My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Posts tagged ‘reading’

2011 Reading Challenges

So, I stumbled across a few reading challenges that I just had to participate in–even if a quarter of the year is almost over. 🙂

The first is the Classics Challenge over at Stiletto Storytime’s blog. You have to read anywhere from 5-40 classics from Jan.1-Dec. 31. I chose the easier “Bachelor’s Degree” level–10 classics between now and the end of the year. Classics have been harder for me to read just because of how many of them are written (despite the fact I was an English major…heh). I may end up going to the “Master’s” level if I finish before the end of the year, but for now I’ll stick with 10 that I’ve chosen…and that may change as the year goes on (check my tab at the top if you’re curious).

And there’s one other challenge I simply had to sign up for: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge! How could I miss that?! Most of the books I read are historical in some way (fantasy, YA or traditional) and I’ve already read two this year (though not counting them on my list). I signed up for the highest level on that one: Severe Bookaholism, 20 books. I’m pretty sure I can hit that before the end, or at least make a good effort!

Are you participating in any reading challenges this year? It’s not too late to sign up!

Captured By the Written Word

Since I cannot think of a really spectacular, awe-inspiring post today, I’m going to re-post something from way back when I first started this blog. It’s about my love of storytelling and writing in general. Enjoy!


I believe one of the reasons I’m so fond of writing is because I was captured by the written word at an early age. I simply cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a book in front of me.

It started very early:

And of course, it was my duty as a big sister to teach my little sister how to read:

My earliest memories go back to around 3 or so, and I can remember sitting on the living room floor, reading one of those big Disney books based off the movies (Sleeping Beauty was my favorite) and having my parents point the words out to me as they read the story out loud.

One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell (though I’m not sure how much truth there is to it, haha) is that at age four or five, I’m studying a cereal box and then ask what the word “carbohydrate” means. Of course I don’t really remember this particular story, but I did read the sides of cereal boxes all the time when I was little, so I suppose it’s not out of the question.

Anyway, I remember I started telling stories before I could write; I’d have my mom transcribe them for me. I have a whole huge folder of these stories, now faded by the years. Still it’s interesting to see what kind of story my four-year-old self came up with.

I used to love to watch Reading Rainbow too (proven by my post dedicated to the show here) I’d always try to rush to the library shortly after to get the books they recommended.

I had a lot of favorite childhood books, I was especially fond of The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein; Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw; and of course the funny Wayside School Stories (Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger). And then as I got older I loved the American Girl books; those books were, in fact, what got me started in writing historical fiction (as my first “novel” was written at age 11, all handwritten ) All of these books (and MANY more) helped shaped me into the writer I am now.

And of course I can’t forget the influence of family. My dad has always been one to weave stories around seemingly insignificant events, but somehow captures everyone’s attention. He doesn’t write any of them down (as they’re all based off his life) but he’s got a way of talking and grabbing your attention. His life has really been one amazing story and perhaps one day I’ll collaborate with my sister and we’ll write it all out.

Then of course my mom was the one who spent most of the time reading to me and helping me along too. I suppose I get the artistic gene from her since she was always good at drawing and art.

And my little sister (no longer “little” anymore). She and I would always come up with stories revolving around our dollhouse people, complete with names and character quirks. We did the same with our stuffed animals; we had complete histories for their little world and everything. And now, I’m happy to say, she’s becoming a writer too. She’s writes more along the lines of fantasy and sci-fi but that trait has worn off on her (maybe with some of my good sisterly influence :)).

So I’m posing the question to those who read my blog: do you remember what age you started to read? What were some of your favorite books as a child? Were there any children’s books that inspired you?


Scholastic Book Clubs & Book Fairs

How I loved the day when these were passed out in class!

Anyone remember these from their school days? Those flyers/order forms from Scholastic that teachers used to pass out with all those books?

I’d forgotten about these until I came across them being mentioned in the The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, a book I’m reading for book club. The moment it was mentioned I had to look them up online to see if they were still doing it–and they definitely are!

I remember how excited I was when the teacher passed out these flyers. When I was in school, they were the consistency of newspaper–and I’d go through them eagerly looking for a book (or two…or five) to order. I’m sure my parents were absolutely thrilled to see these come home, because it often meant me begging them to get me another book. And most of the time they didn’t refuse (sis and I were a little spoiled, :P)

The best part though was when the box of books came in and the teacher would go through them, call out our names and hand our books out. Let me tell you, it was always agonizing when the teacher would wait until the very end of the day to pass them out. You got to see that box of books taunting you all day. Of course I understand why they did that–we probably wouldn’t have paid attention in class otherwise.

Another awesome event that occured surrounding books was the Book Fair. I LOVED it. My parents would usually give me a small amount of money so I could go and look for whatever books we’d like when it was our class’ day. Of course as I got older, book fairs became less “cool” by the other kids but I still loved them.

Anyone else remember the book flyers and book fairs?

Cannot. Wait.

I have been waiting for this book for years. YEARS, people. 😛

I heard about it two years ago (or was it more?) and then the release date was pushed back an entire year. But the date is finally coming and I’m pre-ordering this on Amazon with my gift card (when it comes in from the bank–love those points reward programs :)) It’s based off the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi.

A brief preview:

I love her books; her last series set in Scotland was based off the biblical story of Leah, Rachel and Jacob, and eventually, Dinah (Thorn in My Heart, Fair is the Rose, Whence Came a Prince, Grace in Thine Eyes).

Just look at the gorgeous covers:

How in the world did she pull off a story full of polygamous marriages and other such scandal in strict 18th century Scotland? A lot of research.  And I mean A LOT. The kind that would take many long hours.

I sure hope I’m able to make my stories’ worlds as vibrant in my own historicals 🙂

What’s On My Reading List

My reading pile grows larger and larger every day. Just check out my “To Read” shelf on Goodreads–there’s dozens of books on there.

Many of the ones I want to read are part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and most haven’t been officially released yet. Also, my local libraries are having budget issues so it’s hard to find the ones that are released.

Anyway, here’s a few of the books that are at the top of my reading list. Two of these are on hold for me at the library and I’m anxious to make a trip to pick them up.

The first one is debut author Jaclyn Dolamore’s Magic Under Glass. The premise of this one intrigues me, as it’s a Steampunk-type setting. It’s a tale of love and a race against time to break a curse. It’s waiting for me at the library right now and I’m anxious to start reading it.

The next one that’s on my reading list is called Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. I only just recently heard about this one from Lisa and Laura, but it sounds amazing. It’s about a young girl overcoming a childhood with a crazy mother; it’s set in Savannah for most of the book ( a city I’m dying to visit and may actually get the chance to see in June). It has glowing reviews all around, and it looks like an interesting read. I also found out the author is coming to my local book store on the 27th of this month, so I really want to read this before then.

The next one is a historical (my favorite genre of all!) called The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran. I read her latest book, Cleopatra’s Daughter, and really enjoyed it and I’ve heard this one is equally as good, if not better. Set in ancient Egypt, it follows Nefertari, the niece of the famous Nefertiti. Moran has a great way of setting you right in the middle of the time period and her painstaking research is evident in what I’ve read from her. At the same time, she’s careful not to overwhelm the reader with too many details. I also love the author’s blog, History Buff, where she posts links to intriguing archological stories.

Finally, I just discovered this one today, called Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? That’s what caught my eye at first, as well as the title. It’s about Alice Liddell, the little girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland. It follows her from childhood through adulthood and old age. It too has glowing reviews. This one is on reserve at the library for me, but there’s a waiting list for it, so it’ll probably be a few months before I get to read this one.

So there you have it: a glimpse at my reading list. Do you have an ever-growing to-be read pile like I do? What books are you looking forward to reading?

Books I Must Read!

I’ve sorely neglected my passion for reading during November. I’ve been on the hunt now for good books to read, and I’ve found a few that I’d like to actually own 🙂

The first book is more of a manga, called Shirahime-Syo: Snow Goddess Tales. There are three stories, plus the prologue and epilogue, all surrounding mystical tales of the snow and the snow goddess.  Can it be any wonder why I want this book? 😛

(Also, if you’ve seen my mock book trailer, you’ll recognize the image of the girl on the cover)

Another book that I’d like to read is more of a collection of short stories, called A Robe of Feathers  by Teresa Matsuura (whose blog you can visit here). Victoria Dixon first led me on to this one.  The short stories revolve around the blurring line of superstition and reality in Japan. I think it’ll be good for me to read to see how I can encompass that cross in my own novel.

I’ve tried to find it in the library, but none of them have it–including the ones that are through interlibrary loan throughout the state.  I’d like to get this one though for my personal collection as it has that dark fantasy/mystical feel to it–at least by the descriptions I’ve read.

Finally, I’d like to read the old classic of Pearl Buck’s called The Good Earth. It’s been one I’ve been meaning to read for awhile now, yet somehow it kept being pushed to the back of my mind. This one is set in China and follows the life of a farmer through the reign of the last emperor (early 20th century).

For one like me who claims to love Asian stories, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally put this on my immediate to-be-read list.

I have lots more on the list but these are definitely the top three–at least as of the time of this blog post.

What books are on your to-be-read list?

Also, my 200th post is coming up soon. Perhaps I will have a little giveaway in celebration 🙂

International Fiction

So, I’ve been thinking about this lately and I wonder: why is it that publishers shy away from books set in other cultures?

I know it’s not a completely closed market. There are some books out there with settings different from your typical America and England settings, but I don’t know of too many.  I’ve also heard it’s difficult to get any interest in it because of the locale of the book. But it’s not impossible, as my good writer friend Jeannie Lin has proven with the sale of her historical romance set in China.

Is it because it’s a small number of readers? I somewhat doubt that because most everyone I talk to says they would love to read a book set in another place besides the usual American and Regency England setting. I could be wrong though since I’m not in the book industry at all.

If it is because of the lack of interest–well, why? I know people like what’s comfortable and what not, but doesn’t that get boring after awhile? 😛 Perhaps it’s my unsettled nature in reading. I have what I like to call “Reader’s A.D.D.” meaning I’m constantly looking for something different. Sure, I tend to stay in my comfort zone of historicals, though I am willing to read a good contemporary story as well as fantasy, YA and maybe a mystery. But I love looking for a different time, a different place…

Perhaps it’s the part of me that longs to travel, or the history geek in me, that loves learning about as many different cultures as possible. The only way I can do that is by reading, and well, when most of the books out there are about the same culture and history that I’ve learned about my entire life, I get bored. 😛 Don’t get me wrong–I still love me a good Regency romance  or Victorian era book in America. But sometimes I want MORE.

I think that’s why I write about cultures completely different from my own. I’m not finding it out on the market so I have to create one 🙂 I’ve got stories planned for all different parts of the world. Obviously I have passion for Asian cultures a little more than others, yet I’m still open to reading and writing about other ones too. In fact the novel I worked on in college took place in the Middle East during the time of Christ. I’ve also worked on one set in Egypt (although it never got very far) and part of me really wants to write something set in India. I’m just all over the world, aren’t I?

Anyway, feel free to leave me your opinions in the comments. I’d really like to know what you honestly think–I won’t hold it against you 🙂

Avid Readers

My appetite for a well written story is growing more and more every day. Searching for a good book has always involved a bit of frustration for me, especially as I read too fast sometimes and then I’m back at the beginning, searching earnestly for the next page turner. So, what better way to indulge in my desire of books than to search for blogs about them?

I’ve added a new section to the side called “Avid Readers” and those blogs are focused (for the most part) on book reviews. I find that most of the books I read (and have enjoyed) have come from a detailed review of the book by someone who obviously loves reading as much as I do. I don’t put too much stock in the Amazon reviews, for it’s clear that many people are way to quick to bash a book for something they don’t like. While I may not like a certain book I read, there’s a way to review it that doesn’t call for borderline vulgarity.

Anyway, if you have any book review blogs or websites you like to visit, let me know. It can be anything from adult mainstream to young adult, to fantasy to thriller and historical fiction–I’m trying to add to the list every day (or at least on a regular basis).

For the Love of Neighborhood Bookstores

I keep meaning to update more, but I can never seem to think of anything to write about. 😦

Anyway, switching gears. I had a nice little excursion yesterday to my local bookstore. It’s a small branch-off store from the Books-A-Million chain (our local stores are called Books & Co.) but it still retains that local bookstore feeling with friendly staff and a cozier atmosphere.  It’s within walking distance from my house (1.2 miles according to Google maps) and I can’t believe yesterday was only the second time I’ve been to that particular bookstore  in the year we’ve lived in our house.

The walk was refreshing; I ventured out near 8 p.m. at a suggestion from the hubby. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to walk home in the dark but he said he’d come and pick me up when I was ready (what a sweetheart :)). It took me exactly twenty minutes to get there, and I realized I probably should’ve put on better walking shoes–ballet flats are not meant for walks like that 😛

I realized I could easily get lost in there…lol. It doesn’t look big from the entrance but in reality there’s all these small nooks that branch off from the main aisle, all dotted with big, comfy armchairs. And the store was relatively empty, being after 8 on a weekday. It was almost like I had the whole store to myself!

I meandered around, picking up some of the books that I’ve marked down in my summer reading list (and wanting desperately to buy a few of them, especially Lisa See’s new novel). I even found Radiant Darkness, hiding away behind a few other books in the teen section. I was *this close* to picking it up but I realized I’d already spent a small chunk of money on a new purse I bought earlier, so back down it went. Sigh.

I spent a significant amount of time in an armchair with a travel guide to Japan, wishing that I was going there in real life instead of my imagination. Maybe someday.

I did end up buying something: the latest issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. There’s a list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers, and wouldn’t you know it, all of the agent blogs they mentioned I visit daily 🙂 There were lots of others sites on there, from critique groups to sites on publishing in general.

After my little excursion yesterday, I’ve made a promise to myself to try and venture there often, not only for the physical exercise but for the pure joy of just being surrounded by all the books 🙂 Even though the book switch to digital form, I have to admit that there’s some sort of joy lost with just downloading a book onto a Kindle or Sony Reader. I truly hope that the brick and mortar stores don’t completely disappear. Not to say that the eBooks don’t have their good sides; I’m just hoping that eBooks don’t completely take over.

For now, I’ll revel in having a bookstore so close. 🙂

Summer Reading

Ah, summer. The time of year to take in a good book in the welcoming shade of a maple tree (or any other tree for that matter), or besides the pool or ocean while on vacation.

Or just enjoying a foray into another world and place in the comfort of an air-conditioned living room.

So, what’s on my reading list this summer? Most of my “to read” books are located on my Goodreads page (link in the sidebar). It’s helping me to keep track of all the books I want to read before forgetting them 😛

Anyway, here are a few that I’m really looking forward to diving into this summer:

  1. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I’m itching to go to the book store and pick this one up. Lisa See is one of my favorite authors! I’m always captivated by her stories; she really knows how to bring you into the culture.
  2. The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel by Liza Dalby. I’ve been totally obsessed about Heian era Japan, mainly because part of my new novel takes place in that time. I’ve always wanted to read about Lady Murasaki, the author of The Tale of Genji, one of the first novels (if not THE first) in the world. I’ve tried reading Genji, but that was in late high school and I didn’t have the attention span for it then. 😛 I’m currently reading her diary (written over 1000 years ago). It’s incredibly small and not much is known about the life of this famous Heian court lady. I’d like to see how Ms. Dalby fills in the gaps for her otherwise unknown life. Plus, I’ll be able to hopefully get a little more insight about the time period too 🙂
  3. Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist. A sequel (finally!) to the previous Courting Trouble book. I’m a fan of Gist’s writing style; she’s one of the few Christian authors I will read consistently. I like Christian fiction in general, but most of the plots are sugar-coated and often unrealistic, which is probably why I still lean for more secular fiction (if it’s not too vulgar or violent). I like Gist’s writing style because she puts a different spin on it. For example, the heroine in this series is actually “older” than most in Christian romance (well into her 30s). And the last book definitely didn’t follow a predictable ending (I’ll give no more than that). I’d like to see if Gist is able to keep that up 🙂
  4. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman. I’ve been dying to read this one! It’s a retelling of a Greek myth–the myth of Persephone and Hades. Except it tackles it from a different angle–what if Persephone went with Hades willingly, rather than how the myth explains it? This one I may have to buy from Amazon before getting it from the library; none of them seem to have it nor do any of the bookstores around here.

I have about a dozen others that I’d like to read this summer as well, but these are the top ones.

What’s on your summer reading list?

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