What I’ve Been Reading: July/August 2017

While I’ve been neglecting my blog, I’ve been exploring the libraries and bookstores in my new city.  As it turns out, the libraries here fell way below my expectations, especially compared to the city where I grew up.  I jokingly-but-not wish I had visited the libraries before I moved here, but it is what it is.  And we do at least have a McKay’s, which is a giant, hugely popular book, movie, and music thrift shop — the absolute best kind of shop for browsing.  So here’s what I’ve picked up in the last couple of months.

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A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly

My mom likes to say her favorite movie genre is “based on a true story,” and mine has become the same.  Sometime this summer, we watched the movie Lion.  Saroo, born in India, got lost as a 5-year-old and lived on the streets of Calcutta for months.  He eventually ended up being adopted by an Australian family when no one could figure out where he came from.  He grew up Australian, but as an adult, remembered snippets of India, and used Google Maps to track his way back to his birth family.  The movie is an incredible, chilling rendition of this incredible, chilling true story.  Stuff like this cannot be made up; when they say the truth is stranger than fiction, this story is what they’re talking about.  Read this book; watch the movie.  This is one I won’t forget for a long time.

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Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

Another true story/memoir/autobiography, this is the testimony of Koren, a girl who was introduced to alcohol at age 14 and didn’t look back for almost a decade.  Written during the time of her life when she realized just how much of life she was missing out on because of alcohol, it’s a detailed reflection of what could almost be considered lost years.  Koren, once she had had a taste, used alcohol to fill all the voids in her life because she didn’t know what else to do.  She drank her way through middle school, high school, and college, never quite getting physically addicted but never able to give it up.  It’s sad story, and sluggish at times because of the sheer amount of detail in it.  But Koren has a way with words.  She uses a lot of metaphor, which has drawn a lot of criticism on Goodreads, but I enjoyed her writing style because it felt graceful and genuine.  It’s obvious that Koren still has issues to work through, but don’t we all?

My final comments on this story are these: when I was glancing through the Goodreads reviews, I was appalled by the sheer amount of people who seem to hate Koren (not just her book, but Koren herself) because she was a sorority girl and because she wrote and was successful with this book so soon after she stepped away from alcohol for good.  What the crap, people?  Can’t we just let this girl help herself through her writing, through sharing her story?  The book was a New York Times best seller — it’s obvious that this is something that affects a lot of us.  Why tear down something that Koren should be proud of?

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Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

This is a story, told in reverse, of a man named Sean who shrinks from society after a horrible accident that disfigured his face.  He makes a living by creating and running an adventure game that is played through the mail.  But when two teen players experience tragedy because they attempted to recreate the game in the real world, Sean has to face the world again, and at the same time, his past.

This was a weird book to read.  Sean has a pleasant, nonchalant tone about him, but it’s obvious he hides something.  His life, and the chapters, are quiet, but things are revealed each chapter almost without the reader noticing.  As you piece together his life, and how it turned out this way, it gets more and more horrible.  And while the how behind his disfigurement is revealed, the why is much harder to grasp.  A lot of this book is implicit, but it’s obvious it deals with self-hate and depression without offering much hope or ways out.  This is one I would love to read with others in an analytical setting.

The Handm12961964aid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I’ll be honest; I only read this book because none of the other books I wanted to read were available at the library, and because of the new Hulu show based on it (which I haven’t seen).  And I wasn’t really that impressed.  It was boring and hard to get into at first.  It’s a book that very obviously tries to make a point, and so it’s a little two-dimensional.  I feel like the explanation for the dystopian society was a little weak and lacking in depth.  The characters were a bit flat also.  Some of my complaints could be because the whole book is supposed to be the transcript of a recording that was made supposedly long ago.  It’s a historical document being analyzed by professors in the year 29something.  But even so, this just wasn’t anything that particularly struck me.  If you want to read about dystopia, read the Hunger Games trilogy.  They’re put together much better.

Small Admissio30827125ns by Amy Poeppel

This is the story of Kate Pearson, who finds herself thrown for a complete loop after her serious boyfriend dumps her.  She wallows in her sadness for months, but after her sister’s prodding, finally gets a job in admissions at a prestigious private school.  As she’s getting back on her feet, her friends are keeping secrets, parents are doing inane things for an acceptance at the school, and her sister is learning to let go.

This is a fluffy book, like I expected it to be.  And it was delightful.  I did have a couple complaints — a parent of a student-hopeful begins to narrate about a third of the way through the book, which threw me for a loop.  I think she should have been introduced earlier.  And near the end, I felt the story had wrapped up nicely, and then there was an incident that seemed to drag the book out a few more chapters and didn’t do a whole lot for Kate’s character arc.  But overall, this was so fun to read.  The characters were interesting and distinct, there were surprises I didn’t see coming, and it was a great story about changing your expectations for life and being okay with that.  It was definitely a few hours well spent.

All images from Goodreads.

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Novels and NaNoWriMo

I follow a lot of bloggers who are also writers.  Some of them are published, and some of them aren’t.  But they all write as a passion, and that means every November, a lot of them start talking about their word count, their characters, and their plot lines.  I start seeing huge lists of writing tips and motivation on Twitter.  Things like Dory singing “Just keep writing!” fill up my social media feeds.  Every November, tons of people around the world worry and fret about whether they can write 50,000 words in one month.

That’s because November is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.  If you’ve never heard of it, you can read about it here.  (It’s not too late to join if you also want to participate!)

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo (which is NaNoWriMo’s summer counterpart) the summer before I started college.  I did not make 50,000 words.  I think I wrote between 20k or 30k, which is still quite an accomplishment.  But I’m probably exaggerating.  And I haven’t participated since.

I’ve wanted to be a published author as long as I can remember.  Books and words are definitely my first love, and I used to write stories all the time.  My problem was finishing them.  So I thought NaNo would be perfect for me.  Just churn out the first draft, and the first step is done.  It seems a lot less daunting that way.

So why did I stop participating?  Well, for one, I started college.  It always seems like fall semesters are the busiest, and writing however-many words a day on top of homework and extracurriculars is just too much.  November is also when a lot of semester projects start being due, and those just take priority.

But the other reason is I’ve lost my interest in writing novels for now.  I still read them all the time, of course — I would go insane if I couldn’t read others’ stories.  I love novels with all my heart and will read them till the day I die.  But I just don’t know if I want to write one.

Obviously, I enjoy writing.  I have a blog, after all.  But lately my focus has shifted from novels to writing about other things.  My favorite posts to write are memoirs, and I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book-length one of my own someday.  I’ve though about extensively interviewing my parents and writing their story.  And, being in business school, I’m surrounded by marketing blogs and content creation ideas that center around the goal of appealing to the consumer by helping them with a problem.  I would love to have a job where I create blog posts and social media content for a company.

But novel writing is not my thing anymore.  I’m more invested in what is going on around me than I am in my own head.  I don’t get ideas for stories and characters anymore; I get ideas for blog posts and essays and research papers.  This is probably more a consequence of who I am around more than it is my ability to be creative, like I sometimes tell myself.  I think if I had been an English major I would still think like a novelist.  But I’m majoring in Marketing, and while I may someday be able to write a novel about that, right now my focus is on other things.

However, to all the WriMos out there furiously typing away, best of luck to you!  Even though I do not participate anymore, I highly respect those who do and cannot wait to read about all you are up to this November.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be reading your book one day.  And maybe, just maybe, in a year or five or ten, I’ll join you.

NaNoWriMo Is…Inspiration

Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.

–Madeleine L’Engle

 

Over the last four days, I’ve been typing, typing, typing, and this quote has started to make so much sense.  It’s when I sit down to write, turn off the distractions, and start throwing words on the page that I get ideas.

I don’t get them instantaneously, of course.  A lot of the time, I feel like I’m rambling just to make my word count.  And that’s frustrating, because I know I might go back over my manuscript and delete half of it once it’s all done.  But that’s also the beauty of NaNoWriMo — that I can write stuff that may well be crap, but once it’s all over my ideas are finally down on the page, finally finished, and I can move on to the next step.

And right now, I truly believe I WILL finish, because when I sit down to ramble, more ideas keep coming my way.

Words Written: 6,472

Words To Go:  43,528

Camp NaNoWriMo!

I am a forgetful person.  But occasionally I remember things just in time.

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo?  It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November.  Basically, you write furiously all month until you step back from your computer and hope all those words somehow formed themselves into a coherent story.  I’ve thought about doing it, but I always seem to remember it’s happening right around the middle of November.  Plus, Novembers are busy for me.

Thankfully, there is also Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a significantly more awesome version of the regular NaNoWriMo!  It occurs in July rather than November, a still busy but less hectic month for me.  And, along with the usual word-tracking, you get to be in a virtual cabin of people who are also doing Camp NaNo.  These people can support and encourage you, ad it’s always fun to get to know other writers!

I’ve got five days until the frantic typing begins.  That gives me five days to finalize my plot and characters.  Then, it’s on to 31 days of nothing but writing, writing, writing.  My word goal is 50,000 words, which means I must write 1,612 words per day to finish on time.

Yikes.

But for now, onward!

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