On Reading: February

February was, overall, a pretty good month. I had family in town to help take care of my convalescing sister, and it was wonderful to have them here visiting, but sad too because I hated to see them go. It made me realize how much I miss living closer to my family and my friends back home. Which has turned my thoughts as of late to maybe making some geographical changes.

In fact, changes in my life, (in many different forms) are coming. There have been signs from the Universe directing me towards certain decisions.
Well, I’m listening Universe – I’m listening!

This also includes exploring some new ideas in my writing, and taking some interesting chances. Which excites me to no end, because it keeps me writing. Every time I say to myself, “Ok, I’ve got three months to whip out this one story.” All of a sudden another opportunity comes along, and then another, and soon I’m writing three stories in two months, and I’m up against deadlines which is exciting and keeps me super motivated! And even if I never win a thing with my writing, I can’t describe to you the joy that writing gives me. If I get nothing else from it than that, I’m already ahead of the game.

With all this talk of change, and the flux being pumped into my life, there have been a few times this month when I’ve had to calm myself, find the stillness in that moment, open my heart, and just listen.
I believe it’s in these moments that miracles happen.

Such as this one:
At WorldCon last year (in Spokane) after meeting a plethora of wonderful people, I left with a renewed purpose and drive in my writing. When I got home I pulled out a book that my Mom had gotten me several years ago. It was a 25 year commemorative-type book about the Writer’s of the Future contest she’d given to me in an attempt to encourage me to get writing, and enter the contest. Now, not only had she gotten me this book, she’d also gotten it signed by someone. Who you ask? I have no idea. The signature is totally unreadable, just scribble-scrabble. And I couldn’t ask my Mom who she’d met because…well, she’s dead. So this created ::cue suspenseful music::…a mystery!
Now, fast forward to this month, I’m having a tough evening dealing with some things, and on a random whim I decide to check the ol’ book of faces (a thing I don’t normally do after a certain time of night) and there it was.
An author (who I also met at WorldCon last year – coincidence? I think not!) had posted a picture of a book he was reading. It was open to the title page, and was signed by the book’s author. And lo and behold, (as I have flipped through my book for inspiration so many times I’ve come to know that mystery signature by heart) I recognized the signature in his book instantly.
I pulled out my signed WotF book and compared the two, and wouldn’t you know it – it was the same signature. A years old mystery, solved through social media, ha! I now know who my Mom met years ago and got to sign that book for me. Wow man, really wow 🙂
It was in that moment I felt like I got to walk in my Mom’s footsteps; gone somewhere that she’d been. It felt like she was talking to me, a thing that I miss more than there are words to describe. Well Mom, I got your message, and I hear ya’ loud and clear! (Love you -xo)

So, other than a big month for family and the joy inherent in that…let’s get down to the real reason we’re here…the reading.
This month you’ll be extra proud of me, I read FOUR books! That’s one better than last month. I had some extra inspiration for my reading list this month, but no need to go into all that. Without further ado, here we go.

Book One:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
ColorPurple

The movie adaptation of this novel is one of my top-ten favorite movies of all time. I call it a ‘cry movie’ because I only watch it when I’m in need of a good, from the depths of my innards, cry. It’s that kind of emotional, gut-wrenching movie, and it follows the book pretty closely.
This book IS the movie. It’s horrific and heartwarming, full of despair and hope; pain and the power of love. But above all, for me, this book is about about family. (How fitting I read this book this month, right? 🙂 )
While I absolutely recommend this book, (it’s beautiful in nearly every way, especially the telling of a complicated story through Celie’s simplistic, uneducated writings) I secretly prefer the movie. Save for one thing – the book’s ending. The way everything came around full circle, so that in the end, even Mr.___ was family. Beautiful story telling Ms. Walker, beautiful.

Book Two:
Night by Elie Wiesel

NightThis book was a hard read. It’s an autobiographical story told by the author, about his time as a boy in a Nazi concentration camp. Real heavy.
There were parts in this book that made my stomach hurt.
There were parts in this book that made me choke, I was sobbing so hard.
I mean, my god…
The horror of men.
The grief of loss.
The anger at faith.
I have no words.
But Mr. Wiesel does. He doesn’t sugar coat it, he doesn’t have fru-fru lines expounding about the despair, or existential crises of conscious, and he doesn’t belabor the point. He simply tells a story – the rest is up to you.
What I took away from this story is this: I know there are shining people, full of good, even in atmospheres as horrific as this one. I know that there is always hope. And I know that there are those capable of evil deeds so unspeakable, it takes my breath away.

Book Three:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

HPSorcerStoneI recently mentioned to a friend that I have been wanting to revisit these books, and she highly  recommended the audio books. So, I took her up on her suggestion, hit up my local library (thank you Denver Public Library!) and began the journey again.
Oh man, these books are good. Seriously, I had forgotten how good they are. Her writing is clean, witty, and the story is so good – even when nothing is happening as far as action, and Ms. Rowling is just describing some small detail, the reader is thrust into a world of wonder. It really is magic, and she is a gifted author to bring it to life so fully and actualized.
I will say, I was taken aback by the really awful child abuse that Harry suffers at the hands of the Dursley’s. I don’t think I ever really got that before, and this time around it really impacted me. I mean, I do realize that this sort of juxtaposition between the unhappiness Harry experiences at the hands of the Dursley’s is what makes his escape to a world of magic that much more enjoyable, but jeez! They are truly awful people.
And well, there isn’t much about the book I can really tell you, as I’m sure you’ve read them (right?!) But I will leave you with a small moment of truth. I was at the end of the book, sitting in my car listening, and I got to the part where Dumbledore awards Neville those last 10 points for his bravery in standing up to his friends, and in so doing Gryffindor wins the house cup. And me, a grown-ass woman in her mid 30’s, got all mushy and cried like a girl. But gosh, I love stuff like that! It’s what I’m trying to do in my own writing, you know. Get people thinking, or hit ’em in the feels, impact how others feel. ::Sigh:: That my friends, is the power of writing…

Book Four:
Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond

RubyHmm, what to say about this book.
Being a more story and character driven reader, this type of what I call ‘fru-fru’ writing with lengthy poetic descriptions, and deep allegorical ideas, really does nothing for me. But that’s me. I realize other readers have different likes and preferences. And in all honesty, Ms. Bond does have a way with words. The writing is pretty, it’s also just too much for me. She compares and describes every single thing ad nauseam, and there is SO MUCH description. Here, if I may. an excerpt:

“She wore gray like rain clouds and wandered the red roads in bared feet. Calluses thick as boot leather. Hair caked with mud. Blackened nails as if she had scratched the slate of night. Her acres of legs carrying her, arms swaying like a loose screen. Her eyes the ink of sky, just before the storm.”

And the whole book is like that!
Which, I could probably get over if the story was good, but that brings me to my second issue with this book, the story. Oh…emm…gee…
Okay, at times it did flow enough to be interesting, (I mean I did read the whole book) but there was a lot of it I just didn’t get, at all. And the parts I did understand, were stomach turning. The sexual horrors to be found in a small Texas town in the 1960’s makes Mr. Weisel’s story about being in a concentration camp look tame in comparison! This book has nearly every type of awfulness humanly possible, (misogyny, incest, rape, child sex slavery, satanic worship, insanity, degradation, and violence) all cram packed into one book. So that I wanted to yell out – “I get it lady! The world is an awful place!” In the end it made it a little hard to stomach.
I found this review on amazon, and I think it says perfectly, exactly how I feel about this book:
“The sheer volume of child-rapes, woman-killings and other truly awful layings-of-waste in this book turned my stomach, but please don’t misconstrue that as a testament to the author’s powerful prose. Because, while Ruby’s “magical” mental state is artfully and intelligently rendered, the heap of corpses that fills her world is just too high. Even for fiction, it defied belief. That Ruby is reduced to rutting in the dirt with any passerby is plausible, as far as narrative structure goes, but do I really want to read about it over and over and over again? I don’t mind tough subject matter at all, but felt this story was rendered meaningless by its grotesque accumulation. I considered giving RUBY two stars–because the writing is poetic, the characters well-drawn, and some readers may find the story cathartic–but in the end I just couldn’t do it.” (posted by Hope I. Help on May 15, 2014)

That reviewer is so right. I also don’t mind tough subject matter, but it was just over the top, too much. And once I’d gotten to the end, (still feeling like I was waiting for the story to start) there was not enough redemption to have drug me through all that awfulness. It made me feel grimy, the way watching the movie The Paperboy did. Yeah, overall it was too wordy, too harsh, and just too much awful for me to get any enjoyment from it.
While this is definitely not the type of book I normally read, at the very least I can say I tried something new.

What about you guys, what books have you read this month?
Do you like books like Ruby? Let’s discuss!
Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to come back next month to find out what I managed to get read in March.

-xo

 

 

 

 

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