Tag Archives: Literature

While I Was Gone

Cover of "Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Gre...

Cover via Amazon

Yes, I disappeared for a little while there, but rest assured, I’ve been reading.

This past holiday weekend on a long bus ride, I polished off two very different books, Getting to Happy and Freedom: A Novel (Oprah’s Book Club), and I liked both, for very different reasons. On a plane ride before that, I read two different slices of American history in Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line and For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago; again, both were fascinating and enjoyable, but for very different reasons. Then today, I bought an old childhood favorite of mine, Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables, No. 8), and read half of it already.

The problem is that in this frantic, hectic, end-of-the-school-year time, I just haven’t carved out any blogging time. I’ll be back soonish though, so if you want reviews of any of the books I’ve just mentioned, give me a shout here and I’ll whip one up. I’ve got a poetry post ready for the weekend, and will get back on my regular schedule sometime in the near future.

No, really.

4 Comments

Filed under Children's and YA Literature, Fiction

BTT: Age Appropriate

Cover of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

Cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Do you read books “meant” for other age groups? Adult books when you were a child; Young-Adult books now that you’re grown; Picture books just for kicks … You know … books not “meant” for you. Or do you pretty much stick to what’s written for people your age?

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question is one I’ve actually thought about before throughout my reading life.

As a kid, I often read books that were appropriate for where I was with my reading skills, but were not at all appropriate for me emotionally or developmentally. So I ended up reading books like Catcher in the Rye way before I was really ready for them, which spoiled me on some amazing books I could only appreciate after re-reading them. I’m trying to avoid this mistake with my own kids, because with some of my favorites, I want the introduction to go perfectly.

Now, I rarely read young adult or picture books for pleasure unless I am reading them with or for my own children. By “for,” I mean that when my kids are reading something I’m not familiar with, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, I try to read either one book in a series, or a single book, so I know what they are reading. Books have always been such a huge influence on me that I want to know what might be influencing my own kids.

I’m trying to read more YA lit because I think my students might be (or should be) reading it, and I’ve found some good examples of ones I would absolutely want my students, or some day my own children, to read. But just for pleasure? Never occurs to me.

3 Comments

Filed under Booking Through Thursday, Children's and YA Literature, The Family That Reads

BTT: Serial

Roland standing by the Dark Tower and the Can'...

Image via Wikipedia

Series? Or stand-alone books?

Most books I read are stand-alone books, but I think that’s partly because I don’t read a lot of mystery or science fiction/fantasy, which I think are genres heavy on serialization. My favorite series of all time would be the Harry Potter books, of course, with the Anne of Green Gables books following closely behind (and sometimes tied for the lead).

I also loved Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and I think his work straddles this divide, in a way. Most of his works are stand-alone books, but the more you read of his work, especially the Castle Rock books, the more you see continuing characters and themes and the evolution of the setting. So while they are not “series” books, inhabiting that shared universe links them in a rich way that rewards the frequent reader.

This is my Booking Through Thursday post.

7 Comments

Filed under Booking Through Thursday

Top Ten: Bookish Peeves

This week’s top ten, Bookish Pet Peeves, is hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish, and I’m looking forward to hearing what will probably be very opinionated entries!

I agree with the original poster and would start my list with plot holes and grammatical errors: I know proofreading can be overwhelming, but continuity errors make me crazy, and so do missing commas or misspelled words in what should be a finished work!

My other eight?

Non-ending endings: It really bugs me when a story just seems to drop off a cliff! I don’t need every single loose end wrapped up, and I don’t always need a happy ending, but I really get irritated when it seems that nothing has been resolved at all.

Overwrought dialogue: when every conversation is laden with adverbs, and all the characters’ emotions seem continually heightened, something is just not right.

Horrible film adaptations: I get that not every plot point can make it into the movie, but terrible casting is what really gets me angry!

Hasty wrap-ups: I’d rather read an enormous doorstop of a book than have all the climaxes shoved into the final chapter; give your denouement the build-up and resolution it deserves!

The price of hardbacks: I would love to have a library filled with hardcover books, but for the amount of books I buy, the prices are just too high.

The smaller size of so many paperbacks: I like a good portable beach book as much as the next girl, but sometimes they could be just an inch or two larger, to ensure easier holding while eating (not just me, right?) or walking, or other activities I like to do while reading.

Misleading or overhyped blurbs: Setting your novel in Sweden and having a murder does NOT automatically make it the next Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series.

Too many gratuitous pop-culture references: Some of my favorite authors are those who use a lot of references, (Stephen King, I’m looking at you) but I think there’s a fine art to using them effectively, not just sprinkling them in to make the book seem timely or to telegraph information about a character that should really be developed in more specific ways.

 

If you haven’t participated before, head on over and give it a try!

6 Comments

Filed under Top Ten Tuesday

Puppets, not People

Cover of "The Three Miss Margarets: A Nov...

Cover via Amazon

I’ve read two books recently and both struck me in a similarly weird way: I finished them both because I wanted to see what would happen, but I didn’t ever feel like the characters were fully realized or three-dimensional. They were puppets, not people.

The first was a book called The Three Miss Margarets: A Novel which I picked up on a whim. What it had going for it: an unusual setting, twisty and surprising plot (at least for me). What it had against it: too many characters’ voices, waited too long to start revealing essential details, some plot twists were too far-fetched. But the key downfall for me was that I just never really felt like these characters were real; they stayed two-dimensional, flat on the page. I think it also suffered by comparison; the jacket copy compared it to Fannie Flagg and Rebecca Wells, and this novel definitely is not ready to play in that league.

I had more hope for the second book, How to Bake a Perfect Life: A Novel. I love novels and memoirs where food is a major element, bonus points for included recipes, so this book scored on both counts. This novel’s main character is a bread baker, which is even better, as bread baking is both fascinating and intimidating to me. I also enjoyed that the subject matter was a little more realistic, including a pair of vets from the Iraq war and a pregnant teen, and that these characters were treated as characters, not as Afterschool Special characters. The writing was more fluid and less overwrought, but still, the characters never quite transcended the page for me; at least, if they did, they were still essentially stereotypes I had seen before.

I hesitated over whether to review these books, because it’s much more fun for me to rave about a book, but then, it’s also more challenging to try and figure out where a book went wrong, why it didn’t quite work, what could have been done differently. While one of these books was “better” than the other, ultimately, neither succeeded in making me feel like these characters were fresh and compelling.

One of my favorite parts of The World According to Garp (I’m paraphrasing) is when the cleaning woman at the publisher’s offices (what was her name again?) talk about a book being “real,” not based on a true story, but where you read about the characters and think, “Yes! That’s people do act!” Of course, this is subjective, and it might be impossible to predict how many readers will believe in your characters, or why they don’t. Sometimes one strong character is enough to save the book, and sometimes an author hits it just right one book (like Garp) but misses in his or her other work (I’m not a huge Irving fan outside of loving Garp to pieces).

For fiction writers, I would think this is one of the most challenging tasks, and without success here, I think the work ultimately fails, even if other parts succeed.

Have you read books like this before?  Does it bother you that much?  If you’re a reviewer/blogger, do you review every book you read, or only the ones you enjoy? I think I will only review books I didn’t enjoy if I feel like there’s a greater point to be made, or the books were thought-provoking for me in some other way.

2 Comments

Filed under Fiction, reviews

Quick Hit: Literary Mixtapes

Do you know about Flavorwire’s literary mixtape series yet? If not, do yourself a favor and click on through them. The most recent character featured is Jay Gatsby, a truly genius choice, and some of the selected tracks are also completely genius. My favorites are the choice of “Electric Feel” and “The Party’s Crashing Us” as party music.

This is, of course, separate from the largehearted boy Book Notes feature, where authors create playlists for their own books, which Papercuts used to do also, and can also be quite amazing.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Literary Blog Hop: Setting

Literary Blog Hop

What setting (time or place) from a book or story would you most like to visit? Eudora Welty said that, “Being shown how to locate, to place, any account is what does most toward making us believe it…,” so in what location would you most like to hang out?

One of the reasons I read certain books over and over is because the world the author has created is so compelling that I want to spend more time living in it, even if the novelty has worn off, even if I’ve visited it hundreds of times before.

For this prompt, I have two answers: Prince Edward Island, due to the Anne of Green Gables series, and Hogwarts, from the Harry Potter series. When I was younger, I wanted to be one of the children running up the path towards Avonlea school, and now, I’d love to be the teacher in that school (if I could have my own family as well), or live next door to Anne and Gilbert and all their lovely children. If I couldn’t have that, I’d love to be a literature teacher at Hogwarts (again, with my own family), teaching the semiotics of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

This is my literary blog hop post.

11 Comments

Filed under Children's and YA Literature, Favorites, Literary Blog Hop