Posts Tagged ‘reading’




Virtual Book Club–DEEP WORK

Filed under: Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Reading, Stuff I Love, Writing

More often than I can count, I read a book that intrigues me. It doesn’t matter if it’s kidlit, adult, fiction or non-fiction. When an interesting book strikes, you want to share it and discuss it with your people. It really makes me wish I was part of a book club. Starting one is on my bucket list, but until then, I think I’ll have to start a virtual book club here on my blog.

Many books

Here’s what I’m reading…

DEEP WORK by Cal Newport


One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you’ll achieve extraordinary results.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.

In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories-from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air-and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.

Deep Work: Cognitively-demanding, requires focus without distraction, and you apply hard-to-replicate skill sets.

Shallow Work: More logistical/basic tasks that don’t require tremendous amounts of attention or skill.

I’m not finished reading this yet, but clearly I find it intriguing enough to want to share it with you. It was pointed out to me by a fellow writer–she was raving about how it changed her outlook on her writing process. Already I’m agreeing with her. I’m intrigued, especially since I signed up to participate in #WriteDaily30 with Linda Urban in the month of April. What I’m finding as I read and write is that this book and that challenge have overlapped. The concepts reinforce each other and I think I’ve learned some valuable take aways from having both show up at the same time. I love when the universe sends me a message and I’m alert enough to make the connections.

So, if there are any of you out there who are looking for some guidance, clarity or inspiration for getting focused and being productive with your craft, art or career–then maybe it isn’t a coincidence that you stumbled upon my virtual book club today.

Have you read DEEP WORK? Are you intrigued enough to want to read it? If you do decide to read it, make sure you come back and let me know what you think.


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Asking for a Friend

Filed under: Pondering, Reading

Hey blog readers, I’m using this blog to solicit a bit of reading advice. Of course, I’m asking for a friend.

Today’s post is about challenging reads.

What are your personal strategies for reading a book that makes you feel a little stupid?


My friend clearly knows there are books out there that aren’t always the right fit for a particular reader. It makes perfect sense. We all have different sensibilities when it comes to literature and that’s cool.

But what happens if something is a classic, and award winner–a truly notable book and you WANT to read it–but it’s hard. And the more you try, the more you think there’s a whole level of intelligent readers out there that have been floating just out of your friend’s reach.

That friend knows that reading this book WILL be educational and enlightening in a variety of different ways, but that doesn’t make said book any easier to read. *sigh*

One way or another, this book will be read. My friend is stubborn about pursuing growth, but just wondering–asking for a friend–if you have any suggestions for making difficult reads easier and more accessible.

Share your tips and if you can’t help me, maybe you have a friend who can…

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The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Filed under: Book Reviews, Critique, Pondering, Publishing, Reading

I LOVE reading YA. But I’m also a fan of not limiting yourself to only one age group or even genre of books. There are things to be learned and pondered out there and they come in all kinds of packages.

For months my husband has been reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand and begging me to read it also so he’d have someone to discuss it with.


When it was first published in 1943, The Fountainhead – containing Ayn Rand’s daringly original literary vision with the seeds of her groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism – won immediate worldwide acclaim.

This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him.

I decided to read the book (I’m attacking it on audiobook) since it’s a very lengthy tome. This way I can listen in the car, on a run or even in the shower LOL! I’m on Track 45/68 so do not spoil it for me. But I can’t contain myself any more. I want to talk to people about this book–the parts I love and the parts I hate. The things that have been illuminated and the things that have been muddied.  The hubby and I are a bit obsessed about discussing it and had a hell of a conversation after seeing the Steve Jobs movie. But I want more thoughts and opinions. This book has made me curious in so many ways.

Have you read it? What do you think? Do you want to read it? Do you love it? Do you hate it? What does it mean to you? Talk to me about it–just don’t spoil the ending for me or the book for anyone else.

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Dropping Balls

Filed under: Pondering, Reading, Writing

My blogging has been sporadic at best.

I’m trying to get my act together. But the truth is I’m dropping balls left and right LOL! Somedays I drop the laundry ball…one of my favorites to “drop.”

Other days I drop the eat breakfast ball. Crap! Did I really manage to leave the house without eating? Cause I won’t be back for 4 hours. *checks to rearview mirror to be sure all three boys and dog made it into the car* 

I also tend to drop the “getting the dishes done ball” until they start climbing out of the sink. Or something starts to smell.

Additionally, the kids were moaning yesterday, because I dropped the “get the groceries they wanted ball.”  (PLEASE get the GOOD bread for sandwiches, school snacks, cranberry juice and dessert for God’s sake!)

And now *insert giggle* (I have to giggle because it keeps me out of full on panic mode.) I’ve got a spring break trip coming up in the future and my “pets, boys and personal preparations balls” looks something like this…

Android juggler

Need I say more? You get the picture. But there is some really good news. I haven’t dropped the “writing ball.” I’m never as fast as I want to be, but I’m happy with my progress, so the high from that, makes it easier to maneuver around all the other balls scattered all over the floor LOL!

I’ve also been reading a ton, thanks to audiobooks. It’s my bonus when I’m walking the pup and throwing an actual ball. And this is not just entertaining multitasking. Every book I read is a master class in how to be a better writer–and often a better person. And just to prove how awesome it is to drop the “household chores balls” instead of the “reading balls.” Here’s a quote from one of the best books I’ve read in awhile…

“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.”
Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

I don’t know about you, but despite all the balls all over the floor, it feels like I’m manifesting something great.

What are you manifesting at the moment? What’s the “best” ball you’ve dropped recently?

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Och Aye

Filed under: Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Reading

I started reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon back in the late 90’s. I was living overseas in Germany as a newlywed. And I know I’m dating myself, but WAY BACK THEN, the internet wasn’t a thing. We didn’t own a computer or a cell phone. Our international phone bills were very expensive so our families called for 30 minutes to talk on Sundays. You should have seen the bill the day my new kitten died. 🙁 But anyway, back on track. My mom sent me the first three Outlander books and since I couldn’t waste time on Facebook, I devoured then and shared them with my best friend Kim. We were nuts about the books.  We had silver rings like Claire and matching Fraser Plaid scarves. Okay–I still have them and I may have even ended up with a kid named Jamie. LOL!

But in truth, as much as I loved the books, reading and rereading, it’s been awhile since I was engrossed in my favorite highlander time travel saga. But, with the new series on TV, my love of it all has reignited. And it made me realize I’d pushed the two most recent books to the wayside while reading so much YA. But, hold onto your kilts because I’m BACK and reading…

2832909And *fist pump*  I’m loving it.

But the real purpose of this blog post isn’t just to tell you what I’m reading. I had to share my dirty little secret–everything I say now has a Scottish accent when I hear it in my head. Och aye–you understand lass, don’t you? In fact, I bet you do it too. I’m only shocked I didn’t name me wee new pup Rollo.

What are you reading?


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Kicking Puppies–We All Don’t Think Alike

Filed under: Check-it-out, In the Wild, Pondering, Reading

I’m going to point out the obvious. We all don’t think alike. And on most days, that’s a pretty good thing. Although, I’m completely on board with everyone taking a stand against people who kick puppies. Even though diverse thinking is great, I guess there are some “absolutes” in my world.  But, I will not list my absolutes here, because invariably, some of my non-negotiables will quickly be called into questions because…


I tend to visualize our differences and similarities in a Venn Diagram…


First, there’s the No Brainer Absolutes. (Not really completely absolute because we know there are people who DO kick puppies–shame on them.) And then on the other side of the Venn is the Live and Let Live group. Get a puppy. Get ten puppies. Get no puppies. Totally up to you. I don’t have an opinion at all…unless your ten puppies are pooping in my yard. But really that’s a blog post for another day. Back to the Venn. Clearly everyone has no brainer issues counterbalancing their live and let live philosophy on the other side.


There is always an area of overlap in a Venn Diagram. It’s that dreary gray space where things aren’t so clear. Like your neighbors ten puppies (who you had no problem with) until they started puppy pooping in your yard. A serious middle-of-the-Venn mind field if you ask me. You’ve got to watch where you’re stepping with that one.  And of course, how the pooping scooping get resolved depends heavily on what both parties value the most. And a few other factors, like if the neighbor with the puppies is apologetic. Did they clean it up? Did they kick the puppies for misbehaving? Did you fling the poop back in their yard  and “accidentally” hit the side of their house? See, it’s complicated and ultimately must be resolved outside of absolutes. There’s that gray area again.

But even though I’ve been talking about puppies, there are other things on my mind. I’ve been recently wrestling with that same sort of sneaky gray area myself. But before I pull out my soap box, let me warm you up with another example of Venn Diagram grayness that really happened to me. I recently heard that Toys -r- Us has Breaking Bad action figures and parents are petitioning them to be removed. I was bouncing all over my Venn Diagram with this one…

1.  I loved the show and know that many adults collect action figures. So, this belongs in my Live and Let Live circle. But wait…

2.  I also strongly believe that in no way, shape or form are these toys meant for children. So, when I think of it that way, pulling those toys out of toy stores (aimed to sell to young kids) is a HUGE No brainer. Come on, there ARE people on that show that would kick puppies!

3.  But the reality is that after I thought about it very carefully, I realized, that while I prefer those action figures not be sold in toy stores my kids might shop at, my kids also don’t shop for toys that I don’t approve of. Those meth making figurines are not coming into my house. And passing a Breaking Bad action figure in the aisle of a toy store will mean nothing to my children because they haven’t watched the show and won’t any time soon. They want to buy things they’re interested in. So, we have now landed in that gray area again. I have opinions, but I know I can also work around the situation however it plays out. I am able to monitor my kids.

Have I lost you? Am I making sense? It’s the end of the day and sometimes I can never tell. But, even if you’re not so sure what I’m talking about, I think you know what’s coming. I try to do it in almost all my blogs. My goal is to make a connection to a seemingly unrelated topic I’m thinking about and reading/writing.

Here we go…

censuring the books

Please stop telling me what my kids should or shouldn’t read. We all don’t think alike, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking. You can’t assume, just because I let my kids read things you wouldn’t let your kids read, that I’m negligent. I have a different opinion.  And it’s a responsible and intelligent one that is based on my kids and how I interact with them. My kids. My call. We don’t kick puppies and we won’t be buying Breaking Bad figures. But we will be reading all kinds of books.

I’m not going to go into the details of what I believe about reading. What I will tell you is there’s a difference between thinking you’re right and demanding other people only have the same thoughts as you. I may believe that you’d be better off if you thought about books the way I do. But that’s an unknown and I’m okay with that. Life choices result in different and varied responses, not absolutes.

Here’s the thing I’d like you to remember the next time you try to pull reading material off the shelf–when you pick and choose the books that are acceptable for YOUR kids, I don’t sneak into their bedrooms at night and read them stuff you wouldn’t approve of. So, please do not interfere with what my children are allowed to read. Classrooms, libraries, book stores and book fairs–in my humble opinion– are not dens of iniquity where puppies are kicked and souls must be saved. I believe they are the gray areas in the Venn Diagram of life. They are supposed to be one of the safe place where we can benefit from leaving the absolutes at home.

Those gray areas are the meeting places for all the people who don’t think alike.

The meeting of minds–that is a beautiful thing.



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I Read for Ten Miles

Filed under: Check-it-out, In the Wild, Reading, Running

I read for 10 miles yesterday!!! Wait that sounds a little weird. Let me clarify–I ran my longest run ever and the whole time I was running I was listening to a really awesome audiobook!!!!!! There are not enough exclamation points for a sentence like that. LOL! And it gets even better because I’ve acclimated to having a brain where half my attention is completely absorbed in the awesomeness of the story, but the other half is studying writing technique. *fist pump*


So, if I wasn’t clear about the awesomeness of what was going on, I spent about two hours of my busy day multitasking in the best of ways. I got to exercise while being simultaneously entertained and educated. And the bonus plan was that I didn’t have to feel bad about my Wednesday night bowl of ice cream because I burned 1,000 calories on that run. The only thing that was kinda tough was staying awake long enough to get my own writing done for the day–especially when everything (including my fingers) hurt LOL! I think today I’ll read the old fashioned way…snuggled up on the couch.

Anyone else reading for distance? Any audiobook lovers in the crowd? They are great in the car (can still be measured in miles) LOL! And they also make folding laundry a much better experience. Any guess about what book I finished on my run? I’ll give you a hint…it’s an adult apocalyptic novel getting a lot of well earned buzz. I really loved it.

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Rereading When There’s A Mountain of New Books

Filed under: Audiobooks, Pondering, Reading

In general, life is too short to reread books–even great ones–when there are so many amazing books out there that I haven’t read yet. There are mountains of books to be consumed and I’m greedy. But there are always exceptions to general policy LOL!

Many books


Unfortunately, this year I’m slower than usual in my reading, making every opportunity to read something, that much more valuable. So, to find myself doing more rereading than usual surprises me. I lost huge chunks of time when we moved and when my boys changed schools. But when I took a peek at the book I do have under my belt for 2014, I found that more than any other time I can remember, a large percentage of these books I’ve read before. In my read column 4 out of 33 are rereads and in my currently reading column I have another 2 books that are rereads with the potential for more. (I have a couple in the que of my iTunes audiobook list.)

As I noticed the number of rereads creeping up higher, I began thinking about why I was returning to these books. I discovered I had a variety of reasons…

*I’m rereading books with my younger boys that I’d read with my older son. He had a different school schedule and we’d pick out books he and I could share in the car when the other kids weren’t around. If we loved the story (audiobooks aren’t cheap) we’ve been happy to recycle. THE AIRMAN by Eoin Colfer and UNGIFTED by Gordon Korman were fabulous rereads for everyone.

*I’m also sharing great books I’ve read as ARC’s (and didn’t have time to read with the boys) or books they weren’t ready to read with me before, but now they are. Like BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys

*I also love reading books on craft using a tangible paper copy I can underline and make notes in. I feel writing books are meant to be written in, but I often like to do follow-up reads of the same amazing book on audio. So far I’ve done this with Stephan King’s ON WRITING and I’m currently soaking up BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott. I HIGHLY recommend BIRD BY BIRD on audio BTW–it is amazing. I am also confident that these amazing books will be listened to over and over again over the years. Inspiration and motivation!

Do you reread your favorite books? Do you reread books in new ways, like a paperback and audio versions of the same story? What’s your favorite reread and how many times have you consumed it? Inquiring minds want to know.



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Guest Post on YAOTL: The Books I Wished I’d Written

Filed under: Pondering, Reading, Writing

I’m blogging over at YA Outside the Lines Today. This month we’re talking about The Books We Wished We’d Written.

What??? It was like eating chocolate covered potato chips. I couldn’t pick just one or two or…

You get the idea.

But as tough as it was to decide on some favorites, I feel so lucky to have read and been affected by so many stellar books over the course of my life. As far as tough choices go, there are worse things I could be forced to do. *grin*


Which books did I pick and how did I narrow it down? You’re going to have to click HERE to find out!

What books do you wish you’d written?


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The Power of the Stories Behind the Stories

Filed under: Reading, Writing

Today’s recommendation for writers is to find some of your favorite books and chase down the stories behind them. But I don’t want you to pick the flavor of the month. You need to pick the books that make you want to be a better writer–possibly even a better person. And I’m not saying that they all have to be emotional, literary powerhouses. It just has to be something that you consider well written and it has an impact on you. It’s about the books you think about long after you’re done reading them.

Next I want you to search the blogosphere to find out the back story of that story. What inspired that writer to grow that particularly twisted chain of thoughts in their head and put them on the page? Learn about when the story first started to incubate in their mind. Find out how long it took them to draft and redraft that manuscript.  Every good story behind the story seems to have it’s own emotional and plot arcs too. In my experience, in the really good books, what happens in the mind, heart and soul of the writer is often just as interesting as the published story. There is power in the stories behind the stories.

Why do I think we should do this? Because it reminds us of why we write and how we write. It grounds us in reality–some books that look like overnight successes have really been twenty years in the making. (Laurie Halse Anderson’s THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY) It helps us see  history as something that needs a voice. Without our words we run the risk of repeating our mistakes. (Ruta Sepetys’ BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY and Khaled Hosseini’s A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS) It shows us that embedded within the action there is deep thought and social consideration. (Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES and Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT) It doesn’t matter how long the book or who is it’s intended audience. (Dr. Suess’ THE LORAX or Anne Frank’s THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) Someone telling their personal truth resonates.

tell them your story


Our greatest stories have stories and they leave clear and important messages to the tribe of writers that follow behind. Write what speaks to you and tell that story in your own voice. Write without fear or at least without letting the fear rule your choices. Write to serve yourself rather than an audience–if you speak your own truth there will be someone else that will connect with your words. Writers must write to become better writers, but they also must read to become better writers. It is through hard work, personal revelation and honest connection that we grow. It’s time to unleash the power of the stories behind the stories.

Are there stories behind the stories that have had an impact on you? Which ones–you need to share.

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