Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Venturing Out of My Comfort Zone

I've been popping through some books lately. I read the Scotland series by the Mallory author; and I also read the Three Sisters Trilogy by Nora Roberts (even though I don't have a single keeper book of Nora's on my shelves and I usually will turn up my nose and read the Wall Street Journal than a book by her on an average day); and I even read a sci-fi novel, Grimspace, mostly because it was by that author that all the rude sci-fi male authors were being dillholes about. Okay, not all the sci-fi male authors--the white conservative Republican half--I was reassured to see a more liberal, fair-minded group of male authors who were very supportive of women sci-fi writers and what they bring to the genre. And weren't threatened that the women authors might write about love...and cooties. And God knows what else--a committed relationship, I suppose.

So I do have to admit, I enjoyed all the Sisters books. I just liked the concept all the way around. On a story level, I'd give them all a 5 star; and on my nitpicky writerly-readerly side, I give them a 4, because yes, yes, the great LaNora's writing voice just irks me a tad. It's not "deep" enough for me--and I'm all about the deeper.

Hmm. I just had a giggle. I knew this boy once--Mike--and he used to say that if a girl wanted him to go "faster" or "harder", he was more than happy to oblige her, but if she wanted "deeper", he would have to start talking philosophy. Bless his heart. Anyway, it's a little like that. Nora is great at the faster and the harder--great pacing, lots of action, urgency and danger. Oddly, though, for me, I still feel on the surface of the story, like I'm being told something rather than shown something. *shrugs* Not everything works for everyone, as the saying goes around here.

As for Grimspace, I too would give it a 5 stars for the story, but as for myself, I'd probably give it a 4. 4 is that designation I give books when I think, "Really good, but I'd never re-read this book." That's really what makes a book a 5 for me. Would I take this book to my deserted island? Clearly that's all personal opinion--but aren't all book reviews? Yes, we can say, "Yes, the setting, dialogue, characters--all great--but did I ever buy this as more than a story? Not really." I realize that's expecting a lot of the books I read, but there is something about a Julie Anne Long book, the characters are so real, you know you could go back in time and meet them. Same with Lisa Kleypas and Eloisa James. But eh, not every story is like that. Couldn't expect them to be. How would you know happiness from sadness if you didn't experience both now and again?

Grimspace was a bit like Hans Solo meets The Fugitive--the main character, Sirantha Jax, is trying to escape from "the authorities" and meanwhile she's being helped by, well, another Hans Solo...a Princess Lei (don't let Dina hear you call her that), and Spock. Oh, wait, that's two different sci-fi worlds, isn't it? Oh, well. You experts sort it out. It had its romance, its humor, its moments of near-death experience, but in the end, I'm not sure I'd read it again. But that is just a matter of personality. I have a fascination for history, history's stories, the people in history--so historical novels are much easier for me to slip into, like a warm bubble bath. Sci-fi--like the invigorating cold shower it is--definitely is a nice change of pace but it's not something I would willingly embrace everyday for the rest of my natural life with no warm baths in return. (Whereas I think sci-fi people tend to think of their stories as the warm bath...know what I mean?)

Anyway, I found both the Three Sisters trilogy and Grimspace to be excellent "going outside the comfort zone" type of books. They seem the cream of the crop of their "type"--and I usually find that a good book is a good book when this is the case. So I'm still giving myself a gold star for seeing the greatness in each story, even if I had to decide if I would keep the book or not, they'd be passed along to someone else who would probably value them more. (I have to keep the space for my Harry Potter books, you know.)

What are you doing (or reading) outside of your comfort zone lately? All progress is great progress.


Maureen said...

Well, I've been reading a fair amount of non-fiction. An online class I'm taking required the reading of Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use if For Life . And it's good.

I also am reading Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink... It is fascinating!

I actually had my doctor suggest to me surgery as an option toward weight loss and so I figured I needed to know a hell of a lot more before I even think about it... So I read The Sleeved Life: A Patient-to-Patient Guide on Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy Weight Loss Surgery by Pennie Nicola...again, interesting and very informative. Certainly made me think twice about making such a drastic change in my life.

So! I'm reading a fair amount of non-fiction. Which is really a different way to open up my writing again...but I desperately need to work on my panel presentation and since it's non-fiction, reading this stuff is helping.

MsHellion said...

Mo, those sound like excellent books. I do like non-fiction books about creativity (and writing), just for the benefit of reading of new ways to think of things or do things I haven't tried yet that might make me a better writer (besides writing--or maybe what I'm reading helps me write MORE which makes me a better writer. Whatever.)

Yes, weight loss surgery is definitely a drastic change. Holy cow. It seems doctors are offering that more and more now as a solution. I remember when they only offered it as a solution if a candidate was like 400 pounds...but it seems like they'll be offering it as a solution to those who need to lose only 40 pounds rather than 200+. I assume they have a good reason for it, but it just seems alarming to me.

Terri Osburn said...

I guess what I'm reading is out of my typical comfort zone, but I can't resist Nancy Northcott's Mage series. She sucked me in with the first, RENEGADE. Finished the novella, PROTECTOR, a couple nights ago, then flew right into my ARC of the next one, GUARDIAN. I've been dying for Dr. Stephen Harper's story, and now I have it.

Mages with magical powers fighting ghouls (which are really foul) and demons. Totally not my thing until now. Nancy makes these books read more like contemporaries that just happen to have some magical stuff going on. Love her voice.

MsHellion said...

Considering how you usually feel about paranormal woo-woo stuff (i.e. vampires, werewolves, et al), yes, I would say this is outside your typical norm, but you raved about RENEGADE so it's not surprising you've kept reading--and it's a testament to Nancy's writing that she makes each book as good (or better) than the last. There's an interesting blend of hard work, luck, and chemistry that makes a series work.

P. Kirby said...

Heh. Grimspace, for me, was 2.5 stars, and as I said at Goodreads, rounded up to 3-stars, as a pity fuck.

Was majorly disappointed with that one. All kinds of WTFuckery going on. Less Star Wars and more a lifeless clone of Firefly/Serenity. Oh, well.

Hmmm. Since I wander all over the place, genre-wise, I don't have a significant comfort zone. Just finished Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech), a youngish-YA, or maybe older Middle reader, which despite the accolades, I found sweet, but a little flat.

Currently reading Hearts of Darkness (Kira Brady), which is PR, a genre that usually doesn't blow up my skirt because...alpha heroes, ick. But, so far, the world-building is a cool mixture of Norse, Native American and Mesopotamian mythology. Feels like a good mystery. I hope it doesn't devolve into endless sexing in later chapters, because...snore.

About to start Cold Magic (YA?), by Kate Elliot, but it's fantasy, so firmly in the comfort zone.

Downloaded John Scalzi's (a not misogynistic SF writer) Old Man's War because it was dirt cheap. It falls a little into my not-comfort zone, because other than Sara Creasy's Scarabaeus books, most SF I've read (Grimspace, cough) has been a disappointment or a techno-suckfest (The January Dancer, ugh, awful).

Terri Osburn said...

Okay, I must know what a techno-suckfest is. LOL! Love that term. (I don't read sci-fi, so if that should be self-explanatory, my apologies.)

Maureen said...

Yeah, Hels, it's drastic. Which is why I'm reading a lot. Educate myself. This doc has known me for 15 years, so I do have to take her opinion seriously. No rushing into anything!

The Mindless Eatng is fascinating!

P. Kirby said...

Techno-suckfest is my term for hard SF that is absent all characterization and coherent plot, and is all about some big fucking idea. Or in the case of The January Dancer, a mix of purple prose and techno-babble about quantum physics. I lurves my science and devoured Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, but that was non-fiction. I want my fiction to have story and characters.

MsHellion said...

Pat, since you're a frequent reader of sci-fi (and therefore knows what blows and doesn't blow), I bow to your expertise regarding star allotment. :) However, compared with my "knowledge" of sci-fi, in general the story, characters, et al, seemed fine. I also haven't seen Firefly, so if I had--and liked it as much as true fans do--I probably would have been more disagreeable about the book, like I am with books that imitate Harry Potter in some way. Or a historical novel that's supposed to be funny like Julia Quinn but is funny in a slapstick goofy way rather than the smarter way I associate with JQ.

Ratings are funny things. They're basing against your feelings about a slog of information you have at that time...and may change later for good or ill.

The Hearts of Darkness sounds cool because I dig those cultures so it would be neat to see that world-building in play.

I'm with you though--it still needs to be a STORY about something-someone and not just idea or a cause about something.

MsHellion said...

Terri, glad you asked what technosuckfest was.

MsHellion said...

Mo, Mindless Eating is fascinating. We touched on it very lightly in my first meditation class (missed the 2nd class--see: RASH), but it was very fascinating when you actually stop to concentrate and be present for what you're eating, you can be satisfied with less.

Maureen said...

This book studies the science behind it. Not just the philosophy. The tricks used to manipulate us to eat. Stuff you just don't consider.

MsHellion said...

Well, SHARE, Mo--or do you want me to request you do a book report on it next Tuesday for the review day!

Maureen said...

Really? On a sociology book? I...well, maybe I can find a way to relate it to how writer's can lead readers where they want to...

Terri Osburn said...

A link to the book, Mo. A link to the book!

Maureen said...

Hey, she asked about a report on it, too!

But here is the link... http://www.amazon.com/Mindless-Eating-More-Than-Think/dp/0345526880/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372216120&sr=8-1&keywords=mindless+eating+by+brian+wansink