Thursday, January 29, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Electronic vs Paper

This week we were asked to leave comments on the BTT site rather than a simple link to our blog posts. Well, being naturally contrary, I'm opting out of that request. But it's an interesting subject, so I'm having a go anyway. First, we're asked to go read a Time Magazine article on electronic publishing; then, the topic:
Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.

Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?
So Time Magazine is just now getting the word that digital publishing is the big new thing. That's why I don't read Time Magazine anymore. Oops. That was snarky, wasn't it? Sorry.

I guess I'm definitely a paper person – I'd much rather read a "real" book than an e-book. I love books as objects – always have. I like reading them, but I also like the way they feel when I hold them in my hand, and the way they look when they're arranged on my shelves, and even the way the paper and ink smell. As John Updike said, I love "the smell of glue and the shiny look of the jacket and the type."

But times and things change. I can see that digital publishing is obviously the way of the future. I don't have an e-book reader, but I confess to downloading a few texts from the Gutenberg Project to read on my computer. I can understand the attractions of the Kindle and its ilk, and I realize that any fight against them is probably a losing battle. But I doubt that I'll be acquiring one anytime soon.

Now about this whole "self-publishing" concept – well, that's much too involved to get into in a "comment." And I don't know that I really have much of an opinion on it anyway. But I don't really see that going digital is going to make all that much difference – after all, people have been self-publishing for centuries. And sometimes that's a bad thing, but sometimes it's a good thing. Years ago, I used to edit a poetry magazine, and consequently received massive quantities of "self-published" books (what used to be called vanity press books). And most of them, quite frankly, were dreck. But every now and then I'd come across a tiny jewel amidst the sea of unreadable nonsense. And I think the digital self-publishing phenomenon is not too different, really – except, of course, there's no formal editing process to weed out the stinkers!

Oh, and here, as promised, is my gratuitous photo of the day – a portrait of that great self-publisher Thomas Paine, whose birthday is today (born January 29, 1737).
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: A Little Time Travel

OK, I know it's almost not Tuesday anymore, but I'm just now getting around to this. Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading, and the rules are these:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

This week my two teasers come from The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (p. 109):

I remember her sitting on a bench in Warren Park while my dad pushed me on a swing, and she bobbed close and far, close and far.
One of the best and most painful things about time traveling has been the opportunity to see my mother alive.
The two sentences come at the end of one paragraph and the beginning of another. I've really just started the book so I'm not sure what's going on, but so far it seems like a pretty good read.

Tuesday Thingers: Open Shelves Classification

This week, Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner has these questions for the Tuesday Thingers group:

Prior to today, were you aware of Open Shelves Classification? Have you helped to classify any books yet? Is this something you are interested in? Did you know that if you classify any books, it will also show you who else has classified the book?

Well, I've been aware of OSC for a while now – I've seen the discussion group listed, and now and then there's been something on my LT home page about it. I've never really understood exactly what it is, and have to admit I've never really tried to find out any more about it. Until now, anyway.

I've always been pretty content with the Dewey system, but I suppose that's just because DDC is what I learned back when I was in library school several centuries ago (yes, I'm a library school drop-out, folks). In organizing my library list on LT, I prefer to use my own classification system (or tags). But I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding the DDC and who has the right to use it. So I can see that coming up with another (and hopefully, more rational) system might be a good idea.

And now for something completely different: Happy Birthday to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka: Lewis Carroll), born this date in 1832. Author of Alice in Wonderland (DDC: 823.8, or 823.8 CAR, or 823.8 CL).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Sunday Salon: My Weekly Reading

Just a brief post today. I'm anxious to get back to my reading. I've actually got four books going right now, and one of them is a whodunit. And I'm getting close to finding out who done it. Although I think I've already got it figured out (I always think that, but I'm almost always wrong).

The mystery novel is Rita Mae Brown's Rest in Pieces, the second in her Mrs. Murphy series (and that's a very good title for it – dismembered corpses are piling up at an alarming rate). I've read a few other books in the series – but now I'm determined to read the rest in the proper order. Although I don't think that's necessary in order to enjoy the books – I'm just extremely obsessive-compulsive about such things. Actually, you can dive in at any point in the series and still have a great time.

The other books I'm reading right now are Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I really started the first two late last year, but didn't get far enough to claim them as "books read in 2008." Time Traveler is a little longer than most of the books I usually choose – at 530+ pages in paperback, it's something of a chunkster (and I'm considering using it for that particular challenge). But I've heard such good things about it, I decided to give it a try and so far I'm enjoying it quite a lot.

This past week, I managed to read one book that I've had on my TBR list for a couple of years now – The Master, by Colm Toibin. Now I need to work on a short review for my blog. I also managed to post a review this week – first one in quite a while (Review: Drawers & Booths, by Ara 13), so I feel like I'm finally getting moving again. One of my private resolutions for the new year was to write reviews of all my un-reviewed books from 2008, and get them posted before the end of January. And that's about half a dozen books, so I really need to get busy this week.

I've also spent a little time today trying to catch up on my blog reading. And there were a lot of really interesting posts this week, especially the one about the ethics of book reviewing, over at Trish's blog (Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin?). If you haven't read it yet, you might want to stop by and see where you stand on the issue. I weighed in with my own thoughts here.

Hmmmm. I said this was going to be brief, didn't I? Well, the best-laid plans of mice and bloggers . . . . Anyway, hope everybody has a great week and gets a lot of reading done! Now back to all those scattered body parts.

Oh, This Blogging – What a Thing It Is!

My apologies to Mr. Shakespeare for that title, but it does seem to fit. Blogging, and especially that aspect of blogging known as "book blogging" gets more and more involved all the time. And I suppose, as book blogs multiply and start to have greater influence in the world of publishing, things will become ever more complicated.

Along those lines, there's been an interesting conversation going on this past week, over at Trish's blog (Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin?), about "The Ethics of Book Reviewing," and whether or not book reviewers should reveal the sources of the books they review; and how that might affect the real or perceived honesty of their reviews. Trish asks:
Is it important to mention where you received a book? Obviously, it *probably* doesn’t matter if you received the book from the library or it was loaned to you from a friend or you bought the book yourself. But what about ARCs/AREs? Or books we might get from Library Thing through the Early Reviewers program? Or Harper Collins? Or books offered directly from authors?

Does WHERE you received the book influence your opinion of a book?
So far, the article has received over fifty comments, with many different opinions and points of view. Seems no two book bloggers agree completely on what the "ethics of book reviewing" really are. But there does seem to be a split between bloggers who see themselves as "reviewers" and those who just read books and blog about them.

Well, I guess I'm pretty firmly in the second group. I think of my blogs primarily as journals – collections of my own thoughts and experiences, literary and otherwise. I'm flattered and happy when I know someone else is reading (and sometimes, I hope, enjoying) what I've written, but I'd probably go on blogging even if there were no "reader" out there besides myself. And I like "book blogging" mainly because it keeps me reading. I do enjoy the contact with other readers (even if it's only "virtual" contact), and the give-and-take of literary debate. But mostly I just want to keep my mind engaged, my imagination working, and my eyes glued to the printed page instead of the TV screen as much as possible.

And, personally, when I write a blog post about a book, I don't really think of it as a "review," although I may call it that in the blogosphere. Privately, I really see these entries more as notes to myself – or little book reports – something I can look at a few years from now, after the books are a fading memory. Just a little jotting to remind me of plot, characters, and what I thought about the book at the time. And also, possibly, where I got the book. This may not be of any interest to anyone else, but sometimes the history of the book and how I came to read it may be of great interest to me.

However, it's not a hard and fast rule – sometimes I may mention where a book came from and sometimes not. So, does not stating that a book was an ARC, or that it was sent to me by the author, mean my review is less than honest? Should this bit of information be included with all reviews, as a form of disclosure? Or is that a form of bragging, and simply more information than most readers want or need?

Well, this is all part of the larger question of how much honesty is enough or too much in book reviews, isn't it? And that seems to be a very sticky problem. I do try to be honest in my reviews, in the main because of what I've said above. My blog is first and foremost my personal record of what I think of something – books, movies, restaurants, doing the laundry, whatever. So I want it to reflect my true feelings. Most of the reviews I post have a positive slant – I don't write many negative reviews, and the simple reason for that is that I don't generally finish reading books I don't like. And since I'm not a professional reviewer, I prefer to read purely for pleasure. These are the main reasons that I've almost completely stopped requesting or accepting advance review copies of books. I don't mind receiving an occasional book from LibraryThing or Shelf Awareness. But if I'm going to accept a book directly from an author, I make very sure that he/she understands in advance that my review will be totally honest. If that's a problem for the author, then I don't accept the book. Once that agreement is made, I feel completely free to say what I think of the book, good or bad.

So, I guess when all is said and done, I'm not too worried about my ethical conduct in my blogging. As in all things, I believe in being as honest as possible, but I don't want to go out of my way to hurt any feelings or stir up bad blood, either. Honesty is a very good policy, but so are tact and courtesy. I really believe if I use that as my guideline, I can write my "reviews" without too many qualms or worries.

I really didn't mean to ramble on this long, and I certainly don't expect that anyone has stuck with me to the end. And I guess all I really wanted to say is that as long as I keep thinking of my blog as a personal record, I'll just keep right on making up my own rules. And that's all I expect from other book bloggers, as well.

(See Trish's article here.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Review: Drawers & Booths

Written by Ara 13
Published by CovingtonMoore Publishing House, 2007, 215 pages
ISBN 978-0-9798636-0-8

I've always loved books and movies in which the main character turns out not to be the main character at all. Or the main plot falls away halfway through to reveal the real plot you finish up with. You know, sort of like Michelangelo Antonioni's "L'Avventura" – a work that starts out predictable and then turns into something absolutely unexpected. And that's the feeling I got as I was reading Ara 13's wonderfully funny novel, Drawers & Booths.

But that comparison really isn't fair – Drawers & Booths is much more fun than an Antonioni film.

With characters popping in and out of the metafictional woodwork (and those nonexistent drawers and booths and all over the place), and plot twists cropping up on nearly every page, the book has just about everything I look for in a novel – humor, interesting characters, entertaining storylines, some real food for thought, and lots of surprises. In fact, the humor, characters, and storylines are all surprises.

This is one of those books that's very hard to review without giving away too much of the plot (make that plots, plural). A bare bones description runs something like this: The book begins with a Marine Corps corporal (referred to only as "the Corporal") on a special assignment as liaison between the U.S. Army and the island nation of Cortinia. But by page 35, it's obvious something is up. There's a shift of focus and a shadowy figure disrupts the military tale and detours us into a new story, with a hard-boiled detective looking for a possible serial killer. Now don't get too comfortable, because within a few pages, everything shifts again and stories keep piling on top of other stories, doubling back and turning and twisting right up to the final page. Characters become aware of their roles in the narrative, question plot developments, quarrel amongst themselves, and even begin to rebel against the author who eventually makes an appearance in his own book.

Of course, the idea of unruly and unmanageable characters in fiction certainly isn't a new one, and author self-insertion is a device that's been used by writers all the way from Dante Alighieri to Stephen King. And I imagine most young writers have, at one time or another, played with the idea of putting God on trial in one of their stories – although not often so literally or with such hilarious consequences. I notice that I marked "LOL" in the margin of a page in Chapter Ten – because I was actually laughing out loud (it's when God says he's a little teacup – read the book, you'll understand). I love it when that happens!

Drawers & Booths was recognized as an "Outstanding Book of the Year" in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and its author (who legally changed his last name from Hirsch to 13 in 1998) received a bronze medal as a "Storyteller of the Year." Well deserved; although, admittedly, the book isn't going to be everybody's cuppa – some of the language, and the discussion about religion will disturb some readers. And the constant shifting back and forth, and shuffling of storylines can be confusing, and even a little annoying at times – I had absolutely fallen in love with The Corporal just before his story reared up, shook itself and turned into something completely different!

I also suspect it's not going to be an easy book to find (the publisher, CovingtonMoore is based in Austin TX). But if you want a good, fast, irreverent, thought-provoking, and just downright funny read – Drawers & Booths is definitely worth tracking down. And Ara 13 is someone to watch. His new novel, Fiction (also released by CovingtonMoore) will be coming out in March. Haven't read that one yet, but after being so pleasantly surprised by D&B, I have high hopes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Books Into Movies Challenge

Here we go again. Yes, I'm a lunatic, have no restraint, no shame, no concept of reality, yada yada yada. But this one really seems like a piece of cake. Hosted by Kathrin of Cozy, the Books Into Movies (or TV) Challenge runs throughout 2009, and asks participants to read two or more books that were made into movies or relate to TV shows (or vice versa). And since I'm already going to be reading a number of film-related books this year, I thought I might as well give myself a little extra motivation by joining up.

For more information about the challenge, or to sign up, please visit the challenge announcement page and leave a comment with a link to your blog post. Then, just start reading and watching movies – how great is that? And now, a list of possible selections:
  • Affinity. Sarah Waters
  • The Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton
  • Atonement. Ian McEwan
  • Angels and Insects. A.S. Byatt
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick ("Blade Runner")
  • Dolores Claiborne. Stephen King
  • Hotel Du Lac. Anita Brookner
  • The Hours. Michael Cunningham
  • Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen
  • Orlando. Virginia Woolf (this would be a re-read, but I've never seen the film)
  • Solaris. Stanislaw Lem
  • The Wench Is Dead. Colin Dexter
  • The Woman In White. Wilkie Collins
  • Wonder Boys. Michael Chabon

Booking Through Thursday: Inspiration

This week's BTT topic:

Since “Inspiration” is (or should be) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?

Wow, these BTT topics are getting harder and harder to answer in a short, snappy post, aren't they? I don't think I could really say what, specifically, inspires me to read. Reading is such a huge part of my existence – and has been for so many years – that it's almost a bodily function, like breathing or, well . . . you know!

I read because I want to and because I have to. Reading keeps me sane, and keeps my mind alive. I know there are some perfectly nice people out there who don't read, but I don't understand how they get through life. I read for entertainment and for information and for experience. I read to pass the time. I read in order to connect with other readers, and to enter into the world of books and ideas. I read to visit new places and meet new beings, and also to learn about the past. And I read to encounter new thoughts that I might not have thought on my own.

I'm fortunate to have come from a family of readers. My parents and grandparents weren't intellectuals, by any means; but they valued education and reading. We always had books around. As a child, I was read to and encouraged to learn to read on my own at a very early age. Some of my earliest memories involve books – being read to at nap time and bedtime, receiving books as gifts at Christmas and birthdays, spending long afternoons in the children's section at the public library. So you see, it's no accident that I turned into a bookworm.

Well, I don't know that I really answered the question. What inspires you to read? And is "inspire" really even the correct term here? I generally associate "inspiration" with creativity, and I'm not sure I think of reading as a creative activity, exactly– although it can inspire and lead to creativity. But that's just a quibble, isn't it? So I guess in addition to being a bookworm, I'm a nitpicker, too!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Swap This Book

This week's topic for the Tuesday Thingers group:

Have you ever used the Swap This Book function which can be found on the main page of any book . . . . If so, what do you think about it? If not, are there any other swap sites you utilize to exchange books once you are done? What do you do with your books if you no longer want them anymore?

OK, to answer the first question – I had never used or even noticed the "Swap This Book" feature – this is the first time I've looked at it. And what do I think about it? I think it looks interesting. To paraphrase Jean Brodie, "for people who like that sort of thing, that's the sort of thing they like."

As I may have said once or twice before on this blog, I have a really hard time parting with books. Once they come into my clutches, they're mine for life. Unless, of course, they belong to the public library or someone else has lent them to me. In that case, I do eventually give them back – grudgingly.

Otherwise, I tend to hoard books as though Ray Bradbury's book burners might be knocking at the door. That's probably why I still have that ancient paperback copy of Helmet for My Pillow (WWII memoirs by historian Robert Leckie) moldering in storage somewhere – a book I read (for some unfathomable reason) when I was a teenager and just never managed to throw out. And several Harold Robbins novels. I've never even read a Harold Robbins novel, but somehow I managed to acquire these and they've found a home.

So you see, the question of what I do with my books when I don't want them anymore is not one I'm qualified to answer. I always want them. I want all my books. I want all your books, too.

Now, if you asked my husband, he'd have a whole other take on the problem. And, yes, I admit – it's not a good neurosis for someone who lives in a smallish one-bedroom city apartment with limited storage space. Is there anyone out there conducting interventions for book hoarders? If you know of anyone, don't send them my name.

Tuesday Thingers is a weekly meme for LibraryThing users, hosted by Wendi's Book Corner.

Happy Birthday, Edgar!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, one of my favorite authors. Also, I guess, the bicentennial. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809. And died only forty years later, in 1849, under rather mysterious circumstances – appropriate, I think, for the master of the macabre.

The image here is a photograph of a daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe in 1848, first published 1880.
Taken by W.S. Hartshorn, Providence, Rhode Island, on November 9th, 1848.
Photograph taken in 1904 by C.T. Tatman.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Late Arrival

I know that, technically at least, it's really not Sunday anymore (well, not around here anyway). But it's Sunday somewhere, right? And since I've missed the Salon for the last few weeks, I just wanted to check in briefly – especially since I've actually done some reading today (on Sunday, that is).

Even though there were those playoff games to watch (I was kinda hoping Donovan McNabb might get another shot at winning the Big Game, but c'est la guerre, I guess). But over the years, I've learned to read while the NFL wars are raging on the TV screen in front of me. At least the Cowboys weren't involved – so M. wasn't jumping up and down and yelling things like "They're pathetic!" and "Romo, you idiot!" Today's session was really peaceful in comparison.

The book I've been immersed in today is Colm Toibin's The Master, based on the life of Henry James. In 2004, the book was short-listed for the Booker Prize and was also chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten most notable books of the year. I've had it on my TBR list since it first came out, and I'm really kicking myself now, for putting it off for so long. It's a fascinating book about a truly fascinating character. And it's making me want to do some research – I'd like to know just how close Toibin came to James's real persona.

It appears that he must have done an incredible amount of research – but then I'm no James expert. I've always loved the idea of reading Henry James more than the actual books themselves. Some of his shorter works are among my favorites – Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers, especially. But I find I lose interest in the longer novels, after a chapter or two. I used to feel guilty about that until one of my college English professors (who was a Medievalist, so I suppose he can be forgiven) said that Henry James was "all about whether I should have peas or carrots for lunch, and who the hell cares, anyway?"

Well, it's true that much of James's work is full of the trivialities of day to day life – or at least, life as lived by 19th century aristocrats. But I'm much more tolerant of that kind of writing now than I was when I was a twenty-year-old college student, just beginning to fall in love with English literature. Maybe if I read Portrait of a Lady today, the exploits and tribulations of Isabel Archer and her various suitors wouldn't bore me to tears again.

Right now, however, I'm going to get back to Toibin and his version of the Master. Henry and his brother William are studying law at Harvard and avoiding enlisting in the Union Army. And Henry has just decided that literature might be a more interesting study than the law. Right on.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Premios Dardo Award!

I admit I've been neglecting my blogs lately. Fighting off migraine headaches, and a bout with carpal tunnel syndrome have slowed me down quite a bit during the last couple of weeks. So I have to apologize for not getting this up in a timely fashion.

NoBSBookReviews has graciously passed on the Premios Dardo Award to my blog. NoBS is one of my favorite blogs – one I read on a regular basis, along with its companion blog, I Meme It. So I'm very grateful and excited about receiving this honor (many thanks to NoBS!).

The Premios Dardo Award "acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day." And the rules of the award are:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

So now I'll be looking around for those other worthy blogs. May take me a while because I like to try to find blogs that haven't already been chosen. Hmmm – yes, that might take quite a while, so I may have to make some compromises there. Well, we'll see what emerges!

And, yes, I know - there seems to be some confusion about the actual name of the award. But I'm going with "Premios Dardo" because that seems to be the most popular variation, and that's what my presenter passed on to me. Whatever the wording, it's a very handsome graphic, don't you think?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Sing! Sing a Song . . .

This week's BTT topic:
But, enough about books … Other things have words, too, right? Like … songs!
If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.
So, today’s question?
What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?
And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?
You don’t have to restrict yourself to modern songsters, either … anyone who wants to pick Gilbert & Sullivan, for example, is just fine with me. Lerner & Loewe? Steven Sondheim? Barenaked Ladies? Fountains of Wayne? The Beatles? Anyone at all…
OK, first of all I want to say, just what d'ya mean "Enough about books"? How could that ever happen?

But I digress – already!

Wow, hard question. My short answer would probably be "impossible to say." This would take a lot of thought. And probably many rewrites. I like so many different kinds of music, and my likes and dislikes change constantly. I'm afraid I haven't kept up with the current music scene – whatever that may be – for many years now. And lately, I seem to prefer music without lyrics – classical stuff and jazz.

It would be difficult for me to choose the songs or songwriters I really love – I'd end up with a list several pages long, and nobody wants that to happen! So I'll just say my favorite songwriter is the one I'm married to. And probably my favorite among all the tunes he's written over the years is one he called "Dream Weaver" – yes, I know; but this was long before Gary Wright hijacked the title and ran away with it. The lyrics are very personal and meaningful, and always bring back memories of our early days together. And I think that strong emotional response is something we all look for in our favorite music, isn't it?

Well, that and the ability to make us smile. And along those lines, I offer one of my musical guilty pleasures. And, yes, wasn't he young? Oh, and my husband asked that I make it clear I am not married to Neil Diamond.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Common Knowledge

This week's questions for the Tuesday Thingers group:
Have you ever looked at the Common Knowledge page, or viewed the history of changes/additions? If you were aware of this section, have you added any information? Do you find this information useful or interesting?

Well, this is unusual! A LibraryThing feature I actually knew something about before Tuesday Thingers brought it to my attention!

Yes, I've known about Common Knowledge for a while now. In fact, I've even contributed some info myself. Didn't really remember exactly what books were involved, so I went to the History page and searched on my user name, and discovered a whole list of stuff: a few books by Angela Thirkell, a couple of Virago editions, and The House with a Clock in Its Walls, by John Bellairs.

I've browsed around Common Knowledge a few times. Of course, the data is only as reliable as the members who enter it: As far as I know, there's no proof-reading or fact-checking. And apparently anyone can change or edit the info that's already been entered. Lots of possibilities for typos and misreadings, so you have to expect mistakes to creep in, I suppose. So while I do find the information interesting, I'm not sure how useful it really is.

Tuesday Thingers is a weekly meme for LibraryThing users, hosted by Wendi's Book Corner.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Butterfly Award!

I've been trying to get this done for about a week now, but my recent bout with the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome has forced me to cut back quite a bit on blogging. Staci of Life in the Thumb has given my blog the Butterfly Award, and I'm very grateful and excited about it. And I apologize for taking so long to acknowledge it here.
Now I need to pass the award on to a few other blogs, and I will do that just as soon as I'm able to get back to normal blogging mode (i.e., as soon as I learn how to maneuver on the Internet with this wrist brace immobilizing my right hand).

Thanks very much, Staci! And doesn't that logo look pretty?

Surfing Saturdays on Sunday

Meg, of Literary Menagerie, has come up with a new weekly blogging event – Surfing Saturdays. As she says in her announcement post:

"Each Saturday morning, I'll list any links of interest I came across during the past week of surfing and give an update on my reading progress. Play along with me!"

It sounds like a great idea, and although I'm a day late (as usual), I thought I'd give it a try this week. And I guess my first discovery for this week was Surfing Saturdays!

I wasn't able to do a huge amount of web surfing this week because of a surprise attack of carpal tunnel syndrome, but I did do a bit of looking around.

Noticed that one of my favorite blogs, Just a (Reading) Fool, has moved and regrouped; the new blog is called An Unfinished Person (in this unfinished universe).

I'm sure most book bloggers have already discovered this one for themselves. Weekly Geeks is back. As you probably know, its founder, Dewey of The Hidden Side of a Leaf, passed away late in 2008. But the Weekly Geeks event is being continued by loyal followers, and is now up and running at their new website. This week's Geekish activity includes a favorite blog round-up, as well as reading goals and wrap-ups.

I also found another interesting weekly meme – photography, not books this time. That's My World Tuesday is designed to allow participants to show off their photographic skills, and share their little corners of the world.

I'm beginning to get back into the reading groove again, after taking a bit of a breather during the holidays. This week I started Drawers & Booths, by Ara13. Hoping to finish that one up later today. Also reading a couple of titles I started last year: Rest In Pieces, by Rita Mae Brown, and Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem. Now I need to get started on a few of the challenge books I've got lined up for this year, and also finish reviewing the books I read in 2008 – assuming the carpal tunnel doesn't put me out of commission again.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: The Best?

This week's BTT topic:
It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?
(It’s an oldie but a goodie question for a reason, after all… because, who can’t use good book suggestions from time to time?)
Good question. I've been meaning to do a little wrap-up of my reading in 2008 – just haven't had the energy. Think I'm still recovering from all that holiday hoopla.

Well, I'm assuming this means the best books, overall – not just those published in 2008. I wouldn't be much good at that question anyway – I only read a few new books last year.

If I had to pick my absolute favorite from the books I read in 2008, it would be a tie between Civil to Strangers by Barbara Pym, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I'm such a Pym fan, I was really expecting to like that one, but the Guernsey book was a total surprise.

After those two, my favorites would be (in no particular order):

Emma, by Jane Austen
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry
The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson
Mr. White's Confession, by Robert Clark

All very different books, from several different genres. I sort of judge a book by how fast I get through it. If it keeps me up nights, reading into the wee hours; if it takes me away from the other three or four books I've got going at any one time – then I know it's a really good read. And all of these titles passed that test with flying colors.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: What's Going On Here?

Teaser Tuesdays
is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

This week, my teasers come from page 99 of Drawers & Booths, by Ara 13 (Covington Moore Publishing House, 2007). And I suppose I should include an **adults only** warning.
He'd pleaded with John that Granite was a perfect porn name, but John was obstinate about needing a stage name, so he settled on Marty Poundstone.
It was the third day of shooting for Watch Your Tuchus, Too, the second installment of light porn for adventuring middle-aged Jews.
I've just started reading the book, so I haven't quite reached this snippet yet. I can't imagine how it ties in with the bit I've read so far; there hasn't been any mention of porn movies yet. I'll undoubtedly have more to say about the book later, but for now I'll just say it's keeping me turning the pages.

Feeling Chunky: The Chunkster Challenge 2009

Someone should invent the "Have You Lost Your Tiny Mind?" reading challenge – I'd be perfect for it.

So, here's the sad news. I've found yet another really neat, really unavoidable challenge (will you people please stop coming up with these!). I know I've already signed up for just about every reading challenge on the internet. But the Chunkster Challenge, hosted by Dana of So Many Books So Little Time (so true!), looks like a cinch. It runs until November 15th, and requires as few as two books. And allows crossovers with other challenges. See what I mean? A cinch.

For the purposes of the challenge, a "chunkster" is defined as 450 pages or more of literature written for adults (so no children's or YA titles). Fiction or non- is allowed, but no audiobooks. There are several reading levels to choose from:
  1. The Chubby Chunkster - this option is for the reader who has a large tome or two to read, but really doesn't want to commit to more than that. 2 books is all you need to finish this challenge.
  2. Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big? - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to 3-5 Chunksters over the next ten months.
  3. Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to 6 or more chunksters OR three tomes of 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings.
  4. And lastly, in an intriguing collaboration with the wildly popular Miz B of the TBR Challenge we have:
    Too Big To Ignore Anymore - this option is for those chunksters on your TBR list. You may select any number of books over 450 pages but you must LIST THEM to complete the challenge and they must be on your TBR list as well
I would really love to go with Level 2, just because of the name; but I'm going to be a sensible Chubby Chunkster and stick with the first level. I've already got several chunky choices on my "possibles" list for this year's challenges, and I'm pretty sure I can get through at least two of them.

To read more about the challenge and sign up, please visit the official challenge blog, Feelin' Chunky. Now I need to go look for my misplaced sanity – oh, and start reading those chunksters.

Tuesday Thingers: Authors

For this week's Tuesday Thingers topic, Wendi (Wendi's Book Corner) has some questions about LT authors:

Did you know that there are 1497 authors participating in LT Authors? If you haven't checked it out, head over for a moment and see if you can find out something new about an author! If you don't have time to go snooping, have you ever looked at the LT Author page before? Did you know that it is for authors and readers alike? Have you ever looked up a favorite or new author on LT to see what they read and if they have left any comments or reviews themselves? Have you ever told an author about LT Authors and encouraged them to check the site out?

I have actually looked at the LibraryThing Authors Page once or twice in the past. Probably when I was looking up something for another Tuesday Thingers post. I've never really found it all that interesting or useful. Yes, there are quite a few authors listed, aren't there? Didn't realize there were so many. I didn't read the entire list, but of the first couple of hundred "most popular," I only recognized three or four.

I looked up a few of my favorite contemporary authors, but didn't find any of them listed. Before today, I had never done that. I've also never told an author about the site or encouraged an author to check it out. Shame on me! But then, I don't really know any authors. Well, none aside from the odd academic – and, yes, some of them are very odd indeed (apologies to my hubby and his colleagues).

Monday, January 05, 2009

Musing Mondays: Library Books

It's been a while since I visited Musing Mondays. This week's topic is about libraries:

Do you have a system for borrowing out books from the library? Do you know what you're going to borrow before you get there? How often do you borrow out books?

I love libraries. I love just hanging out in them. I love that feeling of bringing home an armful of "new" books to sample. And even though I usually do go looking for something specific, I almost always come away with three or four volumes I just happened upon, once I started browsing the shelves.

Unfortunately, until very recently our local public library hasn't been one of the best I've encountered. So in recent years, I've sort of gotten out of the habit of borrowing books from the library, and started buying more of my own.

But the local library branch is improving, and I've been thinking that I really need to get back in the habit of paying it a regular visit. Especially since this year I'm planning to read quite a few titles I don't actually have in my personal collection, and I really don't want to buy that many new books. Well, actually I do. But we've only got so much room for books in this apartment if two humans are going to go on living here – and I don't want to have to ask the hubby to move out and get his own place!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: New Year's Resolutions

This week's BTT topic (naturally enough):

So … any Reading Resolutions? Say, specific books you plan to read? A plan to read more ____? Anything at all?
Name me at least ONE thing you’re looking forward to reading this year!

Think I'll start with the second part of this topic: books I'm looking forward to reading in 2009. And there are a lot of them, so I'll just list a couple. One that I'm really itching to get my hands on is the new novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Angel's Game). I read his Shadow of the Wind a couple of years ago and loved it, so I'm really eager to see this new one. The English translation is due out sometime this spring. And I'm also looking forward to reading the new Adam Dalgliesh novel by P.D. James, The Private Patient. I've got my copy - now I just need to sit myself down and read it.

I suppose the only real reading resolution I have this year is the same as the one I had at the beginning of 2008 – read more books than I read during the previous year. I have quite a few specific books that I intend to read – I've got myself involved in fifteen challenges, so some of my reading agenda is already set. But most of that schedule is pretty flexible, and there are really only a few books that are must reads – I've left myself a lot of wiggle room in case interesting new books (or interesting new challenges) appear on the horizon.

In 2008 I read about forty-three books – I haven't done my wrap-up for the year, but I think that's right. I know that's not a lot by most standards, but it's more than twice as many as the nineteen I read in 2007. So I'm doing better, but there's definitely lots of room for improvement!

I'm relying heavily on the reading challenges I've joined. I know I wouldn't have gotten through all those books this year without the incentive provided by challenges, and the recommendations and reviews by other challenge participants. And LibraryThing's 50 Book Challenge discussion group has helped, too – I'm hoping in 2009 I can graduate to the 75 Book Challenge group!

So that's my resolution – read more! Not a bad goal – good for you and fun, too! Happy New (Reading) Year, everyone!