Category Archives: Books

The Year of Wordsmithing

            Success depends on more than just acknowledging a goal with a glass of champagne in one’s hand at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st.  Resolutions—shed some pounds, kick the cigarettes, drink less caffeine, avoid speeding tickets, go 365 days without being arrested, etc.—are easily made and even easier to cast aside.  One can’t just spit out a resolution; one must also have the ambition and obsession to achieve.

            Let’s define these:

 

            Resolution:  the act determining upon an action or course of action, often made at the beginning of a new year and abandoned two weeks later.

            Ambition:  an earnest desire for achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment, an element often missing from New Year’s resolutions.

            Obsession:  the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea or desire, the presence of which elevates resolution to ambition and gives one a chance at success.

 

            Okay, I might have tweaked those definitions but they’re still solid.  2014 is probably not the year I’m going to give up nicotine or caffeine, although I do plan on maintaining my “never been arrested” status and keeping a sharper eye out for radar-running cops than I did during 2013.  I do, however, have plans for myself.

            Not resolutions.  Plans.  Ambition + obsession > resolutions.

            All word-based.  Words require attention, sometimes hyper focus.  Words are beautiful, the love of my life, but they don’t come easily.  One must keep ambition foremost and feed the obsession that leads to success.

            So here are my writing, reading, and word-focused goals for 2014…

 

1. Read 80 Books.
            GoodReads promotes a yearly reading challenge, where members set their own “I’m going to read [#] of books in 2014” goals.  Setting the bar too high would be doomed to failure—I have the real life, adult world responsibilities like everybody else.  But setting the bar too low would be shameful because books are awesome and I have a massive stack of unread books waiting their turn.  So in 2014 I will read 80 books.

 

2a. Complete My Work-in-Progress.
            I began writing The O’Shaughnessy Reputation:  Put on Your War Paint as part of National Novel Writing Month.  I finished about half by the end of November and have kept putting fingers to keyboard since then (occasionally for frustrated keyboard-mashing).  When I wrote the first part in this series (You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid), I started in 2011 and didn’t finish until early 2013, and I won’t allow that to happen again:  I will finish this WIP at all costs.

 

2b. Complete an Edit of My Soon-to-be-Finished WIP.
            I will not only finish this novel, I will do at least a first pass, rough edit on it before November 1st.  I can’t start Kiss the Ring, part three of this series, for NaNoWriMo ‘14 until the events in part two have been smoothed into something resembling a coherent story.

 

Speaking of NaNoWriMo…

3.  Participate in National Novel Writing Months, including Original Flavor NaNoWriMo (November) and both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions (April & July).
            Providing concrete goals, a fast-approaching deadline, an active community of writers, and a nifty progress graph, NaNoWriMo has been one of the best things to ever happen to my writing life.  It’s a kick in the ass, a kick so hard I’ll put said ass in a chair to avoid the hit.  And half of writing is, after all, simply sitting your ass down to do it.

 

4.  Begin Work on Charm of the Pavement.
            The idea for this novel has been haunting me, bouncing around in my head for at least six months but doing little more than mocking my attempts to wrangle it into a coherent story.  No more avoiding the pen, you brat; the time has come. 

 

5.  Increase My Writer Circle
            The most successful writers seem to be those with a solid, expansive community of writers they consider friends.  The interaction acts like an injection of word-adrenaline, promoting creativity and keeping a writer focused.  I know several writers, a couple of whom are quite serious about it, and I’m determined to welcome more into my life.  Because writers are awesome…and other writers are the only ones who share my special brand of ‘not quite right’.

 

I have my pen.

I have my vices—coffee, booze, cigarettes.

I have my ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’ mug.

I’m ready.  Let’s fucking do this.

 

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Top 5 Reads of 2013: Part of My Library for All Time

End of the year retrospective in list form?  Hell, why not—everyone else is doing it and I feel left out.  But a list of what?  Top 5 Best Breaths Inhaled During 2013?  Top 5 Attempt to Cook Dinner (That Didn’t Result in Setting the Kitchen on Fire)?  Top 5 Epic Faceplants (From Tripping Over My Own Feet)?  Or the Top 5 ‘Oh Shit’ Moments (Snicker If You Must)?

No, self, no.  I’m all about the words after all, and while I could count down the Top 5 Works I’ve Written in 2013, no one else would know what the hell I’m talking about, so I went with the next best thing.

These, my friends, are my Top 5 Reads of 2013.  They are not necessarily new releases—in fact, only two debuted during the past year.  But they’re the books I read and loved, the ones that struck a chord and will stay with me forever, in my memory, in my gut, and in my library.

So now, in no particular order and without a drumroll…

 

 

Cari’s Top 5 Reads of 2013

 

letters
1.  Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
This is one of those ‘question everything, think for yourself, and question everything again books, but Letters to a Young Contrarian surpass anything I’ve read in the genre.  I can’t really describe the effect—a sucker punch, perhaps—but the book definitely makes an impact, and I’m of the opinion it should be mandatory reading.  Not for teenagers who are naturally rebellious, I don’t think most teenagers have the maturity to truly absorb the work, but mandatory reading for adults who have achieved the full ability to think critically (even if they choose not to do so) and may have become complacent.  Go.  Read it now.  It’s short; I’ll wait.

 

 

curiosities
2.  The Curiosities:  A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Graton
My Review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/560975040

Oh.  Oh my word.  I’m not one for anthologies but I am a helpless flailing Maggie Stiefvater fangirl, so I took a risk and read The Curiosities despite my usual aversion to compilations.  One of the alluring aspects for us writerly types lies in the margin notes from all three authors, scribbles pointing out excellent bits and giving more technical opinions on the word play and writing itself.  Many of these I found quite useful, while others I enjoyed in that “Hee!  I heart snark!” kind of way.  The best aspect, however, is the quality within these pages:  the stories are sometimes polished, sometimes raw, but always of high quality.  Do not be turned off by the idea you’re reading work from writers who write for the young adult/teen audiences, for these pieces transcend that and a few of the short stories will stick in your brain long past the time you’ve put the book back on the shelf.  There are no forced happy endings; in fact there are very few truly happy endings and very few flat out unhappy endings.  Bittersweet is the best way to describe the work within The Curiosities.

 

 

sirthomas
3.  Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin
My Review:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17568126-sir-thomas-the-hesitant-and-the-table-of-less-valued-knights

Liam Perrin’s Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights was my Awesome Accidental Find of 2013.  I first stumbled upon it thanks to the GoodReads giveaway page but was too late to enter the contest for an advanced copy.  Thinking the cover simultaneously silly and adorable, I read the synopsis and thought it sounded cute, and when a day or two later I found myself a few dollars short of free shipping on Amazon, this became my “Hell, Why Not?” addition to the cart.  No regrets.  This is a fun read, one I completed relatively quickly thanks to a ‘reading when I should’ve been doing other productive adult things’ approach, and I happy sighed so hard at the end.  Perrin is one of those self-published authors who are damn good but a reader must sort through the mountains of muck to find, and he is well worth the effort.

 

 

 

fiend
4.  Fiend by Peter Stenson
My Review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/664106799

Zombies.  Meth heads.  Meth heads fighting zombies.  That’s all that remains in the world and, assuming you’re not one to clutch your pearls, it’s pretty fucking awesome.  This is more literary than you might expect, certainly not of the same ilk as the churned out, burned out zombie crap that’s been flooding the market lately.  Stenson’s writing style is a bit different but excellent for the story he’s telling, although I’ll admit that some quotation marks would’ve been nice.  I don’t have anything to say on a literary critique level, only that I really enjoyed this and loved the ‘fuck that nonsense’ ending.

 

 

 

peterwendynotmerely
5.  Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie / not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them by Jenny Boully

Okay, so a two-for-one entry is cheating but hear me out:  I read one to better absorb the other.  First came Jenny Boully’s work, a deeply weird and poetic version of J.M. Barrie’s classic story, much darker with threatening undertones running throughout.  Boully’s writing style is eerie and beautiful and, unfortunately, rather difficult to follow unless you know the source material.  I read not merely… the first time, understood it but didn’t really get it, and because I’m nothing if not an obsessive reader, I hopped online to order a copy of Peter and Wendy.  (The original, not the Disney-fied, abridged for younger children version.)  It came as a bit of a shock to me that I’d never read it before, Peter and Wendy is freakin’ classic lit for goodness sakes, so how did I miss it?  That’s what I get for being uppity as a young’un and having a reading level far above my age.  So I read Barrie’s original and was moved by it, by how shady it really is, how different from the Disney movie and the faint feeling of dread that permeates the text, tones one only picks up on as an adult.  And then I went back and reread Boully’s novella and really got it, was in fact disturbed by it while simultaneously pretty damn impressed.  These definitely stick out in my mind amongst the 77 books I read this past year, and in my memory they will be forever linked.  Hence my two-for-one cheat.

 

 

Now go forth, my lovelies, and embark upon a new year.  May 2014 treat you well!

 

 

 


And lo, the Books Did Take Over the World

I own a library.

No, seriously, I own a library.

678 books.

I just counted and the official tally is 678.  Pretty impressive for a personal collection.

Okay, when compared to ‘real’ libraries mine may not be considered large, but I’m willing to bet I have more good books in my one bedroom apartment than my small town’s public library keeps in the entire building.  I will also admit to owning quite a bit of crap, but there’s no shame in that:  sometimes there’s nothing more enjoyable than reading an awful book and being able to say, “Oh my God, that’s such shit!  I could’ve done better in my sleep!

Note #1: I’m pro-silly brain candy after spells of reading heavy or dark works, and sometimes what you think will be shit turns out to be good, while what you expect to be fantastic turns out to be absolute shit.

And so it goes.

I’m a voracious reader but haven’t entered the Kindle/Nook era, due to my love of the physical aspects of books (and new—or old—book smell!) and the fact that I simply haven’t fancied an eReader.  Will I one day venture into that technological landscape?  Most likely, because while one doesn’t stop buying books just because one runs out of bookshelf space, one does cease buying books when one runs out of living space.  I have not, however, reached that point.  I dislike feeling crowded, and watching one episode of Hoarders is enough to make me pull out some crates, box up as many as I can part with, and sell to Half-Price Books.  I’m not entirely insane, after all.

Note #2:  the last time I took a load down to Half-Price Books, the girl at the counter got downright excited, her eyes lit up and her face glowed.  She practically shouted, “This is amazing!  You have some really awesome stuff and it’s all in great condition!”  My eyes lit up and my face glowed, because that was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.  She then handed me a rather impressive receipt to redeem for cash at the register.  Almost as good was the peeved look the guy to my left gave me, as he’d just been told the books he’d brought in weren’t worth anything and they didn’t want them.  Not my fault, dude.  Five-year-old medical textbooks are obsolete.  Idiot.

Now, before anyone gets judgmental about my book-love—yes, some might say addiction, but I’m not on Intervention so it’s not a problem, okay!?—keep in mind that my collection is the result of over a decade of buying, reading, and finding shelf space.  I have a number of books from my teen years, but once I turned 18 and landed a halfway decent paycheck, things took off from there.  That was ten years ago.  I rarely ever pay list price for books—used bookstores and used options from Amazon are the way to go when one wants books but also has a pressing need to eat and pay the bills on time.

Note #3:  “But you don’t understand, I needed to buy this new book!” is not an acceptable excuse for why one’s rent is late.  I’ve never tried it, but I’m assuming it wouldn’t fly.

One exception to the above ‘used books are awesome’ rule:  I will pay full price for books from self-published authors.  It’s like buying music from unsigned artists instead of downloading it through, ahem, other means on the internet.  A way to support new writers who otherwise might not have the chance to get their stuff out there by bypassing a business model that’s damn near impossible to access, and a way to encourage a change in the market.  Yes, there’s a high probability that the book will be shit.  And yes, the covers are often awful and, if you buy the physical book instead of the eBook, they’re almost always those cheap-looking Create Space editions.  But none of that matters when you get lucky, when you hit the literary jackpot and turn into a squealing, flailing fangirl over a book that very few people in the world have heard of, let alone read.

Note #4:  I recently found a new book to add my list of favorites this way, one that made me happy sigh at the end.  Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin.  My review is here.

I love books.  I’m a geek.  But I do have a life:  I have friends I see on a consistent basis, I have a bar or two where I’m a regular and am known by name, I’m halfway decent with a pool stick, I’ll occasionally attend a ballet or theater production, I see my family every so often, and I’m a pretty outgoing person.  I have what one could call a large personality (and some have called obnoxious—to-may-to, to-mah-to).  I enjoy going out.

But I’m also one of those people perfectly content to stay home on a Saturday night, puttering around in my PJs and rearranging my bookshelves simply because I can, because it’s fun.

As booklover and writer, I stand proud.

I am a lit geek.

Note #5:  If you are of the opinion that I’m too much of a lit geek, I say nonsense, there’s no such thing.  If you are of the opinion that I have an addiction, I point out that at least my addiction is books and not, say, heroin or sex.  Or heroin and sex.  Books don’t ruin lives…unless one ends up qualifying to be on Hoarders.  I’m doing my best to avoid that.)

And one day, oh yes, one fine day, my books will join the hundreds of others already on my shelves.  In a sense they’re already there:  once I complete a work, I print it up, put it nicely in a binder, and add it to the special shelf reserved just for them.  But one day there will be nifty covers and my name on the front, titles printed on the cover instead of scrawled on the side in permanent marker, official releases from a publishing house that I can point to and yell, “Look!  I’m an author!”

And when that day finally comes, when I can spend a Saturday rearranging my bookshelves in order to add my very own to the mix, well…

On that day I’ll have 679 books.

And now, the grand reveal.  Welcome to my library (aka my living and dining rooms):

 –

My Living Room
these stand side by side against one wall, separated by a desk
cropped out of the photo in the interest of not being able to get them
all in one picture

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My Dining Room
these too stand side by side, separated by only a few inches
but due to a camwhoring hanging lamp, I had to separate them

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And somehow I still have plenty of room in my apartment, no feeling of being overcrowded, no tripping over them or running into them in the middle of the night.  This is where I thank God that in a small town such as this, one can get a good deal of space for a relatively small amount of money.


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