The Rebirth of Reading

About a year ago I bought a house and moved in with my Other Half. After having a relationship for six years, we had thought that it was high time – regardless of the challenges that we knew would present itself during the adjustment phase. And, we had anticipated quite a few. We were and still are both two very singular people with our own rhythm and routines. We had also had to adjust from living a life between weekends, to finding the kind of balance that people needed to that saw each other every day.

It’s been a journey worthy of a blog post itself, though admittedly one I’d never write because I feel that there are some things you just don’t talk about in public. Simply because one of the most beautiful things about our relationship is the converstaions that can happen in private…

But, conversations weren’t always all we had. In general, like the exhausted, overworked adults of this century, we found ourselves mostly watching television at night. Over the past few years I had accumulated quite a few series that I wanted to get into and my Other Half was more than willing to share in the viewing experience. Of course, this became a habit and pretty soon – it was all we generally did. This was very new to me, certainly a big adjustment. I’ll be lying if I say that I don’t like watching television, but I’ve always tried to limit myself, especially during the week because I’ve been brought up to believe that it is a tremendous waste of time.

They even preached it to us in school through teaching Roald Dahl’s The Reading Killer.

Yet, because of life and the general rhythm of things, the television suddenly became quite a fixture in our daily routine. And secretly, I think both of us started to resent it.

Having grown up as a reader, having gone through school with three or four books in my bag at a time – I hadn’t loved reading in as much as I had needed it. I had been fiercely protective of my time with my books. Like all reading children, I hid books on my lap in class, snuck them away between the covers of my textbooks and carried them with me always, as one would a weapon of self-defense. The only thing that made inroads into my reading time was my own writing. And in hind sight, even that was a minor sacrilege. Because I now feel that you cannot write if you don’t read enough to make you humble.

And, hypocritically, I’ve been preaching it a lot. During November, my main message to my NaNoers are to read. To broaden their minds. To acknowledge the books that made them want to write. I’ve stood up in front of scores of people, cornered many an unsuspecting sitcom fan and unleased the passion of my thoughts of fiction. Yet, I had abandoned it for television.

Something had to give and it all started with a really bad book. I will not say the title of it because this article isn’t a review in as much as it is a musing but – in January I downloaded a free book from Samsung Kindle and it… repulsed me. There wasn’t a scrap of originality in it, not a wink of creativity. It was loosely put together, slightly silly. Pretty much like every television series after Season Four. I had closed the book, deleted it from my phone and promptly started reading a book from Charles Dickens simply because I knew that it at least had proven its worth.

It had substance. It felt alive.

And it reminded me why I loved reading so much.

The natural progression was to want more. I began digging into my own library again, finding the books that lay on my cupboard, half read, half forgotten. My Other Half began to follow suit and soon we found ourselves sitting in front of the television, staring at the images that were shown to us and realizing that we much preferred out own. The Conversation happened, a confession that we didn’t want to watch as much television anymore. The relief that followed was a release.

We decided to make books a priority again, to feed our minds instead of simply using our eyes. I took to Goodreads and pretty soon, we had a reading list several books long. Sanctions were put on the television. We wouldn’t stop watching completely (because I can’t give up Blacklist…) but we decided to limit how much we watch. An episode a night at most. Two over the weekend.

The result has been enlightening. After The Conversation we spend our Sunday lying in bed together, simply reading with our dog and cat wedged in between us.  Silence drifted through the house but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It was the kind of silence that people had when they were content.

When they were being transported into other worlds.

I’ve missed those worlds and my soul has taken to reading like a body to food after a fast. With the act reborn, with the hobby retaken, reclaimed, I look forward to every moment that I can have a moment. Where I can steal a breath to turn a page or two.

And it is enlightening.

And it is a relief.

I will not put my book down easily again.

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Alyssa has
read 4 books toward
her goal of
25 books.
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Catch me if you can…

I’ll confess, I’ve been busy – which is the reason this blog has been standing quite stagnant for a while now. Work has been… Work. I try not to get too philosophical about it because then I’d just get depressed and do something drastic like become a Desperate Housewives fan or something. I’ve also played Mass Effect 3 – the game that dominated most of my post for the past couple of months. Whereas the major bulk of the game was everything I anticipated and more, the end of it left a bitter, bitter taste in my mouth. (In a lot of people’s mouths actually – it’s been one of the most heated debated topics in the gaming community for the past month). When I have worked things out in my mind, I’ll post about it but for now, that topic’s sitting on the back burner.

I have been quite prolific with writing I have to say, though a lot of it is internet articles. Here’s a list of what I’ve been up to:

For the web magazine Contains Moderate Peril I’ve been doing a series of posts about my experiences as I played Mass Effect 3. You can see all the articles here.

The most exciting thing that I’ve done is that I’ve managed to get my hands on an ARC of a book that was to be published in the UK on the 13th of March (or 16th? Heck – this is my blog, I don’t have to be accurate, haha). The website I’m actively posting for (Nerd Trek – I post there at least once a week) asked me to read it and review it. The publishers send the book to me and with my luck, it arrived a day before Mass Effect 3. Needless to say, I hardly slept the past month, jumping between saving the galaxy from the reapers and saving the Titanic from its fate. The book’s name is The Company of the Dead by debut author David Kowalski and I have to say, I enjoyed it. It’s a thick bugger, clocking in at 730 pages in a REALLY tiny script (I need new reading glasses…), but it was well worth the read. You can check out my review here and the author’s webpage here.

Other than that, there’s very little for me to add. I think I’m going to give gaming a break for a bit and jump back into things I actually have a hand in (and can control the fate of my characters without leaving them with major plot holes thank you very much Bioware). I’ve started a writer’s group (or really, the group started it, I’m just sort of keeping the strings together) in my home town which is also interesting. And, before I forget – Script Frenzy is around the corner! For those of you who don’t know about it, go check out their website here. It’s a fun, less difficult that NaNoWriMo challenge for April. I’m not sure how much I’ll be participating but I’m definitively coordinating events in South Africa.

If you want to see what I’m up to on a day to day basis, it’s easier finding me on twitter these days. (But then again, most people coming to this blog comes in from twitter, haha.) I know right? It’s hard imagining that I was so against the notion. I think in a way I still am in a way, but I don’t want to dwell on it. Besides, it’s great being funny (or trying to be anyway *whistles*) in 140 letters.

Live long and prosper bunnies. This is not the last you’ll hear from me.

 

Robert Jordan – The Eye of the World

This post contains spoilers for the book.

I’ve finished this book today, though not for the first time. I think, to date – I’ve read it about five times and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed it every single time. Of all the books in the Wheel of Time series, this one is by far my favourite. It’s simple, the quest basic: Three boys taken away from their homes by a sorceress because one of them might change the fate of the world. They run from assassins, monsters and all manner of unspeakable things, each learning something of themselves along the way.

Unlike later on in the series, the cast is still small and you have all of the principle characters travelling together. I think one of my biggest critique on the series is that later on Jordan (Light rest his soul) brought in too many side stories, too many side characters. I find that later in the books all the characters (especially the women) are very much alike. It’s like having a bunch of clones running around in various places.

Not so in this book.

Everyone is clear and defined. Their features, their personalities, their personal hopes and dreams. Even the cold and serene Moiraine Sedai shows a bit of who she is, of the events that’s shaped her until this moment. You are unsure of everyone’s fate, unsure of where life would take them and, with the knowledge that the later books give you, you cannot help but pick up the small clues which point each character in his or her destiny.

And, I loved the surprises.

Mashiara by *FarArden on deviantART
My favourite scene (and I am not the romantic type) is when two characters who’s had a strange rivalry ever since the book started, have a quiet moment in the dark together. Admitting love but not giving in to it. The pain, the soft words and the genuine emotion that radiates off of the page trapped me and made me realize that there is nothing so good as well thought over dialogue.

To me, this book truly stands out among the rest and the wonder that I had felt reading it the first time is echoed every time I touch the pages. If I ever get to write my own books, may my first one be as good as this one.

A Favourite amongst Favourites

I’m currently reading Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, the first book in his Wheel of Time Saga. I’ve rediscovered my love for the series after I saw that the latest book, Towers of Midnight. Rereading the Eye of the World is like a pleasurable journey. A slow one, because I don’t have a lot of time to read, but not one I’m in a big hurry to end. The thing is, because I know how the book ends, I’m not too worried to reach it and I can take my time with the proverbial ‘scenery’ so to speak. It’s like wearing a pair of old, comfortable clothes that I’ve forgotten about, or riding a horse that I’m very used to. I’m enjoying the story for the love of it, not because it’s new or exciting.

I enjoy it because it’s a part of me.

While reading this, I’m ‘catching up’ so to speak, with the characters that are all like old friends of mine. Two of the characters in particular have leapt out at me and if it was possible, I’d have run to them and embraced them for I have missed them more than the others.

One of these characters is a woman called Nynaeve al’Meara, a young village healer approximately my age at the start of the tale. She’s a fiercely strong character, (with many flaws I admit), with a terrible temper (someone’s described it as being able to split bullets) but a sense of loyalty towards her people that runs so deep she takes personal offense if anybody touches those she considers to be hers. I love reading about her especially now because I have the insight to realize what becomes of her, what role she plays in the book and how she matures into her part. I was frightened when I first read the books that Nynaeve would fade to the background because she’s introduced as a side-character but – as it turns out, whenever there is something really important that needs to be done, Nynaeve is the one to do it.

She learns through these books about herself, about life and about the price of duty. She learns to love, to hate and to forgive herself for her mistakes (sometimes). I find myself hoping that, like Nynaeve, I’ve learned the same in the past couple of years.

What’s on the outside does count.

I listened to a radio show today as I was cleaning my apartment and the presenters spoke about how important it is to have a good CD cover if you want to sell your music, especially when it’s aimed at the ‘impulsive’ buyers. People are much more prone to pick up a CD if the cover intrigues them than when there’s something ugly and boring on it. It’s human nature, we reach out to beauty.

I realized that this was very true for book covers as well. Many years ago, I was drawn to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, not by the synopsis on the back (it was pretty vague) but the cover in front. I had been looking for a new book to read as I had all but exhausted the authors that I knew. I have to point out that I was about 13 at the time, (still in primary school) so different things mattered to me than they do now. For one thing, I was very fussy about the way a book was presented. I didn’t touch Terry Pratchett’s novels because back then, I considered the art to be ugly (now he’s one of my favourite authors and I search high and low for the books still printed in the ‘ugly’ covers). I can’t remember what exactly drew my attention to books, but I suspect it had something to do with horses and powerful women. (I was a girl in search of a role model).

Robert Jordan’s first book The Eye of the World, succeeded in just this. I can still remember the day I had picked up the book in the Adult Fantasy section of the library. A young man (probably twenty) had teased me when I pulled the book from the shelf, telling me that there weren’t any pictures in the book and I had to go back to the children’s section. If it had been me now, I’d have made some snotty (cut-you-off-by-the-knees-and-leave-you-there-to-bleed) comment but back then, I was a quiet child. I had merely shrugged and turned the 814 page book over and over in my hands. It was thick. I had read The Lord of the Rings the summer before that and it had taken me almost a month to finish it. (Bear in mind, I was 12 and English was my second language). It was daunting, especially when I noticed five other books about the same size on the shelf. I promptly decided that it would most probably keep me busy for years and in a sense I was right. I had put it back but couldn’t find anything else that took my fancy as much as the woman on the white horse. So, I returned to the, stared at her for a very long time and finally decided to take it.

The cover had won me over, the woman called Moiraine had taken my fancy and in a sense stolen my heart. Within two days, I was hooked on the story and the books, and started devouring them at a pace that scared even my mother. I caught up pretty soon and then waited, month after month for the next release. It was before my internet days, so I could not stalk the author and websites to know when the next one was going to come out. It was exhilarating and the books were favourite of all time for years.

I’ve grown up now, I’ve changed a lot from the little girl (too tall, too quiet, too awkward) that had first pulled the book from the shelf. I understand myself a lot better now and why I was drawn to this particular set of books, to this woman. I’ve have discovered other series, better authors, more intriguing (and gut wrenching) stories. But, I still love the books even though I have not touched them in years. Robert Jordan’s untimely death had hit me very hard and I stopped reading the books all together then. I kept buying them. But I have not read them in years.

The second final book, co-written by Brandon Sanderson (who was chosen by Jordan’s wife Harriet to complete the series) has just been released and suddenly, I find myself remembering what these books meant to me. What the characters meant to me and how they had carried not only their world’s hope but mine as well. So, I have decided to return to the Wheel of Time. I have the first book beside me now, the picture still as appealing to me as it was thirteen years ago, proving that a good cover can sell your books through the ages.

And remain in the hearts of your readers for life.