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Val's BookBlog

A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel

I am currently reading this. No one writes like Hilary Mantel. Events are very detailed and read slowly, and then a passage suddenly hits you like a freight train.


And this is a story of The French Revolution: war, blood, anarchy, science, philosophy, a doomed monarchy. What took me so long?


I used to read entire books within days. Now it takes me weeks. Maybe our ADHD social media-addled society is to blame? Or maybe it's just me. Enough with the excuses. 


Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

I did not enjoy high school. When I hear about those who had 'fun', I always wonder how they managed to avoid the angst that comes from bullying, academic pressure, or bad teachers. But some enjoy it. Maybe they had the steel to survive the bullshit. Everyone is different. Most kids were just trying to get by. I was one of them.


'Speak' is about one of those regular kids. In the summer before school starts Melinda gets assaulted by an older student at a party. She tells no one, and worse comes to worst she is also blamed for blowing the whistle on the party after the police arrive. So she starts high school being branded a snitch and her friends abandoning her. She has no one to tell the truth about why she called for help that night. She was raped.


As a reader I joined Melinda's odyssey through 9th grade. I have never experienced the horror of being raped, but the desolate pit that keeps growing in Melinda is something I do recognize. Like Melinda, I understood that after trauma happens, the past normalcy of your life is gone.


But there is some light that shines through. It happens for Melinda and it happened for me. I have to pause each time I read about her art class and the sweet relationship with her teacher. It makes me cry.


Trauma doesn't happen to everybody, and it shouldn't happen to someone so early. Melinda has to learn to 'speak' about what happens to her. She has to understand there are people who care and people who want to listen. That is the first step forward. And she makes it happen.

Writing about love

...is so hard. Right?


I read a quote once that went something like this : "Writing about Love is like dancing about architecture." I think that's true. How does one write about love? Or to be more exact, how does one write about love well? The emotions are so varied, complex, and intense. 


Which brings me to John Green. I am reading 'Fault in Our Stars,' and I read this: "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”


Thank you John Green. Perfectly said. Unlike lust, love comes forth slowly, and you may not be aware of it. Then it hits you like a wave.



A Valentine for Anne Frank



Working at a library I am fortunate to process all the new books that have been added to our collection. I've often (humorously) complained to people that employment at a library is a detriment; work starts to get avoided when you want to read every new thing that arrives on your desk.


Our library is setting up a 'Global Education' exhibit, and one of the books featured will be 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' Like most kids I read Anne Frank in middle school, but being so young I couldn't comprehend the magnitude of the book. The new copy we received is a new edition, and of course I started to flip through it after cataloguing.


I was struck how detailed her passages were. The emotions were palpable. I had forgotten about Anne's earlier passages describing her life before confinement. There were issues with her mother, school life, and other ordinary teenage angst.


At the beginning of her hiding, Anne's tone is hopeful. It is not long before her optimism starts to deplete. Reading this on the other side felt like a slow burn. In one wrenching passage she writes about wanting to laugh, but the sheer act of it drains her energy.


Today the internet is breaking with messages or memes to people we love. Why should Anne be discounted from this? So I am going to reach out to the other side. I want to give Ms. Frank a special thanks for influencing me as a writer and a survivor.

A New Year.

— feeling pirate

I took a little break during the fall due to being swept up by the election.

My conclusion?


2017 is going to hit us hard.


Thank goodness I can get back to my book queue and keep myself grounded.

Here is to a new year and a new tag.


The Reading Habit Tag


  1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading? My Bed.
  2. Bookmark or random piece of paper? Bookmark! I love them. I have all sorts of varieties.
  3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter/certain number of pages? I can just stop reading.
  4. Do you eat or drink while read? Yup. Coffee or tea usually. With some chocolate.
  5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading? Never! I need silence. I like white noise in the background, like a fan or a dryer running.
  6. One book at a time or several at once? Usually several at once.
  7. Reading at home or everywhere? Home.
  8. Reading out loud or silently in your head? It's all done up here. *points to head.*
  9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages? Why would I read ahead? That means I'm bored or I don't like the book. Which means I shouldn't be reading it.
  10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new? Depends on the book. I don't actively try to destroy a book, but some wear will happen.
  11. Do you write in your books? Oh yes. It is fun to go back and see the notes I wrote.
— feeling cat
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I and II (English)(Hardcover) - John Tiffany & J K Rowling Jack Thorne

How nice it was to reunite with Harry again. One of the most spectacular things about the prior novels was Harry's voice, which stayed with me after I finished. So reading this new story as a play took some adjustment.


I did enjoy it, but a script only tells half a story. I couldn't see inside any of the characters. If Harry or Albus acted like jerks, I couldn't understand why.


If I saw the actual production I would have felt complete. I would be able to pick up on nuance and see the story come to life. The novels did that for me, but I get little from a bare bones script. It was nice of Rowling and Thorne to produce something new, but it felt like a little of a cheat to hype this release as a new "book." 


I will say I loved the scenes with Dumbledore. And the scenes at Cedric's grave. Rowling and Thorne's magic came through. If only I could have watched this live.

Almost Done. So Nice to go Back.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling, John Kerr Tiffany, Jack Thorne

'Conscience of the World'

— feeling sad

R.I.P. Sir Wiesel.


Who is Excited? I know I am.

— feeling star

Ten Bookish Questions (meme)

I think this was started about a month ago. Thanks Troy's Blog. Here we go.


  1. What book is on your nightstand now?


You mean books. No nightstand, but I have 10 or so books right next to my bed. I am shuffling through all of them. Some are books I’m re-reading. Some are waiting to be read. Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason. The Return of the King by Tolkien (I have started that book a few times already). Insurgent by Veronica Roth. Radical Sanity by Elizabeth Wurtzel. The Beach by Alex Garland. Much Ado About Nothing by....well, you know.


  1. What was the last truly great book that you read?


That’s a tough one because many pop into my head. If I had to narrow it down I will say Atonement by Ian McEwan. Oh, and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.


  1. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?


William Shakespeare, duh. His plays read like poetry. It’s like he had metaphors just leaping off his fingertips. Certain English phrases were invented by him right? He helped expand the English language. I don’t think I would try to have a conversation with him. Instead I would go backstage during one of his rehearsals and watch him in his element.


  1. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?


In the last few years I have been reading more science fiction. I surprised myself with this.  


  1. How do you organize your personal library?


I really don’t. 


What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Anything by Proust. A few classics I can’t think of right now.


I was scolded recently at a party for not reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King. I am not embarrassed not to have read that though. I have nothing against King, (I like him, in fact) but there are bigger books out there still unread.  


  1. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?


I couldn’t get into The Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline. Not a bad book, but I didn’t care enough to finish.


Back in college my roommates were raving about The Da Vinci Code. I kept hearing about the suspense and the amazing plot. I picked it up out of curiosity. It was horrible in every way. I usually don’t like slamming authors, but I can’t constitute Dan Brown as a real writer. They call it a hack.


  1. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?


I am not against any genre. If it is well written I will read it. I love Dickens and his stories of foundlings finding their way (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist). I love Gothic mysteries like Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. Tudor Historical Fiction.

It’s an eclectic mix.


If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?


They have time for that?


  1. What do you plan to read next?


I would like to read Annihilation, the first book of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I have heard it's a mindscrew though, and I have to be in a certain mood for that type of thing.




The Media is killing Game of Thrones

— feeling angry
A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones / A Clash of Kings / A Storm of Swords / A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

I've been getting a crude feeling watching GOT lately. 


I hate the way the show is featured on every space, angle, and inch of the internet. I can't open up my news page without a new GOT headline or a spoiler.


I hate that there are now apps predicting a new character's death. I hate the way the violence has become less about ideas and more about entertainment. I hate all the noise surrounding the show. 


On a pure level I think the show is beautiful, and I view it as a separate entity from the books. I know some people who refuse to watch the show because they do not want to tarnish their reading experience. I don't see it that way. I like experiencing Martin's story through a different artistic medium.


But I may take the purists side on this one. I've realized I have to watch the show alone or when the seasons have all passed. It is impossible to enjoy something so exposed. It is impossible to watch something with people applauding violence. I am not surprised Martin has become a hermit. People are coming after him with pitchforks on the internet.


Long ago Martin had a story about war and put it to paper. It was a story created by an artist and destroyed by his audience.


Hey Book World,


I am experimenting with Flash Fiction. I have written a piece (very short, 350 words). I would love to get any thoughts or suggestions from you lovely folk. Please message me and we can chat. Any help would be appreciated!



Not that everyone didn't already know

— feeling wink

So glad he came back to us..






My Weekend Plans.

— feeling cat

This book made me feel alive.

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

I picked up 'Life After Life' in the winter a few years back. This was the first book I had read in months. At the time I was leaving a job so horrendous that I still shudder when I think about it.


During my time in this hell I found I couldn't read books with the same satisfaction I usually do. Even watching films or listening to my favorite artist left me cold. I was distracted, depressed.


After I left I had no work lined up and I was on my own. I used to love working, but I was actually thankful for the time to do nothing. I needed to recover from a soul crushing experience. I was literally in pieces. I was happy living like a monk.


I had one friend from my last job that I kept in touch with. She invited me to a book club meeting and I thought it would be a good idea to get out of the house. The meeting was only a few days away and I was worried I wouldn't get through 'Life After Life' in that short amount of time. My mental energy was not at its highest either.


But I did finish it.  And it was beautiful.


No spoilers here. Ursula Todd is a British girl born in 1910, and her lifespan is covered from her birth onward. This book is unique because one part of Ursula's story is told, and then by the next chapter it vanishes and a new version is presented. It is up to the reader to decide what parts of Ursula's life are real and not imaginary.


Kate Atkinson's writing is sparse and vivid, yet there are passages of great detail. If you like history (especially WWII) this is a great read. Some of the descriptions of the Blitz are so vivid I can still picture Ursula crouched in a basement, wondering if she will crawl out with her house in rubble.


I have read complaints about the nonlinear approach the story takes. What some found confusing I found unique. All the interpretations of Ursula's life was fascinating. Whether they were real or not doesn't matter. They are pieces of life related to all human experience. It is about choice and renewal.


Not to get soppy, but there were tears streaked all over my face once I finished. I had my own experience in hell (making no comparisons to Ursula's experience living through WWII of course) but in retrospect change was already happening for me at the time, even if it felt like it wasn't coming. I cried for so many reasons after reading this book. I finally felt human again.


Spring is Here

— feeling nerd

"What a strange thing!

to be alive

beneath cherry blossoms"


-Kobayashi Issa.