Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Why, If Not the Wherefore, of What I'm Reading in January

I thought I’d take a moment to share why I’m reading the books I am (see the sidebar) because sometimes knowing the reason behind what someone is reading can be fascinating, like exploring a person’s bookshelf and finding that it’s annotated.  (This book is a gift from my mother.  This is a book I’ve read more than ten times and still want to read again.  This book I keep for future reference even though I did not enjoy it the first time I read it.  Etc.)   So here is a peek into the reasoning behind the choices of books I’ll be reading to start my 2014. 

Structuring Your Novel by K M Weiland

I’ve followed Weiland’s blog for ages, longer than I can remember, more or less.  I say “more or less” because at times I have been more focused on my writing than reading about writing, hoping to figure out the one elusive element that was keeping me from experience writing success.  (How do I define success?  People wanting to read what I write, other than my blog.  My not giving my talent away but actually being able to pay some bills with what I honestly earn.  That’s what I’m hoping to achieve before I die.) 

Once upon a time, my Aunt Frances said that I have great ideas but I don’t know how to write.   This contradicted the many people who praise my writing—my characters, dialogue, description, etc.  I spent years puzzling this criticism, not sure what this means.  Seriously.  Years.  Asking Frances directly was impossible.  For one thing, she didn’t say it directly to me and probably wouldn’t remember if I asked her directly that she’d said it at all.  For another, she has a reputation for being hurtful, even vicious, and I didn’t want to open myself up to her possibly saying something that would cut me to the quick. 

I am one of the very few family members she has not disabused and I’d like to keep it that way.

Eventually, I realized what she meant.  Good ideas + interesting characters + well written exposition + engaging dialogue do not necessarily add up to a well-told story.  Surprisingly enough, there are not a lot of books that really teach you how to tell a story.  Oh sure, there are many books out there that purport to do so but, from my experience, it ends up being about creating strong characters and tight dialogue and not much at all about pacing and the actual structure of writing a novel (or story) itself. 

Naturally, when I saw Weiland’s book offered on goodreads.com, I not only immediately recognized the author’s name but I immediately requested it.  Truth is, my expectations were low. I’ve requested several books on writing from goodreads and not received a one.  I’m super excited about having this book and am going to put its advice to use as I try writing a new novel. 

Better Body Workouts for Women by Dean Hodgkin and Caroline Pearce

I’m absolutely determined to make strength training a part of my daily exercise.  But I find it dreadfully boring.  I’ve written about this several times in my blog so I won’t go over it again here.  Suffice it to say, it’s hard for me to feel motivated to do it consistently and, as a result, I’m still trying to find something that works for me. 

Then I had the opportunity to request an ARC of this book and I jumped at the chance because the focus is on women’s fitness.  The timing was too perfect.  I’ll probably have to modify a few of the exercises but that is not unusual.  I’m curious to see how well this book’s recommended routine will fit into my life.  And I’ll be writing more about my exercising in the upcoming weeks, I’m sure.

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher K Germer

My intention for 2014 is to focus on compassion and acceptance, both of which are so fundamental to fully experiencing and appreciating life.  I have to admit, I’ve been unusually hard on myself the past year. I’m not used to feeling about myself as I do right now.  Also, I’m alarmed by some of the things I hear my mother say.  She calls herself stupid.  A lot.  My mother is not stupid.  She worked hard to put herself through nursing school while raising me.  She worked and fought and she eventually graduated with honors.  She also calls herself ugly and fat and things I don’t even think to call myself.  But I wonder where this self-loathing chatter began, knowing it is rooted in her self-talk.  Did her frustration with not meeting personal goals and repeated failures lead her to denigrate herself in her own eyes?  Am I only now hearing her speak aloud what she’s been thinking for years, maybe even decades? 

I don’t know.  I do know that I don’t  want to talk about myself the way she talks about herself.  I also know that I used to think and feel far more lovingly towards myself than I do now.  I certainly don’t want to pass this along to my children or to Bibi.  I am dedicating this year to focusing on acceptance and compassion for this reason.  However, I’ve noticed that finding books on compassion is easy; finding books on acceptance is not.  If you can recommend any books, I’ll make sure to ask for them for my birthday.  I’ve read one, Radical Acceptance, which I did not find radically helpful.  But I’m definitely open to suggestions. 

Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

This is the fourth book in the Jessica Darling series.  If you’re wondering how or why I skipped book three because I’ve obviously written reviews for the first two books in the series I assure you I have not skipped the third book.  I just haven’t written my review for it yet.  That’s coming.  I assure you. 

Suffice it to say, I liked the third book enough to pick up the fourth book and put it on my "currently reading" list.  It's flawed but I'll share more about how and why I feel it's flawed in my review. I don't want to get ahead of myself.  I'm already all over the place with this blog post as it is, don't you think?

Last but not least . . .

The New Atkins Made Easy by Colette Heimowitz
I posted about why I am aiming to add more protein to my diet over in my other blog so I won’t repeat myself here.  I had an opportunity to request temporary access to this book through netgalley and received it today.  I’m hoping to find some recipes that will support my new dietary goal.  I’m not looking for miracles; I’m just looking for ways to reach my daily caloric goal without having to suffer through overwhelming piles of food.

I’m not a big fan of fad diets but I do love food and I loooove trying new recipes.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that when I write my review for this book I’ll be writing about the recipes we tried and what Rob and I both thought of them.  I am hopeful that I’ll also be able to say that I feel like I have more energy and am reaching my daily caloric goal.  Again, I write about this more fully in my other blog but if I can eat what I need to eat without forcing myself to eat massive amounts of food, no matter how delicious I may find them.

In January I’ll be posting one book review a week, on Mondays.  That will be my bare minimum.  In February, depending on how many books I’ve read in January, I’ll continue posting reviews on Monday, only.  If I read more than I expected to in January, I’ll post a “bonus” book review on some random  Wednesday.   And you can look forward to some movie reviews on Fridays.  At least I hope you will look forward to them.  You’re welcome to not find them worthy of your anticipation.  I’ll do my best to make the reviews somewhat engaging. 

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