Booking Through Thursday: Scary

Booking Through Thursday Booking Through Thursday asks…

“What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?”

I love horror novels as much or more than I love horror movies, but most of them only affect me in the moment. Like many people of my generation, I grew up reading Stephen King novels as they came out. I was a teenager when I read IT for the first time, on a visit to my grandparents’ house in New Jersey.

While their neighborhood was nothing like small-town Derry, Maine, it did have the same kind of old-style gutters depicted in the novel, and I spent most of that summer crossing the street to avoid the possibility that a killer-clown might be peering up at me from within one.

I’ve often said that Stephen King and Garrison Keillor have the same folksy style, but that the difference is that Keillor isn’t going to have a monster show up to dismember you on page twenty six. I believe one of the reasons King’s work sticks with us isn’t the films, which, let’s face it, are never as scary as the books, but the fact that he sounds like every hometown storyteller, sucking you into small-town life.

30-Day Book Meme #1: The Wave

The Wave

The 30-day book meme asked me to talk about the best book I read last year. I don’t really rank my books in “best ever/worst ever” categories. I either didn’t like something, liked it, or loved it enough to read again. One of the books that fit the latter category, was The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey (review here).

This book alternates chapters, speaking with scientists and then surfers about finding the world’s biggest waves, predicting ocean waves and currents, surviving rogue waves, and even seeing waves from space – no really.

It’s a great book to go back to in weeks like this one, when it’s predicted to reach 109 today, and I’m really missing the ocean, but I’d recommend it to anyone who likes the science behind sailing and surfing, and why waves may be getting bigger and more dangerous.

Was it really the best book I read in 2010? Maybe, maybe not. It did, however, inspire me to download a surf report app for my iPhone.

For the Love of Reading

I’ve always thought that memes are the blogger’s equivalent of joining a franchise affiliate program – you’re given the form and content, but have the room to put your own spin on it. I’m in a meme-ish mood today, hence this one.

What have you just read?
I just finished reading William Dietrich’s latest Ethan Gage adventure, The Barbary Pirates

What are you reading now?
I’m between books. I have two I need to review, Skin and Bones by an author whose name I can’t remember, and which appears to be missing in my house (I swear it was on the counter an hour ago) and This One is Mine by Maria Semple. Guess which one I can actually find?

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
Whichever one of the two above that isn’t first, will be second, but then I’m open. I have a bunch of books I recently bought that I haven’t read yet, and there’s a new Holmes/Russell coming out soon.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West. I had to read it for a writing conference a couple years ago. It is, hands down, the most bleak, depressing, unrelentingly dark piece of fiction I’ve ever been exposed to.

What’s one book you always recommend to just about anyone?
Katherine Neville’s The Eight

Admit it, sadly the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
No. I’m not a frequent visitor to our local library. The collection sucks, the first rack when you walk in is Christian fiction, and it smells funny. Give me funky bookstore-cafes over libraries, any day.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
Jane Eyre. No really, in an age where the classics are not required reading, anything Bronte earns sneers. In more modern fiction…Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks.

Do you read books while you eat?

While you bathe?
Yes, but generally only paperbacks.

While you watch movies or tv?
Sometimes if we rent a DVD that is more Fuzzy’s taste than mine. Ditto television.

While you listen to music?
Sometimes, but it has to be instrumental music.

While you’re on the computer?
E-books and fanfiction, and once in a while, a proof or ARC that’s been delivered via PDF.

When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
No. All my friends were bookish and geeky, too.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
Coop, by Michael Perry

Have any books made you cry?
Not whole books, but scenes. Certain scenes in The Zookeeper’s Wife, for example, or, when I was a girl, Little Women

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Meme

I have to confess: Until today, I had never heard of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I knew more about natural acne treatment than I did about this annual event, and I certainly wasn’t aware there was a whole site dedicated to it. I’m glad I discovered it though, thanks to a comment from Alita of Alita Reads, which led me to her blog, and both the link to BBAW and this meme.

As to the meme itself, well, I like doing questionnaires every so often. They’re sort of restful, but sometimes spark interesting tangential thoughts. I’m fairly certain I’ve done this meme before, or at least parts of it, but my answers tend not to be static.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
I used to read while eating lunch all the time, now, if I snack, it’s usually fruit and/or cheese – non-greasy finger foods. I always have coffee, tea, or water.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I’ve never been one to make notes in margins. I think because I generally read so quickly, I’m done before I have time.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I’ll dog-ear the pages of books that belong to me, if they’re paperbacks, but with borrowed books, I use bookmarks – I have many – or use a dollar as a bookmark if not. On hardcovers, I do sometimes use the flap of the dust-cover to mark my place, and yes, with my own books, I’m sometimes guilty of laying the book flat, if I’m only getting up for a moment.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Both, but more fiction than not. I read across all genres, though I’m not a fan of Westerns or Self-Help, and I love thick novels, mysteries, good science fiction and fantasy, and biographies and memoirs.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
I prefer my reading matter printed, thank you, and I prefer actual books to ebooks, as well. I like audio dramas, but have never really gotten into audio books.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
Chapter? Whenever possible – especially if I really LIKE what I’m reading, I finish the entire book!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
It’s really rare that I can’t figure it out from context – unless it’s in a foreign language I don’t speak. If I’m really stumped, I’ll look it up later.

What are you currently reading?
The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, and Marley and Me, by John Grogan.

What is the last book you bought?
Dreaming Anastasia, by Joy Preble. It’s a YA title that seemed interesting when I was at Borders earlier tonight, so I bought it.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
I usually have one main read, and then another book or two I pick up in between. Generally they are all in different rooms. I’m not sure if this is a sign of good planning, or laziness.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
The bathtub, but only paperbacks, and only those I own. The couch in my studio, the couch in the living room (generally while Fuzzy is watching something I’m not all that interested in), the toilet (too often for good health), and bed.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
Both, but lately I’ve been more into series, I think because I like LONG stories, and thick books aren’t trendy right now.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
I recommend Outside Lies Magic, by John Stilgoe, and The Eight, by Katherine Neville, to almost everyone, and lately have been foisting Christopher Moore novels upon all my friends.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
My to-be-read stack is under the nightstand on my side of the bed, and on Fuzzy’s dresser, at the moment. And there’s always a stack in the bathroom, too. Completed books these days either go into a bag to be traded to friends, a box to send to my mother in Mexico, a bag to be donated to church, or upstairs. Those that make it into the Word Lounge, are alphabetized by author on my shelves.

Booking Through Thursday: Recent Enjoyable


On Thursday, September 17th, Booking through Thursday asked:

What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently?

(Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean funny, since we covered that already. Just … GOOD.)

Reading voraciously may not be the best way to lose belly fat, but it certainly keeps me entertained. While I’m enjoying the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, Christopher Moore’s Fluke which I read earlier this summer is one of the books that I simply couldn’t read fast enough, because it was funny.

Buffalo Gal was an August read of mine, and I enjoyed it immensely because it’s so rare to read about a young woman of roughly my age who grew up Unitarian – it’s not a church people seem to grow up in, and that’s sad, because my experience with UU kids I’ve met, and taught in RE, is that they tend to be extraordinarily bright.

Right now, I’m trying hard not to read The Lost Symbol, the newest offering from Dan Brown, who – let’s be honest – isn’t the best author on earth, but writes entertaining stories. Why am I trying not to read it? Because I’m not quite done with this fascinating memoir called Indigo Awakening, that I’m expected to review on Friday, and as much as I’m enjoying it, I’ve been waiting for the other book.

Teaser Tuesdays: Funny in Farsi, by Firoozeh Dumas

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between 7 and 12 lines.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

My teasers are:

In 1977, the Shah and his wife were scheduled to come to America to meet the newly elected president, Jimmy Carter. Very few Iranians lifed in America then, and those of us who did were invited to go to Washington, D.C., to welcome the Shah. The Iranian government would cover all expenses.

My father accepted the invitation. My brothers reacted with a few choice words.
from Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, p. 111, by Firoozeh Dumas

Booking Through Thursday: Honesty

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?
– BTT, 20 November 2008

I review books here in my own blog, and also for the e-zine All Things Girl, where we post reviews in the blog, and in the actual zine. We try to always find something positive to say, but it we really dislike something, or felt a work was flawed, we’ll say so.

Here at Bibliotica (which was founded in 2004, but I recently purged the archives), I don’t do lengthy reviews, but if I dislike something, I’m not shy about it. Of course authors and publishers prefer positive reviews, but as readers, and many times as writers ourselves, we do them a disservice if we don’t give fair, honest reviews.

For more answers to this question, visit Booking Through Thursday


Six years ago, I had Lasik surgery on my eyes, and went from not being able to see the big E at the top of the chart to 20:20 vision, though it wasn’t instant – it takes time for eyes to settle.

People always ask what having the surgery impacted the most, and they generally expect grand answers like, “I can scuba dive without a special mask,” but the reality is, it’s the little things that you really notice, things like being able to see to shave your legs in the shower, or put on make-up, being able to read the numbers on the alarm clock when you wake in the middle of the night, and being able to read in bed without fear of rolling over on your glasses, or forgetting to remove your contacts and harming your eyes. (Ditto falling asleep on planes)

It is with this in mind that I present the following meme, in honor of the first 48 hours after surgery, in which I was forbidden to read anything at all.
These are the top 106 books most often marked as unread by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you own but have not read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Vocabulary from Booking through Thursday

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

Maybe it’s just because I’ve racked up a lot of reading miles on the treadmills of reading and writing – I mean, I wrote a poem stating that I wanted to be an author when I was about seven – but it’s been a long time since I’ve come across a phrase that wasn’t fairly obvious just from context.

In fact, one thing that drives me crazy is when I see other adults who don’t know how to infer meaning, don’t understand how helpful context is. Did they have bad teachers? Are their brains just not wired the same way mine is? Who can say?

On the rare occasion that I do have a word or phrase that remains a mystery, my choice of reference depends on where I am. If I’m comfortably settled in the bath, I’m not going to race to my laptop and hit or the Urban Dictionary, or use Google, but I’ll let the phrase sit in the back of my head until I have time for such a thing.

If I’m reading online – as I do a lot – then yes, I will fire up another tab in FireFox and see where it leads me. Doing so can often lead to wonderful adventures, and new turns of phrase.

Prompt provided by Booking Through Thursday.

Lit-Ra-Chur (Booking Through Thursday)

When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)

Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?

I’ve been pretty insular lately, so I thought I’d take a break from writing medicare advantage articles to actually participate in a meme. It’s not Thursday, but if you don’t tell, I won’t either.

Literature, at least in my personal lexicon, does include Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolstoy, as well as Melville, Fitzgerald, and Hawthorne, but it also includes the Bronte sisters, Austen, Woolf, Cather, Alcott, and George Sand. Not to mention Dickinson, Emerson, Whitman, Plath and Thoreau. I don’t believe something has to be part of a “great books” program in order to be literature, but there’s a reason the classics are, well, classic.

Staying power is one part of what distinguishes literature from, say, general fiction, but it’s also not the only factor. I believe literature is still being created. Consider the beauty of the language in Memoirs of a Geisha, for example, or the works of A. S. Byatt.

As to what I read for pleasure. I read a bit of everything. I like the classics. Curling up with Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre on a dismal weekend evening is just as restful as breezing through a couple of Star Trek novels, and the latter are often just as provocative as any of the works I studied in school.

As I write this, I’m in the middle of two books – one is the middle novel in a trilogy of Trekfiction, the other is the latest in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline, and I’m about to begin reading Pride and Prejudice.

As a writer, I learn from everything I read. Not just the stuff that we used to write essays about.