Browsing Category:

Reading

My Reading Habits and Stratagies

I’m came across this post on ways to read more in college, and it got me thinking about what I do or need to do in order to read. I want to go through the aforementioned list with my thoughts, and then write another post on a few more actions I take that help me personally.

~Read one book at a time
I think that this is a personal thing. I can find it difficult to be motivated to read one book at a time when that one book is dense. Some books are hard to slog through but are worth it. And some are a bit more like candy. I could definitely be more disciplined in my reading, but I still think that having a few books in different categories (e.g. dense fiction, light fiction, scholarly nonfiction, popular nonfiction) is a helpful way to read widely and deeply.

~Read what makes you happy
I think this only applies to the light fiction category. I “need” this category to pull me away from the Internet, to help me stick to reading, to de-stress, etc. I oftentimes have a hard time finding enough of these books though, and so I turn to my small favorite reads; I LOVED how Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas called this concept having a “literary medicine cabinet.” 

~Take your book with you everywhere
This is a great idea, but one I still need to implement more consistently. I also like to bring my knitting everywhere, so I can be a bit of a crazy bag lady.

~Use reading as an incentive
I think this is more personal too. Again, this is where the multiple books come in for me. I kind of use the light books as a help to reading the heavy ones. I sometimes read, knit, repeat. But I think that I prefer reading my fun books straight and this would make my work slide (if you haven’t noticed discipline is a problem for moi).

~Don’t force yourself to read
I GREATLY disagree with this for everyone;  I think everyone should be reading hard books and most people don’t find those easy. Additionally, I don’t expect to desire to read period, I have to exert discipline. I think that is for these reasons: psychological reading issues, habitual lack of disciple (e.g. laziness), and computer addiction (e.g. lack of self-control).

Fiction Analysis and More Bookish Links

I wanted to write out some of my thought process for choosing or rejecting fiction (it IS important to be able to know when you are wasting your time and brain; this blogger mentions her 40 page rule, I prefer a different way) and some questions to help me analyze the books (my review ability could use some improvement). Now, I’m more intuitive than clearly analytical in my thoughts, so I don’t think in this organized way, but I wanted to formulate a neat set of questions drawn from my thoughts on how to choose good fiction. I’m trying to utilize my reading notebook more effectively, so I wrote the questions and prompts in there.

  • Is the quality of the prose high?
  • Is the quality of the story high? Is it interesting?
  • Is the tone forced? Is the action manufactured? Is the drama manufactured? Does the emotion feel genuine? Try to pin point the “why” of your answers.
  • Is the immorality, language, violence, etc. gratuitous or cheaply shocking? What is the proportion of bad to good? What is the tone toward these issues? Is it sympathetic? Indifferent/amoral/blasé? Hostile? Are the issues implied/subtly handled or graphic and explicit? Are they excessive/essential to the story? Can you cut/cover them and have a good story?
  • Describe the plot, the situations, the characters, the moments. What do you like? What is the feeling and tone of the story? How do you know this?

Now for some bookish links.

Some literary holidays. I’ve filled my calendar with many of these, and I will probably have some posts on this.

A conversation between two of my favorite authors, Jeanne Birdsall and N.D. Wilson. Some really great words here, on the importance of beautiful prose (YES, YES, YES! The lack of this is a/the significant reason I despise much of modern grown-up novels), on depth in characterization, on deep treatment of themes, on magic and Americana (Natalie Lloyd does this too; I LOVE this). This is just an awesome discussion, can they have an online bookclub?!!!!!! Or podcast (I’m not into podcasts, but this would be one that I would WANT).

The Persistence of Print.

Improve your vocabulary. I was putting a list like this into an Excel file and realized I might have the opposite issue for some of these words; I use the big words when I’m frustrated and so they are exaggerated and not accurate. I added these words to the other list I found, some of them repeated or had different suggestions, and I’m not sure I agree with all of the choices.

These quotes can apply to reading as well (sometimes the mainstream “reader” community seriously annoys me and reading merely as a hobby and only reading fiction is one pet peeve).

Learning techniqueWhich led me to this channel.

National Library Week: Websites and Research

This should be my last post for National Library Week unless I do a round up. I only did a cursory exploration of my library’s site (and I haven’t looked at my town library for this week).

I’ve already listed some items essential for research under media, but I thought I needed another post for more items that didn’t exactly fit under any other category.

In addition to information for all the items I listed before, my library’s website also has

  • educator, parents, teen, and children’s pages
  • a Genealogy page (as well as archives at the main library)
  • a page of all sorts of Internet links
  • a page listing sites with free Internet classes
  • Treehouse accounts available to checkout
  • a library newsletter
  • a partnership with a self-publisher e-book site

What I Read in March

Re-Reads
The Elusive Pimpernel and El Dorado. The succinct version of my opinion of these is similar to the first, so you can check out my January reads for that. I could rant and rave about how little we get of Percy and how stupid and selfish Marguerite is and how much we have to endure her, but I won’t  . . . for now.

Freckles and The Girl of the Limberlost. These are sweet, but I still found a lot to irritate (no, really?!). I love the nature descriptions and some of the romance. I disliked some of behavior and especially the attitudes.

Dragon Slippers and Dragon Flight. I wanted something light and easy; I don’t enjoy these as much as I did at first though. Creel is really getting on my nerves.

Light Fiction
The Grave’s a Fine and Quiet Place. I am thankful the weird conspiratorial elements are left out of this one. I found it too gross. I enjoyed it well enough, but I thought the story overall was unsatisfying, simplistic, and incomplete. The humor (the best part) is still great.

Dense Fiction

The Brothers Karamazov. Well, this had the potential to be a really thrilling novel (if the author cut the excessive, absurd, and rambling sermons), but by the end everything fell flat. I think it is hard to key up a reader when the penalty is not the death penalty; there is less trauma, less believable pathos. Plus I was sick of just about everyone and the plot.

The Old Man and the Sea. Poignancy and pathos. Although the story dragged, yet Hemingway’s artistry kept me interested although I was fearing a sadder ending (I’ve read at least two of his short stories). Prose is what makes a real writer great, NOT a extravagant story line (which anyone can plot).

The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway is a great writer but wow, his characters are almost always horrid. I got the feeling of almost, if not definite ant-social disorders. Zero conscience, dispassionate/removed discussion of others feelings, using/abusing others (cruel, rapier taunting), little real feelings besides short bursts of manipulative anger are exhibited, those characters who are sensitive are portrayed as odd, caricatured, rather flat anomalies. Unbelievably crass womanizing lechery. Hard, constant drinking. (All this applies to the two short stories I read as well).

Popular Nonfiction
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. I wrote tons of notes on this, but I really didn’t get much out of it. I thought it over-complicated and gimmicky, maybe someone might find a concrete yet abstract plan helpful, I don’t. I also found much of the descriptions and word-choices to be poor and to add unnecessary distraction and confusion. I preferred what I culled from my interpersonal communication textbook (very specific yet simple points that everyone can use at anytime, e.g. “you” sentences are accusatory, “we” often are presumptive, deceitful, and manipulative).

Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World. I found this extremely useful; the world of the Pilgrims is explained to give a context to their actions and role in history. This type of history is my favorite, and in my opinion the most essential aspect of studying history because you cannot understand events without understanding the times. While this seemed well-researched, and I appreciate the over-arching idea, the organization, editing, and writing could have used work (hence the popular nonfiction categorization). I think far more footnotes and factual evidence is needed also. However, I think the good is well worth sloughing through all the bad.

National Library Week: Engaging the Community

I think I will put one more up because I can’t really group my last two lists together logically. This whole National Library Week series has been rather slip-shod, but it is supposed to be a starting point.

I’ve found various community events and library and reader support sections and activities listed on my library site including:

  • Political gatherings
  • Author meetings
  • Children’s events
  • Community events
  • Artist meetings
  • Book review blog
  • Book discussion kits
  • Book fund
  • Library book sales that support the library
  • Donating books to the library

National Library Week: Extra Services

Yeah, this is why I like scheduling. Because I usually don’t have the brains to do something on the spur of the moment, and I don’t have the energy/motivation when working. I got two posts in my series for National Library Week.

I looked at my calendar though, and I see there is another Library literary event later in the year, so hopefully, I can put more effort into that week . . . if I plan. I’m going to do a couple more quickie list posts even though the week ends today.

Anyhow, here are some community services I found my library offered:

  • Immigrant services
  • Bookmobiles for kids and adults
  • Book mail and others services for those with disabilities
  • On site computer classes
  • Test prep classes
  • A student/bus/library combination card
  • Tax filing help
  • Scholarships

National Library Week: Media

I want to do a post a day for National Library Week, but that is a bit of a stretch which is why this is so late.

Everyone knows much of the media available at libraries, but some of the types of media and some of ways we can access these media can be overlooked or underutilized.

I found my public library system to be in some respects as useful or more useful than my University library in college. Some of the books I needed could be obtained there. A local newspaper’s historical editions was available digitally at the public library while at the University available only on microfilm.

I loved discovering my library’s “Suggest a Purchase” option (often that means when you suggest a book, you automatically have it reserved); even some of my “obscure” books were purchased.

I’ve loved re-discovering interlibrary loans (need to pick that up; my interlibrary loan list is growing!).

I just noticed my libraries eMagazine button, I think it might be new.

If your library has more types or more formats of the same types, please share!

Books:

  • paper (with options to suggest a purchase and to request an interlibrary loan from libraries all across the nation!)
  • eBooks
  • audiobooks in three formats (C.D.’s, Playaways, and digital)

Newspapers:

  • paper
  • digital
  • digitally scanned historical

Periodicals:

  • journals
  • online journal databases
  • magazines
  • eMagazines

Audio-visual

  • movies on D.V.D.’s (mine has a FAR better selection than Netflix)
  • (your library may have; mine doesn’t but maybe in the future) digital streaming through Kanopy
  • music on C.D.’s
  • digital music
  • sheet music

Lectures

  • D.V.D and C.D. courses (e.g. The Great Courses)
  • links to tons of sites with free lectures

National Library Week

Modern Mrs. Darcy linked up to a literary holiday list which sent me off to find a more full list (here) which I used to fill out my calendar. I wanted to do some posts on this, and I’ve wanted to utilize my library system better; I’ve been slowly discovering more and more services, but this has only been recently even though I’ve had access to this library for ages. So, I’m going to do a series of posts on my library system.

My library history:

I grew up in an idyllic “small-town” city. The population when we left was between six to eight thousand (it is a little over eight now). I think we had three decent sized libraries in our library system, and we used two of these. We left right around when the library started switching to computers, I think, maybe? Anyway, these libraries had plenty of books for children, tweens, and young teens plus a nice interlibrary loan capacity. I wasn’t an adult when we used this system, so I don’t know how it would feel now.

We then moved to the suburbs of the largest city in our state for two years. This city is not in but is close to the top 20 most populous in the U.S. (although swallowing farms, suburbs, and small towns to increase city limits is an interesting way to increase size). We lived less than 10 minutes from two of the eighteen libraries in this system although we only used one then (I think there may have been a few less then, but there have been more in the past). This is a Carnegie library system (! I just found this out recently; so cool). I was still too young and limited (we really did not have much computer knowledge then) to fully appreciate everything this system had plus I was in my reading mental drama period.

Then we moved to our current location, a “city” of well under 2,000. This library system was a shock; one tiny, tiny library with a scarily small parking lot (lots of driving fear here) with no funds for many interlibrary loans; the library has recently massively increased in size although not in content. This is NOT the library I mention when talking of my library, but I do want to include it in this week, and I want to set a week or a month to see how much I can find to read there.

I live in a commuter county next to the city I used to live in. I work, visit, and shop in the outer suburbs of the city which takes 20-40 minutes depending on where I go, the route I take, etc. I’ve only ever driven downtown once in my entire life (although I’ve been more than once, but not often), and that took almost a decade of driving to accomplish (but I need to drive downtown at least a couple more times to get to the historic main library with all the archives and such! Maybe next year for library week?). I bring my pay-stub to show I pay taxes (because of work), so I can get a library card. If I didn’t work in the city, I could (and would) pay a fee. If you live outside a big city, I suggest you see if you have similar options.

I just like going over memories and trying to put everything in context. The public library system was a huge part of my childhood, especially since I was home-schooled.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I liked That Were In Non-Favorite/Disliked Books

I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday.

1. Murder Must Advertise (I love Lord Peter but dislike most of the short stories; some are the most disturbing murder mysteries I’ve ever read)
2. Austenland (I think I liked the main guy [I liked him in the movie, so maybe this is cheating] but the descriptions were so gross)
3. Twilight series (I liked Jacob but have a like/shame relationship with the books)
4. I Will Repay (I liked the Scarlet Pimpernel, but I think this is one when he plays a significant shadow role)
5. Eragon (Murtagh)
6. House of Many Ways (I don’t like the Howl’s Moving Castle sequels, but I loved Howl)
7. The Sign of Four (I disliked this but I like Sherlock Holmes)
8. The Inheritance (this is cheated a bit, but I disliked the overwrought novel but loved the movie and all the characters therein)
9. Anne of Ingleside (the most boring Anne books, but I like most of the main characters . . . in the other books)
10. The Hunger Games trilogy (I have a like/hate relationship with the books, but I like Finnick and Peeta)

Little Women Blog Party Tag

I’m joining Molly Rebekah’s A Ramble Through the Woods Little Women blog party; Abby from Lavender Spring is her co-host. I think the focus is mainly on the 1994 film version, so that is how I will be answering the tag questions (also, I strongly advise listening to the soundtrack Molly uploaded whilst answering the questions). I’m a glutton for punishment; Jo and Laurie’s ending is one of the most devastating storylines in literature.

1.) Is there anything from the book that you wish were in the movie?
Well, I wish nothing had been changed (that I liked; I would totally be okay with the directors putting Laurie and Jo together). The John and Meg proposal scene is one of my favorite proposals in literature. I love the chapter “Secrets” and the ensuing results (note: the Anne of Avonlea movie plagiarizes part of this chapter as well as other parts of Little Women; I’ve been meaning to go into that into more detail, and I even purchased the screenplay just for that purpose . . . one day, one day).

2.) If you could change one point of the plot, which would it be?
I think we all know my answer to this one. Jo and Laurie. I think I need to re-read and devote an entire post to this.

3.) In Chapter 13, the March sisters and Laurie talk about “Castles in the Air,” basically their unrealistic but lovely hopes and dreams. What is your castle in the air?
I’m pretty sure mine is basically like Meg’s.

4.) What would you most like to see in a new adaptation of Little Women, whether in book or film? Any specific actors, setting, or time period changes?
An accurate portrayal with actors and actresses the CORRECT ages (most of those girls looked way too old or weren’t even girls anymore). I would prefer better costumes, they were very underwhelming.

5.) What is your favorite dress from the movie?
The peach one Amy wears when she gets her letter about Beth. This one; I cannot for the life of me find a better photo that shows the lovely skirt. I also love her hair style.

6.) Which March sister(s) do you relate to most?
I’m probably like all of them, except Beth. I have Jo’s temperament with Meg’s domesticity and wishes and Amy’s taste and some of her wishes.

7.) Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Little Women?
I like parts of 90’s film (music and Laurie) and part of the 30’s one (most accurate John and Meg proposal scene).

8.) What is your favorite quote from Little Women? (Movie quotes count!)
Hard to pick and I’m too lazy to get out of bed, walk two steps and grab the book, and peruse it. So I will grab a light one from Goodreads and hope it is accurately quoted.

“Jo’s nineteen hair-pins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

9.) Do you have a favorite scene from Little Women?
I’m going to go by book “scenes.” The proposal as before mentioned; the whole saga of Jo submitting her story/Laurie’s secret as before mentioned; the picnic . . . yeah the book is better.

10.) Aside from the March sisters, who is your favorite character from the story?
Um, LAURIE!!!!!!! I do like John Brooke in the book though, the movie doesn’t get him at all right.

 

What I Read in February

This was NOT a good reading month.

Re-reads
The Elusive Pimpernel. Okay, well Marguerite is one of the most obnoxious, stereotyped, selfish, stupid, and one-dimensional characters in literature. I was really struggling with most of this book; I almost put it down. I’m glad finished, all the good happens at the end even though we still get too large a dose of Marguerite. The best writing involves the Chauvlin and Percy scenes. The prose and plot in these books are SO tedious, but glimmers of decent writing appear in the aforementioned best scenes. I think the author could have been a decent writer if she valued quality over quantity (she has so many Pimpernel books) and left out romance which she clearly cannot do well.

The Ordinary Princess. I adore this book, you can read more about my thoughts here.

New Reads
Old Town in the Green Groves: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Lost Little House Years. This I read for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. It was okay, I haven’t read the originals (just the draft Pioneer Girl) in ages, so I don’t know if I’m right, but this didn’t feel as charming as the originals.

The Problim Children. I didn’t like this near as well as Lloyd’s other books although I do want to read the rest of the series. I feel that less effort went into this, certainly less charm. And the scatological humor, people, please!

Farewell to the Island and Return to the Island. I HATE love triangles. This is so clearly a ploy to add drama and spin out the series. Wow, the main character really turns into a shallow, self-serving brat in these.

Leave it to Psmith. This is funny although a bit more subtle than the Jeeves and Wooster stories. I thought that it dragged a bit, but I also was in suspense and cannot bear that, so that is probably why I felt that way.

More Explanations of the Sources of My More Obscure Couples

I intentionally mentioned a lot of obscure couples for my posts for Cordy’s Lovely Blog Party because I wanted to share some new books (I LOVE finding new books to read on blogs, in fact it’s how I found some of these). I thought I’d give more explanations for the more obscure sources (i.e.not the lesser known works from well-known authors).

1. Marcus and Cottia from The Eagle of the Ninth, Aquila and Nell from Lantern Bearers, and Owain and Regina from Dawn Wind. All these books are part of a loose series by Rosemary Sutcliff. The series is The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, Frontier Wolf, The Lantern Bearers, (#5 is blank because it is an adult one with content and little to do with Marcus’ descendants, it only occasionally mentions Aquila and Flavian), Dawn Wind, Sword Song, and The Shield Ring. The series traces the line of an Italian soldier in Roman Britain all the way to his Norse descendants in the last Viking stronghold in Norman England. I just love the obscure time period and the lovely understated prose, and Sutcliff uses such lovely descriptive languages, for example, colors aren’t merely red or tan or yellow but crimson and tawny and saffron. I adore much of Sutcliff’s other historical fiction as well but be sure to check Wikipedia and make sure you are only reading those novels marked for children, the ones for adults can have some graphic issues.

2. Sophie and Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. This is a fantasy novel that includes a melodramatic, spoilt-childish wizard; a girl stuck in an old woman’s body; the titular wonky moving castle; a quirky tone; travel between worlds; and of course, romance. If that doesn’t sound fun, I don’t know what does. This is book one of a trilogy, but I didn’t much like the other two.

3. Spiller and Arietty are from The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. This series is about teeny, tiny people that live under the floor boards. They live off and create their homes from food scraps and objects “borrowed” from “human beans.” They live in fear of being “SEEN” by said “human beans” and if “SEEN” feel compelled to move immediately. I grew up on these charming stories and re-read them a couple years ago. They end rather abruptly though, almost as if there was supposed to have been at least one more book.

4. Azalea and Lord Bradford are from Entwined by Heather Dixon which is a re-telling of the fairytale “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The tone of the book is spooky and mysterious, closer in this respect to older fairytales than Disney retellings (if you prefer a more Disney-esque re-telling, I also enjoyed Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George). I loved this retelling and the three romances, but Azalea and Lord Bradford are my favorite couple.

5. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are from Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. This couple doesn’t exactly have mutual feelings from their first extremely unromantic meeting (she is being tried for a murder that he decides to investigate). But Wimsey persistently, obstinately, provokingly, and hilariously pursues her through several years and novels until she discovers that she loves him back. Lord Peter is what makes these novels for me, I couldn’t speak as to the quality of the mysteries, they are quite different from Agatha Christie mysteries, and rather dark I think (although so are some of Christie’s).

6. Jamie and Molly are from Keeper of the Bees and Philip and Elnora are from Girl of the Limberlost by Gene(va) Stratton-Porter. She was a naturalist who imbued her novels with a rich wealth of flora and fauna. Freckles is the prequel to Girl of the Limberlost although both can stand alone. I’m set to re-read both novels which are romances set in a forest called the Limberlost (a real place in Indiana although I don’t know how much is left). Keeper of the Bees is about a (seemingly) mortally ill WWI soldier who runs away from the military sanitarium and takes on a job as a beekeeper from a man he meets by chance. He then impulsively weds a girl to save her character and befriends a wild child. Things are not as they seem, and chaos ensues. I’d also recommend Laddie and The Harvester by Stratton-Porter.

7. Martin and Ivy are from Swift and Nomad and Rob and Linden from Rebel by R. J. Anderson. The Faery Rebels are Knife (Spell Hunter in the U.S.), Rebel (Wayfarer in the U.S.), and Arrow. These are followed by the duology of Swift and Nomad. The first two are the only ones available in the U.S. (I borrowed the first four from an acquaintance), but I bought all of them through Amazon.uk, so they would all match. These novels are about faeries (the ancient mythology type, not the cutesy Victorian or Disney type, and you can read more about Celtic mythology in Faeries of the Celtic Lands by Nigel Suckling) in the modern U.K. This concept of faeries and this type of story was new to me, and I found it mesmerizing. There are about four romances in these books, but my favorite couple is Martin and Ivy followed by Rob and Linden.

8. Creel and Luka are from Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers Trilogy. These are middle grade fantasies, and I found them adorable when I read them years ago (I’m probably due for a re-read), and I loved that the heroine made magnificent embroideries for a living.