5 Reasons Bookish Things I’m Thankful For

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I’ve been doing posts this past year entitled 5 Reasons Why I Liked {Insert Book Title Here}. But today, I’m expanding this theme a little… By the way, these reasons are not in any particular order, and there are probably so many other things I’m thankful for. These are the ones that come to mind 🙂

#1 – Talking Books

I’m NOT talking about audiobooks here (although I love audiobooks, too!)… What I mean here is talking about books with other readers. Whether in person, or with the bookish community online. I love to find out what you’re reading, because I might want to read it, too! I love to discuss why I like certain books. I even like to discuss reasons I don’t like a particular book. It’s nice to know there are people out there who share my thoughts. And it’s also great to know there are people out there who think differently than me.

#2 – Book Downtime

Books have the ability to take us away to unknown lands. Yes, even in a contemporary read. I always read before bedtime. It’s the time I take to unwind from the stresses of the day. Sometimes a book will force me to read way past my bedtime, but usually I get in just a chapter or two. It’s something that makes me look forward to the end of the day.

This is probably why I’m not crazy about super-depressing books. I don’t mind that in little doses. Do I need Happily Ever After? I love Happily Ever After! But I don’t mind some slight ambiguity or even a touch of pessimism. I just don’t need to read the end of a book and feel the need to end my life. And that brings me to my next point…

#3 – Book Recommendations

This is related to number one, but it’s also slightly different. I love getting book recommendations. I love giving book recommendations. I love going to the bookish community, which includes blogs, Goodreads, Amazon reviews, bookstagram, etc. I like researching which books I want to read next. I look for recommendations by reviewers or bloggers who like books similar to the ones I like.

That way I know to avoid books like Jude the Obscure! (Sorry Mr. Hardy, I just can’t handle you anymore. Although I love your Far From the Madding Crowd. Probably because that was the last hopeful book you wrote.)

#4 – ARCs

And I’m also thankful for Advanced Reader Copies. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s kind of fun to read a book before everybody else. Of course that’s not strictly true, since there are a lot of other ARC readers out there. And I took heed of the warnings not to go crazy with my ARC-requests, so I haven’t really felt the worry of falling behind.

#5 – Libraries!

Ah, my home away from home. I love libraries! I do buy books, but I really can’t afford all the books I’d want to read. And frankly, I don’t have room to store all the book I’d want to read. That’s where the library comes in. I get to read wonderful books for FREE. (And when I get the occasional dud, it’s not a big deal. I just return it, happy that I didn’t actually pay for it.) There’s so much to choose from. There are new books and old books. Fiction and non-fiction. And audiobooks! And yes, even DVDs. Libraries make me happy 🙂


Your Turn

What are some bookish things you’re thankful for? Anything you’d add to this list?

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6 Tips for that Hard-to-Read Classic

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Classics are books that tell such wonderful stories.

I read tons of classics back when I was in school. But I’ve noticed, I don’t read as many any more. Because, let’s face it, classics tend to be harder to read. The language is often more difficult. They’re wordy. And long-winded.

When I do read a classic, I realize there’s a reason so many people love it. The writing is amazing. In fact, it’s why we still read these books hundreds of years after they were published. These books are worth reading. They are worth the effort.

Which is why I’ve decided to write a post to discuss 6 tips to help you read classics.

First, a short story. It involves two books: Ivanhoe and A Tale of Two Cities. These books have been on my TBR for years. And as of this year, I have read them both… sort of.

About 20 years ago (has it been that long?) I managed to read about 3/4 of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. And, you know what? I don’t remember a thing about it. It was slow-going while I was reading it. My brain wandered as my eyes read each line. Chapter by chapter. I never really finished the book. And it’s has been sitting on my night table ever since.

So… How to finish a book like this?

The truth is, I’m going to have to start over.

I have found that I just need a plan of attack. Which is what I did most recently (and successfully) with the other book on my list: A Tale of Two Cities. (You can read my thoughts on this book here.)

I realize that I’ve used various tips throughout the years. Here is a compilation of 6 tips to try if you’re finding it hard to get through a classic:

Tip #1 – Listen to the Audiobook

I happen to love a good audiobook. Assuming it has a good reader, of course. I tend to prefer one reader as opposed to full cast recordings. It’s amazing what a really good reader (i.e. actor) is able to do with their voice. (This also works great for “re-reading” books. I’ve re-read such classics as Jane Eyre; all the books by Jane Austen; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Anne of Green Gables; etc. etc.)

Warning: Not all audiobooks are created equal. I have quit audiobooks because of the reader. This can be very expensive if you’re buying audiobooks. I get mine from the library. The only drawback of the library is that they don’t always have the audiobook you want.

Tip #2 – Audiobook + Physical Book

Okay, so this was a real break-through for me! This is how I read A Tale of Two Cities and it worked like wonders! I did a chapter or two at a time, sometimes more.

You’ll need a unabridged copy of the audiobook, plus an unabridged copy of the physical book. Then follow along as the audiobook plays. This really helps for concentration. You’re seeing and hearing!

Tip #3 – The Perks of Spark’s Notes

Now, no cheating here. Read the book!

But as you’re reading, check out a copy of Spark’s Notes (or similar). You can find them online. After finishing a chapter of the book, go to the corresponding section of Spark’s Notes. Read the summary and analysis.

Guess what? It’s like having a little mini professor give you insight into what you’ve just read… 

Tip #4 – Digest the Book in Small Chunks

Read the book in installments. Don’t try to rush things.

There’s no prize for speed reading! What I find, when I read a book too fast, I don’t remember or digest what I’ve read. Then, what’s the point? We read these classics to enjoy the story being told. Take advantage of that.

Tip #5 – Consider an Abridged Version

Let’s face it. There are some classic books that have a lot of verbiage that could be tightened up.

Years ago, I read an abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo. And I loved it. I got right to the meat of the story.

I also could have read an abridged version of Les Miserables. I didn’t, I could have. What I did read was the full book in all its glory. (Unabridged AND with annotations… Oh my!) But there were definitely a bunch of chapters that had nothing to do with the plot that could have been eliminated easily. Even Victor Hugo’s editor thought so… (I know this because I read the annotation for that!) Alas, M. Hugo wouldn’t listen to reason…

Tip #6 – Try a Graphic Novelization

So, I did this with The Scarlet Letter. (Another book I read years ago but had trouble remembering what the book was about.) The graphic novel version was beautiful! And it also clarified a few things quite nicely for me!

For me, personally, I don’t think I will do this too often. I have too much love for the written word. I like graphic novels well-enough, but when I read a graphic novel, I often want more WORDS! However, if you (or somebody you know) is a more visual learner, than I highly recommend this avenue.

This can also work if you use the graphic novel in tandem with reading the abridged/unabridged version of the book.


Okay, so what are some classics I still want to tackle?

  • Middlemarch // by George Elliot
  • Heart of Darkness // by Joseph Conrad
  • North and South // by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • My Antonia // by Willa Cather
  • Watership Down // by Richard Adams
  • The Man in the Iron Mask // by Alexandre Dumas
  • Agnes Grey // by Anne Bronte

And yes…

  • Ivanhoe // by Sir Walter Scott

What about you? Do you have any tips to add? Are there any classics on your TBR that you’d like to tackle? Let me know in the comments!

On Chapter Length

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I like short chapters.

Okay. Not too short. One page chapters weird me out. Really. Weird. Me. Out.

As do two page chapters. They might as well be a one-page chapter.

No, I like chapters that are short enough that I can finish it in a sitting. I usually read before bed, to unwind after a busy day. So, that means I’m sometimes pretty tired. Sometimes I can only handle one chapter (maybe two).

And I hate putting a book down in the middle of a chapter. Which usually happens if a chapter is really long. Did I say how much I hate really long chapters? No? Well, they’re worse than the really short, one-page chapters.

Give me a nice-sized chapter. So, if I need to stop reading, I just put my bookmark at the beginning of the next chapter and I’m set for tomorrow.

Of course, if the chapter ends on a cliffhanger… I’ll want to read on. And sometimes I do read on. Even though I really should get to sleep. But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’d rather leave a cliffhanger for tomorrow. Because it’s something to look forward to…

What about you? Do you like long or short chapters? Or do you just not really care?

It Take Three Strikes

20171112ma_5277Years ago, when I’d crack open a book, I knew I was in it for the long haul. If I committed to reading the book, I would finish it… no matter what. Yes, no matter what.

(I’m guessing this is probably (most likely) due to school. We are assigned a book and we have to read it for class or do a report on it or whatever.)

But now things have changed.

For me, most of my reading is (supposed to be) for pleasure. So, when I crack open a book, and for whatever reason I’m not liking it, I’ve found that it’s okay to give myself the luxury of NOT FINISHING THE BOOK.

Yes, it’s okay to not finish a book.

Really.

Now, this came as a bit of a revelation to me.

By nature, I’m a rule-follower. I always felt this (perhaps unwritten) rule that once you start a book, you need to finish it. But for what purpose? What if the book is poorly written? What if I can’t stand the plot? Or the characters? What if…? What if…?

As I stated above, I’m a rule-follower. So, I created a new rule for me to follow.

What I call”My Three Strike Rule”.

This is how it works. I always start with fresh optimism that this book may become one of my favourite books. (And sometimes it does! Hooray!)

But, sometimes, the book gets strikes. Strikes can range from lousy writing to too much historical inaccuracy to too much profanity. (Aside: If every other sentence features the f-bomb, I’m probably not going to stick around.) Or sometimes I’ll just realize I’m not actually enjoying this read. For any of the above, that’s when I’ll say to myself (and yes, often I say this out loud to myself): “Strike One”.

Now, I am pretty kind when it comes to giving strikes. If it’s a minor thing, I may ignore it at first. When it starts to get on my nerves, but it’s still not THAT big of a deal, I may even give it only a half strike. My hope, always, is that the book will just get better. (And sometimes it does! Yay!)

But sadly, in my experience, once I’ve identified a strike, or even a half-strike, it usually goes downhill from there. Strike Two. Strike Three. DNF.

A few years back, this happened to me with a book that took a modern-day girl into the world of Little Women. Now, I love this kind of book. Except when it messes with the original book too much.

(Note: If you’ve never read Little Women, this next bit contains SPOILERS.)

In this case, this book messed with Amy. Now, to be perfectly honest, Amy has never been my favourite character. And as a kid, I wanted Jo to marry Laurie just as much as anybody. I ranted at Louisa May Alcott for what she did. But, I’ve also come to accept Amy and Laurie as a couple (although I do wish Alcott had left Jo single instead of marrying her off to the Professor). But even though I don’t care for the Professor as  marriage material, I know and accept that Little Women is Little Women. And just as you cannot change history, I believe you cannot change book history.

So, as I was reading this modern take on Little Women, I began to see what the author was doing. She was getting rid of the real, true Amy of the book! Louisa May Alcott’s creation. And then she was arranging for things to be different for Jo and Laurie.

Yes, here’s the point where I gave the story my first strike.

Why was that a strike for me? Because I think the author of this book missed Alcott’s point. Amy didn’t steal Laurie from Jo. Even if Amy never existed, I still think  Jo would not have married Laurie. And while I wish in my heart of hearts that Jo could love Laurie as he loved her, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen in real life. (Marriage didn’t happen for Alcott.) And so, it doesn’t always happen in book life.

Did this book get three strikes? Absolutely, yes, it did. Probably about half-way through. I can’t remember the exact point anymore. I do remember peeking at the end of the book to see if I was right about the author’s intent. I was. If I was a book thrower, I would have thrown that book across the room. (I’m not and I didn’t.)

So, I’m glad I did not feel obligated to finish this book in any way.

What about you? Do you have any rule for finishing or not finishing a book?

When You’ve Read the Last One

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You’ve just read the last book ever written by an author.

And the author is no longer living. In other words: Dead.

What do you do?

Years ago, I remember reading about a man whose favourite author was Charles Dickens. He had read every single novel by Dickens. Except one.

This intrigued me. You see, the reason he held out on reading the final book was because he was saving it. That way he would always have one more book to look forward to.

I always wondered, Did he ever read that final book? And if so… when? On his death bed??

Fortunately, for the fan of Charles Dickens, there are a lot of books to enjoy. The same goes for Shakespeare. It’ll take you awhile to go through those.

I also remember my mom once telling me that, after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, she would always keep her eyes peeled for a “new” book by Harper Lee. Except, there was never any other book. She’d only ever published that one. (Until a couple of years ago, that is. I’ve still not read Go Set a Watchman. Basically because I’m afraid to. My big question is this: If the book wasn’t good enough to be published pre-Mockingbird, why would it be good enough to be published now?)

And then there’s Jane Austen. She only published six novels. Once you’ve read the six, that’s it! Unless you want to read her unfinished works. Which, frankly, I tend to avoid. And I don’t count the fan fiction. (I’ve tried, and in my opinion, those books don’t quite cut it.)

So, what do you do when you’ve run out of books by your favourite author?

I find there are two things that can be done.

1) Good books are worth reading a second time. And a third. And a fourth. Actually, a good book just keeps getting better.

2) It also means you get to look for new authors. Whether they are new “old” (read: dead) authors, or new “new” (read: alive) authors. It’ll be hit and miss. Probably more misses than hits. And when you find a good one, it’s like adding to your circle of friends.

Happy New Year!

Review: The Losers Club

losersclubBook: The Losers Club
Author: Andrew Clements
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Alec loves to read. This year, he has to stay in the after-school program and so he starts a reading club… which he calls it the Losers Club, so that everybody will just leave him alone to read. But then other kids start joining the Losers Club, including his former-friend-turned-bully.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Alec loves to read. Hello? I’m hooked.

2) I love all (or at least most) of the books Alec loves. I completely understand his desire to just sit and read. To get lost in a book. When we were in grade 6, my friends and I would have fit right in with this club!

3) The younger brother, Luke, was a neat character. I like his Yoda impersonations. I also like how Clements connects the two brothers story-wise through the bully, Kent: The Losers and the Mini-Losers.

4) I love WHY Alec lets the younger Lily join the club. Especially what he says to her about how she identifies herself as a loser. (But I won’t spoil it here.)

5) Lots of wonderful reading quotes in this book. For example this passage about the value of old books:

Nina looked at the book. “It’s really old—actually, a lot of your books are old, practically antiques. Like that copy of Treasure Island in your backpack? That book is ancient.”

“So what?” he said. “And anyway, books aren’t like that. A book is either good or not. And if it’s good, it never gets old.”

6) Kent’s character arc was well-done. He doesn’t seem quite like the caricature of the school bully. He’s a little more complex.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) A bully named Kent?? Really? This seemed very strange to me.

2) While I like the brother Luke’s Yoda impersonation, I thought it was a little weird to have the mom do it. Why have two characters have the same quirk?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This has become one of my favourite Andrew Clement books. Probably because of all the reading that is done in the book.

Quick Pick Reviews #2

I’m on a bit of a non-fiction kick at present. Below are three non-fiction books (for adults) that I finished recently.

Note: Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

51VgMgGUWCL._SY346_Book: When Books Went to War
Author: Molly Guptill Manning

My Thoughts: If you are a book lover, than you’re in luck. If you are also a lover of history (particularly of the World War II variety), then this is the book for you! This book tells the story behind how the U.S. used books to help bolster the troops during the Second World War. I really enjoyed this book. I also love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and finding out that that book was one of the most sought-after books by the soldiers… well, Bonus! My heart is happy when I hear how books play an important part in people’s lives. 🙂


51XOMTe3NCL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
Author: Mary Roach

My Thoughts: This is a book full of fun-filled facts about all things space. I particularly liked the historic parts that dealt with the Space Race, from the Russian cosmonauts to the Mercury and Apollo astronauts. But the modern stuff is also good. Like the origami-folding tests given to Japanese astronaut hopefuls! Origami? Really?! (How interesting!) Roach also asks questions that most people would be too afraid to ask (like detailing the challenges of using the bathroom in space). I particularly like the story she tells of her own experience to try to “pass the test” to become an astronaut. She’s told she’s going to get a phone call from Europe. The call comes in at something like 3:00 in the morning and she’s quite grumpy at being woken up from a sound sleep. But it’s only later that she realizes that that was part of the test. Oops. Obviously she’s not cut out to be an astronaut!


51+aO13QmWL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders
Author: Brady Carlson

My Thoughts: Carlson takes us on a journey through history with a focus on the various the Presidents of the United States… but it’s all about their deaths. And considering the topic, oddly enough, his voice is quite chipper! In other words, this isn’t a morose read. It’s interesting. One of the more fascinating stories for me was of President Garfield’s death. After he was shot, the doctors couldn’t find the bullet! But they kept poking their unsanitized fingers around his wound; in fact, making him a whole lot worse. Actually, according to the book his death was not due so much to the assassin’s bullet, but due to the care given to him by his medical team! (Poor Garfield. He wasn’t even in office that long. He probably never knew that one of his greatest legacies was to have a cat named after him!)