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Au Revoir, Blog!

I started Read, Write & Live two years ago on my birthday, July 18. I had come from a rather pathetic attempt at blogging on Blogspot. While this blog didn’t churn out as many posts as I had planned, I can assure you it was a step ahead of the first blog. After much consideration, I have decided to end this journey. Before anyone gets too sad, let me remind you all of what Dumbledore said to Hagrid when bringing Harry to Number 4, Private Drive…

“There, there, Hagrid. It’s not goodbye, after all.”

Okay, I’m not Dumbledore, and certainly nowhere close to JK Rowling, but as stated above, this is not goodbye.

I have started a new blog in the hopes of sharing book reviews and writing more in general. I don’t have much else to say on this blog, so please check out the new one: Lost Generation Reader.

It’s been real, and it’s been great, and it’s been really great. I look forward to hearing from you at the new blog.

Cheers!
Jenna

UPDATE: Thank you again to everyone who entered the giveaway. I have contacted and heard back from the winners. Congratulations to Ali, Adam, and Elizabeth. They were each randomly selected and will be given a book of their choice from The Book Depository.

Ali will be receiving A House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen.

Adam will be receiving In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Marcel Proust.

Elizabeth will be receiving The Bright Forever by Lee Martin.

Please check back again for further giveaways. Happy summer to all!

Welcome to the Read, Write & Live book giveaway. This blog hop is hosted by Leeswammes. Please check out her page for more information.

THE RULES:
1. You must be 13+ years old to participate.
2. You do not need a blog to participate.
3. No restrictions on location. This is an international giveaway.
4. Winners will be picked using random.org.
5. FILL OUT THIS FORM.
Note: You must fill out the form above in order to be entered into the giveaway. While comments are appreciated, leaving one does not count as an entry.

The giveaway is open from June 23 – June 27 (11 pm Central Time). I will select winners around June 28. The winners will have 48 hours to respond to the email. If there is no response by that time, I will pick again.

THE PRIZE:
I will give away 1 book for every 15 entries with a maximum of 3 books. It can be any book of literary merit. In other words, choose something that could be seen in the Literature section of a store/site. This will not include Young Adult, Romance or any other specific genre. The winner’s book can be worth up to $20. I will purchase the books from an online source (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

Best of luck to everyone!

For more giveaways, check out these blogs:

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Candle Beam Book Blog
  3. Musings of a Bookshop Girl
  4. Book Journey (US/CA)
  5. breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  6. bibliosue
  7. heavenali
  8. I Read That Once…
  9. The Parrish Lantern
  10. The Bibliomouse
  11. Tell Me A Story
  12. Seaside Book Nook
  13. Rikki’s Teleidoscope
  14. Sam Still Reading
  15. Nishita’s Rants and Raves
  16. Readerbuzz
  17. 2,606 Books and Counting
  18. Laurie Here (US/CA)
  19. Literary Winner (US)
  20. Dolce Bellezza
  21. The House of the Seven Tails
  22. The Book Diva’s Reads (US)
  23. Colorimetry
  24. Roof Beam Reader
  25. Kate’s Library
  26. Minding Spot (US)
  27. Silver’s Reviews (US)
  28. Book’d Out
  29. Fingers & Prose (US)
  30. Chocolate and Croissants
  31. Scattered Figments
  32. Lucybird’s Book Blog
  33. The Book Club Blog
  34. Lizzy’s Literary Life
  35. The Book Stop
  1. Reflections from the Hinterland (US)
  2. Lena Sledge’s Blog
  3. Read in a Single Sitting
  4. The Little Reader Library (UK)
  5. The Blue Bookcase (US)
  6. 1morechapter (US)
  7. The Reading and Life of a Bookworm
  8. Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  9. My Sweepstakes City (US)
  10. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  11. Exurbanis
  12. Sweeping Me (US/CA)
  13. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  14. Beauty Balm
  15. Uniflame Creates
  16. Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book (US/CA)
  17. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  18. Nose in a book (Europe)
  19. Giraffe Days
  20. Page Plucker
  21. Based on a True Story
  22. Read, Write & Live
  23. Devin Berglund (N. America)
  24. Ephemeral Digest
  25. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  26. Annette Berglund (US)
  27. Book Nympho
  28. A Book Crazy, Jane Austen Lovin’ Gal (US)
  29. Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

What is a Writer?

Many thanks to everyone who read and commented on my previous post about “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. I have since had discussions with a few other people about the trilogy as well as writing in general. Quality and popularity are two of my biggest issues with the books. While I cannot do anything about popularity or say anything to change the fact that some people would rather read these books than what I like (#firstworldproblems), I will argue book quality to the core until the end of my days. People enjoy reading different genres, and I have no problem with that, but if a book lacks quality it is my belief that it should not receive international attention.

As previously stated, my mother loaned the books to my sister which is what started this entire debacle. She was so kind as to weigh in on my post the other day about the trilogy. Within her comment was this sentence:  “I don’t expect the book to be “well written” when she’s not a writer (she’s a mom) and this was her first attempt at it.”

Wait a minute, I’m confused. She’s not a writer? While the “she’s a mom” part makes no sense to me either, I know it wasn’t meant in some anti-feminist way where a woman couldn’t be both, so I’ll refrain from giving her too much grief about that part. I’ll get to the first and last parts of her sentence, but first I must tackle the most important question: What is a writer?

Google defines a writer as:

  1. A person who has written a particular text.
  2. A person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.

For the sake of humor, there is also the definition outlined by Uncyclopedia:

A writer is someone who can’t be bothered going to work, and instead sits at home all day drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, scribbling down pointless and uninteresting strings of disjointed words. Some substitute cigarettes for a chocolate bar, though the use of coffee seems to remain a constant theme. Writers attempt to avoid contact with reality as much as possible, because facing the cold hard truth about their lack of worth only fills them with self-doubt and depresses them. Because of their promiscuous lifestyles, many writer’s acquire a disease known as Writer’s Block to which there is no cure.

I see a writer as someone who simply writes, just as a person who bakes is a baker and someone who sculpts is a sculptor. You don’t need to be well-known or have published to be a writer. Publication makes you an author, but a writer is more simple than that. By definition, E.L. James is a writer, and no opinion on writing quality can change that.

What makes a writer good is an entirely different story, just as what makes a book good is an entirely different story. This is another “matter of opinion” situation. While I have had people argue in favor of characterization and plot, I have yet to hear anyone argue that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was well-written. I don’t think I’ve even heard anyone argue that it’s original, and I should hope not considering it was based off of Twilight fanfiction, and generally speaking this story has been written before. So if it’s not well-written or original, why are people reading it? Is it the smut? Perhaps. They might like the plot or relate to one of the characters somehow. I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care. All I know is that the books lack writing quality, and that’s reason enough for me to stay away.

Back to my mother’s statement of not expecting a book to be well-written because it was the author’s first attempt at it makes absolutely no sense in the world I live in as an English major and writer. That would be like millions of people becoming obsessed with a movie that was poorly made by an amateur filmmaker with a screenplay based off of something else, making it unoriginal, and expecting a fellow filmmaker to respect them for it, and on top of that having the movie be #1 for months as best selling movie. In the case of E.L. James, the 50 Shades trilogy has been at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for 14 weeks. I understand that the list is obviously for books selling the most copies, but I still think it’s insulting to the other writers out there with quality work that isn’t being recognized because of the trilogy.

I said it in the previous post and I will say it again: I am disappointed in the publisher who allowed these books to go out as they did. I think book publishing has turned into a profit industry rather than an industry that creates art. While I strongly believe that anyone has the right to produce art and try to make it in the world as an artist, I don’t approve of people writing solely for profit, and I especially don’t approve of it when there is little talent on the artists part. In conclusion, mother and other readers, a writer to me is someone who writes, and I expect a book getting this much attention to be well written, even if it is the writers first attempt at it.

How do you define a writer?
How important is writing quality to you?
And for fun, what should I write about next?

I must hold back on continuing my review of The Hunger Games trilogy as I have a more pressing matter to attend to. It came to my attention several weeks ago that a book known as “Fifty Shades of Grey” was attracting people across the nation as well as worldwide.  As an English major and avid supporter of the written word, I felt that it was my obligation to look into this just as I had done with “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games”.

I don’t like romance novels, plain and simple. I willingly admit that I was bound to dislike this book, but I must also admit that it being a romance novel has nothing to do with my reasoning for writing a blog post about it. There are several other reasons for my distaste that I will outline below, but I must first explain what really got my attention, or rather who: my sister.

It has to be said that I have no idea where my reading/writing obsession came from in regards to the gene pool. While my parents and sister enjoy reading (let’s not get started on my brother), they tend to enjoy a different writing style than me. As a retired police officer, my father sticks to Vince Flynn and James Patterson crime and mystery novels. My mother primarily reads biographies and autobiographies of her favorite Republicans and celebrities/”celebrities”. My sister – like many general audience readers – is attracted to books that others recommend. While there is nothing wrong with this on the surface, the past few weeks mixed with my knowledge of “Fifty Shades of Grey” makes it impossible for me to leave the matter alone. I shall now stop pulling a David Letterman and get to the real story.

The “Atonement” Debacle
My sister asked me a few weeks ago to recommend her a couple books that I enjoyed reading that I thought she might also enjoy.
Initial thought? She wants to be a literary reader! #everythingiswonderfulandnothinghurts
Reality? Operation This-Will-End-Badly is about to commence. #firstworldproblems
I decided to start her out with “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro and “Atonement” by Ian McEwan. Ishiguro and McEwan are two of my favorite authors, so the choices for me were no-brainers. Perhaps I got a little carried away, but I spent the next few days looking to see if the page marker moved further through “Atonement”, her first choice. She returned the book to me about a week later after reading the first page, claiming that she “just couldn’t get into it.”

I. Wanted. To. Cry.

I am a firm believer of personal preference, but a part of me was wounded, and that isn’t something that goes away as quickly as one would think. I was on a secret mission to get her to try “Never Let Me Go” when she announced to me that our mother loaned her “Fifty Shades of Grey” instead. I already knew about the book, so naturally I was floored. I started to second guess myself. How could McEwan’s brilliant storytelling and beautiful prose disinterest her after a page? How could E.L. James do this to me? To her? What was the world coming to?

Needless to say, we’ve had several discussions on the matter, and by discussions I mean me somewhat verbally attacking her for having such unfortunate taste in “literature”. I’ll stop being beastly towards my sister now and get to the actual reasons for my not liking this book, but I had to make it clear that setting bad literature on my couch results in a post like this.

I remember going to see one of the Twilight movies and listening to “Twi-moms” talk about how sexy Edward/Jacob are. This group of four women were middle-aged, all had children, and risked a long Friday morning at work to attend the midnight premier. I have no issue with people of any age being out late at night, but being out late at night to swoon over teenage male vampire/werewolf characters is just awkward. I had to start there because “Fifty Shades of Grey” took mom obsession to a whole new level. The series is being called “mom porn”, something to read as a way to escape everyday working woman/mom life. Not only is this becoming an obsession much as Twilight was and still is, but children are getting embarrassed and husbands are becoming concerned, even jealous. What is it about this series that makes people go crazy? Honestly, I have no idea.

I can only approach the book the way I would any typical book I read. I look at the characters, plot and writing style. While I admit to have only read enough pages (10-15) to justify my initial assumption, I can imagine that reading the entire book would result in me furthering my negative viewpoint, so perhaps it’s a good thing I only read a preview as well as snippets online.

Characters & Plot
I don’t have a wealth of information in regards to the characters, but based on what I read I can only imagine the details. The main theme is obsession. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey cannot stay away from one another no matter how bad things get or how wrong it is. This idea of obsession is similar to that of Bella and Edward in the Twilight series, so much so that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is in fact based on Twilight fanfiction that E.L. James wrote before writing the series. Of course she had to change the names as well as remove the vampire theme to make it less obvious, but the fact remains that the trilogy is based on fanfiction. As previously stated, the romance (smut) within the novel makes it something I wouldn’t typically read anyways, but learning that it was based on Twilight fanfiction turned me off further. It felt too familiar and twisted in a bad way.

Writing Style
As if the above wasn’t enough of a reason for me to dislike this book, I will add that it was poorly written/edited. Writing style is important to an English major as well as a writer, and I have no shame in saying I’m disappointed in anyone who allowed this book to be published. I’ve worked on editing teams for both short stories and poetry and have screened prose manuscripts for publication, and I know that the quality of this book in fact lacks quality. There is a lot of awkward phrases as well as words that were thrown in on purpose but have no place in the sentence. I also find it strange when the protagonist narrates in the present tense and does things like describe their own hair and eye color while essentially looking in the mirror in a frazzled state over a situation that isn’t that ridiculous to begin with. Also, it’s full of “first world problems” … enough said.

I was going to spend some time dissecting various passages, but I feel that I’ve done more than enough damage control. I will forever believe that people have the right to read and enjoy anything they choose, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will love it. My sister agreed that they aren’t written very well, but she enjoys the plot and finds it entertaining. While I don’t agree, that’s her business to read what she wants, and it’s my business to read what I want. This experience has taught me to never get too excited or have expectations when someone asks to borrow one of my books. It has also taught me that there are some people who prefer “popular fiction” to “literary fiction”, and that there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

If you have read “Fifty Shades of Grey”, how do you feel about it?
If you haven’t read it, are you going to? Why or why not?

Note: I am just getting the hang of writing book reviews (finally), so please be patient as I figure out my own system and how much to write, what to say, etc. I expect the reviews to become better developed in time, but to start they are rather short.

Title: The Hunger Games
Author:
Suzanne Collins
Genre:
Young Adult
Publisher:
Scholastic
Published Date: October 2008
Where I got it:  Barnes & Noble Online
Why I wanted to read it: Peer pressure only gets the best of me when it comes to books, so I’ll admit that I  read the series because a lot of my friends did and they kept telling me I had to read it.

 

Overview (Barnes & Noble):

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival.

What I Liked
I enjoyed the plot overall. Suzanne Collins laid out a unique world and intrigued me enough to continue reading the trilogy. Considering I don’t read a lot of Young Adult or Fantasy literature I don’t know how creative others would consider her idea, but for me it worked. I enjoy dystopian literature so I’m sure that had a lot to do with my interest in the plot.

What I Didn’t Like
The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, got under my skin far too often. While I appreciate certain gestures – volunteering as tribute to save Prim and honoring Rue with flower “burial” – she appeared overly modest to a point of predictability. If I can assume the ending of a novel, especially one of a genre I don’t typically read, something isn’t right, and a lot of her narration gave it away for me.

My other issue was the writing style in general. I don’t typically read outside of “literary” fiction or non-fiction, so there’s a good chance that this is me being picky, but I’m not ashamed to say I have high standards in regards to writing style. While the plot was compelling due to the unique idea, I had trouble getting through it because it read a little too juvenile for me.

Favorite Character
My favorite character at this point in the trilogy is Cinna. I respect characters like Rue whose role is small yet stands for something greater, but Cinna is in a dangerous position throughout the series and never cares about breaking the rules and stands by Katniss until the end. He is not the only character who does this, of course, but as far as book one goes he wins all of the awards.

Recommend?
Yes, if Young Adult writing is your style.

Ratings (1-5 Scale):
Characters:
4
Writing Style:
2.5
Plot:
4
Ending:
3.5
Overall:
3.5

Grandma Always Wins

I’m part of a family that generally participates in bonding time at the table. There is the occasional movie, play, concert or trip, but for the most part we get our talking out during mealtime. Being an on-the-go individual between work, school and everything else, I’ve been pegged as the “eat and run” child. It’s common knowledge that if the parents want to see me they should invite me to dinner or ask me on a lunch date. The same rule applies if I want to see them. We are a family that likes to talk, and you can’t do that at the movies or a concert…at least you shouldn’t do that.

Insert March. I don’t know what it is about this month, but for some reason I’ve now been invited to both parent’s houses for the same day. I ended up going to my mother’s house on Tuesday. My brother was in town visiting and I don’t get to see him very often. I got a text from my step-mom that afternoon asking about dinner. I kindly declined due to the plans at my mother’s house. No big deal, we’re an understanding lot. The night was spent eating dinner and playing a few rounds of Yahtzee. We gamble when we play. I lost about five dollars. I’m going to Las Vegas in a couple days, so I hope that isn’t a warning sign.

Random Chicago 2012 trip picture. Good times with friends! (A post is in the works.)

Insert this afternoon. I made plans to eat again at my mother’s house with my sister. Sorry, vegetarians, but the menu was steak. I was sitting at work finishing out the day when my step-mom texted me asking if I wanted to eat dinner at their house. The menu? Steak. Freakish coincidence. I would have declined since I already made plans with my mother, but she threw in the winning message: “Barney went to get Angie today. She will be here for supper.” (Side Note: Barney is what we call my dad, and Angie is my grandmother.)

Grandma is in town!?!?!

I love my grandma. Both of them. Because she doesn’t live in town, I take every opportunity to see her when she is. I already made plans to hang out with one of my friends after dinner, so there wasn’t time to hang out at both places. I ended up canceling dinner with my mother (she understood, and my sister was still there with her).

Conclusion: If you want me at your dinner table, make sure someone from out of town is visiting for said meal.

My Fitness Pal

Happy 2012!

I hope everyone made it safely into the new year. I myself am glad for the arrival of 2012. I look forward to a trip to Chicago, a list of “maybe” destinations (Las Vegas, Seattle, England), one of my good friend’s weddings, and graduating college. I do expect this to be a big year for me. Because of that, I would like to talk about something important to me: health.

I’ve been slacking majorly in this area lately, but I’ve been through dozens of attempts since I was ten years old to lose weight and get healthy. It took about a decade for me to realize that I’ve been doing it wrong. When I started working at my job, I finally received the wake-up call I needed. Health isn’t just about losing weight.

True health can be obtained by not only eating healthy and exercising, but also by sleeping right, managing stress, and supplementing with vitamins and minerals that the body cannot get on its own or from today’s foods.

I attempted the above a few times since accepting the above reality, but it didn’t stick. Why? In my opinion, it was because I didn’t look for support. I’ve always done this on my own, and I’ve always failed. I’d lose weight, sure, but I would gain it all back and then some.

Instead of trying it on my own this time, I joined a website the other day called My Fitness Pal. Don’t let me tell you that this is the best site out there, because honestly a friend said I should try it and I said okay. I love the site so far. Being able to scan products to enter my daily food intake is awesome. I haven’t had time to look around for support buddies, but that’s the next step.

Snape is my life coach.

I hope to have another post up soon, but that’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll update my blogging friends on my progress as I go along. It’s going to be a long journey, but I have the tools and means to do it. One day at a time.

Cheers!

Have you ever joined a website like My Fitness Pal?
Any New Years resolutions?

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