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Friday Fun! (Where the Hell Has This Weekly Meme Been Anyway?)

March 30, 2013 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

So, I knew I hadn’t written a Friday Fun post in a while, but was floored to see it hadn’t happened since November 16, 2012.

o_O

I know we all hate it when bloggers talk about their crazy busy lives, even though it’s true, because, hello, we all have busy lives!  Suffice to say, what I thought was a busy phase is actually the new stasis of my life.  I’m proud of the fact that I’m still managing to find time to blog, because I do love book blogging.  But I want to continue to touch base with you all periodically.  Weekly is just too overwhelming though.  So I’ve decided to move Friday Fun to just occurring on the last Friday (or Saturday) of every month.  Treating it more like a special event instead of a weekly meme will help me keep up and enjoy it.  I hope you all enjoy the new change!

On a similar note, I am still closed to review requests, and I don’t expect that to be changing anytime soon.  I still periodically request ARCs, if I’m highly interested, but that is a rare occurrence.  I also, you may have noticed, switched my reading from about 50% things I felt I “should” be reading (for ARCs, to better myself, etc….) down to about 10%.  This means 90% of my reading is for funsies, because frankly I need that stress relief in my life.  Reading “should’s” worked great when I was in a life limbo and needing to fill the time with actual things to do that made me feel like I was accomplishing something.  But now when I read, I want it to be for fun.  I need it to be a stress reliever.  Something that helps give me a few moments of internally-focused peace in my day.   So any changes you’ve noticed in the books being reviewed here reflect that choice I made at the beginning of 2013.

As for my non-blog life!  The holidays happened.  I taught my first library orientation by myself for the incoming class of one of the schools affiliated with my library.  I created my first library tutorials.  I finished my first archival finding aid.  Those have been the big-hitters in work life.  In regular, non-librarian Amanda life I went on vacation with my boyfriend to an off-the-grid cabin!  We snowshoed and built fires in wood stoves and generally thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I went home to visit my dad in Vermont and learned how to make the perfect grilled cheese.  I got an iPhone.  I became addicted to Instagram and taking photos in general.  I survived Blizzard Nemo and got my first real snowday in *years*.  I learned how to play the Call of Cthulhu tabletop game.  Finally, I just last week joined my gym’s 60 day fitness competition, and I am loving how much it has reinvigorated my passion for fitness.  And I’m still trying to figure out how to be a part-time indie author in amongst all of this.

How was everyone’s March?  Ours came in like a lion and out like a lamb, just like the old saying goes. 🙂

Announcement: I Am Published!!

Hello my lovely readers!  So, the super-secret project that I’ve been working on is to finally get my own writing out where people can read it!  I’ve been writing since…..well, since I could put pencil to paper.  I am completely passionate about story-telling, and this is where I truly feel my talent lies.  Since I finished grad school in January, I’ve been cracking down and getting serious about my writing.

Well, I can finally announce that I have published the first entry in a new series to the Amazon Kindle store!  I started with my idea to reclaim the old format of serial books.  Every entry in the series is 99 cents and short enough to read in one sitting, such as on your commute, a plane ride, a bath, etc….  The storyline is complete in and of itself, but it will be continued in another entry in a few months.  Join Tova Gallagher in her paranormal world with the few moments you have to spare in your busy day!  It is ideal for the busy, modern, paranormal romance lover.

The first entry is entitled Ecstatic Evil.

Tova Gallagher isn’t just your average tough as nails, intelligent Bostonian. She also just so happens to be half-demon, and halvesies have an important role to play in the supe world. Whether they choose to go with the instincts of their demon or human half is supposed to predict the outcome of the endtimes, and now Tova has a deadline to choose sides. But all of that is hard to care about when she’s just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River.

Please do check it out!  I write because I have stories to tell and want to entertain.  At only 99 cents, it’s worth the shot, right?

Also, I started with the novella series so I could practice with the ebook publishing software before my first serious novel, which I plan to release in October for Halloween.  I am very excited about it and can’t wait to let you guys know more details!  In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye on my new Publications page on this blog.  ❤

Check Out Ecstatic Evil

My Tentative Journey With eBooks

August 26, 2010 8 comments

A while back, I told you guys that I’m continuing my tentative steps into eBooks, but it hadn’t been very successful yet.  I admit this is partly because I’m a broke-ass graduate student, and so I don’t exactly have the cash to shell out for what I see as an extravagance.  Why get an eReader when I can get used books for under $5 a pop?  (For why I don’t have time to use the local library, see this post).  I’ve tried downloading eBooks that are available as pdf’s onto my computer, but I always made it only about as far through as a blog’s archives before losing focus.  Or I’d have to leave it and come back the next day and be incapable of finding where I left off.  I just can’t read a book on a computer.  Nuh-uh.  A computer is for article-length pieces.  I just can’t get past the part where I’m looking at a computer to get lost in the story.

When I got my iTouch, I decided to venture in yet again.  But I repeat that I’m a cheapskate, so I downloaded a couple of the various apps available for 99 cents that provide huge selections of out of copyright classics to read.  Although I was able to focus on the screen, it reminded me a lot of my speed-reading classes in middle school, because the screen automatically fades at a certain point (I’m not sure how long), so I’d either have to keep tapping the screen to keep it from doing that or read insanely fast.  The speed might not have been an issue if I wasn’t attempting to read classics, but I always read classics kind of slowly.  I get wrapped up in the language and the world-building.  Classics are about slow reading versus the fast reading of genre fiction for me.  I got about 3 chapters into two different classics before giving up and stopping.

Well then people started talking about the iBook app, and since I love everything Mac, I decided to download it, but upon trying I found out that my iTouch is too old to support it, at which point I started browsing the eReader section of the app store and saw the Kindle app.  For some reason, it had previously escaped my attention that the Kindle even had an app for Mac products.  I vaguely remembered some book blogs mentioning that you can get some books for free in the Kindle store, and the app was free, and….do I really need to repeat what a cheapskate I am?  Lol.

So I figured where am I most likely to read on my iTouch?  That’s easy.  On the bus when I can’t sit, need to hold on with one hand, and getting a book out of my bag is difficult.  What would I like to read on the bus but am embarrassed to?  Romance novels.  So I found a free romance novel and downloaded it.  The nice thing about the Kindle app, the main thing that made me start to relax into reading with it, is that the backlighting never fades.  I’m not so caught up in beating the fading light that I’m incapable of getting lost in the story.  So that was going fairly well, although I was still choosing to read my print book over the eBook whenever it was possible.

Then a certain book was released.  A book in a trilogy that is honestly a guilty pleasure for me.  (I’ll leave the reasonings for that for when I review the book next week).  I had decided I wasn’t going to buy the book; I’d just read spoilers and be happy with that.  But then the day of the release, I was getting frustrated at the complete lack of spoilers on the internet and while watching tv browsed to the Amazon store on my iTouch, and before I knew it, I’d bought the book.  I didn’t feel bad about the price, because it was less than the price of a movie ticket, and I view guilty pleasure reads a lot like going to the movies.  It’s brief entertainment, and I don’t need to hold onto it.  Let it entertain me for a bit, and in most cases, I won’t ever come back to it (my dvd collection is very, very small).

I was still skeptical about my desire to read on the small electronic screen of my iTouch, but I figured worst case scenario I’d skim for the spoilers and read it in print when the hoopla settles down.  I started reading it when standing on the bus in the morning, got a seat, and found myself wanting to keep reading on my iTouch over my print book.  And then on lunch break I decided I’d rather see what happened in that story than in the one I’m reading in print and discovered how much easier it is to eat and read when you can just set the book down and the pages don’t close on you.  Whoa.  Then I found myself sitting on my couch reading the iTouch.  Then last night in bed I suddenly realized I could turn out all the lights and still see to read because my book was lighting itself up. Whoa.

You guys….I have to admit….I like it.  Now that’s not to say I don’t have my issues with it.  For instance, nice as it is to read in the dark, sunny locations fade the screen so much that it’s sometimes nearly impossible to read.  I also don’t like the thought of the battery maybe running out.  (I may have obsessively recharged my iTouch yesterday.  *looks askance*)  I also don’t like how very small the iTouch screen is.  I also would never ever want an electronic device just for reading.  Part of the convenience on transit is having my music, videogames, and book all in one item.  Having something like a Kindle or a Nook seems rather pointless to me.  It’s one more device to carry.  So what has a larger screen but does all that?  The iPad.  I think the iPad still has issues.  Like I personally think it’s too big and too thick, (that’s what she said) but I think the next generation is going to solve those problems.  So…yeah, I see myself doing some electronic reading in the future.  But never on a device meant just for reading.  I also only see the value in it for guilty pleasure reads.  It works for me because of the way I read guilty pleasures.  I read quickly, sometimes skimming, because the story is all about the excitement or the hilarity.  It’s not about the deep thought.  I can’t see me reading a book that changes my life on an electronic device.  That just rings false to me.  But reading a story that’s about consuming it once kind of like buying movie popcorn for the pure pleasure of chowing down the greasy, salty deliciousness?  That makes sense to me.  So that’s the role I see eBooks taking in my life.  The reading equivalent of movie popcorn, and who doesn’t like movie popcorn every once in a while?

Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

A woman dressed in white posing for a portrait.Summary:
Originally serialized in 1859 to 1860 then published in book form in 1860 this epistolary novel is considered one of the first mystery novels. Walter Hartright is an artist who gets hired to be a drawing master for two half-sisters Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe. He and Laura soon fall in love, but they cannot be together due to class differences and Laura’s prior promise to her now deceased father to marry Lord Percival Glyde. A mysterious woman dressed all in white warns Laura against her marriage, calling Lord Glyde evil. However, Laura is reluctant to renege on her final promise to her father and proceeds with her marriage, sending herself, Marian, and Walter into a spiral of intrigue and danger.

Review:
I love slow-moving, epistolary novels, particularly gothic ones read on a long, hot summer day.  One of my finest reading memories is of enjoying Dracula while working on a summer internship at a national park on a peninsula with four beaches.  So I came to this gothic, mysterious, epistolary novel with high expectations.  At first they were met, but as the plot proceeded I came more and more to want to smack Collins upside the head.

Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that the slowly building tension indicates a truly serious infraction on Lord Percival Glyde’s part that turns out to be not particularly shocking at all.  At least to my American mind.  Suffice it to say, it revolves around title holding, something which I find baffling and laughable.  Why should anyone care if Laura is Mrs. Glyde or Lady Glyde?  Her life seems more boring than the servants’ anyway.  I thought I would be reading a novel that was more about revealing the treachery and debauchery of the upper class.  Instead I got a book about bourgeois problems, which, I’ve indicated elsewhere on this blog, I simply cannot relate to and find completely annoying.  I get it that some people enjoy that, but the desire to maintain a tense, mysterious illusion around the book led me to believe it’s something it wasn’t.  That is frustrating, to say the least.

Beyond the disappointing mystery there’s of course the typical problems found in early 1800s literature.  The sexism comes from Marian’s own mouth, which is surprising given that she is a depicted as a strong woman.  She often will lament the short-comings of “her sex.”  Actually, the entire situation between Walter, Marian, and Laura is baffling.  Laura is a weak, foolish girl who Walter falls and stays head over heels in love with.  I cannot fathom why that would be when he spends an equal amount of time with Marian, who is a strong, thoughtful, intelligent woman.  Laura is described as beautiful, whereas Marian is described as possessing a beautiful body but an unfortunately masculine face.  This leads me to believe Walter is rather shallow, as I see no reason beyond Laura’s beauty for his devotion to her.  I know sexism is to be expected in older novels, but I would at least hope for a hero who loves the heroine for something beyond her beauty.

That said, the novel certainly gives modern women a new appreciation for our current situation.  The women in The Woman in White are constantly downtrodden by the men around them who believe it is entirely within their right to dictate to them everything about how they should behave, speak, dress, etc…  It appears that the only thing the women have control over is when to leave the men to their wine after dinner.  In fact the couple presented as the happiest and most well-functioning is that of Count Fosco and his wife, and they only function well due to the fact that she obeys his every command.  Mrs. Fosco is described as a woman who prior to meeting the Count was loud, obnoxious, and always yammering on about women’s rights.  Count Fosco, apparently, “fixed all that,” and she is now such a pleasant woman to deal with.  The only woman who does not base her entire existence around a man is Marian, and that is due to her bizarre, near worshipful devotion to Laura.  It makes me shudder to think if those had been my options as a woman–existing purely for the whims of a man, downtrodden and outcast, or pure devotion to a sister.  Yeesh.

I did enjoy listening to the book.  It felt a bit like listening to an old-time radio program, which I’m sure is due to its origin as a serial novel.  Those who enjoy the slower pace of older novels and can relate to the bourgeoisie will probably enjoy it.  If either of those elements turns you off, however, you should look elsewhere.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Librivox recording via the Audiobooks app for the iTouch and iPhone

Buy It

Book Review: Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

Old book cover with man chasing chickens.Summary:
Jeremy Garnet, a novelist, is living a relatively quiet bachelor life in London when his old school friend Stanley Ukridge shows up.  Ukridge is starting a chicken farm with his wife, Millie, and wants “Garnie old boy” to come stay with them.  He’ll get to write in the country in exchange for a few hours of work a day.  In spite of the fact that Ukridge is planning to run the chicken farm without any prior knowledge or studying “the better for innovation, my boy,” Garnie takes him up on it.  Of course, life with the eccentric Ukridge surrounded by chickens isn’t quite the quiet writing environment Garnie was planning on.  Not to mention the Irish professor neighbor’s lovely daughter that Garnie can’t quite get out of his head.

Review:
There’s no doubt about it.  Wodehouse is pleasantly droll.  It was, however, necessary for me to remind myself a few times of the time period this was written in as certain portions had the feminist in me going “Whaaaat?!”

Ukridge and Millie are a delightful couple.  He’s got zany ideas; she’s endlessly supportive.  He clearly is madly in love with her and vice versa.  They’re exactly the sort of people I would want as neighbors, because you’d never get bored with them around.  Ukridge doesn’t mean to do wrong by anybody.  He just doesn’t get how society thinks it should function.  He does everything his own way, and Millie is along for the ride.

Wodehouse also manages to actually create personalities in the animals that are around from Bob the dog to Edwin the cat to Aunt Elizabeth the evil chicken (named after the aunt that didn’t want Millie to marry Ukridge).  The animals are a part of everything that is going on.  The characters actually talk to them, interact with them, and the animals respond.  It’s something that happens in my own life, but that I don’t usually see in books, so I was delighted to see it here.

On the other hand, chickens are only half of the title, and I must say, I was not fond of the love half.  Garnie’s relationship with Phyllis just hit all the wrong notes for me.  First, Garnie claims to have fallen in love with her at first sight upon seeing her on the train, yet at that portion of the book all he talks about is how lovely her eyes are.  Sounds more like lust to me.  Then there’s the fact that Phyllis’s personality stinks.  She’s dull, boring, and frankly rude.  She’s square under her egotistical father’s thumb too.  I don’t see what Garnie sees in her.  Then of course there’s the fact that Garnie pretty much stalks her for a portion of the book.  He goes to her father’s farm every night after dusk, sits in the bushes, and listens to her sing.  That’s creepy, but when he tells her later, she laughs and is delighted.  People!  Stalking is not romantic.   Gah!

I wish Wodehouse had simply written about Ukridge and Millie, as they are clearly the couple that is actually interesting.  In spite of the fact that he didn’t do that though, I really liked this book.  People who appreciate a book for the scenes in it and not the overarching plot will like it as well.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Librivox recording by Mark Nelson via the Audible app for the iTouch and iPhone

Buy It

Friday Fun! (On Tuesday!)

February 16, 2010 4 comments

I realized that I missed Friday Fun last week, and given that my current read is pretty long and a lack of movie watching, I haven’t posted since Thursday. My bad!

I took last Friday off of work and had Monday off for President’s Day.  Yay being a non-essential employee of a hospital!  I spent Friday running errands, shopping, and cooking.  I discovered a Stop n Shop that is closer to my apartment than the Shaws I had been frequenting, and let me tell you, their prices are insanely low!  Plus they have more vegetarian options than Shaws does.  I’m a total convert.

Also this weekend, I paid my first visit to the Apple Store’s Genius Bar.  It wasn’t for me; it was for someone else’s iPhone.  I haven’t dared to bring in my baby, erm, MacBook, even though it does this freaky thing where it restarts if I close it.  It took observing someone else using the Genius Bar for me to realize that they are totally awesome!  They’re like librarians’ nerdy twins, and you guys should totally make appointments to use them.  It was some of the best customer service I’ve ever seen.  Just be sure to make your appointment online before you go, or you’ll wind up waiting a while.

Hope you guys enjoy your evenings.  Don’t forget there’s a new episode of Lost tonight and a new Wolf Bite Wednesday tomorrow!

The Electronic vs. Print Books Debate

December 16, 2009 8 comments

The eBook debate has been fairly consistently humming in my virtual world of librarians–twitter, GoogleReader, listserves, etc…  Frankly I’m starting to wonder at the vitriol being spewed by both sides of the debate.

We have the print people who are absolutely certain that the electronic people are out to kill any and all print books leading to some sort of Big Brother society where The Man can delete our censor our books whenever he sees fit.

Then we have the electronic people who firmly believe print books are horrible for the environment and anyone who wants to still read them is a backwards, ancient person trying to hold society back.

Um, people, what planet are you living on?

I really believe the eBook vs. print book situation, if allowed to naturally play out, will lead to a world where print and electronic books coexist gracefully.  A world where some people will still prefer print books in most cases but electronic books in others, and other people will prefer electronic books in some cases but print books in others.  Consumers as a group are actually far more flexible than anyone is giving them credit for.  Sure, there’ll be the die-hard hold-outs who will refuse to read anything not in print, and there will be the obsessive electronic fans who will refuse to read anything not on a screen, but in between these two extremes are everybody else.  From what I have seen, people choose which option is best for the situation.  Most people I know have a few books in each format, depending on what they need them for.  Consumers aren’t busy spewing vitriol at each other.  They’re busy saying “Well, I want this genre book on my iTouch for my commute, and this nonfiction book in print so I can write my thoughts in it as I go reading it in the evening.”

The reason for all the angry commentary is plain and simple: fear.  People are afraid of change.  Booksellers are afraid their stores will become obsolete or at least  not profitable anymore if people are downloading their books.  Electronic vendors are afraid the print folks will shout them down before they ever even get a chance.  Then there’s the snobs who think their way is always the best way and are afraid of anything else.

Well, you know what?  I doubt either scenario will happen.  I see a future where booksellers have print books and stations where people can download new electronic books to their reader, and possibly even charge their reader for a small fee.  I see a future where people still have a bookshelf of beloved print books, but also a charging station for their eReader.  I see a future (hell, I’m already living this) where morning commutes feature people reading on eReaders and reading print books they own and reading library books and listening to audiobooks.

So, really, people, calm down and just let the change happen.  It’s not going to kill anyone or anything.