Booking Through… Saturday?

Okay, I’ve loved Booking Through Thursday since I first found out about it a couple of years ago. It’s a weekly question about reading or books that serves as a great writing prompt for blog posts.  Problem is, I always forget to do it. This year I’d really like to get used to the idea, though, and so I give you my first Booking Through Thursday prompt. Yes, I know it’s Saturday night. Give me a break.

What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?

I have to admit, the thickest book I’ve ever read all the way through is probably Gone With the Wind. Mercy, even Middlemarch isn’t as long, and Middlemarch is 800+ pages. And if you’re curious, yes I read that one, too. All. The. Way.

Like many a girl before me, and probably (hopefully) many to come, I had a deep infatuation with Gone With the Wind when I was younger. It started with the movie. I’d seen it once when I was very small, but all I really remembered from it were the (amazing!) dresses and the fire. Oh, and Clark Gable. Because… he’s Clark Gable. *blushes*

When I was eleven or twelve I watched it on TV—on the WB, to be exact, back when the network still existed alone—and fell utterly in love with it. My mom would sigh and tell me how Vivian Leigh wasn’t her Scarlett O’Hara (I had to get it from somewhere, you know?) but I didn’t mind. I watched enthralled from the twins (Frank and Fred? Oh dear… someone will call me out on that if it’s wrong) fawning over Scarlett, through her dancing in mourning clothes and the Atlanta Fire (which nothing has ever compared to cinematically since, if you ask moi) to her declaration of Tomorrow being another day.

This was right before they digitally remastered the film and made all the colors brighter. I think I got that double VHS copy for Christmas that year.

And so, I read the book. Oh, that book. I remember bits of it so vividly. Rhett leaving her on the bridge… Scarlett beating her horse so that it got her to Tara, the thick, thick mist in her dream that was so much more oppressive than they were in the movie. Also, all of the extra husbands and kids that didn’t make it into the film version.

I would think about how Margaret Mitchell used the manuscript as a stabler for her kitchen table for years, something that appalled me as an already-aspiring author. How Clark Gable was afraid he couldn’t pull it off because he was a comedian. How he was actually who she pictured as Rhett Butler, which was completely amazing to me. I read the book twice, but I’d like to read it again someday… I wonder how different I’d take to it now that I’m all growed up and whatnot.

Other thick books I have read at least most of:

Middlemarch by George Eliot — As mentioned. I loved this book. It’s long and dry in some parts, yeah, but definitely a classic for a reason. You know how Jane Austen said that Anne Elliot from Persuasion was “almost too good” for her? That’s the feeling I get from Middlemarch, except in this case Dorothea is really, honestly, VERY good in every single way. Kind, pious, generous, etc. Somehow she’s not unrealistic, though. And she’s not immune to romance, either.

The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest DiaristsI completely loved this book. I can’t say I’ve read every single entry, because it was for a class and I got behind a bit, but it has writing from so many amazing, brilliant and diverse people. I highly, highly recommend it.

The Norton Anthology of Poetry — I read through the first half of this (I think I actually read every poem) for a class. I wish I could have taken the second half of the class, but it was at the same time as another class I wanted to take more. I don’t know where my NAP (as I called it affectionately—though in all honesty, the content rarely made me sleepy) is at the moment, and that thought saddens me greatly, because it’s such a pretty book. I’d like to take it out and read it slowly.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson — This… was also for a class. Are we seeing a pattern here? I re-read it just over a year ago, though, because that class officially made me a Dickinson lover for life. Every time I read an Emily Dickinson poem, I want to read a hundred more of them. She is that good.

A seriously thick book I want to read, which is sitting on my shelf just waiting? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I’ve heard it described as a Harry Potter* for adults, complete with seriously awesome footnote** content, something Thursday Next novels have made me a complete geek for.

What’s the thickest book you’ve read?

*I suppose a couple of the HP books are long too, eh?

**I completely forgot this word for a good five minutes. Had to resort to Google to figure it out. Then had to head-desk.

New Spin on Vamp Books?

Or maybe I should say… books about vampires that I actually WANT to read?!

Because I DO. Oh I do.  There have been not one, but two vampire books that have caught my attention in the past couple of days that I just… want. Is it because they promise more Edward-Cullen-esque smolder?  Nah… I was always a Jacob Black fangirl, thanks very much. (Not that I don’t like Edward… I just get sick of him easy).

So why do I want to read these books?  Because I think they are a brilliant response to the flood of vampire books that have been well—everywhere. I did say flood, right?  Right.

Book Number One: Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney

Some vampires are good. Some are evil. Some are faking it to get girls.

Awkward and allergic to the sun, sixteen-year-old Finbar Frame never gets the girl. But when he notices that all the female students at his school are obsessed with a vampire romance novel called Bloodthirsty, Finbar decides to boldly go where no sane guy has gone before–he becomes a vampire, minus the whole blood sucking part. With his brooding nature and weirdly pale skin, it’s surprisingly easy for Finbar to pretend to be paranormal. But, when he meets the one girl who just might like him for who he really is, he discovers that his life as a pseudo-vampire is more complicated than he expected. This hilarious debut novel is for anyone who believes that sometimes even nice guys-without sharp teeth or sparkly skin–can get the girl.

————

O.M.B.

I think this is brilliant.  I admit, I was hooked from the first three sentences. SUCH a smart pitch! I would LOVE to read this book, and it is definitely on my TBR list.

Book Number Two: Fat Vampire by Adam Rex.

Doug Lee is undead quite by accident—attacked by a desperate vampire, he finds himself cursed with being fat and fifteen forever. When he has no luck finding some goth chick with a vampire fetish, he resorts to sucking the blood of cows under cover of the night. But it’s just not the same.

Then he meets the new Indian exchange student and falls for her—hard. Yeah, he wants to bite her, but he also wants to prove himself to her. But like the laws of life, love, and high school, the laws of vampire existence are complicated—it’s not as easy as studying Dracula. Especially when the star of Vampire Hunters is hot on your trail in an attempt to boost ratings. . . .

Searing, hilarious, and always unexpected, Fat Vampire is a satirical tour de force from one of the most original writers of fiction today.

————
I actually like the summary on the back much better, but that’ll do.  Again, a brilliant twist on vampire-mania. I saw this idea toyed with on the short-lived show Moonlight (Oh hai, second Jason Dohring TV show that cancelled on me way too soon.) (Bitter? Who me?) but this novel promises a much more in-depth approach to the idea of being fifteen and awkward… forever.  I was hooked at the tag-line: “A Never Coming of Age Story.” I couldn’t help but  think how poignant that was. A critic quote on the back of the book makes it clear that this isn’t just a satire, either, but a rich full story that’ll make you hurt and laugh. I so want to read it.
The thing that gets my goat? These ideas aren’t far-fetched or even particularly ground-breaking. What they are, are great examples of taking something that’s been done to death (or undeath, if you will! I’m all about the side-comments tonight, hm?) and spun them on their head, attacking them from a different, original angle. Something not like the piles of vampire books that line the romance and YA shelves at Barnes & Noble.  They don’t just make a mockery of the genre either, though… they’ve found good, legitimate reasons for hitting a subgenre from the side and turning it into something new. And I think that’s brilliant.

Reactive Reading

My husband has started reading the first Fablehaven novel by Brandon Mull, which is one of my favorite series, ever. Probably my very favorite kid-lit series (I’m not counting Harry Potter here, he’s in a realm of his own). Fantasy like you’ve always wanted it—scary at the right times, but always uplifting and full of awesome heroics. (Not half so emotionally dark as something like The Spiderwick Chronicles, either).

Anyhow, back to my husband. Now, I read pretty intently. You sit me down with a good book and I’m glued to it. I don’t want any interruptions if the book is really good. When something shocks or worries me, I probably gasp or widen my eyes, possibly clench the book closer to me, but really I’m still all alone in my little world—or rather, I’ve forgotten myself entirely, because I’m so deep in the world I’m reading about. And I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t want anybody near me when I read. When I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I shut myself up in my room for three days, only coming out when it was absolutely necessary.

My husband on the other hand, has sat next to me while doing most of his reading (I’ve been reading too, but mine is a mix of business and pleasure), and he reacts vocally to what he reads. He’s gotten incredibly frustrated with one of the characters—Seth, if you’ve read the books—and has vented that frustration loudly to me. I’ve read all but the last book (I really hate for it to end, so I’ve been prolonging it. That, and I was getting married, so I was a little busy) so I love Seth, despite his rash ways that always lead him into trouble. I tried pointing out that he didn’t know what he was doing in a lot of the scenes that irritated my husband so much, but he would have none of it.

I honestly love it. I think his reactions are great, and I really should have expected nothing less, as my husband’s personality could never quite be mistaken for quiet, like mine. Anybody else seen someone read so reactively?  Do you, by chance?

P.S. I’m really excited to watch as he reads the rest of the series. The Fablehaven books just get more and more awesome as they go, and his reading them makes me want to reread them. And okay, finally finish the series.

P.P.S. The Jayne icon is the closest I could find to relay the obvious reactions my hubby’s been having, but on a sidenote, I’ve gotten him watching Firefly, too. We’re about half-way through the series now. The hooks are in. He’s caught.

Carving time to Read

I have been a horrific reader of late.  If I’ve been reading anything, it’s been blog posts and news articles, stuff to critique for my writing group, or stuff for work.  I’ve also been reading a lot of tweets, which really, really do not count.

I made the goal again this year of reading 52 books in 52 weeks, but it’s over two weeks into the year and I haven’t finished a single book.  Then again, I also haven’t been giving myself any time to read.  I’ve been trying pushing myself so hard when it comes to writing, getting all my freelance stuff done and trying to get novel-writing time in also, that I’ve been sapping myself of my best source of inspiration—great books.

A lot of writers (as I’ve been reminded these past days, by reading their blogs) feel that reading is a part of the job.  Maybe one of the most important parts.  A lot of writers also mention that (like me) they feel guilty if they spend too much time doing anything that isn’t writing, and reading falls under that category—but they also realize that it’s to their detriment.

So I’ve decided something that might be very hard for me to do.  I’m going to let my weekends focus on reading.  I’m going to give myself my weekends to bury myself entirely in books, if I want to.  Let myself read as much as I want.  Actually give myself a chance to hit my reading goal.

I’m also planning on starting a regime of waking up at six in the morning to write, starting tomorrow, so that I have a set block of quiet time to work on my more creative endeavors.  Maybe as I get into the swing of things, I’ll be able to incorporate reading back into my schedule in a more normal basis, but we’ll see.

***

Japan update: In case you don’t know, I’m attempting to go to Japan this Spring/Summer with my husband if possible.  I’d be teaching English.  I’m applying all over the place, but only really seriously the past few days.  I’ve gotten two reply emails so far!  One “please send us this completed questionnaire!” that seems very encouraging, and another that wants me to reapply for their Summer term.  Wish me luck that my continued attempts go well!

Productivity tastes good.

Lately I’ve been trying to change the way I do things. The fact is, I’m kind of a workaholic, and when you’re a creative type working from home on either a self-employed or freelance basis like me, that can mean that you’re working ALL THE TIME. Do things get accomplished that way? Sure. But when you have a never-ending to-do list, it starts to feel like you’re never going to catch up.

And so, I’ve started making daily goals. Or rather, one or two big, specific goals for each day. Once I have those specific things done, I can count my day as a success. Anything else I get done is a bonus, and if I don’t get anything else done? I still had a good day.

Today I managed the two articles I was asked to write, along with listing a new item in my Etsy shop. (And blogging. See?!) I’d hoped to finish some music reviews I need done by the 15th, but that will be tomorrow’s big goal. Now, I’m going to snuggle up with my husband… or a good book. Whichever one is feeling more snuggly at the moment.

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

I am all excitement.  Why, you may ask?  Because I just found out that my favorite YA paranormal series ever has now been repackaged and is on sale.  This actually came out in JULY.  Why am I only finding out about it now? I don’t know.  I’m kind of sorry, too, because I’ve just made a bit of a vow that I won’t buy a new book until after I’m done writing my own.  (I’m considering not buying ANY books in 2011, but this may prove impossible.)

Anyhow. The books used to be called Fingerprints by Melinda Metz, who wrote the Roswell High books, and I’ve waxed rhapsodic about them in the past. Rae Voight is a popular high school girl with the perfect life, the perfect boyfriend—and a very dark secret about her mother, who died in a psych ward when she was just a baby.  Still, she’s made sure to construct the perfect life for herself at her prep school, and she’s done a very good job, but one day something happens that scares Rae to her very core—because she may be going crazy, just like her mom.  And if she’s not… then that’s actually worse, because if she’s not crazy, then someone wants to kill her.

I’ve always thought it was a shame that Fingerprints came before the big YA paranormal kick, because I thought it would do so much better once the audience had been suitably prepped to receive it.  Well apparently I wasn’t the only one.  The book is now called Echoes, which puts the first three Fingerprints books in one, and it has a brand new, gorgeous cover:

Isn’t it breathtaking?  The girl on the cover is actually very similar to how I’ve pictured Rae.  She’s one of my all-time favorite girl-power protags, witty and clever, hot and sarcastic… and just a little bit spoiled.  And Anthony.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love Anthony Fascinelli.

Anyhow, if you see Echoes by Melinda Metz, definitely snap it up.  It is WELL worth the read.  I can’t wait to get my hands on it myself… though I may have to wait a while!

You can read an excerpt of Echoes here. Enjoy! 🙂

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Other than fantastic effects, I really didn’t know what to expect going into this movie.  My older brother said it was fantastic, but he gets caught up in visual effects anyhow.  My sister found it particularly disturbing.  She said that it was gory and violent.  From the previews, personally, I found it to be very pastel.  But I went and saw it at a little dollar theater in Salt Lake the other night, and I have to admit, I enjoyed it.

It really was very dark and violent, something I don’t think I’d be comfortable with little kids seeing, but as a friend who saw it with me reminded me, so was The Secret of Nimh*, a movie that I watched as a young child (though, now that I think about it, I never really liked The Secret of Nimh).  It was much darker, for example, than the first Harry Potter film, and more disturbing in its darkness than the more recent Potter‘s, because on the surface it’s this cute, kid’s movie where all the characters are owls.  It sold itself as an adventure, and it certainly was, but it was an adventure with particularly cruel and sinister bad guys, along with ghastly betrayals by friends and brothers alike.

Why then, can I say that I enjoyed it?  Well, firstly, I liked some of the messages involved, especially the idea that stories are so important—that they inspire us to, both to dream and to act.  What I wasn’t so impressed with was how there seemed to be no chance for redemption for any of the bad characters.  Once you chose the wrong side, there’s no turning back from it, and you’ll probably suffer horrifically for it at some point.  At least once.

Maybe I’m judging harshly, or at least prematurely.  Maybe the story is much more gray-scale in the books, and there’s eventual redemption worked in.  Or maybe not.  Can anybody tell me?

*Also, both of these are movies based on books. Are kids’ books more acceptable in darkness than movies, maybe?  Or is it just that dark kids’ adventure books get turned into movies? I wonder….