2015 Year in Review

I had many reading resolutions for 2015. Some I completed and others faded but were not forgotten even if I never returned to finish them. First, I accomplished my goal of 50 books read for 2015. It was an amazing feet for me. I think back to the little girl that struggled with speaking, reading, and writing. Now, she is creating, and sharing her love of books.

Another thing I hold up to show off is my Goodread’s to-read shelf. I think I started 2015 with 70 or more books I hoped to read and now that number is down to 64. It may not seem like a big accomplishment but that number was a struggle to accomplished. Working in a bookstore I see so many titles I would like to read and they are easily added. I tried to be more selective and read some books right away instead of putting them on the list.

I read more titles from the floor I work on to better recommend books to customers but my Classics Challenge fell short. I took on the task to read one classic a month and only read six books. Five I even reviewed on this blog. I realize there are just too many books in the world I need to read. One more thing, the writing fell short. I didn’t keep up with the blog schedule I put forth and even behind the scenes I was unable to cut out time. All completely my fault. Exhaustion, stress, laziness, work and plans won most of my time.

After all that how do I make the up and coming 2016 better. Keep reading, keep fighting the procrastination writing fight, and be a little more forgiving of oneself. I signed up for the Goodread’s challenge again and hope to read another 50 books in 2016.

Neil Gaiman wrote, “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

I now hope to surprise myself.

Happy and Healthy New Year to everyone!

 

Story From A Bookstore Employee

I work in a bookstore. An older man walks up to the information desk. I say “Hello” and he starts telling me a very long story. He had something that happen to him 40 or 50 years ago and he would like it publish. In fact, he has a lot of stories he would like to have publish. He doesn’t know where to start since, he says, he doesn’t write well. He was hoping to find a ghostwriter and would like to know how he can start in publishing his book. I tell him if he goes to the reference section in my store there is a subsection were he can find many titles to teach him how to go about finding a ghostwriter, agent, and publisher.
“I don’t want to read a book about it I just want to know how,” he says without skipping a beat.

We go through this exchange a few times in different ways. Always him telling me what he is looking to do and me telling him I don’t exactly know but there are many books on the subject to help in his search. If I say you probably need an agent or publisher to help you find a writer, he asks for an agents phone number as if I have one handy for these situations. I tell him I don’t have a number but there is a book published every year with a list of agents and publishers and their contact information. He says, “No, that’s not what I’m looking for,” and moves on to more questions about the process.

Around the third or fourth runaround I lose my patience and just say, “I don’t know I can’t help you” to his questions. He isn’t at the bookstore for a book and I can’t keep going though these repetitive motions trying to be “nice and helpful.” Maybe that’s mean but I only have so much tolerance in this situation. I gave you the information to start you on your path now do the work.

Just Write!

I’ve lost my writing schedule rhythm but I’m fighting to get it back. My changing work schedule and life are keeping me from pen and paper. I know I need to write more often in order to improve but I can’t seem to find the time or energy to motivate myself. When I do write, my new enemy is hesitation. Even now as I write this I am having trouble finding the thoughts I want to record and share. There is a struggle to not delete but I do because all of it doesn’t seem to sound right. Of course, I expect to struggle and fight to find time and subjects to write about. My brain is a dried ball on a pen. The pen is not empty. Oh, no. All I need is rapid scribbling to help the ink seep out once again. Until then I will often cringe and pause knowing this feeling will pass the more often I write. No matter the mental brawl, I will just write.

Book Review on A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

I received an ARC from my job. It in no way sways my review. I have read Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Grey series and I loved them so I was excited to hear the author is writing another historical fiction series with another strong female protagonist at the center.

Veronica Speedway has no attachments after burying her aunt. She is finally free to resume her travels abroad with scientific studies involving her passion, butterflies. But when she returns home from the funeral finds an intruder that tries to kidnap her. With help from Baron Maximillian von Stauffenbach they defeat the kidnapper. The Baron reveals he knows about her past and believes she is in danger. Offering a ride to London and the promise to answer her questions she excepts. But when he drops her with an old friend of his, Stoker, for protection she finds herself thrown into an exciting adventure when the Baron is discovered murdered.
This was an amazing novel. The book is fast paced and keeps the adventure moving, fun, and never dull. I really enjoyed Veronica Speedwell. She is nothing like Julia Grey but still very likable. She was smart, stubborn, and funny. She is not the romanic troupe readers of historical fiction have been bombarded with and it’s refreshing. I loved her fight to be the independent woman not excepted during those times. Stroker was a little hard to pin down. He is grouchy and tight lipped about his past. I thought he could be prickly but he definitely grows on the reader. It could be because of the interaction and relationship between Veronica and Stroker. Their dialogues throughout the book are smart conversations and arguments which grows and helps the characters see each other as equals.

I can’t wait to read more mysteries involving these characters and see where their relationship can go. I’m sad to say goodbye to Lady Julia Grey but Veronica Speedway is a worthy successor. I am certainly recommending this book to others.

A Curious Beginning  By Deanna Raybourn

Classic Number Five: The Stranger

I’m falling behind on the classic challenge. I started and finished my May pick, The Stranger by Albert Camus, late. I bought this book at The Last Bookstore while I was on vacation and I’m so glad I did. What a great read although like many classic it is not a fairy tale. There is no happily ever after. Many may find the first person narrative boring since the main character, Meursault, is indifferent to all that is happening around him. The book starts with Meursault at his mother’s funeral. He express no remorse, and returns home. I had trouble with this scene. I felt it exhibit the expectation of certain emotions from others in different situations. But as the story goes on he is unaffected by the neighbor who abuses his dog, or a woman. The day after the funeral he meets, Marie. They go swimming, go to a comedy film, and he lives the appearance of a normal life. He expresses no issue with helping write a letter for his other neighbor, Raymond, to a girl who did him wrong. This indirectly gets him involved with the girl’s Arab brother. After a confrontation where Raymond is cut with a knife they return to the house. Meursault goes back out for a walk and ends up killing the Arab.

Part two of the novel follows Meursault’s thoughts during the trail and sentencing. He is prosecuted more for his moral character than the murder. After the trail Meursault finally has a moment of clarity when a priest comes to help him find solace and save his soul but Meursault sees “the benign indifference of the universe” like himself. Neither he or the world doesn’t pass judgement. Everyone will die and he finds a kind of freedom in this fact.

I can see this being a tough read for some. It is hard to follow Meursault and his lack of emotions. Readers will forever try to figure him out. This read will help you understand existentialism and make you think about life and how you relate to everything around you.

Then You Come Back From Vacation

I’m back! Didn’t think it was long enough where a reader would believe I abandoned this blog but could understand if you started second guessing my presence here. I was not posting for a bit because I was on vacation traveling. I’ve grown into an untrusting New Yorker and didn’t want to become a silly statistic. For very safe reasons I never posted my far far away-ness on this blog since this is open to anyone and anyone can be mean stealing jerk. I keep a travel journal and though I always fall a day or two behind it’s not because I don’t write everyday. I am the best writer while traveling because I can find scraps of time anywhere on the move to write. I do have some writing material since I’m the most diligent writer away and I hope to use that fire in the future.

Now here is where I beg for patience from you, my reader (if you’re still with me). I have a post I’m working on about a place I visited along my travels but it may take some time to write. Here is my sob story. On the last day of my vacation I hurt my ankle. I don’t know if it’s a sprain. I iced and rested it. It has been five days since the painful klutz move of missing a step and I can walk on it with very little discomfort so I must have lucked out.

The second fun thing to happen back from my trip is I woke up Thursday morning to water dripping from my study’s ceiling. Good news no computers were harmed in the disaster above and the leak (which ended up being little but chaotic) is fixed but computers are disconnected and the apartment is a disaster. Thank invention for laptops. I am sitting in the least crazy room (the bedroom that is stacked high with boardgames, monitors, and desk parts) typing this little blog post. I’m trying not to think about the holes in the next room’s ceiling and the contractors that will need to be contacted so everything can feel less anxious again. I can look on the bright side and say at least I’m writing.

Also, I’m upset because I’m behind on the one classic a month challenge. I have no excuse other than when I travel I write more and read less. I plan on starting my May classic in a few days (still between books) and gracing my reader on my amazing half-ass review. I hope you can forgive the delay. (Is this where I hash-tag my emotions.)

Now, I will enjoy a glass of wine, say good night, and sweet dreams.

Classic Number Four: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I decided to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum as my fourth classic after seeing the Supernatural: Slumber Party. While watching the episode and their darker take on this classic I realized I have never read the book. The episode does reference the books as well as the movie. I think it was when the character, Charlie played by Felicia Day, was gushing and defending this childhood classic that I decided I needed to read it.

I was delighted with the differences between the book and movie. The movie will forever be a classic in it’s own right but the book is a bigger adventure with Dorothy meeting and making even more friends. The flying monkeys aren’t as scary but become a companion. All the characters grow and while they are all on the same adventure they grow individually finding they had what they seek all along but needed some encouragement along the way. The difference I loved between the movie and book are the passage of time is in both worlds and that the shoes are silver in the book. Maybe because the movie made red shoes such a set thing in the Oz culture and made it appear in the movie that Dorothy’s adventure was just a dream.

I think what will always make this a classic is the need others will feel to use it in their own work, reinvent, and keep it fresh.  I would recommend this to anyone looking for a book to read to their child or looking to give them something to start their reading love. It wasn’t a difficult read. The writing was straight to the point in any character’s motivation or description. A magical read.

Classic Number Three: Northanger Abbey

I decided to read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen for my March classic. I have mentioned before that I did try to read Austen’s Persuasion last month and felt I wasn’t in the mood, I tried again and again I wasn’t in the mood. I realized I never read Austen’s Abbey and needed a short classic since time was running out. I started reading this classic and was captured. As Austen mentions in the beginning of the novel the main character Catherine is not your normal heroine since she is an impressionable, trusting young woman but she grows and learns. By the end Catherine is a strong, classic, and a lead in the wheel house with others Austen famous heroines.

I must say I liked this novel. This classic novel is Austen’s Gothic parody. Catherine’s love for reading the genre and over active imagination adds humor to the novel. There is a great scene where Catherine is snooping and unlocks a mysterious cabinet expecting to find something horrible, and finds only laundry bills. You feel embarrass for her naivety but she has to fall a few more times before she learns to control her imagination. Northanger Abbey also deals with situations common to teenagers today. Catherine learns lessons about peer pressure, bullying, and reading people. I was angry by the Thorpe’s manipulative, and ambitious ways but, by the end of the novel, Catherine learns to read people and can move on into her happy ending wiser.

Favorite Quote: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not the pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Met A Man On The Train

Heading to the city for my gym class on Monday and the train wasn’t running. I realized after climbing the three flights of stairs that I should have known. When I had gotten off the bus, I could see a huge crowd waiting. According to the MTA the train wasn’t running and the booth attendant would only say the trains weren’t running. I have an app, which told me there was a police investigation at one of the stations so there were limited stops but was this information up to date? Not taking a chance, I ran back down the stairs grateful the bus was still there and trying to figure out how do I get to the city. I wasn’t the only one. I figured out I should stay on the bus and it would take me to another train line. So, that’s what I did. I shared this information with a woman and a man. The man told me he had decided not to drive today. He thought the train would be best since his destination was Chinatown. Now, he was wishing he drove. We laughed and eventually we were seated separately and I started reading articles on my phone.

With the slow bus ride I lost track of time. I felt a tap on the shoulder and it was the gentleman again. He told me this was our stop. I kicked myself for not paying attention and we continued to the train. We started talking more on the platform and on the train. He wasn’t familiar with this train line and I was so I tried my best to help him to his goal. I assured him that it is still a learning process for me since I have moved from one side of the Bronx to the other and wasn’t as confident with these buses to which train. He told me how he has only been taking using the train since he started dating his boyfriend and that he has tried to learn and remember what to use to get where. He told me since the 7 train has been not running on the weekends it has really tested his abilities but he has been succeeding.

He told me how they take the train down to flea markets and walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge. His knees are not happy about it but he has been able to enjoy the sites of the city now that he doesn’t have to watch it from the driver’s window. We talked about Flea Market Flip and the Gotham Market. It wasn’t until I exited the train at 42nd street that I realized we never exchanged names.

I have never has such nice company from a stranger on the train before. New York City’s subway system taught me to be aware, and cautious at all times. I can’t say this experience has changed me to the point where I will open up and converse with anyone but I guess I find it nice to know that the MTA’s out of service train didn’t ruin my mood or day.

He was continuing on to Union Square. I hoped he transfer to the 6 train so he could make it to Canal Street. Maybe someday I’ll see him again, hopefully on a working train and we can laugh about the odds.

Stacking Reading Goals

I’m worried I created to many reading goals for the new year. I challenged myself to read 50 books with 12 of them being classics. I tried to promise myself I wouldn’t buy anymore books until I read some of the unread ones I already own. Also, I hope to decrease the number on my Goodreads’ to-read list. While, these can all fit nicely into the read 50 books challenge, I’m finding the classics can be dense and daunting. I thought I would read Jane Austen’s Persuasion this month but switch to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I didn’t feel I had the right mood for Persuasion. I want to complete my one classic novel a month goal but I do want to enjoy what I am reading. I do have many more opportunities to read this year with my hour commute to and from work. Just have to keep reading with the hope I lessen my pile of unread books, to-read titles, and classics collecting dust. I could be overreacting being only the second month and I’m seeing an overwhelming number of goals that seemed to fit together when I first made my list. Worst happens I don’t read 12 classics or reach my 50 books goal. I’ll know to lessen the reading goals next year. Maybe.