Meeting Kate Atkinson

I have a weird confession. For the last couple of years I’ve been collecting Kate Atkinson books even though I’ve never read her. The collection started with Case Histories, I think. Because I liked the cover. And then I think I might have bought one called Emotionally Weird because I understand that title. And then I just started buying them because I had already started buying them. So now I have a collection.

I finally picked up Case Histories last week (for some reason I have three copies of it!) and I must admit I’m kind of glad that I have a collection to indulge in now. Kate Atkinson is rather lovely, to say the least. And I’m really looking forward to getting to know her better through her work. Sometimes you meet an author and your heart just says yes. I think this is probably why I like to read so much…because the more you read the more likely it is that you’ll get that fuzzy yes feeling that is so rare but so wonderful.

Sadly my collection does not include books #2 and #3 in the Jackson Brodie series, but I’m sure I will have the most delightful time trekking through to all the second hand bookshops and markets around here as I try to track them down. (forgive me, please, for being unable to afford new books…)

So if any of you are looking to get rid of Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn or When Will There Be Good News I would much appreciate the head’s up.

I like you, Kate. You are quite charming. And I’m very glad we’ve met.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m charmed. I’ve been a crime fiction reader pretty much for as long as I’ve been a reader. In Case Histories, Kate Atkinson kind of blends this usually more “easy reading” genre with just the right amount of family drama to make you feel like you’ve read something significant. I won’t say it was a very twisty-turny sort of read, but her style of writing plays well in the mind and her characters are quite memorable. The sort of reading that leads you to kind of smile and feel grateful that this time you got through a work of fiction without too many traumatic wounds. Sadly I don’t have the next book in the Jackson Brodie series (I have the 4th) so I’m certainly going to have to do some searching at my local second hand book stores. I’m weirdly excited about this prospect…

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Can I read 100 books in 2018?

Probably no. But I’m going to try anyway. Because I’ve kind of failed at it for the last 5 or so years (I’ve been trying to pull this off for a while) and I imagine that if I keep trying I might eventually get it right. Oh…and I suppose I should mention that I’m back to book blogging for the year. Or at least I hope to be. Of course a re-start is necessary so it will take a bit to time to put my site back together.

But I want to read this year. Because above everything else it is important to read if I want to write. And I really want to write. Even if it has to wait until life is a little less chaotic. That’s fine.

And of course: since I’m a bit fan of watching too much telly I can at least use this space to share a bit about all of that too, now can’t I? Of course I can… It’s my blog.

 

How Many Books on you TBR List?

Photo on 2016-03-16 at 10.04 AM

There’s this episode of Sex & the City where Carrie is feeling a little broke and she suddenly figures out that she has spent around $40 000 on the shoes in her closet. Sometimes I look at my bookshelves and feel that way a little. Although, unlike Carrie, I almost never buy new books (nevermind new releases!) and the replacement value of my bookshleves is easily about 10 times higher than what I actually paid for it. I think…. I hope…

The thing is though… I currently have (no joke) 712 books on my TBR list. There are 712 books in my personal library that I have not actually read yet. This is ridiculous!

And yet… I still can’t resist a book sale…

 

JK Rowling Makes So Much Sense

Anyone who knows me knows that JK Rowling is my queen and that I’d be the first to vote for her as world president. For one: you can tell a LOT about someone by reading their books, and she is no exception. Her heart, humour, and humanity is written all over those pages. She is so beautiful to me. She always has been.

But with this Lumos video? She’s outdone herself. I can’t stop thinking about just how much sense this makes. And I cannot fault how right she is. Thank you. Jo, for being the beautiful humanitarian that you are. We all have so much to learn from you.

The Incurable Depression of Being a Reader

20150721_140720-01My son woke up this morning and the first thing he said to me was, “Mom, I want to be magic.”

The only thing I could say to him was, “Me too, baby.”

We then went on to discuss how wonderful it would be to own a TARDIS.

I could see he was in pain. This lack of magic. This lack of a blue box. It hurts him. He’s a happy child. But this lack of magic really hurts him.

And I thought…this poor kid. If he’s anything like me it’s really not going to get better. He’s not going to “grow out of it”. He will probably try to stifle it. He might tell himself that his longing for otherworlds is silly and childish. And for a while he might believe it. He’ll try drugs and alcohol and they’ll be fun for a while. And hobbies. Sex. Girls. Boys. But it probably won’t go away. That need for an adventure is a parasite. Burrowed deep. And it wants more than what planes and money can do.

I know it won’t properly go away because I’m 33 years old now and I still wish I was magic. I still look at flowers and imagine that a fiary might pop out. I still think, “one day I’m going to walk into a cupboard and end up on a mountain” and I still think one day I will be able to type out blog posts using only my thoughts and not my fingers who are feeling a little cold right now.

I’ve been reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians now for well over a month.  The character of Julia is killing me which is making the experience kind of painful – which is why it is taking me so long to read. But then….it’s kind of always painful, isn’t it? It pains me that Hogwarts exists only in a netherrealm which is only accessible to my mind and not my body. It kills me that here is just here, which at the same times seems such a strange way to feel considering my capacity to be delighted by earthly things.

I sometimes wish I wasn’t a reader. I wish I wasn’t a creator. I wish that I could indulge in the quiet content that everyone else seems to manage so easily. I wish reading made me happy happy instead of devastated happy.

Some books take the sad away for a little while. Sometimes. When you find the right ones (which takes work). But only for a little while.

But then you get back to life and life is kind of lacking unicorns.

 

Review: Revenge

Revenge
Revenge by Jackie Collins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well… That’s over…. I was kind of hoping for some sort of magical plot twist or something. I was happy to discover that for once I was completely wrong about who the killer was, so yay for that. Either I’m losing my touch or some actual intrigue was employed. Honestly I haven’t read about such two dimensional and not-really-believable characters since Fifty Shades of Grey. Although that said, the whole Fifty Shades phenomenon makes more sense to me now than it did before. I guess this is jut the kind of writing that a lot of folks prefer. I just didn’t feel like there was any depth to it at all. I get to read my new Lev Grossman novel now though. I’m actually salivating at the thought.

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Review: Murder

Murder
Murder by Jackie Collins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I made a booboo in my last review. I referred to this series as the “LA Confessions” series. It’s “LA Connections”. My apologies. Otherwise it seems I’m flying through these which is great because I need to move on but I can’t move on until I’m done so at least it’s quick. Still not much happening to thrill me much. I don’t believe anything anyone says. It could be that I’m in a mood and just find anything anyone says to be disingenuous, or maybe that’s just how it is. I don’t know. On to the last instalment though. So maybe I’ll be surprised? I think I don’t know who the killer is so far so yay for that. Unless it turns out to be who I think it is. In which case I’ll be annoyed. I always guess. Every single time. It’s not the writer’s fault. Apparently I have really loud spoilery spirit guides.

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Review: Power

Power
Power by Jackie Collins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m probably going to regret writing this review. Kind of how I regret writing my Fifty Shades reviews or the Fear and Loathing review. Sometimes indignant honesty feels good at the time, but later you re-read yourself and you have to admit that maybe you’re just a cow.

I decided to pick up this little series for one main reason: it consists of four very short books. I’m super behind on my reading goal for the year and when we had our yearly Larter “What Are Your Goals For The Year” meeting, I insisted that my only goal for the year was to read 100 books (I’m tired of writing goals falling way short of my expectations) – I have to admit to myself that children need to come first for a little while because I am incapable of juggling. But I am super failing at this most minuscule of goals! And now I’m even cheating because seriously I don’t think reading these books counts. Anyway – I chose them because they were short (I bought them at a by-weight book sale about 2 months ago) and because I needed something “easier’ to read. The last book I read made me feel super unintelligent – it was out of my league. And then when I actually did start understanding it, it wrecked me a little. So I needed something to unwreck me. I expected this to be a cheap trashy romance novel. With some fun sex scenes and a murder or two thrown in just for fun. Yay!

I also thought to myself that I could probably “learn” something from these books. I read a lot of different types of books and I like to have an idea of what the contemporary masses are consuming. Jackie Collins sounds like that sort of writer. Surely. I can learn something! I can’t “learn” from books like Toni Morrison’s or Margaret Atwood’s or King or Irving or any of those folks because they are too out of my reach. I can only gawk at them in awe. I won’t ever write like that, and that’s fine.

So I picked up this book. And? Well I’m still scratching my head. I am so confused. None of these characters seem to possess any sort of logic. The entire thing is filled with cliches – though I wonder if they were perhaps not so cliche in 1996 when it was set? So fine. It’s not “timeless” – not many folks can pull that off. Totally forgivable. But still… I kind of felt a bit eye roll-y throughout the whole thing. And I can’t figure out why this is divided into four books when the first one doesn’t really stand alone in any way. It’s sort of a nothing story about nothing people. But not in that profound where where nothing happens but you still feel like something has happened. More like stuff happens but you really just don’t care. Then again: that’s exactly what I was looking for in the wake of my Morrison devastation.

I’m very confused. But I AM learning. I am learning that I think maybe I write this way. And I am worried I won’t be able to change that. Because even if this is something that folks really like to read (Collins has many fans – though she may not be to my taste) I don’t want to write this way. I worry that I will write in this way that does so very little for me. And I know just how pompous that sounds but I do. I want to write the kind of books that make me happy. These sort of books don’t make me happy. They’re way too much like fat-free yogurt.

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An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

An Invisible Sign of My Own
An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Feeling humbled by the (to me) unpretentious quirk that is Aimee Bender. How glorious when reading feels a little bit like falling in love – something that you instinctively understand but could not possibly explain. I must admit that for this novel a lot of the charm lay in the reviews of others. Indignant school teachers offended by an inaccurate portrayal of teaching and children. Fussy readers who cannot cope when a story is not “just so” – as if being “realistic” and “structured” is the only way to be when it comes to putting yourself on paper. And yet here I sit, grateful for strange minds that take me to different worlds, and especially grateful that my own mind allows for me to be taken there.

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Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this book, which is a little bit weird because I hated the main character. I think perhaps the feeling of “learning” as I read helped to negate the fact that I could not quite get behind this woman’s treatment of people. I don’t know why but that kind of self inflicted isolation always strikes me as weak. I imagine my annoyance at this exact brand of character possibly says a lot about me as a person, and most likely nothing good, but I just can’t help it. While I did feel a certain (limited!) empathy for Victoria, I could not help but be angered by the senselessness of her situation – but then again, without her toxic persona there would have been no story to tell, would there? There would only be an unhappy beginning with a perfectly acceptable resolution that spanned over a year instead of ten. Hardly bookworthy. I think perhaps I myself am addicted to others, despite my affection for frequent isolation. Love is one thing I have never shied away from, despite having had my heart broken on a number of occasions, not only by men, of course, but by people I have trusted as well. I think a capacity for heartbreak can overwhelm all of us, but I struggle to relate to the kind of brokenness that retaliates in the harm of others. I especially do not understand the compulsion to harm myself or others in the attempt to “protect myself”. It is such a strange thing to me. This means that I am most likely lucky, which is something I know and do not take for granted. While I believe that I am personally plagued and affected (often negatively) by my own past, just like many others are, for some reason it has never shut me off to love. Love I feel and embrace with my whole being. Always. Whether I find it in a book that I love, or art, or a partner, my child, my family, my friends. It is all consuming, and the exquisiteness of love has always, and I hope will always, trump its ability to bring with it the most excruciating of heartbreaks.

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Books that make me feel like I could possibly be a writer…

Photo on 2014-11-28 at 2.17 PM #3Nick Hornby wrote a new book which is about as wonderful as wonderful gets. Even more wonderful is that a book reviewer friend of mine sent me his new book when I gushed about what a fan I was to her (some people are just so damn cool!) and so I have the latest one in my possession. Of course it is also currently on my nightstand. There is something about this man that inspires me entirely, and while reading this latest novel I couldn’t help but marvel at how there are some books that make you feel like you have no business writing (Irving, King, Atwood, Tartt) and then there are some that are bright, brilliant, and beyond reproach, and yet they somehow still make you feel sort of yes I can do this. Hornby makes me feel that way. Sarah Addison Allen does too. Ali Shaw. Mark Haddon. William Kowalski. Tony Parsons. My conclusion is of course this: I should read these guys this month. What better way to start the new year than surrounded by people who inspire you?