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A Life Less Ordinary

IWSG Writing Update October 2017 – One Book Review; No Book Progress

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing. A different question is posed each month, as a writing prompt for IWSG members. Answering it is optional. For October, the question is “Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the accomplished co-hosts are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to.

As a non-fiction writer, my answer to this month’s IWSG question is easy: all the time, and on purpose. 🙂 Unfortunately, none of this has happened recently, since writing my memoir has temporarily come to a halt. Let alone writing articles. In September, just like in August, my help was needed with our business. Because of this, I have reached the “danger point” of two months of inactivity, after which it is easy to think “Why bother anymore? I have enough other projects going on.” In the meantime, I’ve been reading books by writer friends, and have been confronted by a few realizations. They can write well. I can’t. They are determined. I don’t seem to be. They manage to finish sensible, attractive, compelling and finished manuscripts. Will I ever? But… not to be despaired. I’ll get back to it, this month, and maybe even with a better approach, if not more enthusiasm. Breaks can be beneficial.

My current desk at 8,500ft in Colorado

It took me four full months, due to a lack of time and other priorities, but I finally finished reading the book I have been enjoying since June. When I learned how (successful) writers read 50-100 books per year, I was shocked. I have a hard time believing it. When do they have time for this? We all have the same 24 hours a day. I love reading as well, but there always seems to be something more important to do first. And, no, I don’t watch TV in the evenings. I want to read. And, this particular book was always within reach, just in case I had a moment. After many of those moments, I read this original and compelling book cover to cover, and loved it. Hence my desire to post a review of it.

“Border Line” by Hilary Custance Green

Book blurb:

“Of course, love is the ultimate luxury, but I am unwilling to continue in the certainty of its absence.”

Grace, racked with guilt, is searching online for ways to die and she finds Daniel. Like a pied piper he leads her and nine other people on a trek across Slovenia. For twenty-one days, they share stories and secrets, play games, surprise themselves with laughter… and make their final decision.
Border Line is a passionate love story told against the backcloth of the Slovenian landscape. It tackles contentious issues around suicide and assisted-dying and is both thought-provoking and ultimately uplifting.

My favorite quote:

“Guilt is a hungry beast; it has eaten into the spaces where love could grow.” (page 6)

My five star review:

From the moment I read the blurb on the back cover of this book, I was hooked by the premise of the story. The idea is original and my curiosity about the plot was peaked. A considerate and compassionate leader guides a group of ten suicidal adults through their last 21 days on earth. Contrary to what one might expect, the writing style and impressions are not pessimistic or negative. The author incorporates humor, friendship, sympathy, love and an array of other emotions as situations occur.

Green has a way with words, making this book a joy to read. She uses the “show, don’t tell” method cleverly and draws the reader into the story because of her direct approach. Using the first person for the protagonist makes the story more personal, as if this woman is a friend you are trying to understand and support, but most of all want to help change her mind. The other characters received the same attention for detail. Their personalities are thought-out, believable and relatable. Everybody has a story; each of them slowly revealed as the book progresses. Chapter after chapter, you want to find out more about every person involved and Green delivers.

Not only is this book well-written and well-constructed, it also has an incredible setting. The story takes place in Slovenia, a beautiful, but lesser-known European country that has a lot to offer on a cultural and natural level and that is starting to gain popularity. The description of places and interactions the characters have with the local population make you want to visit yourself.

As a pretty picky person when it comes to books and movies and as someone who values her precious time off, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Every day I was not able to read even a little bit (which was frequent these last months, because of my extremely busy work schedule), I looked forward to the moment I could pick up the book again and discover more about the characters, their back story, their connections, their relationships, and their decisions.

I highly recommend “Border Line” to people who like reading stories about passionate characters, love and friendship, unconventional subjects and/or inspiring back-drops.

For more info, check out Hilary’s blog, Hilary’s Author Website, or About Hilary.

(Read the same review on Amazon here and on Goodreads here.)

How many books do you read per year? Any current favorites?

54 Comments

  1. I fluctuate between 25 and 75 books in a year. This year, I’ll likely reach 75 again. I go through these moods where all I want to do is read. When that happens, I can fly through 6-7 a month pretty easily. Hard to maintain that pace. I just finished reading a book called Good Morning, Midnight that I loved. Also. Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You was really good.

    • Wow. That is a lot of books as well. I have to think that most of you read much faster than I do. But, maybe that’s why I keep picking out typos as much as I do, which is a habit I don’t really enjoy. I really ought to make reading a part of my evenings. Thanks for the book suggestions, Ryan.

  2. You can write Liesbet and your voice is unique to you. It is good to read when you are writing and to find your own level of how many books that will be. I read around 30-40 new books per year as well as countless articles and blogposts. I enjoy reading poetry and I can always find the time to read a few poems and re-read all those that i really enjoyed ;o) xxx

    • I totally believe that reading a lot is beneficial to one’s writing. Thanks for the compliments, Xenia. I know I can write, that’s why I used the terms “write WELL” in my blog. 🙂 It’s that “well” part that is tough. The “unique voice” comment is one that I really appreciate, too. We will see how all this goes.

  3. I can really relate to long periods of inactivity. I’ve done nothing on my book in ages. Sure, I can blame it on hurricanes and boat projects, but maybe I’m just really lazy.

    Love your answer to this month’s question. I hadn’t thought about it all in terms of memoirs until I read your post.

    • I feel like I am lazy as well, Ellen. But, I’m sure neither of us actually is! We have a lot going on and, in general, we are both writing a lot still, whether it is blogs, comments, emails, or diaries. It all helps at the end of the day, right? Especially, the way you are creating a story our of every IWSG blog topic! I”m sure when things settle down, you will happily and successfully pick that novel up again.

  4. I’m not sure how many books I read per year. I’m in a book club, so at least 12 🙂 . Probably more like 25. Unfortunately, I read in bed before turning in so it’s slow going for me.

    Don’t get discouraged about your book. You have so many stories to tell and I know many of us want to read them (no pressure, though 🙂 ).

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Janis. I think reading before you fall asleep is the best time of the day to do so. Much better than staring at your iPad, or writing your diary on it (like me). I really need to reorganize my days, to be able to fit in more reading time. Compared to all my commenters, I barely read anything. I think I get up to four or five books a year, if I’m “lucky”.

  5. I read a lot and I read fast. I get about 100 books in a year but I include the chapter books I read with my son! Don’t let your doubts deter you. Keep on writing! 🙂

    • That’s amazing, and fortunate, Christine. I do believe that passionate readers make better writers. And, you are a good example of that! 🙂

  6. You ARE a good writer!

    Now, about reading: I am pretty voracious. I, too, watch no TV, so I read every night. I have no idea how many books I actually read – for sure several a month, but it could be 3 or it could be 6! Depends on lots of things. Someone else mentioned Celeste Ng above; I just got that book to read next! I’m just finishing a non-fiction book called Walking the Gobi, which I wanted to read about my own trip there last summer. My favorite recent read was A Gentleman in Moscow. And your book took place in Slovenia?! I should certainly put that on my list after this last trip!

    • Walking the Gobi sounds like a book I might enjoy as well. I have always wanted to go to Mongolia, ideally on the Trans-Siberian train. Must be such a fascinating place to visit. I should re-visit your blogs from that period. Yep. Slovenia. I actually thought about you after I finished it and heard about your two-week European odyssey. 🙂 I wondered whether the author actually visited all these places, or the location was based on research. I should ask her…

  7. Hi, Liesbet – I echo the commenters who have stated that you CAN write, you do HAVE determination and that your voice is UNIQUE. The number of books that you choose to read per year is a personal choice. If you add in all of the blogs that you read and comment upon, that’s a lot of reading! I greatly look forward to reading your memoir whenever it is finished. I know that it will be great!

    • Thank you, Donna, for your continued support. I’m going through a tough time, and not only with my memoir. More about that later this month in person. Maybe. Probably. 🙂 I do read a lot – and write a lot – when you look at it that way. In my opinion, it is all secondary to what I should be doing, though: read real books and write real books. Everything else is much easier to achieve, so I feel lazy/guilty/cowardly for taking the easy ways out…

  8. I read 44+ books last year (I do a Goodreads challenge to keep track). Some of them were re-reads, so they didn’t count. I decided on a 35 book goal this year because I had more writing to do this year.

    • Those are great goals! It looks like you are finding the right balance between reading and writing. I hope to get there one day as well. 🙂 Thanks for swinging by and commenting!

  9. I’m sure once upon a time I was reading 100 books a year, but not since I had kids. Or the invention of Facebook. 😡 I set a goal for 100 this year, not realizing how unrealistic that is for me. I think I’m right around 40 read for the year right now. At least it’s more than zero?

    • With 40 read already, I think you will be able to make 60 this year, Shannon! And, that’s much more than zero. 🙂 We all have to find that balance in our busy lives and, by the sounds of it, you are doing just fine. Darn Facebook…

  10. I for one really enjoy your writing! It’s super frustrating to get behind on goals. I started a project 6 months ago that should take 4-6 hours. Maybe it will be done by Christmas? lol. Border Line sounds great….it’s a treat to have a book that you look forward to reading each day; I’ll have to check it out.

    • What project are you talking about, Lucy? Making me all curious and such. Fact: projects on a boat take waaaaaay longer than initially expected (and then on shore). No reason to feel bad about any of it, unless the project would prevent you from sinking. But, you are on the hard now, so, nah… no worries. 🙂

      You are right about reading a book that we enjoy. Sometimes, I approach reading books as a chore that is hanging above my head until it is finished, a bit like TV shows… I have to finish reading/watching it, before I can relax again. With this book it was different. Because I liked it so much, I enjoyed the reading part and the “savoring” part, knowing that there was more of it whenever I had the time to read. A bit like with chocolate, I guess. Or, in my case, the big batch of rice pudding I made last week.

  11. Victoria Marie Lees

    October 5, 2017 at 11:33

    Border Line does, in fact, sound intriguing, Liesbet. I need to check it out. As for your memoir being on hold, I’m struggling as well with moving forward on my college memoir. Time can sometimes seem like an enemy. And Yes! I agree that 50 to 100 books read in one year is incredible. I usually reward myself by reading at night. I’m not a TV person either. I love to get lost in a good book. All best to you.

    • Thanks, Victoria. I sometimes think about you, knowing that we are in the same boat when it comes to our memoirs. With the slight difference that you are way further ahead and you actually know what you are doing. 🙂 I enjoy reading all the memoir posts on your blog and have learned a lot from them. All the best to both of us! May both memoirs find conclusion in the not too far future. 🙂

  12. Doubts and comparisons to other writers are toxic. Don’t let them overwhelm you. You can write too, never doubt that. You have written this post after all.
    As for how many books a year – I really don’t know. Probably one book a week, maybe two some weeks.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Olga. I love the IWSG – most of you are such accomplished writers. I am learning a lot and enjoy reading all the posts, but sometimes, I truly believe I don’t belong, since I have many more passions (and jobs and priorities) than writing. 🙂

  13. I’m on my 25th book for this year. I started keeping count in 2015 (19) and 2016 (20) so I’m well ahead for 2017! The reason I do it is that I felt I was reading my monthly book group title and not much more, wheareas the other members all seemed to have other books to talk about. I’m trying to catch up. My best find is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. We read Americanah at Book Group (about a Nigerian woman who emigrated to America) and i’ve since read two more.

    I’ll add my voice to the positive endorsements of your writing!

    • Thanks for the endorsement, Anabel. Let’s hope I can fill the shoes when it comes to memoir writing. 🙂

      I actually started keeping track of the amount of books I read as well, since Mark gifted me an iPad two years ago. I get to about four or five a year, and most of them are “books on the craft” (of writing). I did join a book group a few months ago, but only managed to buy and read the first book that was assigned. I have quite a few hard copies and digital ones that I am carrying around for a while already… Maybe winter time is a good time to start reading more. 🙂

  14. Hi Liesbet,
    I’ve been hearing your frustration recently, and am glad (and envious) that you’ll have a chance to chat with Donna soon. Sometimes that’s all it takes – a face-to-face with an understanding friend.

    There are seasons for everything, Liesbet. Maybe this is just a fallow time for you, a time that you will look back on as necessary before the next big step forward.

    I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that you feel some peace and ease soon.

    • Thanks for the positive thoughts, Karen. We will get through this period, hopefully by next year. One day, I will be able to spill the details as well. 🙂 The good news is that I am getting very excited when thinking about picking up my memoir again. Today, I reread the last chapter I worked on, so hopefully, next week I find some time to get cranking, before we hit the road again. I’m looking forward to meeting Donna, the end of this month. One day, you and I will have that privilege as well. 🙂

  15. I do read every day, Liesbet- usually in the bath for half hour’s escapism, or if the weather’s nice I’ll snatch a little garden time. I quite possibly would have picked up this book to read because I like a foreign setting. I’ve been to the Slovenian border but not beyond. 🙂 🙂 I’ve just finished a JO-Jo Moyes collection of short stories (light reading 🙂 ) and before that Victoria Hislop’s Postcards from Greece, which I loved.

    • The bath tub must be one of the most enjoyable places to read a book, Jo, and a sunny, comfy chair in the yard. I’m hoping we will get that over the winter in Southern California, when time will be on my side again. The book you read about Greece sounds interesting. I seem to be attracted to travel stories, for some reason, when reading all these suggestions in the comments. 🙂

  16. So great that you took some time to read. TV does rob me of a couple of hours a night, but that is my winding down time, where I put my brain on hold. Wonderful review! I am working on finishing reading 2-3 fellow bloggers’ books so I can review their soon. No writing for me now that I’m grading 60+ papers every week. I am also prepping for two new classes, one of which starts this January. It’s exciting reading, too: Managing Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services (snore), oh well , that is work for ya! I end up reading on my tablet while I work out in the gym on the elliptical…30-40 minutes of blissful fiction reading.

    • I”m happy to be reading as well, Terri, and I am determined to make this a more frequent occurrence in the evenings. TV (without commercials), like Netflix can be enjoyable as well. When we decide for that entertainment option, we watch a favorite TV show, and then, we can’t stop until we binge-watched the whole season. 🙂 Anything else we watch – apart from a good movie – I regret afterwards and see as a waste of time.

      Sounds like you are getting enough reading in as well. Some things more enjoyable than others. The new classes will be interesting and exciting, indeed, after all that “obliged reading” is done. 🙂

  17. I set different goals for the Goodreads challenge every year, which is dependent on my perceived work load for that year.
    For example, last year I aced my goal of 50 books for the year, but this year I’m 3 behind on my goal of 25 books.
    I love reading and never have to be in a ‘mood’ to do so.

    Keep on with your memoir. Don’t stop now. You’ve put sop much into it and come so far!

    • The best ways to achieve something is with goals and lists! It sounds like you are having a productive year writing, Michelle, if your mentioned work load corresponds to writing. Maybe I should start being more involved with Goodreads as well. To be kept accountable. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement! I will get there one day.

  18. I try to read around 12 books a year. One per month. I usually read more than that, but that’s my goal for the year.

    • 12 books a year sounds like an achievable goal, Morgan. I think that’s what I will start with when committing to more reading time. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  19. Liesbet, I am in exactly the same place as you are in terms of writing at the moment (landscape project plus responsibilities). I have also just finished Rose Tremain’s brilliant The Road Home and concluded that I can’t write either. You are a writer, a fantastic linguist, with a wide world knowledge and you have time on your side. You will get to your memoir when it gets to the top of your to do list (writing is my third career, and I have enjoyed them all). My always active father wrote amazing and lengthy memoirs aged 89 when tied to a chair waiting for a hip operation.

    I’ve read 27 books (not counting my going-to-sleep books, and those I forgot to add to the spreadsheet) this year. I’m reading Naomi Klein’s No is not Enough, and I am utterly absorbed.

    I am humbled and encouraged by your wonderful review of Border Line. My deadline for my current novel was a rough draft by Christmas. This is not going to happen but, thanks to you and other people who have given their precious time to give me feedback, I will finish it one day.

    • Oh no, Hilary! You aren’t allowed to say that you can’t write, with so many great and – I’m sure – successful books to your name. I guess every writer has insecurities once in a while. Or, many a time. 🙂 I hate it when life gets in the way, in the form of more important or necessary projects, while I would prefer to be writing. I hope you are at least enjoying those landscape projects.

      You seem to be picking some intriguing books to read, which is nice. I’m going to add them to my brand new list. Yes, I am determined to read more. Which, of course, will be easier than to write more. Now, when you say not including “going-to-sleep books”, do you mean boring ones that make you fall asleep instantaneously, or interesting literature you read before falling asleep.

      I appreciate you swinging by the blog, leaving a comment and believing in me!!! Have an amazing weekend!

  20. In the old days, I’d read 50 to 60 books per year. No,w with a full-time job, aging parents and writing books, my reading time is limited, but it’s something I have to make time for.
    I’m trying to follow your blog again. For whatever reason, I’m not able to get it in my WP Reader. I’ve tried to subscribe by email in the past, but I haven’t received your posts.
    Have a great weekend!

    • You are so right about making time for reading. We always put that leisure activity on the back burner. I’m sorry to hear you can’t follow my blog in the WP Reader. Not sure what that is about. I think some of my readers and commenters do get to my blog via the Reader, or via emails. Can you let me know how it goes, Jill?

      We had a very decent weekend, visiting a national park with our current dog. Hopefully you had a fabulous time as well! Thank you for the wishes.

  21. OMG am delighted to hear that you’ve reviewed Hilary’s book and that you loved it! I will have to add it to my list for our Indian Ocean Passage next year.

    I am not so delighted to hear of your self-criticism ‘Why bother anymore? I have enough other projects going on.” “[Other’s] can write well. I can’t.” etc, etc. First, I have read and enjoyed your writings very much so stop with that nonsense of ‘I can’t write well’. Second, clear out everything that is non-essential to creating your book. Start now.

    Hug from Hanoi

    • Thanks for recommending Border Line to me, Lisa. If it wasn’t for you, I’d never obtained it and read it. I think you will enjoy reading it as well, especially during a long passage… 🙂

      You’re right about needing to get my priorities right, Lisa. I need to work on my book and I will. Yes, my writing is alright in blog posts, letters, emails and articles, but a whole book/memoir is quite something else. And, it is OK to feel insecure about that once in a while. 🙂 I am so happy to know that you – and many others – keep believing in me, though.

  22. Wow, Some of you are big readers !! I used to be and would read many, many books. But, now I spend to much time reading stuff on the internet. Still , I get a lot of information that way. I read my book when I go to bed but unfortunately it puts me to sleep so I only get in a few pages if I wait till bedtime. I am still having trouble writing my blog !! But, part of the trouble was computer trouble. Now that I am getting some of that worked out, I plan to blog much more. Because I do lead an interesting life , doing same as you Liesbet. House sitting and traveling. Anyways, I like your writing !!

    • First it was the television and now it is the internet, that steals a lot of our time that used to be dedicated to reading, I think. Reading before bedtime might help me to sleep better. The problem we have, is that the houses we are staying in rarely have a bright enough lights to read in, and my eyes are really bad. 🙂 That being said, my husband bought me a little reading light, but my iPad (diary) is still the last thing I touch before going to sleep.

      Looking forward to reading your blogs about travel and house sitting, Sue!

  23. I think it is very easy to be hard on ourselves when comparing to others. trust me I am a master a it. Not that I am trying to write a book but in blogging and what success looks like. Take the time you need to deal with priorities and try to be kind to yourself. I don’t read enough either and a goal to increase for sure.

    • You are right, Sue! That competitive streak in us will be the end of our inspiration and self-confidence… Not really, hopefully. You and I both know what we want and we work hard to get there! 🙂 I’m glad to see that you had an amazing time in Ireland!!!

  24. Many writers steal time Liesbet. It’s never too late to pick the pen back up. That’s the beauty of being a writer – once a writer, always a writer. 🙂

  25. I try to read at least 80 books a year, and usually manage to, but I’m a bit behind because of all the emotional turmoil. Hopefully I can make it up in time. Setting a Goodreads reading challenge in the New Year can help motivate me and keep me on track, but really, I’d rather read than do almost anything else, so it’s not too hard for me.

    Sorry things have slowed down with your memoir, but I know you’ll get back to it.

    • Wow – you are an impressive reader, jmh! For some reason, I am not surprised, though. Between writing and reading, I am in awe that you still find time to do anything else. 🙂 I love reading as well and really ought to make it a higher priority. Once we are settled on our three-month house sit in San Diego, CA, it will be now or never with my memoir.

  26. I love to read and it is something that I do for the joy of it. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many books I read a year because I don’t count them. I think that making reading a certain number of books into a goal takes some of the intrinsic motivation out of it. I read widely across many genres: fiction books, nonfiction books, academic articles, newspaper and magazine articles, and blogs, for example.

    When I am writing my novel (which has been on hold since January), I stop reading any fiction. It is because I do not want another writer’s style and ideas to directly influence what I am writing. I am looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo again this November. I find that the structure of it really promotes a daily writing habit.

    I do find that the more blogs I read and follow, the less time I devote to reading fiction and nonfiction books.

    Jude

    • It looks like you got your priorities right, Jude! I’m reading a lot as well, if you count blogs, articles and emails, but I would love to read more books.

      As far as writing goes for me, reading sometimes gets the juices flowing again. I hope you will be able to pick up that novel again soon and I wish you a lot of progress and inspiration during NaNoWriMo. November is right around the corner!

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