Posts tagged ‘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.

2016-in-books

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!

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2016, December 9

What do You gift writers?

2016 is nearly over and I’d like to thank every single one of my readers for making it such an amazing one, and my bloggy friends who have filled it with so much awesome blogging, flash fiction, poems and even essays to read, each week!

Here’s wishing you all an early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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As for my blog post’s title? I wrote this back in 2011 for FFDO, but wanted to share here on my own blog now since that website closed.

This is the season of gift giving, and more often than not, we end up with gifts we like, but which aren’t too related to our field. When I give a gift I like to really think about what the person would enjoy and use. Shopping for writers is rather easy, in my opinion, as we all have access to the basics.

While I do not personally have the one formula you could use to determine what each of your fellow scribbler and avid reader family members or friends would like to receive, I have put together a short list of things which could tickle their fancy.

  1. Gift baskets. I know what you’re thinking. Gift baskets come in all shapes and sizes, but not one shop or website carries one named “Writer’s gift basket”; right? They don’t, or at least not the ones I looked through around here as research for this article. So why did I include this here? Because, you can make it yourself!
    Grab a pretty basket and fill it up with: pens and pencils, pencil cases, bookmarks, journals, stapler & staples, ink (either for a pen or for a printer), notepads, erasers, post-it notes in any or all shapes and sizes, stationery, note books (maybe something fancier, like a leather note book), day planners, diaries, bookplates, writing-themed magnets (magnetic scrabble fridge tiles), a book light, memory sticks, and chocolate. Every writer loves chocolate.
  2. Books. Kind of obvious, yes. But every writer I know has a never-ending wishlist. Many have books on the craft of writing, technical books, collections of writing prompts or all those wonderful novels and poetry out there which they would love to own, yet simply can’t afford or feel that they shouldn’t indulge.
    See if they are willing to share the wishlist (or they might have one online on Goodreads, Amazon, or BookDepository so you can check it without them even suspecting what you are up to).
  3. I’d like to include Literary Magazines, either Single issues or Subscriptions under this category, too. This is a luxury most poetry or short story writers would appreciate as it’s always nice to hold a magazine in hand while reading rather than the average e-mail subscriptions.
  4. Amazon Prime might be a good idea as well. I think if there weren’t the added benefits like free same-day or two-day delivery, unlimited streaming for movies and series, hundreds of playlists and unlimited photo storage, the single reason a writer would choose Amazon Prime is: borrowing one book per month with no due date from the collection of over 800,000 books of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library!
  5. Other Software or Updates. In this very tech-y day an age, most writers use a laptop for writing, on a daily basis. The key software for these writers is a word-processing software. Most PC users use Microsoft Office-based Word, however there are other ones out there as well, like Scrivener or White Smoke.
    If you’re feeling fancy, ask if they’d like to switch from their free blogging platform to their own self-hosted domain. They’re not as expensive as eight years ago when I first started blogging.
  6. An editor. Let me rephrase that since editors might not let you tie a pretty red bow around their neck and agree to sit pretty under the Christmas tree: An editing session. Are the writers in your life in need of a second opinion? Are they letting their masterpiece collect dust on a shelf, or putting off writing/sending out query letters because it needs more editing? An editing session could help them out big time.
  7. A creative writing class, workshops or conferences. Either in “real-life” or online, many writers would like to further perfect their craft. Have they got fear of writing, issues with time management, or are in need of fresh creative energy to move out of a rut? There are several websites you can check out, and in case you can not decide on your own, include the writer in the decision making process. They are the ones who best know what they need.
  8. Customized items. Great for stocking fillers. In this area of gifts, there are many things you can customize, like jewelry: cufflinks, pins and badges, pendants, bracelets engraved with their favorite (short) quote, earrings;
    clothing: T-shirst, neck ties, hats, scarves;
    and even kitchen items: mugs, serving trays, bowls, wine bottles, etc. And you can never go wrong with writing-themed Christmas tree ornaments!
  9. High end pens. Quill pens, fountain pens, ballpoint pens. These are good choices for every writer of course, but especially for pen-enthusiasts.
  10. Book ends. They seem underrated, but I think they are worth keeping in mind because they not only keep books from falling off not-yet-filled-up shelves, they allow for building a bookshelf anywhere – on a windowsill, a desk, etc. They also come in all shapes and sizes and are customisable to your writer’s dreams.
  11. Time to write. This can be as simple as arranging play-dates, taking the kids to a movie one day per week, going to visit the grandparents without your spouse on a weekend, taking over some of the chores or cooking dinner yourself so your writer will have a bit of time to themselves, to clear their head from the everyday worries and write without interruptions.
  12. A place to write. If you are in the mood to make over a room in your house, how about giving your writer a cozy space to read and write in? A door to shut would be ideal, but even simply rearranging a shared space to make room for a bookshelf, a comfy chair, or a desk will go a long way. Build them a book lover’s Christmas Tree!
  13. A writer’s retreat or travel for research. If you can afford it, check out a few places close by and send your writer on a short writing retreat. Or if they have a trip coming up, offer to extend it by a few days. Send them on a short trip for research, if for example, they are city-bound yet writing about a beach setting.
    A weekend away from a noisy house, in a cute little bed and breakfast is guaranteed to make their year!

How about you? Would you be happy to receive any of the above listed? How do you shop for the writers (and readers) in your life? Any ideas I could steal?

~~~

As a disclaimer, the above listed are things I use and love, or I would love to receive.

I have personally worked with Karen Schindler in the past, and she has edited my work in such a way that she kept my voice throughout the stories; sometimes sending them back with edits that I didn’t even notice at first were not my own writing. I highly recommend Karen’s services.

In April 2012, I took Milli Thornton’s Ace Your 10K Day online class. She has several classes to choose from, her insight for the issues I had were more than helpful as they were easily applicable; and overall, Milli was a pleasure to work with.

If you’re crafty, a while back I made myself some classy handmade bookmarks, and cute corner bookmarksa writer’s clock, pretty calligraphy ornaments and a travelogue and built a Booklover’s Christmas Tree! With a little imagination, they can easily be transformed to your own needs and even crafted with your children to gift to the writer in their life.

Happy gift giving!

2016, October 21

The “I Am the Reader” book tag

There is a book tag floating around among YouTube channels, called “I Am the Reader” and people get all chatty answering the questions.
I’m not sure who started the tag, and I’m not going to go search for them either, but the questions did sound interesting when I happened upon a vlog this past weekend.

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Here are the “I Am the Reader” book tag questions and my answers:

  1. Choose one word that describes being a reader.
    – Magical.
  2. What’s the very first book you fell in love with?
    – For Christmas when I was in second grade my mom gifted me the book called “Me and My Sister Clara”, by Dimitar Inkiow, which is the only book I’ve read as many times as I’ve read the HP series. I recall that I even colored in the drawings in my Hungarian version of the little book.
  3. Hardcover or paperback?
    – I love a good hardcover, but usually I buy paperback books for the simple reason that they’re cheaper. And along those lines, I have a lot of e-books which I either won, found for free or bought when they were on sale.
    As long as the book is good though, it really doesn’t matter what form it comes in. I just want to read.
  4. How has reading shaped your identity?
    – Reading the Harry Potter series and a question from a friend prompted quite an interesting list of what my seven Horcruxes are, because, I now believe we all have horcruxes in real life.
  5. What book do you read when you need to be comforted?
    – Lately I don’t have a go-to book to read when in the need to be comforted so I just pick up a book from my TBR pile. But if I had all of my books living with me instead of in my old room at mom’s, it’d most likely be the HP books.
  6. Who taught you to be a reader? (Or did you do it all on your own?)
    – I read books since I learned how to read, but mostly off the Required Reading Lists for school. I usually didn’t like them.
    The reply to this question coincides more with what I call My Harry Potter Story:
    one of my friends hasn’t shut up for months and made me watch the first Harry Potter movie with her. I loved it and when I got home my first question to my mom was: when can we buy the book?
    This was right before the beginning of the 9th grade when I went to high school, and my new Hungarian literature teacher’s first request was for the class to read the first Harry Potter novel. So the next day, I got the book and read it in a heart beat. For Christmas and birthdays I got the rest of them as presents over the years, and I bought the last four myself.
    I started reading more and more while waiting for which ever happened to be the next book in the HP series to get written/published and haven’t stopped ever since. That is also when I started reading more in English.
  7. Describe your dream reading lounge.
    – One of these chairs in the corner of a quiet room, next to a fireplace, with a warm knitted blanket, an endless supply of Toblerone and tea, and my Pixel kitty purring in my lap.
  8. What book changed the way you act or see the world?
    – I loved the reality  “The Fault in Our Stars”, by John Green, presents. I’ve talked about it before, if you want to have a look.

That completes the tag. If you feel like sharing, go ahead and answer the questions in the comments below. Or if so inclined, write a blog post of your own and let me know where I can find it – I’d love to hear all about your reader’s experiences!

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, April 29

Six Reasons to Smile in April – the Poetry edition

Today is the last stop on the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour

For those who are new to my blog, this is part of my year-round series of sharing six reasons I smiled each month, in picture form.

As April and National Poetry Month come to an end, I thought I’d try something different and go with a poetry theme for my six reasons to smile photo collage this month. It was so much fun reading more poetry, the interviews and other poetry-themed blog posts, and sharing it all with friends!

page six reasons to smile in april

You still have time to go check out all of the participating blog posts, reviews and interviews born this month! All the stops of the blog tour are compiled into this neat list on Savvy Verse & Wit.

How did your National Poetry Month go? Read anything you think I’d like? Do share!

2016, April 22

Book Spine Poetry – Paris

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Today is the fourth stop on the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

The concept of book spine poetry appeared in 1993 with Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project. Katchadourian began collecting interesting titles and arranging them in clusters so the spines could be read like a sentence. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings adapted the spine sentences into poetry, and the idea quickly spread around.

NPMBlogTour2016I learned that teachers have been using this technique to inspire kids to write poems (and use their books!), and that there are book spine poetry contests floating around the internet.

Since I last created book spine poems three years ago, inspired by a friend of mine who wrote the most stunning book title poem, I bought quite a few new books.

To name the best examples, I gave up buying something else and bought one book each month in 2013.
And then after receiving an Amazon voucher in December 2015 as the sole winner of an Innovation Week event our client held at work, I bought seven books in one fell swoop.

Some of them I’ve read already, some not yet.
However, here is some book spine poetry I managed to arrange from the newer titles I own.

For some reason, my heart was drawn to a Paris theme this time around.

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Paris letters,
the sweet life in Paris,
(and) Paris in love –
All the brights places,
(are) hidden in Paris.

Messing up my beautifully organized shelves was worth it.

Want to play? Go arrange some of your books into pretty book spine poetry and then leave me a link to your photo in the comments section so I can check it out :)

How is your National Poetry Month going? Read anything you think I’d like? Do share!

2016, April 1

National Poetry Month 2016: Blackout Poetry

Large-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-LogoTo quote the official description from the website,
“This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.
Over the years, National Poetry Month has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

Please join in the celebration by listing your events and attending other events in your community, displaying this year’s posterparticipating in Poem in Your Pocket Day, recommending the Dear Poet project to a young personsigning up to read a Poem-a-Day, and checking out 30 more ways to celebrate.

We hope National Poetry Month’s events and activities will inspire you to keep celebrating poetry all year long!”

NPMBlogTour2016I’m celebrating by writing some poetry myself, creating book spine poetry, overall reading more poetry this month and visiting the blogs and articles in the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour listings.

~

For my first poetry-related creative project, I decided to try blackout poetry. It was really simple to form!
All I did was print out a page I deemed okay as far as the text was concerned. I printed it out so that I wouldn’t actually mess up any of my books – I love them too much! Then, I took the page with me on a lunch break and started forming a poem with some of the words.  After my poem was formed, I went to town with the rest of the page, blacking out.
Truth be told I would’ve liked to create an interesting design, something like a doodle on the page, but my sharpie really wasn’t cooperating. Anyway, below is the result and a transcript of the poem itself :)

blackout poetry

Together as the stars came out,
tiny silver bells whispered aloud.
They stopped beside a small stream.
She felt as fragile as glass in his hands,
trembling he turned to look at her.
His hand rubbed away the tears
touched her hair lightly,
lifted her head, their faces finally at height.
They sat silently, and strangely tender, unmoving.

~

Want to play? Go black out words on a page of your favorite novel to form a poem, and then leave me a link to your photo in the comments section so I can check it out :)

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