Of Hemingway, coffee and fibs

booking_through_thursSo my brain is pretty much mush this week, rendering me unable to focus on much of anything! After crocheting a few scarves for the shop and settling down to watch “Glee” last night, I felt so tired I could barely make it through a few pages of Life As We Knew It before falling asleep.

That being said, I’ve done very little reading this week! So I’m jumping back into one of my old favorite memes, Booking Through Thursday — and here’s our question:

According to this article, two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?

When I was a senior in high school, regional magazine Southern Maryland, This Is Living interviewed me for their “Who’s Creative?” column. My college admissions essay revolved entirely around the importance of numbers in my life — ironic, really, considering I’m probably the world’s worst math student! As an exercise in school, we’d had to turn our admissions essays in to our English teacher, who then passed them on to our peers for editing. Mine was a hit. After it made the circuit at the school, it wound up in the hands of the magazine’s editor — and then it was time for my interview!

Knowing me as you all do, you know I thought I’d hit the big time. Here I was, saucy at 17 — and discussing my writing. The inspiration for my work. Considering I penned my first full-length novel at the age of 10, in my mind, I’d already been writing for seven years. I was ready to hit the big time! I needed my big break! Author Shannon Hale had a very similar experience and had me majorly laughing at the National Book Festival — I could totally relate!

So my interview is all set up in the cafe of our local Borders, where I shake hands with my interviewer and settle nervously into my seat. We go through the preliminary questions: how was my high school experience? What was I studying in college? What sort of hobbies did I have?

And then we got to the “harder” stuff: Who’s your favorite author?

Being, you know, seventeen — and desperately wanting to be taken seriously — all of the “honest” answers that popped in my head (like Meg Cabot, though I adore her) immediately disappeared, the names just crumbling on my tongue. Those were young adult authors. They were for kids! And I was a writer — a creative writer! I needed . . . someone . . . serious! Pedantic, even.

So which name did I unceremoniously drop?

Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway's home in Key West, Fla.

Hemingway's home in Key West, Fla.

Oh, friends — yes. I did. Hemingway. I’d taken a trip with my family to Key West, Fla., just years before, and the experience of walking through the hot bungalow where Ernest himself camped out, drunk and rambling, had really made an impression on me. Hemingway did the majority of his writing there and, I knew, was widely admired. At least by my English teachers. So his seemed as good a name as any.

Nevermind that I’d never read a single book by him . . . or even a single passage. Not one that I could easily recall, anyway. His was a big, well-known name — and definitely not a sissy author. He’d practically been inducted in the literary hall of fame, am I right? Canonized or demonized, depending on your perspective? No one would accuse me of not being well-read, gosh darnit!

Of course, my interviewer could have easily called me on my bluff, flatlining me with a follow-up like, “Oh, yeah, little lady? And which book is the best? Do you even know any of their names — what any of them are about?”

To which I would have blushed crimson, crawled under the sticky cafe table and folded myself into the fetal position, not daring to peek back up at the glowering face of the reporter or my disappointed parents. Thankfully, that didn’t happen — I’m pretty sure sitting in a puddle of spilled coffee on that floor would have been the cherry on my sundae of utter humiliation.

I chose Hemingway because I knew he was famous for his stream-of-consciousness writing style, a tradition I (naively) believed I carried on. I chose him because I’d seen his house, for cryin’ out loud — because I’d seen the actual space where he wrote. Because I’d walked through it. Because I’d stood on the same steps, looking out over the same land.

Ernest and me, you know, we were close.

Would I ever fib to impress someone with my literary knowledge again? No. I wouldn’t. But nor would I have to pull a legend out of a hat any longer! Because sitting at that table with sweating palms seven years ago, I learned a valuable lesson: writers have to read. Not a little, or occasionally, or just the well-knowns — but everything. As much of it as possible. If we want to get better — if we want to have something real  to say, and know how to say  it — we have to get out and experience life. And then read lots of novels about it. So, as write meg! can attest, I’ve tried hard to do just that!

And I’ll get around to For Whom The Bell Tolls one of these days . . .

Booking Through Thursday: The rest are still… unread

booking_through_thursIt’s been a while since I’ve jumped into Booking Through Thursday, but I’m playing along this week! Here’s the challenge:

“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf — the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

Still need to rearrange some, but much better

Um, I need to read these.

I feel moderately okay just posting almost all of my new bookcase because the vast majority of the books there are unread! When I was setting up my shelves two weeks ago, I placed pretty much everything I’d read on the very top shelf. A few of those mass market paperbacks haven’t been flipped through yet, but I have them organized — and know just which ones they are!

In the center, the only books I’ve read are four of the five Megan McCafferty books — the Jessica Darling series — seen in just about the very center of that shelf. What else do I have there? Well, just because I love lists and can’t stand to pass up the opportunity to make one, let’s take a walk through my bookcase . . .

Select Unread Books from Meg’s Bookcase

1. Robyn Sisman, Summer In The City
2. Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light
3. Liz Tuccillo, How To Be Single
4. Ann Brashares, 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Continues
5. Carrie Adams, The Stepmother
6. Anna Quindlen, Rise And Shine
7. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
8. Andrea Levy, Small Island
9. Geraldine Brooks, People Of The Book
10. John Green, Paper Towns
11. Meg Cabot, Airhead
12. Meg Cabot, She Went All The Way
13. Lisa McMann, Wake
14. Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth
15. Barbara Delinsky, For My Daughters
16. E. Lockhart, The Boyfriend List
17. Cecelia Ahern, If They Could See Me Now
18. Sydney Salter, My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters
19. Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
20. Linda Gerber, Death By Bikini
21. Jane Porter, The Frog Prince
22. Meg Waite Clayton, The Wednesday Sisters
23. Jane Dawkins, Letters From Pemberley
24. Pamela Aiden, An Assembly Such As This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy
25. Adriana Trigiani, Very Valentine

I could continue on, but I’m starting to stress myself out! So many fantastic books I’ve been meaning to get to forever, but I never seem to have the time to grab them. I’m hoping to pick up my reading speed in the very near future . . . we’ll see. Until then, I’ll savor what I’ve got while it’s in my hot little hands!

I’m wrapping up The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer tonight — and my (rave) review should be posted tomorrow! Then it’s on to finish Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange and Meg Cabot’s Size 12 Is Not Fat. I actually have about 100 pages of each read . . . I’ve started this annoying habit of getting halfway through a book and then deciding to start another. I guess I should work on that, too!

Booking Through Thursday: Windfall

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

“Yesterday, April 15th, was Tax Day here in the U.S., which means lots of lucky people will get refunds of over-paid taxes. Whether you’re one of them or not, what would you spend an unexpected windfall on? Say … $50? How about $500?

Oh, to have a lump sum of money drop in front of me! I remember the first year I worked and actually had to file taxes — my freshman year of college. Because I was only working part-time and well below the “poverty line” if I were living on my own, I basically got back all of the taxes I paid — save some money, of course. But it amounted to $800. And I can tell you exactly what I did with it! Part went to buy my mom a Dooney & Bourke purse for her birthday; some went toward a big dinner out; and the rest went in the bank. I used it all up that summer at a full-time, unpaid internship. But I had a great time!

Now? If someone handed me a $50 bill, I’d probably stick in in the bank! I know — I’m so not helping the economy! And that answer isn’t much fun. But I’m a saver by nature. Still, if you told me I absolutely had to spend it, I’d buy . . . books. I’d raid my wishlist on BookMooch and Amazon and order away! I got a $25 Visa gift card for Christmas and I nearly had a panic attack trying to decide which books to buy with it! (After much internal debate, I wound up with Some Day My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine and the first two books in Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflowers series.) That $50 would be put to good use getting some of the hardcovers I can’t bring myself to shell out the dough for, like Karen Harper’s Mistress Shakespeare.

If we’re talking $500 that I really have to spend, that’s pretty serious. I’m sure I would do something totally irresponsible like buy a Dooney & Bourke purse in the most outrageous color I thought I could pull off. I’d take my family out for a really big meal and then pay for all of us to go to the movies and get huge tubs of popcorn and boxes of sugary candy and each of our own individual soda. I’m living on the edge! And I’m sure I would fill up my gas tank, make a trip to Target and buy a bunch of makeup and costume jewelry and then go sit in Starbucks and drink two chai tea lattes. One for each hand. By then, I’d probably be exhausted — and may have depleted a good chunk of my $500. So I would probably just bank the rest for now!

Booking Through Thursday: Multiple reads

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

“Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…
1. Are you currently reading more than one book?
2. If so, how many books are you currently reading?
3. Is this normal for you?
4. Where do you keep your current reads? ”

How funny that this question should pop up now! For the first time in, oh, years, I’m actively reading three different novels at the moment! This is stemmed mostly from the sudden influx of review copies (thank you!) and my OCD desire to read and post about them quickly.

crossed_wiresI have Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton in my room, good for bedtime reading; Gigi Amateau’s A Certain Strain of Peculiar is my purse for daytime and lunchtime reading; and Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway is currently migrating around my house, often plopping down by my chair in the living room for after-dinner-ish reading.

audrey_waitIf you’d asked me a month ago if I could keep up with these three plotlines at once, I would have rolled my eyes a bit and said, “Um, DUH.” No, I’m kidding!

I would have thought sure, I could, but I’m a literature purist — I usually like focusing all of my time and energy on following one story and really getting invested in the characters. Sometimes I get a little jumbled up when trying to read about too many different people at once, particularly if each book is in the same genre. I can only read about so many sassy, indepenent 20-somethings looking for love before they all blend together in my brain.

certain_strainBut now, I’m finding I can still do that get the jist of everything… while reading several books at once, just like the ol’ college days! I would have novels and textbooks flying everywhere! And somehow I emerged from the reading mess victorious, so I guess I can do it again. It’s kind of fun, really — always have that new adventure just waiting out for me. And since I can never wait to start a new book — honestly, I get kind of antsy if I’m reading the same book for too long — this may be a good system for me. Especially if I’m reading a really “heavy” book and need something lighter to balance it out… I hate reading depressing material before bed. Nightmares!

Booking Through Thursday: Hey, I like it!

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

“What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”

As many readers have commented this week, this was a really hard question to answer! I did eventually find a choice by digging through my library on LibraryThing, though — Kathleen Tessaro’s Innocence, a book I reviewed back in November. The book has a whopping average score of 3.14 stars on LT — pretty low — with several 1-star and 2-star ratings in there, too. And I gave it a solid 4-star rating!

innocence_tessaroThe novel is the story of Evie Garlick, a young woman who moves from Ohio to London to try and carve out a place for herself in theatrical world. The big city isn’t anything like she expected, of course, and all sorts of chaos and adventures ensue. She falls in love with a really troubled guy and is “haunted” by the ghost of her old best friend, a wild and unpredictable young woman called Robbie. The book is all about Evie coming to terms with changing dreams and letting go of the past — not easy goals for anyone to accomplish.

Aside from the really mediocre scores the book has garnered on LibraryThing, one reviewer simply stated: “Terrible book. Wish I hadn’t bothered to read it.”

Oh, how I disagree! Sure, the book was a little whacky with the whole dead-best-friend-haunting thing, but I just recognized it for what it was — a trope, a way for Evie to reconnect with the life she lost — her old life — and begin anew in the present. Robbie’s “ghost” was the propellent for change. No problems there.

Plus, you know, I’m an Anglophile. The book is set in London. It has romance, intrigue, a pregnancy, first loves, surprise visits and some college life stuff in there. Sold!

Booking Through Thursday: Worst best book

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

“What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?”

This is a hard question for me to answer — mostly because I usually buy into the hype! There are few books heralded as really great that I haven’t ultimately enjoyed. Although I was hesitant to read them, I eventually broke down and loved J.K. Rowling’s famed Harry Potter series — and, though opinions are decidedly mixed on the subject, I did love Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books.

the_hobbitA book that I really wanted to like — mostly because it was a favorite of my father’s? J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, which was pretty much insufferable to me as a middle schooler. I tried to pick it up again years later, but I really couldn’t process it or get immersed in the story. I loved the films based on the series, though!

curious_incidentLately, I’d have to say my vote goes for Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I’d heard quite a bit about the novel when working at the bookstore but never grabbed it — so I mooched it on BookMooch last fall. I read the first 60 pages or so and just felt . . . meh. Though it was definitely a fast read and I didn’t have any trouble quickly turning the pages, I wasn’t invested in the character at all — in fact, I felt an overwhelming sense of detachment. When 15-year-old Christopher, a young British man with Asperger’s Syndrome, begins talking about math and listing statistics and graphs and physics everywhere, I was gone. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this sort of book at the time — I’m not sure. But I have no doubt that Haddon is a skilled writer, and  know that Curious Incident has a special place in the hearts of many. One reader on LibraryThing describes the book as a “brilliant and heart-wrenchingly real portrayal of a 15-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome,” then describes the reader as feeling “raw, steely and shocked” upon completing the novel. And maybe I would have — had I gotten that far. As it stands, I had to move on!

Booking Through Thursday: See the potential

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

What book do you think should be made into a movie? And do you have any suggestions for the producers?

If done well, I think that Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict could be an awesome movie! The story of a modern woman, Courtney, being transported back to the time of Jane Austen and finding herself an unwilling, unwed lady of the house is a solid, original one. Throw in a hot, Mr. Darcy-like character, some lush costuming, intelligent and witty dialogue and plenty of romantic tension and you’d have a winner! As long as I got to see plenty of cobblestone streets, shots of the English countryside and some fountains on the property, I’d be happy with the set. I love films that just transport me, dropping me into the center of an entirely different world and making me forget that I’m sitting in a sticky theatre seat for two hours. I think Confessions could definitely be a film like that!

And Lord knows there’s certainly a strong Austen fan base to support a film! Look at the countless movies made of Austen’s novels, not to mention the films made about Austen’s own life (“Becoming Jane” being my favorite). Though its a booming industry, there’s plenty of room for a new addition. And the cast and crew would have plenty of material to examine for reference! As a sampler, see:


"Northanger Abbey," Masterpiece Theatre (2007)

"Sense and Sensibility," PBS (2008)

"Sense and Sensibility," PBS (2008)

"Becoming Jane" (2007)

"Becoming Jane" (2007)


"Pride & Prejudice" (2005)