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The Mood Reader

I am a mood reader, but my moods change as quickly as the weather in Michigan. This makes focusing on one book at a time challenging. I’ve mentioned before that I have multiple books going at a time– sometimes I’m switching between five different books! And considering I am a slow and easily distracted reader, it takes me a long time to finish what I start. I don’t generally give this habit much thought, unless another blogger writes about peculiar reading habits, inviting discussion in their comments. But, lately I find myself growing frustrated by it because how do you write about books if you don’t finish any?! I have a feeling it will be a while before I’m ready to write another review, so here are the books I’ve started and the moods I have to be in to read them:

onesummer_small One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. By now you must know that I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson, but I can’t just read Bryson any ol’ time. Most of the time, his books are best enjoyed while doing a bit of traveling yourself. One Summer, however, is best enjoyed when I’m feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Preferably on a back porch during the dog days of summer with a glass of iced, sweet tea within reach. I think the average temperature this summer was 75 degrees, and while I absolutely appreciated this because I have a low tolerance for anything close to “sweltering”, this season didn’t really feel much like summer, and that’s my excuse for taking so long to read this book.

universeThe Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Half the time I’m reading whimsical young adult books. The other half, I’m reading non-fiction books. No subject matter is too daunting too me, which is how I ended up with The Universe in a Nutshell. Also, there were illustrations. I’ve actually read a fair amount of this book, but I started on a chapter that I find particularly challenging. It takes everything I know to be true about atoms and throws it into the garbage; apparently there is more to an atom than protons, neutrons, and electrons, like bosons and quarks (and their particular “flavors”, which really just describes how the subatomic particles spin). It’s all very fascinating, but I have to be feeling especially curious and patient because I spend a lot of time doing research to understand the ideas in this book.

sunburnedcountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I must be nuts to read two Billy Bryson books at one time. Actually…yes, I am. I feel like I’ve read a little too much of Bryson this year. I did finish A Walk in the Woods earlier this year. To make matters worse, In A Sunburned Country is probably my least favorite Bryson book. He likes Australia a little too much because this book isn’t nearly as snarky and funny as his other books. I have to feel nondescript to read this book. It’s the book I pick up when I’m waiting in line…

spoonThe Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean. Phew! In the defense of this book, it’s absolutely fascinating and funny, but I think I have too much non-fiction in my life. I’m frequently switching between this book and the next book on my list depending on whether I’m at home or I’m at work.

 

exiledThe Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima. The more frustrated I am in the real world, the more I want to immerse myself in the fantastic seven realms. Especially now, since Hans Allister and Princess Raisa are  at Mystwerk House and Wein House (read: BOARDING SCHOOOOOOL!!!) Consider my accounting software has been out of commission for the past three days, which just makes me really, really behind at work, and I’ve dealt with really awful customers lately, all I want to do is bury my nose in this book. I just want to get swept away amongst warriors and mages.

 

 

Does your mood influence the types of books you read? Are you good at sticking to one book at a time, or do you switch between different books depending on your mood, like me?

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Creativity FAIL

I am a humble person, so let me share with you a recent failure.

 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Last week I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I really enjoyed this book, but I struggled to write a review for it. I’m still trying to get back into the groove of reviewing, so sometimes the words don’t come as easily. I also made the mistake of reading other reviews of this book on Goodreads, and oh my gosh, all those other reviews were much more eloquently written than the garbage that was spewing forth from my own ink pen. Eventually, every time I thought about writing this review, I started to feel dread, and this is not a good feeling to have when you’re trying to be a better blogger. Nothing fuels a blogging slump more than when a hobby starts feeling like a job.

So…I decided not to write the review. It took some convincing because…well, this is a book blog. What else should I do? Then, the idea came to me, probably when I was really hungry– concoct a delicious snack inspired by the book! And then I thought, ohmygosh! I could totally turn than into a feature!

In Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Bernadette’s gnatty neighbor, Audrey, is annoyed and inconvenienced by the blackberry vines that are growing from Bernadette’s yard and under Audrey’s fence. Audrey demands Bernadette get rid of the vines, and after complying a series of unfortunate but hilarious events follow. Initially I wanted to make a blackberry pie or a blackberry sauce to pour over a simple pound cake. But, then I remembered the one time I ate a blueberry sauce over pound cake that turned my teeth blue for about four hours…and I decided against that. And then I was stuck. Just as stuck as I was when facing the review I didn’t want to write. But, I sucked it up, I snatched the package of blackberries from the fridge, and I got to creating…something TERRIBLE.

It started with a package of blackberries. Amazing blackberries, actually. I don’t think blackberries are in season, so I was surprised that these berries were so big and so ripe. It took a lot of effort to not just shove fistfuls of them into my mouth– I had a blog to think about!!!

Smashed blackerries

Smashed blackberries

Instead I ruined them by smashing them into a seedy pulp and dumping them into a glass.

Green tea and blackberries

Green tea and blackberries

And then I poured green tea over top because…because…oh, I don’t know! Look, it was just an idea I had. The last time I had the urge to concoct something entirely without the aid of a recipe, I was about 9 years old and I was trying to make homemade chicken noodle soup out of wavy egg noodles and a chicken bouillon cube.

If I had written a review, it would have been as successful as the blackberry green tea.

If I had written a review, it would have been as successful as the blackberry green tea.

This is the finished product. A miserable glass of blackberry goop submerged in green tea. I tried to drink all of it down, but I could not. It was depressing. Luckily, I only wasted 4 blackberries on this. The rest I shoved into my mouth by the fistful.

Despite my cooking flub, I’m not giving up on this idea. I still think it will be a fun and tasty project to work on. In the future, I will probably seek the guidance of a recipe though.

 

What do you do if you don’t feel like writing a review? Do you push yourself to write one anyway, or do you choose not to write one? Have you ever had a super fun and creative idea for your blog that didn’t go according to plan?

 

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Book Buying Woes

I am uncertain how this is even possible, but I am terrible at buying books. I spend months, even years pining over books and organizing them on my Goodreads shelves according to which books I want to read the most. Yet, when I receive my Barnes & Noble gift cards for my birthday or Christmas, I almost never purchase the books that take the top rank. I celebrated my 26th birthday at the end of July, and I ended up filling my shelves with the following:

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple ♥ Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell ♥ The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan ♥ Life After Life by Kate Atkinson ♥ I Wrote This For You: Just the Words. by pleasefindthis

Most of these I want to read. Eventually. People have raved about these books (with the exception of I Wrote This For You, which I bought on a total whim late at night), but they are hardly the books that make me feel giddy when I think about finally having the opportunity to read them. I think the only reason they ended up in my Barnes & Noble cart is because of indecision. Being apart of the book blogosphere puts so many different books on my radar that sometimes it’s overwhelming; sometimes I forget how to prioritize. Do I go for the book that I’ve had my eye on for months, or do I go for this shiny new book that everyone has been talking about? I spent so long flipping between tabs of potential purchases in my browser that I eventually became fed up and just picked something. Anything.

If I had a time turner, I’d probably go back and fill my cart with these books:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: Who hasn’t read this book? *raises hand sheepishly* Considering I loved Cinder so much, I’m really surprised I still haven’t read the second installment in this sci-fi fairy tale adaptation.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: This book was immensely popular when I was first introduced to the book blogging world. I read so many positive things about this book that I knew I had to read it. I also knew that I needed to take a step back from all the hype. It’s been about five years since this book was first put on my radar… that should be a sufficient amount time for that hype to fizzle, right?

Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC for Grown-Ups by Jennifer Adams: The summary says it’s the perfect gift for Shakespeare fans, and I really, really like Shakespeare. (Digression: one of my co-workers put a plastic, Halloween skull in my office, and I’ve named him Yorick. A lot of my co-workers seem put-off by Yorick.)

Spook by Mary Roach: I was introduced to Mary Roach in 11th grade. We read and analyzed an excerpt from one of her books, Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers. She tackled such a morbid subject in a fascinating and sometimes humorous way, and I’ve wanted more ever since.

The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way by Bill Bryson: I also just really, really, really like Bill Bryson, and I probably won’t be satisfied until I read all his books.

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson: It was a toss-up between this book and Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. I’m a sucker for non-fiction, and lately I’ve been fascinated by these micro-histories.

Alas, I do not have a time turner. And to be honest, this Christmas, when I get my second bout of gift cards, I’ll probably end up with another cart filled with books I only kind of want to read because they’re titles that are fresh on my mind.


What was the last book you purchased that left you with buyer’s remorse? How do you prioritize what books to purchase when you’re perusing bookshelves in the store (or online)?

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Writer’s Block Anonymous

During my freshman year of college, I had one teacher say something to me that, for better or for worse, determined my college career. “This is a well-written piece, and I know of a small, on-campus publication that would love to print it. Have you ever thought about studying English?” The following semester, I disregarded my parents pleas to study business, and I declared a major in English. But with an Emphasis on Practical Writing. It was a compromise, you see; in case creative writing never worked out, at least I could write interoffice memos really well. And I never did submit my essay to the small, on-campus publication.  This isn’t about regret though. Not really.

Shortly after college, I stopped writing, and after I stopped writing, I stopped dreaming. I could fill up a notebook with all of my excuses, but it all boiled down to the value I placed on myself as an individual and myself as a writer, which was zilch. Aside from these sporadic blog posts, I haven’t written anything in about 4 years.

Last month, I got a new supervisor at work, and after work I stopped by her office to chit-chat. Honestly, this lady terrified me, and this was my way of testing the waters. For some reason, I mentioned that I used to love to write, but lately it’s caused me a lot of anxiety. I mentioned that fear of failure kept me from telling stories, even though I recognized this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The next morning, she approached me and told me she ruminated over our conversation from the previous day, and it upset her that I wasn’t writing anymore. She printed out a quote and stuck it to the whiteboard in my office:

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. –Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Then she told me that I need to start writing again because I’d never be satisfied otherwise. This caught me by surprise because for once, someone seemed to give a damn– someone other than my mom and dad, who have to encourage me to keep writing because they are my parents***. But, the encouragement didn’t stop there. Once a week, she asks me if I went home and wrote. She sends me encouraging words and pictures in e-mails, like the Rumi quote above. She turns accounting lessons into life lessons into reasons why I need to write.

Sometimes I forget why I write because I read articles about writing for an audience and writing for publishers and writing for money and writing for fame and writing for change. Sometimes that burden is too much because at the end of the day, most of us started writing for ourselves. Because art nourishes in a way that accounting never could. So, last weekend I wrote. On the back side of neon orange-colored printer paper. With an equally orange pen that had the perfect amount of inkiness to slide across the page with ease but without coating the side of my hand with black smudges. My hand started to cramp after just a few minutes because I haven’t written with such vigor in a long time.


 

Footnote:
*** It’s like when I was really young, I used to say I was going to be a tiger when I grew up. Or a cowboy-girl. I’m certain it was met with, “Honey, you can be anything you put your mind to”. I obviously could never become a tiger, but good parents don’t discourage big dreams. (Cowboy-girl, on the other hand, is still a potential job title that I may or may not strive for once I gain a little more work experience.)

 

confess

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post

New Years, 2014

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I read the blogging resolutions that I made for 2013, and they were simple enough that I thought I might actually be able to follow through with them. I wanted to read more than I did the previous year, update by blog regularly, and participate in at least one read-a-thon. I basically failed to achieve everything on that list except for “create a more appealing blog layout”, though recalling what my blog layout looked like circa December 2012, that wasn’t much of a feat. I could jot down yet another bullet-pointed list of resolutions that I’m not likely to accomplish, but on the eve of 2015 I’d look at it and lament over lost opportunities. So instead I’ll make it simple.

My 2014 resolution for reading/blogging/writing:

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Blogger Confessions: Blogging and Real Life

How does blogging affect your *real* life? Are friends and family supportive? Do you find that blogging cuts into family time? How do you strike a balance between the two?

I’m fairly open about most things, but there are two things I tend to keep a secret– my taste in music and my taste in literature.

True Story: After knowing one of my college buddies for almost four years, she out of the blue stated she had no idea who my favorite bad was, let alone my favorite type of music. We were in her car, and the doors were locked, so I figured I wouldn’t be getting out unless I told her. So, I said the first band that came to mind– Tiger Army. They’re a psychobilly band, which is kind of like a punk and rockabilly hybrid. Here is one of their tame songs if you’re curious:


But, that was a lie. Sorry Brooke.

There is something so personal about books and music that I find it difficult to share them with those that are close to me. I’m afraid they will show disdain for something that I adore, and it would be like they’re saying they didn’t like me. I’m sure that thought process is a little strange, but I’m also sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I also find it difficult to justify my taste in books because I studied English literature and composition in college. My friends think I have an appreciation for the Classics (suckers!). I think I’m supposed to have an appreciation for stuffy and pretentious metafiction that people with thick-rimmed glasses and tweed jackets with leather elbow patches discuss over glasses of wine from a box. But, in reality I just like young adult fiction. If you strip away their age, they’re characters who are just as confused about their place in the world as I am.

So, for the most part I keep my blog and my real life separate. As far as I know, my mom and dad are the only people “in the real world” that have my website address. And they’re pretty supportive. I wouldn’t shrivel up and die if my friends found out about Books & Tea, but I would prefer if they didn’t accidentally stumble upon my blog. I mean…unless they totally want to fangirl over Harry Potter and other YA books… I’d be cool with that.

I do struggle trying to strike a balance between blogging and “family time”. It’s like my significant other has his sixth sense tuned to my blogging urges. As soon as I sit down at my laptop and pop open WordPress, my boyfriend scrambles for the Wii remote and this happens:

Boyf.: Wanna play Metal Slug?
Me: Nope.
Boyf. Please?
Me: Nope.
Boyf.: PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE?
Me: Nope.
Boyf.: Okay okay, just one mission and you can blog for the rest of the night.
Me: *sigh* Fine.

And then, a few hours later we’ve played through all seven Metal Slug games on the Metal Slug Anthology. I feel disappointed in myself because I could have been blogging, so I have to remind myself that I used less continues than my boyfriend did.

Also, since all of my readers are wonderful and non-judgy, I feel I can share with you my favorite band. It’s AFI. And if you’ve never listened to them, here is one of their songs:

Since Books & Tea is a totally non-judgy, friend zone, if you have a favorite band, please feel free to tell me about them in the comments!

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by For What It’s Worth and Midnyte Reader.

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Blogger Confessions: Not Throwing in the Towel Any Time Soon

We’ve discussed blogging slumps before but have you ever seriously considered throwing in the towel and quitting blogging? If so, what changed your mind? Did you discuss it with other bloggers?

There is something addictive about blogging. I’ve been blogging since I was 12 (note: That’s 12 years of blogging!) My blogs have mostly been of the personal variety, where I write about the things that are going on in my life. And they’ve been hosted at a variety of places like livejournal/deadjournal/xanga, blogspot, and even self-hosted back in the days when I coded my own layouts. Most of these blogs still exist. I go back and read them sometimes, and what I thought was important back then is both interesting and humiliating. I have “thrown in the towel” in the past, but that’s mostly because my personal blogs were lame. My life is average. Who wants to read about average? I think that’s why I’m trying to settle down into the niche of book blogging. Sure, my thoughts on books can be as every bit personal as a blog about my life, but I think there is more substance to book blogging than talking about the can of spaghetti-Os I ate for dinner or going to the movies with friends.

Book blogging can be a challenge for me though, and sometimes I let that get to me. I’ve said it time and time again– I’m a slow reader, so I don’t have stacks of reviews to write each week. And since I don’t participate in too many memes, it makes content creation tricky. I don’t know if what I come up with to fill the gaps in between reviews is creative or fun, but I try. This is sometimes the reason why I disappear for weeks at a time. I’m out of ideas. Or worse, I come up with an idea, write it up, and then scrap it because I think it’s garbage. I should just probably commit; I mean, it’s my blog right?

Maybe I have less to lose in blogging than others so blogging has never created enough anxiety or frustration to warrant shutting down. I don’t have many friendships within the blogosphere. Nor do I have author and publisher contacts. It’s not like I’d be letting anyone down except for me. No, I don’t think Books & Tea will shut down anytime soon. If anything, I’ll just continue to come up with different types of content that could revitalize Books & Tea and make it special.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by For What It’s Worth and Midnyte Reader.