Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Reviews: Hourglass (Myra McEntire)

Written by: Myra McEntire
Published by: Egmont USA
Date: June 14, 2011
Pages: 400

One hour to rewrite the past . . . 

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn't there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents' death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She's tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson's willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he's around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

I initially picked up this book because I had seen it mentioned on a few blogs in the cyberworld. Aside from that, I absolutely LOVED the cover. It's so mysterious and intriguing that I wanted to know how it connected to the story.

The story follows 17-year-old Emerson and is set in a small town just outside of Nashville, Tennessee (probably because the author, Myra McEntire, is from Nashville). Words can't express how much I loved the setting. The way the small town of Ivy Springs was described left me with a clear picture in my head of where the characters were living their lives. It was picture perfect. It truly left me with the image of my ideal small town.

One of the key spots throughout the book was the Emerson's best friend's grandmother's cafe, Murphy's Law. This particular cafe was described in such intricate detail I could imagine every nook and cranny. I had a conversation with the author recently on Twitter who told me about the town on which Ivy Springs is based. Naturally I Googled it. I was right; it is a stunning, picturesque little town which, as I thought, matched my idea of the perfect small town. Myra also drew my attention to the cafe on which Murphy's Law is based. Again, this was exactly as I imagined Murphy's Law -- except flipped, to which Myra said.... "You're freaking me out... because Murphy's Law is also flipped". Shazam! That must be some talent for her to write these places in such a way that I could visualise them exactly.

The lead character, 17-year-old Emerson, is quite simply, awesome. She's tiny and fiesty and despite going through a lot in the last few years, she's strong. However, she does have a lot of difficulty trusting people because of her ability, which she thinks of as more of a curse. This ability causes her to see people who aren't actually there... not quite ghosts, but not quite real people either. She's been institutionalized because of this 'ability' and has spent far too long on medication that turns her into a zombie-like shell. She has an awesome best friend, which I always like to see in a strong female protagonist, and she's incredibly independent.

Michael is the male love interest for Emerson who also happens to see things that aren't really there. He's incredibly good looking, charming and incredibly mysterious. He growls when he's frustrated, broods about as much as Edward Cullen, he's crazy over protective but he's kind-hearted and oh so dreamy! He's hiding something, and it seems like something big. Whatever he's hiding is the kind of thing that makes you want - no - NEED to turn the page to find out what happens next.

The other characters, Lily, Kaleb, Ava, Dune, Nate, Jack, and Cat, along with Emerson's older brother brother Thomas and his wife Dru, help to give the story substance and keep it moving. The thing that I like about the characters in this book is that they have depth. They're flawed, they have issues, they have good moments, and they have bad moments, and that's what I like to see in a novel. 

The plot itself is totally different than anything I've read recently, which is awesome. It's not really spoiling anything by saying that a big part of the story is time travel and how the lives of the characters in this book are affected so completely by time travel. It's very interesting to see the manner in which Myra has approached the time travel idea. It's very original and fresh and consequently made me really excited about this book. 

My only slight annoyance would be that at times the dialogue felt forced or didn't seem realistic. Other than that I totally loved this book. In fact, it's right up there in my top five books of the year.

So, I would give Hourglass 4.5 stars :) This is one I would definitely recommend checking out!


Monday, November 26, 2012

My word vomit writing style

I feel like I have 'The Word Vomit' disease. That is, the little issue I can't seem to get past whenever I'm writing.... well... anything. An email, a Facebook status, an essay.... a blog and most definitely a book I seem to just vomit up words out of my finger tips. That gives me a really gross visual - apologies - but you know what I mean, right?

Even when I feel like I don't have much to say I just start typing and before I know it there's all these words on the page. Consequently it makes editing a real mission.

My FH (meaning, current boyfriend who is pretending he doesn't pick up the hints that "if you like it then you should put a ring on it...") has a very different writing style than I do. When we were in college, all those years ago (okay it was only three years ago, but whatever), we took one paper which required a 15,000 word paper. That's not a lot of words. At all. Particularly when you have lots to say (or when you suffer from The Word Vomit disease). Anyway, I would word vomit all over the paper for weeks before the assignment was due. In this case I was actually working on it for two months. My dear FH picked up his laptop and books a week before the thing was due and delicately wrote out his essay. Now he edits as he goes. I would spill 30,000 words out and then go back and revise numerous times until it was under the word count and as refined as perfectly as possible. I would get so anxious walking past his screen at 2am (on the one occasion during my college career when I stayed up half the night working) and see he'd only achieved three paragraphs. If he worked the same way I did he would have probably finished his first draft already and would have moved on to editing.

I guess his way of writing essays was more productive than my unorganised mess. He ended up with an A+ for his 'less than a week long effort' and I was given an A- for all those hard hours of word vomit mania! I can't seem to let it go. ha!

The thing for me, is as I write, more ideas keep coming to me. I don't want to lose the thought so I just write it. It may not make sense, it may not fit in with the rest of the book, the whole vibe of the book may change completely or it may mean a character is doing something totally uncharacteristic.... but that's okay. At the end of the day I can look through my work and start the revising period (well, not at the end of the day, more like the end of the book). My word vomit will often help make my book better. Granted, it was probably not likely to sit too well with essays because I did tend to go off on a tangent ... much like I do in my blogs. But for my own novel, I feel it helps rather than hinders my writing.

Just my thought for the day. What do you think? Do you have the word vomit disease too, or is whatever you put on the page planned out from the beginning?

ps. I actually really hate the word vomit, but at the same time, I kind of like the way it sounds.

Friday, November 23, 2012

In my absence

I'm going to make the most of my 'absence' time by posting a whole bunch of reviews of books I've read in the last year. I should point out that I don't really read books the minute they come out, unless I'm specifically asked to. This means many of the books I'm reviewing aren't exactly new and chances are you have already read them, but hey, maybe my two cents will sway you to read [or not read] a certain book.

SO, reviews will be going up most Fridays starting from next week, be sure to let me know what you think :)

In the meantime, Happy Black Friday! Enjoy your shopping (or not shopping)! I'm going to be out battling the crowds for a decent camera and some kick-ass cowboy boots! Yeehaw!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I'm assuming that's what you say anyway?!

To be honest, I wouldn't know. In New Zealand, Thanksgiving is yet another event we don't celebrate. At all. There's no turkey and cranberry, there's no cold weather outside, there's no Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and there is no day off work!

Last Thanksgiving was my first experience of the holiday ever. My FH and I had arrived in NYC the day before after 28 hours of travel. We were severely jet lagged and barely knew a thing about the city. We were staying with a family who rented out homes in their townhouse, and they had invited us to celebrate a non-traditional potluck Thanksgiving dinner with them and the other tenants in his house, as well as a group of their friends.

We had woken up crazy early and headed to Bryant Park where we had an amazing view of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and then we explored Times Square for the first time. I spent too much money at Dylan's Candy Store and M&M World, I paid some guy in a Mickey Mouse suit $1 to take a photo with me, and I fell in love with the atmosphere at the Bryant Park holiday shops.

We had a cheap and nasty (but really delicious) lunch at a gluten free pizza place on 23rd Street and we walked everywhere because we were too terrified to tackle the subway yet.

This year we're spending most of the day on a bus traveling through Tennessee. We'll arrive in our destination mid-afternoon with enough time to find somewhere that may just be open for two travelers on Thanksgiving night. I'm determined to find some turkey somewhere!

Next year I'll be back in my hometown and the day will pass without most Kiwi's giving it much thought.  They'll be probably too busy enjoying the start of summer and the New Zealand barbeque season to remember the American holiday. But I will try to remember. I'll try and have some turkey and cranberry sauce on the day, and will pretend it's cold outside while I reminisce about my life in America.

Whatever it is you're doing, where ever you are in the world, I hope you have a lovely American Thanksgiving.... or just a lovely 22nd of November :) Enjoy being with your friends and family, be thankful for what you have, and tell those you love how much they mean to you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Everyone deserves a chance to fly"

I have a confession to make. I'm cheating. My posts from here on out have actually been written a while ago. I'm sitting here writing this in October. I learned how to schedule posts a little while ago, and it's quite handy actually! By the time this post goes live I will have just started my 'Great American Road Trip'.

I've mentioned it briefly before but probably not specifically in detail. In November 2011 I came to America  from New Zealand to work for one year on a J1 work visa. I made the decision in mid-September, and two months later my FH and I had sold all our belongings, moved out of our home and were New York bound.

The last year has been a crazy whirlwind of experiencing life in New York, traveling up and down the East Coast, from Daytona Beach and Orlando in Florida, to Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Toronto and Montreal. We went to so many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I lost count after five months. We had lots of time to explore the galleries, museums, markets and open spaces in the city and we immersed ourselves in the crazy life of the big city. It was a big change from our quiet, somewhat boring life back in New Zealand!

Now, for our time on the road, we're traveling for two months straight (a mission that will most definitely leave us broke and exhausted) across the United States. We're visiting 18 cities - St Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Montgomery, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Denver, Vegas, San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, Long Beach, Anaheim (yaya Disneyland), San Diego and then finally LA.

We return back to New Zealand in late January for, at this stage, a year, during which time we'll save as much money as possible and focus on our individual projects. I'll get stuck into finally working solidly on my WIP and my FH plans to make a short film he can try and enter into festivals. I'd also love to learn French!
Following our year back in New Zealand, we have plans to go through Africa for five weeks, check out Egypt and the South of Turkey, stop through Dubai and then move to London. In the long run, London will give us a good chance to travel through Europe on weekends and holidays.

The reason I'm writing all this isn't to inform you of my life plans (well it partly is), but it's more about talking about travel. When I think about this trip I'm about to embark on, I have to admit, I'm a little scared. It's really taking a leap into the unknown. After trips that we've taken for just one week, we've been exhausted, so by the time you read this chances are we'll already be dead on our feet, and we're not even half way through. So that makes me think, why do I do it? Why do I push myself to the limits to do these full on trips to visit new places.

The answer is so easy. The experience outweighs any possible negatives. I've always been a bit of a traveler, and in New Zealand, a right of passage for young New Zealanders is to 'fly the coop' and to experience the world. When I moved to New York I didn't realise quite how much I would get out of the experience. It's made me discover what I like and don't like, it's made me find some dreams, and realise that others weren't really my dreams to begin with, it's made me learn more about myself, discover other cultures, learn about the history of America (which we weren't really taught in New Zealand) and find a true sense of freedom. "The world is your oyster" is not just a corny phrase used to tell someone they can do whatever they want, but when you're traveling, it's so true. There is a huge world out there to explore and not getting out there to check it out means you end up missing out on so much.

I've met a lot of people in America who always say "oh yeah, I've always wanted to go to New Zealand". I say, "well, why don't you?" The excuses vary dramatically but I think they're important to dissect a little.
  • "It's too far" - well yes, that's true, but sometimes that hardest places to get to hold the most beautiful gems. I get that it's a long way, trust me, I get it. But why is that an excuse for missing it completely? If you really want to go there, make the plans to go. Use that vacation time and take three weeks to go and explore somewhere so completely different than your hometown.
  • "I can't afford it" - Save those pennies. It's not easy but ... take for example my sister, who came to visit me last week. She decided back in January to come and visit me in New York for a week and to stop for a week in LA. She is at full time dance school and worked three nights a week in a restaurant in Australia. She managed to save more than enough money to come over here and splurge as much as you could possibly splurge while she was here. We went to Broadway shows every night, we ate at fancy restaurants, we took cabs, and she needed to buy an extra suitcase to get everything she'd purchased over here back home. You can travel on the cheap too - we are! We managed to get right across the USA (transport wise) for $800 each. That's 6 flights and 13 bus trips - not too bad!
  • "What about my job?" - this is the most common one. I met an American the other day who had lived in Australia for a year. She said most of her friends will never leave because everyone is in the mindset that you must go to elementary school then on to middle school and high school and college then straight from college into your internships and jobs.... Then there's no time to travel. Maybe once you retire, you say. Does it happen? 90% of the time, no. and the ten percent that do? I used to work at a tourist attraction in New Zealand when I was a teenager. Many of the retirees (from all over the world) who came through were loving New Zealand. Unfortunately they couldn't make the most of this particularly attraction because a) they were over the age limit of 65 or b) they weren't physically capable which literally meant they were too old to have the agility of the younger tourists who would come through and get a truly amazing experience. I met a couple over here in New York who my FH and I became quite good friends with. They were so desperate to travel. You could see it in their eyes and how they spoke of the experience. It really made me sad to hear they had just recently graduated but really couldn't quit their jobs as they needed to advance up the company. I suggested to them to take a working year in New Zealand or Australia... or somewhere else in the world where they could experience a totally different way of life, then they'd still be working so money wouldn't be an issue, they'd have an extra tidbit on their resume and they'd get an amazing life experience. They really weren't interested even though right after graduation, in my opinion, is a great time to travel, before you're really tied down to a job, while you're still young.
The purpose of this massive long rant (I have said in the past that I'm good at word vomit/long spiels!) is to encourage you all to get out there and see the world. It gives you an entirely new perspective on life, it provides you with so much inspiration for your writing and you get to know the world and the incredible people that populate it. The world is like an art gallery with so many stunning"works of art" to explore.

If crossing the oceans is too much to think about, explore your own country! Check out what the rest of your state or area has to offer, visit a small town near your own which you've never visited before, or go to a nearby (or far away) city. You may find you make the best memories while you're there. So what are you waiting for?! Get out there and explore... enjoy it!

Have you traveled? Where are your favourite places to travel to or go on vacation?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Road Reading

I mention road reading a lot, so I just wanted to show you exactly what I mean.
I managed to capture my man walking along a New York street the other day totally engrossed in A Dance With Dragons.

So - road reading - walking along the street, head buried in your book (or kindle) and only slightly watching where you're going.

Dangers - stepping in dog poop or vomit or anything else you could imagine is covering the sidewalk and walking into traffic.... you must be very careful with this.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sandy Hates Books

Two days before the hurricane hit New York City I walked around the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. I walked past the Powerhouse Arena bookshop. Inside there was a group of people having a Halloween party. The books were positioned all over the shelves looking shiny and new, and the people inside were having a great time eating snacks and drinking champagne.

Two days later, the entire DUMBO neighbourhood was underwater. The beautifully restored carousel I love so much which sits on the banks of the East River was left unable to be used after the mechanics were destroyed by sea water, and as water poured into the Powerhouse Arena, many books became causalities of Sandy.

Two weeks to the day after I was last there I walked past the Powerhouse Area once again, on my way to take pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge (which I couldn't do, power is still out in the park so the whole area is closed down at night). As I walked past the shop I noticed a number of garbage bags sitting on the sidewalk. On closer inspection I realised they were filled with water logged books.

It made me so sad to see all these books which had to be thrown out after the storm, and as we're a reading and writing community, I just wanted to share these pictures with you. The shop lost hundreds of books, their computer system, their security system and the water even broke the door.

Despite putting the books up high off the ground on the Sunday before the storm, the water levels were much high than they ever imagined. What's worse is they don't have flood insurance. The shop is having a fundraiser  THIS SATURDAY in NYC to help recover after the hurricane. It's a day of reading, refreshments, book signings and book browsing (See last photo). As well as that, if anyone wanted to make a donation or anything I'm sure they'd be very appreciative. 

It's so sad, and I really feel for the owner of the store. Please watch the video I've embedded at the end of this post which shows just how badly the store was hit.

Here's a video of them cleaning up after Sandy

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RTW: Our Inspiration

Another Wednesday, another Road Trip! Road Trip Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by YA Highway!

This week we're all sharing our most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!

When I was 11 I collected motivational quotes. I'm not entirely sure why, I just loved them so much. I had folders and books full of the things. Not all of them stuck with me, but there is one in particular that I've never forgotten. It's not specifically about writing, but in general I think it's a great approach to life.

"Always aim for the Moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

Of course there are a number of variations of this particular quote but I love it so much. I feel it can certainly be applied to writing, and any other aspect of your life. In general I use them as words to live by. 

To me, this quote is saying to aim as high as possible, always believe you can achieve, and never think any dream is too small. To that end I've always never thought of dreams as merely dreams, I think of them more as something that can be obtained if I work hard enough. Of course it's not always easy, not at all, but if you want something bad enough I believe you can get it. 

The other quote I really love, which can be applied to writing or again, life in general, is by the amazing Dr Seuss. 

'Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.'

It's true! Those who matter don't mind!

As for videos... again, they don't necessarily motivate or inspire me in terms of writing, but more in terms of life which consequently motivates and inspires my writing. The best place for inspirational videos is, of course, YouTube. You can find some real gems in there. 

There are heaps that I love, so I can't add them all here so I'm just going to show you one of my favourites.

This boy is such an inspiration. If he can build a windmill, I can ... write a book, climb a mountain, get a new job etc etc. This guy goes to show that if you want something, and you work at it, you can make miracles!

In terms of inspirational books, I talked recently about some non-fiction books that really inspire me.

Elissa Wall's story, document in A Stolen Innocence and Kay Bratt's story from Stolen Tears, inspired me to stand up for those who don't have a voice in this world. It motivated me to get out there and learn about other cultures and to do something worthwhile with my life. They're both brilliant books, I highly recommend them!

So they're mine! What are yours?

Monday, November 12, 2012

I am tired.

I'm sitting here trying to write. It's not working. I think the extend of my abilities at the moment are fighting the urge to keep my eyes from shutting and writing a blog post that isn't particularly witty or smart.

I'm very tired. I've watched my self-set bedtime slip later and later into the night. I've always been one to do my best work in the mornings and sleep soundly at night. I'm probably an abnormality here. Most people I know are night owls and work best during the hours of darkness. I wish I was one. Instead if I don't get enough sleep (and we're talking 7+ hours) then I am a zombie. A serious zombie who walks around with semi-glazed eyes all day while being extremely unproductive. Sad really.

I used to write essays for college when I was this tired. I'd think they were great, then I'd send them to my mum who would read it and tell me if it made sense before I'd turn it in. The essays that were written when I was tired were always sent back to me with the note "I feel like you wrote this while half asleep. It doesn't make sense. In fact it feels like you're combining two entirely different topics into this one essay. I suggest you redo". I would pout for a while and then with a fresh brain which had been given plenty of rest I would redo.

My roommate described this to me really well the other day. She said it's like being a flower. When I've had plenty of sleep, I'm alive and happy swaying in the sun. When I'm tired I start to droop until I'm 'watered' with sleep.

It really means when my brain feels like marshmallow I can't write a thing. Which is a real annoyance when I'm trying to write more than one sentence which makes no sense. What do you do in these circumstances? Do you have a way to kick start your brain or do you conclude there is no way to fix the situation except to sleep and try again tomorrow?

Note: Apologies if this is a load of nonsensical dribble. It tends to happen when I'm tired. In fact, chances are I won't even remember writing this post later.....!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reading habits

Before I moved to New York, I didn't read as much as I wanted. I'd go through a couple of books a year, I'd read now and then before bed, and if I was traveling to my hometown (90 minute plane ride each way) I'd take a book along and read as much as I could.

Consequently I didn't get many books read. That all changed when I moved to America. My first apartment was out in Newark and it would take me around an hour each way to get to work. There was just so much time sitting on trains that I was suddenly reading for two hours every day. I had bought a few books over to America with me, but within the first week in our new apartment I'd finished them all. I had a lot of difficulty joining the New York public library because of my Newark, NJ address, and I didn't particularly like the library selection at Newark public library.

Once I did join the NYPL I found the book loaning system very strange. I couldn't quite figure out exactly how it worked and it kind of made me nervous! It was one of those little American differences that I couldn't quite get around.

I asked a few people I knew if they had any books I could borrow, and while they lent me some interesting looking stories, none of them were really my genre or really captured my attention. Not only that, but these books were big and heavy.

So, naturally, I bought a Kindle. It changed my life. I could carry my Kindle with me everywhere and the amount of books I read increased dramatically. Once I moved out of Newark and moved closer to the city the amount of time I had to read decreased somewhat, so my reading pace has slowed a little, but I'm still chewing through books as quickly as I can.

What I'm wondering though, is what your reading habits are. When I'm on the train and absorbed in my book I'm in good company. In other places though, I seem to be the only one reading. Maybe I'm just a bookworm, but I'm sure I can't be alone. Once I get off the train, I can't just put my book away, at least not until I finish the chapter, so I road read. A lot of people don't understand this term. I borrowed it from The Sky Is Everywhere (which is a pretty good book y'all should read). Basically it's just walking along the road and reading. Not always safe in NYC if you forget that you have to stop for traffic. I've only ever seen one other person do it for half a block after emerging from the subway. Aside from me and my FH who got the idea from me and only did it while he was absorbed in The Game of Thrones books.

Aside from road reading, I'll occasionally read while on the cardio machines at the gym, while i'm waiting in a line for the restrooms (most commonly) or any other occasion that finds me in a long line, while I'm waiting for the train, at the laundromat or sometimes while I'm waiting for my food to arrive at a cafe or super casual restaurant. I carry my Kindle with me, where ever I go, just in case something comes up that leaves me bored for more than 2 minutes and needing something to do.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else carry a book or e-reader with them for those lulls in the day, or read in strange places to pass the time.... or simply because they can't put the book down. I'd love to know....!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

RTW: Best Book of October

Roadtrip Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by YA Highway.

This week we're talking about the Best Book of October

Unfortunately I don't have one. I haven't been reading as many books lately because I'm STILL going on the Pretty Little Liars series. I'm up to the last book that's been published... so that's been taking up all my  reading time.

I did however read two other books during the month of October - unfortunately I didn't like either of them.

The first was The Clan of the Cave Bear. I know, I should have liked it because it's a classic and whatnot but I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it was the writing style or the way the story was told.... I can't put my finger on what I didn't like exactly...

I wanted to like it, and I wish I'd liked it. In fact I was determined to finish it so I actually skim read most of the chapters and read the last five with full concentration. To be fair, the concept of the book I really liked, and the story was really intriguing but it just wasn't my kind of book.

The other book I read was Titanic 2012. I don't even know what to say about this book other than that I thought it was terrible. For one, I found it really disrespected the lives of those lost in the sinking but suggesting it was an ancient curse that possessed people on the ship to cause the sinking in the first place. Then, there were many historical facts that the author got wrong. Half the book is set in 1912 and the other half in 2012. Both time periods see's people on both the Titanic, and a Titanic exploration ship that are trying to stop the curse from wrecking havoc. This book is the only book this year that I've put down and walked away from.

Clearly I'm in need of some recs. Anyone got anything good?

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Favourite Part

In the last week I spend 33 hours traveling. On four buses and a train. I don't know what was worse. Two buses were night buses, and anyone who has ridden a night bus before knows how horrible it is to try and sleep in a bus overnight. Unless you can fall asleep at the click of your fingers (I used to have this talent, I'm not sure where it's disappeared to...) then you arrive at your destination looking like you've walked off the set of The Walking Dead.

During some of these long trips I was sorting out my kindle. In two weeks I'm going to be embarking on a two month road trip across the United States before I move back to New Zealand. While I'm hugely excited about this trip I also know it's going to involve many, many hours of bus rides (unfortunately it's the cheapest, and most uncomfortable, way to travel). My kindle will be my best friend (not that it wasn't already).

And just slightly off topic here, I know some of you are very anti kindle, but I must stress, for me they don't replace books. I still love getting the hardcopy books, being able to flick through the pages, pour over the cover, easily flick back and forth.... but it was becoming difficult to lug heavy books with me along with my laptop, gym gear, lunch and other daily essentials on the train for an hour each way to and from work. I got a kindle for my birthday and now it goes everywhere with me. It's so lightweight and slim it hardly takes up any room, and it's meant I've started reading so much more than I used to. I've even convinced my FH to buy one which he's quite excited about.

So anyway, I was organising my collections in my kindle for hours, shuffling books around, making new 'collections' and new lists of what I want to read next when I started thinking about the whole 'book reading process'.

I was trying to figure out which part of reading a book is my favourite part.  It could be the beginning when you have the whole book full of adventure to look forward to; the middle where you're wanting to know what happens next and can't quite put the book down but you've got plenty of the book left to look forward to; the climax, when you won't let anyone talk to you because you must...keep....reading!; or just after the conflict has been resolved and the book is wrapping up, when you know you're finishing this adventure and you're almost ready to pick your next book.

I asked my FH what his favourite part is, and he said "half way through when you know there's no turning back, when it's pulled you in and you have to finish the book to know how the story ends." I do love that part too, but I'm not sure if that's my favourite part, my favourite is at the climax near the end, when the tension is so high and your head has gone all buzzy and you can't think of anything else but what is going to happen in the book. There's also the knowledge that the book is coming to and end soon and you're going to get to pick out your next book soon.

So what is your favourite part of the reading process? Is there a time when your favourite part lets you down? Perhaps it's when it's not enough of a page turner, or when the book drags, or when it doesn't quite give you the satisfaction you were looking for.... thoughts?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Non-Fiction Books that stay close to your heart

I want to talk a little bit about reading books that leave their footprint on you (so to speak). By this I mean books that have really have affected me in some way. The story has, in some way, made an impact to the point that I haven't easily been able to forget it.

This happens a lot with novels, which i'll talk about in the next few weeks, but there are a collection of other books I've read recently that have had a similar impact on me, but they're all non-fiction stories. That possibly makes them even more memorable.

The first that I read was several years ago. It's Torey Hayden's first book called One Child. Torey Hayden is a behaviour psychologist who has written a number of books about her experience helped traumatized and disturbed children. This book is about her experience with her first seriously mentally tortured child. Parts of the book - mostly those bits where you find out what has happened to the young girl, Sheila - are so horrible you'll be in tears and enraged at the same time. Other parts will turn you into the biggest preppiest cheerleader in the history of cheer as your root Sheila on. I've read a few more of Hayden's books, but this is definitely the most touching and incredible of all of her books.

One Child 
Silent Tears is one that I'm recommending to everyone at the moment. It's basically a diary a woman kept during the years she lived in China volunteering at a Chinese orphanage. I can't get my head around the fact that this not only happened in my lifetime but just in the last few years. The conditions in these orphanages broke my heart. I wanted to adopt all of these poor children, many of them girls who were abandoned so couples could have more babies until they got boys because of the one child rule. Shocking. The book also talks about women being left by their husbands when they fail to give birth to a boy. I just can't even get my head around it. It is so barbaric, but then again, I don't fully understand the ways of their culture and no matter how hard I try, I don't think I ever will unless I go and live in China.


The woman who wrote this book really advocated for these kids. She worked so hard to try and encourage more American families (and others from around the world) to adopt these kids if they were looking to adopt. She helped raise money to get surgeries for the many kids with deformities, and she grew particularly attached to a number of the kids. This is a hard read, but it's a must read and I will never forget the things I took from this book.

Another book set in China that made a profound impact on me was Mao's Last Dancer. I'm sure many of you will have read this or seen the movie. It's a fantastic book which sends you on a total emotional journey. I learned a lot about China in this book, much of which really shocked me, but the journey of Li is a really incredible one, and to see how far he's come and to where he is now is astounding.


The final book that's really wormed its way into my head is Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall.
I started reading this book in New Zealand and was reading it as I flew to the USA, so I had no knowledge of Elissa's story or of Warren Jeffs but after this book I had a great deal of knowledge about it. This is basically the story of Elissa, an incredibly strong and brave young woman who grew up in the FDLS. She knew nothing of the 'outside world', and even after being forced to marry her first cousin (among other things), she still was fearful of what was outside the church. It's a heartbreaking and very powerful story which actually made such an impact that I reached out to Elissa to tell her how incredibly brave she is.

This book really helped me understand the life of those in cult religions such as the FDLS and to really comprehend why it is so hard for those that want to get out, to actually get out. It's an amazing story though, and also another I really recommend.

What are some non-fiction books that have really stuck with you that you can't help but recommend to everyone?