What Do You Want To Be Known For?

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I came across this question on Delicious Reads.  It’s a good question to think about for life, the universe and everything but I kept thinking about it in terms of my blog.  What do I want my blog to be known for?  It’s different than asking myself what my focus is.  I would tell you my focus is reading Young Adult books and a few classics.  But I can’t really be KNOWN for that since many, many blogs read Young Adult books. The thing I have always thought was the most unique about my blog were my Google Diary posts.  I don’t know anyone else that googles every books, painting, poem and location mentioned in a book.  In fact, I wonder why I do it.  Oh. Because I can’t help it.  I’m always asking questions and I HAVE TO KNOW THE ANSWER.  Imagine how grateful my parents were when the internet was invented.

More than anything I want to talk about the details and spoilers of a book.  I want to think deeply about books and analyze them.  I’m fascinated by character motivations.  My writing group has nicknamed me the “motive Nazi” because I’m constantly questioning the motives of the characters in their manuscripts.  They get flustered a lot from my constant questions of “But why would they do that?”  Motive is important!  Ironically, I’ve been writing the kind of book reviews I want to read but not the kind I want to write.

So why haven’t I been writing the kind of reviews I want? I’m scared. I’m scared of getting hate mail for spoiling books.  I’m scared no one will want to read 1500+ words on a book they’ve never read.  I’m scared that I will cross the line of constructive criticism and enter the Internet Troll Zone.  I’m scared of ripping apart someone’s beloved book and getting comments like “Who do you think you are to poo poo on my book like that?” I don’t have a degree in book reviewing so they kind of have a point.  All I have is an abnormal amount of curiosity and the desire to write about it.  And you know what? I think that’s enough.

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I’m not going to write hate reviews (I hope).  I do have a sarcastic voice and I hope that it never comes across as a hate review.  I have a friend who is a writer and wants to be an author someday.  I think I’m going to pass my reviews by her and ask, “As an author, would this review rip out your heart and crush your soul? Check one – Yes No”

I found this awesome YouTube channel that reviews movies called Critical Hit.  When I watched their reviews, I was like, “This. THIS is how I want to review books!”  They ask tons of questions.  They think about specific reasons why they did or didn’t like a movie.  But I never felt like they crossed the line into movie bashing.  It’s easier to do reviews like that for movies since more people watch them, but I’m still going to give it a try for books.  Maybe I will still have a small, spoiler free recommendation of what I liked and didn’t like in case you want to read the book I’m reviewing and don’t want to be spoiled.  Would you like that? Check a box – Yes No. Just kidding :) But I would love to hear from you! Do you want a short, spoiler-free version of my reviews if I’m going to go into the details and spoilers of the book? What kind of reviews do you like reading? What kind of reviews do you like to write? I’m curious :)

I liked Ashley’s question on her blog Nose Graze: What do you enjoy?  I had fun reading her list so I wanted to share mine.

  • Reading young adult
  • Writing memories from my childhood
  • Watching movie adaptions of books and analyzing them
  • Watching TV shows that make you think or have witty dialogue
  • Organizing stuff in my house
  • Analyzing all the things – books, movies, music, my kids etc.
  • Playing board games
  • Traveling
  • Cooking
  • Blogging
  • Meeting authors
  • My Book Club
  • Spending time with my family
  • Writing in notebooks and planners
  • Figuring out how to run my house efficiently
  • Problem solving
  • Learning new things – Photoshop, CSS, PHP etc.
  • iPhone apps

So what can I actually blog about?  I can pretty much blog about all of them except my family life, which I want to keep personal.  And I have tried blogging about cooking.  I found it tedious and boring.  Definitely not for me.  I can post on Instagram the food I cook if anyone is interested, but that’s as far as I’ll go.  I also don’t want to blog about organizing my house.  As much as I like it, I don’t have anything to say about it other than, “Look what I finished! Gold star for me!”  Yeah, I’m not cut out to be a lifestyle blogger and I truly admire the people that can do it well.

Honestly, I want to be known for my book reviews.  I’m scared but excited to start writing more in depth reviews!

What about you? What do you want to be known for? It can be in your life, in your hobbies, or your blog.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Banner image photo credit: Aristocrats-hat

Tips for Running a Book Club

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I love our book club.   But running a book club is something this introverted girl had never done and I ran into a few challenges that I didn’t expect.  I wanted to talk about how our book club changed and evolved into the amazing and fun group it is now and share with you the things I learned.

Yay! We Have A Book Club! What Are We Going to Read?

At first, we drew book selections from a hat.  The goal of this was to avoid the pressure of trying to pick something everyone will like.  If you come with one book and no one seems excited about it but they liked everyone else’s books, it kinda sucks.

But then it was too much of a hassle and we ran into the problem of not everyone getting their book picked since it was random.  It was a little unfair.  So we went to the style where the host for that month just picked the book.  That worked for a while but it came to the point where the hosts were picking things the majority of the group had read or didn’t want to read.  It led to a few book bashing sessions which hurt some of the hosts feelings.  That also sucked.

The best way to pick books is a combination of the first two sucky methods.  At our Christmas Party, we have everyone bring three book choices and present them to the group.  Then we vote as a group which to read.  Each person has the freedom of picking something to read and the group doesn’t get stuck reading something that most of us have read.

Picking books can make or break your book club.  If, for example, you have a genre based book club, people will agree on the selections but you have to be very picky about who you let in.  No one will have fun in a YA book club if one person really hates YA. You’d basically have to kick them out and that really sucks.  I made the mistake of assuming that because I like reading YA everyone else would, too.  I was surprised at how diverse my friends reading tastes really were. So our book club evolved into a more eclectic, try-new-things type book club which is fun.  It’s just not the YA only book club I had thought it would be.  To me, though, it was more important to have a group that functioned for my friends and it didn’t matter that much to me what we read.  Make the book selections fit your members or find members that fit the kind of book selections you want.

Can I Be In Your Book Club?

One of the biggest things I should have established at the beginning of my book club was how big it was going to be and who we would let in.  I didn’t think about this because 1) I thought no one would come so it never occurred to me that we would get TOO big and 2) if no one is coming then we can just let anyone in.  Our book club was quite small at first but since I hadn’t established any rules the group quickly grew exponentially.  I didn’t want to be a snobby book club with trials for new members and stuff like that, but if our club got too big we literally wouldn’t be able to function.  We reached 12 active, participating members with about 5 that came occasionally.  If everyone did decide to come, we wouldn’t fit in some of the hosts living rooms and we’d be shouting at each other to be heard.  So we established the rules of who to let in and the max number of members about a year after we started.  We settled on 12 members max so each person could have a turn to host and we decided that only people in our neighborhood could come.  I’ll be honest, it was really hard to establish rules after the fact without hurting some of the members feelings.  I even got emails asking if they were still allowed to come.  It broke my heart!  Learn from me – set up the max size and who is allowed in very very first even if you think your book club will never grow.

We have the regular host rules.  Whoever’s book is that month is where the meeting will be and the host will have treats.  This is more of an unwritten rule.  We just like eating and talking :).   The host also gets to run the discussion of their book.  Each member can bring something they want to discuss, but the host usually has discussion questions.  Without a discussion leader, our group would often break off into smaller groups and the book that the host lovingly picked and lots of people spent time reading barely got discussed.

Facebook, Email or Letter by Owl?

I’m lazy.  I wanted the fastest, easiest way to communicate with the book club.  We started with email but I didn’t feel like the group communicated with each other.  Email is very one way.  I didn’t realize getting books for members was even a problem until a few months in!  Good communication in a book club is so important!  Long story short – here’s why Facebook Groups kicks email’s butt for communication.

  • I can make events with dates, times and locations on Facebook that people can join and Facebook will remind them for me.  I got many, many texts and emails asking what the next’s month book is and when the next meeting is and where is the next meeting.  It’s a lot of work to answer all those individually.  Facebook makes a one place stop for everyone to find that information easily.
  • It’s easy for me to communicate to the group from my phone.  I could never figure out how to send a group email from my phone.  Even if such a thing is possible, it doesn’t compare to how easy it is to post in our Facebook Group and everyone immediately sees it.  I would often procrastinate sending out reminders for book club because that meant I had to boot up my laptop (ugh so long!).  Sometimes people would forget to come because of it.  Totally my fault.
  • Only people in our group will get updates.  Facebook Groups can be closed meaning only members see what is posted in there.  I also like how Facebook will tell me how many people saw a post on there.  I always wondered if anyone was even getting my emails….
  • The group can communicate to each other! I think this is the best feature.  Now anyone can get on there and ask to be next in line for the book, or for the recipe from the meeting last night, or ask questions about the book as we are reading.

Where Did You Get That?

Like I said earlier, I found out a few months in that members were having a hard time finding the books we were reading.  Our local library usually has one copy of any book (if they even have it).  Since our library system isn’t county wide like the rest of the libraries in the whole entire state, if our local library didn’t have it there wasn’t any other way to get it other than buying it. So we all pitched to pay for the library system in the neighboring county because they have better selection (they have 60 copies! Of one book!).  I would often be able to bring a stack of next month’s book to each meeting.  My library allows me to check out 8 books at once so I can bring enough for everyone to read and pass around.  Having the library account just for book club makes it so I can still use my own account for myself and my kids.  If you don’t have an awesome library (my condolences) then I would establish the precedent of people having to buy the book every month in order to join.  I didn’t think it would be very nice to just spring that on the members after they had been coming for a few months.  I didn’t want money to keep members away that wanted to come, so a book club library account worked out really well for us.  When our book club didn’t have it’s own library account, our members sometimes wanted to read the book but couldn’t and so the discussion would move away from the book quickly because a lot of people in the group hadn’t read it.

In case you are wondering, the book club library account is actually under my name.  I am personally responsible for all the books that are checked out.  We have such a great group that I have never had to hunt down a book.  They appreciate the favor of my getting the books for them and they return that favor by making sure to always get the books back on time.

What We Are Reading This Year

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
  • In The Heart Of The Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
  • I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

One of the girls in the book club made these great bookmarks! She did the design herself and got them printed at OvernightPrints.  They are great quality and our club LOVES them.

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Do you have a book club? What are some of the things you do in your book club?  What were some of your favorite books you’ve read in your book club?

Book vs. Movie: Northanger Abbey

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Northerner Abbey 2007If you love Austenland, like I did, then you need to see JJ Field in this 2007 adaption of Northanger Abbey. Yay JJ Field! He plays Henry, one of the only funny Jane Austen heroes, and does it marvelously.  I thought this was a great adaption of Northanger Abbey and it was a lot of fun to watch.

There’s something about watching Jane Austen’s stories come to life that just highlights the sarcasm and wit that she has.  I always like seeing how directors take ideas and themes in books and make them visual.  I really liked the scenes where Catherine’s imagination ran wild.

The movie made John Thorpe seem more obviously devious and I’m not sure I was a fan of him planting the weed of something being wrong with Henry’s mother’s death.  I liked Catherine coming up with that insane theory in the book for no reason whatsoever.

Jane Austen totally info-dumps about Catherine’s childhood and I’m always amazed at how she can pull that off without being boring.  I liked that this movie adaption went into her childhood and showed a few scenes from it.

NorthangerAbbey2007720pBluRayx264-7SinS00363518-17-41There were a few things I missed from the book that weren’t in the movie like Henry telling the story about the chest and the Mrs. Thorpe/Mrs. Allen interactions of talking AT each other instead of TO each other.  They also skipped the dinner where Henry was extra kind to Catherine because he knew he’d hurt her feelings.  I thought that scene was so sweet.  But some things always have to go and I understood why they left those things out.  I also like it when they make intentional changes that ARE different but highlight the same story like when they had her travel at night instead of during the day like in the book because it showed how rude and hurried her leaving was.

The resolution in the movie was very similar to that of the book.  I always feel like Jane Austen’s novels just kind of end.  She always thinks of witty ways to start a book with amazing first sentences.  People always talk about the great first sentences of her novels but no one seems to talk about or even remember the last sentences of her novel.

Overall, this was a great adaption of a delightful Jane Austen novel that I think you should see.

4 Stars

My Google Diary for A Study in Scarlet

Google-Diary-Banner-A-Study-in-ScarletMy Google Diary for A Study in ScarletA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

 

When I read, I ask a LOT of questions. Here’s some stuff I searched or wondered about while reading A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.

From my review:

I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet.  The dialogue was catchy and natural.  I found the book surprisingly easy to read especially considering how old it is.  The thing that really stands out in this book and the thing that has made it last for so long are the characters.  Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric, sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest.  And of course the thing that makes his character so fun to watch on TV in the modern adaptation – his cocky genius.  I couldn’t hate this guy if I tried.  I loved seeing these two iconic characters meet (Sherlock and Watson) to set the stage for the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series …. Read more

Salt Flats

 

In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert … 

There are swift-flowing rivers which dash through jagged cañons; and there are enormous plains, which in winter are white with snow, and in summer are gray with the saline alkali dust. They all preserve, however, the common characteristics of barrenness, inhospitality, and misery.

– Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet (p. 63)

Since I live here, and I have all my life, he describes the Salt Flats perfectly.  But the book made me laugh because the whole state of Utah does not look like this as the book seemed to imply.  I’ve been to the Salt Flats and they are pretty cool.

I love the way that Sherlock describes music.

“Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood.”

– Sherlock Holmes, from A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (p. 39)

That he could play pieces, and difficult pieces, I knew well, because at my request he has played me some of Mendelssohn’s Lieder, and other favourites.

– Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet (p. 14)

I love finding books from ones mentioned in other books.

Scenes De La Vie De Bohemian Henry Murger

Scènes de la Vie de Bohème by Henri Murger

Watson reads this while he’s bored and waiting for Sherlock to come back.

 “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allen Poe

“You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”

– Arthur Conan Doyle A Study in Scarlet (p. 18)

Dupin is the detective in the short story The Murders in Rue Morgue. I find this quote so funny since this is also a story about a detective.

L’Affaire Lerouge by Émile Gaboriau

“Have you read Gaboriau’s works?” I asked. “Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?”

– Arthur Conan Doyle A Study in Scarlet (p. 18)

Gaboriau wrote at the same time as Doyle but with the fame of Doyle and Sherlock, Lecoq became less known.  His character sounds really interesting though.  Lecoq was based on a real person who went from a criminal to a cop.

 

About Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle was born the third of ten siblings on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was born in England of Irish descent, and his mother, born Mary Foley, was Irish. They were married in 1855.

Books I Abandoned in 2014

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I made a commitment last year to quit books if I wasn’t enjoying them. I still wanted to talk about those books a little because even though I didn’t like them, you might.  And if you loved a book I abandoned feel free to tell me what I missed out on!

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

The Other Normals

by Ned Vizzini

Release Date: September 25, 2012

Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn’t happening–not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp to become a man. They want him to be outdoors playing with kids his own age and meeting girls–rather than indoors alone, with only his gaming alter ego for company. Perry knows he’s in for the worst summer of his life.

Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game, including the alluring Ada Ember, whom Perry finds more beautiful than any human girl he’s ever met. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.

Bestselling author Ned Vizzini delivers a compulsively readable and wildly original story about the winding and often hilarious path to manhood.

Why I abandoned it: I made it to page 77 which is when the conflict started to show up and it just didn’t interest me. Kiss the girl to save the world wasn’t enough to pull me in. Having a role playing game come to life was an interesting idea. I like how it ties in the role playing game to change his real life but…I was bored since I’m not into role playing games.  I just felt disconnected from the story.  As far as content there were a few f-words and some crude sexual references.

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World's Strongest Librarian

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

by Josh Hanagarne

Release Date: May 2, 2013

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

Why I abandoned it: I stopped reading at 62%. I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. His childhood was so interesting to read about. He talks about growing up Mormon, his family whom he loved a lot, and the struggles he had with bullying. When there were about 3 hours left in the 8 hour audiobook, I just didn’t feel like reading anymore. There had been a lot of f-words which I don’t enjoy but the main reason I put this one down was because when he gets to his adult life, he goes in this vicious circle of going to school, quitting school, getting a job, quitting a job because it was hard for him to do these things with Tourrettes. I liked his honesty about his life but at the same time I didn’t see why I should continue listening to the audiobook. At the beginning of each chapter he talks about experiences he has at the library he works at in Salt Lake City so I know he becomes a librarian. I just didn’t see why it would take three more hours to get to that point.  This is a nice way of me saying that I got bored. I feel like I learned a lot from what I did read. I have more empathy and understanding of what Tourettes is. I think if you aren’t Mormon and want to learn more about Mormon culture in a funny and bluntly honest way, then this book might be for you (if you don’t mind the strong language). I didn’t think this was a terrible book in any way but I feel like it’s time for me to move on.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman

Release Date: June 18, 2013

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Why I abandoned it: I stopped reading at 39%. Wow. Horror is just not for me. I can’t handle graphic and disturbing.  I was invested in the story and the writing was good so I went to wiki and read the plot summary to see how things work out.  In short, things do not work out.  It’s horror. That’s how it goes.  I’m glad I tried it.  Horror is one of the only genres I list as one I won’t read and it feels nice to have that confirmed.  The fact that I hated it says that this was excellent horror for any horror fans out there.

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The Unhappening of Genesis Lee

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee

by Shallee McArthur

Release Date: November 18, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.

Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

Why I abandoned it: I stopped reading at 26%. The writing was good but I just couldn’t get into the story. I didn’t care that much about the memories being stolen.  Since memories being stolen was the whole point of the book, I didn’t see it working out between us.  It’s not you book – it’s me.  Well, not really.  I felt like the conflict needed to developed a little more.  But the world building is unique and if you’re looking for something new, give it a try. If you care by a quarter of the way through this might be a good match for you.

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