Tag Archives: reading

An Advance Review of Ivan Doig’s Sweet Thunder

This review is also posted on Goodreads.com.

I received this copy of Sweet Thunder as part of a First-Reads Giveaway.

Ivan Doig knows Montana. While this was my first adventure with the Western wordsmith, his reverence for the state that is fondly referred to as “The Last Best Place” comes through with every word. The novel captures the sense of rugged romanticism that has always characterized Montana. Living is tough out there and you’ve got to be strong to take it. But if you can survive, it’s all worthwhile.

The novel is set in Butte, one of the ugliest cities that I have ever stepped foot in (or, more often, driven straight through). So it is a testament to the power of Sweet Thunder that I came away from the story thinking of Butte in a kinder light. The Butte Public Library plays a prominent role in the story and I find myself wanting to visit Butte again just to see it.

The story itself is interesting and quick. The characters are just that. Characters. Slightly stock feeling and I kept waiting for someone to start bouncing around on their toes, fists up saying, “Why I oughta.” Luckily they stopped just shy of that. The progression of events is somewhat predictable but entertaining all the same. The ending is a little too clean for my liking but you know, sometimes that’s okay.

The Books Are Here!

They’re here! They’re here!

Well, some of them. With more to come!

What in the name of Ray Bradbury am I talking about? Two months ago my boyfriend and I packed up our lives in Portland, Oregon and moved to Tucson, Arizona. When we were planning the move we decided that the most cost-effective way to do it would be to just take the car and anything we could fit into it. With the two of us and our 95 pound dog, there wasn’t much room left over.

To be honest, I am amazed at how much we were able to fit. And it felt good to whittle down our lives to only that which was really important. For me, 95% of that was books. But pre-move, my book collection was pretty huge. I sorted through my three shelves (cried more than once) and ended up selling or giving away 305 books. I kept about fifty.

It was a sad, sad day.

But along the way I had a stroke of genius. What if, instead of just donating all of my beloved books to Goodwill (or to my literary friends) what if I sold them to a bookstore that would allow me to shop online?

Powell’s Books is an absolute wonder. If you live anywhere near the Northwest, you’ve probably heard of it and if you haven’t, they’re worth the trip from wherever you are. Their flagship store is a three story wonderland that takes up an entire city block. They have an unparalleled sci-fi/ fantasy collection and every department has a mix of new and used copies.

Not to mention that they will buy used books and if you take payment in store credit (which can be spent online) instead of cash, they’ll give you 50% more. They bought about 100 of my books and I walked out with almost $300 on a gift card.

My intentions were to make it last. To use the card to buy books as I needed or wanted them. That did not happen.

Over the course of the last week I spent the entire thing. And you know what? I am damn happy about it. I didn’t end up re-ordering a single book that I had before but I did get an eclectic mix of science fiction, literature, classics, non-fiction, reference and inspirational books. I have been anxiously awaiting the crazed knocking of my cross-eyed mailman for days and today, the first box arrived.

Its contents were as follows:

The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi

On Writing- Stephen King

2013 Writer’s Market (Yes!!! So incredibly excited about this one)

A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson

What If? Exercises for Fiction Writers- Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

The War of Art- Steven Pressfield

The Eye of the World- Robert Jordan

Letters to a Young Poet- Rainer Maria Rilke

And folks, that’s not all. I have four more shipments coming. This is better than Christmas, I kid you not. And I’m not the only one who gets to enjoy them! Each and every one of these books will be getting reviewed on the RedInkling. I know it’s a little strange to review books that have been out for years but I’m doing it anyway. And I’m calling it The Ravenous Reader Reviews, so when they start to come up you’ll be able to check out all of the reviews by just clicking that category in the side bar.

I am so excited! And I am psyched to share my Ravenous Reading experiences with you. I’ll keep you posted as my collection grows and if you want to chat about any of the books I’m reading, drop me a line. My second favorite thing after reading books is talking about reading books. Happy reading Ravenous Readers!

The Curse Of The Prolific Writer

Did you know that Stephen King has published over fifty books? Fifty full length novels or stories. And FIFTEEN of those have been turned into movies.

I had never read and of his works until last year when my best friend finally talked me into reading the Dark Tower series.

“It’s not really Stephen King-y,” she said. “It’s not really that scary (this was a lie) and it’s really well written.”

So I picked up the Gunslinger from the library and from the first brilliant line, I was hooked.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

This has to be one of the best first lines of all time. Who is the man in black? Who is the gunslinger? Is he chasing the man in black or just following his trail? And WHAT are they doing in the desert?

Come to that, what desert are they in?

That simple, twelve word sentence had me asking five separate questions, all of which desperately needed answering. One short month later, I was finished with the seventh book.

(Note: At the time I didn’t know about The Wind Through The Keyhole and as of yet, I still haven’t read it. It is on order though and should be here in a few days!)

I loved the series. Roland was such an amazing character and I fell in love with he and his little family of misfits. But after I finished the series, I still didn’t feel any need to seek out King’s other works.

Why not?

As you can see from my friend’s “not Stephen King-y” comment, we had some biases. And to be honest, these biases came from a pretty pretentious place. I was a creative writing major at the time and spending most of my time writing or reading about writing. I had developed the idea that in order for a book to be any good, it had to have taken years and a part of the writer’s soul in its creation.

So when I looked at the Stephen King shelf in the bookstore and saw his 50+ books, what did I see? A man worse than Voldemort who had split his soul into 50 pieces. I thought that anything he wrote must be cheap and poorly written because he had obviously whipped each book out in an afternoon.

And my love for the Dark Tower series did nothing to change that perception because it took King over twenty years to write those seven wonderful volumes. I assumed that all of his care and talent went into those works and the rest was just garbage.

Well, Mister King, I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I am sorry that I skimmed over your section in the bookstore for twenty seven years. I am sorry that I never watched any of your movies besides The Shining. I am sorry for you but most of all I am sorry for myself. Because of my pretentious preconceived ideas, I robbed myself of years of wonderful reading.

You see, I just moved. And in the move i had to get rid of most of my books. So when I got to my new home in Arizona I happily accepted a couple boxes of books from my boyfriend’s parents. The told me to keep what I wanted and donate the rest.

Many of them were not my taste but I put them on my empty shelves as placeholders until I could get some that I really wanted (I just ordered about 35 books online, they should be here any day! I’ll keep you posted.). Among them were two Stephen King books, The Shining and The Running Man.

I should have known what was going to happen, but I didn’t see it coming. One day, I got bored. I sat and I stared at the books on my shelf waiting to feel the heart-to-book lightening bolt that I let guide all of my reading decisions. My eyes skimmed over the Shining and…I felt something. I gave it a second look. And there it was.

The lightening bolt was faint, but it was there. I pulled the dog-eared paperback off the shelf, plopped down on the couch and read the whole thing. The next day I read The Running Man. And now, here I am. A full blown Stephen King addict. Better late than never, right?

Photo on 2013-05-31 at 12.16

The Best Book On Writing That You Will Ever Read

This book is fourteen years old. It isn’t the next big thing or a surefire way to make truck loads of money on the internet. It is a simply written, engaging conversation on the subjects of writing and creativity. Ray Bradbury’s Zen In The Art Of Writing is, hands down, the most beautifully written book about writing that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

I studied creative writing for a couple of years (I didn’t graduate so I won’t tell you which school it was) and read six or seven craft books on various styles of writing. I learned a lot while in school, and first started to get my writing legs but the craft books were a responsible for a very small percentage of that.

In January of 2011 I went on vacation for two weeks to the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, St. John. If you ever get a chance to go, do it. We stayed in a run down hostel that turned out to be our personal heaven. Sadly, Botanical Villas went out of business about a year later, but we don’t need to get into that here.

I read a lot while we were there and ran through all six of the books I brought with me in the first week. Every day we hitchhiked into town for groceries, and we often stopped at the used book store that was inside the same mall area. I can’t remember the name of the place but it was tiny and crammed from floor to ceiling with paperbacks. At least half of the books in the store were either romance novels or travel guides, most of them with puffy, sand filled spines.

My lovely boyfriend found Zen In The Art Of Writing crammed in with the science fiction and fantasy; a set of three bulging shelves in the back corner next to the espresso bar. Knowing me like he does, he gave it to me. You may have noticed my fondness for Mister Bradbury is previous posts (http://aredinkling.com/2013/03/19/we-are-the-martians-a-grossly-inadequate-attempt-to-honor-a-genius/ ) but let me impress upon you the extremity of my fondness for his work. It’s serious. My dad first read me The MArtian Chronicles when I was really young, probably six or seven. He probably read it to me three times and I’ve read it at least once every year or two since. So I’m a fan.

I read Zen In The Art Of Writing for the first time slowly, devouring every word. It took me about three days, even though it’s only 152 pages. I finished on the plane. And then I read it again, in just a few hours before the plane touched down in the snow. On the first read I took in every minute detail of what Bradbury had to say, letting each word marinate and unravel in my mind. On the second read, it was poetry. I read for the flow and the musical words and the sparkling pinnacles of inspiration.

Bradbury shares his personal journey to respected author-hood, weaving the tale of his childhood with the same twisted shimmer of his published stories. It is beautiful writing that inspires the passion to write beautifully. Bradbury takes money out of the equation. He writes because it is who he is, he simply must write. This book helped me to remember that I was one of those people too. It is so easy to get distracted, to get caught up in building a career and forget that we used to enjoy what we are doing.

It helped that I read Zen In The Art Of Writing fresh off of two weeks in the sun; I was already in a very free, creative place. But that first time and every time I have read it since, Zen has felt not so much like a book to me, but like a detox for my creativity. I read it whenever I need to remember how to clear out all the crap and just write.