So Many Books! So Little Time!

Standard

As with many winters in the North, the snow comes… and keeps falling. 

I never mind snow days. I don’t get cabin fever and I also look forward to the amazing conditions on the ski slopes when the roads clear. I can’t ever look at a snow day as bad. 

On Thursday, my work closed due to the 19 inches that fell on the building. My neighborhood got 12 inches, which was enough to stop me from driving anywhere. Also, the governor declared a state of emergency which means you aren’t allowed to drive unless necessary (done to allow emergency vehicles easy access anywhere). 

So, I decided to work on my bedroom and get a head start on spring cleaning. 

I’m not the tidiest of people, but I know that my new job means more books (not complaining). However, my tiny bedroom doesn’t have optimum storage. My greatest shelf in my room is the floor. It holds everything quite nicely, but I don’t think it’s meant as a shelf for a sea of bags, books, clothes, etc. I heard you’re supposed to walk freely around your bedroom. I’m not sure what they’re talking about though. 

In my attempts to organize, I realized that I have A LOT of books that I haven’t read. So, I took inventory. 

I have 116 books that I need to read!

I put together a list of all 116 books

I put together a list of all 116 books in a cute purple portfolio folder. 

My list is open to updates, but I think it might be a good way of tracking what books I still need to read. I think a physical list of what I need to read will help with me NOT buying anything new until the list falls into manageable territory. Then, I cross out books on the list–written in no particular order–whenever I finish them. For me, I enjoy crossing things off a list. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I do. 

What I'm reading right now. On Chapter 6!

What I’m reading now. On Chapter 6!

Now back to reading…

Dewey’s Mini-Challenge #4

Standard

On top of reading non-stop, Dewey’s Read-a-Thon posts these mini-challenges every hour on the hour. I didn’t do numbers 1-3 because I was making breakfast so I’ll try my hand at #4, issued out by Geeky Bloggers Book Blog.

Click to learn more!

 

The challenge: Re-Title the current book you are reading with something clever.

If I could re-name Emma, I’d title is “Rich Girl with Too Much Time on Her Hands: The story of Messing with Poor Miss Harriet Smith.” I’m only on chapter three, but I can already see the wheels turning in Emma’s mind to make Miss Smith her plaything. I can’t wait to see how this continues on!

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon 2013!

Standard

In an effort to get more involved in the blogosphere and to find an excuse to read all day, I entered Dewey’s Read-a-Thon (http://24hourreadathon.com/). For 24 hours I will do nothing but read.

No TV

No Video Games

Just me, the blog, http://24hourreadathon.com/, and my books— I have a lot to read!

This morning, I started off with trying to pick a book to start the day off with. I went into a minor purge of reading this week so that I could tackle on this day full force!

At first I wanted to read mystery novels because I have a ton of them, but an equally large amount of excuses as to why I can’t read them. Then my eyes fell on my collection of Jane Austen. After seeing so many happy things go on in my life, I felt the best way to continue on with this is to read Emma (a novel I have yet to read). Yes, in terms of read-a-thons I know it’s probably not the smartest idea to read a classic first since they are usually not easy reads, but I’m motivated to see this through and will read Emma until the end.

However, one cannot start off the read-a-thon with an empty stomach. So I made a proper breakfast of eggs, hams, potatoes, and coffee. While eating, I read the first chapters and can already see what’s in store for Emma…what a troublemaker! Already planning to take control of poor Harriet Smith’s life. I wish Miss Smith luck

Eggs, Ham, and Potatoes With, of course, Coffee & Emma

Eggs, Ham, and Potatoes With, of course, Coffee & Emma

 

Back to Reading!

Book Review: A Game of Thrones & A Clash of Kings

Standard

I haven’t written a book review in a long time. How in the world Can I categorize this blog under ”books” if I don’t actually talk about books?

Time to fix with a review of, not one, but two books from The Game of Thrones series.

There are many people I know who plowed through a Game of Thrones novel as quickly as it took me to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 14 days). I, however, cannot count myself as a member of that club.

But I’ll explain why in a bit.

The first book in the series, originally titled A Song of Fire and Ice, was a fun read. I watched the television series first (what originally converted me) so I knew what to expect. All my friends raved, and rightfully so, that the show was very loyal to the books with some obvious poetic license to draw the audience in.

This, naturally, made things easier for a new reader to delve headfirst into the very thought out realm of Westeros. George R.R. Martin clearly did his homework when reading Tolkien on how to really create a world using nothing but the written word.

The premise of the book starts like any political thriller:someone in high authority mysteriously dies. As a result, the king of the land taps his best friend to take up the yoke, while Secretly trying to discover the cause of his predecessor’s death. Lust, power, betrayal, and more death follow in what the queen puts as “playing the game of thrones.”

“When you play a game of thrones you win or you die.” – Cersei Lannister

The novel has multiple points of view (POV) taken from the lead character, Lord Eddard Stark, members of his family, a member of the opposing family, and a girl on the opposite side of the world. Each POV presents a different perspective for the reader, making the thick line between right and wrong blur as you find yourself rooting for people on all sides of the battle lines. Since Martin is as famous for killing off his characters as Joss Whedon, the excitement increases because, really, anyone can die.
The story is very thought out with Martin having names and back stories to everyone from the squires barely mentioned except in one sentence to the gallant knights who serve the Kingsguard. While this is great and all, my dad put it best by saying, ”I feel like I must have a notebook while reading this book just to keep track of everyone!” This is an unfortunate truth that I came across the more I read. That squire I mentioned is a newly made knight at the end of the book. A serving wench mentioned in the Stark’s dining hall appears several chapters later in someone’s bed. Unlike Harry Potter where I knew Neville Longbottom’s purpose right next to Hannah Abbott’s house affiliation, I am totally lost at whose loyalty belongs to which house in Game of Thrones.

And I know why.
It’s the constant use of the passive voice.

Quick English Lesson:
Passive voice takes emphasis away from the subject of the sentence and places focus on the subject of an action

For example:
Caitlin had been cheated on by Ned, producing the bastard, John Snow.

As you read this sentence, did you notice how your eyes get a little tripped up by the wording? Did you have to re-read the sentence just to make sure you read it right? The biggest problem with passive voice is its lack of clarity. First, you think that Caitlin is the subject, but it’s actually Ned. He’s the subject. Caitlin is the object of the action. Jon Snow, in this sentence, is superfluous. You can easily find passive voice by the use of “to be” just before the verb.

Wouldn’t this be easier?:
Ned Stark cheated on Caitlin, producing his bastard son, Jon Snow.
By the way, this isn’t a spoiler. You find this out within the first few chapters. Notice how the second sentence reads smoother with fewer words and in active voice.  Now everything is traditionally structured and you understand the sentence without a second (or third) read.

Now imagine sentences, like the first one, spread across hundreds of pages. Yea… it took me a while.

Passive voice, while wonderful for scientific papers does not necessarily work for popular fiction.

As bummed out as I was to not finish the book quickly, Game of Thrones is a good book. It has all the components needed to create a compelling story that begins an epic tale. The tale isn’t done yet and I can’t wait to see who wins the Game.

4/5

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the sequel. A Clash of Kings picks up right where the first book ends. A new King crowned. A war begins. Winter is still coming.
…and I really struggled with this one.

One of the most admirable thing about Martin is that he really mapped out his world. Maybe not to the extent of Tolkien, but he mapped out each house and their banner men. The problem is… he tends to show off. Martin describes battles, until the end, through dialogue where characters list out their dead as if we, the reader, knew each individual personally. While I love the chance to connect with every Character as if they were real, Martin never gave me a chance to connect with any of them. Except for the main characters, I honestly wouldn’t care who lived and died. The lack of connection made me read the book more like an economics textbook than a tale of fantastical warriors.

In the middle, the story picks up, moving from moment to moment and ending each chapter on a cliffhanger. I blazed through, dying to see what lied on the next page. Each character had a conflict they needed to resolve before it could get more out of hand.

Then I got to the last quarter of the book.

Without spoiling anything, you follow three different POVs during a massive battle outside of the King’s castle. Sounds exciting, right? Not quite. Especially when Martin takes that very moment to talk about all the ships in the battle and their affiliations as well as how fast and strong each is. I found it kind of a buzz kill and a struggle to read through after getting so excited about this epic battle. I understand Martin’s need to truly flesh out thought so that we, the readers, could believe–if only for a moment– that Westeros was real and these stories are their history. However, it dragged the novel out longer than I felt necessary.

With all this in mind, I still plan to pick up the third book next time I’m at Barnes&Noble. I fell in love with many characters and want to see what happens next. I want to know who wins and who loses.

George R.R. Martin created a vast world full of history and”real”people. He has a clear understanding of medieval culture and monarchical politics. I can only imagine the incredible amount of time and dedication required on his part. He also has a fantastic way of making each character relatable to any kind of reader. For example, I could translate the Boy King as a massive bully and Arya Stark as the nerdy girl who finds a way to fight back.

I recommend the series to anyone with a vast fantastical ‘imagination and the free time to take on these big tomes.
3/5

Series so far: 4/5.

Next Read:Gamer Girl

Use of Time in Texts

Standard

So I’m working on my novel, sparked by the NanoWriMo challenge last year, and am about halfway through with it. However, I’ve come this part where I’m impatient for the ending.

So I wrote it.

In the middle of the story.

I mean who does that?

Well, I guess I do. Heh.

Then I got to thinking about the many stories, both famous and not, where the story’s timeline is not linear. I wrote a review about a book where time was almost irrelevant to the whole thing and was written in such a way that you were reading both the past and the present at the same time. Very wild. Incredibly mind-blowing. But I digress…

What is the point in writing a story in a linear fashion?

In Twilight, Bella began her narrative by telling us how she was dying because of her love for Edward. Then she began her story at the beginning, when she hadn’t even met Edward yet. She moves through time as she sees fit, revealing the ending before we, the reader, get there.

In the Game of Thrones series, time is told over the same period of time through different perspectives.

In One Day, time is skipped every year with a focus on only one day of that year.

The list goes on, but the point remains the same. Time doesn’t follow strict rules within books. Sometimes it’s important to know the ending before you get there or else the rest of the story makes no sense. Or, for dramatic effect.

Then there are books about time travel: Timeline, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Time Machine, etc. Where time is turned into a plot point—a medium to start the story with this belief that time can be conquered in someway. However, every story shows you that isn’t the case. Every story shows that, as much as you wish to control time, Time will always control you.

I’m not trying to get incredibly philosophical. I just thought about how relevant time is to everything within literature, in the office, and at home. Especially now, when I’m looking at the clock and know that I have to go to bed. Like, right now.

Stupid time…

Mockingjay…I know, took me long enough…

Standard

So I FINALLY finished Mockinjay and, as a result, I concluded my journey through Panem. Warning: SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD!

What took me so long you may ask? It isn’t that I wanted to prolong the inevitable. I read Catching Fire in like three days. It’s because I was bored. Please, Hunger Games fans, don’t kill me. I love the I Hunger Games. A lot. However, Mockingjay left me wanting more.
I think part of the appeal with the first two was that Suzanne Collins created a world where she introduced us to Katniss who took us through the Districts, the Capitol, and two Hunger Games all while Collins crafted the words beautifully for our minds. However, in Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins decides to destroy everything she built up in the last two books, district by district until she gets to the Capitol where she decides to pull a J. K. Rowling or a George R.R. Martin on her characters. I normally don’t have a problem with”pulling a Rowling” and I love watching Joss Whedon’s work, knowing full well he will take away my favorite (R. I.P. Wash, Penny, and Paul Ballard). However, I saw no reason why Collins decides to kill off so many people. I understand the explosion at the end. Plot-wise, I get it. However, the amount of deaths that occur is almost unnecessary. Rowling killed off people to drive Harry to sacrifice himself completely for the sake of his friends. This will, in turn, keep him alive.
However…
The audience is fully aware of Katniss’ motivation from Book 1 to Book 3. She fought for past, present, and future atrocities. Unlike Harry, Katniss didn’t need to see anymore deaths. She knew what dying is like. She lived in the worst District where she was on the brink of starvation for as far back as she could remember. Thus, killing people off to motivate her is unnecessary. Killing people off to make her feel alone is also silly. Katniss is happiest alone. I think you guys are getting the point.

I, personally, think that she just gave up. I mean, she didn’t give up enough to stop(though I’m sure a contract served as”inspiration”), but I think she was ready to be done when she got to the last part.
I don’t know…maybe it’s just me and the few friends who agree. However, I was disappointed with how Mockingjay ended. I felt it could have been handled better. I think she could have done more with the material, but didn’t for some reason.
I still love The Hunger Games–always have, always will–and I think Mockingjay is a fine conclusion to the book series. I liked the ending and District 13 was intriguing, especially the people. I liked the direction Katniss went in terms of character development and I liked how most characters(the live ones, that is)ended up.

I also like Suzanne Collins’ writing style. I think I picked up a few things I want to use in my own work someday.
OVERALL, A 3 OUT OF 5.

This Is Some Grey Territory

Standard

As a bookseller, I feel I need to comment on the incredible popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I haven’t read the books and probably won’t because those type of books aren’t my cup of tea. This blog post will discuss my observations on this incredibly popular book in a humorous light.

Remember guys, as a bookseller, I don’t judge. If I judged people who bought Fifty Shades of Grey, I may as well judge the men in suits buying Playboy and the teenage girls buying paranormal romance. It’s silly to judge from my standpoint. A book is a book is a book.

Anyway…

When my co-workers told me about this book, my expression was this:

Image courtesy of Google Images

Then, when I saw the sold out status of our first shipment of Fifty Shades of Grey, my expression was like this:

Image courtesy of Internet Memes

This expression remained after we sold out of our second and third shipment as well as when we nearly sold out of our fourth shipment. Each shipment contained over 250 copies.

Allow me to explain. I live in a Southern town. Most of the woman here aren’t your average uptight businesswomen or single ladies with the world at their feet. They are the stay-at-home soccer moms and socialites. They are old women whom you expect to bake you cookies if they were your grandmother or give you a hug when you see them at Church. They aren’t people whom you would expect to see all over these raunchy novels.

I don’t judge. I’ll leave the judging to you, dear reader. I just find it completely baffling how excited these women are when they get the sequel or the last book. I’m amused with how they will insist the book must be in an opaque bag while they glance from side to side to make sure no one’s watching. I feel awkward when an old lady asks me if the book is any good and I’m two seconds from grinning mischievously when a woman tells me that all her friends told her to read it, but won’t tell her what it is about.

That last part is what spawns Image 2. A lot of these woman whom I see at the register will buy the book blindly. They had no idea what it is about, yet they will buy the book anyway because their friends told them to. This book has become a product of herd mentality. If the herd is going to the realm BDSM fiction, then everyone in the herd must follow without question.  If the book was $7.99, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much. However, with tax, the book is $17.07 (Yea, I memorized it. That shows how many copies we’ve sold). That would pay for a nice meal. What if they don’t like the book? Well that’s $17.07 wasted all because they did what their friends told them to do. Whether the book is well-written or not, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is if their friends are reading it.

What does that say about book culture today? Is the quality of writing no longer popular? Are we now a society that just goes after the novel with the biggest fan-base instead of the best quality? Depending on how you view Twilight, I guess that book can serve as a good answer to my questions. Anyone interested in taking this thought process further is welcome to write something in the comments. I’d love to see what you all think.

That’s not to say that I think E.L. James is a bad writer.

I want to give monster props to E.L. James. This book was, from what I hear, originally on a website, but so many people liked it that she turned her work into an e-book. Popularity continued and the e-book went to print. It’s really amazing that her book earned publication based on public opinion versus an editor in an office. Her fate was in her readers hands from beginning to end, not just the end result of a good decision made by a publishing house. I think that is something we should admire. Her success story gives hope to other aspiring writers who have enough rejection letters to go around the world. Her real world story tells us writers that our work really isn’t at the mercy of a big scary editor, but can be successful through other means like blogs.

Hey! That means A Fidgety Writer has a chance! 😀