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?

Hogwarts on my mind

So I saw this video about a month ago and it’s been bugging me ever since. Of course, after spending the whole of New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day having a massive Harry Potter movie marathon with the husband and kids, it has been on my mind even more. Now, I adore Laci Green. Really I do. I find her refreshing and vibrant and intelligent. She is without a doubt someone to look up to.  This bugs me though! I can’t figure out why any of this matters! I don’t really think it’s fair to tell anyone “you should have done this or that differently” when it comes to their work. No. You should have done it exactly the way you did it because that’s the way you wanted to do it. I don’t think there is anything puritanical or conforming to societal taboos about leaving sex out of any narrative – especially this one! You know – if you go ahead and use your own imagination, there were probably a ton of teens having sex at Hogwarts…just like any other school But when you were at school, did you see your friends having sex? Of course not! And if you did, it was most likely by accident. Without meaning to sound like a prude, sex is a private subject. There is nothing wrong with exploring sexuality,or writing about it, but for heaven’s sake expecting it to be part of the storyline because it’s “more realistic” strikes me as a little silly. It is not shameful to keep sex behind closed doors – that it where it belongs. And when it comes to stories, if all the sex being had at Hogwarts (gosh!) had anything to do with the narrative then it would have been included. As for Dumbledore being gay – it didn’t matter. So it wasn’t mentioned. Joe Rowling has every right to know things about her characters that she does not share in her books. And it is not her “job” to teach anyone about sexuality or sexual orientation. She has already taught so many children (and adults!) out there a thousand things about all sorts of important stuff like empathy and friendship and bravery and loyalty and love and compassion and and and…. To fault her for not also teaching everyone that “having sex is ok” is a little bit insulting. I just can’t get over how weird this observation is…. But then again, maybe I’m just a prude. I’m grateful that sex wasn’t part of my own personal high school experience because I wasn’t ready for it then. But that was MY choice. A choice that I made because it was my choice, and not because I was ever under the impression that it had to be a certain way. And come on: if it was ok for Joey and Pacey to be having sex, then really, the “sex is ok” message has been out there for a long time.  A lot of TV and novels are already preaching the “sex is ok narrative” – they have been for years. The taboos of sex are placed on us because of our own issues and because of the issues of our parents, ministers, friends, school teachers etc. We cannot turn around and start demanding that our artists fix what we ourselves have broken. Sex/sexuality is not an issue – that is what the more progressive of us would like to see in the people around us. JK never made it an issue. This video, however, kind of does make it an issue. Choosing to not have sex should be no more of an issue than choosing to have sex is. Turning around and berating someone for not sharing anything sexual is the exact same thing as berating them for being too sexy. At least, that’s the way I see it…

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wish I could give it six…

I am in love with Sarah Addison Allen. I know it seems like such a trite thing to say but she really caused a breakthrough around my own writing. I will always love her for that. Aside from the latest Allen – which I haven’t been able to get my hands on because I live here – this was the only one I hadn’t read. It was kind of expensive (I don’t know why her books are so expensive here in SA) but my brother got it for my birthday anyway. It was a kind of silly and predictable read, but in a gloriously satisfying way. I kind of expected just about everything that happened to happen, but it was comforting, happy making. I think that’s pretty special. If you write things that make people happy, then you are kind of friggen fantastic.
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Children’s Book Week

10256499_10154169391275094_1680627886525252558_nIt’s been a disgracefully busy this week and unfortunately when that happens my poor Noah bears the brunt of all my neglect. Of course he is gloriously understanding and is quite happy to just steal hugs and kisses when he can, never bemoaning his lack of attention. I heard today that this week is Children’s Book Week. Of course, the source of this information was a random post on Facebook so it could be pure rubbish. I like the idea of a week dedicated to children’s book though so I decided to curl up with my little man this evening and have a bit of marathon reading session. We got through about six books before the little man decided that he was exhausted and therefore done humouring me. We’ll have to get through the others tomorrow night I guess…

Book Reading Blues

20140415_203735I am failing at my most sacred passion this month and it is getting me down. Does this ever happen to any of you other book readers out there? I set myself a goal of reading 100 books this year. I’m definitely not going to make it. It’s rather hopelessly too late for that unless I get very serious and take up speed reading.

The thing is…this happens to me every time I read a really good book…or at least one that is good to me. I then struggle to read something else because it’s just not the same. I know this book I’m currently reading is good. It is well written and interesting. But I miss the magic of Sarah Addison Allen. I miss that comfort. Yes, all (ok most) books are wonderful, but some gel so well with our cores that the others start to pale. I’m in one of those pale moods. It makes me sad. And it doesn’t help that I have been editing someone else’s book for the last couple of weeks. Reading for pleasure falls by the wayside when you spend all day reading for work.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden SpellsGarden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tried not to read this book in one day but I couldn’t help it. Even though I had guests and things to do and people to cook for, I started this book on Saturday morning and but a little past midnight on Sunday morning I was done. Every time I read one of Allen’s books I fall in love. It is rather an exquisite feeling to be so enchanted with the mind and worlds of another. She creates true magic on the page and I must admit that I am eternally grateful to her. I started reading a bit of Magical Realism with Alice Hoffman but didn’t quite love her s o much. Ali Shaw excited me far better. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake excited me in theory but not in execution. And then Allen came along. The more I read her stuff the more empowered I feel to write the same genre and the idea excites me more than I can express. Some writers are so good at this particular genre that experiencing their stories feels like childhood fantasy come true. That childlike search for wonder has been satiated by these writers for me. How do you say “thank you” for that? How do you let someone know that because of them something in your own universe has shifted for the greater good and that they have given you a priceless gift for which you will  always be grateful.

If you’ll excuse me, I now have to go and find the rest of Ms. Allen’s books because it has become very clear to me that I need them…

 

Are We Not Reading the Same Books?

Photo on 2014-03-05 at 9.39 AMI was bullied pretty badly as a kid. I’m sure nothing as serious as what a lot of other people out there have endured, but it was pretty consistent (boring, tedious). I never considered killing myself. I don’t think I ever felt completely hopeless. But I did spend a lot of time in quiet tears that I didn’t let anyone see. It was a stupid thing. One of those things that I considered my problem because asking for help was too hard and I didn’t want anyone else to feel sad because of it. And your friends (and teachers) teach you very quickly that it is your problem and that they’re not actually going to stand up for you or do anything about it. They’re just going to sit on the sidelines and be grateful that you’re the target and not them, and sometimes they’re going to give off a giggle because being cool with the cool kids is what life is really all about. Your square ass doesn’t stand a chance! Kind of stupid I guess but you quickly come to the conclusion that you’re alone on this one, and if you’re lucky, you grow the boobs to deal with it and move on, hopefully unscathed.  (more…)

How Did I Forget That I Love John Green?!

1660975_10153903486230094_2069668086_nSo John Green has lately become my favourite thing of all the things because he is a real person (sadly, as much as I love The Doctor, he is not real) and as a real person I think the contribution that he is making with regards to changing the world is a significant one. John Green is just a good and brilliant man. This is literally a person who has made the world a better place to live in simply by reminding so many people that not-being-an-asshole is kind of the coolest thing there is. John Green and his brother Hank started the Nerdfighter movement which is too much awesomeness for me to even remotely comprehend nevermind share with you so that you might comprehend it. John Green writes the kind of YA literature that you can confidently give your kids and not worry about somehow messing them up for life. In fact, if your kid is reading John Green you can be pretty confident that they will be better people at the end of each novel. How do I know this? Because I am a little bit better for each of his novels that I have read. That is how magic he is.

Anyway – the point is that I forgot that he is one of my favourites of all the favourites while I was writing a post about reading all my favourite authors this month.  This is kind of lame of me but he is a “new” favourite in that he has been a favourite for less than a year so I reckon I can forgive myself for the mistake. Luckily!! My husband bought me this little treasure as an anniversary present (I got him nothing…seriously…why did this man marry me?!) which made me remember that I LOVE JOHN GREEN and now I am so super duper happy because I get to read it right now this very minute as soon as I stop writing about how excited I am to have this new (to me) book by the awesomeness that is John Green. (more…)

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like everyone, I suppose, I find myself on occasion wondering if there is something wrong with me. After reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I couldn’t help but find myself trying so very hard not to be devastated. Why is it, Nadine, that you can’t just have a read and smile and be happy just like everyone else? They’re having way more fun that you are…I promise…

The thing is though – as much I would like to blame hype for my disappointment – I can scarcely explain why I should love one book for the exact reason that I find myself mildly disgruntled with another. (more…)