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book quotes about writing

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Turn of the Key,” by Ruth Ware.

“There’s something about that house you know. It’s claimed more than one child. The doctor’s little girl wasn’t the first, by all accounts… Back when it was Struan House… The Struans were a very old family and not quite right in the head, by the end. One of them killed his wife and child, drowned them both in the bath, and another came back from the war and shot himself with his own rifle.” — P. 195

This was another BOTM selection for August. I have read comparisons of this book as a modern retelling of “The Turn of the Screw.” Rowan Caine applies for a live-in nanny post for three girls in remote Heatherbrae House, which is a remote historic home in the Scottish countryside. Sandra, the mother, warns Rowan when she applies that they have had four nannies resign in the past fourteen months and that the house has been connected to some local superstitions and tales of hauntings.

The book begins with a series of letters. Rowan is looking for legal counsel because she has been imprisoned for the death of one of the girls while under her care at Heatherbrae House.

The creepiness of the upgraded smart home with all of the cameras is a nice modern touch, and of course no one is who they seem to be at first glance. This tale will keep you guessing between the sources of madness. Is it ghosts; mischievous children; an intruder; a nefarious handyman; or is it really the nanny all along?

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Whisper Man, by Alex North

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Whisper Man,” by Alex North.

“Someone was whispering. But the figure at the end of the bed, still swaying ever so slowly from side to side, was entirely silent… When I looked back, the silhouette at the end of my bed had disappeared and the room was empty” — P. 112-113

This was one of my BOTM selections for August, and boy did it ever pack a punch! It reminded me of Silence of the Lambs. North crafted a masterful novel with tension and suspenseful moments building and blending together perfectly. What a ghoul the Collins character is!

Frank Carter aka The Whisper Man child killer has been imprisoned for years. So when a local child goes missing, and then new residents Tom and his son, Jake, are targeted, police have to figure out if they are dealing with an old accomplice of Frank Carter’s; a copycat; or something else entirely.

There are so many twists and turns in this book! The relationships are rich and complex as well. At first you will think that Jake is either talking to an imaginary friend or a ghost, but the answer is so much better.

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Golden Hour, by Beatriz Williams

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Golden Hour,” by Beatriz Williams.

“Then I touched land and discovered that freedom was not so straightforward, that you could move to a different universe but you couldn’t escape the prison of your own skin.” — P. 53

This was my BOTM selection for June. I think I thought I was getting into a murder mystery set in the Bahamas wherein the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were operating behind the scenes. What I got was more of a historical romance that involved two sets of couples – Elfriede and Wilfred, and their son Benedict Thorpe and new wife Lulu. The murder mystery and the royals were more on the periphery. Whatever I got vs. what I thought I ordered, I was glad to get! The way the book is written is absolutely compelling and beautifully written. The author certainly knows how to keep you turning those pages and engaged in her story.

I will be checking out more titles by Beatriz Williams just to read some more of her language. This time, with no expectations of what the story is about! Forgive the comparison, but much like sitting at the chef’s table, sometimes you need to sit back and let the master work. Next time, I will know to happily ingest whatever Mrs. Williams is serving! This book will easily fall into the category of “best book you’ll read this year.” Enjoy!

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Alice Network,” by Kate Quinn.

P. 85: “Lili,” Eve asked impulsively. Are you ever afraid? Lili turned, rain dripping off the edge of her umbrella in a silver curtain between her and Eve. “Yes, just like everybody else. But only after the damage is done – before that, fear is an indulgence.”

P. 298: “They cannot find me, I’m a handful of water, running everywhere.”

P. 423: “I’ll go on working until I can’t anymore. Then I suppose I’ll die. Retirement kills people like us, Eve. It’s how we die if the bullets don’t get there first. Bullets, boredom, or brandy – that’s how people like us go, because God knows we aren’t made for peace.”

An engrossing tale of female friendships, loss and love, and espionage during the Great War. My only complaint is that the book was at times a bit too brutal (but it is about war after all). The story is made even better once you appreciate that the spies of the Alice Network were real.

Notes From a Reading Journal: Scythe, by Neal Shusterman

Notes from a Reading Journal: “Scythe,” by Neal Shusterman.

There were so many elements of this book that I loved! I loved that the Scythes had to keep a gleaning journal; I loved the theme of a “Thunderhead” taking over for the “cloud,” and making government; old age; and disease disappear. I loved the characters and the storyline itself regarding the battle between the old guard and new (read: psychopath) guard scythes.   

One of the deeper philosophical questions to explore was pondered upon by Scythe Currie in one of her journal entries, and covered the subject of what would happen to humanity as they came to terms with immortality. Would they all become Renaissance children, mastering endless new skills and knowledge, or would they sink into despair and laziness, overwhelmed with the knowledge of their uselessness and meaningless lives? She suspected the latter!

Later, she wrote a journal entry reflecting back upon the Age of Mortality, and writing that humans used to strive more heartily towards their goals because they knew that time was of the essence. It is a fascinating topic to discuss. What affect would immortality have on you? Would it be a gift or a curse? 

Another interesting character perspective that is demonstrated from the journal entries is that of Goddard, one of the “new guard” scythes. Goddard is really just a psychopath killer, and not a Scythe. To read his journal entries brought me back to college, when I was studying Crime Typologies! You see, the psychopath doesn’t think that he is a psychopath. He offers well-reasoned explanations for why he does the things that he does. Very few think that they are evil. Everyone has very compelling reasons of how they rationalize their actions to themselves. The journal entries from Goddard’s perspective were quite chilling to read!  

Quotes I Collected in my Reading Journal:

·      Page 53: “The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government.”  

·      Page 67: “Thou shalt lead an exemplary life in word and deed, and keep a journal of each and every day.” 

·      Page 244: “The Thunderhead saw to everyone’s needs. When you need nothing, what else can life be but pleasant?”

·      Page 396: “I have become the monster of monsters, he thought as he watched it all burn. The butcher of lions. The executioner of eagles.” 

Notes From a Reading Journal: When, by Daniel Pink

Notes from a Reading Journal: “When,” by Daniel Pink. Wow, timing really is everything! Thanks to this book, I will aim to NEVER make an important decision in the afternoon again! I will also stay away from doctor’s appointments in the afternoon. 

Some of my best personal gains from this book came from Pink’s tips on how to structure your workday based on your chronotype (I am a lark), and when and how to schedule more frequent restorative vigilance breaks and naps. Not surprising, nature breaks and tech-free breaks replenish us the most!

Pink suggests starting by scheduling three breaks per day, and listing when you will take the breaks; how long they’re going to last; and what you are going to do during the breaks.  

As for how to finish your workday, Pink recommends closing out the last few minutes of your day by writing down what you accomplished since the morning. Then, lay out your plan for the next day. This is PERFECT advice for your Work Journal

Lastly, I loved the study mentioned on Page 324 about time capsules and people going back to their journals and finding them even more meaningful than they expected! I guess there are no ordinary moments. Just moments that we record that make up our lives.

Quotes I Collected in my Reading Journal:

·      Page 54: “Whatever you do, do not let mundane tasks creep into your peak period.” 

·      Page 80: “Regardless of our chronotype, the afternoon can impair our professional and ethical judgment… Inserting regular mandatory vigilance breaks into tasks helps us regain the focus needed to proceed with challenging work that must be done in the afternoon.” 

·      Page 88: “High performers work for fifty-two minutes and then break for seventeen minutes.”

·     “Pause Like a Pro: Most expert musicians and athletes begin practicing in earnest around nine o’clock in the morning, hit their peak during the late morning, break in the afternoon, and then practice for a few more hours in the evening.” 

Deeper still, is the note about Warren Buffet’s conversation with his private pilot on achieving things in life. Buffet told his pilot to start by writing down his top twenty-five goals for the rest of his life, and then to pick his top five goals from the larger list. Those five goals would be the focus of his energy and priorities, and he would have to let the other twenty go until he had first achieved his top five. 

The Buffet exercise has my head spinning right now. I have my top 5 picked out, but I consider them to be ongoing projects. Personal things that require maintenance and work constantly. Relationships, health, operating businesses. The big parts of my life. Sure, I can rattle off 20 other “that would be cool to do” types of things, but as far as goals, I think staying healthy and happy and maintaining relationships will always be top 3. I’m not sure if I don’t care about enough things, or if my reaction to this exercise proves that I already had my focus on the right things. 

I’m thinking the Top 25 exercise is for people who are lost and haven’t done a lot in their lives, maybe, and they approach middle age with panic because they just haven’t done anything. My mind continues to reel, but I am not lost. I am not operating in the dark about defining goals. Maybe it is time to flex and dream a bigger dream. 

Notes From a Reading Journal: As Bright as Heaven, by Susan Meissner

Notes from a Reading Journal: “As Bright as Heaven,” by Susan Meissner.

This is a story of the Bright family, but mostly involves mother Pauline, and her three daughters as they transition from rural Pennsylvania to Philadelphia to begin anew in their father’s uncle’s mortuary business. The setting for Part 1 is 1918 amongst the Spanish flu outbreak. Part 2 takes part in 1925. 

This book made me cry so many times, and that is unusual for me! The story involves Death, yes, but there is not just darkness in Death to be discussed. The book also covers hope, redemption, and building a life in the aftermath. 

This was my selection for January’s Book of the Month Club. I always enjoy exposure to new releases through BOTM club because I come to rely on them for true literary picks. Meissner is a writer’s writer, and her language is beautiful to read.   

Relationship/how you view the world questions to discuss with book club:

  1. How do you see the Grandmother’s choice in refusing Pauline and the girls to return home during the flu outbreak in Philadelphia?
  2. Would you have made the same choice as Evelyn did with Conrad and Sybil?
  3. If you were Evelyn, would you have made the disclosure about Alex to Ursula, or would you have taken that secret to your grave?
  4. If you were Maggie, would you have proceeded forward with Palmer, or waited for Jamie?
  5. Do you hold the same belief as Papa as far as one love of your life? Why/why not? 

Quotes I Collected in my Reading Journal:

·      Page 97: “Even now I sense the enemy is not who we think it is. My companion hovers kindly in the hellish corners in the funeral home. Like a valet, like a dance partner.”

·      Page 111: “I would leave off my sliver of a worry that she had begun to sense my companion’s shadow in the corners of our home. I don’t think Death has been watching her as it watches me, but who can say what that specter is truly up to?”

·      Page 301: “Might you marry again, Papa? Your Mama is the only woman I could ever love, the only woman I was ever meant to love.”

Notes from a Reading Journal: Tribe of Mentors, by Timothy Ferriss

Notes from a Reading Journal: “Tribe of Mentors,” by Timothy Ferriss.

One of my biggest takeaways from this book was finding out how many successful people include these three things within their daily schedules: meditation, journaling or keeping lists, and walking.

Part of the inspiration that Tim shares of the why/how this book came to be born was from one of his own morning journaling sessions where he wrote: “What would this look like if it were easy?”

Blurbs I Collected in my Reading Journal Specifically About Journaling/Keeping Lists:

·      Richa Chadha – journals for clarity. Has kept a journal since she was ten.

·      Turia Pitt – keeps a gratitude journal. P. 169: “I don’t weigh in too much on the science behind it, I just know if I do it I feel better. I’m not a believer in quick fixes, but I know it’s a very effective method to instantly change how you’re feeling.”

·      Ed Coan – the list maker. P. 318: “When I travel and I’m on long plane rides, I’ll go through my last two weeks: what I did, what I thought of it, how I can improve it, and what I’m going to do so I don’t make mistakes. Stan Efferding actually taught me how to do that by writing lists.” 

·      Ray Dalio – said that his best under $100 investment was to buy a notepad to jot down ideas as they come to him.

·      Sarah Elizabeth Lewis – said that she is a “sucker” for a good plain, no-lined notebook.

·      Nick Szabo – said that he still gets a great kick and utility out of having a handy piece of paper on which to doodle and jot his latest brain flashes.

·      Mathew Fraser – makes list whenever he’s overwhelmed, and says he’s rarely more than an arm’s reach from a notepad.

·      Whitney Cummings – writes herself a gratitude list every morning regardless of how busy she is.

·      Ben Silbermann – keeps a gratitude journal. P. 499: “If you have a habit of writing things down that you’re grateful for, then some part of your brain is constantly looking for those things, and you feel happier. It’s absurd in its simplicity.”

·      Jim Loehr – P. 529: “The practice of daily journaling has been a remarkable tool in helping me navigate the storms of life and be my best self through it all.” Anything that is quantified and tracked on a regular basis would inevitably show improvement.

·      Robert Rodriguez – keeps himself on task by using two notepads at work. One is for his major “task” that he is trying to do, and the other is for “distractions” that pop into his mind when he is trying to accomplish his main task. 

Notes From a Reading Journal: Uncommon Type, Some Stories, by Tom Hanks

Notes from a Reading Journal:Uncommon Type, Some Stories,” by Tom Hanks. Yes, THAT Tom Hanks! This was a November Book of the Month Club selection.

The man is obsessed with typewriters, and great fun can be had by identifying how the typewriter is mentioned in each short story. For this reader, “These are the Meditations of My Heart” was worth the price of admission. My other two top picks are: “The Past is Important to Us,” and “Stay with Us.” In “Past” the reader is introduced to a man who has everything, but still tries to cheat time. He had everything, but he still wasn’t satisfied. In “Stay” the reader is led on a nostalgic road trip that is reminiscent of Route 66. 

Set out to find America…

I dare you to read these stories, and in particular, “Meditations” and resist the urge to go buy a typewriter! I found myself pricing options last night after I finished reading this book! After reading “A Junket in the City of Light,” you just have to wonder if this is based on a true Hollywood story.  

Quotes I Collected in my Reading Journal:

  • Page 6: “I am one of those lazy-butt loners who can poke my way through a day and never feel a second has been wasted. In fact, as soon as I sold my mom’s house and parked the money in investments, I walked away from my fake businesses and settled into the Best Life Imaginable. Give me a few loads of laundry to do and a hockey game on the NHL channel and I’m good for an entire afternoon.”
  • Page 79: “The hotel had been recently renovated in Hipster-Millenial.”
  • Page 99: “And the Martians, as they called themselves, had all gotten older, mellower. Except for a couple of asshole lawyers.”
  • Page 180: “Think about what? Sue studied her new professional call sheet. She liked herself more because of what Bobby had typed.” — Ah yes, the magic of words! 
  • Page 234: “I’m not one who types between sips from a tumbler of booze and drags from a pack of smokes. I just want to set down what few truths I’ve come to know.”

Happy reading! Really, is there anything that Tom Hanks doesn’t do well? — Jamie Whitmer

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