Cool home libraries, with thanks to @judithmackin

It has always been my dream to have a sunny room filled with books – a place to curl up in a comfortable chair, and read. *sigh* I do have beautiful bookcases, built for me by my amazing brother, Tom.

Judith Mackin, designer extraordinaire, recently sent me this link to fabulous home libraries. Well, I can dream.

Fifty Shades of Grey – E L James

E L James’s novel Fifty Shades of Grey has caused something of a stir in the literary world. First published as fanfiction called “Master of the Universe” under James’s pseudonym Snowqueen’s Icedragon (and, really, fanfiction writers need to give their pen names a lot more consideration before they choose them!), the original story was set in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight universe. Yeah – there’s your first problem.

For those of you  unfamiliar with fanfiction, writers (of varying degrees of proficiency) pen stories based on characters and situations created by other writers.  Wikipedia has a competent explanation of its origins here. Really good fanfic writers can make their stories seem almost like canon. And really good fanfic is out there; but so is really, really bad fanfic. Back in the day I read (and wrote) a lot of it – so I can actually say this with some degree of authority.

Anyway, E L James publishes this wicked long Twilight-based fic – which I suspect is long gone from places where it was originally posted…although fans of the series can still be found gushing about it online. Someone (many someones, probably) suggest that she change the names of the characters and publish it – which James did, in eBook format and print on demand in June 2011 using  The Writers’ Coffee Shop. Word of mouth (ahem) fanned the flames and the rights to the book were purchased by Vintage. Suddenly, everyone was talking about Fifty Shades of Grey and weighing in on its subject matter. I talked a little bit about that here.

If you are a fic reader, I suspect that you’ll find Fifty Shades of Grey relatively tame.  Seriously. I’ve never read Twilight fic, but I’ve read the first two and a half books (and could barely manage that) and I’ve seen the movies (I have a 14- year-old daughter, although her literary tastes are, thankfully, more advanced than Twilight). Despite the name changes, there’s enough of Bella/Edward in Anastasia/Christian that even a casual reader will recognize them. They are, at the very least, completely derivative characters: she the winsome, beautiful-but-doesn’t-know-it, feisty yet innocent virgin and he is the over-the-top rich, fantastically beautiful (and like Meyer’s Edward, the reader has to be reminded of his beauty virtually every time he appears) control freak with a sad/complicated – or, as Christian himself says “fifty shades of fucked up” past.

Bella Ana does her roommate a favour by going to interview the reclusive Christian for the university paper. She  literally falls into his office – she’s kinda klutzy – and we are to believe that Christian is instantly smitten. He tries to stay away- unsuccessfully. But does he really like her, or does he just recognize in her a submissive personality?  Because one of Edward’s Christian’s dark secrets is that he likes to tie women up. And other stuff. Stuff that requires a contract and a safe word.

If you’ve read fanfic, you’ve read this scenario a bazillion times. If you’re going to pay for it, it wants to be good. So, is Fifty Shades of Grey good? For me, it was okay. The writing is okay. The sex is okay. The characters are okay. It didn’t particularly shock me, nor did it, you know, rev my engine.

Ana is prone to saying: Holy fuck! and Holy shit! and Holy crap! a whole lot. A whole lot! She also channels her inner goddess in what I suspect is her way of trying to decide whether or not the amazingly mind-blowing orgasms make up for the occasional spanking. Ana and Christian say, “laters, baby” to each other.  It’s weird. Noticing this stuff is always a sign that I am not really invested in the story. Oh come on, who reads a book like this for the story anyway?

I suspect that lots of people will find Fifty Shades of Grey shocking. But, truly, it’s pretty tame. If you want the really good stuff, you can read it online. For free.

Nevermore – Linda Newbery

This is the kind of book I would have loved as a young reader. Plucky heroine, manor house in the English countryside, an intriguing mystery. The problem for me, of course, was that I solved the mystery early on – but that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t fun to read.

Twelve-year-old Tizzie and her mother, Morag,  have moved to Roven Mere, where Morag has taken a job as a cook. The huge estate is a constant source of intrigue, especially for Tizzie, who hopes that for once Morag will give up the wanderlust that has driven them from town-to-town most of her life.

Owned by Sir Rupert Evershall, but run by the crusty Finnigan, Roven Mere is always at the ready for the return of Sir Rupert and his young daughter, Greta.

“Is he very grand, Lord Rupert?” Tizzie asks Mrs. Crump, the housekeeper.

“Oh, I’ve never actually met him,” said Mrs. Crump. None of us have. Only Finnigan. We’re expecting him home in a week or two. Him and his family. Very exciting it’ll be, meeting them at last.”

Tizzie spends her early days exploring the house – which does seem to be in a constant state of readiness for Sir Rupert and Greta’s homecoming – making friends with Davy, Mrs. Crump’s grandson, and trying to manage her mother’s moodiness.

The book is intended for younger readers whom I am sure would be charmed by Tizzie, the novel’s mystery and Roven Mere itself. I certainly was.

Raising a life-long reader

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember.  Back in February, I talked a little bit about the books of my childhood. There were always books in my house. My mom read to us all the time and I still remember the excitement of the Scholastic book order. Truthfully, I still love the Scholastic flyer. I could have frequent flyer points at our library; I would have chosen a book over new bell bottoms any day of the week – still would. (Okay, perhaps I would no longer purchase bell bottoms under any circumstances!)

There was no question when my daughter was born that she would be surrounded by books. On Christmas and  at birthdays she received books: Dr. Seuss and fairy tales, Winnie the Pooh and Junie B. Jones. We read to her until she could read to herself. And then we still read to her. We did the same with her younger brother. Then they read to each other and to kids who were younger.  I never denied them a book. Never would. They love to read – and they are excellent readers. No surprise: they are excellent writers, too.  My daughter once remarked that she didn’t understand people who didn’t like to read. I once took her and a school friend to Indigo and bought them both a book. It was the first book the friend had ever read. She was 12.

Sara Ralph over at the Nerdy Book Club has some wonderful suggestions for raising a reader.

A love of reading is a gift that keeps on giving.

Nine stories that changed the world via @huffpost

Today I read an essay from one of the students in my writing class where she talked about having read her way through all the books about dogs and puppies in her elementary school library. She was frustrated and discouraged and not interested in anything but books about dogs and then her teacher suggested she read Sarah, Plain and Tall. It changed her world.

Huffington Post offers up a list of nine stories that have changed the world

What is the story you’d add to this list?