Monthly Archives: January, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Writing or Riveting?

What’s more important: Good writing? Or a good story?

(Of course, a book should have BOTH, but…)

Part of me wants to say that a great story told badly remains a great story regardless. A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind as a well-known example. Dickens got paid by the word, so he was long-winded and overly descriptive not only for style but also for financial security. (I would probably behave similarly if I got paid that way. Alas, I am salaried, so I just have to be awesome because I want to.) Two Cities is a great novel, though, despite being so very long. The story shines through the mildly infuriating technique.

On the other hand, a really great writer can make magic from muck. If you have a gift, you can create the literary equivalent of Luther’s snow-covered dunghill (which he may not have actually said). It remains garbage underneath, though. Even odorless trash is still trash, so story matters more than style.

The Heat Is On (Review: “Catching Fire”)

While I was home for Christmas, I saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with my mom and sister. I loved it. It was one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen, because it didn’t strictly require knowledge of the first movie, but it built beautifully on what had been established. Reading Catching Fire, the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, was a similar experience. It built beautifully on the first book (see my review of The Hunger Games here), but it is its own story as well.

Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.

Friday Five: Life

I’m just under the wire tonight. These look like interesting questions, too.

  1. What event in the world has most shaped your worldview? Probably the Resurrection, to be honest. Jesus is important to me.
  2. What personal event in your life is the most noteworthy to you? Finishing ACE and getting my master’s degree was my most recent milestone. Going back to church was the biggest one before that. (Finishing undergrad was important, but I already had ACE in my sights by then, so it was just a stepping stone.)
  3. What is something you hope to see in the future? The Jetsons promised me moving sidewalks (outside of the airport) and flying cars. I want them to make good on that promise!
  4. What song reminds you of the happiest day of your life? “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas will always remind me of that glorious second summer of ACE. I think of one night at Corby’s in particular when I hear it; that was our theme song.
  5. What song reminds you of the saddest day of your life? I don’t think I have a sad trigger song. This is what I like to call a “good problem.”

The Friday Five

Booking Through Thursday: Skipping

I saw this article the other day that asked, “Are you ashamed of skipping parts of books?” Which, naturally, made me want to ask all of YOU.

Do you skip ahead in a book? Do you feel badly about it when you do?

I’ve heard that people do this. They are heretics, I tell you! While it’s true that novels require thousands of words, so that individual words aren’t as crucial as they are in poetry, they’re still important. Cutting unnecessary parts of a book is the job of a good editor. Who are we mere readers to say what belongs and what doesn’t? When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, plenty of fans said they would have cut parts from it to make it shorter, but I never heard any good suggestions (or any at all, actually) as to what would have been okay to skip. You can skip if you want to, but you are missing out.

Year in Review: 2011

This is a little later (and much longer) than I’d hoped it would be, but it is better late than never, and it helps me realize that I had a busy and awesome year.

January: I rang in the new year at home with my whole family. I was disappointed not to have more exciting plans, but my family can be cool sometimes. Sometimes. And I got to meet up with one of my oldest friends on New Year’s Day. I attended the Catholic Campus Ministry Association Convention in Florida, where I made some good connections. I attended Texas Catholic Pro-Life Day (which I will sadly miss this year, but not too sadly because I’ll be at a wedding!) with my students here in Austin. I started posting here more often, though I didn’t pledge to post every day. I added a mobile version of my blog and opened up comment subscriptions, hoping to pull in more traffic.

February: I took the Jeopardy! online test for about the fourth time. (The fifth time was tonight.) I led a retreat for the students from the mission trip. It didn’t go as planned, but I had a great time getting to know them better and helping them get to know one another. I saw The Spazmatics downtown, which was totally awesome. Here on the blog, I reviewed Switchfoot’s EP Eastern Hymns for Western Shores (which is currently back in my CD player; I’m so old school).

March: I got even more involved with RCIA than I had been in fall 2010. It was finally time to really start talking about the revised Mass translation. I attended my second Longhorn Awakening, this time with a clue, and the interfaith council’s ecumenical Ash Wednesday service on campus. I gave blood again. A coworker got engaged and announced she’d be leaving us for Hawaii. I went to a karaoke bar. I led the mission trip. I started playing pub trivia.

April: I went to Dave & Buster’s for the first time, coming away with a souvenir shot glass after a spectacular moment at the Wheel of Fortune game and a crushing defeat at Deal or No Deal. I played Apples to Apples in a dive but also went to Alamo Drafthouse for the first time. Atmosphere: fabulous. 3-D movies: still not for me. I attempted to coordinate a hugely unpopular retreat (it just wasn’t popular this year, not in general). I did survive all of the crazy work surrounding Holy Week, though, and I got to see the people I’d worked with all year officially become fully-initiated Catholics. I went to a priest friend’s dissertation proposal defense and was hopelessly confused. I got involved with my new Catholic social group. I reached the 800-post milestone on my blog(s).

May: I went to a benefit dinner for Annunciation Maternity Home. Our A/C at work started to die, and I lost another coworker very suddenly (he didn’t die; he just got another job). I was invited to join the ACNM crew. I saw Love’s Labour’s Lost at Zilker Park after being unfortunately rained out on the first try.

June: I attended the Frank J. Lewis Institute for new campus ministers. It was like summer camp for campus ministers: so fun. I joined my current pub quiz team. I attempted to roller-skate for what I’m pretty sure will be the last time ever. My parents came to visit and I got to go on the Tower Tour. My post on the new Catholic myths remains unexpectedly popular.

THIS is what I wanted to see. (fan illustration by Marta)

July: I discovered a fantastic hairstylist outside of town, and I took classes at the diocese to learn more about what I’m supposed to teach (and know) regarding chastity and the Theology of the Body. I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a double-feature (the only way) in the theater and Footloose (back at Zilker) as theater. I renamed my blog and bought this domain. I got very excited over the new Switchfoot music from Vice Verses. I read Bumped and loved it to pieces.

August: I went on a retreat all for myself. I attended my only meeting of the FYA Book Club so far, even though I didn’t like the book and eventually gave it away through Goodreads. I officially reached my first work anniversary ever and celebrated with a visit from Sarah! Then it was my birthday.

September: Work got very busy, especially/although I knew more of what I was doing this time around. I managed to have a friend date and get more involved with our sorority, though, and I set up our lecture series. Two college acquaintances became Dominicans for life.

This was probably the best idea of my entire life.

October: I renewed my passport in anticipation of this year’s mission trip. I met Jon Foreman of Switchfoot fame and pure awesomeness. I went to Awakening again, this time totally getting it, but also wistful because I had to miss that coworker’s wedding. I opened up about my relationship with tithing.

November: I spent Thanksgiving here by myself, which was less than ideal but a good time for a cooking adventure. Because I love the Holy Souls in Purgatory, I blogged about them and plenary indulgences. Sometimes I can be timely.

December: I started out with a friend’s First Annual 29th Birthday Party and the 80s dance party that followed. I gave blood again, a bit more successfully because I tried to hydrate. I had to rail a little bit on the reactions to the revised translation. I ate tons of food at work-related events and slightly less while home with my family for Christmas. I ended the year eager to begin 2012. I’m excited to see what it will bring.

Friday Five: Luck

It’s a little sad to see a question set that was submitted by a deleted user. Half the fun of submitting questions is the mini-fame of being selected.

  1. Do you believe in luck, fate or a higher being? I don’t believe in luck, and I definitely don’t think that’s the same thing as believeing in “a higher being.” I do, of course, believe in God. Fate is iffy: I don’t imagine three sisters, but I believe God has a plan.
  2. Are you in control of your own destiny or someone else pulling the strings of your life?It’s a little of both. Regarding the aforementioned plan, a wise friend once suggested that, although God definitely has a plan, we don’t always know what it is, and even if we do, we don’t always follow it. I like his thinking.
  3. What are your lucky charms if you own any? I don’t believe in luck, so I don’t have any. I used to have a lucky necklace charm (a tiny 3-D heart), but I can’t remember why I thought it was so lucky. I wear my saints bracelet, another religious bracelet, and my holy medals, but they don’t have any power. They’re just reminders.
  4. Is the world really just a stage and are we merely actors on that stage? What does this have to do with luck? I think people are often part of something greater than they understand, but I don’t think of God as a puppeteer.
  5. Describe what happened on your “luckiest” day (positive or negative). I survived my car accident in 2009. That was miraculous, but not lucky.

A relief by Johann Gottfried Schadow of the three sisters representing Fate. Photo in the public domain.

The Friday Five

Booking Through Thursday: Interview, Part 2

Well, I guess this sort of answers my question from last time…and asks a whole bunch more.

But enough about interviewing other people. It’s time I interviewed YOU.

  1. What’s your favorite time of day to read? I like reading at lunch the best. It never feels like wasting time since I have to take a break from work anyway, and I can get two things done at once very easily.
  2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.) No, but during my last years in college, I read Benedictus at breakfast every day since the readings took about as long to read and unpack as it took me to eat.
  3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.) This one is not about books at all, but I love bagels and Honey Nut Cheerios.
  4. How many hours a day would you say you read? On a good day, half. When I caught in a really great book and feel like I have the time, up to three or four.
  5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago? I probably read about the same. The books I had to read in high school were rarely as demanding as all of my college reading, so I kept a pretty good pace. Now I have to read at a good clip for ACNM purposes.
  6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader? Not in the slightest. I read remarkably slowly for someone who was once a professional reader and writer (a.k.a. English teacher).
  7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Again, this is not book-related. I would be able to read minds, but I would have to be able to turn the mind-reading on and off so I didn’t accidentally go crazy.
  8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go? Yes and no. I always have my phone, and that’s where I keep the Sherlock Holmes collection I’m working through and a number of other books in iBooks, but I only carry my regular book to and from work, so I can read it during lunch.
  9. What KIND of book? There’s no need to shout. I carry whatever I’m reading at a given moment.
  10. How old were you when you got your first library card? Ooh, this is much better than the non-book questions. I was probably 14 when I got my first library card. My mom had to cosign because I wasn’t old enough for an adult card yet. I moved to school as soon as I would have been old enough, though.
  11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?) The book that was printed the longest time ago is probably one of the library discards I snagged but have never actually read. The book that was written the longest time ago is the Bible, but if that doesn’t count, then the works of Sir Thomas Malory (Arthurian legend). The book I’ve owned the longest is Birthday Surprises, which I’m pretty sure I bought while we were living in Japan.
  12. Do you read in bed? Never. Once I get into bed, I go straight to sleep. Sometimes I sit on my bed while I read, but that’s not the same.
  13. Do you write in your books? Very rarely. Usually I only write in books that are really tough to understand (like Orthodoxy, which was fantastic but dense).
  14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?I’m going to guess this is someone who can read, but just doesn’t do it for pleasure. I’d say, read what you want, and don’t feel embarrassed about what you choose. Also, ask for recommendations from people you like as people, not just the ones you think are the smartest.
  15. What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask? (Actually, leave the answer to this one in the comments on this post, huh? So I can find them when I need inspiration!) This turned into the Friday Five really quickly. I’m satisfied with the questions as is. Maybe something about “a book that changed your life” would be nice.

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