Archives for category: Books

A few weeks back I went with only one bag, ready to fill it with orphan library books. It was that time of year again when the library takes stock, unloading its shelves of books that will find happy, new homes. I’ve perused Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project in the past, but didn’t immediately jump to action.

When I saw a beat up copy of the book staring out at me, I thought now seems the right time to dive in, figure out some more simple pleasure that I can add to my list and find new perspective in the familiar. There was a “Damage Noted” sticker on this one: “ragged, readable.” I taped up the front and back cover to reinforce it to get more use out of it before it starts to fall apart. I found some other books; I could’ve taken more bags, but I made a deal with myself that one bag was enough. I did also end up carrying a few books under my arms.

I’ve been dipping in and out of books. At one point I was going to pick up, in book form, where I left off in the audio version. I didn’t recognize anything, then I realized it was the wrong book and felt better. I sometimes worry that I’ll start losing track and cross plots and characters amongst the books I’m juggling. I’m usually pretty good about keeping it all separate. It’s challenging though, in the sense that I yearn to get back to one book, then another pulls me in, and that other one over there is saying, ‘read me, read me.’ All these books are vying for my attention.

Sometimes I know right away if a book and are will get a long really well; other times, I need to keep going a little longer to see if we’re a good fit. And still other times, I will feel satisfied right where I’ve stopped–forcing a new ending because another book is calling.

One book I almost gave up on is Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook. I’m so glad I didn’t. Month’s ago I started reading it, then put it aside. I had also downloaded the audio and started listening to it, then back to reading it–then perhaps it was being in one of the small bookstores looking through the tables of recommended books, and just maybe it was the woman nearby, also looking, searching, whom looked to me and said I loved this book, have you read it. I looked and because it was the hard cover, I didn’t immediately recognize it, then I said, “well, I started it, but haven’t finished it yet. I do believe it was her nudge that brought me back to the audio version. A sweet love story, that talking about, is making me want to go back for a visit.

One book that I recently downloaded is A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers. It’s different, in the way it’s organized through words–through the words the protagonist is learning, sprinkled with Chinese sayings. It has intrigued me and I think I’m in for the long haul. I want to see where this goes, how the language and thought process develops, how it ends.

Traveling through books is one of my favorite pastimes and also reading about peoples lives. I don’t always know whose lives will pull me in, wanting to read more, wanting to get to know the person more, read (hear about their experiences).

A couple of these that have recently come to my attention are Take Off Your Shoes: One Man’s Journey from the Boardroom to Bali and Back by Ben Fender. I am looking forward to traveling alongside Mr. Fender and his family. I’ve read up until the point where the transition begins and am happily awaiting getting back to the journey. The writing is clean and already I feel like I’m just beginning to know his family.

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying Yes to Living by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle. How could I not be inspired by a 90 year old woman, who is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and decides to say yes to life , join her son and daughter-in-law on an adventure on wheels, living out the time she has left in what may possibly be her last hurrah.

I came across these books from the daily BookBub email that I signed up for. I have found out about many great deals from them. It’s great!

http://www.bookbub.com

I came across the book, The Novel Cure while I was looking for another book in the library shelves. I like the concept of being prescribed a book for what ails you. I also like the idea of being introduced to books that I may not come across or some that I’ve read to see what the ailment was. A fun one to flip through.

Here I sit, writing in my journal, one of my tippity-top forms of happiness and one of which I’ve been depriving myself from enjoying.

Here I sit feeling the cold on my arms,
feeling my muscles tense with the chill.
One last sip from my teacup,
minty freshness perks my senses.
I hear the television in the background,
the aroma of someone’s hearty dinner wafting in the air,
happiness found in the tap tap tap of fingers on the keyboard,
as thoughts connect with words connect with the page,
making the day feel alright.

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It’s nice to have a day off. I’ve been in my new job now for a little over five months. The timing was right to leave my old job and I had no idea or expectation that things would work out as they did. I did put my faith in God, in the higher powers of the Universe; I prayed for guidance each day to let me know, to offer some sign…now here I am, with many serendipitous moments along the way.

I feel grateful. There is a probationary period–9 months; after I reach that hurdle, it will be official. Until then, I wait, I work, I rejoice for the opportunity.

Today I visited the library, it’s where I gravitate on my day’s off. I visited two today and here I sit in the second as I type these words out. I always enjoy browsing through the “New Books” shelves to see what I may have missed. I checked out a small stack and purchased two used books from the Friends of the Library bookstore. I had listened to the audio of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery years ago and have recently wanted to revisit it in book form. I remember listening intently to the story and am glad that I listened first. It may have been harder for me to find the right voices in my head for the characters and I may not have been as open to the young character who is planning her suicide.

Another audio that I’m happy to have listened to is Anna Karenina read by the actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal. I had sampled other versions, the readers not piquing my interest, but when I read about how much she loved the story, and upon hearing for myself–the care and passion that comes through effortlessly, I was immediately drawn in and have since listened to the story several times over. What a treat to the ears, the mind, and heart.

At my first library stop, fiction mostly was the aim. Here at my second stop, creativity and food won me over. It is getting close to lunch, so of course a bowl of soup or any Latin American dish sounds scrumptious. I couldn’t pass up Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books by Cindy Wang, since I love anything to do with books and my mother-in-law has been knitting hats, I thought she might enjoy a look at this book for some added inspiration and whimsy.

I know I won’t read all of these books, or the countless samples I’ve downloaded to Kindle or the freebies, or…

I’ve always enjoyed audio books and lately I’ve listened to more and more because I have extra time in the car on my way to and from work. I still read books, more slowly than usual. But even if I only get to know a book quickly, read a small portion of it–I tell myself that it counts for something; it counts for getting to know the book, if only a quick tryst. It’s better to have been acquainted, than our paths never crossing. A quick hello, or time over a cup of tea, and then goodbye, possibly only having this one chance meeting or perhaps our paths will cross again.

When I first learned of this book a few years ago, I never would have expected what I found within its pages. I appreciate snails, but I never imagined that I would want to keep reading of the companionship that one humble snail would offer to its newfound keeper and continue learning more. The writing is beautiful in an understated way. The descriptions of the author’s country home and nature transport, and the details allow the reader into this intimate space.

I never feel Elisabeth Tova Bailey feels sorry for herself in a way that takes away from her story or journey. I feel a kinship with her and her snail who becomes the shining star in this memoir because of her strange, debilitating illness, that comes upon her suddenly when she’s on her way from her travels to home.

I love that each chapter is headed by a haiku or quote that ties in nicely to each chapter. It’s true, this small book does indeed feel like a “delicate meditation on the meaning of life.”

A gentle and beautiful read that I’m happy to have stumbled upon.

There’s something that I’ve always found exciting about grab bags or–now–these blind book dates, something about being surprised, not knowing, figuring it out, finding something you might not have.

So, I had my first ever blind date with a book two weeks ago. The local bookstore has been doing this through the month of July. Donate a small amount of money, and take a book on a date. I don’t make it to this particular bookstore all that often; who knows how many opportunities I missed.

An assortment of books vied for my attention, all wrapped in the same brown paper outfits with a single clue written upon them. The one I chose had this clue: Australia late 1940s–novel re: renewal & moving on. I couldn’t wait until I got home to carefully peel the wrapping off to see which book would be waiting. Upon unwrapping the mystery book, the title that looked back at me was, The Railywayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay. I had never heard of it. By now, it’s been a few weeks, and I’m happy to report that the date was a success. I only got through the first 25 pages, but I was interested in the family and wanted to learn what would happen next. With so many other books competing for my attention, I plan on returning to its pages soon.

Next, I was off to find a book of my choosing. I love reading about books and especially why certain books are important to other readers, so I couldn’t pass up, The Books that Changed my Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians, and other Remarkable People by Bethanne Patrick.  I am throughly enjoying it and am purposefully taking it slow, although, it reads quite fast. I want it to last a while longer than it might normally. Already, there are several more books that I want to read because of this book and others that it has reminded me of.

I’ve since been back to the store because I had a coupon to use. I saw a book that seemed like it would be funny. It was between it, the funny one: Dating Tips for the Unemployed or Keep Me Posted. I wish would have gone with Keep Me Posted. As I started reading more of the other one, once I owned it, there just wasn’t a connection. The book and I were definitely not a match, which I should have know, but I was really looking forward to something funny and different. I had flipped through it in the store, as I usually do, but somehow, I was hoodwinked. I like trying new things; this one just didn’t work out.

I went on two more blind book dates. One was a memoir and the other was science fiction, both new books to me. The memoir wasn’t to my liking and the science fiction book sounds interesting, but the first few pages didn’t pull me in as much as I would have liked. I may have to come back to that one when I’m in the right mood.

If I see other bookstores that offer blind dates with books, I will most definitely be participating! And the money goes to a good cause.

“I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

I listened to the audio version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. It’s always a treat when a book is read by the author and it works, which is not always the case–as odd as that sounds.

Not only did I feel inspired by her book, I soaked up her anecdotes, and felt so excited to keep listening and learning about her experiences and synchronistic associations in navigating her writing life.

This was a gem of a book, by someone that seems humbled by her experiences. And she is funny! She had me smiling my way through her book. I enjoyed it so much that I began listening to it again about two weeks after my first listen and will probably read bits and pieces on the page for a different layer of appreciation.

A trip to the library during my lunch break always revitalizes me. I feel lucky that I work close enough that I can take a brisk walk there and back, whether it’s to browse the shelves, pick up books I have on hold, sit in a chair and read, write in my journal, or post to my journal blog.

Yesterday I had books to pick up. I finished my lunch at my desk, that way I’d have that out of the way, so that I could focus on the books. Lately it’s been difficult for me not to read, whether it’s the words on the page or the audio streaming through my ears. I’m being creative and trying to be efficient in my class reading, which gives me more time with other books and Mr. Kindle.

Sometimes I will pull one of my old journals off the shelf and continue trying to speed read what is worth keeping, reading my words, being surprised at how, at times, my thoughts seem to come out so clear and in a way that I couldn’t duplicate in the present moment; and that makes me thankful that I, at least, wrote them down then, allowing me to reconnect with aspects of my changing self. In some cases, there are only a few sparks, so I rip those pages out and toss the whole journal in the garbage bin. Some of those pages, I recognize as having posted to another distant blog, one that no longer exists, and this makes me think that this journal blog could also one day cease to exist.

There used to be a time that I wrote my thoughts, then typed them into a document, then pasted them into my blog; now, though, I skip the document part and go straight to the blog, sometimes I pen the words physically first, but often it goes straight to the journal blog, so that one day it could all disappear.  I have mixed feelings about this. In some ways, I rationalize that it would be ok if I weren’t able to go back, to see what I was up to, but then it saddens me that I would essentially be erased.

But just like the beautiful Tibetan sand mandalas that are painstakingly created and then brushed away, so these words must someday be released in whatever way that occurs.

This truly was a morning page; I planned to talk about my visit to the library and was taken somewhere else.

**

The books I checked out and am excited about:

The Cat who came for Christmas – Cleveland Amory
My mother-in-law was reading this one during Christmas and it just now became available from the library. She had come across it when she was doing some clutter cleaning of her own. The first page really drew me in and made me want to know more.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work – Mason Currey
I learned about this one through a book newsletter,  I believe, maybe one of the independent bookseller lists and recommendations. From browsing the introduction and the book, this is a collection of small splashes about many creatives, from writers to authors to composers and others in between, about their routines.

 

It’s not often I’m up this late. In my mind it’s still yesterday and not already today. I have felt hungry most of the day, and I could not stand it any longer, I gave into the pancake craving and whipped some up. I use the boxed mix: just add water and a little love, a pat of butter, syrup–a perfect way to find comfort and satisfy the craving for something warm and sweet. I finally realized the trick to a perfect first pancake a few weeks ago. Very little oil on the pan, barley there.

**

This morning, when I was down near the lower shelf where the books are, I saw the book that always makes me smile: Never Bite When a Growl Will Do, Photographs by Michael Nastasi. I thought, I should take this into my co-worker and show him since he’s a dog lover. I packed the book into my bag and set off to start the day.

Once settled in, I went into his office and told him that I had something to show him that would surely bring smiles. He sounded less chipper than usual and said he was having a bad day with bad news. “What happened?” I asked. He went on to tell me of some things that were going on. When he was done, he asked what it was I had. I showed him the book and said I thought he’d enjoy it and to take his time, no rush.

At first he was just looking at the pictures of the dogs. “Are you not reading the quotes?”

“No, I guess I’m not.”

“Be sure you do. They go together with the photos.”

**

As small as this gesture was, I was happy to bring a little brightness to the day by sharing. He ended up ordering his own copy on Amazon.

Never Bite When a Growl Will Do will especially be appreciated by anyone that had or has a canine in their life. The quotes that accompany the wonderfully captured photos are a perfect compliment.

 I took a break from my audible subscription for a few months, but tonight while I was preparing dinner–a big pot of chicken soup with veggies and rice–I wanted to also be reading a book, so while the chicken was cooking away, I went to the audible website, renewed my subscription, browsed through some possibilities, listened to a few samples, and settled on The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee, narrated by Julia Whelan.

In some ways I ask myself: am I having trouble being in the moment itself, washing and chopping the vegetables, giving the soup a stir, washing dishes. This thought didn’t actually occur to me until dinner was complete–the eating and the cooking part–and I found myself putting fresh sheets on the bed, but first I reached for my wireless headphones, same as when I was cooking, and I returned to the story while I did this task.

Even though I had the story on, I felt as though I was able to be more thoughtful with making up the bed. I wasn’t rushing. I patiently pulled the duvet cover down over the down comforter, having to go back and forth to each side of the bed, pulling down, down, down, until it was snuggled inside. Then I fastened the ends. It felt like I was very present in the moment, with the story in the background–a story that ties into my dinner preparations and involves a woman with the sense of knowing that is expressed through her food.

Yesterday I spent the whole day reading. It was a delight. It felt good to have the day free without the interruptions of a regular day. School begins again on Monday. I’ll only be taking one class, but I know that because that will be my focus, pleasure reading or any kind of reading will have to slow down again.

I’ve gotten on a bit of a YA steak lately. I listened to an audio: Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg. It was an enjoyable story with quirky characters, particularly Willow Chance, who is also highly intelligent, and a foster child whose parents have died; she is left with an odd set of circumstances and people that help her put her life back together.

While I was reading an issue of Bookmarks magazine, I learned of a movie that will be coming to theaters soon. It’s based on the book by Katherine Paterson called The Great Gilly Hopkins. I know that I want to see the movie, and in this case, I wanted to read the book first. I was glad to be introduced to this book that is meant for the middle-school reader. I couldn’t put the book down. It was a quick read. Gilly Hopkins has been in and out of the foster care system; she is feisty and sometimes a downright mean young lady. The ending is bitter-sweet. I can’t wait to see how the movie version of this book plays out.

I was in the mood for something by Kate DiCamillo, so I chose The Tiger Rising. This was a beautiful short piece about a boy, a girl, a tiger–a story about love and acceptance. It touched my heart.

And the book that I spent yesterday reading was A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern. There are a handful of quotes of praise on the back cover of this book and I would say that one stands out and made me want to start reading it: “This is a book to read, savor, and pass on and on until it has gone around the world twice.” –Ron Koertge, author of Stoner & Spaz. A Step Toward Falling is worth the time.

For non-YA fiction, I am pecking away at Neil Gaiman’s: Tirgger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. I love that in the introduction he gives a short bit about how each story came about. I am enjoying the stories so far.

I also finished The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer. I’m not usually drawn to time travel novels, but for some reason on the day I was browsing the library bookshelves, this one caught my attention. I enjoyed every page of this story that was split between three periods of time in New York. I could not put it down.

I continue to find new books to add to my list.

I recently broke down and purchased the Kindle Paperwhite to add to my collection of Kindles. I now have three and each serves its purpose. The Paperwhite has made it much faster to search for books both in the Kindle Store and in my own collection; and now it’s much easier to read where there is low light. It’s also refreshing to be able to see the book covers. I have accumulated far too many books on my second Kindle and was feeling overwhelmed and not being able to get to them all. I’m trying not to clutter this Kindle with too much at one time.

Here we are in 2016, and even though it will take me a long time to finish it because of other things, I have begun reading The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. It is so easy to get lost in his beautiful language and story telling. The way that he creates images that stick in my mind never ceases to amaze me.

A few weeks back I learned of a book talk coming up from a local bookseller’s email newsletter. I’ve been itching to go to one, but haven’t found one close enough or that fits my schedule. I hadn’t heard of Adina Sara before; after reading more about her work in the email that I received, I knew I had to go and learn more about her new book. She had written a memoir many years back; and a short book about her days in the law office: 100 Words Per Minute, which I found used on Amazon and purchased because I felt I could relate to the administrative perspective.

Blind Shady Bend is her first novel.

The book reading was intimate. It was a small crowd with many folks that knew her and some folks that were new to her work.

I always find it fascinating to listen to people talk about their writing process, how the characters came to life, the birth of the story idea, the nurturing of the elements that go into creating fiction; the process of allowing the fiction to mold itself and change before our eyes, aiding us along the way, nudging us out of the way to allow the stories and characters to speak for themselves.

Adina Sara, shared with the group that the main character came to her in a writer’s workshop–a writing prompt from 12 year ago. When asked if she wrote everyday, she said that she did not, pointing out that it took her so long to complete the book because she hadn’t written everyday.

Someone asked her about the process. She responded that she missed the process and the characters. When she would open up a file on her computer to work on, she said that she would choose by deciding who she wanted to be with that day. There was one character in particular, Pete, that she was going to take out of the book completely, but as she told the group, he became a pivotal character and indeed he did.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading Blind Shady Bend. I say that because I’ve been having trouble finding a book that I can settle into. At 357 pages, it’s a somewhat quick read; it has a flow to it, the writing is nice, and there are words of wisdom scattered here and there within the pages.

Blind Shady Bend is the story of Hannah. She inherits her brother’s rundown property located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. As she begins meeting the people that live near her brother’s property, interesting things begin to unfold, and Hannah must decide if she will stay or go

 

http://adinasara.com/