Archive for For the Love of Reading

Taking Space on My Kindle Fire

cmilan

I thought I’d share what’s taking space on my Kindle these days…  I mostly read and watch movies on it, and it’s a shiny new Kindle Fire HDX that I got for Christmas.  (Thanks, brother!)

Currently Reading

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Right now, I’m knee deep in the most recent book from Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY.   I have loved every book in this series, and I will say that when I started this last book —Sebastian and Violet’s book—the first chapter blew me away.  Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I didn’t expect the twist. (Of course, I didn’t read the back copy blurb before I bought the book either.)  But I’m almost finished and seriously loving it.

 

Just downloaded

dressmakerThe Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

I found this book through Bookbub (a great site for any reader to visit… free and low priced quality books daily.)

The blurb from Amazon:

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she’s had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be her personal maid on the Titanic. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men—a kind sailor and an enigmatic Chicago businessman—who offer differing views of what lies ahead for her in America. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes, and amidst the chaos, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat.

The survivors are rescued and taken to New York, but when rumors begin to circulate about the choices they made, Tess is forced to confront a serious question.  Did Lady Duff Gordon save herself at the expense of others? Torn between loyalty to Lucile and her growing suspicion that the media’s charges might be true, Tess must decide whether to stay quiet and keep her fiery mentor’s good will or face what might be true and forever change her future.

I can’t wait to read this book.  I’m fascinated by the Titanic era—the times, the clothes, so much about that era is interesting to me. (A book setting someday, definitely….)

dollhouse-cast1On the TV & Movies Side of my Kindle

I also like to watch TV and movies. I’ll have my Kindle up in the morning while I’m getting ready, with a show on in the background.  Or sometimes during my lunch break… anyway, my morning show lately has been Dollhouse, a short-lived series by Joss Whedon.   I loved this show when it was on and watch the reruns on Netflix often.

What about you? What’s on your entertainment list these days?

 

 

What is a happy ending?

If you are a romance reader and/or writer, you’re well acquainted with the “formula” for a romance novel – boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back and lives happily ever after.  The very formula that makes these stories so popular also constitutes its largest points of criticism.  How can any book that follows such a close formula be any good?

I think we all know that isn’t true.  Most of write and read wonderful books with that prerequisite ending attached.  In fact, the “happy ending” is a part of why I love romance novels to begin with.   The fact that I know the couple is going to end up together, no matter the odds they face, is comforting.  It allows me to trust the beloved genre enough to know I’ll get what I want — the feelings, the warmth, the belief that love can and does conquer all.  There are hundreds of thousands of romantic books that prove it.

But there are other types of novels, too, that exist with happy endings.  When you read a thriller mystery where the hero has to save the day or New York will explode, you know in the end, he’s going to save the day.  When you read a suspense novel or mystery novel, you know the protagonist is going to overcome the obstacles and reveal the killer, reveal the story, reveal the truth.  You know.

It’s satisfying.  It’s complete.  How many JD Robb books would you read if Eve Dallas never found the bad guy?  How many disaster movies would you watch if you knew, in the end, everyone was going to die and the disaster would ruin the world?

A “happy ending” gets a bad rap, in my opinion, but that’s because it’s most often ascribed to romance novels, chick flicks and romantic pairings.   But happy endings are more.  Some say that’s the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction.  And some say it’s the difference between “commercial” movies and all the rest.

Wikipedia says: Since the ending is the point at which a narrative ends, a “happy ending” is constructed in a way so as to imply that, after the conclusion of the narrative, the lives of all the “good” characters will be filled with happiness and that any unpleasantness they encounter will be negligible.

So is this how you think of the happy endings in books or movies you watch? Do you believe that all the difficulty is behind the characters and nothing bad will ever happen to them again? Is that part of what makes a happy ending for you?

Many fairy tales started in very different forms from the happily-ever-after versions we know today.  In the early version of Snow White, the queen is punished for her crimes — to the death.  She’s forced to wear red-hot shoes and dance until she falls over dead.  Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale of The Little Mermaid has the prince marrying another girl and Ariel throwing herself into the sea, where she disappears into the foam and becomes a permanent part of the ocean.

Psychologists have long debated what fairy tales mean.  Bruno Bettelheim, author and child psychiatrist,  believed that fairy tales help children learn to navigate reality and survive in a world that is controlled by adults.  Since often times the protagonists in fairy tales are often children, the conflicts in family and the morals taught  could provide examples of how to cope in the world.  “Fairy tales are loved by the child…because—despite all the angry, anxious thoughts in his mind to which the fairy tale gives body and specific context—these stories always result in a happy outcome, which the child cannot imagine on his own.”  Bettelheim faced many criticisms against him, but there is still a connection in his words about fairy tales to books today that provide an emotional experience with a happy outcome.

And there are plenty of stories without a happy ending…Romeo and Juliet always comes to mind first.   If Shakespeare lived in modern times, would that story become great? Would it ever see the light of day if sent to a publisher — a story where both the hero and heroine kill themselves?  Hard to imagine.

Is the popularity of happy endings about a human’s need for closure?   A good book will take you on an emotional journey — tears, laughter, anger, you will feel along with the characters.  At the end of that journey, is there a need to gain an emotional conclusion to that that leaves no room for ambiguity? It’s also no surprise that in tougher times, books with happy endings sell more.  It’s a human need for comfort, for a way to escape into something that they know is under control.

So what about you? Do you migrate toward books and movies with a likely outcome of success of happiness?  I know I do.

Let’s SWAP TBR Piles…

I imagine for most of us, books are as much a staple in our houses as furniture (and heck, the former may even be used upon occasion to prop up the latter.)  And if you’re like me, you have some sort of organization (no matter how loose a word that is) to your books.  At the very least, you’ve probably separated the “To Be Read” pile out of the read pile.   (And if anyone tells me they have their books alphabetized, I might just send Fred to T-P your house.)

I also have a new sort of TBR pile… the one on my kindle.  I’m hoping that at some point, Kindle will allow for file management because this girl could seriously use some folders on hers.  But no matter where my TBR pile exists or what format, I find that it doesn’t much matter how many of those books I read, that pile never seems to get smaller!

Do you have that problem?  (Which I do realize translates to my buying books far faster than I can read them…)

In any case, let’s talk about our TBR piles.  What do you have in yours?  Since it would take me forever to go through titles, I’m just going to talk generally.

My TO BE READ pile consists of:

Genres

  • Historical romance
  • historical fiction
  • mystery, suspense or romantic suspense
  • A few YA novels I read in high school and loved
  • Contemporary romance

Authors

  • 75% are from authors I have previously read
  • 25% are new authors
  • 10% of the books are from one of my top 10 favorite authors

How Much I May Have Read In the Book

I am a mood reader, which means I have to be in the right mood to read the book, otherwise it won’t engage my interest.  So of the books I have, I would say that about 50% are ones I have started already then put aside because I couldn’t get into the story. 30% are ones I haven’t touched, and the remaining 20% are ones I picked up, read the backjacket and put down for later.

The Extended List

I have the books I’ve purchased, either Kindle or print, and then I have the books on my extended list… the ones I’m waiting to purchase until the main pile gets a little smaller.  That list is even longer…and never ends. And invariably, if I’m not in the mood for any of my TBR list, I’ll jump ahead to the Extended list and grab one of those. (It happens frequently.)

How I work Through the List

As you can tell, I work through the list based on mood.  There are a lot of books in my TBR pile that are from terrific authors, books that are probably fantastic books… but if I’m not in the mood to read them, they get put down.   For me, personally, that doesn’t translate to a bad book…because I will pick it up again when I am in the mood, for say a romantic thriller,  and love it.  However, if I try that book three times and can’t seem to keep with it, it tends to go in the “probably never TBR” pile.  And there are a few of those that eventually get donated to the library without ever being finished.

Right now…

Right now, I’m reading on my kindle so the paper TBR pile is on hold.  I’ve had most of those books for months and picked up a few, but just haven’t been in the frame of mind to read them.    However, at the moment, I am reading:

  • a historical romance from a favorite author that I started a few weeks back and stopped.  Picked it back up this past week and really enjoying it.
  • A contemporary romance (also from a favorite author) that I started and stopped because I was in the mood for historical.

Up Next, well, unless the mood passes

  • A romantic suspense that I can’t wait to read, but I’m in a historical mood, so it will likely wait until that mood passes.
  • A historical romance (or three) from a newly discovered author that is on my extended list and will likely jump the fence to be up next.
  • a contemp mystery from a new author… not sure when I’ll get around to it.

So that’s what I’m reading and how I work through my lists… what about you?

What genres do you have in your TBR?

Are they authors you’ve read before or new ones?

Does any specific genre or author get first dibs on your time?

How do you choose what to read?

And what are you reading now?

You Do Judge a Book By Its Cover

Since we were children, we have been told not to "judge a book by its cover." Of course, when you're six years old that means not to assume that the girl in the corner who looked and dressed different from everyone else is icky.  Or perhaps it means not assuming the boy sitting next to you has cooties, simply because he's a boy.  On the aspect of not judging a person based on their appearance, it's a solid idiom. People are much deeper than what you see on the outside, and if you make a snap decision about a person based on what you see at first glance, you often miss a tremendous amount. 

But in books, I find it hard not to judge by the cover.  I'm immediately drawn to certain types of covers. Yesterday, I went to my local Borders store to spend a few quiet hours writing.  I wandered through the store toward the cafe in the back and as usual, stopped to look at the bookshelves of interest to me.  I noticed a book I had just finished, MARKED BY PASSION by Kate Perry.  I noticed the cover of a book out in hardback that I'm anxiously waiting for the paperback (The new Susan Elizabeth Phillips book.) 

Beyond the familiar names, I peruse the covers to see if anything grabs me.  For me, personally, I'm drawn to covers that are photographic, not drawn.  For instance, a cover that literally threw itself into my hands was Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah.  I'm an avid reader of hers to start, so I automatically migrate to her section of the shelves.  However, from the moment I saw that cover, I knew I had to read the book. 

Now the interesting thing about this cover is that the girl on the front is not the girl in the book.  The girl in the book has dark hair. But of course, I didn't learn that until I read it.  And I didn't care once I did learn it.  (I loved the book.) 

However, it's nice to like a book cover when you already have a relationship with the author's work, but it's not always required for me.  With Kristin Hannah, I knew the chances of liking that story were very strong. 

So what about authors we don't know? When walking the bookshelves or searching online stores, what attracts you? 

Do I put the same emphasis on a cover while shopping online as I do when I'm in a bookstore?  If I'm specifically looking for a new author, what draws me to choose a book?

In the bookstore, the covers get my first pass.  I'll read the back cover and if I'm still interested, I'll read the first few pages.  That will usually make or break my decision.  But unless the cover jumps out at me, if its an author I've never read, I'm not likely to pick it up. So when it comes to new people, I am guilty of judging a book by its cover.

And online? I went to Amazon.com, to the book section, then my favorite genre: historical.  Now, I started at the list from the top, ignoring authors I had read. I continued through the list until a cover popped out at me.  This happened to be #4 on the list: Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Sanctuary

This cover appeals to me.  I like the simplicity of it.  The man's hand on a woman's back makes me wonder of the relationship between them.  It's sexy without being overt. 

Beyond Raybourn's books, it took me until #54 to find another book by an author I had not read in which the cover jumped out at me. This one was A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.  

Many of the other authors I would glance at because I know their names or have read their work.  But for me, at least, it proves that an appealing cover is vitally important in my decision to learn more about a book from an author I don't know. 

So what about you?  If you go to your favorite online store, to your favorite genre section and start scrolling through the list of books — look for a cover that appeals to you by an author you don't know.  What's the first on your list?  What appeals to YOU? 

And in the vein of covers, SOMETHING ABOUT HER is up for a New Covey Cover Award this month.  If you feel so inclined to vote for my cover, you can check out the entries here: New Covey Cover Awards. My cover is #24 on the list.

————–

Jeannie Ruesch
SOMETHING ABOUT HER, available April 10, 2009, from The Wild Rose Press 
~ "…a rich, well-presented story."~RT Book Reviews
~ "A wonderful debut!" ~NYTimes bestselling author Gaelen Foley 

An Interesting Thing Happened on the Way to the Plot…

Our regularly scheduled blogmate, Cheryl, had some difficulties getting here today, so I'm going to fill in.  She will be back next month.

———————-

So last night, I surprised myself.  Or perhaps, I should say my character surprised me.  I sat down to work on my characterization for the main protagonist of my thriller WIP. (I have two currently in progress: the 2nd book in the Willoughby Family series and when I need a break from that, I work on my thriller.) 

I wanted to write out my heroine's story, her childhood, get to know her better so as I work out the outline for the plot, I know what matters most to her. And a funny thing happened as I was writing her backstory: I started writing in first person.

Now anyone who knows me knows I don't like first person — it's hard for me to read so I generally don't. It has to be an amazing story for me to continue past the paragraph.  But my writing this in first person wasn't about changing how I will tell that story, it was about getting to know my heroine that much deeper.  I found a very definite shift in how close I felt to her, depending on how I wrote it. 

When I wrote it in 3rd person, it was the details and very little emotion. (I envision the Story Police over my shoulder, saying, "Just the facts, "ma'am. That's all you need right now.") And it was my intent, to lay out the facts of her life — the events, the triggers, the timeline. 

I would stop every now and then and write her thoughts,  what she was feeling and going through at that particular moment. The combination of these methods gave me so much more insight into my character, into why these events shaped who she is and how she does things.

As I wrote the heroine's story, I wrote the facts: 

Parents divorced. Father had an affair and fell in love with someone else.  Mother was angry and took Mariah away.  Never let her father see them again.

Those are the facts, Ma'am, yes, they are.  But how did Mariah feel? What did she notice? What meant the most to her at this time? I stopped and wrote Mariah's thoughts.

And here is what came from this exercise: 

Papa left.  Mommy is trying to pretend it’s just another business trip, but something is different.  I saw the suitcase by the door that HE packed.  He threw things into his car without thought, and he never did that before on a trip.  Whenever he used to leave before, Mommy always packed for him.  She would iron his clothes, lay them flat in the suitcase.   Then whenever she would go into the other room to get more of his things, I would sneak in something – a note to say I love you, Daddy.  Sometimes a piece of candy. He got a little upset with me that I didn’t wrap the last one, so this time I made sure to put it in a plastic baggie.  

Every time it’s just a business trip.  But this time, I hear them argue.  He says something about a woman named Sharon.  Mommy yells. She’s angry.  Papa is guilty, cause he looks like I do after I tell mommy I cleaned my room but didn’t. 

They didn’t seem to know that I could hear them. I’m not sure why.  And Papa left without saying goodbye.  He just left. 

I still have the candy in the baggie. Waiting for him.    I wonder if he’ll come back soon so I can give it to him.

This exercise helped to make my character real.  It made her unique. Plenty of people have parents who divorced.  And a lot have parents who cheated on each other.  There is nothing unique in her story, she isn't alone in those facts.  But she is unique in how she processes them.  The idea of making a tried and true story (ie the Cinderella story) into something fresh is nothing new.  But do you relate that to your characters, as well?  A girl from a broken family is nothing new. It's certainly not fresh.  So how do you make her unique? 

We have all heard the Goal, Motivation and Conflict aspects — each character needs the
se three elements.  But they need more.  They need to be human, and every one of us sees a situation differently, we notice different things, we remember in different ways.  That is what makes us unique, so it's what will make your characters stand out.  By using first person to get into Mariah's head, I saw the way SHE would see it, not the way I would see it.

The facts — sure we can all sympathize with a child from a broken family.  Nothing new. We've heard it before.  But the emotions — to know the child watched her father leave.  To know that she had something to give him, to show she loved him, but he never gave her the chance… we can feel the ache of that.  We can feel the pain of a child who was abandoned.  It's personal now.

This exercise also gave me a prop, so to speak. It gave me something tangible that would relate to her memory.  A plastic baggie.  Does she still have that baggie with the candy?  And even if she doesn't, would a plastic baggie –something completely benign to most– have an entirely different meaning to her?  A suitcase by the door is going to trigger that memory. It's going to trigger the emotions that went along with it.

I have 3 pages of mixed story now– some fact and some character thought.  In those three pages, I learned more about her than I have in the months I've been working on outlining this plot.

Try it.  You might find your heroine (or hero) will surprise you with what they share.

And if you're so inclined,  post your exercise in the comments.  Start with a line or two of facts — something that happened in your character's childhood.   Then, put yourself in his/her mind and write out that scene from their eyes, from their heart.  I'd love to see what you come up with.

Love & Relationships: Dating a Bad Boy

Why are so many women interested in the bad boy? This is the fixer-upper.  Cute, sexy but rough around the edges. This is the type of dude guys like me can’t stand because instead of dating someone that’s good for them, women (or even men) will sometimes choose the ones that treat them crap. This is also the type of love relationship that always leads to a break up. Why?

I tease my female friends that most women seem to want a “project”, a boyfriend they can work on and modify and mold into what they want and if they’re lucky enough to somehow turn their bad boy into a respectable one then they’re bored with him because he’s not who they fell in love with and then ends in a break up.

What is so hard about choosing someone you can accept as-is? Like when you’re buying a used car. You know it ain’t perfect but it does the job, doesn’t it? Why is it so important to shape and prod and mold your boyfriend into what you feel is your ideal man?

People are not “projects” they are people through and through.  In my novel, Forever My Lady, one of the main characters, Jennifer learns this the hard way when she tries to change her bad boy, Dio from being a hard core trouble maker into being who she envisions him to be.  She learns the hard way because in the end he makes all the changes she wants him to make superficially but by that time her heart has fallen for someone else. So much so that she plans on marrying someone else and let’s just say Dio doesn’t take it very well when he shows up at her wedding with a gun.The intentions might be pure. You might see this lost soul and oh, if they’d only do this or that then they’d be much happier.

But if someone doesn’t want to be helped, you cannot help them.  I spent so much effort tries to communicate with my other half exactly how I wanted them to behave but it didn’t work. It was a love relationship that was a total waste of time and a waste of energy and resulted in a break up.I’ve had my fair share of love relationships and that is one thing I’ve learned from all of them.

Ladies, if you can’t accept your boyfriend exactly the way they are with absolutely no changes then move the hell on. It’s not worth it. You’ll be frustrated because they’re not being who you want them to be and they’ll be frustrated cause you’re frustrated and because you’re not accepting them for who they are.Accept them how they are or move on.

Jeff Rivera is the author of Forever My Lady. For more information visit Amazon.com or www.JeffRivera.com