, and check out the list itself on Goodreads. Who knows, you might see something you’d also like to read.

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Now, please let me know in the comments below how many books you’ve read this past year? And what are your favorite reads for 2016 (or previous years)? Don’t hold back, I always love a good book recommendation!

Since I would’ve liked to read even more last year but did end up surpassing my goal, I decided to challenge myself to read 25 books in 2017. That was my goal in 2013, too, and just like that year, I totally plan to update this with higher numbers over the course of the year!
I am already ahead of schedule with a book I finished reading on January 2nd ;)

Here’s to a great 2017, filled with lots of reading!

2016, September 30

Review: George HS Singer’s, Ergon

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Today’s blog post is a stop on George HS Singer’s Poetry Tour run by Poetic Book Tours, this Autumn. Last month, I received the poetry book, Ergon, for review. At first, even though I do love poetry, I wasn’t sure I’d have the time to finish reading it, but after securing an end-of-the-month date for the blog tour stop, I said “Yes.”

Ergon is a mix of poems about George HS Singer’s life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life after he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.

ERGON_coverPublished by WordTech Editions, who describe this book as: “George Singer’s Ergon is precise, delicate and fierce in its engagement with the world.”, you can find the poetry book, on Amazon and on BookDepository, as well as his other publications which range in a myriad of topics from education & teaching, parenting & social sciences, to medical books.

My copy of the book arrived in the week before I left for holiday, and given it’s 86 pages long, I decided to take it with me. I’ve taken novels on holiday with me before and then after arriving home felt all sorts of bad about not having enough time to read more than a couple of chapters.
Well, Ergon was the perfect holiday read!

The book is composed of four parts: Visiting, Ergon, Our Quotidian and Immensity. They, in George’s own words, cover the themes of:

  1. “The beauty, humor, and difficulty of living as a Zen monk.
  2. Coming to terms with a very mixed childhood and its insistent residue.
  3. My sense of gratitude for having found a soul mate in my wife.
  4. My sense of the unutterable wonder of existence and that there is enough of it that can be taken in and joined with to keep from staying down after inevitably and repeatedly falling down.
    the stars across the axis of the sky,
    light enough to walk without stumbling.”

The poems aren’t too long, they can be read in a fast pace, and as you can see listed above, their themes are varied in complexity. I can honestly say I haven’t read a poetry book quite like this one before. The poems give the vibe of being written with such ease despite the depth and warmth carried through.

My boyfriend read some of the poems as well, we read together; and I highly recommend this book for any couple if they want something truly interesting to read and talk about curled up on the couch together.

Here’s the early praise for the book:

“Singer’s work is wise, vulnerable, empty and full, erotic and spiritual, intimate and lonely, his source of metaphor the keenly-witnessed natural world. Ergon  is a book about abiding love but also illness, lobotomies, and long-held grief; its landscape is one in which the buffaloes with ‘eyes sad as Lincoln’s’ plow through the fence and break into the temple, where the Buddha is ‘poised with one palm open, one touching the trampled ground.’ Go to the forest or the shore and read this book, and while you’re at it, don’t underestimate the ferocity of these deeply adult and nuanced poems.”—Diane Seuss

“With his first book of poems, Ergon, George H. S. Singer takes his place among a rich tradition of California poets for whom the literary sphere is outlined not only in aesthetic terms but in natural, ethical, and spiritual dimensions as well.  This humane poetic runs recently from Hass to Hirshfield, Snyder to Herrera, but traces its origins to the ethos of Aristotle, who defines ‘ergon’ as ‘the core function or purpose of something or someone’; virtue then ‘arises when ergon is realized fully.’  Singer is a maker of contemporary devotions out of the dross and commotion of a daily life—out of false teeth, frayed cords, mouse nests and into the sphere ‘of celestial fire where the souls / of extinct birds are turned into gems.’  It’s not alchemy but faith. It’s not caprice but capability to see the spirited world within the known one, capability to approach in language the ‘eternal silence of these spaces between the stars.’”—David Baker

“With dignity and that slight irreverence that convinces you he’s telling the truth, George Singer creates his rich, lucid poems about the core of our human condition, our Ergon. Moving, surprising, erotic and profound, Singer’s poems take us around the world and through personal history—from the unexpected humor of daily life inside a Buddhist temple to the terrible inverted logic of a sanitarium for the insane, or from a sexual spark in a long marriage, to eons of geological time. Ergon marks the debut of a splendid poet with a sensibility that might make you more observant, and far lighter on your mental feet. A person could get wise reading poems of such warmth and depth.”—Molly Peacock

GeorgeSinger_AuthorPicMore about the author:

George HS Singer is a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H.  He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life.  Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.

2016, June 16

Facing Your Fears

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This week I am starting my blog post with a banner image and posting a day early, because I am taking part in the treasure-hunt-type blog tour organized by my friend Janel Gradowski in honor of her 5th mystery novel being published from her culinary competition mystery book series. Go congratulate her! You’ll find in her blog post the schedule of the blog tour as well for the rest of the stops, and the Rafflecopter widget to enter her giveaway.

Read the guest post, then see the book description and the treasure hunt clue for the secret word below!

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Facing Your Fears

Being a fiction writer is a wonderful career, but it isn’t all about making up characters and giving them life dilemmas to deal with. A writer does far more than have conversations with the people who only exist in her mind. One of the most important things that any writer can do is face her fear.

Fear comes in many forms for authors: fear of rejection, fear of criticism, and fear of blank pages are just a few of them. The thing is, these fears – in whatever form they manifest, can have a detrimental effect on careers. How you can ever be published if you are too afraid of rejection to submit your manuscript to a publisher?

So I make it a point to face my fears and go past them. Sometimes that means running at them head on, and other times it means carefully stepping around. A recent encounter with another writer taught me a valuable lesson in fear. If you don’t let it stop you, great things can happen.

I am a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the blockbuster hit “Eat, Pray, Love”. Her most recent book is called, “Big Magic”. It’s far different than her tale of traveling to exotic countries. While “Eat, Pray, Love” was her journey to finding a life that is perfect for her, “Big Magic” is a guide for helping others find and hold onto their creativity. There’s even some very good advice on fear (you have to work with it, not against it).

During the winter I discovered that Liz was coming to Michigan as part of her “Big Magic” book tour. I immediately made up my mind that I would go see her. The venue was a two hour drive away, very near Detroit where the nearest freeway exit resembles a plate of spaghetti because of all of the entrance and exit ramps. A scary driving experience since I live in the countryside between two towns that have collectively three stoplights total. But I bought a ticket for myself the day they went up for sale.

First I convinced my husband, who knows the metro Detroit area well because of his work, to drive me to the church where the event was being held, if I didn’t go with a friend. Then I posted on Facebook and talked with friends, trying to find someone who would go with me because I was apprehensive about going alone. (By apprehensive I mean I was afraid. The big, old, nasty fear monster thrashing around.) Nothing worked out, and so I had to face the fact that I would be going to a three hour workshop surrounded by literally thousands of strangers. A bit of a nightmare for a person who leans toward being shy and introverted.

But I never once thought of not going. It wasn’t the price of the ticket. It was the fact that I was going to get to be in the same room with one of my literary heroes, to hear her speak about creativity – the lifeblood of my writing career. The night before the event, suddenly all of the knots of fear loosened and I knew everything would be okay. It occurred to me that maybe I was meant to go alone.

The next day, after creeping through the traffic jam caused by so many people going to the workshop, my husband dropped me off. I checked in then walked into the auditorium. For some reason, the woman who entered right in front of me asked me to sit with her, even though her friend was coming. We struck up a conversation, then ended up talking a lot more throughout the workshop. Because, guess what? One of the first things Elizabeth Gilbert did was request that people who had come with friends move so that they were sitting next to a stranger to do the creativity exercises with.

I made a new friend that day. She even hugged me at the end and thanked me for sharing my stories of my life as a writer with her. I also wrote a letter to my fear, which was another part of the workshop. It was such a moving experience to be in an auditorium full of people who were facing their fears because they wanted to live a life full of creativity. I’m very glad I didn’t let my fear of going alone stop me from attending.

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Book Description

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]Culinary competitor Amy Ridley is as excited as anyone in Kellerton, Michigan to have DIY Home Improvement star, Phoebe Plymouth, come to town for the first annual Cabin Fever Cure event. However the TV personality’s sour attitude quickly curdles people’s opinion of her. When she’s found dead, at the business owned by Amy’s husband, Alex, the heat is on to catch the killer before his professional reputation is ruined!

When Amy seeks help in preparing for a vegan baking recipe contest, she also finds assistance from an unlikely team of sleuths who want to help her catch the murderer. But things go from bad to worse when Alex and his business suddenly suffer a series of less-than-random attacks. Are the murder and attacks related? Amy vows to figure it out before her and her husband’s lives are ruined… or ended permanently!

Purchase the e-book from AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwords, or the print book.

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The Treasure Hunt clue for Life’s a Stage is: !

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at JanelGradowski.com.

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janelMore about the author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever.
Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life.
She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

You can find her via her Website, sign up for her Newsletter, or follow her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

2016, March 18

From Scene to Screen – Edward Ormondroyd’s “Time at the top”

1881Three years ago over at Friday Flash Dot Org, in one of the From Scene to Screen features on the website, I talked about Edward Ormondroyd’s “Time at the top” and the movie adaptation by the same name easily being two of my favorites.

In it, I also shared a picture of my copy of the book below my Ramsing of my favorite number, won in a giveaway from Rukmini’s place. Just perfect together! (See photo to your left here.)

Since the Friday Flash Dot Org website closed last year and I didn’t talk about this book on my blog before, I decided to post today in case you’re up for a little review type reading.

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Edward Ormondroyd’s “Time at the top” and the movie adaptation by the same name are easily two of my favorites from what writing I was introduced to during my young adult years.

From the moment the movie started I was drawn in, even more so when the single line “based on the novel…” came up on my TV screen. Normally, I read the book, then watch the movie, but given that the first time I saw this movie was still in my high school years, back then the sequence did not matter as much as it does now. As soon as the movie ended however, I had “Time at the top” on my wish list of books to purchase.

A book about time travel was definitely something I wanted to read, and the main character, Susan was someone I wanted to read about in her own “setting” in the novel. Susan is someone I could relate to, having lost someone dear to me. She is adventuresome, curious, invested, and filled with a desire to help out her new friends while trying to better her own life – these are traits I wish everyone possessed.

Of course, some things are inevitably lost or changed in “translation” from scene to screen so differences appear throughout the two works when compared. Not many did I find distracting from the book’s original feel, however.

The book’s action and story line take place in the early 1960s and goes back to 1881. The movie’s story line changes slightly, the present being 1998 instead of the 60s. While it is one of the biggest differences, this did not strike me as too distracting from the plot itself. The writers managed to make the change believable. It might be because viewers relate better to movies shot in the present of what their current present is.

That said, I find it particularly interesting that in the book (which was first published in 1963), the author and Susan are talking about how the pace of life is too fast and there seemed to be a longing to more peaceful times where cities were smaller, a longing for fresh air, green open spaces, of seeing the country sky full of stars in a way one has never thought about them before in the city. This longing of a time long gone is something I see my present filled with. Because of this, I’m positive this plays a huge role in the novel’s timelessness, the plot is still compelling and enjoyable whether it was read in 1980, in 1998, in 2011 when I reread it, is being read at the moment in 2016, or will be read in 2088.

At the beginning of the novel, Susan has an odd encounter with an older woman and from helping the stranger she is given “three” as a reward. Three turns out to be how many times she can travel in her apartment building’s elevator to the top, and travel further than the last floor, back to the past. In the movie, she discovers this by accident when a neighbor asks her to take some things to the basement for them.

The main plot line stays the same in both the novel and the movie, as gradually discovering the power of the elevator time machine, Susan and her new friends from 1881 travel back and forth in time and succeed in changing both the past and the future, changing a little piece of history. I really liked how the elevator took Susan back in time into Victoria and Robert’s house, which stands in the same spot as her apartment building stands in 1998; this turns into a constant mark for distance during her travels.

Susan ends up play acting to get what she wants, like Portia from “The Merchant of Venice”. She wants a big house in the country, where it’s quiet and pretty, where birds are singing and there is room for everybody. She believes that with a little luck and a little bit of faith one can change the life they’ve made. She believes that when one feels that hope is awry, things can still turn out right.

“Time at the top” is a book where the author self-inserts himself into the narrative in an adorable way. In the movie adaptation he is portrayed as a quirky writer with pen and notepad in hand, and a little bit prone to ridicule on screen. He sums it up well himself when asked if he doesn’t have someplace he needs to be “Oh no, I’m a writer and keep any hours I want.” (Wish I could say that myself, but I digress.) While on paper the change between first person narrative and third person narrative can be a little bit confusing, I liked his presence overall.

If you haven’t yet, I’ll let you all discover the unusual, very unlike-most-time-travel-books, ending by reading the book or watching the movie. Come back here and let me know what you think!

Or have you already read this book, or seen the movie adaptation? Tell me if you liked each one, what do you think of the two in comparison?

PS: I also credit Edward Ormondroyd for providing my young adult self with my favorite number, 1881. Ever since first watching the movie, I’m truly aware of the numbers 1 and 8, and of their presence in my life.

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