On Reading: January

Oh January…

This month was a tough one.
I spent New Year’ Eve, New Year’s Day, and the subsequent three weeks in the hospital, sitting with my sister. She is home now and on the mend. Not all the way there yet, but slowly and surely returning to full health.
This experience had me reeling from anxiety and not a small amount of mental despair. So, seeking guidance on how to get through it with my heart and wrists intact (song lyrics!), I consulted the runes.
What I came away with from my reading, was the realization that it’s necessary to let go of my desire to control this situation. I’m not the star of this story, this isn’t happening to me. This was something I needed to realize in order to take a step back, and just be there for her. For support when she needs it, to make her laugh when she needs it, and of course, with love, always.

And, as if that in and of itself wasn’t enough fun for this month…

I also had DEADLINES (Ahhhhh!!) I had two short stories due; one for an anthology, the other for an annual writing contest.
The anthology story had already been written, it just needed to be cleaned up and edited. And I had the major ideas for the Sci-Fi story (contest submission) already down, it just needed to be filled out and edited.
Alas, the Sci-Fi story didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to. I had an idea, a great idea in fact, but I needed to add some elements in order to have it fit the contest requirements. This ended up taking the story in a different direction, which was pretty far off from what I had in my head. The story wasn’t bad, but it was rushed. And I fully and totally expect a hard-core rejection for it.
I suspect one day when I have the time, I can sit down with that same story and turn it into what I actually wanted it to be. But you know what? At least I tried. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? (That’s what the motivational poster in the hallway at work says.)

Now, with all that happening this month, you think I could let it slide if I didn’t get my reading in, right? Totally understandable, right?
Wrong!
I’m happy to report that I still got my reading in for the month, a total of three books, which is a big yay for me, YAY!

This month’s books were all re-reads. Which means I’ve read them before, but had forgotten all their goodness and wanted to revisit them.
I can say this about that: Going back and re-reading a book now with more of a writer’s eye is a completely different experience. I got just completely different things out of these books on this go-round, and came away with a lot of respect for the authors who wrote ‘em. They put in a lot of work, research, and time for these books.

Book One:
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
NightFilm

I first read this book back in the Autumn of 2013 and Oh My Goodness! It is, hands down, one of my top 10 favorite books.

Originally this book was recommended to me by one of my dearest friends, who is also a librarian (she knows books is my point!) And since she first turned me on to this book, two other friends have read it. Both of whom also agree on the amaze-balls-ness of this book.

This story is told through conversations, and the strong characters totally bring it to life. The characters are unique, kooky, sometimes downright absurd, and the author wrote every single one of them, no matter how small, with thought and care. They are each, just fantastic and full of an incredible amount of depth. There is more said about her characters, in what isn’t said about them. That, for me, is the mark of a great author.
Oh, and the story is great too. First you’re headed one way, then you’re yanked back another way. More than one explanation is offered for the mysterious circumstances surrounding Ashley Cordova’s life and death, and believe me, both are so readily believable that your head is left swimming. Which one is the truth?! What really happened?!  Ahhhhh my gawd!!
What about the writing style you ask? It’s exactly what I wish to be able to attain in my own writing. Ms. Pessl’s writing is a perfect blend of getting you the story, paced so it never drags, and yet flourished with beautiful lines. Almost literary descriptions of scene-setting, and just well, well, written.
Beautiful writing and a good story. That my non-writer friends, is a hard combo to pull off well.
I’m in awe of any book that makes me want the fiction to be reality, and this book does that so well, it drives me mad! Oh, how I wish I could see some of Cordova’s films for myself! Then I realized Scott is actually in a…well, I don’t want to give the book away.
Overall, this book left me laughing, crying, wondering, and officially a Cordovite.

 

Book Two:
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
DVCode

Re-reading this was an interesting experience for me. I first read this book well over ten years ago, and I remember buying it at an airport on my way to some exotic locale…haha, no probably not. But I did buy it at an airport. I literally had no idea it was a “big deal” or controversial, or even a best-seller. I just thought it sounded interesting, and so on a lark, payed the extortionable amount they charge you for a hardcover book at the airport. This is the first (and only) book I’ve ever purchased at an airport, and I only did it because I didn’t have a book with me. Of course, I absolutely never make that mistake these days. I don’t even go to a dentist appointment without a book in my purse.

In fact, I think Lemony Snicket says it best:
LemonySnicket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I digress.

So the second go-around on this book, for me, was not so impressive.
I remember when I read it the first time, and just being in awe at the ‘ideas’ that were presented. I spent an entire lunch conversation regaling my Moms with these mind-blowing ‘ideas’. – But – I’m older now, have been exposed to and educated more on those things, and without that as the sort of “shocking” meat of the book, it was a little dull on my second read through.
This book, like Night Film, leans mostly on conversation between people to progress the story. But what the characters do for me in Night Film, they do not do for me in this book. It was a bit disappointing really. And what Ms. Pessl did for beautifully written lines, Mr. Brown does not do. Don’t get me wrong, he’s more than a competent writer. He has a clean way of presenting the story, it doesn’t trip over itself, and it’s not clumsily written, however, it’s very function over form. Which for me, feels uninspired and falls a bit flat. But that’s me…
It is a good story, and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend it. I like the divine feminine aspects of it, and enjoyed learning how some of that has been lost or covered up. Then again, I’m a sucker for a well designed conspiracy theory…

Book Three:
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Flowers4Algernon

There is so much awesome about this book, I don’t even know where to begin.
I first read this book senior year in high school, it was assigned reading for an English class, and I remember being profoundly moved by it.
It was the same with this read through, maybe even more. Lately, my sister and I had been having some deep, existential conversations about this book – AND – (as if I needed more incentive to re-read it) Connie Willis (one of my all time favorite Sci-Fi authors, who also happens to live in Colorado, earning her extra cool points) autographed my journal at MileHiCon, and included a note with some reading recommendations. One of which was Flowers for Algernon.
I took this as a sign. This book kept coming up in my life, and I needed to not only read it again, I needed to own a copy.
It’s an epistolary novel, done as journal entries, or progress reports. And man, I didn’t get 20 pages into the book before I had tears burning in my eyes. There is a reason that wisdom is attained along a gradual learning curve.
I can also relate to his level of loneliness, and because of that, find this a devastating, heart-breaking story.
If this book had to be chocked up in a single line, it’d be that old saying: “Ignorance is bliss.”

Stop back soon to check out February’s reading list.

-xo

 

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