Review — or let it simmer?

At my core, I’m a writer. One of the things I love best about reading — and having a book blog — is the ability to read and immediately write about a novel. Whether it’s chatting on how terrible it was, how stunning, or just hashing and re-hashing my favorite moments, I love sharing my thoughts — and review books almost immediately after finishing them, typically early the following morning.

I’m realizing something strange, though. As I continue to chronicle my reading adventures and review each book I finish, weeks can go by — months, maybe — before I think about a book again. Then, when I’m scanning my book reviews archive or reading challenges, a title will jump out at me and I’ll think, “Oh yeah. I remember that one. It was . . . good?”

how_i_live_nowAnd I won’t quite know. I won’t remember.

I read the book. In many cases, I loved the book. But the details? Well, the details will have faded into obscurity — characters, places, times. Nothing much remains. And when I go back to see what I wrote, I’ll barely contain my surprise at having raved about something I can barely recall later on. Lu at Regular Rumination recently posted on Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a book I finished last August. As I was reading Lu’s review, all the things I disliked about it — the things that frightened me — came rushing back, swamping any positive feelings I could conjure up. But after I pulled up my own review, I was shocked by how much I liked it.

So the little wheels in my brain are turning. How different would my review of the young adult novel — which centers around an American teen trapped in England after the onset of a mysterious world war — have changed if I’d discussed it weeks later, instead of the following morning? And that particular morning, as I recall, I was dead exhausted from having stayed up until 2 a.m. or so to finish. It was horrifying; I couldn’t tear myself away. And then, of course, I couldn’t calm down long enough to sleep.

If I were to talk about the book now, my review would be very different — and probably not as positive. And I have a feeling that’s true of many of the novels I’ve read.

So which reaction is the “true” reaction? Is it better to review a book when it’s fresh and freshly in my mind, when I’m probably emotional from having finished it? When I love a book so much and then write a review immediately, I have a tendency to gush. Are those reviews “better” than the ones I might have written had I let the book simmer, giving me time to analyze my feelings and discuss it in a more logical way?

As I’m sure it apparent, I adore writing about books. And if I had to wait to write about them, I feel like they would lose something powerful in the meantime. Those gut reactions to a book are, to me, some of the most interesting . . . and honest. But I know that not everyone feels that way.

So do you review promptly, or let it simmer?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to both?

In which I give thanks

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
— Albert Schweitzer

It’s easy to talk about Thanksgiving in abstract terms; this whole concept of being thankful should be simpler, but it’s easy for me to get ensnared in the day-to-day drama of living, picking up only the little issues and forgetting to step back, breathe deeply and just feel grateful.

First of all, I live in a free country — a place I can discuss anything like, befriend anyone I choose, love as I see fit and hold any job I desire. I’m free. In all the ways that matter, I’m free.

My loving, supportive family slings an arm around me anytime I’m down. My mom and dad have given me every opportunity to succeed, and the absolute last thing I’ll ever do is fail them. My sister is my best friend in the universe; I can’t wait to grow old with her at my arm, both of us laughing at ridiculous TV shows and running out to get Slurpees whenever we’ve had tough days. My grandparents, Maw Maw, aunts, uncles, cousins — everyone has a special place in my heart. I forget how lucky I am to have a happy, healthy family, but I want that to change.

I’m thankful for a sense of purpose — a tranquility that comes from knowing I have a job where I’m appreciated and validated. I love editing, design and my work for a newspaper, but know in my gut that I’m meant to write — and that passion guides me in everything I do. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously, and all the unpleasant stuff that happens? Yeah, it’ll all wind up in a novel someday. Everything that happens — annoying, awesome, frustrating, fantastic — is making me who I am . . . as a person and a novelist. So I can’t feel angry knowing all this nonsense? Great novel fodder.

And my friends! Whether we met in high school, college, at one of the various jobs I’ve held over the years or through the blogging community, I’m so grateful to share my life with such awesome people — and to share theirs, too. Once upon a time, I so feared being vulnerable to the point that I completely closed myself off, lying to myself by saying I was happier that way. Now more than ever, I see just how untrue that was . . . and am thankful to have learned how to be open to the possibilities of honest friendship. I can’t ever go back to how I was before!

Books make me feel grateful — the added experiences, the shift in perspective. A wonderful book can absolutely change your life, and I’ve found several this year that reminded me what it is to be human. Each one seems to find me at just the right time, just as in Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen! There’s no better way for me to step outside myself than to grab a novel and settle in for change. It’s relaxing, invigorating, restorative — basically everything good in the world. Books are just awesome.

I’m thankful for music and the special place it has in my life; I’m thankful that my mother taught me to crochet as a kid, a hobby I love intensely! I’m thankful that I finally got my Etsy business up and running this year, and have so loved making scarves for orders this fall.

The travel I did this year was amazing — and completely put my life in perspective. I started out in London, found myself in North Carolina and recently traveled to California. A different lesson accompanied me on each vacation, and I’m definitely a different person for having gone. I’m thankful that I was brave enough to do what, a year ago, would have seemed totally crazy to me! And I’m very grateful for the friends who were with me on those journeys.

What else am I thankful for? Health. Food. Gainful employment. Love — both lost and found. Humor. Movies. Celebrity crushes. A beautiful sunset. Photography. This blog, and the book blogging community! And you, for sure, for reading this.

Wishing you all a very happy
(and thankful!) Thanksgiving!

You’re so vain — you probably think this blog post is about you

love_sharpieOne of the scariest things I’ve realized about having a personal/book blog lately? People read it. Which means I can . . . post things. And people will see them. And comment on them. And what I say? It’s out in the ether — possibly forever.

Now, I have no delusions of grandeur — I’m not saying I’m one of the brightest intellectual stars in the sky, or that I’m debating some of The Big Issues of our time here on write meg! I am saying that it’s simultaneously thrilling and frightening that I have a forum in which I can . . . write about whatever I want. Mostly because there are so many things I wish I could write about, but know that’s not smart.

My head has been a jumbled-up mess lately. And as much as I would love to pour my heart out, I’m not fourteen years old anymore; that seems immature and, really, less than wise. I’ve had enough of immaturity and childish behavior lately. In fact, I’ve had my fill, to be honest. So I’m trying hard to just move forward, focus on myself and my writing and all the other exciting things in my life and not worry about people who clearly aren’t worrying about me.

But my heart is bruised.

And I don’t remember how to unbruise it . . . other than to trust that time will make me forget all the old hurts, I’ll lose myself in my work and things I love and, eventually, I won’t think about anything other than puppies, rainbows and ice cream again.

Making lists of happy things has made me happy — as has planning my trip to California! I leave for San Diego and Los Angeles in two days. I’m hoping a week with girlfriends in a beautiful place 3,000 miles from here will give me some much-needed perspective on everything, filling me with a sense of peace and renewal. Here’s to hoping I come home a brighter, sparkly person with about a thousand photos on my memory cards. (And maybe, if I’m lucky, a tan.)

I’m very fortunate to have the greatest friends, family and community I could ask for — and this fall will be filled with so many great things. I’ll surge forward, confident that the choices I make in the future will be the right ones — and bring me closer to my happy ending. I wear my ring daily. I go out of my way to take care of me, treating myself gingerly and carefully. I’m not unkind — to myself, or anyone else. I treasure my sense of humor, and my ability to see the best in others — even when they’re acting like jerks. I’m a hard worker. Sincerity and honesty are two of my greatest qualities.

Sometimes I fall too quickly . . . and don’t stop to make sure I’m not jumping blindly because, you know, I’ve been hurt. But being vulnerable isn’t a crime . . . and I’m happy I can still find a way to be open, even when my gut instinct is to hunker down as though a hurricane is roaring up the coast — boarding up my windows, nailing the doors shut, closing myself off and keeping quiet until the storm passes. But I didn’t do that. It was scary, and now it hurts — but I’m glad I did it.

Someday I’ll find someone who loves me the way that I love me . . . and until then? I’ll keep smiling, laughing and moving, knowing that someday — I will.

Musing Mondays: Marking my place

Monday again! musing_mondays Here’s this week’s question:

What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favourite one?

I’m pretty obsessive-compulsive about my bookmarks, as I am with most things! Firstly, I never, ever dog-ear the pages — I hate that! Sometimes I give my sister permission to turn down the page if we’re both reading the same book so she can put her own bookmark in, but if I’m the only one reading it, you’ll never see me pulling that!

Like many devoted readers, I have a pretty big collection of bookmarks — but all of them are the cheap, freebie ones! I do have one or two nice ones, like a hand-painted bookmark I got in San Gimignano, Italy. But since I’m constantly jamming them in the pages and the books are getting kicked around on my floor, jammed in a purse or otherwise jostled, I usually stick with my paper ones! I have a particular Borders bookmark a bookseller gave me years and years ago — long before I ever worked there — and I’ve kept it all this time. It’s the perfect size — not too long, not too short — and it’s appropriately creased where I like bookmarks to be creased.

And if you didn’t think I was a little bizarre and OCD before, you do now! 🙂 Happy Monday, everyone!

Taking stock of 2008

new_yearObviously 2008 was a year of adventure, chaos and uncertainty — professionally, personally, economically. In America this year, we’ve seen the rise and fall of the stock market, gas prices surging to astronomical levels, a floundering economy, a long and very exhausting presidential election and… a host of other craziness. But we made it through all of it! As New Year’s Day appears bright and shiny now on the horizon, I think it’s important to reflect on everything I accomplished this year. I didn’t do anything major, and I didn’t save any lives, but I did accomplish quite a bit.

So here’s what happened:

• I wrote two complete novels, each totaling around 80,000 words, and began the arduous process of querying to find an agent. No luck yet, but 2009 is right around the corner;

• I got a promotion at my full-time newspaper job, allowing me to comfortably quit my part-time position and enjoy much more time with my friends and family;

• I celebrated my 23rd birthday, my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and my two-year anniversary with Palmer;

• I became more confident and less nervous on the phone (I know that sounds strange, but it’s a weird struggle for me!);

• I started this little blog and have really enjoyed getting to know folks in the booking blogosphere, as well as honing my posting abilities, learning new technology and taking an abundance of photographs;

• I got closer to good friends and made some new ones;

• I relearned HTML and taught myself some CSS, FTP and other crazy stuff in order to set up a real webpage — my father’s blog. In 2009, I’ll be doing the same for myself!

• I voted for and helped usher in President-Elect Barack Obama, the first African-American man to run our country… and I’m looking forward to watching his inauguration in January;

I read a ton of great books, was introduced to some new authors and became part of the Twilight universe with my somewhat troubling obsession with fictional heartthrob Edward Cullen;

• I saw John Mayer, my all-time favorite musician, in concert in July — from the front row!

• I worked hard to always remain positive and to embrace change, rather than fight it.

And that’s the mantra I will be chanting into 2009 and beyond… roll with the changes in tide, don’t run from them. I hope everyone takes some time to think about everything they’ve done this year — even if it doesn’t seem like “much,” I promise you that it is! — and has a very safe and happy start to the new year. I think it’s going to be a good one… and no matter, in the words of a good ol’ “High School Musical” song, remember that we’re all in this together!

Happy New Year!

Musing Mondays: Planning ahead

musing_mondays A chilly Monday here in Maryland! Here’s this week’s question:

How long do you wait after finishing a book before you pick/start another one? How many books do you have planned ahead or do you pick up random books from your tbr pile (if you have one)? Do you review right away or keep reading and come back to it later?

I’m pretty obsessive-compulsive about this — I always have another book lined up to be read. Typically I set down the book I’ve most recently finished and immediately pick up the next one, usually a novel I’ve set aside for the express purpose of reading it as soon as I’m finished with my current book! My TBR stack is pretty massive, and I typically “categorize” them according to my moods. If I’ve read a pretty heavy book, I’ll usually head to the stack to look for something a little more fun and light. I usually plan ahead for the next three books or so, and then leave the rest up to fate!

When reviewing, I typically blog and update my info on LibraryThing the day after finishing a book. It’s something I love to do, so I don’t put it off! By that point I will have almost always started the next novel, but the continuity of it all is partially what makes it so fun!

Musing Mondays: Holiday habits

musing_mondays It’s Monday again! Here’s this week’s question:

With the holiday season now upon us, how does it affect your reading? Do you have more, or less, time to read at Christmas? Do you read Christmas themed/related books?

As life gets busier and busier, I actually find myself making even more time to read lately. Reading is always my way to escape everyday worries or troubles, or just a way for me to jump in and experience someone else’s life for a while. And now that the Christmas tree is up and looking pretty in the living room, it’s the perfect spot to sit with my mug of tea and work my way through a good novel!

I wouldn’t say I read anything special at Christmas, though a recent holiday-themed book I’ve enjoyed is Laurie Notaro’s An Idiot Girl’s Christmas: True Tales From The Naughty List. Notaro is a genius! She’s one of the few writers I’ve found that can literally make me do a spit-take while reading. Maybe this year I’ll try to track down another classic to read as a special project around Dec. 25. Something about cold air and warm blankets make me want to hunker down with a classic work of literature — perhaps a re-reading of Jane Eyre? Or maybe I’ll just press on with my out-of-control TBR stack . . . here’s to trying!