Snapshot: June 30, 2015

Time: Hah! I’m being a really really good blogger and writing this at 11:11 pm the night before.

Feeling: Well, I’ve had a glass of wine, so I’m feeling good. Does that count?

Eating: A blade steak, to go with my wine. I think in the US it’s called a flatiron steak?

Drinking: Wine (a Malbec) *cough*

Reading:

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I wish! I’m still in a reading slump. But I did dive a little into The Bishop’s Wife and it’s quite intriguing. I’m not very familiar with the Mormon religion, and this promises to be both a good read and a good way to learn more about the Mormon religion.

Listening: I’ve been working and listening to the last few chapters of The Strain. Liking my reread (relisten?) so much, I downloaded the next two books in the trilogy from the library.

Writing: Can I just say, I’m REALLY REALLY NERVOUS about the Dark Fantasy writing class I’ll be attending mid-July, the one that’s taught by Kelley Armstrong? First, there’s the “I already know this” knowledge that I’m probably going to be the oldest person attending the class *sigh*. Second, there’s the fact that it’s a workshop and I’m going to be getting a critique of the first 20+ pages of my dark fantasy WIP Sweetness and Dank (and that’s a working title, in case you were thinking That’s a pretty strange title).

Working: I’m working on indexing a huge (massive!) criminal law text book. Think roughly 1400 pages and you’ll be almost right.

Photo of the week:

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Hobbes has been under the weather this week (hairballs from grooming Creeper, I think) but Creeper’s been taking care of him. :)

[TSS] Still in a Reading Slump

Well, I’m still in a reading slump. I’ve been dipping in and out of various books, but nothing’s “clicked” so far. And it’s really frustrating, because I’ve got some pretty interesting books around that I KNOW I’ll want to read once I get out of my slump.

I’ve had some great books come in this past week from both the library and also from a mini online book-buying spree I indulged in earlier in the week, in the hopes of getting the reading mojo flowing.

Here are some of the books I have out from the library right now:

Librarybooks

The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison. I read Bernadette’s review and knew I wanted to check this one out.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. I read Athira’s review of this one and found myself really intrigued by the unusual format the author uses.

I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter. I didn’t track where I first heard of this book, but it’s a Jack the Ripper novel. Enough said.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. I obviously have not perfected my “tracking where I heard about this book” skills, as I don’t have this on my Trello books board either. But it’s about a library that holds the secrets to the universe. Who can resist that? (Well, it appears I can, when I’m in the middle of a reading slump.)

Mislaid by Nell Zink. I do remember why I put this one on hold. I had read an interview with the author somewhere—I thought it was the New York Times but it appears my memory isn’t serving me right. This one’s not my typical read but something about it appealed to me in the moment of reading that interview.

The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth. No idea why I put a hold on this one. But now that I have it, it does look interesting. Just not enough to get me out of my slump.

And here are the books I recently bought:

Bought

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. Because it’s been on my want-to-read list for years. Years.

The Talented Mr. Ripley Omnibus Edition from Everyman’s Library by Patricia Highsmith. Because I’ve been reading Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction which is more like a memoir of her writing process. And then I read Care’s post where she mentions how creepy The Talented Mr. Ripley is. I knew I wanted to read it. And I’m a sucker for omnibus editions.

To Sir With Love by E.R. Braithwaite. It wasn’t until I read the review of the book at Olduvai Reads that I even knew there was a book called To Sir with Love. I’ve seen the movie a few times, and I just knew I’d want to have my own copy of the book.

You’d think with this wealth of reading material surrounding me, I’d be out of this reading slump in no time flat, right? But that doesn’t seem to be happening. I WANT to read all of these books, i really do—but not right now.

Do you have any tips for coming out of a reading slump?

Snapshot: June 25, 2015

Time: 1:05 pm

Feeling: Revved up and motivated—yay!!

Eating & Drinking: I have fallen in love with savoury green smoothies. Last week we bought a NutriBullet blender/liquifier and I’ve been having a blast with it. I searched for savoury green smoothie recipes, then ended up making up one of my own based on seeing what other people are using in theirs.

Basically I throw in a tomato, some cucumber, a handful of cilantro, a cup of plain kefir, a quarter of a small onion, a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of flaxseed, a half a tablespoon of potato starch and salt to taste. Zap it for about a minute, and it’s the most delicious veggie drink ever. And the bonus? It’s pretty filling, so easily substitutes for a light lunch.

Reading: I’m in a reading slump. Yes, I figured I should just bold that for good measure. I think it’s because I’m feeling both productive and busy, and I’m scared if I pick up a good book, I’ll end up sucked in for hours on end.

Whatever the reason, though, I haven’t picked up either a print book or a physical book for a week, other than continuing with my reading of Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. It’s not really a “how to write” book, but rather more a memoir type book in which Highsmith describes how she came to write several of her works.

But I’m headed to the library later today to pick up some holds, so something enticing might get my out of my slump. I can hope, anyway!

Watching: On the other hand, maybe what I just wrote above about being scared that picking up a good book will blow my productivity right out of the water is just an excuse. Because I started watching season 2 of “Agents of Shield” on Netflix last night …

Listening:

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I’m skipping around between a bunch of things (which is often what happens when I’m in a reading slump): Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (I have the omnibus in print version in my TBR stack—all the books in the series will be rereads for me); The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, another reread/relisten; and Bryant & May: The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler.

Writing: I’m finally working on those first 20 pages of my dark fantasy, for my summer writing workshop class with Kelley Armstrong. Memory gave a me some great developmental feedback, and my older son also read my first draft and pointed out the things which puzzled him or weren’t clear. I’ve got lots of good points to work on now, and both of them tell me what I’ve got so far is very interesting, so I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Working: I’m back on a productivity binge. I’ve decided to try doing a daily braindump to-do on Trello and so far (for today, anyway), it’s been working. Doing the braindump turns out to be quite the relief for my poor brain which has been trying to juggle everything.

And having a list of things, big and little, seems to be helping, too. I pick and choose depending on my mood. Like this blog post.

I’ve already moved several things to the “done” list, which feels great.

Kijiji: Ward and I finally got around to listing something on Kijiji—a computer desk we no longer need or use—and I can’t believe how easy the whole sales transaction went. I listed the desk late Monday night, and someone emailed us at 7:00 in the morning the very next day. The desk was gone by early afternoon!

I have a friend who recently downsized from a huge house to a condo; she had a blast selling her too-big furniture on Kijiji. She told me it becomes addictive. I can certainly see how that could happen!

So that’s been my week so far. How’s your week been? Any tips for battling a reading slump?

Gay Mean Girls, a coming of queer dramedy

My daughter Hayley is the DoP (Director of Photography) for Gay Mean Girls. It’s a beautiful short film, well worth watching. And when you’re done, you can go to IMDB and rate it!

I’m really excited about the plans for the film—Hayley and Coco (Heyishi Zhang, the director) will be making this into a Web series! Follow Gay Mean Girls on Tumblr to stay in the know about dates and such!

My Morning Walk Productivity Dilemma

I hate to admit it, because I love my morning walks, but I’m having a productivity dilemma because of them.

I’ve discovered that early mornings are really good for both my creativity and my productivity. While I’m sitting there with my coffee, I’ve been getting so many ideas I have to keep my idea journal at hand. And a lot of the ideas I get make me want to go, go, go—get things done, tick things off the to-do list. That whole rah rah rah I’m productive thing that, frankly, I hardly ever felt until recently when I started getting up early to go for my walks.

So the problem? I finish up my coffee, and go for my walk. I have a great time while walking, and sometimes I even stop somewhere for fifteen minutes or so and get some meditation in. But when I get back, that whole productive feeling is gone. Pufffft. Nowhere in sight.

I figure there are a couple of solutions:

1. I should spend the first couple of hours after waking up sitting at my desk and writing and working, and then go for my walk.

2. I can try taking my walk at night instead.

The problem with solution #1 is, now that it’s summer, things start getting hot around nine o’clock, and I really really really don’t like walking outside when it’s hot.

The problem with solution #2 is I can have all the best intentions of walking later in the day, but the way things work around here is, stuff (as in the general “stuff” of life) always comes up and before I know it, it’s pretty late and I need to be heading to bed, not going out for an hour-long walk.

Sadly, there’s really only one solution, if I want to continue my morning walks and also make use of this newly found productive/creative time in the mornings.

I have to get up even earlier than I have been getting up. Somewhere in the vicinity of 6:00 a.m., which to me seems like quite an ungodly time of day. But if I can manage to do that, I can actually write/work for two whole hours, while also leisurely drinking my coffee, and still be out and about for my walk before it gets too hot.

Not sure if I can do it, though. But I’ll definitely give it a try!

Snapshot: June 16, 2015

Time: 6:26 pm

Feeling: Ready for a nap. Mainly because I’ve been up since 6:30 am—although sadly I didn’t end up gong for a walk because (a) it was raining, (b) I decided to get some social media work done first and (c) by the time I finished up the rain had stopped and things were looking too hot outside for a walk.

Eating: We’ve been eating out too much. Or so says the latest credit card bill. Sigh. I want to spend some time looking for crunchy summery salads with a dash of protein. Maybe I’ll have a cool new recipe to link to in next week’s Snapshot …

Drinking: I’ve started making kefir smoothies! I add spinach and whatever fruit I have on hand and feel rather nutritionally virtuous as a result. On the days when I remember to make them, that is.

Reading: The reading’s taken a bit of back seat because I just haven’t had much time for it lately. *sob*

BUT I’m really excited about this:

Armada.jpg

Ernest Cline’s Armada is being released on July 15 and what’s even more exciting? Wil Wheaton is narrating the audio version! I already have an Audible credit earmarked for it.

I’m also eyeing the Atlas Shrugged (#AtlasRAL) Readalong that Ti’s hosting over July and August. I’ve not been doing so well with my readalongs, though. I didn’t finish a single readalong book from last month, and this month I’m definitely behind with the #MiseryRAL readalong.

Listening:

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I’m having much better luck with my audiobooks. I’m listening to Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May—The Burning Man right now. It’s always nice to slip back into the world of Bryant and May (I want to say they’re octogenarian detectives, but I’m actually not sure exactly how old they are. But May is four years younger than Bryant. I think.)

Writing: The deadline for submitting my dark fantasy for the workshop class I’m taking from Kelley Armstrong next month is June 29, so I still have some time left to make my revisions. Whew.

Working: I finished up an index on Sunday night, and this week I have five articles to write. Work on the book marketing for Booktrope is going well.

I also got started with my big readers’ site project—well, sort of. I’m still developing the site, but I finally got the Twitter account up and running: @bookstormcafe! While of course it would be lovely if you’d give it a follow, I should warn you that it is simply chockful of tweets about book news, book giveaways, new book releases, book reviews and author interviews. I’m not kidding—the tweet stream is loaded. It’s been fun diving into all this bookish stuff on the one hand, but on the other hand, let me just say there’s an awful lot of book news, book giveaways and new books out there!

Playing:

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We’ve had the Lord of the Rings board game for a while, and finally opened it up last night. It was a lot of fun (once we figured out the rules) but there was a certain cat who kept wanting to join us.

Looking forward to: The weekend! For once I’m actually getting out and about. We have tickets to see Titanic the Musical this Friday night, and then on Saturday a friend of mine is holding a girls-only birthday bash, which should be fun.

What about you? How has your week been so far? And what are your plans for the rest of the week?

A Rather Eerie Sight This Morning

On Friday mornings I do my morning walk with my friend Christy. It rained this morning, so we decided to stay on the sidewalk rather than along the Harbourfront, and walk farther west on Toronto’s Queen’s Quay than we normally do.

And that’s when we came across a little park on the waterfront called Ireland Park.

It was a cloudy, wet morning, and these statues in the park came as something of a surprise to both of us.

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Quite the eerie sight! I’m glad I was there with Christy; there was no-one else around, and the air had that thickness to it you often get when it rains. Queue some scary music and a bit of fog, and I would have been out of there like a shot. But since Christy is one of those comforting, practical people you’d want to have with you in a haunted house, I stayed and even took pictures.

So of course I had to look up “Ireland Park” when I got home. It turns out Ireland Park is a memorial to the 38,000 Irish immigrants who came to Canada in 1847 to escape famine; more than 1,000 of them died that summer.

The statues are by artist Rowan Gillespie, and there are similar statues on Dublin’s quay side.

There is also a large limestone wall, which was shipped from Ireland. The names of those who died are engraved on it. According to Robert Kearns, the chair of the Ireland Park Foundation, “It represents the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland, the last sight seen by emigrants leaving home. The names of the dead are engraved on the gaps in the wall. The park is really a cemetery without bodies, for the people who didn’t make it.”

Yes, it was definitely a very interesting walk today!

Snapshot: June 10, 2015

Time: 9:26 p.m.

Feeling: Pretty good. Probably a good thing that I didn’t write my Snapshot yesterday, when I was feeling rather bummed out. Today? Much better.

Eating: Nothing spectacular to report today. I do have an organic steak defrosting right now. I had a mostly-veggie dinner earlier and sadly, this is my later-in-the-evening snack. Sadly, because I’ve been trying to kick the late-night eating habit but it’s too hard.

Drinking: It’s too hard because of the wine. I like to have a glass of Malbec at nights, but I don’t like to drink wine without food. Quite the dilemma, no?

Reading: I’m still reading Misery for #MiseryRAL but haven’t gotten too much further into the book yet.

I spent some time today reading a bit more of Gideon by Alex Gordon. I’m past the historical chapters, so just diving into the present-day scenes. It’s been very interesting, and so far I can see it living up to the blurb on the back of the book:

Gideon blurb

Listening: I just finished Peter Clines’ The Fold this morning and all I can say is: go read it if you like sci-fi thrillers!! It was so good. I like how Clines gives us the science without it being too academic or overwhelming. And the ending! I was on the edge of my seat (actually, I was running/walking at the time—even though I haven’t been bringing an audiobook with me on my walks, I decided to this morning because I only had about half an hour to go and I just had to find out what happened. Luckily, I finished the audiobook before it got dark and cold and the skies started spitting rain …)

thefold

I really liked the protagonist, Mike Erikson, and I’m hoping we’ll get to see him in another book. Ray Porter’s narration was stellar. I definitely recommend this one in audio.

Writing: I finally “got” the short story i was working on way back in April when I was trying to write a short story a week (and then my mom broke her hip and my time and daily schedule went out the window). I’d written down the first paragraph a few weeks ago, and yesterday the rest of it came to me, so that was nice. I haven’t had a chance yet to write it out, but I did capture notes so I wouldn’t forget anything.

I still have to get the first 20 pages of my dark fantasy ready for my workshop course with Kelley Armstrong next month … I’m definitely procrastinating!

Working: I’ve got an index due next week, some more articles, and I’m working on the book marketing stuff, of course.

I’ve also decided to work on something fairly large as a complement to the book marketing: a site for readers. Not a Bookriot-type of site, but one for those readers who aren’t already blogging about books or a part of the online book community, but who do like to go online to get information about books. I think a site like that would be excellent for featuring book bloggers too, so I’m working on incorporating weekly features that will promo book bloggers somehow into my ideas as well.

Since I tend to try for too big too soon, which just overwhelms me, right now I’m developing the features I want to have, but I’m going to begin implementing them a bit at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed. Wish me luck, because I’m going to need it!

Stress Relief: I’ve been doing quite well! I think the walking has a lot to do with it. I’m juggling a lot of things but so far I’ve been quite good at keeping the overwhelm at bay. Hopefully I can keep it up!

Sunday Morning Walk: Meditation (sort of), Observations, and Distractions

I’ve been loving my morning walks, but one thing that’s gotten shifted to the side as a result is my meditation. My mornings are now so full, and when I get back from my walk, I’m just not feeling in the meditation spirit.

So this morning I decided to try a walking meditation. A friend of mine had sent me this YouTube meditation, which she highly recommended:

So I thought I’d give it a try today, while I was walking. As soon as I finished the running portion of my walk (I’m up to, oh, maybe five minutes now?) I slipped on my earbuds and played the meditation.

It’s a beautiful meditation, but it turned out I just can’t do the walk and meditate thing. After fifteen minutes, I absolutely had to stop and sit, so that I could finish the meditation. I found a beautiful spot where I could watch the waves come in, and the final fifteen minutes were really lovely.

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On my way back, I let myself observe everything the way I normally do on my walks (when I’m not trying to meditate). No wonder I found it so hard to meditate while I was walking!

There are so many people out and about along Toronto’s Harbourfront. One of the things I love doing is people watching, and it turns out I spend a lot of my walking time doing that.

And the distractions? Well, on my way back, a bird divebombed me. It felt like it landed on my head and immediately took off again. When I got home I made everyone check my head to make sure I didn’t have a bird scratch or two on  my scalp.

It’s a good thing I haven’t been reading du Maurier’s “The Birds” at the time, or I probably would have run all the way back home.

 

Why ‘Disclaimer’ Didn’t Resonate With Me

disclaimer

When a mysterious novel appears at Catherine Ravenscroft’s bedside, she is curious. She has no idea who might have sent her The Perfect Stranger—or how it ended up on her nightstand. At first, she is intrigued by the suspenseful story that unfolds.

And then she realizes.

This isn’t fiction.

The Perfect Stranger re-creates in vivid, unmistakable detail the day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past Catherine so desperately wants to forget is catching up with her, her world is falling apart. Plunged into a living nightmare, she knows that her only hope is to confront what really happened on that terrible day … even if the shocking truth may destroy her.

So I had a little dilemma on my hands when it came to this book. You see, by the time I got to page 50 of Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, I knew it was a book that, under normal circumstances, I’d put down and not finish.

By page 100, I was more than sure of it.

My dilemma? I was reading Disclaimer for a TLC Book Tour. If I DNF’d it, I wouldn’t be able to review it.

So I thought about it, and decided I’d speed-skim through the rest of the pages. I figured, that would be like finishing the book, and then maybe I could review it. But after I did that, I realized that speed-skimming through it wasn’t the same as properly reading it to the end. I couldn’t write a review based on reading the first 100 pages and then skimming my way through the rest of the book.

And I still had to write a post about it.

So I’ve decided to write about why those first 100 pages just didn’t resonate with me.

I’m in the minority in my feelings about this book, by the way. Most of the reviews on Goodreads are rave ones. I know this, because I went and read several of them, to try and see what I was missing, what others were getting that I just couldn’t see.

But even after reading the reviews, I knew there were a few things I just couldn’t get past. The following are my own personal foibles as a reader—given the number of outstanding reviews for Disclaimer, it’s obvious they’re very personal to me, and will likely not affect how other readers will feel about the book.

Being kept in the dark for so long. Normally I don’t mind being kept in the dark as a reader. I mean, without that, there wouldn’t be any suspense, right? And generally the main characters (well, other than the villains) usually don’t know what’s going on either. We’re reading the story from their perspective; what they don’t know, we don’t know.

I’m good with that.

But the thing is, in Disclaimer we get to be intimate with Catherine’s feelings. We know she’s in turmoil, we know she’s in pain, we know she’s scared. We know how she felt reading the book, how she felt when she first realized it was a book about her. We’re in the bathroom with her as she sits on the toilet crying. We’re in bed with her as the anxiety and dread and fear eat away at her.

Through the first hundred pages or so, we are privy to all her feelings about this monstrous thing that’s brutally ripping her life apart , but despite knowing all this, we aren’t privy at all to what this thing is. Even though Catherine herself knows. Catherine, whose point of view we have been reading in every other chapter.

And I’m afraid for me, being kept in the dark in this kind of way didn’t build up the suspense. It actually kept me out of the story. It was like an authorial intrusion; I kept seeing the author’s hand at play. And it went on for too long, for no good reason other than it was a way to build up the suspense.

Unlikable characters. I didn’t find any of the characters in this book particularly likable, although in the end one might feel more sympathy for one of the characters. I don’t particularly like reading novels with unlikable characters, but if the story is good I will keep on reading. Disclaimer has a great story—I mean, can you imagine reading a book and finding yourself as one of the main characters?—but in the end (or rather, after 100 pages) the unlikable characters coupled with being kept in the dark for so long just didn’t work for me.

The writing style. I didn’t like the writing style employed in Catherine’s chapters. It was too choppy, too disjointed. I wanted more transitions in time and space than were offered.

Since I did skim read to the end, I know how the plot ends, so I’ll end with my thoughts on the plot. I don’t think the actual event as depicted in The Perfect Stranger was worth all the build-up. There is a twist at the end, though. The effects of the revealing of this twist seemed to me (in my speed skimming, that is) to happen too quickly, to produce too fast of a turnaround in one character in particular. No spoilers, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know who I mean.

So there you have it. These are the reasons why Disclaimer didn’t resonate with me. Personally, I think if you like the synopsis and don’t share any of the reading dislikes I’ve listed, you’ll probably enjoy Disclaimer. After all, lots of people—most people—who have read it have loved it.