Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Food for Thought

Goals, Resolutions and Words A simple post on the roles of resolutions in our lives as writers. I'll be writing about this a bit on Monday. (@ Rachelle Gardner)

The More or Less Choice I think this is a choice we all make everyday to a certain degree. (@ Seth Godin)

The Alternative, The Underground, The Oh-Yes-That-One List of Favorite Books of 2011 Just in case you needed another list of books for the end of the year. (@ The Millions)

12 Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing in 2012 These are good tips to put into practice. (@ Angela Booth)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reading List 2011 Part 4

As promised in an earlier post, every Wednesday in December I'm going to be posting a list of the books that I read in 2011 with a quick summary of what I thought of them. Numbers 31 through 40 are below.
Evenfall by Liz Michalski I was completely captivated by this book from beginning to end. It was a memorable story and fun to read.

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan This is a book that got passed around through my family as soon as my mom bought it. She and all of my sisters have loved it so far; it's definitely a book worth sharing and talking about. Read my full review here.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith The characters in this novel are so true to life, reading it feels like checking in with old friends. 

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks There were a lot of things about this book that felt strange or unrealistic to me, but the ending was far more creepy than romantic in my opinion.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was so delightful and different from everything else I've read this year. Read my full review here.

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez This is great advice for anyone who needs help managing their personal finances. It's a great resource for anyone looking to get out of debt and start saving money.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Excellent. Read my full review here.

Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf I find Woolf's life and work fairly interesting, but there are a fair number of repetitive parts of this book as it's not supposed to be read cover to cover. I read it over the course of a few months and found much more meaning in it this time than I did when I originally read it in college.

Room by Emma Donoghue This is how you write a novel. The child narrator is effective without being overdone and the story is at once simple and powerful.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins I just received this one for Christmas, so I'm only part way through it. So far the story is engaging and entertaining so I have a feeling I'll finish it before the New Year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

This is one of the only times of year that I get to see all or most of my family at once, so I'll be spending this week with them. The other thing I love to do during this time of year is watch the Nutcracker ballet. I find it to be so moving and a beautiful representation of the season. If you've never seen it, here's a video of one of the most famous scenes in the show: the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Food for Thought

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing 7 things we should try to avoid as writers. (@ Writers Digest)

How Art Changes With Us A professor once told me that the best way to get a keen sense of who you were at any point in your life is to read Hamlet once a year and write down your reaction to it each time. The play never changes but your thoughts and interpretations will. (@ Nathan Bransford)

What's Your Brick Wall? How badly do you want your childhood dreams to come true? What obstacles are you willing to overcome in order to make them happen? (@ Rachelle Gardner)

The Only Way To Become a Real Writer Don't forget to be afraid to tell people you're a writer. (@Jeff Goins Writer)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reading List 2011 Part 3

As promised in an earlier post, every Wednesday in December I'm going to be posting a list of the books that I read in 2011 with a quick summary of what I thought of them. Numbers 21 through 30 are below.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett I loved this book so much, I didn't want it to end. You can read my full review here

There's nothing that I can even say about the Harry Potter books. I have a special place in my heart for all of them. I've lost count of how many times I've read them, like so many other people of my generation. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender This was a strange and fun idea for a book.

Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman I first picked this book up because I read an excerpt of it in The New Yorker. I'm so glad I picked it up because it was so beautiful and emotional and sad. If you haven't read this one yet, get to a library or bookstore now.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling 

Little Bee by Chris Cleave I read this one quickly, when my power was out after Hurricaine Irene. I couldn't put it down, even after dark when all I had was a candle to read by. This is the kind of book you will remember for a long time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Henry David Thoreau on Being Awake and Alive

"To be awake is to be alive...We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep."

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden "Where I Lived and What I Lived For"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Food for Thought

The Research Bust A good argument for restructuring the tenure track of modern literature professors. It may be time to focus on quality, not quantity. (@ The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Don't Tell Me the Book is Dead The New York Daily News launched a literary blog this week. The first few posts were decent and I'm interested to see where it goes from here.

There's been an interesting debate going on this week between independent book store supporters and Amazon shoppers. So far it looks like the indies have it, but it's certainly not over yet. (@ NYTimes and Slate)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reading List 2011 Part 2

As promised in an earlier post, every Wednesday in December I'm going to be posting a list of the books that I read in 2011 with a quick summary of what I thought of them. Numbers 11 through 20 are below.
Beloved  by Toni Morrison This book gives me chills every time I read it. Morrison's voice is so strong and poetic you can't help but feel every emotion the characters are experiencing.

Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris This was a fun book to read. I don't usually read mysteries, but this one was light and kept me turning the pages.

Saturday by Ian McEwan This book takes place over the course of one day, so much like real life there are parts of it that are exciting and engaging, and other parts that are very dull. 

Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor I picked this book up on a whim at one of my favorite bookstores, and once I finally got around to reading it, I couldn't put it down. It's an incredibly moving story and I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone.
The Piano Teacher by Janice K. Lee It wasn't until after I finished this book that I noticed one of the blurbs on the cover compares it to Ian McEwan's Atonement. I didn't see the connection at all, it felt to me as if there was only one character who felt any guilt at all and the worse offenders went on to live without guilt, which was problematic for me even without the comparison.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay I've never really been a fan of historical fiction, so for me to read 2 books in a row about WWII is sort of shocking. I liked this book a lot more than I expected to and have added de Rosnay's newest novel to my 'To Be Read' list.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan This is a great book. I've recommended it to so many people since I read it. You can read my full review here.

BossyPants by Tina Fey I laughed out loud so many times reading this book. Even if you think you don't like celebrity memoirs, this one is worth a look.

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan This book is breathtaking. Sullivan takes the story of four friends trying to make their way after college and turns it into something much darker.
Me & Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter I have finally started to come around to Jane Austen as an author, but I still don't understand the obsession there is with her that makes people write these modern day spinoffs. They just aren't as good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know by now that I generally only write reviews of books I enjoyed reading. My philosophy is that a good book should be talked about. Plain and simple.

That said, let's talk about The Marriage Plot! This was a delightfully complicated and beautifully written piece of fiction. Madeline, Leonard and Mitchell are just graduating from college in the early 1980s and trying to figure out where their lives are going. 

Madeline is torn between her manic-depressive boyfriend, Leonard, and her world traveling friend, Mitchell, who both love her. Though this is the central conflict, each of the characters have their own internal struggles to deal with and address so that by the end you've almost forgotten that you're reading a novel about a love triangle.

These characters aren't just graduating from any college, either. They're graduating from Brown University in Providence. The novel is filled with as much ivy as its walls can hold. The references to academia are frequent, but not so much so that they distract from the story. Madeline and Mitchell are both characters that can't walk into a scene without a book in their hands, but this is a good thing. It makes them feel like real people. 

This is a great book. I haven't had the pleasure of reading Eugenides other works yet, but after this, there's no chance I'd miss them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Food For Thought

How To Pick Just The Right Book Gift This is a great place to start if you're trying to decide on a book gift for someone on your list. (@ HuffPost Books)

A Year In Reading: Amy Waldman Jude the Obscure is one of those books that's been sitting neglected on my shelf for years. After reading this review I might give it another chance. (@ The Millions)

Five Books: David Hamermesh on Economics is Fun I recently discovered this website. It's a fun way to learn more about a given topic, with experts listing their picks for the 5 best books on their area of expertise every day. You can search the archives for just about any topic you want to learn more about. (@ The Browser: Five Books)

The Writing Cave This is a brilliantly written piece about the importance of putting passion into your work in order to entice readers to keep turning the pages. (@ Writer Unboxed)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reading List 2011 Part 1

As promised in an earlier post, every Wednesday in December I'm going to be posting a list of the books that I read in 2011 with a quick summary of what I thought of them. Numbers 1 through 10 are below.

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich This is the second time I've read this book and it's still a compelling, exciting read. It's one of my 10 Favorite Books.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert I found the first half of this book so heartbreaking I wasn't sure I would make it to the end, but I'm glad that it did.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath This is the second time I read this book too. It's another heartbreaking story but it's well written and worth a second look.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver This was a fun, quick book to read with a surprise ending.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier I can't get over this book. It's not beautiful, poetic writing but it makes you want to turn the pages and sticks with you long after you've finished. It's also on my favorite books list.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell A thought provoking book, this asks you to rethink the way you see the world. Check out my full review here.

The Smart Swarm by Peter Miller I was left wanting more with this book. There were a lot of good ideas in it, but I didn't see how they could be applied in a practical sense.

Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich Sadly this book is already pretty outdated.

Incendiary by Chris Cleave I could NOT put this book down. It's one of the best books that I read all year. Check out my full review here.

Bread and Roses -- Mills Migrants and the Struggle for the American Dream by Bruce Watson I wasn't crazy about this book, the authors tried to narrate the facts as if it were a novel but in the end it didn't do the story justice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Herman Melville on the quality of existence

"...truly to enjoy bodily warmth,some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself." 

-Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Food For Thought

A Summer In Europe: Finding Meaning in Florence Setting is an important piece of a novel. Read how one author incorporated it into her story. (@ Writer Unboxed)

Writers: What Are Your Year End Goals for 2011? It's always important to have a goal to work on as you move forward in life. My goals for the coming year are to grow my readership on this blog and publish my novel. (@ Make A Living Writing)

6 Tips to Make the Learning of Fiction Techniques Less Painful I personally find reading fiction craft books to be helpful and educating. Not all are created equal, but I usually enjoy looking through them for ideas I haven't heard before (@ Jody Hedlund)