Favorite Video: 2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Reading Goals
2 – Little Book Owl
Favorite Video: 2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Reading Goals
Have you already looked your list of most read authors on Goodreads? Today I did that and found that really interesting because that simple list of author names, together with the number of books I read from each of them gave me a lot to think. A kind of contemplative kind of thinking, as if I was looking at a piece of my life listed, at all the hours I spent reading my favorite children books, or my vampire, paranormal fantasy, romance or science-fiction books.
I spent hours going through it, correcting when an author appeared with more or fewer books due to me adding a book in two different editions or forgetting to add it.
I also draw some final thoughts on looking at that list and, even if that list didn’t specifically show me as an extremely well-read or even intellectual kind of reader, I was still happy with its sincere, even if incomplete, picture of me as a reader. So, those were the conclusions I had.
A couple of authors that were very influential to me weren’t listed because I read only one book from them. But that sole book stayed with me. Even if I haven’t read another book by the same author, their importance is still there. One of them is Victor Hugo, of whom I read only The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. But I indeed liked that sole masterpiece. So they are equally influential, even if not represented on my list of most read authors.
I do read a lot of classics, but only if the plot is interesting and the author’s voice makes it a not too dense and tiring read. If the style is too old-fashioned or the author’s voice isn’t catching, I’ll probably drop the book. A good story is not enough for me, it must also be told in a way it hooks me as a reader, or I won’t read it for long. I’ll probably skip a lot of pages or wait for the movie. I do though have more patience with books than I lot of readers I know of, and I’ll equally skip a book if the writing is too commercially oriented, so there are a lot of bestsellers books I could not read through or I’m not even interested in. So I’m not in the mainstream audience, but I’ll also won’t ever read a book only to look well read. I like to go my own way between commercial and literary reading.
The only time I reread two-thirds of a fiction book was when I forgot I had already read that book. While reading it again I wondered all the time why the story was so familiar and why everything was so repetitive, until I saw I had read that book before. I think I still need some time to allow myself to reread fiction books. There are so many new interesting fiction books out there that I don’t feel like coming back, even if I gave that book five stars. Perhaps one day I’ll be in the mood of rereading my five-star books when I run out of new books on my TBR list.
What I could eventually do though is rereading some of my non-fiction books on writing techniques, so that all that knowledge has a second chance to stay in my mind.
Once I treasure an author’s voice I’ll read a lot of books from the same author.
I can follow a ten book series with the same characters and world, or read a five book series in the same week. If the author’s voice and the plot make their books an entertaining read, I’ll dive in their words like a seal, only coming back to surface after a thousand pages.
It takes a lot to put me away from reading further from the same author, but this will also happen if the author starts rehashing old plots in new books or the plots start getting weaker with each new book. I’ll also drop an author if he/she starts a new series based on themes I’m not interested in, or if he/she starts writing in a new genre I’m not really into.
I read 24 books of the Brazilian author Monteiro Lobato, mostly his children books series. My teens show in the list with Isaac Asimov as the mostly read Science-fiction author of 17 books, and Anne Rice leads Paranormal Fantasy as the most read author of 16 books. The list goes on with other Paranormal Fantasy, Science Fiction, Classic, Young Adult, Dystopia, Epic Fantasy and other Brazilian children books authors. The most-read author’s list shows my genre preferences, but it won’t show the occasional Thriller or Historic fantasy books I read, even if they aren’t always my first choice genre.
As a final thought, I know this most-reader author’s list isn’t complete, as I surely forgot to add some of the books I read and forgot about, but this is fine because, in the end, our look into the past or ourselves is never complete or really accurate.
Danny woke up with a start. Something was tickling his nose. He opened his eyes and was surprised to find a small green fairy hovering right by his face.
“Hello,” said Danny, unsure of what he was seeing. “Where did you come from?”
“Ah,” said the fairy. “That is a question, isn’t it? Stella has come from far away, or maybe she has always been near, but you have never seen her before. Your mother has kept me hidden away, or so she thinks. Such a clever woman. A boy! She had a boy and such a beautiful boy. Stella could have fun with such a boy if he was willing…or maybe even if he’s not!”
Stella reached out towards Danny. There was a flash of silver and the world changed.
After writing about my favorite villains, I’ll continue with the list making exercise from the book “Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors II” by Alexandra Sokoloff.
This time I’ll list my favorite movies, dividing them by genre:
And only those first two, after all, the other films were made mostly for children. After being extremely underwhelmed by the Return of the Jedi (silly Ewoks) and the Prequel Trilogy, I’m still considering whether “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is worth watching. But I can’t deny that I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” so many times I caught Han Solo’s cowboy accent to spice my English. 🙂
I saw this film still as a teenager, but it stayed with me forever. Special stories are never forgotten. Rutger Hauer gives a show here, like in Blade Runner. He’s the kind of actor you could watch forever.
4.The Dark Crystal
Together with the Wizard of Oz, this was a childhood favorite. The whole world and the characters were just magical and for years I pulled up my ears so they would look like Kira’s.
This is a cult Japanese comedy about love and food. I saw it as a child and never forgot it. I just wish I could have a bowl of Tampopo’s noodles after watching the film.
6. The Little Shop of Horrors.
This has been a favorite since I was fourteen. I watched both versions, though I prefer the one with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin who will make you roll on the floor laughing as Orin Scrivello, the crazy dentist. I also loved it as a theater musical.
7. What’s new Pussycat
The first produced screenplay from Woody Allen and IMO one of the best comedies of all time. Petter Sellers and all other actors make you laugh non-stop in this awesome comedy.
8. Some like it hot
I’m a fan of Marilyn Monroe and most of her films, and this is the funniest of them. A classic is a classic and this film belongs among the best ones.
9. Thelma & Louise
Another awesome cult film from director Ridley Scott and the actresses Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Pure art, with an original story.
10. Shakespeare in Love
Romantic setting with the story playing in 1593 London, and Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare in one of his best roles. I’m usually not a huge fan of romance, but this film was way too good to miss.
11. The English Patient
An awesome film based on the novel of the same name from Michael Ondaatje. All the actors are great, and Ralph Fiennes as Count László Almásy is unforgettable. He and Juliette Binoche are wonderful together as in the film 12. Wuthering Heights which is also one of my favorite romantic films.
And finally, a romantic film where things end up well:
13. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
To explain why this film is one of my favorites I just need to say two words: Audrey Hepburn. But the underlying theme of a girl pretending to be superficial and mercenary while she’s lost is a deeply touching story. The song “Moon River” helps too.
Seriously, this is a must in every writer’s bucket list, a brutally honest beta-reader who tells you that he/she didn’t care about your characters, your story had a long list of faults, you must show and not tell and whatever else they have found of extremely badly written in your manuscript draft, especially if you are now starting your writing career and therefore clueless of where you have to improve.
If your writing is a career for you, then you need to study to develop your weak spots, you need feedback and you need to hear your beta-readers, even if he/she was brutally honest and even if the way how he/she manifested his/her opinion made you cringe at the sight of that feedback for a whole month.
I remember when I received that brutally honest feedback. I had swapped beta-reading with another writer, but I couldn’t get her story for two reasons:
First, she didn’t tell me that one of her short stories was a spin-off of a novel from her that I haven’t read, so, not understanding at all where her short story had come from, I found it confusing and with an underdeveloped story world. She should have told me as a beta-reader that I would only understand the short story if I read the novel first.
And second, her protagonist failed to do anything out of her own insecurity and misplaced principles until the end of her story. So the protagonist was arrested, the horrible and well-depicted villain won and the third character, whose goals weren’t clear for me since the start, went on doing nothing apart from being the (impossible to understand) passive love interest of the protagonist. It was a weak story without a fully formed plot where nothing happened. It masqueraded as a tragedy, but at least for me, a tragedy without enough reasons for its sad and inconclusive end. I confess that I don’t like tragedies unless that really makes sense in the context of the character arc. Her story didn’t make sense to me at the time so I was sincere enough to tell her my opinion, taking care though to also point out what I had found of positive in her WIP, so it would be a balanced feedback.
As an answer, she sent me a really long email telling me all the things she had hated in my WIP in a really emotional way. To summarize it, her main points were that my backstory was stupid, my writing was beyond terrible and she didn’t care for the characters or the story at all. Her feedback was much more emotional and negative than what I usually received from other beta-readers, so I concluded that being upset about my previous, not completely positive feedback, had influenced the way how she expressed herself in her answer.
I thanked her for her quite thorough feedback and said nothing about the emotional way she had expressed it. I was astonished that my writing had called such a strong emotional reaction, even if a negative one. So, I decided to ignore the emotional coloring of her feedback and concentrated on the more precise advice buried under all that emotion.
And the advice was:
I had to find ways to bring the reader into my story so the reader would care.
I had to flesh out summarized narrative (Change tell into show) and make better description and settings.
I had to make my characters intriguing even if not likable through a clearer character arc.
I had to break the backstory into smaller bits, weaving it into the plot.
I had to show, not tell.
I accepted that brutally honest feedback regardless of how it was expressed and learned from it, instead of dismissing it completely or being hurt/discouraged by it. The harsh way how the critique was written convinced me to study and try to improve my writing in a way that milder feedback had not. So it was a hard experience, but one that was vital and important for my writing development.
Bucket list item accomplished. 🙂
Of course, there are always exceptions. Once I received feedback where it was clear that my beta-reader was disappointed that my story wasn’t a courageous group of marines shooting around to save the world. So I read his feedback taking that into account. 😉
And you? Have you already received brutally honest feedback?
In my teens, the young adult genre wasn’t yet so clearly defined. I remember reading Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, books based on the Star Trek’s first generation universe, and Brave New World and thus discovering Science Fiction.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were starting points for Romance and Anne Rice books were my first Paranormal Fantasy. Then I had my favorite Gothic novel, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, although I must confess to reading Hugo’s discourse on books substituting architecture only once.
Later, as an adult, I heard of Harry Potter, more than a couple of years after its hype had started. I found the books interesting while at the same time thought that the characters acted way too mature even if they were children. YA was then leaving its Tolkien-like station and getting faster on its tracks, like the Hogwarts express.
Then, during my thirties, I had a bit of a reading slump. I had discovered computer games, life was bumpy, and I didn’t have Goodreads to hold me accountable on reading more books. Those crazy times. 😉 Even though, I still had my favorite books and series.
And now that I’m slowly reading a higher number of books per year, I’m reading also more YA. Some books in the genre didn’t impress me much, but some were quite entertaining. I could also make a list of the YA books I didn’t like, but I won’t because it could happen easily that the same books would entertain other readers. Especially when it comes to books, one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure.
My favorites YA book list isn’t yet as extensive as the ones from the happy booktubers out there. Still, see the books in it as entertaining enough for someone who doesn’t list YA as one of her favorite genres. Fantasy and Science Fiction still occupy the first and second place as my favorite genres, even if I must confess to lately reading more fantasy than sci-fi. I don’t like the dark cloud of dystopia that has taken over the sci-fi sky, even if the present reality events calls for concern and make everybody read 1984 from George Orwell. These worrisome times emphasize the need for reflection. But this is a topic for another blog post.
So, here are the YA books whose series I’ve read entirely and liked. I didn’t include the Harry Potter series here because everybody puts it on the top of their list, so it’s an assumed point that it should be read. The books here had all a really interesting story world, great characters, fast paced action and an interesting premise and plot, even if I didn’t always rate them five stars. I also posted the first books in every series in the order I read them since I’m still waiting for the final books in the last two series. (Watch this post for new additions in the not so distant future.)
And you, what is your favorite YA book/series?
Most books I read this year were worth at least three stars. One or two were too slow paced, were made for another audience or took a wrong turn at some point, but most were quite entertaining. So I decided to list here only the ones I found surprising, funny and incredibly smart, because when you have read your share of books you’ll find this important, that special zing. So here they are:
Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
I usually don’t read historical fiction, but this book is worth reading even if you aren’t a fan of this genre. Lovely, awesome book, with an amazing story. If you liked Downtown Abbey you are in for a delightful treat.
Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs
The start of an awesome series, which I was quite happy to read until book eight quite fast. Fun, page-turning, with very interesting characters and world.
Books on writing craft:
5 Secrets of Story Structure by K.M. Weiland (Goodreads Author)
I found this book quite helpful, it’s about story structure in a summarized and easy to understand way. Great if you want an overview of Story Structure before you go into too many details. For me, this was helpful because I usually want to have a look at the whole subject before I look at each element in detail. So, if you are having difficulties to understand story structure read this short and concise book, you’ll get it in no time.
Fantasy with Science-fiction elements and LGBT Characters:
Mating Flight: A Non-Romance of Dragons(Mating Flight #1)
by Bard Bloom (Author), Tod Wills (Illustrator)
This book is very entertaining and it’s page-turner reading. I read this book in three days because I didn’t manage to put it down. I liked the main character, a fiery-tempered dragoness and all the witty dialogues and funny situations with the other dragons. I’ll be reading the next book in the Duology to see how this adventure ends.
And if you want to check out which books I read this year, here’s my Goodreads link: