Tag: novels

My Top 11 Favorite Classic Novels

When people see how much I love movies they sometimes assume that I don’t also like to read. This is probably because in my experience many men choose movies over reading but I think both are essential to be a full complete person. I love movies but there is something about the experience of living in stories that only books can give you. Movies give you a 2 hour story but a book can delight you for weeks depending on its size.

Recently I enjoyed watching the kickoff program for The Great American Read. This is a 2 hour show on PBS that has compiled a list of the 100 best books of all time. Some are questionable such as 50 Shades of Grey and an embarrassing number I haven’t read but watching the show inspired me to do more reading and to tell you my lovely readers about the books that I love.

To start off I thought it would be fun to share My Top 11 Favorite Classic Novels. Classic is obviously a relative term but for the sake of my list I started at 1960 as the end point (the year To Kill a Mockingbird was written). Some of these books are helped by nostalgia but they are all excellent on their own. It is also interesting that 8 of the novels are written by women. So here goes:

middle march

11. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872)-

There was always a high chance I would love Middlemarch because it is my Mother’s favorite novel. Still I put off reading it for many years because its length intimidated me. However, if you can brave it Middlemarch treats you to a beautiful story about a woman named Dorothea who is trying desperately to do the right thing over what is convenient and easy. She marries out of a desire for intellectual enlightenment and then is sorely disappointed when it proves cold and distant. Then she meets Will Ladislaw and the 2 become friends. Everything is kept honorable but the connection Eliot has with her characters is beautiful and gives you hope for the goodness that lies within all of us.

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

my antonia

10. My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)-

Like Eliot, Willa Cather is a novelist who always seems to find the humanity in her characters. It’s like she is writing about her dear friends not just people in a book. In My Antonia she captures the beauty and burdens of life on the American Prairie for orphan Jim and immigrant girl Antonia. We see them as children and then read as they grow up and life doesn’t turn out the way they think it will.

“Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

adventures of sherlock

9. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)-

Where Middlemarch is beloved by my Mother, Sherlock Holmes is beloved by my Father. I’m not sure why he loves him so much but he always has. What appeals to me about the character is how Sherlock uses his brain as his super power. He’s unpredictable and intense but in the end always comes up with what is just and true- and usually staring the victims/police in the face the whole time! This first book has 12 of his stories including A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, and the Man with the Twisted Lip. So fun!

“As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”

howard's end

8. Howard’s End by E.M. Forster (1910)

I love novels that have a sense of humanity for all its characters and that is what I get with Howard’s End. What I love the most about Forster’s writing is he doesn’t have villains. In a lesser hand the rich capitalist Wilcox’s would be the greedy villains but that isn’t the case. They are operating within their upbringing and doing what they think is right. When Mr Wilcox gives advice to the struggling clerk Leonard Bast he isn’t trying to be underhanded but is genuinely passing on knowledge without thinking of its ramifications. The Schlegal sisters are of an intellectual class that have the money to think about such things without having the burden of leadership. Every character has clear motivations and a story that feels real and moving and Howard’s End feels like a sanctuary we all yearn for and seek out.

“Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty.”

little women

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)-

Little Women was the first big novel I recall reading and being proud I had finished it. I loved the story of each of the 4 girls. I loved the romance both scorned and returned. I cried my eyes out at poor Beth. As an adult, I can see the pulpy nature of especially the follow up book but I still love it. Just like most, I relate to Jo who wants to make a difference in the world and be independent and free. But I also relate to the selfish Amy, insecure Meg and shy Beth. I have all of those sides in me. And it always made sense to me that Jo refused Laurie. They were not only very different but she needed to go out and see the world and not get married in some stuffy house. With Professor Bhaer she got someone who was experienced and she had lived a little bit more. She needed a thoughtful yet adventurous spirit and that’s what she got in the Professor!

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

jane eyre.jpg

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)-

I have always loved a great romance and what makes Jane Eyre so great is it is about 2 troubled souls who find each other and just when all seems to be lost it all works out. As readers we start with Jane as a young girl being treated terribly by the Reed family and then being sent to Lowood School where she is beaten but finally finds a friend in Helen and Miss Temple (so sad with Helen). Then she is grown up and it is time to go to Thornfield Hall and meet Mr Rochester. These 2 have such chemistry because they both have been battered and bruised by the world. I love the dialogue between them and how it builds slowly over time. And then when his secret is revealed Jane’s morals must send her away and it is devastating. Then we get the contrast between those morals and the missionary whom she has no chemistry with at all. It’s a fantastic love story.

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you… I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”

anne of green gables

5. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (1908)-

Much like Jo March, Anne Shirley was a literary hero for me as a child. I was not a child that loved fantasy stories with mysticism and lore but I did like to daydream and Anne is the ultimate daydreamer. You could say that daydreaming rescued Anne. I love the way she see’s everything through her own world and is confident enough to voice that world out loud. She doesn’t care what the locals call the pond. To her it is the Lake of Shining Waters. There is something so appealing about this kind of hope and dream. The rest of the characters are so lovely and it has such heart. It made me constantly search for kindred spirits and hope for a love I might want to occasionally break a slate over his head!

“Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… Yet.”

christmas carol

4. A Christmas Carol (1843)-

We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (you can read my Scrooge Month reviews here) but I fear our familiarity with the text causes us to forget how great a story it truly is. I love stories of redemption and Scrooge coming to know Christ through Christmas is one of the greats. Like so many Scrooge has become bitter because of the disappointments and tragedies of life. He has decided to separate himself from Christ and his fellow mankind because he doesn’t want to get hurt. This is the lesson he learns from his ghostly visitors and from the frail but faithful Tiny Tim.

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused”

to kill a mockingbird

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)-

If someone asked me for a novel that might help them become a better person I would give them To Kill a Mockingbird. Told from the innocent perspective of a young girl observing her father, we learn in the novel what it means to have integrity and to fight for lost causes. Atticus knows representing Tom is a futile endeavor but he does it anyway. He see’s the value in the mockingbird which is ordinary and worthless to others. To Kill a Mockingbird gives us hope that good people like Atticus will always do what is right and will love no matter what. Boo Radley in contrast is the quiet one who saves Scout when nobody else can. It’s just beautiful and perfect.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

pride and prejudice

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)-

I could easily put Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion on this list but when it comes down to it Pride and Prejudice is my favorite from Jane Austen. As a teen I got caught up in the romance of this book. Will Darcy forgive Lizzie after she so hotly rebuked him? Will they survive the shame of Lydia’s carelessness? Will Bingley and Jane ever get together? It was all very compelling stuff! But as an adult I appreciate the novel on a deeper level. Austen really doesn’t have much romance in her books but she has characters that have to make choices and that are brave for their time. Lizzie could even be considered reckless considering the financial state of her family for refusing Mr Collins let alone Darcy. This is what makes her story compelling and their final union so satisfying. It is also full of witty satire that still holds up and is funny over 200 years later.

“I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.”

north and south

1. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)-

Elizabeth Gaskell is my favorite author and I try to read her books each year. When I do I am always struck by how modern her characters feel. If they were to sub out more modern language the characters choices would feel right at home in a contemporary novel. In North and South she creates 2 fantastic characters in Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Margaret has been forced to move the Northern city of Milton where she meets the proud self-made Thornton. He is strong-willed like her but not a gentleman in her eyes. Then she and him get mixed up in the woes of the factory workers at his mill and the tension begins to mount. There is such chemistry between Margaret and Thornton from the first moment they meet, but it is not just a romance but an exploration of these 2 characters and how they let go of their pride to love. It will be too long for some folks but I adore it and find it endlessly re-readable.

“He knew how she would love. He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love.”

So that is my list! What do you think of it? Let me know! I will be putting out a couple more book lists so let me know what you would like to see.

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Teaser Tuesdays: A Year of Magical Thinking

This week’s Teaser Tuesdays is a book I had to re-read for book club and I must own it is not a favorite of mine.  I thought I might like it better on the reread but still find it more of a clinical exercise than actual prose. It is Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking.  Let’s just say I could use with less of Joan’s magic…

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

year of magical thinking

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

I listened to The Year of Magical Thinking and am nearly finished.  My quote is from 3 hr 36 min in :

“When the twilights got long in June I forced myself to eat dinner in the living room where the light was.  After John died I had begun eating by myself in the kitchen. The dining room was too big and the table in the living room was where he had died but when the long twilights came I had a strong sense that he would want me to see the light

I guess there could be some magic in where Joan eats but this quote is emblematic of the blandness of Joan’s insight.  It’s the kind of book that you feel bad for not liking because it clearly meant so much for her to write, but it just didn’t do it for me on this read through or last.

Every journal does not make a good book and that’s essentially what Joan has done.  It feels like her therapist told her to write out her thoughts on the death of her husband and coma of her daughter and she published it.  It seems like she is working out these experiences but not in a compelling way, at least for me.  It’s just I went here, dreamed about this, and look at this study  I found…  There’s a lot of stats and quotes about grieving and typical human responses to things which made it feel oddly detatched from a human response. Joan often felt robotic instead of a mother and wife.  It felt very clinical like something you’d tell a therapist.
I kind of think of it like several books about addiction I’ve read.  Overcoming addiction is one of the hardest things anyone can do. I’ve seen it ravage and take the lives of 2 of my cousins.  However, as narratives go, addiction isn’t a gripping topic for most books.  It’s such a self-contained, even selfish time and to a reader it can feel like wallowing in problems rather than surmounting them.  That’s kind of how Joan’s book feels.  What should be dramatic and moving feels flat, lifeless and boring.
Again, I feel bad criticizing a heartfelt book, but I have enough issues in my life without slogging through the nuts and bolts of Joan’s problems.  It’s all too safe.  Too clinical and not enough of a story for a compelling read. I certainly didn’t find any magic in Joan’s journey.  Sorry… I wish her all the best though and hopefully she eventually has some happiness in her life.
It will be interesting to see what people at book club think.  I know at least several have found it to be rough going.   Have you read it? What did you think?  It won National Book Award so clearly others found it moving.  Just not me.

Friday Five: Instrumentals and Nanowrimo Update

Hi guys!  I hope you are all having a great start of Fall (or at least that’s what it feels like here in Utah with things getting very crisp and cold this week).  I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo so that’s why I haven’t posted on this blog this week.  My apologies for that but doing best I can.  My  novel is coming along pretty well.  I am ahead of the game as far as word count which makes me feel good because I don’t know how much I will be able to write this weekend with stuff going on.

wpid-snapchat-100529400831000105.jpgSo far I feel like the book has done a lot of describing things and not quite enough character development so that is something I need to work on but I am able to get my daily word count in and sometimes more which is what is most important to me. I really like the lead character I’ve created and feel a little bad for the mess that is about to happen in her life.  Poor fictional characters and their hard life! 😉

How are you guys doing with NaNoWriMo?  How are your novels coming along?

FRIDAY FIVE

This is Friday so it also means it is time for the Friday Five!  This weeks topic is all about instrumentals and being a movie fan of course I had to include mostly scores as my choices but I love the 5 songs I picked.

What are instrumentals that you like?  What scores from movies are your favorite?  Put in the comments section and if you like the video I would love if you gave it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

NaNoWriMo Tag and My Writing Process

So NaNoWriMo is coming and I feel a little unprepared but am excited!  I filmed this video about NaNoWriMo video today and it included a tag.  In the video I go into my process for writing and has little segments of all 3 of my books (this will be my 4th year doing NaNoWriMo).

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  What are you writing about?  What strategies do you use to finish the challenge?  I would love to discuss it in the comments.  It is going to be a challenge for me this year with everything else I have going on but luckily I am a pretty fast writer so it should be ok.  I will certainly do my best.

If you are doing NaNoWriMo please follow me on the NaNoWriMo website and let’s support each other!

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/smilingldsgirl

Happy writing!!

Nanowrimo Surprise Attack

So friends of the blog will probably be aware 2015 will be my 4th year entering the Nanowrimo challenge.  This is a world-wide challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I am a very fast writer so typically it hasn’t that big of a challenge; however, I have usually had a clear idea of what I am writing about well in advance of November.  This year it has kind of creeped up on me.   And now I am sitting with under a month to start date with no idea what to write about….Yikes!

I am also a little nervous because with two blogs and a youtube channel it is going to be tough to fit it all in (not too mention a job and other responsibilities!).  I’ve got to finish my animated Oscars series over on my channel before the challenge starts.  I have gotten a little bit behind but should post 2012 this week.  That leaves only 10 films to watch (only…).  Plus, there are new films like Bridge of Spies, Suffragette, Macbeth and Good Dinosaur to see and review in the next 2 months.  How am I going to fit writing a novel into all of this? Much less a novel I have no idea what to write about?

nanowrimoTo my fellow Nanowrimo friends has it caught you by surprise before or do you always have a plan on what you are writing about?   The two best ideas I have come up with so far is to basically take another stab at writing my first book.  It’s been a while and I’m not working in accounting any more so I’m not as personally close to the story as I was when I wrote it in 2012.  It would be entirely new prose but just the same core plot of me quitting my job (it’s kind of a Devil Wears Prada type story).

That sounds kind of boring though writing the same plot and characters over again so I’d like to come up with some fresh take on it.  Unfortunately my mind is just blank on what to do.

The other idea I have is to use all 54 Disney films and have a character go through each of the worlds of the films.  It would be kind of like Once Upon a Time but I would cover movies they don’t like Treasure Planet and Atlantis.  It would basically be fan fiction but who cares if it is fun to write!

nanowrimo1This is kind of new territory for me as I have always been so focused in the past.  Do you have any suggestions for getting the brainstorming creative juices flowing?  I just read The Martian by Andrew Weir and loved it (and the movie) so that’s always inspiring and I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker which is something totally new and different.  I wish I could write a book like Finding Audrey- my other favorite book of the year.

Anyway, I would love any feedback on those ideas or anything I could do to help me think of something else to write about.  Thanks so much!

Are any of you doing the Nanowrimo challenge?  I would love to know and follow you on the Nanowrimo website.  That way we can support one another.  Take care!

Nanowrimo Update and First Drafts

Hi guys!  I just wanted to give you a little update on how things are going here in Nanowrimo land.  Well, as you can see from this photo I am happily engaged in the project.

rachelMy story ended up taking a darker turn than I expected with my character who has never fallen in love meeting a girl at school who is in an abusive relationship.  It was my first time writing an intense scene like that and it was quite draining!

Even with the intensity I’m really enjoying my story.  It is a combination of About a Boy, Erin Brokovich, 40 Year Old Virgin and a bunch of other stories.  It’s a good mixture of comedy, drama, friendship and family and characters that really aren’t much like me which is new.  Branching out I guess!

Some people question the value in all this writing.  I mean shouldn’t you edit as you go to produce something good?  The surprising answer is No.  We are creating a first draft of your story and stopping can be anti-productive in developing the first version of said story.  That’s what makes Nanowrimo so effective it gets you to get the story out on the paper and then the multiple versions and rewrites that inevitably come with publishing a novel would come next.  That’s the tough part.  The fun part is the power of creation.

Chris Baty the founder of Nanowrimo started it with 20 of his friends who just thought writing would be fun to do together and it grew, and grew to 500,000 worldwide participants in 2014.  He was recently interviewed on NPR and I really enjoyed the whole broadcast and his comments about first drafts.

A Washington Post article says about Baty and the program ”

“We wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twentysomethings start bands,” Baty writes on the event’s Web site. “Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.”

But a funny thing happened on the way to 50,000 words. They discovered the writing process was fun, something they hadn’t expected. It was like watching TV. “You get a bunch of friends together, load up on caffeine and junk food, and stare at a glowing screen for a couple of hours,” Baty writes. “And a story spins itself out in front of you.”

I can really relate to that (except for the date part!) but the excitement of creating something and helping others get involved.  This year I’ve enjoyed encouraging a number of friends in their stories and that is so rewarding.  I keep telling them it’s not about the publishibility or a section being good, it’s just keeping the story going.  I tell them ‘don’t edit.  That’s for December’. What a freeing thing!

wordsSo I’m loving the process and hope you are too.  Let me know how it is going for you.  And Happy writing!!!

 

Nanowrimo Coming Up

nanowrimo1Hey guys!  So Nanowrimo is coming up on Saturday! I have come up with what I think will be a solid concept for my story about a woman who has never fallen in love.  I’m really excited to get writing!

I’m curious for your suggestions about how I can best use the blog while writing? Would you guys like to read little sections?  Would you like if I posted about writing and the process of Nanowrimo?  I only have so much time so I’m not promising anything but I am sure I can pump out a few posts?

I could do different exercises or character sketches to give you an idea of wha tI am writing about (and help me while I’m at it).  Would that be fun for you? Or should I just occasionally post about other things not related to Nanowrimo during November (like Thanksgiving and other events going on).  Maybe you guys don’t have any interest in Nanowrimo and my progress. Let me know!

I’d be curious to know how many of my readers are participating.  Please share.  I’d love to hear about your concepts and genres you will be working in.

Thanks in advance for the support and if anyone is interested in guest posting on either of my blogs I’d love it! Happy Nanowrimo!