Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for “Tommyknockers & Terabithia”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.



In my last Blogging from A to Z challenge post, I talked about how I was a reluctant reader until I discovered that some books don’t suck. Conveniently for this challenge, two of those non-sucky books start with T.

As an elementary school student, my parents and teachers forced me to read every day, but by the time I got to fifth grade, I was bored with children’s books. I wanted to read an adult book. So, I snuck one out of my parents’ dresser drawer. The book turned out to be Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. I managed to read the majority of it before my parents discovered I had it and took it away. This book got me hooked on horror. After my Tommyknockers experience, I wanted to read more scary books.






The Tommyknockers – Stephen King


Something was happening in Bobbi Anderson's idyllic small town of Haven, Maine. Something that gave every man, woman, and child in town powers far beyond ordinary mortals. Something that turned the town into a death trap for all outsiders. Something that came from a metal object, buried for millennia, that Bobbi accidentally stumbled across. 
It wasn't that Bobbi and the other good folks of Haven had sold their souls to reap the rewards of the most deadly evil this side of hell. It was more like a diabolical takeover . . . an invasion of body and soul—and mind.





The second book that helped turn me into a bookworm was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. This one was a Christmas gift from my parents. It was more age-appropriate than my stolen Stephen King book. Terabithia had everything I didn’t know I wanted in a novel. It has a rural setting, a little bit of magic, and some serious topics. Even as a kid, I hated reading fluff. I read this book so many times that I had parts of it memorized.






Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson


Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone. 
That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.




It’s slightly strange that I connected with both of these books. They don’t have much in common. But, if I hadn’t read them, I probably wouldn’t be running a book blog right now. These were the stories that helped me realize that books could be entertaining.




What’s the first book that you remember loving?





Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Sunday Post #94


The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.




Blogging From A To Z


Things around here are a little different this month. I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’m going to write a short post about how books and book blogging have impacted my life. Brace yourself. Posts are coming.






Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon


Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon starts on April 29! This is my first time participating. I’m going to be posting my updates on Twitter, so follow me there if you want to see them.






On The Blog Last Week







Coming Up On The Blog


I won’t be posting a Sunday Post next Sunday. Here’s what’s coming up in the next two weeks:

  • T is for “Tommyknockers & Terabithia”
  • U is for “Uncertainty”
  • V is for “Vacation”
  • W is for “What Happened to Lani Garver”
  • X is for “Xenophobia (and Books to Combat It)”
  • Y is for “You’ll Rot Your Brain”
  • Z is for “Zzzzz (Books That Kept Me Up Past Bedtime)”
  • Review of American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis
  • Covers I Love
  • Review of The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner
  • April Wrap-Up
  • Massive Spring Book Haul (Part 1)





In My Reading Life


Last week, I finished Smoke by Dan Vyleta and Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Then I read Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin. Right now, I’m reading A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin and Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters.







In The Rest Of My Life


Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Easter with my family.
  2. So much chocolate.
  3. My cousin discovered that we’re distantly related to the actress Courteney Cox. I wish I’d inherited her acting talent. Or her looks. Or her ability to make money.
  4. The sunflowers I’m growing in the basement are getting big. I had to put them in new pots.
  5. Stanley Cup playoffs. I was a rabid hockey fan as a child/teen, but I gave it up several years ago to make more time for reading. Lately, I’ve been blogging like a machine, so I’ve been listening to games while I type.





Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere!











Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for “Special Ed.”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.


I was definitely not born a bookworm. When I was a kid, I did everything in my power not to read.

As a child, I was . . . um . . . special. School was not my thing. In school, I was so anxious that I twitched uncontrollably or so depressed that my teachers would have had better luck teaching a bowl of lime Jell-O how to read. I was a profoundly slow learner who couldn’t handle unpredictability or changes to my routine. I hated crowds and couldn’t focus in the classroom. I was also a control freak with zero social skills. Basically, little-me was a hot mess in a fancy dress.





From first to sixth grade, I took classes for “Special” kids. For most of the day, I was in class with the “regular” kids, but before school and during lunch and recess, I had extra lessons. I was in “special” math, reading, and writing classes. I spent hours sitting in hallways, working one-on-one with a teacher’s aide. I’m surprised that I don’t have permanent nerve damage in my ass from doing so much of my schoolwork on hard floors. (I don’t know the current status of the aide’s ass. Maybe she got nerve damage from sitting with me? Would the school have to pay her medical bills? I need to Google these things.)

Anyway, being “special” isn’t great for a twitchy kid’s self-esteem. Adults were always trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Nobody knew why I was such a failure at life. I felt like there was enormous pressure on me to catch up to the other kids and stop being special. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch up. The self-loathing was intense. I was terrified of making mistakes because mistakes just reconfirmed my “special” status.








Then, there were the bullies. Kids look cute on the outside, but they can be vicious little demons. They called me “Special Ed,” “Ed,” “Retard,” and “Fucktard.” For anyone who hasn’t been initiated into an elementary school clique, Fucktard is a clever amalgamation of the words “Fucking retard.” The bullying got so bad that I started getting physically sick whenever the teacher’s aide walked into the classroom. I knew she was there for me, and I knew the other kids would give me crap for needing her help.



Since I didn’t get along with other kids, I was sent to special friendship classes. For Friendship Class, the school counselors rounded up all the “Eds” in school and put us in a windowless room roughly the size of a walk-in closet. Then, they had us make art. This often ended in disaster.

(Oh, I just reminded myself of a random tangent. Funny story about Friendship Class: Once upon a time in Friendship Class, one of my fellow Eds had a meltdown. He started flinging buckets of crayons around our classroom. Since I was an anxious Ed, I immediately lost interest in coloring my Friendship Turtle and panicked. One of the counselors said, “Don’t worry, that boy has ADHD.” I have no idea if she was talking to the other counselor or to me, but nobody bothered to explain what “ADHD” meant. For all I knew, it was a secret code word for We’re about to get stabbed to death with the sharp end of a broken crayon, but don’t panic, the school district will give our corpses proper Christian burials. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Friendship Class.)

Okay, back to books. How did I transform from an Ed who couldn’t read to a bookworm? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. There was no magic Helen-Keller-type moment where someone shoved my hand under a water pump and everything suddenly made sense. Becoming a bookworm happened slowly. My parents and teachers were very persistent. They made me read Every. Single. Day. When I complained, fought, and feigned deadly illnesses, they still made me read.

During forced reading time in fifth grade, I accidentally stumbled across a few books that I didn’t hate. These books showed me that not all books suck. Once I knew my own reading tastes, I was able to hunt down more books that didn’t suck. I eventually discovered that I (gasp!) enjoyed reading. By the time I got to seventh grade, I was reading for fun every night. I was also put in normal classes in seventh grade. I was still weird, but I was no longer “special.”





So, if you have “Eds” in your life, don’t give up on them. I can’t tell you how my fellow Eds turned out, but this Ed read 108 books last year.





Are you a bookworm? Were you born that way, or did you develop your book love later in life?




  

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for “Read All The Things!”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.




I’ve been single handedly running this book blog since 2013. All 664 posts currently on the blog were written by me. The graphics and layout were painstakingly cobbled together by me. Every typo, broken link, ugly mess, and minor disaster is completely my fault. Trust me when I say that blogging is hard. It’s much harder than most people realize. You have to know a lot about the subject you’re blogging about, and you also have to know a lot about blogging itself. Today, I thought we’d take a look at some of the non-bookish things blogging has taught me.




What I've learned from blogging





1. Website design. I don’t know much about the workings of the Internet, and it’s not a subject that interests me, but when you run a blog, you have no choice. You have to learn something about designing a website. I didn’t like any of Blogger’s premade templates and wanted to design my own, but I had no idea how to do that. How do I get the buttons in my sidebar to work? How do I get my header in the right place? These were all problems that I needed to solve.




2. Making graphics. This is one of the things I hate most about blogging. I’m not good at making graphics and never will be. (Check the graphic at the top of this post for evidence of my ineptitude.) But, blog posts that include graphics get more traffic. If I wanted more people to see my posts, I needed to teach myself how to make graphics.




3. Social media. Are you on Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? Bloglovin’? Goodreads? When I first started blogging, I wasn’t on any of them. I still use far fewer social media sites than most bloggers, but I taught myself Twitter so I could connect with the book blogging community.





4. Making friends. Using social media and commenting on other people’s blogs was terrifying at first. What if I said the wrong thing? What if people hated me? What if nobody understood my weird sense of humor? Talking to strangers on the Internet is scary at first, but eventually those strangers become friends.





5. Persistence. Most blogs don’t get 10000 followers overnight. When you first start out, you’re going to spend a lot of time shouting into the void. I did. I sometimes still feel like I’m shouting into the void. If you want people to notice, you’ll just have to keep shouting until they do.




6. Good things happen slowly. Bad things happen all at once. It takes years to make friends and build an audience for your blog. Bloggers aren’t born knowing how to write great posts. In contrast, bad things can happen quickly. Websites crash. A comment you made is taken out of context and blows up on Twitter. When you’re a blogger, you just have to be patient and do the best you can.





7. The value of shutting up. I have a lot of opinions. I like to pretend that I’m the smartest person on Earth, but I’m definitely not. There are always people who know more than I do. Sometimes, I should shut up and listen to them instead of shouting my opinion across the Internet.




If you’re a blogger, what has blogging taught you? 






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for “Quitting”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.

“Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she put down thinking: I can do better than this. Hell, I am doing better than this! What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing by Stephen King is my favorite writing craft book ever. That’s a huge compliment because I’ve read a lot of craft books, and I think they’re naturally boring. Stephen King proves that he has writing talent in On Writing because he manages to take a tedious subject and turn it into something you actually want to read about.



On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King


Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.



The quote at the start of this post refers to writers, but when I read it, I also thought about readers. Do you remember the first book you DNFed (did not finish)? I hated reading when I was a kid and probably DNFed 99% of the books that were forced upon me, but by the time I was a teenager, I was a rabid reader. I read every book I could get my hands on.

I rarely DNFed books as a teenager, but there is one DNF that stands out in my mind. When I was fifteen, English class forced me to read Black Boy by Richard Wright. Fifteen-year-old me could not make herself care about Wright's rambling infatuation with communism. I know Black Boy is an important American classic and blah, blah, blah, but I was bored. Truly, mind-numbingly, bored.



Black Boy - Richard Wright


Black Boy is a classic of American autobiography, a subtly crafted narrative of Richard Wright's journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. An enduring story of one young man's coming of age during a particular time and place, Black Boy remains a seminal text in our history about what it means to be a man, black, and Southern in America.




I have a memory of shoving Black Boy off the edge of my bed and having this conversation with myself:

There are millions of books in the world.
I won’t live long enough to read all of them.
I tried really hard to read this book, and I hate it.
If there are millions of books in the world, why am I wasting time reading one I hate?

To be a happy bookworm, sometimes I have to DNF. Forcing myself to read something I don’t like makes reading feel like a chore instead of a hobby. I need my hobbies to be fun, not stressful. Making the decision to DNF can be hard sometimes, but life’s too short to read boring books.



Do you remember the first book you DNFed?






Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for “Plague”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.

The first post-apocalyptic stories I remember reading were the Countdown books by Daniel Parker. The series was published in the late 90s, when I was a preteen. I loved the books back then, but if I reread them now, I’d probably find them idiotic. The series is about a plague that is let loose on New Year’s Day in the year 2000. The disease causes children and adults to melt into puddles of black goo. Teenagers inherit the Earth. Each book in the series is a different month of the year 2000.



Countdown: January – Daniel Parker


On New Year's Day, it happens: 
Over six billion people die within twenty-four hours. 
The stunned survivors are left to fend for themselves in a world where chaos reigns. A world with no rules, no order . . . and no adults. 
Because the only people left are teenagers.



Countdown captured my young imagination in the same way Lois Lowry’s The Giver did. The series made me desperate for more dystopian fiction. I think Countdown and The Giver get the blame for my current love of dystopias.

The worst part of the Countdown series was that some of the books were difficult to find. Online bookstores weren’t common in the 90s. I lived in a small town with a tiny library and no bookstores. My parents searched everywhere, but they were never able to find the entire series. My teachers, friends, and librarians had never heard of Countdown. I just had to make peace with not knowing the whole story.

During The Hunger Games dystopia craze, I started thinking about the Countdown books again. I Googled them. I learned that they got terrible reviews from critics when they came out. The Goodreads pages for the books are pretty dead and empty. The few reviews the books do have on Goodreads aren’t great. I guess this series didn’t have the same impact on other people as it did on me.

I also learned that I could buy used copies of the Countdown books I couldn’t find as a kid. I decided not to. Maybe some things are better as memories.



Have you ever heard of Countdown? Is there a book you loved as a kid but are reluctant to reread as an adult? 






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for “Ones I Read Over and Over”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.

When I was a kid and young teen, I didn’t like new books. Actually, child-me didn't like books at all, but I often had them forced upon me. When I did read, I preferred to read the same story multiple times. I’d read a book to the end, flip it over, and start at the beginning again. My favorite novels were about nature, adventures, violent deaths, and people who didn’t fit into mainstream society.

Kids learn from repetition and are comforted by routine. That’s why they’re voracious rereaders. (And re-watchers, and re-askers of the same questions). Here are some of the books that young me read over and over:







Were you a rereader as a kid? Which books did you read over and over?






Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for “Number Generator”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.

When you have a shelf that’s overloaded with unread books, how do you decide what to read next? Some people are mood readers: They choose whichever book they’re in the mood to read. I’m not one of those people. Unless there’s something stressful going on in my life, I can read any book at any time.

That’s where the number generator comes in. I let a random number generator pick which book I read next. I go to this website and click the "Generate" button to pick a number. Then I count along my shelf of unread books and read whichever book the website picked. All my unread books are on one shelf, so that makes counting pretty easy.



Some of my unread books.


There are five reasons why this is the most awesome way to read:


1. I don’t have to make up my mind. If you own a lot of books, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice. The number generator makes the choices for me, so I’m never stressed out.


2. TBR lists are boring. I used to make monthly To-Be-Read lists, but it’s boring to always know what’s going to happen next. Life needs spontaneity.


3. Surprises. Random number generators are random. The next book you read will always be a surprise.


4. Nobody knows if you cheat. If the generator chooses a 700-page behemoth that you don’t feel like tackling right now, you could always pick another number . . .


5. Mix of old and new books. The generator could choose a book you bought yesterday or one that’s been sitting around for a year. You never know. It could encourage you to read that sequel you’ve been putting off.



How do you choose what to read next? 






Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Sunday Post #93


The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.





Happy Easter!




Blogging From A To Z


Things around here are a little different this month. I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’m going to write a short post about how books and book blogging have impacted my life. Brace yourself. Posts are coming.





On The Blog Last Week







On The Blog This Week


  • N is for “Number Generator”
  • O is for “Ones I Read Over And Over”
  • P is for “Plague”
  • Q is for “Quitting”
  • R is for “Read All The Things!”
  • S is for “Special Ed.”





In My Reading Life


Last week was rough. I was really busy; I injured myself while running; then my phone and credit card were stolen. Not nice, universe. Reading didn’t really happen last week. I finished rereading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. Then I started Smoke by Dan Vyleta and Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.





In The Rest Of My Life


Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. I’m halfway through the A to Z Challenge! Some of my posts were more half-assed than others, but I haven’t missed a day yet. Also, is it weird that I’m already brainstorming ideas for next year’s challenge?
  2. Pizza, nachos, and ice cream. Yeah, my diet wasn’t great last week.
  3. It’s getting warmer outside. I think it’s been 2 days since I last turned on the space heater.
  4. One of Saturn’s moons (Enceladus) might be able to support life. 
  5. Researchers in western Canada discovered the remains of a 14,000 year old village. The village is older than the Egyptian pyramids. 





Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere!