Last year, the folks at botnik programmed an AI to write a chapter of a Harry Potter book, by having it learn and analyse all seven books to find combinations of words likely to follow each other according to the style of the writer and then generating text using their predictive keyboard. The result was Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash and it was, as the guardian described it:
It started promising, describing a castle that could be Hogwarts and the surroundings which was
snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.
But then it rapidly descended into chaos:
Ron was standing there and doing a kind of frenzied tap dance. He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family.
Uh-oh. A few favourites from the chapte:
“Death Eaters are on top of the castle,” Ron bleated, quivering. Ron was going to be spiders.
They looked at the door, screaming about how closed it was and asking it to be replaced with a small orb. The password was ‘BEEF WOMEN,’ Hermione cried.
The tall Death Eater was wearing a shirt that said ‘Hermione Has Forgotten How to Dance,’ so Hermione dipped his face in mud.
Several long pumpkins fell out of McGonagall.
Harry could tell Voldemort was standing right behind him. He felt a great overreaction. Harry tore his eyes from his head and threw them into the forest. Voldemort raised his eyebrows at Harry, who could not see anything at the moment.
And now they’ve recorded the chapter, with delightfully literal animation by Jamie Loftus and perfectly voiced by Rachael Wright. Must watch.
The NYT has a coffee table book out called In a Galaxy Far, Far Away which collects all NYT articles about Star Wars. It starts with a 1973 feature on George Lucas who was
working on another science fiction screenplay, ‘The Star Wars,’ which he describes as a ‘real gee whiz movie’ in the Flash Gordon-Buck Rogers tradition.
Obviously there are reviews when ep4 opened in 1977, and has a total of 85 articles. Articles in the Style section about Leia; a timeline when ep1 was released to remind people about where we were; and analysis just before December’s release of ep8.
It’s in the in-between zone, at US$70 ($80 if personalised). As a coffee table book, it’s a tad on the expensive side. As a collector’s item, it’s certainly something die-hard fans will want to get. I can’t help feeling it’s jumped the gun, why not wait till ep9 is out to be more complete?
I finished the Deverry series, will write up my thoughts later. May be after I read them all again, going through the storyline chronologically; I was keeping track as I was reading along.
Next up, Katharine Kerr’s science fiction books, starting with Polar City Blues and Polar City Nightmare. It’s definitely a change from fantasy and took a little getting used to. The setting is the future, on a very hot planet called Hagar that humankind from Old Earth had settled at some point. There are many different species of the Mapped Sector, of which humans are one. Humans and lizards are part of the Republic, a small “country” system dwarved by two larger civilisations called the Confederation and the Alliance. Both the Cons and the Lies have embassies on Polar City, which is where the action happens.
The MCs are Mulligan, a psychic who is bitter that his psychic abilities prohibited him from playing in the baseball majors, and Lacey, an independent ex-military information-gatherer / ears-on-the ground type of anti-hero. There are other side characters like the police chief, a doctor for the homeless, and Lacey’s computer Buddy. Computers in that universe are more AI with sentient capabilities than mere machines. Others include police and embassy staff, and in the second book, a lot of baseball players. Baseball seems to be a big thing there.
Both books are mysteries, Polar City Blues revolve around a new alien species and killer bacteria; Polar City Nightmare about the theft of an important artefact and a few murders. Both are enjoyable, to a point. The writing was great, the story was fast-paced and the ideas a combination of new and old. I liked Polar City Blues more because the characters are more interesting. In Polar City Nightmare I felt there were too many characters and I was beginning to lose track.
There are some interesting tropes. Causasian people are a minority and speech patterns have changed to reflect some sort of pidgin, Spanish-based English. Instead of saying “I’m not giving that woman any money” they say “I no give that donna no money.” Instead of “didn’t” it’s “dint.” The way psychics communicate is a jumble of words and emotion:
Little brother >be calm.
Can’t. Killer want>find me>>slit my throat.
Rick guard>I guard> you>>be calm. No/wait. >We do work>> distract. Garden work? [gladness]
Not garden work. Mind work. [pain, irritation, reluctance]
Time is flipped over too. They still use standard time like us, but because the planet is so hot, they go to bed during the day and wake up during the night. So their day will start around 1700 or 1800 and lunch is at 0000.
Polar City Nightmare was written with Kate Daniels, and about a carli (one of the other species) artefact stolen from the embassy somehow ending up in the possession of a player from the baseball team that won the planet’s equivalent of the world series. Many people from many different groups are after the artefact, there are bodies everywhere, and it’s up to Lacey, Mulligan, Chief Bates and a slew of other characters to solve it all. I felt it has a lot of potential but faltered in the execution. I don’t know why, may be because it was co-written or may be it needed better editing. For instance Lacey will be referred to as Lacey or as Bobbie (her first name). I can understand the narrator using Lacey and a family member referring to her as Bobbie, but in the same sentence is a bit jarring and is due to lacklustre editing.
This is what Kit said about Polar City Blues:
In some ways Polar City Blues is my tribute to the classic SF I read as a teenager. In other ways, it’s a heavily Revisionist book, where the Hero is female and the Object of Desire is male. Mostly, however, it’s a fast-paced adventure story complete with dead bodies, hookers, drugs, mysterious aliens, and several high-speed chases both on the ground and elsewhere.
King’s dinner tonight with a group of 10 people who were in my year or thereabouts. There were a couple of people I hadn’t seen since we graduated, like E who had the nickname of “King of Electronics” because he got straight As and graduated at the top of his class in the Dept of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The talk is about children going off to university and I’m sure soon it’ll be about grandchildren and retirement. Because everyone is older now, we have connections and were able to get this private room at a restaurant with a great menu for a good price.
Joining dinner was Mrs Lue, the widow of Dr Abraham Lue, who was a Fellow teaching Maths when we were undergraduates. He was a respected father figure and mentor to many of us. Dr Lue passed away a couple of years ago and I’m so glad that the group kept in touch with Mrs Lue (actually she’s Dr too). She gave us a copy of a book that Dr Lue wrote called Little Jade and the Celestial Guards. It seems to be a YA novel in the Mulan mode. Back of the book:
The Celestial Guards are the four guardians of the compass. Blue Dragon, Red Bird, White Tiger and Black Warrior control the wind and rain and plant growth. They are each associated with a season, and the elements of wood, fire, metal and water. As agents of the Jade Emperor of Heaven they keep order in the universe.
Little Jade and her young brother Little Hero live in the remote hillsides of Shanxi. They are on a missio to rescue their father who has been abducted into the army of conscripts to rebuild the Great Wall.
The Ming emperor Yong Le also has plans to move his capital to the old Mongol capital of Dadu and he intends to subjugate the remnants of the Mongol tribes that endanger his northern border.
Little Jade and her brother face all kind of dangers in their quest. Fortunately for them, in moments of dire need they are assisted by the Celestial Guards who manifest themselves in human form to help their young friends.
The book is sold privatedly to benefit an elderly care charity and isn’t listed anywhere like on amazon. It has an ISBN number though. I was grateful to receive a copy to remember Dr Lue but I was reminded of why I don’t touch books like The Joy Luck Club or Wild Swans with a ten-foot pole. It’s so…clichéd. From the names of the MCs (Little Jade) to the ubiquitous [Colour][Mystical Beast] combo and how about those mystical Celestial Guards appearing deus ex machina to save the day at the end. Boiler plate.
Sorry, Dr and Mrs Lue. It’s not fair to criticise when I hadn’t even read past the first sentence.
This was on r/books. tl;dr: OP thought getting a book out from the library costs money.
My initial reaction: the OP surely is kidding. He must be completely daft, it’s like thinking the earth is flat. Oh wait–
More detailed reading of the comments showed that OP grew up in a small town that didn’t have much of a library and somehow he didn’t receive any education on what libraries can offer. Librarians chimed in and explained it is a common occurrence. A tweet by someone at mashable:
Bleak indeed. It’s indicative of what is happening in the world. Libraries are being closed or their budgets cut. In the UK, US, Canada. And that’s just a two-minute google search. Libraries, museums, national parks all seem to be easy targets for budget cuts by councils and politicians only concerned with the short term. The problem is, in times of recession, library usage tends to increase. Makes sense, it’s where people can get entertainment for free, where someone who doesn’t have a computer gets access to computers, and community support too.
I don’t go to the library very often but I used to. Papa used to go every week to read magazines; one of the last things I did for him was to return the book he was in the middle of reading when he went to hospital. I also remember the wonderful Barbican Centre library, so conveniently located next to school, with tons of CDs. I just took out my Library of Congress card which I got last year when the conference was in Washington DC and I’m so happy with it. I was happy to read about Overdrive but their claim that they allow access to ebooks and audiobooks worldwide is a lie. It’s not worldwide. I looked at our public library website and there are a total of 13,000 english e-books in the entire system. While encouraging, most are reference and academic books. But still, the books are available to me. Free of charge.
While I initially scoffed at OP on that reddit thread, I’m now grateful to him because of the sheer number of comments it has gathered so far and the overwhelming support for libraries and librarians expressed by commenters. Unfortunately hoping that it’ll be read by one or more of those cold-hearted politicians who want to cut library budgets is in vain.
I finished the last book of the Deverry series, took one month from when I started so average 2 days per book. With books that I love and ones that make me think, I go back and re-read immediately after finishing. I may do that, and the only reason I’m hesitating is that it will overlap with nano. Ah well, I won’t write all the time and the reward will be reading when I hit my wordcount target for the day. There are so many threads and foreshadowing that cries out for a second reading.
What I’m going to do is to bookmark the stories that take place in different time periods so at my third re-read I may read everything in chronological order. This means reading chapter 1 of book 15 first, then chapter 2 of book 1. It should give yet another perspective to the saga.
I spent the summer reading Amber Benson’s Death’s Daughter series. It started off fun, the idea of Death Inc and it being a corporation like Apple or BT is a cute idea and Calliope as the reluctant heir to the business interesting too. The side characters were realistic and I love younger sister Clio and junior hellhound Runt in particular. The later books tended to drag on a bit and the trope that behind every successful woman is a man was uncharacteristic of CRJ. I didn’t like Daniel, I thought he was a wimp. I skimmed through the last book.
I haven’t been reading much after that. I picked up a few books when favourite bookseller had a sale, but these have been left unread on my ipad. I know there are many new books by my staple group of must-read authors out this year, but I think I’m working too closely with the awards program and I need to take a break from our community for a while.
So I’m going back to my roots. Well, not all the way back to Enid Blyton or Encyclopedia Brown or The Three Investigators. A little more recent, to the days when I was a regular at the local library. Those were the days of mostly fantasy and occasionally science fiction books. My David Eddings and Katharine Kerr’s early Deverry books have travelled with me all over the world. I’m sad that I donated the rest–Anne McCaffrey, Julian May, Asimov, Hitchhiker’s Guide. Anyway, I started reading Daggerspell again and decided I couldn’t read the physical book. Luckily it’s available on itunes and looks like DRM-free too .
I haven’t read the Deverry books in decades. Oh, how I’ve missed them. I’m about 2/3rds through Daggerspell and the familiar terms and people are coming back to me. Dweomer, wyrd, gwerbret, the wildfolk. Beloved characters too. I know why I loved these books so much when I first read them–a rich and wonderfully imagined world based on medieval Wales, strong female lead in Jill, magic that is magical, and an epic story that spans lifetimes that has tragedy, romance and adventure. For those unfamiliar, here’s the back cover from the 1986 original book:
In a void outside reality, the flickering spirit of a young girl hovers between incarnations, knowing neither ner past nor her future. But in the temporal world there is one who knows and waits: Nevyn, the wandering and mysterious sorcerer. On a bloody day long ago he relinquished the maiden’s hand in marriage–and so forced a terrible bond of destiny between three souls that would last through three generations. Now Nevyn is doomed to follow them across the planes of time, never resting until he atones for the tragic wrong of his youth.
And interestingly, the amazon synopsis for the revised edition changed focus from Nevyn to Nevyn and Jill, as it should have been:
Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible realm. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years–and many lifetimes–ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he’d rightened that wrong–and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear: her father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against darkness…and a quest to fulfill the destinies determined centuries ago.
The book takes a non-linear approach to telling the story. We start off in the present, in 1052. Backstory brings us to 643 to the beginning of the saga. Jump ahead to 1058 and then back to 698. The rest of the book takes place in 1062. There is a wikipedia table that can be used to keep track of who reincarnated as whom during which years. These characters are so interwoven and make different decisions in their different lifetimes that affect themselves and others. Debts are repaid; redemption is sought; new mistakes are made.
It was originally published in 1986 and many of the concepts in newer fantasy books–Harry Potter, cough cough–are common themes in the Deverry books. It’s a shame that Katharine Kerr isn’t mentioned as often when people talk about best fantasy authors. One of the common comments I see is that people read her when they were young and stopped reading somewhere in the middle of the series. That’s exactly what happened to me; I have up to book 7, left the UK, got busy and lost track. Now may be a good time to make my way through the entire 15 book series.
I was lucky enough to meet Ms Kerr in 1992 in London for a book signing. I also follow her on fb. She’s had a tough time IRL, her husband’s illness means she needs to care for him and it’s eaten into their savings. A couple of years ago loyal readers helped with a gofundme type campaign. She now has a patreon account and I’ll probably join. I think that’s the least I can do with an old favourite author.
Met mm for drinks and dinner. We spent more time at our newest discovery, the bar at the Novotel near her appointment, sharing 3 glasses of wine between us. For dinner we just had something quick. An added bonus was she bought new shoes. Discounted, and additional 30% off over the discounted price. She wore her new shoes straightaway and the shop assistants kindly threw away her old pair.
Ever since she started studying psychology, new words have entered our vocabulary. Social support, coping mechanism, pavlovian response. We talk about people or incidents being our stressors. I’m now clearer on the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Even within psychology there are different streams, like within the legal profession there are litigators, conveyancers, mediators.
On a separate (and yet strangely sort of related since it’s about Psychology) topic, I was on Project Gutenberg downloading a couple of classic books for the awards program and saw that the #2 most downloaded book there is The Yellow Wallpaper. I’d never heard of the book before. It was also mentioned on r/books recently so I did a little googling to find out that it’s a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892 and widely taught in schools in the US. A guardian review classified it under children’s books.
It didn’t take me long to read it. I’m not a teacher so I sometimes wonder at the choice of books we had to study at school. Some of them are downright depressing and creepy–Lord of the Flies, 1984, even one of my favourite books when I was young, I am David. The Yellow Wallpaper falls into this category. Told in first person, it’s about a woman who seems to be confined to her room because of a
temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency
and is widely interpreted as post-partum depression. It’s also widely accepted that it is autobiographical. In those Victorian times, women were still regarded as frail objects prone to hysteria and in those days depression was caused by excessive mental activity. Her doctor’s prescription was ‘rest-cure’ which meant she was forbidden to do anything, including exercise, feeding herself, seeing any other person other than her carers, and activites like drawing and writing. Basically they took away all stimuli and expected her to be like a vegetative patient. Robbed of all external stimuli, she turned inwards and started examining the awful yellow wallpaper in her prison room. Her anger and frustration were clear. Slowly she slipped further and further into psychosis.
Viewed from the 21st century, the actions of the doctor was so, so wrong that it borders on criminal. It was the same era that had terrifying medical treatments such as drinking radium water, starvation diets for aneurysms, or drilling a hole in the skull to cure headaches. Gilman sent a copy of the book to her doctor and it is said that he changed his treatment as a result.
Nowadays we do suffer from overstimulation. Our attention span has shortened and concepts like sensory deprivation tanks are popular. But no one believes that shutting out all stimulation can possibly be a cure for depression. Even a layperson like me know that take away someone’s freedom of movement and expression, not allowing any activity, and treating them like a comatose patient is going to push them further down the path of mental breakdown.
Going back to the book. I must admit I was a bit bored. The writing was good, and the description of the narrator’s view of the wallpaper and her own actions very vivid. I think it’s because it’s from an era that I have no affinity for, that my reaction was mostly, okay #thathappened. I’d still recommend everyone read this book, it’s short and a good representation of mental illness from a sufferer’s point of view.
I saw this post at kottke during the Japan trip and saved it to read again later. This is one of the stories from Ethan Hawke’s Rules for a Knight:
One time, on a sweltering August night, Grandfather and I made camp down by the ocean. He said, “While I teach you about the ways of war, I want you to know that the real struggle is between the two wolves that live inside each of us.”
“Two wolves?” I asked, seated on an old log near the fire. My eyes were transfixed by the flames twisting uncomfortably in the night air.
“One wolf is evil,” he continued. “It is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, deceit, false pride.” He paused, poking at the embers of our fire with a long stick he’d been carving.
“The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, humility, loving-kindness, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith.”
I considered that for a minute, then tentatively asked, “Which wolf will win?”
Sparks danced towards the stars as the old man stared into the glare of the flames and replied, “Whichever one you feed.”
I was at the right age to be profoundly affected when Reality Bites was released and have a copy of Hawke’s The Hottest State. He’s always appeared to be a thoughtful actor and his writing seems to be that of a sensitive person underneath a broody exterior. Quite intrigued by the book, will put it on the list.
Kottke’s self-reflection on the story is so on point:
I’ve been feeding the wrong wolf recently. He’s so hungry and there’s been a lot of available food, but I’ve got to get back on track.
The pic is the statue of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio at Basilica di Santa Maria Degli Angeli in Assisi. That is another thought-provoking story.
Favourite bookseller is having a sale: buy 2 get one free. I got caught up with some book shopping, got 7 books total for US$40. Good motivation to start reading again, haven’t read anything for a few weeks.
Finished one book in a few hours. An easy-to-read romance from an author who is consistent, reliable and I know it’ll be well written. While the premise is formulaic, I was still absorbed in the story. Our MCs meet, fall in love, some obstacle happens, they break up and get back together again. And lived happily ever after.
I always feel very sad when I read traditional romances. It’s so easy for them. Oh, there are always obstacles, but it’s a guaranteed happy ending so the angst never last long. Not real. You don’t look across the room and feel everything fade to the background with only your soulmate lit up like a spotlight. You don’t start finishing each other’s sentences after talking to each other for five minutes. Friends and family and colleagues and society are not that accepting. Life is not that smooth. It’s a fantasy. Sometimes I hate these characters; it’s so unfair that they get to find the one and spend the rest of their lives together.
What about those of us to struggle and know there is no solution, no happily ever after. The angst doesn’t get resolved. Problems build instead of dissipate. Mere living, the act of staying alive, is tough.
May be we put too much emphasis on love. After all, it’s just an emotion and we can’t live on emotions. It’s not like food, shelter, air, water. Argh, I’m too cynical and jaded. Jeanette Winterson was writing in the Guardian about how the concept of marriage has changed from ownership of women a thousand years ago to business and convenience a few hundred years ago to marrying for love, a decidedly Victorian idea. On the topic of love, she says,
love is like gardening, or writing, or working out, or cooking, or eating, or meditation, or reading – it’s an everyday activity that needs to be fresh and alive every day, tended, and with tenderness.
Pretty idealistic but practical too. What of marriage in the future? May be we move away from the boxes society places upon us. Some people want to be married to one person; some people don’t want to be bothered with the grand declaration; some others have no option to be with someone but need to escape loneliness. It comes down to the different types of love. Does romantic love have to be the ultimate goal? What about the love of family, good friends, close community.
I’m getting off-topic. The next book in the newly purchased stack I’m going to read falls firmly in the adventure category. No danger of becoming even more sad reading about perfect couples with perfect relationships.
via kottke, a recital of Still I Rise from its author, Maya Angelou. Honestly, I know very little about the poet, other than she is extremely well respected. I was mesmerised by this performance. Hopefully I won’t get C&Ded if I quote the entire poem.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I have to start working on writing again. Task #18 of 101.1001 is to design a book cover. I had in mind to take some pics in NYC for LL. Not as many or as good potential as I wanted.
The background is of stock market quotes in a newspaper from flickr user andreas poike under cc by 2.0. If/when I get a chance to submit a cover myself I’ll get a copy of FT and substitute my own image, I just didn’t have any newspaper at hand.
The Wall Street street sign and SMELLS graffiti are my own, from the most recent trip. I have a couple of pics of the charging bull but there were so many tourists I had to borrow from someone, this from flickr user sam valadi also under cc by 2.0.
The play on the son of man is based on a pic of me taken at Carleen’s friend Tom’s costume shop last year. The apple is also my own image and the frame from a random google image search for free images. Photoshopped to make it blurry and more like a painting. It’s something that will be referenced in LL, which I’ll need to edit in.
Is it a good cover? A passable attempt I guess. Can be so much better in the hands of a professional.
so that’s what I will try to do. The overnight beef stew went down a treat, comfort food at its best.
We both stayed in all day. Mum watching videos on her ipad and me reading. I have plenty of unread books but right now I want to go back to favourites that make me smile. For the first time in a long, long while I grabbed one of the books on my bookshelf instead of reading on the ipad.
Strange feeling, reading a physical book. It’s a grotty day and whenever it starts to rain and gets dark I have to turn on the light as opposed to turning up the brightness. And then I kept glancing up at to the top of the page to check the time and am disappointed to see a blank spot. Of course there is no clock at the top of a page in a paperback. Except if I have some fun with photoshop.
I was browsing through amazon, looking through the first few pages of a book that I thought may be interesting. Seemed promising until someone got a drink. The drink was even named: Chivas. A few sentences later it was described as whiskey. Argh. I was so put off I browsed for another book instead.
In this day and age, a simple google search will give the answer, and another one that gives more colour and explanation. Quite interesting that even the mighty NYT had to change its house style after stubbornly, and wrongly, defending their use of the word whiskey when describing a Speyside whisky. A rare case of Americans acknowledging the rest of the world is correct. Now onto fahrenheit, paper sizes, voltage and socc(–argh, I can’t use that word), haha.
Anyway, TWE has a simple graphic using flags so people can remember. I’ve also read somewhere that countries with ‘e’ in their name–United States of America, Ireland–use whiskey and countries without–Scotland, Canada, Japan, India–use whisky. Hmm, may be not anymore as many countries are bringing out their products; the English Whisky Company, Penderyn, Mackmyra, Millstone all use whisky and they have ‘e’ in their country names.
I think the easiest way is also the most respectful: look at the label. What do the distillers and bottlers, ie the people whose product it is, call it? So it should have been easy for the everyone involved in that book I was looking at to google an image of a Chivas bottle and see that it’s whisky, not whiskey.
With so many choices of books available to me, this poor book has now been pushed to the bottom of the queue. While it may seem a trivial reason not to buy a book, this is one of my pet peeves. Readers are fickle and books have been rejected for lesser reasons.
Task #90 of 101.1001 is to leave an inspirational note for someone to find.
Originally I envisioned getting a postcard with a motivational message and leaving it in a random book at a bookstore. I forgot to get it done at Powell’s in Portland, which would have been really great seeing that it’s a huge bookstore.
For once, I’m glad I procrastinated. Two things happened in parallel.
I started 101.1001 on 01-dec-2013 and I finished reading the first book on 04-dec-2013. So it’s taken around 10 months. In other words 10 books a month or 2.5 books a week or around 3 days per book. Of course sometimes I finish a book in one day and some books take longer to read. I finally finished all Harry Potter books as well as one from the 2007 challenge, mythology for dummies. I would say 70:30 new vs re-reads; when I buy a new book from an author sometimes I go back and read all the previous books, especially if it is part of a series.
Book #101 was Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. It’s all because I was looking at sci-fi books for my niece and I’ve had the hardback since it was published.
The book is set in an alternate, steampunk, universe of WW1. The blurb:<
It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.
Marketed as a YA book, I must admit I really, really, really enjoyed it. The book had everything — smartly written story, fun main characters, realistic side characters, fantastic clanker machines, amazing darwinist beasties and great setting. There was a real sense of adventure and wonder, made me want to be Alek or Deryn. Barking spiders! Plus a side of history too, even though it only skirted with actual history. Unlike the other book I was reading for my niece, Death’s Daughter, I’m happy to recommend Leviathan. Not just for kids, adults too.
Since it’s #1 of a trilogy, I’m faced with the same dilemma as before. Complete the series by buying secondhand print books (under $10 for even hardbacks) or switch to ebooks ($30 for all three). Sigh, sigh, sigh.
So anyway, I’m already on books #102 and 103. I have a bunch of new books to read, and every month there are more new books. I sat on my sis’ armchair reading for a couple of hours the other day and she remarked that I could happily stay there for a long time. Absolutely true.
Task #13 of 101.1001 is to read Mythology for Dummies. This is one of the incomplete tasks carried over from the 2007 list.
I didn’t have an arts education. Although I read steadily as a kid, it was fiction or those big general knowledge books. I knew about various myths but never paid much attention to them, and certainly never remembered much or was able to associate mythology references in books I read.
There are a lot of books on mythology. A lot of general, beginner, summary type of books. The dummies series seem to tackle subjects in a casual manner. The tone of the writing was definitely on the silly side, with chapter titles like “Snow, Ice, and Not Very Nice: Norse Deities.” Almost 1/3 of the book was devoted to Greeks and Romans. Extremely superficial coverage of European, Middle Eastern, Eastern and American mythology. Some of the sections were more description of religions than mythology.
It was an easy read, and I like that the authors didn’t try to make mythology sound mystical or serious. May be too light-hearted in places. What did I learn? Mythology around the world and along history was remarkably similar. Some version of a god or gods creating the universe, some gods bigger and older than others. Lots of murder, jealousy, incest and illogical behaviour. They married each other (sometimes at the same time), bred like rabbits, had a tendency to fight or kill each other off for no good reason, then are consumed with remorse.
I was interested in the Greeks but lost interest in the Romans. Had a hard time keeping track of the names and relationships. Nordic mythology was interesting, as was the legend of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round table. Too brief on the rest. I guess a book I’ll keep around for reference if and when I need it.
crossposted to medium as Getting the World to Read.
Today, Monday 8 September, is International Literacy Day. The day has been celebrated since 1966, after the World Conference of Ministers on the Eradication of Illiteracy adopted the view that literacy is a means for development and an integral part of the development process.
To mark International Literacy Day, there are events in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, New Zealand, Rwanda and other countries celebrating and promoting literacy. The big UNESCO event at Dhaka has two parts. First, a conference on the 2014 theme of “Literacy and Sustainable Development” with special emphasis on Girls’ and Women’s Literacy and Education; second, prizes will be given out for outstanding performance and innovative practices in literacy.
Former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, wrote about 15 countries that have joined together to become Learning Champions to focus on improving literacy and numeracy in the world’s poorest countries. The first country to launch the initiative was Kenya, with countries in South America, Asia and the Middle East to follow.
It is well accepted that increased literacy leads to better quality of life, improved health and economic success. To that end, it is one of the most important aspect of humanity. From UNESCO:
Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.
Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.
The numbers [pdf] are staggering, and staggeringly desparate:
16% of the world’s population are illiterate
64% of illiterate adults are female
61% of illiterate youths are female
171 million people will be out of poverty if they had basic reading skills
15% fewer child deaths if the mother had primary education
Although there have been progress, such as primary school enrollment reaching 90% in developing countries (as of 2010), there are concerns about the quality of education in all, even developed countries. In the UK, as reported by The Guardian:
One in six adults in Britain now has a literacy level below that expected of an 11-year-old
The most commonly read material by children is text messages.
I can’t imagine not being able to read. The earliest books I remember reading was a children’s weekly magazine that had short stories and cartoons. At school one lesson a week was going to the school library and borrowing a book to read. I read abridged biographies of composers, that was my interest area when I was about 7. Growing up, I devoured Enid Blynton, the Hardy Boys (didn’t like Nancy Drew that much) before moving onto classic science fiction and fantasy. Even now as an adult I love paranormal adventures and mystery thrillers. Romances are my guilty pleasure.
As part of a 1001 day challenge I have been keeping track of my reading and I’ve read over 90 books in 9 months. My most recent book was a funny paranormal adventure with a sarcastic and annoying main character who happened to be Death’s daughter. Very engaging read, and I would love for more people to read the book. I would assume that everyone I tell about the book will have the ability to read it; whether they choose to, that’s another matter.
Today I went grocery shopping and there are so many things I take for granted because I can read. Bus numbers and destinations, road signs, shop names, product names, prices, even the doorcode to get back home. All assume an ability to recognise words and numbers. Imagine only relying memory to know which road to take, or only recognising items by colour or size, or not even knowing how to write my name. It’s unimaginable.
What can we do to help global literacy? I don’t know. I know it’s a problem, but not until today when I looked into International Literacy Day more carefully did I realise how severe the issue is. I bought one of the One Laptop per Child laptops because they said for each one bought, they’d donate one to a child. I hope it helped a child somewhere.
There are so many charities and causes vying for our attention nowadays, global literacy needs is its equivalent to the ALS ice bucket challenge. May be we can challenge someone to read a book and donate $1 or donate $100 to a reading charity. Or may be we can start small:
give a book as a gift and include a note about literacy is so important
get involved in reading / literacy charities — start by going through a useful list of 150+ such charities
donate our used books — to the library, to a school, to a local organisation. Some charities collect used books for developing countries, some sell books with profits going to literacy causes
support, donate to our local libraries
spread the word
I don’t know what I can do aside from becoming better informed and writing about it. I know I should get more involved in charitable giving and may be it’s time I did more. i know reading and writing are topics dear to me. And on that note, I’m off to read another book.
Sis asked me for my recommendations for science fiction books for my niece. Ah the memories. I can’t remember if I started reading scifi books at 12, definitely at around 15-16 I was going through the shelves at the library — hitchhiker’s guide and the foundation series came first, because they were there alphabetically. I can’t remember half the ones I read now. I switched to fantasy soon. I still have both sets of David Eddings’ Belgariad as well as his other books, all (I think) of Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series on my shelf, even after downsizing from 2 full bookcases of fiction to half a bookcase.
So when sis asked me, I went and looked to see what physical books I had left that I could lend to my niece. Anne McCaffrey and Philip Pullman. I’d love to introduce her to the world of Pern but I think I’ll start her with The Ship Who Sang. I also got a few recs from my fb friends. It’s enough for her to borrow from the library or get on kindle.
I also noticed the couple of Ghosts of Albion collectible hardbacks, and then I remembered I still haven’t read Amber Benson’s Calliope Reaper-Jones series. The first one, Death’s Daughter, was published in 2009, and I went to the signing in Chicago. I wanted to see if I can recommend it to my niece.
I’m a bit of an Amber fan. Tara of course. I have a small signed Chance poster framed on my wall. I remember reading that one of the locations for Ghosts of Albion was St Mary’s le Strand and it brought warm fuzzy feelings.1 I follow her on twitter and fb and instagram (but not in a stalkery way, I don’t think I’ve ever DM or commented on her posts.)
The publisher’s blurb for Death’s Daughter:
Calliope Reaper-Jones so just wanted a normal life: buying designer shoes on sale, dating guys from Craigslist, web-surfing for organic dim-sum for her boss.
But when her father—who happens to be Death himself—is kidnapped, and the Devil’s Protégé embarks on a hostile takeover of the family business, Death, Inc., Callie returns home to assume the CEO mantle—only to discover she must complete three nearly impossible tasks in the realm of the afterlife first.
Reviews for the book is mixed. Some outright fan fawning vs people who don’t think actors should write. I’m not a fan of these reviews. Actual reviews of the book are also mixed. And I can see why.
Callie is forced to return to the family fold after her father is kidnapped and she is the designated person to save him and the family business, Death. Reluctantly she drags her tank-topped and Jimmy Choo-heeled self to Hell (literally) and back in order to complete 3 tasks before a) her allocated time and b) her competition beats her to them. She’s whiny, contradictory, frustrating and basically bumbles along with help from friends, her sister and various mythical beings. Everybody talks like a SoCal teenager, even though they are mythical being or, in the case of Callie, a twentysomething immortal who lives in New York. There’s Bollywood dancing and an inordinate amount of ogling of the male body. On almost every page there are numerous pop culture references.
But that’s the point. I don’t think it’s supposed to be taken seriously, it’s not like it’s the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Yes, Callie is, like, annoying, but her heart is, like, in the right place (that’s, like, how she speaks). I can get past the juvenile speak and get behind snarky Callie. Yes, the mythology is mixed up, with a Cerberus that acts in a surprising manner and the Indian goddess Kali acting like a mean girl and using words like “dipwad.” So what. It’s tongue-in-cheek, people.
The story itself is your standard do-3-impossible-tasks-to-save-the-world deal. Interesting twists on all 3 tasks. A flawed, reluctant heroine (like Buffy s1 or General Buffy s7) who is more concerned with shoe shopping and boys. The cover has a tough looking girl with short dark hair but for some reason I picture Lindsay Lohan (the actor with some talent, not the drug-addled failure). Hotter than hell…Hell, a castle with walls made from tortured people, a bottomless black pit and a 14-room house in New England are some of the locations. Plus a supporting cast of misfits. I can see it as a funny indie film.
It’s not a perfect book. Needed tighter editing to fix the spelling mistakes and superfluous parts. The dialogue doesn’t flow in all places and the plot jumps with no reason—they are screaming and yelling at each other then suddenly her dog bites her on her ankle.
The motivation for reading is to see if it’s suitable for a 12 year old. The story itself, yes I think a 12 year old will enjoy it. The silly speak and sarcasm too, i think a 12 year old will get the funny. I won’t be recommending it to my niece though, not until she’s older. There are too many inappropriate words and sexual references. It’s a shame, because these were the superfluous parts that didn’t add value to the story.
Death’s Daughter is the first of a series, there are 4 books now. I like this first book enough to want to get the other 3. Now here’s the problem, ebook vs paperback. In order of cost:
3 used paperbacks shipped to US = $12 (I can get all 3 at 0.01+3.99 shipping)
3 new paperbacks shipped to US = $21.57 (7.19 each, free shipping if I borrow the use of Prime)
3 new paperbacks at paddyfield = $24.61 (64 each — paddyfield is a local online bookseller who sells English books from US/UK at almost direct fx conversion)
3 new paperbacks shipped here from amazon = $26.56 (7.19 each plus 4.99 total shipment)
4 kindle = $31.96 (7.99 each)
If I get the paperback, cheapest is used shipped to the US which means I have to wait till July. The advantage of ebook is obvious, and I’ve been 100% ebook for a few years now. I’ll think about it, I’m not in a big hurry.
1St Mary’s le Strand is a tiny church on the Strand rather pitifully divided by 4 lanes of traffic rushing either on the Strand or turning left onto Waterloo Bridge. It’s also directly opposite King’s, so I would have walked past it at least twice a day for 7 years.
Bought 16 books. Between a discount code and a gift certificate, total out-of-pocket was around $100 meaning I averaged $6.25 per book. The majority were full priced although there were a couple of novellas at lower price. Still, $6.25 per book, that’s a Mcdonald’s meal.
I actually could have reduced the spending if I used up all the balance on my gift certificate. One of the things I work very hard to overcome is not saving the last piece of something. It seems to be human nature, that the last chocolate was the best. May be it’s the freshest on our minds, or somehow we perceive that because there won’t be more, it must be preserved and saved. Mum a good example, there are many many single pieces of chocolate, cereal bar, snacks wrapped up in her fridge: almost always the last piece remaining. I’m trying to stop myself doing that as part of a general trend towards minimising clutter. I’ve also been burned — “best” pieces that I’ve saved to enjoy later have a tendency to spoil.
I tend to spend around $50 a month on books, and since I hadn’t done a big order since May, I feel good about the big order today. My aim is to slowly use up the gift certificate balance, may be $10 or so each month. This way, the certificate lasts longer and I can work in any sale or incentive available. This is apparently a savvy way to spend gift cards:
Get the most bang out of a gift card by spending it on already-reduced merchandise
I think I’m doing better at the not!hoarding business. Every time I’m tempted to save the last piece, I remind myself of the chocolate crickets [warning: insect pic] from Wittamer I was saving up but had to throw away because they got mouldy. Every time I buy something, I think about where it will go and how often I will use it. I will use up every $ on the gift certificate. I don’t want to add to the $44bn in unused gift cards sitting out there (okay, I won’t be adding to that because I’m not American, but imagine the global figure).
This is not a biography. It is, rather, an attempt to cast a few shards of light on Nick Drake the poet, the musician, the singer, the friend, son and brother, who was also more than all of these.
The book is £35, the deluxe edition at £150 includes a 10” vinyl of tracks from a 1969 John Peel session, photographs and other goodies. The guardian has one of the tracks available for listening. It’s brilliant and haunting and sad. Another great musician who died young. There are no known live recordings of Nick’s performances, so we only get to listen.
me: I’ve just been reading for 2 days
sis: you are ok?
me: oh yes quite relaxing
sis: [talk about new noodle shop near her place]
She has a family and household to run but she has never been a big reader anyway. She reads more literary fiction when she does, and the rest of time she reads cook books and books on health & beauty. I don’t think she’s ever spent a whole day doing nothing but reading. Whereas I’ve been reading since Sunday night and don’t have any intention of venturing out unless necessary.
For me, just like having no plans is the perfect plan, doing nothing but reading is the perfect activity.
Now that we’re back from the road trip and I have a week in chicago I’m catching up on reading. Some random odds and ends on my feedly over the past fortnight.
For most of the trip I was the navigator and had a grand old time looking at the thick pile of AAA maps. Yes, I’d rather play with one of those impossible to refold maps than play with GPS. Since my mind is still on maps, here are 19 US maps that will blow your mind. They are a combination of interesting trivia (19 state names end with a and none end with z) and random animation.
We had trouble a couple of nights finding a hotel because they were all booked with other tourists or for some event. Perhaps next time we’d tow this bike camper with sleeping compartment behind the car. Made by Dutch artist artist Bas Srakel the tricycle is meant for homeless people and urban nomads but could work for roadtrippers without hotel rooms.
We ate far too much fast food but had a few nice meals. Sometimes we’d get bread, cheese and cold meats from the supermarket and make sandwiches. Two people in an SUV meant there was room to pack lots of stuff, including suitcases, soft drinks, food, snacks, stuff for the conference, souvenirs and a cooler. By bbmm travelling standards, Carleen and I packed a lot, but we did not reach the levels required for Victorian camping:
Axe (in cover). Axle-grease. Bacon. Barometer (pocket). Bean-pot. Beans (in bag). Beef (dried). Beeswax. Bible. Blacking and brush. Blankets. Boxes. Bread for lunch. Brogans (oiled). Broom. Butter-dish and cover. Canned goods. Chalk. Cheese. Clothes-brush. Cod-line. Coffee and pot. Comb. Compass. Condensed milk. Cups. Currycomb. Dates. Dippers. Dishes. Dish-towels. Drawers. Dried fruits. Dutch oven. Envelopes. Figs. Firkin. Fishing-tackle. Flour (prepared). Frying-pan. Guide-book. Half-barrel. Halter. Hammer. Hard-bread. Harness (examine!). Hatchet. Haversack. Ink (portable bottle). Knives (sheath, table, pocket and butcher). Lemons. Liniment. Lunch for day or two. Maps. Matches and safe. Marline. Meal (in bag). Meal-bag. Medicines. Milk-can. Molasses. Money (“change”). Monkey-wrench. Mosquito-bar. Mustard and pot. Nails. Neat’s-foot oil. Night-shirt. Oatmeal. Oil-can. Opera-glass. Overcoat. Padlock and key. Pails. Paper. Paper collars. Pens. Pepper. Pickles. Pins. Portfolio. Postage stamps. Postal cards. Rope. Rubber blanket. Rubber coat. Rubber boots. Sail-needle. Salt. Salt fish. Salt pork. Salve. Saw. Shingles (for plates). Shirts. Shoes and strings. Slippers. Soap. Song-book. Spade. Spoons. Stove (utensils in bags). Sugar. Tea. Tents. Tent poles. Tent pins. Tooth-brush. Towels. Twine. Vinegar. Watch and key.
Every year when I leave the conference I get motivated to write and I tell myself to finish LL. This year, I did finish it and I sent it to people for comments. So may be one of these days I don’t have to admonish myself for procrastinating. The whole publishing process is quite daunting and unknown to me. One of the things I want to explore doing myself is the book cover. Here’s something different, vintage book posters that feature books in books. My favourite I also find a little creepy.
Book posters don’t appeal? How about 18 quirky literary items available on etsy. I like the Penguin iphone covers and wish they would make the Holmes & Watson earrings into cufflinks.
Speaking of etsy, I also came across speicher bow ties. Several friends like to wear bow ties at the conference, during social events and at the awards ceremony. My favourite is the periodic table one, they also have physics, tardis and star trek bow ties amongst others.
And finally, a SMH funny-but-not-really incident, of appalling tactics by comcast when an ex-customer tried to cancel. Talk about persistent, annoying and condescending. The actual recording is cringe-inducing so for the faint of heart there is also a transcript.
I’m trying to continue with the momentum I’ve built up for PP and have been busy doing research online. The story is set within the Japanese community in Tennessee — Nissan and Toyota are two of the biggest employers in that region. I’ve bookmarked corporate websites, the local Japan-American society, newspaper articles, and even the nashville cherry blossom festival. I also came across an interesting book, Japanese Industry in the American South which is, according the its blurb:
an anthropological case study that describes whole industrial cultures found in three Japanese industrial plants in the American South. This book searches for answers to these questions: Why are Japanese industries coming to the American South? To what extent does Japan industrial management in the American South replicate the industrial relations model used in the home plants in Japan? What are the reactions of Americans toward the Japanese expatriates? At the same time, the book looks at the profound impact that the Japanese have had on Southerners.
Just reading the first few pages piqued my interest already. And then I looked at the price. $48 for the paperback and $39 for the kindle version. Seriously?! Yes, I recognise it’s an academic book, and someone had devoted much time and effort into researching and writing the book. But the way academic publishers artificially inflate the prices of their books is increasingly seen as out of date and even stupid.
However much I want to support all writers by buying their books, I’m refusing to pay exorbitant prices for an almost 20 year old book. Luckily there are many second hand options, so for around $5 including shipping I should be able to get my hands on a copy.
For some reason I didn’t manage to speak with Sandra at Dallas last year, although I obviously saw her and took this pic. I was running around too much and too focused on getting pics I guess. I certainly hope she will be at Portland this year. I found out that we both run, so hopefully we have something in common to talk about.
One of the first things Carleen told me to do after the con was to get Sandra’s book and read it. Part of it was set in Chicago against the backdrop of the World’s Fair; she told me how realistic the description was and how I would recognise the street names, buildings and the atmosphere of Chicago in the 1930s. She also said (and read her review) that it’s a must read book and I always listen to her recommendations.
Here’s the blurb:
Three women, united by love and kinship, struggle to conform to the social norms of the times in which they lived.
In 1931, Katherine Henderson leaves behind her small town in Kansas and the marriage proposal of a local boy to live on her own and work at the Sears & Roebuck glove counter in Chicago. There she meets Annie—a bold, outspoken feminist who challenges Katherine’s idea of who she thinks she is and what she thinks she wants in life.
In 1997, Katherine’s daughter, Joan, travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to clean out her estranged mother’s house. Hidden away in an old suitcase, she finds a wooden box containing trinkets and a packet of sealed letters to a person identified only by a first initial.
Joan reads the unsent letters and discovers a woman completely different from the aloof and unyielding mother of her youth-a woman who had loved deeply and lost that love to circumstances beyond her control. Now she just has to find the strength to use the healing power of empathy and forgiveness to live the life she’s always wanted to live.
I usually pick thrillers or paranormal stories before ones that have historical elements, mainly because I’m not that interested in history. That said, I thought the way the book weaved between the 1930s and 1990s was done brilliantly. I loved that the 1930s wasn’t written as flashback, or as told by a storyteller in the 1990s. There were more details and we learned more about the characters and interactions of the older MCs, Katherine and Annie. And then we come back to the 1990s and we see how the daughter, Joan, was affected by the story of her mother. I also loved how the story unfolded, there was so much depth that it was a delight as each layer was revealed.
So often, we get characters who are tall, dark and impossibly beautiful, who are CEOs in their twenties, live in huge mansions and can walk on water while juggling. Ugh. We don’t get this in this book. America in the 1930s was economically and socially a very different time from now, and the hardships and social pressures were depicted realistically. Some of the actions and decisions made by the characters weren’t stellar either, and that makes them so real and so compelling to read.
There was a twist at the end of the story but I figured it out quite early — very shortly after Joan arrived at her mother’s house. The middle part of the book I wasn’t quite sure I’d gotten it right, and I was so happy when it turned out to be true. (I’m trying to be vague and non-spoliery here). I wasn’t obsessed with the clue though, I was busy being caught up with the story itself.
I have a couple of small criticisms. There was a mention of London Times, just in passing. It’s one of my pet peeves because there is no such paper. Secondly, there were two tiny, minute geographical inaccuracies about Chicago that only someone who is OCD will notice. Or perhaps streets were different in the 1930s and therefore I am wrong. Sometimes I get caught up with these small things and I end up not liking or even finishing the book, but it wasn’t the case here.
It’s a testament to the quality of the writing that I finished it, and immediately scrolled back to the beginning to read it again. It’s one of those books that stay on your mind long after you finish, and you can’t help but think about the characters or the setting or a particular scene.
Task #9 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to use my library card. This is carried over from the 2007 challenge, mainly because I was working and travelling and moving countries during those 1001 days that I never got round to using libraries.
Going with parents and family friends on a cruise next week. Cruise #3 for us. Itinerary is Greece (Olympia, Crete, Athens), Israel (Haifa with shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea possible), Italy (Rome). Time to do some research.
Mostly, I research online and summarise my findings in evernote. Additional research for cruises is always necessary because some ports are not next to town. The cruise company obviously hardsells their excursions, but personally I hate the cattle herding feel of guided tours. Interesting to read cruise forums, most people are not DIYers, I would say they err very much on the safe and timid side. I guess it’s the sort of people who go on cruises a lot.
That said, I’m travelling with 4 seniors, so that needs to be factored in.
Guidebooks are useful, and have lots more information than a webpage. Afterall, they’ve done the research already. The problem is that guidebooks become outdated and there’s a limit to how many you can buy and carry.
Sometime during my stay in London, when I was making lots of small trips, I started getting guidebooks from the library. I’d get a few before a trip and may be bring one with me during the trip. It has worked absolute wonders, and I’m so glad libraries stock such a great selection of travel books.
These are from the small local library. Also came with maps, which is super helpful. I find it’s easy to borrow English books here, even in a small library like this one. It’s the minority language afterall. I have to go to a bigger library to find an Israel guidebook though. Off to start reading…
Task #11 in 101 in 1001 is to read a book in one day. Something I have done quite often. Not one of the Potter books I’d just finished, especially the later ones. Of course, one of these classics would have been okay.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gerri Hill last summer at Dallas; and I’ve read many, if not all, of her 20+ books. Her newest is Weeping Walls which has the same MCs as a previous book, Keeper of the Cave. It’s something she has done several times before, using the same characters or bringing back characters as side characters. It works, because these are good characters.
This book is somewhere in between a mystery, paranormal adventure and romance. The FBI team works well, the 4 agents have distinctive personalities and their interactions are realistic. Also it’s great not to have superhero characters, one of the characters is afraid of ghosts and the others also have their hangups and shortcomings. We don’t need heroes who can fly, walk on water, write prize-winning novels and knit a scarf at the same time.
The case the agents are investigating is a missing person that links to cold cases and involves a haunted house. The paranormal aspect was unexpected, although after the prior book, I should have known. It wasn’t rammed down my throat, and I appreciated not being scared shitless — I don’t read horror stories and there’s a reason why.
The romance is not about two people meeting and falling in love. They did this the other book. This is about what happens after the initial falling in love, and there is skill in writing this stage of a relationship.
I read Keeper of the Cave over a 24hr period too (started late on one day and finished the next). When it comes to sequels I like to read the entire series from the start, and I didn’t mind re-reading. Weeping Walls is a solid, great read. If there is another book with the same set of characters I look forward to reading it again.
Task #12 of 101 in 1001 challenge is one carried over from the previous round.
I got up to Order of the Phoenix when it came out. It wasn’t my favourite, it felt like it was the Empire Strikes Back of the Potter series with endless exposition of Grimmauld Place, stupid Dolores Umbridge, grumpy Sirius and teenage angst with all the hookups and jealousy. The Dumbledore’s Army arc was great, so that was a silver lining.
I dutifully bought books 6 and 7 when they came out, but then sort of lost interest so they’ve been sitting on my bookshelf following me around the world for years. I saw all the films of course, so I knew what was going on.
It was time to finally finish reading the series. It seems like some sort of cultural heresy that I hadn’t. So I started with Philosopher’s Stone, and the magic came back. Yay! Hard to pick a favourite, I’m going say Deathly Hallows and Goblet of Fire. Despite all the despair and trudging around the country searching for horcruxes, DH was extremely well written. Plus, Neville! Easily my favourite character outside the three. Goblet of Fire I loved the whole idea of the Triwizard tournament, and it was IMO when Harry started growing up. Shame about Cedric, I hadn’t expected it when I first read it, was still sad upon re-read. A strange tidbit is that Mum’s copy of Goblet of Fire is an American version (all mine and all her others are UK) so it was odd to read about people running toward something and all the other American spelling. Didn’t really fit with such a British book and set of characters.
The great thing about reading the books now is that I don’t have to rush to find out what happens at the end. And hats off to the filmmakers, the casting was so spot on that I can picture very clearly all the characters and scenes while I’m reading. Made it very, very enjoyable. In fact, I might re-read the whole series again in a while.
Was up till 3am last night reading, and spent most of today reading too. Jane Fletcher’s Lyremouth series. Probably the 3rd or 4th time I’ve read the books but I still like them. Just broke off for half an hour’s swimming, food and then tv in the evening.
I came across a review of book 1 of a comic series called charm school. Wow it brings back memories. Charm School is a comic series set in the town of Little Salem, where good teen witch Bunny has a perfect girlfriend in vampire biker Dean, until a dark, and very insistent faerie comes along causing chaos. It’s cute and fun and, as befit the series title, quite charming.
I was an internet acquaintance of the writer a long time ago, long before social media came along and made everyone connected. I had lost touch, and am very glad to come across this mention of her work. Amazingly, book 1 is listed on amazon at over $10, and checking my copy I note that the cover price was $2.95 for the 2000 edition. How the world has changed. I have books 1-9, I think it’s time to read them again.
I saw a notice on the bus that said a particular route will be advanced effective a certain date. It’s a football club that will get promoted up next season? Upon further examination, it turns out that advancement means the timetable will be extended, and there will be an extra stop somewhere along the route. I’m thinking someone’s vocabulary needs to be advanced.
Far too many examples of poor English usage that ends up being hilarious (or sad, depending on your POV). Reminds me of this “germy” bread I spotted a while ago. Some type of super word association must have gone on — it’s wholegrain breadrolls, and wheat germinates, hence germy.
I wonder what these people are thinking. Their excuse is English isn’t their first language. (Except, um, google translate.) Then again, it wasn’t the first language I learned either and I turned out okay. Shrug.
This is a fantastic deal. The idea behind the humble ebook bundle is pay whatever you want for 6 sci-fi ebooks, available in the popular formats, DRM free:
Invasion by Mercedes Lackey
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
Pumpsix and other stories by Paolo Baclgalupi
Stranger Things have Happened by Kelly Links
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
There’s a sweetener, pay more than the average and get two more books: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and a graphic novel Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.
Of the six starter books, I’d only heard of Mercedes Lackey as an author and Cory Doctorow as one of the people at boingboing. But I have heard of John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman, who are I guess the bigger draws.
I could have paid a tiny amount ($1) and gotten the first 6 books, but the average when I saw the deal was $11.95 so it was a no brainer to shell out $11.96 for 8 books. I’m sure I’ll find something to enjoy; and even if I didn’t like them, it’s $11.96 I don’t mind spending. None of it goes to Big Publishers, the buyers can set how much is split between the authors, charities such as the EFF, and an admin fee.
The current average is $12.53 so it has been creeping up slightly. Almost 44,000 purchases totalling $550,000 since launch a week ago. Linux and mac users are more generous than windows users, heehee. There’s less than 10 days to go on this deal. They also bundle games, music and movies, I’ll be keeping an eye out for future happenings.
Looking at flavorwire’s recommended october books, it occurred to me that this is a nice bunch of bookcovers. A little aghast that my favourite is a Tom Wolfe I’ll never read. The most intriguing author on that list, to me, is Chinua Achebe, not least because I just read a small article about the memoir and it seems to be one of those important books that one reeds to read.
On a separate note, the list of 50 best book covers of 2011 is also interesting. The only book on that list that I have is londoners, although the cover that won is only for the UK edition, in the US it’s a more boring, generic cover. The publishers are not doing the reading public justice, it’s not just Londoners who will get that the colours on the cover correspond to all the tube lines, there are lots of people around the world who have travelled to London or recognise the clever play on colours. Sigh. Publishers really shouldn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Anyway, here’s a snippet towards the end of the Introduction:
The only definition of a Londoner I followed was the people you see around you. The ones who stock the Tube trains and fill the pavements and queue in Tesco with armfuls of plastic-wrapped veg. Whatever their reason or origin, they are laughing, rushing, conniving, snatching free evening newspapers, speaking into phones, complaining, sweeping floors, tending to hedge funds, pushing empty pint glasses, marching, arguing, drinking, kneeling, swaying, huffing at those who stand on the left-hand side of the escalator, moving, moving, always moving. It’s a city of verbs.
He’s still not quite a Londoner. He should have said Tesco’s, not Tesco. It’s always the doctor’s, not the doctor’s office.
All the palaver about Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, I almost forgot about the other book published this year also called Sweet Tooth. Not a spy thriller, but a sort of personal-discovery-essay-history of sweets, aka candy, by Kate Hopkins, more well known as the Accidental Hedonist.
The kindle page has no kindle version available. I can get it directly on my kindle though. Strange. I haven’t gone through with the purchase, I wonder if it will work.
I’m thinking of buying Ian McEwan’s latest book, Sweet Tooth, a layered intrigue set in 1972 during the cold war.
I do a little comparison, amazon uk £8.09 ($12.99) and amazon us $13.99. Even without the small price difference, I want the UK edition because I prefer the cover and I’d like to read it in the English it was written (I’m assuming it gets “translated” to US English). There’s just a couple of tiny problems:
my kindle is registered to my US account, so it will automatically go to amazon.com
amazon.co.uk won’t let me buy kindle books if I’m outside the UK
It’s not just amazon, WH Smith, kobo and ebook all sell a DRM epub version (just ignore the dirty word DRM), all impose geo restrictions, I guess by IP address. What if I were travelling, does it mean I have to wait till I get home to buy? What a ridiculous concept.
The twist is that amazon lets me buy the paper book from anywhere in the world but not the ebook. Apparently it’s due to contractual agreements. This post talks about Australia but is a good illustration. It’s also from 2010 and hints that things are changing. Riiiiight. It’s now 2012, isn’t it time for country boundaries in the electronic world to go away?
I’ve spent enough time on this today, there are other things vying for my attention. I’ll read another book (from an international-reader-friendly publisher/seller — thanks Bella!) or I’ll play bad piggies or whatsapp mm. It’s likely that Mr McEwan will never get my sale, the US book comes out in November and I doubt I’ll remember. Fine. I’m just one insignificant person, Random House doesn’t care about me. The problem is that Random House and the other Big Publishers insist on putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of legitimate book buyers, who then get frustrated and what will they do? They’ll give up and not buy the book. If the book is that good, it’s not like the buyer roll over and wait like a meek little sheep to buy at the store and price that Big Pub dictated, right? The best case scenario is to use a proxy, then at least there is a sale. Nowadays, unfortunately, the more likely outcome is a torrent, and that’s an ugly unending downward spiral.
And the sunday before I go home was spent reading Taken by Surprise by Kenna White, who I sat with for a couple of lunches at GCLS. I wish I had more opportunity to get to know her better. This book won the lambda literary awards this year, it was a lovely romance. Just enough angst and again, a great supporting cast. The setting was Aspen, and who wouldn’t want to be in a romance set against the mountains of Aspen? Sigh.
I spent the saturday before I go home reading Rhapsody by KG MacGregor, here’s an excerpt. To think that just a week ago I had the honour of singing karaoke with KG at the GCLS conference, as part of her “Greasers” 50s group. These writers are so accessible.
It was not a question, I had to finish the book in one day because I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I hadn’t. It is truly excellent work, deep and subtle, with realistic, believable characters that we want to get to know better. Love the ensemble nature of the characters too, and also the PG rating. I couldn’t help but think about the characters’ future and I see a lot of love and happiness. I think eventually, one of them will say “it’s time,” and it will be time.
I first did it when I went to Prague with Mum last year. I most recently did it just this past weekend when we went to Stockholm. I’m sure I’ll continue doing it going forward.
Borrow travel guides from the local library. The books are up to date, and the DK guides have plenty of pictures and maps. Perfect for travelling. I can take the books out for 3 weeks at a time. What a great resource.
There was a free event Dickensfest today, a whole day of talks and readings to celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.
Okay, I confess. I like Dickens and all, but I’m not really that literary a person and can never imagine going to a day of talks and readings. Except I did go. And all because it was at King’s. The last time I was there was when I graduated and I wanted to see how much has changed.
I did go to a little bit of the Dickensfest. The talks were all in the Great Hall, which hasn’t changed one bit. At first I felt like it was another one of those AKC lectures where attendence was the only criteria, but it quickly improved. Michael Allen spoke with authority and interest about Dickens’ time at Jonathan Warren’s blacking factory where he worked when he was about 9 or 10, sticking labels and washing bottles of blacking. I have no idea what blacking is, or was, but it sounds like terrible work for a young child. What I did take away was that Dickens’ childhood experiences would translate to so many of his books, and that he of all the classic writers was the one who wrote most, and most sympathetically, about poor children in that era. There was also a short reading of Oliver Twist, and I left after that, to explore my old haunts.
Wow. Everything has changed. Not surprised, it has been many years. The corridors are newly renovated. The 6th floor is now informatics not chemistry. But the lecture rooms are mostly unchanged. I visited 1B06, where most of my first and second year lectures were; and 1B27, where mm and I met. Tried to walk over to the Macadam building but it was locked. There was also a café on the first floor of the main building that didn’t used to be there.
There were posters of famous King’s alumni outside. I’m not one of them (not famous, that is) but it is a place where I spent a good 7 years of my life and it was nice to be back.
I bought 10 ebooks over the weekend, a mixture of new releases, earlier works and some from a sale event. I started on one of the 10 yesterday, but found it a hard slog. It’s not very well written: pov jumps all over the place; massive amount of telling vs zero showing; unconvincing dialogue; the characters have no character. The premise is decent, some important social issues are addressed and there is, on paper, a lot of potential. If only the writing matches the idea. I tried a couple more chapters today, but when I checked the page numbers I see that after all that, I’m only at page 110 of 260. Not even halfway. I can’t see myself sustaining any sort of interest so I gave up. Sorry, [author]. (And, I’m intentionally vague because I don’t want to upset people associated with the book.)
I went to the bsb uk author reading at Waterstone’s Nottingham on Saturday. It’s about 2.5hr one way, so I hesitated a lot before deciding that I really should go support the UK/European authors. I booked the train tickets online, and found that first class was only an extra £2. What a bargain, I got 4 seats with table all to myself (both ways), peace and quiet and free tea.
I’ve never been to Nottingham, and the high street is just like any other high street with loads of shops and people on a Saturday. The reading was well attended, over 50 people and 7 readers. Glad to see that the UK/European contingent is well represented. What I liked particularly about this reading is that I got to meet authors that a year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined having the opportunity of meeting. Listening to their reading is a nice way of being introduced to their work. One of the authors actually gave me a free copy of her forthcoming, yet to be published, book, which was so very kind. I read it on the journey back, and will finish it tomorrow, it’s funny and well written.
After the reading, the group adjourned to a nearby pub. I was having a great time chatting with my running friend K and catching up with my NY friend C. It was a shame I had to leave quite early to catch the train home. The event continues tomorrow morning with another session, but I have a long training run. Hopefully I’m still in the UK next year, if they hold the event again.
I’ve been reading some of the books marked for disposal, a kind of “last goodbye” thing. While others I’ve put away in boxes and not thought about, there are some that I am giving up in the interest of space. I managed to condense all my books from what used to be 4 bookshelves to 1. (Okay, some of that space was used for photo and stamp albums and I’ve put them somewhere else.) I suppose I might miss some of them, may be in a few months’ time I’d want to read a particular book and discover that I don’t have it anymore. Unlikely. And besides, I can get it again as e-book.
Saw HP7 part 1 today at Navy Pier imax. Absolutely brilliant. Would have sat for 5hrs without moving for the whole thing. July 2011 can’t come early enough.
Haven’t read the book yet, I think I’m still on HP5. But it didn’t stop me from appreciating the story, the acting, the special effects…everything about it. Now I’m wondering if I should go see it again before I leave.
mm is in London this week, but all we’ve managed were emails and a couple of very brief phone calls. I’m not used to the time difference, she’s jetlagged. By the time I get round to calling her it’s her 10pm and she’s in bed. I’ve woken her up twice now, eeek. Doesn’t matter, we’ll see each other on Saturday.
I was talking with a UK colleague today and I realised I’ve picked up a little bit of an american accent. Subtle pronunciation and the way some vowels got flattened. I had to consciously get back to my londoner accent. It felt strange. Although, to an american I still sound different.
I think I blew this one out of the water. When I started 101.1001 amazon had only just released the kindle and the ebook market was still in its infancy. I thought at that time that I’d try downloading a few ebooks and reading it on the mbp using the ereader software.
I now have 93 ebooks in my ereader (the hardware, heh, the same name thing is confusing). This includes 90 full length books and 3 short stories but excludes the free classics downloaded from sony. I’ve read almost all of them, so yes, I read 5 ebooks…in the last 2 weeks. They cost the same as regular paperbacks, so at an average of $12-13, that’s over $1000 I’ve contributed to the industry since march 2009. Do I get an award or what?
At the moment, I’m using one of the least popular readers, and there’s a lot of “me-too” pressure to get the kindle 3, which ships this week. The formats and industry are starting to settle, there will be a clear standard and device winner soon. Interestingly, I don’t think it’ll be the ipad, it will be a dedicated ereader. I’ve not even been tempted to read on the ipad so far.