Monday, March 19, 2018

Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion by Michelle Lovric - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

Have I mentioned how much I love letters? Like full on, handwritten, pen and paper letters? Because I do. A lot! Maybe it's because I'm a writer. Maybe it's because not many people compose them anymore. Maybe it's because I'm a Luddite at heart. I don't know. And I understand that an email or even a text can contain the same words, but do they often? Those are things we tend to want to get done quickly, between other tasks we deem more important. But to sit down and write a letter to someone takes time and effort and a lot more thought. And I guess I love the idea of something being in one person's hand one moment and, the next, it's in the hands of someone a hundred miles away. It's something tangible and preservable and valuable.

So, imagine how thrilled I was when, years ago, as I walked through my favorite used book store (that lives no longer), I found this book called Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion. The answer is, I was very thrilled. Mostly because it is not just a book about love letters. It is something of an interactive experience. By that, I mean there are actual letters within the book, all handwritten, folded up and put into envelopes with a wax seal that you can take out and hold and read. Sadly, they are not the originals, as those would be very old and delicate and likely extremely expensive. But they are copies that look like the originals. Close enough. And I'm happy to say that someone had the good sense to type up all the contents and put it in the back of the book, because handwriting is not always the easiest things to decipher. Anyway, it's pretty amazing. Especially considering who wrote some of those letters. More on that in a moment.

This book is actually separated into different sections pertaining to the different types of letters that are being featured. There are sections for Admiration, Celebration, Devotion, so on and so on. Because there are so many kinds of love that we can write about, and I personally enjoyed seeing so many of them brought to the light. So much more than just the generic romantic love that we are all used to hearing about.

And, as I was saying before, the numerous authors featured in this book contain some well-known names. There are letters from Dylan Thomas, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Keats, just to mention a few. As expected, they are very, very good. Almost as though, they put as much effort into writing these letters as one would put into writing a novel.

Perhaps that is what engaged me about this book so much, and the lost art of letter writing. It's the fact that people didn't just dash off notes in the past, at least, not all the time. Not when something was important. And people used to view writing a letter as something incredibly important. Where every word written mattered and held together a message that could be held and embraced by someone else. It's a beautiful sentiment and I fear that so many of us have lost it. And the excuse is always that we don't have the time, but is that true? Or do we just not make the time?

Now I have an idea of what one can do with this book, along with my recommendation, but I will have to admit something about myself in the process. I owned this book for a very long time before I read it. I did flip through it several times, but I never sat down and read every word of it. But any book lover will know how we tend to buy books faster than we can read them, thus, causing our TBR pile to get quite Mt. Everest-y. However, this past Valentine's, I decided to partake in a 24 Hour Readathon of my own making. I figured I had nothing else to do on that day, so I might as well read, and I thought it would be the perfect day to read this one, Spoilers, it was. Anyway, this brings me to my idea. If you are in a relationship, or if you are in one when next Valentine's Day rolls around, don't go out to some fancy restaurant or to a play or a party. Just make dinner, or order in if you can't cook, and sit down with a copy of this book, and read the letters to each other. And when you finish the book, pull out a love letter that you wrote yourself. And make it a good one, darn it! So, there you are. I gave you a great idea for how to spend Valentine's Day. Or an anniversary. Or any random day that you just want to do something special for the person you love.

In closing, I highly recommend this book, especially if you want a unique experience. Or if you just want to remember how valuable the written word is. The REALLY written word.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Book Disappointments

Greetings Pups,

Since I could read my first word, I have been an avid reader of books. It has been a pleasure and a delight and, in a way, played a big part in inspiring me to become a writer. In short, I am very glad that I am able to read books every day. However, as a reader, I have encountered several problems in life. For lack of a more creative term, we call them "Reader Problems". Things like not having enough time to read or waiting for a book to be released or people interrupting us while we are trying to read. There are so many. And yeah, I get it. The quotation marks I use when I say "problems" are prominent. It would be better to call them annoyances. Anyway, they do exist and I just realized another one.

I've been reading quite a lot of books this year. For real, I'm about seven or eight books ahead on my 2018 Reading Challenge, proving that 24 Hour Readathons can be very helpful. Two of those books have been by an author that I absolutely love, and one of those two is the last one of hers. Well, the last one until she publishes a new one for the series she writes. Something I pray happens this year. Now, knowing that I would have to, not replace her, because that would be impossible, but rather find another author, another book, another series to fill the void as I wait. So, I did something that I don't usually do. I went to GoodReads and saw what was being recommended to me. I'm not saying that doing that isn't good, but as I mentioned in my last post, recommendations can be a bit off sometimes. But I was desperate.

Turns out, that author I love so much, I got a recommendation based specifically on the fact that I've read and loved her books. In fact, I got a recommendation for the first book in a whole new series, which sounded very similar as far as genre goes. Hooray was my response. I immediately put this new author on my TBR list and when I went to the library, as soon as we got a day without snow, I checked out that first book. I was so excited. I picked it up and I read in less than two days and . . . yeah, no.

I was very disappointed in this book. Now, as I said, I've been reading for a very long time, so I have read many very not good books in that time. We all have. But it's disappointment followed by high hopes that cause us readers the most pain. And I had such high hopes for this new series I was starting. While the plot was decent enough and the whole thing was very easy to read (take that to mean whatever you like), the characters were just awful. Not awful in a good "love to hate 'em" way, like Stefano on Days of Our Lives. No, this was full on Rent without the music, awful characters. I think the only ones I liked in this book were the cats. And I do NOT like cats! But, yeah, I'll end this paragraph the same way I started it. I was very disappointed in this book.

You know, reading is something that takes up our time, and a lot of us don't have much of that. So, when we find a bad book that wastes that precious time, we get a little upset. Yes, I understand I could have not finished it. That's what everyone tells me. But I'm not the kind of person that can just not finish a book. And, like I said, the plot was okay, so I did want to know the outcome, as it was a mystery. Still, my overall experience was not an enjoyable one.

And yet, I still continue to pick up new books by new authors with which I have no history. Because you just never know. While we always run the risk of coming across book disappointments, we are just as likely to come across book triumphs. And those are worth all the risk, because a good book to a reader is the best thing in the world.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Austin McConnell - YouTube Channel Review

Greetings Pups,

Have you ever known that one person who knows a lot of random facts about random things and they talk about all of it all the time, but they're so interesting and entertaining that you just can't help listening every time they start up? Well, everyone, let me introduce you to the subject of today's YouTube channel, Austin McConnell. Although, considering he has almost 400,000 subscribers, you may already know about him. But whatever. We're doing this.

Austin McConnell has quickly become one of my favorite YouTubers. He's a film maker and a writer and he talks about things I'm interested in. And even when he talks about things I'm NOT interested in, the way he talks about them suddenly makes me kind of interested. According to the YouTube stats, he posted his first video about five years ago, and things were a bit sparse for a while. I think he only did about twenty videos in the subsequent few years. But then, in August of 2016, he posted something that changed everything. Apparently. It was about what was wrong with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Now, I do not like Harry Potter, so I don't click on anything that has to do with it. But this looked like it was gonna talk about it negatively, so I was in! And I'm so glad I watched it, because it was thoroughly enjoyable. Other people must have felt the same way, since it was pretty popular and seemed to lead to even more and even better videos.

Now I don't remember how it is that I came to discover this channel. I think it was one of those cases where YouTube recommended it to me based on other things I've watched. Of course, that doesn't always work out as their wires seem to get crossed sometimes. It's like, no, YouTube. I want to watch people MOCK BuzzFeed videos. I don't want to watch the actual BuzzFeed video. However, in this case, it paid off. I watched that first video of his, then I moved on to the one where he told me about a book called House of Leaves, which I am very grateful for, then on to the one about Gilmore Girls, which proved to be more entertaining than the actual show. And as time moved on, I watched all the videos. I have not been disappointed.

The really fun thing about this channel is that you kinda never know what you're gonna get. I mean, one time he's talking about Star Wars, then a film challenge, then something about KFC! Waiting for a new video from Austin McConnell is like waiting for a birthday gift from that one relative that always gives you something great. You don't know what you're gonna get, but you always know it's gonna be good. And that's an important thing, because the best way to build and keep a fan base is to establish trust with your audience. He has certainly done that.

On a more serious note . . . I guess . . . I'll say something else about Austin McConnell. He seems like a really, really nice guy. The good kind of nice guy, I mean. He proved this back in January of 2018. See, YouTube has this new thing that says you can't monetize your videos unless you have a thousand subscribers and log a few thousand hours of having your videos watched. Well, that was a blow to a lot of people who didn't fit that criteria, even though we all know there are fantastic channels that are flying just under the radar. Well, in an effort to help, Austin spotlighted five channels that had under a thousand subscribers but that he felt deserved more. Considering I ended up subscribing to them, obviously, I agree. Now he didn't have to do that, but apparently he, like many of us, has decided that if YouTube isn't gonna take care of us, we have to take care of each other. And it's not enough for big channels to just complain, but rather, they can help. It's clear that he appreciates the hard work, talent and creativity that comes from the people who run those channels, so he helped them to reach more people. And it paid off. I think they all hit that thousand and beyond.

In addition to all that, something that really stands out is how personal Austin lets himself get in his videos. He talks quite a bit about his own experiences. The good, the bad, the successes, the failures. And he's not afraid to get emotional about all of it. It makes him seem even more like a real person, which he is, which is something that we can forget when we only see someone on a computer screen. He's not perfect, he knows this and he has no shame in admitting that. Especially because, despite everything, he keeps going and he encourages us to do that same.

In closing, I will once again say how much I love this channel and the man behind it. It's just nice to see someone who is so passionate about art and books and cinema and all things creative. For lack of better phrasing, being passionate about the arts seems to be a lost art. Thankfully, though, Austin McConnell is keeping it alive through his channel. He's informing us and entertaining us and putting smiles on our faces. That's more than I expect from most things on YouTube and it's much more than we could ever ask for.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer