Book Review: “Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public” by Pamela Ribon

Notes to BoysBefore I get started in reviewing this book I have to make something clear: I am absolutely not the intended audience for Notes to Boys. Granted, I was not the intended audience in any way, shape, or form for the last Pamela Ribon book I read either. My wife is a big fan of the author and she wanted me to read the book after she had finished because she loved it so much and wanted to see what I would think.

With all of that said, I understand completely why so many women are going to love this book with all of their souls. I’m sure Pamela Ribon is not the only young girl to write love notes to their crushes, but she might be one of the few that kept a copy of every one she wrote and/or sent to those crushes. My wife did a lot of journal writing and note writing in her teenage years and I’ve read some of those journals, all of which are just as full of emotion and whatever else it is that fills the notes in this book. Hormones are crazy, folks. They make boys and girls think all sorts of silly things during their teenage times.

Reading Notes to Boys was entertaining, painful, and downright embarrassing all at the same time. The book isn’t all that long and it moves very quickly with its light-hearted tone and witty commentary by the author interspersed throughout the text of the actual notes being shared. Some of these notes are filled with angst, some are filled with romance, and others are filled with unadulterated teenage lust. It’s a wild ride up and down the hormonal roller coaster that all of us have been through at some point.

My wife loved everything about the notes in this book. They connected with her in a way that I can only imagine and she got to think back to lots of memories from years past. As for me, I mostly found the notes to be embarrassing, but I’m a guy and men don’t tend to pour their souls out in that fashion very often, if at all. Some of the stories were truly laugh out loud funny and some were the kind that made me really feel for both Pamela and the boys she was writing. Others made me wonder what I would have done if such a note had been passed to me between classes or if someone had been chasing me in the same fashion she was chasing boys.

I might never have been one to write notes, and for that I’m glad because if I had been I’m sure plenty of them would have been as intense as the ones in this book. Pamela Ribon has opened herself up to the very core of what her life was like as a teenager and I have to give her some serious props for that. It can’t be easy sharing some of the things she shares in the book, but she does it anyways.

If you are looking for a glimpse into the life of a teenage girl, or if you are just looking to get a good look at how hormones may be affecting your own teenagers down the line, Notes to Boys is a decent choice. It’s a great read for on the side with whatever else you might be reading and it will be sure to get you thinking back to all of your own awkward moments of years past, some of which will make you laugh and some that will make you cringe with just how silly life can be at that age.

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Book Review: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

On WritingIt’s been a few months since I read On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, but I wanted to make sure and get a review written for it because I thought the book was fantastic, and if there is anyone out there unaware of how helpful it can be to aspiring writers, then they need to know that it exists. I first got a copy of the book because I wanted to read it before giving NaNoWriMo a try, unfortunately I didn’t manage to get to it before then.

Ultimately my endeavors with NaNoWriMo were a pretty decent-sized failure, but after that was all said and done I did finally read this book and it gave me a little bit of a pick-me-up and encouraged me in my writing attempts for the future.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is split into two parts. The first part is a short autobiography about Stephen King’s life and how he first started to write when he was a young boy. It covers the silly stories he wrote when he was small, the newspaper he helped his older brother with, and then it moves on to his first successfully submitted short stories, novels, and then the beginnings of his career. I found the tales of his early career and his childhood to be fascinating beyond belief. There are so many little things about his early life that have influenced his writing in little ways, even the very small sampling of his books that I’ve had the chance to read so far.

The second part of the book is a series of chapters each dedicated to a different mechanic of writing short stories or novels. King talks about how to plot well, how to cut the extra fat out of your prose, how to make characters feel real, and a whole lot of other things. He gives straightforward, easy to understand advice that I feel anyone who wants to be a writer can find useful. Some of the things he mentions as good ideas I don’t agree with 100% due to personal style and preference, but despite that I can’t really argue with what he had to say, it was all good advice.

One of these days I’ll find the time to do some writing for real instead of not being able to dedicate much time to it and I’m sure when that happens I’ll be using the tips and tricks I got from this book to help me out. If you are someone who does any kind of creative writing of your own, do yourself a favor and read this book. You may only learn one small thing, but you may learn an entire mountain of things that will help you.

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Looking Back at 2013

For the past two days I’ve been writing about my personal reading goals and the blogging goals I’ll be working on for 2014. Now, three days into the new year it’s time to take one last look back at 2013 and how things went. I sort of fell off the band wagon a bit in the second half of the year, really losing a lot of steam in regards to how often I was publishing new posts, especially book reviews. But, 2014 should be better.

Let’s start by taking a quick look at the last few books I finished before the new year. The weeks of the year saw me driving my way through six pieces of literature, just narrowly surpassing my total pages read mark from last year. They were:

The Daedalus Incident was an absolutely spectacular debut for Michael J. Martinez, so much so that I’ve added him to my “must read” list already. He took some amazing chances with his storytelling and put together a tale that is unlike anything I’ve seen. Abaddon’s Gate was a wonderful installment to the continuing story that is The Expanse and I can’t wait for the next book in a few months.

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft gave me a lot of motivation and hope for my own fledgling writing dreams and I’m hoping I can incorporate some of the insights and lessons I took from it into my routines this year at some point. The other three items on the list were all short stories written by the authors to add a bit of depth to the universes they exist in between the most recently released books and the upcoming ones. I enjoyed all three of them immensely. It was a good month of reading for me in the realm of quality writing.

As far as reading statistics go, here are a couple that might be interesting:

  • Total Books Read: 84
  • Total Pages Read: 31,512
  • Average Book Length: 375 pages

I had sort of hoped I could get all the way to 100 books read, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I had to navigate my way through some unexpected circumstances during the middle of the year that took my focus away from blogging and put it elsewhere.

In the world of blogging statistics, 20four12 saw 7,600 unique visitors over the course of the year for an average of about 20-21 visitors per day. That’s not too bad, but I would like to see it be significantly higher by the time this new year is finished.

And, last but not least, let’s take a look at two lists. In reading 84 books and novellas over the course of the year it is inevitable that I would find some favorites and least favorites. Part of me thought I should only list my favorites, but then I decided I was interested in seeing if any of the ones on my least favorite list would incite some discussion. Maybe some of them are favorites to other people, or maybe even some of the books I considered my favorite from this year are hated by others. I always find that to be incredibly fascinating. In no particular order:

Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2013:

Honorable Mention

Ten Least Favorite Books I Read in 2013:

I feel compelled to note that of the books listed in the least favorite category, I only find two of them to be absolutely atrocious, but I’m not going to tell you which ones. All of the others I just didn’t like as much as I wanted to, or they just simply were not my style when all was said and done. Take, The Great Gatsby for example. Widely considered to be a premier piece of fiction, I can’t stand it. It’s a matter of taste.

So, there you have it, a snapshot of my reading and blogging experiences from 2013. It was an interesting year for me as both a reader and as a blogger, but ultimately I feel like I did an okay job with both. Here’s to 2014 and making 20four12 really shine!

Looking Back at September 2013

It’s been another slow month for me in regards to posting here on the blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been reading some good books. I tackled my first non-fiction book of the year as well as my first biography (possibly ever) this past month. I also got to read the newest book by my favorite author and finish a book I really wasn’t very interested in finishing.

So, it seems that the past month was all over the map for me in regards to my reading choices. I don’t know if October will be the same way or not, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if I do the same or do something else.

Here are the books I read in September:

I was really impressed by the two Brandon Sanderson books I read. They were quality work that I’m used to seeing from him. Steelheart was a little on the short side for my preference, but I could understand that it needed to be given how it’s being marketed as a YA novel and part of a trilogy.

Reading Fast Food Nation certainly taught me a few things about how the fast food industry came to be and where it is probably going in the future, but it also spent an awful lot of time trying to convince me that McDonalds is the devil incarnate. By the time I was finished I had learned some things but I wasn’t really compelled to stop enjoying my chicken nuggets whenever I get the hankering.

The Still was the book I really had a hard time with. The story was interesting enough but the main character Rodrigo was annoying as all get out. By the time I was halfway through the book I really didn’t want to finish. Rodrigo was just so hard to get through and the author was really hammering his bratty attitude home over and over again. The biggest problem is that The Still is the first book in a duology and the last 50 pages of the book sort of made me want to forgive the previous 600 pages and read the second book anyways. I’m really going to have to think about whether I want to read that second book and even if I do it will probably be a while before that happens.

In October I’m looking to get past Stephen King’s Under the Dome in a timely fashion so I can then get around to finishing off a couple of series that I’ve left hanging for far too long. There are also a couple of new books I’ve been hearing lots of great press about that I really want to get my hands on as well.

My Office Book Club

In June my company decided to relocate our offices into downtown Salt Lake City. As a result I got sweet new digs such as a new desk, fancy cubicle, a new desk chair, etc. Also as a result of the move the people I am sitting by on a daily basis are much different from before. At the old office it was simply myself and my good friend Matt sitting in our adjoined cubicles sort of tucked into a back corner all by ourselves. At the new downtown location the cubicles are much more open and Matt changed jobs, so he no longer sits next to me.

The end result of all that change is that I now sit right next to the internal development team and when they hired a new user experience guru he was assigned to sit in the seat next to mine. As it turns out, we both are big on reading and happen to like a fair amount of the same type of books. Clearly we hit it off in that regard.

Shortly after that, Mike, the head of internal development began to join in on our book discussions from time to time and the book club was born. We’ve read a handful of novels over the past few months and have talked about them fairly extensively. We don’t have any sort of formal meeting process, mostly we just start talking about the books when the moment strikes us. Although sometimes we head to the local Barbacoa for  more structured discussion.

Books we’ve read so far as part of our group:

We recently added another member to our little group of book club folks, Brad, another of the internal development programmers. Now we stand at 4 members in total and I like to think we’ve had some pretty good discussions. Mike doesn’t like much of what the other three of us pick to read though, but that’s alright, he fits into his own category when it comes to what he likes. As he likes to say, “I’m really not ever going to be anyone’s target audience.”

So, the four of us recently came up with a list of 12 books to read for 2013, one per month or so, with selections from each of us for the most part. Here’s the list as it currently stands (although it is subject to random and unannounced change):

Obviously looking at that list we’ve got a pretty good mix of books. There is some science fiction, hard science fiction, horror, mystery, non-fiction, a biography, and a little bit of other stuff too. I think it’s going to be fun to see what the four of us have to say about these books as we make our way through the list.

I like having this small group of friends at the office with which to discuss books. Each of us comes at reading with a very different approach and it means that no book seems to be quite the right fit for all four of us at the same time. Needless to say, that makes the discussions about the book incredibly dynamic and exciting.