Category Archives: Reading

Reading: The Big Read

Book_stack_small

The National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Midwest, created The Big Read program to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. It provides people with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities.

In 2006, ten organizations in the United States participated. In 2014 there are now organizations in all 50 states along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to support their Big Read projects, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement. The Reader’s material, Teacher’s material, and Audio material are also available free of charge on their web site.

The current program runs from September, 2014 to June, 2015. For a list of participating organizations in your area, please visit The Big Read web site at http://www.neabigread.org/

I was excited to see The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin on the list. Let me know in the comments what books you are interesting in reading/re-reading!

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Reading: Happiness Decoded

Happy Coffee and Book

In the August 2014 issue of Prevention magazine, Kate Lowenstein’s article “Happy on Purpose” presents some interesting ideas on the topic of happiness.

Lowenstein’s article cites psychologist Barbara L. Fredricson’s research on the subject of happiness. Fredricson divides happiness into two categories: Hedonistic and eudaimonic. According to Fredricson, hedonic happiness is “pure pleasure—that delicious but fleeting feeling derived from eating an excellent meal or getting a massage” (as cited in Lowenstein, 2014, p. 69). Eudaimonic is “big-picture, meaningful-life happiness you might get from satisfying work or meditating” (as cited in Lowenstein, 2014, p. 69).

These categories make perfect sense to me as a writer. The type of happiness I experience when I drink a delicious cup of coffee is different than happiness I experience when I write. The feelings from drinking the coffee are fleeting, but the happiness derived from writing lasts. Simply thinking about a story I am working on, or one I have completed, causes a feeling of full-hearted contentment.

In the same issue of Prevention, Susan Ince mentions that hedonistic pleasure can be derived from reading. Ince reports that “just 15 or 20 minutes of reading” can have a positive impact on your emotions (2014, p. 70).

So my two favorite activities—reading and writing—can help maintain the balance of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness that Fredricson believes will help people derive “a bigger positive emotion yield out of everyday events, which in turn feeds our happiness some more” (as cited in Lowenstein, 2014, p. 69).

So what makes you happy? Do you look for hedonistic or eudaimonic happiness? Let me know!

References

Lowenstein, K. (2014). Happy on purpose. Prevention (8), pp. 67-69.
Ince, S. (2014). Read one of these 55 books. Prevention (8), pp. 70-71.

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Review of Shannon A. Thompson’s Take Me Tomorrow

takemetomorrow

Shannon A. Thompson, author of the YA dystopian novel, November Snow, and the Timely Death Trilogy, asked me to review her newest YA novel, Take Me Tomorrow, and I am delighted to do so.

**Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead**

Sophia Gray, the heroine of Take Me Tomorrow, is bold, courageous, smart, and strong. She is thrust into the center of a mystery that encompasses both her friends and family when she encounters an enigmatic young man named Noah near her home. Sophia has to find the truth behind secrets that have been kept for years by those closest to her; she pushes forward, even when there is danger, even knowing that the truth could drastically change her life, because her conscience will not allow her to just walk away.

Take Me Tomorrow is set in a dystopian era, although this is very slowly revealed by the author. The similarities to the present time in North America are evident from the start; the differences are exposed through snatches of imagery, through introspection, and through conversation between the characters until readers are left with a story world that is a frightening vision of a future that could potentially develop from our own society.

When reading Take Me Tomorrow, my thoughts drew comparisons between the current immigration crisis in the United States, where unaccompanied minors are illegally crossing the border in vast numbers fleeing faltering economies, rising crime, and gang activity in their Central American homelands, and the issues faced by Thompson’s characters as they flee similar situations. Obviously Thompson had envisioned and written the novel long before the current immigration crisis occurred; yet the fact that the novel delves into these issues adds one more layer of veracity to the themes in the story.

I enjoyed Take Me Tomorrow quite a bit. Thompson always creates likeable and believable characters in her novels. I particularly like Noah in this story. (I do not want to provide additional details about his character because I feel it would give away too much of the plot. Other readers should have the same opportunity to experience Noah in the same manner that I did—without spoilers.) The story itself is fascinating. Thompson unravels the mystery slowly for her readers; I read it in one sitting (which I planned for in advance) and I found that it kept that sense of suspense until the very end. The resolution, which leaves opportunities for future novels, was satisfying.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Take-Me-Tomorrow-Shannon-Thompson-ebook/dp/B00LUCOLT8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405484930&sr=1-1&keywords=Take+Me+Tomorrow
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457218
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22054027-take-me-tomorrow

Disclaimer: The author provided an advanced copy of Take Me Tomorrow in exchange for a timely and honest review.

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Reading: “Hello? Put Down Your iPhone and Look Up”

This is a very interesting look at the modern, technological world. The poem is written, performed and directed by Gary Turk. The style is reminiscent of a work by Dr. Seuss. Through a love story, viewers/listeners learn a lesson about trading our lives and experiences with people for digital connections. Turk presents the idea that the more we are connected, the more alone we become.

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Seconds Before Sunrise Press Release

Hello!

A fellow author, Shannon A. Thompson, asked me to share this information and I am happy to do so. I really believe that we need to support each other with our creative endeavors. I have reviewed Shannon’s novel as well, which you can find here:

http://chrispavesic.com/2014/03/08/book-review-seconds-before-sunrise/

Shannon A. Thompson is a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing. Whose YA, Paranormal book (AEC Stellar Publishing Inc., March 27th 2014) is the second installment in The Timely Death Trilogy.

Shannon A. Thompson

Two nightmares. One memory.

“Chaos within destiny. It was the definition of our love.”

Eric has weeks before his final battle when he’s in an accident. Forced to face his human side, he knows he can’t survive if he fights alone. But he doesn’t want to surrender, even if he becomes the sacrifice for war.

Jessica’s memory isn’t the only thing she’s lost. Her desire to find her parents is gone and so is her confidence. But when fate leaves nightmares behind, she decides to find the boy she sees in them, even if it risks her sanity.

Here’s what others are saying about it:

Lionel Green from The Examiner:

“Strong character development, a suspenseful climax and a potentially devastating twist of fate make ‘Seconds Before Sunrise’ a welcome addition to the crowded field of young adult paranormal romance novels.”

Desiree Putaski from The Bookie Monster:

“I love the premise of this book; it’s refreshing and unique. The other thing that I love is the author’s ability to create a world within a world. It’s easy to create your own mythical world; where the author gets to make up all the rules that govern that world, but Ms. Thompson has created this mythical world within the real world of Hayworth, Kansas.”

Seconds Before Sunrise
Seconds Before Sunrise

About the Author

You need the world and the world needs good people

Kansas, English graduate Shannon A. Thompson (http://shannonathompson.com/), is very passionate about writing, reading, and drinking too much coffee. Since her debut novel in 2007, November Snow, she has signed with AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. She is the Chief Operating Officer of AEC Stellar Publishing Inc., who happens to have a fantastic cat named Bogart, after her favorite actor Humphrey Bogart.

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Seconds Before Sunrise

– AEC Stellar Publishing Inc. – ISBN: 1940820030

– Price: $10.51 ISBN13: 9781940820033

– Pub Date: March 2014 – Pages: 277, Paperback, 21 x 14.8 x 1.8 cm

Amazon, Goodreads

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Book Review: Seconds Before Sunrise

Seconds Before Sunrise

I enjoyed Shannon A. Thompson’s previous novel, Minutes Before Sunset, so I was glad to be given the opportunity to review Seconds Before Sunrise before its official release date. The two novels are part of an announced trilogy which chronicles the lives of three interconnected groups in Hayworth, Kansas: the Light, the Dark, and the Human.

The Dark and the Light have two forms—human and “mystical other”—and live in human communities, covertly hiding their supernatural forms. Those of the Light may seem beautiful to humans and have pretended to be god-like or angelic when appearing in the past, but demonstrate a terrifying capriciousness and cruelty in both novels. Those of the Dark, known as Shades, literally strive to protect the world from the burning, destructive power of the Light.

Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead

The protagonist, Eric, known as Shoman in his Shade form, has been training his whole life to battle a powerful warrior of the Light, Darthon, on Eric’s eighteenth birthday. This fight to the death fulfills a prophecy of ascendancy between the two factions, one which decides once and for all whether light or dark will dominate in the world.

In Minutes Before Sunset, it is one year before the prophesized battle; Eric meets Jessica, who moved back to Hayworth with her adoptive parents. Shoman sees her first as an unknown Shade, and then they meet in human form at the local high school. Because of the secretive nature the Dark needs to maintain, their romance develops in both forms but on separate paths. The reader knows the truth before Eric and Jessica recognize each other as both human and Shade combined. Their meeting, and romance, is tied to the prophecy and even though the personalities of humans differ from the Shades once they shift form, their romantic connection is undeniable.

It is an interesting choice to juxtapose a paranormal romance with the budding attraction felt by two seemingly typical high school students; but part of the brilliance in Thompson’s writing is the blending of the supernatural story world with the realistic setting of a small town, and she continues it in Seconds Before Sunrise. In some ways it would be easier to create a magical world where the author sets up all of the rules and lets the readers venture forth into the alternate reality with no expectations of the society other than those created on the page. Thompson, however, rises to the challenge in both novels and creates a supernatural setting in the middle of a mundane high school. There are rules and regulations, social norms and nuances, cliques and outsiders to contend with in the novel that will be familiar to anyone who has attended a high school in North America. Overlaying this is the struggle between Dark and Light—a literal battle between good and evil where the choices a character makes may have larger implications than at first apparent.

With so much secrecy inherent in all three societies, the two main characters do start wondering who they can trust, and the situations are not clear-cut. Are the acts part of the human condition, where some teenagers smoke, drink, and make otherwise poor choices, or are these circumstances somehow manipulated by the Light to make Shoman reveal himself before his eighteenth birthday? Is the gossip in school created by jealousy between the students, or is there someone driving the behavior? Is the prophecy accurate, or are there aspects that have been hidden from Eric and Jessica by the Elders? Readers can immerse themselves in these mysteries and discover where the truth lies along with the two characters.

The novels do not simply focus on aspects and intrigues that are paranormal, and therein lies the strength of the writing. Poor judgment can lead to death, whether through supernatural means or through a car crash. People can demonstrate their values through both service and sacrifice in their daily lives, or in mystical battles. Human beings can be just as powerful, and just as frail, as those who also inhabit the Dark and the Light.

Thompson has produced an enjoyable story where the characters continue to grow and evolve. After reading the first two parts of the trilogy, I cannot wait for the next to appear!

(Disclaimer: The author provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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Reading: Scott Adam’s How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has written many books on business and success. This might surprise people who only know him through the comics.
I recently read his newest work, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, and found that it had quite a few good sections for people who are trying to earn their livings through creative mediums (like writing).

This post is not a book review per se; instead I wanted to share links to some of the materials Adams created to promote his book. Many of the core ideas that I found helpful from the book appear in this article for The Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304626104579121813075903866?mod=topix&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304626104579121813075903866.html%3Fmod%3Dtopix

In The Wall Street Journal article, Adams (2013) writes:

“I wanted to create, invent, write, or otherwise concoct something widely desired that would be easy to reproduce. . . By design, all of my efforts were long shots. Had I been goal-oriented instead of system-oriented, I imagine I would have given up after the first several failures. It would have felt like banging my head against a brick wall. But being systems-oriented, I felt myself growing more capable every day, no matter the fate of the project that I happened to be working on.”

The idea Adams discusses creating a system rather than setting a goal appeals to me and the way that I write. He discusses these ideas in greater detail in the book.

The following slide show appears on the Scott Adams blog. (Warning: there is some inappropriate language.)

The idea that only desire is needed for success is laughable, which is exactly the point Adams makes in the presentation. Forget creativity, forget hard work, forget effort! If we follow the “sound bites” from those who already are rich and famous, we would focus solely on passion (and fail in our endeavors.)

This reminds me of a passage from The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett (2008), where Miss Tick, a teacher, gives the protagonist, Tiffany, some free instruction:

Miss Tick sniffed. “You could say this advice is priceless,” she said, “Are you listening?”
“Yes,” said Tiffany.
“Good. Now…if you trust in yourself…”
“Yes?”
“…and believe in your dreams…”
“Yes?”
“…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on.
“Yes?”
“…you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Goodbye.”

All in all–this is good advice!

Cheers!

References

Adams, S. (2013). Scott Adams’ secret of success: Failure. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304626104579121813075903866?mod=topix&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304626104579121813075903866.html%3Fmod%3Dtopix

Pratchett, T. (2008). The wee free Men.United Kingdom: HarperCollins.

(I am not associated with Scott Adams, Terry Pratchett, or The Wall Street Journal in any way.)

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