Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reading Management

It's mid-year and for some of us it means a long holiday; particularly for those of us in the USA.  However, here in Australia, it's Winter and has been pretty cold lately. Actually, I'm tackling a slight head cold (and believe me, I'm not the happiest person when I've got one of these - but then, is anyone?).  

So, at this time of the year - when it's holidays or when you've come down with a cold or flu - how do you tackle your Mt To Be Read?  Is it oranised on a shelf a little like mine?  Or is it first come first read as you peruse your shelves?  

For me, I have the system in place like I do because it keeps me from re-reading the same old books over and over; thus pushing myself into a far-too-comfortable rut (which was why I joined Bookcrossing; so I could venture outside my comfort zone and read a wider circle of authors).  Reading the same material may seem like a safe way of being in the world.  However, it can be also bad for you.  I think we all know somebody who keeps on reading the same old series of books they used to read when they were young; and they are your age.  You wonder why they do it, but you feel horrible about wanting to tell them it's not good for them.  This person/s could be a family member, but yet you still can't say anything because it's still too delicate matter to be approached.  Don't worry about it.  If they are happy doing what they're doing, well, that's good.  Just keep to what you want to read and see how far you can go.

Books are wonderful things to read - no matter what age you are.  However, I've been using them as a learning instrument for so long that a good story is hard to come by; and once I have my teeth into one, I rarely let it go.  Sometimes I may re-read a book once or twice, but then I have to move onto other material.  It's just the way it all works.

And you know, reading is a lot like food.  We are what we read.  I used to read poorly written books (without knowing any different) until I began reading Stephen King and then I expected other authors to raise the bar.  When I found the ones I had been reading didn't write to the standard he did, I started looking around to find authors that did.  And so my education - my real education - on reading and being entertained by the greatest authors around (alive and dead alike) began.  And you know, I'll still be learning up until I'm a very old lady... my education still won't be finished.

Friday, June 25, 2010

June Book Buys 2010

Well, it's the end of the month; and you all know what that means!  Yep, it's a cover of what I've bought this month.  Most of what I've been buying is for the piano and my learnings; so it's not all that exciting.

The first books I bought this month were on 5th, June while I was wandering around Brisbane visiting the GoMA and being a tourist in my hometown.  I just thought to kill two birds with one

stone and spend a good few hours wondering around at 'Archives' bookstore on Charlotte Street and I found myself two lovely books.  The first is 'Pianoforte Course: Preliminary Grade' it's a 1976 print and hasn't been very useful yet.  But I think I'll get some better use out of it soon.  The other one I found at the same shop is 'Schmitt Op. 16 Preparatory Exercises for the Piano' by Schirmer Inc. This one helps with
having my hands/fingers moving over the keys at the same time and playing the same notes; but my left hand is an octave lower than middle C (for all of you out there who know what I'm talking about, you know when you're beginning, that's hard!).
The third book I bought in the city that day was from Allan's Music on the Queen Street Mall.  This is a fantastic music store that sells everything to do with music and musical instruments.  So, I knew I had found the right place a few months back when I showed up there.  I bought 'John Thompson's Modern Course for Piano:  The First Grade Book'.  I have managed to play three songs from this book without using the c.d in the back!  How good is that?  It was well worth the $19.99 I spent on it.  And I'll be going back in due course when I need more music from them.
The next time I bought a book was at Garden City's QBD.  I had ordered in 'The Golden City' by John Twelve Hawks.  Now, it's only just been published on a limited publishing run and so this is why I decided to get it now instead of waiting for later and find out it's not in print anymore (and this has
happened to me before).  I bought this book only days after I purchased the music books.  I also purchased a little figurine of 'Clifford' the Dog... he now watches over my Reading List as it grows.  Isn't he such a cutie?

Well, until the next time I go out and stock up on my already overflowing collection of books, keeping reading. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

In My Collection

I don't talk much about my collection of books; just that I have a lot of them.  But which books I do have is a complete mystery to me as well.  I have tried to keep track of them and it's easier said than done.  At last count, I had about 450 or so of them and they line four bookcases around my not-so-big office here at home.  The bookcases are full to the brim; and this includes the tops of the cases too!  So, really, I don't have all that much space for much.

But one of the most interesting types of books I do collect are Gallery Copy or ARC books.  These are books that are offered up to people to read and voice their opinion about before the real book is put out into the public arena of bookstores.  This is a big deal if you're chosen to have one sent to you; or if you stumble upon this offer in some way.  Most of the time, I've come across Gallery Copy books through Bookcrossing and jumped at owning a copy of a book that's not yet out there - that may have some chapters in it that the public copy may not - and I'll be able to
keep it in most cases.  A good example of this is 'The Gone-Away World' by Nick Harkaway.  I was offered to read the Gallery Copy through an online offer and I gave my PO box and received it from the UK.  Well, I read the first few chapters (that's all it takes really to figure out what it needs; other times, people read the whole book) and I found that there was just one thing bugging me from the start.  And so, I jumped online, found the website I was told about in the front of the book and explained in detail what was bugging me and how Mr. Harkaway could fix it.  I received a reply from the publishing company thanking
me for my input and that it was exactly what they were looking for; especially how detailed it was.
So, now I look for Gallery Copy books online as well as in second-hand shops.  You see, you're not actually permitted to resell these books as they're not real books to be sold to the public.  So, I buy them to keep them safe in my collection; and I have a good little lot of them now.  And what I do once I have the Gallery Copy book is wait for the real book to show up in public and purchase that too.  It's like having a matching set; and I keep them together - price tag and all - on my shelves.
The most interesting thing about the Gallery Copy
books is that more often than not, the cover of the one you receive won't be used in the public copy.  So, if you want to read a book nobody's read before, look around on publishing sites for Gallery Copies and if they'd like anyone to read them.  Or if you're in a second-hand shop, you will most likely find them there too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathon Livingston Seagull isn't your ordinary seagull.  By nature, all he wanted to do in life was fly as fast as he could and break the seagull flight record.  He wasn't interested in scavenging food from the fishing boats or bugging the tourists for scraps from their takeaway meals like the others of the Flock.  This worried his parents and they told him if he kept up his flying around he'd be Outcast by the Elders of the Flock.  
Then, one day, the most wonderful thing happened!  He figured out how to break the seagull flight record.  And once he did that, he had also figured out quickly how to turn and tumble while flying just as fast.  However, the Elders of the Flock had found out about his fast flying and ordered a meeting of the Council at the beach; naming and shaming him as an Outcast.  So, Jonathon was turned away from the Flock to live out his life on his own.  But it turned out better than he expected.  He ate better because he didn't have to scavenge. He flew further with less effort and saw the most wonderful lands.
Then came the time when his long life was coming to an end.  A few other seagulls escorted him to another place similar to the beach where the Flock treated him so badly.  But this beach had seagulls who thought just like Jonathon and they taught him much more than he expected; then he was given a choice.  Would he teach the newer seagulls coming into the new beach or go back to the Flock on Earth to teach the ones who wanted to know about his way of flying but were too scared?

I found this book in a Book Baggie I had sent around Australia through Bookcrossing and so when the Baggie came back, I found this little gem inside it.  Within the week, I had picked up Good Reading Magazine and there was a review about it inside.  So, that made the decision for me; I was destined to read this rather small and short book full of lovely black and white photos of seagulls in flight and a lovely story about not being scared to go against the grain when your heart truly encourages you to do so.

Richard Bach was  born in 1936 in Oak Park, Illinois.  He  is the great-great-great-great-grand son of JS Bach. He attended Long Beach State College (now California State University, Long Beach) in 1955.
Though Aviation was his true passion, he always wanted to write; since high school, one of his gym teachers made him realize his potential. Since 1959 he had this idea of a bird learning to pass beyond the walls of limitations, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which came through a "Cinerama on my wall". Almost all his books used airplanes as a way to pass the message.  He has written a number of books with flight involved in them.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Judging A Book By Its Cover

Have you ever bought one book in the middle of a series thinking you could read it as a separate entity; then found out you needed the rest of the series?  And then, when you went to the expense of purchasing the other books, you found out that the whole series was a total waste of your time?  I bet you have done this at least once in your life; and if you haven't, you will.

Years ago, I bought 'Arthur' by Stephen Lawhead.  I was in high school and loved the Aurthurian Legends; and still do.  But it was nothing without the other books.  So, once I was older and had the money, I ordered in the other books.  However, the first two books of 'The Pendragon Cycle' were fantastic!  They were the absolute pinnacle of sci-fi fantasy and how brilliant this author is!  However, once I cracked the cover of 'Arthur' and got about a quarter through it, I found it slowed down into a lull and stayed there... it got boring.  So, I started it again... and again, the lull was in the same place and again it bored me.
So, one of my friends - who reads faster than I do - offered to read the series for me.  He said he'd find out if it's just me or if the series really did have a problem.  Recently, he brought them all back saying that he was unable to finish 'Arthur'; so he skipped it and tried the other two or three books ahead of it.  However, they were just as boring and slow.  He told me that the main problem was Merlin; and that he didn't turn out to be the all-powerful magician legend had made him out to be.  My friend told me that he seemed to whither and hide whenever there was a battle afoot and pray too much instead of working the magics like he was taught to (like his name meant in Welsh). 

So, this five-book series has turned me off Stephen Lawhead as an author; which got me thinking... who in the writing world has written a book so bad that you haven't tried reading their works again?  And why?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Handbook of Ancient Wisdom by Cassandra Eason

'This very different book pulls together around forty different kinds of magic from all over the world.  By following the wise ways of our ancesters and learning how natural healing may be used to focus our energies and strengthen our intuition onto a path which could lead us to a better life.' This is similar to what's written on the back of the book. 

What a book.  I don't remember when I bought this book; however it's been a font of knowledge, myth and legend all in one place.  Some of it has been interesting, some of it is Dreamtime and other parts of it is something to take with a grain of salt.  But all of it is most definitely makes for interesting reading.  I do remember that I needed a book that covered a lot of things that covered myths and legends in our time for on of my sci-fi fantasy novels I was writing at the time; and it never left my shelves. However, I've only picked at this book at best when I've needed a myth or legend confirmed.
Cassandra Eason is a practicing pagan who has written about this subject; however on her site, she doesn't mention any titles.  I've had a look at her official website and it seems to be selling a lot of things but I couldn't find anything anywhere about her life.  So, I'll just leave her official website on the sidebar until I find a better site to add to it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Love At First Sight

When I was a young reader, I had a local Logan Library up the road from me; and I flew through the childrens' section quickly.  And then, I found other books to read at school; but until I began reading Enid Blyton, there wasn't anyone who really stuck out that I read all the time.  And I read 'The Folk of the Faraway Tree' and 'The Adventures of Amelia Jane' (before the reprints came out with the Golliwog removed).  

By the time I had hit high school, my Mum was working in a second-hand bookstore... an absolute dream for me.  It's still at Charden's Corner on Ipswich Road near the travel agent and still has a huge amount of books lining its walls.  I used to spend my school holidays sitting and reading 'Sweet Valley High' books to my heart's delight; wondering why other kids found them so good.  I wanted a challenge; I wanted
something that expanded my imagination, because I found SVH boring, but passable. 
Then, when I was around 16, I was trying to read a very adult romance novel one of my friends gave me and didn't understand some of the terminology in it.  So, of course I asked my Mum.  Now, I won't put
in what the terminology was (yes, I do remember what it was) but Mum called it smut and confiscated the book.  I asked if I could read Stephen King's 'Christine' instead; but she said no.  My older brother, Gabe, insisted that I was going to have to read something like SK's stuff anyway if I wanted to be a writer.  So, I was allowed. 
And after 'Christine', I read 'The Stand' then, 'Salem's Lot'... and I was hooked on Stephen King's work.  There was something about how he wrote a book that pulled me in and made me just keep on reading and reading that I didn't wish to stop.  And when I did,
well, I'd hesitate to turn out the light in case something was waiting in the dark to get me (yeah, he was downright creepy back then!).

Since Stephen, I've read other horror and vampire works and have been happy to go back to his work once in a while; happy to read his novellas and attempt his books.  But I've got a wider reading circle and love to try out different genres.  And because of this writer, I have had the courage to do just that; and not only in what I read, but also in what I write too.
I'm a poet, sci-fi writer and also write novellas of the strange and weird and vampire romances; however, I'm yet to be published.  However, I'm just happy to write and enjoy getting the ideas and putting them on paper and making them work well.  And if someone on one of my blogs like them, well I'm glad.

Is there a writer out there who got you to love writing and reading so much you got yourself into that particular world?  If so, share with us who it is and how their work helped you enjoy the written word.