Lessons Learned

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island. -Walt Disney

With the 30 Day Book Challenge now done and dusted, I find myself missing the daily mission of scouring my bookshelves and digging deep into the recesses of my mind in a hunt to find the appropriate book for each task.  It was a literary treasure hunt for my book-lover mind, and I took great pleasure in reliving my reading history and rediscovering what books mean to me and the influence they’ve had on my life.

Throughout the challenge I contentedly reacquainted myself with some old favourites, relived memorable childhood reading moments, and crooned over some literary heartthrobs.  I confessed some secrets, pledged my eternal allegiance to a certain author, and had many an inner battle in futile attempts to choose ‘favourites’.

Frankly, I found the whole challenge a wonderful exercise and am happy to see so many of you taking the challenge too.

Before I leave you to it, however, I thought I might share with you the top three things I’ve learned about myself and my reading habits from this literary pilgrimage.

  • I read a lot of fantasy.  I mean, a lot.  I can’t remember the first fantasy book I read, but I do remember my reluctance due to having always associated fantasy with sci fi, which I was not at all interested in.  Even after having read a few fantasy novels, all of which I surprised myself in thoroughly enjoying, I recall it taking me a while to actually start looking forward to starting a new one or seeking out more.  For some time I had this unfounded suspicion that something resembling Star Trek was going to sneak its way into my impressionable reading mind, and put me off reading forever.  I’m still not a fan of Star Trek or sci fi, but I now know the differences between the speculative fiction sub genres, and can proudly profess my love of fantasy without fearing pointy-eared men and beam-me-up-scotty’s scaring me away.
  • My memory is as poor as I suspected.  I anticipated the challenge would be difficult for this reason, and truly it was.  I’m certain I’ve forgotten a great deal of the books I have read and am positive that many of them could have been used over the course of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  I have learned my lesson though.  As they say, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’  As far as I’m aware, my memory isn’t going to improve any with age, so I’ve set myself an undertaking.  From 2011, I have started a reading list, documenting all the books I have read since the start of the year.  I am particularly interested to see how many it totals up to by December 31st, but mostly content to know that I will have something to refer to in the future.
  • I have a potentially unhealthy obsession with a certain author who has consumed the last several months of my reading life.  I mentioned her or her books in seven out of the thirty posts, have referred to her as She-God, Perfection, Wonderful, and Writing God, and suspect that many of you now believe me to be a Robin Hobb stalker.  I’m sorry about that and deny all such claims.  I am, however, seeking help for this matter and hereafter vow not to mention her name again for some time unless it is profoundly necessary* or unless a substantial Hobb-free interlude has passed.  *Profound necessity could refer to: Author contact; Financial ruin due to Hobb book purchases; Discovering the Farseer characters are real; Collapsing bookshelves due to TMHS (To Many Hobbs Syndrome).

So there it is.  My lessons learned in a nutshell.  Thanks to all of you who commented and participated in the challenge with me.  I’m looking forward to *one day* getting to all the books you’ve recommended, and eagerly anticipate the posts of those of you who are now taking part in the 30 Day Book Challenge.

Happy reading fellow bloggers.

~storytelling nomad~

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Humour, flirting, and education at the coffee table

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 30

Favorite coffee table book

Well here we are.  The final day of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  Who would have thought we’d make it this far?  I certainly had my doubts.  There were good times, bad times, an extended deadline, and a few unexpected intermissions, but 30 books and 57 days later we reached the finish line.  Woo!

I’m mildly disappointed that Day 30 has to end with my ‘favourite coffee table book’, seeing as I don’t actually own a coffee table.  I would’ve liked to end with a BANG! Like, the most expensive book you ever bought.  Or the best book EVER created in the entire universe!  But alas, what am I if I cannot improvise in the face of a challenge?

So let’s see.  If I had a coffee table, what book would I like to live permanently upon it?  I’m going to go with the Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook.  I purchased this book when I was 16 before heading to Italy for the very first time.  It was truly invaluable, but also highly entertaining.

My friends, English and Italian alike, would always find great pleasure in reading certain sections of this book, particularly that relating to dating, romance and sex.  Subtitles such as “Breaking the Ice”, “Classic Rejections”, “Making Love” and “Afterwards”, may give you some idea as to the sort of ‘phrases’ they included for a traveller’s convenience.

The best included:

‘Do you come here often?’ – Vieni spesso qui?

‘You’re not my type.’ – Non sei il mio tipo.

‘You turn me on.’ – Mi ecciti.

‘Was it good for you?’ – Ti è piacuto?

‘Faster!’ – Più veloce!

I can only imagine being in the sort of situations that require these phrases and asking the other person to “just hold on a moment while I consult my phrasebook.  Ah yes, Più veloce!”

Ha.

In any case, I think it would keep people interested and entertained when they come over for coffee.  Don’t you?

~storytelling nomad~

Book you’re currently reading

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 29

Oh no! I should have looked ahead, because I only the other day wrote about what book I’m reading in my Feeding My Book Addiction post.  My bad.

For those of you who missed it, however, I’m currently reading The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb.  It is book two of the Tawny Man Trilogy, and follows on from the much acclaimed Farseer Trilogy.

I’ve found that Robin Hobb loves to dedicate much of her time to character building in her books, which often means that a lot of the action doesn’t take place until quite a way into the novels.  I don’t mind at all, because a) her characters are interesting and b) it makes later plot advancements and drama all the more compelling after spending so much time getting to know the characters, their motives and desires.  Despite this, she doesn’t fall into that dreadful trap of rushing the action at the end.  The stories are all well paced and never bore, at least not me.

This book is no different, and I am currently still caught up in the character building stages, but sense that the action is not too far away…

~storytelling nomad~

Assholes, masterminds, and funny people in cyberspace

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 28

Last book you read

Well, I’m not going to mention the She-God of writing again, because that would just make me sound like a crazy stalker person…which I’m not, by the way.  If you want to check out the *actual* last book I read you can go to Day 24 of the book challenge, where I talked about my favourite scene in a book (watch out for the spoiler!).

Meanwhile, I’d like to mention the last book I read from today.  Fair?  I thought so.

Today, in a moment of sheer insanity and after several months of giving the WNIP (Work Not In Progress) the cold shoulder, I spent roughly half an hour writing up a plot summary with, believe it or not, actual plots (note: plural!). Hoorah! I’ve mentioned before that I had an idea for a novel but was struggling to begin without knowing where the story was heading and what the protagonist’s purpose was.  Some suggested to just start writing anyway, others insisted that some idea of the plot was necessary, others just told me to stop procrastinating and get on with it (hello again unfriendly but straightforward voice in my head!).

Try as I may, I could not face writing it without the plot to guide me and so, in frustration and disappointment at being unsuccessful in my plot making endeavors, I paralysed myself into a novel hating lull.  I didn’t want to think about it, look at it or talk about it with anyone.  Something just wasn’t working, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

Today, like a sign from the heavens, I received a well needed shove to get the motors going again (thank you She-God!).  I opened up Scrivener and started to write.  Half an hour and approximately 1000 words later I had an idea that I was excited about, with plot twists, drama and conflict! All the things I had been struggling to establish with my original idea, finally coming to life!

So what changed, you ask?  What changed, my friends, was the story.  Like, the whole thing.  About the only thing I kept was my character’s name.  I still love the original idea, but have come to the conclusion that it’s just not ready to be written yet.

So, back to the purpose of this post, that being the last book I read, or in this case, the last book I picked up.  In my plot writing frenzy, I started getting curious about how the big boys of epic fantasy built their worlds and created their creatures.  Who to look to in such a moment of need?  The master of fantasy himself, of course:  J R R Tolkien.

During my teenage years when I was obsessed with the LOTRs, my parents bought me Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day; a comprehensive guide to everything you’d ever want to know about Middle Earth, the Undying Lands, the creatures, the characters, the geography, the history.  This book is pretty spectacular.

Now, it has to be said that when I began flicking through the pages today, I started to panic.  That little voice in my head started having a go with his usual taunts; “Don’t be an idiot Katy.  You could never create anything as comprehensive as the world of Tolkien.  Look at all the research!  It’s far beyond your inferior intellect.”

That little voice is a real asshole sometimes.  As has happened many a time before, my confidence in my abilities started waning and I could almost see that small spark of creativity threatening to die a slow death in the depths of my brain.  Bummer, right?

Well, it would have been if I hadn’t come across what I can only guess was intended to be a funny look on how to write fantasy fiction.  It read:

Researching mythologies, legends, and history on your own is a complete waste of time — real authors don’t worry about that kind of thing. It’s fantasy; they just make stuff up off the tops of their heads!

Now, I realise research can be more than important when writing.  I for one can’t write without a fast internet connection for all the Googling I do while I’m ‘in the mode’.  And yet despite this, it sort of reminded me that my greatest tool is my imagination.  If I want to, I really can just ‘make it up off the top of my head’.  For some time I have been crippling myself with the idea that I simply don’t know enough to start, or continue, especially with world building.  But really I don’t need to ‘know’ anything.  I just need to create it.

Ideally, of course, I would like to have my world reflect a reality readers can relate to.  Power structures, heirarchy, economy and commerce are all things that make a world run, for better or worse.  They may not need to be identified, but the reader needs to know they’re there.

But I digress.  The point of the story is that today was a good day.  Tolkien both helped and scared me out of inertia and some funny person on the internet reminded me not to take it all so seriously, because my mind is quite capable of filling in the gaps.

As for the asshole in my head?  He’s still there, but he’s unlikely to resurface again today.

Katy 1 – Asshole 0

~storytelling nomad~

Favourite Fiction Book

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 27

I don’t want to frighten you all away with my Robin Hobb obsession, but I can’t seem to escape the Robin Hobb Love Bubble.  She has me bewitched I tell you!

Day 1 of the 30 Day books challenge saw me mention Assassin’s Apprentice as my favourite book, and I will stick by that choice for my favourite fiction book.  More about my Hobb addiction can be found here, where I talk about my love affair, and here, the most joyous of days when I awoke to an email from the writing god herself.  Bliss.

~storytelling nomad~

Say no to drugs! But say yes to this book about drugs.

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 26

Favorite nonfiction book

I have to say, I’m not often found perusing the non fiction section in the book store.  I read to escape reality, not to be reminded of it, which I realise is a fairly narrow-minded point of view of the genre.  Yet, despite my aversion I’ve somehow managed to read a number of excellent nonfiction books in recent years.  Humorous coffee table books, kids books on ‘how things work’, travel books and biographies.  Within me there obviously lies a dormant desire to read nonfiction, because it’s succeeded in sneaking into my reading list without my even being consciously aware of it! Go figure.

It wasn’t until last year during my writing course, however, that I had that light bulb moment and realised that nonfiction also has to incorporate all the elements and styles of a fiction novel, just without the made up parts.  An epiphany!  (Note: I am regularly prone to ‘blonde moments’ such as these.  It’s nothing to worry about, really).  Travel writing especially, caught me unawares when it registered in my head that just because the events happened one after another, it didn’t mean they had to be written in that order.  I had simply assumed that nonfiction was a chronological record of interesting events.  No beginning, middle and end, no conflict, no resolution as there is in a fiction book.

Of course, It all seemed quite obvious after I really put some thought into it.  I’d been quite ignorant of the genre and unjustifiably harsh on the poor old nonfiction section.  In fact, it seems so silly to me now that I’m almost wondering if I should have admitted to such foolishness at all.  Should I go back and delete the first two paragraphs of this post?  I could have started with something more like:

Non-fiction, *pause while I inhale from my pipe* a genre I both treasure and admire.  It is simply too hard to choose from the many literary masterpieces I have read and studied.  The genius of writers such as [insert nonfiction author here] and [insert another nonfiction author here] continue to astound this humble reader.

Nope.  I don’t think I could have pulled it off.  In any case, fortunately for me (and for you), I don’t have to fabricate an alternate life where I’m a high brow reader of every genre known to mankind, because there is a nonfiction book that comes to mind as a favourite AND I even know the author’s name.  Success!

Marching Powder by Rusty Young.

From Publishers Weekly on Amazon.com

This memoir of a British drug dealer’s nearly five years inside a Bolivian prison provides a unique window on a bizarre and corrupt world. McFadden, a young black man from Liverpool arrested for smuggling cocaine, finds himself forced to pay for his accommodations in La Paz’s San Pedro Prison, the first of many oddities in a place where some inmates keep pets and rich criminals can sustain a lavish lifestyle. The charismatic McFadden soon learns how to survive, and even thrive, in an atmosphere where crooked prison officials turn up at his private cell to snort lines of coke. By chance, he stumbles on an additional source of income when he begins giving tours of the prison to foreign tourists, a trade that leads to the mention in a Lonely Planet guidebook that attracts the attention of his coauthor, Young, who was backpacking in South America at the time.

I’m typically put off by stories of true crime, drugs and criminals, so to say that this one captured my attention, held it, AND became a favourite, is truly testament to the book.  I mean, the man had to pay for his own prison cell for goodness sakes!  Remarkable.  It really is a fascinating read.

~storytelling nomad~

Favorite book you read in school

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 25

I tossed up between Looking for Alibrandi and Pride and Prejudice, but ended up choosing box number three: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Although I only vaguely remember the text now, I am somewhat more appreciative of the fact that back in the day, “studying the text” translated to most of us as “hiring the movie”, which, as a result, introduced me to the excellent 1962 film adaptation with Gregory Peck, which I still take great pleasure in watching today.  I continue to marvel at the acting prowress of Mary Badham who at the age of 10, played Scout.  When I compare her performance to the child actors of today, of whom there are far too many to ridicule, I am quite astounded.

Scout and Atticus Finch, played by Mary Badham & Gregory Peck

I suppose I have sort of cheated with this one, in remembering more of the movie than the book.  But to be honest, it more accurately represents my High School reading history.  I always loved to read, but it is no secret that I have gained a new appreciation for good literature since leaving school, and came to respect the language and stories more once the threat of study and accompanying essays had subsided.

~storytelling nomad~

Book that contains your favourite scene

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 24

I realise that this is going to sound sort of bizarre, but I’m nothing if not eccentric in my ways.

I recently finished reading Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand (I know, I know, I’m still stuck in the Robin Hobb love bubble), and I was on a plane when I read this particular scene.  Now, I’m not usually prone to public displays of relative instability and unsoundness, but I honest to God was crying like a baby when I read this scene.  I mentioned I was on a plane at the time, right?

I then arrived at my destination, hopped in the shower and booed again.  A week later I was walking through town with my mum, explaining how I had teared up on the plane AND in the shower, and as I related the scene to her I choked up again.  Mum was a little concerned, but once I managed to get it out through the sobs, she understood.

So my favourite scene is one that has me wailing like a banshee?  Yes, it is.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so emotionally connected to a character/s and his/their quest, as I have with Fitz and co. in both The Farseer Trilogy and now The Tawny Man Trilogy.  I think the sheer fact that I got so upset by this scene is a testament to the author and her writing.  When I’m reading these books, I’m there and the characters are real.  I experience their joys and their sorrows, their desires and their concerns.

The scene in question is at the end of the book after the final battle, when the protagonist, Fitz, lays down by his wolf, Nighteyes, with whom he can communicate with and is essentially bonded to in mind, heart and soul.  Those who have this ‘magic’ are known as Witted, or as having the Wit.  In this book, Fitz and Nighteyes undertake a quest to save their Prince Dutiful from a band of Witted folk with evil intentions.  Throughout the story it becomes apparent that Fitz and Nighteyes are not the youthful heroes they once were, with Nighteyes in particular showing signs of fatigue and aging.  As they fall asleep after the final fight, exhausted, they share thoughts and dreams.

*spoiler alert*

I could not sort out which thoughts were mine and which were the wolf’s.  I didn’t need to.  I sank into his dreams with him and we dreamed well together.  Perhaps it was Dutiful’s loss that put us so much in mind of all we still possessed, and all we had had.  We dreamed of a cub hunting mice beneath the rotting floor of an old outbuilding, and we dreamed of a man and a wolf pulling down a great boar between them.  We dreamed of stalking one another in deep snow, tussling and yelping and shouting.  Deer blood, hot in the mouth, and the rich soft liver to squabble over.  And then we sank past those ancient memories into perfect rest and comfort.  Healing begins in deep sleep such as that.

He stirred first.  I nearly woke as he rose, gingerly shook himself, and then stretched more bravely.  His superior sense of smell told me that the edge of dawn was in the air.  The weak sun had just begun to touch the dew-wet grasses, waking the smells of the earth.  Game would be stirring.  The hunting would be good.

I’m so tired, I complained.  I can’t believe you’re getting up.  Rest for a while longer.  We’ll hunt later.

You’re tired? I’m so tired that rest won’t ease me.  Only the hunt.  I felt his wet nose poke my cheek.  It was cold.  Aren’t you coming?  I was sure you’d want to come with me.

I do.  I do.  But not just yet.  Give me just a bit longer.

Very well, little brother.  Just a bit longer.  Follow me when you will.

But my mind rode with his, as it had so many times.  We left the cave, thick with man-stink, and walked past the cat’s new cairn.  We smelled her death, and the musk of a fox who had come to the scent, but turned aside at the smell of the campfire’s smoke.  Swiftly we left the camp behind.  Nighteyes chose the open hillside instead of the wooded vale.  The sky overhead was blue and deep, and the last star fading in the sky.  The night had been colder than I had realised.  Frost tipped some of the grasses still, but as the rising sun touched it, it smoked briefly and was gone.  The crisp edge of the air remained, each scent as sharp as a clean knife-edge.  With a wolf’s nose, I scented all and knew all.  The world was ours.  The turning time, I said to him.

Exactly.  Time to change, Changer.

There were fat mice hastily harvesting seedheads in the tall grass, but we passed them by.  At the top of the hill we paused.  We walked the spine of the hill, smelling the morning, tasting the lip of the day to come.  There would be deer in the forested creek bottoms.  They would be healthy and strong and fat, a challenge to any pack let alone a single wolf.  He would need me at his side to hunt those.  He would have to come back for them later.  Nevertheless, he halted on top of the ridge.  The morning wind riffled his fur and his ears were perked as he looked down to where we knew they must be.

Good hunting.  I’m going now brother.  He spoke with great determination.

Alone?  You can’t bring a buck down alone! I sighed with resignation.  Wait, I’ll get up and come with you.

Wait for you? Not likely!  I’ve always had to run ahead of you and show you the way.

Swift as thought, he slipped away from me, running down the hillside like a cloud’s shadow when the wind blows.  My connection to him frayed away as he went scattering and floating like dandelion fluff in the wind.  Instead of small and secret, I felt our bond go wide and open, as if he had invited all the Witted creatures in the world in to share our joining.  All the web of life on the whole hillside suddenly swelled within my heart, linked and meshed and woven through with one another.  It was too glorious to contain.  I had to go with him; a morning this wondrous must be shared.

‘Wait!’ I cried, and in shouting the word, I woke myself.  Nearby, the Fool sat up, his hair tousled.  I blinked.  My mouth was full of salve and wolf-hair, my fingers buried deep in his coat.  I clutched him to me, and my grip sighed his last stilled breath out of his lungs.  But Nighteyes was gone.

Robin Hobb Fool’s Errand pp.604-606

And yes, typing this out had me in tears yet again! It’s so sad, and yet so beautiful.  I think Robin Hobb is a truly wonderful writer.

~storytelling nomad~

Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 23

This is a curious case.  I enjoyed reading this particular book, I just never got around to finishing it.  And yes, I am guilty of claiming that I have indeed read it.  Alas, the cat is now out of the bag; I have not read (or finished reading) the Dickens classic, Great Expectations.

I do, however, promise to rectify the error of my ways.  I won’t stop declaring that I’ve read it, but I will try and make sure that in the not so distant future I have actually done so.

~storytelling nomad~

Books, Birthdays and Best Friends

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 22

Book you plan to read next

And with another extended absence I offer my sincerest apologies and propose we turn a blind eye to my blogging indiscretions and continue with the 30 Day Book Challenge.

Agreed?

You rock!

So, onto the book I plan to read next.  I have a few sitting on my shelf and am as yet undecided which I will read next, but there is one amongst them that I’d like to mention: La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales.  A memoir/travel book recounting the author’s “love affair with Italy and the most enchanting language in the world”, I think it’s highly probable that I’m going to enjoy it.  Why?  For four main reasons:

  1. I love Italy
  2. I love Italian
  3. I love travel literature
  4. I love the person who gave it to me

Yep, that’s a pretty good indication that I’m going to like it.  Point number 4 is particularly important.  You see, on Saturday it was my birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ME!

Okay, I’m done.  As I was saying, on Saturday it was my birthday, and herein lies part of the reason for my blogging absence.  To celebrate the big two six, I decided to spend the weekend in the beautiful city of Melbourne and catch up with two of my very good friends, both who I’ve known since High School.  On the night of my birthday the girls took me out to an amazing Italian restaurant in Carlton, where I ate far too much and happily indulged in the magnificent company.

One of these lovely ladies is named Priscilla.  She’s not the queen of the desert, but she is many extraordinary things: a talented music therapist in the making; a fellow Buffy enthusiast; a devoted chicken connoisseur (the girl loves her chicken);  but first and foremost she is one of my best friends in the whole world.  The whole world, I tell you!  I can safely say she has been for quite some time in the top three when it comes to those who have supported and encouraged my writing, and I love her very much for it and am so grateful to have her as a friend.

As it turns out, she always knows, as often only best friends do, just what to get me on my birthday.  This year she gifted me the aforementioned book, with the following inscribed message:

Best Friend Love

Thank you Priscilla.  I’m sure I’ll love it, and even if the book isn’t inspiring, you my friend, are.

~storytelling nomad~

I want my potty!

Favorite picture book from childhood

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 21

This one sticks in mind by far as my most memorable picture book from childhood.  I Want My Potty by Tony Ross is the story of a little princess who decides that nappies are, in her words, “YUUECH!” and  resolves to go cold turkey and start her potty training.

Of course, she learns the hard way that needing to use the potty and actually making it to the potty in time, are two entirely different matters.  As such, she spends the whole book running around her princess palace screaming I WANT MY POTTY!

The pictures of her red-faced screaming and sitting on her potty with her L plates are spectacular.

And yes, as an adult, I’m still partial to a bit of toilet humour.

~storytelling nomad~

Snape. Snape. Severus Snape.

Book you’ve read the most number of times

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 20

I have read the Harry Potter books A LOT of times in more than one language.  And I’m okay with that.  However, in light of the fact that I’ve already discussed my love of these books already within this challenge, I feel inclined to instead share with you this ridiculous Harry Potter related video, which recently had me in stitches for the greater part of the day.  Be warned, you might have the words “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” circling around your head for a few days after watching this.

Also, I feel I must add that I have not yet seen the new movie, which devastates me so, but unfortunately work hours won’t permit it for another week.  In any case, although yes, I have read the books a thousand times (not an accurate calculation), and yes I know what happens, I must say that I am insanely jealous of all of you who have had the pleasure of seeing the movie.  So feel free to boast and tell me how spectacularly awesome it is, but please don’t tell me what happens, or what they missed or what they added or what they did or didn’t do right.  I’m in a Harry Potter bliss bubble at the moment and I simply can’t have you popping it.  Deal? DEAL?

I will return this act of charity with many cyber love hugs.

~storytelling nomad~

Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 18

Oh please don’t judge me, but this one is a bit of a doozy.

I’m more than aware that it’s poorly written, there are ‘to’s where there should be ‘too’s, appalling grammar and some suspicious word choices *cough chargrin cough*.  For those of you who haven’t already seen it, there’s even an entire website dedicated to this book and every possible error known to the English language, which can of course be found in this novel.  Check out the website Reasoning with Vampires, it’s really quite enlightening.

And yet, somehow I just loved reading it, and the three sequels.  And not just one time.  I read them over and over and…

Okay, don’t make me go on.  I’m not even going to name the book, because I know you have already guessed it (you guys are so clever!).  Also there happens to be a large picture of the cover just a few lines below this one.  Yeah that probably helped too.

Team Edward!

~storytelling nomad~

Shortest book you’ve read

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 17

This is an impossible question to answer.  I honestly have no idea.  But after running a quick eye over my bookshelves I can tell you the shortest book I’ve read in recent years.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is one of those inspiring books that I don’t come across very often.  The language is straightforward and the characters simple, but the message is profound.  As it’s said in the book:

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

It’s a book that encourages you to follow your dreams and persevere through the challenges life throws at you.  For in the end, it is these challenges that reveal themselves to be the building blocks to help you reach your destiny and fulfilment in life.

For a number of years now I have lived by the mantra:

‘The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’.

I believe that even in the worst of times, you can take something away from it that will benefit you in the future.  Whether it be strength, humility, knowledge…there’s always something to be learned.  In The Alchemist, at the beginning of the book the protagonist Santiago sets out on a journey, but is soon robbed of all the money he has saved to reach his destination.  It seems terrible at the time, but we soon realise that had this not happened, he would not have met the next person on his journey, and the next.  His experiences would have been much different and he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn in order to seek out his treasure and reach his destiny.

There’s a reason this book is an international bestseller that’s been translated into 67 languages worldwide.  A short, but thoroughly uplifting read.

~storytelling nomad~

My long distance relationship with the Wheel of Time

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 16

Longest book you’ve read

Although it may be argued that this isn’t actually one book, and to be fair, I haven’t *exactly* finished reading it, I still think Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time deserves a mention here.

Jordan began writing the series in 1984, but in a sad twist, as he was working on the final volume, he passed away in 2007 after an almost two year battle with a rare blood disease.  Fortunately for fans, in anticipation of his untimely death Jordan left extensive notes for another author to complete his work should he not be around to finish it himself.  Author Brandon Sanderson was left to complete the final volume, but it was not long before he resolved to split it into three volumes, finding it impossible to fit everything into the one.

I’m still undecided as to how I feel about these books.  The first one took me a while to get into, the second one was good, the third one I sped through in a couple of days and now I’m about half way through the fourth one and haven’t touched it since the beginning of the year, although less by fault of the book than of my own.

So far, I can at the very least acknowledge them as extraordinary works of fantasy fiction, and with (according to Wikipedia) a sub total to date of 13 books, 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words (!!), I still cannot get my head around the sheer size of this epic series.

There are a few reasons we’ve had such a rocky affair, the Wheel of Time and I.  I started reading the first book at the beginning of 2010 on high recommendation from my beautiful best friend Mel, who has excellent reading taste.  She raved about them, but when I heard that there were set to be a total of 14 books, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated.  I was just about to start a writing course at uni and my pile of study related books to read was already unnervingly high.  Nonetheless, I read book one.  I found I was reading relatively sluggishly but I was soon enjoying it, and started book two just before I had to stop due to aforementioned mandatory reading.

I am often guilty of reading several books at a time, picking up where I left off when the mood suits me.  Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something familiar, something I’ve read before, something easy, or something epic.  So when I put book two down, I wasn’t too concerned.  Eight months later, uni had finished and I picked it up, only to find that the very things I had enjoyed about the book – the immense detail and plethora of main characters – were the very things that were hindering my desire to continue reading.  Too much time had passed and I found it impossible to pick up where I left off.  There were too many characters and too much information to remember after so long an absence, and it was a genuine effort to try and recall what had happened.

I was reluctant to start again from the beginning, knowing that I had struggled with the first few chapters of book one, and acutely aware that no less than ten more books in the series awaited my attention.  So what to do?

Cheat, of course.

I googled “Wheel of Time plot summary” and found myself a nifty website which gave 1-2 line chapter summaries.  Win.

I was ready to start my Wheel of Time journey once more.  I picked up the pace with book two, and as I said before, I sped through book three very quickly, I was enjoying it so much.

Then a sad thing happened.  Unfortunately, I started reading book four at a time when life decided to throw me some lemons when I really wasn’t in the mood for lemonade.  With my brain 90% occupied with work, money and life woes I found it more than difficult to concentrate on a series that ultimately requires a lot more attention than I had to give.  I put it down when I realised it had taken me several days to read only a couple of pages, and started reading the Secret Garden instead.  Simple, fun, brilliant.  I was in my happy place.

Since then, life has decided to back off with the lemon hurling and I have found that my brain is plenty more available for books requiring a certain degree of concentration.  Unfortunately, I have since procured even more books to read and am not sure where the remaining ten and a half Wheel of Time books will fit into that schedule.  I suspect that with a fourteen book series it is never going to be a convenient time to get into them, but considering the rave reviews, the massive following and the great gratification to be had in being able to say “I’ve read a 14 book series made up of 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words,” I think I’m just going to have to suck it up, go the distance and get back into it.

With the help of nifty 1-2 lined chapter summaries of course…

Anyone else completed the WoT endurance test?

~storytelling nomad~

First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 15

I’m going to take a wild guess and say Peter Pan by James M. Barrie.  I haven’t read it in a long long time, but I do still love the story.

In more recent times I have to say that I’ve been more distracted by a particular film adaptation than by the book.  Hook has got to be one of my favourite movies.  With Robin Williams playing a grown up Peter, and the very cool Dante Basco playing arguably the best character in the movie, Rufio, this movie never fails to entertain me.

Bangarang!

Ru-fi-oooooooooo!

~storytelling nomad~

Book whose main character you want to marry

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 14

I have narrowed it down to two.  My sensible choice and my more imprudent, guilty-pleasure choice.

Potential future husband number 1: Mr Darcy played by Colin Firth

My sensible choice is of course, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  A wealthy man, Darcy is not intimidated by a well-educated woman and makes declarations along the lines of; “In vain have I struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”  He also looks damn good in a top hat.

Potential future husband number 2: Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgård in the television adaptation True Blood

My second, more impulsive choice, is Eric Northman from Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Novels, specifically his persona from the fourth book, ‘Dead to the World’, where he loses his memory and becomes less the vicious vampire and more the croon worthy studmuffin.  Vicious or not, however, it has to be said that his on-screen character played by Alexander Skarsgård in the television adaptation ‘True Blood’, is quite the sexy spunk.  Being a vampire and all, and a misbehaving one at that, I suspect he’s probably not the marriage type…but just look at him!

~storytelling nomad~

Book whose main character is most like you

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 13

Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m kind of obsessed with books and reading.  In this, Matilda and I are one and the same.  I do appear to be lacking in the psychokinetic powers that Matilda possesses, although I’ve made peace with that considering I was lucky enough not to have the savage parents Matilda had, nor her frightening teacher Miss Trunchbull.

Anyone else have a fictional literary double?

Matilda by Roald Dahl

~storytelling nomad~

Book that is most like your life

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 12

What’s this? You expect a literary equivalent of my unique, quirky, yet oh so fascinating life?  I’m sorry, but such a thing simply does not exist.  There are those who have tried, to no avail, to fit me like a square peg into a round hole, but it just cannot be done.  I am an undetermined shape of infinite sides, curves and acute angles.

But all is not lost.  Fortunately, there exists a short story and an article that both accurately depict small slices of my life, written by yours truly and published on the Australian Reader website and in Biscuit Magazine’s July 2011 issue.  The links for both can be found on my Published Stories page.

Happy Reading.

Not so long ago I used Apple iPhoto to publish a hardcover book of my travel story Belonging, with accompanying photos from the journey, which my brother and I gifted to my parents. Not only did it make my parents very happy, but for a time, I felt like a real writer!

~storytelling nomad~