Category Archives: Books and Reading

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: The Benefits of Having a "Books Read" Goal

I had an unbelievable reading week, considering I’m still working on all the deadlines. I’ve discovered that setting a “books read” goal and then keeping track of that goal in a spreadsheet does wonders for any reading ennui I might be feeling.

Yes, apparently I am one who is easily motivated by the thought of adding another book to the spreadsheet.

And because of my “books read” goal, I’ve been finding bits of time in which to read – instead of doing what I used to do, which was wait until I had a nice big chunk of time. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of books, reading during breaks from work, reading in the ten or fifteen minutes before going to bed, reading when I’m waiting for Dylan to finish dance class – and astonishingly, all those bits of time have added up to my finishing four books this past week!

Mind you, two of them were graphic novels. I already loved graphic novels before setting my reading goal. I love them even more now.

I think my next book will be:

The Dream Thieves

From everything I’ve heard, The Dream Thieves is a great sequel, and I’m excited, too, that I also have Blue Lily, Lily Blue waiting for me too.

These are the books I read in the past week (and another surprise: none of them are in audio!):

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone: Such a marvellous read. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did.

days of blood & starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight. Luckily I had book two in the trilogy, so as soon as I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I turned immediately to Days of Blood & Starlight. This one was so eventful, I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through to take a breather.

During this breather, I picked up: The unwritten volume 3 The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. Lovely to be back in the Tommy Taylor world. I finished this one and then went back to Days of Blood & Starlight, and when I read breathlessly to the ending, I decided to pick up the next volume of The Unwritten. Leviathan The Unwritten: Leviathan, Volume 4 of The Unwritten series.

Fingers crossed here that next week will be another great reading week for me!

Catching up on The Unwritten

The unwritten volume 3

Long day today, late post tonight. But some good reading news! When I took a break from reading Days of Blood and Starlight yesterday, I found myself picking up The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. It’s been a while since I read volumes 1 and 2, and I’ve been meaning to play catch-up on the series ever since.

I remembered again why I enjoyed this series so much. All those literary references! Reading Dead Man’s Knock, I particularly enjoyed the story “The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam”, which is presented in Pick-a-Story format.

And the really great thing about graphic novels? They’re such quick reads! It was nice adding another book to my “books read” spreadsheet.

Leviathan

I started volume 4 of the series, Leviathan, today – in between coming back from Dylan’s dance classes and heading out again for a Chinese classical dance and music performance. So I didn’t have that much time. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to plunge back into it tonight and finish it before I go to bed.

So much for going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. The allure of books – it’s just too much. Especially on a weekend!

An Unexpected Reading Day

I had to get up earlier than normal for a doctor’s appointment, and when I got back, it was still morning. So I started working, and I finished up a deadline ahead of time!

What should I do with the extra time? More work?

Um, no. I’ve got lots of work time scheduled, through to next Friday.

So I picked up Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone and continued where I’d left off yesterday. And I finished it! Wow, what a story!

days of blood & starlight

And since I still had more time, I started Days of Blood & Starlight. I’m about halfway through the book right now and I actually had to put it down because there was just so much going on. Does this ever happen to you? With so much going on, I have to step away from the story and let it sink in a bit more. I get to a point where I feel if I don’t stop and keep reading instead, I’ll end up racing through things and something may get lost as I do so.

I’ll probably get back to it tonight – read a few more chapters before bed.

An unexpected reading day. Definitely something to treasure.

And I think I’m going to have to figure out how to be more of a morning person …

Reading: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bone

I’m finally reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. It’s been on my to-read list for quite a while now, and as is often the case when I get to a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, I end up saying:

What took me so long?!

I really have Suey at It’s All About Books to thank for giving me the nudge I needed to finally read Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Back in December she told me she’d been to a presentation and writing workshop by Laini Taylor where Laini showed how she brainstorms ideas for her books by making lots and lots of lists (I just love this idea, by the way). When I said she’s been on my to-read list for a while now, Suey said, you really have to read her!

So I did.

I am just enthralled with this book. I’m reading it in ebook format, and my ereader tells me I’m on page 232-233 out of 356 pages, so I’m about two-thirds of the way through.

It is so good. From the beginning, the mystery surrounding Karou is so enticing, and I’ve been loving how we learn more as Karou learns more. The world-building is wonderful and the writing is really well done.

I’m glad to say I have Days of Blood & Starlight waiting for me on my ereader. I know what I’ll be reading next …

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: SAGA

Short post today, because I’m still catching up on deadlines.

(And you’re all saying, ha! Belle write a short post? Is such a thing even possible?

It is! The deadline crunch thing can transform my writing from rambling to clear, concise, non-rambling and short

Now, where was I? …)

Saga

I picked up Saga, Volume One from the library earlier this week, and am just kicking myself now because last year, I’d borrowed both volumes one and two of Saga – and ended up returning them unread to the library.

Sigh. I could be well into the series by now, you know.

Anyway, I’ve started reading volume one, and it is so good so far!

My treat for finishing the latest deadline? More time with Saga! It’s an incentive that’s making me more focused on my deadline. Hence this short(ish) post.

{TSS} Bookish Bliss: The War of Art

The War of Art quote

Back in December I made a commitment to myself: in the new year, I would sit down every day and write. And when January 1 rolled around, I started doing just that.

I initially set a daily goal of 2,000 words, but within a few days realized that wasn’t reasonable. Some days it was very doable, other days it wasn’t. So I reduced my goal to 1,500 words.

And rolled along merrily … until yesterday. It was kind of a lost day. I took my youngest to dance classes, which ate up the entire afternoon. I’d brought my iPad and keyboard but I found needed the comfort of my regular keyboard and laptop to write. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling well, I was tired – and I had a bunch of blog posts to write for one of my writing clients.

I sat down and I was only able to write about 600 words on my novel.

One of the word tracking spreadsheets I’m using makes the day’s word count light up only if I meet my daily goal. Yesterday’s word count definitely wasn’t even close to getting lit up.

But I still felt good, typing in those three digits into my spreadsheet. Why?

Because despite everything, I had sat down at the keyboard and I had done the work.

When Joy Weese Moll announced The War of Art readalong I knew it was a book I needed to reread. And it was a book I needed to reread now, in January, right when I’m determined to set up new habits and implement the systems I need to make real changes to my life.

For years now, I’ve done a lot of talking about how I want things to change. This is the year I’m committing to actually doing the things necessary for the changes I want to happen. It’s no secret: I spent too many years not doing much writing. I had my rationalizations: I had to work, make enough money to get us through day by day, month by month, year by year. I had kids. I had no time. My God, I didn’t even have time to read, much less time to write. And so on.

Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor. It’s Resistance’s way of hiding the Big Stick behind its back. Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us and impel us to do our work), Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.

What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate. …

What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.

– Steven Pressfield

Reading through Book One of The War of Art, which is all about Resistance: Defining the Enemy, I was a little startled to see how well I know so many of the characteristics of Resistance. I know this is a reread for me, but I can’t remember, for example, nodding my head quite so vehemently when I first read the passages on “Resistance and Trouble” and “Resistance and Self-Dramatization”.

Because the way Resistance shows up in my life has always been two-fold. First is that initial Resistance to sitting down and starting. As Pressfield says:

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Over and over, I’ve been able to defeat this first part of Resistance, even if it’s only for a short while. I’ve done it several times for NaNoWriMo, but I’ve also done it for months at a time outside of November. It’s  never lasted (this year, that will change …) and one of the main reasons it’s never lasted has been because of those two other characteristics of Resistance: Trouble and Self-Dramatization

Last year, for example, right after I finished writing a novella in July, I came face to face with some personal issues. And then after that cleared up, I came down with chronic back pain and unexplained nausea. Once that cleared up (the nausea turned out to be a magnesium deficiency, of all things) I was neck deep in work deadlines as my busy season began.

I participated in NaNoWriMo for three weeks but the work pressure was too much for the final week. And for most of last year both my blog and my reading landscape were like deserted wastelands.

And now that I’m writing daily and am really committed to staying on course all this year? That chronic back pain has cropped back up. I haven’t been feeling well. I’m starting to think about some of those personal issues again. My sister just emailed to tell me she thinks my mom needs someone to help her with her apartment and she can’t do it because she’s too busy with work. Meanwhile, January is looking to be even heavier with deadlines than last November was.

In other words, Resistance is back at work, brewing up more Trouble and Self-Dramatization.

It’s good to see this so clearly. I plan to stay on track, and “knowing your enemy” makes this much easier.

By the way, if you’re interested in The War of Art and Steven Pressfield’s other books, make sure to pop over to Joy’s The War of Art #Giveaway. It’s a wonderful giveaway opportunity, as the winner will receive not just The War of Art, but also his other two books on defeating creative blocks, Do the Work and Turning Pro as well as The Authentic Swing, the story behind his writing of his first big novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Have you read The War of Art? Is there an endeavour or activity in your life, creative or otherwise, that’s been calling to you and to which you’ve been feeling Resistance?

My Bloggiesta To-Do List

Bloggiesta-MiniW15

I’m signing up for next weekend’s mini Bloggiesta (the sign-up page is here). If you haven’t participated in Bloggiesta before, it’s a great way to get some things done around your blog along with other bloggers who’re also participating.

Here’s my Bloggiesta to-do list for next weekend. It’s on the short side, because this is a deadline-heavy month so I won’t be able to invest as much time as I’d like.

1. Research new WordPress themes. I prefer the theme I was using before I upgraded, but that one had a single post page that didn’t include the sidebar. Now, obviously I’d figured out what to do about it when I used it previously, but all the changes have been lost and I wasn’t able to find any instructions that didn’t involve a “child theme”, which I’m not really ready to learn about yet! So next weekend, I’d like to put together a list of possible themes.

2. Find new templates for each of my three 365-day-challenge Tumblr blogs. Right now they’re each using the generic default template, which isn’t really much to look at. I’d love to find templates that fit the topic of each Tumblr blog: creativity, writing and short stories.

3. Re-organize my sidebar. As you can probably tell, it’s pretty cluttered right now.

4. Activate the What Would Seth Godin Do plugin. Which basically means I have to create a newsletter sign-up page.

5. Create a “Hire Me” contact page. You know, for all those people clamoring for my freelance writing services. They’ve got to be somewhere out there, right? And how can they offer their writing assignments to me if I don’t have a contact page?

Hopefully I’ll be able to tackle each of these to-dos next weekend!

Are you participating in Bloggiesta? What things do you need to do around your blog?

Short Story A Day Update: The First Week

I’ve been having fun with my Short Story a Day challenge. I’m finding it pushes me to read something even on days I feel like I’m too busy to read. I confess, though, a few days ago when I had to finish a huge deadline, I missed a day and ended up reading two short stories the next day to make up for it.

Of the eight titles I’ve read (technically this post should read “Short Story a Day Update: The First Eight Days”), I chose six of the stories and the other two were random picks from my Short Story Box. I’ve also been posting each story to a new Short Story a Day Tumblr blog I set up, and to Instagram, mainly to keep myself accountable.

Day 1

Three-Dot Po by Sara Paretsky

“Three-Dot Po” by Sara Paretsky, from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler.

Day 2

The Burglar and the Whatsit by Donald E. Westlake

“The Burglar and the Whatsit” by Donald E. Westlake, from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler.

Day 3

Firefly-by-Haruki-Murakami.png

“Firefly” by Haruki Murakami, from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Day 4

the snow child by angela carter

“The Snow Child” by Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

Day 5

courtship of mr. lyon by angela carter

“The Courtship of Mr. Lyon” by Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

Day 6

the werewolf by angela carter

“The Werewolf” by Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. (This one was a very dark flash story.)

Day 7

toy theater by gene wolfe

“The Toy Theater” by Gene Wolfe, from The Best of Gene Wolfe.

Day 8

tourjours by kathe koja

“Toujours” by Kathe Koja, from Blood and Other Cravings, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Reflections

My favourite was Angela Carter’s “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon”, a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast. Unlike the other two short stories of hers that I read, this one wasn’t as dark.

I’m not sure I quite understood the Haruki Murakami story, and I felt like I missed something in Gene Wolfe’s “Toy Theater”. Still, I did enjoy reading them. I think the Murakami story could use a reread to get the full depth of it.

This year I will read Thoreau

It’s Monday, but I’ve been back to work for quite a few days now. Oh, how I miss the week I was able to take off! In a way, it’s too bad we had to have Christmas and New Years Eve/Day in there, because of course there were Things To Be Done because of the holidays and not as many true “days to myself” as I would have liked.

It’s been a challenge making time for my goals now that I’m in the midst of meeting a deadline. I have several deadlines this month, but thankfully they’re not overlapping as they sometimes can be. No, they come one after another, which can lead to another kind of stress. When one ends, I usually have to immediately start work on the next. I’m one who likes to have a breather in between tasks, so when I end up doing this for too long, I get stressed. Hopefully making the time for my goals, which are all mostly fun things, will give me the balance I need.

So, this morning instead of plunging straight into work, I indulged in my morning routine of reading my Flipboard on my phone. There were several Brainpickings articles there, and this one, on 15 Resolutions for 2015 from Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds reminded me of something.

I’ve been wanting to read Thoreau for a long time now. Every now and then I come across one of those insightful quote pictures, with a Thoreau quote on it that reminds me to stop and think and be present. I’m not by any means someone who loves to be out in nature – I’m more like, “love looking at all the green stuff but from some comfy place inside away from the bugs, please”. But there’s something about the bits and pieces of Thoreau’s writings I’ve glimpsed over the years that makes me want to just sit and absorb his words.

I made this quote image the other day to go with one of my 2015 goals posts, but I ended up not using it in my post (it seemed more suited to a master list of 2015 goals, which I may or may not write, since I’ve probably already bored everyone with all the different goals lists I’ve already posted).

2015-01-03 17.03.47

I kind of love that when I found the quote and made this picture, I wasn’t even thinking, “Oh, I should read Thoreau” and now that I’m thinking, “Oh, I should read Thoreau”, there it is, waiting for me to use in this post. Of course, it would have been better if it was a quote about being outside and present, since that was what I was just writing about, but I’m on deadline so it will have to do for now.

I have a couple of books by Thoreau, and I am committing to dipping into them throughout the new year. It strikes me that Thoreau’s writings are like that – in-the-moment sentences and paragraphs that work just as well read bit by bit as they do all in one whole swallow.

Photo 2015-01-05, 12 48 03 PM

 

Photo 2015-01-05, 12 47 51 PM

And I think I’d like to get a copy of Walking, too. I’ve been working hard on my hip abductor muscles recently – I am still restricted from walking as exercise until I can get them moving the way they’re supposed to. But once they’re back into the habit of doing what they do best, I intend to do a lot of walking, because I really miss it. (Now that I think about it, it will probably be worthwhile checking to see if there are any good audio versions of Thoreau’s works.) Anyway, Walking sounds like another good one to have with me this year.

Have you read Thoreau? If not, is he on your to-read or “sometime soon” list?

{TSS} Bookish Bliss #5: The First Books of the Year

It’s a new year, and I’m finding I’m really excited about my reading. This is the first year I’ve ever set a reading goal. I’ve watched so many of you do it every year, but I never realized how motivating it can be to say to yourself, “this year, I’m going to read X number of books”!

In order to help me reach my goals, I’m armed with this fabulous books read tracking spreadsheet from Fyrefly’s Book Blog. It’s a great spreadsheet that looks like it will make all sorts of fun graphs for you at the end of the year as well. In addition, if you accumulate a number of years worth of stats, one of the sheets will also do yearly comparisons! I saved it to Google Drive, so I can access it at any time from any device.

Books I was already reading coming into the new year

I was already reading a few books when 2014 became 2015. One of these books has become my “first book finished in 2015″ although, of course, it wasn’t a “true” read-in-2015 book since I started it last year. But it still counts as a book I read in 2015, right?

168 Hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam is the first book entered into my spreadsheet for this year. It was an enjoyable read, and it’s also prompted me to start a time log to see exactly where my hours are going. I was going to start tracking my time earlier this week, but it’s really been an unusual week (what with New Years being in the middle of it) so I’ve decided to start tracking beginning tomorrow.

I’m headed into a regular, deadline-jammed month this month, and I always feel like I’m spending all my time working. I have to find a way to carve out time for all the fun things I want to do (which, coincidentally, are also mostly my new year’s goals – I like the way that worked out!). So I’m hoping the time log will help me see where I have some extra hours that I need to put to better use (like reading).

I also entered the new year with a few other books:

Syllabus by Lynda Barry

I’m loving Syllabus by Lynda Barry: it’s been ideal for jumpstarting my creativity. One of the things I’m adopting from the book is her idea of the 4-minute Daily Diary. (Although, I did forget to do mine last night … I didn’t include journaling in my goals and it’s amazing how much easier it is to forget because of that!)

In this version of journaling, you maintain lists of your day: what you did, what you saw, and what you heard. And you also draw one thing from your list of what you saw. The whole point is to jot these down quickly, so you don’t sweat over your picture, either. Even though I’ve only been doing this for a few days, I find I’m far more observant as I go about my day-to-day, so when I sit down to do my Daily Diary I have things to include in my lists.

The Boundless

I’m also reading The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel with my son – it’s on his homeschool Battle of the Books list. It makes for an extremely exciting read-aloud book: the first chapter had SO many things happening! And each subsequent chapter has tons of action as well. There are steam trains, sasquatches and traveling circuses, a real bounty of stuff that should be a hit with most kids.

Books I’m picking as my first books of the new year

It’s also been exciting choosing  my “true” first books of the year, the ones I’m going to both start and finish in January. Part of the reason I’m choosing these books is because they’re library books, so I’d like to get them read before I have to return them.

land of laughs by jonathan carroll

I can’t remember how I ended up with The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll in my library holds list, but it has an endorsement by Neil Gaiman on the back, so that’s good enough for me. From the book’s back cover:

Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs, a novel about how terrifying that would be.

The imaginary by a.f. harrold

Of course, I have to head into the new year with a middle grade read, too, right? My pick is The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett. It’s about a little girl’s imaginary friend:

Nobody else can see Rudger – until the sinister Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger.

what did you eat yesterday by fumi yoshinaga

I also want to start the new year off with a graphic novel, too. For this, I chose What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga. It’s about food! I think I’m going to love this series.

Shiro Kakei, lawyer by day and gourmand by night, lives with his boyfriend, Kenji Yabuki, an outgoing salon stylist. While the pair navigate the personal and professional minefields of modern gay life, Kenji serves as enthusiastic taste-tester for Shiro’s wide and varied made-from-scratch meals.

making ideas happen

And finally, my nonfiction pick: Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, the founder and CEO of Behance. I’m very much an ideas person – ideas come easily to me – but my sticking point is in the execution. Making Ideas Happen is about just that – bringing creative projects to completion. If there ever was a book that spoke my name, it’s this one, and it’s the perfect read to give my new year a great start.

So these are my first books for the new year. What about you? What books are you starting off the new year with?