Posts Tagged ‘books’

From the Facebook page of Belcastro Agency, an independent literary agency, come just a few of their literary internet finds.  Enjoy! (more…)

The original farm

There’s something about land, something that feels not just elemental but, if you’ll pardon the unintended pun, grounded. (more…)

 I’ve been thinking about copyrights lately.

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I went to Half Price Books today to look for a book for my husband and as I strolled into the aisle for clearance books, I came upon a disturbing sight.  (more…)

Do you remember the Cold War or do you think the Cold War is what a grocery store wages against you when you come near the frozen food section?  Do you like to read books that are located in places you’d love to visit? Do you believe all Nazis disappeared after World War II ended?  Do you enjoy espionage books with lots of action, cool gadgets, a bit of romance?  Do you think that if you ever really met James Bond, you’d find him insufferable? (more…)

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Our younger daughter and I spend a few days in Edinburgh, Scotland some years back, one of the stops on a short trip to London and a few other places in England, Wales and Scotland, followed by a trip to visit one of my sisters-in-law in Provence, a few more days in London and then home. (Yes, it was lovely.) (more…)

“And I love the library better than any other room in the house. I love the smell and feel of it and the throng of happy ghosts who I like to imagine are with me here. It always surprises me that they don’t step visibly from the books they wrote. When I take only one book from the shelves, the whole lot of them seem to me to be tinglingly alive, not only the man who walks beside me as I carry his book to my chair. Craftsmen are deeply united, I think, and rejoice in each other’s artifacts from one generation to another.” The Scent of Water, Elizabeth Goudge

I love mysteries…reading them, that is. Mysteries make up the vast majority of my fictional reading, especially if the category’s expanded to include “thrillers”.

Eventually, the bodies begin to pile up a bit too high because almost every mystery has a murder. Then, as day follows night (why does night never follow day, which it does in real life and might be more apropos here??), once there’s been one murder, another is certain to push its way in, perhaps two or even three. If people were murdered at this rate in real life, population control wouldn’t be an issue. Then there’s the ramped-up version—the serial killers—popularized on TV by “Criminal Minds” and the “CSI” shows and clones. All these “unsubs” combined could decimate the population of any major city in a matter of a few weeks!

If it were “just” a murder or two, I could deal with that (fictionally speaking). People do kill sometimes and, too often, usually for one of the tried-and-true reasons—money, sex, power (or lack thereof) or some combination of those. But in order to make their books “different”, “modern”, or my favorite, “edgy”, authors push the envelope. The envelope has been pushed so far it can often be spotted on the moon along with Elvis and JFK. The envelope has become grimmer, grosser, more graphic. There’s more of the “yuk” factor these days than ever before.

Sex is the other envelope that gets pushed and this envelope is rocketing through space at the speed of light. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t need or want pay-for-view (or read-for-titillation) sex. I don’t want the Kama Sutra manual or to be invited, or to peer uninvited, into anyone’s bedroom. To me, sex is private, even in a book.

One difference I’ve noted between many English and American authors is that the former generally assume that if you know about sex, you can figure the action out for yourself if you so desire. If they say people had an affair, you know what’s up (no pun intended.) If the couple “closed the bedroom door,” that leaves you outside with whatever imagination you want to put into it, not a step-by-step description. American authors evidently tend to believe that more is better in letting you know what’s going on sexually.

At some point, I reach saturation level in either area or both. I start to feel a bit grimy; I need a mental shower, a dose of some sort of reality.  I’ve even glanced through books by new authors and felt as if I need hand and mind sanitizer after the little bit of the story I glimpsed.

My fictional “shower” might still be found in a mystery, but something along the lines of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham or Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver books. Whatever I choose will generally have people I like and, for preference, humor, such as Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books. Benny Harper might show up or any of Helen MacInnes’ or Mary Stewart’s characters or police inspector Guido Brunetti.

As an antidote for too many mysteries that have pushed the envelope too close to the edge, my “shower” might be filled with the foibles of normal people who have problems that many of us might have, daily issues such as what to have for dinner, who and how to love; people I find in books by authors who unfortunately are no longer around to write but who are, fortunately, being reprinted—Elizabeth Goudge, Georgette Heyer, Rumer Godden.  Good teen, but timeless, books such as those by Rosemary Sutcliff or Arthur Ransome definitely qualify as well, but no vampires, no ghosts, no paranormal things, the stuff of teen fiction today.  To me, these last should only be published as e-books because I hate to see all the trees wasted to make the paper to print them.

At some point, I’m always ready for another mystery, but wanting to avoid feeling the need to “shower” too often is why I’m very selective about what I read and what I leave on the shelves and why I very often am not reading “best sellers.” I want to like the people, hopefully respect and understand them. They don’t have to be perfect, (who is?), and there doesn’t always have to be a happy ending, but there has to be more than just graphic murder and/or sex. To me, even a wonderful plot doesn’t make it worth the time spent and emotion invested if that’s all there is.

I’m a grammar nazi (lower case, so as not to imply anything about actual Nazis). I not only admit it, I’m OK with it. It can drive me crazy, but I try very, very hard to confine any outward sign to a sideways glance with widened eyes to a fellow grammar nazi or a partial eye roll.

Anyone enjoying the absurdities of language will enjoy “Anguished English” or anything else by Richard Lederer. We received a copy as a gift years ago and I remember reading aloud from it to my husband as we drove back from Toronto and having tears rolling down my cheeks. Another time a friend and I were in a bookstore, sitting on the floor of one of the aisles, crying with laughter as I read aloud, while other patrons gave us wide berth and a variety of looks, ranging from “What’s up with that?” to “They let all sorts in here!” Good stuff! I particularly enjoy the chapters where he cobbles together a history of the world from grammatically and historically bizarre answers mined from student history tests and classes and also the signs in other countries in fractured English. Delicious.

However, being a grammar nazi can drive me crazy, such as coming across a book today where the intended “they’re” was rendered as “there”. Another recent literary faux pas was in a paragraph where the author talked about a moat, but each time it was spelled “mote”. I couldn’t help myself. I emailed the author and after telling her how much I enjoyed her books, I mentioned that somehow this mistake had crept in and that she might get a better response from the publisher than I. I hope she did as I didn’t get one from her.

Once someone online referred to her “baited” breath, rather disgusting if you were to be around it. I emailed her privately and she was appreciative. But if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “lie” and “lay” misused or that, for example, “a gift was given to him and I” (or something similar) or at the other end of things, “Henry and me went to the store”, I’d be writing this from my villa in Provence overlooking the Mediterranean. Just remember that if you can say “I/me” by itself, you can and should say “She and I/me”. Simple, really.

Then there are the “in” abbreviations or “cute” ways of putting things, although I guess they aren’t, strictly speaking, grammar. Perhaps they would be considered slang, in the tradition of “ain’t.”. For instance, “LOL” is getting old and since I don’t text, I don’t labor under the “less letters = easier” burden. I would never call my husband my “hubster” and not just so he wouldn’t roll his eyes, and “OMG” is unlikely to ever appear in a serious context in my writing…if it can appear in any sort of serious context. For some unknown reason, my current least favorite is this, but… I. Really. Don’t. Know. Why. I will admit to a weakness for expressing incredulity by saying “Really”? And I also admit I can never remember if it should by “Really”? or “Really?” Even a grammar nazi has her moments.

For Christmas 2010, my husband got me a Kindle with a black leather cover and a cool little light that pulls out from a corner. (The light’s stopped working, even though I rarely use it, and I have to figure out where the battery is and where to get a new one.) He was probably more excited about it than I was. I’ve been collecting books for years, a habit aided and abetted by 16 years of homeschooling our two daughters, and I’m not a person who only reads a book once, then gets rid of it. I collect books by authors I like although, limited by money and storage space, not all the books by all the authors I like. Some of my books I’ve read at least 10 or 15 times and I plan to read them many more times.

And I’m a bibliophile, a lover of books, actual books as well as what’s in actual books. The library is my favorite place, closely followed by Half Price Books. When the first HPB in the Cleveland area opened in Shaker Heights many years ago, I was the first non-store-related, non-celebrity person in the store and I eventually knew practically all the sales people. They used to give a $5 gift card for every $30 or $35 of children’s books purchased and I sometimes shudder to thing how many of those I got. I loved my teacher’s card, giving me as a homeschooler, an additional 10% off and deeply regretted the day I honestly didn’t renew it.

But back to the Kindle….My first thought was probably “Nice, but I’m not giving up my books”, followed shortly thereafter with the thought that if I bought all the books I read, my husband would have to get a second job and I’d have to go back to work, leaving me little time to read said books acquired at such a cost. The time between those thoughts and now have been a time of figuring out the place of a Kindle in my copious reading life. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

The Kindle (or whatever reading device like it you prefer) is superb for use while traveling and I love to travel. Prior to owning one, when I went on a trip, I packed a bag or two of books or had a library card at the other end of the trip or both. If I went to the post office and expected to wait in line, (and when didn’t I expect to wait?), I took something to read. And a two-week trip to France, such as my husband and I took this fall, would otherwise have created a real problem, especially with the weight and number of suitcases limitation, as well as the difficulty of getting English books overseas in a non-English speaking country. Just the plane trip alone would call for more books than could easily be packed and then what if I didn’t want to leave them somewhere when I was finished (which I wouldn’t want to do)? Traveling occasionally on the Megabus, I’m offered six hours of reading time, although the majority of my fellow travelers use the time to sleep. I can now take thousands of books with me in my purse! How can that be bad?

But what about getting the books to keep on the Kindle? I’d saved a link shared by an online friend to a blog that every day tells me about free or almost free books from Amazon. Most of these are by indie (independent) authors so I never know what the quality will be. I can always grab them, then delete any books I start and don’t like. I’ve got many of them initially but have slowed down as time goes on. There really can’t be that many books that are 4 or 4 1/2 or 5 stars. No books about vampires for me, no erotica, no Amish romances and not most romance novels at all. I have an entire library of business books and mysteries as well as a smattering or more of a variety of other books.

The other books that are free are the classics. Sometimes the formatting of the free versions isn’t very good (and sometimes not on the ones I’ve bought, either) but they’re still free. You could get an amazing education for no more than the cost of the Kindle. You don’t even have to pay for internet access. My basic Kindle has to be somewhere like the library, Caribou Coffee, Starbucks or a similar place with free wi-fi, but all sorts of places have free wi-fi now. For a bit more money, you can have the Kindle with its own free internet access, although you’ll just be in touch with Amazon.

I also collect books by authors I like, want to keep re-reading and want to have available. Some are free, some not, some aren’t even available as e-books, yet. I’ve collected almost all the Donna Leon books, Georgette Heyers Regency romances (which even my husband enjoys and which cause us to often laugh aloud while reading) as well as her mysteries, the first ten or so Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries by Anne Perry, lots of the E. Nesbit books, a complete Bible, all the Miss Silver mysteries by Patricia Wentworth, and so on. Periodically, a book from a series is offered free, often the first book, and every day Amazon has a Deal of the Day for $.99. Every month they have 100 books under $2.99 or something along those lines. So I’m gradually building a library that not only doesn’t take up much room but that can be transported around the world with ease. Hard to beat that.

But still, I want to someday live in a house with a library, near a Half Price Books, a library and, hopefully, a bricks and mortar bookstore, to buy books (with free shipping) from Amazon and to give books to my girls, not just let them be one of my five Kindle accounts.