When your Secret Santa knows exactly what to get you Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

So, I wrote about this Personal Library Kit, not too long ago.  Well yesterday, we had our annual Secret Santa, and my Santa, Kath, having read my blog, got me this awesome list of materials.  Which I plan on using immediately.

My gift from my Secret Santa

So, my gift was a reading journal, which I can write and rate books in it, as well as an antiquated book plates collection, and a Dumbledore wand pen and bookmark!  Oh my goodness so amazing.  I can use the reading journal to write my thoughts down as I read. And obviously, I can use the bookplates for my collection of books in case of sharing.  I’m super excited!

And the Dumbledore wand pen and bookmark?  Already used :D  Love that I have an elder wand.  I can’t wait to start putting the bookplates on my books! I’m going to start with my leatherbounds (the set of B&N ones I got for Christmas one year).

*sigh* I love books.

The one where I learn I can’t do everything. Tuesday, Dec 18 2012 

Who would’ve thought that reading 52 books in a year was ambitious? Apparently everyone in The Twelve group. I sure thought it could be done. Especially since I had been reading a new book every four or five days. But apparently the six weddings I went to this year (a grouping of events called Weddingocalypse) drained me. At least, that’s where I’ve decided to place the blame.

Weddingocalypse had more than one casualty, none a living being mind you. One of these casualties was my new good habit of reading. Totally went out the door. Just flew the coop, pulled a disappearing act, and any other departure related cliches you can think of.  I was really hoping I would actually do it right and get it done.  But I think, well no, I know I overextended myself.  And so that just did not happen.  It’s so embarrassing that I barely even got halfway through (though I think I might get to the halfway point by the end of the year).  Or maybe it’s my commitment issues (“Hi, I’m Ms. IstartsprojectsIneverfinish.  Nice to meet you”).

Otherwise, if I’m feeling lazy, which I most likely will, I’ll give myself the goal of reading 10 unread books off my shelf.  Or maybe 5 unread books and 5 from the NY Times 100 must read list.  And if I can’t complete that, then I’ll know that I really have issues.

Casino Royale, where it all started Tuesday, Dec 4 2012 

To aid in my 52 books to read goal, I started reading the James Bond books. It actually worked out in my favor as I’ve wanted to read these books for a very long time. Growing up, I was always a huge James Bond fan. That is mostly because I would watch it with my dad all the time and it was always an excuse for staying up late. As a younger sister, I could always find the perfect excuse for getting around any wrongdoing.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Casino Royale

So I figured what would be a more perfect book to read this past summer than James Bond? They are “light” reading and they are short(ish). I managed to read Casino Royale in about a few days, because I am just that awesome, and I really enjoyed it.

I mean, let’s face it, the writing isn’t phenomenal, but it’s definitely worth a read. You don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time reading it, (unlike with some other books, which shall remain nameless) and you find yourself invested in some of the characters.

My only gripe about it is that Fleming comes off as a bit of a racist, and a bit of a misogynist. While I’m aware that racism and sexism came with the times they were written in, it doesn’t make it excusable, and it can make some parts difficult to read. That being said, the books are an accurate portrayal of the times they take place in.

There’s not much that one can talk about with a book like Casino Royale, because like i said its not a book you read for the writing. But it does have a better structure than a lot of the books that get multi-million dollar movies. Then again, the Bond movies always fare well in theaters too. I just don’t think people realize they were books first. And you get what you’d imagine with a Bond book: cars, chases, and chicks (or for us girls, the desire to be one of his).

And you can tell that Fleming did his homework when writing these books, because with the vividness in which he described the game of baccarat, one could feel that they could expertly play the game themselves. The only difference being, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

Damaged goods Tuesday, Jul 17 2012 

I can’t tell you how much I hate damaged books.  It drives me nuts.  Have you ever seen this video?

They mention highlighting and dog earing books in it, and it totally pains me.  Now, I know you probably think I’m nuts.  Because books don’t have feelings (or do they? okay they don’t), but it totally pains me to think of these poor little books without their poor pages being perfect.

Does this mean that I absolutely keep my books in pristine condition?  No, of course not.  I can’t help it that sometimes my books get creased, or they get bent etc.  I mean you need to look at my copy of The Scarlet Letter (okay, well it isn’t one I bought, but rather swapped on swap.com).  No, please look at it.

my damaged copy of The Scarlet Letter

The front cover is coming off!  And it drives me nuts.  Because while I know that normal wear and tear is common, I feel like that is abnormal wear and tear.  And that kind of wear and tear saddens me.  Again, I’m nuts I know, because they can’t feel (can they? no no no, stop being silly).  And of course I shouldn’t feel sad, because well, let’s see, a) they’re books, and b) I’m not doing it on purpose, and c) they don’t have feelings (I won’t even go there, again).

And as long as I’m not doing it on purpose, it’s okay, right?  Right.  Sure, I’ll keep telling myself that, and yes I’m only a little neurotic.  And it upsets me so much when I accidentally hurt one of my babies books that it boggles me when someone would willingly vandalize one of theirs with a dog ear or highlight.  I know there might (I don’t know for sure, hence the term might) be theory that dog earring or highlighting a book gives it character.  No, that doesn’t.  Regular use does, okay.  But manhandling a book by mistreating its pages is blasphemy to me.  Strong words I know, but I like them.

To be honest, do whatever you want to do to your books, but don’t you dare touch mine.  And again, this is why I rarely ever lend mine out.  Man, I’m so greedy.  Maybe I will get the personal library kit, ‘cause I don’t want to be known as greedy.

Curiouser incidents and deader dogs Monday, Jul 16 2012 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Dogs die and people lie.  Essentially, that’s the moral of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.  Though the book also has a lot more to it than that, it does at first seem as simple as that.  In a quick and easy narrative, the reader is taken on a journey of discovery and change.It may take some people some time to get used to the narrator’s point of view.  But I felt it was an amazing wonderful and sweet portrayal of a person diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition.  Christopher’s condition seems to be a lot like Asperger’s but as Haddon is confessedly, by no means an expert on the syndrome, it will go as an unnamed autistic condition.  Also, by all means, the book is not about his condition.  The book is mostly about a young boy’s relationship with his father, and his growth, and the mystery surrounding all of it.  Christopher’s ability with numbers, and inability to cope with certain things, both help and hinder him as he ventures to solve the great mystery around the center of the book.

While the reader may think this is about the eponymous dog, it isn’t.  The dog, Wellington the poodle if you must know, is only the beginning of a series of mysteries which unfold.  I won’t ruin it for you, because I feel like you should never hint or reveal clues of a ‘mystery,’ but I will go on to say that this is definitely not your usual mystery.  The Curious Incident has a much more interesting take on the mystery theme.  Part of this, is because Christopher is narrating this mystery, and his inability to tell lies or create fictional scenarios proves to be rather cumbersome, both to himself and those involved with him.

But despite these inhibitions, Christopher is able to grow immensely as a person, and he finally realizes what actually has to happen in “real life.”  Through the novel, his relationship with his father also grows, and he manages to actually, for once, make his own decisions.  Christopher’s relationship with his father is a subject greatly touched upon throughout the book, and it is something that keeps the reader glued to each page.  But in the end, it’s Christopher’s sweetness and sincerity, and search for honesty and truth that keeps those pages turning.

Technology is no reason for murder Sunday, Jul 8 2012 

Technology is never a good reason for murder, but Matthew Pearl gives one character a compelling, if not crazy reason, for comitting crimes against humanity in the name of technology in his recent book The Technologists.  I recently had the benefit of reading an advanced copy of The Technologists by Matthew Pearl.  Though it was the first book I’ve read of Pearl’s, I had been really excited to read it.  This was partly because it was an advance copy, and partly because, well it was free, and I get giddy over free stuff, because I’m almost always broke.  And let’s face it, who doesn’t get excited about free stuff,  because aren’t we all broke?

my advanced copy of The Technologists

The Technologists was one of the free books I got from goodreads.com.  It was actually really cool, because it was an advance copy, the cover wasn’t even the actual design, and I received a large notice notifying me I could not actually post a review until after the release date.  Not to worry, Random House, I’m such a procrastinator, I didn’t read the book until January, and I am just now writing a review for it.  Sorry, that’s just how much I suck.  I do promise to do much better in the future.

But it wasn’t just the cover that I really loved about this book, it was the author as well.  I mean, I’m just going to say this as matter of factly as possible: Matthew Pearl knows how to grab a reader.  As a writer, (and I can hear my Eng 312 professor now, “you are all writers, but once you get paid to do it, you’re an author”), I know that grabbing the reader is one of the most difficult things to do.  You can’t just start the reader off with something bland.  They want a reason to start reading, and then they need a reason to continue reading.  For example, with The Alchemist,  my only reason to continue reading that was that it was quick.   In The Technologists, Pearl entices the reader so effortlessly, it must be simply second nature to him.  Honestly?  I couldn’t put the book down.

I do have to admit, it did start a bit rough for me, simply because there was a bit of science in the beginning, and though I love Mythbusters (who doesn’t? They blow stuff up), science was never one of my favorite subjects.  And Pearl does his homework, so there was some science in there (for reals).  And it’s not just science he studies, because I read The Dante Club soon after The Technologists, and I can tell you, the man knows how to do his research.   But really, that’s how you should define a good storyteller.  They should do their research, so they know what they are talking about, and they should possess a keen ability to make you want to continue reading their work, even after you finish it.

And for the record, though I love Sherlock Holmes, I don’t typically like murder mysteries.  So that fact alone should tell you that The Technologists is a must read.  It makes a non murder mystery fan, like a murder mystery book.  I will admit, it’s not your typical murder mystery and that it doesn’t really fit the Dan Patterson profile.  And technically, it can’t be classified a murder mystery.  There really isn’t a murder in this book.  Some people die, but the intention wasn’t murder, it was chaos. And I guess I should actually talk about the plot some, huh?

The Technologists’main plot is that there are these ‘accidents’ happening all around Boston.  And, unfortunately for them, the kids over at MIT are being blamed for them.  Now of course, these ‘kids’ (though I use the term loosely, as some of them had already fought in a war), won’t take this sitting down.  They fight these allegations especially hard, since they could lose their school over it.  And it’s a shame, really, that they get blamed for these accidents, because on top of all that, they have to suffer the pious and their disdain of the school’s Darwinist principles, and the obnoxious snobbery from the Harvard students.

One would think that the answer to who the culprit is would be clear cut, but there are definitely a few twists to this book.  One, for example, is the budding romance that develops.  It was especially surprising because it revolved around nerds.  I mean, no offence.  Afterall, I am one, but one never expects them to get any in a book.  Who wants to read about fingers touching over beakers?  Okay, that didn’t actually happen, and I may have actually died if it did.

Would I recommend this book in general?  Yes, definitely.  I thought it was a really quick, fun and intelligent read.  Like I said I could barely put the book down.  And when I did, it was to look up something (pertaining to the plot) on Wikipedia.  I mean, this book not only keeps you enveloped in the mystery but also makes you want to learn!  Where else can you find that?

Grown ups can have reading lists too Wednesday, Jun 6 2012 

Last year my awesome friend started a Facebook reading group, called the Annual Grown Up Summer Reading Program.  Its cause is to encourage grown ups to read, similar to the reading lists of our childhood.  Suggestions for books to add to the list are made, and a final list posted.  A prize is given to the person who reads the most on the list.

I personally think this is a spectacular idea.  I partook last year, but only read a few of the books.  I do have many of my own books to read, so it makes it difficult.  I could always add other books onto the suggestions, and that way, I could kill two birds with one stone.

The group is open, so anyone can join, provided they have a facebook account.  And if you like reading and discussing, or if you want to start reading more, than you should really join.  And you should especially join if you just need an idea on a good book to read.  Because, really?  The more the merrier.

Why is it called the Hunger Games? Was murder ball taken? Monday, May 21 2012 

I recently had the pleasure of reading Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  I have to start off by saying how awesome they were.  I finished all three books in three days, but it would have been two, had I not had a crazy day at work on my first day of reading them.  And when i finally finished reading them, I had an empty pit in my stomach.

I couldn’t decide why I felt so empty.  Was it due to the fact that these characters felt so honest, and so real, that it was sad that their story was finished?  Or was it that that the story was so raw, and too frightening as a possible reality (a dystopian world where kids had to kill each other)?  I still haven’t decided.  It’s probably a combination of both reasons, really.  And why did these books affect me so much?  While I consider the books are classics, but not the same caliber, as Ulysses.  James Joyce, Collins is not.  But she does build a vivid world filled with suffering and interlaced with with brief moments of humor and hope.

These books started a love, and addiction, to the characters, akin to my love of Coca Cola (or polar bears).  They are close to being as awesome, in my opinion, to the Harry Potter books.  Cue the braiding my hair sideways, and my sister buying an archery kit for us to practice with.  I even bought myself a District 11 shirt (because Rue is awesome, and because that’s where thecapitol.pn put me).

What makes these books so addicting is all the characters are extremely likable.  While they do all have their faults (some are cold, some are dumb puppies, others are too blindsided by their causes), you can find yourself wanting to know each of the main characters.  The other amazing thing about this trilogy is that there is a female protagonist who actually kicks butt.

And she isn’t just any female protagonist.  She’s a strong willed female character.  She’s not like Bella, who is happy to wait for her boys to fight over her.  Katniss, though clearly in like (we can’t exactly describe it as love at first), also realizes that she doesn’t need anybody to survive or to be happy.  She could do fine just on her own.  And it’s this realization which eventually has her realize who she really wants (not needs) to be with.  And the readers find us chanting along with Katniss.  We can’t decide who we want her with, either.  Some of us want her with Peeta, naturally.  Others wanted her with Gale.  And a few could see her with both.

And while one may think it’s a book simply about teen angst, these novels are more than that.  They are, obviously, a fight of good and evil, but also the idea that too much power is not good for one person.  One side used power for evil, setting children to fight against children, and another side used power for ‘good’ food and comfort for everyone.  But in both cases, they were overexerting themselves over the general populace.  The populace never actually got to decide anything for themselves.  And it’s this idea, this inequality, that so brings to mind past, present and future politics.

This is where I wonder why this so-called pageant (yes, they do use these terms in the books), is even called the Hunger Games.  I think a title using the word Murder would be more appropriate, as that is really what the tournament is about, but then I guess the leaders of the Capitol had to give it a more appealing nature to their citizens.

This book only served to remind me, that yes, this hasn’t happened for us, but it has happened for children in war torn nations across the world.  Not this exactly, but nothing much better.  Why is it okay for kids to be taken and used in wars and battles?  And after reading and watching the movie, it made me worry, “am I much better than a citizen of the Capitol, reading and watching a story about kids fighting each other?”  One would like to think so, and I try to remind myself of the differences.  But I can’t help but wonder.

To lend or not to lend Tuesday, May 8 2012 

Being an avid book reader can have its problems. Not only does it lead to too-full bookshelves (my apartment is currently housing 561 books), but it can also lead to lending anxiety. Lending anxiety is a term I have only recently coined. And it stems from the suffering one feels after loaning out a book.

I love my books. While I do love sharing my loves, so that others could love them too, it leads to an anguish that only comes with waiting for the book to arrive back in hand. And it isn’t until I see those books back in my hand that I feel totally better.

It’s obviously all in my head (then again, what isn’t?). But, I still get an empty feeling when I see that gap on my bookshelf. I like seeing all the books lined up perfectly on my bookshelf. So much so, that as you know, I’ve even organized my bookshelf by theme and then by author. And if you don’t know, then, I had, for a while, just placed (though it felt like dumped, to me) them all on my shelves, in no particular order. I kept my shelves this way until I had time to organize it, which went from waiting a few months to a few years. And this disorderly conduct, as I have dubbed it, drove me absolutely nuts.

And so you can imagine my chagrin, when I see an empty space on my shelf. Something that had troubled me for so long, and had been fixed only so recently, is still having its peace and stability threatened by the mere idea of an empty space. And this disappointment is only doubled when you think about how this book might never return to you.

I’ve honestly thought about ordering this Personal Library Kit. Partly because it fits into my idea of eventually having my own library (more on that later) and because it means I can make sure that I always get my books back. At the same time, I hardly find myself send out my books, due to the reasons mentioned above, so I am not sure if this would be a worthwhile enterprise.

And though I do complain about the unease I feel when sharing a book, it does make me proud and happy when i find out that the person I loaned the book to thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s also a point of pleasure for me to discuss in detail the specific plot points we enjoyed, the ideas we shared, and the concepts we disagreed on. Discussing a book in length is one of my favorite things (cue Julie Andrews). So, really then, what is so wrong with sharing? Maybe I will buy one of those library kits.

Death is not an option for many in Suzanne Rivecca’s novel Sunday, Apr 29 2012 

Death is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca is a great quick read, perfect for the upcoming summer months.  In her compilation of stories about young women dealing with love, sex, and growing up, Rivecca cautions readers to the hazards of life.  There are 7 stories in this collection, and each story, though short, has very strong, warm, and detailed characters.

The first story is the eponymous “Death is Not an Option.”  This story takes us into the world of a high school teenager, Emma, who fights with her insecurities, and worries about her lack of plans for the futuret.  She is forced to deal with a frenemy who seems nice enough, but manages to humiliate her regardless.  Whether these attempts are on purpose or by accident, remains to be seen.

And so we age from adolescence to collegiate, in “Yours Will do Nicely,” and Katrina, who is also found struggling with identity and personal crises.  After a failed one night stand, the narrator finds herself writing letters to him.  She struggles with her change in personality and how that affects those around her.

And then we age to graduate level in “It Sounds Like You’re Feeling.”  And now the tense is second person.  The narrator here, unnamed, is young female who works at a hotline, answering just before they are escalated to counselors.  Unable to cope with her work, she is told to see an appointed therapist, who she grows attached to in a paternal way.

When we move on to “Very Special Victims,” where we have a young woman who was sexually assaulted at a very young age, and how she had to cope with parents who believed her, and yet didn’t want to, and an uncle who would never admit to his crime.  This sad yet poignant tale, brings home the point that not all victims immediately get the love and support they deserve.

And then we move to “Look Ma, I’m Breathing,”a short story of a young memoirist who gets stalked by a would-be landlord.  Here we experience a woman being wrong, who at first doesn’t not want to admit it herself, and so does nothing to stop it, but eventually finds the courage to enact a restraining order.parents who believed her, and yet didn’t want to, and an uncle who would never admit to his crime.  This sad yet poignant tale, brings home the point that not all victims immediately get the love and support they deserve.

The next tale, “Consummation,” is really a long letter, but a very long and detailed letter to a doctor who saved her (the letter writer) father’s life.  The entire letter is a long story of the person he saved, and his effect on his daughter.  And how at times she is happy he is saved, and most of the time she thinks she is not.

The final story, “None of the Above,” is of a recently married teacher who struggles with dealing with a student who may be abused at home.  She follows the appropriate steps, and though confronted, it seems like there may be no abuse.  Not to be fooled though, the young teacher begins to create her own investigation, and eventually discovers what the family has been hiding.

All in all, each story strongly grasps the issues many women face.  And the struggles with emotions that many have to go through.  I have to say that the only issue I found with this book is that it left me wanting more.  I wanted to know what happened to each of these characters after their individual tales end.  I felt like I could really hear more about each of these stories.  Then again, at most, that’s all we ever really get when we meet people, brief snapshots into their lives, and it’s just greedy to ask for more..

The 12 in 12 (for 2012) Wednesday, Apr 4 2012 

New Years resolutions suck.   Which is why I’ve decided to not partake in that nonsense this year.  Instead, a few of my friends and I will be doing what has been called “The Twelve.”  The concept is simple.  Instead of doing things you think you should do, you decide to do something you want to do.  And of course, they have to be positive things (no “I plan to punch someone 12 times”), and they have to be quantifiable (nothing like go to the gym more).  Well before you ask what this has to do with a reading blog, one of my twelve is reading 52 books this year.

For some people this may seem a lot, especially when taking into consideration I have 11 other things to do on this list.  And yet for others, this is something so easy peasy, I have nothing to worry about.  I’m in the latter group to be honest, because it really comes down to a book a week, and some books (like The Hunger Games) can be read in a day.  The only problem is, is that though the 12 is supposed to be for the full year, my final list wasn’t completely written out until February (and I didn’t actually start a book until mid-March, naughty me).  But, good news, is that not only am I a fast reader, but I started off with The Hunger Games, so though I’ve only started my reading in the past two or three weeks, I’ve got seven books completed (go me!).

What it comes down to is making sure I read about 100 pages a day.  Most of which has to be done at night, which means that I can’t do my normal goofing off on facebook (gasp!), which may actually be a good thing, because most of my facebook time is spent liking things my friends post, or checking for new posts.  Thrilling.  But now, I spend my time actually reading!  The only thing I fear is that with all this reading, I won’t have time for the other things on my list.  But I think I’ll just have to find a day or two to take a break from reading to focus on the other items on my list.  In any case, I’m really excited about completing this item on my list, and it will definitely take a chunk out of my unread books on goodreads.com.

Death of a bookstore Thursday, Mar 29 2012 

I meant to post this ages ago, when it originally happened, but with a lot of things on my plate, I only finally got around to posting about this.  The end of Borders was a sad day for me.  You may ask why, since it’s just another one of those giant megastores.  And while megastore bookstores are often ‘stealing’ business away from their smaller, privately or independently owned operators, it’s still a shame to see one go.  (Virgin Megastore how I miss thee).  Because for me, big or small, it’s sad when a bookstore dies.

Borders at Columbus Circle

Borders was the first bookstore I really spent a lot of time at.  I would sometimes visit the Barnes and Noble, and almost always visit the library, but I usually went to Borders.  To be honest, I had really been rooting for it to survive, and now whenever I pass by the carcass of what used to be a Borders, I feel a strong sense of shame and guilt.  The reason why I liked Borders so much was that its layout always made sense to me.  Whether i was visiting the Borders in my hometown on Cape Cod, or visiting one of the giant locations in New York, I could always find my way.  You could say this is because those stores have one generic layout.  But that wasn’t true.  Locations varied on where they would put certain subjects and where they would put the rest.  And yet, I seemed to always know exactly where to look regardless of which Borders I was visiting.

Borders was somewhere I could go to find anything I wanted, even for non book related products.  And then, the new Barnes and Noble opened, and I must guiltily confess that I started going there instead.  The idea that I will never visit Borders again upsets me. It makes me think on the future of books themselves, but since the debate on Kindle vs Spine should be saved for its own post, let’s leave this entry with a moment of silence for our lost friend.

On goons and pauses Tuesday, Sep 27 2011 

“Time’s a goon, right?”  Right.  Though it may seem like a collection of short stories at first, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squadis actually an intricate web of lives thrust together.  You could say the main characters are two people.  A boss, Bennie Salazar, and his secretary, Sasha.  Though the novel is filled with many other vibrant characters, it is these two that stand out the most.  And it is these two that have a connection, however indistinct, to every other character in the novel.

The novel itself becomes like a puzzle.  Each chapter, each individual story is an interlocking piece of a larger picture.  Much like one of those digital art pieces you can buy at a poster store, made up of thousands of still images, each chapter in this novel can stand on its own, but when combined together the stories are a beautiful portrait.

And you don’t have to be a pure good person to make it okay in life.  Even those who make mistakes end up well, because they’ve tried to make up for all the hurt they’ve caused, by doing good.  It isn’t a matter of black and white, but different shades of gray, and sometimes color.

The way Egan meshes these character’s lives, is an obvious allegory to life itself.  As you don’t see some people every day of your life, you only know what happens through snapshots.  And so we are this additional character in the novel.  Unspoken of, and not made reference to.  And we just meet up with our friends through the years, and recall some of our favorite, and some of our worst memories.  And we see their lives change as time goes by.  A Visit from the Goon Squad tells us, throughout the course of the book, is that time can be a goon, but sometimes you can stop it from pushing you around.  And the other times, you can always stop and listen to the pauses.

One man’s loss is another man’s gain Wednesday, Aug 31 2011 

I honestly feel awful for Borders.  It always had great discounts, great sales, great events.  I still remember dragging my mom there, before I had learned to drive, just so that I could browse.  But everyone has been feeling the financial stress, and especially in this economy, even giant megastores feel it (oh Virgin Megastore, how I miss thee).  But as the old adage goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and here the public gains.

Borders is having their going out of buisness sale.  That’s 50% – 70% off of their entire stock.  Everything.  They are even selling their fixtures.  And while it’s upsetting to see them go, one could always use a few more books.

I would go into a diatribe how this is not the fault of kindle, as I’m sure most people are quick to put the blame on ebooks, but really, I feel now is not the time for such things, but rather mourn the loss of a good friend, and help them with their financial troubles by buying all their stuff at a really low price.

First free book! Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

So remember how not too long ago, I posted about goodreads’ giveaways?  Well, I won my first book!  It’s called Death Is Not An Option, and it’s the next one I plan to read, after I finish Casino Royale. This actually has me really excited.  It’s a bunch of short stories mized together, which is typically not the type of book I like to read, but I think it would be a good train ride read.

It’s funny how the word won makes you feel so happy.  Though I didn’t need to do anything to win, just drop my name into a hat essentially, it still has me feeling like I’ve achieved something.  And I think that’s why goodreads has such a large amount of giveaways.  It makes the submitters feel really happy, which will most likely have a positive spin on the reading experience, and have the reader leaving a lovely, if not glowing review of the book.

This is why I plan on waiting before reading the books I read in the mail.  Not because I think people take me seriously, far from it actually, but because it would make me feel better about myself.  And really, isn’t that what we all strive to do?

Franzen and freedom isn’t really free Tuesday, Jul 26 2011 

Forget about its title.  For those looking to read about those living the American Dream and finding a happy story, you aren’t likely to find that in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.  While the novel doesn’t end like a Shakespearean drama, it does have a series of ups and downs throughout.Freedom explores the concept of freedom in a different way.  It explores the idea of too much freedom, too much exploration, too much avarice.  Freedom is a good thing.  As long as you have the wisdom to use it wisely.  The moral is that everyone deserves their freedom, their right to choose whatever they want, but not at the expensive of others, and not at the expense of yourself.  And we learn this because of the characters in the novel.

There are no perfect characters in Franzen’s novel.  There are no Mary Sue’s.  Each and every character has their good and bad.  Some are more ‘good’ than they are bad.  And some are the reverse.  But not one person is more than they should be.  The characters have their happy fulfilled moments, but they also experience their own heart wrenching drama.  And all the pain they experience is of their own doing.

And it isn’t just the characters that make Franzen’s work so memorable (although we do all want to “talk about Patty”).  Franzen’s natural affinity for the written word is what makes Freedom whole.  He has an ability in making long sentences sound just right.  And at first, because the words just flow over the course of the book, you don’t think twice about it.  It’s not until you think about it a third or fourth or fifth time, when you are say, discussing it at a book club, that you realize you just read a sentence that spanned 6 or 8 lines, and it barely phased you.  And while many may not take this into consideration, it is a feat to wonder at.  His sentences are not only thoughtful, but meticulously structured.  And it is this, that makes you realize how talented a wordsmith Franzen is.

So for those who are looking for an enthralling read this summer, I highly suggest you read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.  While not the normal lighthearted summer read, its character more than makes up for it.

Goodreads good books giveaway Thursday, May 19 2011 

So, while I’ve been a fan of Goodreads since my recent “Bookcase Revitalization Project,” and I just noticed, quite literally, ten minutes ago, this great feature they have on their website: Giveaways. Awesome, right? Right. Well, I first found out about one specific giveaway quite literally this morning before I left for work, during my normal Facebook routine in the morning. And since I love Goodreads so much, I have their app on my Facebook account and on my phone, and so I got an immediate notification that they were having a book giveaway And of course I submitted an entry, because really, I just love books.

Well, silly me, I accidentally closed out of the window without posting about it. And so here I am, unable to access Facebook, but really wanting to spread the news. So I use my phone to go on to goodreads.com and try to find the giveaway news I had seen earlier this morning. I couldn’t find a notice of it anywhere. So I searched in all the links on the site, and eventually find what I was looking for and more.

Little did I know that Goodreads provides users with a constant surge of giveaways. Awesome right? Right. Who doesn’t like a free book? I’ve already submitted myself in the running for a few, and keep planning to submit for many more. They have several going on at a time, and it takes little to no effort to submit. So it should take little to no effort to consider it!

The book shopper’s curse Sunday, May 8 2011 

(c) ginnerobot

Well sometime last month, I decided it was imperative that I finally get the task of organizing my bookshelf completed. I don’t know what possessed me to get it done now, after what must have been ages of clutter. And since I’m occasionally a bit of a glutton for punishment, I decided to add another task to my already enormous to-do list. Since I’d have to remove all my books and reorganize them, I’d decided I would also catalogue them (so to speak) on Goodreads (and also LivingSocial Books).

In doing so, I discovered that not only did I have close to 350 books, but also that I had over 150 books unread. How could this be possible? Truth be told, I did include some poetry and anthology books from my college years which I had not finished in their entirety, and did not feel like I could say I had finished them. Maybe I will change those in to having read as I had started them (and honestly, don’t know if I have a particular urge to read them). But the idea that I had so many books unread kind of frightened me, especially knowing that so many of these books have gone unread. And so I resolved (resolutions shouldn’t be a once a year thing) that I should read more instead of spending most of my time after work playing those facebook games (ugh way too many of them).

And now I find myself planning out which books should be read when, and in what order should I read them. And I also contemplate, should I in fact re-organize my bookcase and have it organized dewey decimal or library of congress style? I’m undecided at the moment, if I even want to go that far, but should have that figured out eventually. After all, as long as it’s organized in some way, I am very happy. And really, that’s all that matters.

A challenge to uphold Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

It seems rather unreal to me that I have taken 10 English courses and 14 Literature courses in the span of my college career and have only read 30 out of the 100 books on the best books list. Yes, you heard correctly, just 30. I discovered this fact not too long ago when completing an internet meme, and this realization more than kind of disappointed me. What disappointed me the most of this realization is that many of the books on the list had been on many a course syllabus of mine, but I‘d never found myself reading them.

So it kind of dawned on me that since I have this blog, I could attempt to complete the entire list by a soon-to-be determined date, and use this as a little side experiment that I could discuss on the blog. The only problem now is, that I cannot decide how I want to go forth with this mission, this quest, this crusade. Okay, crusade is a bit much. Did I ever tell you that I exaggerate a little… okay, a lot?

Before I digress, too much, one of the few things I need to decide now is how I want to proceed with achieving this goal. I have an inkling, but I am one of these indecisive creatures, who only takes the initiative when need be. Most likely I will use it, not to fuel the blog, but as something for the interim. Also, the question is which Top 100 list shall I use? The one that the meme was about does not officially exist (BBC did have a top 100 list, but it was in 2003 and did not include half the books on the meme’s list), then there is the Guardian’s list, and the official BBC list, and Time magazine’s list, as well as Modern Library’s. Once I decide which book list is closest to what I need, I should be all set. Once I solve that quibble, I should be all set.

The other question that remains is: shall I read every single book regardless of whether I’ve read them or not, or simply read the books I have yet to read. I believe the latter option is most feasible, but, does going that route make me a cheater? At times, I think so, and other times I think not. To be honest, my opinion on this varies with whichever moral standing I decide to place myself that day (be it Chaotic Good or Lawful Evil, etc.). I guess it comes down to whether I want to take the ‘easy’ road or not.

That being the case, I will most likely only be reading the books I have yet to read, even though as I type this, I can’t help but think, ‘but won’t it be a better feat to complete ALL the books?’ And that yet-to-be-decided pre-determined date? I’ve been realistically considering the time constraints of this. If I read a book per week, and we keep in mind that a portion of the list is comprised of sets, and so really let’s adjust that 100 to 150 books (since the complete works of Shakespeare is in there somewhere), which means then I can get it done in approximately 150 weeks, or put simply, 3 years? Provided, of course, that armageddon does not hit in 2012.

All of this now sounds like a daunting task to try and complete all the books. But, you know? I feel up to the challenge.

Books for ‘women’ Sunday, Feb 27 2011 

It may surprise you to hear that, before a few months ago, I had never read any Jane Austen. This fact may surprise you as I am 26 years old, and an English major who focused on early modern literature. I had even taken a course on women in the early modern period (aptly titled Early Modern Women’s Writing). Now knowing this, the obvious question to ask is: “How could I have not read a lick of either Bronte or Austen?” Easy. My professors all professed that seeing as Bronte and Austen were such popular subjects, we must have already read them. But in my case, they were wrong.

Jane Austen

And so my women writer’s class focused on other women writers, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Wroth, Anne Clifford, Aphra Behn, Kathrine Philips, and Margaret Cavendish. Those women were my scholars. And while my college literary career was filled with the likes of Shakespeare, Whitman, Marlowe, and Doyle, who were popular male authors, not once did I read Bronte or Austen.1 And so I graduated college, having not read two of the most influential female writers of the time.

When I told my friends of my feat, they gasped and guffawed. I felt an outcast among my peers. Okay, I may be exaggerating a teensy bit: there had been some gasping, no guffawing, and no shunning. But I did feel a wee bit foolish. Feeling foolish is part of what spurred me to finally read these novels now, even though in all honesty I don’t think I could accurately describe what made me think, “read this now.” There were no voices saying that ‘If I read them, they would come,’ or anything like that, but I did feel like it was time I read them. What also encouraged me to start reading these classics now, is that I finally finished the book I never thought I’d finish (the aforementioned Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell). And so I thought to myself that I should start reading the books I should have read ages ago.

And so I read Austen and Bronte and fell in love with the characters (particularly Mr. Darcy). And finally realized why so many lauded these novels. I grew so enamoured with these characters, that after reading these great works, I started watching them on screen. Period dramas were suddenly the norm on our tv and our choices on the silver screen. This is not to say I wasn’t a fan of the period drama before, far from it, it was just that on reading these great works, I rekindled my love of them. I’d finally realized what I had missed out on all these years. Now if I watch a modern day romantic comedy, I can’t help but notice how much these have been influenced from the books of the past.

In the end, what did I learn from this experience? Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing. Shh. Don’t tell any parents I said that.

1Some may argue whether Bronte was a writer of the Early Modern period, but as her reign was on the cusp of that period, I would give it to her. Austen however, was most certainly in the period and so she should have been covered.

A strange case for Mr. Norrell Saturday, Dec 11 2010 

At 800 pages, Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” could intimidate even the most avid reader. But don’t let it’s size steer you away. “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” is a stimulating read for readers young and old, however, as it is a bit dense, I’d say it may be a challenge for readers that are below high school reading levels.

To be honest, what first attracted me to the novel was that I heard it was similar to Harry Potter. I’ve discovered that statement does not accurately describe it in the least. “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” isn’t just a Harry Potter book for adults. While both books do carry elements of magic, that is primarily where the similarities end. “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” is filled with both the hope of magic returned and a rich history that almost convinces the reader that magic is still around today.

The Raven King’s symbol, a raven in flight.

The novel tells the story of two magicians in three volumes, while one magician, the Raven King, reigns throughout. While the book is primarily about magic and its ‘return’ to England, the novel is also about relationships, be it with servants, wives, friends, or each other. As we watch these relationships unfold and blossom, Susanna Clarke artfully illustrates the intricacies of dealings with magicians. Be it the way that Norrell envies the ease with which Strange works, or the way Strange worries of becoming like Norrell.

One aspect of the novel that helps perpetrate the belief magic really does exist is its extensive footnotes. Though at times I found the the footnotes to be dense as they were rather excessive, I loved how much history they provided the reader. These footnotes provided the reader with a deep set past of England and it’s magic, be it with the Raven King’s stories, or stories of workings with faeries. Many times did I wish that John Uskglass did yet exist and that the ravens seen in London were the still working for their ‘master.’

All in all, despite the novel being rather different from Harry Potter, it does match it in at least this one way. By the end of reading either novels, the reader is left with the hope that, despite what we’ve been told countless times by parents and teachers alike, magic does exist.

The real never-ending story Wednesday, Oct 20 2010 

Everyone has read that book that was so awful they just could not put themselves to finish it. A book so dull, that reading it, just takes all life out of you. For some, the answer is easy: toss the thing into a rubbish bin, and be done with it. Then there are others, who could never damage a book, but yet you can and do, send it to the salvation army. And yet there are those who cannot even bring themselves to do that. For those people, their solution is most difficult. They do actually have to go and struggle with the book, and finish it. And that task alone is daunting.

I am one of those many, who when picking up a book and dislike it, i have to see it through to the end. I can’t stop it midstream, neither can I pick up a new (never before read) book to read at the same time. One book, one session.

For a long time, I thought this inability to finish a book was solely due to dull books. And then I met the exception to the rule.

Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell is an amazing book, and was a great read (my review will come in a different post). I was fully invested into the characters, and I still wish for a sequel, because there are many questions I want answered. Truth be told, all the books I love, end that way for me.

But for some reason, this book took me nearly a year to read. A year. I could actually say two, because I had started it, then stopped, then restarted it. In this time, I didn’t read one new (never before read) book to quench my thirst for reading. For someone who used to read several books a month, this was a new experience to me.

But a little over a month ago, I did finally finish it. What spurred me? What got me through? What took me so long in the first place? At this moment, I am not entirely sure, to be honest. For the latter question, I am honestly baffled. The book was large, but no larger or not much larger than any of the later Harry Potter books. And I could finish those in a day. Was it the language? No, because I’ve finished Dickens as quickly as any other book. And like I said before, I loved the characters. I was busy, but no busier than before. Maybe the Raven King himself had put a spell on me? My truest guess was it had nothing to do with the book. And that I could just have been in a book reading funk.

On the first two questions, as I mull them over, I think what helped is that I decided to ignore my previously mentioned quirk of not being able to read more than one book at once. It was around the time of the Harry Potter movie, and I decided I wanted to reread the book to get myself ready for it. And so I put Strange and Norrell aside and read Half Blood Prince. That helped me the most. The reason being was that it even took me a while to read Half Blood Prince. And that shocked me so much, it made me realize it had absolutely nothing to do with the book.

What also helped me is that I just decided to stop thinking of it as an infeasible task. At that point, I had been thinking I may never be able to finish it. But I decided to stop thinking of it that way. I looked at my book shelf and the two rows of books I had to still read, and that also helped.

Since finishing Strange and Norrell, about three months ago, I’ve read six books (three of which were Jane Austen). Suffice it to say, I think the spell has broken.

Lack of entries Thursday, Oct 7 2010 

Despite the lack of following, I do need to apologize for the lack of updates. I know two posts, and a year in between till now. Suffice it to say, a lot has happened, and changed (and also not happened and not changed), but I will be updating more frequently now.

And now I am off to read some more.

First posted on Tumblr September 11, 2010.

A novel writing medium? Monday, Sep 27 2010 

For the past two months or longer I have been slowly, but surely, writing a novel(la?) on my phone. It’s not as difficult as one would think and it lends to easier free writing. When I get a thought, I write it down. As I had a tendency to think of something, tell myself to write it down when I get home, and then forget by the time I got there. I feel that, by writing on my phone, which I always have with me, I can actually get a good bit of writing done. I thought I was a genius for thinking of this.

At least, so I thought, until a few days ago when I heard the podcast of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…” where they discussed the trend of Japanese authors writing their novels through the use of text messaging. It just goes to show you that no one thought is completely original.

Regardless, the idea is still genius. Even if I hadn’t thought of it.

It made me a bit proud of myself despite not having done anything yet.

This post was originally on Tumblr on June 1, 2009.

Welcome! Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

It took me a while to decide on a way to begin this blog. In fact, my opening sentence is what I really dwelled on.  I mused on waxing poetical and detailing, in soliloquy and metaphors, the nuances of the state of reading.  And I believed that to be too narrative.  Subsequently, I speculated on discoursing scientific and calculating the specifics of the chemical reactions in the brain initiated by reading. But I thought that too pedantic. And then I pondered on reminiscing into my childhood, and describing the joy I felt when I delved into my first book.  But I felt that too romantic.

Finally, I decided on going meta.  This is a blog, after all, and I came to the realization that most blogs are, as a rule, meta.  They are fully aware, of themselves and their readers.

And so I begin this blog: fully aware.  I welcome all readers here, as few as they may be.  You may ask what I plan to discuss here, and I have two answers for you.  In short, I will discuss anything and everything books.  In long, I will post book reviews, or thoughts on books I am currently reading, as well as book events happening across the city.  I do warn you, I do have a strong love for cheesy puns and sayings, and you may come across them here or there.

I have always had a passion (note: this should read obsession) for books.  As a child, I used to read so much my parents worried.  I loved travelling to foreign lands, or meeting different creatures, and books provided that adventure.  My dream, was, and always has been, to become a writer, and to stimulate the same love for books in others.

And that is why this blog is here today. I figure, that while I haven’t yet fulfilled my dream of being a writer, I can at least attempt to stir the pot and share my love of books with others.

So here we are, you have been sufficiently welcomed, and and sufficiently warned.  I hope, in time, you shall be sufficiently pleased.

First posted on Tumblr on May 12, 2009.

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