Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blog Musings: How I Roll (and Ramble)

I very much enjoyed BBAW from the sidelines, celebrating great blogs getting well-deserved attention, getting to know people through interviews, and learning about different ideas and suggestions from many bloggers.  I was excited to see some of my favorites as finalists and winners.  Bravo!  

Sometimes, though, I end up getting the sense that I'm doing everything wrong!  Post often! Embrace social media! Brand yourself!  I would fail miserably on these points.  But, wait, I really don't believe there is a "wrong" way to execute a book blog.  My way is just different.  And as soon as I categorize myself as "different,"  I can almost hear others saying, "Hey, I'm like that too!"  Laid-back bloggers unite!

The diversity in the book blogging community is wonderful, both in the different niches and levels of commitment.  I enjoy them all.  You can post once a day or once a month, write answers to a meme or and in-depth review of a classic, tell me about your pets or the latest book your reading.  Pretty much if I like what I see, I'm sticking with you.  Long absence foreseen? No worries!  I'll be there when you get back, and if you never return, I hope life treats you well in your new adventures. 

Long absences notwithstanding, I have somehow managed to stick around.  But I've had to rework my blog in order to stay in this book-obsessed environment that I love.  Here's the way I do things "differently" that make it possible:

1.  Posting
In a nutshell, completely haphazard!  No regular posting for me.  This is my method:  There are several books that I'm pretty sure I would like to review someday, but every once in a while one stands out above the rest.  I pick a day to think about that book.  I read any notes I may have taken, look for things I've underlined, think about any thoughts the book generates in my head, look online for any historical context or information about author, etc.  And then just think about it.  It's my day to spend with one novel.  Like a date.  With a book.  While I'm cooking, cleaning, driving, sitting at boring school meetings, etc.  Sounds romantic, doesn't it?  I love this part!

Then comes the hard part, for me anyway.  Writing is very difficult for me!  It twists my brain and makes my eyes cross, and I feel like someone trying to rip my stomach out through my armpit.  There's no way I could go through this several times a week!   It's hard for me to take what my mind is thinking and get it down into words in exactly the way that I mean.  And if it's not exactly what I want to say, I get very frustrated.  But when the grey matter explosions actually transform into the right words?  Utter satisfaction.  Of course this doesn't happen all the time, but it's wonderful enough that I keep trying.  Sort of like gambling.  Which I don't do, so I have to get my thrills somehow.

And then, in about a week or two, I start the whole think, write, gamble process over again. When I'm done, I hit the "Post" button.  It's like taking a little happy pill.

2.  Twitter
One of the things I saw over and over again during BBAW discussions is the need to be on Twitter.  I get it, really.  I totally agree.  I'm on there.  Sort of.  The most activity I've had on there recently was when my account got hacked.  I also have automatic updates going through Goodreads and I'm pretty sure new posts on my blog show up. 

I just have never been able to make Twitter a part of my routine or my life.  Maybe it will happen someday.  I kind hope so, because I love the idea of connecting and sharing little tidbits of people's lives that you wouldn't normally discover.  But then I think I'm a little afraid of being too connected, and I have visions of being eaten a piece at a time by this cute little bird...

3. Visiting other blogs
This is where I must admit I need a little help, or a ten-step program, or something.  I'm afraid to count the number of blogs in my reader, there are so many. Here's my flawed process for reading them:  When I open Google Reader, even though I have categories and all, I hit "All Items."  And then I scroll through them all.  This is irresistible to me, because I have a completeness compulsion.  No, I don't actually read every word, but I skim, and then when something catches my eye, I read more thoroughly, and then if I actually have something to say, I open a new tab for the post, with the intent to comment.  

The problem is, at any number of time I have several tabs open and sometimes they stay up there for days.  And usually I have tabs open on two computers.  When do I actually comment on them?  Again, "haphazard" is the key.  I'm up and down at the computer here and there, and so I comment on a couple at one time, and a few another time, and some it takes so long for me to get to, I think it must be too late to comment and I close the tab in "silence."  There's got to be a better way, right?

4.  Memes
I don't do many memes.  Do I feel that I am above them?  Absolutely not!  I love reading them.  But when it comes to doing them myself, I don't.  Why?  Because I'm LAZY!  The idea of coming up with ten books that fit this theme or another and other such thing is another thing that brings on brain pain.  But I LOVE to read what others have put, so keep them coming!  When it comes to book discussions, I'm clearly and "innie" rather than an "outie." (BTW, when it comes to belly buttons, only 10% of the population have "outies.")

How did I get on the subject of belly buttons?  Needless to say, this is NOT a post that I've pondered deeply for a day or two.  I just drank a large cup of Mountain Dew Code Red (bad, bad, bad for the diet), so I think the caffeine is taking over at this point.  I'll rein things in now.

I suppose the bottom line with blogging is to figure out your purpose, and then do what you need to in order to fulfill that purpose.  If you need a large audience to make that happen, there are certain strategies you need to embrace.  But if you're like me, and are just looking for some personal fulfillment and book discussion, you can pretty much do whatever you want!  Nicely, of course.   And many, many thanks to those of you who come to visit me.  Simply put, it makes me happy!

How about you?  Do you operate in a way that makes you feel different from the mainstream bloggers out there?  Do you have any deep-seated fears of Twitter?  Is your Google Reader out of control?

(And here I will pat myself on the back for following a great blogging technique--asking your readers a question.  Do you know why I avoid this many times?  It's because I'm afraid no one will answer.  That would make me so sad.  Something like that happened once when I first started, but it resulted in a subsequent post with a picture of Aragorn from LOtR.  No harm done then, right?)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Originally Published: 1926
Length: 272 pages
Source: Purchased from Amazon

Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4/5

Fear is the original sin. Almost all of the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something.  It is a cold slimy serpent coiling about you. It is horrible to live with fear; and it is of all things degrading.

I'm so grateful for "feel-good" books.  I love a good, heart-wrenching tragedy, and I'm okay with sad or ambiguous endings, but every once in a while I need the high I can get from a warm and fuzzy novel.  Sometimes the reading-induced tears need to be drops of joy and not gushes of agony.

Lucy Maud Montgomery is a great author to turn to for my happy fix.  It's interesting that Montgomery herself suffered from many bouts of depression while taking care of her mentally-ill husband and facing the demands of motherhood.  I presume that writing was her "drug", and perhaps she hoped to provide readers with an escape of their own.

In The Blue Castle, 29-year-old Valancy is unhappy and bored with her life under the thumb of severely micro-managing relatives.  For instance, it is completely unacceptable to sneeze in public.  Apparently you can suppress a sneeze by pressing your finger on your upper lip.  (I haven't tried it myself yet--I can only imagine what one must look like holding a sneeze while pushing a finger on their face.)   She flees from reality by daydreaming about her Blue Castle, a beautiful place that has grown up with her in her mind, and where she has been loved by a succession of imaginary beaus.  (I think I had a similar fantasy when I was younger, but it was more likely set in Middle Earth . . .)  But reality is never far away, especially when Valancy finds out that she only has a year to live, and the standard cure-all sworn to by her family, Redfern's Purple Pills, is not going to help her much at all.

She finds inspiration in the writings of her favorite nature author, John Foster, and decides that she will not live the rest of what remains of her life dominated by fear.  She breaks free from the conventions of her overbearing family, and starts spending time with the town reprobate, Barney Snaith.  Despite his hopelessly unromantic name, Barney ranks right up there with literary loveables like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, and Ron Weasley (a personal pick).  With her new life, Valancy tries to grasp a piece of that Blue Castle fantasy before she dies, and finds something even better.

This is such a sweet novel--not airy, cotton-candy sweet, more like warm apple crisp with vanilla-bean ice cream on top sweet.  It made me feel good, and I hope the writing of it had a similar effect on Montgomery herself.  The ending gets all wrapped up like a snazzy little birthday present.  While I wouldn't want every book I read to end so tidily, it is great getting a gift every once in a while, isn't it?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Author: H. G. Wells
Originally Published: 1896
Length: 160 pages
Source: Library
Challenge(s): R.I.P. VI

Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4/5

Poor brutes!  I began to see the viler aspects of Moreau's cruelty.  I had not thought before of the pain and trouble that came to these poor victims after they had passed from Moreau's hand.  I had shivered only at the days of actual torment in the enclosure.  But now that seemed to be the lesser part.  Before they had been beasts, their instincts fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand; their mock-human existence began in  agony, was one long internal struggle, on long dread of Moreau--and for what?  It was the wantonness that stirred me. 

I find that I am developing and unlikely "thing" for H.G. Wells.  It's rather curious to me, because his writing itself doesn't seem like it would do much for me. The prose can be somewhat mechanical and plain and underwhelming, but then he takes it to another extreme with melodramatic scenes and campy images of horror.  However, as with a recent reading of The War of the Worlds, I find myself relishing it, and craving more.

In The Island of Dr. Moreau, Edward Prendick, a man who has "taken to natural history as a relief from the dullness of [his] comfortable independence" gets quite a break from the boredom when he is shipwrecked and ends up on an island where Dr. Moreau gets his kicks cutting up animals and giving them human characteristics.  They are given anti-bestial laws to follow, and are taught to deify their creator.  But their true nature is undeniable, and things end up getting pretty ugly. 

Speaking of ugliness, by the end of the book I wanted to cut Dr. M. up and give him a few more humane characteristics, but, alas, another fate awaited him. Other than fantasies of vivisecting the good doctor, this short novel brings to mind other thoughts.  How far should mankind reach in the name of science?  Do we "play God" for the sake of progress?  What distinguishes man from beasts?  What makes us human?  How strong are the effects of socialization?   Where can I get my hands on a scalpel so I can cut up this guy and give him a taste of his own medicine?

A more immediate question I'm asking myself now:  Which of Wells' books should I read next?  The Time MachineThe Invisible ManThe First Men in the Moon?  I can't wait to dive into another sci-fi vision (or nightmare) conceived over 100 years ago.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Is it just me, or has this image gone positively viral in your Google Readers:

Or maybe it's this one:

Not surprisingly, there are going to be a lot of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril this year, thanks to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, and I will attempt to number myself among them.

I'm going for Peril the First, with a goal to read four books with the intended elements of mystery, suspense, horror and such.  Here are some options I'm looking at:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Drood by Dan Simmons
The Vanishing of Katherine Linden by Helen Grant

Have fun everyone!  I can't wait until the weather gets into the spirit this challenge. In Southern California, that usually happens a few days before it's over.