Category Archives: Reading

I ran all night and day…

I couldn’t get away!

(5 points to everyone that knows what song I’m referencing!)

Okay, so a few months ago I disappeared off the face of blogdom. Why? Because I had to create a 80+ page document also known as a thesis and if any of you have ever written a thesis, you’ll know what it’s like, for those that haven’t… well, I’ll attempt to explain what it entails.

Torture.

I read a ton of books this year (I’m at 42 so far for the year) and on top of reading tons of books, I’ve also read a ton of articles. I had to educate myself on my topic which I discussed via free-type in February. My topic was honesty in writing, figuring out what it is and how to ensure my writing has it. So, basically I was constantly reading and writing and re-writing. I have never spent so much time on any other single thing in my life. The result?

I became a Master. Yes, after many stressful months, I did indeed get the damn thing done as we like to say in our department.

If I’m being honest, it wasn’t 100% stressful… I did go to Disney World in March!

Since graduating, I have done nothing but read, scrapbook, and play Civilization V.

I have a bunch of books to get through for my ERC progress so stay tuned for those. My scrapbooking is a secret because they’re Christmas presents and I don’t want anyone to see. I will say that doing a scrapbook in triplicate is… expensive and frustrating. It’s like running for 3 miles but only making 1 mile progress. And when it comes to Civ V, well I’m currently working my way through as many achievements as I can achieve on Steam (you can add me if you’re on there, melsocool).

This week, I’m flying home to PA, so I’ll try to keep you updated. After that I have a month before I start a teaching internship to hopefully finish my certification for teaching. During all of that, I’m going to keep chugging away at my novel and updating you on that.

So, that’s all I have for today. I’m sorry about the absence but sometimes you really can’t do it all. Thanks for coming back to check out my site!

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Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

It’s been a while, a long while. Well, I’m sorry. Next week, I’ll explain where I was but for now, here’s an update of of my progress in the ERC.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Having never read a Sherklock Holmes novel makes my adventure into House of Silk strange because I am well acquainted with his many, many popular incarnations throughout the media today (and my childhood). That said, I probably will check out the originals after this because it was quite fun and has been said to stay in the same vein (albeit 2x longer for current audiences).

I found Watson and Holmes interesting characters to read and tried very hard to separate them from the BBC’s Watson and Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s interpretation, though I think the BBC’s modernized men would fit quite well into Horowitz’s world. The story line shocked me but overall the book was really enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend it and would love to hear what Holmes’s fans have to say about it!

Extremes: Surviving the World's Harshest Environments

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Middleton’s book is a telling of how some indigenous peoples live in extreme environments. I read this to research survival to help my boss write a survival unit. Middleton is a geographer so he has a great perspective on the actual environments but he’s also entertaining to read. He has the knowledge but knows he’s a Brit that couldn’t survive a day on his own. If you want to learn a little about the world, specifically Greenland (arctic wasteland), the Congo (jungle), the Tenere Desert (part of the Sahara), and Papua (swamp). I kept a great many notes to help me with my book so this is a great piece for research when world-building.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’d heard good things about this book, it even has a 3.99/5 on Goodreads.com! You know what though? That was all phooey. It is a bad book. The “mystery” is melodramatic and a bad play at a crazy dystopian-style experiment. The main character is horrible and unrelatable. I have one word to explain this book and that word is “stupid” if I’m going to expend a few more, those would be “a waste of time.” If you’re curious, read the Wikipedia page for it.

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This is another book I did on survival research and it’s amazing. Written this time from the point of view of an adventure-seeking medical doctor, Kamler explains quite a few things about surviving in extreme cold, extreme heat, and many other (including space). It’s another book that is not only entertaining but educational. Another one to keep an eye on for world-building research!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’m a bit on the fence about this book. I may read the sequel in the future, if I get through a bunch of other books and I remember to come back to it. The thing is that the main character has blue hair. Now, I recognize that it’s explained and yada yada yada but there is just something about characters having blue hair that bothers me. I don’t know what it is, it’s a me thing. Anyway, this is a decent story. It’s got a lot of interesting plot points but I feel like it’s only touches the surface of the story. If I had the sequel on my night stand, I’d read it. But I don’t and I’m not rushing out to buy it any time soon.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sedaris’s memoir is entertaining. I wouldn’t call it a comedy because I didn’t laugh out loud at it at all and definitely not as much as other books. That said, it’s a good read. Sedaris is a good story teller with great moments to talk about in his life. I find his honesty enjoyable and the truth behind his experiences is really cool, for lack of a better word. He has some really unique experiences but he moves through them as a lazy human that makes the stories real and relatable.

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

I committed to Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge and have been chugging right along making progress, though I haven’t really gotten completely eclectic yet. So far I’ve been bouncing around the same genre’s but that’s okay. I have all year to get there.

One book I’ve committed to reading, Anna Karenina, is taking a long, long, long, long time because it’s really long and really slow and kind of like a lullaby. So whenever Goodreads tells me I’m ahead of schedule for my 100 books goal, I go back to it. So, after a few days on Anna Karenina (and only 10% progress), I started on some more books.

Miss Me Not

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon

Miss Me Not is an independently published novel only available in ebook format.

When I started Miss Me Not, I hated the narrator/MC. Her negative attitude was all too familiar in a bad sense, but something kept me going. When I finished the book, King had successfully used Madison’s negative attitude on life and helped her find happiness in completely legitimate ways (confronting issues, counseling, and work) that made it work. I felt like her writing could use some work, but this book was a good read.

One thing that threw me was the “New Adult” genre tag. This was supposed to fit in my ERC category but its definitely too young for NA. The MC, Madison, is a high school senior dealing with issues that meet YA. It’s good, just not NA.

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I picked this book for the Romantic Suspense category. I was pleasantly surprised. The main character, Charley Davidson (yes, like the motorcycle), reminded me strongly of Anita Blake from Guilty Pleasures (which I reviewed in January). I liked Charley a little more, she was less cheesy and fit into my personality more. Every since Dead Like Me, I’ve loved the idea of a grim reaper, which made the character of Charley really fun to get into.

At the end of the book, however, I’m feeling like Jones should’ve spent more time with the mystery of the story and less on the “oh, this strange attraction to the mystery man.” It started as a focus on the mystery but that faded away, which I didn’t mind until the end.

A Writer Teaches Writing

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This book was my epiphany book. I read the first half and was scribbling in the margins constantly as I read each line, each paragraph. Most valuable to me was Murray’s revelation of the writing process. I have read a lot of books about teaching writing and a few on writing, but none so perfectly summed up the writing process like Murray so much so that I feel lighter and more prepared for writing more now than I ever have in my life.

If you are a writer, read this book because it helps you to understand your writing process, but to help you develop your reading of your own writing and others. You will become, if you read this book, a writer and a teacher of writing. Don’t say, “I don’t need to teach writing,” because your first pupil will be you. So yes, you do need to know how to teach writing to yourself and to your writing buddies. If you are a teacher, read this book and keep in mind that when you talk about writing, it’s all abstract until you do it. So don’t think this will help you to become a better writing teacher without actually writing–it won’t, because it will be abstract and useless until you heed Murray’s (and countless other’s) advice.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I am on the fence about this book. I like some of the ideas Lamott shares but they’re mired in these ideas and personal philosophies and quirky (look at me) stories I didn’t like trudging through. I read the book for my thesis and will use it but I won’t recommend this book. It reminded me of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones but instead of inspiring me to write, I felt drained.

This did inspire me to think about honesty, which is a virtue that comes easily to me most of the time (and by easily, I mean it perches on my shoulder, the ever obnoxious parrot). But there is an honesty that is, at it’s core, honest, and honesty that is not and this is decided by it’s delivery. There is inherit in the Lamott’s delivery this showy side of pointing out the hardships and the oddities of her life with a false, flashy bravado. I started Stephen King’s On Writing and he has the honesty I employ, the honest honesty that when delivered is not meant to hurt, just be honest because it just is. It is not to be looked on with pity or sorrow. It just is. SO, as I told a friend, even my virtues have virtues.

Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

WHILE the main character, Temperance Brennan, DOES share a name and occupation with our TV favorite, Bones, that’s where the comparison’s stop. I aint mad, bro. I really liked Reich’s writing, I liked the story, I liked the description, I liked that I read it in Emily Deschanel’s voice. I missed the characters from Bones, but that’s alright because I watch the show. I don’t need to double up on this one (which is exactly how I feel about the Sookie Stackhouse novels). I don’t know when I’ll pick up another novel in this series, but I will.

Link: Goodreads.com

I’m just putting this book in here to say, guys, this is the kind of stuff I have to read to do my thesis that I can’t even say, “Yeah, I’d recommend this book for pleasure reading.” I can’t. I can recommend that if your local library has it, that you browse through it and recognize that we’re all scientific researchers using the heuristic research design. Yep. I’m not even kidding. If you need a design for a study, this is easy-I’d-rather-just-write-a-novel-so-I-did-now-how-do-I-pretend-it’s-a-thesis research. That’s Moustakas, you’re one part of the equation to why I’m going to graduate in May.

Also, you can’t get more eclectic than a book on scientific research next to some a murder mystery, just sayin.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of “What Melanie is Reading.” See you next time, folks!

On Canceling Wednesday Posts

Hey guys, I love to update my blog three times a week and further I really love Reblog Wednesdays but right now, I’m lost in the Dead Marshes of Thesis writing. This month, at least, I have to cancel one post a week. That means no more Reblog Wednesdays.

I will give you an update of my thesis. Right now I’m just collecting data, still working through “A Writer Teaches Writing” that I mentioned Monday, I read a few articles and have a bunch more to get through before the end of the day. I’m really focusing on writing and what it means to be a a writing writing teacher. Because I also work as an editor, I’m developing my understanding of what it means to be an editor, because effectively that’s what a writing writing teacher is.

My brain is going around and round like the beginning of a galaxy, quite figuratively, my mind is blown by all the work I’ve been reading.

I also have a class in which I have 5+ articles to read a week, a paper to write (on writing, no less), and two books to critique. And last but not least, I got a GA position helping my prof research (adding 10 hours a week of reading and researching to my schedule).

I’m not being neglectful, I’m being a good graduate student.

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

In December, my friend Stephanie at Misprinted Pages shared Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge with me and I got on the train. I’m really enjoying the progress so far this January as I use it to work towards reaching my goal of reading 100 books this year.

So, let’s talk about what I’ve read so far and what I thought!

Guilty Pleasures

Links: Author PageGoodreads.comAmazonBarnes & Noble

My friend, Sabrina, loves Laurell K Hamilton and her work so I decided to give Guilty Pleasures a look before getting into my ERC reading list and then I realized HEY! This fits the ERC!.32

Despite all the smutty covers made for this book, it’s actually quite devoid of sex, which stunned me. It started,out similar enough to other books I’ve read in this genre at a CLUB. YEP. A CLUB. WHO WOULD’VE THUNK IT? NOT ME. NAW. Okay, this time it was an all-male, vampire revue which means that it should have a nice, Magic Mike-inspired scene should it be made into a movie. I don’t know why, but this club thing is grating on me. It’s numero uno on what not to have in my urban fantasy piece.

Hamilton did a great job with first person narration. It wasn’t too “I” heavy. A few things bugged me, which were, I assume, funny to most but  repetitive or stilting to me (such as the use of “Naw”). She over uses some of the same jokes that I thought, “once was enough, twice was pushing it, thrice–too far.” Other than that, the prose was good. The bad guy was pretty obvious making me wonder why Anita Blake missed it until he revealed himself. Why did I piece together the mystery before her?

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A Clockwork Orange was just too frustrating to finish. I didn’t get very far before giving up on the language. It was like reading a novel of Jabberwocky. I’ve seen the movie so I knew the language and understood what was going on which to me made reading the book pointless. If I’m only following along thinking “Oh, I remember that part of the movie,” that means I’m not enjoying the book. I’m just trudging along because lots of people like it. I’m not one of those people and that’s okay.

The Road

The Road

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

McCarthy’s story is told with no chapters, no breaks. Just prose. I loved it. It wrapped me in this blanket and carried me along until the end of the story. A man and his child travel across the country and I’m not sure if it’s the apocalypse or McCarthy’s style, but if I could have, I might have held my breath the whole way. I was scared, worried, anxious about reading to the next page, the next paragraph because of what might happen if I continued. It was as if by not reading it, it would not happen. I don’t get this feeling very often when reading so that is a glowing recommendation.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

Storm Front

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

For me, Storm Front became an abandoned book about 20% in. In December, I blogged about another series by Jim Butcher, Codex Alera. When reading Codex, I was able to get past the poorly developed characters, the tropes, and the amateurish writing. In Storm Front, I couldn’t. The world, plot, and races of Codex Alera saved the series and made it worth reading but in Storm Front, it’s just not there. I just felt annoyed by the narrator, sick of the writing style, and not at all interested in any mystery. It was PI mystery mixed with all the crap I hate about urban fantasy. I know lots of people love this series, but I don’t.

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller

No Crystal Stair

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

No Crystal Stair is the first book I read that wasn’t for the ERC. A literary agent told one of my clients to read this to help her shape her novel so I too needed to read it. No Crystal Stair is a short, fictional, documentary (which is typically non-fiction?) book about the life of a Black Rights activist, Lewis Micheaux. The entire story is told from multiple view points all focused on Lewis. About 15% of the book is sources, acknowledgements, etc so this is a very, very short read. It’s labeled YA but I don’t buy that. There is nothing YA about this book; it might be helpful for kids to read with a history unit or to encourage self-research. The writing, in my opinion, was weak. The entire text was filled with generalized statements and showed a disconnect between writer and character probably because there were so many she attempted to write through. It was interesting and I enjoyed learning about someone but the delivery made me feeling unrewarded because of that big old word “fictional” up there. There were strange disconnects leaving plot holes over the course of the man’s life that made it frustrating in some parts. That said, it’s won awards and stuff so maybe it’s just me.

Elemental

Elemental

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

In short, Elemental blew me away. For his dystopia, John used a place that most east coasters know–the Outer Banks. I vacationed at Hatteras Island one weekend and it was probably the best beach trip I’ve ever had so that paradise was set on end by John’s action/adventure story, making it even more powerful. He works to develop elemental magic though his world building is minimal, wasting no time on long info dumps, instead helps us to discover the way things work with the characters. His characters, I love. Especially Alice (what a spit-fire) and Griffin. I’m really excited for the next two books in this series.

Elemental is relatively short and is a quick, action packed read. I highly recommend this book. It’s my favorite this month.

2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

In December, I reblogged a friend’s article on the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Afterwards, I decided to start doing some research to find the PERFECT books to fit this challenge. I decided to share that progress with you and ask for suggestions from around the web! While the challenge is just for 12 books, my goal every year is 100 so recommendations are always welcome!

Translated Fiction. This isn’t a stretch for me, Murakami’s “Norweigan Wood” and Marquez’s “100 Years in Solitude” are two of my favorite novels. However, if I’m not pushed to read in this genre, I don’t! How lazy. So I looked through a list of translated books on Wikipedia, not just translated but award winning. These two from 2012 were enticing to me: Lightning: A Novel by Jean Echenoz and Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas. Lightning is about Nikola Tesla and as he’s kind of a huge deal in the world of steampunk I really SHOULD read it. Never Any End to Paris is about writing and literature which is just my kind of book. I think I’ll check both out.

Historical Mystery. One of the series I discussed last month, the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, fits into this genre. So this is nothing new but I am going to purposely avoid speculative fiction this time and be very strict with the genre. I just went to the “Historical Mystery” genre page on Goodreads.com. My two for now are: The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz and A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee. I picked House of Silk because I love Horowitz’s Alex Rider series and Sherlock can sometimes have a tie into steampunk. A Spy in the House is a Victorian novel so that may help out a bit with my atmosphere.

Romantic Suspense. The first few books on Goodread.com’s most read list were 50 Shades of Gray and the like. I won’t be reading those. I picked First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones and Something About You (FBI / US Attorney #1) by Julie JamesFirst Grave on the Right was picked because I love the idea of grim reapers thanks to “Dead Like Me.” I’m pretty excited to check it out. And Something About You I picked because I love cop shows like CSI, NCIS, Blue Collar, Bones, etc.  Speaking of, I’m going to check out Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan #1) by Kathy Reichs this year too.

Made into a Movie. PERFECT, I’ve been needing to read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I also want to re-read the Hunger Games series.

New Adult. I started my search for this genre on Goodreads and found the New Adult genre page. Despite the fact that this genre is supposed to focus in on the coming-of-age stories that occur after high school in that 18-25 years old range, all of the books on the Goodreads page are romance novels. That makes me very sad. I found three books so far that are not romance: I Am Everyone I Meet: Random Encounters On The Streets Of Los Angeles by James P. WhiteMove: YA Contemporary by Brina Courtney, and For the Win by Cory Doctorow. I Am Everyone I Meet is a short book of encounters, simple enough, that seem really intriguing and really fall along the ideas of New Adult as I see them. Move is a story of a very abused, very unhappy ballerina that finds peace in her dancing. For the Win is a dystopia about video games. So that just sounds fantastic. I found four other books that associate heavily with the romance part of New Adult that I think I’ll check out: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, Collateral by Ellen Hopkins, Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houckand, Miss Me Not by Tiffany King.  Daughter of Smoke & Bone is an angels/demons/urban fantasy that has an awesome book cover. Collateral is a free-verse poetry story from Crank’s Ellen Hopkins about a girl in an MFA program that falls in love with a Marine. Tiger’s Curse is the beginning of an epic fantasy-romance with magic, mythology, and tigers. Miss Me Not is the story of a young girl who commits to suicide but someone beats her, and her friend, to the punch and makes her rethink her decision.

Urban Fantasy. So I tried the urban fantasy “City of Bones” and I discussed in December why I just hated it. So, I’m weary of this genre. I know Jim Butcher is the king of urban fantasy with his Dresden Files series but because of his Furies of Calderon series, I’m worried about that. I’ll try the first book of the series, Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I picked three others to read as well: Elemental by Antony John, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and Neverwhere by Neil GaimanElemental seems like an epic fantasy filled with elemental magic and pirates. Divergent is another dystopia in which Beatrice comes-of-age and must decide between her family and herself. Cinder is a steampunk fairytale set in a dystopian future. Gaiman is an amazing writer and Neverwhere is the story of a man that gets pulled into an alternative reality.

Dystopian. I’ve already put a few dystopias on here so I’m going to go the classics route: Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and The Road by Cormac McCarthyPlayer Piano is Vonneguts first novel featuring a world dominated by a super computer. In Do Androids… the world has been irrevocably changed by war, so many have died that all life is venerated and held up on a pedestal. A Clockwork Orange is the story of a young man who is punished for a vicious crime through medical experimentation. In The Road, a father and son journey through a post-apocalyptic world because that’s all there is left to do.

Memoir. Finally, a genre I haven’t spent a lot of time in. So, I kind of just went by the seat of my pants searching for books that seemed worth reading. I picked: Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar NafisiRunning with Scissors is the story of a young man raised by a kooky psychiatrist that looks like Santa Clause. Me Talk Pretty One Day is the story of Sedaris’s move to Paris and his toying with the language. Reading Lolita is the story of a teacher bringing banned books to his female students in the Middle East.

GLBT. I’ve never read anything in this genre. I know a lot of straight women enjoy the M/M stuff so the romance of this genre can be pretty heavy. I decided to try to find books more about the journey instead of the smut. I picked: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter CameronSing You Home is the story of a young woman whose miscarriage leads her to therapy and ultimately a romantic love of her female counselor. I have heard good things about Jodi Picoult so that’s what lead me to this story. The World of Normal Boys is the story of a young man growing up int he 1970s that finds himself increasingly dissimilar to “normal” boys. Someday is the story of a young man who should be starting at Brown but would rather find a house in the country on his own.

Action Adventure. Speculative fiction is full of action and adventure so this is an easy genre to fill! I decided to go with the cool covers route to picking books: The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, and If We Survive by Andrew KlavanMaze Runner is the story of Thomas who wakes up in the Glade without any knowledge of who he is or how he got there. The Marbury Lens is a steampunk novel about Jack as he struggles to survive in this world and the one he can view through the Marbury Lens. In If We Survive, a group of missionaries get trapped in the middle of a revolution in Costa Verde.

Humor. I have read a few books on the humor list over at Goodreads like Soulless and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I like to laugh, so this will be great fun! I picked Fifty Shades of Mr Darcy: A Parody by William Codpiece Thwackery and Bossypants by Tina Fey. I picked the Fifty Shades parody because well it just seemed kind of funny. As for Bossypants, I’ve liked a lot of the little things I’ve read from Fey so I figured it was time to just go ahead and read her book.

2013. Well, 2013 has just arrived so this one will need some time before it can be completed!

Okay, this has been a long, long post. Has anyone read any of these books? What are your thoughts?