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30 Days With a Kindle

I was that girl who was totally against e-readers. I was all, “I’d never get an e-reader, I love having a book in my hand and collecting books on my bookshelf!”

Then I realized I was broke and not getting an amazing discount on books anymore and the books I wanted were never at the library when I wanted them, so I started looking up e-readers and mentioning to my mother that maybe I’d get one “someday.”

I got a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday last month. I was a little nervous. I had a stack of books I got for Christmas and now this shiny new e-reader that I wanted to fill with books. I didn’t know how I was going to juggle it all or if I would even like reading a novel on a device.

After a month with the Kindle, I’ve found that I’m reading more than I ever had (take away the enormous amount of time on my hands or that instead of obsessively writing like I usually do when I’m in a bad place, I’m obsessively reading.) I’ve read seven novels on the Kindle so far (two were short novellas I got for like $1 from Amazon), along with reading books. Like I said, my reading has become obsessive. 

What I love about my e-reader – The thing I love the MOST is climbing in to bed, turning all the lights off and curling up under the covers with my e-reader. It makes reading in bed so easy and comfortable. It’s easy to hold and it’s easy to turn the page. 

I’ve recently started highlighting memorable passages in books. I think this feature is going to come in handy the more I read. 

I love being able to “preview” a book from the Kindle store. I read the first 15-20 pages of The Goldfinch and I could not put it down.  I HAVE to read it. It’s next on my list.

The display on the Kindle really feels like your reading a book. I don’t see my reflection in the screen. I can change the brightness. It doesn’t feel as different from reading a physical book as I thought.

What I miss about books – There have been a few occasions I’ve gone to the bookstore to look at the book I’m reading on the Kindle and just find my place to see how far I’ve read. Even though the e-reader tells you what page you’re on and the percentage you’re at, there’s nothing like having a bookmark in a book and seeing how much you’ve read.

Also, there are some books I’ve read that I’m going to buy when they come out in paperback. For the only reason being they were so good I want to share it. I love passing along a good book and though it can be done with an e-reader, it’s not the same.

For now I’ve been going back and forth, reading a book one night then reading my Kindle the next night. I don’t think there will come a time I’m exclusively Kindle. I love having a stack of books. I love sharing books. I love the feeling of opening a brand new book.

But I love my e-reader. I think it will introduce me to new books and authors.

Books I’ve read on my e-reader:

Takedown Twenty – Janet Evanovich

All That Glitters – Alisa Valdes

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell (Loved this way too much)

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Turn it Loose – Britni Danielle

Bared to You – Sylvia Day

Men We Reaped – Jesmyn Ward (Must read)

Physical books I’ve read recently:

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

Good Lord Bird – James McBride

Sula – Toni Morrison

Brother, I’m Dying – Edwidge Danticat

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5 Things I Learned Working at a Bookstore

It’s been one year since I left my position as a customer service representative at a bookstore – a job I had for six years. When I look back at my twenties, over half of it was spent working surrounded by books. That job put me through four years of university and one year of post grad. It gave me the flexibility to take time off to study. It introduced me to people who will be my friends for the rest of my life.  The year I’ve been gone from that job has been hard, since working there became a safety net. I could work other jobs, go hard with school, take trips and always come back to that job. Here are some things I learned:

1)     I LOVE to read – I’ve always been a reader, but I don’t remember what my reading habits were like before I started working at the bookstore. Working there encouraged you to read. Not only could you buy books at a 30% discount, you could also borrow books, read them and return them. I discovered so many authors and series because of these perks. I never would have picked up Game of Thrones, or found Oscar Wao, or started reading the Stephanie Plum series, or black Harlequin romance novels (my weakness) if I wasn’t around books every day. I was forced to know what was new, what was on Oprah the day before, what books I had personally read that I could recommend. I had to be a reader in order to be a good employee. Now I have an overflowing bookshelf. I pass books on to my mother and sister and family members. I remember saying to a customer one Christmas season, “There’s nothing better than giving a book as gift!” and he looked at me like I was crazy.

2)     Books made me smarter – Because I was around books constantly, there were times when I’d find something interesting and flip through the pages. I read non fiction books about black history, education and war, I read biographies about child soldiers and strong women, I read historical fiction that taught me about slavery, African history and Haiti. My world opened up the more I read. I know I am smarter now than I would have been if I didn’t have the access to books I had while working at the bookstore.

3)     Work can bring great people in your life – Some of the greatest friends I’ve made in my twenties have been people I’ve worked with at the bookstore. I’ve travelled with them, had drunken nights with them, inside jokes that only us bookstore people will understand. There was a time when I looked forward to going to work because I loved the people I was working with. That’s something very special that I feel lucky I got to experience.

4)     Starbucks is addicting – I didn’t drink Starbucks before I started working at the bookstore. There was one right inside our store, so I started visiting there trying out new things. With the suggestion of some coworkers, I tried a frappuccino one afternoon. It changed my life. I would literally buy one every time I worked. I remember specifically I was there during Christmas time, it was snowing hard outside and I went to Starbucks to get a frap. That was when I knew I had a problem.

5)     Bookstores are important – I watched book sales decline at my store. In my last year I was expected to know about toys, gift products like scarves, nail polish and blankets, and features of an e-reader. I resisted all of it. I knew about books and I wanted to sell books. I still visit my old store and buy books from there when I can because books are important. I loved seeing kids and their parents cuddle up in a corner of the kids section and read a book (as long as they cleaned up after themselves). Or seeing the same women come in every month for their Harlequins. Or taking part in the midnight releases of Harry Potter or Breaking Dawn. There was a sense of community in our store. I’d be out at the grocery store or the mall and people would recognize me from the bookstore. There were regular creepy customers. There were fights and drama that kept us gossiping. That place really did become home.

I’ve visited my store a few times this year and every time I go back I miss it a little. Some of my friends are still there. The store is still the same. I still have the urge to tidy the shelves when I walk by. I was there maybe three years too long, but I look back on my time there with fondness. I learned a lot.

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Books that saved me in 2013

By no means was this year easy. Change is hard. I am not good with change. This summer I was unemployed, broke and depressed. I spent a lot of my time at my local library. Gone were the days I could afford to buy any book I wanted. I realized how important libraries are. I loved being able to pick up books I would never buy and discovering new writers. Reading got me through the hard times. Here were some books I read this summer and this year that kept me going:

Americanah – I tracked this book down in a library half an hour away from my house, I wanted to read it so bad. I spent a week blissfully immersed in this book. I would sit outside for hours until the sun went down, not wanting to stop reading.  Americanah tells the story of a Nigerian couple who fall in love in high school and both immigrate to the U.S. It’s part love story, part immigrant story, part critical look at race in America. The writing was amazing. Amazing. It’s the kind of writing that made me feel like I should give up and try even harder at the same time. I cried at the end because it was over. I love a good love story.

Eleanor and Park – Speaking of love stories. I love a good teen love story as well. I bought this book hoping I’d love it. I wept through the last twenty pages. These characters leapt off the page and seemed so real. I have never been in love but this book showed me what it would be like to be sixteen and feel these emotions you never experienced before. I loved that Park was Asian. I loved that Eleanor was fat. I loved the ending (though some people hated it). I loved the writing. This is a book I will pick up again and again.

The Awesome Girls Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men – Ernessa T. Carter is my favourite writer. She writes the kind of novels I wish I could write. 32 Candles, her first novel, is one of my favourite books of all time. Awesome Girls is her second novel that includes some characters from 32 Candles. This book consumed my whole life. I laughed, I cried, I was forced to look at my own life critically. I have passed it around my house. It’s a perfect book club book. You can sit with girlfriends and discuss the themes in this book for hours.

Calling Me Home – This is a book I would never buy. I saw it in the library, read the synopsis and borrowed it. It’s about an old white lady and her young black hairdresser taking a road trip to a funeral. On the way the old lady tells the story about her first love, a black man in the segregated south. It took a while for me to get in to it, at first it reminded me of The Help too much but by the end, of course, I was bawling. It was a devastatingly beautiful love story. I will never forget this story.

Maya’s Notebook – Again, I saw this book at the library, picked it up on a whim. It’s about a young American girl who runs away from home and is sent to her grandmother’s village in Chile. It’s a mystery, suspense and also a novel about the importance of family. Maya’s relationship with her grandparents reminded me so much of my own. I loved it so much.

Judging from this list, every book made me cry, but I think that’s the sign of a good book. I love a book that draws me in, makes me feel connected to the characters and care what happens to them. But most importantly, I didn’t have to think about my own life and I could get lost in another world. That’s why books are important.

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Fifty Shades of Grey – My Review

I only picked up Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James because of the hype. Usually erotica isn’t my thing, Twilight fan fiction is definitely not my thing. But I like to know what the hype is about when it comes to books, and I do enjoy reading erotica once in a while to get a good laugh.

But I’ve never, ever, read a book like this before.

People warned me that it was bad, but I had to see for myself. And it was pretty bad.

I don’t usually read erotica, but I consider myself an expert in romance novels. What I love about romance novels is being able to relate to the female lead character and fall in love with the male love interest. When they  have sex for the first time it’s emotional and beautiful because they love each other and are expressing their feelings. Fifty Shades of Grey had none of that.

First of all, the writing is horrible. That’s one of the main criticism of the book. The main character Anastasia is supposed to be 21, graduating university, but the way she speaks it sounds like she’s sixteen. It makes sense, since the book started off as Twilight fan fiction. So when she and Christian are having this hardcore sex, it seems like this is a really young girl and that makes it so not sexy. The author is British, these characters are supposed to be American, but everything they say sounds British. I kept forgetting that they were supposed to be in Seattle and not London. And if I ever see the words “Jeez”, “Holy shit” and “Crap” ever again, I’ll scream. At least one of those phrases were on every page. Every. Single. Page.

Christian, the love interest, was so not sexy. I was more interested to find out what happened is his life to make him not want anyone to touch him or for him to enjoy torturing women. You know you’re reading a failed erotica novel when the sex scenes do absolutely nothing to you. Nothing at all. I read the sex scenes either laughing at how stupid they were or cringing at how gross it was.

It was disturbing that Ana didn’t even want to do all the things that Christian wanted her to do, but decided to do it because she didn’t want to lose him. She was weak and needy and I couldn’t relate to her at all. The characters were so one-dimensional (and a little stereotypical when it came to best buddy Jose Rodriguez) I didn’t care what they were doing. I didn’t want to read endless pages of emails between Ana and Christian. Is this what’s considered good writing now? If so, it’s a little bit scary.

At the bookstores, this novel isn’t even shelved under erotica. They put it in general fiction, which is crazy. I’ve heard women have read it three times and seen women spot it in the store and sprint towards it. I don’t understand the appeal.

If you wanna read it, borrow it from the library or a friend. It’s so not worth the money.

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Black Fiction Haul

Every February I do a black fiction haul. I go to a bunch of different bookstores in my area, check out their black authors table and buy some new stuff. This year, I didn’t get a chance to hit every store I wanted, because school has completely taken over my life, but I did buy a few books and have been reading non stop. It’s amazing how much fiction can be read on the subway. Here’s a list of a few of the black novels I’ve read within the past few weeks.

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That Feeling….

I’ve been in school for about a month. It’s been such a huge adjustment. I’ve literally gone from doing nothing, to having to manage my time to make sure I get everything done. But besides the school work, I’ve started a new story and I cannot stop writing.

Before school started I was working on two novels I’ve been working on for a while, probably over a year. I finished the rough drafts of both of them. Once that was done, I had that empty feeling I always get when I don’t have a story on the go. One night a few weeks ago, an opening line popped in my head (which is kind of how I start all my books) and I jotted a few things down. Now I’m in the thick of it, getting to know these new characters and finding out about them.

It is the BEST feeling. I’m writing and my mind is racing, trying to figure out what’s going to happen, why these characters are at this point in their lives and getting ideas of where I want them to go. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about them, imagining the next scene in my head. I just want to dump all my ideas on to the page.

I’m working on another teen story. I really liked my first one (even though it needs a lot of work) so I wanted to try again. It’s in third person, about two teens who go to a performing arts school and how they fall in love. I’m very early in, but I really like my characters. If I don’t, I usually don’t finish the story.

Recently, I read “On Writing” by Stephen King, a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while. I absolutely loved it because we write in the exact same way. King says don’t worry about plot, or outline every little detail of your story, focus on the characters and just write. He says he writes a rough draft in about a month, because he gets to the point where he can’t stop writing and needs to get everything down quickly. I do the same thing. I’ll never forget when I wrote my favourite novel with my favourite characters, I was in a state and finished that rough draft in 2 months.

Not saying that I write as good as Stephen King, but it freaked me out that pretty much all his suggestions about fiction, I’ve done naturally. I write like a maniac, my stories are character driven and once I finish my first draft, then I go back and change things around.

This is not a good state to be in when I should be focusing on school. And I am focusing on school! But since I was 10 years old, I’ve focused on school and had a story on the side to work on in my free time. It’s what feels right.

Sometimes this passion feels like a curse.

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October Favorites

Only two more months and 2011 will be just a memory. I can’t wait for this year to be over. I’m ready for big changes and new adventures in 2012 (even if the world ends.) Until then, here are some of the things that kept me happy this month.

Oprah’s life class – Her show ended in May and already Oprah is back on TV everyday, now with her Life Class. It’s a one hour show, on her network OWN, where she just talks to the audience about a lesson she’s learned while hosting the Oprah Winfrey Show for twenty-five years. It’s simple things she talks about, learning to forgive, believing in yourself, letting go of past anger, but it’s things that people, especially me, need to be reminded of. Since watching the show and the webcasts online, I’ve noticed a change in my attitude. I’m more positive, I don’t let things bother me as much, I look forward to the future and things to come. This time last month, I was thinking only negative things, feeling really down about my life. I don’t tune in to Oprah’s show every night, but when I do, it instantly makes me feel better and makes me think.

Island Beneath the Sea – This historical fiction novel by Isabelle Allende grabbed me from the start and did not let go. It focuses on Tete, a biracial slave who lives in Haiti during the battle for its independence. I didn’t know much about Haiti’s history, and this book gave me a lot of great information. I love reading about slavery, and this book focused on slavery in the Caribbean which is something I wasn’t too familiar with. I’m not a huge historical fiction fan, but this novel was epic.

Community timeline episode – I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets lately saying that Community has fallen off in the third season. I would have to disagree based on the episode that aired a few weeks ago where the study group visited Troy and Abed’s new apartment. Six different timelines played out depending on which study group member when downstairs to get the pizza. It sounds complicated and weird, but it was brilliant and super funny. It’s still one of my favorite shows on TV.

Zumba – I think a good Zumba class depends on your instructor. I’m very particular about the kind of Zumba I like. I like a class that’s focused on Latin movement and music, I want to salsa, not do the running man. My gym added a new Zumba class and I’m back to being addicted. The instructor is amazing and the music is so good. I even went through a short phase where I was convinced I’d be the best Zumba instructor in the city. That phase has thankfully passed. It’s fun to brush up on my Latin dancing for when I go back to Punta Cana next summer.

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