Wife, Mother, Writer, Reader, Ice Cream Lover

A post on Book Riot (my new favorite website about books and reading), The Reasons I Don't Read: Causes of the Dreaded Book Slump, hit home with me this morning because I am in a book slump. In fact, I'm so bothered by my book slump it made the list of things that are pissing me off that I bombarded my poor husband with on Tuesday.

  1. I'm procrastinating.
  2. I'm not writing.
  3. I hate our gym.
  4. I can't lose weight.
  5. I haven't lost myself in a book in months.

I won't bore you with talk about the first four because they are all on me and things I could fix if I put my mind to it. Though, in my defense, our gym isn't a gym, but a rec center with all the weird little quirks that comes with that. That place pissed me off from the word go with their weird childcare hours (at a crucial time in my life when working out was my only avenue to sanity), stupid rules and the fact it didn't have a water fountain on the workout floor. I mean, come on. What the hell kind of design is that?

*takes a deep breath*

Anyway. Reading. I talked to writer friends about this last night at happy hour.

And, can I just stop down right here and say how amazingly awesome is that I'm having happy hour with writer friends? Slowly but surely, I feel like I'm a part of a larger community, an industry, that I'm a professional. Crazy how much I missed that.

Anyway. Reading.

I can't read a novel without analyzing it from a writer's point of view. Without thinking,

"Oh! I should do that!" or

"Good God! I would never do that!" or

"Oh my God! Do I do that?" or

"If I did that, Workshop would cut me off at the knees."

Let me tell you, it sucks the enjoyment right out of reading.

"Come on, Melissa. Not reading isn't the end of the world."

To that I say, "You obviously aren't a reader." It is the end of the world. I love reading. It's who I am. Reading has educated me, comforted me, angered me, inspired me. One of my biggest joys in life is recommending a book to a friend and that friend loving it. It's a Twitter descriptor - wife, mother, writer, reader, ice cream lover - the last of which explains #4 up there. It's not like reading is a bad habit I need to kick. In fact, it's something I have to do to be a good writer.

Therein lies the problem.

I haven't been picking up books that grab my interest, but books I feel like I should read, specifically mysteries.

Here's a little quirk of mine: I write mysteries but I don't read a lot of mysteries. In fact, I write mysteries that I want to read. Fodder for another post.

As a result, instead of focusing on enjoying the story, I've been over-analyzing the text, the writer's style, how it differs from mine, what I can learn. In the last six months, reading has become homework and no one likes homework. My writer friends suggested I should get completely out of my genre which is, of course, the common sense response and one I should have seen myself, and would have if the other four issues up there hadn't sent me spiraling into irritation overload.

Will I continue to analyze everything I read. Probably. I fear it is the curse of being a writer. But, I still believe there are books out there that I will lose myself in, that I will forget to think of scene structure, tension, dialogue and plot. There's only one way to find it.

Keep reading.

Top Ten Tuesday: To Read or Not To Read?

It's Tuesday, which means I can use the prompt from The Broke and the Bookish to keep my blog from getting covered in cobwebs. This week's list is Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read --- basically any book that has you going, "TO READ OR NOT TO READ?" 1. Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Picketty - I want to read this but I generally only make it 10% into business/self-improvement books before I'm bored out of my mind.

173332232. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - A book about "a rumination on the nature of art and appearances" doesn't entice me to tackle a 784 page book, especially when I have its cousin sitting on my bedside table, waiting for me to finish.

3. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - the aforementioned cousin of The Goldfinch, i.e. literary doorstop with a partially obscured painting on a tan book cover. I started The Luminaries but I too easily set it aside for me to hurry back to it.

4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville - Poor Moby Dick. It will never get off of my To Read or Not To Read list, I fear.

5. William Faulkner - He may be brilliant, but he's a slog.

6. Middlemarch by George Eliot - another English language masterpiece I didn't connect with.

7. John Green - Was so unimpressed with The Fault in our Stars I doubt I'll ever pick up another one of his books, especially when a common criticism I hear is his books are startlingly similar.

8. Outlander Books 6-8 - I blew through the first five books one after the other years ago when I discovered Gabaldon. I loved her writing, characters, history and scope. But reading one after the other burned me out on the world. I would need to re-read the first books before tackling 6-8 and I've no doubt the same thing would happen. Luckily, the Starz adaptation is brilliant.

9. Game of Thrones Books 5 and Beyond - Started and disliked book five. Immensely. Maybe more than The Fault in our Stars, which is saying something.

I'll stop there. It feels weird, wrong even, to write a post about books I'm not going to read. Still, blog content!

What books do you vacillate on?

Top Ten Tuesday - 10 Books That Will Be in My Backpack* This Summer

image from danshamptons * I have mountains and rivers in my future, not beaches. Maybe one beach, but it'll be cold. I'm still using the beach picture...oh, never mind.

From The Broke and the Bookish: Ten Books That Will Be In My Beach Bag This Summer...Until I go to Barnes and Noble and hear the siren song of the buy 2 get 1 free table.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass - I bought this at DFW Con a month ago and have been reading it in fits and starts. I need to dive into it.

Calling me Home by Julie Kibler - another purchase from DFW Con.

Ashenden, or The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham - part of my Reading Hitchcock series

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy - I've never met Murphy personally, but she's friends with writers in my workshop. Plus, the book has received good reviews.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - I should probably add Attachments to the list as well.

The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara - Civil War historical fiction

The Lumineers by Elizabeth Catton - the 2013 Booker Prize Winner has been on my bedside table for three weeks, getting dusty. I'm 100 pages in and am enjoying it...?

Silas Marner by George Eliot - for my 23 Short Classics Book Club on Goodreads

Whack Job by Kendel Lynn - Second in the Elliot Lisbon series, and a book I gave away a couple of weeks ago!


Your turn. What's in your suitcase/beach bag/backpack this summer? Share in the comments.

It's Summer! Time to read.

image from danshamptons Welcome to June. The month where temperatures start to rise outside and I buy a jumbo Ibuprofen from Costco to alleviate all the headaches my constantly fighting 12 and 15 year old sons will give me until August 25. But, refereeing fights is not what this post is about. June is also the official start of reading season and I'm here with links to all the Summer Reading lists that have hit the internet like Old Faithful. But, wait, Melissa. Why aren't you recommending books to read for the summer? One, I'm lazy. Two, I have a smidge of a headache (my body prepping for the summer, no doubt). Three, it's almost nap time.

Enough about me. On to the book recommendations and general bookish type links!


The LA Times decides to make every other book list feel inadequate from the word go and  previews 143 books. 143!

Also on the LA Times, David Ulin muses about unfulfilled summer reading projects.

Worried they'll lose their literary street cred if they admit to reading a book with a picture of sand and water on the cover, five best-selling authors' tell what they're reading this summer, and it's heavy on the thinking and learning. (CNN)

The Minneapolis Star Tribune gives five mysteries you must read, then 10 more. That's 15 recommendations, btw. You're welcome.

USA Today Profiles Rainbow Rowell, as they should because she is made of awesomeness. They did not confirm, nor deny, the rumor that rainbows shoot from Rowell's fingers and unicorns dance on her keyboard when she is writing, but anyone who's read her work already knows the answer.

USA Today HIghlights 30 Hot Summer Reads. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say these are duplicated in the LA Times Summer Preview of 143 books. 143!

The thought of scrolling through 143 (143!) or 30 book recommendations stress you out?  Hollywood Report has you covered with a measly 10 recs for you ADHD suffering fools.

Huff Po, that bastion of the long read, decided 30 was too many but 10 was not enough, so they went with 16. They don't know why they chose 16 instead of 15, or 20 either, but they sure as hell never considered 143. 143! Though now that they think of it, a 143 picture gallery would pull in a helluva lot of page views...

Then, the NY Post goes and chooses 29. Where do these people come up with these numbers? I like the variety in the Post's choices, though.

The St Louis Post Dispatch wins for organization: they've divided their list out by month of release. Or maybe they win for the lazy. Trust me, I'm a well-qualified judge (see this post you're reading). We'll be nice and call it the Cut and Paste Award.

Don't worry. I'm trying to post on my blog every weekday during June. I'll be back with more links to book recommendations soon. Probably sooner than I should.



June Reading Round Up: Young Adult Fiction

Sometimes, I confuse myself. I do. For the whole month of June, I was meh on reading. None of the books I read were so wonderful I couldn't put it down. But, six of the eight books I read this month received four or five stars. That is by far the best monthly rating average for the year. Maybe I graded the YA books on a curve, though that doesn't sound like me at all. I'm not nearly that nice.

An aside here: I'm sitting on my deck writing this post. It's 84 degrees in Texas at 5 pm on July 1. That makes me ridiculously happy.

Update: Here is is, July 3 and I haven't finished this post. That pretty much sums up my whole month of reading YA. Start and stop. Kinda dread going back to it but when I do, I enjoy it.

It's official: I'm a mess.

Top Pick of the Month


Eleanor and Park (★★★★★) by Rainbow Rowell - this was recommended by an agent I met at DFW Con and has been frequently included on Summer Reading lists.  It deserves the praise. I'm not sure what this would be categorized as - teen romance, maybe? But, it is a far cry from Sweet Valley High. The alternating POV and voices of the characters are well done and the setting (mid-80s) brought back teenage memories of my own. I don't even resent the author for that.

You Can't Go Wrong With...

Stargirl (★★★★★) by Jerry Spinelli

The Rules for Disappearing (★★★★) - a nice little thriller that probably shouldn't be a series, but whatever.

You want issues? I've got your issues.

Twisted (★★★★) by Laurie Halse Anderson - the ending, especially the resolution between the father and son, might be a little too pat, but overall a well-intentioned book with a good message.


This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel - I am a huge fan of Oppel's Airborn series (if you haven't heard of it or read it, you really should; action adventure with airships, a little teen romance, shipwrecks, a desert island and pirates!) and I thought the premise of this series (the teen years of Viktor Frankenstein) was a cool hook. It just didn't keep me interested.

Divergent by Veronica Roth - tries a little too hard to fill The Hunger Games void.

A list about failing and not having the will to try. Awesome!

Top Ten Tuesday is an online meme created by The Broke and the Bookish – check out their blog for some great book reviews and recommendations! Today’s list is Top Ten Most Intimidating Books (might be intimidated by size, content, that everyone else loves it but you are sure you won’t etc).

1. Moby Dick - I've tried to read Moby Dick and failed. I tried to listen to Moby Dick and failed. If I thought there was a decent screen adaptation of it I would watch it, but I'm afraid there isn't. The truth of the matter is, I only want to read it because I feel like I should.

2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas - If I didn't know the ending, I might be more apt to pick it up.

3. Le Miserables by Victor Hugo - another book I started and stopped.

4. Blindness - Stream of conscious. Need I say more?

5. Cloud Atlas - Moves back and forth in time.

6. Love in the Time of Cholera - I'm not sure why this is intimidating, but it's been on my bookshelf for a few years and I keep passing it by.

6. Blood Meridian - I've heard how difficult McCarthy is to read too many times to not be intimidated.

7. Bleak House by Charles Dickens - long and about a legal case. I'm falling asleep typing that. Plus, the British mini-series from a few years back was awesome.

8. Vanity Fair - again, length.

9. Anything else by Faulkner - it was a struggle enough to get through The Sound and the Fury.

10. Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote - I really, really want to read this but geez. It's almost 3000 pages long. I probably should have started it when the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War started back in 2011. Now I'm mad I didn't think of that sooner.