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Just Robyn

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  1. Hi there! It's been a few weeks. Here's where I'm at. We moved to a new house, which is great, but took some time, so not much reading going on. Plus I've been in the middle of a writing project. And it's been Book Festival week here, so I've been attending panel discussions and workshops. I have not finished a single book since I last posted. I am currently reading Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland, which talks about what kinds of stories sell to what audiences, plotting tools/strategies, and... whatever I haven't read yet. And a children's book--Lemons by Melissa Savage, about a girl whose mother (died? is quite ill? It hasn't said.) and who is living with her grandfather and spending a lot of time with a boy who is a Bigfoot detective. This is to be the first of several Bigfoot-related children's books.
  2. These Sundays. They sure come and go. Anyway, I finished War and Peace. It was amazing. I love Natasha and Prince Andrei and Tolstoy. Thank you all. I might never have read it if it weren't a group read here. I also read Writers Workshop of Horror, which was fine, included a couple of better essays. And Literary Taste - How To Form It (With Detailed Instructions For Collecting A Complete Library Of English Literature) by Arnold Bennett, which was a delight. Also, it shows that it's not really a new idea that reading literary fiction improves empathy. "Search for the ideas and emotions which you have garnered from that book. Think, and recollect when last something from that book recurred to your memory apropos of your own daily commerce with humanity. Is it history--when did it throw a light for you on modern politics? Is it science--when did it show you order in apparent disorder, and help you to put two and two together into an inseparable four? Is it ethics--when did it influence your conduct in a twopenny-halfpenny affair between man and man? Is it a novel--when did it help you to 'understand all and forgive all'? Is it poetry--when was it a magnifying glass to disclose beauty to you, or a fire to warm your cooling faith?"
  3. I put both of those on my to-read list. Thank you. Tress, :grouphug: . To continue my post from last week, I finished the Goodreads Into the Forest challenge by reading The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera. The cultural and folklore parts of this story were interesting, but the characters were not fleshed out enough and there were too many long names of people and places that I couldn't pronounce so that too often my eyes looked at the page and my brain said, Skip that. I listened to The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout - nonfiction. This turned out to be a good companion to War and Peace since Dolokhov matches the description of a sociopath and the author, after examining the lives of sociopaths and their effects on others, how successful they are, and how their emotional capacity differs from most people's, seems to come to the same conclusion that Tolstoy does in a couple of chapters about Prince Andrei, Dolokhov and Napoleon--that people who are capable of love and compassion live fuller, more meaningful lives. Also, just an interesting book. I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which made me think, Neil Gaiman light. That seems unfair. Just because his writing makes me think of Gaiman's (but simpler and not as full), doesn't mean he was trying to emulate Gaiman and falling a little short, though it feels like that's what my assessment sort of implies, and can't Ness just be Ness? No comparisons? But anyway, that's what I thought. It was a very sad book. Some characters (the bullies) were not really believable to me. I was ambivalent about some of the stories the monster tells, but the book as a whole still got to me emotionally. Two of my sons are reading it now. I also read On Writing Horror--a collection of essays (mostly) by various authors. A few of the essays were good. Some of them were just basic info about specific media, like writing horror for old-time radio, video games, RPGs, comic books. Some of them were outdated or just unhelpful, like the list of publishers of horror books...that don't take unsolicited submissions, and the praise for Chizine, a defunct magazine. In the sense that only bits of the book were good/helpful, I'd say it's pretty similar to many (most?) writing books, so one gets used to it. I got past 52. I counted some writing books in groups of three because they were so short. *dusty 55. On Writing Horror various authors (nonfiction) 54. A Monster Calls Patrick Ness (novel, YA) 53. The Sociopath Next Door Martha Stout (nonfiction, audiobook) 52. The Whale Rider Witi Ihimaera (novel, YA) 51. Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing David Farland (nonfiction)* Million Dollar Productivity Kevin J. Anderson (nonfiction)* Million Dollar Professionalism for Writers Kevin J. Anderson (nonfiction)* 50. A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction Randall Brown (nonfiction) 49. A Midsummer Night's Dream William Shakespeare (play, re-read) 48. Thomas the Rhymer Ellen Kushner (novel) 47. Don’t Pay Bad for Bad Amos Tutuola (short stories)* 46. The Book of Phoenix Nnedi Okorafor (novel) 45. Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing Dean Wesley Smith (nonfiction)* The Myth of Perfection Kristine Kathryn Rusch (nonfiction)* Creating Imaginary Worlds Charles Christian (nonfiction)* 44. Tree and Leaf J.R.R. Tolkien (nonfiction, short story) 43. Eyes Like Stars Lisa Mantchev (novel, YA) 42. Girl, Interrupted Susana Kaysen (nonfiction)* 41. Freud: The Key Ideas Ruth Snowden (nonfiction) 40. Islam and the Future of Tolerance Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz (nonfiction)* 39. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain (novel) 38. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory Caitlin Doughty (nonfiction, audiobook) 37. Great Expectations Charles Dickens (novel) 36. From the Beast to the Blonde Marina Warner (nonfiction)* 35. Shakespeare: The World as Stage Bill Bryson (nonfiction, audiobook) 34. The Great God Pan Arthur Machen (novella)* 33. Transformations Anne Sexton (poetry) 32. The Pigman Paul Zindel (novel, YA)* 31. The Crucible Arthur Miller (play) 30. Norse Mythology Neil Gaiman (audiobook) 29. Witches, Midwives & Nurses Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English (nonfiction)* 28. Midnight Robber Nalo Hopkinson (novel) 27. Wylding Hall Elizabeth Hand (novella, audiobook) 26. The Wide Window Lemony Snicket (novel) 25. On Becoming a Novelist John Gardner (nonfiction, audiobook) 24. Truck Dance Jeff Landon (flash)* 23. An Experiment in Criticism C.S. Lewis (nonfiction) 22. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou (nonfiction, audiobook) 21. Wild Life Kathy Fish (flash)* 20. A List of Cages Robin Roe (novel, YA) 19. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson (novel)* 18. The Reptile Room Lemony Snicket (novel, re-read) 17. Good Prose Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (nonfiction)* 16. Breakfast at Tiffany’s Truman Capote (novella, short stories) 15. The Bad Beginning Lemony Snicket (novel, re-read) 14. A Night to Remember Walter Lord (nonfiction, audiobook) 13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky (novel, YA) 12. The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden (novel) 11. The Obesity Code Jason Fung (nonfiction, audiobook) 10. The Frozen Thames Helen Humphreys (short stories)* 9. Believing Is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art Mary Anny Staniszewski (nonfiction)* 8. One Thousand and One Nights Hanan Al-Shaykh (short stories) 7. Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In Bernie Sanders (nonfiction, audiobook) 6. Saint George and the Dragon Edmund Spenser (poetry)* 5. Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami (novel) 4. Into the Blue Reach Rainer Maria Rilke (poetry)* 3. The Inquisitive Cook Anne Gardiner and Sue Wilson (nonfiction) 2. Turn Left Before Morning April Salzano (poetry, chapbook)* 1. Kill the Dogs Heather Bell (poetry, chapbook)*
  4. That makes me feel a little better about my three weeks, so thank you. Awesome, and good luck! :grouphug: Love the Shakespeare & Co. picture, Negin! Books: Finished three more ebooks on writing Million Dollar Productivity Million Dollar Professionalism Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing The books in this series (including the third one) are all written by authors who have made at least a million dollars from their writing. The first one was mainly motivational and the second one common sense, maybe not a bad use of time or money if you get them cheap, in a bundle, like I did. The last one was great, and though it might seem like two or three dollars too much money for such a short book ($6 - not a lot of money, just, ya know, books three times longer are the same price), it can be hard to find writing books that don't just repeat each other, so I think it's worth it. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera - AAAAHHH! My family is really on my case. We're going to get ice cream to reward ourselves for cleaning out the basement. I'll come back!
  5. ETA: Okay, I ended up listing mostly fantasy books instead of SF. Well, that's how long my memory lasts, I guess. (About 2 seconds.) Loved Watership Down, even though the whole time I was reading it I also hated myself for liking it because it was typical in many ways, the journey, the character types. Embassytown by China Mieville. For me, it was tough to get into. The first ~140 pages felt like a slog, but after that I was into it, and at the end, I was glad I made myself read it. It was about aliens whose language doesn't allow them to lie and the ways they cope with that and try to expand their language and try to figure out how to lie. Of course there's The Princess Bride, and I liked World War Z, which has been discussed here. Another I really liked was Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand, which might be horror rather than fantasy, but light horror. The Turn of the Screw - ish. OH! Have you read Barry Hughart's three books, starting with Bridge of Birds? So funny! One more, then I'm going to stop scrolling through my Goodreads list. At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson. Short stories.
  6. I've been focusing on finishing the reading challenge for the fairy tales/folklore group on Goodreads. I read: The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor - prequel to Who Fears Death? - African folklore mixed with science fiction. IMO, the protagonist complained too much, and it's written in 1p. Don't Pay Bad for Bad by Amos Tutuola - Yoruba folk tales that have been sitting on my Kindle for three years. Enjoyable, traditional folk tales, plus some interesting (to me because I knew nothing) information about Tutuola. Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner - Based on a historical/mythical prophet who whose story about being taken to Elfland is told in ballads and, according to Wikipedia, "medieval verse romance in five manuscripts.". The novel has ballads or parts of ballads throughout. It is romance heavy. Apparently there is really only one thing to do in Elfland--make TeA. A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare - A re-read before I see a performance this week. A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction by Randall Brown - A combination of craft lessons, essays on craft and essays meant to define flash. -- Still reading War and Peace, still loving it.
  7. I'm actually trying to read a dusty book in between each non-dusty book (and succeeding, so far, though I am liberally counting 50-page dusty ebooks). I read Eyes Like Stars, a YA fantasy book that incorporates several of Shakespeare's plays and - jeez, I'm already forgetting - but I think there were some non-Shakespeare ones in there too. Anyway, not enough world-building, too many plot points. I also read Tolkien's Tree and Leaf, which contains his essay "On Fairy-Stories," which was great reading, though I don't agree with his argument that fantasy stories are higher art than realistic stories, and a story "Leaf by Niggle," which illustrates an idea he presents in his essay, that man, being, according to him, created in the image of the Abrahamic god, should create lesser worlds - like, the Abrahamic god was creative and created a world and peopled it, so humans, being made in his image, are doing a good thing when they do the same by writing literature. It's a sweet story. I also read three short ebooks on writing that have been on my kindle for years. Writing Genre Fiction: Creating Imaginary Worlds: The Twelve Rules by Charles Christian - nothing new or interesting here The Pursuit of Perfection: And How it Harms Writers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Actually much better than I thought it would be. It talks about not getting so caught up in writing the perfect story or novel that you don't produce enough writing to earn a living, and it talks about being knowledgeable about the business side of writing. This book is a combination of three blog posts. Her blog is here. Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Writing by Dean Wesley Smith - Written by the husband of Kristine Kathryn Rusch - These two are working together to teach their experience in writing for profit, which in their experience, means writing prolifically (instead of slaving over a novel for ten years - or even one year) and being knowledgeable about copyright law and the business side of writing, maybe not using an agent. His blog is here.
  8. Rose, I read your daughter's story. So charming and well crafted. Congrats and thank you for sharing! I am with you guys on W&P - finished Book 1, Part 2 yesterday. I am also reading Tolkien's Tree and Leaf, and a YA novel, Eyes Like Stars. Some books I think I finished sometime between the last time I posted and now: Freud: The Key Ideas by Ruth Snowden - a readable overview of Freud that seems balanced. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen - very similar to the movie, quick and interesting read. I liked the style and will consider trying one of the author's novels. Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz - informative, readable, talks about varying groups of Muslims, various problems and practical solutions - Harris's thoughts being more idealistic and Nawaz's more practical and therefore, in this case, more helpful, imo Rumpelstiltskin - And Other Angry Imps with Rather Unusual Names - by Amelia Carruthers - several Rumpelstiltskin-ish tales from around the world.
  9. We are HP fans here, too, though most in my house have only seen the movies. My middle ds and I read the books together and loved them, but no one else is interested. I'll skip the 20th anniversary editions. I sometimes eye the illustrated editions of the first two books when they're on display in bookstores, and I've warned dh that once they've got 'em all done, he can expect me to buy the set. I finished The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was enjoyably iconoclastic. I am continuing to read Freud: The Key Ideas, and I am starting in on The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character. I am going back and forth on joining you all for War and Peace. Are any of you trying to read a certain number of pages/chapters a day/week or is everyone just digging in? Beautiful photos, Jane!
  10. I didn't get much book reading done over the last week because I spent my reading time on essays, interviews and a couple of short stories. I am still working on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I got a small start on Freud: The Key Ideas.
  11. I finished reading Great Expectations, which I ended up liking a lot more by the end. AND I started reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and that's putting me to sleep too! And I know it's not boring, so maybe I am just tired or getting old. I also finished listening to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory. Great book. Easy and entertaining while also informative and interesting. Flows well. I believe someone here was reading a bunch of artificial intelligence books (nonfiction) recently. I'd love to hear recommendations on those. Thanks! Also, I think it was AggieAmy who recommended The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I've been making some of the recipes from that and loving it. I guess you deserve a thanks from my whole family.
  12. I am right there with you. Like, ooookay, that was not what I would call a *pleasurable* read, but still worth the effort -- and maybe irritation -- for me? I want to say it's more than just effort that's required because plenty of books require effort for reasons other than problems with the writing. I did think Once Upon a Time suffered from the same issues, but not to nearly the same extent. Fairy Tale as Myth / Myth as Fairy Tale by Jack Zipes, on the other hand, was so readable I was able to listen to it while running.
  13. From the comments of it I've seen here, it seems like we have a unanimous BaW opinion that this book is a slog. Pretty pictures though, right?
  14. I finally finished From the Beast to the Blonde. IMO, lots of interesting info and great insights, and it's a shame that these are buried in such dry, dense, verbose prose, which sometimes rambles and makes it unclear what the point is (because, I think ,there are sometimes multiple points that need to be separated). Anyway, I'm glad to have it on my shelf because, despite its faults, I'll probably end up returning to the stories half of it here and there. I am still reading Great Expectations, and making decent progress with it now that I'm finished with Beast/Blonde. And I'm listening to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory. This one is good. Memoir mixed with facts about the job, history and tales, beliefs and customs related to death. Occasionally the humor is pretty bad, like cheesy and old and not funny anymore, and you can imagine that parts of the book are very dark, making this not for everyone. But it is interesting and entertaining and it flows smoothly between the personal and the public, the familiar and the foreign, the present/recent and the historical. Clear simple prose, so it's good for listening to.
  15. Happy Mother's Day, everyone! I wish I could read The Razor's Edge with you all, but I am still only half way through Great Expectations. Boy, it's a snoozer! Every time I read more than a chapter or so I start falling asleep. Sorry to anyone here who loves it, but to me, most of the characters are not really believable or realistic, and the plot is slow-going, and it's not a story of fascinating ideas or interesting structure, so... Good description though, and great dialogue, and the characters are fun even if they're not believable. I listened to Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage. It was okay, but it was chapter after chapter of, "We don't know anything. Some people think this, but there's no proof of that. Others say this, but there's no proof of that either." I enjoyed the article, thanks!
  16. This is kind of perfect for me right now, thanks! I shared your daughter's channel with a friend who has chronic pain and numbness issues.
  17. Congrats! And I'm jealous about your D book. Sometimes I think about re-reading those... Jane, I'll have to put My Struggle on the to-read...someday list. It sounds wonderful, and it sounds like you had a good time with your son and his gf. I have been busy, partly with stuff over on Writers' Village (unending thanks to Robin for mentioning it here) and partly with death/funeral stuff (my grandmother), the bright side of which was that I saw a lot of relatives I haven't seen in a long time. I imagine I am still reading everything I was still reading last time I posted. :( I am making progress here and there with most things and still making steady, 2-chapters-a-week progress with From the Beast to the Blonde. My youngest and I will be taking a train to and from Virginia soon to visit my brother and his family. I was debating between Gone with the Wind, Yalo, and Murder on the Orient Express for what to read on the train, but as I've been unable to keep up with my eldest's reading of Great Expectations, I guess that's what it'll have to be. May lots of train time help me get caught up. ETA: Oh! I did finish something. After finishing Anne Sexton's Transformations, I needed to read a dusty book for my every-other-book-is-dusty goal, so I read the oldest unread book on my Kindle (oldest by purchase date, not publication date), which was The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen. I don't know, any longer, why I got that book in the first place. It was very dark, plus misogynistic and a little stiff. Interesting overall structure.
  18. That sounds great, and thanks for the excerpts!
  19. Okay, I wanted to make sure to post this week since I've missed a couple weeks. Books I have finished: Witches, Midwives and Nurses by Barbara Ehrenreich. This is short (the Kindle book says 114 pages, but it felt much shorter) and informative. It argues that women were pushed out of the medical field by men at a time when women healers provided 1.) the only care many people could afford and 2.) care based on more scientific methods than that which the educated doctors were offering, then welcomed back in as passive, obedient assistants. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson. This book is written in an invented Creole dialect (made by combining two real Creoles), and that was good. I also liked learning about Carnival through the novel, which I had not previously heard of, but there were weaknesses in both plot and characterization, so I might try the author again sometime, but I don't really recommend this book. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. This was easy and fun, not the best prose, but could be listened to with children, imo. The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I mostly loved this play and was caught up in the energy of it. I did not mind that the protagonist is violent and quick to anger, but I did mind that his wife blames herself for his infidelity, even if it is just for the sake of easing his mind, because I did not feel like I saw enough of her to understand her reasoning and sympathize with her. My eldest son is reading this too, and we will see a local performance on Saturday. The Pigman by Paul Zindel. I know that I read this in ninth grade, but couldn't remember anything about it other than that I liked it. Two of my children have read it and told me a little about it, and I finally re-read it. I still liked it; it felt a little like Catcher in the Rye. (The word "phonies" was used.) Definitely more realistic than the other YA novels I have read this year (The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and A List of Cages by Robin Roe). Currently Reading: From the Beast to the Blonde chapters 10 and 11 Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales Transformations by Anne Sexton (poetry based on Grimm's fairy tales) Great Expectations
  20. Not much to report here. I did finish listening to Elizabeth Hand's Wylding Hall, which I loved all the way through, but I haven't finished anything else. I have only started more things. Currently reading: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (audiobook) Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction by Randall Brown Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales From the Beast to the Blonde - chapters 4 and 5
  21. Did you notice the "add book/author" button?
  22. Kolaches - 3/4 of my grandparents are Czech, so I've eaten many kolaches. There is also a large Czech population in my city and a small area called Czech Village with shops, bars, restaurants and a Czech and Slovak museum. In this area, everyone pronounces the word with only two syllables. Interesting that it is pronounced with three syllables in Texas. I will ask my grandmother if she has heard that. I finished I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as an audiobook, and am grateful to Schadenfreud for recommending the audiobook version. I might never have read it otherwise, and I loved it. Her family was amazing, not always good, but amazing. I also read An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis, which was very readable and makes me want to read more nonfiction by him - nothing religious. I read this with some other people online, and most were turned off by the first chapter, which did come off as snobbish, comparing people who read lightly, mainly just reading the plot for entertainment, to people who read more fully. He clears that up in chapter two, but it seems many people get so worked up by chapter one they don't make it that far. Truck Dance, a short book of flash fiction by Jeff Landon. Some fun dialogue. Listened to On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, light reading, maybe especially if you've already read several books on writing. Currently reading: From the Beast to the Blonde - chapters 2 and 3 Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopknson, which is a SF book with a 1984ish all-knowing government, Anansi, Carnival (festive season). The entire book (I assume) is written in a "hybrid Creole" that, according to the author in this interview, is "largely a blend of Jamaican and Trinidadian." Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales, as I have only read Household Tales before, and whatever stories were in various fairy and folk tale anthologies I've read to my children. Listening to Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand, which I love. It's like The Turn of the Screw in that it's a ghosty Gothic novella and Some Kind of Fairy Tale for the romantic English countryside. I put the recommended reading list from Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale up on List Challenges, here.
  23. I finished Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I'm sure some things went over my head with that one, the most basic of those being references, only some of which I made the effort to look up, but I like how it compared the faith of the hippie movement with the faith of religions and how it compared the destructiveness of drugs to that of war. Also read: A List of Cages by Robin Roe - YA novel that felt contrived Wild Life by Kathy Fish - A collection of Carveresque flash fiction. Currently reading: An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis, which so far describes the varied experiences people have with literature, music and visual arts depending on their skill or knowledge in the area, but chapters I haven't gotten to yet have such titles as "On Myth," "The Meanings of Fantasy" and "On Realisms," and I'm hoping those will be more focused on literature than on different depths of understanding. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - Still listening, still enjoying, almost finished. From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner - I have so far read the introduction. I may read chapter one today or may save it for later in the week. And I hope to begin Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson soon, maybe today.
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