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Posts tagged ‘reading books’

Quitting Time

It’s not that I’m quitting reading, oh, no. What I did was learn how to put a bad book down instead of letting it suck part of my life away.


Yeah, there have been books that painful…

Only, sometimes it’s not that the book is painfully bad. Sometimes it’s me, not them. That’s a horrible line for a break-up, but it’s true in this case. I’m not always in the right place to read and appreciate a book, and I have learned that attempting to force myself to read a book usually winds up with me disliking the book. It took me several attempts to read Huckleberry Finn, and Anne of Green Gables. I knew I was supposed to like them, but I was young and for whatever reason couldn’t break into the story.. and then when I did, I liked the books. I went on to read everything LM Montgomery had ever written and to realize how much like Anne I was as a girl.

I’m a mood reader. When I’m in a mood, I want a certain flavor of book, and trying to read outside that, even if it’s a book I’m supposed to read for a good reason (like, say, to review on this blog) is usually a bad idea. So I’ve learned to put books down if I’m not in the mood, and not judge them unfairly. The books I intend to review I pick up again later, but if it’s just a random novel that caught my eye I’m likely to not give it another look.

Like I talked about last week, I just don’t have enough time to give some of it to an unworthy book. Sarah Hoyt wrote about things that throw readers out of books in this post, explaining why she doesn’t like certain books:

Well, ten percent or so are unexplained.  I just don’t get into them.  No, I have no clue why.  Why do you like some dishes and not others?  Why do your tastes vary with season and mood?  I don’t know.

However, for the other 40% I’ve found that there are broad categories of errors, from the massive to the small that just lead me to fling the book against the wall (virtually, since they’re on kindle.)  And I thought I’d post them here, for the benefit (eh) of those of you working the word vines.  I mean, whether you’re going traditional or indie, you REALLY should not pop your reader out. Read the rest… 

The Titanic in snow

With some books, you can just tell things are about to go horribly, horribly wrong…

I think for me, the two biggest things that make it quitting time are boring, and bad characters. If I don’t care about a character, but the pace is fast, I may keep reading. Even if I like a character, if the book is rambling on for pages about how they are dressed and nothing is happening, then I’m likely to wander off to check facebook, read a blog, draw a doodle.. and when I come back, I’ve forgotten that I was reading that book and start on something else. Even on the Kindle, where in theory you open back up to the page you were reading, I’ll come out of the book to browse my library. The First Reader has had a recent problem with his Fire, in that it wants to always open to the very end of MH: Sinners, instead of the book he was trying to read. Makes it hard for him to keep on that book.

Which brings me to another point. My quitting time is not his quitting time is not your quitting time. My resident curmudgeon is much more critical of his reading material than I am. He’s also super-sensitive to certain tropes that make him prickle up like a porcupine, and about as happy as one (I’m sure porcupines are sometimes happy. Why is it that hedgehogs are always pictured cute and cheerful, while porkies are bad-tempered? They need a new PR rep) when he encounters it in a book. I’ve pointed out that I’m sure most of the time the authors weren’t trying to be tropariffic, but it doesn’t matter. He’s quit, and on to another book.

As a writer, I try to keep some of this in mind. Putting the reader hat on, I know that if I bore my readers, they’re out. I know that my most specific negative reviews on my books have been from readers objecting to my writing a positive male character, or from a male POV. I’m not going to quit including men in my books who are strong, competent types that love well and work hard for their families (inspired, by the way, by my husband and father, and uncles and cousins, and…) so I’m going to ignore those readers while I’m writing. Because if that is their quitting time in a book, there are plenty out there with men being denigrated or relegated to the shrinking pansy role. I just don’t want to write it, personally.

Now to flip it around. Sometimes a book does get better. It can be worth doing a bit of slogging, to find a buried treasure waiting. So how to decide that this book, this time, is the time to keep digging? Personally, I rely on word of mouth. Also, because I’m an author and part of a community of other authors, I rely on my personal knowledge of that person. If I trust them to tell a worthwhile story, I’ll keep reading through the rough parts. I did this with the original unedited version of Mackey Chandler’s April, and was rewarded with a great series I’ve enjoyed ever since. He’s taken care of the editing since then, so if you haven’t tried it, go check it out. Does it still have flaws? Sure, but those are philosophical and important only to me. And I have the ability to ignore elements in a book, up to a certain level, before it hits a wall. If you’re a devout Evangelical Christian, there are elements in April that will set your teeth on edge, namely the portrayal of churches. For me, I could see the extrapolation from Westboro Baptist, and it didn’t bother me (except that I really don’t believe there’s that much connectivity outside the Catholic Church, certainly not among the Baptist sets. But that’s because I grew up in them).

Where do you decide it’s quitting time? What books have you pushed through a tough reading spot on, and then been rewarded by?

Reading Out Loud

What follows is the text of a speech I wrote and delivered as the final assignment in my Public Expression class. It’s written to a specific and highly formalized structure called Monroe’s motivated sequence, and was intended to be a call-to-action speech. I don’t know how it worked on that audience, but it amuses me to share the text with you all. Reading aloud offers special benefits to writers. By reading a story you can develop a much smoother rhythm to the dialogue, the flow of the story, and I highly recommend it if you can. 


The Art and Gift of Reading Aloud

A simple way to deepen your relationships and help your children succeed in life. Can you imagine one thing with the power to enhance mental capacity, boost your offspring to better lives, and keep your loved ones close? Reading aloud will do all those things, and it takes no more than a little time and trust.

In our modern culture, families are scattered and even when together, the TV, phones, or computers consume all their attention, even weakening their mind, according to Psychology Today.  According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Amanda Craig, in the Times, writes that until recently, with the advent of the television, reading aloud was a common family practice.

Marriages and relationships also suffer from lack of intimacy – not sex, but close contact in loving and playful fashion. As many in my audience are young, I will say this: begin as you mean to go on as parents, and as spouses.

Reading aloud to one another can deepen or mend relationships and enhance a child’s ability to learn, in addition to fostering a stronger mind in the reader. In the Handbook of Structured Techniques in Marriage and Family Therapy, it is pointed out that by agreeing on when and what to read, positive cooperation between partners is fostered, and trustful communication is facilitated. When you read to a child, MIT says in their Textual Tinkerability book, you promote critical thinking, questioning through dialog, and thoughtful conversation. Shared reading is “one of the most important activities parents can do to prepare their children for school.” When I was growing up, my mother read aloud to us every day. I learned how to read very early, and as I got older, my sisters and I would read aloud as well to the family. We were very successful in school and have precious memories of this family time.

You may have concerns. You might feel self-conscious about reading aloud: bestselling children’s author Francesca Simon says “A lot of people are very self-conscious about how to read. My husband had dyslexia, and it was always a source of anxiety, but doing it year after year he became fluent.” You might not think you have time in your busy schedule for reading. According to, the average American spent 734 minutes per day in media consumption. Television, internet, and others. Surely you can find 30 minutes to give as a gift to your loved ones?

With reading aloud, you could have a family with deeper bonds, a couple with shared interests, engagement, and quality time spent building intimacy. You can have children doing better in school and ultimately in life.  With a modern rushed life that impacts family ties, this is a way to bind those loose ties, and enhance your children’s education. Did I also mention that according to the Journal of Gerontology, reading aloud improves your own cognitive abilities and can ward off dementia? Start reading aloud now, and set a habit that can last you a lifetime.

Take time today to read out loud. Even a few minutes at first will help. Go home and talk to your partner, even read to your pets, and then trust them when you feel self-conscious not to laugh. Read often, and make it habit by doing it for 27 days in a row.

Step out of your comfort zone, take a risk, read out loud and proud!

You can if you want see this speech here, although I will warn you it’s a poor quality recording. 

On another topic entirely, I’m on Summer Vacation. This means that I am preparing for the wedding, trying to write (my brain is slooowly thawing out after the end of school), and that I am back in business for cover design and layout. If you are looking for a new book cover, or a re-working of one, send me an email. For the commentators, if you want a critique or hands-on help with DIY covers, ask and we can either do it in comments or if you’re not that brave (and I don’t blame you) via emails.

Here’s the latest cover I created for a friend and talented writer David Burkhead.

trevas children