DFTBA

Okay…so it’s two weeks into my book-a-week project.

And, yes, I’m absolutely a procrastinator–when it comes to writing. But I have read two books in those two weeks. So, that’s something.

I feel like the best way to do this in a disciplined way would be to write a post about the book I’ve read as soon as I’ve finished it. Books put a spell on me that lasts quite a while, but the real shine is brightest in those few moments after the last page has been turned. I’ve talked about it before–that book hangover. I often feel like a completely different person, starting at the moment I close a book for the last time. I look at the world with fresh eyes, I think about the details of my life with a different mind. I’m definitely not the same person for at least a few days with some books–and months with others.

I scour the internet often; looking for others’ opinions on what I’ve just experienced. Sometimes I’m disappointed to learn that someone hasn’t been changed by a book–that their assessment of it is….”eh. it was fine”

Or even worse, “I don’t see what all the fuss is about….this book was terrible. clunky, disjointed, trying to be something it’s not….”

Dude, I really hate (not really) that person…for at least ten minutes.

Yes, everyone’s opinion is theirs to have. Yes, not everyone likes the same things. And, yes…they have every right to share their experience just as much as I do.

But, seriously; how dare you tarnish something I love? Are you a monster?? Am I a monster? Or worse, am I a naive idiot who likes everything?

Okay, I know. Sometimes I can be that encouraging auntie…the one who tells you that the crappy picture you drew is a work of art and puts it on the fridge–so proud of such a great talent. I clap at the boring dance routine, pointing out that the posture was spot-on.

Maybe it goes back to that time I went to horseback riding camp. I was among pretty, pony-tailed rich girls who have been riding horses since they could walk. They owned horses. They were cute and poised and determined and experienced and…good at things. They had the BOOTS.

I got a ribbon for best eyes.

Why, thank you for noticing. I’ve always thought my eyes were one of my best physical features. They have fifty colors in them and they sometimes change color with the clothes I wear. A stoned dude once told me I have amazing eyes. He smelled good, because I like the smell of patchouli.

Oh, you mean I got best eyes because I looked forward while I was awkwardly riding a horse like a six-year-old? Oh. Well, I’m still gonna keep this until I’m at least 43. It’s in my storage unit right now, along with my honorable mention for that jump I did and fell off the horse after. The one that made my shoulder permanently stupid. Because that was a nice thing to say to an idiot and it gave me a confidence boost…and I still talk about how I used to ride horses because no one has to know that I rode horses for two weeks once.

Anyway, that’s why I should probably write how I feel about a book before I go and see some tosser’s opinion of it. They’re not me. I’m me. I wasn’t even me until I read that book and now I’m more me than I was two days ago. That’s a gift that I will never demean by pointing out that it was wrapped in the funny pages instead of the expensive, lead-lined Target paper.

So, I’m not a critic. I’m a reader. and I’m really not disciplined. But that’s sort of one of my endearing qualities, right? Right?

Oh, come on, tell me I’m cute. I’ll take cute.

On week one, I read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green. It was a great way to start the year, to be honest. I bought the book in November, still being in my book slump but wanting to read–and I was excited because it was Hank Green, and I love him.

I have been following the Green brothers for a few years now, and a couple of years ago, I had a nice little conversation with John Green at Nerdcon Nerdfighteria in Boston. I didn’t ask for an autograph or a picture because I felt weird and nervous, but those few minutes were really nice. And I made John Green laugh, which was cool. About ten minutes later my Diet Dr. Pepper exploded all over Dunkin’ Donuts, which I’m glad he didn’t see but I will always associate with that meeting. And, not that that was nothing, but I didn’t get to meet Hank, so I was a little sad. He’s more in line with my sense of humor and way of thinking….and he’s so much more nerdy (in such a good way). I missed Hannah Hart and Craig Benzine too (love those guys, but I didn’t venture too far around and I am shy), but I did meet Michael Aranda and his hair.

So An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is Hank’s debut novel, and he really needs to write ten more, like, now. because it was so nicely done. It’s probably considered YA because it’s centered around the life of a young person (I mean, but she’s in her 20’s, so not super young) with a very “Green” name (naming your character April May just proves to me that you are John’s brother–because John does seem to like giving cool and not-quite-possible names to his central characters. Not that I’m dissing that…it’s cute that there’s a similarity there).

April May unwittingly becomes the center of an amazing, sci-fi-ish but still plausible fantastic first contact scenario. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there are aliens. I think people know that. But what I liked about the book, besides the smoothly conversational and personal writing and the little touches of silliness that just pop up on you without a ‘ta-da!’, is the way the world (and particularly America) reacts to this visitor. It seems very real and possible and fantasical all at the same time. I like April’s personality–how she can be snarky and intelligent and still pure and stick to her convictions. I like how she fell into her adventure and how she follows it without thinking she has another option. Most of us would like to think we’d do the same thing instead of hiding in our room with our really comfy duvet and just play IPad games and watch Netflix until someone else solves the problem.

I like that she solves the problem. I like that she works together with her friends and creates a world community of like-minded people who help each other solve it. I like that the community has its mission and its heart in the right place and they come together because they feel it’s important and responsible.

This is probably the fantasy part of the novel, but that’s okay, too. Hank and John Green both have pure intentions for the world, and a very real hope that someday we will all be a united world community–and the belief that we are capable of that. I like their optimism and their hope, and I also like that they are very aware that it doesn’t always work or isn’t always received well.

More importantly, I left the book wanting more stories from those characters. I do hope that I get to read more about them, but at the same time I will be fine if I don’t. Sometimes as wonderful as a story is, it can end without resolution or a sequel (people HATE that, but I love it–I’m one of the few that thought the last episode of The Sopranos was ballsy and creative and stood well just fine on its own, with the viewer hopefully filling in all the blanks–that’s a gift, too).

I finished the book wanting to send Hank a thank you letter. Who knows, I might tweet it at him. I think he’d like that. But, honestly, I am grateful that he’s writing and vlogging and sharing himself with the world and helping to make it a better place. I think we need that right now. There is also plenty of room to talk about why things suck, but we probably shouldn’t forget to be awesome.

So, Hank, write another book. Or ten.

~L

Procrastination, Part II

Confession time: I am, at this very moment, on the verge of tears (I’m very emotional with T.V. and movies. Can’t help it) while watching The Great British Bake-Off…because I am a sappy, sappy person and I am wasting time.

Welcome to me.

That being said, I’ve been so excited to write about my last pre-New Year’s book ever since I finished it. At the end of December, I had the pleasure of reading Watership Down, by Richard Adams, at the recommendation of a very kind member of the Reading Glasses Facebook group.

And I can’t believe I never read this sooner.

This book has everything from my wheelhouse. First off, it’s English, which wins most of the time in my book. I’ve said many times over the years that I was born in the wrong time and place, and I always fantasized that the place was somewhere in the U.K.

As for the time, that has varied over the years, from Victorian times (until I learned about how deadly and nasty the living conditions really were) to Edwardian England (until I noticed just how girly I wasn’t and just how much bloodletting there actually was all the damn time) and quite a few in between. I think if I had to decide now, I’d say that now isn’t such a bad time to be living…but if I had a limitless choice, I’d probably go for living in a T.A.R.D.I.S and sampling any time period I wanted (and escaping whenever I felt like…)

Watership Down takes place in Hampshire, England, and it has a rural, pastoral and idyllic countryside setting. The gentle countryside of the beginning, however, soon gives way to danger and adventure. The story focuses on a group of rabbits who, at the urging of the small and oracular rabbit Fiver, leave their warren in search of a safer place, away from the threat of man. They feel that Watership Down is their Utopia, and they set off.

There are some sad moments and some thrilling moments along the way, but I really would hate to spoil any of them. I just think everyone should read this book, so I don’t want to give anything important away. I will say that Adams was brilliant in his research into the habits and lives of real rabbits (he really did his homework–and it shows) and carrying them many steps further into a sentient, intelligent race with a strong social structure, community, culture, and mythology was absolutely fascinating to read. I loved the mythological stories that were told…how they respected the nature around them and were so perceptive regarding predators and other dangers. I loved how our band of brother rabbits used innovation to explore when it was unheard of for a rabbit; how the bucks learned to dig when it was usually a job for does (tut-tut), and how they used their intelligence to create alliances with other creatures, particularly Kehaar the gull.

And the language. Oh, the invented native language of the rabbits really enriches it. I still do want my next tattoo to include the phrase, “Silflay Hraka” (you’ll have to google that one or better still, read the book, lazybones).

It’s absolutely beautifully written. And, yes, I will also take the stance that it really doesn’t seem like a book for children; although, children in England in the ’70s may well have been very different than American children of the time.

Actually, thinking back to some other books I read when I was young, children everywhere were a little bit different and able to handle much more grown-up things back then, it seems. I remember reading My Side of The Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (which was in the late ’50s and American) and I could never have imagined being able to survive in the forest in the winter, wearing deer skins and making flour out of acorns, so…

And, yes, I wept like a baby at the end. But they were happy tears….and maybe that’s saying a little too much. But when a book affects me for days and weeks after reading it, I just can’t be ashamed of that. I’m so pleased when a book gives me that blessed hangover; that dizzying feeling when you’ve turned over the last page, look up and just sit in stunned silence. When you stare at the wall for a good ten minutes after finishing a book, when you look at life and live day to day with a completely new perspective because of a book, then the author has done a spectacular job.

It may be too much to hope for that someone may someday be affected that way by something I’ve written. But if it’s even a possibility, I will still always write….as long as there are still words left in me.

Sappy, sorry. More humor in the next one, maybe? We’ll see.

Take care.

~L

Procrastination

Pre-New Year’s reads:

~The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

~Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Week One read:

~An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green

Here is the part where I reveal just how long I’ve been sitting here, staring at this computer screen.

Ok, so I have always had a hard time with writer’s block. It’s frustrating because I have so many ideas constantly swirling through my head; I’ve just never had the discipline to lay them out in any kind of organized fashion.

I’m a procrastinator, to be sure.

I was awake before 10 a.m. on Tuesday Morning, which doesn’t sound like much of an achievement until you account for the fact that I was up until at least 1 a.m.,  watching Netflix and telling myself that I should be writing. I went and got lunch, stopped at the library to get way too many books, and I eventually switched on my laptop at 2:30. And then stopped, so that I could get ready for work.

The following days went on in that same manner. Work is exponentially more stressful and draining than it has been in recent years. Working a nine-hour shift in a retail pharmacy environment, on my feet, with no end to the customer service and social demands, as well as the need to keep mentally sharp and focused–well, let’s just say that at the end of the day, I have a hard time bringing myself to do anything except read or stare at a screen.

OK, excuses over. I have a lot of catching up to do.

My final selections for the days leading up to New Year’s definitely did not disappoint. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is a quick and compelling read. Told through the perspective of a young autistic boy, the story brings us a murder mystery, wrapped in the drama of a broken family and the surrounding community.

What I loved about this book was Haddon’s ability to accurately and matter-of-factly describe Christopher’s mind. The Autistic mind sees certain things with such precision, while often filtering out irrelevant detail; which makes for a refreshing mystery. Christopher is an endearing character, and as the events unfold, he finds a strength he never knew he needed or had. I loved the setting, I loved the small details…the flawed characters of the father and mother. I loved that it was all told through Christopher’s eyes.

Honestly, this was one of those books that, after I finished reading it, I wished I could turn right back to page one and start it over again.

…And that’s why I love to read. I didn’t know anything about this book when I got it, but I had heard the title before. Once I read it, I was changed….and I can’t wait to be changed over and over again.

To be continued…

~L

Before the New Year Happened…

Leading up to the New Year, in all of my ambition and bookish desire, I dove into my newly acquired Library treasures. I made sure to at least attempt to be diverse in my choices; not just to include books that spoke about social or otherwise important issues, but also to keep up my interest. I knew if I picked too many classics, for example, I would quickly get bored and revert back to my previous habit of mindless IPad clicking and YouTube video watching.

My first selection was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, By Rebecca Skloot.

First off, I just want to say that I love non-fiction. As much as stories and fantastical worlds, and even the everyday stories of people draw me in; I am always attracted to a good work of non-fiction. The research that any particular subject involves and the passion for specificity and education the author brings to the table always ignites my own insatiable thirst for knowledge.

And knowledge of nearly any kind, really. I love to skip around from subject to subject; from historical research (especially if it includes lots of really juicy trivia) to human interest stories….and from the very broad to the insanely detailed. Mary Roach is a great writer for deep research and tireless detail. I love her work and have read most of her books, in all of their passionate and humorous glory.

OK, but this isn’t about Mary Roach. I’m sure I’ll get there again before the year’s out (I  hope–as I said, she’s a pleasure to read).

Rebecca Skloot also kept me mesmerized. She has a lovely way of combining real and obviously hard-earned research with a very human and personable touch. Her respectful and patient treatment of Mrs. Lacks’ family and her dedication to their cause was inspiring and touching. She also managed to be very technical and educational without being preachy or too academic.

The book follows Ms. Skloot’s mission to uncover and tell the whole story of an amazing and remarkable woman. Henrietta Lacks was a cancer patient at Johns Hopkins, whose cervical cancer cells were taken (without permission, as was the custom at the time) and isolated for study. Her cells did not behave as predicted, and instead of dying, lived on and divided; always replicating. This led to countless leaps in medical research over the years–as well as controversy and quite a bit of heartbreak for her family, who was never included or acknowledged. The book takes us through the author’s mission to promote understanding of the importance of Mrs. Lacks’ cells to medical science, while also working hard to bring the family’s struggle and unique story to light. It was important to her that she emphasize to the world that this was a real woman…a genuine, living, breathing human being who was loved and missed–deserving to be remembered for everything she was, and not simply for the incredible HeLa cells she left behind.

I loved it. This book was everything I long for in non-fiction, and it reinforced my enthusiasm for learning. In my humble opinion, for any book to be great, it has to draw me in, allow me to become lost in its world, and leave me wanting more. I’m always so happy when a non-fiction book can do this for me. I think people tend to see non-fiction as a bit dry and boring–something given as an assignment or required for work, and it’s very pleasing to be able to argue the opposite.

~L

 

Library Adventures

As with most endeavors, the lead-up to New Year’s came with ambition, planning, and excitement. We decided that moving away wasn’t going to happen just yet and that we’d be staying in our town and renewing our lease, at least for the next 7 months or so. I’m not ashamed to admit that the first thing I did after our discussion was to make my way to our local library.

And, oh….it’s a great library. Because we’re in Florida, it’s in a strip mall (but don’t let that discourage you–it’s a really big strip mall).

As soon as I walked in, I realized that our town definitely loves its readers. It’s enormous and lovely and full of beautiful things. The used bookstore (one of my favorite places to be) that’s attached is pretty sizeable, too. Fliers advertising gaming groups and mothers groups and book clubs garnished the front hallway, as well as the obligatory display cases, showcasing rare books and works of art.

The interior of the library was also enormous; stacks and stacks of beautiful reference books (oh, how I wished I had something to research), conference rooms, reading rooms, comfy chairs, rows of DVDs and books-on-tape, lovingly worn paperbacks on those neato little spinning racks, some intriguing looking map books…

It’s a library, folks. I mean, it’s pretty standard. But so awesome.

The staff must have thought I was an alien–or at least someone who’d never been to a library–probably because of my wild stare and the way I gushed with pride when I sauntered up to the counter, announcing that I would be getting a library card today (ho, ho, ho). I subtly leafed through my little notebook as the library technician took my information and generated my card, paying close attention to whether her gaze drifted to my massive TBR list with its “MASTER LIST” heading.

They’ll be so proud when they see what I’m reading….and we’ll be great friends and sit over coffee and discuss the finer points of some of the greatest works of literature. We’d snoot over allegory and plot devices and wonder how the rest of the world can live in such ignorance of fine music, poetry, and delving into the genius minds of the great, dead, white dudes.

So, like, I was 12 for a few minutes. Also, I don’t go to places. Or talk to people. Or only read dead, white dudes. So.

I moved on, list in hand, and quickly found my two selections. I checked out without the slightest hint of fanfare. No confetti. Not even any wide-eyed youngsters staring in awe and wishing they were clever enough to pick such well-rounded and well thought out choices. It was time to leave. I had my books.

Now the only thing remained was to strut through the parking lot, head held high (and very slowly, of course) so the world could witness by great decision.

Before you wonder, I did realize how supremely dorky I was being. Mostly because I am always supremely dorky (I’ve come to terms). I also realized that I overdo the daydreaming thing and I’m probably not now on the path to becoming a librarian in a few short years after miraculously getting into a free masters program because I’m Charlie Bucket and I want it more.

But I did have my cool books. And I read through them like a starving cartoon character crawling through the desert toward a mirage–desperately, ravenously; picturing each of them as talking pastries or ice-cream sundaes.

And tasty pastries they were. I picked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. Both great reads and I’ll be talking about them soon, I promise.

Since they were both read before New Year’s, I don’t consider them as part of my goal, but as I did end up reading them in the days before New Year’s (plus one other: Watership Down, by Richard Adams–which changed my life, until the next adventure anyway). I still plan to talk about them in my next entry…something to keep me writing while I’m reading my first week’s selection: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green.

It’s half-past midnight…and I’ve missed my goal of posting on a Tuesday, because welcome to me. I thank you for your continued patience (some or none or one of you) and hope you’ll visit me in my next entry. It’s too late to watch any more Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, so I’m going to continue wasting time before bed, most likely scrolling through Facebook or Twitter and listening to podcasts (which are less of a waste, but do take time).

Good Morning, all….and see you next time

 

~L

 

 

 

Intro to LynLlew Lit. (3 credits, fee waived)

Okay, so maybe it’s a little cliche, starting a new thing like a blog on New Year’s.

And, yeah, so maybe I have a history of starting things on New Year’s and usually quitting or fizzling before March

Is that unusual? Or painfully ordinary?

Also…why did you just tell, like, literally EVERYONE that you fizzle on things? Is that how readership works?

And with that little window to my neuroses, I welcome you, friend(s), to my book blog.

This may be a little different than other book blogs you find out there–at least I hope that’s the case. On the base level, it’s a space to chronicle my goal for 2019: to read (at least) a book a week and to share my thoughts on what I find.

That’s the base level. And it’s fine and all. But I wanted to do so much more than simply breaking out of my multi-year reading slump–not to mention my multi-year writing slump. I wanted to do more than read a certain number of books and write little book reports on them. I wanted to stumble on new stories and new ideas from people I’ve never considered. I wanted to discover the parts of other people’s minds that strike familiarity in my own. I wanted to lose myself in another world and savor the book hangovers when I leave them. I wanted someone else to read this crazy drivel and say to themselves (or, in a really nice comment, if they so wish) “LOL. Same”.

I wanted to be personal and introspective. Or sometimes silly and weird. I picture this place varying from one entry to the next. It’s for me, but I would love it if someone else found something in my words they could cling to.

I’m not a professional. My thoughts are all over the place. I’m a conversational writer. This could possibly be distracting…or enticing. Maybe at least interesting?

So, the takeaway from all of this? I’ve gotten some great recommendations from some amazing people and I’m really excited to start devouring books and sharing my crazy thoughts on them. I might gush like a girly-girl sometimes. I might be cynical and snarky. I might spend paragraphs and pages in a tangent about some show I’m binge-watching. I will very likely be talking about my cats, which are so much cuter than anyone else’s cats (fight me) and do original and amazing cat-things that no one else is posting everywhere on all social media.

But, ah..the books. It’s always, in some weird way, about the books.

Tomorrow is 2019. I read three beautiful books in the days leading up to the new year, and I’d love to gush about them. After that, my project will begin. I’d like to come here on Tuesdays and check in on how it’s going. I’d like to promise structure, but then I’d laugh, you’d laugh, I’d cry a little…and we would all awkwardly stare at each other.

Which might be good material, depending on what y’all are looking for

And so, I’ll see some or none or one of you here tomorrow!

Thank you for visiting….and please, feel free to watch this space!

~L