My head is fuzzy, my nose is running, and I am starting to smell my own personal brand of B.O.– onions and garlic. Too much information? I apologize. I’m creating sensory details here.
I am home sick today with a cold. That has been great news for my reading, but bad news for my writing. I am a zombie today, with dryer lint between my ears after a night dosed with Nyquil.
But the blog must go through…oh, the blog must go through…no matter if it’s rain or shine, the blog must go through…
So, I’ve been reading today. And sleeping. And reading. So, I shall update my WWW Wednesday status:
This is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.
Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply…
On Friday, my sister Erika and I got together to kick off Veteran’s Day weekend. We haven’t spent a day together in a long time, so it was long overdue. We’re both very busy with teaching (I work as an English teacher, she works as a Special Education teacher) and we’re both newlyweds, so we sort of lose track of each other. It’s rather sad that we were in better contact before she moved down to San Diego. Now she lives in the same neighborhood, and we’re lucky if we see each other once a month!
Erika came over early, around 8:00 in the morning, and we both grabbed a cup of coffee and sat on the couch and gabbed. As always, we shared stories from work, married life, and then moved on to the more emotional topic: family.
We are planning our trip up to Sacramento for Christmas, and it might be kind of awkward as I haven’t spoken to my dad in a few months. Make that six months. He doesn’t call me and I don’t call him. This happens every year and then we see each other at Christmas, catch up on each other’s life (well, my life), and act like there’s nothing wrong. I am sick of this sham.
I’m not even sure I want to see him. Maybe I’ll just spend the whole time at my mom’s house. But, that’ s just silliness, I know–what I need to do is be a grown-up, put my big girl pants on, and talk to him about our fractured relationship. Something’s got to change. It’s been weighing on me, not just for months, but for years, not speaking to Dad.
Erika nodded her head knowingly when I explained this to her:
Me: Have you ever noticed that when we’re fighting with Mom or each other or haven’t talked to Dad in a while, that even if we get on with life, it’s always there. Always in the background of our life. It’s like, being so close as a unit growing up, we developed into this one being–each of us is a part of a whole. When one piece is missing, we don’t feel whole anymore. I’m not 100% without you guys in my life. It’s always been that way.
Well, things almost got sobby there, so, after that discussion, we decided we were hungry and wanted to check out some used book stores. Erika was looking for a copy of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. I advised her against Rosemary’s Baby as the book is exactly the same as the movie. Waste of time if you’ve already seen the movie! Unfortunately, neither used bookstore we visited had a copy of either. So, we returned home after lunch.
We still had lots of time to enjoy each other’s company, so we decided to talk a walk down to a local independent bookstore, The Grove, to see if I could find myself a journal. It was a 20-minute walk, and though we started off chilly, by the time we arrived at the store we were both sweating. I was wearing boots with ill-fitting socks and could feel little blisters forming on the balls of my feet.
However, I was revived as soon as we entered the shop. I was delighted to find so many wonderful bookish items to add to my Christmas wish list! They had some lovely candles that were inspired by classic authors–Whitman is scented of grass, Poe is scented with absinthe, Austen with tuberose. I loved them! If you’re looking for a bookish gift like this, click the above picture for a link to the Paddywax Library Candles website. I also found a 5-year journal called Jane-a-Day, where each page has 5 short entry spaces for the writer to record a sentence or two about the day, each page accompanied by a Jane Austen quote. The idea is that you go through the book once every year until at five years you have an entry filled in each space, having chronicled every day for five years. Very cool! I ended up buying a small journal for recording blog ideas and a copy of Olive Kitteridge to read for the Award-Winning Challenge (it’s a Pullitzer winner).
We walked back home. My feet were killing me and Erika was wishing she hadn’t brought a heavy coat. Despite my discomfort, Erika told me a few things that gave me a thrill. First, she told me that my blog has inspired her to read again (she’s been in a dry spell for a while); that I have made reading sound so pleasurable. The best compliment ever! Also, she confided that she and her husband are considering writing their own blog as well. So, I gave her some ideas, and once we got home, I shared some of my favorite blogs of varying types with her. It sounds like she is deciding between a photography blog, a movie blog, a music blog, or an all-of-the-above blog. I’m very excited for them and hope they pursue this!
Shortly after our return, she went to her own home, and I felt wonderfully giddy. I greeted my husband with a warm smile when he got home from work, happily volunteered to pick up some take-out for dinner, and simply felt content for the rest of the evening.
I am so lucky to have my sister. I’m only a fraction without her and I can’t wait until our next get-together so I can fill myself up all over again!
I like to think that I’m a good writer. Or, at least, I was. I’m a bit rusty now. But, after reading Sticky Readers, I am determined to clean my act up!
• Sticky Readers: How to Attract a Loyal Blog Audience by Writing More Better by Margaret Andrews
• Ebook: 76 pages
• Publisher: CreateSpace, 2011
• ISBN: 1463636571
• Genre: Nonfiction; Writing; Blogging
• Recommended For: Bloggers looking to improve their writing; bloggers looking to increase traffic to their sites.
Quick Review: Despite all of my groaning at reading my own advice given back to me, I recommend this book to other book bloggers. It’s a quick read and sometimes we don’t recognize what we need to do until it’s staring back at us on the pages of a book. I know that was the case for me. I’m going to check with my list of writing rules before hitting PUBLISH every time I write.
How I Got Here: My blog is nearing the three-month mark (they grow up so fast!) and I’m no longer satisfied with just getting my writing out there. I want to write solid, top-notch copy! So, when Florinda, from The 3 R’s Blog, posted on Tuesday and Thursday about Sticky Readers, I had to download a copy of the book for myself. I read it in a few hours on Friday night.
The Book: Synopsis from Amazon.com:
Sticky Readers is a humorous, but helpful book about writing better blog posts. While the book is helpful for all writers, it was written with bloggers in mind.
Sticky Readers explains the various ways to make your writing more engaging (i.e. less boring) so that a reader will “stick” around for the whole thing, rather than read the first paragraph, get bored and leave.
Sticky Readers is not a book about English grammar, but a book about how to tell an engaging story.
It also includes a section about combating writer’s block and a list of Top Ten Mistakes that bloggers make to drive readers away.
My Analysis and Critique: Aaargh! I kept wanting to smack myself upside the head while I was reading Andrews’ writing tips. DUH! Here I am, an English teacher who teaches 7th graders the basics of writing, and I’m not using my own instructions for my own writing!
Andrews stresses the most basic of writing rules to add pizzazz to typically boring blog posts. Hooks, sensory details, the use of controversy, active vs. passive voice, quicker pacing–all are discussed in Sticky Readers. This is Writing 101, Mandy! Come on!
Here is a list of writing rules I have paraphrased from Sticky Readers:
• Proofread for spelling/grammar errors
• Check introduction. Does the title or first paragraph have a hook?
• Make sure all relationships to people, pets, etc. are identified!
• Paragraphs too long? Break them up into smaller pieces!
• Appeals to the senses? Sensory details!
• Passive verbs– get rid of them!
• Wordiness– chuck “very,” “due to,” and repeating phrases.
• Add a metaphor somewhere?
• Get someone to read it first!
Along with the basic rules of writing reminders, Andrews offers up advice on “how to pull a blog post out of your ass”. This basically refers to finding ideas from the world around us, carrying a notebook at all times, and to pay attention to what other bloggers are writing.
To gain the interest of more readers, she urges bloggers to get personal on their blogs. I definitely agree with Andrews as I find that my favorite posts by other bloggers always seem to reveal something about his/her personal life. Descriptions of where we live, what we do for fun, and even what we look like are all of interest to potential readers.
Despite all of my groaning at reading my own advice given back to me, I recommend this book to other book bloggers. It’s a quick read and sometimes we don’t recognize what we need to do until it’s staring back at us on the pages of a book. I know that was the case for me. I’m going to check with my list of writing rules before hitting PUBLISH every time I write.
So, since reading Sticky Readers, I have changed my theme to make it easier on the eyes (the text seems bigger now). I also spent this morning practicing hook writing. I tried different types of hooks for the three types of writing most common on my blog: Reviews, Memes, and About Me posts. Further improvements to my blog will include better hooks, use of sensory details, regular check-ins at Grammar Girl, the use of a digital camera (as opposed to my smartphone), using Microsoft Word for drafting, and better outlining before writing. Hopefully, my readers will find these changes to be an improvement to my writing and my blog overall!
– Margaret Andrews’ blog: Nanny Goats in Panties
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs• Hardcover: 352 p • Publisher: Quirk, 2011 • ISBN: 1594744769 • Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys creepy pictures with a plot to go with them. Quick Review: The pictures truly were the best part of this book. Which bugs me–pictures should complement a plot, not the other way around. The plot is definitely secondary to the pictures in this book. It’s all fun and games until you realize that you could have been reading a good book. Waste of time? The jury’s out on that one.
How I Got Here: As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I had to read it. So creepy! I figured it to be horror, or at least horror-related. I read this book for Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-Thon.
The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
My Analysis and Critique: This book had great promise. Creepy photographs to go along with a quirky grandfather’s supposed tall tales. The grandfather gets murdered and so his grandson goes to Wales to investigate if there is any truth to the tall tales. I was intrigued– a creepy, potentially haunted wreck of an orphanage, bogs as portals to other worlds, mysterious, gory livestock killings all over the island. Then the protagonist finds the truth behind his grandfather’s stories and…it’s…boring.
At first it was interesting, but then I just stopped caring. There’s all this creepy build-up with wonderful descriptions of the island and menacing paranormal bad guys. Then, it ends up being hanging with the Lost Boys of Peter Pan. That is, if the Lost Boys were potential members of the X-Men. It ended up being that I didn’t care about the characters and I felt disconnected from the plot. The last chapters felt like a chore–I caught myself scanning the paragraphs rather than reading them. It’s apparent that there will be a sequel that I have absolutely zero interest in.
Overall, I blame Quirk. They published this book, as well as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Their books seem to be based solely upon kitsch and they are riding the kitsch all the way to the bank. They publish some fabulous coffee table books and gag gift books, but their novels are seriously lacking. Their plots are weak, but that’s okay because people buy their books for the “Quirk”y pictures. The pictures truly were the best part of this book. Which bugs me–pictures should complement a plot, not the other way around. The plot is definitely secondary to the pictures in this book. It’s all fun and games until you realize that you could have been reading a good book. Waste of time? The jury’s out on that one.
- Goodreads reviews
This is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?
What are you currently reading? I am slowly working my way through The Name of the Wind. I’m about half-way through and I think I’ve already been reading it for two weeks!
What did you recently finish reading? I recently finished The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch. But recently meaning 2-3 weeks ago!
What do you think you’ll read next? I think I will be reading a classic–probably A Room with a View by E.M. Forster.
When I signed up for the Readers in Peril (R.I.P.) challenge in September, I was bold. I signed up for all three tasks: Peril the First (At least 4 novels of the horror genre), Peril of the Short Story, and Peril on the Screen….and like Ellen Ripley, Ig Perrish, Dale Barbie, and Dean Winchester, I succeeded in the end!
- Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
- Under the Dome by Stephen King
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
- Horns by Joe Hill
- The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (not yet reviewed)
TOTAL PAGES READ:
- “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
- Troll 2
- Best Worst Movie (Documentary on Troll 2)
- American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural
- A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King (not reviewed)
I did pretty good, considering almost all of the challenge was completed in October. Unfortunately, I now have a horror hangover and will have to wait a while before picking up another scary read. But, when I do, I will be sure to check out the R.I.P. review site for recommendations, as should you!
Awesome challenge–I will do it again next year!
How I Got Here: I am a huge fan of the Twin Peaks series and a few years back I found this book on the internet (not sure where) after my 3rd viewing of the series. I loved it, and decided to re-read it again this year. Also, this book satisfies a task for the Fall Reading Challenge, as well as the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) challenge. I read this book during the very wee hours of my participation in Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-Thon.
The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:
Based on the explosive TV Series TWIN PEAKS, this shocking diary reveals the sordid double life of Laura Palmer – from adolescence up until the time of her murder.
Short and sweet…but at least there’s no spoilers!
My Analysis and Critique: For any fan of Twin Peaks, this is a must read! This book serves as a window into poor, tortured Laura Palmer’s soul and truly delivers in all of the quirks and horrors that made Twin Peaks such an amazing series.
The diary begins on Laura’s 12th birthday in 1984. She has been given the book as a gift and immediately begins to share her love for her Mom and Dad, as well as her best friend Donna Hayward (a major character on the show). She also begins to reflect on what becomes a running theme in the diary and her life–her sexuality and the power and danger associated with it. According to Laura, she has been dealing with BOB for a long time. BOB is a malevolent spirit who regularly molests her and tortures her both physically and mentally. Laura is scared and yet, being a very strong young woman, is frustrated and tries desperately to gain power over her sexual predator. As the years go on, she finds power in sex, and alternates between joy and fear in who she is becoming- a sexually ravenous teen who likes to dabble in danger. The diary follows her ups and downs, leading ultimately to her last entry on the night that she is murdered.
Obviously, the story of Laura Palmer is a tragic one. She tries so hard in a losing battle. I don’t want to reveal much, as what this book entails may completely spoil the twists of the show. Yet, if you are a fan of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (the follow-up movie), you will be fascinated with this book as it shows unseen sides of the many beloved characters (and sources of nightmares) that you never got to see on the show. This book is also true horror–BOB is one of my greatest feared characters, and just the thought of him fills me with dread. He makes a lot of appearances in the book (at one point even, gulp, he writes in the book) as do some of the more human evil-doers of the Twin Peaks universe.
Please note, I only recommend the reading of this book to people who have ALREADY seen Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me. Also, I would recommend watching the series prior to the film. On a final note, this book was hard to find (I think I found my copy on Ebay), but is definitely worth the search!
- Goodreads reviews