Posts Tagged With: reading

It’s January 3rd

I’ve already finished two books this year. (Reading of course, not writing!) I think aiming for a third by the end of today is too much to ask…unless I find a really short one.

I’ve been meaning to work on a couple of short stories over the past few weeks. I’ve had very good intentions, but of course the silly season sometimes gets in the way, and a 2016 deadline feels like ages away when the calendar still says 2015.

All of a sudden it’s 2016, and the end of the month seems frighteningly close when all I have one half-outline and one half-draft, that I’m intending to enter into two different competitions. The half-drafted piece is due on January 31st – and thanks to our lovely postal service’s recent changes, that means it needs to be in the post by about the 25th (even with a priority label on it!)

The piece which is currently only a half-outline is due on February 1st, but thankfully only requires electronic submission, so I will have that last week of January to focus on it entirely.

What am I doing here? I have short stories to write!

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Thank goodness!

I just had to share this article…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-read Harry Potter…

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On Expanding my Horizons

The other day, my father implied that I only read books of British or American origins. At first I protested, and then I thought about it a little. It turns out it’s true. Most of what I read does originate in countries that are/were a part of the British Commonwealth.

  • Australia
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Great Britain
  • Ireland
  • India
  • South Africa

There are a few notable exceptions. I’ve read a fair few French novels (translated into English of course). I’ve read a few things from Austria, Germany and the Netherlands (mostly memoirs from WW2 and the holocaust), and one novel about the Titanic by a Norwegian author. Here’s a map showing the origin countries of the authors I’ve read. (Don’t read anything into the colours, I just picked at random!)

To be honest, this is a little sad. I’m sure there are some awesome books out there from other cultures and awesome authors from other countries. I’ve even read reviews of some of them on other people’s blogs, but somehow the books themselves have never made it onto my TBR. So, in 2015, I will be challenging myself to branch out and read a few novels from other parts of the world (provided I can get an English translation). Hopefully when I publish this map again in 12 months time, it will be a lot more colourful!

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Who decides?

Google “100 books to read before you die” and you’ll find over 200 million results. Why are lists of great novels such a big deal these days?? It seems like everyone is anxious to get in on the act. Amazon, Goodreads, the BBC, Penguin, Time Magazine (just to name a few).

My biggest questions about these lists are these…

  • Who is it that decides what books belong on these lists (and what criteria do they use)?
  • Have the compilers of these lists actually read all of the books they’re recommending?
  • If I disagree with a book that’s made one of these lists, does that say something about my taste, or the compiler’s?

I’ve read a lot of books…and a fair few of them have made one or more of these lists. Remember a while back when the BBC put out a list of 100 books and claimed most people will have only read 6 of them? I’ve read 41, and bits of several more. The ones I haven’t read generally fall into 2 categories:

  • Books I just haven’t got around to reading yet
  • Books that I’m just not interested in reading (usually because the subject matter doesn’t interest me, or I’ve heard that it contains graphic sex, horror or violence)

Here’s the point I had in my head when I started this rant post. Am I a bad person if I refuse to read a work of ‘great literature’ simply because it is not to my taste? Am I really missing out on one of life’s ‘must-have’ experiences, or am I better off deciding that ‘life’s too short’ and instead doing something I’ll actually enjoy? What do you think?

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What happened to the last week??

Time’s been flying past again, and it’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything! Not that I haven’t been here. I’ve still been reading blogs, and commenting on blogs – even replying to comments on this blog – I just haven’t had anything interesting enough to say to merit a full post…

I’m hoping I’ll have plenty to say in the next few weeks though. I’ve been reading a lot, and hope to have a few new reviews up soon. I’ve also finally purchased a Kindle, but due to a communication issue with the bank I haven’t actually been able to buy any eBooks yet. I’m told this issue has now been fixed, so I’ll post an update on my Kindle experience once I’ve had a real chance to play with it.

As far as writing goes, it feels like over the past week or so my ‘get up and go’ just got up and went. In that spirit it seems a good time to share this quote, which has really resonated with me lately.

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” – Neil Gaiman

For me, yesterday was a good writing day. Not only did I manage to sketch out two plot outlines (one flash-fiction and one creative non-fiction), I actually managed to flesh one of them out to the point where it won’t need too much more editing and polishing before it’s ready for submission. I can’t tell you how good it felt to see some real progress!! I’m hoping to have both pieces ready for publication in the next issue of The Paperbook Collective so keep an eye out for them around December 1st!

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The book was better…

This topic can hardly be seen as controversial. I’m sure it’s something that as readers, all of us have said at one time or another. When books are adapted for the screen (whether it be cinema or television) changes are going to be made. From poor casting choices to major plot alterations, stories are adjusted to differing degrees. On rare occasions, these changes bring something new and exciting to the piece, but for the most part they are going to disappoint someone.

I’m usually pretty laid back when it comes to my opinion of screen adaptions. If something adheres to what I see as the ‘spirit’ of the book, I’m usually happy. Take the Harry Potter series, for example. The world created in the films was almost exactly as I had imagined it when reading the books. They kept most of the main plot points in their places, and although I was disappointed that Peeves didn’t make the cut, I was still able to enjoy the parts that did make it onto the screen. My only concern with the films was that towards the end they left out a lot of explanatory details which may have confused people who hadn’t read the book…but that didn’t affect me personally.

People often express concern when they hear that a new adaption is going to be made of a favorite book. I was very concerned when one of my favourite series was recently adapted for TV. I’m not going to name names, mostly because

  1. They tell me the author was actually pretty happy with how the TV series turned out
  2. I’m afraid I may not be very nice about it

All I will say is that it’s a series of crime novels, and while I quite like the way the lead character is portrayed

  • several of the main characters are nothing like I imagined they’d be
  • several key characters were cut, and new characters were added in their place
  • due to the format, most of the story lines were cut down to a ridiculous degree
  • several new subplots (one completely out of character) were added to ‘tie the series together’

Let’s face it, they never tried any of that (insert the appropriate expletive here) on Agatha Christie’s novels…

Now that I’ve had my little rant, let’s get back on topic. I like to read the book first when I can. I’d much rather see the author’s original vision than someone else’s interpretation. I prefer to picture the scenes for myself, rather than rely on what I’m shown on the screen. There are some adaptions out now that I’m holding off from seeing until I’ve read the book/s.

  • The Hunger Games trilogy
  • A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)

There have been times when for one reason or another I’ve seen the screen adaption first. If I like it, I’ll usually go on and read the book, and nine times out of ten, I’ll find that I still enjoyed the book more than the movie. So how about you? What screen adaptions have you loved or hated? Why??

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I haven’t posted that much this week…why? There are two reasons.

  1. I’ve been trying to figure out a couple of decent plots for short story competitions I want to enter in the next few months.
  2. I’ve been reading a lot, but not finishing anything.

ImageAs it turns out, this picture is just a sample of the books currently on my TBR list. I took it a bit over a week ago, and in that time I have finished exactly one book in this pile. I am half-way through another two. Note that I said this is only a sample.

It does not include

  • Novels in a series that I’ve already read but want to revisit before the next release
  • Books I haven’t actually gotten my hands on yet
  • A couple of books I’d totally forgotten I’d bought (that happens to everyone, right?)

In reality, my TBR pile is probably close to twice this size…and I’m really starting to lose track of it. I’ve even resorted to listing books in a word document, and ticking them off as I read them, but lately it feels like for every book I tick off, I’m adding another two or three I haven’t got to yet.

I’m sure I’m not alone here…since I started blogging I’ve found many other bloggers publishing long lists of books they want to read (which is possibly a factor in the recent blow-out in my own list!) I’m open to suggestions. How do you deal with the TBR?

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When do you put a book down…forever?

Do you ever ‘give up’ on a book? You’ve started reading it with such good intentions, but it’s just not drawing you in. Do you force yourself to keep going? Do you choose not to waste any more time on it? How do you decide?

I’ve only started a few books that I haven’t finished. Maybe I’ve just been lucky with my choices in reading material. Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit stubborn… I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve put a book down for a few weeks (or months) but with the bookmark still firmly in place so I can come back to it later. There have also been times when I’ve been reading several books at once, and one has been so engrossing that the other was pushed to one side, but I’ve always come back to it eventually.

When I was younger, there were a couple of occasions where I found I needed to watch a movie adaption to help me understand the story – mostly early classics, the first being Anne of Green Gables. I always prefer to read the book first if I can, but at that time I had almost no experience of that style of literature, and for a child in the 1990’s some older books might as well have been written in a foreign language!

A few times I have admitted defeat:

  • Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I managed to struggle my way through it once, but I didn’t enjoy it. Knowing it was a ‘classic’ I waited a few years and gave it another go, but decided it wasn’t working for me. The chapters that are mostly narrative are okay, but every second chapter (it felt like) was a scientific treatise on the plight of the whale, the anatomy of whales, the different types of whales…it got boring pretty fast.
  • Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes. I’ll read romances, but I don’t always love them…this one just didn’t get my attention fast enough.
  • There was a ‘fantasy romance’ – I can’t even remember which one or who it was by, but I was in my teens at the time and it was a gift. I’d probably give it another go now, but it didn’t survive the last cull of my collection.

I’m struggling with a very thick tome at the moment, but I’m determined to finish it this time – it’s my third attempt! I’m over 400 pages further into it this time than on either of my first two attempts, but with almost 800 pages to go, it’s still going to be a hard slog. I’ve found that, like Moby Dick, the sections of narrative are a very easy read, but for some reason every so often I’ll come across 50 pages of editorialising which today’s publishers would probably have cut as irrelevant (or barely so) to the story. I started reading it in April, and if I could bring myself to read 50 pages a day I’d have it knocked over in three more weeks…but at the rate I’m going, I’ll be lucky if I finish it by Christmas!!

So what about you? When do you put a book down…forever?

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If you don’t ha…

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

I love reading. It’s one of my favourite pastimes. And to ensure a continuing supply of reading material, I love visiting second-hand bookshops. Imagine my surprise (and pleasure) when I went to one of my favourite second-hand bookshops today and found that they had reduced all their prices by 50%!!!

As you can imagine, my poor bank account took quite a beating…well…as much as I could justify spending anyway.

I always take a wish list with me when I go to bookshops. I love to browse, and pick out books that intrigue me, but when it comes to my favourite authors, like Agatha Christie or Kerry Greenwood, I have so many of their works already that I need a list to remind me which ones I still need. Agatha Christie wrote 66 detective novels…after today’s little spend-up I own 59 of them. I also have 10 of her 21 short story collections and a collection of her plays. You can see why I find it hard to remember which ones I already have (and why I have a few duplicates in my collection!)

My problem is not finding the time to read – it’s deciding what to read next. Right now I have four books I’m half-way through, and a long list of books I still want to read. No wonder I’m having trouble finding more time to write!!!

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