What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing: Reading challenge update and preparing to submit

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audio books and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

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As Spring timidly begins to show her reluctant face, things are picking up. I have a busy few weeks ahead and it seems the first half of summer is already spoken for. In preparation of events to come, I’ve been quiet on the social media front. While I have certainly fallen behind on my blogging, I haven’t fallen behind on my reading. In fact, with 13 out of 44 books read so far this year, I’m one book ahead of schedule on my 2014 Reading Challenge!

Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to.

What I’m ReadingApe House Sara Gruen

In the last few weeks, my selection of reads have been across a variety of genres. I took a nostalgic trip to my younger days, listening to the audio book of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I first read this as a teen, and I was surprised to find how much of it stayed with me over the years that have passed.

I read my first Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a magical and transformative read. I listened to the audio book read by Neil Gaiman himself which itself was a treat!

I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fun and quirky read. I flew through a lighthearted read, The Men I Didn’t Marry, and slogged through Proof of Heaven, a book I thought I would enjoy but didn’t.

Now I’ve just picked up Sara Gruen’s Ape House. Have you ever loved a book so much, you were afraid to read another book by the same author out of fear of not loving it as much as the first? Water for Elephants ranks among my favorite books of all time, and since reading it years ago, I’ve avoided reading any of Gruen’s other novels.

I have finally put my reservations aside to read this book that I’ve wanted to read for so long.

 

What I’m Writing

After going through two rounds of critiquing with a trusted writer friend, and another set of revisions, I’m preparing to submit a short story for publication. This will be my first attempt at submitting a piece I have written, and I am equal parts excited and anxious.

I’ve begun researching literary magazines to possibly submit to (more on my lit mag adventures later) and am bracing myself for the rejections that are sure to come. I will be sure to share my progress along the way!

 

My Favorite Quote of the Week:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

Five amazing tips to help you write your novel
I love these tips from Alice Hoffman.

Advice every young writer needs to hear
A collection of short videos from published authors sharing their advice.

Oh, the Places you’ll Go!
From the Write Unboxed blog, how to create an authentic sense of place in fiction.

The 9 Ingredients for Character Development
Some tips from Writer’s Digest

23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway
What can I say, I just LOVE quotes about writing. This is a great collection of some great ones from Hemingway.

10 Life Lessons to Excel in your 30s
I enjoyed this article and hope to get a head start on a few of these things before I enter the next decade of life!

 

Enjoy the weekend!

What are you reading? What writing projects are you currently working on? Share your reading and writing adventures in the comments, and feel free to link back to your own blog!

Confessions of a Book Polygamist

Book Polygamy: “Reading several books at one time without being able to commit to just one of them.” – NYC writer Michael B.

I discovered this phrase in an article by Rita Meade (@ScrewyDecimal) on Book Riot: Made up words for literary experiences

I used to believe that reading multiple books at once was some sort of literary sin. It felt wrong to read more than one book at a time. I refused to pick up a new book before I had finished the one I was currently reading, believing that it was a form of book adultery, that I would be “cheating.”

That all changed when I realized that as a self-proclaimed book worm, I needed to make more time for reading in my life. Enter, the audio book.

I began my foray into book polygamy when I discovered the joy of listening to audio books and realized it added nearly an hour of reading time to each day. But I only read audio books while I’m in the car, which left me craving a book to read before bed or while curled up on the couch in the evening. And so, I began listening to an audio book on my commute and reading another book, at the same time.

As it turned out, reading two books at once wasn’t so bad after all.

I started juggling three books at a time when I was reading a book that was too big to fit in my purse. I began leaving it behind because it was too heavy to drag back and forth to work everyday. Instead of reading on my lunch break, I passed the time playing games on my phone.

What kind of “avid reader” would I be without a book to take with me everywhere I went? Moments spent waiting at the doctor’s office which could have been spent reading, I wasted by checking Facebook.

I needed a book that was portable, one that I could easily fit in my purse for lunchtime reading. The solution: my Kindle. It is lightweight, and perfect for taking advantage of those found reading moments.

Now, I am never without a book in my purse, another on my nightstand and an audio book loaded up in my car’s CD changer.

I am almost constantly reading two to three books at once. When I’m not, I seem to fall behind on my reading. I don’t know how I would meet my reading goals without reading several books at the same time.  I’m not sure why I resisted the temptation for so many years.

So there you have it. I am a book polygamist and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

What is your take on reading multiple books at the same time, is it a literary sin? Are you a monogamous reader or  a book adulterer like me?

 

If you liked this post, you might also like: Re-reading books, do you do it?  Subscribe to my blog for more posts like this!

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

I came upon Life of Pi at a used bookstore a while back. It is one of those books I had heard about and knew I had to read. After I bought it, it sat on my bookshelf for months, untouched. I even loaned it out before I had read it for myself. It wasn’t until I saw the audiobook at my local library that I finally went on the wild ride of Pi’s life. Life of Pi

The book opens with the unusual story of Pi’s name and delves into his exploration of religion, and life as a zookeeper’s son, waking up to the sound of a pride of lions rather than an alarm clock. Though I learned a lot about zoology and theology, the first third of the book read almost like a textbook at times. Still, I loved the descriptions of the zoo and the animals. He describes the zoo as a “hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colours…” with a “riot of flowers…” He says, “To me, it was paradise on earth.” It felt that way to me, too.

Part Two begins with the tragic sinking of the Tsimtsum and the start of Pi’s fantastical story as a castaway for 227 days. Yann Martel paints the world of life at sea so realistically I could nearly feel the sun and salt on my skin.

Martel tells the story in such a way that, no matter how unbelievable the events of the story may be, you believe every word.

“If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? … Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”

Life of Pi is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is at times, bleak and at others, uplifting. I found myself on the verge of tears and depressed the entire morning after reading about the last pages written in Pi’s diary on the lifeboat: “Do you see these invisible spirals on the margins of the page? I thought I would run out of paper. It was the pens that ran out.”  This was the moment my heart broke for Pi. As a writer, I found this moment among the most tragic of events in Pi’s adventure.

The language is simple, but beautiful, colorful and imaginative. It is a book that makes me believe in the art storytelling.

If you are like me and left this book to collect dust, I implore you to go pull it from your shelf now. When you have finished, go watch the movie. The movie will make you fall in love with the story all over again.

 

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”

What I’m Listening to in Audio Books: Tell the Wolves I’m Home and Heaven is for Real

A few months back, I wrote about my new found appreciation for audio books. I love that audio books allow me to find extra reading time in my day. I rarely listen to the radio in my car any more, and instead spend my driving time “reading.”

Tell the WolvesI recently finished the audio book version of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This is a book I’m not sure how to review, but I can certainly recommend. It is the type of book that a plot summary won’t do the story justice. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is moving, emotional and a beautifully written debut novel.

It is a book about love, about loss and grief and finding yourself through the loss. The relationships are complex, the characters are flawed and real. The main character, June, is caught in the transition from childhood to becoming a young adult. She is a romantic, happier in her imagination pretending to live in a simpler time than she is in the real world. I loved seeing and learning about the world through her eyes. But the death of her uncle Finn leads June to discover, like most teenagers eventually do, that her family is not perfect.

The story is not only about June’s relationship with Finn, it is a story about siblings: June and her sister Greta; the girls’ mother Danni and Uncle Finn.

I’m glad I listened to the audio book version because I was able to hear aloud the beautiful prose in which it was written. But I would love to read the book again just to highlight and underline those mesmerizing passages.

I also just finished listening to Heaven is for Real,  a story about a little boy who undergoes surgery for appendicitis and afterward claims he has been to heaven. Over the weeks, months and years following his surgery, Colton tells his parents about his trip to heaven in the simple words and nonchalant tone of a young boy. Heaven_Is_for_Real_(Burpo_book)_cover

I’ll admit I was skeptical going into this book and I was still a bit skeptical coming out. Colton describes heaven, and talks about meeting Jesus and John the Baptist. His parents are astounded at the stories he recalls from his trip to heaven and how closely they match scripture.

What dilutes the story for me, is that Colton’s father is a pastor. Colton’s parents claim he describes things he couldn’t have possibly known, like the color of Jesus’ sash – but growing up within the church with a pastor for a father and attending Sunday School each week, I imagine a perceptive young child could pick up on certain things without his parents even knowing. But then there are things Colton couldn’t have known, like what his parents were doing while he was in surgery.

Diluting it further is the fact that Colton’s father, Todd Burpo, is the author and narrator of the story, not Colton. By the time this book comes out, Colton is eleven years old, old enough in my opinion to tell the story himself perhaps with the help of a few adults.

All of that aside, it was a quick and interesting read.

After reading this, I have added Proof of Heaven to my To Read list. While the premise is the same, Proof of Heaven is written by a neurosurgeon who comes from a scientific, not a religious, background.

What I’m Reading: Searching for my next compelling read

I’m on a mission to read as much as possible this year. I’ve been on track reading about three books a month, including audio books, but I’m losing momentum, searching for a book that will move me.

Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner

Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner

After reading Alice Sebold’s dark and disturbing, Almost Moon, I needed a light read to lose myself in. As a fan of Jennifer Weiner, I picked up Fly Away Home, looking for a page-turner that I wouldn’t be able to put down. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me with this book.

Fly Away Home follows three women, Sylvie and her two daughters Diane and Lizzie, and their lives in the wake of a sex scandal when it is revealed that Sylvie’s senator husband is having an affair.

While In Her Shoes and Good in Bed were books by Jennifer Weiner that I couldn’t put down, it took me a bit longer to get through this one. The characters and the storyline were interesting, but the pace was slow and ultimately, there just wasn’t enough at stake for me to really be invested in the characters and their outcome. I will continue to read and enjoy Jennifer Weiner’s novels, but for me this one was good, but not great.

And so, I’m back to searching for a book that I can really get into.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

I just recently began listening to the audio book version of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.  The story is  built on an interesting premise, showing us the hidden world of imaginary friends who can only be seen and heard by the child who imagined them and is told from the perspective of Budo, the imaginary friend of Max. This book reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, as both books are centered around a young boy on the autistic spectrum.

For my next read, I’m looking forward to picking up Jodi Picoult’s newest release, The Storyteller, in which a New Hampshire baker finds herself in the midst of two Holocaust stories: her grandmother’s story of survival, and the confessions of an elderly German man, an SS officer. I’m hoping this book will be the page-turner I have been looking for.

I’m tracking it all on Good Reads. For more on what I’m reading, you can follow me there.

Are you on Good Reads? What are you reading?

Audiobooks: The Same as Reading?

It is a goal of mine this year to fit in as much reading time as I possibly can. I bring a book (or my Kindle) with me just about everywhere I go, so that if I find myself with ten extra minutes, I can spend it reading rather than mindlessly reading my Facebook feed or playing games on my phone. I’ve been trying to turn off the TV earlier to allow more time for reading before bed. And, I’ve started listening to audiobooks.

I tried listening to an audiobook for the first time when I finally started reading the Harry Potter series two summers ago. I had been lugging around these heavy hardcover books for a while and decided to try listening to the series on CD during a long road trip.

I was skeptical at first, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy listening to a book as much as I enjoy reading one and thought I would be too focused on the road to absorb a book. But truly, listening to a book on CD while driving isn’t much different from listening to music or a morning radio talk show. In fact, I was surprised to find that when listening to an audiobook, the scenes play out in my mind just as they do when I’m reading.

I got away from audiobooks for a while, but recently felt the pull to try them again as winter set-in and my long commute is often made even longer by slippery, snow-covered roads this time of year. Listening to an audio book on my commute allows me to get in a whole extra hour of reading every day!

Of course this brings about the debate: is listening to an audiobook the same as reading?

There is something to be said for hearing a book read aloud, and hearing the magic of the words coming to life – particularly if the audiobook is read by the author. But just like with e-readers, I miss being able to pick up a pencil and underline a passage I like, or thumb through the pages to reread a section that struck me. I have considered getting a hard copy as a companion to the audiobook for these reasons.

I have been borrowing books on CD from my local library, but with downloadable apps and MP3 audio books, there is no limit to the ways you can listen to a book, whether its during your commute, on your lunch break or while you’re doing housework.

I’m curious to know what experiences other avid readers have had with audiobooks. Did you love it? Hate it? If you’ve never listened to an audiobook, are you willing to give it a try?