Breaking Up with a Book

Dear Unfinished Book,

Unfinised book

I will never forget being introduced to you for the first time by our mutual friend. They said you had a lot of great qualities and that I should give you a go. I know that looks aren’t everything but your outer appearance really appealed to me and you were large in size as well which I like in a book. On the surface we seemed like the perfect match.

So we met and I took you home. I was in a relationship with another book at the time but ended it amicably to make room for you in my life. Our first proper chance to get to know each other happened on the train on the way to work. You opened up to me but I found it difficult to relate to you… it was then that I started experiencing doubts. After a few more dates it has become clear that we aren’t compatible. We gave it a go, but unfortunately our short relationship is not working out.

It’s not you, it’s me. I really wanted us to connect, but we are too different. You are very intelligent and full of complex ideas, whereas I am much simpler. You are very serious and I like a bit of light to go with the darkness.

I’m sorry we didn’t work out. I hope we can part as friends. Maybe one day soon I can introduce you to someone else who will appreciate all you have to offer.

Good-bye for now. I hope you find the reader you deserve.

Best Wishes,

Jane

What books have you started and could not finish? 

 

How to Start a Book Club in 8 Easy Steps

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book lover in possession of a juicy book may very well be in want of a book club.

Have you ever finished a book full of twists and turns, characters you loved or loathed, or a story full of meaty conversation hooks and wished you could share your revelations with others? Then you may be in need of a book club. Perhaps you can find your way to an already existing book club, otherwise you might have to start your own from scratch.

Here are the 8 questions to ask when starting your book club:

1. Who will you invite to join your book club?

Will it be made up of friends, family, work colleagues or complete strangers from your local community? It may depend on the purpose of your book club. Do you want it to be not only about books but a chance to catch-up with friends at the same time? Or do you want to use it as a chance to meet new people?

Once you’ve decided, aim to invite a minimum of six to eight people as not everyone will be able to make it to every book club meeting. Also consider the maximum number. If your group is too large, not everyone will have a chance to have their say.

You might also like to give your book club a name.

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The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood: A Review

If you have read (or watched) The Handmaid’s Tale or Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and loved both, can I suggest a book I think you will like? It’s called The Natural Way of Things by Australian author Charlotte Wood and it very much fits into the same category.

The Natural Way of Things
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, ISBN 9781760111236, 320pp, pub Oct 2015

I first read The Natural Way of Things very early on in its life (at manuscript stage) and it has since gone on to sell tens of thousands of copies (and counting) and win many literary prizes*. Having just finished watching Alias Grace on Netflix over the past week, it put this gem of a book back into my mind.

The Natural Way of Things has an intriguing premise—ten young women wake up after being kidnapped and drugged to find themselves imprisoned in a jail in the middle of nowhere. What is their crime and who has put them there? Soon you find out exactly what they have in common—each had a sex scandal with a powerful man made public—but does that make their imprisonment just? Each woman handles her incarceration in a different way as they are lorded over by two inept male jailers. When the food starts to run low, the tension rises.

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13 Writing Tips from Stephen King

The stories of prolific author Stephen King are popping up everywhere at the moment as many of his books are being adapted into movies and TV series. This year alone there’s been the new IT movie, The Dark Tower movie, Gerard’s Game and 1922 on Netflix, the Mr Mercedes TV series and Castle Rock is coming soon.

On Writing by Stephen King cover
On Writing by Stephen King ISBN: 9781439156810, pp 291

My husband loves reading Stephen King and is currently working his way through The Dark Tower series and we’re enjoying all the TV and movie adaptions as they come out. While I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, my husband is definitely the biggest fan in our household. My favourite Stephen King book is not one of his fiction books, it’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I read it many years ago and, searching for inspiration, have just read it again. Its advice remains useful, relevant and practical. Plus, it’s inspiring to read about Stephen King’s personal writing journey. His books may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly knows how to craft a story for his audience and knows who he is as a writer.

Here are my favourite tips from On Writing by Stephen King

1. On coming up with story ideas…
“There is no Idea Dump, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky…Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
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Very Bad Reading Habits: Kindle edition

Back in May I made a confession about my very bad reading habits. Not wanting to toot my own horn, but it remains my one of my most read blog posts. Now that I have recently become the owner of a kindle, I have entered a whole new reading experience. I thought it might be interesting* to repost my original blog post and update it for the e-reader. My kindle touch observations are below in blue (*It is entirely possible that I might be the only one interested in this.)

 

I have a confession to make … I have some very bad reading habits. In a perfect world, I would be a perfect reader – the kind of reader who buys a book, dutifully reads it from cover-to-cover and reads in total silence. I am not such a reader.

My Bad Reading Habits are as follows:

I’m a skipper: I regularly take peeks at the pages ahead of where I am at in a book. I do this for several reasons:

  • to see if a slow book is going to get any more interesting;
  • because I like to pre-empt where the plot is taking me and want to confirm my suspicions (I do this a lot when I’m reading crime or mystery books);
  • if I am really enjoying a book where the heroine has a couple of choices for love interests (because I like to know which love interest I should be supporting from the start); and
    because life is too short to waste on a book that isn’t reeling me in. If it starts getting better mid-way, I know to persevere and keep going.

Note: If I love a book, I usually refrain from doing this and will let the author take me on a journey where the destination is unknown. Even though I can barely stand the surprise!

Kindle POV: I am doing this less with my kindle – if at all. The reason being that I still don’t know how to work it properly and the couple of times I have tried to look ahead, I ended up losing my place and having to flick through the electronic pages trying to remember where I was. Skipping is so much quicker with a real book!

I’m an abandoner: I buy the book. I start it. And if it doesn’t suck me in, I abandon it. This makes me feel incredibly guilty. It’s like buying an item of clothing that you never wear. Some women have a shoe habit, I have a book habit. The abandoned book sits beside my bed, looking at me reproachfully. Then it gets exiled to my bookshelf when another book takes its place in my heart. I think to myself that ‘one day’ I will pick it up again and read it. I seldom do. It sits there and eventually ends up being donated to a charity shop in pristine condition. I like to think that someone else will give it the attention I never gave it.

Books I have abandoned and should have read include: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Kindle POV: Maybe it’s the novelty of downloading an electronic book but so far I haven’t abandoned any of my e-books (though I cheated my way through Jane Eyre Laid Bare by skipping ahead –  just to get the book over and done with). I don’t think there is the same amount of guilt associated with abandoning an e-book. Perhaps because it is but a line on a menu screen, unlike the big chunky book that sits beside your bed, staring you in the face.

Also, e-books are mostly cheaper so it’s a bit easier to abandon. But if you decide not to read it, you can’t re-gift it, pass it on to a friend or give it to charity. And that is a great shame.

I’m a devourer: I read books like I eat cake – too quickly for my own good. I should take more time to savour the words instead of gobbling them up so fast I forget what I’ve just read. Just think of how long some poor author has slaved away over one sentence and I’ve probably missed its beauty because I’m whizzing by.

Kindle POV: kindle is making me more a devourer than ever. Maybe because I like smacking the screen with a finger to turn the page. A quick scan read – next page. Hmm … don’t think this is a good thing. Could it be that my ownership of an e-reader is making me an even worse reader? Perhaps a prolific reader but that’s no good if I can’t remember the plot of the book I just read.

I’m a judger: I tend to turn my nose up at snobbish books. You know the ones that are published dripping with literary praise and are accompanied by reviews that use words you’ve never heard before. If I can’t even decipher the review, I know the book will give me trouble. These books scare me. I fear that I will need a dictionary, thesaurus and a PhD to get through each sentence. They also stop me from doing my usual speed reading which then causes me to abandon them. I distrust books or authors who place themselves above the teeming reading masses.

But I feel I need to read more of these books. I need to get outside of my comfort zone and find out why the literati are raving about the kind of books you will never find for sale in Target. As long as it’s not a case of ‘The Emperor’s New Book’ where people think it’s cool to like something because no one wants to admit they have no idea what it’s about.

Kindle POV: kindle was made for the mass-market reader. Just look at how cheap all the ‘paperback’ e-books are on Amazon. Yes, I am trying to read snobbish books but I don’t want to spend over a certain amount for e-books as I think I might as well buy the physical book for that price. And is it just me or are the ‘literary’ books super expensive as e-books?

I’m a non-sharer: It’s MY book! All mine! My precious! No, you can’t lend my book because 9 times out of 10 you’re not going to return it … I don’t like to lend books unless you’re family and I can raid your shelf afterwards to get my book back. But if I am moving and need to offload 6 boxes of books then you’re welcome to take your pick!

Kindle POV: Hee..hee… well the kindle is perfect for a non-sharer like me because you can’t share. But I’ve gotten better with my sharing since writing my original post so it is a bit sad not to be able to pass a story on.

I’m a multi-tasker: I admit to reading two books at the same time. I usually do this if the current book I am reading is in danger of becoming abandoned and there’s another exciting book waiting behind it, ready to prove its worth. I also have a nasty habit of reading whilst performing other tasks. I read on public transport and listen to music at the same time – usually to block out noisy commuters. I read during TV ad breaks so I can get in some reading time. (It’s difficult to find time to read.) And I read whilst eating lunch or dinner (often to the poor book’s detriment).

Kindle POV: It’s so easy to have multiple books on the go with kindle – and to carry them all around at the same time. Geez, I really do have terrible reading habits. Not to mention sounding like a walking advertisement for Amazon.

I’m a follower: I happily admit to jumping on many book bandwagons. Sometimes books are bestsellers and hugely popular for a reason – ‘cause they’re so good! I don’t mind being sucked into a massive marketing vortex and spat out the other side. Hell, I’ve even worked on book marketing campaigns and believed my own hype. While there’s something nice about discovering a good book or author before the masses and declaring ‘I liked them before they were popular’, as long as you enjoy the book, who really cares how you came by it.

Kindle POV: An e-reader is great for jumping immediately on a reading trend. I can download a book in less than a minute. But it doesn’t always work that way. I recently saw a book in the bookstore that I really wanted to read. I went online to Amazon only to discover that the e-book version wasn’t going to be available until next year. But I wanted it now! So I bought the book. When I want to read something, I will read whatever edition I can get my hands on.

Last confession … sometimes, very, very occasionally, I dog-ear the pages. And it makes me feel very, very bad.

Kindle POV: Can’t do that on this device but I am managing to smear all sorts of things on the touch screen. Still, that is not as bad as dog-earring a book.

Conclusion: It seems that my kindle may be giving me a whole new set of bad reading habits. But it doesn’t seem to matter as much when you are using an electronic device. I feel much worse mistreating and disrespecting a physical book.

Very Bad Reading Habits

I have a confession to make … I have some very bad reading habits. In a perfect world, I would be a perfect reader – the kind of reader who buys a book, dutifully reads it from cover-to-cover and reads in total silence. I am not such a reader.

My Bad Reading Habits are as follows:

I’m a skipper: I regularly take peeks at the pages ahead of where I am at in a book. I do this for several reasons:
• to see if a slow book is going to get any more interesting
• because I like to pre-empt where the plot is taking me and want to confirm my suspicions (I do this a lot when I’m reading crime or mystery books)
• if I am really enjoying a book where the heroine has a couple of choices for love interests (because I like to know which love interest I should be supporting from the start)
• because life is too short to waste on a book that isn’t reeling me in. If it starts getting better mid-way, I know to persevere and keep going.

Note: If I love a book, I usually refrain from doing this and will let the author take me on a journey where the destination is unknown. Even though I can barely stand the surprise!

I’m an abandoner: I buy the book. I start it. And if it doesn’t suck me in, I abandon it. This makes me feel incredibly guilty. It’s like buying an item of clothing that you never wear. Some women have a shoe habit, I have a book habit. The abandoned book sits beside my bed, looking at me reproachfully. Then it gets exiled to my bookshelf when another book takes its place in my heart. I think to myself that ‘one day’ I will pick it up again and read it. I seldom do. It sits there and eventually ends up being donated to a charity shop in pristine condition. I like to think that someone else will give it the attention I never gave it.

Books I have abandoned and should have read include: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

I’m a devourer: I read books like I eat cake – too quick for my own good. I should take more time to savour the words instead of gobbling them up so fast I forget what I’ve just read. Just think of how long some poor author has slaved away over one sentence and I’ve probably missed its beauty because I’m whizzing by.

I’m a judger: I tend to turn my nose up at snobbish books. You know the ones that are published dripping with literary praise and are accompanied by reviews that use words you’ve never heard before. If I can’t even decipher the review, I know the book will give me trouble. These books scare me. I fear that I will need a dictionary, thesaurus and a PhD to get through each sentence. They also stop me from doing my usual speed reading which then causes me to abandon them. I distrust books or authors who place themselves above the teeming reading masses.

But I feel I need to read more of these books. I need to get outside of my comfort zone and find out why the literati are raving about the kind of books you will never find for sale in Target. As long as it’s not a case of ‘The Emperor’s New Book’ where people think it’s cool to like something because no one wants to admit they have no idea what it’s about.

I’m a non-sharer: It’s MY book! All mine! My precious! No, you can’t lend my book because 9 times out of 10 you’re not going to return it … I don’t like to lend books unless you’re family and I can raid your shelf afterwards to get my book back. But if I am moving and need to offload 6 boxes of books then you’re welcome to take your pick!

I’m a multi-tasker: I admit to reading two books at the same time. I usually do this if the current book I am reading is in danger of becoming abandoned and there’s another exciting book waiting behind it, ready to prove its worth. I also have a nasty habit of reading whilst performing other tasks. I read on public transport and listen to music at the same time – usually to block out noisy commuters. I read during TV ad breaks so I can get in some reading time. (It’s difficult to find time to read.) And I read whilst eating lunch or dinner (often to the poor book’s detriment).

I’m a follower: I happily admit to jumping on many book bandwagons. Sometimes books are bestsellers and hugely popular for a reason – ‘cause they’re so good! I don’t mind being sucked into a massive marketing vortex and spat out the other side. Hell, I’ve even worked on book marketing campaigns and believed my own hype. While there’s something nice about discovering a good book or author before the masses and declaring ‘I liked them before they were popular’, as long as you enjoy the book, who really cares how you came by it.

Last confession … sometimes, very, very occasionally, I dog-ear the pages. And it makes me feel very, very bad.

What are your bad reading habits?

The No. 1 crime against books

To blog or not to blog? That is the question.

Welcome to my very first blog post. Starting a blog about my thoughts on books, storytelling and writing in general is something that I’ve been thinking about doing for some time. With my copy of Blogging for Dummies (4th edition) in hand, I finally feel knowledgeable enough to dive into the blogosphere. Only time will tell if I sink or swim.

I feel like a very tiny drop in a vast ocean of blogs. Already I wonder if anyone will discover me. Will anyone be interested in my opinions? Do I have anything to offer my fellow bloggers? And seriously, how do I work this thing?

As I start this blog, I ask myself why do I feel this desire to blog? Here are some reasons:

  • A lot of the joy associated with reading and writing comes from sharing it with others. It’s a strange and wondrous thing how two people can read the same book and one can absolutely love it, while the other hates it. Or how your opinion on a book can change after a vigorous argument with a friend.
  • I love how books can bring people together and encourage debate. Books can unite work colleagues, friends, families, countries and continents over important matters such as if you’re Team Edward or Team Jacob.
  • Books spark the imagination. I like seeing books turned into movies and TV series – with often fantastic results. People watch these and are then driven back to the books. Art begets art (that’s a word I don’t use every day). I like being a ‘fan’ of books and discussing their various adaptations with other fans.
  • Nothing beats discovering a first-time author who leaves you desperate for their next book. Or discovering a completely new author who challenges you and gets your brain working. Or reading a book and being moved to tears by words on a page. This is all something to blog about!
  • I like seeing a worthy book with no marketing budget become a publishing phenomenon through word of mouth. I saw this a few times when I used to work in a book store. Then when I worked inside publishing it was great to be surprised by the success of a book which sold through people power rather than a marketing campaign.
  • I don’t read as much as I used to. Life has a habit of making reading not a huge priority. By keeping this blog, I am making reading and writing a priority in my life.

Finally, I hope with this blog that I can connect with fellow booklovers around the world through a shared passion of words and storytelling.

Tell me, why do you blog?