cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Time management”

Reading Round Up: May


May provided a mixture of titles. It was a grab and go find time to read as the month was filled with AP testing and finishing up curriculum units. Brain in a blender is how I refer to those mad days of teaching in overdrive mode. Sometimes it’s difficult finding enough energy to peruse a few pages without falling asleep. Book whap in the face is embarrassing.

Greenwillow by B.J. Chute

An enchanting tale with a warmth about it that makes it suitable for a cozy wintertime fireside session or as a drowsy summer hammock companion.

Reminiscent of Tuck Everlasting in how true love is shadowed by a family curse, with a bit of the charm found in D. E. Stevenson’s novels. Gently told and full of quaint characterization and imagery. I hope to find other novels by the author. A delightful five star read.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

A bit of Benjamin Button mashed with Dr Who timey-wimey stuff. The idea of someone who ages incredibly slow is intriguing as it has so many plot possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the story centers on how miserable Tom Hazard is concerning his condition. He is over 400 years old though he looks to be in his forties. Falling in love is problematic, as is staying in one place for more than eight years. The flip flop of Tom’s backstory mixed with present day is the stuff of novels these days, so that wasn’t the issue as much as the over-dramatic ending with serious plot holes. The overall premise is quite clever, the storyline fairly entertaining despite Tom’s grousing. The inclusion of Shakespeare garnered the four stars, otherwise a middling three.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith

While some readers may appreciate yet another spin off of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is a universal truth that providing a refreshing retelling is difficult. This is the case for First Impressions by Debra White Smith, who begins her series of Austen retellings with the familiar love story of Darcy and Elizabeth. White attempts to freshen up the story by placing it in a contemporary Texas small-town. Some of the characters have changed, yet not so much for the better. Darcy is Dave, a millionaire hiding from his fame, Elizabeth is Eddi, a sassy lawyer, Jane is Jenny, ambivalent about the men in her life, and Bingley is Calvin, endearing, yet somewhat bumbling in his attempts at admiring Jenny. Lydia is Linda, the promiscuous sister. The Bennett parents still play their assigned roles of mother with no filter and passive father. The other two sisters didn’t make the cast. Wickham is a police officer gone wrong, and Connor becomes the awkward smitten cousin. Overall, the dialogue and attempts to match key dialogue and plot points comes off forced, such as making Connor a third cousin, with several reminders that it’s okay to marry cousins in Texas.

Retelling such a well-known story can be problematic, partly since readers have high expectations the characters and plot will provide similar vitality. Unfortunately, First Impressions did not impress, and it is with regret, as it held promise in its chosen format, but tried too hard to emulate Austen’s story and earns a two star.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrell

Piper loses her best friend Lydia, and is determined to find out what happened to her. This is no easy task for an eighteen year old society girl living the crime-prone era of 1920’s Chicago. As Piper begins her investigation into Lydia’s disappearance, she begins to jeopardize her own safety. Fast-paced, with notable era details, this is an engaging read. Odd, that it is labeled as a YA, since its history-mystery format is more inclined towards an adult audience interest-wise.

One off-putting aspect of the novel is the way Piper is presented: tomboyish, clever, yet emotionally immature. Her overly-dramatic behavior makes her seem much younger than eighteen, more like fifteen, which makes it surprising that a mature police detective like Mariano would be interested in her. The ending definitely hints at sequels, as there are a couple of loose ends that need attention. A four star in spite of Piper’s tendency towards being irritating in her enthusiasm in solving problems.

Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

One of those books that turn out to be a not what I thought after reading a trade review. I liked the cover and was initially persuaded this would be quirky graphic novel. The idea intrigued me of illustrating published stories, a blending of text and visual interpretation. Somehow the stories didn’t quite work. The art kind of did. But they didn’t necessarily work together. “Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.” is the best pick–fresh and funny. A middling three. A side note is that Niffenegger is the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

After next week I am free to read anytime I care to since school obligations will be over. I already went shopping at the library and have a shelf of reads ready to go. I look forward to feasting with my reading sessions instead of the peck and nibble I contend with. As much as I enjoy teaching, it does get in the way of my reading.

Happy June–the gateway to summer. Aah, yes…

book cover images: Goodreads

hammock image: Pinterest

Advertisements

A Puzzling New Pastime


As much as I love to read in the evening, sometimes I find myself dozing off, getting soundly thwacked in the face. Noses do not generally make for comfortable bookmarks.

With the evening still stretching out ever so long–dark, dark at 5:30 pm *blech*–I try to find ways to stay awake until at least 9:30 or 10 pm. If I go to bed any sooner I am up at 3 or 4 a.m. [My body automatically wakes after 6 hours of sleep. Alarm clocks are a waste. So much for sleeping in. My family jokes about setting Mom instead of an alarm clock if we need to get up early]. I’m willing to get up at 5 a.m–not 4 a.m.

So–long evenings, what to do?

During the day, when I’m not teaching the joys of literature, I’m on the computer grading, answering emails, creating lesson plans, doing more grading, and I’m not real thrilled about jumping on the computer when I get home.

The hubs would be content watching a movie [we don’t do commercial TV] but that’s a lot like screen time to me and I enjoy peace and quiet after a full day of teen jollity.

We tried cribbage. Backgammon too. He’s a chess guy. I’m a checkers fan. Not a knitter.

And then, there I was at the library. Right next to the magazine exchange rack I spy  a new addition: puzzles!

I grew up watching my dad patiently wangle his way through landscape puzzles. Those teeny tiny pieces of chopped scenery boggled my little mind. It looked like boredom in a box and I avoided puzzles growing up. Besides the boredom factor,  I like life organized, and puzzles remind me too much of trying to fix something that was broken. Spin ahead a few decades, and standing there in front of all those free puzzles at the library I became somewhat transfixed. Dad always looked so calm slowly piecing together those pictures. Why not?

Bringing home a puzzle proved much more complicated:

  • a dedicated table is needed
  • a certain light is necessary
  • a certain dedicated area is both needed and necessary

It only took two weeks and five stores to find the perfect table. It took a half hour to clear out a corner. I’m still trying to find the perfect light. But–

We are now on our second puzzle. 

The hubs worries over the quiet addiction that is developing. One little piece leads to another, then another, and soon two hours have gone by. I was almost late to work one morning as we battled out the last twenty pieces of placement. I’m in my coat, lunch bag and purse slung over the shoulder, and I keep muttering: I need to go. I don’t go because I found the tree branch piece and that means it connects to the sky, which bridges the roof to the chimney…Is there a twelve step program for puzzlers?

I am a bit puzzled over our new pastime. I feel dociled, like I’m in a folksy home. I’m nervous about telling the kiddos their folks are puzzling. They will no doubt smirk and nod and sibling-text how cute we are growing in our older years. Fine. They do all that already.

Any one else a puzzler?

NaNo oh oh


November is such an incredibly packed month:

  • post first quarter grades
  • plan second quarter lessons
  • parent teacher conferences
  • vote when applicable
  • Thanksgiving
  • No Shave November

oh oh somewhere in there is NaNoWriMo

If I were truly a dedicated NaNoian this should have been my first NaNo post. Well, not wanting to be too crazy this year, I’ve decided not to NaNo in 2013. I have previously NaNoed and have the completion certificate hanging on the wall. I even have bounced the manuscript out to a couple of editors and agents.

This year, however, instead of something new I shall continue with my vow of completion commitment. No more new starts until finishing half-started projects–umm, those of merit.  Some projects should keep on hibernating for both our sakes.

Yes, I am intent on finishing the middle grade historical novel I’ve been working on for the last ten years. I know, that’s an awfully long time, especially when in just a month’s time I cranked out a YA novel a couple of years. Contemporary fiction , I’ve discovered, is so much easier than writing  middle reader historical fiction. researching for a historical novel is one big onion of peel and write. As soon as I peel back one layer of information another layer is revealed.  Yes, peeling historical onions do make me cry. Getting facts straight, setting up proper verisimilitude, along with creating catchy characters, scintillating setting, and convincing complications, conflict, and climax is tough stuff. At least for me. I’m determined to finish this odyssey of a pioneer tale I started, especially when I’ve had an agent express interest.

Sooo, Na No not now, but thanks for the invite. This year my RSVP box is checked “next year, perhaps.”

Greedy or Needy?


With school about to start I’m ignoring some areas of my life  (housework: wow, is that dust thick or what) and going into overdrive in others (library browsing:l’ll take that one and that one, and this one too). I can easily ignore cleaning, cooking, gardening, even writing knowing I have only a week or so left to read at leisure

Reading at leisure. That grand and glorious luxury of picking up a book anytime during the day or night and divulging in a session of indulgence. I’m on a zero pressure schedule currently. At least for now. After September 3rd I begin the nine month marathon once again and my leisure time gets yanked, oh so cruelly, away and becomes dry docked until further notice.

So, is it greed or need that I’m currently reading five, or is that six, books at present?

  • The Notebooks of Da Vinci–inquiring minds must know
  • Miners and Travelers Guide by John Mullan–research
  • The History of Idaho Territory–research, but Idaho is an underrated state
  • Edna and John–a love story of sorts from the 1860 Idaho Gold Rush days
  • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde–been on my NTR list for some time now
  • The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister–fave librarian ET handed me this and said “read this” and so I am–I forcibly have to stop myself from reading it so I can get at least a little something done it’s so good!
  • Oh, then there is the assorted magazines like my newest Writer and stack of freebies one of my writer group cohorts passed my way.

So the prognosis is? Well, self diagnosis is that I’m leaning towards reading for my current writing project (fictional novel set in the Idaho Gold Rush days), but I’m slipping in some goodtime reads (although Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is not exactly Mr. Goodtime). Reading my Need-tos and slipping in my Greed-toos–isn’t that similar to a bite of beans along with my chocolate pudding (who says dessert must wait?)

Anyone else out there try to find a balance between Need to Read and Greedy Reading? As long as we are reading it’s all good, right?

Rocks and Boxes and Framing up Life


Book Cover

Book Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to roll my eyes at self-help books, you know the ones, someone gets a theme going and a trend gets going that sweeps everyone away–at least for a time.  Parachute colors, cheese moving, flat abs, beach diets, being okay.  Yup, it’s all out there.  And yes, some of these books have changed lives and have contributed to shifting paradigms.  Then again, some of these books are momentary blips that end up at the Friends of the Library book sale six months later.

There is one book I do endorse, and in a recent conversation with a Gen Y‘er who  talked about time management and how this book really helped him, I recalled the importance of re-introducing this book to my students. Here is the promotional video that drives home the point of getting priorities right:

Actually, that promotional clip comes from the first book, Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I use his son’s version, Sean Covey‘s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.  He made points with my students with his approach and humor, and the best part is that many of them learned from his book.  I would dearly love to meet up with them ten, maybe fifteen years down the road and find out if the book’s principles stuck with them.  The theme of his book is framed (you’ll get the pun after the clip) well in this promo clip:

So, question for the day: what self-help books have worked for you?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: