Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I'm Reading: Self-Improvement, Frugality, Anti-Consumerism, Style and...Smut

I'm a bibliophile that rarely reads. This year I aim to correct that by reading my whole library, selling it off when it's done. I love books, but I love a clutter-free space even more! There will always be more books at the library and exactly 1 trillion books at yard sales, so there's no need to hoard the ones I rarely touch. In a rare moment when I find myself wanting to keep all of my books I imagine myself carrying them down my two dozen plus steps for another move and the hoarding desire dissipates. Ha!

Here's what I've polished off lately, for better or worse...

Make it Mighty Ugly: Exercised & Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain't Pretty

Self-Doubt, Perfection, Fear of Failure, Blocks and Procrastination; these are the universal creative demons, sabotaging our ability to create and be productive. Mighty Ugly is filled with helpful exercises and quotes to help you slay your creative demons. A fun read with pithy, relatable stories. My demons still seize hold, but now I can recognize an attack them when they appear.

What is Your What: Discover the One Thing Your Were Born To Do

My dad's office was hosting a book swap and he decided this book was just the one for me. "Thanks, dad!" I said jokingly-sarcastically when I got the book. I know it's true, I have a busy-ass brain and it's really hard for me to settle on doing any one thing at one time; not to mention choosing a forever-life path! If you're a creative that looks at other businesses and often proclaim, "I could do that!" this book is for you. If you're lethargic and lost with no idea where to start, this book is for you! I'd argue that this book would be illuminating for everyone. It has step-by-step work throughs to help you discover your hinderances, passions, and how to find your life's work and audience. Working through it resolved a lot of anxiety, I feel more peaceful afterwards. Excellent read.

Tim Gunn A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style

I was considering, but mostly abandoned, an idea of making a combo up-cycled and vintage clothing line. Because, too much. Stop, busy-brain. I spent some time researching style throughout the decades and the idea of personal style. Even if I'm not making my line anymore, I do want to write more about hunting down classic pieces that won't age. I'm sick of "fast fashion" pieces that fall apart with one wash. Wouldn't it be fun to have an mostly vintage wardrobe filled with high-quality pieces, made with care, that have lasted through the decades? This is a good, light read that should help you streamline your wardrobe and choose pieces that work for you, your size and personality. I'll share more later but my favorite part is when Tim asks you to think of yourself as a billboard when you leave the house. What's the message you're trying to share with the world with your personal style?

Poor Craft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less

This should be the new go-to gift for every high school and/or college graduate. Every public school library should have a copy. Cute, light, and fun to read yet jam-packed with every you need to know on living a full, frugal life. There's everything from transportation, cooking of all kinds, hospital visits, finding free events, low-cost housing, and more. It's in a light comic format but it's a supremely helpful resource book, too.

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping

I'd been dying to own my own copy of this book for years, and somehow appropriately, found it sitting on top on a huge bin of books at a Goodwill Outlet (where you buy items by weight). Not Buying It is Judith Levine's diary of the year 2004, the year George Bush would tell Americans to "shop" to fix all of our country's then-woes. I love this book for the information on the psychology of buying. A story on how empty she felt for skipping buying a purse in NYC's Chinatown still comes to mind nearly every time I decide if I should buy something. She describes feeling regret not because of the literal bag, instead she regrets not having it because it would make her feel as bohemian as a young artist who crosses her path. Before I buy something I think, do I really want this item, or do I want have the item makes me feel?

Readers previously detracted this book for the author's lack of using the thrift store, but I disagree. This is not merely a money saving exercise. She's challenging her will power and resourcefulness and confronting her consumerism demons. Judith and her husband's exceptions were narrow: no plays, movies, or eating out. I've done similar experiences and at first it can really burn. Then, like the couple in the book, you learn new skills. You fix your own things, make your own clothes/accessories, you borrow, you find fun free events. I highly recommend this book and a "buy nothing" challenge to everyone. Not just for the money saved, but the valuable learning experience.

I don't just love so-bad-it's-good unintentionally funny movies, I also love so-bad-they're-good corny, kitschy books! I re-discovered a cache of V.C Andrews books while helping my mom clean out the attic (irony- Andrews stared her career writing about 4 kids locked in an attic) and couldn't bring myself to donate and/or sell them... yet.  I don't even have them out with the rest of the books, they don't deserve the honor of display. They're tucked out of sight in my TV stand!

Bottom photo: the books shamefully tucked away out of sight. Like the many illegitimate children in V.C Andrews novels. Reoccurring theme.

Flowers in the Attic

The first, and best, V.C Andrews novel. A controversial book nearly every 12-year-old girl reads as a weirdo "right of passage"; because only a 12-year-old would have such a skewed understanding of sexuality to read this and take it seriously. I've re-read this at different stages of life and always come away with more reasons to loathe all of the characters! This book is hilarious. I could write many essays on the weirdness of it all. I think the saddest part is that an adaptation has the potential to be incredible, there are some excellent themes and visuals in this book. Tim Burton or the American Horror Story team could do the book justice. It is, after all, hyperbolized like a fairy tale. Instead it always gets a vanilla treatment. A love and hate for this one, it's so bad and so good.

Unfinished Symphony

The last book in "Melody's" story. This is when the publisher knew the target audience for V.C Andrews books was getting younger and younger and the books got dumber and dumber. (I was, after all, 9 when I read my first V.C Andrews book.) This book was awful, getting through the last pages was an endurance test. Melody has a lot of "informed" attributes. She's "intelligent, witty, brave, beautiful, and strong" affecting every character that she meets deeply. Nearly every male character is so taken with her they try to rape her (no police calls are ever made, and I'm alone shouting in my house shouting "YOU LITTLE IDIOT! CALL THE POLICE! I HATE YOU!") which is a horribly dated stylistic convention anyway. She's the class valedictorian yet so dumb she falls for the stupidest shit left and right?

Nope. Cannot with these books anymore. They are unbearable. Anyone want to buy a bunch of V.C Andrews books from me? I give up!

Web Recommendation: As much as I adore bad novels, I can't bring myself to pay for Fifty Shades of Gray. The whole book series was at a yard sale but they were asking too much. I think it was somewhere between $5 and $10. Still too much. I read the first few pages in a book store and realized what a chore it would be to get through. Luckily, another writer on the web has done is for us! Jenny Trout's hilarious read-through is the perfect way to get to the "funniest parts" of the book without having to endure the drawn out sex scenes, poor character development and atrocious writing errors/style. Check it out, it's laugh-out-loud hilarious. There's even an audio-book part for some of it.

Been reading anything good lately? Got any recommendations for me?
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  1. OMG you found your V.C. Andrews books in the attic!!! Lololol!!!

    1. I put them up there to hide them from the world so I could win my inheritance!

  2. Flower in the Attic was one of my favorite books as a teen.

    On Amazon you can download a sample of a Kindle book and read a bit of it. I downloaded the sample of Fifty Shades of Gray and decided it was awful and I had no desire to pay for and read the rest. I've heard the movie is better but I'll wait for that to hit Red Box. I can't wait to read the website you linked to about Fifty Shades.

    I am reading The Girl on the Train right now and enjoying it a lot. Did you know most libraries offer ebooks that you can download for free and read on your computer (if you are a member of the library). Both print and audio. They have the newest books too. I've been saving a lot of money lately by doing that instead of paying for ebooks on Amazon.

    1. I didn't know that about libraries, will have to see if ours has that! I applaud anyone who made in through Fifty Shades ironically. So. Bad. FITA was my favorite as a preteen, everything I wrote at the time had the same exaggerated purple prose! Haha

  3. I refuse to read 50 shades...for the same reason. Heard it was crap reading. Love the title of that book Make it Mighty Ugly. I never read VC Andrews but watched some of the movies = equally B grade.

    1. I give up on the female romance genre in general even as a comedy read. :P Andrew's first series had potential as a kitschy, weird adaptation but always gets D movie treatment.

  4. If you are the type of person who always seems to have lots of juicy ideas, gets interested in various subjects, is typified as having "lack of direction", are uncertain on picking only one career path, has problems deciding what project to do next, and has lots of "unfinished" projects lying around, you do not need to read What Is Your What. That probably won't help you. You are most likely what Barbara Sher identifies as a scanner. Sher has been helping people find their callings for decades. I would highly recommend that you pick up her book, Refuse to Choose. I discovered Sher many years ago, and it was a watershed moment in my life. If those qualities resonate with you, I'd suggest you embrace it.

    1. Thanks so much Keith. That's definitely me and I will check it out. I enjoyed a lot of "What is Your What" but it of course, didn't stop me from being what I'm naturally inclined to be. It will be interesting to learn to actually go with my natural flow. "What is Your What" defines scanner traits as "shifter" traits.

  5. 50 Shades of uh. I'm not gonna rant too much about this book and what it's about and all that jazz. I'm just a little miffed that X rated crap is now considered R rated and acceptable to play in mainstream theaters. That's the kind of stuff that should be in adult stores... not the theater. Ok. I'm done. That's not even what you post was about. Sorry. I had to get it out!

    1. Is it X-rated? I bet 100% of the sex scenes from the book were turned down to soft-core level or lower. I just find the whole phenomenon fascinating. A chaste mostly non-sexual series (Twilight) is used as material for erotic fan fiction. It becomes popular. It becomes published as "Fifty Shades" with character's names searched-replaced and then becomes a softcore porn film. Such a bizarre revolution! I'm watching it from the outside and deciding what to gauge about society from this...

  6. Wow, this piece on self-improvement definitely speaks to me! I've been on a personal development path for quite some time, and I'm constantly looking for new insights and tactics to help me become the best version of myself. On another subject, I recently discovered a firm that provides Dissertation Help Online., and it has been a game changer for me. As a graduate student, combining research, writing, and other commitments can often be daunting.


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